Disinformation succeeds because so many people and interest groups across the political spectrum find that it serves their agendas as well as the agenda of the government. Consider for example the explanation of 9/11 that blamed Muslim terrorists for the attack. This served the interests of the neoconservatives, the private armaments companies, the US military, the private security companies, government security agencies such as the CIA, the left-wing, the right-wing, the Israel Lobby, and the print and TV media. 

The official explanation gave the neoconservatives the “new Pearl Harbor” that they needed for their program of invasions of Middle Eastern countries.  The private armaments companies could look forward to decades of high profits. Wars always bring the military rapid promotions and higher retirement benefits. Private manufacturers of security equipment and spyware enjoy a rising demand for their products and have grown fat from the products sold to the TSA and NSA. Homeland Security has vastly expanded the federal workforce and administrative positions. The left-wing has proof of “blowback” caused by US interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The right-wing has proof that America has enemies against whom defense at all costs is necessary. The Israel Lobby has the US to overthrow the regimes in the way of Israel’s territorial expansion. The media has the story of the century with which to boost ratings and curry the favor of government.

These are formidable interests arrayed against the mere obvious truth, obvious, that is, to any educated person. The 2,100 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth have no vested interest in any explanation of 9/11.  Indeed, they are harmed by disproving, as they have done, the government’s explanation.  None of them will ever again get a government contract, and many of their former clients have turned their backs on “those damn anti-Americans who don’t believe their own government!”  Cass Sunstein, a Chicago and Harvard law professor who sold out his integrity, if any, to the Obama regime by accepting an appointment and arguing that the federal government should infiltrate the 9/11 truth movement with agents and set-up truth-tellers so that they could be discredited, possibly even prodding them into actions for which they could be arrested. 

In other words, the government’s story cannot stand the light cast by the facts and independent experts, and the government’s false story must be protected by shutting down the truth-telling experts.  The government, Sunstein argued, needs to either gain control over these experts or to shut them down.

Just as many different collections of interest groups and people have stakes in the Obama regime’s story of the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy SEALS in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This story and its selling by an enthusiastic media guaranteed Obama’s reelection. It served the emotions of super patriots desperate for revenge who wear their gullibility on their sleeves. It served the myth of CIA and NSA prowess. It served the reputation of the killing power of US Special Forces teams. It proved that America won even though it lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the trillions of dollars spent were worth it.  We got revenge on the guy who did 9/11. 

No one remembered that the US government, unable to find bin Laden for 10 years, had settled on a different “9/11 mastermind,” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and had him water-boarded 183 times until he confessed to being responsible for 9/11.

If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z,” why were SEALS sent, illegally, into Pakistan to murder bin Laden?  As the FBI says, there is no evidence that bin Laden is responsible for 9/11.  That is why bin Laden was not wanted on that charge by the FBI, as the FBI publicly stated.

How was bin Laden, who was known in 2001 to be suffering from terminal illnesses, including renal failure, and whose death was widely reported in 2001 still alive ten years later to be murdered by SEALs?

What sense does it make that the greatest terrorist leader of our time only had two unarