El marco histórico de la globalización: Golpe de Estado

January 6th, 2011 by Dr. James Polk

 

Nuestra era se define en gran parte por dos conceptos muy interrelacionados: la globalización y la denominada “guerra contra el terrorismo”. En su calidad de operadores geopolíticos-económicos, ambos conceptos se complementan como medios significativos para fines específicos; ambos conforman aspectos importantes de nuestras vidas de todos los días y determinan la forma y el contenido de gran parte de lo que pasa por discurso público. Particularmente en Europa y en EE.UU. se mantiene a las poblaciones vigilantes ante “peligros claros y presentes” planteados ostensiblemente por el “terrorismo internacional” por medio de iconos mnemótécnicos de movimientos de tropas en Asia Central y/o conspiraciones estratégicamente desplegadas para atentados que supuestamente son frustrados “justo a tiempo” por nuestros servicios de inteligencia. Como si se hubiera copiado de las notas para conferencias de Carl Schmitt, se fabricó un “enemigo” totalitario al que se puede recurrir convenientemente si la memoria pública comienza a flaquear.

La globalización ha procedido mediante tres interpretaciones y representaciones del mundo en su conjunto, diferentes pero claramente interrelacionadas: como el “momento cosmopolita” sociopolítico [1] (para pedir prestado un término acuñado por Seyla Benhabib) del globo como encarnación de nuestro mundo cotidiano; como la escena de operaciones de los intereses corporativos/financieros multinacionales; y como el campo de batalla en el cual se considera que los conflictos incitados requieren soluciones exhaustivas, globales, que deben lograrse mediante un Nuevo Orden Mundial. En su estado actual, el constructo de un mundo unificado es en gran parte sinónimo del gobierno mundial ideal tal como fue conceptualizado por la Sociocracia del filósofo francés Auguste Comte en el Siglo XIX [2], en el cual los banqueros internacionales y los think tanks elitistas determinan y ejecutan las políticas públicas.

Imcluida en este ideal global está, por supuesto, la disolución completa de la nación-Estado como tal a través de la gradual, pero de facto irreversible, integración de naciones individuales en el marco totalitario de entidades políticas, económicas y de las principales judiciales/jurídicas que operan a escala global (las más importantes: las Naciones Unidas, el Fondo Monetario Internacional, el Banco Mundial, el Banco de Pagos Internacionales y la Organización Mundial de Comercio).

Las raíces filosóficas de este proceso integrador pueden encontrarse en los factores determinantes que llevaron al Tratado de Westfalia, que terminó con la horrorosamente brutal Guerra de Treinta Años. El tratado también enterró el principio Cuius regio, eius religio y reinstaló la tolerancia de los protestantes como fue aclarada en la Paz de Augsburgo (1555), cuya revocación bajo el Emperador Fernando II del Sacro Imperio Romano Germánico en el Edicto de Restitución (1629) provocó la cruenta contra-respuesta de la nobleza protestante en Austria y Bohemia. Los términos del acuerdo de paz también limitaron radicalmente el territorio y el poder del Sacro Imperio Romano y reconocieron la soberanía de los numerosos principados que constituían el campo de la influencia alemana, y que delegó en Francia y Suecia la tarea de guardianes de la paz.

Pero el Tratado de Westfalia fue de considerable importancia por otro motivo significativo. Los consejeros en Münster y Osnabrück pudieron establecer mediante un discurso racional el concepto de un acuerdo de paz basado en la primacía de la razón y de las reglas del derecho que trascendían los intereses nacionales y sistemas de creencias beligerantes, produciendo, con un sentido genuinamente Kantiano, la idea reguladora de la paz alcanzable como principio de razón para guiar todas las acciones de las partes involucradas, y a la cual todos los participantes, nolens volens, debían someterse. Esto es claramente evidente en la forma en que diversas cláusulas del tratado asumieron un papel metanormativo. De esa manera el tratado allanó el camino para una era de pensamiento secularizado en el cual el vigor de la ley y la negociación política servían de instrumentos para la resolución de conflictos y de líneas directivas de soberanía nacional basada en principios de razón.

Paralelamente al desarrollo de principios internacionales de conducta cosmopolita en nuestra propia época como los que se encuentran en la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos y en los estatutos de la Convención de Ginebra, los intereses económicos y financieros han explotado tanto los códices formulados en acuerdos internacionales y medidas jurídicas que actualmente sustituyen leyes nacionales previamente existentes a través de organismos cada vez más totalitarios como la Organización Mundial del Comercio. [3] Es el poder encarnado en los dominios de intereses financieros concentrados que actualmente están en el proceso de transformar nuestra vida cotidiana y las esferas de experiencia en formas previamente inimaginables.

Golpe de Estado

Silenciosamente, y cuidadosamente ocultado al escrutinio público, ocurrió un golpe de Estado en 1914 en EE.UU. Los resultados de ese golpe incruento se hacen sentir actualmente a una escala verdaderamente global. Con una planificación cuidadosa y detallada, los representantes de las instituciones financieras más poderosas de Europa y de EE.UU. tuvieron éxito mediante la promulgación de la Ley de la Reserva Federal (también conocida como la ley Glass-Owen) en la alteración radical y permanente de los fundamentos de la nación en su conjunto.

Mediante la creación del sistema de la Reserva Federal, los intereses financieros que concibieron escribieron e implementaron la ley Glass-Owen se apoderaron de la autoridad del gobierno de EE.UU. como representante teórico de los ciudadanos del país para imprimir nuestra propia moneda y colocaron esa autoridad en manos de un cártel bancario privado. Según el Artículo 1, Sección 8, de la Constitución de EE.UU., se otorga el poder al Congreso para “acuñar moneda” y “regular su valor”. La Ley de la Reserva Federal interpreta evidentemente este poder de modo bastante literal, como la acuñación de centavos, 5 centavos, 10 centavos, y cuartos de dólar; sin embargo, el centro de la ley es la creación de moneda en la forma de billetes de banco. Cuando el gobierno necesita dinero el tesoro de EE.UU. emite pagarés en forma de bonos del tesoro de EE.UU., que luego vende al sistema de propiedad privada de la Reserva Federal a cambio de un cheque de la Reserva Federal. En realidad, el banco de la Reserva “Federal” simplemente introduce las cifras correspondientes en el teclado del ordenador, una vez como deuda y otra vez como activo. En otras palabras, la Reserva Federal crea cifras de la nada, por las que luego pide un reembolso con intereses. Después los fondos se acreditan a la cuenta del gobierno y con ellos se pagan diferentes gastos. El “dinero” como tal es creado de la nada en ese momento exacto por el banco de la Reserva Federal. Pero hay un truco adicional utilizado por todos los bancos que operan con el sistema de la Reserva Federal: préstamos de reserva parcial [fractional reserve lending]. Este ardid permite al banco multiplicar por diez la cantidad de dinero que presta a sus clientes sin tener los fondos reales en reserva para respaldarlo. Todo el ardid ha permitido a los dueños ocultos del sistema privado de Reserva “Federal” la extorsión efectiva de dinero al pueblo de EE.UU. en forma de pagarés, también conocidos como bonos del tesoro, que luego deben reembolsarse con intereses.

La base legal de este escandaloso sistema en la ley Glass-Owen en EE.UU. fue sólo el comienzo. Como otros bancos centrales firmantes del Acuerdo de Bretton Woods (y por lo tanto del acuerdo del Banco Mundial y del Fondo Monetario Internacional), el sistema de la Reserva Federal puede controlar la cantidad de dinero en circulación mediante diversos mecanismos, por ejemplo mediante el aumento o la reducción de las tasas de interés y/o los requerimientos de reserva mínima de los bancos en el sistema de préstamos de reserva parcial. A través de la promulgación del sistema de la Reserva Federal, la esencia del dinero se ha convertido en deuda. Mediante la creación de deuda, el dinero llega a existir en el sistema. Por lo tanto es obvio que nunca interesa al banco que los clientes, los prestatarios, paguen realmente sus deudas porque eso dejaría a los bancos sin pagos de intereses. Cuando sucede que los prestatarios son naciones soberanas, por ejemplo del mundo en desarrollo, o ahora EE.UU. y una serie de países en Europa Occidental, los pagos de intereses obtenidos por los bancos llegan fácilmente a ser cientos de miles de millones de dólares. Esto es extraordinariamente lucrativo para bancos que han podido “participar” en la negociación de acuerdos de paz (mediante los cuales se fijan condiciones de rendición y reembolso de daños) y en las deliberaciones de acuerdos comerciales internacionales para regular el comercio y las finanzas globales.

La Primera Guerra Mundial y su resultado suministran un ejemplo muy esclarecedor de cómo se ha logrado esto. Las condiciones impuestas a Alemania mediante el Artículo 231 del Tratado de Versalles establecieron los fundamentos para la consolidación de los intereses financieros enormemente poderosos en Londres, Nueva York, Frankfurt y París, que habían sido esenciales para la imposición, a cualquier precio, de la Ley de la Reserva Federal en EE.UU. (Habría que señalar que son los mismos intereses financieros que también hicieron su parte para llevar a las naciones al conflicto militar. El foco en este caso, sin embargo, sigue limitado a la génesis y perpetración del cártel de la banca central privada como tal y sus conexiones con la actual crisis financiera y la guerra contra el terrorismo.)

El horror de la Primera Guerra Mundial condujo rápidamente a la comprensión de que la comunidad global de naciones no debería permitir que semejante crueldad volviera a ocurrir, y que hacían falta principios de conducta universalmente reconocidos y aceptados para garantizar la paz y la armonía internacional. Semejantes principios de buena voluntad, reminiscentes intencionalmente de los términos fijados por la Paz de Westfalia, sólo podían implementarse mediante una voluntad general común o consenso global. En otras palabras, una Liga de Naciones, un Völkerbund en el más estricto sentido kantiano, era necesaria para definir e implementar principios internacionalmente válidos de conducta humanitaria, por cierto cosmopolita, a fin de beneficiar a toda la especie humana y toda nuestra vida cotidiana.

Este impulso positivo fue, entre otras cosas, lo que llevó a los participantes en la “guerra para terminar todas las guerras” a fundar el “Convenio de la Liga de las Naciones”. El acuerdo incluía 26 principios a los que se comprometían los 58 Estados miembro. Pero el problema más central que confundía los ideales de la Liga era el hecho de que el acuerdo se basaba en importantes intereses económicos que esencialmente condenaban al tratado al fracaso desde el principio. La Liga se basada en el statu quo tal como fue definido por los vencedores de la Primera Guerra Mundial, quienes, como representantes al mismo tiempo de “intereses” ostensiblemente “nacionales”, hicieron todo lo posible por asegurar los mayores beneficios posibles para los banqueros de la elite que trabajaron entre bastidores en Nueva York, Londres, Paris, y Frankfurt. Y los medios para ese fin se encontraron en los términos de los pagos de reparaciones que luego impusieron a Alemania. Un artículo publicado el 31 de mayo de 1922 en el New York Times esbozó las demandas más destacadas impuestas a Alemania por las potencias de la entente Aliada:

“La Comisión de Reparación llamó a Alemania a aceptar los siguientes compromisos antes del 31 de mayo:

  1. Reducir los gastos y equilibrar el presupuesto.
  2. Detener el aumento de la deuda externa y del papel moneda en circulación.
  3. Aceptar una ligera supervisión de sus esfuerzos en esa dirección.
  4. Tomar medidas para impedir más fuga de capital y recuperar 2.000 millones de dólares que desaparecieron del país durante los últimos dos años.
  5. Asegurar la autonomía de la política del Reichsbank.
  6. Reiniciar la publicación de estadísticas fiscales del Gobierno.” [4]

Los lectores atentos notarán inmediatamente los inconfundibles paralelos con las exigencias (“medidas de austeridad”) frecuentemente impuestas a naciones en desarrollo por el Fondo Monetario Internacional en sus propuestas políticas conocidas previamente como “programas de ajuste estructural”, incluyendo demandas de privatización del sistema bancario o, para utilizar la frase introducida por la “jerga de la Fed”, para garantizar la independencia (“autonomía”) de la política de los bancos. (En una traducción corregida, es la simple demanda de que se permita a ese cártel de la banca privada, como única fuente de dinero ficticio, que cometa su engaño monetario basado en la deuda sin ninguna supervisión o control por el pueblo o sus representantes). Una gama de condiciones impuestas por el FMI ha llevado constantemente a dificultades interiores generalizadas y a crisis económicas, dentro de las naciones en cuestión, porque los intereses y el bienestar de la población en general discrepan evidentemente a menudo de los programas del FMI que se implementan. Joseph Stiglitz lo describió como sigue:

“El FMI no sólo se dedica a los objetivos fijados en su mandato original de realzar la estabilidad global y asegurar que haya fondos para países que enfrentan una amenaza de recesión a fin de que impulsen políticas expansionistas. También se dedica a los intereses de la comunidad financiera. Esto significa que el FMI tiene diferentes objetivos que a menudo están en conflito entre ellos.

“La tensión es tanto mayor porque este conflicto no puede hacerse público: si el nuevo papel del FMI se reconociera públicamente, el apoyo a esa institución podría debilitarse, y es casi seguro que los que lograron cambiar el mandato lo sabían. Por lo tanto, el nuevo mandato tenía que presentarse de manera que pareciera, por lo menos superficialmente, consecuente con lo anterior.” [5]

Y precisamente esta extraordinaria expansión del poder de los cárteles privados de la banca fue fundamental en gran parte en las maniobras entre bastidores durante y después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. En un ensayo muy esclarecedor publicado en Foreign Affairs en 1936, Leon Fraser puso en conocimiento de un público selectivo la verdadera agenda oculta de la elite bancaria:

“La verdad fue que los expertos [es decir los de la segunda Comisión Young –jp] aprovecharon la ocasión del nuevo ajuste de las reparaciones como excusa para reparar una brecha reconocida hace tiempo en el tejido de las finanzas internacionales. La organización que propusieron tenía funciones no conectadas con las reparaciones, y estas funciones ostensiblemente secundarias fueron, en la conciencia interior creadores, los motivos predominantes para su establecimiento. Algunos miembros –en particular los conectados con la banca comercial– veían la institución como un instrumento para abrir nuevos campos de comercio mundial mediante nuevas extensiones de crédito […] Aunque no hubo unanimidad sobre las oportunidades de crear más crédito, todos los expertos estuvieron de acuerdo en que el Banco podía subsanar un vacío evidente en la organización financiera del mundo, es decir, proveer un centro para la colaboración del banco central y para que la corporación mejorara el mecanismo monetario internacional.” [6]

El banco al que se refería Fraser era, obviamente, el banco central de todos los bancos centrales, el Banco de Pagos Internacionales, con su central en Basilea.

Louis McFadden, ex banquero convertido en congresista de Pensilvania, condenó de manera muy clara los motivos ocultos y los métodos operativos del Tratado de Versalles. McFadden apuntó en particular al Banco de Pagos Internacionales, que se hizo cargo del oro que Alemania debía entregar en pagos de reparaciones. McFadden escribió, refiriéndose a la teoría de Grotius de arreglos justos de conflictos militares (De iure belli ac pacis), que en realidad el Tratado de Versalles se había negociado de mala fe, y que la “Casa de Morgan” y los sospechosos habituales de la camarilla de banqueros internacionales eran los principales beneficiarios de los bonos de reparaciones, y que algunos aspectos sustanciales del tratado se habían elaborado en los centros financieros de Londres, mucho antes de las verdaderas negociaciones en París. McFadden auguró proféticamente las consecuencias a largo plazo del tratado como “fundamento para la renovación de una docena de guerras legalmente justificables”. [7]

La consolidación del poder económico y financiero en Occidente al final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial posibilitó la subsiguiente globalización rápida y generalizada de tendencias incipientes que ya eran visibles en la plataforma de la Liga de Naciones. El establecimiento de las Naciones Unidas en 1945, así como la fundación del Banco Mundial y del Fondo Monetario Internacional, tal como fue estipulado por el resultado del Acuerdo de Bretton-Woods (1944), contribuyeron sustancialmente al sistema internacional de moneda y finanzas de un carácter distintivamente anglo-estadounidense. Esto significó en particular que los bancos centrales de todas las naciones miembros tenían que adoptar en gran parte el modus operandi del sistema de la Reserva Federal. La impresión de monedas nacionales, que solía ser privilegio de gobiernos soberanos, debía ser reemplazada por el sistema de bonos gubernamentales o la emisión de pagarés, que entonces se prestarían o se venderían al cártel bancario privado (encabezado por el respectivo “banco central” del país) a cambio de billetes moneda con interés vencido. Los resultados de dos guerras mundiales, en las cuales un cártel bancario privado había escrito en última instancia las condiciones de la rendición económica y financiera, habían llevado por obligación a los vencidos al papel de participantes en la mayor estafa de la historia humana: la creación de dinero de la nada mediante deudas, con pagos de interés en flujo permanente a la esfera de la elite bancaria privada. Todo a escala global.

Muchos de los vehículos y recursos de inversión discutidos cada vez en más estudios han vinculado con mucho éxito la esfera política con la corporativa/financiera entre las que ya es imposible ver una separación clara. No obstante, entre amplios segmentos de las poblaciones en muchos países, los ciudadanos votantes siguen convencidos de la santidad de las autoridades elegidas. Esas convicciones se basan en una publicidad falsa, y los votantes no han visto la fusión entre el capital y la exitosa ocupación de campañas y puestos realizada regularmente tras las pantallas de humo de los medios de comunicación masivos. En una serie de casos importantes, incluso los movimientos de oposición y protesta han sido comprados y escenificados. [8] ¡Sí, podemos!, se puede considerar ahora como el coro lamentable de los que fueron engañados por el cambio en el que creían. El cambio vino en forma de continuos rescates a los bancos de Wall Street y la colocación confortable por el propio Obama del ex jefe de la Reserva Federal de Nueva York en el trono del tesoro de EE.UU., inmune a la crítica y a la reprimenda, a pesar de sus urgentes correos electrónicos al abogado de AIG instando a guardar silencio como reacción a las consultas del Congreso sobre la dimensión de los fondos de rescate de la Reserva Federal canalizados a los bolsillos de Goldman Sachs. (Evidentemente cuando esas revelaciones salieron a la luz pública (¡en Internet!), los medios dominantes estaban ocupados convenciendo al público semi-consciente de la importancia del paradero pasado y presente de los genitales de Tiger Woods.) Y no ha pasado nada. Pero los lacrimosos y desesperados parecen tragarse cada vez las exageraciones de Hollywood: ¡Él es el UNICO!

Los procedimientos esquemáticos realizados por el FMI, el Banco Mundial, y la OMC adquieren frecuentemente un carácter descaradamente absurdo. Así fue en el caso del programa de ajuste estructurado citado frecuentemente, desarrollado para Bolivia en el Documento Marco de Política para 1998-2001 del Mecanismo Reforzado de Ajuste Estructural (ESAF por sus siglas en inglés). A cambio de préstamos muy necesarios del FMI, se exigió a Bolivia que transfiriera los “derechos” del sistema de aguas de Cochabamba a la firma privada de Aguas de Tunari, subsidiaria del consorcio International Water Ltd./Bechtel Corporation. (Bechtel adquirió mala fama internacional bajo el gobierno de George W. Bush como receptora sin licitación de generosos contratos militares de “reconstrucción” en Iraq.) La privatización del suministro de agua significó que los precios de este recurso vital aumentaron más de un 300%, con lo que fue inasequible para numerosas familias. A pesar de la amenaza de indignación pública y posible violencia, un informe escrito por expertos del Banco Mundial aconsejó que no se dieran subsidios públicos para compensar el aumento en los precios del agua en Cochabamba. [9]

Recientes maquinaciones de la Organización Mundial de Comercio también han llevado a precarias estrategias de globalización. Según Greg Palast, un informe interno enviado a su oficina en The Guardian reveló amenazas reales dirigidas al gobierno izquierdista de Brasil si el país se seguía negando a firmar el Acuerdo de Servicios Financieros de 1999. Este acuerdo formaba la base legal internacional para la desregulación de los denominados “productos financieros”, desarrollados específicamente como ser “swaps de incumplimiento crediticio” y “valores respaldados por hipotecas”, que luego condujeron a la catástrofe financiera global.

El modelo de crisis seguida por un plan prefabricado para una solución global ha sido persistente desde principios del siglo XIX, cuando las elites bancarias europeas tocaron todos los registros con el fin de establecer un banco central en suelo estadounidense. Eran los mismos intereses estructurales que terminaron por llevar a la aprobación de la ley Glass-Owen. Y dentro de este modelo también se encuentran los orígenes de la actual crisis financiera, específicamente dentro de las más altas esferas del sistema de la Reserva Federal.

Después de los ataques del 11 de septiembre de 2001 en Nueva York y Washington, D.C., la Reserva Federal fue “obligada” a reducir los tipos de interés a un mínimo con el fin de evitar un posible colapso de una serie de importantes servicios e industrias. Esta acción posibilitó la decisión de las filiales de bancos en todo el país de ofrecer créditos fáciles, en particular para hipotecas inmobiliarias. Dos años después, todo el país vivió un frenesí de compras de casas con visiones de aumento del valor de las casas año tras año hasta el fin de los tiempos. Numerosos compradores compraron dos o tres con la esperanza de convertirlas en innumerables miles de dólares de ganancia.

Se crearon los fundamentos para la inicialización de un instrumento financiero previamente desconocido –BISTRO (Broad Index Secured Trust Offering)– desarrollado en los think tanks de J P Morgan. A la velocidad de las transferencias electrónicas de fondos, BISTRO posibilitó inimaginables beneficios exponenciales mediante “swaps de incumplimiento crediticio” [CDS] que la “Casa de Morgan” luego pasó a dividir en paquetes y los vendió por miles a partes interesadas en corporaciones, bancos, gigantes de los seguros y fondos de inversión en todo el mundo. Como lo describió con exactitud la revista alemana Der Spiegel, “los gerentes de bancos y banqueros centrales eran los capitanes de ese barco, entre ellos súper estrellas como el gerente de J P Morgan Blythe Masters y el ex presidente de la Reserva Federal Alan Greenspan.” [10]

Los observadores atentos de la historia de las finanzas reconocerán el modelo concreto de desarrollo en este caso. Una expansión del crédito putativamente bien fundada y el auge económico correspondiente van seguidos de una repentina retracción del crédito y una implosión de los mercados. En el centro de nuestra crisis actual está la industria bancaria y su capacidad de crear dinero y derivados de la nada. El colapso era previsible, y es muy probable que haya sido cuidadosamente planificado. En cuanto comenzó el colapso de 2008, los directores de los principales bancos de EE.UU. comenzaron a emitir ultimatos al pueblo estadounidense a través de su propio representante, Henry Paulson (ex director ejecutivo de Goldman Sachs, como secretario del Tesoro. Si los cofres de los bancos no se hubieran rellenado con amplios fondos públicos, los estadounidenses pronto se despertarían con la ley marcial en las calles de muchas ciudades importantes.

Y, rápidamente, los representantes en Washington, que no ven ni oyen nada malo, salieron al rescate de la elite financiera global, todo a costa de los contribuyentes, y en última instancia también a costa de la soberanía nacional. Demandas concomitantes de “soluciones globales” a este problema evidentemente global fueron puestas rápidamente en el orden del día nacional e internacional por el G20 y por destacados economistas como Kenneth Rogoff. El Congreso de EE.UU. ratificó recientemente una puesta a punto exhaustiva del sistema financiero de la nación, y al hacerlo otorgó más autoridad a la Reserva Federal. A escala global, expertos financieros y económicos de todo el mundo están desarrollando revisiones fundamentales del Acuerdo de Basilea (Basilea III) dentro del marco del Banco de Pagos Internacionales. [11]

Al mismo tiempo, el anuncio de la Reserva Federal a finales de 2010 de que iniciaría una segunda vuelta de “ajuste cuantitativo” en sus esfuerzos por liberar crédito y aliviar a las instituciones financieras de activos moribundos llevó a más llamados vociferantes a que una nueva moneda de reserva global reemplace al dólar enfermizo. La decisión de la Reserva Federal de aumentar la liquidez mediante la impresión de más dólares ya se ve como un error potencialmente fatal por parte de muchos escépticos, particularmente en China que posee una suma extraordinariamente elevada de dólares de EE.UU. en su tesoro de reservas monetarias. Rusia y China, entre otros, ya han acordado un intercambio bilateral de bienes y servicios utilizando sus propias divisas, sin usar el dólar estadounidense como intermediario.

Presiones inflacionarias inevitables garantizan que los días del dólar de EE.UU. como moneda de reserva mundial estén contados; este resultado no promete nada bueno para los estadounidenses, que con gran probabilidad verán la ley marcial siempre y cuando los precios para las necesidades diarias como la gasolina aumenten rápidamente más allá de lo asequible. Como operador jefe de todas las fuerzas clandestinas que quieren ver un gobierno mundial que controle el planeta, la Reserva Federal ha estado destruyendo activamente la moneda estadounidense como instrumento de soberanía nacional. Y en estrecha colaboración con la Reserva Federal, grupos de trabajo dentro de las Naciones Unidas y del FMI han publicado documentos de posición clave en los cuales se propone una nueva divisa global, que se espera sea impresa o acuñada por un banco central global. [12]

La guerra global “contra el terror”

Junto al aumento de la autoridad de instrumentos globales como el FMI, la OMC y el Banco de Pagos Internacionales, una red internacional de vigilancia está en plena formación con consecuencias trascendentales para la vida y la libertad individual. La integridad de Internet se encuentra particularmente en peligro ya que la integridad de Internet es el último bastión del intercambio de información sin censura. Con cada “ciberataque” publicitado, sea realidad o una creación ad hoc, surgen nuevas demandas de un aumento de las medidas de seguridad y de la legislación para controlar tanto la forma como el contenido online. Nuevos conceptos supranacionales clave como “al-Qaida”, “redes terroristas” o “transferencias sospechosas de dinero” son ahora de uso común en el discurso público y permiten la implementación de medidas de control y estrategias de vigilancia militar/política sin precedentes sobre los ciudadanos de a pie. La buena disposición de gobiernos de todo el mundo para adoptar medidas contra el terror, potencialmente hostiles a todas formas de libertad individual, se basa en la cuestionable aceptación de la explicación oficial presentada por el gobierno de EE.UU. y sus servicios de inteligencia de los eventos que ocurrieron el 11-S. La escasez de la crítica de la inverosímil narrativa oficial de todo lo que ocurrió el 11-S, en especial en los medios dominantes de EE.UU., es de por sí suficiente evidencia de una prensa estadounidense totalmente controlada desde arriba.

Los análisis de David Ray Griffin y de Steven Jones (entre muchos otros) [13] de múltiples inconsecuencias y puras imposibilidades en la explicación oficial de los ataques del 11-S proveen una evidencia obvia de que hubo y hay conspiraciones mucho más siniestras de lo que el público estadounidense está dispuesto a creer. Las respuestas a la inevitable pregunta ¿cui bono? apuntan a los beneficiarios a largo plazo del control global que en última instancia no permitirá ninguna excepción.

El modelo siempre es el mismo. Se presenta una crisis de proporciones trascendentales, y se ofrecen soluciones a escala global que terminan por consolidar los intereses de un Nuevo Orden Mundial, tal como fue imaginado por Auguste Comte, con un control total por parte de los banqueros y una elite intelectual seleccionada. El sistema de la Reserva Federal debe verse como es: la agencia de una camarilla internacional de elites bancarias que están determinadas a obtener un gobierno global, con un sistema único de justicia universal, una sola moneda y una red de vigilancia universal como garantes de un régimen totalitario y neofeudalista a prueba de fallos. Gracias a los esfuerzos de la misma elite global, EE.UU. agoniza y terminará por sucumbir ante las restricciones que sus dirigentes han adoptado de buen grado dentro del contexto de la globalización.

Tan admirable como pueda ser la paz perpetua bajo un sistema de razón benevolente, que considere primordialmente la santidad de toda la vida terrestre en el planeta, los antecedentes históricos concretos de los que están más activamente involucrados en hacer que los ideales del Nuevo Orden Mundial lleguen a buen término bastan como motivo para rechazar sus objetivos.

Los banqueros de elite en EE.UU. y Europa concibieron e implementaron el sistema de la Reserva Federal como un importante escalón hacia un posible gobierno global de una sociedad neofeudalista. La continua crisis económica global también se concibió y se implementó como otro instrumento esencial para producir un gobierno mundial controlado por los banqueros y sus socios intelectuales establecidos en posiciones cruciales y que toman las decisiones, ¿Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Las políticas y maquinaciones clandestinas de la Reserva Federal aceleran la “necesidad” y la “exigencia” de una moneda global para reemplazar a las monedas nacionales existentes. En épocas anteriores, la implementación de semejantes planes e intenciones se habría considerado alta traición y se habría castigado de forma adecuada; en la jerga actual se podría calificar, de modo más apropiado, como acto de terrorismo.

Notas

1) La noción de cosmopolitismo de Benhabib y de sus implicaciones para las sociedades humanas es presentado en Another Cosmopolitanism (Berkeley Tanner Lectures), Robert Post, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) y en The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents, and Citizens (The Seeley Lectures), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

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

3) Vea en particular Michel Chossudovsky, The Global Economic Crisis: An Overview, The Global Economic Crisis. The Great Depression of the XXI Century, ed. Michel Chossudovsky y Andrew Gavin Marshall, (Montreal: Global Research Publishers, 2010) 3 – 60.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12) Vea particular el trabajo del Fondo Monetario Internacional intitulado “Reserve Accumulation and International Monetary Stability” preparado por el Strategy, Policy and Review Department (13 de abril 2010) y el informe de las Naciones Unidas “Report of the Commission of Experts of the President of the United Nations General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System” (21 de septiembre de 2009).

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


Profundamente influenciado por la Escuela de Teoría Crítica de Frankfurt y de la fenomenología del Siglo XX, James Polk siguió sus estudios de filosofía en la Universidad Libre de Berlín, donde recibió su doctorado por un trabajo sobre Kant y Heidegger. Es autor de Am Horizont der Zeit y de The Triumph of Ignorance and Bliss – Pathologies of Public America.

Original en inglés Fuente: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22551

Agradecimientos: Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens y revisado por Caty R.

Declaring Palestine: Revisiting Hope and Failure

January 6th, 2011 by Ramzy Baroud

When late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat read the Declaration of the Palestinian Independence just over 22 years ago, Palestinians everywhere were enthralled. They held onto his every word during the Palestinian National Council (PNC) session in Algeria on November 15, 1988. The council members incessantly applauded and chanted in the name of Palestine, freedom, the people and much more.

Back in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in Gaza, a large crowd of neighbors and friends watched the event on a small black and white television.

The Declaration of Independence read, in part: “On this day unlike all others…as we stand at the threshold of a new dawn, in all honor and modesty we humbly bow to the sacred spirits of our fallen ones, Palestinian and Arab, by the purity of whose sacrifice for the homeland our sky has been illuminated and our Land given life.”

Many tears were shed, as those watching the historic event recalled the innumerable “spirits of the fallen ones”. The Nuseirat refugee camp alone had buried scores of its finest men, women and children the previous year.

By then, the first Palestinian Uprising (December 1987) had swiftly changed a political equation that relegated both the Palestinian cause and Palestine Liberation Origination (PLO). Arab leaders had met in Amman in November 1987, where their discussions were focused almost exclusively on the Iran-Iraq war. The “central issue” of the Arabs didn’t even receive the usual lip service. The PLO leadership, exiled in Tunisia since the Israeli war on Lebanon in 1982, was being disowned, sidelined, and worse, discredited.

The Palestinian people watched in dismay – but not for long. Merely days after the disastrous Arab Summit, Palestinian streets erupted in fury. Tens of thousands took to the streets of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and even Arab towns throughout Israel, making their frustrations clear to everyone who contributed to their protracted misery and oppression.

While celebrating the people’s uprising, Yasser Arafat and the PLO leadership didn’t seem to have a concrete plan. They did, however, labor to seize the moment. PLO representatives were first consulted regionally and internationally, and then US and other Western powers attempted to court the PLO and to exact ‘compromises’. This ‘engagement’ was conditional, of course, as it continues to be till date.

The Palestinian Declaration of Independence was, then, a capitalization on all of this. Although it rekindled the ‘power of the people’ as a very relevant political factor in the Middle East equation, it also ushered the triumphant return of the PLO and Arafat. 

“We call upon our great people to rally to the banner of Palestine, to cherish and defend it, so that it may forever be the symbol of our freedom and dignity in that homeland, which is a homeland for the free, now and always,” the declaration stated.

Abu Ashraf, of the Nuseirat refugee camp, was a poor man with six children. His barely treated diabetes had taken a toll on his body. Once a boxer who had competed at a ‘regional level’ (i.e. in other refugee camps in Gaza), his body was now contorted and withering. But when Arafat declared that the state of Palestine now existed – even if only on paper and largely symbolically – Abu Ashraf got up and danced. He waved his cane above his head and swayed around the room amidst the laughter of his children.

Around 100 countries now recognized “Palestine”. Ambassadors were deployed to new posts in many countries, excluding the US and European states. But this also seemed to matter little. Palestine had never sought legitimization from the very powers that had helped establish, sustain and defend Israel’s illegal occupation and violence.

The problem was that Arafat, his political party, Fatah and PLO leadership could only go so far. There was a subtle understanding among the ‘pragmatics’ in Fatah that without Western, and specifically American validation, a real, tangible Palestine could never follow the symbolic one. However, the US, the ultimate defender of Israel, had raised conditions, which the PLO readily accepted. The more conditions Arafat met, the more he was expected to meet. Among these were: acknowledging UN resolution 242, renouncing armed struggle, excluding PLO factions that the US considered too radical, and many more.

At first Arafat seemed to have a strategy: get some and demand more. But the concessions never stopped, and Arafat was constantly paraded following US demands. In return, he received very little, aside from, 6 years later, a Palestinian Authority that was merely responsible for managing small, disconnected, ‘autonomous’ areas in the West Bank and Gaza. The once glorious moment of independence was left at only that – a fleeting moment. Its political potential was prematurely and cleverly co-opted by US ‘engagement’, which yielded the Oslo agreement. Oslo, in turn, led to many disasters, which we are still witnessing today.

In late 2010 the fervor of recognitions returned, championed by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. This time around, however, there is little fanfare and no genuine hope for meaningful political initiatives. Abu Ashraf died in his mid-40’s, broken and penniless. His children and grandchildren still live in the same house, in the same refugee camp. A minor difference in their life is that the Israeli military occupation of past has been rebranded and replaced by a very tight siege. The soldiers are still nearby, just a few miles away in any possible direction. And these days there seem to be few reasons to dance.

What Palestinians do have today is a much gratitude to the Latin American countries that have recently joined the host of nations that recognize independent Palestine. Uruguay has promised to recognize Palestine in January 2011. Many Palestinians now understand that to capitalize on the growing international solidarity, the Palestinian leadership needs to free itself from the iron grip and political monopoly of the United States and embrace its partners of old, from the time before Oslo, the “peace process”, the Roadmap and all the other broken promises.

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.

America’s Next Failure: the Police State

January 6th, 2011 by John Kozy

Every police force in the nation has cold (unsolved) cases. The War on Drugs has been ineffective for more than forty years. No one knows where a vast number of illegal immigrants even are. The CIA has been unable to locate Osama bin Laden after more than ten years of searching. Your local police cannot protect you from burglaries, drive by shootings, rapes, domestic abuse, or murder—even with the help of most ordinary citizens. The situation is so bad that numerous legislatures have legalized the carrying of loaded weapons so that ordinary people can protect themselves which is a complete abdication of the usual view that people should not take the law into their own hands. So what in the world would make anyone believe that policing can protect us from terrorists? 

Suppose you were a person who painted the exteriors of houses, and that one August afternoon you were close to completing a job when you noticed a thunderstorm looming. Suppose you looked around and saw a police car coming down the street, flagged it down, and asked the policemen to help you finish the job before the storm hit. What reaction do you think you’d get? Do you think you’d get any help?

Now consider this: A person is caught by a surveillance camera robbing a convenience store. The police send the tape to the local television stations, and on the next newscast, the tape is broadcast and viewers are asked to help identify the robber. Say what?

What distinguished this situation from the one described in the first paragraph? The police expect the public to help them do their jobs, but the public cannot expect help from the police. Am I the only person who finds this situation odd?

Things are even worse. Have you ever had your home burglarized? I have. When the police arrived after my call, they dutifully wrote a report. When it was handed to me, one of the officers said, “You realize that all we are going to do is file the report” and advised me to file an insurance claim. Why don’t they tell that to the convenience store’s owner instead of asking the public for help?

Some will say that getting criminals off the street is a good thing, so so is helping the police identify them. But it’s not clear that policing gets criminals off the street. Even when convicted, judges routinely sentence the convicted person to probation. When sentenced to prison, some other convicted criminal is often paroled to make room for the newcomer. So what is it exactly that the police do for you? I don’t know the answer.

Because of this, in some communities, people refuse to help the police and frown on anyone who does.

In Tampa, three women heard gunshots. What they did next made them heroes to many people but outcasts to others – including some of their neighbors.

Rose Dodson was awakened by gunfire and tires squealing that night, June 29. Moments later, her roommate, Delores Keen, watched a man leap over a fence near her apartment. In the distance, at 50th Street and 23rd Avenue in east Tampa, she saw the emergency lights of a police cruiser twirling in the dark, but no officer was in sight. Both knew something was wrong and stepped outside the safety of the apartment to investigate. A friend, Renee Roundtree, who had been walking to a nearby store, joined them. Lying on the ground beside the police cruiser, the women found two officers, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.

Keen called a 911 dispatcher.

Whether making outcasts of these three women is appropriate is for each to decide for her/himself. I am merely making a point about policing in general which is merely that police seem to be unable to do their jobs alone. And this situation applies to the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security as well as the local police. All seem to require help from ordinary people.

For instance, the FBI has claimed to have foiled a number of terrorist plots, all with the help of paid informants. The FBI foiled none on its own. It also regularly issues a ten most wanted list asking for help from the public in finding those listed. The CIA also relies on paid informants even to gather information. The border patrol seems to be equally unable to carry out its functions alone. It has been totally ineffective in providing border security.

Now the nation seems headed toward becoming a police state in which everyone is watched, people are asked to snitch, and information is collected willy-nilly on everyone. But consider these facts:

Every police force in the nation has cold (unsolved) cases. The War on Drugs has been ineffective for more than forty years. No one knows where a vast number of illegal immigrants even are. The CIA has been unable to locate Osama bin Laden after more than ten years of searching. Your local police cannot protect you from burglaries, drive by shootings, rapes, domestic abuse, or murder—even with the help of most ordinary citizens. The situation is so bad that numerous legislatures have legalized the carrying of loaded weapons so that ordinary people can protect themselves which is a complete abdication of the usual view that people should not take the law into their own hands. So what in the world would make anyone believe that policing can protect us from terrorists? The reason police states fail lies in the failures enumerated above.

In Plato’s Republic, he describes a political system ruled by an oligarchy of specially trained Guardians. Critics of this system have often poised the question, Who guards the guardians? In Plato’s Republic, the Guardians guard each other using their special moral sensibilities developed by their educations. But lacking such morality, it is obvious that even guardians must be guarded. In a police state, everyone cannot be watched, especially the police themselves. Likewise, everyone cannot be protected. No police state can function efficiently or effectively. Police cannot succeed without the help of ordinary people and police states ultimately fail because of that. In a police state, money is squandered trying to get the police to do something they can never do. They can, however, make life miserable for everyone.

John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

The last four months of 2010, nearly 500 earthquakes rattled Guy, Arkansas. [1]  The entire state experienced 38 quakes in 2009. [2]  The spike in quake frequency precedes and coincides with the 100,000 dead fish on a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River that included Roseville Township on December 30. The next night, 5,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings dropped dead out of the sky in Beebe. [3]  Hydraulic fracturing is the most likely culprit for all three events, as it causes earthquakes with a resultant release of toxins into the environment. [4]

A close look at Arkansas’ history of earthquakes and drilling reveals a shocking surge in quake frequency following advanced drilling. The number of quakes in 2010 nearly equals all of Arkansas’ quakes for the entire 20th century. The oil and gas industry denies any correlation, but the advent of hydrofracking followed by earthquakes is a story repeated across the nation.  It isn’t going to stop any time soon, either.  Fracking has gone global.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) pumps water and chemicals into the ground at a pressurized rate exceeding what the bedrock can withstand, resulting in a microquake that produces rock fractures. Though initiated in 1947, technological advances now allow horizontal fracturing, vastly increasing oil and gas collection. [5] In 1996, shale-gas production in the U.S. accounted for 2 percent of all domestic natural gas production, reports Christopher Bateman in Vanity Fair. “Some industry analysts predict shale gas will represent a full half of total domestic gas production within 10 years.” [6] In 2000, U.S. gas reserve estimates stood at 177 trillion cubic feet, but ramped up to 245 tcf in 2008. These new technologies prompt experts to increase global gas reserve estimates ninefold. [7]

The grid below shows a section of the Arkansas River, with Roseville Township at bottom, where the first reports of the fish kill originated. The green lines surrounding and crossing the river indicate gas pipes, ranging from 8-20” in diameter. Any number of leaks in the pipes can explain the fish kill. Gas wells are shown by yellow ‘suns’ (see red arrows) and range from 1,500 to 6,500 feet deep. (Disposal wells, where drilling waste products are injected at high pressures, go as deep as 12,000 feet.) The red numbers next to the ‘suns’ give the number of gas wells in that spot, numbering close to 50 in this small area. [8]

(The gray numbers relate to the Township Numbering System. Each square equals one square mile. Click map for larger image.)

In December alone, over 150 earthquakes rocked Arkansas. [1] The swarm of quakes in Guy likely results from six years of intense drilling. Guy sits within the Fayetteville Shale Formation which, according to the Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS), is “the current focus of a regional shale-gas exploration and development program.”  A billion cubic feet of gas has been produced from this area since 2004. [9]

Thousands of wells are in operation in North-Central Arkansas (blue section of the following map). [10] Beebe, where the bird kill occurred, is in White County and Guy is at the northern end of Faulkner Co., where the anomalous earthquakes continue.

Red-winged blackbirds roost in clusters up to a million or more birds, often with other species like starlings and cowbirds. (In the 1950s and ’60s, roosts could number 20 million birds.)  Blackbirds prefer low, dense vegetative cover in wetlands or near streams. Though some may perch 30 feet above the water, most perch within one to two feet of it, and some will roost with their feet resting in water. Blackbirds can range up to 50 miles a day from roost to feeding sites, but they all settle in for the night before sunset. [11]

An earthquake of whatever scale can release a stream or cloud of gas and fracking chemicals which could easily explain why sleeping birds would suddenly take flight, and then quickly die as they succumbed to the toxic fumes. Of note, eight measured quakes within 40 miles of Beebe, and within 75 miles of Roseville, hit the area on December 30 thru several minutes past midnight on January 1st. [12]  This excludes any micro- or miniquakes which can have the same effect.  Significantly, the area is known for its prolific microquakes — numbering 40,000 since 1982. [1]

Canadian Geologist Jack Century crusades against induced seismicity from irresponsible drilling. In a 2009 speech before the Peace River Environmental Society, he provided a brief explanation of how fracking induces earthquakes, completely refuting industry denial that fracking causes quakes. Fracking induces not only micro- and mini-seismic actions that can compromise the integrity of well casings, but also large earthquakes registering on the order of 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, resulting in human deaths. [13]

Scott Ausbrooks, geohazards supervisor for AGS, told CNN in December that while earthquakes aren’t unusual in Arkansas, the frequency is. [14]  Indeed, they’ve had a 1,200 percent increase in earthquakes over 2009 data just in the last four months of 2010. All of the quakes registered less than 3 on the Richter Scale; over 98% of them occurred near Guy, where we find the largest concentration of gas wells; and 99% occurred outside the New Madrid Fault zone (circled in red below) where seismic activity is expected, implying they are human induced [1]:

Though AGS publicly claims no earthquake relation to drilling, in early December, Arkansas banned new drilling permits until further notice.

CNN reported that “According to the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission, there are at least a half dozen ‘disposal wells’ within a 500-square-mile zone around Guy.” Ausbrooks noted similar “incidents in Colorado in the 1960s at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, where deep water injection was tied to earthquakes.” [14]

Arkansas Earthquake and Drilling History

When comparing Arkansas’ earthquake history with its drilling history, a causative correlation becomes obvious.

The entire 19th century saw 15 recorded earthquakes and none in the first decade of the new century.  A total of 694 quakes rocked Arkansas in the 20th century.  That number was surpassed in 2009-2010, with the bulk (483) occurring the last three months of 2010. Table 1 was prepared using complete quake data thru 2009 [15], complete data from August thru December, 2010 [1], and just North Central Arkansas quake data from January thru July, 2010. [16]

Arkla, Inc., through its many morphs, mergers and acquisitions,  is and has been a key gas driller in Arkansas.  Between 1975 and the early 1980s, the company found more gas than it produced. By 1982, Arkla was able to sell Central Louisiana Electric Company more than 100 million cubic feet of gas daily. By the early 1990s, it operated the sixth-largest pipeline system in the United States and was among the ten largest operators of natural gas reserves. [17] Its production timeline coincides with the massive jump in earthquakes in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, 37 companies drill for gas and oil in Arkansas. [18]

Unregulated Fracking on a Global March

The U.S. and Canada are not alone in exploiting this highly destructive technology. Poland also embraces fracking. Several energy companies are currently exploring Poland’s reserves, including Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil, Marathon, Chevron, Talisman, Lane Energy, BNK Petroleum, Emfesz, EurEnergy Resources, RAG, San Leon Energy and Sorgenia E&P. [19]  These new technologies will significantly impact the global trade in natural gas, according to Forbes [20]:

“Poland consumes 14 billion cubic meters of gas a year and imports more than 70% of it from Russia. It is easy to see how the country could benefit from starting shale gas drilling as soon as possible. Not only could it decrease its dependency on Russia, it might even turn into a gas exporter.”

Bateman noted that Western and Central Europe have leased their lands to frackers. Australians are suffering from the same frack contaminations as Americans, and China is also exploiting the new technology. [6]

Josh Fox’s 2010 film, Gasland, documents a multitude of harmful consequences on animal and human life, as well as property values. The most infamous scene shows people able to ignite their contaminated tap water [21]:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrnnQ17SH_A

Fox makes the point that Dick Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, lobbied for and won exemptions from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Superfund, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, thanks to our corporate-owned Congress. Though it did not hesitate to pass on Wall Street’s gambling debts to the public (twice), Congress has not found the will to pass the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act.

Nor do drillers have to disclose the toxic chemicals used, contrary to the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. [22]

In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that fracking poses no threat to water supplies and that no further studies were needed. [23]  From some Orwellian nightmare, however, at least 65 of the chemicals used in fracking are considered hazardous by the EPA. They have been linked to “cancer; liver, kidney, brain, respiratory and skin disorders; birth defects; and other health problems,” according to a 2005 report by the Oil and Gas Accountability Project. Of primary concern to citizens, OGAP notes that “Approximately half of the water that Americans rely on for drinking comes from underground sources.” [24]

Wyoming took a proactive stance on full disclosure of fracking chemicals when it passed new rules in September. Loopholes, however, still allow companies to claim proprietary ownership of such information, restricting the information from public view. [25]

Given the EPA’s position that fracking is safe, it’s not likely that Arkansas citizens will get much help from the federal government. Nor will they find a friend at the state level. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has so far been unwilling or unable to stop UMETCO Minerals Corporation from illegally dumping toxic chemicals into streams. [26]

The same situation applies across the nation where state governments protect industry over environmental and human health.  Recently, outgoing Governor David Paterson vetoed legislation that would have put a moratorium on vertical and horizontal hydraulic drilling. [27]  Already, Pennsylvania leases a third of its public lands to private energy drillers. [21]

Given government bias toward energy giants, and BP’s destruction of the Gulf of Mexico is a case in point, more direct action may be required by citizens, if environmental and human health are to be saved from the fossil fuel industry.

Rady Ananda holds a B.S. in Natural Resources from The Ohio State University’s School of Agriculture.

Notes:

1. Arkansas Geological Survey, “Arkansas Earthquake Updates.” http://www.geology.ar.gov/geohazards/earthquakes.htm

2. Arkansas Geological Survey, “2009 Earthquakes.” http://www.geology.ar.gov/xl/2009_Earthquakes.xls

3. Food Freedom, “Massive fish kill and 1000s of birds fall from the sky in Arkansas,” 2 Jan. 2010. http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/massive-fish-kill-and-1000s-of-birds-fall-from-the-sky-in-arkansas/

4. Earthworks, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Earthquakes.”  http://www.earthworksaction.org/fracturingearthquakes.cfm

Also see:

Ben Cassleman, “Temblors Rattle Texas Town: Residents Suspect a Drilling Boom Is Triggering Small Quakes, but Scientists Lack Proof,” Wall Street Journal, 12 June 2009. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124476331270108225.html

James Glanz, “Deep in Bedrock, Clean Energy and Quake Fears,” New York Times, 23 June 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/business/energy-environment/24geotherm.html

James Glanz, Video: “The Danger of Digging Deeper,” New York Times, 23 June 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/06/23/us/Geothermal.html

5. U.S. Department of Energy, “Hydraulic Fracturing White Paper,” June 2004.  http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/uic/pdfs/cbmstudy_attach_uic_append_a_doe_whitepaper.pdf

6. Christopher Bateman, “A Colossal Fracking Mess,” Vanity Fair, 16 June 2010. http://www.vanityfair.com/business/features/2010/06/fracking-in-pennsylvania-201006?currentPage=all

7. Martin Walker, “Russia’s Fracked Future,” UPI, 1 Feb. 2010. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/2010/02/01/Walkers-World-Russias-fracked-future/UPI-21421265042152/

8. Arkansas Geological Survey, “Fayetteville Shale Gas Play West Map,” Last updated 2 March 2010. http://www.geology.ar.gov/maps_pdf/fossilfuels/Fay%20West%20Map%2042×44.pdf

9. Arkansas Geological Survey, “Gas.” http://www.geology.ar.gov/fossil_fuels/gas.htm

10. Arkansas Geological Survey, “Fayetteville Shale Gas Play.” http://www.geology.ar.gov/home/fayetteville_play.htm

11. Brooke Meanley, “The Roosting Behavior of the Red-Winged Blackbird in the Southern United States,” Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 77 No.3, pp 217-228, Sept. 1965. http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Wilson/v077n03/p0217-p0228.pdf

12. U.S. Geological Survey, “Map Centered at 35°N, 93°W” Accessed Jan. 5, 2010: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsus/Maps/US2/34.36.-94.-92.php

13. Jack Century, “Earthquake Risks: Building a Nuclear Power Plant near Peace River, Alberta,” Peace River Environmental Society, May 2009 (71 mins.) http://peaceriverenvironmentalsociety.org/; 8-part video at http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=jack+century&aq=f

14. CNN, “Arkansas Earthquakes,” 13 Dec. 2010. http://www.wibw.com/nationalnews/headlines/Arkansas_Earthquakes_111815534.html

15. Arkansas Geological Survey, “Earthquake Archive,” 2009. http://www.geology.ar.gov/xl/Earthquake_Archive.xls

16. Arkansas Geological Survey, “Recent and Historical Earthquakes in North-Central Arkansas,” October 2010 http://www.geology.arkansas.gov/maps_pdf/geohazards/CentralArkansasMediaMap.pdf

17. Funding Universe, “Arkla Inc.” n.d. http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/ARKLA-INC-Company-History.html

18. Manta.com, “37 Drilling Oil and Gas Wells Companies in Arkansas,” n.d.

http://www.manta.com/mb_44_E317D_04/drilling_oil_and_gas_wells/arkansas

19. STRATFOR, “Poland: Fracing On The Rise?” Forbes Magazine, 1 June 2010. http://blogs.forbes.com/energysource/2010/06/16/poland-fracing-on-the-rise/

20. TREFIS Team, “ConocoPhillips Has Big Fracking Plans For Poland, Stock Has Upside,” Forbes Magazine, 14 Dec. 2010. http://blogs.forbes.com/greatspeculations/2010/12/14/conocophillips-has-big-fracking-plans-for-poland-stock-has-upside/

21. Josh Fox, Gasland, 2010. http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/. See trailer showing ignited tap water at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrnnQ17SH_A.

22. Sarah Collins and Tom Kenworthy, “Energy Industry Fights Chemical Disclosure: Natural gas companies want to prevent oversight of fracking,” Center for American Progress, April 2010. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/04/fracking.html

23. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs Study,” June 2004. http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/wells_coalbedmethanestudy.cfm

24. Lisa Sumi, “Our Drinking Water at Risk: What EPA and the Oil and Gas Industry Don’t Want Us to Know about Hydraulic Fracturing,” Oil and Gas Accountability Project, April 2005. http://www.earthworksaction.org/pubs/DrinkingWaterAtRisk.pdf

25. Earthworks, Powder River Basin Resources Council, “Wyoming Requires Disclosure of Chemicals in Natural Gas Drilling,” 16 Sep 2010. http://earthworksaction.org/PR_WYdisclosure.cfm

26. Karoline Wightman, “UMETCO Minerals Corp not yet fined for releasing chemicals,” Fox News, 16 Nov. 2010. http://www.fox16.com/news/local/story/UMETCO-Minerals-Corp-not-yet-fined-for-releasing/cOwdIEMf-kugosx8EWbrQQ.cspx?rss=315

27. Tom Zeller, “New York Governor Vetoes Fracking Bill,” New York Times, 11 Dec. 2010. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/new-york-governor-vetoes-fracking-bill/

This week, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that the second round of dramatically flawed Nov. 28 presidential and parliamentary elections will not be held until at least February, and, given how things are degenerating in the country, it may be even later.

“It will be materially impossible to hold the run-off on Jan. 16, 2011,” said the CEP’s Director General Pierre-Louis Opont on Jan. 4. He added that “from the date of the publication of the final results of the first round, we will need at least one month to hold the run-off.” The CEP was to have published the final results on Dec. 20.

But now, when those final results will be published is anyone’s guess, including the CEP’s, because Haiti’s electoral process effectively has been taken over by the Organization of American States (OAS), which Cuba refers to a “Washington’s Ministry of Colonial Affairs.”

On Dec. 30, a mission of ten “OAS technical experts” arrived in Haiti and is cloistered reviewing the elections’ ballots and tally sheets. “The mission can only be successful if it is allowed to have access to all information to make its own independent assessments,” said OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin.

Now, the OAS findings, which are expected possibly next week, will constitute the election’s results. In essence, the OAS has usurped the CEP’s role as “final arbiter” outlined by Haiti’s Constitution and Electoral Law.

But the OAS mission’s real purpose is not to sort out technical glitches but to resolve the political stalemate between the presumed top three presidential rivals – former senator and first lady Mirlande Manigat, official Unity party candidate Jude Célestin and pro-coup popular konpa musician Michel Martelly – and find a way to have the Haitian people swallow a vote which is patently fraudulent and flawed, whoever supposedly wins.

“The Organization of American States and UN should not be trying to legitimize a fundamentally illegitimate election,” said economist Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). “If the OAS certifies this election, this would be a political decision.” The CEPR has independently recounted and reviewed the CEP’s 11,171 tally sheets and found massive irregularities, errors and fraudulent vote totals.

The election was illegitimate not only due to Haitians’ widespread disenfranchisement on Nov. 28 but because, a year earlier, exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s political party, the Lavalas Family (FL) – Haiti’s largest – was excluded from running. The result was that only 23% of Haiti’s 4.7 eligible voters, according to the CEP’s own figures, went to the polls, a phenomenally low turn-out from a people denied the right to choose their head of state for three decades under the dictatorial Duvalier dynasty (1957-1986). Some would-be voters reported walking past cholera victims’ dead bodies on the street in search of a polling station with their name on the voters’ list only to find the name of their neighbor who died in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The take-over of Haiti’s sovereign elections is being denounced not just by Haitians, but by OAS officials themselves. “We are deciding for them,” said Brazilian diplomat Ricardo Seitenfus, who was the OAS Ambassador to Haiti, in a BBC interview. “Now we are getting involved in the electoral process. Let Haitian institutions solve their own problems.”

A week earlier, Seitenfus was dismissed from his post after telling a Swiss paper that “we want to turn Haiti into a capitalist country, an export platform for the U.S. market, it’s absurd.” He also criticized the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), as the occupation force is called: “When the level of unemployment is 80%, it is unbearable to deploy a stabilization mission. There is nothing to stabilize and everything to build.” UN officials have repeatedly rejected Préval’s pleas to turn MINUSTAH’s “tanks into bulldozers,” even after the earthquake.

“Instead of taking stock, we sent more soldiers,” Seitenfus said. “We must build roads, erect dams, participate in the organization of the State, the judicial system. The UN says it has no mandate for that. Its mandate in Haiti is to keep the peace of the cemetery.”

Meanwhile, 12 Haitian board members of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) – a 26 member body already dominated by foreign banks and foreign governments that decides where to spend the billions slowly being donated to Haiti’s reconstruction – presented a letter of protest to IHRC co-chairman Bill Clinton at the commission’s latest meeting on Dec. 14 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The Haitians complained of being “completely disconnected from the activities of the IHRC,” provided no background information on the projects they are supposed to fund, and given “time neither to read, nor analyze, nor understand – and much less respond intelligently – to projects submitted” the day before they’re voted on. There is no follow up on previously approved millions, and they “don’t even know the names of the consultants who work for the IHRC nor their respective tasks,”the 12 fumed.

They concluded that “in reality, Haitians members of the board have one role: to endorse the decisions made by the Executive Director and Executive Committee.”

The IHRC’s Executive Director they denounced was Gabriel Verret, a long-time U.S. State Department employee at USAID as well as a U.S. informant inside President René Préval’s inner circle. “”Préval appears not to trust his advisers or ministers to make key decisions, or even to implement key decisions,” former U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson wrote in a Mar. 7, 2007 an Embassy cable made public last month by WikiLeaks. “The most recent account of the council of ministers meetings provided by Gabriel Verret to the Ambassador describes Préval going through the action items of each ministry and demanding status reports.”

Verret, who according to Sanderson was “both a trusted confidante and influential policy advisor” to Préval, is the third fiddle on the IHRC Executive Committee with Clinton and the other IHRC co-chair, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
So the fig leaf barely hiding Washington’s heavy hand on Haiti’s rudder has fallen away in the last month as both the foreign-controlled reconstruction and election have foundered.

As the Jan. 12 anniversary of the earthquake arrives next week, Haitians everywhere are calling louder than ever for an end to foreign meddling. “Since 2004 [when the U.S., France, and Canada backed a coup, occupied Haiti, then turned over the mission to the UN], the new colonists have painted the face of us who are Haitian with the mud of humiliation,” wrote Aristide in his traditional year-end long letter-poem to the Haitian people on Dec. 21. “Up until now, the minority which excluded the majority cannot admit that it made a big mistake by accepting to saw off the branch that it was sitting on.”
Please credit Haiti Liberte.

Military Officers for 911 Truth

January 6th, 2011 by Global Research

As officers in the U.S. military, we took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Regardless of our current status — active duty, reserves, retired, or civilian — that oath remains in force. Therefore it is not just our responsibility, it is our duty to expose the real perpetrators of 9/11 and bring them to justice, no matter how hard it is, how long it takes, how much we have to suffer, or where it leads us. We owe this to those who have gone before us who executed that same oath, and we owe it to those who are following that same oath today in Iraq and Afghanistan. We believe the official account of 9/11 as defined in the 9/11 Commission Report is grossly inaccurate and fatally flawed. US Military Officers for9/11 Truth LogoIt is imperative that we have an accurate understanding of 9/11 so that those responsible can be identified and brought to justice in order that they and similarly-minded people never again commit such heinous crimes. It is also imperative that we have an accurate understanding of 9/11 so that governmental policies resulting from 9/11 are based on truth rather than deception.

We join with other organizations of professionals, such as Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Pilots for 9/11 Truth, Firefighters for 9/11 Truth, Medical Professionals for 9/11 Truth, and Lawyers for 9/11 Truth, and millions of individual citizens in demanding a thorough, impartial, open and transparent reinvestigation of the terrorist acts of 9/11.

El pasado 17 de diciembre estallaron en la ciudad de Sidi bu Zib (centro de Túnez) manifestaciones masivas y espontáneas cuando Mohammad Bouazizi, de 26 años, se roció con gasolina y se prendió fuego después de que una mujer policía le abofeteara y escupiera. El único crimen que Bouazizi había cometido era ser un vendedor callejero de verdura y fruta sin permiso en un país en el que las políticas económicas neoliberales no han logrado proporcionar oportunidades económicas a Bouazizi y a otras miles de personas como él [1]. El intento de suicidio de Bouazizi, que ocurrió inmediatamente después de la humillación por parte de la policía y confiscación de su única fuente de ingresos, revela la profunda desesperación que prevalece entre la población de Túnez, especialmente entre los graduados universitarios. Veinticuatro años ininterrumpidos de corrupción, dictadura y políticas neoliberales han provocado que la riqueza se concentre en manos de muy pocas personas relacionadas con el presidente Zine El Abidine Ben Ali y la familia de su mujer. Bouazizi, graduado universitario [2], trataba de vivir con dignidad y de mantener a su familia trabajando como vendedor ambulante a pesar de vivir en un país al que los observadores y analistas económicos occidentales consideran un milagro económico y uno de los llamados Leones Africanos [3].

Las miserables condiciones económicas en el interior del país, la falta de oportunidades de trabajo y de libertades políticas llevaron a Bouazizi, como a miles de otros hombres y mujeres jóvenes en los países del Magreb, a los márgenes de la sociedad. El índice nacional de empleo de Túnez, muy por debajo de la verdadera situación de empleo, es del 14% [4]. Sin embargo, la tasa de paro de la juventud (de aquellas personas entre 15-24 años) es del 31%. Los ingresos del 10% de la población mas rica son de aproximadamente el 32% y el 20% de la población más rica controla el 47% de los ingresos de Túnez. Las desigualdades en Túnez son tan graves que el 60% de la población con menos ingresos gana sólo el 30% (el 40% de los más ricos se llevan a casa el 70% de los ingresos) [5]. Aún así, el FMI describe la gestión económica del gobierno y la desigual riqueza económica que beneficia principalmente a las ciudades del norte y de la costa mientras margina el interior del país como una “prudente gestión macroeconómica” [6].

El despreciable comportamiento de la agente de policía descrito antes no es infrecuente en Túnez y lo aprueba la policía estatal, la cual ignora los derechos humanos básicos, desprecia la dignidad de sus ciudadanos y no tolera señal alguna de disidencia. Pocos días después del intento de suicidio de Bouazizi la pobreza, el paro y la opresión empujaron a otro hombre joven a suicidarse. El miércoles 22 de diciembre Hussein Nagi Felhi, también parado, logró suicidarse subiéndose a una torre de alta tensión. Se electrocutó y murió ahí mismo. Los testigos afirman que gritaba “no a la miseria, no al paro” mientras subía por la torre [7].

La epidemia de paro juvenil, desigualdad, represión política y falta de toda libertad fundamental exacerbaron la solidaridad entre la población que tomó las calles en protestas espontáneas no planificadas. A los pocos días del intento de suicidio de Bouazizi y del suicidio de Felhi las protestas se extendieron por todo el país y llegaron a la capital Túnez y continúan todavía ante el bloqueo total de los medios de comunicación nacional y de la brutalidad policial que tuvo como resultado la muerte de un joven de 18 años. No es la primera vez que en sus 24 años de reinado el dictador de Túnez Zine El Abidine Ben Ali se ha enfrentado a la ira de la calle por la falta de trabajo y la miseria, pero éste es con mucho el desafío más grave a su dominio. Hace unos tres años, en enero de 2008, su aparato de seguridad aplastó las protestas en Redhayef, una ciudad minera del sur del país, cuando los trabajadores y los jóvenes protestaban por los salarios y por el paro [8]. En aquella ocasión más de trescientas personas fueron detenidas a consecuencia de las protestas [9]. Sin embargo, esta vez la desesperación entre la población ha llegado su punto máximo. Con la ayuda de las redes sociales algunos manifestantes lanzaron una página de Facebook para documentar los disturbios y compartir noticias a pesar de que el gobierno cerró rápidamente todas las páginas web relacionadas con los manifestantes [10]. Las manifestaciones están creciendo en intensidad y no hay señales de que se vayan a calmar. Los manifestantes están hartos del status quo de la autoenriquecida y corrupta familia en el poder que es de facto el sistema de gobierno en Oriente Próximo y norte de África.

Un aliado occidental: la hipocresía de las políticas neoliberales y exteriores occidentales

El respeto por los derechos humanos y la libertad de prensa son casi inexistentes en Túnez. El Índice de Libertad Económica establecido por la Fundación Heritage califica a Túnez de nación “fundamentalmente no libre” y muy cerca de estar reprimida, su calificación más baja [11]. Transparencia Internacional sitúa a Túnez entre las naciones más corruptas con una calificación de 4.3 sobre 10 (donde 10 significa libre de corrupción y 1 el mayor grado de corrupción) y según Freedom House Index Túnez es considerada “no libre” [12]. No sorprende en un país en el que el gobierno controla casi todos los aspectos de la vida de la población. En especial la juventud está estrechamente controlada y observada. El gobierno decide hasta los campos de estudio en la educación y el ministerio de Educación, Educación Superior e investigación Científica decide el campo de estudio de los estudiantes [13].

Aunque las protestas que se extendieron por todo el país adoptaron la forma de descontento social durante los primeros días, rápidamente se transformaron a lo largo de estos diez días para convertirse en un mitin político generalizado. Ahora los manifestantes están en las calles pidiendo abiertamente al presidente Zine El Abidine Ben Ali que dimita con pancartas escritas en dialecto tunecino con las palabras “Yezzi Fock” (Ben Ali, ya basta), que se ha convertido en la consigna política de los manifestantes. Los sindicatos, que han desempeñado un papel activo en la vida pública desde la independencia de Francia, también están apoyando a los manifestantes. El presidente Ben Ali, de casi 80 años, es muy consciente de la gravedad y de la amenaza real a su control del poder. Su primera reacción fue adelantarse a los manifestantes haciendo dimitir a algunos altos cargos locales, sustituyendo a algunos ministros e inmediatamente después prometiendo más inversión y creación de empleo, algo completamente desconocido en sus veinticuatro años en el poder. Cuando estas falsas promesas fueron incapaces de reducir la ira de los manifestantes, recurrió a las políticas rutinarias de represión policial y de amenazas explícitas a los ciudadanos. Dado que se enfrentaba al descontento más grave de la historia de su gobierno, compareció en la televisión en respuesta a las manifestaciones. Prometió castigar a la “minoría de extremistas” a los que acusó de los disturbios (como los calificó) y también indicó que estas protestas “tendrán un impacto negativo en la creación de empleo. Desanimarán a inversores y turistas, lo que afectará al empleo” [14]. Parece que la principal preocupación del presidente es la industria del turismo que está estrechamente controlada por su familia y la de su mujer, tal como han revelado varios cables de Wikileaks referentes a la corrupción económica y financiera de ambas familias.

Los gobiernos occidentales promocionan al dictador tunecino y su familia como un ejemplo de nación musulmana norteafricana estable y progresista. EL FMI alaba las políticas económicas neoliberales por prudentes e inteligentes aunque dichas políticas benefician básicamente a la familia de Ben Ali, a la de su mujer, además de a otros ricos tunecinos bien relacionados. En un incidente de corrupción revelado por Wikileaks, el yerno del presidente compró el 17% de las acciones de un banco justo antes de que fuera privatizado y luego las vendió muy por encima de su valor. La lectura de los cables diplomáticos estadounidenses de Wikileaks pone de relieve que el éxito de la economía tunecina está directamente relacionado con los contactos de la familia del presidente. Las desigualdades regionales y de ingresos son cada vez mayores en Túnez. La creación de empleo y la prosperidad generalizada prometidas por caducos dictados económicos ortodoxos nunca llegaron a las masas o se materializaron siquiera para la mayoría de los graduados universitarios en paro entre los que la migración ha ido aumentando de manera constante y ha pasado del 16.000 en 1980 a 80.000 en 2005.

El gobierno tunecino es un importante aliado de Estados Unidos en sus guerras coloniales en busca de recursos en Afganistán, Iraq y otras partes. Un informe de la ONU sobre centros de detención secretos incluye a Túnez en la lista de países que tienen centros de detención secretos en los que se detiene a los presos sin que la Cruz Roja Internacional pueda tener acceso a ellos [15]. Los servicios de inteligencia tunecinos cooperaron en la campaña estadounidense de la guerra contra el terrorismo y participaron en el interrogatorio de presos tanto en la base aérea de Bagram en Afganistán como en Túnez. Recientes cables diplomáticos de Wikileaks revelan que hace no mucho tiempo Estados Unidos estaba preocupado por la creciente ira en las calles y la corrupción de las familias Ben Ali y Trabelsi (la familia de su mujer) que consideran cualquier cosa del país como si fuera suya. Una lista de cables de Wikileaks de la embajada de Estados Unidos en Túnez publicados en la página web del periódico The Guardian indican que Estados Unidos considera a Túnez un Estado policial “con poca libertad de expresión o asociación y graves problemas de derechos humanos” y a la familia Ben Ali una “casi mafia” [16]. Con todo, el Departamento de Estado se enorgullece del apoyo activo que reciben las fuerzas de seguridad tunecinas de parte de Estados Unidos a pesar del historial que el gobierno tiene de Ben Ali de violaciones graves de los derechos humanos. Según la página web del Departamento de Estado: “Estados Unidos y Túnez tienen un calendario activo de ejercicios militares conjuntos. Históricamente la ayuda estadounidense en materia de seguridad ha desempeñado un papel importante en consolidar las relaciones. La Comisión Militar Conjunta estadounidense-tunecina se reune anualmente para discutir sobre la cooperación militar, el programa de modernización de la defensa de Túnez y otras cuestiones de seguridad”[17].

No está clara la suerte de las protestas en este punto. El gobierno de Ben Ali está desesperado por controlar la situación enviando a las fuerzas de seguridad y a la policía a las ciudades afectadas por las protestas. Los manifestantes han sido pacíficos y no han recurrido a ningún tipo de violencia ni a la destrucción de propiedades. Algunos simplemente llevaban en la mano una rebanada de pan y otros simplemente llevaban pancartas pidiendo trabajo y dignidad. Mientras, el FMI sigue presionando a Túnez para que adopte más políticas económicas de austeridad en relación al gasto y recomendando al gobierno que acabe con su subvención a la comida y al combustible, y reforme su sistema de seguridad social, una expresión clave para privatizar el sistema de pensiones en Túnez que beneficia a las masas de tunecinos pobres [18]. La mayor hipocresía de todo esto es que el FMI recomienda estas políticas en nombre de un mayor empleo y crecimiento que es la receta rutinaria del FMI para todas las naciones que estudia.

Mientras tanto, la comunidad internacional occidental ha permanecido mayoritariamente en silencio en relación a las protestas. Como es habitual, los medios de comunicación corporativos estadounidenses están vendiendo sus espacios a corporaciones ansiosas de ganar dinero en Navidad mientras al mismo tiempo suben los precios para exprimir aún más a sus consumidores [19]. The New York Times y The Wall Street Journal no informaron en absoluto de las protestas en Túnez. El Departamento de Estado estadounidense mantiene un silencio hermético sobre el asunto y todavía no ha hecho ninguna declaración sobre la situación. El silencio total del gobierno estadounidense confirma la hipocresía inherente de la diplomacia y política exterior estadounidense que es de sobra conocida, odiada y ha sido confirmada recientemente por los cables estadounidenses de Wikileaks.

Basel Saleh es profesor adjunto en la facultad de Economía y Estudios sobre la Paz de la Universidad Radford, Virginia. Su trabajo sobre los palestinos que cometen atentados suicidas ha sido ampliamente citado en medios de comunicación nacionales y en revistas académicas. Actualemnte está escribiendo su libro Economics When People Matter, que será publicado por Kendall Hunt en el verano de2011. Correo del autor [email protected]

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos

Notas:

[1] Véase Aljazeera (árabe), 23 de diciembre de 2010:

http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/D2ACC91E-B225-411B-8073-AC6C79845D77.htm  

[2] Hay noticias contradictorias acerca de si Mohammad Bouazizi es graduado universitario o no, pero la mayoría de las fuentes indican que lo es. Véase:

http://dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=123016#axzz19WbaUTRj  

[3] ‘Leones africanos’ es un término que utiliza el Boston Consulting Group para describir a los ocho países emergentes del continente: Sudáfrica, Argelia, Botswana, Egipto, Mauricio, Libia, Marruecos y Túnez. Véase Florence Beaugé, “Economic power of the ‘African lions’ tallied”, The Guardian Weekly, 10 junio 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jun/09/morocco-southafrica  

[4] Julian Borger, “Tunisian President Vows to Punish Rioters After Worst Unrest in a Decade”, The Guardian, 29 de diciembre de 2010:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/29/tunisian-president-vows-punish-rioters  

[5] Indicadores del Banco Mundial: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.MA.ZS/countries/TN?display=graph  

[6] Joël Toujas-Bernate y Rina Bhattachary, Tunisia Weathers Crisis Well, But Unemployment Persistsa”, IMFSurvey Magazine: Countries & Regions , 10 septiembre de 2010:

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2010/car091010a.htm  

[7] Amro Hassan, “Tunisia: Apparent Suicide Triggers Youth Protests Against Unemployment”, The Los Angeles Times, 23 de diciembre de 2010:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/12/tunisia-suicide-triggers-youth-protests-against-unemployment.html  

[8] Human Rights Watch, World Report Chapter: Tunisia, January 2009: http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79260  

[9] Amnesty International, “Behind Tunisia’s Economic Miracle: Inequality and Criminalization of Protests”, junio de 2009:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE30/003/2009/en/2e1d33e2-55da-45a3-895f-656db85b7aed/mde300032009en.pdf  

[10] Se puede consultar la página de facebook de los manifestantes vía http://www.facebook.com/yezzifock?v=photos#!/yezzifock?v=wall  

[11] The Heritage Foundation, 2010 Index of Economic Freedom: http://www.heritage.org/Index/Ranking  

[12] Freedom House, Freedom in The World Country Report, edición 2010:

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2010  , and Transparency International Corruption Index

http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results

[13] Housa Trabelsi, “Unemployment Haunts Tunisia’s College Graduates”, The Megharebia, 30 de julio de 2010:

http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2010/07/30/feature-01

[14] “Tunisian President Says Job Riots are not Acceptable”, BBC, 28 de diciembre de 2010:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12087596

[15] Véase en informe de la ONU sobre prácticas de detención secreta,

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A-HRC-13-42.pdf

[16] “US embassy cables: Tunisia – a US foreign policy conundrum”, The Guardian, 7 de diciembre de 2010:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/217138

[17] Background Note: Tunisia, U.S. State Department, 13 de octubre de 2010:

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5439.htm#relations

[18] Véase nota 4.

[19] Matthew Boyle, “Wal-Mart Raising Prices on Toys, Squeezing More Out of Holidays”. Bloomberg News, 15 de diciembre de 2010:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-15/wal-mart-raised-prices-on-toys-this-month-squeezing-more-out-of-holidays.html

Fuente: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22587

¿Inminente ejecución de Tariq Aziz?

January 6th, 2011 by Felicity Arbuthnot

Mientras Estados Unidos y Reino Unido acusan a Rusia de una “sentencia motivada políticamente” y el Papa acusa a China de falta de libertad para los cristianos, el que fuera viceprimer ministro y ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Iraq,Tariq Aziz, está en espera de ser ejecutado en Iraq. Cristiano, víctima de un juicio motivado políticamente, conoce la verdad de la duplicidad occidental respecto a Iraq.

El silencio del Papa, de los arzobispos, del Foreign Office (con William Hague, que considera los derechos humanos un eje central de sus políticas) ha sido lamentable. Muchas personas, algunas de ellas eminentes, incluidos obispos, les han planteado la situación. Ninguno de ellos ha respondido a las cartas.

Tareq Aziz es un símbolo de la “democracia” llevada al “Nuevo Iraq”. Su juicio fue condenado por Human Rights Watch (que lo había pedido sistemáticamente) por estar “fundamentalmente lleno de imperfecciones” y opinó que “el tribunal debería haber anulado el veredicto”.

Finalmente Tareq Aziz tuvo su “juicio” espectáculo (es un símbolo de los cientos de personas que esperan la muerte en Iraq y que ni siquiera han tenido uno). También es un nacionalista, que pidió al anterior Papa que no permitiera que Iraq fuera destruido por una invasión y se negó a abandonar el país al que, con todos sus supuestos defectos, había dedicado su vida.

Bajo Sadam Husein no se podía ejecutar a las personas mayores de setenta años. Tareq Aziz es una persona de setenta y cuatro años que ha sido víctima de un derrame. A muchas personas les parece que lo que Estados Unidos y Reino Unido han causado a Iraq hace empalidecer los excesos del anterior régimen. No se puede sino bajar mentalmente la cabeza con vergüenza.

Saddam fue ejecutado (se puede considerar un linchamiento) el 30 de diciembre. Esperemos que la historia no repita esta vergüenza en nuestro nombre.

Atentamente,

Felicity Arbuthnot.

Esta carta se ha enviado a los principales periódicos.

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos

Iraq War Crimes: Congenital Birth Defects in Fallujah

January 6th, 2011 by Global Research

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
ISSN 1660-4601
www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph

Case Report

 

Families with Congenital Birth Defects from Fallujah, Iraq

Samira Alaani 1, Mozhgan Savabieasfahani 2, Mohammad Tafash 1,3 and Paola Manduca 4,*

1     Fallujah General Hospital , Althubbadh district ,Fallujah, 00964.Iraq; E-Mails: [email protected] (S.A.); [email protected] (M.S.); [email protected] (M.T.)

2     P.O. Box 7038; Ann Arbor, Michigan 48107 U.S.A

3    Medical College, Al-Anbar University, Fallujah, 00964.Iraq

4   Laboratory of Genetics, DIBIO, University of Genoa, Genoa, 16132, Italy

*   Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: [email protected];
Tel.: +39 10 2470145/+39 10 3538240/ +39 3472540531.

Abstract: Since 2003, congenital malformations have increased to account for 15% of all births in Fallujah, Iraq. Congenital heart defects have the highest incidence, followed by neural tube defects. Similar birth defects were reported in other populations exposed to war contaminants. While the causes of increased prevalence of birth defects are under investigation, we opted to release this communication to contribute to exploration of these issues. By using a questionnaire, containing residential history and activities that may have led to exposure to war contaminants, retrospective reproductive history of four polygamous Fallujah families were documented. Our findings point to sporadic, untargeted events, with different phenotypes in each family and increased recurrence. The prevalence of familial birth defects after 2003 highlights the relevance of epigenetic mechanisms and offers insights to focus research, with the aim of reducing further damage to people’s health.

Keywords: Iraq; birth defects; war contaminants; epigenetics

 

1. Introduction

In Fallujah (Iraq), birth defects, with prevalence of congenital heart defects (CHD) and neural tube defects (NTD), have reached in 2010 unprecedented numbers, above the World average [1]. Lack of a comprehensive birth registry has made it difficult to make an accurate comparison with the pre war period and to understand modalities and dimension of this unusual occurrence in Fallujah. We thus introduced a protocol allowing for reconstruction of the reproductive history of families with birth defects in Fallujah that allows to see the pattern of their presentation in time. We present here the analysis of four cases of fathers with two lineages of progeny, chosen among more than 50 cases under study. Birth defects presented here are classified according to the primary defect as NTD (neural tube defects), CHD (cardiac birth defects), SK (skeletal defects), even when they have additional phenotypes, or O (others). Modalities of presentation within each family suggest that epigenetic factors may be at the origin of the mechanisms responsible for these defects. The timing of the birth defect occurrences suggests that they may be related to war-associated long-term exposure
to contamination.

The epigenetic origin of many birth defects is extensively supported by the existing literature [2]. Neural tube defects are rarely due to traceable genomic changes. The high rate of recurrence of anencephaly in siblings (6.3%) is understood as due to environmental factors and maternal effects. Studies of NTD in mice indicate that anencephaly may be due to multifactorial combinations of hypomorphs and low-penetrance heterozygotes. It is not known how many genes may contribute to anencephaly in humans.

Congenital heart defects have various phenotypes and can be compounded by different cardiac-unrelated features. Approximately 30% of CHD and tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) have been shown to be associated with wide genomic rearrangements. Only in a very small fraction of the cases investigated have cohort studies detected mutations in single genes which are putatively involved (e.g., Holt-Oram syndrome). Environmental factors are implied in the induction of most CHD phenotypes, through epigenetic mechanisms.

In mice, cleft lip is caused by epistatic interactions in the context of genetic maternal effects. Cleft lip and palate inheritance patterns suggest that the causes are combinations of genetic and nongenetic factors. Also in mice, synpolydactyly is linked to Hoxd13 mutations and its manifestation is dependent upon environmental factors.

Tumorigenesis is a multistep process involving mutations and epigenetic changes [2]. Repeated cases of infant leukemia in families are due to genetic predisposition and epigenetic changes that can occur in-utero by epigenetic modifiers. Transplacental effector-molecules and epigenetic trans-generational mechanisms are implied in the manifestation of infant leukemia.

Thus, although in teratogenesis and infant leukemia can occur through genomic rearrangements or concurrence of multiple single mutational events, they are most often described and understood to be due to pleiotropic epigenetic changes which affect more than one function, or to a combination of these three mechanisms.

Many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and fetal development. The devastating reproductive health effects of dioxins (the major contaminant of Agent Orange) on the Vietnamese people is well known. Data is also accumulating on increased rates of reproductive diseases in veterans of U.S. and U.K. wars during the last 20 years. As environmental effectors, metals are potential good candidates to cause birth defects. Metals are also integral to modern “augmented” and “targeted” weapons [3]. Metals, which are toxicants at relatively low concentrations, are highly persistent in the environment and in the body of exposed individuals, where they accumulate. Metals can disrupt events associated with embryo/fetal development and can act synergistically with other metals and/or with other environmental toxicants to induce phenotypic changes at the level of the cell, and to disrupt tissue homeostasis [4]. Many metals are weak mutagens but strong carcinogens, which implies that metals act more commonly at the epigenetic level leading to changes that are inherited by the progeny of cells.

The analysis of four cases of fathers with two lineages of progeny is presented here. In each case, we discuss what can be deduced from the family’s reproductive history, from the phenotypes of their offspring and from the modality of birth defects’ chronological occurrence. We discuss the compatibility of occurrence of birth defects with the actions of potential effectors, with the demographic of the families, and with the exposure of the parents to war-related events. We have put our evaluation into the context of mechanisms of actions for teratogens. The timing of presentation of birth defects in these families shows that they mostly occurred after 2003.

2. Experimental Section

We developed an ad hoc questionnaire to collect the retrospective reproductive history of families that had come to Fallujah General Hospital for childbirth and treatment. Questions about history of residence, demographic characteristics and lifestyle habits of the parents, and activities that may have led to their exposure to war-contaminants, were included.

3. Results and Discussion

Data from four polygamous families are presented. Mothers were admitted to Fallujah General Hospital between April 2008 and May 2010 for childbirth. Figure 1 summarizes their reproductive histories and illustrates their offspring’s birth defects. Parents’ siblings and their progeny (total n = 40) do not present birth defects or cancer. Figure 1 shows that birth defects occur sporadically with different phenotypes in a family and without obvious suggestion of known genetic contributions from the father or the mother. These represent a few families reported from a greater number of families with birth defects in Fallujah. In May 2010, over 15% of all deliveries (547) in Fallujah General Hospital presented birth defects. During the same period, spontaneous abortions were 14% of assisted pregnancies, premature deliveries (<30 weeks of gestation) were 11%, and there was one stillbirth. These numbers are not significantly different in each of the months of 2010 (manuscript in preparation). Our historical reconstruction of the reproductive lives of these families shows that incidences of birth defects began in 2003 with one exception, namely the infant leukemia case. A composite of genetic and epigenetic factors is understood to cause infant leukemia. The same family also presented a sporadic case of unrelated birth defect, TOF. Table 1 summarizes demographic characteristics and lifestyle habits of the parents of the malformed children born in Fallujah General Hospital (Iraq), between April 2008 and May 2010.

Figure 1. Top panel- Family reproductive history is graphically represented. Bottom
panel-Photographic record of birth defects: (A) Male child diagnosed with very short webbed neck, rocker bottom feet, malformed thighs, and legs flexed at hips, knees and ankles, retracted penile skin-born full term, August 7, 2010—Family 107—daughter progeny. (B) Female child diagnosed with cleft palate, poly and sindactily of both feet and right hand and congenital heart defect-born at 42 weeks, October 1, 2009—Family 107. (C) Induced abortion (at 22 weeks) of a male fetus with anencephaly, May 31, 2010. (D) Female child, with ventricular septal defect (VDS), born at full term, April 28, 2010—Family 139. Patient consent for publication of the data was obtained from all concerned.

 

Table 1. Demographic characteristics, lifestyle habits, history of residence and activities that may have led to exposure to war-contaminants of the parents of malformed children born in Fallujah General Hospital (Iraq), between April 2008 and May 2010.

[m1] 

Birth defect

Age

Race

Education

Occupation

Smoking /Alcohol

House/ OR

White

Rescue/

Acute 

Residence 2003/2010

vicinity

Phosphorus

Rubble

poisoning

bombed

burns

clearing

sympthoms

Family107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father

44

White

High School diploma

Day laborer

No

No

No/No

No

No

No

Baghdad/2006 Fallujah Alshuhadaa

First wife

O

44

White

Elementary School

House wife

No

No

No/No

No

No

No

Baghdad/2006 Fallujah Alshuhadaa

Second wife

CHD

27

White

Junior High School

House wife

No

No

No/No

No

No

No

Baghdad/2006 Fallujah Alshuhadaa

first female child

SK

21

White

 

House wife

No

No

No/No

No

No

No

Baghdad/2006 Fallujah Alshuhadaa

Family123

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father

46

White

Police Academy graduate

Police officer

No

No

 

 

 

 

Fallujah- Daffar

First wife

40

White

Elementary School

House wife

No

No

No/Yes2004

No

No

No

Fallujah- Daffar

Second wife

NT-NT-NT

31

White

Elementary School

House wife

No

No

No/Yes2004

No

No

No

Fallujah- Daffar

Family139

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father

39

White

High School diploma

Day laborer

Yes

No

No/No

No

Yes

No

Fallujah City

First wife

CHD

35

White

Elementary School

House wife

No

No

No/No

No

Yes

No

Fallujah City

Second wife

31

White

High School diploma

House wife

No

No

No/No

No

Yes

No

Fallujah City

Family 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father

CHD

36

White

Military Academy graduate

Military officer

No

No

Yes/Yes 2004

No

Yes

Yes

Fallujah-Aljumhooreya/ 2009 Garmah 

First wife

35

White

Elementary School

House wife

No

No

Yes/Yes 2004

No

No

No

Fallujah-Aljumhooreya/ 2009 Garmah 

Second wife

31

White

Teachers College graduate

Elementary school teacher

No

No

Yes/Yes 2004

No

No

No

Fallujah-Aljumhooreya/ 2009 Garmah 

Table I. Demographics and life style habits of four Fallujah families (NT=Neural tube defect; CHD=Congenital heart defect; SK=Skeletal defect; O= Other defect.

The data shows that each was stably resident, in different areas of the town up to 2009–2010, none of the parents were directly wounded or trapped under rubble and that, among them, only the male parent in Family 1 reported acute symptoms immediately after bombings. There is no obvious relationship to immediately adjacent bombing/burning of their houses or to the activity of cleaning/recovery of injured-dead people or to personal acute symptoms with them having a child with birth defect in the following years. This suggests that the birth defect in these families might not be due directly to acute exposure, but could be associated to their long term exposure and body accumulation of toxicants which are persistent in the environment.

More efficaciously than chromosomal mutations or than multiple single gene mutations, epigenetic changes (alone or associated with other genetic changes) can account for the patterns and diversity of malformation which we see in families 107, 139 and 1. Epigenetic effectors can produce simultaneously different damages and multiple phenotypes, which vary depending on the specific agent(s), and on the timing and level of exposure during embryonic life. This possibility, per se, would fit the data. The novel presentation of sporadic and diverse birth defects, which can be caused uniquely or in composite fashion by epigenetic events, also suggest that agents capable of initiating these changes are still present in the environment and continue to induce novel effects.

Teratogens in the postwar environment include metals and metal alloys which persist in the environment and in the body, and are potential risks to health (genotoxic, fetotoxic and epigenetic mechanisms of action). Metals are involved in regulating genome stability, in X chromosome inactivation, in gene imprinting, and in reprogramming gene expression. They act as metalloestrogens, inhibit DNA repair, alter DNA methylation, change transcriptome and microRNAs production, histone acetylation and methylation; all of which can lead to birth defects, whether translated into mutations or not [4]. As a consequence of internal radiation, some metals can induce sporadic gene mutations or oxidative DNA damage. In the case of depleted uranium (DU) it is unclear whether its radiation-derived mutational effects or its chemical toxic effects are more relevant. DU can induce epigenetic changes that are associated with leukemia via hypomethylation of the DNA. Exposure to teratogens of either father or mothers are potentially effective to induce birth defects at the epigenetic as well as the genetic level. In the cases we report here, the pattern of presentation does not exclude the contribution of either parent: the epigenetic changes are likely to behave as stochastic and not striclty deterministic events, and lack of effects in one of the two families branch with the same father cannot exclude his contribution to the occurrence of birth defects in the other family branch. Nonetheless, pregnant mothers’ exposure to metal contaminants is potentially more relevant to the development of malformations in the case of Family 107, where both wives had deformed babies, but with different phenotypes, and where the daughter of one of the mothers, who herself delivered a child with atrophic and ectopic kidney, had a child with multiple skeletal and dermal abnormalities. There are no known candidate mutations governing both kidney and skeletal/dermal development, and it is likely that independent exposure to effectors in the environment during both pregnancies induced diverse epigenetic effects in the developing offspring. Prenatal exposure best explain, but also paternal exposure could account for, the cases in those families where only the progeny of one spouse presented birth defects which recurred in diverse phenotypes. Cases in point are the still births and ventricular septal defect (VDS) in Family 139 and multiple cases of child leukemia and TOF in Family 1.

Continuing exposure to environmental effectors could also explain the unusually high frequency of recurrence of anencephaly and infant leukemia in a genetically-prone context (Family 123 and Family 1). These phenotypes are indeed known to derive from concomitant genetic predisposition (possibly informing the maternal effect) and from epigenetic effects due to the external environment.

Frequent miscarriages in several women during the last years are also indicative of a general negative (teratogenic) load from the environment. Epidemiological evidence on birth defects which are caused by war contaminants is common in the literature. Hindin et al. offered a review of epidemiological studies on the teratogenicity of DU and concludes that human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in the offspring of persons exposed to this war contaminant [5]. Studies in another war contaminant, Agent Orange, also find parental exposure to be associated with an increased risk of birth defects in the offspring [6].

The family history questionnaire which we developed filled serious gaps in a long history of inadequacies of the health system in Iraq. It has allowed us to begin interpretation of the facts. The strong indication of our data, that epigenetic mechanisms are at the root of the recurrence of birth defects in Fallujah, offers the hope to develop therapeutic interventions for severely affected families. Our findings can lead to a deeper understanding of the effects of war contaminants (including metalloestrogens), can help elucidate causes and mechanisms that have culminated in such high rates of birth defects in Fallujah, and can open the way to intervention, both regarding immediate counseling and in terms of therapeutic intervention.

4. Conclusions

We conclude that the high prevalence of birth defects in Fallujah is impairing the population’s health and its capacity to care for the surviving children. These defects could be due to environmental contaminants which are known components of modern weaponry. Investigations of metal contaminants, and elucidation of the types and body burden of metals, combined with simultaneous registry of the population’s reproductive history, will allow the identification of families at high risk and will facilitate therapeutic measures to remediate the damages.

Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to S. Allawi for her suggestions and problem solving, and to E. Burgio for critical reading of the manuscript. We further thank Blaine Coleman for technical support and language editing of this work. We also recognize “Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War” for funding.

References

1.         Romitti, P.A. Utility of family history reports of major birth defects as a public health strategy. Pediatrics 2007, 120, S71-S77.

2.         Surani, M.A. Reprogramming of genome function through epigenetic inheritance. Nature 2001, 414, 122-128.

3.         Skaik, S.; Abu-Shaban, N.; Barbieri, M.; Barbieri, M.; Giani, U.; Manduca, P. Metals detected by ICP/MS in wound tissue of war injuries without fragments in Gaza. BMC Int. Health Hum. Rights 2010, 10, 17.

4.         Beyersmann, D.; Hartwig, A. Carcinogenic metal compounds: recent insight into molecular and cellular mechanisms. Arch. Toxicol. 2008, 82, 493-512.

5.         Hindin, R.; Brugge, D.; Panikkar, B. Teratogenicity of depleted uranium aerosols: A review from an epidemiological perspective. Environ. Health 2005, 4, 17.

6.         Ngo, A.; Taylor, R.; Roberts, C.; Nguyen, T. Association between Agent Orange and birth defects: systematic review and meta-analysis. Int. J. Epidemiol. 2006, 35, 1220-1230.

© 2010 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

 [m1]Replace it with a “real” table that can be edited – split data if needed.

2010: Year of the Economic Crumble

January 6th, 2011 by Danny Schechter

The tenth year of the 21st Century has left us behind, and it can’t be too soon.

It was a year of the crumble.

The economy continued to crumble for ordinary people with little hope for a quick turnaround even as some markets surged. The hopes of the jobless for employment crumbled. The faith of the so many homeowners that they will find a way to stay in their homes facing foreclosure crumbled.

And so have the hopes of so many of us that our new Change Is Coming president would fight for us, would end the wars, would close Gitmo, would abandon torture, would make healthcare more affordable, would give us a government we could believe in; that, too, has crumbled.

Look back at the devastation of the year gone by its ugly election, bought and paid for by US Supreme Court sanctioned special interests, oil spilled by the Gulf-ful, wars escalated, climate change unabated, and Wall Street unchecked and we have to scratch our heads and wonder who is crazier, them or us.

For many of us, WikiLeaks was at least something to admire but even there, what we have learned is that we are still being lied to; trust, too, is crumbling.

Illusions die hard but die they do.

A year after the earthquake, rubble is still piled up in the streets of Haiti, which has received only 2% of the money raised to reconstruct it. We now have six active military operations underway, rating less and less coverage, only 4% of the network news fare by one count.

In contrast, the partisan wars are all TV News covered over and over again, with Fox charging, MSNBC responding, and Jon Stewart joking.

And yes, we need, oh do we ever, need humor. Laughing always beats crying.

Hats off to our humorists and satirists, and writers of parodies and timely humor –The Andy Borowitzs’, The Onion crowd, the Lee Papas, the Lizz Winstead’s, Driftglass, Baratunde Thurston, Lee “fox is a festival of ignorance and parade of propaganda” Camp, Jeff Kreisler, et.al to keep us sane, to make us realize the absurdity of what we are dealing with, so we don’t feel compelled to marshal facts to slay arguments that have none, and don‘t, literally or metaphorically, do a “Mark Madoff” in the darkness of our bedrooms.

Clowns have always masked and helped us cope with the deeper pains we carry with us.

Yet, “rallies to restore sanity” have proven less effective that rallies for authoritarianism. Muslim bashing and the nightly Fox snarl designed to inflame and incite as the polarization deepens with every day. If you think it’s been bad, just wait as the new DC Congress, and its hanger-ons dominate the discourse. Even Dick Cheney is getting back into the act, again. .

There seems to be nowhere to go but down.

The pragmatic compromisers of the democratic center may convince themselves they are “getting it done” in DC, but they are also alienating the Democratic Party base and disgusting all those who believed it would be or could be different. Some bills were passed in the lame duck session with greater symbolic value than substance. The Democrats seemed to have done more after they lost then when they ruled the roost.

Now it seems clear, they will move further to the right in a Clintonian bid to co-opt the Republicans by trashing the unions and slicing the safety net as the poor grow in numbers and silence.

Already, there are new escalations in Afghanistan, a rising military budget that went uncommented upon, and more repressive laws to come.

There will be a price to be paid for their legacy of spinelessness and corporate complicity.

The media still remains at the center of our conundrum, as we argued ten years ago when we founded the media issues network, Mediachannel.org, to advocate for fundamental media change. That movement was co-opted by well-funded groups like Free Press that discouraged media activism to promote inside the beltway lobbying. Look at the smoking ruins of their long and pricey fight for net neutrality and you can see where that got us. Organizations like Media Matters come up with valuable revelations but exist to push partisanship, not media change.

So we are left where we started, as David Swanson argues, with the need to support independent media, arguing “we need an alternative not only to Fox News but also to the rest of the corporate media. This is the easiest and most important project anyone can work on. The dream of persuading the labor movement (which can’t even strongly oppose corporate trade agreements when the president is a Democrat) to invest in a new television network should be abandoned. If the George Soros’s of the world haven’t figured out that there’s a communications problem, they never will. But we already have what we need; we just need to make it bigger, and we can do so. We should invest in TheRealNews.com, Thom Hartmann, Free Speech TV, Link TV, GRIT TV, Democracy Now, Pacifica Radio, community radio stations, blogs and web sites.

We should make use of foreign outlets that, for their own reasons, are willing to provide decent coverage of US politics: Al Jazeera, ATN, RT-America, etc. Unsubscribe from the New York Times, stop contributing to any purchasing of ads in it, stop reading it, and read the Guardian online instead. Get connected online, and people will send you the occasional good article or video that all lousy outlets produce. Share that one further, but promote a good website that’s hosting it, not the corporate source.”

And let’s also get behind WikiLeaks as they fight for transparency and accountability by governments and media. We need to support not only Mediachannel but sites like CrooksandLiars.com, FiredogLake.com, Global Research, Consortium News, Z Net, Huff Post, Op Ed News, etc., etc.

At the same time, we have to go back to an old idea for which online interaction and an email barrage is no substitute: organizing real people.

There are more of us than they there are of them but they are organized and focused and we are mostly reactive and emotional. They are strategic and we are tactical, easily outraged by personalities like Sarah Palin, and their inflammatory statements, with no orchestrated agenda of our own except to raise money for politicians we really can’t trust.

We seem to have lost the capacity for independent political action

As James Kwak wrote on Baseline Scenario, there is a reason for this. Progressives are captured by symbolic politics while the right is committed to substantive goals. He cites the view of Murray Edelman who divides the political sphere into insiders and outsiders.

“Insiders are basically special interests: small in number but well organized and with specific goals. Outsiders, or the “unorganized masses,” are the rest of us: we have some interests, but we are poorly organized to pursue them and therefore are generally unsuccessful. In particular, Outsiders suffer from poor and limited information, and therefore are especially susceptible to political symbols.”

He cites Arnold Kling’s summary of Edelman’s insights:

“Given these differences, the Insiders use overt political dramas as symbols that placate the masses while using covert political activity to plunder them. What we would now call rent-seeking succeeds because Outsiders are dazzled by the symbols while Insiders grab the substance.”

A lesson of 2010: we have to reject this thinking and find ways to work together and educate each other, or find ourselves further marginalized.

Happy “News” Year and new decade.

News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org witth editorial support from “dissectrix” Cherie Welch. In 20ll. we will be launching a campaign for a “jailout, “not a bailout on Wall Street as called for in the film PLUNDER The Crime of Our Time. (Plunderthecrimeofourtime.com)

Comments to [email protected]

The Global Economic Crisis

Michel Chossudovsky
Andrew G. Marshall (editors)
This book can be ordered directly from Global Research 

‘US Drones Kill 938 Pakistanis in 2010′

January 6th, 2011 by Global Research

The US has stepped up its drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a new report by a Pakistani Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) says.

The Islamabad-based NGO, Conflict Monitoring Center, revealed the details of the deaths by US drone attacks in its annual report.

The report gives detailed accounts on how the CIA killed innocent people merely on the suspicion of being militants.

In 2010, the CIA carried out an unprecedented 132 drone attacks in tribal areas, claiming the lives of 938 people, it said.

The Conflict Monitoring Center points out that none of the media organizations throughout last year reported on body counts from independent sources.

Many analysts believe the geo-strategic game plan of the US has turned out to be counterproductive.

The year 2010 was one of the deadliest years for civilians living in the tribal regions, as the number of drone strikes exceeded the combined number of such attacks carried out from 2004 to 2009.

The report states that 2,052 people lost their lives in drone strikes during the 5-year period between 2004 and 2009. The rising civilian causalities have left behind many tragic stories in the tribal areas.

The reaction of Pakistani people against the frequent use of drone strikes is finally gathering momentum.

US Forces ‘Interfere’ in Afghan Affairs

January 6th, 2011 by Global Research

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the US-led foreign powers are interfering in his country’s internal affairs and hinder the implementation of laws.

He has called on both Afghans and foreign countries to respect Afghanistan’s constitution.

“I ask our foreign friends not to interfere in our internal affairs, not to interfere in our constitution,” Karzai said at a short Tuesday ceremony commemorating the seventh’s anniversary of the ratification of Afghan Constitution in downtown Kabul.

“They must stop meddling in our implementation of the law in our country.”

Karzai did not provide details but he has in the past accused foreign security companies of corruption and running a parallel government in Afghanistan.

He has also accused the United Nations and other foreigners of undermining Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election and his own ability as an effective leader.

The remarks also come after a senior American congressman called for permanent US military bases in the war-ravaged country.

Senator Lindsay Graham said on Sunday that American air bases in the war-torn country would benefit the US and its Western allies, if maintained by the US military.

“We have had air bases all over the world and a couple of air bases in Afghanistan would allow the Afghan security forces an edge against the Taliban in perpetuity,” Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

Kabul has strongly rejected the notion of establishing permanent US military bases in Afghanistan.

Chief presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said during a press conference in Kabul on Monday that the issue has never been discussed in meetings between officials of the two countries.

“We have announced earlier that we are in touch with United States on the issue of long-term strategic partnership but not on the possible establishment of a permanent US base in Afghanistan,” he said.

Afghans also blame foreign troops and their military operations for the civilian deaths. The rising number of civilian casualties has increased anti-US sentiments in the troubled region.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO attacks have been a major source of tension between Karzai and the US-led alliance.

Over 150,000 foreign troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan.

Pentagon in $9.1bn Fraud Case in Iraq

January 6th, 2011 by Global Research

Iraq’s Supreme Audit Court says the US Ministry of Defense has failed to account for the USD 9.1 billion misspent discretionary funds during Iraq’s occupation.

The Pentagon received USD 9.1 billion back in 2004 from the US-led occupation authority funds set up to benefit Iraqi people with assets seized from the previous regime of Saddam Hussein.

According to Iraqi newspaper al-Bayanat al-Jadidah, this recent release follows the 2010 finding of USD 8.7 billion in Iraq funds not accounted for.

The sum had been allocated for reconstruction projects in Iraq, the auditing office said.

An Iraqi auditing official said the audit’s president has twice failed to send its representatives to attend the audit’s international meetings.

The audit found that defense agencies receiving the money had failed to set up required treasury accounts and managing organizations for the funds.

Doctor attributes widespread sickness to toxic chemicals from the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe.

 

 

Independent scientists have confirmed that Gulf marine life is heavily contaminated by the dispersed oil and oil sheen in the water. [Photo: Erika Blumenfeld]

Despite BP having capped its well in the Gulf of Mexico in July, the health-related after-effects of the disaster subsist.

Gulf Coast residents and BP cleanup workers have linked the source of certain illnesses to chemicals present in BP’s oil and the toxic dispersants used to sink it – illnesses that appear to be both spreading and worsening.

Dr. Rodney Soto, a medical doctor in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, has been testing and treating patients with high levels of oil-related chemicals in their blood stream. These are commonly referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). Anthropogenic VOC’s from BP’s oil disaster are toxic and have negative chronic health effects.

Dr. Soto is finding disconcertingly consistent and high levels of toxic chemicals in every one of the patients he is testing.

“I’m regularly finding between five and seven VOCs in my patients,” Dr. Soto told Al Jazeera. “These patients include people not directly involved in the oil clean-up, as well as residents that do not live right on the coast. These are clearly related to the oil disaster.”

Chronic health effects

Lloyd Pearcey, from Bonsecour, Alabama, worked on a BP clean-up team as a foreman for four months.

During that time, he collected oil-soaked boom and drove a bulldozer “filled with the tar balls and tar mats we collected. Other times we stood in the water in Tyvek suits putting out shore boom with oil all over us. The fumes got to you.”

“I just got my results from the blood tests,” Pearcey told Al Jazeera, “I have the chemicals of the oil and dispersants in my blood.”

Pearcey had experienced many of the now common symptoms of acute exposure to BP’s chemicals.

Dr. Soto is testing his patients, and said he has ample documentation attesting to the levels of toxins people are being exposed to.

Dr. Soto classifies two types of symptom groups: acute exposure that includes skin and respiratory problems; and a second, larger group of people with no symptoms, but who still have toxicity. He believes the pathways of exposure occur through air, skin, and contaminated seafood.

One of the more extreme cases he treated was a woman who developed acute respiratory problems after a visit to the beach.

“This is a young woman in good health, with good nutritional intake, no health issues, hates to take any medication, and ate only organic foods,” he explained, “But shortly after going to the beach, where she was likely exposed to toxins, she developed respiratory illness and developed cancer within weeks. I think this was due to direct exposure to chemicals in the dispersants and VOCs.”

According to the US Government, BP’s oil disaster released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP has used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants, that are banned in at least 19 countries, to sink the oil.

Many of the chemicals present in the oil and dispersants are known to cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, kidney damage, altered renal functions, irritation of the digestive tract, lung damage, burning pain in the nose and throat, coughing, pulmonary edema, cancer, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat, difficulty breathing, delayed reaction time, memory difficulties, stomach discomfort, liver and kidney damage, unconsciousness, tiredness/lethargy, irritation of the upper respiratory tract, and hematological disorders.

While there are many examples of acute exposures like Pearcey and Dr. Soto’s patient who developed cancer, his concern is that most residents who are being exposed will only show symptoms later.

“This latter group develops symptoms over years,” he told Al Jazeera. “I’m concerned with the illnesses like cancer and brain degeneration for the future. This is very important because a lot of the population down here may not have symptoms. But people are unaware they are ingesting chemicals that are certainly toxic to humans and have significant effect on the brain and hormonal systems.”

Dr. Soto is most concerned about the long-term effect of the toxins, because they have “tremendous implications in the human immune system, hormonal function, and brain function.”

The toxic compounds in the oil and dispersants are “liposoluble,” meaning they have a “high affinity for fat,” according to Dr. Soto.

“The human brain is 70 percent fat,” Dr. Soto added, “And these will similarly effect the immune cells, intestinal tract, breast, thyroid, prostate, glands, organs, and systems. This is also why this is so significant for children.”

His particular concern for children involves toxins which cause “development of the depressed immune system and a resurgence of cancer.”

Dr. Soto believes that for residents along the area of the Gulf Coast affected by BP’s toxic chemicals, the solution is either to relocate or to engage in an intensive, long-term detoxification regime that includes intravenous detoxification programs.

All clear?

State health departments in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama had issued swimming advisories while BP’s well continued to gush oil into the Gulf of Mexico last summer. Since then, however, all three states have declared their beaches, waters, and seafood safe from oil disaster related toxins.

Florida never issued any advisories, despite many residents reporting illnesses they attribute to the oil disaster.

US federal government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with President Barack Obama himself, have declared the Gulf of Mexico, its waters, beaches, and seafood, safe and open to the public.

In addition, most doctors in the effected coastal areas are not treating people as though they are suffering acute exposure to toxic chemicals.

While Al Jazeera has heard of incidences where doctors having received threats, and while many fear litigation for talking openly about patient illnesses being attributed to BP’s oil disaster, most doctors are simply not trained to deal appropriately with acute chemical toxicity on a mass scale.

Dr. Mary Jo Ghory a general and pediatric surgeon, and a member of the American College of Surgeons, told Al Jazeera she believes most doctors along the Gulf Coast are unlikely to connect the illnesses they treat to BP’s chemicals, because of a lack of adequate training.

“Toxicology is not usually a course, and there is not much discussion of the toxic effects of chemical exposure,” Dr. Ghory said. “When confronted with an array of confusing and widely varying symptoms related to chemical exposure, it is difficult for each individual physician to sort things out, especially without a definite profile of what to expect.”

Dr. Soto says he is in a very unique - but isolated - position, as he is one of the only medical doctors he knows in the region who is treating people accordingly.

Like Dr. Ghory, Dr. Soto believes this is largely due to lack of training.
 
The Exxon Valdez legacy

Merle Savage was a cleanup worker for the Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska in 1989, and she is still suffering health effects from chemicals in the oil and dispersants.

“The first few weeks I was on the beach spraying hot water onto the oil covered rocks,” Savage explained to Al Jazeera. She was soon promoted to a foreman working on the support barges where workers returned each evening.

“So when they started spraying the dispersant, the crews that came back in from spraying it returned with it all over their suits and boats. They were sprayed off with water, and the steam that came off them was dispersant chemicals and we all breathed this in.”

“The symptoms mimicked the flu, and everyone was coughing,” Savage added, “Then it came on and stayed. I went to the doctor during some time off the cleanup, and at that time I was congested with bronchial problems. Then it became a stomach disorder. My whole system since then has been jeopardized.”

After finishing her work on the oil disaster clean up, she returned to her home in Anchorage, where her problems worsened.

Savage moved out of Alaska, thinking that would improve her health. Yet after moving, a liver biopsy showed cirrhosis of the liver.

“I have always been physically active and very healthy,” she explained, “I don’t drink or smoke, and I eat health food.”

Savage, now 72-years-old, completed a chemical detoxification program three years ago, and is now feeling better.

“There was 21 years of watching my body break down like that, and nothing I could do helped, until I learned I was chemically toxified, and could treat that appropriately,” she said.

Reacting accordingly

Independent scientists and activist groups have been carrying out their own blood testing of Gulf Coast residents.

Recent results released in a report involve a 46-year-old male who lives 100 miles from the coast. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, was not a BP cleanup worker, yet tested as having higher levels of chemicals from BP’s oil in his blood than the actual cleanup workers.

Dr. Wilma Subra, a chemist and Mcarthur Fellow, analysed his blood and found the highest levels of ethylbenzene than anyone tested to date. Ethylbenzene is a form of benzene present in the body when it begins to break down; it is also present in BP’s crude oil.

Styrene, a chemical produced in industrial quantities from ethylbenzene was also found, along with Hexane. M,p-Xylene, a clear, colorless, flammable liquid that is refined from crude oil and is used as a solvent, was also present in the man’s blood.

“I’ve never even seen a tar ball,” the man, from Louisiana, told Al Jazeera, “I tried to stay away from all of it. So for me to have the high levels I have, tells me that everyone must have it.”

Gregg Hall lived in Pensacola, Florida, and also had his blood tested by Dr. Subra.

“I have a cough that won’t go away, my feet have been numb for months, I have headaches and nausea all the time,” Hall said.

Hall recently moved to Idaho, and is among a growing number of Gulf Coast residents who feel that they are victims of an environmental catastrophe that has received inadequate response from the federal government.

Dr. Soto, whose list of patients related to the BP oil disaster continues to grow, feels similarly.

“It’s criminal for the government to tell people to eat the contaminated seafood, and that it’s alright for people go to our toxic beaches and swim in the contaminated water,” Dr. Soto concluded, “This crisis has to be taken seriously by the government and health care community.”

An experimental, Army mental-health, fitness initiative designed by the same psychologist whose work heavily influenced the psychological aspects of the Bush administration’s torture program is under fire by civil rights groups and hundreds of active-duty soldiers. They say it unconstitutionally requires enlistees to believe in God or a “higher power” in order to be deemed “spiritually fit” to serve in the Army.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) is a $125 million “holistic fitness program” unveiled in late 2009 and aimed at reducing the number of suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases, which have reached epidemic proportions over the past year due to multiple deployments to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the substandard care soldiers have received when they return from combat. The Army states that it can accomplish its goal by teaching its service members how to be psychologically resilient and resist “catastrophizing” traumatic events. Defense Department documents obtained by Truthout state CSF is Army Chief of Staff George Casey’s “third highest priority.”

CSF is comprised of the Soldier Fitness Tracker and Global Assessment Tool, which measures soldiers’ “resilience” in five core areas: emotional, physical, family, social and spiritual. Soldiers fill out an online survey made up of more than 100 questions, and if the results fall into a red area, they are required to participate in remedial courses in a classroom or online setting to strengthen their resilience in the disciplines in which they received low scores. The test is administered every two years. More than 800,000 Army soldiers have taken it thus far.

But for the thousands of “Foxhole Atheists” like 27-year-old Sgt. Justin Griffith, the spiritual component of the test contains questions written predominantly for soldiers who believe in God or another deity, meaning nonbelievers are guaranteed to score poorly and will be forced to participate in exercises that use religious imagery to “train” soldiers up to a satisfactory level of spirituality.

Griffith, who is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, took the test last month and scored well on the emotional, family and social components. But after completing the spiritual portion of the exam, which required him to respond to statements such as, “I am a spiritual person, my life has lasting meaning, I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world,” he was found to be spiritually unfit because he responded by choosing the “not like me at all” box.

His test results advised him, “spiritual fitness” is an area “of possible difficulty for you.”

“You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life,” Griffith’s test said. “At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles and values. There are things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in your life. Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal.”

In an interview, Griffith, who was not speaking on behalf of the Army, said he was “deeply offended” by the spiritual questions he was forced to answer.

“It seems like my destiny is all messed up and that I am unfit to serve in the United States Army, if you believe the results of this test,” said Griffith, who has served in the Army for five years. “When I think of the word spirituality I go to the root of the word: spirit. I don’t believe in that.”

Lt. Greg Bowling agreed that the test “asks rather intrusive questions about soldiers’ spirituality – coming perilously close to violating the 1st Amendment.”

“There was no option to avoid the questions, leaving our atheist soldiers to wonder if their beliefs are tolerated in today’s increasingly religious Army,” he said.

According to a copy of the test, the Army maintains that the “spiritual dimension questions … pertain to the domain of the human spirit: they are not ‘religious’ in nature. The Comprehensive Fitness Program defines spiritual fitness as strengthening a set of beliefs, principles, or values that sustain a person beyond family, institutional and societal sources of support.”

Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, the director of the CSF program, has said, “The spiritual strength domain is not related to religiosity, at least not in terms of how we measure it.”

“It measures a person’s core values and beliefs concerning their meaning and purpose in life,” she said. “It’s not religious, although a person’s religion can still affect those things. Spiritual training is entirely optional, unlike the other domains. Every time you say the S-P-I-R word you’re going to get sued. So that part is not mandatory. The assessment is mandatory though and junior soldiers will be required to take exercises to strengthen their other four domains.”

But despite the verbal gymnastics Cornum seems to engage in over the meaning of “spiritual” and “religious,” it has been established that the spiritual component of CSF is deeply rooted in religious doctrine.

A press release issued by Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in January 2010 said renowned “Psychology of Religion” expert Dr. Kenneth Pargament was tapped to develop the spiritual portion of the test in consultation with Army chaplains, BGSU ROTC cadets, graduate students and officials at West Point.

Cornum’s claims that soldiers are not required to participate in remedial training if they score poorly on the spiritual portion of the test were not articulated to Griffith and other soldiers, who told Truthout they feared they would be disciplined by their superior officers if they didn’t act on the recommendations they received after taking the exam. In fact, nowhere on the test does it state that such training is voluntary.

Moreover, Cornum’s attempts to replace the word “religious” with “spiritual” as a way to avoid a lawsuit was not lost on one civil rights organization.

Last week, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) sent a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh and General Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, demanding that the Army immediately cease and desist administering the “spiritual” portion of the CSF test. (Full disclosure: MRFF founder and President, Mikey Weinstein, is a member of Truthout’s board of advisers.)

“The purpose of the [spiritual component of the test] though couched in general and vague language, is to strengthen a solder’s religious conviction,” says the December 30, 2010, letter signed by Caroline Mitchell, an attorney with the law firm Jones Day, who is representing MRFF. “Soldiers who hold deep religious convictions routinely pass the spirituality component of this test while atheists and nontheists do not. The Army cannot avoid the conclusion that this test is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by simply substituting the word ‘spiritual’ for ‘religious.’”

“The majority of the spiritual statements soldiers are asked to rate are rooted in religious doctrine, premised on a common dogmatic belief regarding the meaning of life and the interconnectedness of living beings,” the letter further states. “The statements in the tests and remedial materials repeatedly promote the importance of being a believer of something over electing to be a nonbeliever. Moreover, the images that accompany portions of the CSF Training Modules make clear the religious aspects of the spirituality training.”

Mitchell says the Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits such religious testing.

“And it’s not just the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment which is being blatantly violated here,” Weinstein said. “Clause 3 of Article 6 of the body of our nation’s Constitution specifically prohibits any type of ‘religious test’ being used in connection with any government service. Thus, this ‘spirituality’ portion of the Army’s CSF test completely savages this bedrock Constitutional prohibition.”

Weinstein said MRFF currently represents more than 200 Army soldiers who are “vehemently objecting to this clearly transparent ‘religious test’, the majority of them practicing Christians themselves.”

He said he does not expect the Army to stop administering the spirituality portion of the test. Weinstein and his legal team intend to pursue legal remedies if they are rebuffed, he said.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has also sent a letter to McHugh calling on the Army to stop assessing soldiers’ spiritual fitness.

Additionally, Jones Day filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request last week on behalf of Griffith and MRFF, seeking a wide range of documents related to the development of the spiritual portion of CSF. Truthout is also a party to the FOIA request.

A Defense Department spokesperson did not return calls or emails for comment.

“Dr. Happy”

CSF is based entirely on the work of Dr. Martin Seligman, a member of the Defense Health Board, a federal advisory committee to the secretary of defense, and chairman of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, who the Army calls “Dr. Happy.”

Seligman, who once told a colleague that psychologists can rise to the level of a “rock star” and “have fame and money,” is the author of “Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.” The Penn Resiliency Program, upon which the Army’s CSF is based, “teaches cognitive-behavioral and social problem-solving skills and is based in part on cognitive-behavioral theories of depression by Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis” and Seligman.

Despite his “happy” reputation, in some circles, Seligman is best known for developing the theory of “Learned Helplessness” at the University of Pennsylvania more than four decades ago. As psychologist and torture expert Dr. Jeffrey Kaye noted in a report published in Truthout last year, Seligman and psychologist Dr. Steven Maier developed the concept of Learned Helplessness after they “exposed dogs to a situation where they were faced with inescapable electrical shocks.”

“Within a short period of time, the dogs could not be induced to escape the situation, even when provided with a previously taught escape route,” Kaye wrote. “Drs. Seligman and Maier theorized that the dogs had ‘learned’ their condition was helpless. The experimental model was extended to a human model for the induction of clinical depression and other psychological conditions.”

Seligman’s work in this area influenced psychologists under contract to the CIA and Defense Department, who applied the theory to “war on terror” detainees in custody of the US government, according to a report published in 2009 by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In May of 2002, the timeframe in which the CIA began to use brutal torture techniques against several high-value detainees, Seligman gave a three-hour lecture at the Navy’s Survival Evasion Resistance Escape school in San Diego. Audience members included the two psychologists – Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell – who have been called the architects of the Bush administration’s torture program.

Five months earlier, Seligman hosted a meeting at his house that was attended by Mitchell, along with the CIA’s then-Director of Behavioral Science Research, Kirk Hubbard, and at least one “Israeli intelligence person.” Seligman claims he was totally unaware his theory on Learned Helplessness was being used against detainees after 9/11 and denied ever engaging in discussions about the torture program with Mitchell, Jessen, or any other Bush administration official.

“Learned Optimism”

Seligman, a past president of the American Psychological Association (APA), began consulting with General Casey in September 2008 about applying the research he and his colleagues have conducted over the past decade to the benefits of his theories on “Learned Optimism” to all of the Army’s active-duty soldiers. Seligman then met with Cornum in December 2008 to discuss creating the foundation for CSF as a way to decrease PTSD.

“Psychology has given us this whole language of pathology, so that a soldier in tears after seeing someone killed thinks, ‘Something’s wrong with me; I have post-traumatic stress,’ or PTSD,” Seligman said in August 2009. “The idea here is to give people a new vocabulary, to speak in terms of resilience. Most people who experience trauma don’t end up with PTSD; many experience post-traumatic growth.”

According to a report published in December 2009 in the APA Monitor, Seligman believes that positive thinking methods taught to schoolchildren who “were [conditioned] to think more realistically and flexibly about the problems they encounter every day” can also be taught to Army soldiers and the results will be the same.

Seligman said he is basing his theory on a series of 19 studies he conducted, which found that teachers who “emphasized the importance of slowing the problem-solving process down by helping students identify their goals, gather information and develop several possible ways to achieve those goals,” increased students’ optimism levels over the course of two years “and their risk for depression was cut in half.”

But unlike studies conducted on schoolchildren, there is no research that exists that shows applying those same conditioning methods to the Army’s active-duty soldiers will reduce PTSD. Seligman, however, seems to be aware that is the case. That may explain why he has referred to Army soldiers as his personal guinea pigs.

“This is the largest study – 1.1 million soldiers – psychology has ever been involved in and it will yield definitive data about whether or not [resiliency and psychological fitness training] works,” Seligman said about the CSF program.

“We’re after creating an indomitable Army,” Seligman said.

Positive Psychology’s Critics

While positive psychology, a term coined by Seligman, has its supporters who swear by its benefits, the movement also has its fair share of critics. Bryant Welch, who also served as APA president, said, “personally, I have not been able to find a meaningful distinction between [positive psychology] and Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking. Both emphasize substituting positive thoughts for unhappy or negative ones.”

“And yet the US military has bought into this untested notion to the tune of [$125] million,” Welch said. “This money, of course, could have been used to provide real mental health care to our troops. Instead, it is being used to tell military personnel that they can (and, thus, presumably should) overcome whatever happens to them on the battlefield with the dubious tools of Positive Psychology.”

Other notable critics include authors Chris Hedges and Barbara Ehrenreich, both of who say the practice has thrived in the corporate world where the refusal to consider negative outcomes resulted in the current economic crisis.

Hedges, author of the book “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle,” wrote, “positive psychology, which claims to be able to engineer happiness and provides the psychological tools for enforcing corporate conformity, is to the corporate state what eugenics was to the Nazis.”

“Positive psychology is a quack science that throws a smoke screen over corporate domination, abuse and greed,” Hedges said. “Those who fail to exhibit positive attitudes, no matter the external reality, are seen as maladjusted and in need of assistance. Their attitudes need correction.”

Hedges added that “academics who preach [the benefits of positive psychology] are awash in corporate grants.”

Indeed, Seligman’s CV shows he has received tens of millions of dollars in foundation cash to conduct positive psychology research.

According to a report published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “People credit a large part of positive psychology’s success to the solid reputations of the field’s leaders – and Seligman’s ability to get science-supporting agencies interested.”

“The National Institute of Mental Health has given more than $226-million in grants to positive-psychology researchers in the past 10 years, beginning with just under $4-million in 1999 and reaching more than nine times that amount in 2008,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Seligman has equated his work for the Army to assisting the “second largest corporation in the world.”

Multimillion-Dollar Contract

Seligman’s biggest payday came last year, when the Positive Psychology Center received a three-year, $31 million, no-bid, sole-source Army contract to continue developing the program.

According to Defense Department documents, “the contract action was accomplished using other than competitive procedure because there is only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirement[s]. Services can only be provided from the original source as this is a follow-on requirement for the continued provision of highly specialized services.”

In 2009, several months after receiving the green light from Casey to develop the CSF program, the Army paid Seligman’s Positive Psychology Center $1 million to begin training hundreds of drill sergeants to become Master Resilience Trainers (MRTs), “certified experts who will advise commanders in the field and design and facilitate unit-level resilience training across the Army.”

More than 2,000 MRTs have been trained since CSF was rolled out in October 2009. The Army intends to certify thousands more MRTs.

The Defense Department’s justification for the no-bid contract said Seligman’s program “possesses unique capabilities, in that, [it is] the only established, broadly effective, evidence-based, train the trainer program currently available which meets the Army’s minimum needs.”

Seligman’s program was “explicitly designed to train trainers (teachers) in how to impart resiliency and whole life fitness skills to others (their students),” the contracting documents state. “Other existent programs are designed to simply teach resiliency directly to participants. The long-term outcomes of [Seligman's program] have been examined in over 15 well documented studies.”

“Without the Army’s Resiliency Master Trainer Program [as taught by Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania] the exacerbated effects of multiple wars and other stressors result in a weakened corps and this directly impacts the Army’s readiness and ultimately compromises the national security of our nation … This program is vitally important to our forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The contracting documents go on to say that “market research … mostly through a thorough web search and networking with subject matter experts both within the Army, across services and in [academia] into other “positive psychology” programs was conducted between August and October 2008 before the Army decided to award the contract to Seligman because his program met the Army’s immediate needs.

Cornum said in July 2009 that similar resiliency tests used by the University of Pennsylvania for the general public would be “militarized” by the Army.

A Difficult Challenge

But according to Griffith, the atheist Army sergeant, the Army did not do enough to remove the religious connotatitions from the spiritual section of the test.

Even Seligman’s colleagues acknowledge that attempting to separate spirituality from religion is a challenge.

“Mapping the conceptual distinctions between what we refer to as ‘religion’ and what we refer to as ‘spirituality’ can be difficult,” wrote Ben Dean in an article published on the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness web site.

Griffith said there’s a simple solution: “Scrap [the] spiritual aspect altogether.” 

Vladimir Putin is the most popular leader in the world today. His personal approval ratings are in the stratosphere, usually well-above 80 percent. He is admired for his quiet, confident manner and for having restored Russia to its former greatness following the chaotic breakup of the Soviet Union. The Russian people love Putin. Parents name their children after him, vodka and caviar producers use his name to boost sales, and his face appears on the tee-shirts of students and young people. It’s unthinkable that he would step down after his term as prime minister is over a year from today. The Russian people want him to stay on and run for a third term as president, and that’s probably what he’ll do.

Putin and George Bush were supposedly good friends, but US-Russian relations have steadily deteriorated since February 10, 2007 when Putin gave a speech at a conference in Munich. In his 45 minute presentation, Putin gave his views on how world leaders should manage global security issues. It was a succinct but hard-hitting analysis that rankled US diplomats and infuriated the Bush White House. Here’s an excerpt from the speech.

Vladimir Putin: “The universal, indivisible character of security is expressed as the basic principle that “security for one is security for all”. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said during the first few days that the Second World War was breaking out: “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.”

Midway through the speech, Putin gave a pointed critique of US foreign policy and the dangers it poses to global security.

Putin: “What is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making.

It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.”

By this time, everyone attending the conference could see that Putin was not talking about the threat of terrorism, but the threat of preemption, aggression and global dictatorship. And, even though Putin tried to characterize his views as ‘a frank discussion among friends’, it was clear that he was singling out the United States as the world’s biggest troublemaker.

Putin: “Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centers of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!

Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?

In international relations we increasingly see the desire to resolve a given question according to so-called issues of political expediency, based on the current political climate.

And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this – no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.

The force’s dominance inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, significantly new threats – though they were also well-known before – have appeared, and today threats such as terrorism have taken on a global character.

I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.” ( read the whole speech here )

This is why Washington hates Putin and why western media disparage him as an “autocrat”, because he has identified himself as an opponent of the unipolar world view. He does not accept the theory that (as George H. Bush said) “That whatever the US says, goes”. He seeks a multipolar world where individual states are treated equally and with respect. But Putin’s naivete is a bit surprising. Did he really think that criticizing US meddling around the world would lead to constructive changes in policy? US foreign policy doesn’t change. It is immutable, relentless and vicious. America owns the world and demands that foreign leaders obey Washington’s directives. “Follow orders, or else”; that’s all one needs to know about US foreign policy.

Putin: “I am convinced that the only mechanism that can make decisions about using military force as a last resort is the Charter of the United Nations… Along with this, it is necessary to make sure that international law have a universal character both in the conception and application of its norms….”

This type of idealistic blather is unworthy of a shrewd leader like Putin. Where do we see any evidence that the UN prevents wars or that international law serves any purpose other than to provide an excuse for future aggression by the US or Israel? The UN means nothing to Bush, Obama or anyone else who occupies the White House. It’s just one of many props that’s used to achieve strategic objectives.

Putin wants to reduce weapons and troops on both sides of the Russia-Europe border, but the US plans to deploy missile systems to Eastern Europe and push NATO/US forces and military bases into Central Asia, thus, encircling Russia and destabilizing the region. Bush/Obama’s plan for missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic would integrate US nuclear facilities around the world providing the US with a first-strike capability that Russia will have to counter with more targets in Europe. Putin can’t allow this threat to Russia’s national security to go unanswered. Whether he wants to reduce the number of nuclear weapons or not is irrelevant, he will be forced to escalate. Missile Defense has made an another arms race unavoidable.

Putin may have stumbled in his early years as president, but he’s shown that he’s a quick learner who now understands how to handle the US. Along with US/NATO military bases sprouting up throughout Central Asia, and CIA-sponsored “color coded” revolutions toppling regimes that had been friendly to Moscow; Putin has had to deal with US-funded NGOs operating in Russia that are working to destabilize the government. These faux-human rights organizations are now watched carefully by Russian intelligence agencies and often harassed by right wing, nationalist youth groups, like “Nashi”.

Putin’s real “awakening” came about when Georgia’s President Mikail Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia 2 years ago. At the time, all of the western media reported that Russia had started the war, but now we know that wasn’t the case. Here’s a brief summary of what really happened by former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev:

“For some time, relative calm was maintained in South Ossetia. The peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians fulfilled its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, who live close to each other, found at least some common ground….What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas….Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a “blitzkrieg” in South Ossetia…Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against “small, defenseless Georgia” is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.” (“A Path to Peace in the Caucasus”, Mikhail Gorbachev, Washington Post)

Gorbachev’s account is accurate, but leaves out some important details. There aren’t any military installations in Tskhinvali. In fact, there aren’t any military targets at all. It’s an industrial center consisting of lumber mills, manufacturing plants and residential areas. It’s also the home of 30,000 South Ossetians. When Saakashvili ordered the city to be bombed by warplanes and shelled by heavy artillery, he knew that he’d be killing hundreds of civilians in their homes and neighborhoods. But he ordered the bombing anyway.

The Georgian army entered the city unopposed after most of the townspeople had fled across the border into Russia. The old and infirm huddled in their basements while the tanks rumbled bye firing at anything that moved. Some critics have compared the assault to Israel’s invasion of Gaza where the full force of a modern army was used against a civilian population. It’s a fair comparison.

Less than 24 hours after the initial invasion, Russian armored units swarmed over the border and into Tskhinvali scattering the Georgian army without a fight. Journalist Michael Binyon summed it up like this, “The attack was short, sharp and deadly—enough to send the Georgians fleeing in humiliating panic.” Indeed, the Georgians retreated in such haste that many of them left their weapons behind. They simply dropped their guns and ran. It was a complete rout and another black-eye for the US-trained army.

By the time Tskhinvali was liberated, the downtown area was in engulfed in flames and the bodies of those who had been killed by sniper-fire were strewn along the streets and sidewalks. The city’s only hospital had been reduced to smoldering rubble. All told, more than 2,000 civilians were killed in an operation that was clearly engineered and supported by the Bush White House.

The clash in South Ossetia was a valuable lesson for Putin who had hoped that US/Russia relations would gradually thaw. Now he knows that’s not possible. When another nation kills your people, everything changes. Each side becomes more inflexible and the prospects for peace dim. At the same time, US strategic objectives in Central Asia haven’t changed at all, so Putin must prepare for the next confrontation. That’s why he’s strengthening alliances that challenge US dominance in the region and in the world. That’s why he’s looking for opportunities to weaken US power and erode US prestige. That’s why he wants to dump the dollar. It’s all preparation.

When trouble breaks out, Putin will be ready. Russia is fortunate to have such a leader.

VIDEO: Argentina, IMF and the New World Order

January 5th, 2011 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Las manifestaciones para pedir trabajo se enfrentaron con las fuerzas de seguridad mientras las protestas se extendían por todo Túnez. Una erupción social a semejante escala prácticamente no tiene precedentes en este país extremadamente represivo y estrechamente controlado del norte de África.

Mohammed Amari, de 18 años, murió por un disparo de la policía cuando ésta abrió fuego contra los manifestantes en Sidi bu Zid, una ciudad situada a unos 200 kilómetros al este de la capital, Túnez. Las protestas empezaron el 17 de diciembre cuando la policía confiscó la mercancía de Mohamed Buazizi, de 26 años, al que acusaba de comerciar ilegalmente sin permiso. Se prendió fuego en protesta por ello.

Buazizi sobrevivió y fue llevado a una unidad de quemados en Túnez capital. Pero después otro hombre joven se suicidó tocando un cable de alto voltaje. Antes de morir gritó: “¡No a la miseria!¡No al paro!”.

La desesperación de estos hombres jóvenes refleja el alto nivel al que ha llegado el paro en Túnez. Oficialmente la cifra de paro es del 14%, pero el nivel real es mucho mayor.

Más de la mitad de las personas que buscan trabajo tienen titulación universitaria y la mitad de la población es menor de 25 años. Esta situación ha empujado a muchos jóvenes al sector informal donde tratan de ganarse la vida con la venta callejera. Muchas de estas personas que se considera que están auto-empleadas se encuentran en una situación desesperada.

Se ha informado de que ha habido manifestaciones en Safakes, Kairuan, Susse, Mednin y Ben Guerdane. Las fuerzas de seguridad atacaron a los manifestantes en Safakes.

En Mednin hubo protestas organizadas por los sindicatos en las que los manifestantes gritaron “Necesitamos trabajo” “¡Debería darle vergüenza al gobierno!”. En Kairuan la policía hizo frente a los manifestantes y dejó una cantidad desconocida de personas heridas, muchas de las cuales fueron atendidas en hospitales. Se desconoce también la cantidad de personas detenidas.

Las informaciones sobre las manifestaciones son muy limitadas porque se está echando a los periodistas de las ciudades donde ha habido manifestaciones. El gobierno ha prohibido la publicación de los periódicos de la oposición Tareeq-al Jadid y Al Mawqif porque estaban informado sobre las protestas.

La mayor parte de la cobertura proviene de las redes sociales como Twitter, Facebook y YouTube. El activista local Ali Buazizi describió las continuas protestas en Sidi bu Zid. Explicó a Financial Times por teléfono: “Hubo enfrentamientos hasta el anochecer. Ahora hay una fuerte presencia policial en la ciudad. Están en las calles principales y en los edificios gubernamentales. Durante el día suele ser tranquilos, pero la gente suele salir por la noche y es cuando empiezan los enfrentamientos”.

Las protestas se han extendido a la capital. El martes se manifestaron los abogados en Túnez para expresar su solidaridad con los manifestantes. Un sindicato de estudiantes de secundaria llevó a cabo una manifestación fuera del ministerio de Educación. Las fuerzas de seguridad bloquearon la concentración de la Federación Tunecina de Sindicatos en la ciudad de Gafsa.

Estas expresiones de solidaridad reflejan una simpatía generalizada con la difícil situación de las personas en paro y el creciente descontento con el gobierno del presidente Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. En un programa de televisión éste denunció las protestas como “inaceptables”. “Se aplicará la ley con toda su firmeza para castigar a una minoría de extremistas y de mercenarios que recurren a la violencia y los desórdenes”, advirtió.

Ben Ali sucedió al presidente Habib Burguiba en 1987. Burguiba había gobernado Túnez desde el momento en que esta colonia francesa ganó su independencia en 1956. Durante los últimos 23 años Ben Ali ha suprimido despiadadamente toda disidencia. Un cable del gobierno estadounidense publicado por WikiLeaks describía Túnez como un “Estado policial”, a pesar de que Washington apoya la régimen.

Túnez es oficialmente una democracia multipartidista, pero Ben Ali gana sistemáticamente por mayorías abrumadoras. En las pasadas elecciones de 2009 ganó por el 89.62% de los votos. Dos de los tres candidatos rivales eran partidarios suyos y al tercero no se le permitió exponer ningún cartel electoral.

Human Rights Watch afirmó que las elecciones habían tenido lugar en “una atmósfera de represión”. El Comité de Protección de los Periodistas afirmó que el 97% de la cobertura de los medios se dedicó a Ben Ali. Se suprimieron todos los sindicatos de periodistas tunecinos y el periodista Taufik Ben Brik fue condenado a nueve años de cárcel después de publicar varios artículos en la prensa francesa. La periodista de Le Monde Florence Beaugé fue deportada.

Las protestas han estallado porque la situación económica en Túnez se ha deteriorado a consecuencia de un descenso del comercio con Europa, el principal socio comercial de país y fuente de turismo. Túnez tiene una fuerte dependencia del turismo y de la agricultura. Ahora hay una dura competencia tanto con otros países del Magreb como con Egipto e Israel por el mercado del turismo y debido al descenso de la demanda por parte de los europeos sin dinero.

Pero los problemas a los que se enfrenta Túnez no son de carácter temporal. Reflejan unos esfuerzos que vienen de lejos por reorientar la economía hacia el mercado global bajo la presión de las principales potencias imperialistas. Está en marcha un programa de ajuste estructural bajo el cual se han dejado de subvencionar los precios de los productos básicos. Se han privatizado las empresas estatales y el empleo ha descendido drásticamente.

El gobierno se ha apresurado a prometer desarrollo en las zonas más afectadas y medidas para aumentar el empleo. Se ha echado del trabajo a altos cargos locales de Sidi bu Zid y ha habido una remodelación del gobierno.

Con todo, las tensiones sociales han llegado a un extremo insostenible. Desde el diario editado en Londres Asharq al Awsat, el columnista Abdulrahman al Rashed advertía de que las protestas indican un pérdida de credibilidad política. Informaba: “Las manifestaciones en Túnez se niegan a parar, se han extendido por todas las ciudades e incluso han llegado a la capital de la nación en un claro desafío al Estado. ¿Deberíamos preocuparnos por Túnez o se trata simplemente de otra crisis motivada por el precio del pan que se solventará haciendo ciertas promesas y utilizando la fuerza militar? En mi opinión, el problema de Túnez es más político que económico y va más allá de al ira de las masas en paro. Es un problema de falta de confianza en el gobierno y de pérdida de credibilidad [en el gobierno]” .

Al Rashed continuaba señalando que Túnez es uno de los regímenes árabes más prósperos en términos de ingresos per capita y uno de los que tiene un mayor nivel educativo. Tras señalar que tiene una tasa de crecimiento más alta que la de la vecina Argelia, la cual posee reservas de petróleo y de gas, preguntaba: “Si los ciudadanos de Túnez no están satisfechos ¿qué se puede decir de los ciudadanos de otras naciones árabes que sufren una situación y una realidad aún peores?”.

Fuente: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/dec2010/tuni-d30.shtml

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos

Israel is gearing up for another major offensive into Gaza, yet the world community still remains bafflingly silent.

It is dismaying that during this dark anniversary period two years after the launch of the deadly attacks on the people of Gaza – code-named Operation Cast Lead by the Israelis – that there should be warnings of a new massive attack on the beleaguered people of Gaza.

The influential Israeli journalist, Ron Ren-Yishai, writes on December 29, 2010, of the likely prospect of a new major IDF attack, quoting senior Israeli military officers as saying “It’s not a question of if, but rather of when,” a view that that is shared, according to Ren-Yishai, by “government ministers, Knesset members and municipal heads in the Gaza region”.

The bloody-minded Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi, reinforces this expectation by his recent assertion that, “as long as Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, the mission is not complete”. He adds with unconscious irony, “we have not lost our right of self-defence”.

More accurate would be the assertion, “we have not given up our right to wage aggressive war or to commit crimes against humanity”.

And what of the more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children under the age of 10, being held in Israeli prisons throughout occupied Palestine?

Red herrings

Against this background, the escalation of violence along the Gaza/Israel border should set off alarm bells around the world and at the United Nations.

Israel in recent days has been launching severe air strikes against targets within the Gaza Strip, including near the civilian-crowded refugee camp of Khan Younis, killing several Palestinians and wounding others.

Supposedly, these attacks are in retaliation for nine mortar shells that fell on open territory, causing neither damage nor injury. Israel also had been using lethal force against children from Gaza, who were collecting gravel from the buffer zone for the repair of their homes.

As usual, the Israeli security pretext lacks credibility. As if ever there was an occasion for firing warning shots in the air, it was here, especially as the border has been essentially quiet in the last couple of years, and what occasional harmless rockets or mortar shells have been fired, has taken place in defiance of the Hamas effort to prevent providing Israel with any grounds for the use of force.

Revealingly, in typical distortion, the Gaza situation is portrayed by Ashkenazi as presenting a pre-war scenario: “We will not allow a situation in which they fire rockets at our citizens and towns from ‘safe havens’ amid [their] civilians.”

With Orwellian precision, the reality is quite the reverse: Israel from its safe haven continuously attacks with an intent to kill a defenceless, entrapped Gazan civilian population.

Silence is complicity 

Perhaps, worse in some respects than this Israeli war-mongering, is the stunning silence of the governments of the world, and of the United Nations.

World public opinion was briefly shocked by the spectacle of a one-sided war that marked Operation Cast Lead as a massive crime against humanity, but it has taken no notice of this recent unspeakable escalation of threats and provocations seemingly designed to set the stage for a new Israeli attack on the hapless Gazan population.

This silence in the face of the accumulating evidence that Israel plans to launch Operation Cast Lead 2 is a devastating form of criminal complicity at the highest governmental levels, especially on the part of countries that have been closely aligned with Israel, and also exhibits the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations system.

We have witnessed the carnage of ‘preemptive war’ and ‘preventive war’ in Iraq, but we have yet to explore the moral and political imperatives of ‘preemptive peace’ and ‘preventive peace.’ How long must the peoples of the world wait?

It might be well to recall the words of one anonymous Gazan that were uttered in reaction to the attacks of two years ago: “While Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighbourhood, the UN, the EU, and the Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene.”

International liberal public opinion enthuses about the new global norm of ‘responsibility to protect,’ but not a hint that if such an idea is to have any credibility it should be applied to Gaza with a sense of urgency where the population has been living under a cruel blockade for more than three years and is now facing new grave dangers.

And even after the commission of the atrocities of 2008-09 have been authenticated over and over by the Goldstone Report, by an exhaustive report issued by the Arab League, by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, there is no expectation of Israeli accountability, and the United States effectively uses its diplomatic muscle to bury the issue, encouraging forgetfulness in collaboration with the media.

Truths

It is only civil society that has offered responses appropriate to the moral, legal, and political situation. Whether these responses can achieve their goals, only the future will tell.

The Free Gaza Movement and the Freedom Flotilla have challenged the blockade more effectively than the UN or governments, leading Israel to retreat, at least rhetorically, claiming to lift the blockade with respect to the entry of humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials.

Of course, the behavioural truth contradicts the Israeli rhetoric: sufficient supplies of basic necessities are still not being allowed to enter Gaza; the water and sewage systems are seriously crippled; there is not enough fuel available to maintain adequate electric power; and the damage from Operation Cast Lead remains, causing a desperate housing crisis (more than 100,000 units are needed just to move people from tents).

Also, most students are not allowed to leave Gaza to take advantage of foreign educational opportunities, and the population lives in a locked-in space that is constantly being threatened with violence, night and day.

This portrayal of Gaza is hardly a welcoming prospect for the year 2011. At the same time the spirit of the people living in Gaza should not be underestimated.

I have met Gazans, especially young people, who could be weighed down by the suffering their lives have brought them and their families since their birth, and yet they possess a positive sense of life and its potential, and make every use of any opportunity that comes their way, minimising their problems and expressing warmth toward more fortunate others and enthusiasm about their hopes for their future.

I have found such contact inspirational, and it strengthen my resolve and sense of responsibility: these proud people must be liberated from the oppressive circumstances that constantly imprisons, threatens, impoverishes, sickens, traumatises, maims, kills.

Until this happens, none of us should sleep too comfortably!

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

With Ben Bernanke as our Shepard how can we go wrong? He tells us quantitative easing is not inflationary. He says that with assurance because he knows all the CPI statistics are as realistic as a Madoff Ponzi scheme. He also tells us he doesn’t create money out of thin air. He fails to mention that he does so digitally. His job is to further enrich the elitists who own the Fed and want to create a new world order. Prices are up 6-3/4% across the board as official inflation has only risen 1.2%.

Unfortunately, the public does not understand, but they will in time, because a great awakening is taking place. We have made more people understand what is going on in just the past five years, than we did in the previous 50 years. People know something is terribly wrong and their minds are open to the truth. That is something the elitists and their media do not understand.

Yes, there is gullibility among the public as to how finance and economics and monetary policy works, and there should be. Most university graduates don’t know how they work either, nor do they really know what psychological warfare and propaganda are all about. The average American doesn’t know what QE2 is nor have they heard of it. If they had they probably could not connect the Fed’s QE2 with the higher inflation they are currently experiencing. That is not their job that is my job and others like me. Even that in fact tends to be confusing because few analysts and economists agree on anything. Needless to say, much of what is happening is going to be devastating in time. Part of the problem is ignorance and part is denial. People do not want to admit they have been deceived, especially by the leadership of their own country. It is akin to lies and deception by a member of your own family or a long-time friend. Today the world changes very rapidly and so do people and governments. Most people do not or have ever studied history much less economic and monetary history. As you can see there is a major dilemma and there are no quick solutions in the discovery process. That is why education via talk radio and the Internet is a slow process.

Over the past six months MZM money supply has zoomed, up some $475 billion. That, of course, has been accompanied by QE2. Conservatively these two are a one-two money bomb that will explode within the US economy. Yes, it will lift the boats, but the inflationary fallout will be painful in lost purchasing power. It will tend to force up interest rates, an area that is difficult for the Fed to control. During this process the US government has to have major funding, as does European countries, especially in the first quarter. Interest rates will rise and corporate borrowing will be crowded out. That also means European buying of US bonds will slow to a trickle and the ECB, European governments and the Fed will be large buyers of multi-government bond. That means major monetization to go along with increasing MZM. Anyone who cannot envision double-digit inflation is missing the boat. Do governments really think that they can get away with their outrageous lies regarding real inflation? We don’t think so. It is and has been so transparently blatant that even Wall Street in part is questioning official CPI, PPI and employment numbers. What is also very discomforting is that employment will only improve marginally, because of the QE and stimulus 2/3’s os aimed at the financial sector. We hear Wall Street and banking tell us over and over again, give us what we want and need or we will take the financial system down. Well, we have news for them. Go right ahead and do that, because they and we know it’s coming down anyway sooner or later. If they do that deliberately it will be very obvious to all and they will pay a horrible permanent price. Hank Paulson may have gotten away with it once, but it won’t happen again. We know how these people think because we have spent more than 50 years among them. All they care about is money, power and world government. If you can understand that they are just common criminals then you know how to deal with them. Just look at the ongoing scandals one after another aided and abetted by the SEC and CFTC and the legions of lawsuits and fines that do not stop their criminal activities. They can neither admit nor deny, they pay a fine and the next day go out and do it again. Very few ever go to jail. Their biggest sin is getting caught in their criminal endeavors.

Most professionals do not understand what is underway and where this is all headed. They only see a positive affect on the stock market. They do not understand that this avalanche of liquidity will also give us 14% inflation this year, damage the dollar and strengthen gold as the only real money. The Fed has abandoned its legal responsibilities to maintain strong employment and to fight inflation. The Fed is in a panic mode struggling to save the financial sector, which is not what its main mission is. It is not supposed to be bailing out the players who caused the problems. They should not be rewarding the malefactors, some of whom own the Fed. This is nothing less than financial incest. Any tightening of monetary policy or strongly higher interest rates could bring the whole creaking edifice crashing down. That leaves the Fed only one course and they have taken that course already, create money and credit until they cannot anymore. This is where this is all headed.

The Fed’s perception, and that of its masters on Wall Street, is higher commodity prices reflect growth, not coming inflation and a flight to real assets. Inflation officially is 1.2% and the Fed wants it higher. The Fed knows inflation is 6-3/4% and by the end of 2011 it will be 14%. Government will only admit to 5-1/2% and that omits food and energy. If that is so, as they profess, why have government and the Fed for many years suppressed gold and silver prices? The answer, of course, is obvious both government and the Fed perpetually do not tell the truth. The illusion projected by these criminals is that they are saving America when in fact they were the ones who created this mess, and tell us that if we won’t allow them to do what they want they will destroy the system. These denizens of Wall Street, Washington and the Fed as you can see care little for the average America, who has to deal with inflation – some on fixed incomes, as their purchasing power is snatched away by these same people. Thus, the policy of credit and money creation continues unabated as the fed remains ensnared in a trap of its own making.

Americans may not have much interest in gold and silver, but the rest of the world certainly does. India, China, Russia, the Middle East and Europe are gobbling them up and this strong off take has been going on for the past three years. Gold has risen some 20% per year annualized for the past 11 years. Obviously there is consternation across the world pertaining to fiat currencies without gold backing. It has now been seven years since all currencies began falling versus gold. As you can see this is no accident or shot in the dark. This is a trend not seen for many years that will turn out to be the greatest bull market in history. The entire world has problems – the US, England, the Continent and eventually the remainder of the world.

We notice daily speeches and press conferences in Europe assuring people the euro will survive. European elitists are terrified because they know their creation, the euro, is finally going to fail. Europe is in denial, but that won’t change anything. The euro’s failure could well be the seminal movement that tips over the elitists’ apple cart, and leaves them with an irreparable mess. As we said many months ago when the European bailout of $1 trillion was proposed that in order to accomplish this they would need in excess of $3 trillion and that was before Belgium’s problems surfaced. Now the great fear is if the solvent countries continue the bailouts will they collapse as well? Could England and the US be far behind? As the ravages continue Germany and France are talking about a new bailout plan along the lines of what Iceland successfully did to solve its financial problems. The play would have bondholders share in the losses. Most of the bondholders are banks, which are already on the edge of insolvency, if not already insolvent. In such an arrangement debt would be restructured probably for $0.30 on the dollar. If the banks refuse to go along with the program many will go bankrupt anyway. Few know it, but when this bailout was being discussed, Greece wanted a restructuring and default at $0.50 on the dollar and the Germans were demanding $0.60. We bet they wish now they had taken $0.50. The Germans are not good poker players. They are logical and linear. All these problems in Europe could come to a head by June, but with a sword dangling over the euro zone, investors are flocking to gold and silver. Most of you are probably too young to remember, but from WWII to 1982 Europeans and their governments were very large gold buyers. Gold flows in the European’s blood stream. The launch was 2-1/2 years ago and now buying on the continent is strongly underway.

Under QE2 the Fed will have to issue $1.6 trillion in money and credit one way or another. That will be stimulus plus QE2 or $2.5 trillion, just as we predicted last May. QE3 will be saved for 2012 and the big US elections.

A goodly part of all these problems that the US has, such as unemployment, a stagnant GDP and a balance of payments deficit is not having tariffs to offset the year of currency manipulation by all other governments. That would put a fast stop to it all. The reason it doesn’t happen is that transnational conglomerates, along with Wall Street and banking, owns our House and Senate, and they have no intention of letting their fat cow get slaughtered. If we had those 42,000 businesses and 8.5 million jobs we lost over the past ten years, we wouldn’t be in the fix we are in. the first step is to stop the President and perhaps the House and Senate from giving these elitist transnational conglomerates another tax holiday for $1.9 trillion, that will cost US taxpayers $600 billion, then force Congress to implement tariffs. That will stop foreign currency manipulators in their tracks. That will devastate China and help keep the dollar from falling from 80 to 40 on the USDX. One thing Ben is right about is that those cheap currencies are killing us and now those countries are dumping dollars as quickly as they earn them instead of buying Treasury and Agency securities. This in addition has in part forced QE2. It’s a way of watering down the US currency and injuring the Chinese because they won’t let their currency strengthen. Is it any wonder silver rose 84%, gold 30% and commodities were big winners last year? Who wants to own depreciating currencies? Investors are getting smart to what is going on. All of Wall Street and other investors are catching on to market manipulation. It is about time. We have been writing and talking about this since 1988.

When all is said and done borrowing money to pay off debt can never work and that is what is going on will end in tears. That is why following today’s major expansion of money and credit, many people will be in even more trouble than they are now. A herd of investors just put almost $700 billion in bonds and they are not going to be happy if rates keep climbing and bonds keep falling. No one is safe in these markets except those in gold and silver shares, coins and bullion.

Perhaps America should rename itself “The States of America Fraud.” It would certainly be fitting. A revisit to the mortgage fraud is now back in the news. Losses in the trillions of dollars are now history.

The Global Economic Crisis

Michel Chossudovsky
Andrew G. Marshall (editors)
This book can be ordered directly from Global Research 

Wall Street reinforcements for Obama White House

January 5th, 2011 by Patrick Martin

President Obama concluded his Hawaii vacation Tuesday and flew back to Washington, amid press reports that he would soon announce the addition of several prominent figures drawn from the financial industry to his White House staff.

The media speculation focused on William Daley, brother of the retiring mayor of Chicago, former Clinton administration commerce secretary, and currently a vice chairman at JP Morgan Chase, one of the top five US banks. Bloomberg News and the New York Times both reported that Daley was under consideration for White House chief of staff, as the permanent replacement for Rahm Emanuel, who resigned in September to run for mayor of Chicago.

The chief of staff position has been filled on an interim basis by Pete Rouse, a long-time Senate aide who joined the White House when Obama took office. Rouse is heading an effort to reorganize the White House staff, including selecting a permanent replacement for Emanuel, and could himself be chosen for that post.

The selection of Daley, which press reports described as “not imminent,” would be the clearest signal yet of the Obama administration’s shift to the right in the wake of the Republican victory in the 2010 congressional elections.

Daley was one of the most right-wing figures in the Clinton administration, at least on domestic and economic issues. He spearheaded the drive to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, much favored by big business, and went on to a top-level career as a corporate executive, first at SBC Communications, then at JPMorgan Chase. He has served on numerous corporate boards, including at Boeing and Abbott Laboratories.

In the internal politics of the Democratic Party, Daley stood on the right, opposing any serious effort to fight the theft of the 2000 presidential election, when he was Gore’s campaign chairman. In an interview last year with the New York Times, he criticized congressional Democrats and the White House, saying they had overreached and attempted policies that were too liberal. “The election of ’08 sent a message that after 30 years of center-right governing, we had moved to center left,” he said, “not left.”

Whomever Obama selects to implement it, the direction of his policy shift is not in doubt. In remarks to reporters as he ended his vacation, he urged Republican congressional leaders to work with the White House, and expressed the hope that “John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012.”

Referring to the series of agreements that followed his capitulation to the Republicans over extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Obama added, “We started making good progress on that in the lame-duck, and I expect to build on that progress when I get back.”

While Democratic and Republican politicians and the corporate-controlled media have portrayed the 2010 election as a mandate for the policies advanced by the far right, a poll released Monday by Vanity Fair magazine and the CBS news program “60 Minutes” found that the vast majority of Americans opposed extending tax cuts for the wealthy and making spending cuts in social programs to pay for them.

Given the choice of different options for reducing the federal deficit, 61 percent called for increasing taxes on the rich as the first step, while another 20 percent chose cutting military spending―the second-most-popular choice. Only 4 percent favored cuts in Medicare and 3 percent cuts in Social Security, the “reforms” that are being demanded by a unanimous chorus in the Washington political establishment.

Obama will soon fill one other top position, chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC). Former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers left the job December 31, four months after announcing his intention to do so. Obama has apparently not been able to find a suitable replacement from corporate America, despite a considerable effort to woo business support.

Press reports suggest that the White House will select Gene Sperling, who formerly chaired the NEC in the Clinton administration and is currently an adviser to Timothy Geithner, the treasury secretary. Sperling was identified with conservative, pro-business fiscal policies in the 1990s and played a significant role in devising the tax-cut agreement with the Republicans last month.

Another possibility is Roger Altman, former deputy treasury secretary in the Clinton administration and an investment banker who runs Evercore Partners in New York.

Sperling has not been nominated for any position in the Obama administration requiring Senate confirmation because of possible questioning of his work at Goldman Sachs, one of the top recipients of the Wall Street bailout, where he raked in $887,727 for what was described as “part-time” services in 2008.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Obama would probably name Ron Bloom, co-chair of the auto industry bailout task force, to a new White House post on manufacturing policy. This was presented as a sop to the trade unions, to offset any opposition to the nomination of Sperling or Altman to the higher-ranking post, since Bloom was an investment adviser to the United Steelworkers union. In collaboration with the unions, Bloom played an instrumental role in implementing the Obama administration’s demand that auto workers accept devastating job and wage cuts to boost the profitability of the auto companies.

Other shifts in White House staff include the departure of Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, one of a handful of more liberal aides. He will become president of Case Holdings, the parent company of the investment firm named for Steve Case, the former America On Line chief executive. A former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, Klain also worked for Case during the Bush administration.

The long-announced departure of David Axelrod, the top White House political adviser, is also scheduled. He is leaving to begin work on Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, and will be replaced by David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager in 2008.

The personnel shifts between the White House and high finance have a definite sociological significance. Even the more “liberal” aides move easily from top government posts to lucrative positions in the financial industry. This poses no difficulty because the policies of the Obama administration are so organically aligned with the well-being of Wall Street.

The musical chairs aspect of the personnel switches―Daley is being considered to replace Emanuel, who is running to replace Daley’s brother as mayor of Chicago; Plouffe and Axelrod change places as chief inside and outside political aide―also underscores the narrow, politically inbred and isolated character of the Obama administration.

The United States and its allies have stepped up their threats of military intervention in the West African country of Ivory Coast in the wake of the disputed election.

Both the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, and his challenger, Alassane Outtara, claim to have won the November, 2010 election. The US, the United Nations and the European Union have recognised Outtara’s claims and called on Gbagbo to quit. Neighbouring West African states organised in ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) have threatened military action if he refuses.

US officials have let it be known that the Obama administration is preparing to evacuate embassy staff in what can only be interpreted as a prelude to armed intervention. Non-essential personnel have already left the country. It cannot be excluded that the administration is preparing an intervention similar to that in Liberia, where Marines were sent in under the pretext of rescuing US embassy staff in 2003. This was the prelude to an intervention by West African states. American military personnel are still in Liberia as advisors.

Another trigger point has become the Hotel du Golf, where Outtara and his rival government are based, under the protection of French and UN troops. UN representative Y.J Choi made it clear that they were ready for action. “They cannot possibly take the Golf Hotel,” he said. “We are heavily armed and present and preparing ourselves. They will be defeated, they will be repulsed. There is no doubt about this.”

Choi warned Gbagbo’s regime, which has threatened to mobilise youth against the UN presence, that it risked stepping into a minefield if it did so.

President Obama spoke to President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria by phone last week. US-trained Nigerian troops would form the backbone of any West African force.

An invasion of Ivory Coast would be the most ambitious venture yet for ECOMOG, which is the military arm of ECOWAS. It is unlikely that the West African states would have even made the threat without a green light from Obama.

Raila Odinga, prime minister of Kenya in East Africa, has joined in the efforts to force out Gbagbo on behalf of the African Union. He met with the ECOWAS heads in Nigeria before going on to Ivory Coast with them. His presence is a sign that another piece of the diplomatic framework for a US-sponsored military intervention has been put in place and that care is being taken to present it as an African solution to an African problem.

The reality is different. The present situation in Ivory Coast is the result of recent US policy and the long history of colonial domination of this region. The deep social divisions which the French fostered between different ethnic and religious groups, and between wealthy acculturated Africans and the mass of the population, who were denied political rights and subjected to forced labour until 1945, have found repeated expression in current political conflicts. Those conflicts have been exacerbated by the economic dependence of the region.

Ultimately, the economic backwardness of the region can be traced to centuries of slave trading, which led to the deportation of millions of Africans across the Atlantic. Following the slave trade came direct European domination of West Africa and the destruction of local political formations by competing English, French and German empire builders. For more than half a century, West Africa was under colonial rule and used as a source of raw materials such as palm oil, groundnuts, coffee and cocoa.

Ivory Coast was the most prosperous part of French West Africa. When the colony was divided on independence in 1960, the fragmented states that emerged—Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger—lacked secure revenue and the most elementary infrastructure on which to build their economies. Even Senegal, the second wealthiest of these territories since it had a thriving export in groundnuts, relied heavily on French subsidies. For the elite of Ivory Coast, the division was an advantage because it gave them access to a share of the cocoa and coffee revenues which had sustained the administration of French West Africa before independence. For the rest, the balkanisation of French West Africa was an economic disaster and guaranteed their continued dependence on France.

Ivory Coast remained closely integrated with France under its first president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, and retained a leading role among the former colonial territories. The number of French residents actually increased after independence. French companies invested in Ivory Coast, attracted by tax concessions and the freedom to expatriate their profits. French advisers operated at all levels of the state. French teachers staffed the schools. What is often described as the Ivorian economic miracle produced annual growth rates averaging 7 percent.

The miracle ended abruptly in 1980, when world commodity prices fell, leaving Ivory Coast with a huge trade deficit and mounting debts. By 1987, Ivory Coast was insolvent. Houphouët-Boigny imposed austerity measures and suppressed all protests.

It was in this context that Laurent Gbagbo came to the fore. Teachers’ protests became a focus for other sections of workers who were hit by the austerity measures. A French-educated professor of history, Gbagbo’s experience in the National Trade Union of Research and Higher Education and a period in prison gave him the oppositional credentials that enabled him to build the Ivorian Popular Front. In 2000, he claimed victory in the presidential election and organised mass resistance to General Robert Guéï, who had taken power after a coup the previous year.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin ignored the irregularities of the election which, he said, had taken place “under special circumstances.” France recognised Gbagbo as president, despite the fact that all other opposition candidates, including Outtara, had been excluded from the poll. Gbagbo is currently being criticised for his violent methods and using “death squads” to intimidate his opponents. But he used exactly the same methods in the past, when he was close to the French; they found him useful in opposing Houphouët-Boigny and keeping popular dissent in check.

With the economy continuing to deteriorate, Gbagbo no longer had the economic resources to maintain the system of patronage that had kept Houphouët-Boigny in power. Instead, he increasingly resorted to whipping up communal tensions and exploiting the divisions that existed between the mainly Christian south of the country and the predominantly Muslim north.

This division was a legacy of French colonialism and the disparate economic development of the region. In the period of Ivory Coast’s boom, migrants had come to work in the cocoa plantations from other former French territories, especially Burkina Faso, which lay landlocked to the north. Burkina Faso has one of the lowest per capita gross domestic products in the world and is heavily dependent on aid.

Gbagbo whipped up racism against the Burkinabe and cultivated the concept of Ivoiricité, Ivorian nationalism. He attempted to exclude his rivals from political power and claimed that Outtara was a Burkinabe and not a genuine Ivorian. By 2002 these conflicts led to a civil war that has left the country divided.

France presents itself as an even-handed arbiter in the conflicts of Ivory Coast. An objective survey of the history of the region shows France to be the source of these conflicts, both before and after independence.

France backed Houphouët-Boigny, then Gbagbo, and now is attempting to throw its weight behind Outtara. This represents a certain shift in policy, which expresses the willingness of the French political elite to work ever more closely with the US in Africa.

West Africa is becoming increasingly important as a source of energy for the US. Currently, Nigeria is the fifth largest source of US oil imports and Angola is seventh, while Gabon ranks fifteenth. But new offshore discoveries have recently come on line in Ghana and further untapped reserves are thought to exist off the West African coast. Control of this entire region has become a strategic consideration for America. Establishing compliant and reliable governments in each of the states in West Africa is a priority for Washington and its allies.

As China, India and Russia make their presence felt in Africa, one-time rivals in Europe and America have increasingly come together to defend their long-standing interests on the continent and stake a claim to natural resources which are assuming ever greater importance in the world economy. Ivory Coast’s crude oil production is expected to reach 200,000 barrels per day by the end of the decade. It has, in addition, mineral resources inland and it is the world’s largest producer of cocoa.

An area that was once the scene of intense rivalries between Britain and France now sees the two former colonial powers cooperating. Britain has sent a military liaison officer to work with the French forces in Ivory Coast. It staged its own military intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000, where ECOMOG was also brought into play.

France intervened into its former colony in 2002 and, in 2004, destroyed the entire Ivorian air force and dropped tear gas and concussion grenades on crowds of protestors in Abidjan. Britain and the US both backed this display of neo-colonial brutality, as did the UN. At that point, ECOMOG was reluctant to intervene. Its readiness to do so now suggests urging from Washington and a common determination on the part of the US and its allies to gain control of Ivory Coast.

Repeated interventions in West Africa reflect the renewed drive to colonial expansionism expressed in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The agenda of the US and its allies is no more humanitarian in West Africa than it has been in those countries. It represents an attempt to seize resources and positions of strategic advantage.

Outtara is not a democratic alternative to Gbagbo. He served for several years as prime minister under Houphouët-Boigny and is part of the political elite that has benefited from the wealth of Ivory Coast at the expense of the majority of the population.

His background as deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes him a reliable figure to represent the interests of the US and its allies in West Africa. As president, he would continue the privatizations and cuts in social spending prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.

Weather modification is a well-known endeavor. For example, governments have been seeding clouds for decades to create more rain.

And during warfare to create mud to slow the enemy’s ability to use roads.

As the Guardian reported in 2001:

During the Vietnam war, the Americans launched Project Popeye, a secret mission to seed the tops of monsoon clouds and trigger phenomenal downpours that would wash away the Ho Chi Minh Trail used for ferrying supplies.

For five years Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were sprayed during the monsoons, and military intelligence claimed that rainfall was increased by a third in some places. It only came to an end in March 1971 when [Washington Post] journalist Jack Anderson exposed the project and caused such a public furor that the UN general assembly approved a universal treaty banning environmental warfare.

But the US air force planners recently came up with new proposals to launch new weather weapons. Instead of silver-iodide, the idea is to shower fine particles of heat-absorbing carbon over clouds to trigger localised flooding and bog down troops and their equipment. Lasers on aircraft would also trigger lightning onto enemy aircraft, whilst other lasers could be fired at fog to clear a path over enemy targets on the ground.

Whether or not they work, past experiences tell us to be wary of tampering with the weather. In 1947, meteorologists tried to kill off a dying hurricane out at sea by seeding the clouds. The following day, the hurricane suddenly gathered strength, swung round and hit Savannah, Georgia causing extensive damage. The weather boffins were so rattled by the disaster it was not until August 1969 that they dared try again.

When Hurricane Debbie was 700 miles out at sea, they flew three seeding missions around its eye, where tropical storms are at their most intense, but the results were mixed – with each seeding the hurricane’s winds were reduced and each time they picked up again.

Interestingly, U.S. weather modification efforts during the Vietnam war were revealed as part of the Pentagon Papers.

As the Washington Post reported on July 2, 1972:

Indochina – by the evidence of a long-ignored passage in the Pentagon Papers – has been a test battleground, the site of purposeful rain-making along the Ho Chi Minh trails.

***

Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) is prominent among members of Congress who believe it has become a reality. “There is very little doubt in my mind,” he says. Rep. Gilbert Gude (R-Md.) states: “There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going on in Vietnam.”

“I think there’s no doubt rain-making was used in Laos on the trail,” says a Senate committee aide wee versed in defense affairs.

***

It is a “successful” pre-1967 use which is documented in the “senator Gravel” version of the Pentagon papers. In late February, 1967, this document discloses the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a list of “alternative strategies” for President Johnson.

One, titled “Laos Operations”, read:

“Continue at present plus Operation Pop Eye to reduce trafficability along infiltration routes … authorization required to implement phase of weather modification process previously successfully tested and evaluated in same area. (Italics added)

In 1967 — according to columnist Jack Anderson, who published the first allegation of Indochina rain-making — U.S. forces started secret Project Intermediary Compatriot “to hamper enemy logistics” … (with) claimed success in creating man-made cloudbursts … and flooding conditions” along the Ho Chi Minh trails, “making them impassable.”

The Post makes clear that cloud-seeding wasn’t limited to the Vietnam war theater:

The Defense Department freely reports that it has “field capacities” for making rain. It used them in the Philippines in 1969, in a six-month “precipitation augmentation project” at the Philippines request; in India in 1967, at a similar invitation; over Okinawa and Midway Islands, and in June, July and August, 1971, over drought-stricken Texas, at the urgent request of Gov. Preston Smith.

***

Navy rain-makers are currently involved in two long-range California programs — one over the Pacific off Santa Barbara, an attempt to increase rainfall over a national forest; the other over the Central Sierras to try to increase the snow-pack for electric utilities that depend on water power.

In 2008, the Denver Post noted the enormous scope of weather modification projects:

Scientists are monitoring more than 150 weather-modification projects in 40 countries, including at least 60 in the Western United States. The projects include wringing additional snow out of clouds for California hydropower and easing droughts in sub-Saharan Africa.

Most of the current research on this inexact science is being conducted abroad ….

In 2005, the Boston Globe provided an account of the early discovery of silver iodide as a tool for modifying weather:

In 1946, over Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts, a General Electric research chemist named Vincent Schaefer scattered three pounds of crushed dry ice out of an airplane into a cloud and set off a snow flurry. It was the world’s first successful cloud seeding-later that year, the meteorologist Bernard Vonnegut (brother to the novelist) discovered that silver iodide smoke had a similar effect-and weather modification emerged from the realm of con men and eccentrics. Most meteorologists remained skeptical, but by 1951, 10 percent of the United States was under commercial cloud seeding.

“Intervention in atmospheric and climatic matters on any desired scale” was only decades away, predicted John von Neumann, the mathematician who helped invent and began programming the first electronic computers to model the weather. Over the next 30 years, the federal government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on projects all over the country to increase precipitation, to mitigate hailstorms (an age-old enemy of farmers), and, most successfully, to clear the fog from around airports. Perhaps the era’s most ambitious endeavor was Project Stormfury, which sent up airplanes to seed the eye walls of hurricanes with silver iodide to weaken the winds before landfall.

(And see this discussion by an MIT scientist regarding the use of weather modification to mitigate hurricane damage.)

Moreover, the Post points out that – even in 1972 – weather modification has been tested for other applications as well:

Among patterns that can be predictably” be modified [Robert M. White, the current chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ] said, are: cold fog (which can be cleared from airfields) ; cumulus clouds (most common in the tropics — “In Florida,”, White said, “we have been able almost at will to make them grow explosively”); orographic clouds (moist air moving up over mountains — “At the right temperature you can begin thinking of milking them for water”) and hailstorms (which can often be suppressed, according to recent claims by the Russians, who fire silver iodide into them from rockets and artillery).

And – as the Post notes – even in 1972, the government was studying the affect of weather modification on climate:

ARPA Director Stephen J. Lukasik told the Senate Appropriations Committee in March: “Since it now appears highly probable that major world powers have the ability to create modifications of climate that might be seriously detrimental to the security of this country, Nile Blue [a computer simulation] was established in FY 70 to achieve a US capability to (1) evaluate all consequences of of a variety of possible actions … (2) detect trends in in the global circulation which foretell changes … and (3) determine if possible , means to counter potentially deleterious climatic changes …”

“What this means,” Lukasik explains, “is learning how much you have to tickle the atmosphere to perturb the earth’s climate. I guess we’d call it a threat assessment.”

The Post also quoted high-level scientists warning that enemies could modify weather as a direct form of warfare, for example, by flooding coastal areas where one’s enemy resided.

Now, weather modification is so mainstream that Texas openly discusses it’s cloud-seeding programs.

And U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas introduced the Weather Modification Research And Technology Transfer Authorization Act in 2004, saying:

Weather modification is the general term that refers to any human attempt to alter the weather…. These efforts have been used in the U.S. for more than 50 years to reduce crop and property damage, optimize useable precipitation during growing seasons and lessen the impact of periodic, often severe droughts.

The weather modification projects in Texas and other States in the U.S. are much more than well considered responses to drought. They are trying to use the latest technological developments in the science to chemically squeeze more precipitation out of clouds. Moisture that is needed to replenish fresh-water supplies in aquifers and reservoirs.

(The bill apparently didn’t pass)

There’s even a Journal of Weather Modification (here’s a peek inside).

The Technology Has Advanced Far Beyond Seeding Clouds With Silver Iodide

The technology has advanced a long way since the early 1970s.

For example, the Telegraph reported yesterday that Abu Dhabi ‘creates man-made rainstorms’ by “using giant ionisers, shaped like giant lampshades, to generate fields of negatively charged particles, which create cloud formation.” “There are many applications,” Professor Hartmut Grassl, a former institute director, is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying. “One is getting water into a dry area. Maybe this is a most important point for mankind.”

And former secretary of defense William Cohen told a conference on terrorism on April 28, 1997 that people can:

Alter the climate … remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves.

The Use of Sulfur Dioxide to Affect Climate?

Tom Wigley – senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and former director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and current – has proposed releasing sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight and reduce warming. And see this.

Wigley talks about this proposal in a Discovery channel special on weather modification.

Other scientists have suggested the same thing. See – by way of example only – this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

More History … and Complicated Issues to Consider for the Future

The above-described Boston Globe article pointed to the complexity of the issues involved in weather modification:

In 2003 the National Academy of Sciences recommended “a coordinated national program” to “conduct a sustained research effort” into weather modification.

Politicians in Western and Southwestern states are funding attempts to tickle more moisture out of the clouds ….

Last fall, a meteorologist named Ross Hoffman suggested in Scientific American that a network of microwave-beaming satellites could literally take the wind out of hurricanes.

In some of the driest parts of Mexico, a Bedford-based company called Ionogenics is testing a rainmaking apparatus that uses an array of steel poles to ionize the air.

China, a country with widespread cloud seeding, has announced plans to engineer clear weather in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.

Meanwhile, deepening concern over the possibly cataclysmic effects of climate change has spurred a number of recent proposals, some sketched out in considerable detail, to engineer a measure of counteractive cooling. John Latham, an atmospheric physicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., has proposed increasing the reflectivity of the cloud cover by stirring up water vapor from the ocean with a fleet of giant egg-beater-like turbines.

A few years ago, a team led by the late Edward Teller suggested creating a similar effect by launching a million tons of tiny aluminum balloons into the atmosphere.

***

As our ability to comprehend the weather improves and as the threat of climate change looms larger, some scientists are ready to brave the uncertainty and tangled ethics of tinkering with the skies. . . .

The US military, unsurprisingly, was intrigued by the possibility of a godlike meteorological arsenal. According to Spencer Weart, a physicist and historian of science at the American Institute of Physics, the thinking in the Defense Department was “maybe we’ll give the Russians a real Cold War, or maybe they’ll give us one, so we should be ready.” Pentagon money funded much of the era’s climate research, helping to create the weather models we now use in forecasting. War gamers dreamed up climatological warfare scenarios like laying down a blanket of fog over an airfield or visiting drought upon an enemy’s breadbasket.

***

But the grandest climate engineering schemes came from the Soviet Union. The most Promethean among them was a late 1950s proposal to dam the Bering Strait and, by pumping water from the Arctic Ocean into the Pacific, draw warm water northward from the Atlantic to melt the polar ice pack, making the Arctic Ocean navigable and warming Siberia. The leading Soviet climatologist, Mikhail I. Budyko, cautioned against it, arguing that the ultimate effects were too difficult to predict (though he himself had played with the idea of warming the Arctic by covering it in soot to decrease its reflectivity). John F. Kennedy, as a presidential candidate, suggested the United States look into collaborating on the project. While the two countries continued desultory discussions of the Bering Strait plan into the 1970s, the American government was by then losing interest in the whole field of weather modification.

***

In 1972, a government cloud-seeding run in South Dakota was followed by a violent deluge, and more than 200 people were killed in the ensuing flood. Meteorologists disagreed over whether seeding was to blame, but the incident became an ominous symbol for those who saw weather modifiers as latter-day Pandoras. . . . Boyle’s caution may be merited, but scientists are better equipped today to understand and manipulate the weather than they were 30 years ago.

***

Some scientists and engineers, such as Daniel Schrag, director of Harvard’s Laboratory for Geochemical Oceanography, point out that, in light of the planet’s growing thirst and rising temperature, even Soviet-scale climate modification is attracting real consideration. Boyle, who spoke at a joint MIT-Cambridge University conference on the topic last year, readily concedes, “There are very prominent, serious scientists who are considering these things.”

***

A 1996 Air Force report entitled “Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025,” argued that “the tremendous military capabilities that could result from this field are ignored at our own peril.”

***

Even purely peaceful aims would lead to a cascade of seemingly zero-sum conflicts. In the US, cloud seeding has set off several lawsuits in which, for example, downwind farmers have accused a cloud-seeding neighbor of “stealing” their rain. Such issues only grow in complexity along with the scale.

***

According to Joe Kaplinsky, a technology analyst in London, “To raise these things before the technology has really gotten off the ground is to deprive us of the potential benefits of any technology, because any technology can be misused.” “Of course some people will benefit and some people will lose,” Kaplinsky says, “but there are social mechanisms for solving disagreements, either through compensation or through democratic debate.”

Here is a copy of the Air Force study “Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025″.

The American Institute of Physics – the organization mentioned in the Boston Globe article – provides an interesting overview of the history of weather modification:

From 1945 into the 1970s, much effort went into studies of weather modification. American entrepreneurs tried cloud-seeding to enhance local rainfall, Russian scientists offered fabulous schemes of planetary engineering, and military agencies secretly explored “climatological warfare.”

***

In the mid 1970s … Research turned instead to controversial “geoengineering” schemes for interventions that might restrain global warming if it started to become unbearable.

***

At the close of the Second World War, a few American scientists brought up a troublesome idea. If it were true, as some claimed, that humans were inadvertently changing their local weather by cutting down forests and emitting pollution, why not try to modify the weather on purpose? For generations there had been proposals for rainmaking, based on folklore like the story that cannonades from big battles brought rain.

Now top experts began to take the question seriously…. At the end of 1945 a brilliant mathematician, John von Neumann, called other leading scientists to a meeting in Princeton, where they agreed that modifying weather deliberately might be possible. They expected that could make a great difference in the next war. Soviet harvests, for example, might be ruined by creating a drought. Some scientists suspected that alongside the race with the Soviet Union for ever more terrible nuclear weapons, they were entering an equally fateful race to control the weather. As the Cold War got underway, U.S. military agencies devoted significant funds to research on what came to be called “climatological warfare.”

***

In 1953 a President’s Advisory Committee on Weather Control was established to pursue the idea. In 1958, the U.S. Congress acted directly to fund expanded rainmaking research. Large-scale experimentation was also underway, less openly, in the Soviet Union.

Military agencies in the U.S. (and presumably in the Soviet Union) supported research not only on cloud seeding but on other ways that injecting materials into the atmosphere might alter weather. Although much of this was buried in secrecy, the public learned that climatological warfare might become possible. In a 1955 Fortune magazine article, von Neumann himself explained that “Microscopic layers of colored matter spread on an icy surface, or in the atmosphere above one, could inhibit the reflection-radiation process, melt the ice, and change the local climate.” The effects could be far-reaching, even world-wide. “What power over our environment, over all nature, is implied!” he exclaimed. Von Neumann foresaw “forms of climatic warfare as yet unimagined,” perhaps more dangerous than nuclear war itself. He hoped it would force humanity to take a new, global approach to its political problems.

***

Around 1956, Soviet engineers began to speculate that they might be able to throw a dam across the Bering Strait and pump water from the Arctic Ocean into the Pacific. This would draw warm water up from the Atlantic. Their aim was to eliminate the ice pack, make the Arctic Ocean navigable, and warm up Siberia. The idea attracted some notice in the United States — presidential candidate John F. Kennedy remarked that the idea was worth exploring as a joint project with the Soviets, and the discussion continued into the 1970s.

***

Beginning around 1961, Budyko and other scientists speculated about how humanity might alter the global climate by strewing dark dust or soot across the Arctic snow and ice. The soot would lower the albedo (reflection of sunlight), and the air would get warmer. Spreading so much dust year after year would be prohibitively expensive. But according to a well-known theory, warmer air should melt some snow and sea-ice and thus expose the dark underlying soil and ocean water, which would absorb sunlight and bring on more warming. So once dust destroyed the reflective cover, it might not re-form.

***

A 1972 U.S. government rain-making operation in South Dakota was followed by a disastrous flood, and came under attack in a class-action lawsuit.

***

Already back in 1965, a Presidential advisory panel had suggested that if greenhouse effect warming by carbon dioxide gas ever became a problem, the government might take countervailing steps. The panel did not consider curbing the use of fossil fuels. They had in mind geoengineering schemes — spreading something across the ocean waters to reflect more sunlight, perhaps, or sowing particles high in the atmosphere to encourage the formation of reflective clouds. Some back-of-the-envelope arithmetic suggested such steps were feasible, and indeed could cost less than many government programs. In 1974, Budyko calculated that if global warming ever became a serious threat, we could counter it with just a few airplane flights a day in the stratosphere, burning sulfur to make aerosols that would reflect sunlight away.

For a few years in the early 1970s, new evidence and arguments led many scientists to suspect that the greatest climate risk was not warming, but cooling. A new ice age seemed to be approaching as part of the natural glacial cycle, perhaps hastened by human pollution that blocked sunlight. Technological optimists suggested ways to counter this threat too. We might spread soot from cargo aircraft to darken the Arctic snows, or even shatter the Arctic ice pack with “clean” thermonuclear explosions. [For background, see this and this.]

***

The bitter fighting among communities over cloud-seeding would be as nothing compared with conflicts over attempts to engineer global climate. Moreover, as Budyko and Western scientists alike warned, scientists could not predict the consequences of such engineering efforts. We might forestall global warming only to find we had triggered a new ice age.

Such worries revived the U.S. military’s interest in artificial climate change on a global scale. A group at the RAND corporation, a defense think tank near Los Angeles, had been working with a computer climate model that originated at the University of California, Los Angeles.

***

The RAND group had to scramble to find support elsewhere. They turned to the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense.

***

When a National Academy of Sciences panel convened in 1991 to catalog the options, the members got into a long and serious debate over whether to include the grand “geoengineering” ideas. Might hopes of a future fix just encourage people to avoid the work of restricting greenhouse gas emissions? The panel reluctantly voted to include every idea, so that preparations could start in case the climate deteriorated so badly that radical steps would be the lesser evil. Their fundamental problem was the one that had bedeviled climate science from the start — if you pushed on this intricate system, nobody could say for sure what the final consequences might be.

What About Contrails?

The Environmental Protection Agency notes in a report entitled “Aircraft Contrails Factsheet”:

Persistent contrails can last for hours while growing to several kilometers in width and 200 to 400 meters in height.

***

Figure 2. Photograph of two contrail types. The contrail extending across the image is an evolving persistent contrail. Shown just above it is a short-lived contrail. Short-lived contrails evaporate soon after being formed due to low atmospheric humidity conditions. The persistent contrail shown here was formed at a lower altitude where higher humidity was present …. (Photos: J. Holecek, NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory, Boulder, CO.)

***

Figure 3. Persistent contrails and contrails evolving and spreading into cirrus clouds. Here, the humidity of the atmosphere is high, and the contrail ice particles continue to grow by taking up water from the surrounding atmosphere. These contrails extend for large distances and may last for hours. On other days when atmospheric humidity is lower, the same aircraft passages might have left few or even no contrails. (Photo: L. Chang, Office of Atmospheric Programs, U.S. EPA.)

***

Figure 5. Satellite photograph showing an example of contrails covering central Europe on May 4, 1995. The average cover in a photograph is estimated by using a computer to recognize and measure individual contrails over geographical regions of known size. Photograph from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-12 AVHRR satellite and processed by DLR (adapted from Mannstein et al., 1999). (Reproduced with permission of DLR.)

***

Persistent contrails are of interest to scientists because they increase the cloudiness of the atmosphere. The increase happens in two ways. First, persistent contrails are line-shaped clouds that would not have formed in the atmosphere without the passage of an aircraft. Secondly, persistent contrails often evolve and spread into extensive cirrus cloud cover that is indistinguishable from naturally occurring cloudiness (See Figure 3). At present, it is unknown how much of this more extensive cloudiness would have occurred without the passage of an aircraft. Not enough is known about how natural clouds form in the atmosphere to answer this question. Changes in cloudiness are important because clouds help control the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. Changes in cloudiness resulting from human activities are important because they might contribute to long-term changes in the Earth’s climate. Many other human activities also have the potential of contributing to climate change. Our climate involves important parameters such as air temperature, weather patterns, and rainfall. Changes in climate may have important impacts on natural resources and human health. Contrails’ possible climate effects are one component of aviation’s expected overall climate effect.

***

Persistent line-shaped contrails are estimated to cover, on average, about 0.1 percent of the Earth’s surface ….

It is clear that persistent jet contrails can affect weather and climate. I have no idea whether persistent jet contrails are an unintentional affect of airplanes interacting with the environment, or an intentional attempt to affect the weather.

The articles quoted in the first part of this essay provide support for the possibility that at least some of the affects might be intentional. And as a 2008 international workshop on weather modification noted:

It has been well established that successful implementation of Cloud Seeding resulting in precipitation enhancement has significant positive beneficial impact in managing the issue of global warming and climate change….

German television network RTL purportedly alleges that the German government has admitted testing persistent jet contrails for military purposes – as a high-tech form of “chaff” to disrupt enemy radar.

The EPA attributes formation of persistent jet contrails to altitude and humidity, as well as trace impurities such as sulfur contained in jet fuel. On the other hand, some claim that very high concentrations of chemicals like barium and sulfur have been found in groundwater after the incidence of persistent jet contrails increased. And see this.

But whether or not persistent jet contrails are intentionally being created to affect climate or for military purposes or are an unintentional byproduct of flying a modern airplane is beyond the scope of this essay.

The Left Has Nowhere to Go

January 4th, 2011 by Chris Hedges

     “Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernable short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery. The choice is that grim.”

Ralph Nader in a CNN poll a few days before the 2008 presidential election had an estimated 3 percent of the electorate, or about 4 million people, behind his candidacy. But once the votes were counted, his support dwindled to a little over 700,000. Nader believes that many of his supporters entered the polling booth and could not bring themselves to challenge the Democrats and Barack Obama. I suspect Nader is right. And this retreat is another example of the lack of nerve we must overcome if we are going to battle back against the corporate state. A vote for Nader or Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney in 2008 was an act of defiance. A vote for Obama and the Democrats was an act of submission. We cannot afford to be submissive anymore.

“The more outrageous the Republicans become, the weaker the left becomes,” Nader said when I reached him at his home in Connecticut on Sunday. “The more outrageous they become, the more the left has to accept the slightly less outrageous corporate Democrats.”

Nader fears a repeat of the left’s cowardice in the next election, a cowardice that has further empowered the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, maintained the role of the Democratic Party as a lackey for corporations, and accelerated the reconfiguration of the country into a neo-feudalist state. Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernable short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery. The choice is that grim.

The age of the practical is over. It is the impractical, those who stand fast around core moral imperatives, figures like Nader or groups such as Veterans for Peace, which organized the recent anti-war rally in Lafayette Park in Washington, which give us hope. If you were one of the millions who backed down in the voting booth in 2008, don’t do it again. If you were one of those who thought about joining the Washington protests against the war where 131 of us were arrested and did not, don’t fail us next time.

 The closure of the mechanisms within the power system that once made democratic reform possible means we stand together as the last thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration. If we do not engage in open acts of defiance, we will empower a radical right-wing opposition that will replicate the violence and paranoia of the state. To refuse to defy in every way possible the corporate state is to be complicit in our strangulation. 

“The left has nowhere to go,” Nader said. “Obama knows it. The corporate Democrats know it. There will be criticism by the left of Obama this year and then next year they will all close ranks and say ‘Do you want Mitt Romney? Do you want Sarah Palin? Do you want Newt Gingrich?’ It’s very predictable. There will be a year of criticism and then it will all be muted. They don’t understand that even if they do not have any place to go, they ought to fake it. They should fake going somewhere else or staying home to increase the receptivity to their demands. But because they do not make any demands, they are complicit with corporate power.

“Corporate power makes demands all the time,” Nader went on. “It pulls on the Democrats and the Republicans in one direction. By having this nowhere-to-go mentality and without insisting on demands as the price of your vote, or energy to get out the vote, they have reduced themselves to a cipher. They vote. The vote totals up. But it means nothing.”

There is no major difference between a McCain administration, a Bush and an Obama administration. Obama, in fact, is in many ways worse. McCain, like Bush, exposes the naked face of corporate power. Obama, who professes to support core liberal values while carrying out policies that mock these values, mutes and disempowers liberals, progressives and leftists. Environmental and anti-war groups, who plead with Obama to address their issues, are little more than ineffectual supplicants.

Obama, like Bush and McCain, funds and backs our unending and unwinnable wars. He does nothing to halt the accumulation of the largest deficits in human history. The drones murder thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as they did under Bush and would have done under McCain. The private military contractors, along with the predatory banks and investment houses, suck trillions out of the U.S. Treasury as efficiently under Obama. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus, have not been restored. The public option is dead. The continuation of the Bush tax cuts, adding some $900 billion to the deficit, along with the reduction of individual contributions to Social Security, furthers a debt peonage that will be the excuse to privatize Social Security, slash social services and break the back of public service unions. Obama does not intercede as tens of millions of impoverished Americans face foreclosures and bankruptcies. The Democrats provide better cover. But the corporate assault is the same.

“Obama has the formula now,” Nader said. “You give the Republicans a lot of what they want. Many of them vote for you. You get your Democrat percentage. You weave a hybrid victory. That is what he learned in the lame-duck session. He gets praised as being a statesman and a leader and getting things done. Think of all the rewards he can contemplate while he is in Hawaii compared to what they were saying about him on Nov. 5. All the columnists and pundits say that now he can work with John Boehner. But once you take a broader view, it is the difference in the mph of corporatism. McCain is 50 miles per hour and Obama is 40 miles per hour.

“The left has disemboweled itself,” Nader said. “It doesn’t even have a strategy every four years like a good poker player. The best example is Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO. Obama has given them nothing. Therefore, they are demanding nothing. They huff and puff. They make tough speeches. But Trumka hasn’t even made Obama’s campaign pledge of a $9.50 minimum wage by this year an issue. If you want to increase consumer demand, what better way to do it than to unleash $300 billion in wages? The card check for unionization, which Obama pledged as his No. 1 sop to the labor unions, is dead. The unions do not even demand a hearing. And now wait till you see what they will do to the public employee unions. Part of it is their own fault. They are going to be crushed. Everybody is ganging up on them.

You have new class warfare. It is non-unionized lower income and middle class taking it out on the unionized middle-income public employees. It is a classic example of oligarchic manipulation. It will start playing out big time in New York State with Andrew Cuomo and others. They will start saying, ‘Why are you getting this? Most workers who pay the taxes, who pay your salaries, are not getting this.’ This plays.”

The banishment from the corporate media, Nader argues, has been one of the major contributors to the demoralization and weakening of the left. Protests by the left, which get little national or local coverage, have steadily dwindled in strength across the country. The first protest gets little or no coverage and this leads to movements, as well as the voices of activists, being diminished and finally suffocated. 

“The so-called liberal media, along with Fox, is touting the tea party and publicizing Palin,” Nader said. “There was an editorial on Dec. 27 in The New York Times on the Repeal Amendment, the right-wing constitutional amendment to allow states to overturn federal law. The editorial writer at the end had the nerve to say there is no progressive champion. The editorial said that the liberals and progressives have faded out to let the tea party make history. And yet, for months, all The New York Times has done is promote Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. They promote Newt Gingrich and the neocons on the Op-Ed pages. The book pages of the newspaper ignore progressive authors and pump all the right-wing authors.

“If we don’t raise hell, we won’t get any media,” Nader said. “If we don’t get any media, the perception will be that the tea party is the big deal.

“On one notorious Sunday, Oct. 10, two of The New York Times’ segments led with a big story about Ann Coulter and how she will change her strategy because she is being outflanked by others,” Nader said. “There was also a huge article on this anti-Semite against Arabs, this Islamaphobe, Pam Geller. Do you know how many pictures they had of Geller? Twenty on this front-page segment. The number of anti-war Op-Eds in The Washington Post over nine months in 2009 was 6-to-1 pro-war. We don’t raise hell. We don’t say Terry Gross is a censor. We don’t say that Charlie Rose is a censor. We have got to blast publicly. We have got to hammer them, because they are the tribune of right-wing fascist forces.

“Three thousand people rallied to protest the invasion and massacre in Gaza two years ago,” Nader said. “It was held four blocks from The Washington Post. It did not get a single paragraph. People should march over to the Post and say ‘Fuck you! What are you doing here? You cover every little blip by the right-wing and you don’t cover us?’ 

“They are afraid of the right-wing because the right-wing bellows, and they have become right-wing,” Nader said of the commercial press. “They have become fascinated by the bias of Fox. And they publicize what Fox is biased on. The coverage of O’Reilly and Beck and their fights is insane. In the heyday of coverage in the 1960s of what we were doing, it was always less than it should have been, but now it is almost zero. Why do we take this? Why do we accept this? Why isn’t Chris Hedges three times a year in the Op-Ed? Why is it always Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams and all these homicidal maniacs? Why are they there? Why is John Bolton constantly published in The Washington Post and The New York Times? Where is Andrew Bacevich? Bacevich told me he has had five straight Op-Eds rejected by the Post and the Times in the last two years. And he said he is not inclined to send anymore. How many times do you hear Hoover Institution? American Enterprise Institute? Manhattan Institute. These goddamned newspapers should be picketed.”

The timidity and silencing of the left fuels the steady impoverishment of a dispossessed working class and a beleaguered middle class. It solidifies a corporate oligarchy that is dismantling the anemic regulatory agencies that once protected citizens from predatory corporations. The economic system is designed to bail out Wall Street rather than replace the trillions of dollars and millions of jobs lost by workers. And the only hope left, Nader argues, is if the conservatives in the right-wing movement break from the corporatists. If the big banks again start going to the cliff and calling for new bailouts, Nader says, this may provoke a schism between conservative groups embodied by figures such as Ron Paul, and corporate lackeys.

“Every major movement starts with field organizers, the farmers, unions, and the civil rights movement,” Nader said. “But there is nothing out there. We need to start learning from what was done in the past. All over the country people are pissed off. They hate Wall Street. They know they are being gouged. They know they are slipping behind. They know their kids will not be as well off as they were, and they were not that well off. But no one is putting it together. Who could put a thousand organizers in the field, besides George Soros? The labor unions. They have the money. They have a lot of cash. These idiots are going down. The UAW is a paradigm of a suicidal, supplicant labor union. It is disgusting. They are a puppy dog of GM, Ford and Chrysler. They have huge reserves. The labor unions could organize the country, but they are into their own emoluments and high salaries. The union leadership has so distanced itself from the rank and file that it is ashamed to do anything controversial. These union leaders will not go on TV on Labor Day because they do not want someone saying ‘Why are you making $500,000 a year with a pension that is six times your rank and file?’ There is corruption at the top. The only way the union leaders can continue is to be in the shadows. And you don’t build a strong movement in the shadows.

“The black swan question is whether something will erupt that is rare, extreme and unpredictable,” Nader said. “It is amazing that it hasn’t happened in any pockets of the country. How much more can the oppressed take before they revolt? And can they revolt without organizers? These are the two important questions. You have got to have organizers, and as of now we don’t.”

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.”

Kosovo “Freedom Fighters” Financed by Organised Crime.

January 4th, 2011 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Author’s note

This article was published almost 12 years ago, at the height of the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia.

Deafening silence of the Western corporate media. The links of the KLA to organizeed crime, which are now being revealed by the European Parliament’s investigation were known and documented by Interpol and the US Congress prior to the onslaught of the 1999 war on Yugoslavia.

The KLA insurgency was an initiative of NATO. The KLA killings were directed against Albanian, Serbian and Roma civilians.

These killings were ordered by NATO. Blamed on the Serbian police and armed forces, the killings of civilians were used as a pretext and justification to wage a “humanitarian war” on Yugoslavia. 

The ties of the KLA to organized crime were not only known, they were actively fostered by the US and NATO. The result was the formation of what is best described as a “Mafia State”.

The leader of the KLA, Hashim Thaci, “The Snake”, who subsequently became Prime Minister was a protégé of Madeleine Albright.



Thaci and Albright

Supported by the United Nations, NATO`s project was to spearhead a terrorist organization linked to Albanian and Italian crime syndicates, into the realm of civilian politics. The KLA was chosen by NATO to form a government integrated by known criminals.  The Kosovo Democratic Party headed by former KLA Commander Hashim Thaci is essentially an outgrowth of the former Kosovo Liberation Army.  

The Kosovo Democratic Party (KDP) retained its links  to organised crime. All three Kosovo Prime Ministers, in recent history, Ramush Haradinaj, Agim Ceku and Hashim Thaci are known criminals.


Hashim Thaci and former EU Secretary-General Javier Solana

In the year preceding the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, the KLA was quite openly supported by the Clinton administration:  

Some members of the Kosovo Liberation Army [headed by the current Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci] , which has financed its war effort through the sale of heroin, were trained in terrorist camps run by international fugitive Osama bin Laden — who is wanted in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 persons, including 12 Americans.

The KLA members, embraced by the Clinton administration in NATO’s 41-day bombing campaign to bring Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the bargaining table, were trained in secret camps in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere, according to newly obtained intelligence reports.    

 The reports also show that the KLA has enlisted Islamic terrorists — members of the Mujahideen –as soldiers in its ongoing conflict against Serbia, and that many already have been smuggled into Kosovo to join the fight.     ….

The intelligence reports document what is described as a “link” between bin Laden, the fugitive Saudi millionaire, and the KLA –including a common staging area in Tropoje, Albania, a center for Islamic terrorists. The reports said bin Laden’s organization, known as al-Qaeda, has both trained and financially supported the KLA. (Washington Times,  May 4, 1999, see complete article below)

The Christian Science Monitor in an August 14, 2000 report describes the criminal network controlled by Thaci:

UN police suspect that much of the violence and intimidation has come from former KLA members, especially those allied with Hashim Thaci, the former KLA leader and head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, one of the KLA’s political offshoots.

In one recent incident, the shop of an LDK activist in Mr. Thaci’s home village was sprayed with automatic gunfire - the second such attack since November.

Thaci’s party potentially has much to lose in the elections, which are for municipal offices only. After Serb forces withdrew last year, the KLA occupied town halls and public institutions across Kosovo and set up its own provincial government.

Although the UN has gradually asserted its own authority and placed representatives of other political groups in local governments, in places like Srbica ex-KLA members affiliated with Thaci’s party still exercise virtual complete control.

“These guys are not going to give up power that easily,” says Dardan Gashi, a political analyst with the International Crisis Group, a US-based research organization with an office in Pristina.

UN police also suspect organized crime is involved in some of the violence. They say that criminal groups engaged in racketeering, smuggling, and prostitution rely on close links to some people in power. The prospect of losing these connections – and the income they generate – may make them ill-disposed toward the LDK.

Officials say the problem is the worst in the Drenica region of Kosovo, the KLA’s heartland and a stronghold of Thaci’s party. Srbica, where Koci is the local LDK president, is one of the main towns in Drenica. (emphasis added)

The Heritage Foundation in a May 1999 report acknowledges that the KLA is a criminal organization. It nonetheless called for the support of the KLA by the Clinton administration: 

Should the U.S. harness the KLA’s military potential against Milosevic’s brutal regime, despite the KLA’s unusual ideological roots and apparent ties to organized crime? …  The KLA does not represent every group seeking an end to Milosevic’s brutal campaign and is known to have committed some atrocities of its own, it is the most significant force resisting Yugoslav aggression within Kosovo. Moreover, the scale and scope of its crimes have been dwarfed by the systematic campaign of terror unleashed by Yugoslav military, paramilitary, and police forces inside Kosovo. which Washington has done consistently since the 1999 war. (Heritage Foundation Report, 13 May 1999) 

Shunning the KLA now will deprive the United States of the benefits of cooperating with a resistance force that is capable of ratcheting up the pressure on Milosevic to negotiate a settlement (Ibid)

Hashim Thaci with another war criminal: Tony Blair


Michel Chossudovsky,  January 4, 2011

Heralded by the global media as a humanitarian peace-keeping mission, NATO’s ruthless bombing of Belgrade and Pristina goes far beyond the breach of international law. While Slobodan Milosevic is demonised, portrayed as a remorseless dictator, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is upheld as a self-respecting nationalist movement struggling for the rights of ethnic Albanians. The truth of the matter is that the KLA is sustained by organised crime with the tacit approval of the United States and its allies.

Following a pattern set during the War in Bosnia, public opinion has been carefully misled. The multibillion dollar Balkans narcotics trade has played a crucial role in “financing the conflict” in Kosovo in accordance with Western economic, strategic and military objectives. Amply documented by European police files, acknowledged by numerous studies, the links of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to criminal syndicates in Albania, Turkey and the European Union have been known to Western governments and intelligence agencies since the mid-1990s.

” … The financing of the Kosovo guerrilla war poses critical questions and it sorely tests claims of an “ethical” foreign policy. Should the West back a guerrilla army that appears to partly financed by organised crime.”[1]

While KLA leaders were shaking hands with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at Rambouillet, Europol (the European Police Organization based in The Hague) was “preparing a report for European interior and justice ministers on a connection between the KLA and Albanian drug gangs.”[2] In the meantime, the rebel army has been skilfully heralded by the global media (in the months preceding the NATO bombings) as broadly representative of the interests of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

With KLA leader Hashim Thaci (a 29 year “freedom fighter”) appointed as chief negotiator at Rambouillet, the KLA has become the de facto helmsman of the peace process on behalf of the ethnic Albanian majority and this despite its links to the drug trade. The West was relying on its KLA puppets to rubber-stamp an agreement which would have transformed Kosovo into an occupied territory under Western Administration.

Ironically Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, had described the KLA last year as “terrorists”. Christopher Hill, America’s chief negotiator and architect of the Rambouillet agreement, “has also been a strong critic of the KLA for its alleged dealings in drugs.”[3] Moreover, barely a few two months before Rambouillet, the US State Department had acknowledged (based on reports from the US Observer Mission) the role of the KLA in terrorising and uprooting ethnic Albanians:

” … the KLA harass or kidnap anyone who comes to the police, … KLA representatives had threatened to kill villagers and burn their homes if they did not join the KLA [a process which has continued since the NATO bombings]… [T]he KLA harassment has reached such intensity that residents of six villages in the Stimlje region are “ready to flee.”[4]

While backing a “freedom movement” with links to the drug trade, the West seems also intent in bypassing the civilian Kosovo Democratic League and its leader Ibrahim Rugova who has called for an end to the bombings and expressed his desire to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Yugoslav authorities.[5] It is worth recalling that a few days before his March 31 Press Conference, Rugova had been reported by the KLA (alongside three other leaders including Fehmi Agani) to have been killed by the Serbs.

Covert financing of “freedom fighters”

Remember Oliver North and the Contras? The pattern in Kosovo is similar to other CIA covert operations in Central America, Haiti and Afghanistan where “freedom fighters” were financed through the laundering of drug money. Since the onslaught of the Cold War, Western intelligence agencies have developed a complex relationship to the illegal narcotics trade. In case after case, drug money laundered in the international banking system has financed covert operations.

According to author Alfred McCoy, the pattern of covert financing was established in the Indochina war. In the 1960s, the Meo army in Laos was funded by the narcotics trade as part of Washington’s military strategy against the combined forces of the neutralist government of Prince Souvanna Phouma and the Pathet Lao.[6]

The pattern of drug politics set in Indochina has since been replicated in Central America and the Caribbean. “The rising curve of cocaine imports to the US”, wrote journalist John Dinges “followed almost exactly the flow of US arms and military advisers to Central America”.[7]

The military in Guatemala and Haiti, to which the CIA provided covert support, were known to be involved in the trade of narcotics into Southern Florida. And as revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) scandals, there was strong evidence that covert operations were funded through the laundering of drug money. “Dirty money” recycled through the banking system–often through an anonymous shell company– became “covert money,” used to finance various rebel groups and guerrilla movements including the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan Mujahadeen. According to a 1991 Time magazine report:

“Because the US wanted to supply the mujehadeen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. ‘If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer.[8]

America and Germany join hands

Since the early 1990s, Bonn and Washington have joined hands in establishing their respective spheres of influence in the Balkans. Their intelligence agencies have also collaborated. According to intelligence analyst John Whitley, covert support to the Kosovo rebel army was established as a joint endeavour between the CIA and Germany’s Bundes Nachrichten Dienst (BND) (which previously played a key role in installing a right-wing nationalist government under Franjo Tudjman in Croatia).[9] The task to create and finance the KLA was initially given to Germany: “They used German uniforms, East German weapons and were financed, in part, with drug money”.[10] According to Whitley, the CIA was subsequently instrumental in training and equipping the KLA in Albania.[11]

The covert activities of Germany’s BND were consistent with Bonn’s intent to expand its “Lebensraum” into the Balkans. Prior to the onset of the civil war in Bosnia, Germany and its Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher had actively supported secession; it had “forced the pace of international diplomacy” and pressured its Western allies to recognize Slovenia and Croatia. According to the Geopolitical Drug Watch, both Germany and the US favoured (although not officially) the formation of a “Greater Albania” encompassing Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia.[12] According to Sean Gervasi, Germany was seeking a free hand among its allies “to pursue economic dominance in the whole of Mitteleuropa.”[13]

Islamic fundamentalism in support of the KLA

Bonn and Washington’s “hidden agenda” consisted in triggering nationalist liberation movements in Bosnia and Kosovo with the ultimate purpose of destabilising Yugoslavia. The latter objective was also carried out “by turning a blind eye” to the influx of mercenaries and financial support from Islamic fundamentalist organisations.[14]

Mercenaries financed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had been fighting in Bosnia.[15] And the Bosnian pattern was replicated in Kosovo: Mujahadeen mercenaries from various Islamic countries are reported to be fighting alongside the KLA in Kosovo. German, Turkish and Afghan instructors were reported to be training the KLA in guerrilla and diversion tactics.[16]

According to a Deutsche Press-Agentur report, financial support from Islamic countries to the KLA had been channelled through the former Albanian chief of the National Information Service (NIS), Bashkim Gazidede.[17] “Gazidede, reportedly a devout Moslem who fled Albania in March of last year [1997], is presently [1998] being investigated for his contacts with Islamic terrorist organizations.”[18]

The supply route for arming KLA “freedom fighters” are the rugged mountainous borders of Albania with Kosovo and Macedonia. Albania is also a key point of transit of the Balkans drug route which supplies Western Europe with grade four heroin. Seventy-five percent of the heroin entering Western Europe is from Turkey. And a large part of drug shipments originating in Turkey transits through the Balkans. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “it is estimated that 4-6 metric tons of heroin leave each month from Turkey having [through the Balkans] as destination Western Europe.”[19] A recent intelligence report by Germany’s Federal Criminal Agency suggests that: “Ethnic Albanians are now the most prominent group in the distribution of heroin in Western consumer countries.”[20]

The laundering of dirty money

In order to thrive, the criminal syndicates involved in the Balkans narcotics trade need friends in high places. Smuggling rings with alleged links to the Turkish State are said to control the trafficking of heroin through the Balkans “cooperating closely with other groups with which they have political or religious ties” including criminal groups in Albanian and Kosovo.[21] In this new global financial environment, powerful undercover political lobbies connected to organized crime cultivate links to prominent political figures and officials of the military and intelligence establishment.

The narcotics trade nonetheless uses respectable banks to launder large amounts of dirty money. While comfortably removed from the smuggling operations per se, powerful banking interests in Turkey but mainly those in financial centres in Western Europe discretely collect fat commissions in a multibillion dollar money laundering operation. These interests have high stakes in ensuring a safe passage of drug shipments into Western European markets.

The Albanian connection

Arms smuggling from Albania into Kosovo and Macedonia started at the beginning of 1992, when the Democratic Party came to power, headed by President Sali Berisha. An expansive underground economy and cross border trade had unfolded. A triangular trade in oil, arms and narcotics had developed largely as a result of the embargo imposed by the international community on Serbia and Montenegro and the blockade enforced by Greece against Macedonia.

Industry and agriculture in Kosovo were spearheaded into bankruptcy following the IMF’s lethal “economic medicine” imposed on Belgrade in 1990. The embargo was imposed on Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanians and Serbs were driven into abysmal poverty. Economic collapse created an environment which fostered the progress of illicit trade. In Kosovo, the rate of unemployment increased to a staggering 70 percent (according to Western sources).

Poverty and economic collapse served to exacerbate simmering ethnic tensions. Thousands of unemployed youths “barely out of their teens” from an impoverished population, were drafted into the ranks of the KLA …[22]

In neighbouring Albania, the free market reforms adopted since 1992 had created conditions which favoured the criminalisation of state institutions. Drug money was also laundered in the Albanian pyramids (ponzi schemes) which mushroomed during the government of former President Sali Berisha (1992-1997).[23] These shady investment funds were an integral part of the economic reforms inflicted by Western creditors on Albania.

Drug barons in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia (with links to the Italian Mafia) had become the new economic elites, often associated with Western business interests. In turn the financial proceeds of the trade in drugs and arms were recycled towards other illicit activities (and vice versa) including a vast prostitution racket between Albania and Italy. Albanian criminal groups operating in Milan, “have become so powerful running prostitution rackets that they have even taken over the Calabrians in strength and influence.”[24]

The application of “strong economic medicine” under the guidance of the Washington based Bretton Woods institutions had contributed to wrecking Albania’s banking system and precipitating the collapse of the Albanian economy. The resulting chaos enabled American and European transnationals to carefully position themselves. Several Western oil companies including Occidental, Shell and British Petroleum had their eyes riveted on Albania’s abundant and unexplored oil-deposits. Western investors were also gawking Albania’s extensive reserves of chrome, copper, gold, nickel and platinum…. The Adenauer Foundation had been lobbying in the background on behalf of German mining interests.[25]

Berisha’s Minister of Defence Safet Zoulali (alleged to have been involved in the illegal oil and narcotics trade) was the architect of the agreement with Germany’s Preussag (handing over control over Albania’s chrome mines) against the competing bid of the US led consortium of Macalloy Inc. in association with Rio Tinto Zimbabwe (RTZ).[26]

Large amounts of narco-dollars had also been recycled into the privatisation programmes leading to the acquisition of state assets by the mafias. In Albania, the privatisation programme had led virtually overnight to the development of a property owning class firmly committed to the “free market”. In Northern Albania, this class was associated with the Guegue “families” linked to the Democratic Party.

Controlled by the Democratic Party under the presidency of Sali Berisha (1992-97), Albania’s largest financial “pyramid” VEFA Holdings had been set up by the Guegue “families” of Northern Albania with the support of Western banking interests. VEFA was under investigation in Italy in 1997 for its ties to the Mafia which allegedly used VEFA to launder large amounts of dirty money.[27]

According to one press report (based on intelligence sources), senior members of the Albanian government during the presidency of Sali Berisha including cabinet members and members of the secret police SHIK were alleged to be involved in drugs trafficking and illegal arms trading into Kosovo:

(…) The allegations are very serious. Drugs, arms, contraband cigarettes all are believed to have been handled by a company run openly by Albania’s ruling Democratic Party, Shqiponja (…). In the course of 1996 Defence Minister, Safet Zhulali [was alleged] to had used his office to facilitate the transport of arms, oil and contraband cigarettes. (…) Drugs barons from Kosovo (…) operate in Albania with impunity, and much of the transportation of heroin and other drugs across Albania, from Macedonia and Greece en route to Italy, is believed to be organised by Shik, the state security police (…). Intelligence agents are convinced the chain of command in the rackets goes all the way to the top and have had no hesitation in naming ministers in their reports.[28]

The trade in narcotics and weapons was allowed to prosper despite the presence since 1993 of a large contingent of American troops at the Albanian-Macedonian border with a mandate to enforce the embargo. The West had turned a blind eye. The revenues from oil and narcotics were used to finance the purchase of arms (often in terms of direct barter): “Deliveries of oil to Macedonia (skirting the Greek embargo [in 1993-4] can be used to cover heroin, as do deliveries of kalachnikov rifles to Albanian ‘brothers’ in Kosovo”.[29]

The Northern tribal clans or “fares” had also developed links with Italy’s crime syndicates.[30] In turn, the latter played a key role in smuggling arms across the Adriatic into the Albanian ports of Dures and Valona. At the outset in 1992, the weapons channelled into Kosovo were largely small arms including Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles, RPK and PPK machine-guns, 12.7 calibre heavy machine-guns, etc.

The proceeds of the narcotics trade has enabled the KLA to rapidly develop a force of some 30,000 men. More recently, the KLA has acquired more sophisticated weaponry including anti-aircraft and anti-armor rockets. According to Belgrade, some of the funds have come directly from the CIA “funnelled through a so-called ‘Government of Kosovo’ based in Geneva, Switzerland. Its Washington office employs the public-relations firm of Ruder Finn–notorious for its slanders of the Belgrade government”.[31]

The KLA has also acquired electronic surveillance equipment which enables it to receive NATO satellite information concerning the movement of the Yugoslav Army. The KLA training camp in Albania is said to “concentrate on heavy weapons training–rocket propelled grenades, medium caliber cannons, tanks and transporter use, as well as on communications, and command and control”. (According to Yugoslav government sources).[32]

These extensive deliveries of weapons to the Kosovo rebel army were consistent with Western geopolitical objectives. Not surprisingly, there has been a “deafening silence” of the international media regarding the Kosovo arms-drugs trade. In the words of a 1994 Report of the Geopolitical Drug Watch: “the trafficking [of drugs and arms] is basically being judged on its geostrategic implications (…) In Kosovo, drugs and weapons trafficking is fuelling geopolitical hopes and fears”…[33]

The fate of Kosovo had already been carefully laid out prior to the signing of the 1995 Dayton agreement. NATO had entered an unwholesome “marriage of convenience” with the mafia. “Freedom fighters” were put in place, the narcotics trade enabled Washington and Bonn to “finance the Kosovo conflict” with the ultimate objective of destabilising the Belgrade government and fully recolonising the Balkans. The destruction of an entire country is the outcome. Western governments which participated in the NATO operation bear a heavy burden of responsibility in the deaths of civilians, the impoverishment of both the ethnic Albanian and Serbian populations and the plight of those who were brutally uprooted from towns and villages in Kosovo as a result of the bombings.

Notes:

1. Roger Boyes and Eske Wright, Drugs Money Linked to the Kosovo Rebels, The Times, London, Monday, March 24, 1999.
2. Ibid.
3. Philip Smucker and Tim Butcher, “Shifting stance over KLA has betrayed’ Albanians”, Daily Telegraph, London, 6 April 1999
4. KDOM Daily Report, released by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, Office of South Central European Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, December 21, 1998; Compiled by EUR/SCE (202-647-4850) from daily reports of the US element of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission, December 21, 1998.
5. “Rugova, sous protection serbe appelle a l’arret des raides”, Le Devoir, Montreal, 1 April 1999.
6. See Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, Harper and Row, New York, 1972.
7. See John Dinges, Our Man in Panama, The Shrewd Rise and Brutal Fall of Manuel Noriega, Times Books, New York, 1991.
8. “The Dirtiest Bank of All,” Time, July 29, 1991, p. 22.
9. Truth in Media, Phoenix, 2 April, 1999; see also Michel Collon, Poker Menteur, editions EPO, Brussels, 1997.
10. Quoted in Truth in Media, Phoenix, 2 April, 1999).
11. Ibid.
12. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 32, June 1994, p. 4
13. Sean Gervasi, “Germany, US and the Yugoslav Crisis”, Covert Action Quarterly, No. 43, Winter 1992-93).
14. See Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1993.
15. For further details see Michel Collon, Poker Menteur, editions EPO, Brussels, 1997, p. 288.
16. Truth in Media, Kosovo in Crisis, Phoenix, 2 April 1999.
17. Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 13, 1998.
18. Ibid.
19. Daily News, Ankara, 5 March 1997.
20. Quoted in Boyes and Wright, op cit.
21. ANA, Athens, 28 January 1997, see also Turkish Daily News, 29 January 1997.
22. Brian Murphy, KLA Volunteers Lack Experience, The Associated Press, 5 April 1999.
23. See Geopolitical Drug Watch, No. 35, 1994, p. 3, see also Barry James, in Balkans, Arms for Drugs, The International Herald Tribune, Paris, June 6, 1994.
24. The Guardian, 25 March 1997.
25. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, La crisi albanese, Edizioni Gruppo Abele, Torino, 1998.
26. Ibid.
27. Andrew Gumbel, The Gangster Regime We Fund, The Independent, February 14, 1997, p. 15.
28. Ibid.
29. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No. 35, 1994, p. 3.
30. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 66, p. 4.
31. Quoted in Workers’ World, May 7, 1998.
32. See Government of Yugoslavia at http://www.gov.yu/terrorism/terroristcamps.html.
33. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 32, June 1994, p. 4.

Pen Meets Paper: Opinion on the Financial Crisis

January 4th, 2011 by Helge Nome

We are now heading into the third year after the official 2008 recession with uncertain but hopeful predictions predominating in the mainstream media. You see, our financial system is essentially being viewed as a kind of natural phenomenon, like the weather, with forecasters in abundance offering their predictions of future storms and other events of significance. All the while failing to observe the fact that the financial system is purely a human creation, just like our civil aviation system, for example.

Now, ask yourself this: If you are about to buy an airline ticket to fly to Europe, for example, would you contact a “civil aviation consultant” to find out the likelihood of whether the plane would make it there in one piece? If that was deemed necessary, I doubt whether many people would buy airline tickets.

However, if you are interested in financial transactions, you may be well served consulting an astrologer before even trying. My question is this: Why on earth do we put up with this? Why are our brains so numb that we have allowed the central nervous system of our civilization to be turned into a casino for the wealthy?

Please shake your heads and wake up. Something is terribly wrong in the world of financial transactions, and the way we are being told that everything is going to be OK.

We are being “informed” that the balance sheets of large financial institutions are now healthy again after allegedly nearly suffocating in red ink only two years age. The opposite is the case for sovereign governments. Their balance sheets are floating in red ink drained from the now “healthy” banks. And leftover remnants of red ink are safely drying up in “Special Investment Vehicles” parked safely out of sight in private vaults, waiting for the color to change to green before re-emerging back onto private balance sheets.

The only sane way out of this mess is for thinking people to take the time to understand what is going on and then take remedial steps to deal with the situation.

Hiding in our own little holes just doesn’t cut it. It simply allows a small group of people to do whatever they like. And the more aggressive they are, the more they need to be opposed. Whatever happened to the spirit of our forefathers and mothers?

16 dicembre… Sono in piedi nella neve davanti alla Casa Bianca… Insieme con i Veterani per la pace… Io sono un veterano delle proteste davanti alla Casa Bianca, la prima nel febbraio 1965, quando distribuivo volantini contro la guerra in Vietnam. Lavoravo all’epoca al Dipartimento di Stato, e la mia più grande paura era che un membro di questa nobile istituzione andasse lì e mi riconoscesse.

Cinque anni dopo, ho sempre protestato contro la guerra in Vietnam, ma avevo smesso di lavorare per il Dipartimento di Stato. Poi ci fu la Cambogia. E il Laos. Poco dopo, Nicaragua e El Salvador. Poi Panama è diventata la nuova minaccia contro gli Stati Uniti, contro la libertà e la democrazia che tutti abbiamo a cuore, ed era necessario bombardare il paese senza pietà. Poi ci fu la prima guerra contro il popolo iracheno, ed i 78 giorni consecutivi di bombardamenti contro la Jugoslavia. Poi è stata la volta dell’Afghanistan a conoscere la pioggia di uranio impoverito, napalm, bombe al fosforo e di altre armi diaboliche e polveri chimiche, poi di nuovo l’Iraq. E anche gli altri che non ho menzionato. Penso di detenere il record per il numero di manifestazioni davanti la Casa Bianca.

Per tutto questo tempo, la brava gente lavoratrice d’America credeva che il suo paese stava lavorando per il bene. Alcuni credono ancora che non abbiamo mai scatenato una guerra, e di certo nulla che possa essere descritta come una “guerra di aggressione“.

Durante questo stesso giorno di neve, a dicembre, Julian Assange di Wikileaks è stato rilasciato dal carcere di Londra e ha detto ai giornalisti che era più preoccupato per l’estradizione verso gli Stati Uniti che in Svezia, dove è accusato di crimini “sessuali”. (1)

Si tratta di una paura spesso espressa da vari politici e trafficanti di droga provenienti da diversi paesi, negli ultimi anni. Gli Stati Uniti sono diventati la nuova Isola del Diavoli dell’Occidente. Dalla metà del 19esimo secolo fino alla metà del ventesimo, i prigionieri politici sono stati inviati su un pezzo di territorio francese, al largo della costa del Sud America. Uno degli attuali abitanti di questa versione moderna dell’Isola del Diavolo si chiama Bradley Manning, ex analista d’intelligence degli Stati Uniti, che si crede abbia consegnato i cabli diplomatici a Wikileaks. Manning è in carcere da sette mesi, prima in Kuwait e poi in una base militare in Virginia. Egli rischia una condanna all’ergastolo, se riconosciuto colpevole… di qualcosa. Senza processo, senza giudizio, non gli è consentito un minimo contatto con l’esterno, o con le persone, o la luce del giorno, o le informazioni; tra le cose che gli sono vietate si trovano cuscino, lenzuola, esercizio fisico, il sonno è limitato e spesso interrotto. Leggere l’articolo di Glenn Greenwald, relativo al trattamento riservato a Manning, che equivale alla tortura. (2)

Un amico del giovane soldato ha detto che molte persone sono riluttanti nel commentare il deterioramento fisico e mentale di Manning, a causa delle vessazioni del governo, sotto forma di sorveglianza, sequestro senza mandato dei computer e perfino tentativi di corruzione. “Questo ha avuto un effetto raggelante, tanto che molti non osano fare il suo nome.” (3) Uno sviluppatore di software utilizzato da Wikileaks, è stato trattenuto per diverse ore la scorsa estate, dagli agenti federali di Newark, New Jersey, che lo hanno interrogato circa i suoi legami con Wikileaks e Assange, e anche sul suo punto di vista sulla guerra in Afghanistan e in Iraq. (4)

Non è solo un piccolo incidente, ma s’inserisce nella creazione di uno stato di polizia che ha perseguito per quasi un secolo, dalla Minaccia Comunista degli anni ‘20 al del maccartismo degli anni ‘50, alla repressione contro i manifestanti per l’America centrale, degli anni ‘80… rafforzata dalla guerra alla droga… e ora accelerata dalla guerra al terrorismo. Questo non è il peggiore stato di polizia nella storia, e nemmeno il peggiore stato di polizia di oggi, ma è ancora uno stato di polizia, e certamente uno dei più riusciti di tutti i tempi. Un recente studio condotto dal Washington Post ha rivelato l’esistenza di 4.058 organizzazioni “antiterrorismo” nei diversi paesi, ciascuno con le proprie responsabilità e la propria competenza. (5) La polizia statunitense, composta da una vasta gamma di servizi, di solito ottiene ciò che vuole. Se gli Stati Uniti riescono a mettere le mani su Assange, sotto qualsiasi pretesto legale, si teme per lui perché potrebbe significare la fine definitiva della sua libertà, né i fatti addotti contro di lui o le sue azioni, presunte o reali, neanche le legge degli Stati Uniti hanno alcuna importanza, perché non c’è furia superiore a quella di un impero contrariato.

John Burns, corrispondente capo Internazionale presso il New York Times, dopo aver intervistato Assange, ha dichiarato: “E’ profondamente convinto che gli Stati Uniti siano una forza del male nel mondo, distruggono la democrazia.” (6) C’è qualcuno che pensa che meriti di fare conoscenza coi diritti umani, così come vengono  intesi nell’Isola del Diavolo?

I documenti di Wikileaks non possono rivelare nulla che possa sconvolgere il mondo, ma giorno dopo giorno essi partecipano alla lenta, ma costante, erosione della fede delle persone nella purezza delle intenzioni del governo degli Stati Uniti, un passo essenziale per superare ogni via d’indottrinamento. In passato, molte più persone si sarebbero piantate davanti alla Casa Bianca, se avessero avuto accesso alla pletora di informazioni che si possono trovare oggi, il che non vuol dire che avremmo potuto impedire una sola guerra, perché ciò dipende anche dal grado di democrazia esistente negli Stati Uniti.

Un’altra conseguenza della pubblicazione di questi documenti potrebbe essere la demistificazione della notorietà della Svezia, o del governo svedese, che sarebbe pacifico, progressista, neutrale e indipendente. Il comportamento di Stoccolma, in tale occasione, come in altri, è paragonabile a quella di Londra nel ruolo di un barboncino degli Stati Uniti, quando sono allineati con le accuse contro Assange, che aveva frequentato i cubani anticastristi di destra, che ovviamente erano essi stessi sostenuti dal governo degli Stati Uniti.  Questa stessa Svezia che ha recentemente collaborato con la CIA nelle operazioni segrete di rapimento verso i centri di tortura e che mantiene 500 militari in Afghanistan. Rispetto al numero di abitanti, la Svezia è il maggiore esportatore di armi del mondo ed è coinvolta da anni nel esercitazioni militari della NATO/USA, alcune delle quali, a volte, si sono svolte nel proprio territorio. La sinistra farebbe bene a trovare un altro modello di nazione. Cuba, forse?

E poi c’è anche il vecchio stereotipo tra gli statunitensi che gli svedesi hanno un atteggiamento raffinato e tollerante nei confronti del sesso, reputazione suscitata o arricchita da un film svedese del 1967 e bandito per un po’, negli Stati Uniti d’America. Cosa vediamo oggi? Svedesi che scatenano l’Interpol sulle tracce di un uomo che apparentemente avrebbe contrariato due donne, forse perché aveva dormito con le due nella stessa settimana.

E mentre sono lì, i progressisti statunitensi farebbero bene anche ad aprire gli occhi sulla BBC, che essi percepiscono come un media liberale. Gli americani sono ancora ingannati dall’accento britannico. Il presentatore di Today Show della BBC, John Humphry, ha chiesto ad Assange: “Sei un predatore sessuale?” Assange ha detto che il problema era “ridicolo” e ha aggiunto “certo che no.” Humphrey ha poi gli ha chiesto con quante donne aveva dormito. (7) Anche Fox News non si sarebbe abbassato a un tale livello. Mi dispiace che Assange non sia cresciuto nelle strade di Brooklyn, come me. Avrebbe quindi saputo rispondere esattamente alla domanda: “Compresa tua madre?

Un altro gruppo che dovrebbe cogliere l’opportunità di imparare da tutto questo, è quello dei cospirazionisti implacabili. Molti mi hanno scritto in tono beffardo per informarmi della mia ingenuità per non aver ancora capito che Israele è in realtà dietro le fughe di Wikileaks. Pertanto, mi dicono, nessun documento menziona Israele. Ho dovuto dirgli che avevo già visto alcuni documenti che non erano lusinghieri con Israele. Da allora ne ho visto altri, e Assange, nel corso di un’intervista da Al Jazeera del 23 dicembre, ha detto che solo un piccolo numero di documenti relativi a Israele è stato pubblicato fino ad ora, perché i media occidentali che avevano il diritto esclusivo di pubblicare questi documenti segreti erano riluttanti a pubblicare le informazioni sensibili su Israele. (Immaginate lo sbarramento che avrebbe subito Der Spiegel in Germania). “Ci sono 3.700 documenti riguardanti Israele, e 2.700 provengono da Israele stesso“, ha detto Assange. “Nei prossimi sei mesi, abbiamo intenzione di pubblicarne altri.” (8)

Ovviamente, molte altre persone mi hanno anche informato che questo era in realtà un colpo di stato montato dalla CIA.

Il diritto al segreto
Molti di noi ne hanno abbastanza dei sostenitori di Israele che ci definiscono “antisemiti” per ogni critica alla politica israeliana, e non è quasi mai il caso. Si consideri la definizione data dal Webster’s Dictionary: “Anti-semita: Qualcuno che esercita la discriminazione, l’ostilità o mostra evidente pregiudizio contro gli ebrei“. Si noti che non si parla dello stato di Israele.

Ecco a cosa sembra un vero e proprio anti-semita. Ascoltiamo l’ex presidente (Stati Uniti), Richard Nixon: “Gli ebrei sono aggressivi, maleducati e fastidiosi… la maggior parte dei nostri amici ebrei… hanno sostanzialmente un complesso di inferiorità che devono compensare.” Questo è estratto dalla registrazione di un colloquio alla Casa Bianca, 13 febbraio 1973, pubblicato di recente. (9) Tali registrazioni, e ce ne sono molte, sono i Wikileaks dell’epoca.
Tuttavia, come ha notato  un conservatore di spicco, Michael Medved, dopo la pubblicazione dei commenti di Nixon: “Ironicamente, nessun americano ha fatto di più per il popolo ebraico nel momento decisivo: dopo l’attacco a sorpresa siriano-egiziano nel 1973, che ha distrutto un terzo degli aerei da guerra israeliani e ucciso l’equivalente americano di 200.000 israeliani, Nixon ha ignorato il Pentagono e ha disposto la reintegrazione immediata delle attrezzature. Fino ad oggi, gli israeliani sono ancora grato per questa azione decisiva che ha permesso allo Stato ebraico di cambiare il corso della guerra.”(10), allora Richard Nixon era antisemita? E le sue osservazioni dovrebbero essere tenute segrete?
In un’altra recente intervista, è stato chiesto a Julian Assange se pensava “che uno stato ha il diritto di mantenere dei segreti.” Ha riconosciuto che vi sono circostanze in cui vi è la necessità della segretezza istituzionale, “ma questo non significa che tutti gli altri devono essere conformi a questo requisito. I media hanno il dovere, verso il pubblico, di pubblicare le informazioni che il pubblico ha bisogno di conoscere.”(11)

Vorrei aggiungere che il popolo statunitense – più di qualsiasi altra nazione – ha bisogno di sapere degli intrighi del suo governo in tutto il mondo, perché il suo governo è impegnato in più attacchi verso qualsiasi altro governo che continuamente minaccia di bombardare e di inviarvi uomini e donne, a uccidere ed essere uccisi. Gli statunitensi devono sapere cosa i loro leader psicopatici si dicono veramente tra loro circa questo spargimento di sangue. Ogni pezzo d’informazione potrebbe essere usato come un’arma per impedire una nuova guerra.  Michael Moore ha scritto di recente: “Siamo stati trascinati in una guerra contro l’Iraq con una bugia. Ci sono stati centinaia di migliaia di morti. Immaginate se coloro che hanno progettato questo crimine di guerra nel 2002, avessero avuto a che fare con Wikileaks. Forse non avrebbe avuto successo il loro colpo di stato. L’unico motivo che avevano di  pensare di riuscirci, era che erano protetti dal segreto. Questa protezione è stata loro strappata e spero che non potranno mai più operare in segreto.”

E non dimentichiamo, cari compagni, che i nostri leader gloriosi ci spiano costantemente: nessuna comunicazione, via telefono o e-mail, è un segreto per loro, nulla nei nostri conti bancari o nelle nostre camere da letto è oltre la loro portata, se vogliono sapere. Di recente, l’FBI ha perquisito le case nel Midwest dei militanti per la solidarietà con la Palestina, Colombia e altri. Gli agenti hanno trascorso molte ore a setacciare ogni mensola, ogni cassetto, prendendo decine di scatole piene di oggetti personali. Allora a che tipo di segreti avrebbe diritto il Dipartimento di Stato?

Prepararsi all’incombente ondata di propaganda
Il 6 febbraio ricorre il centenario della nascita di Ronald Reagan, presidente degli Stati Uniti dal 1981 al 1989. I conservatori hanno già avviato lo spettacolo. Il primo giorno dell’anno, uno striscione di 20 per 10 metri in onore di Reagan flottava  in mezzo alla grande sfilata di Pasadena, in California. Per aiutarvi a gestire, e forse a contrastare la disinformazione e le omissioni che inonderanno i media nei prossimi mesi, ecco alcune informazioni su questo grande uomo e i suoi meravigliosi successi, a cominciare con la politica estera.

NICARAGUA: per 8 lunghi anni il popolo del Nicaragua è stato sotto attacco da parte dell’esercito mercenario di Ronald Reagan, la Contra. E’ stata una guerra formalmente lanciata da Washington, che mirava a distruggere i programmi sociali ed economici progressisti del governo sandinista – incendiando scuole e cliniche, minando i porti, bombardando e mitragliando, violentando e torturando… I Contras erano quegli affascinanti gentlemen che Reagan chiamava “combattenti per la libertà” e “l’equivalente morale dei nostri padri fondatori“.

EL SALVADOR: i dissidenti di El Salvador cercarono di agire all’interno del sistema. Ma con l’appoggio degli Stati Uniti, il governo ha reso loro impossibile qualsiasi attività, col costante uso di brogli elettorali e l’assassinio di centinaia di manifestanti e scioperanti. Quando i dissidenti presero le armi, l’amministrazione Carter, e poi soprattutto l’amministrazione Reagan, risposero fornendo aiuti finanziari e militari illimitati al governo e alle sue squadre della morte e della tortura, questi ultimi godettero dell’aiuto della CIA e dei suoi manuali sulla tortura. Il personale militare e della CIA era attivamente coinvolto. Il risultato furono 75.000 civili morti, qualsiasi accenno di cambiamento soffocato nella culla un pugno di ricchi che possedevano il paese, i poveri sempre più poveri, e squadroni della morte che minacciavano dissenso. Non ci sarà alcun cambiamento in El Salvador, finché Ronnie e Nancy occuperanno la Casa Bianca.

GUATEMALA: nel 1954, un colpo di stato organizzato dalla CIA rovesciò il governo democraticamente eletto di Jacobo Arbenz, dando inizio a 40 anni di regno degli squadroni della morte, torture, sparizioni, esecuzioni di massa e crudeltà inimmaginabili, per un totale di 200.000 persone – senza dubbio uno dei capitoli più disumani del 20° secolo. Per 8 di questi 40 anni, l’amministrazione Reagan ha svolto un ruolo importante.

Il peggior dittatore militare è stato forse il generale Efrain Rios Montt, che ha condotto quasi un olocausto contro gli indiani e i contadini, che gli valse la condanna internazionale. Nel dicembre 1982, Reagan visitò il dittatore guatemalteco. In una conferenza stampa dei due uomini, a Rios Montt fu chiesto della sua politica della terra bruciata. Rispose “Non abbiamo alcuna politica della terra bruciata. Abbiamo una politica dei comunisti bruciati.” Dopo l’incontro, in risposta alle accuse di massicce violazioni dei diritti umani, Reagan dichiarò che Rios Montt era stato “trattato male” dai media.

GRENADA: Reagan invase il piccolo paese nel l’ottobre 1983, una illegale e immorale invasione completamente avvolta nella menzogna (gli studenti di medicina statunitensi sono “in pericolo“). L’invasione ha contribuito a porre al potere degli uomini più compatibili con la politica estera degli Stati Uniti.

AFGHANISTAN: Dopo che l’amministrazione Carter aveva provocato l’invasione sovietica, Reagan, entrato in carica, sostenne pienamente i fondamentalisti islamici nella loro guerra contro i sovietici e il governo laico, che faceva rispettare i diritti delle donne. Alla fine, gli Stati Uniti e i fondamentalisti hanno “vinto” e le donne e il resto dell’Afghanistan hanno perso. Più di un milione di morti, tre milioni di mutilati, cinque milioni di profughi, circa la metà della popolazione. E molti fondamentalisti islamici anti-statunitensi addestrati e armati dagli Stati Uniti e pronti a esercitare il loro terrore sul mondo.

Vedere i coraggiosi combattenti afgani per la libertà affrontare una arsenale moderno con semplici pistole è una fonte d’ispirazione per tutti coloro che amano la libertà“, aveva detto Reagan. “Il loro coraggio ci insegna una grande lezioneci sono cause quaggiù che meritano di essere difese. Io dico, a nome di tutti gli americani, noi ammiriamo il vostro coraggio, la vostra dedizione alla libertà e la vostra lotta implacabile contro i vostri oppressori.”(12)

LA GUERRA FREDDA: Per quanto riguarda il presunto ruolo di Reagan nel porre fine alla Guerra Fredda…  è pura finzione. L’ha prolungata. Leggetene la storia in uno dei miei libri. (13)

Alcuni altri esempi della notevole immoralità di Ronald Wilson Reagan e del disinibito cinismo della sua amministrazione:
Reagan, nel suo famoso discorso del 1964, “il momento di scegliere”, che lo spinse alla politica nazionale: “Ci hanno detto che quattro anni fa 17 milioni di persone andavano a letto affamate. Beh, questo era probabilmente vero. Se la sono voluta.”

Minare il regolamento della sicurezza, la salute e l’ambiente. Reagan aveva decretato che tali regolamenti dovrebbero essere oggetto di valutazioni d’impatto – l’analisi pro-business e dei suoi risultati condotte dall’Ufficio Gestione e Bilancio. Risultato: numerose norme positive scartate o riviste sulla base delle conclusioni pseudo-scientifiche che il costo, per le imprese private, superavano i benefici per il pubblico.”

Il lancio l’era dell’adeguamento strutturale. Fu sotto l’influenza dell’amministrazione Reagan che il Fondo Monetario Internazionale e la Banca mondiale hanno cominciato a imporre a tutti il loro programma politico noto come adeguamento strutturale – composto da deregolamentazione, privatizzazione, priorità alle esportazioni, tagli alla spesa sociale – gettando un paese del terzo mondo dopo l’altro nel disastro economico. Il capo del FMI di quel tempo, fu onesto su ciò che sarebbe accaduto, affermando nel 1981 che per i paesi a basso reddito, “l’adeguamento sarà particolarmente costosi in termini umani.”

Il silenzio sull’epidemia di AIDS. Reagan non ha mai pubblicamente fatto menzione dell’AIDS fino al 1987, quando l’AIDS  aveva ucciso 19.000 persone negli Stati Uniti.” – Russell Mokhiber e Robert Weissman. (14)

L’elezione di Reagan cambiò la realtà politica. Il suo programma rimuoveva gli aiuti sociali, e il suo budget impose una serie di tagli ai programmi sociali. Fu anche molto strategico nel suo approccio. Uno dei suoi primi obiettivi è stata l’assistenza legale. Questo servizio, che forniva assistenza legale alle persone a basso reddito, era composto principalmente da avvocati progressisti che se ne servirono per condurre battaglie legali vittoriose contro il governo. Reagan tagliò i finanziamenti per il programma. Aveva inoltre vietato espressamente al servizio di condurre azioni collettive (Class Action Suits) contro il governo – azioni che avevano conseguito grandi vittorie in favore delle famiglie più povere.”

L’indebolimento dei sindacati è stata una priorità per l’amministrazione Reagan. Gli incaricati del National Labor Relations Board (agenzia federale indipendente creata nel 1935 per monitorare l’attuazione del diritto del lavoro – NDT) furono più favorevoli ai datori di lavoro rispetto a quelli nominati da tutte le amministrazioni precedenti, democratiche o repubblicane. Questo ha permesso ai datori di lavoro di ignorare il codice del lavoro impunemente. Reagan aveva fatto adottare il costume del licenziamento degli scioperanti, quando licenziò i controllori del traffico aereo nel 1981. Molte grandi aziende presto seguirono il suo esempio… Ciò ha determinato una netta diminuzione del tasso di sindacalizzazione, che passò da quasi il 20 per cento nel settore privato nel 1980, a poco più del 7 per cento nel 2006.” – Dean Baker (15)

Reaganomics: una politica fiscale basata sull’idea che “i ricchi non lavorano perché non hanno sufficiente denaro, mentre i poveri non lavorano perché ne hanno troppo.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

Secondo il mantra degli USA dell’era Reagan, l’attuale sistema cinese – sia capitalista che autoritario – non potrebbe esistere. Il capitalismo porterebbe alla democrazia, ripetevano fino alla nausea gli apologeti del libero commercio, i conservatori, i funzionari governativi e le imprese statunitensi che operano in Cina. Con un numero sufficiente di Starbucks (catena di coffee shop – Nota del traduttore) e di McDonald’s, e una scelta sufficiente per i consumatori, la Cina sicuramente diventerà una democrazia.”- Harold Meyerson (16)

Dai primi anni alla metà degli ‘80, l’amministrazione Reagan ha dichiarato che i sovietici diffondevano sostanze chimiche in Laos, Cambogia e Afghanistan – la cosiddetta “pioggia gialla” – e che aveva causato più di 10.000 decessi nel 1982 (di cui, in Afghanistan, 3.042 decessi attribuiti a 47 diversi incidenti tra l’estate del 1979 e l’estate del 1981, per dirvi quanto l’informazione era precisa…). Il presidente Reagan  denunciò l’Unione Sovietica in persona più di 15 volte nei documenti e nei discorsi. La “pioggia gialla“, in realtà, era solo letame carico di polline prodotto da enormi sciami di api che volavano ad alta quota. (17)

Le famose dichiarazione di Reagan, bis: il Contragate (uno scandalo di vendita illegalmente di armi all’Iran, per consentire le operazioni di guerra dei Contras contro il governo del Nicaragua, dopo che il Congresso USA tagliò i finanziamenti ai Contras) possono essere riassunte così:
- Non ero a conoscenza
- Se sapevo, non sapevo a sufficienza
- Se sapevo abbastanza, l’ho scoperto troppo tardi
- Se avessi saputo all’epoca, non era illegale
- Se fosse illegale, la legge non si applica nel mio caso
- Se la legge è applicabile al mio caso, non ne ero a conoscenza

Note
1. Sunday Telegraph (Australia), 19 dicembre 2010
2. Salon.com, 15 dicembre 2010, “The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention“. Vedasi anche il resoconto dell’avvocato sulla giornata tipico di Manning, e il Washington Post del 16 dicembre 2010
3. The Guardian (Londra), 17 Dicembre 2010
4. New York Times, 19 dicembre 2010
5. Washington Post, 20 dicembre 2010
6. Diane Rehm show, National Public Radio, 9 dicembre 2010
7. The Guardian (Londra), 21 dicembre 2010
8. Information Clearing House, 23 dicembre 2010, “WikiLeaks to Release Israel Documents in Six Months”, 23 dicembre 2010
9. Washington Post, 12 Dicembre 2010
10. Dal programma radiofonico di Medved, 14 dicembre 2010 “Nixon: The Anti-Semitic Savior of Israel
11. Al Jazeera, 22 dicembre 2010, Frost Over the World: Julian Assange interview
12. 21 marzo 1983, alla Casa Bianca
13. “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II“, p.17-18. Anche per i Paesi cinque di cui sopra, vedi i rispettivi capitoli di questo libro.
14. Giugno 2004; Mokhiber editore di Corporate Crime Reporter, Weissman è il direttore di The Multinational Monitor, entrambi di Washington, DC
15. Aprile 2007, Baker è co-direttore del Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, DC
16. Editorialista del Washington Post, 3 giugno 2009
17. “Con la scusa della Libertà“, p.349

Wikileaks, the United States, Sweden, and Devil’s Island

Traduzione Alessandro Lattanzio – Aurora03.da.ru

1. European Union (EU) Debt Crisis

The bailout of Greece and Portugal in 2001 put strains on the whole Euro system. A single currency with competing national capitals and a diverse range of economies is unsustainable. Portugal is unlikely to survive beyond the first half of 2010 without a bailout. Spain is the big one that will break the Euro up.

The UK has no such EU protection being outside the Eurozone. It will depend on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for such a bailout with much more draconian measures imposed on it. The UK is likely to face its own debt crisis at some point over the next five years. The UK’s current debt stands at 76% of the economy (GDP) or 180% of annual national income. By the end of the coalition’s term it will be 110% of GDP and 267% of national income. This is of course based on 2% growth in the economy per year for four years which is away above the estimates of all independent economic think tanks. Flat growth over the next four years – a more likely scenario given the effects of the cuts – would see a further £100 billion added to the debt total at the end of their term.

£305 billion of our existing debt has to be renewed or repaid over the next five years – 64% of our pre-credit crunch debt. Another£540bn -based on government estimates- has to be taken out over the same period to cover the annual deficits. We will pay £282.5 bn of interest over this period rising to £68.5bn per year or13% of national income. A large slice of our debt is linked to inflation – the higher inflation the more of the loan we must repay and the more annual interest we must pay – which has seen the deficit rise by £12 bn more than estimated over the last four months wiping out the “savings” from the June emergency budget cuts.

2. A Jobless Partial Stagnant Recovery

Despite a modest recovery in developed economies unemployment remains high. In the USA it stands at near 10% as it does in Europe. Underemployment is around 17%. In the UK unemployment is approaching 8% and likely to rise to three million by the end of 2011 and four million by the end of 2012. The economies of the global developed countries remain well below their 2007 peak, The UK’s, for example, current GDP is now barely above 95% of its 2007 peak.

3. Quantitative Easing (QE)

Is the act of government banks printing money and buying bonds (largely government bonds) from banks. This puts large amounts of cash into the hands of banks with the idea that they will then lend it to individuals and corporations to help boost spending. The first round of QE during the financial crisis was in effect a way to give indirect bailouts to the banking system – very little of the money flowed into the real economy. In the UK the Bank of England printed £200bn most of which was held by banks against potential loses.

The second round of QE is a lot more sinister. The US has announced that it will print $600bn most of which it hopes will flow into emerging Asian economies helping further inflate the property and stock market bubble there and forcing these countries to put up their interest rates to curb inflation and the bubble. This will strengthen these currencies making US goods more competitive on the world market. It is a currency war by another name.

4. Currency Wars

Emerging economies have recovered better than developed economies because of their higher rates of profit. The global imbalances of trade – exports over imports – have been exacerbated by this. Strengthening currencies have seen this position of superiority threatened. Only China has the ammunition to keep its currency artificially low but it too has had to raise interest rates to curb inflation and assets bubbles. US QE (see above) will put further pressure on these economies and there is a possibility of an asset bubble collapse and economic slowdown just when the developed economies are running out of steam.

5. China Rising

In 2010 China became the world’s second largest economy surpassing Japan. As China becomes more powerful a different type of economic system will rise. China is a country where the state is the principal economic actor and it uses markets for ultimately political purposes. We have never lived in a world before where the two most important economic players are fundamentally in competition.

6. Agricultural Inflation

Agriculture prices began to rise across the world at the end of 2010 particularly in wool, cotton and beef. Climate chaos and the increasing demand of the middle-class of the emerging countries particularly China are the root cause. This will see developed economies caught between inflation and recession with interest rates likely to go up to curb inflation when economies remain stagnant. For the poor of the developing world this means more starvation and hardship.

The Left Banker wishes all his readers and followers a happy New Year and will try to continue in 2011 to provide accurate predictions on the world economy (the Left Banker was ranked fourth for 2010 by Bloomberg amongst a universe of 1000 global analysts for the accuracy of his economic predictions) as well as a radical perspective that puts people before profit.

A full financial bailout of Portugal involving the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) looks set to happen in the first half of 2011. This will involve severe austerity conditions being imposed on the Portuguese people by the ECB and IMF.

The indications are clearly there as at the end of 2010 Fitch Ratings joined the two other credit rating agencies to downgrade Portugal’s debt to A+ which is just above junk status. They are concerned that the current account deficit running at 9 per cent is unsustainable with the ruling Socialist Party unable to impose the effective 4 per cent budget cuts in 2011 that they outlined at the end of 2010.

The risk of this happening is seen in the dramatic increases in the price that Portugal must pay to borrow money on the financial markets – this has leapt form 1.8% per year in November 2010 to 3.4% in December 2010. The ECB is effectively carrying out an indirect bailout as it is the only buyer of Portuguese government bonds when these are auctioned on the financial markets.

The Size of the Debt

In the first half of 2011 Portugal must repay or renew $27-billion of debt and take out fresh loans of $12-billion which in total is 17 per cent of its economy (GDP). It will be unable to raise this on the financial market and the ECB will not be able to follow the current route of bond purchases as the sums are too large. These figures are likely to be worse as Fitch and many other economists estimate that the economy will go into recession in 2011 and shrink by 1 to 2 per cent because of the already planned cuts and the weakness of the Portuguese economy. This will take the debt to GDP ratio to well over 90 per cent in 2011, the third highest in the Eurozone.

A rescue package will be put together by the ECB and the IMF with them effectively controlling the economy, spending and austerity measures. These will be much more severe than those planned by Portugal’s Socialist ruling party. The IMF in their 2010 report on sovereign debt see Portugal’s public spending growing by no more than 0.5% over 20 years with the annual deficit being reduced to 6% by 2020 with 80% of the reduction happening by 2013. This can only be achieved by massive cuts in public services, wages and jobs with a corresponding rise in taxes. Of course as we have seen in the case of Ireland and Greece this only further weakens an economy and drives the deficit wider and creates a larger debt problem which is answered by more cuts. It is a race to the bottom which will impoverish an already poor country.

While Portugal did not experience a property bubble like Spain and Ireland it’s banking sector has cross exposure to the other country’s banks in Europe which are involved in the current debt crisis: Ireland, Spain and Greece. Portuguese banks have $39-billion of exposure to the banks of these countries while the banks of these countries have $52-billion exposure to Portuguese banks. This will mean that Portuguese banks are likely to suffer losses in 2011 because of this exposure and require capital injections themselves. They are currently finding it as hard as the Portuguese government to raise money on the international financial markets. This will mean that they will need an ECB/IMF bailout similar to Ireland’s banks.

Portugal’s problems do not lie in its lack of competitiveness – a report by the World Economic Forum in 2005 ranked Portugal for competitiveness above Spain, Ireland, France and Hong Kong. It is its membership of the Eurozone that is the source of Portugal’s problems. Portugal joined the Euro at a very uncompetitive rate that reflected the strength of the German and French economies. Up until recently the Euro increased in value to most major currencies since its inauguration making weaker economies such as Portugal very uncompetitive.

Since joining the Euro Portugal has seen unemployment go from 5% to over 11% and its economic growth rates well below those of the Eurozone as whole. To compensate for the structural weakness of the Portuguese economy caused by the strength of the Euro, Portuguese governments increased its public sector and promoted personal debt to sustain demand in the private sector. As a consequence the current account deficit has been running at a near 10 per cent for several years.

The private sector is dominated by the service industries which have been hit by the credit freeze from the banks and the deep recession in Spain who are Portugal’s largest trading partner. The agriculture and fisheries industries employ 13 per cent of the workforce but make up only 4 per cent of the GDP and contribute to a low wage economy – average wages in Portugal are Euro 804 a month with the minimum wage being Euro 475 a month.

The Portuguese people are not responsible for the crisis – it is the membership of the Eurozone and the politicians that took them into it who are to blame.

An alternative to austerity for the Portuguese people is:

  • Default on the government debt to end the spiral of debt and cuts and debt;

  • Withdraw from the Euro to improve the economy’s competiveness;

  • A mutual cancellation of the debt and loans of the Portuguese banks and taking the banks under social ownership and control and socialising their loans;

  • Raise the minimum wage to increase demand for basic goods and services to boost the economy;

  • Energise the agriculture and fisheries industries through social ownership to boost food supplies internally and create a larger export market for them; and

  • End political and corporate corruption which wastes billions of Euros a year.

These measures would start to transform the Portuguese economy and to put it under the control of the Portuguese people and build a society based on meeting need and not profit. •

The LeftBanker was head of Equity Derivatives Research and Strategy at Goldman Sachs International and was an advisor on derivatives and financial markets to the Bank of England, London Stock Exchange, London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange and the Italian Ministry of Finance. See the blog LeftBanker.

What’s Happening On The Korean Peninsula?

January 4th, 2011 by Prof. Martin Hart-Landsberg

What’s happening on the Korean peninsula? If you read the press or listen to the talking heads, your best guess would be that an insane North Korean regime is willing to risk war to manage its own internal political tensions. This conclusion would be hard to avoid because the media rarely provide any historical context or alternative explanations for North Korean actions. For example, much has been said about the March 2010 (alleged) North Korean torpedo attack on the Cheonan (a South Korean naval vessel) near Baengnyeong Island, and the November 2010 North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island (which houses a South Korean military base). The conventional wisdom is that both attacks were motivated by North Korean elite efforts to smooth the leadership transition underway in their country. The take away: North Korea is an out-of-control country, definitely not to be trusted or engaged in negotiations.

But is that an adequate explanation for these events? Before examining the facts surrounding them, let’s introduce a bit of history. Take a look at the map below, which includes both Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands.

Contested seas. The NLL is represented by the blue A line. The MDL is represented by the red B line.

1: Yeonpyeong Island (artillery clas); 2: Baengnyeong Island (Cheonan sinking); 3: Daecheong Island. [source]

Demilitarized Zone

The armistice that ended the Korean War fighting established the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates North Korea from South Korea. At that time, the U.S. government unilaterally established another dividing line, one intended to create a sea border between the two Koreas. That border is illustrated on the map by line A, the blue Northern Limit Line (NLL).

As you can see, instead of extending the DMZ westward into the sea, the U.S. line runs northward, limiting North Korea’s sea access. The line was drawn this way for two reasons: First, when the fighting stopped, South Korean forces were in control of the islands off the North Korean coast and the U.S. wanted to secure their position. Second, control over those islands enhanced the ability of U.S. forces to monitor and maintain military pressure on North Korea.

North Korea never accepted the NLL. It argued for an alternative border, illustrated by line B, the red West Sea Military Demarcation Line (MDL). Acknowledging the reality of Southern forces on the islands off its coast, North Korea sought recognition for a sea border that went around the islands but otherwise divided the sea by extending the DMZ line.

The critical point here is that the South Korean and U.S. promoted NLL is not recognized by international law; it has no legal standing. Don’t take my word for it. The following is from Bloomberg News:

“Then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a 1975 classified cable that the unilaterally drawn Northern Limit Line was ‘clearly contrary to international law.’ Two years before, the American ambassador said in another cable that many nations would view South Korea and its U.S. ally as ‘in the wrong’ if clashes occurred in disputed areas along the boundary. …

“The line snakes around the Ongjin peninsula, creating a buffer for five island groups that South Korea kept under the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War, in which U.S.-led forces fought under a UN mandate against North Korean and Chinese troops. The agreement doesn’t mention a sea border, which isn’t on UN maps drawn up at the time.

“The 3-nautical mile (3.5-statute mile) territorial limit used to devise the line was standard then. Today almost all countries, including both Koreas, use a 12-mile rule, and the islands are within 12 miles of the North Korean mainland. The furthest is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the closest major South Korean port at Incheon.

“‘If it ever went to arbitration, the decision would likely move the line further south,’ said Mark J. Valencia, a maritime lawyer and senior research fellow with the National Bureau of Asian Research, who has written extensively on the dispute. …

“North Korea, after spending two decades rebuilding its forces, sent vessels across the border 43 times between October and November 1973, sparking confrontations, according to the South Korean Navy’s website. At a meeting with the UN Command, the North’s claim that it was operating within its own waters because the NLL was invalid was rejected.

“Kissinger and other U.S. diplomats privately raised questions about the legality of the sea border and South Korea’s policing of it in cables that have been declassified and are available to the public.

“‘The ROK and the U.S. might appear in the eyes of a significant number of other countries to be in the wrong’ if an incident occurred in disputed areas, U.S. Ambassador Francis Underhill wrote in a Dec. 18, 1973, cable to Washington, using the acronym for Republic of Korea.

“South Korea ‘is wrong in assuming we will join in attempt to impose NLL’ on North Korea, said a Dec. 22, 1973, ‘Joint State-Defense Message’ to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. …

“The line ‘was unilaterally established and not accepted by NK,’ Kissinger wrote in a confidential February 1975 cable. ‘Insofar as it purports unilaterally to divide international waters, it is clearly contrary to international law.’”

I doubt that discussions of the two events noted above mentioned this history.

Current Tensions

Tensions in the region are not just the result of past political decisions. Critical decisions continue to be made. For example, in October 2007, an inter-Korean summit meeting between Roh Moo-Hyun (the previous South Korean president) and Kim Jong Il (the North Korean leader) produced a commitment by both sides to negotiate a joint fishing area and create a “peace and cooperation zone” in the West Sea. This agreement could have greatly reduced tensions between the two countries and helped to promote a peaceful reunification process.

However, a few months after the summit, the newly elected and current South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, rejected the agreements reached at that summit and the previous one held in 2000. Lee openly derided past South Korean efforts to improve relations with, and called for aggressive actions against, the North. The U.S. government supported Lee’s position.

With this as background, let’s now consider the first event, North Korea’s alleged sinking of the Cheonan. The Lee administration claims that a North Korean submarine was responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan and the deaths of 49 sailors. The Cheonan was an anti-submarine ship, participating in war games at the time of its sinking in the disputed waters surrounding Baengnyeong Island. Significantly, after weeks of official investigation into the cause of the sinking, Lee publicly blamed North Korea only one day before local elections were scheduled, elections that the ruling party was predicted to lose. In fact, Lee’s party did take a beating at the polls.

But what about the evidence for North Korean responsibility? North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the Cheonan sank because it hit a reef; that is what its captain reported when he radioed the South Korean coast guard seeking help.

As I noted in a previous posting, perhaps the most compelling evidence casting doubt on South Korean government claims that the Cheonan was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine is the fact that all the Cheonan victims died of drowning, nearly all of the 58 surviving crew members escaped serious injury, and the ship’s internal instruments remained intact. According to several scientists, if the Cheonan had been hit by a torpedo, the entire crew would have been sent flying, leading to fractured bones and the destruction of instruments.

Aggressive War Games

What about the most recent incident involving the North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island? The South Korean position is that its military was merely engaged in “routine” war games (involving over 70,000 troops), which also happened to include the firing of live ammunition into the sea from a military base on the island. It had done nothing to provoke a North Korean artillery attack on the base.

In reality, the South had been strengthening its artillery on the island for some time, engaging in ever more aggressive (non-live ammunition) artillery drills with the apparent aim of boosting its capacity to inhibit the movement of the North Korean navy even in its own waters. These drills were a direct threat to North Korean security given how close the island is to its coast.

Moreover, although the South claims that its war games and artillery fire were routine, it may be the first time that the South has staged major war games and simultaneously engaged in firing live ammunition into territory claimed by the North. The North fired on the South Korean artillery batteries located on Yeonpyeong Island only after its repeated demands that the South stop its live ammunition firing were rejected by the South.

Many unanswered questions remain about the Cheonan sinking and the Yeonpyeong attack. However, what does appear clear is that there are many complexities surrounding these events that are never made public here in North America, and that these omissions end up reinforcing a view of North Korean motivations and actions that is counterproductive to what should be our goal: achieving peace on the Korean peninsula.

What might help? How about encouraging the U.S. government to accept North Korean offers to engage in good faith negotiations aimed at signing a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War as a first step toward normalized relations. The fact that our government is reluctant to publicly acknowledge the contested nature of the NLL or pursue an end to the Korean War raises important questions about the motivations driving foreign policy. •

Martin Hart-Landsberg is Professor of Economics and Director of the Political Economy Program at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon; and Adjunct Researcher at the Institute for Social Sciences, Gyeongsang National University, South Korea. This article first appeared on his blog Reports from the Economic Front.

One of the mistakes that foreigners make about the United States, millions of Americans make themselves with much less justification: they overestimate the difference between members of the Democratic and Republican Parties in Washington, D.C.

The two parties scream at each other on television quite a lot and attract supporters who come from two very different cultures.  But over half of every dollar of income tax in the United States is spent on the military, and that number reliably increases every single year regardless of who is in power.

The Afghan and Iraq wars were launched with overwhelming support from both parties’ officials, and the Iraq War with Democratic control of the Senate.  In 2006 U.S. voters told exit-pollsters that their primary motivation for electing Democrats to control both houses of Congress was Iraq war opposition, and Congress proceeded in 2007 to escalate the war on Iraq.  War opposition also drove the 2008 elections, after which two Democratic houses and a Democratic president in 2009 escalated the war on Afghanistan.

Americans tell pollsters that ending the wars is their second highest priority after repairing the U.S. economy.  (How many understand the close relationship between the two, the wars’ negative impact on the domestic economy, is not clear.)  Majorities think the Afghan and Iraq wars should never have been launched, but majorities supported launching them at the time in 2001 and 2003.  Electing Democrats to act on the will of the new majority has been tried and failed, and now the House is going back to Republican control.

There will be no gridlock on matters of war and foreign relations (two areas that are identical in the understanding of the U.S. government, as made clear by the cables leaked to Wikileaks).  To the extent that a minority of Democrats in the House will object to anything on the military’s agenda, it will not matter as the President and the Republicans are in complete agreement.  In fact, Congress may seek to pass a new “Authorization to Use Military Force” that would strengthen any president’s unconstitutional power to wage wars, without any purported connection to the crimes of September 11, 2001, as required by the routinely violated AUMF of 2001.  The new bill may also license unconstitutional presidential violations of civil liberties during “war time,” a state of affairs that is now understood to be without spatial or temporal limit.  Republicans are principled supporters of presidential war powers even when they despise the current president.

Oddly, given these trends of consistent bipartisan support for ever more militarism, the idea of decreasing military spending by $100 billion or more (out of $1 trillion or so per year) is prominently in discussion among elites in Washington right now in a way that we haven’t seen in 20 years.  The reason is not an understanding of the illegality or immorality of what the war machine does.  It is not a realization of the dangers created by weapons sales, nuclear proliferation, and the blowback generated by aggressive wars.  It is not recognition of the perilous environmental situation exacerbated by the U.S. military, the world’s leading consumer of petroleum.  The reason, amazingly, is that rightwing groups in Washington have turned the federal budget deficit into as evil a demon as any foreign dictator of an oil-rich land.  Even the president’s “Deficit Commission” is recommending major military cutbacks.  Its commissioners have asked for a one-third reduction in foreign military bases.

Congress is extremely unlikely to diverge from its path of ever increasing Pentagon expenditures unless a massive public movement pressures it to do so.  In 2006 an anti-war movement had gained such popular strength that the Republican minority leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell, according to former president George W. Bush’s new book, secretly urged the president to pull the troops out of Iraq.  But in 2006 organizations in the United States that take their direction from the Democratic Party were opposing the War on Iraq, because the war was understood to be a Republican war and to be very unpopular.  Now the wars are Democratic wars or Bipartisan wars, and the opposition comes only from the principled but under-funded peace groups.

While the White House and the Senate remain in Democratic hands, the House will be Republican-controlled in January, and all of the House committee chairs will be Republicans.  This will mean the first aggressive oversight of the U.S. government since the War on Iraq began.  Thus far we have had Republican committees overlook the crimes and abuses of the Bush-Cheney regime, Democratic committees pretend to investigate Bush-Cheney but actually abandon the powers of subpoena and impeachment without a struggle, and Democratic committees overlook the crimes and abuses of the Obama White House.  Sadly, we will now have Republican committee chairs investigate all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons, bringing back the structure of congressional oversight without actually handling the issues that most need to be addressed.  Rather than investigating crimes exposed by Wikileaks, for example, the new House Judiciary Committee will likely offer its rhetorical support for any Justice Department effort to prosecute the media outlet for the crime of journalism.

Congress is likely to pass a 2011 military funding package that includes $160 billion for wars.  That is likely to be insufficient.  When a “supplemental” spending bill (kept off the books to make the budget look better) is brought up in 2012, we may see a record number of congress members vote against it.  The number of members voting No has increased steadily to a high point of 114 this past July (with 218 needed for a majority).  Democrats may vote No because the Republican leadership will not offer them — as Democrats did — doomed anti-war amendments to vote Yes on before voting Yes on the funding; because popular opposition to the war is on the rise; because congress members are always more willing to vote No on bills that are guaranteed to pass; and because the Democrats in the House may start running away from President Obama.  If this happens, the war bills will pass easily every time, just as always, regardless of party.  But the wars will come to be seen as a collaboration between the Republicans and the President, with the majority of the Democrats opposed.  This scenario could lead to a Democratic Congress and a Republican President in 2012.

But Obama’s reelection strategy might be the development of a new war in mid-2012.  It’s hard to see what other strategy he could have, given his energetic alienation of all of his supporters on domestic issues.  That could be very bad news for some unfortunate country, and Iran is certainly high on the list.It would also be very bad news for the rest of the world.

David Swanson is author of the new book “War Is A Lie” http://warisalie.org

http://davidswanson.org
http://warisacrime.org

U.S. and Venezuela in new diplomatic crisis

January 4th, 2011 by Global Research

A new crisis has erupted in U.S.-Venezuelan relations after Washington responded to Caracas’ refusal to welcome the United States’ proposed envoy to Venezuela by revoking the visa of Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States Bernardo Alvarez, APA reports quoting foxnews.com website.

The decision to expel the ambassador followed a weeks-long diplomatic feud and came less than 24 hours after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dared the United States to cut off diplomatic ties.

Initially announced Wednesday by Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Temir Porras on Twitter, the decision was later confirmed by the U.S. State Department.

“If the (U.S.) government is going to expel our ambassador there, then do it already!” Chavez said Tuesday at a military ceremony. “If they’re going to cut diplomatic relations, then do it already!”

The president reiterated that he will not allow Larry Palmer to take office as the next ambassador to Venezuela.

“It’s not my fault, it’s theirs for naming an ambassador and the first thing he does is rant against the country where he’s going (to serve as) ambassador. That violates the most basic international laws. He disqualified himself,” Chavez said.

Chavez withdrew his approval of Palmer in August over some statements about Venezuela that the leftist president termed “unacceptable.”

Palmer had told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the morale of the Venezuelan military was low and called for a probe into the alleged presence of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and National Liberation Army, or ELN, guerrilla groups in Venezuela.

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe had earlier sparked a bilateral spat with Venezuela by making similar accusations, although the ties between the two neighbors were restored shortly after Uribe was succeeded by Juan Manuel Santos.

Although a State Department spokesman initially told reporters it was in the U.S. national interest to have an ambassador in Caracas to keep communications at “the highest level,” the U.S. government confirmed its decision to evict the top Venezuelan envoy Wednesday night.

“Yes, we’d said there would be consequences and we’ve taken an appropriate, proportional and reciprocal measure,” a State Department spokesman told Efe on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The current crisis is similar to the diplomatic feud of September 2008, when Chavez declared U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Patrick Duddy “persona non grata” to show solidarity with close ally Bolivia, which had expelled its U.S. ambassador for allegedly promoting rebellion in that Andean nation.

The White House also retaliated at that time by expelling Alvarez, although the countries decided to return their respective ambassadors in June 2009.

Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, has repeatedly accused Washington of wanting to overthrow his government to gain control of massive oil and natural-gas reserves in Venezuela.

Despite the frequent diplomatic spats, Venezuelan remains a key oil supplier to the United States.

In 1839, British troops and Indian sepoys poured into Afghanistan in what turned out to be an unnecessary pre-emptive move to block a feared Russian expansion into the territory. Although the Russian envoy had failed to woo the Afghan ruler, the British authorities decided to err on the side of caution and invaded Afghanistan anyway.

Their intent was to put a pliant puppet on the Kabul throne to ensure that the northwest frontier of their lucrative Indian colony remained secure.

True to the historical pattern, the invading British made short work of the poorly armed Afghan defenders. However, once the occupation phase began, the British became overconfident in their military superiority.

Prior to the invasion, Britain’s East India Company had paid the border tribes a tribute — or bribe — to allow their trade convoys safe passage through the Khyber Pass. Now that they had defeated the ragtag Afghan army and set up shop in Kabul, the East India Company decided to save themselves some money and cancelled the tribute payments.

The result was that the Pashtun tribes along the border rose up in revolt and cut off the British supply lines from India.

Forced to retreat from Kabul in the fall of 1841, the British garrison suffered the most complete defeat in military history, with only one survivor — dressed as a woman — managing to elude the victorious Afghans.

Fast-forward to the present conflict and the porous Afghan-Pakistani border remains the predominant headache for the occupying NATO forces. While it would be impossible for the current Afghan insurgents to repeat their forefathers’ feat of annihilating the foreign forces, due to our modern weaponry, airpower and technology, NATO’s inability to close the border provides the Taliban with a constant supply of men and material.

Just last week, U.S. Army Col. Viet Luong told the Washington Times that “to secure the border in the traditional sense would take an inordinate amount of resources.” As the commander of U.S. troops in the province of Khost, Col. Luong’s unit is responsible for 261 kilometres of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The “traditional sense” to which Luong referred is, of course, the “Western sense” of securing borders, which would involve fences, checkpoints, sensors and controlled access — all of which would be impossible in this rugged mountain terrain where an actual delineation of territory has yet to be surveyed.

The Pashtun tribes along this territory are fiercely hostile to any outsiders and this includes the predominantly ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks that comprise the ranks of the Afghan National Army. They are, however, also extremely loyal to their local warlord, Pocha Khan Zadran.

A former Taliban sympathizer, Zadran is also a cunning survivor who has now fully embraced the concept of democracy, for at least he enjoys its benefits.

As an elected member of Parliament, Zadran is technically only a minor official. In reality, he remains the only real authority in Afghanistan’s four easternmost provinces.

When I interviewed him at his Kabul home in 2008, Zadran made it clear that he was willing to use his own militia to close the border. In return, he would, of course, expect to be paid a form of “tribute” and he vowed he could rid his provinces of all Taliban within two months.

Like the British East India Company officials before them, the Americans have chosen to do things their own way rather than strike a compromise with Zadran’s collection of thieves and brigands. As a result, the border remains an open sore in this festering conflict.

Summing up the American strategy in Afghanistan, Zadran compared the U.S. military to a “blind man walking on a roof.”

If the Americans refuse to listen to directions, he told me, sooner or later, they are going to fall off.

Scott Taylor is an author and the editor of Esprit de Corps magazine.

On the eve of New Gregorian Year, the international community commemorates the second anniversary of Israel’s deadly offensive in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the continuous blockade of the coastal sliver which has paralyzed the lives of more than 1.5 million impoverished Palestinians living there.

Two years ago and during the final days of 2008, Israel launched an all-out military attack on the Gaza Strip which, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, claimed the lives of 1,417 Palestinians, the majority of whom were innocent women and children. The military assault of the Israel Defense Forces also wounded 5,303 Palestinians, destroyed more than half of the basic infrastructure of the strip and displaced tens of thousands of defenseless civilians.

According to a report published by PCHR, “tens of thousands of Gaza residents continue to live a life of displacement.”

“While the United Nations (UN) agencies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have had the willingness and resources to support the re-construction of the houses Israel destroyed during the war, Israel continues to restrict the entry of construction materials, denying the victims from meaningful relief and from their right to adequate housing,” the report continues.

As said by the PCHR report, the “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” is a grave breach of the 147th article of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

“The Ministry of Housing and Public Works in Gaza announced that 51,553 homes were destroyed or damaged [during the Operation Cast Lead]. Of those 3,336 homes were destroyed completely and 4,021 sustained major damages,” the report adds.

Moreover, the statistics published by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) indicate that 2,276 Palestinian homes were destroyed completely during the Gaza offensive of which 1776 sustained major damage.

The same report adds that due to Israel’s prevention of the entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip, 93.3% of the families whose homes were bombarded during the 22-day war have not received assistance and humanitarian aid to reconstruct their homes and thus live in displacement.

Since June 2007 and following the victory of Hamas party in a democratically-administered election in the Gaza Strip, Israel imposed an extreme siege on the coastal sliver and severed its connection with the outside world in a brutal manner. Since then, the people of Gaza have been deprived of the most rudimentary necessities of their daily life including electricity, foodstuff, fuel, hygienic water, construction materials, stationery and even toys for their children. The deafening silence of the Western governments concerning the Gaza blockade served as a green light to Israel to go on with its aggressive, inhumane policies and exacerbated the pains of the people of Gaza growingly.

According to a December 2010 report by the PCHR which was released a few weeks ago and published on the website of Malaysian Humanitarian Sail, the Gazan citizens are illegally denied the right to travel inside and outside the enclave and their students are not allowed to attend university programs abroad. To one’s utmost surprise, the Gazan businessmen and entrepreneurs are prohibited from exporting their goods and productions to the neighboring countries and this has deteriorated the economic situation of the Gaza Strip, leaving thousands of people unemployed and a number of enterprises bankrupt and closed.

Moreover, Israel has been continuously violating the UNSC Resolution 1860 since 2009, failing to open the borders of Gaza and end the crippling blockade of the strip.

However, Despite the fact that the Western governments have turned a blind eye to atrocities and felonies of the Israeli regime and the anguish and suffering of the Palestinian citizens, hope still glimmers in our hearts for the future of Gaza Strip and its innocent people who are in dire need of assistance, sympathy, compassion and above all, understanding.

When Israel launched its first rockets into the Gaza Strip in the early 2009, several international organizations and a number of countries whose leaders have refused to bow down to the pressures of Zionist lobby and remained conscious and independent categorically condemned the barbarity of the Zionist regime and called on the Tel Aviv leaders to end the dangerous game which they had started.

According to the statistics, 34 countries condemned Israel’s attacks exclusively and backed the rights of Palestinian people to defend themselves. Remembering the courageous action of the governments of Qatar, Bolivia, Venezuela and Mauritius in severing their diplomatic ties with Israel and the valorous protests of the leaders of 34 countries from the four corners of the world against the butchery of the Zionist regime revitalizes the hopes that consciousness and morality is still alive in the world.

During the first days of the Gaza offensive, almost all of the world countries reacted to the collective punishment of the Palestinian citizens by the murderous Israel Defense Forces and called on Tel Aviv to withdraw from the occupied territories and end its military operation.

One of the most remarkable reactions to the war came from Havana where the Cuban Revolutionary Government called the Israeli military operation “criminal”, considering it as “the bloodiest attack Israel has ever launched against the Palestinian people.

The Israeli offensive into the Gaza Strip was so extensive and unexpected that even the European allies of the United States as the biggest supporter and proponent of the Zionist regime dared to criticize Israel and its outlandish policies. On January 7, 2009, Denmark summoned the Israeli ambassador in Copenhagen in protest to attacks on clinics run by a Danish charity in Gaza.

The Gambian President Yahya Jammeh called the Israeli offensive a holocaust that was unleashed on the helpless Palestinians. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan outspokenly blamed Israel and said that “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza shows disrespect to the Turkish Republic. We were planning to schedule peace talks between Syria and Israel. Whatever the reason is, killing innocent civilians will damage peace in the world.” A few weeks later and during a World Economic Forum panel discussion with the Israeli President Shimon Peres, Erdogan stated that “the high tone of your voice has to do with a guilty conscience,” and “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” He consequently walked out of the session in protest to the Israel’s massacre of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

The African Union published a statement and blamed Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip: “The Commission of the African Union (AU) is following with great concern the prevailing situation in the Gaza Strip. The Commission strongly condemns the ongoing air raids on the Gaza Strip by Israel, since 27 December 2008, which has resulted so far in the death of more than 300 Palestinians, while about 1,000 others, including women and children, have been injured.”

In a separate statement, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza expressed his “absolute rejection” of the Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip and urged its immediate halt. He also called for restoration of the cease-fire, an end to the embargo on the Gaza Strip, and the establishment of a new peace initiative

The Non-Aligned Movement, the largest bloc of nations after the UN General Assembly also criticized Israel sharply and issued a communiqué, calling upon the Zionist Regime to end its hostile and aggressive policies in the Gaza Strip and the collective punishment of the Palestinian citizens.

Anyway, Israel couldn’t escape the grave consequences of the bloodshed which it staged in the Gaza strip. It lost its few allies at the four corners of the world and helped the people around the world to recognize the reality behind the suffering of the Palestinian nation.

Now, two years have passed and we still remember the pains and quandaries of the Palestinian nation and the people of Gaza. As the Syrian-American musician Michael Heart narrated in his song, “we will not go down, for the Gaza tonight.” We, the conscious citizens and freemen around the world will stand by the suppressed people of Palestine until they realize the ultimate victory in their path toward freedom and liberty.

The good news is there’s no reason anyone should ever starve to death in America. The bad news is more and more working Americans, many earning what were once middle class incomes, are spending their time and scarce money to find their next meal.

Emergency Food: More and More It’s What’s for Dinner

Val Traore, the radiant and gregarious CEO of the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ), wanted to make one thing perfectly clear in our discussion of hunger in America today. “We do not have starvation here in the United States. In Mali,” she says, referring to the West African country where about half the population lives below the internationalpoverty lineof $1.25 a day, “if you live in poverty you risk starvation and death. That doesn’t happen here in America.” It’s an important point worth dwelling on.

So what is happening here?

“We’re seeing a large number of families that have never needed food assistance before,” reports Traore. How many? So far, for 2010 FBSJ has witnessed a 10% increase in their client base of approximately 100,000 people. Here’s the surprise: a large portion of the people needing food assistance today are working, and especially among FBSJ’s new clients, many are earning incomes nearly twice the poverty line of $22,055 per year for a family of four (up to 185% of poverty).

Who are the hungry and why can’t they afford to feed themselves and their families? Increasingly, the shocking answer is this: If you are not financially independent, the odds are good that someday you could be waiting in line to feed yourself and your family.

Food Lines: The Growing Reality Based Social Network

December 18, 2010 – Burlington County, NJ: Especially since the airing of television shows like “The Sopranos” and “Jersey Shore” most of the nation probably sees New Jersey as some cultural aberration. Perhaps it is. But, this is south Jersey and the landscape looks a lot like other semi-rural areas of the country.

On the drive from Philadelphia through Burlington County, a main highway cuts through farmland that includes several agricultural supply and farm equipment dealers. There are also strip malls, fast food franchises and diners offering breakfast for $2.99 and prime rib dinner specials as low as $10.99. If you were somehow transported here and I told you that you were in Ohio, you would have no reason not to believe me.

In Browns Mills, population 11,257, a tractor trailer painted as the “Hope Mobile” carrying about 28,000 pounds of food is being unloaded at the local United Methodist Church. People are lined up outside, but most of the line has been moved inside on this frigid morning. The church pastor has allowed the use of the facility’s assembly room and adjacent corridor to bring members of some 600 pre-qualified, pre-registered families in from the cold.

Depression soup lines have nothing on this sucker. The first in line sit along the hundred foot length of the assembly room where a beautifully lighted Christmas tree glows. The line extends out the door and down one side of a hundred foot corridor and then loops back on itself down the opposite wall. At the end of the line, another 30 feet or so, people will brave the weather for an hour or two until things get moving. Over 20,000 pounds of food will be provided to the crowd here, the remaining 7,000 pounds will go to a second event later in the day in Camden, NJ.

Food Bank Volunteers Unload Bags of Rice by Chaz Valenza

The Browns Mills’ Hope Mobile drop has been occurring monthly since August in an effort to relieve demand on overwhelmed local pantries. Some 450,000 people live here in Burlington County where the median household income here is just under $77,000 per year. The county is 77% white, 17% black and 6% Hispanic.

Many of the people here (according to national averages about 70%) are just plain poor. Some are on Social Security Disability. Others are senior citizens living on small fixed incomes. Some of them care for grandchildren that their own children, for whatever reason, can not care for.

A few are homeless, or the formerly homeless who have recently found a place live. They are white, they are black and they are Hispanic. All represented in good numbers. They are a typical gathering of Americans in winter wear, with kids in tow and babies in strollers. If I put them all in a local shopping mall – even the ones that told me they were homeless – you would have no reason to believe they weren’t holiday shopping.

Deborah (all the names of those interviewed for this article have been changed) is twenty-something, smart, articulate, bi-lingual single mother of four. After losing a well paying job eight months ago, she took a warehouse position at minimum wage, $7.25 an hour in New Jersey, and moved her family into a shelter.

She’s hoping her education and language skills will mean a quick promotion and higher wages. Though she pays little in rent, she tells me that after her car expense, diapers and clothes, there’s no much left for food. A quick calculation reveals her car expenses alone will eat up nearly a third of her $14,790 annual income.

If you can’t quite relate to a single mother of four, who recently lost a significant amount of income, then consider Joan.

Joan tells me over and over that hers is a good story that people need to hear. Unfortunately, for her and her family she is right.

Before moving to Shamong, NJ, Joan, her husband and four children, lived a well above average middle class life in a suburban Toledo, OH. They owned a single family home. She ran a home day care to supplement her husband’s $80,000 plus income. He worked as a pipeline technician, a career he built over 26 years, lost 14 months ago and has not been able to reclaim. Two years ago he found work in New Jersey through relatives and the family moved.

Food Line for the Holidays – Browns Mills, NJ by Chaz Valenza

Moving meant Joan’s day care income was gone. It also meant a cut in her husband’s salary to $40,000, and an increase in rent from $875 monthly mortgage payment, which included principle, interest, taxes and insurance, to a trailer park rent of $1,125.

Doing some quick math for Joan’s situation reveals how the Great Recession has decimated middle class America: after taxes $40,000 is about $30,000 take home in New Jersey. Less $5,000 for carfare to get to work. Less $13,500 for rent. Utilities and phone, let’s say $2,400; way too low, right? That leaves $14,100 for food, insurance, diapers, laundry, clothes and every other vagary life throws at a family of six. Since a decent family health care insurance is at least $9,000 per year, I’ll bet they aren’t making what’s left of the COBRA payments.

Think you can feed yourself for $5 a day? What would you buy? What would you forego? Fast food will eat up that whole amount in a single meal. If Joan spends every cent of her family’s $14,100 of “discretionary” money on food she would have a $6.53 per person per day food budget.

Joan wasn’t embarrassed to talk about her situation with me. For whatever reason, she wanted people to know her story. But she was the exception. There were many others seeking a week’s worth of food who didn’t want to be noticed. They were still well shod. One middle aged gentleman, escorting his wife, was twitching. He didn’t care to share his story.

Why You Will Choose to Be Hungry

Setting priorities when your budget gets squeezed is exactly why food is going to come last and why you’re going to be left with little or nothing to feed your face and the hungry faces of those you love.

In a strange subversion of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, when things get tough in our modern world, you will put food last. “There are a couple of reasons,” explains Traore. “First impulse is we don’t want other folks to know we’re struggling. So, Americans have a tendency to decide to pay for the visible expenses first.”

If you think about it, it’s pride, practicality and the unwillingness to give up hope too soon. Mix it all together and before you know it, you’re hungry.

You may put off buying new clothes, or if interviewing for a job is a must, you won’t.

You’ve been out of work for a couple of months, but obviously now is no time to sell the house. So you’ll continue to make the payments as long as you can, especially in this market.

The car is leased or not yet paid off and you have to get to interviews and in today’s environment public transportation to a job may not be an option. Anyway, you don’t want to start taking the bus or train when a better situation is probably just around the corner, and the neighbors will notice the Camry is gone.

In today’s world, how can you live without a cell phone? A haircut? An internet connection? A clean pressed suit? A couple beers with the crew after a hard day on the job site? Paper towels for the kitchen, heck toilet paper for the bathroom? A small gift for the kid’s birthday? A coffee at break time? Money for the school field trip? License, registration and auto insurance?

So, you’re going to pay the rent, you’re going to keep the car, you’re going to pay the cell phone bill. Do you think you want the neighbors seeing the electric is off? I don’t think so. And, as things don’t improve for months and months, you’re going to max out the credit cards and home equity line of credit.

In retrospect, you’re going to see that it was time to stop the hemorrhaging of money long ago, but you didn’t do that. You couldn’t do that. Where would you move? How much would that save? Are you underwater on the mortgage, ditto the car loan?

Whether it’s looking for a job equal to, or nearly equal to the one that’s long gone, or running in the right circles to get that job, appearances are important. The fear is if you’re seen as a loser now there’s no going back. Sadly, employers appear to be embracing this thinking as evidence continues to show that older workers and long time unemployed workers are being discriminated against.

Nice Spread: The Odds on You vs. Food

Sustained under or unemployment, yours or that of your life partner, or any other significant decrease in income is certainly the most obvious way to find your tight budgethas you looking for your next meal. But it is not the only way.

Case in point: Paul, a postal worker, and his wife Amy, a part-time housecleaner and full-time mother of six.

On paper, Paul doesn’t look like he belongs on a breadline. He has a solid employment history, 23 years with the United States Postal Service. His wife not only raised their children, but supplemented the family income. He has always had a government medical insurance plan for the entire family. With $52,000 of earnings in 2010, you would think he would be at least lower-middle class.

Paul’s family, formerly of Queens, NY, moved to south Jersey two years ago to get out from under an oppressive and ever escalating rent that ate up nearly half of their family income of $62,000 per year, $2,500 per month when they left, utilities not included.

There were other reasons to move as well. Two of Paul’s children have learning disabilities. So it made sense to also look for a good school district that could meet their educational needs. The move to a two-plus bedroom garden apartment in Mount Holly, NJ at a rent of $1,300 per month looked like a smart thing to do.

With a little luck, Paul could make a swap transfer to a post office in New Jersey without losing his seniority. But the recession and luck was not with them. Housecleaning work in New Jersey has not been plentiful for his wife. The hoped for transfer has yet to materialize. And, Paul is spending $400 a month for a 2 hour commute to Brooklyn, NY on a commuter bus, then the NYC subway and then a second bus to main post office.

Peanut Butter, No Jelly – Hope Mobile by Chaz Valenza

In New Jersey they also have a car expense. Paul tells me he is not a regular food pantry client, but the children are getting older and eating more in their teen years. At just over 130% of the poverty line, Paul’s family is not poor enough to get food stamps. They are well within the 185% of poverty qualifier for food assistance.

What happened? Did Paul and his wife have too many children? They were all born by the year 2000. If their income was as little as $40,000 per year 11 years ago, they were no where near living in poverty. Just ten years later, with only a slight decrease in income and their efforts to decrease their housing expense, they are no longer getting by.

Paul’s was probably one of the few families here with decent healthcare insurance. But ten years of higher living costs without enough increase in income has thrown them off balance and into a financial net loss.

Together, decreases in income and increases in living costs are the combined factors that will put more and more of us in the food lines. In a way, Paul and his family are solidly in the middle class, a middle class newly defined as not quite able to afford the necessities of life.

The imbalance is continuing even if, by academic measures, the recession is over. The engine of this financial imbalance for the middle class is another imbalance: wealth and income inequity. By all indications, the financial assault on working people will continue.

Oil is now hovering at $90 a barrel and the average national gasoline price is set to break $3.00 a gallon any moment. Not only is this more money out of the pockets of Americans, most of whom must drive to work, it threatens another round of layoffs should demand for goods and services fall as a result.

In a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, global food prices are forecast to spike over the coming decade. The report concludes that demand for food from developing countries will outstrip even an increased production supply.

But inflation over the past ten years has been tame, right? Wrong, whenever you hear a report of “core inflation,” just remember that number does not include two categories that affect working people the most: food and energy. Shelter costs, that spiked with the bank fashioned housing bubble, have also thrown many middle class families into financial turmoil.

The only good news on the horizon is in the area of housing where costs are predicted to fall. But moving is expensive and foreclosures will soon return to historic high levels as soon as the banks sort out their questionable procedures for putting people out on the street.

So, what does it take to be middle class today? That depends, and it’s not necessarily an income number, though many analysts throw around income from $70,000 to $100,000. Tell that to Joan. You’ll need to be able to sustain those dollars year after year without much in the way of cash flow interruption.

To be middle class, paying for all the vital and frivolous “necessities” of American adult life, you do need an income, usually from a job.

If it took education to get the training or degree needed for that job, subtract the cost of student loan repayment. Then you need housing at a cost that fits that income, and transportation that provides a reliable way for you to do what you need to do to earn that income.

As you would like to have more in your life, like a spouse and/or children your income needs may change, i.e. increase substantially. But because life is generally unpredictable you also need to be able to afford at least some insurance, auto, home and medical, to smooth those costs.

To be middle class, you will also need the one thing the current economic and socio-political situation refuses to oblige: stability.

You need to know that at least most of the important things that you’ve build your life on will not disappear tomorrow. For example, the job that expensive education bought will not be down-sized, right-sized, off-shored, out-sourced or become obsolete and eliminated altogether.

Unfortunately, that modicum of stability no longer exists. Too many things that put your stability at risk are out of your control.

It may not seem possible, but in today’s global corporate market, your job could be history tomorrow.

The probability that you will need to retrain for another job, no matter how old you are, is high and today education is very expensive and may mean becoming a debtor in a big way.

The odds energy costs will increase to unaffordable levels, for at least periods of time, is nearly a sure bet. These spikes will increase what you pay for transportation, heating, electric and also affect a broad market basket of prices on everything from food to paper.

That housing shortages and increased rents may occur is still in the cards. If housing costs do decease you will need money to move and reestablish your living situation.

That labor prices may continue to be depressed is nearly certain. Most American workers have already tightened their belts. You only need to look a Paul’s story to see the fine line between making it and otherwise.

That large corporations will enter more and more business categories where small business once thrived is a foregone conclusion. Today, there are only a handful of small business opportunities that have not been taken over by corporate category killer big box and national chain operations.

Odds that some day you and your family will need food assistance because you haven’t yet made the rent or paid the phone or gas bill and your next paycheck is nine days hence: better, much better, in my opinion, than ten to one.

The Hunger Game: What You Will Do to Get Food

As stated earlier, unless for some odd reason you are unable to make contact with the outside world, you will not starve to death in America. You will, however, play a game with certain rules and you will also spend time, money and effort to play the hunger game.

As with many lifelines in American society, help is available but you will need to jump through a few hoops to get it. We just can’t bring ourselves to make basic needs easy to get. It’s a puritanical punishment our society seems to need mete out to those in need.

Money is short. The fridge has a bottle of ketchup and bread bag with a heel in it. What do you do? That night you’ll scour the house for loose change and buy some macaroni and a jar of tomato sauce. While you’re eating you’ll vow to do something about the situation.

That night on the internet tubes, you will look into Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps. SNAP is not only an acronym, it’s also a contradiction; nothing about the program is quick or easy.

You will probably find you don’t qualify as your income can be no more than 130% of the federal poverty threshold. If you’re single that’s $14,079 pre year; for a childless couple $18,941. Then, for each additional person or child in the family add $4,862. Really!?! It just doesn’t add up, expenses for children can be much greater than those for adults, but that’s the formula.

Let’s say you think you may qualify, SNAP won’t get food on the table tomorrow or the next week or even necessarily the next month. Remember Joan, the woman who moved with her family from Toledo? She applied for SNAP in September of this year. To date, her application has neither been accepted nor rejected.

Eventually, depending on how dire your need is, you will find a food pantry. If the one you find isn’t open the next day, you may get referred to one that is. Maybe you’ll remember those little $1, $3 and $5 coupons you occasionally purchased at the supermarket that make a donation to a food bank. In that case, you might call the food bank and they will somehow get you somewhere you can get your first supply of emergency food.

Congratulations! You’ve just join the ranks of 37 million Americans served by Feeding America and all the related agencies that are part of their food assistance programs and the ranks of approximately 49.1 million people who are food insecure in the U.S. today. Don’t be embarrassed. If you or you spouse or significant other has a job you are among 36% of those millions that do, the working class Americans that are not able to afford food.

That’s just the beginning. Now the major part of the game begins. Pantries are not open every day and lately they’ve also been running out of food. More importantly, you may not be able to get there when they are open. So, like any good game, you’ll need a strategy and a plan.

Still got a car? Great! You can drive to the food pantry and depending on their inventory you may get enough food for a day or two. No, car? It’s public transportation or spring for a car service. Call before you leave to check if food is available. Also ask when they open and get there early to be sure you get your share.

Big events, like FBSJ’s Hope Mobile are a godsend as you’ll pick up 5 days of food in one stop. But chances like this don’t come every day, or every week, just once a month. Deborah, Joan and Paul all drove 20 miles, about 30 minutes, each way to get to the Browns Mills Hope Mobile. They were early birds and waited just three hours to receive about $50 worth of food.

So, to win the Hunger Game, you will gather information on where the pantries are and when they are open. You will talk to a counselor at your child’s school and enroll your children in whatever programs may be available. You will get pre-qualified with the local food bank. If you’re an older citizen or physically disabled you may be able to get your food delivered, if possible, or a senior center or other nearby agency to relieve you of the need to stand in line.

The Hunger Game comes with an excellent support feature. You are not alone. Organizations like the FBSJ and other Feeding America organizations are playing the game and they’re on your side. Besides procuring surplus food and donations to buy food for you, they are also working every day to figure out who is hungry, where they are and how to get food to them as easily as possible.

For example, demand for food and the need to get more food to more people spawned the Hope Mobile.

Preston Beckley the Hope Mobile Program Manager at FBSJ is obviously proud of the good work and success of the Browns Mills event. Not only have 600 pre-qualified families received food, another 28 families were qualified at this event. That’s well over 1,300 people getting food they need in one quick shot.

Next year, FBSJ’s Beckley plans to expand the program from 9 sites to 16 sites. “There’s a real need and it’s increasing. With this program we are able to supplement pantries that can’t keep up with the increased need. We can also bring the truck to places that have no pantry.”

That’s the point of many of the FBSJ’s programs: find ways to get the food to the needy. For seniors it’s home delivery. For school children it was a weekend supply of food for the child, but that soon turned into a program of school based pantries were parents could obtain a weekend supply of food for the entire family. FBSJ supplies food to over 200 agencies, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, special services, church and faith based organizations in their four New Jersey county service area.

Nobody wants to see an important donated resource, like food or food stamps, turned into a nefarious business enterprise. But why do people have to prove they are in need, a reasonable requirement, but also spend excessive amounts of time and money to get help?

The Hunger Game shouldn’t just be about getting food. It’s getting food, keeping a job, working toward a self-sustaining future, getting the necessary education and to the point where you can afford all the necessities of life on your own.

Eliminating the Hunger Game

If hunger is the problem, food is the answer and the Food bank of South Jersey is just one of over 200 such non-profit organizations that serve all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, distributing more than 2.5 billion pounds of food and grocery products annually under the national organization Feeding America.

Traore’s organization is the hub of an intricate, charitable food distribution system designed to provide sustenance to anyone hungry in four south Jersey counties when money for food is scarce.

Hers is part of a shadow system to the gigantic profit driven arrangement that has made relatively inexpensive food easily available everywhere. They do a great job at minimal administrative cost and deserve your support.

Shouldn’t there be a better way? After all, there are already large caches of food nearly everywhere in places called supermarkets, wholesale clubs and big box department stores? I put that question to Traore and she agreed.

“I’m sure our services are not accessible to everyone who needs emergency food in our area and that’s a function of logistics,” confessed Traore. So, what can be done?

“My wild idea is that certain food, what I call ground provisions,” explains Traore, “should be free and available at all major food outlets.” She defines “ground food” as basic, no frills food stuffs. A protein, maybe chicken, maybe just dark meat chicken, though I believe people deserve a whole chicken, a meal and soup after. Flour or basic bread. A green vegetable and a fruit, canned if not otherwise. Milk.

Under Traore’s proposal, everyone would have a ground food provision that could be electronically tracked. You would “purchase” up to your provision limit monthly, or not use it at all. That’s it. Have a food emergency? Tap your ground food provision. Need to supplement your food supply? Tap your ground food provision. Feel entitled to food Just because you are human, even if you’re a millionaire? Tap you ground food provision. Nobody goes hunger. Nobody is put out. Nobody is wasting other valuable resources, like time and fuel, in the pursuit of a self-sustainable life here in America.

You know it’s so crazy Traore’s scheme just might work and be a boon to the economy.

Please donate to your local Feeding America organization: CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is “Single Point Failure” an insider’s account of how the Reagan Administration caused the greatest tragedy of the space age based on Richard C. Cook’s book “Challenger Revealed.” He is a former Director of Public Information for Planned Parenthood of NYC. His website is: WordsWillNever.com

Israel: The Next War

January 3rd, 2011 by Alain Gresh

The US’s failure under Barack Obama to impose peace between Israel and the Palestinians makes a new war likely

In March 1973 the Israeli prime minister Golda Meir visited US president Richard Nixon in Washington. He told her that the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was prepared to negotiate a full treaty, and Meir assured him that Israel wanted peace, but that she would prefer an interim agreement as Cairo was not to be trusted. She said Egypt’s primary aim was to force Israel to withdraw to the line of 4 June 1967, then resurrect the UN plan for the partition of Palestine that had been adopted in 1947; a solution to the problem of Palestine would have to be discussed with Yasser Arafat and “the terrorists”.

Israeli journalist Aluf Benn reported this conversation, on the basis of documents disclosed by Wikileaks, and drew a parallel between the situation then, when Israel’s refusal to negotiate led directly to war and to Egyptian troops crossing the Suez Canal in October 1973, and prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s current evasive response to President Barack Obama. Benn notes that Netanyahu, who returned from the US and rushed to the front in October 1973, “would do well to refresh his memory by listening to the tape of Meir and Nixon and asking himself what he can do to avoid repeating her mistakes and keep from dragging the country blindly toward a second Yom Kippur disaster” (1). In that war the Israeli army lost 2,600 troops.

Israel’s refusal to accept Obama’s proposal to halt settlements on the West Bank (but not in East Jerusalem) for three months in return for unprecedented promises – or bribes, according to columnist Thomas Friedman (2), who is not known for sympathy to the Arabs – confirmed that Obama is unable to exert any real pressure on Israel and that Netanyahu rejects any compromise. Netanyahu, like his predecessors, claims to want peace but he wants the humiliating peace imposed by conquest and based on denial of Palestinian rights. In secret negotiations over the past year, he has repeatedly told the Palestinians they had to accept Israel’s “security concept”, keeping Israeli troops stationed in the Jordan valley along the “barrier” (on the Palestinian side) and the occupation of a substantial part of the West Bank (3). He did not say how long the occupation would last.

This deadlock is forcing the Israeli army to draw up plans for further wars based on the “security concept” – that anyone who refuses to accept Israel’s rule in the region is a “terrorist” to be eliminated. No other country, not even the US, has such a comprehensive security concept, which means that Israel is permanently at war. Who will the Israeli army attack next? Gaza? Two years ago Israeli tanks and aircraft reduced buildings to rubble and killed hundreds of civilians in what the Goldstone report describes as “war crimes” and probably “crimes against humanity”. But Hamas is as strong as ever. How long will Israel tolerate this? Lebanon? In July-August 2006, the Israeli army failed to bring down Hizballah but succeeded in destroying the country; Hizballah is now stronger than ever and the Israeli high command cannot rule out the possibility of a major operation and occupation of part of Lebanon (4). Iran? At the risk of starting a major conflict from Iraq to Lebanon, Palestine to Afghanistan?In the Middle East unrest inevitably leads to war. This time, unlike 1973, Israel would take the first direct step, but it will face far more effective enemies and, as Israeli peace campaigner Uli Avnery points out, the hostility of world public opinion (5). Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina have recognised the Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders and there has been a letter from 26 European elder statesmen (including Chris Patten, Giuliano Amato, Felipe Gonzáles, Lionel Jospin, Hubert Védrine, Romano Prodi, Javier Solana), who are anything but extremists, calling on the European Union to impose sanctions if the Israeli government has not reviewed its policy by the spring. Human Rights Watch published a report on 19 December (Israel/West Bank: Separate and Unequal) about the systematic discrimination against Palestinians, calling on the US government to withhold US funding from the Israeli government equivalent to expenditure on settlements (more than $1bn).

Avnery concludes: “Somebody wrote this week that America’s support of Israel is a case of assisted suicide. In Israel, assisting suicide is a crime. Suicide itself, however, is allowed by our laws. Those whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad. Let’s hope we recover our senses before it is too late.”

War Causes Inflation …

January 3rd, 2011 by Washington's Blog

War almost always causes inflation.

As liberal economist James Galbraith wrote in 2004:

War causes inflation.

Every major war in the past century brought inflation to some degree. And so did two upheavals in the Middle East, the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which did not directly involve the United States, except through their effect on the price of oil. Why is this so? The big reason is that wars must be paid for, somehow. They require resources that civilians would otherwise use. Those resources must be diverted to the war effort. Usually, inflation is the easiest way. World War I was largely financed by inflation, and so were the Revolutionary and Civil Wars before that. So, though on a smaller scale, was Vietnam.

Inflation applies the law of the jungle to war finance. Prices and profits rise, wages and their purchasing power fall. Thugs, profiteers and the well connected get rich. Working people and the poor make out as they can. Savings erode, through the unseen mechanism of the “inflation tax” — meaning that the government runs a big deficit in nominal terms, but a smaller one when inflation is factored in.

***

There is profiteering. Firms with monopoly power usually keep some in reserve. In wartime, if the climate is permissive, they bring it out and use it. Gas prices can go up when refining capacity becomes short — due partly to too many mergers. More generally, when sales to consumers are slow, businesses ought to cut prices — but many of them don’t. Instead, they raise prices to meet their income targets and hope that the market won’t collapse.

***

Is there another way? The answer is yes, but it isn’t easy.

In wars past — notably in World War II and Korea — the job was done by steeply progressive taxes including taxes on excess profits, by “forced saving” (which was an essentially compulsory private holding of public debt), and by price control. Interest rates were frozen at 2 percent on government bonds — and essentially at 0 on bank deposits. The principle was: No one profits from the war.

This combination kept inflation down — prices were stable from 1942 through 1945. Not many grew rich off that war. Instead, my generation grew up with series EE bonds to our names. They were the promise that those working to win the war would see some of the material fruits of their labor later, when peacetime production returned.

Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul agreed in 2007:

Congress and the Federal Reserve Bank have a cozy, unspoken arrangement that makes war easier to finance. Congress has an insatiable appetite for new spending, but raising taxes is politically unpopular. The Federal Reserve, however, is happy to accommodate deficit spending by creating new money through the Treasury Department. In exchange, Congress leaves the Fed alone to operate free of pesky oversight and free of political scrutiny. Monetary policy is utterly ignored in Washington, even though the Federal Reserve system is a creation of Congress.

The result of this arrangement is inflation. And inflation finances war.

Economist Lawrence Parks has explained how the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913 made possible our involvement in World War I. Without the ability to create new money, the federal government never could have afforded the enormous mobilization of men and material. Prior to that, American wars were financed through taxes and borrowing, both of which have limits. But government printing presses, at least in theory, have no limits. That’s why the money supply has nearly tripled just since 1990.

For perspective, consider our ongoing military commitment in Korea. In Korea alone, U.S. taxpayers have spent $1 trillion in today’s dollars over 55 years. What do we have to show for it? North Korea is a belligerent adversary armed with nuclear weapons, while South Korea is at best ambivalent about our role as their protector. The stalemate stretches on with no end in sight, as the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the men who fought in Korea give little thought to what was gained or lost. The Korean conflict should serve as a cautionary tale against the open-ended military occupation of any region.

The [hundreds of billions] we’ve officially spent in Iraq is an enormous sum, but the real total is much higher, hidden within the Defense Department and foreign aid budgets. As we build permanent military bases and a $1 billion embassy in Iraq, we need to keep asking whether it’s really worth it. Congress should at least fund the war in an honest way so the American people can judge for themselves.

Blanchard Economic Research pointed out in 2001:

War has a profound effect on the economy, our government and its fiscal and monetary policies. These effects have consistently led to high inflation.

***

David Hackett Fischer is a Professor of History and Economic History at Brandeis. [H]is book, The Great Wave, Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History … finds that … periods of high inflation are caused by, and cause, a breakdown in order and a loss of faith in political institutions. He also finds that war is a triggering influence on inflation, political disorder, social conflict and economic disruption.

The type of inflation that is associated with wars usually arises from increases in aggregate demand. In time of war, government spending for military purposes stimulates demand throughout an economy, at the same time that a shift of workers from productive labor into war production causes a decline in aggregate supply.

War also causes the type of inflation that results from a rapid expansion of money and credit. “In World War I, the American people were characteristically unwilling to finance the total war effort out of increased taxes. This had been true in the Civil War and would also be so in World War II and the Vietnam War. Much of the expenditures in World War I, were financed out of the inflationary increases in the money supply.” (See “American Economic History,” Scheiber, Vatter and Faulkner)

War usually leads to the type of inflation which is caused by inflationary expectations. Professor Fischer explains:

“It occurs when people begin to raise prices not because of actual changes in supply or demand or cost or the size of the money supply, but out of fear that some such changes might happen.”

***

Professor Fischer also provides an interesting perspective on war-related inflations in the 20th century:

“Inflation surged after America joined World War I in 1917, then declined after 1919, but to pre-war levels. After World War II, Korea and Vietnam, war-inflations were not followed by a decline at all. Prices continued to climb.”

Professor Fischer had some interesting things to say about the Korean War:

“In its economic impact the Korean War was similar to the world wars that had preceded it. Once again, inflationary pressures surged throughout the world. In 1950, wholesale prices jumped 12% in the United States, 18% in Germany, 21% in Britain, 28% in France, and 32% in Sweden.”

Professor Fischer discusses the inflation that took place as part of the Vietnam War and as part of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He says that the Vietnam War was not the pivotal event in the acceleration of inflation during the 1960s, although he admits that the Johnson administration’s decision to expand public spending for social welfare at the same time that it fought a major war in Southeast Asia, without a large increase in taxes, was a major miscalculation.

Other economists agree with Professor Fischer’s link between inflation and war.

James Grant, the respected editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, supplies us with the most timely perspective on the effect of war on inflation in the September 14 issue of his newsletter:

“War is inflationary. It is always wasteful no matter how just the cause. It is cost without income, destruction financed (more often than not) by credit creation. It is the essence of inflation.”

***

Roger Bootle, in his book, The Death of Inflation, also traced the historic link between inflation and war in America’s 225-year history:

“This country’s first two experiences with high inflation were during the American War of Independence (1775-83) and during the Civil War. There was also high inflation associated with the First World War; the unifying theme running through inflation episodes are the occurrence of bad times, often as a result of war or its aftermath.”

“After the Second World War, inflation became the norm everywhere in the industrial world. There was another surge of inflation during the Korean War, which took inflation in the U.S. above 9% in 1951 (and wholesale price inflation into double digits).”

“The inflation that accompanied the Vietnam War and the Yom Kippur War, and oil price shocks in the 1970s, led people to increase their inflationary expectations, which aggravated inflation itself.”

Similarly, in her book, Money Meltdown, Judy Shelton also traces the relationship between war and inflation from the Civil War through Vietnam:

“‘We tried to finance the Vietnam War and the Great Society programs without a tax increase,’ admits Charles L. Schultze, Johnson’s budget director at the time, ‘and clearly that started our course of inflation.’”

“Political leaders always have tended to take the view that in time of war the nation must do whatever is necessary to succeed, and the financial repercussions can be dealt with later. Johnson was only following the pattern that had been adhered to by his predecessors ….”

Libertarian economics writer Lew Rockwell noted in 2008:

You can line up 100 professional war historians and political scientists to talk about the 20th century, and not one is likely to mention the role of the Fed in funding US militarism. And yet it is true: the Fed is the institution that has created the money to fund the wars. In this role, it has solved a major problem that the state has confronted for all of human history. A state without money or a state that must tax its citizens to raise money for its wars is necessarily limited in its imperial ambitions. Keep in mind that this is only a problem for the state. It is not a problem for the people. The inability of the state to fund its unlimited ambitions is worth more for the people than every kind of legal check and balance. It is more valuable than all the constitutions every devised.

***

The connection between war and inflation, then, dates long before the creation of the Federal Reserve.

***

Before the creation of the Federal Reserve, the idea of American entry into the conflict that became World War I would have been inconceivable. In fact, it was a highly unpopular idea, and Woodrow Wilson himself campaigned on a platform that promised to keep us out of war. But with a money monopoly, all things seem possible. It was a mere four years after the Fed was invented under the guise of scientific policy planning that the real agenda became obvious. The Fed would fund the US entry into World War I.

It was not only entry alone that was made possible. World War I was the first total war. It involved nearly the whole of the civilized world, and not only their governments but also the civilian populations, both as combatants and as targets. It has been described as the war that ended civilization in the 19th-century sense in which we understand that term. That is to say, it was the war that ended liberty as we knew it. What made it possible was the Federal Reserve. And not only the US central bank; it was also its European counterparts. This was a war funded under the guise of scientific monetary policy.

***

Reflecting on the calamity of this war, Ludwig von Mises wrote in 1919

One can say without exaggeration that inflation is an indispensable means of militarism. Without it, the repercussions of war on welfare become obvious much more quickly and penetratingly; war weariness would set in much earlier.

***

The story of central banking is one step removed from the story of atom bombs and death camps. There is a reason the state has been unrestrained in the last 100 years, and that reason is the precise one that many people think of as a purely technical issue that is too complicated for mere mortals.

Fast-forward to the Iraq War, which has all the features of a conflict born of the power to print money. There was a time when the decision to go to war involved real debate in the House of Commons or the US House of Representatives. And what was this debate about? It was about resources and the power to tax. But once the executive state was unhinged from the need to rely on tax dollars and did not have to worry about finding willing buyers for its unbacked debt instruments, the political debate about war was silenced.

In the entire run-up to war, George Bush just assumed as a matter of policy that it was his decision alone whether to invade Iraq. The objections by Ron Paul and some other members of Congress and vast numbers of the American population were reduced to little more than white noise in the background. Imagine if he had to raise the money for the war through taxes. It never would have happened. But he didn’t have to. He knew the money would be there. So despite a $200 billion deficit, a $9 trillion debt, $5 trillion in outstanding debt instruments held by the public, a federal budget of $3 trillion, and falling tax receipts in 2001, Bush contemplated a war that has cost $525 billion dollars — or $4,681 per household. Imagine if he had gone to the American people to request that. What would have happened? I think we know the answer to that question. And those are government figures; the actual cost of this war will be far higher — perhaps $20,000 per household.

***

If the state has the power and is asked to choose between doing good and waging war, what will it choose? Certainly in the American context, the choice has always been for war.

And progressive economics writer Chris Martenson explains as part of his “Crash Course” on economics:

Along came a war, the Revolutionary War, and the country found itself unable to pay for the war with the gold and silver to be found in the Treasury.

So a paper currency called “continentals” was printed, and at first it was fully backed by a specified amount of real gold and/or silver in the Treasury. But then the war proved to be more expensive than thought, and more and more was printed. Then the British, aware of the corrosive effects of inflation on a society, started counterfeiting and distributing vast amounts of bogus continentals, and soon the currency began to collapse.

Before long, massive inflation took hold, and Abigail Adams complained bitterly about this experience, noting that goods were hard to come by, making life difficult.

Seen on the inflation chart, the Revolutionary War took the general price level from a reading of “5” to a reading of “8”. After the war, the paper continentals were utterly rejected by the populace, who strongly preferred gold and silver. Most interestingly, price levels promptly returned back to their prewar levels.

The next serious bout of inflation was also associated with a war, again due to overprinting of paper currency, and again, upon conclusion of the war, we saw a relatively prompt return of prices to their pre-war levels, where they stayed for an additional 30 years. By now we are nearly 200 years into this chart, and we find that the cost of living is roughly that same as it was in 1665. That’s a truly fascinating concept to entertain.

But then a war came along – the Civil War – and it was a doozy. To finance the war, the North had to resort to printing a type of currency that still lends its name to our own currency today. Of course, back then it really did have a “green back.” Again we see a rapid rise of inflation as a direct consequence of war that again returned to baseline after the crisis was over. We are now 250 years into this story and the cost of living is still roughly the same as it was at the start. Can you imagine?

But then another war came along, this one even bigger than any before, and again it was a highly inflationary event.

And then another war, even bigger than any before it, which again proved inflationary. But this time, something odd happened. Inflation did not retreat before the next war began. Why? Two reasons. First, the country was no longer on a gold standard, but instead a fiat paper standard administered by the Federal Reserve, and the populace did not have another form of money to which it could turn. And second, because this was the first time that the war apparatus was not dismantled upon conclusion of hostilities.

Instead, full mobilization was maintained and a protracted cold war was fought; certainly as inflationary a conflict as any shooting war ever was.

And now if we look at the entire sweep of history, we can make an utterly obvious claim: All wars are inflationary. Period. No exceptions.

Why? Simple, really. Any time the government engages in deficit spending, it creates the conditions for inflation. However when the deficit spending is on legitimate infrastructure, such as roads or bridges, that investment will slowly “pay for itself” by boosting productivity and paving the way for the creation of additional goods and services that will ‘soak up’ the extra cash over time.

Wars, however, are special. Vast quantities of money are spent on things that are meant to be blown up. The money stays at home, while the goods get sent off to be blown up. When a bomb blows up, there is no residual benefit to the domestic economy later on. This means war spending is the most inflationary of all spending. It’s a double whammy – the money stays behind, working its evil magic, while the goods disappear. Heck, even if the goods aren’t blown up, there’s practically zero residual economic benefit to such specialized hardware, as amazing as that technology may be.

For some reason, the most recent pair of wars have been presented by the US mainstream press as being relatively “pain-free” for the average citizen, despite overwhelming historical odds to the contrary.

In fact, on this 15-year-long chart of commodity prices, we observe that prices bounced in a channel, marked by the green lines, for more than 10 years. However, and now hopefully unsurprisingly, shortly after the start of the Iraq War commodity prices began marching higher and have inflated nearly 140% in the five years since. Your gasoline and food bills will confirm this.

So if anybody tries to tell you that you haven’t sacrificed for the war, let them know you sacrificed a large portion of your savings and your paycheck to the effort, thank you very much.

And see this:

(Click here for larger version.)

The bottom line is that war always causes inflation, at least when it is funded through money-printing instead of a pay-as-you-go system of taxes and/or bonds. It might be great for a handful of defense contractors, but war is bad for Main Street, stealing wealth from people by making their dollars worth less.

And contrary to what many pundits say, war will not lead to an economic recovery.

And as discussed above, liberals such as James Galbraith and conservatives such as Ron Paul agree that we wouldn’t get into as many wars – and the wars which we did wage would be ended more quickly – it if the people were required to pay for them directly instead of war being paid out of the “hidden tax” of inflation.

The father of modern economics – Adam Smith – agreed:

Were the expence of war to be defrayed always by a revenue raised within the year [instead of financing it with long-term public debt], the taxes from which that extraordinary revenue was drawn would last no longer than the war. The ability of private people to accumulate, though less during the war, would have been greater during the peace than under the system of funding. War would not necessarily have occasioned the destruction of any old capitals, and peace would have occasioned the accumulation of many more new. Wars would in general be more speedily concluded, and less wantonly undertaken. The people feeling, during the continuance of the war, the complete burden of it, would soon grow weary of it, and government, in order to humour them, would not be under the necessity of carrying it on longer than it was necessary to do so. The foresight of the heavy and unavoidable burdens of war would hinder the people from wantonly calling for it when there was no real or solid interest to fight for. The seasons during which the ability of private people to accumulate was somewhat impaired, would occur more rarely, and be of shorter continuance. Those on the contrary, during which that ability was in the highest vigour, would be of much longer duration than they can well be under the system of funding.

For Haitians, the year 2010 ended with a set of disturbing revelations:

From Business Week, we learn that “a U.S. official (Lewis Lucke) who was in charge of relief efforts following Haiti’s devastating January 12 earthquake has accused a major contractor of short-changing him for his assistance in securing more than $20 million in reconstruction deals after he left his post”. As part of his work, Lucke was actively lobbying Haitian officials, former United States Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9KF42PO2.htm

Coincidentally, at a recent meeting of the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti, held in Santo Domingo, mid December 2010, Haitian delegates decried the fact that, these days, major decisions concerning Haiti’s present or future are made by non-Haitians.

http://www.diariolibre.com/noticias_det.php?id=272471&l=1

Just days ago, a second interview by recently recalled Special OAS Representative to Haiti, Ricardo Seitenfus, revealed that, on the day of the chaotic November 28 elections in which the U.N. and the OAS played key roles, an airplane was being sought by the international players in order to expell Haitian President René Préval from the country. Since his earlier revelations to Le Temps, Seitenfus has been dubbed Haiti’s own flesh and bones “Wikileaks”.

Truth be told,for several weeks now, the Haitian rumour mill spoke of a verbal exchange between U.N. Mission Chief Edmond Mulet and President Préval, during which the latter is said to have declared he’d rather end up like Salvador Allende rather than accept Mulet’s suggestion of exile. This is at once cynical and ironic, given that Edmond Mulet himself is the object of incessant calls for his expulsion from Haiti on account of the abyssimal record of the MINUSTHA forces under his command. At latest count the cholera bacterium introduced to Haiti by U.N. troops has claimed over 3333 lives and there is no sign that resources are being mobilized by the MINUSTHA to help fight the epidemic.

Seitenfus’ recent interviews strenthen the idea that Mulet sought to send Préval to exile.
http://lo-de-alla.org/2010/12/diplomat-in-haiti-to-be-dismissed-for-criticizing-oas-ngos/

Seitenfus states in the interview “on November 28, the day of the elections, there was discussion in a meeting of the Core Group (donor countries, OAS and the United Nations) of something that seemed to me simply frightening. Some representatives suggested that President René Préval should leave the country and that we should think about an airplane for that purpose. I heard that and I was horrified. The prime minister of Haiti, Jean–Max Bellerive, arrived and immediately said not to count on him for any solution outside the constitution and he asked if President Préval’s mandate was being negotiated. And there was silence in the room. Beside me was Albert Ramdin, adjunct secretary of the OAS, so I could not speak because the OAS was being represented by him. But faced with his silence and that of the others, I asked to be able to speak and reminded them of the existence of the Inter-American Democratic Charter [of the OAS] and that I thought any discussion of President Préval’s mandate would be a coup. I was very surprised by the fact that the adjunct secretary of the OAS remained silent in the face of the possiblity of shortening the term of a legitimately elected president”.

As is often the case in matters pertaining to Haiti, in order to understand current events or to apprehend what the future might hold, one must exercise “Sankofa” – look to the past. Mindful that January 2 is Ancestor’s Day in Haitian culture, let us call upon the spirit of our beloved pan-African warrior Kwame Ture, whose premonition is quite striking. Indeed, years before the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti, brother Ture saw the signs and he warned us that “no Bill Clinton shall liberate Haiti”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbaC6aVCT38

BP Disaster: New Report confirms Poisoned Gulf seafood

January 3rd, 2011 by Deborah Dupré

Louisiana Environmental Action Network – Powered by People – Fueled by Knowledge Photo: SaveOurGulf.org

Scientists have released a new report on results of testing Louisiana seafood that further confirms the present dangerous human health situation, especially to children, not just in the Gulf region but throughout the nation, as reported by other doctors such as Dr. Rodney Soto.

The new report by Wilma Subra, the seasoned Louisiana environmentalist featured in Sophie McNeill’s special SBS TV program, Dateline, in Australia, is entitled, Results of sampling performed by the Lower Mississippi River Keeper from Atchafalaya Bay eastward to the Louisiana/Mississippi state line, in the Gulf of Mexico coastal areas of Louisiana.

Subra of Subra Company, Paul Orr of the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper and Michael Orr of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) conducted the study in response to the Gulf of Mexico operation. The team has performed monitoring, sampling and analysis of the environment and seafood in the coastal estuaries and wetlands of Louisiana for health impacts.

Beginning immediately after the Deepwater Horizon explosion resulting in the largest man-made catastrophe in recorded history, the team has conducted “physical and chemical field sampling and analysis of the wetlands and ecosystems, along the coast of Louisiana” since August 2, 2010.

“The field sampling has been performed and continues to be performed on an ongoing basis since August 2, 2010, from Atchafalaya Bay eastward to the Louisiana/Mississippi state line,” according to the report.

“Alkylated PAHs were and continue to be detected in aquatic seafood species from the wetlands and estuaries along the Louisiana coast from Atchafalaya Bay eastward to the Louisiana/Mississippi border.”

Oysters, blue crab, shrimp, mussels, fish and snails are all contaminated according to the tests.

“Wetlands and ecosystem soil/sediment samples and aquatic tissue samples from all areas sampled contained Alkylated PAHs and Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons.”

No safe levels of toxins

Benzene, C6H6, the simplest aromatic hydrocarbon, is of course, “one of the most highly carcinogenic compounds that we come into contact with in our lives. Period, end of story. It’s unbelievably dangerous,” stated the writer’s colleague, Mr. Jeff Rense in the Rense Radio Network November 17 interview with Dr. Rodney Soto, the “Gulf Hero Doctor.”

Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor that evaporates quickly when exposed to air.

When Mr. Rense said, “I don’t think there are any safe levels of benzene,” Dr. Soto replied, “That’s correct.”

Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), also called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, “are among the most widespread organic pollutants, remaining on beaches and marine environmentals for a long time after an oil spill. Recent investigations have concluced that their toxicity is up to 100 times worse than first assumed.” (Wikipedia)

“You know, at any levels…if you talk to environmental doctors, any levels of any toxins are not acceptable, whether it’s a tiny amount or one part per billion, or .5 – it’s toxic,” stated Mr. Rense.

Dr. Soto has explained that eating tainted Gulf seafood is the most “detrimental and fearful” way people will be poisoned:

“And then of course the GI tract, because we’re talking about shrimp, we’re talking about fish, seafood, oysters, you name it. Any food from the Gulf that is already being distributed in restaurants and nationwide—that’s going to be the most detrimental and most fearful way to get these compounds to not only children certainly adults—the seafood.”

“These compounds are fat soluble,” said Dr. Soto, explaining that among other places the toxins injure is the brain because the brain is 70% fat.

“That’s a very important point. These compounds are fat soluble. And, when we’re talking about the fat in the body, we’re not just talking about the fat in our bellies or places where we don’t like them, but rather critical organs in our systems that are lipid-based or they are made of fat, which is the brain. The brain is 70% of fat, then you have the glands, like the thyroid…”

“And if they do go to the fat cells, therein lie one certain vector for eventual cancer, because these things accumulate and concentrate in the fat cells, and then you have genetic damage and mutagenic cell growth.” (Rense)

The new LEAN report includes the following analysis:

“Oyster: Oyster samples have contaminated with up to 8,815 to 12,500 mg/kg Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons.  The oyster samples have also contained up the 4 Alkylated PAHs, Fluoranthene, Naphthalene, Phenanthrene, and Pyrene in concentrations of 1.4 to 63 ug/kg.

Blue Crab: Blue crab samples have contained up to 2,230 to 3,583 mg/kg Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons and up to 4 Alkylated PAHs, Fluoranthene, Naphthalene, Phenanthrene and Pyrene in concentrations from 84.6 to 162 ug/kg.

Shrimp: Shrimp samples have contained up to 8,356 mg/kg Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons and 5 Alkylated PAHs, Anthracene, Fluoranthene, Naphthalene, Phenanthrene and Pyrene up to 69.4 ug/kg.

Mussel: A mussel sample was contaminated with 6,900 mg/kg Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons and the Alkylated PAHs Anthracene, 2-Methylnaphthalene, Naphthalene, and Phenanthrene at a total concentration of 386 ug/kg.

Fish, Crab and Snail: Samples of fin fish, fiddler crab, hermit crab and snail contained up to 21,575 mg/kg Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons and the Alkylated PAH Phenanthrene.”

Dr. Subra reports, “A number of additional tissue samples are currently being analyzed and will be reported in the near future.”

Extreme health hazard for children

In the November 17 interview with Dr. Rodney Soto, Mr. Rense stated, “When you have upper respiratory issues, sinus, all the way, bronchial, down into the lungs, that is not viral, not bacterial, but being caused by toxicity, poison, you can’t prescribe an antibiotic for that except as a backup to hope and prevent secondary bacterial infections… You can’t go to a pharmacy to cure that easily… Cancer is going to surge.”

“it’s important nowadays that people who had not even have symptoms that are classically recognized, the ones I mentioned just a few minutes ago, to get tested and to be aware of things like this can affect their long -term health.

Dr. Soto’s following words in the Rense interview are possibly the most important that Gulf Coast parents could hear:

“Children are very susceptible, or I would say more susceptible, to the effects of the petroleum derivatives, because of their liver detox capability is less than an adult. Their brain is also developing, and their immune system is developing. So they’re gonna be affected several-fold more than an adult who is being exposed to the same amount of toxin.”

“What an astonishing crime this government—yet another astonishing crime this government has committed by clearing the seafood, obviously tainted, to be consumed by people,” said Mr. Rense.

“They just don’t care about human life. There’s no other way to define it. They don’t care! It’s all about cover-up, it’s all about money, it’s all about keeping them looking good, and keeping the people in the dark…”

Sources:

LEAN

Subra Company

Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper

Special Broadcasting Service

Rense Radio Network

Wikipedia

Youtube 

Deborah Dupré, B.Sci, MA. Sci, DipContEd, QMHP from U.S. and Australian universities, human and environmental rights advocate over 25 years in U.S., Vanuatu and Australia. Support her work by subscribing to her articles and forwarding the link of this article to friends and colleagues or reposting only title and first paragraph linked to this Examiner page. Email [email protected] with targeting and Gulf illness news tips, with name or anonymously. See her Vaccine Liberty or Death book plus Compassion Film Project DVDs at www.DeborahDupre.com.

One of the crown jewels of secret pre-Gulf War negotiations was unveiled tonight when the notorious Glaspie Memo, or as it is now known 90BAGHDAD423, was released by WikiLeaks

The cable, whose official title was “Saddam’s Message of Friendship to President Bush” details the meeting between US Ambassador April Glaspie and Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990, just a week before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The meeting has long been a matter of speculation, as it had long been speculated that comments by Glaspie had led Saddam to believe that the United States was giving them the green light to invade Kuwait if diplomacy failed.

The memo reveals indeed Hussein expressing concern about the Bush Administration’s position on Iraq owing to its participation in military exercises with the United Arab Emirates and pledges to “defend its allies” in the region. He complained the US pledges were making Kuwait and the UAE refuse to negotiate with Iraq. He also expressed concern about negative media coverage in the US, which Ambassador Glaspie assured him did not reflect US policy and singled out a Diane Sawyer report on “nuclear bomb triggers” for condemnation.

Rather Glaspie assured Saddam of Bush’s friendship and expressed support for the negotiations being set up by Hosni Mubarak for the weekend of July 28-30. She also explicitly said the United States took no position on the border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait. Hussein assured that no action would be taken against Kuwait if the negotiations showed some progress, which seemed to suit the US at the time.

But the talks didn’t accomplish anything and by August 2 Iraq was invading Kuwait. Within hours the mutual friendship was completely torn up and US officials were railing against Iraq. A few months later the US invaded for the first time, sparking invasions, decades of enmity, sanctions which killed massive numbers of Iraqi civilians and, eventually, a full US occupation which continues to this day.

Michael Hudson is a highly-regarded economist. He is a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who has advised the U.S., Canadian, Mexican and Latvian governments as well as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. He is a former Wall Street economist at Chase Manhattan Bank who also helped establish the world’s first sovereign debt fund.

Yesterday, Hudson said:

Take any stock in the United States. The average time in which you hold a stock is–it’s gone up from 20 seconds to 22 seconds in the last year. Most trades are computerized. Most trades are short-term. The average foreign currency investment lasts–it’s up now to 30 seconds, up from 28 seconds last month.

See also this and this.

The power balance in the world is still clearly the master-slave relationship that was seen in the heyday of colonialism in the 19th century.

The US-NATO-Israel triangle is attempting to gain large amounts of influence over the nations of the Middle East. Simultaneously, the US is engaged in the Asia Pacific region, along with its South Korean ally, in attempting to coerce North Korea into ending its nuclear weapons program, and to maintain the ceasefire with South Korea.

In terms of China, the US is attempting to surround them with an Asian version of NATO made up of US allies to contain what is viewed as a threat to US hegemony.

In the past, the imperial powers were those of Europe and many of them advocated direct imperialism, sending in soldiers and administrators to directly run and colonize a country. Other nations have used an indirect form of colonialism by controlling a country through groups or individuals that would obey the colonial power. National independence movements took place in Africa, Latin America and Asia in the 1950s and 60s, and it seemed like colonial domination was over, yet it wasn’t. Even today, imperialism still rears its ugly head; however, unlike in previous times, people are actually able to resist the imperial power that is the United States and its allies.

Firstly, we must establish a definition of what imperialism is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, imperialism is defined as, “The policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas.” [1]

The main goal of imperialism today is to ensure that the former imperial states still maintain economic dominance over their former colonies. This is accomplished in the form of neo-colonialism. When neo-colonialism first took hold, political scientists were unable to formulate a concise definition. After independence, many assumed that the newly liberated nations would begin to “to develop very rapidly, politically and economically.” [2] However, when that did not come to fruition, political scientists looked again at the dependency theory and added a second part. This new addition acknowledged that underdevelopment in the newly liberated countries continued due to highly developed countries dominating underdeveloped economies “by paying low prices for agricultural products and flooding those economies with cheap manufactured goods.” [3] Because of this, the post-colonial countries would be unable to industrialize their economies, and thus would remain at the mercy of their former colonizers.

Also, the colonial powers used debt to keep their former colonies in check. One example is the odious debt, which is defined as “unjust debt that is incurred as rich countries loaned dictators or other corrupt leaders when it was known that the money would be wasted.” [4] In loaning out this money, it served the colonial powers in two ways. One, they could use the debt to keep the nation(s) under thier control, and two; they made money off the high interest rates.

When it comes to loaning money there has been complete hypocrisy between developed and developing nations. One example is after WWII, when the US loaned the U.K. at low interest rates, and the Allies cancelled most of Germany’s debt. In both cases, it was intended to enable the developed nations to rebuild in the wake of World War II. Yet, when in it comes to third-world nations, double standards prevail. Many sub-Saharan African countries are being forced to pay back debt at rates “three to five times the level that Britain or Germany paid after World War II.” [5]

In addition to insuring dependency of the former colonized nations on their old masters, the colonial powers also encouraged their companies to move in and take full control of the economy of developing countries. This was presented to the public as “economic liberalization.” In this process, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was the tool used.

One tragic case of IMF intervention is Jamaica. After the island nation’s economy crashed in the early 1970s, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley, giving into pressure from the IMF and the conservative People’s National Party, came up with an initiative that “included many elements of democratic socialism as it called for disengagement from international capitalism, socializing the means of production and exchange, increasing Jamaica’s self-reliance, and diversification of foreign economic relations.” [6] The conservative People’s National Party was not pleased with this idea of “democratic socialism,” and thus went to the IMF for aid. This was disastrous for Jamaica. They were lent the money in 1977, but had to agree to “pension and wage [cuts and] the removal of price controls” [7] and by 1980, “the economy in Jamaica was in worse condition than before the IMF loan. Thirty percent of the island’s workforce was unemployed and the foreign exchange deficit was significantly higher than in 1977.” [8] The freeze on pensions  and wages were beneficial to the foreign corporations, who later moved in as they were now able to fully exploit the Jamaican people without having to worry about any minimum wage or labor laws.

We can see that the IMF being used by the European Central Bank to protect the interests of the economic elite in the situation of Ireland’s debt crisis. This is also evident in Greece, where the banks are being bailed out at the expense of the working class, sending them into of crushing austerity measures. However, the populations of Ireland and Greece, realizing what is at stake, are determined to resist. They will not take this oppression lying down. Instead, they actively protest the acts of their government and demand that they not be held responsible for the incompetent acts of the powerful economic elite.

Even though the United States and its allies constitute a power force, a resistance movement is in the making. In the future, we may see developing nations wielding influence over their own domestic affairs; and neo-colonialism, much like the direct colonialism that preceded it, could become a thing of the past.

Devon DB is 19 years old and studying political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Notes

1: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imperialism 

2: http://science.jrank.org/pages/7920/Neocolonialism.html 

3: Ibid.

4: http://www.globalissues.org/issue/28/third-world-debt-undermines-development 

5: Ibid.

6: http://science.jrank.org/pages/7920/Neocolonialism.html 

7: Ibid.

8: Ibid.

9: http://www.sectsco.org/EN/show.asp?id=69 

10: http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0211/Peaceful-Palestinian-resistance-is-paying-off 

11: Ibid.

On December 21, 2010 FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave AT&T a decision that was gift-wrapped for the holiday season. By a 3-to-2 vote, the FCC passed a rule that, in the chairman’s words, “protects Internet freedom.”

If only that were true.

After a year of promises to deliver on President Obama’s pledge to protect Net Neutrality, this chairman has pushed through a rule that favors the very industry his FCC is supposed to regulate, leaving Internet users with few protections and putting the future of the open Internet in peril.

The chairman chose to ignore the voices of more than 2 million people who have urged Washington to support real and lasting Net Neutrality protections. His rule, for the first time in history, allows discrimination over the mobile Internet, paving the way for widespread industry abuses.

Now, the chairman is trying to spin the media that this toothless decision is a win for Obama and for Internet users. Free Press and our allies are not going to let him get away with that.

The FCC rule doesn’t do enough to stop the phone and cable companies from dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes. It doesn’t stop them from splitting the Internet into two — one Internet for those who can pay to access special sites and services, and another neglected network for the rest of us.

The rule fails miserably to protect wireless users from discrimination, a prospect that’s especially troubling for African American and Latino communities who increasingly access the Internet via mobile devices.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) underscored this point. “Although the new rules bar fixed broadband Internet providers from ‘unreasonable discrimination’ against Web traffic,” she said on Wednesday. “They exempt mobile broadband providers — leaving millions without critical consumer protections and leading to a fractured Internet.”

The FCC vote is a textbook example of industry capture of a federal agency. Chairman Genachowski gave AT&T veto power over this rule. What he’s now characterizing as a “reasonable compromise” looks, to anyone who compares his order to his earlier promises, as a near total capitulation to industry.

By failing to protect the open Internet, Genachowski has put at risk one of the essential needs of any healthy democracy: our right to freely access information, engage in political discourse and govern ourselves.

We’d be lying if we didn’t tell you that this vote was a major setback. But this bad rule is not the end of the story. Free Press and our many allies are going to keep fighting to secure your right to an Internet without gatekeepers.

Recently, the Associated Press (AP) broke the story that there were 1050 troops being trained in the north eastern region of Somalia, otherwise known as Puntland, by a mercenary group, or security contractors from South Africa known as Saracen International. 

 

At the end of the Apartheid era, many of the special forces of that regime ventured into various yet similar vocations and enterprises that offered lucrative, opportunities as well as providing absolute impunity. Never mind that “Mercenaries” as persons recruited for armed conflict by or in a country other than their own who are motivated solely by personal gain are outlawed under Article 47 of the Geneva Convention.

 

Saracen International is a complex web of businesses that sell luxury real estates properties as well as international investment opportunities. It has taken over under a different name the now defunct Executive Outcomes. The latter has a broad record in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. They were guns for hire; a private army to perform variety of “good” and “dirty jobs” necessary enforces peace or silence dissent.

 

Major Lafras Luitingh, one of the founders and the former CEO of Executive Outcomes, now plays a key leading role in Saracen International. Major Luitingh—a man who has been implicated in a number of reports—was a board member of the South African Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) of the Apartheid era.  Contrary to what the name might suggest, this was a government-sponsored covert operation; a hit squad during the apartheid era that operated under the authority of Defense Minister General Magnus Malan. This covert organization had three main objectives: to eliminate anti-apartheid activists throughout the world; to destroy ANC facilities both inside and outside South Africa; and, to circumvent UN-imposed arms embargo. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee found the CCB guilty of numerous killings and atrocities.

 

Ignorantly or perhaps recklessly insensitive to the historic role that the South African mercenaries have played in carrying out former dictator Siyad Barre’s persecution of particular dissenting clans in the north-western region of Somalia, the TFG again has signed a contract with mercenaries from South Africa.

 

According to Hussein Abdi Halane, Somalia’s Minister of Finance, who was interviewed by the VOA Somali branch, “Saracen will help the Somali government train some of its forces.” Among other things, this private security group would be training anti-piracy forces as well as the bodyguards of Somali government officials, drivers, and civil servants.

 

Ever since the AP report, concerns were raised by a number of stakeholders ranging from UN, AU, AMISOM, US, and EU.

 

Concerns range from “Who will be financing this contract?”, to “Is this going to violate the arms embargo imposed on Somalia since 1992?” However, the real concern, from the Somali perspective, ought to be: Since civilians are already exposed to great dangers with al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam’s mortar attacks on AMISOM and the latter’s counter attacks, and neither of the former militias (now one group) are waging their attacks from a jungle, how are they going to protect civilian lives from their advanced, state-of-the-art weaponry? Is this group going to uphold basic human rights and respect all international conventions? Who would have the responsibility and/or jurisdiction to prosecute any violation that may be made? Would they be able to differentiate between civilians “Saracens” and combatant ones?

 

And, from the UN and the international community perspective, the concern ought to be: Would this group keep its hands off the uranium deposits in the central regions of Somalia where they are now allowed to operate freely?

 

It is quite apparent that the TFG has not done its due diligence. Among other things, the TFG agreed to not tax any of the goods and equipments that this group brings into the country which is euphemism for not searching any and all they possess.

 

It is incumbent upon the TFG to immediately end this contract, and upon the international community to pressure Saracen International and all other mercenary groups believed to be operating in “Somaliland” and “Puntland” to leave Somalia.

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded unleashing 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It has been nothing short of catastrophic, causing extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitat, as well as to the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. In May 2010, Chevron began drilling Canada’s deepest well off the coast of Newfoundland, begging the question: Could an oil spill of the same magnitude happen in Canada?

Blowout: Is Canada Next? , is a documentary that tracks the aftermath of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, and transposes the oil spill to Canada’s Grand Banks. By documenting the latest scientific findings in the Gulf, Blowout: Is Canada Next? builds a picture of what an offshore drilling disaster would look like on Canada’s East coast.

Just weeks after the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf, Chevron began drilling Canada’s deepest oil exploration well off the coast of Newfoundland. Located 430 kms from shore, the Chevron well is twice as deep as BP’s Deepwater Horizon well, six times further out to sea, and in much rougher seas. In the event of a blowout, it would take 11 days for emergency response ships to even reach the spill. An oil blowout off the coast of Newfoundland would decimate the world’s last remaining Atlantic cod fishery, along with several species of whales, seals, turtles, coral habitats and seabirds that feed in the basin. These rich and fertile seas are the backbone to Newfoundland’s tourism industry. An oil spill would create dead zones within the ocean and potentially devastate this economic mainstay that brings in over 1 billion tourist dollars annually.

Canada has entered the race to drill oil in deeper and deeper waters, but safety procedures and cleanup techniques have not kept pace with the petrochemical industry’s pursuit of oil. Is it only a matter of time before an oil catastrophe happens in Canada?

Blowout: Is Canada Next? is produced by Up Front Entertainment and directed by Nadine Pequeneza.

The New Year began with three North Atlantic Treaty Organization soldiers killed in Afghanistan and 20 people, all portrayed as militants, killed in four American missile strikes in northwest Pakistan. The third drone missile attack killed four people attempting to rescue and remove the bodies of the victims of the first, a technique used by the U.S. and NATO in their war against Yugoslavia in 1999.

The West’s war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is currently the longest, largest and deadliest in the world. Fatalities among U.S. troops, non-U.S. NATO and allied forces, Afghan National Army soldiers and anti-government fighters reached a record high last year: 498, 213, 800 and an unknown number (by U.S. and NATO accounts well into the thousands), respectively. The United Nations estimated 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed in the first ten months of last year, a 20 percent increase over the same period in the preceding year. Approximately a thousand people were killed by U.S. drone missile strikes in Pakistan.

It says something discouraging about a world of almost 200 nations that perhaps no more than half a dozen countries – so-called rogue states (alternatively Condoleezza Rice’s “outposts of tyranny”) – have voiced opposition to the war.

Washington’s self-designated global war on terror (sometimes capitalized), in recent years more politely and antiseptically called overseas contingency operations, has not diminished in intensity but rather escalated in breadth and aggressiveness from West Africa to East Asia and against targets not remotely related to al-Qaeda, which has proven as nebulous and evasive as the West portrays it being ubiquitous.

From 2001 to the present the U.S. has engaged in and supported military operations against Marxist guerrillas in Colombia and the Philippines, ethnic Tuaregs in Mali, nominally Christian insurgents in Uganda and Shiite Houthi militia in northern Yemen in the name of combating…al-Qaeda. The Wahhabist school of extremism that characterizes al-Qaeda and analogous groups derives its doctrinal inspiration and material support from Saudi Arabia, yet last October Washington announced a $63 billion arms package with the kingdom, the largest foreign weapons deal in American history.

Washington and its NATO military allies have opened a war front across the Arabian Sea from Pakistan in the east to Somalia and Yemen in the west as the central focus of operations that began almost ten years ago. [1]

On October 1, 2008 the Pentagon formally launched its first overseas military command in the post-Cold War era, U.S. Africa Command, which takes in 53 nations and an entire continent except for Egypt, which remains in Central Command.

The second command’s area of responsibility reaches from the eastern border of Libya to the western border of China and southern border of Russia. From Egypt to Kazakhstan. The Horn of Africa region, including Somalia, was ceded by Central Command to Africa Command (AFRICOM), but the Arabian Peninsula, including Yemen, remains in Central Command.

Though the Pentagon’s Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, now subsumed under AFRICOM and based in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, includes thirteen nations in East Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Peninsula in its area of operations: Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen. Operation Enduring Freedom, under which the U.S. conducts its greater Afghan war, encompasses sixteen countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Yemen.

The U.S. maintains at least 2,500 troops in Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and in late 2009 deployed over 100 troops, Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) equipped for guided bombs and missiles and three P-3 Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft to Seychelles.

Washington was accused by Houthi rebels in the north of Yemen of participating with Saudi Arabia in deadly bombing raids against them in the northwestern province of Sa’ada in December of 2009. They stated American jet fighters launched 28 attacks in the province which included bombing the governor’s house and killing 120 people in one attack. [2]

Later in the same month the U.S. conducted cruise missile and air strikes with the use of cluster bombs in southern Yemen which killed over 60 civilians, mostly women and children. Another air strike was launched in March of 2010.

Leading American officials have demanded drone missile strikes in Yemen and several hundred U.S. special forces are deployed to the country.

The U.S. and its allies in NATO and the European Union are actively involved in the civil war in Somalia, across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.

The Pentagon supported the Ethiopian invasion of the country in 2006 and launched two days of air strikes in January of the following year. In the autumn of 2009 U.S. special forces conducted a deadly helicopter gunship raid in southern Somalia.

The New Year in Somalia started with a fierce battle between foreign troops backing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and al-Shabaab rebels, resulting in at 15 dead and 25 wounded. Inhabitants of the Somali capital reported that “the Mogadishu sky turned red [and] kids were crying and had been unable to sleep as the crackling of machine guns and barrages rocked throughout the city.” [3]

There are approximately 6,000 troops from U.S. military client states Uganda and Burundi fighting on behalf of the formal government of the country under the banner of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Although approved by the African Union, AMISOM and its predecessor, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Peace Support Mission in Somalia (IGASOM), primarily have been initiatives by Washington and its allies in NATO and the EU.

European warships are deployed for NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield and the EU’s Operation Atalanta off Somalia’s coast in the Gulf of Aden. (In military matters the distinction between NATO and the EU is becoming an increasingly formal one.)

At least fifteen EU member states, most of them also NATO members – Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Hungary, Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus – have sent no fewer than 150 military personnel to Uganda to train 2,000 Somali troops for war in their homeland in a program financed by the U.S.

In the middle of last month the local press reported that the first 1,000 Somali soldiers “trained by officers from the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and senior military officers from 27 European Union countries” graduated from the Bihanga military training school in Western Uganda, a “facility…set up early this year to train TFG Officers and foot soldiers in a bid to boost the military capability of war-torn Somalia….”

“The soldiers are expected to provide the core of officers and men of a new Somali army…to provide a much-needed boost to the fragile Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu.” [4]

Since June of 2007 NATO has provided airlift and sealift for AMISOM (Ugandan and Burundian) troops deployed to Somalia. The next year NATO flew a Burundian battalion into Somalia and in March of last year the Western military bloc transported 1,700 Ugandan troops into and 850 out of the Somali capital.

The month before the initial inauguration of AFRICOM in 2007, when it was still under U.S. European Command (whose top commander is simultaneously NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe), a Pentagon official announced that Africa Command “would involve one small headquarters plus five ‘regional integration teams’ scattered around the continent” and that “AFRICOM would work closely with the European Union and NATO,” particularly France, a leading member of both organizations, which was “interested in developing the Africa standby force”. [5]

In the same year the U.S. Defense Department acknowledged it had already “agreed on access to air bases and ports in Africa and ‘bare-bones’ facilities maintained by local security forces in Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.” [6]

The five regions of Africa identified by the U.S. military – north, south, east, west and central – are all represented by the locations named above and are each home to a branch of the African Standby Force (Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western and Central), like AMISOM nominally under the control of the African Union but in fact overseen by the U.S. and NATO.

The North Atlantic Alliance inaugurated the NATO Response Force, in NATO’s own words “a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and special forces components that the Alliance can deploy quickly to wherever it is needed,” in and off the coast of the African island of Cape Verde in 2006 in a two-week, 7,000-troop exercise codenamed Steadfast Jaguar. [7]

The African Standby Force is modeled after the NATO Response Force. “NATO…supports staff capacity building through the provision of places on NATO training courses to AU [African Union] staff supporting AMISOM, and support to the operationalisation of the African Standby Force – the African Union’s vision for a continental, on-call security apparatus similar to the NATO Response Force.” [8] It is a joint project of NATO and the Pentagon, formerly U.S. European Command and currently U.S. Africa Command.

To date the only fully successful implementation of the project is the Eastern Africa Standby Force, whose Eastern Africa Standby Brigade (with headquarters in Ethiopia and its Eastern African Standby Brigade Coordination Mechanism in Kenya) consists of Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania (as an observer) and Uganda.

It is largely coterminous with the Pentagon’s Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa without Yemen and with Burundi and Rwanda added. In October of 2009 the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade (EASBRIG) held military exercises in Djibouti, where Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa is based.

Last month the defense chiefs of the twelve members of EASBRIG (presumably Eritrea was absent) met in the capital of Burundi to discuss “the Policy Framework for the Establishment of the Eastern Africa Standby Force [EASF] and the Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation between the Eastern Africa Standby Force Coordination Mechanism [EASBRICOM] and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development [IGAD] that aims to harmonise the relations of both institutions….” [9]

NATO, which has been training African Standby Force staff officers at its training center in Oberammergau, Germany, has designated the NATO Joint Command Lisbon to implement the bloc’s military cooperation with Africa. Joint Command Lisbon has what it identifies as a Senior Military Liaison Officer at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (The territory of every nation in Africa except for Liberia, founded by the American Colonization Society in 1821-1822, was formerly ruled by nations that joined NATO: Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.)

On September 5, 2007 “the North Atlantic Council – NATO’s top political decision making body – agreed to provide assistance to the African Union with a study on the assessment of the operational readiness of the African Standby Force brigades,” according to the NATO website.

In the west of Africa, the Economic Community of West African States Standby Force brigade is being readied to intervene in Ivory Coast to depose President Laurent Gbagbo as the Dutch Defense Ministry announced last week that one of its ships was “heading for the coast of Cote d’Ivoire to provide supplies for French warships stationed there.” [10]

U.S. Naval Forces Europe – U.S. Naval Forces Africa, which is headquartered in Naples, Italy and directs its operations through the U.S. Sixth Fleet, also headquartered in Italy, launched the Africa Partnership Station in 2007 as a naval component of AFRICOM. Warships assigned to it have visited several African nations on the east, west and south ends of the continent, among them Angola, Cameroon, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Reunion, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania and Togo.

Last month the Pentagon’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa Vicki Huddleston and the State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto (who was ambassador to Ethiopia when it invaded Somalia in 2006) visited U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. While there the Defense Department’s Huddleston asserted that “East Africa becomes extremely high for DOD [the Department of Defense] in terms of priority. So the highest priority for DOD, and therefore AFRICOM, becomes East Africa because of Somalia and then West (Africa), North Africa….” [11]

The month before, Ugandan People’s Defence Air Force Chief Major General Jim Owoyesigire visited 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa) at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, also headquarters for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and NATO’s Allied Air Command.

Owoyesigire stated that his country’s new air force was in part the product of an African air chiefs conference he attended in Ramstein in 2007 where he “began learning from the US Air Force.”

In regards to Uganda’s role as one of the two major belligerent forces in the war in Somalia and its counterinsurgency war at home (and across its borders) against the Lord’s Resistance Army, the air force head confirmed that “Help from U.S. Africa Command and 17th AF has been a key enabler for the UPDAF’s [Ugandan People's Defence Air Force's] contribution to these missions.”

“When we started in AMISOM, we had no airlift capability. General Ward [William Ward, AFRICOM commander] came and visited and helped us to partner with the U.S. Air Force to get this airlift capability. To get training, 17th AF came and trained us in loading cargo and airdrops, and this has really helped us.

“This is a wide question, but right now, we are asking 17th AF to come and help us establish a squadron officers’ school and NCO academy in Uganda. If we can develop these schools, then we can also involve our east African partners.” [12]

Early in December the commander of U.S. Army Africa, Major General David Hogg, visited Algeria to meet with senior military and government officials to discuss “bilateral relations and regional issues,” including joint reconnaissance and training activities and “a future visit by Algerian soldiers to the United States to investigate how the Army integrates its lessons learned center into its training regime.”

U.S. Army Africa is the Army’s newest service component command and is based in Vicenza, Italy, assigned to AFRICOM and tasked with “developing relationships with land forces in Africa and supporting U.S. Army efforts on the African continent.” [13]

The regional issues deliberated on by the American general and his Algerian counterparts relate to Algeria’s military campaign against Salafist insurgents and similar counterinsurgency operations throughout the Sahel, which consists of parts of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and Sudan.

At the end of last month U.S. military personnel assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa and Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti participated in a combat casualty course in Burundi as part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored program. According to James Cobb, State Department program country manager in Burundi, “The course is part of a U.S. Department of State initiative to provide African armies an opportunity to partner with American defense forces to develop their peacekeeping skills for operations throughout Africa.” [14]

In December the defense chief of Djibouti, Major General Fathi Ahmed Houssein, met with AFRICOM commander General William Ward at AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart to discuss “joint security cooperation activities and potential areas of further cooperation…in East Africa and throughout the continent.”

As the AFRICOM website put it:

“Djibouti hosts approximately 3,000 U.S. and allied personnel at Camp Lemonnier, which is the only major U.S. military facility in Africa, though small teams of U.S. personnel work across the continent on short-term assignments. The main military organization at Camp Lemonnier is the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). A component of U.S. AFRICOM, CJTF-HOA sends teams throughout the East Africa region [to] protect U.S. and coalition interests.”

Among several joint programs, the generals elaborated plans for “Support to Djiboutian armed forces in the Eastern African Standby Brigade (EASBRIG) field training exercise, aimed to assess the readiness and capability of EASBRIG, a component of the African Union’s Africa Standby Force….”

And expansion of the “International Military Education and Training, a program that invites foreign military officers to attend military schools in the United States, and provides funding for trainers to provide specific, localized training in African countries.”

As well as the continuation of the “Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, designed to improve African militaries’ capabilities by providing selected training and equipment required to execute multinational…operations.”

Ward and Houssein also discussed “other ways to increase support in building partner capacity in the Horn of Africa through the U.S. Defense Department’s 1206 program [to train and equip foreign militaries for "counterterrorism or stability operations"] and the U.S. State Department’s Partnership Regional East African Counter-Terrorism program,” especially in regard to Ugandan-Burundian AMISOM operations in Somalia. [15]

Air strikes, drone and cruise missile attacks, special forces operations, helicopter gunship raids, counterinsurgency campaigns, multinational armed interventions, cluster bomb and depleted uranium weapons use, and the entire panoply of military actions associated with the Afghanistan-Pakistan war are already being conducted in Africa and will only be increased.

Notes

1) Arabian Sea: Center Of West’s 21st Century War
Stop NATO, October 25, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/arabian-sea-center-of-wests-21st-century-war
U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian OceanStop 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
2) Yemen rebels say 120 killed in US airstrikes Russia Today, December 16, 2009
http://rt.com/usa/news/us-airstrike-rebels-yemen
Yemen: Pentagon’s War On The Arabian Peninsula Stop NATO, December 15, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/yemen-pentagons-war-on-the-arabian-peninsula
3) All Headline News, January 1, 2011
4) Daily Monitor, December 15, 2010
5) Agence France-Presse, September 12, 2007
6) Xinhua News Agency, May 28, 2007
7) NATO: AFRICOM’s Partner In Military Penetration Of Africa Stop NATO, March 20, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/nato-africoms-partner-in-military-penetration-of-africa
8) North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
February 24, 2010
9) New Times, December 2, 2010
10) Xinhua News Agency, December 29, 2010
11) U.S. Africa Command, December 21, 2010
12) 17th Air Force, November 17, 2010
13) U.S. Army Africa, December 28, 2010
14) Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, December 27, 2010
15) U.S. Africa Command, December 29, 2010
http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=5784&lang=0

Why Washington Hates Hugo Chavez

January 2nd, 2011 by Mike Whitney

In late November, Venezuela was hammered by torrential rains and flooding that left 35 people dead and roughly 130,000 homeless. If George Bush had been president, instead of Hugo Chavez, the displaced people would have been shunted off at gunpoint to makeshift prison camps–like the Superdome–as they were following Hurricane Katrina. But that’s not the way Chavez works. The Venezuelan president quickly passed “enabling” laws which gave him special powers to provide emergency aid and housing to flood victims. Chavez then cleared out the presidential palace and turned it into living quarters for 60 people, which is the equivalent of turning the White House into a homeless shelter. The disaster victims are now being fed and taken care of by the state until they can get back on their feet and return to work.

The details of Chavez’s efforts have been largely omitted in the US media where he is regularly demonized as a “leftist strongman” or a dictator. The media refuses to acknowledge that Chavez has narrowed the income gap, eliminated illiteracy, provided health care for all Venezuelans, reduced inequality, and raised living standards across he board. While Bush and Obama were expanding their foreign wars and pushing through tax cuts for the rich, Chavez was busy improving the lives of the poor and needy while fending off the latest wave of US aggression.

Washington despises Chavez because he is unwilling to hand over Venezuela’s vast resources to corporate elites and bankers. That’s why the Bush administration tried to depose Chavez in a failed coup attempt in 2002, and that’s why the smooth-talking Obama continues to launch covert attacks on Chavez today. Washington wants regime change so it can install a puppet who will hand over Venezuela’s reserves to big oil while making life hell for working people.

Recently released documents from Wikileaks show that the Obama administration has stepped up its meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post by attorney and author, Eva Golinger:

“In a secret document authored by current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Craig Kelly, and sent by the US Embassy in Santiago in June 2007 to the Secretary of State, CIA and Southern Command of the Pentagon, along with a series of other US embassies in the region, Kelly proposed “six main areas of action for the US government (USG) to limit Chavez’s influence” and “reassert US leadership in the region”.

Kelly, who played a primary role as “mediator” during last year’s coup d’etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, classifies President Hugo Chavez as an “enemy” in his report.

“Know the enemy: We have to better understand how Chavez thinks and what he intends…To effectively counter the threat he represents, we need to know better his objectives and how he intends to pursue them. This requires better intelligence in all of our countries”. Further on in the memo, Kelly confesses that President Chavez is a “formidable foe”, but, he adds, “he certainly can be taken”. (Wikileaks: Documents Confirm US Plans Against Venezuela, Eva Golinger, Postcards from the Revolution)

The State Department cables show that Washington has been funding anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that pretend to be working for civil liberties, human rights or democracy promotion. These groups hide behind a facade of legitimacy, but their real purpose is to topple the democratically elected Chavez government. Obama supports this type of subversion just as enthusiastically as did Bush. The only difference is the Obama team is more discreet. Here’s another clip from Golinger with some of the details on the money-trail:

“In Venezuela, the US has been supporting anti-Chavez groups for over 8 years, including those that executed the coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. Since then, the funding has increased substantially. A May 2010 report evaluating foreign assistance to political groups in Venezuela, commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy, revealed that more than $40 million USD annually is channeled to anti-Chavez groups, the majority from US agencies….

Venezuela stands out as the Latin American nation where NED has most invested funding in opposition groups during 2009, with $1,818,473 USD, more than double from the year before….Allen Weinstein, one of NED’s original founders, revealed once to the Washington Post, “What we do today was done clandestinely 25 years ago by the CIA…” (America’s Covert “Civil Society Operations”: US Interference in Venezuela Keeps Growing”, Eva Golinger, Global Research)

On Monday, the Obama administration revoked the visa of Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington in retaliation for Chávez’s rejection of nominee Larry Palmer as American ambassador in Caracas. Palmer has been openly critical of Chavez saying there were clear ties between members of the Chavez administration and leftist guerrillas in neighboring Colombia. It’s a roundabout way of accusing Chavez of terrorism. Even worse, Palmer’s background and personal history suggest that his appointment might pose a threat to Venezuela’s national security. Consider the comments of James Suggett of Venezuelanalysis on Axis of Logic:

“Take a look at Palmer’s history, working with the U.S.-backed oligarchs in the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Sierra Leone, South Korea, Honduras, “promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).” Just as the U.S. ruling class appointed an African-American, Barack Obama to replace George W. Bush with everything else intact, Obama in turn, appoints Palmer to replace Patrick Duddy who was involved in the attempted coup against President Chávez in 2002 and an enemy of Venezuelans throughout his term as U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela.” (http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/printer_60511.shtml)

Venezuela is already crawling with US spies and saboteurs. They don’t need any help from agents working inside the embassy. Chavez did the right thing by giving Palmer the thumbs down.

The Palmer nomination is just “more of the same”; more interference, more subversion, more trouble-making. The State Dept was largely responsible for all of the so-called color-coded revolutions in Ukraine, Lebanon, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan etc; all of which were cookie cutter, made-for-TV events that pitted the interests of wealthy capitalists against those of the elected government. Now Hillary’s throng want to try the same strategy in Venezuela. It’s up to Chavez to stop them, which is why he’s pushed through laws that “regulate, control or prohibit foreign funding for political activities”. It’s the only way he can defend against US meddling and protect Venezuelan sovereignty.

Chavez is also using his new powers to reform the financial sector. Here’s an excerpt from an article titled “Venezuelan National Assembly Passes Law Making Banking a “Public Service”:

“Venezuela’s National Assembly on Friday approved new legislation that defines banking as an industry “of public service,” requiring banks in Venezuela to contribute more to social programs, housing construction efforts, and other social needs while making government intervention easier when banks fail to comply with national priorities.”…

The new law protects bank customers’ assets in the event of irregularities on the part of owners… and stipulates that the Superintendent of Banking Institutions take into account the best interest of bank customers – and not only stockholders… when making any decisions that affect a bank’s operations.”

So why isn’t Obama doing the same thing? Is he too afraid of real change or is he just Wall Street’s lackey? Here’s more from the same article:

“In an attempt to control speculation, the law limits the amount of credit that can be made available to individuals or private entities by making 20% the maximum amount of capital a bank can have out as credit. The law also limits the formation of financial groups and prohibits banks from having an interest in brokerage firms and insurance companies.

The law also stipulates that 5% of pre-tax profits of all banks be dedicated solely to projects elaborated by communal councils. 10% of a bank´s capital must also be put into a fund to pay for wages and pensions in case of bankruptcy.

According to 2009 figures provided by Softline Consultores, 5% of pre-tax profits in Venezuela’s banking industry last year would have meant an additional 314 million bolivars, or $73.1 million dollars, for social programs to attend the needs of Venezuela’s poor majority.” http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5880

“Control speculation”? Now there’s a novel idea. Naturally, opposition leaders are calling the new laws “an attack on economic liberty”, but that’s pure baloney. Chavez is merely protecting the public from the predatory practices of bloodthirsty bankers. Most Americans wish that Obama would do the same thing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Chávez has threatened to expropriate large banks in the past if they don’t increase loans to small-business owners and prospective home buyers, this time he is increasing the pressure publicly to show his concern for the lack of sufficient housing for Venezuela’s 28 million people.”

Caracas suffers from a massive housing shortage that’s gotten much worse because of the flooding. Tens of thousands of people need shelter now, which is why Chavez is putting pressure on the banks to lend a hand. Of course, the banks don’t want to help so they’ve slipped into crybaby mode. But Chavez has shrugged off their whining and put them “on notice”. In fact, on Tuesday, he issued this terse warning:

“Any bank that slips up…I’m going to expropriate it, whether it’s Banco Provincial, or Banesco or Banco Nacional de Crédito.”

Bravo, Hugo. In Chavez’s Venezuela the basic needs of ordinary working people take precedent over the profiteering of cutthroat banksters. Is it any wonder why Washington hates him?

Networks of Empire and Realignments of World Power

January 2nd, 2011 by Prof. James Petras

Imperial states build networks which link economic, military and political activities into a coherent mutually reinforcing system. This task is largely performed by the various institutions of the imperial state. Thus imperial action is not always directly economic, as military action in one country or region is necessary to open or protect economic zones. Nor are all military actions decided by economic interests if the leading sector of the imperial state is decidedly militarist.

Moreover, the sequence of imperial action may vary according to the particular conditions necessary for empire building. Thus state aid may buy collaborators; military intervention may secure client regimes followed later by private investors. In other circumstances, the entry of private corporations may precede state intervention.

In either private or state economic and/or military led penetration, in furtherance of empire-building, the strategic purpose is to exploit the special economic and geopolitical features of the targeted country to create empire-centered networks. In the post Euro-centric colonial world, the privileged position of the US in its empire-centered policies, treaties, trade and military agreements is disguised and justified by an ideological gloss, which varies with time and circumstances. In the war to break-up Yugoslavia and establish client regimes, as in Kosovo, imperial ideology utilized humanitarian rhetoric. In the genocidal wars in the Middle East, anti-terrorism and anti-Islamic ideology is central. Against China, democratic and human rights rhetoric predominates. In Latin America, receding imperial power relies on democratic and anti-authoritarian rhetoric aimed at the democratically elected Chavez government.

The effectiveness of imperial ideology is in direct relation to the capacity of empire to promote viable and dynamic development alternatives to their targeted countries. By that criteria imperial ideology has had little persuasive power among target populations. The Islamic phobic and anti-terrorist rhetoric has made no impact on the people of the Middle East and alienated the Islamic world. Latin America’s lucrative trade relations with the Chavist government and the decline of the US economy has undermined Washington’s ideological campaign to isolate Venezuela.The US human rights campaign against China has been totally ignored throughout the EU, Africa, Latin America, Oceana and by the 500 biggest US MNC (and even by the US Treasury busy selling treasury bonds to China to finance the ballooning US budget deficit).

The weakening influence of imperial propaganda and the declining economic leverage of Washington, means that the US imperial networks built over the past half century are being eroded or at least subject to centrifugal forces. Former fully integrated networks in Asia are now merely military bases as the economies secure greater autonomy and orient toward China and beyond. In other words the imperial networks are now being transformed into limited operations’ outposts, rather than centers for imperial economic plunder.

Imperial Networks: The Central Role of Collaborators

Empire-building is essentially a process of penetrating a country or region, establishing a privileged position and retaining control in order to secure (1) lucrative resources, markets and cheap labor (2) establish a military platform to expand into adjoining countries and regions (3) military bases to establish a chock-hold over strategic road or waterways to deny or limit access of competitors or adversaries (4) intelligence and clandestine operations against adversaries and competitors.

History has demonstrated that the lowest cost in sustaining long term, long scale imperial domination is by developing local collaborators, whether in the form of political, economic and/or military leaders operating from client regimes. Overt politico-military imperial rule results in costly wars and disruption, especially among a broad array of classes adversely affected by the imperial presence.

Formation of collaborator rulers and classes results from diverse short and long term imperial policies ranging from direct military, electoral and extra-parliamentary activities to middle to long term recruitment, training and orientation of promising young leaders via propaganda and educational programs, cultural-financial inducements, promises of political and economic backing on assuming political office and through substantial clandestine financial backing.

The most basic appeal by imperial policy-makers to the “new ruling class” in emerging client state is the opportunity to participate in an economic system tied to the imperial centers, in which local elites share economic wealth with their imperial benefactors. To secure mass support, the collaborator classes obfuscate the new forms of imperial subservience and economic exploitation by emphasizing political independence, personal freedom, economic opportunity and private consumerism.

The mechanisms for the transfer of power to an emerging client state combine imperial propaganda, financing of mass organizations and electoral parties, as well as violent coups or ‘popular uprisings’. Authoritarian bureaucratically ossified regimes relying on police controls to limit or oppose imperial expansion are “soft targets”. Selective human rights campaigns become the most effective organizational weapon to recruit activists and promote leaders for the imperial-centered new political order. Once the power transfer takes place, the former members of the political, economic and cultural elite are banned, repressed, arrested and jailed. A new homogenous political culture of competing parties embracing the imperial centered world order emerges. The first order of business beyond the political purge is the privatization and handover of the commanding heights of the economy to imperial enterprises. The client regimes proceed to provide soldiers to engage as paid mercenaries in imperial wars and to transfer military bases to imperial forces as platforms of intervention. The entire “independence charade” is accompanied by the massive dismantling of public social welfare programs (pensions, free health and education), labor codes and full employment policies. Promotion of a highly polarized class structure is the ultimate consequence of client rule. The imperial-centered economies of the client regimes, as a replica of any commonplace satrap state, is justified (or legitimated) in the name of an electoral system dubbed democratic – in fact a political system dominated by new capitalist elites and their heavily funded mass media.

Imperial centered regimes run by collaborating elites spanning the Baltic States, Central and Eastern Europe to the Balkans is the most striking example of imperial expansion in the 20th century. The break-up and take-over of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc and its incorporation into the US led NATO alliance and the European Union resulted in imperial hubris. Washington made premature declarations of a unipolar world while Western Europe proceeded to plunder public resources, ranging from factories to real estate, exploiting cheap labor, overseas and via immigration, drawing on a formidable ‘reserve army’ to undermine living standards of unionized labor in the West.

The unity of purpose of European and US imperial regimes allowed for the peaceful joint takeover of the wealth of the new regions by private monopolies. The imperial states initially subsidized the new client regimes with large scale transfers and loans on condition that they allowed imperial firms to seize resources, real estate, land, factories, service sectors, media outlets etc. Heavily indebted states went from a sharp crises in the initial period to ‘spectacular’ growth to profound and chronic social crises with double digit unemployment in the 20 year period of client building. While worker protests emerged as wages deteriorated, unemployment soared and welfare provisions were cut, destitution spread. However the ‘new middle class’ embedded in the political and media apparatuses and in joint economic ventures are sufficiently funded by imperial financial institutions to protect their dominance.

The dynamic of imperial expansion in East, Central and Southern Europe however did not provide the impetus for strategic advance, because of the ascendancy of highly volatile financial capital and a powerful militarist caste in the Euro-American political centers. In important respects military and political expansion was no longer harnessed to economic conquest. The reverse was true: economic plunder and political dominance served as instruments for projecting military power.

Imperial Sequences: From War for Exploitation to Exploitation for War

The relations between imperial military policies and economic interests are complex and changing over time and historical context. In some circumstances, an imperial regime will invest heavily in military personnel and augment monetary expenditures to overthrow an anti-imperialist ruler and establish a client regime far beyond any state or private economic return. For example, US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, proxy wars in Somalia and Yemen have not resulted in greater profits for US multinational corporations’ nor has it enhanced private exploitation of raw materials, labor or markets. At best, imperial wars have provided profits for mercenary contractors, construction companies and related ‘war industries’ profiting through transfers from the US treasury and the exploitation of US taxpayers, mostly wage and salary earners.

In many cases, especially after the Second World War, the emerging US imperial state lavished a multi-billion dollar loan and aid program for Western Europe. The Marshall Plan forestalled anti-capitalist social upheavals and restored capitalist political dominance. This allowed for the emergence of NATO (a military alliance led and dominated by the US). Subsequently, US multi-national corporations invested in and traded with Western Europe reaping lucrative profits, once the imperial state created favorable political and economic conditions. In other words imperial state politico-military intervention preceded the rise and expansion of US multi-national capital. A myopic short term analysis of the initial post-war activity would downplay the importance of private US economic interests as the driving force of US policy. Extending the time period to the following two decades, the interplay between initial high cost state military and economic expenditures with later private high return gains provides a perfect example of how the process of imperial power operates.

The role of the imperial state as an instrument for opening, protecting and expanding private market, labor and resource exploitation corresponds to a time in which both the state and the dominant classes were primarily motivated by industrial empire building.

US directed military intervention and coups in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1973), the Dominican Republic (1965) were linked to specific imperial economic interests and corporations. For example, US and English oil corporations sought to reverse the nationalization of oil in Iran. The US, United Fruit Company opposed the agrarian reform policies in Guatemala. The major US copper and telecommunication companies supported and called for the US backed coup in Chile.

In contrast, current US military interventions and wars in the Middle East, South Asia and the Horn of Africa are not promoted by US multi-nationals. The imperial policies are promoted by militarists and Zionists embedded in the state, mass media and powerful ‘civil’ organizations. The same imperial methods (coups and wars) serve different imperial rulers and interests.

Clients, Allies and Puppet Regimes

Imperial networks involve securing a variety of complementary economic, military and political ‘resource bases’ which are both part of the imperial system and retain varying degrees of political and economic autonomy.
In the dynamic earlier stages of US Empire building, from roughly the 1950’s – 1970’s, US multi-national corporations and the economy as a whole dominated the world economy. Its allies in Europe and Asia were highly dependent on US markets, financing and development. US military hegemony was reflected in a series of regional military pacts which secured almost instant support for US regional wars, military coups and the construction of military bases and naval ports on their territory. Countries were divided into ‘specializations’ which served the particular interests of the US Empire. Western Europe was a military outpost, industrial partner and ideological collaborator. Asia, primarily Japan and South Korea served as ‘frontline military outposts’, as well as industrial partners. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines were essentially client regimes which provided raw materials as well as military bases. Singapore and Hong Kong were financial and commercial entrepots. Pakistan was a client military regime serving as a frontline pressure on China.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Gulf mini-states, ruled by client authoritarian regimes, provided oil and military bases. Egypt and Jordan and Israel anchored imperial interests in the Middle East. Beirut served as the financial center for US, European and Middle East bankers.

Africa and Latin America including client and nationalist-populist regimes were a source of raw materials as well as markets for finished goods and cheap labor.

The prolonged US-Vietnam war and Washington’s subsequent defeat eroded the power of the empire. Western Europe, Japan and South Korea’s industrial expansion challenged US industrial primacy. Latin America’s pursuit of nationalist, import – substitution policies forced US investment toward overseas manufacturing. In the Middle East nationalist movements toppled US clients in Iran and Iraq and undermined military outposts. Revolutions in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Algeria, Nicaragua and elsewhere curtailed Euro-American ‘open ended’ access to raw materials, at least temporarily.

The decline of the US Empire was temporarily arrested by the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the establishment of client regimes throughout the region. Likewise the upsurge of imperial-centered client regimes in Latin America between the mid 1970’s to the end of the 1990’s gave the appearance of an imperialist recovery. The 1990’s however was not the beginning of a repeat of the early 1950’s imperial take off: it was the “last hurrah” before a long term irreversible decline. The entire imperial political apparatus, so successful in its clandestine operations in subverting the Soviet and Eastern European regimes, played a marginal role when it came to capitalizing on the economic opportunities which ensued. Germany and other EU countries led the way in the takeover of lucrative privatized enterprises. Russian- Israeli oligarchs(seven of the top eight) seized and pillaged privatized strategic industries, banks and natural resources. The principal US beneficiaries were the banks and Wall Street firms which laundered billions of illicit earnings and collected lucrative fees from mergers, acquisitions, stock listings and other less than transparent activities. In other words, the collapse of Soviet collectivism strengthened the parasitical financial sector of the US Empire. Worse still, the assumption of a ‘unipolar world’ fostered by US ideologues, played into the hands of the militarists, who now assumed that former constraints on US military assaults on nationalists and Soviet allies had disappeared. As a result military intervention became the principle driving force in US empire building, leading to the first Iraq war, the Yugoslav and Somali invasion and the expansion of US military bases throughout the former Soviet bloc and Eastern Europe.

At the very pinnacle of US global-political and military power during the 1990’s, with all the major Latin American regimes enveloped in the empire-centered neo-liberal warp, the seeds of decay and decline set in.
The economic crises of the late 1990’s, led to major uprisings and electoral defeats of practically all US clients in Latin America, spelling the decline of US imperial domination. China’s extraordinary dynamic and cumulative growth displaced US manufacturing capital and weakened US leverage over rulers in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The vast transfer of US state resources to overseas imperial adventures, military bases and the shoring up of clients and allies led to domestic decline.

The US empire, passively facing economic competitors displacing the US in vital markets and engaged in prolonged and unending wars which drained the treasury, attracted a cohort of mediocre policymakers who lacked a coherent strategy for rectifying policies and reconstructing the state to serve productive activity capable of ‘retaking markets’. Instead the policies of open-ended and unsustainable wars played into the hands of a special sub-group (sui generis) of militarists, American Zionists. They capitalized on their infiltration of strategic positions in the state, enhanced their influence in the mass media and a vast network of organized “pressure groups” to reinforce US subordination to Israel’s drive for Middle East supremacy.

The result was the total “unbalancing” of the US imperial apparatus: military action was unhinged from economic empire building. A highly influential upper caste of Zionist-militarists harnessed US military power to an economically marginal state (Israel), in perpetual hostility toward the 1.5 billion Muslim world. Equally damaging, American Zionist ideologues and policymakers promoted repressive institutions and legislation and Islamophobic ideological propaganda designed to terrorize the US population. Equally important islamophobic ideology served to justify permanent war in South Asia and the Middle East and the exorbitant military budgets, at a time of sharply deteriorating domestic socio-economic conditions. Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent unproductively as “Homeland Security” which strived in every way to recruit, train, frame and arrest Afro-American Muslim men as “terrorists”. Thousands of secret agencies with hundreds of thousands of national, state and local officials spied on US citizens who at some point may have sought to speak or act to rectify or reform the militarist-financial-Zionist centered imperialist policies.

By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the US empire could only destroy adversaries (Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) provoke military tensions (Korean peninsula, China Sea) and undermine relations with potentially lucrative trading partners (Iran, Venezuela). Galloping authoritarianism fused with fifth column Zionist militarism to foment islamophobic ideology. The convergence of authoritarian mediocrities, upwardly mobile knaves and fifth column tribal loyalists in the Obama regime precluded any foreseeable reversal of imperial decay.

China’s growing global economic network and dynamic advance in cutting edge applied technology in everything from alternative energy to high speed trains, stands in contrast to the Zionist-militarist infested empire of the US.

The US demands on client Pakistan rulers to empty their treasury in support of US Islamic wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, stands in contrast to the $30 billion dollar Chinese investments in infrastructure, energy and electrical power and multi-billion dollar increases in trade.

US $3 billion dollar military subsidies to Israel stand in contrast to China’s multi-billion dollar investments in Iranian oil and trade agreements. US funding of wars against Islamic countries in Central and South Asia stands in contrast to Turkey’s expanding economic trade and investment agreements in the same region. China has replaced the US as the key trading partner in leading South American countries, while the US unequal “free trade” agreement(NAFTA) impoverishes Mexico. Trade between the European Union and China exceeds that with the US.

In Africa, the US subsidizes wars in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, while China signs on to multi-billion dollar investment and trade agreements, building up African infrastructure in exchange for access to raw materials. There is no question that the economic future of Africa is increasingly linked to China.

The US Empire, in contrast, is in a deadly embrace with an insignificant colonial militarist state (Israel), failed states in Yemen and Somalia, corrupt stagnant client regimes in Jordan and Egypt and the decadent rent collecting absolutist petrol-states of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. All form part of an unproductive atavistic coalition bent on retaining power via military supremacy. Yet Empires of the 21st century are built on the bases of productive economies with global networks linked to dynamic trading partners.

Recognizing the economic primacy and market opportunities linked to becoming part of the Chinese global network, former or existing US clients and even puppet rulers have begun to edge away from submission to US mandates. Fundamental shifts in economic relations and political alignments have occurred throughout Latin America. Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries support Iran’s non-military nuclear program in defiance of Zionist led Washington aggression. Several countries have defied Israel-US policymakers by recognizing Palestine as a state. Trade with China surpasses trade with the US in the biggest countries in the region.

Puppet regimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have signed major economic agreements with China, Iran and Turkey even while the US pours billions to bolster its military position. Turkey an erstwhile military client of the US-NATO command broadens its own quest for capitalist hegemony by expanding economic ties with Iran, Central Asia and the Arab-Muslim world, challenging US-Israeli military hegemony.

The US Empire still retains major clients and nearly a thousand military bases around the world. As client and puppet regimes decline, Washington increases the role and scope of extra-territorial death squad operations from 50 to 80 countries. The growing independence of regimes in the developing world is especially fueled by an economic calculus: China offers greater economic returns and less political-military interference than the US.
Washington’s imperial network is increasingly based on military ties with allies: Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan in the Far East and Oceana; the European Union in the West; and a smattering of Central and South American states in the South. Even here, the military allies are no longer economic dependencies: Australia and New Zealand’s principle export markets are in Asia (China). EU-China trade is growing exponentially. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are increasingly tied by trade and investment with China … as is Pakistan and India.

Equally important new regional networks which exclude the US are growing in Latin America and Asia, creating the potential for new economic blocs.

In other words the US imperial economic network constructed after World War II and amplified by the collapse of the USSR is in the process of decay, even as the military bases and treaties remain as a formidable ‘platform’ for new military interventions.

What is clear is that the military, political and ideological gains in network-building by the US around the world with the collapse of the USSR and the post-Soviet wars are not sustainable. On the contrary the overdevelopment of the ideological-military-security apparatus raised economic expectations and depleted economic resources resulting in the incapacity to exploit economic opportunities or consolidate economic networks. US funded “popular uprisings” in the Ukraine led to client regimes incapable of promoting growth. In the case of Georgia, the regime engaged in an adventurous war with Russia resulting in trade and territorial losses. It is a matter of time before existing client regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Mexico will face major upheavals, due to the precarious bases of rule by corrupt, stagnant and repressive rulers.

The process of decay of the US Empire is both cause and consequence of the challenge by rising economic powers establishing alternative centers of growth and development. Changes within countries at the periphery of the empire and growing indebtedness and trade deficits at the ‘center’ of the empire are eroding the empire. The existing US governing class, in both its financial and militarist variants show neither will nor interest in confronting the causes of decay. Instead each mutually supports the other: the financial sector lowers taxes deepening the public debt and plunders the treasury. The military caste drains the treasury in pursuit of wars and military outposts and increases the trade deficit by undermining commercial and investment undertakings.

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. Fyodor Dostoevsky

In the earliest days of our Republic, a group of well-meaning Philadelphia Quakers set out to reform the prison system. The idea was to remove convicts from the mayhem and corruption of overcrowded jails to solitary cells where sinners would return to mental and spiritual health through reflection. In the Walnut Street Jail, no windows would distract the prisoners with street life; no conversation would disturb their penitence. Alone with God, they would be rehabilitated.

There was a small problem. Many of the prisoners went insane. The Walnut Street Jail was shut down in 1835.

But the word penitentiary became part of the language, and the idea of placing prisoners in solitary confinement did not die. It seemed so reasonable — so much better than chain gangs or public stocks. New prisons opened to test the theory that solitude might bring salvation to criminals.

Charles Dickens had a keen interest in prison conditions, having witnessed his father’s detention in a Victorian debtor’s prison. When he heard about the latest American innovation in housing convicts, he came to see for himself. At Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, the wretches he found in solitary confinement were barely human specters who picked their flesh raw and stared blankly at walls. His on-the-spot conclusion: Solitary confinement is torture. Dickens wrote:

I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers…I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body: and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.

A man who had seen his share of inhumanities, Dickens pronounced solitary confinement to be “rigid, strict, and hopeless…cruel and wrong.”

That was 1842. Since then, piles of scientific studies, along with the vivid accounts of victims, have confirmed what was obvious to Dickens. Solitary confinement is worse than smashed bones and torn flesh. When human beings are deprived of social contact for even a few weeks, concentration breaks down, memory fades and disorientation sets in. Eventually, many prisoners experience explosive rages, hallucinations, catatonia, and self-mutilation. Some become irretrievably insane. Far from promoting safety, the most commonly cited justification, solitary confinement often amplifies violent impulses, turning prisoners into ticking time bombs who are far more dangerous to human society upon release than they ever were to begin with (see National Geographic’s documentary on the subject, available on Netflix).

Human beings need social contact for normal brain function. Solitary confinement is thus a method of inflicting traumatic injury upon the human mind. “It’s an awful thing, solitary,” wrote former Vietnam prisoner John McCain in Faith of My Fathers. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” Among its legion perversities, solitary confinement turns medical doctors into torturers; renders violent criminals more aggressive, and makes prisoners cut off from human society incapable of functioning in it.

In 1890, the United States Supreme Court nearly declared the punishment unconstitutional. It is banned by the Geneva Convention, condemned by the United Nations, and either prohibited or restricted in most civilized countries. And yet today, as Atul Gawande revealed in his gut-wrenching 2009 New Yorker article, tens of thousands of Americans are tortured in this fashion every day, out of sight, in the “Supermax” prisons that have popped up like poisoned mushrooms on the American landscape since the 1980s. Some prisoners are consigned to these Houses of Unholiness for violations – both major and minor — of prison rules. Some for gang activity. Others for trying to escape. Or for violent behavior. Some are placed there because they are mentally ill and there is nowhere else to put them — the equivalent of casting a sufferer of pneumonia onto an Arctic tundra.

Save for the death penalty, solitary confinement is the most extreme sanction allowed by law. Like slavery and every other form of institutionalized inhumanity, it should be banished to the dark annals of American history as an example of what happens when our humanity slumbers.

Instead, it is being used as a method of terror and coercion by the United States government upon a citizen who has not even been convicted of a crime.

As Glenn Greenwald and several other courageous journalists and bloggers have documented, Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has been detained in solitary confinement for the last seven months, despite not having been convicted of any crime, having been a model detainee, and having evidenced no signs of violence or even disciplinary misdemeanors. Manning has been kept alone in a cell for 23 hours a day, barred from exercising in that cell, deprived of sleep, and denied even a pillow or sheets for his bed. As Greenwald reports, “the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.” No date for a court hearing has been set.

The message of the U.S. government to its citizens in this activity is clear: blow the whistle and your brain will be mutilated before you even have a trial.

But it may be that much to the shame of the U.S. government, our slumbering humanity is awakening. The solitary confinement — the torture, for we must call it that — of Bradley Manning is ironically shining a light on this brutality and tipping us off to the danger of authoritarianism. A United Nations probe is now investigating the Bradley case, and the drumbeat of outrage in the blogosphere grows louder every day. Protesters are organizing. Whatever one thinks of Manning and his involvement in the WikiLeaks release of classified information, there can never be any justification for torture. As Greenwald argues, such practices weaken the position of the United States government, both abroad and at home. Other countries will think twice before accepting extradition requests to a place where inhumane treatment of prisoners is sanctioned. Our moral standing in the world suffers, while the American citizenry, already suspicious of post-9/11 governmental abuses of power, grows even more alarmed. What kind of legitimacy adheres to a judicial hearing when the accused has been subject to sanity-threatening conditions? Trust and faith in American justice will deteriorate as long as such damaging practices continue.

As we spend time and rejoice with our friends and family this New Year’s Eve — enjoying the social interaction that human beings require — let us pause for a moment to remember the thousands of people being tortured in American prisons, including Bradley Manning, and let us send our own message back to our government: We are Americans. We will not accept the intimidation and coercion of our fellow citizens, even from the Pentagon. Most assuredly, we will not accept torture in our name. Not of the accused. Not of the mentally ill. Not even of convicted criminals. When our civilized society is attacked, no matter what the justification, we will rise up to defend it.

The placement of human beings in solitary confinement is not a measure of their depravity. It is a measure of our own.

 Lynn Parramore – Editor of New Deal 2.0; Co-founder of Recessionwire

Detroit in Ruins. The Decline of the American Empire

January 2nd, 2011 by Yves Marchand

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s extraordinary photographs documenting the dramatic decline of a major American city

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Ruins of Detroit: William Livingstone House, Brush Park
William Livingstone House, Brush Park, a French Renaissance-style house designed by Albert Kahn in 1893 and demolished since this photograph was taken Photograph: Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

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Last Chance for Venezuela’s Revolution?

January 1st, 2011 by Shamus Cooke

    The pulse of the revolution grows faint. Extreme measures are needed, since the extremely poor living conditions of most Venezuelans demand it. They are tired of the government taking half actions. Tired of the same super-rich oligarchy dominating the economy, which creates the horrendous inequality that overshadows Venezuelan society. If the revolution is not quickly pushed to the left, it will be strangled by the right.   

    For all the positive things Chavez has accomplished as President, he is in danger of becoming another Salvador Allende — a martyr whose death ushered in a right-wing dictatorship.

    Chavez’s base — the working class and poor — does not uncritically support him, as the western media sometimes depicts.  Their support is conditional on Chavez pushing the revolution forward by raising their living standards and keeping the right wing at bay. The slower he goes, the less support he gets.   

    Chavez needs more than working people’s support; he needs their active support in the streets and workplaces, directly participating in political life — a defining feature of all revolutions.  

    Revolutions do not have infinite amounts of time, since they are, by definition, rare periods where working people shed their apathy and participate directly in political affairs, a period of time that lasts until they either smash the power of the upper classes, or the upper classes can squash the revolution with a dictatorship.  

    The less active working people become, the more able is the right wing to make a power grab, since the rich believe that the workers will not rise up to stop them, as they’ve done before in Venezuela.    

    Indeed, the right wing all over Latin America is becoming bolder. They applauded when Chavez’s base was not inspired enough to come out to vote in the last two big elections. This did not mean that the right wing’s influence was growing (as the western media claims); rather, it was pure apathy.  They applauded when the left-wing President of Honduras was overthrown by a U.S. sponsored coup.  They cheered when Ecuador’s President was almost killed in a coup attempt.  The right wing in Bolivia is taking advantage of an increase in fuel prices to destabilize Evo Morales, whom they’ve tried to topple once already.  

    But Venezuela remains the most advanced revolutionary movement in Latin America. It is in danger of dying from the disease of apathy. Action is the best cure for apathy. Chavez was recently granted extra power by the national assembly — the enabling law — that allows him to directly intervene in the Venezuelan economy to address a variety of social issues.  

    Venezuela’s revolution will largely depend on how Chavez uses this power. If he quickens the tempo of the revolution by nationalizing sectors of the economy that will then begin to instantly produce for social need — housing, transport, banking, food, etc. — Chavez’s base will enthusiastically respond, and the right-wing danger that currently threatens Venezuela will be pushed back into the gutters where it belongs.  

Chavez must also use the enabling law to further empower the self-organization of working people through strengthened neighborhood community organizations, to neighborhood militias where the people themselves are armed and organized to protect their communities from violence and crime, and to workers control over industries.

If Chavez fails to use his new executive powers aggressively and effectively, the majority of working people will not respond, and their actions in the streets will continue to dwindle, allowing for a larger presence of the right wing.
 
The Latin American-wide revolution is in danger of falling back into a dark period, like the decades after Allende’s death, when right-wing dictatorships dominated the continent with full support from the U.S. government.  

The clock is ticking. Working people in Venezuela cannot constantly be revolutionary, since it takes enormous amounts of energy and effort. Chavez can stimulate their activity or subdue it, based on the actions he takes with the enabling law. The fate of the revolution hangs in the balance.

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

Vladimir Putin summed it up best when he said, “A thief should sit in jail.” Right on. It doesn’t matter if he is the richest man in the country or not. If he’s done the crime, he’s got to do the time. It’s that simple.

On Wednesday, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos Oil was sentenced to 14 years in prison for embezzling and money laundering. Heads of state, human rights organisations, business leaders, and the entire western media have all protested on Khodorkovsky’s behalf, but to no avail. Khodorkovsky will stay in prison where he belongs. Justice has prevailed.

Khodorkovsky’s problems began when he challenged an informal agreement with the Kremlin not to intervene in Russian politics. But the oil oligarch thought Putin was weak, so he strengthened his contacts in Washington and dumped money into parliamentary elections. He unwisely assumed that he could defy Putin and extend his tentacles into politics following the model of corporate control he saw in the United States, where the courts, the congress, the White House and the media are all in the pocket of big business. Only he misjudged Putin and ended up in the hoosegow.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

“Mr. Khodorkovsky was arrested on a rented jet in Siberia Oct. 23, 2003, flown to Moscow and jailed on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Just over a year later, Yukos’s main subsidiary had been sold at auction to a little-known Russian company that later sold it to the state oil company, OAO Rosneft.

Investors, who watched the market value of Yukos plunge from $40 billion to next to nothing in a matter of months, proved to have short memories. By the summer of 2006, they were lining up to buy stock in Rosneft’s initial public offering. The company’s main asset had belonged to Yukos.”

And, according to Wikipedia:

“Khodorkovsky was charged with acting illegally in the privatisation process of the former state-owned mining and fertiliser company Apatit……In addition, prosecutors conducted an extensive investigation into Yukos for offences that went beyond the financial and tax-related charges. Reportedly there were three cases of murder and one of attempted murder linked to Yukos, if not Khodorkovsky himself…..”

When a deep-pocket Robber Barron is charged with a crime, everyone comes to their aid, including “the Italian Parliament, the German Bundestag, and the U.S. House of Representatives”. But Khodorkovsky is guilty. The Russian court got it right. The rest is just propaganda.

The portrayal of Khodorkovsky as an “innocent victim of a justice system run amok” borders on the ridiculous. Take a look at this comical article in the Economist ominously titled “The Trial, Part Two”. Here’s an excerpt:

“The transformation of Mr Khodorkovsky from a ruthless oligarch, operating in a virtually lawless climate, into a political prisoner and freedom fighter is one of the more intriguing tales in post-communist Russia….In this narrow sense, indeed, the imprisoned Mr Khodorkovsky might be compared to the exiled Andrei Sakharov in the 1980s. Both Mr Khodorkovsky and Sakharov, an eminent nuclear physicist, chose a thorny path. And both of these one-time political prisoners then, in effect, took their persecutors and jailers hostage. Just as Mikhail Gorbachev’s talk of perestroika, opening up and new thinking, rang hollow until the moment when he allowed Sakharov to come home, so any talk by the Kremlin of the rule of law or about modernisation will be puffery so long as Mr Khodorkovsky remains in jail.” (The Economist)

So now the cutthroat scamster Khodorkovsky is Andrei Sakharov? One might think that the Economist would worry that such claptrap would damage its credibility, but apparently not. Apparently, nothing matters quite as much as springing their felonious friends from prison.

The Obama administration has also interceded on Khodorkovsky’s behalf even before the verdict was delivered. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the US was troubled by “what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends”.

“The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia’s reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law.”

Gibbs failed to note how many crooked CEOs or CFOs of major Wall Street firms have been investigated, indicted, prosecuted, arrested, tried, or convicted?

So far, that number is zero. So much for the Obama administration’s commitment to the rule of law.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also put in her two-cents saying that a conviction would have a “negative impact on Russia’s reputation.”

Right. This is the same Hillary Clinton who has thrown her support behind the Patriot Act, the intrusive/illegal TSA “pat downs”, the limitless detention of terror suspects, increased surveillance of US citizens, and the de facto repeal of habeas corpus.

Clinton’s credibility on civil liberties is zilch.

Imagine what it would be like to live in a country where the rich had to play by the same rules as everyone else? Presumably, one would have to move to Russia. There is no expectation of justice in the US today. None.

Khodorkovsky was convicted because he’s a crook and because the Russian justice system is less corrupt than the one in the US. His incarceration is a victory for the people who want to see the law applied fairly regardless of how rich someone is.

Big Brother: America’s Police State Mentality in the Electronic Age

January 1st, 2011 by Prof Rodrigue Tremblay

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790), American inventor, journalist, printer, diplomat, and statesman (1775)

Americans used to roar like lions for liberty; now we bleat like sheep for security.”Norman Vincent Peale (1898 –1993), American Christian preacher and author

A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. …At the apex of the pyramid comes Big Brother. Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful. Every success, every achievement, every victory, every scientific discovery, all knowledge, all wisdom, all happiness, all virtue, are held to issue directly from his leadership and inspiration.” George Orwell (1903-1950) (Eric Arthur Blair), (book: 1984)

Since information gives power, access to personal files can lead to unreasonable pressures, even blackmail, especially against those with the least resources, people who depend upon public programs, for example. Big Brother isn’t a camera. Big Brother is a computer.” C.J. Howard, political novel “Cybercash”

In 2049, when the 100th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell political novel “1984” will be celebrated, it will be recalled that the immediate post September 11, 2001 period marked the beginning of a gradual decline in personal liberty and freedom, especially in the United States but also elsewhere, and the emergence of a great information-obsessed Leviathan. Freedom rarely disappears in one fell swoop. Its disappearance is rather the end result of a thousand encroachments.

Pushed to the extreme and without clear democratic oversight, it becomes the mark of a totalitarian state, when authorities feel that they never have enough information on the people. It is because information is power and state bureaucrats and politicians naturally like to be in control; on the one hand, releasing as little information about their own actions through an imposed secrecy, and on the other, accumulating as much information as possible about the citizens.

And today, modern governments have all the tools to transform their country into a creeping police state, more so now then ever before, in this electronic age. They have access to information technology that previous full-fledged “police state” governments could only have dreamed about.

Nowadays, with super computers and revolutionary new models to gather information and build databases, governments, i.e. bureaucrats and politicians, are in a position as never before to accumulate and correlate tremendous amounts of personal information on their citizens, from public (federal, state and local) as well as from a plethora of private sources. Government intelligence on each and every citizen is thus rendered much easier and, I would add, much more frightening. Indeed, the potential for abuse is enormous.

In 2002, for example, retired Vice Admiral John Poindexter proposed that the U.S. government create a tracking and monitoring system called “Total Information Awareness”, in order for the U.S. government to gather information in a preventive way about individuals from widely varied sources, including tax records, telephone calling records, credit card charges, banking transactions, airline or ship reservations, and various biometric databases, without taking into consideration civil liberties or a citizens’ right to privacy, the U.S. Privacy Act of 1974, or without having to request search warrants and without having to give prior notice to the persons involved. —The pretext was to allow the government to thwart possible terrorist activity, thus creating an unlimited appetite for information.

Well, there are clear signs that this massive data mining system on individuals is now solidly in place and is in full operation and can be expected to grow over time. George Orwell must be turning in his grave.

First, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s network of fusion centers, launched in 2003, has allowed the government to centralize a host of previously disparate information about Americans and foreigners alike, whether related to personal and business records, drivers licenses, local taxes, local infractions, police records, etc., through a host of coordinated information-sharing networks. (N.B.: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established on November 25, 2002 and is the domestic equivalent of the Department of Defense.)

Secondly, central provisions of the USA Patriot Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001, allow the government to operate roving wire taps, search any individual’s business, personal, and even library records upon presentation of a national security letter, and spy on so-called “lone wolf” suspects, i.e., foreign nationals who have no known links to groups designated as terrorist. On this, the current Obama administration, by extending those provisions, is scarcely different than the previous Bush administration.

Thirdly, since passports and tight intelligence screening have been made a requirement for most international travel by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, since January 1, 2008, every individual traveling in and out of the United States has all his or her whereabouts and movements recorded so the government knows at all times his or her address and the places he or she has traveled to and from.

For instance, U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s recent decision to use full-body airport X-ray scanners and full body groping at airports is another example where so-called security procedures are applied blindly and indiscriminately. There is more to come, since it has been announced that such invasive intelligence screening is coming to hotels and shopping malls, as well as to trains, buses and ports, etc.

These are some of the main features of the new government apparatus to gather information on people. There are many others. —Take for instance the requirement, since 2002, that all American high schools must give Pentagon military recruiters the names and contact information of all their juniors and seniors. Failure to comply on their part may result in the loss of government funding.

The logical next step for the U.S. government would be to follow a recent Italy’s lead and outlaw outright the use of cash for most transactions, except for small ones, thus providing the government even more minute information about an individual’s income, purchases and displacements. Nothing will escape the watching eye of the government in the electronic age. People will be filed, photographed and corralled.

Indeed, the way mass government surveillance systems are growing, by year 2020, chances are good that Americans will be living in a “Brave New World”!

—CYBER BIG BROTHER would know it all and it will be watching you.

Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and can be reached at [email protected]. He is the author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics” at: www.TheCodeForGlobalEthics.com/  

The book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, by Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay, prefaced by Dr. Paul Kurtz, has just been released by Prometheus Books.

The French version of the book is also now available. See: www.lecodepouruneethiqueglobale.com/  or on Amazon Canada

No stranger to armed conflicts over the past 70 years, the United States has completed its first decade of continuous warfare: 2001-2010.

On January 1 the U.S. and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will enter not only a new year but a second decade of war in Afghanistan.

The air and cruise missile attacks that commenced on October 7, 2001 and the insertion of U.S. and British ground troops that followed have been succeeded by a 48-nation, 152,000-troop occupation and counterinsurgency campaign that is also conducting almost daily deadly drone missile strikes and helicopter gunship raids into neighboring Pakistan.

The U.S. Defense Department announced that on September 1 American troop strength in Iraq was decreased to under 50,000 as the occupation was transitioned to so-called Operation New Dawn. Troops from approximately 40 other nations assigned to Multi-National Force – Iraq, most of them new NATO members and NATO candidates from Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, were withdrawn from 2006-2008. Rather not withdrawn, but transferred to Afghanistan, leaving behind only the remnants of a once 160,000-strong American contingent and the NATO Training Mission-Iraq.

There are now over three times as many foreign troops in Afghanistan as there are in Iraq, from 48 official NATO Troop Contributing Nations. Also deployed in theater or pledged for that purpose are troops from several other countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, among them Bahrain, Colombia, Egypt and Kazakhstan.

The microcosm of a U.S. and NATO rapidly deployable, interoperable global expeditionary military force melded in combat. Killing and dying together on a common battlefield, the blood of thirty nations spilled in one country.

711 foreign troops were killed in Afghanistan in 2010, a nearly forty percent increase over 2009. By comparison, 60 foreign soldiers were killed in Iraq in 2010, all of them American. Almost 500 U.S. and 213 non-U.S. troops lost their lives in Afghanistan in 2010.

Over 800 Afghan government soldiers were killed in the same period and 2,400 civilians were killed in the first ten months of the year.

A Pentagon official in the Afghan capital estimated that 18,000 attacks were conducted against U.S. and NATO forces in 2010, twice as many as in the preceding year. [1]

Far from any prospect of a decrease in the death toll in the war-ravaged country during the new year, the spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, Germany’s Brigadier General Josef Blotz, this week stated that the Afghan war will only intensify in 2011, that “There is no end to the fighting season; we need to keep pressure on the Taliban all over the country.” [2]

As though to confirm Blotz’s claim, on December 30 two rockets landed in the main U.S. military base at the Bagram Airfield.

Fighting has increased in the north of Afghanistan where the bulk of 5,000 German troops assigned to NATO are stationed, an area hitherto comparatively peaceful. Bundeswehr forces are engaged in ground combat operations for the first time since the Second World War. Berlin has lost 46 soldiers in the conflict.

Germany recently ordered the latest of 473 Eagle reconnaissance vehicles under a $165 million contract with the U.S. military contractor General Dynamics. The first armored vehicles were delivered to the German armed forces in 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan.

On the day before Christmas NATO troops raided the compound of a private security firm in Kabul, killing two Afghan nationals. Afterward, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary announced his government has determined that “NATO is in violation of a security agreement in Kabul and is suspending an Afghan police general who helped the U.S.-led coalition carry out a raid in the capital that killed two private security guards.” [3]

On the same day New Zealand special forces serving under NATO launched a night raid in a factory in Kabul and slew two more security guards.

To indicate in the aftermath of the NATO summit in Portugal in November that the West is intensifying its concentration on the Afghanistan-Pakistan war front, since the summit ended on November 20 several major officials from NATO countries have visited Afghanistan: U.S. President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and First Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Romanian President Traian Basescu and Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea, French Defence Minister Alain Juppe, Canadian Governor General David Johnston and U.S. Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus.

Chancellor Merkel told German troops in Kunduz province: “What we have here is not just a warlike situation. You are involved in combat as in war.” [4]

Afghanistan is the cynosure of the Western military bloc’s worldwide military strategy, which now has expanded to include Pakistan.

2010 was the deadliest year of the over nine-year war in regard to U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) missile attacks in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where over 120 strikes killed 1,000 people. In 2009 the Central Intelligence Agency directed less than half that amount – 53 – of lethal operations in Pakistan. December was among the most deadly months of the year, with at least 123 people killed in twelve missile attacks. [5]

The intensity and ferocity of the strikes compelled Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to warn that “drone attacks were affecting efforts to end terrorism in the country, therefore we condemn it and we are against it.” [6]

On Christmas Day General David Petraeus, commander of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, was in the war zone and stated, “there will be more coordinated military operations on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.”

He insisted on more “hammer and anvil operations” after revealing that “there had already been coordinated operations on both sides of the border, with Pakistani forces on one side and NATO and Afghan troops on the other.” [7]

Two NATO helicopter gunships staged the latest violation of Pakistani air space shortly after Petraeus spoke, entering the Landi Kotal area of Khyber Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. NATO intrusions into Pakistan have been mounting since last September and on the 30th of that month a NATO helicopter attack killed three Pakistani soldiers.

The U.S. and NATO are slated to deploy troops to a Pakistani military base in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, which borders Iran and where the Pentagon and CIA have operated out of the Shamsi air base, southwest of the capital, for years. NATO helicopters have also entered the airspace of Balochistan, marking an expansion of operations from the tribal areas into the heart of Pakistan.

In recent weeks reports have disclosed that the U.S. will supplement CIA drone missile strikes and NATO helicopter gunship raids in Pakistan’s tribal areas with special forces operations.

A Russian analyst commented on that development in ominous tones:

“Till now US troops have invaded Pakistan only sporadically. The launch of an operation against the Taliban in Pakistan may create new problems for Washington and may lead to the expansion of the Afghan threat.” [8]

It is in fact the latest escalation of the Afghan war into Pakistan. One that will increase combat operations, deaths and destruction on both sides of the border in the new year beyond the record levels of the last.

Notes

1) Voice of Russia, December 27, 2010
http://english.ruvr.ru/2010/12/27/37888169.html
2) Deutsche Presse-Agentur, December 27, 2010
3) Associated Press, December 26, 2010
4) Agence France-Press, December 19, 2010
5) America’s Undeclared War: Deadly Drone Attacks In Pakistan Reach Record High
Stop NATO, September 26, 2010
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/americas-undeclared-war-deadly-drone-attacks-in-pakistan-reach-record-high
6) Trend News Agency, December 30, 2010
7) Associated Press, December 26, 2010
8) Yevgeny Kryshkin, NATO’s Afghan campaign goes off course
Voice of Russia, December 27, 2010
http://english.ruvr.ru/2010/12/27/37888169.html

Haiti: Obama does not like Black People

January 1st, 2011 by Jafrikayiti

 

We now live in a world where powerful countries – all of them so-called democracies – manipulate multilateral bodies to the great disadvantage and suffering of the poorer developing nations“. Rolihlahla (Nelson) Mandela
 

As the year 2010 closes the United Nations is facing a  serious crisis of credibility.  Whether in Ivory Coast , in the Congo or in Haiti , U.N. troops sent to “keep the peace” are repeatedly accused of perpetrating grave human rights violations, including mass murders. This note shall focus on the track record of the Mission des nations unies pour la stabilisation d’Haiti (MINUSTHA), which has been in operation in this Caribbean island nation for the past six years. We shall also see, at the end of this brief text, what all this has to do with Barack Obama.
 

In a recent interview, Brazilian diplomat Ricardo Seitenfus accused the U.N. of “transforming the Haitians into prisoners on their own island”. Within a matter of hours, Seitenfus was called back to Brazil and summarily fired from his post as Special Representative of the Organization of American States in Haiti . 

In recent days, former Cuban President Fidel Castro spoke publicly in support of Seitenfus. However, is there tangible evidence in support of Seitenfus’ grave assertions? American investigative journalist Kevin Pina hasjust released a powerful documentary that should help answer this specific question without ambiguity.

Pina’s We Must Kill the Bandits is 66-minutes long. Its “in your face” style is both provocative and irresistible. Packed with video evidence, “Bandits” leads the viewer to a desturbing yet unescapable conclusion: As per Patrice Lumumba’s 1960 Congo, in 2010 Haiti, the United Nations is mobilized as a deadly tool of repression in the hands of powerful countries that are bent on robbing Haitians of their right to self-governance and democratic rule.

We Must Kill the Bandits is available free over the Internet at URL: http://bit.ly/eWFDLd Please be warned! This well-researched documentary is graphic and highly disturbing. The film should not be viewed in the company of small children.     

From the onset Pina makes the point that the U.N.-attributed murders documented in his film continue to occur up to the current year. 
 

Among several powerful footages in We Must Kill the Bandits, I propose these segments, listed in chronological order, which are especially deserving of attention:
 

  • Pina provides historical context for the term “bandits”. He uses archive footages of U.S. invasions of Haiti in 1915 and 2004 (see minutes 5:43 to 8:07)
  • Pina interviews U.S. author Randall Robinson who shares specific details surrounding the ouster of President Aristide by U.S. military personnel and diplomats, the evening of the February 29, 2004 coup d’état (8:08)
  • The author painstakenly documents how a campaign of military repression and psychological warfare intensified immediately following Aristide’s ouster. He illustrates this with a  March 2004 incident whereby U.S. troops gunned down Spanish reporter Ricardo Ortega and maneuvred to have the latter’s killing blamed on Aristide supporters (10:09- 12:50).
  • With a one-of-kind video interview of former Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, the filmmaker presents undisputable proof that Neptune knew that Haitian President Aristide was taken out of Haiti against his will and that the post-coup puppet president (Boniface Alexandre) was illegally installed by foreign diplomats (13:24-15:00).
  • Convincingly, Pina describes the process by which former military tough guy and CIA-operative Herard Abraham was remobilised to orchestrate, in conjonction with Canadian special forces, a resurrection of Haiti ’s hated Forces armées d’Haiti (FadH) and its paramilitary arm FRAPH, by recycling their membership within the Haitian National Police. (15:50 – 17:55)
  • The camera follows the campaign to silence popular folk artist and political activist  Annette (Sò Anne) Auguste (20:15- 22:08)
  • U.N. massacres which happened between September 30 and December 2004  as well as the arrest of human rights activist Father Gérard Jean-Juste are presented with graphic details (26:10- 36:00).

 

The second half of the documentary exposes how the U.N. campaign of repression continued unabatted throughout 2005 and 2006. A number of specific confrontations are highlighted: First, between pro-democracy demonstrators and Brazilian U.N. General Heleno (37:00-46:00) – it is noteworthy that Heleno’s successor, U.N. Commander Urano Teixeira Da Matta Bacellar, met a tragic end under yet to be elucidated conditions at Hotel Montana, on January 7, 2006. Then, between masked Haitian policemen operating with full U.N. support and the journalists, including producer Kevin Pina, whom they try to intimidate into silence. Yet another “must watch” footage (48:50 – 50:53).
 

Particularly disturbing and graphic are the final footages of the documentary where the producers describe U.N. massacres in Cité Soleil which occurred  May 31, 2005 (50:54 – 54:25), July 6, 2005 (56:11 – 1:00: 43) and December 22, 2006. In the latter piece, a blind man nursing several shot wounds grabs a guitar and offers a song to the foreigners (“blan”- “whites”) whom he accuses to have shot him and killed his two children.  « blan MINUSTAH sa m genyen ak ou?” –  (What have I done to you MINUSTAH foreigners?).
 

As we ponder the blind man’s question, I have not forgotten my promise to address your own. Indded, what does all of this have to do with Barack Obama? At the risk of confusing you even further, let me answer: “nothing whatsoever!”. In these days of hollywood-style reporting, it is apparently impossible to attract interest in the plight of millions of human beings dying at the end of U.N. guns. That the same “peacekeeping forces” supposedly mobilised to bring peace to an impoverished people has instead caused a deadly epidemic of cholera in their midst isn’t deserving of the attention of  mainstream media. Even less so are the valliant efforts being deployed by Haitians to resist the incredible set of natural and man-made disasters visited upon them in 2010. They will likely never make the screens of CNN, BBC or Radio-Canada. Mindful of this sad fact, a clever producer recently titled his powerful documentary “A Marshall Plan for Haiti”. Yet, rather that daydreaming about sudden goodwill towards Haiti by its historical tormentors, this film sheds light on the existence of true transformative Haitian leadership in action. Perhaps, Pina should also change the title of his film to “Please Make Haiti a U.N. Protectorate Governed by Bill (Tarzan) Clinton ”
 

I apologize for the misleading title of this article. Regretably, black fratricide remains an immensely attractive theme in our hollywodized culture. So, begging your forgiveness, I  invite you to partake in Haiti ’s traditional Independence Day (January 1) “soup joumou” (Pumpkin soup). And, as we do, let us remember and ponder  upon the words of His Majesty Jean-Jacques Dessalines, liberator and founder of the first Republic of the Americas to have abolished racial slavery and truly embraced universal human freedom: “and those whose fathers are in Africa , will they have nothing?”

Jafrikayiti (Jean Saint-Vil) is a Haitian writer and activist based in Ottawa , Canada . His website is godisnotwhite.com

The Next Financial Crisis is Not Far Off

January 1st, 2011 by Jayati Ghosh

We were told the world economy was back on track, but festering problems threaten to hit developing countries hard

It’s been an difficult year globally. It began with much relief and congratulations all round, based on perceptions that the financial crisis had been handled effectively, that the Great Recession was over and that significant economies (especially in the developing world) were powering their way back to rapid growth. But it is ending on a much more tentative and even troubled note.

The rebounding of output barely touched unemployment, which remains at historically high levels in most countries. The sovereign debt problems in Europe are just an indication that the financial crisis is far from over, and will continue to reveal itself in new forms for quite some time to come. Meanwhile, the stingy and (so far, at least) visionless response of the stronger economies to the crises in peripheral Europe has condemned them to intensified contraction and ensured that the EU will generate little growth and much instability in the near future.

But those shaking their heads from a distance over difficulties in the eurozone should be considering the other financial problems that continue to fester and will raise their ugly heads soon enough: the persistent depression in housing and real estate markets in the US and other developed and some developing countries, which contributes to asset deflation; the many other bad debts that are piling up quietly, like student loans and consumer credit; the continued incentives for risky behaviour by banks that have benefited from large government support; renewed speculative activity in commodity markets, which has pushed up primary commodity prices to close to their peaks of 2008.

For developing countries, this last feature is probably one of the greatest concerns – creating the fear that once again we will witness a global food crisis, driven not so much by real supply and demand factors (which have not changed that much) but by speculative activity causing sharp spikes in oil and food prices that are then transmitted to consumers across the developing world. Regulation that might have controlled this speculation is still being formalised in the US and has yet to be drafted in Europe. Meanwhile, the poor will continue to be battered by rising oil and food prices.

Prospects look even gloomier because national economic policy making has shifted from coordination to conflict mode. Loose monetary policies in the US and Europe may have domestic goals in mind, but they contribute to the carry trade that sends hot money to developing countries and pushes up their exchange rates and domestic prices. Since most of them are still obsessed with exports as the engine of growth, they try to resist this. So currency wars have already started, but in a subtle, shadow-boxing way. The gloves are not yet off, but they could be soon, because no one seems sure where the growth is supposed to come from.

For large parts of the world economy, things are going to get worse before they get better. And in places where they are supposedly getting better, they are going to get even more uncertain.

Jayati Ghosh is is one of the world’s leading female economists. She is professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and the executive secretary of International Development Economics Associates (IDEAS). She is a regular columnist for several Indian journals and newspapers, a member of the National Knowledge Commission advising the Prime Minister of India and is closely involved with a range progressive organisations and social movements.

December 16 … I’m standing in the snow in front of the White House … Standing with Veterans for Peace … I’m only a veteran of standing in front of the White House; the first time was February 1965, handing out flyers against the war in Vietnam. I was working for the State Department at the time and my biggest fear was that someone from that noble institution would pass by and recognize me.

Five years later I was still protesting Vietnam, although long gone from the State Department. Then came Cambodia. And Laos. Soon, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Then Panama was the new great threat to America, to freedom and democracy and all things holy and decent, so it had to be bombed without mercy. Followed by the first war against the people of Iraq, and the 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia. Then the land of Afghanistan had rained down upon it depleted uranium, napalm, phosphorous bombs, and other witches’ brews and weapons of the chemical dust; then Iraq again. And I’ve skipped a few. I think I hold the record for most times picketing the White House by a right-handed batter.

And through it all, the good, hard-working, righteous people of America have believed mightily that their country always means well; some even believe to this day that we never started a war, certainly nothing deserving of the appellation “war of aggression”.

On that same snowy day last month Julian Assange of Wikileaks was freed from prison in London and told reporters that he was more concerned that the United States might try to extradite him than he was about being extradited to Sweden, where he presumably faces “sexual” charges.1

That’s a fear many political and drug prisoners in various countries have expressed in recent years. The United States is the new Devil’s Island of the Western world. From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th, political prisoners were shipped to that god-forsaken strip of French land off the eastern coast of South America. One of the current residents of the new Devil’s Island is Bradley Manning, the former US intelligence analyst suspected of leaking diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. Manning has been imprisoned for seven months, first in Kuwait, then at a military base in Virginia, and faces virtual life in prison if found guilty, of something. Without being tried or convicted of anything, he is allowed only very minimal contact with the outside world; or with people, daylight, or news; among the things he is denied are a pillow, sheets, and exercise; his sleep is restricted and frequently interrupted. See Glenn Greenwald’s discussion of how Manning’s treatment constitutes torture. 2

A friend of the young soldier says that many people are reluctant to talk about Manning’s deteriorating physical and mental condition because of government harassment, including surveillance, seizure of their computer without a warrant, and even attempted bribes. “This has had such an intimidating effect that many are afraid to speak out on his behalf.” 3 A developer of the transparency software used by Wikileaks was detained for several hours last summer by federal agents at a Newark, New Jersey airport, where he was questioned about his connection to Wikileaks and Assange as well as his opinions about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 4

This is but a tiny incident from the near-century buildup of the American police state, from the Red Scare of the 1920s to the McCarthyism of the 1950s to the crackdown against Central American protesters in the 1980s … elevated by the War on Drugs … now multiplied by the War on Terror. It’s not the worst police state in history; not even the worst police state in the world today; but nonetheless a police state, and certainly the most pervasive police state ever — a Washington Post study has just revealed that there are 4,058 separate federal, state and local “counterterrorism” organizations spread across the United States, each with its own responsibilities and jurisdictions. 5 The police of America, of many types, generally get what and who they want. If the United States gets its hands on Julian Assange, under any legal pretext, fear for him; it might be the end of his life as a free person; the actual facts of what he’s done or the actual wording of US laws will not matter; hell hath no fury like an empire scorned.

John Burns, chief foreign correspondent for The New York Times, after interviewing Assange, stated: “He is profoundly of the conviction that the United States is a force for evil in the world, that it’s destructive of democracy.”6 Can anyone who believes that be entitled to a full measure of human rights on Devil’s Island?

The Wikileaks documents may not produce any world-changing revelations, but every day they are adding to the steady, gradual erosion of people’s belief in the US government’s good intentions, which is necessary to overcome a lifetime of indoctrination. Many more individuals over the years would have been standing in front of the White House if they had had access to the plethora of information that floods people today; which is not to say that we would have succeeded in stopping any of the wars; that’s a question of to what extent the United States is a democracy.

One further consequence of the release of the documents may be to put an end to the widespread belief that Sweden, or the Swedish government, is peaceful, progressive, neutral and independent. Stockholm’s behavior in this matter and others has been as American-poodle-like as London’s, as it lined itself up with an Assange-accuser who has been associated with right-wing anti-Castro Cubans, who are of course US-government-supported. This is the same Sweden that for some time in recent years was working with the CIA on its torture-rendition flights and has about 500 soldiers in Afghanistan. Sweden is the world’s largest per capita arms exporter, and for years has taken part in US/NATO military exercises, some within its own territory. The left should get themselves a new hero-nation. Try Cuba.

There’s also the old stereotype held by Americans of Scandinavians practicing a sophisticated and tolerant attitude toward sex, an image that was initiated, or enhanced, by the celebrated 1967 Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow), which had been banned for awhile in the United States. And now what do we have? Sweden sending Interpol on an international hunt for a man who apparently upset two women, perhaps for no more than sleeping with them both in the same week.

And while they’re at it, American progressives should also lose their quaint belief that the BBC is somehow a liberal broadcaster. Americans are such suckers for British accents. The BBC’s Today presenter, John Humphrys, asked Assange: “Are you a sexual predator?” Assange said the suggestion was “ridiculous”, adding: “Of course not”. Humphrys then asked Assange how many woman he had slept with. 7 Would even Fox News have descended to that level? I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He would then have known precisely how to reply to such a question: “You mean including your mother?”

Another group of people who should learn a lesson from all this are the knee-reflex conspiracists. Several of them have already written me snide letters informing me of my naiveté in not realizing that Israel is actually behind the release of the Wikileaks documents; which is why, they inform me, that nothing about Israel is mentioned. I had to inform them that I had already seen a few documents putting Israel in a bad light. I’ve since seen others, and Assange, in an interview with Al Jazeera on December 23, stated that only a meager number of files related to Israel had been published so far because the publications in the West that were given exclusive rights to publish the secret documents were reluctant to publish much sensitive information about Israel. (Imagine the flak Germany’s Der Spiegel would get hit with.) “There are 3,700 files related to Israel and the source of 2,700 files is Israel,” said Assange. “In the next six months we intend to publish more files.” 8

Naturally, several other individuals have informed me that it’s the CIA that is actually behind the document release.

The right to secrecy

Many of us are pretty tired of supporters of Israel labeling as “anti-Semitic” most any criticism of Israeli policies, which is virtually never an appropriate accusation. Consider the Webster Dictionary definition: “Anti-Semite. One who discriminates against or is hostile to or prejudiced against Jews.” Notice that the state of Israel is not mentioned, or in any way implied.

Here’s what real anti-Semitism looks like. Listen to former president Richard Nixon: “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality. … most of our Jewish friends … they are all basically people who have a sense of inferiority and have got to compensate.” This is from a tape of a conversation at the White House, February 13, 1973, recently released. 9 These tapes, and there are a large number of them, are the Wikileaks of an earlier age.

Yet, as the prominent conservative Michael Medved pointed out after the release of Nixon’s remarks: “Ironically, though, no American did more to rescue the Jewish people when it counted most: after the 1973 Egyptian-Syrian surprise attack destroyed a third of Israel’s air force and killed the American equivalent of 200,000 Israelis, Nixon overruled his own Pentagon and ordered immediate re-supply. To this day, Israelis feel gratitude for this decisiveness that enabled the Jewish state to turn the tide of war.” 10 So, was Richard Nixon anti-Semitic? And should his remarks be kept secret?

In another of his recent interviews, Julian Assange was asked whether he thought that “a state has a right to have any secrets at all.” He conceded that there are circumstances when institutions have such a need, “but that is not to say that all others must obey that need. The media has an obligation to the public to get out information that the public needs to know.” 11

I would add that the American people — more than any other people — have a need to know what their government is up to around the world because their government engages in aggressive actions more than any other government, continuously bombing and sending young men and women to kill and die. Americans need to know what their psychopathic leaders are really saying to each other and to foreign leaders about all this shedding of blood. Any piece of such information might be used as a weapon to prevent yet another Washington War. Michael Moore has recently written:

We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a Wikileaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.

And, dear comrades, let us not forget: Our glorious leaders spy on us all the time; no communication of ours, from phone call to email, is secret from them; nothing in our bank accounts or our bedrooms is guaranteed any kind of privacy if they wish to know about it. Recently, the FBI raided the midwest homes of a number of persons active in solidarity work with Palestinians, Colombians, and others. The agents spent many hours going through each shelf and drawer, carting away dozens of boxes of personal belongings. So what kind of privacy and secrecy should the State Department be entitled to?

Preparing for the propaganda onslaught

February 6 will mark the centenary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. The conservatives have wasted no time in starting the show. On New Years Day a 55-foot long, 26-foot high float honoring Reagan was part of the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. To help you cope with, hopefully even counter, the misinformation and the omissions that are going to swamp the media for the next few months, here is some basic information about the great man’s splendid achievements, first in foreign policy:

  • Nicaragua

    For eight terribly long years the people of Nicaragua were under attack by Ronald Reagan’s proxy army, the Contras. It was all-out war from Washington, aiming to destroy the progressive social and economic programs of the Sandinista government — burning down schools and medical clinics, mining harbors, bombing and strafing, raping and torturing. These Contras were the charming gentlemen Reagan called “freedom fighters” and the “moral equivalent of our founding fathers”.

  • El Salvador

    Salvador’s dissidents tried to work within the system. But with US support, the government made that impossible, using repeated electoral fraud and murdering hundreds of protestors and strikers. When the dissidents took to the gun and civil war, the Carter administration and then even more so, the Reagan administration, responded with unlimited money, military aid, and training in support of the government and its death squads and torture, the latter with the help of CIA torture manuals. US military and CIA personnel played an active role on a continuous basis. The result was 75,000 civilian deaths; meaningful social change thwarted; a handful of the wealthy still owned the country; the poor remained as ever; dissidents still had to fear right-wing death squads; there was to be no profound social change in El Salvador while Ronnie sat in the White House with Nancy.

  • Guatemala

    In 1954, a CIA-organized coup overthrew the democratically-elected and progressive government of Jacobo Arbenz, initiating 40 years of military-government death squads, torture, disappearances, mass executions, and unimaginable cruelty, totaling more than 200,000 victims — indisputably one of the most inhumane chapters of the 20th century. For eight of those years the Reagan administration played a major role.

    Perhaps the worst of the military dictators was General Efraín Ríos Montt, who carried out a near-holocaust against the indians and peasants, for which he was widely condemned in the world. In December 1982, Reagan went to visit the Guatemalan dictator. At a press conference of the two men, Ríos Montt was asked about the Guatemalan policy of scorched earth. He replied “We do not have a policy of scorched earth. We have a policy of scorched communists.” After the meeting, referring to the allegations of extensive human-rights abuses, Reagan declared that Ríos Montt was getting “a bad deal” from the media.

  • Grenada

    Reagan invaded this tiny country in October 1983, an invasion totally illegal and immoral, and surrounded by lies (such as “endangered” American medical students). The invasion put into power individuals more beholden to US foreign policy objectives.

  • Afghanistan

    After the Carter administration provoked a Soviet invasion, Reagan came to power to support the Islamic fundamentalists in their war to eject the Soviets and the secular government, which honored women’s rights. In the end, the United States and the fundamentalists “won”, women’s rights and the rest of Afghanistan lost. More than a million dead, three million disabled, five million refugees; in total about half the population. And many thousands of anti-American Islamic fundamentalists, trained and armed by the US, on the loose to terrorize the world, to this day.

    “To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom,” declared Reagan. “Their courage teaches us a great lesson — that there are things in this world worth defending. To the Afghan people, I say on behalf of all Americans that we admire your heroism, your devotion to freedom, and your relentless struggle against your oppressors.” 12

  • The Cold War

    As to Reagan’s alleged role in ending the Cold War … pure fiction. He prolonged it. Read the story in one of my books. 13

Some other examples of the remarkable amorality of Ronald Wilson Reagan and the feel-good heartlessness of his administration:

Reagan, in his famous 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing”, which lifted him to national political status: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

“Undermining health, safety and environmental regulation. Reagan decreed such rules must be subjected to regulatory impact analysis — corporate-biased cost-benefit analyses, carried out by the Office of Management and Budget. The result: countless positive regulations discarded or revised based on pseudo-scientific conclusions that the cost to corporations would be greater than the public benefit.”

“Kick-starting the era of structural adjustment. It was under Reagan administration influence that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank began widely imposing the policy package known as structural adjustment — featuring deregulation, privatization, emphasis on exports, cuts in social spending — that has plunged country after country in the developing world into economic destitution. The IMF chief at the time was honest about what was to come, saying in 1981 that, for low-income countries, ‘adjustment is particularly costly in human terms’.”

“Silence on the AIDS epidemic. Reagan didn’t mention AIDS publicly until 1987, by which point AIDS had killed 19,000 in the United States.”

– Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman 14

“Reagan’s election changed the political reality. His agenda was rolling back the welfare state, and his budgets included a wide range of cuts for social programs. He was also very strategic about the process. One of his first targets was Legal Aid. This program, which provides legal services for low-income people, was staffed largely by progressive lawyers, many of whom used it as a base to win precedent-setting legal disputes against the government. Reagan drastically cut back the program’s funding. He also explicitly prohibited the agency from taking on class-action suits against the government — law suits that had been used with considerable success to expand the rights of low- and moderate-income families.”

“The Reagan administration also made weakening the power of unions a top priority. The people he appointed to the National Labor Relations Board were qualitatively more pro-management than appointees by prior Democratic or Republican presidents. This allowed companies to ignore workers’ rights with impunity. Reagan also made the firing of strikers an acceptable business practice when he fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981. Many large corporations quickly embraced the practice. … The net effect of these policies was that union membership plummeted, going from nearly 20 percent of the private sector workforce in 1980 to just over 7 percent in 2006. ”

– Dean Baker 15

Reaganomics: a tax policy based on a notion of incentives which says that “the rich aren’t working because they have too little money, while the poor aren’t working because they have too much.”

– John Kenneth Galbraith

“According to the nostrums of Reagan Age America, the current Chinese system — in equal measure capitalist and authoritarian — cannot actually exist. Capitalism spread democracy, we were told ad nauseam by a steady stream of conservative hacks, free-trade apologists, government officials and American companies doing business in China. Given enough Starbuckses and McDonald’s, provided with sufficient consumer choice, China would surely become a democracy.”

– Harold Meyerson 16

Throughout the early and mid-1980s, the Reagan administration declared that the Russians were spraying toxic chemicals over Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan — the so-called “yellow rain” — and had caused more than ten thousand deaths by 1982 alone, (including, in Afghanistan, 3,042 deaths attributed to 47 separate incidents between the summer of 1979 and the summer of 1981, so precise was the information). President Reagan himself denounced the Soviet Union thusly more than 15 times in documents and speeches. The “yellow rain”, it turned out, was pollen-laden feces dropped by huge swarms of honeybees flying far overhead. 17

Reagan’s long-drawn-out statements re: Contragate (the scandal involving the covert sale of weapons to Iran to enable Reaganites to continue financing the Contras in the war against the Nicaraguan government after the US Congress cut off funding for the Contras) can be summarized as follows:

  • I didn’t know what was happening.

  • If I did know, I didn’t know enough.

  • If I knew enough, I didn’t know it in time.

  • If I knew it in time, it wasn’t illegal.

  • If it was illegal, the law didn’t apply to me.

  • If the law applied to me, I didn’t know what was happening.

Notes

  1. Sunday Telegraph (Australia), December 19, 2010

  2. Salon.com, December 15, 2010, “The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention“. See also his attorney’s account of Manning’s typical day; and Washington Post, December 16, 2010

  3. The Guardian (London), December 17, 2010

  4. New York Times, December 19, 2010

  5. Washington Post, December 20, 2010

  6. Diane Rehm show, National Public Radio, Dec. 9, 2010

  7. The Guardian (London), December 21, 2010

  8. Information Clearing House, December 23 2010, “WikiLeaks to Release Israel Documents in Six Months

  9. Washington Post, December 12, 2010

  10. From Medved’s radio show, December 14, 2010; “Nixon: The Anti-Semitic Savior of Israel

  11. Al Jazeera, December 22 2010, Frost Over the World: Julian Assange interview

  12. March 21, 1983, in the White House

  13. “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II”, p.17-18. Also for the five countries listed above, see the respective chapters in this book.

  14. June, 2004; Mokhiber is editor of Corporate Crime Reporter; Weissman, editor of the Multinational Monitor, both in Washington, D.C.

  15. April, 2007; Baker is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, DC

  16. Washington Post columnist, June 3, 2009

  17. “Killing Hope”, p.349

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2

  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower

  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir

  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

Russia to react appropriately to foreign troop deployment along its borders

Russia will take appropriate measures in response to deployments of foreign troops along its borders, says the Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdiukov in a comment for reporters on a WikiLeaks-published cable that NATO still sees Russia as a potential enemy.

Moscow hopes that the publication will never become a reality.

But if any challenges or threats to national security do arise, we will have to react to them, the

This week marks the second anniversary of the 522 hour indiscriminate carnage, “Cast Lead” that killed 1,417 Palestinians, mostly civilians, 352 of them children, injuring for life more than 5,300 , indicts Israel as well as those countries that continue to supply it weapons, diplomatic cover and to enforce Israel’s illegal siege on sealed Gaza.

The US administration, as revealed in a State Department cable posted by Wikileaks, has been working overtime with Israel to parry further condemnation of Israeli crimes documented in the Richard Goldstone and Richard Falk Reports, among others. These investigations established massive violations of human rights and international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity while refuting claims by Israel that it acted according to the limited international right of self-defense. Goldstone, Falk and others have demonstrated that it was both the victims of Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara who alone possessed the right of self defense in light of Israel’s agressions, not Israel.

As Professor Falk instructs us, Israeli actions in both cases:

“Are certainly acts of aggression under the UN Charter, and an act of war by reference to customary international law. Whenever force is used in situations other than in situation where a proper claim of self-defense is made, the undertaking is unlawful, and if as here, it is an instance of flagrant non-defensive force, the attacker is engaged in criminal conduct and both the offending state and the perpetrators acting on behalf of the should be held responsible, and to the extent international crimes took place, held accountable.”.

Rather than hold Israel to the “single universal human rights standard that applies to every country”, as Hilary Clinton crowed on Human Rights Day during an appearance before the Brookings Institute, the Obama administration claims others have ‘rushed to judgment’ and it has refused to condemn Israel’s May 31, 2010 murder of an American citizen on the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid boat, 19 year old Furkan Dogan.

Rushing to judgment and ignoring International law in Congress

Maybe it requires the moral clarity of 19 year old Layal, and her teen aged friends huddled in a damp, candle lighted, cold subterranean hovel in Shatila Palestinian Refugees camp this New Years in Beirut, to speak the naked truth. In their make shift ‘classroom’ the teenagers tutor camp kids on the three R’s after the youngsters double shift ‘short day’ and too early daily dismissal at Shatila’s overcrowded and undersupplied and understaffed, UNRWA Ramallah and Hemeh schools.

Wrapped in a woollen shawl for warmth, and discussing a planned commemoration of the second anniversary of the 22 day Gaza Massacre, Layal suddenly blurted out, “you know what? The Star of David and Israel’s flag has replaced the Nazi Swastika as today’s symbol of ethnic cleansing, racism and oppression.” She explained to her colleagues, “ Israel will remain a pariah state as long as its laws and its policies continue to violate the basic human rights of Palestinians. Israel has no right to exist as an exclusively Jewish State, any more than Hitler’s Reich had a “right to exist for Aryans only. We Palestinians will return. Liberty and justice will be achieved. Jews and Arabs can again live together in peace.”

As never before. the international community, increasingly appalled and angered by Israeli crimes is pulling back from supporting or trying to justify Israel’s actions and are shifting attention to the rights of Palestinians to live in their own country, to return from their Nakba caused refugee “sanctuaries” in more than 60 countries and to recognize the State of Palestine. This as some in the international community prepare to escort Israel before the bar of international justice.

But not in the US Congress which is some ways has become a grotesque caricature of what James Madison and the founding fathers wanted and, perhaps naively, as it has turned out, believed they had created.

As the Israel lobby and the Jerusalem Post have been claiming recently, and even as Israel’s most ardent apologists struggle to justify its actions and Israel’s position becomes increasingly untenable, nearly five dozen senators and over 180 members of the House of Representatives have by now issued statements since Cast Lead and the attack on the humanitarian aid boat the Mavi Marmara. Almost all of them overwhelmingly supportive of Israel while ignoring well established international law.

In the Senate, former presidential candidate and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (DMA), who repeatedly claims he wants to reach out to Iran and other Middle East countries said that “Israel has every right in the world to make certain that weapons are not being smuggled into Gaza after the thousands of rockets that have been fired on it. It is not just Israel conducting this blockade; it is Israel and Egypt. So you begin that Israel has this right to protect itself and its claim to a right of self defense is rock solid.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) noted that “Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens and therefore has a clear right under international law to prevent weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists determined to target them. Israel indicated it was willing to put in place a process to ensure that legitimate humanitarian relief reached Gaza. Unfortunately this offer was rejected” Israel has pledged to carry out a transparent and thorough investigation of this incident, and I look forward to its findings.”

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said, “We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self defense.” Lieberman added that he appreciates “the way in which the Obama administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”

Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) added that “Israel is at war. Each and every day thousands of its innocent men, women and children face the threat of lethal rocket attack from the terrorists.” “ Israel is not a liability to the United States,” Brown said. “There is no greater US ally in the critical area of the Middle East and perhaps no better strategic partnership in the world.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated, “ Israel – rightfully so – invoked its right to self-defense in Gaza and on the Mavi Marmara.”

Said Rep. Gary Ackerman (DNY): “I strongly condemn the action of those who assaulted the Israeli troops and made the use of violence by Israeli troops absolutely necessary and justified in self-defense”.

Republican whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) noted, “ I commend the administration for its steadfast support of Israel in resisting another Goldstone-style UN investigation. These types of kangaroo courts have one goal, and that is to strip democratic nations of their rights to defend their citizens from terrorism. The United States must not lend its authority to any UN action to discredit our democratic ally and set back prospects for peace in the region, and I hope the Obama administration remains committed to that principle.”

New Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner (R-OH) said, “Israel has every right to defend itself against terrorists which threaten its very survival.”

And the list goes on…and on……..

Of course our American problem is not just our Congress. The Israel lobby picked and packed Executive Branch is not much more supportive of American values and international norms. To the shame of the US State Department, its spokesman, Robert Wood sullied and humiliated America when the hapless fellow refused to answer even a simple media question whether the United States considered pasta i.e. macaroni, spaghetti, fettuccini noodles items denied to Palestinians under Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza–a “dual-use item.” The American people are better than this and must demand better from our officials.

Currently, there is only a faint hint that Members of Congress, 83% of whom rely on Israeli lobby or arms industry political action committee money to keep their seats and sinecures, have the gumption to advocate a U.S. policy, consistent with American notions of substantial justice or which upholds Palestinian rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and can be reached c/o [email protected]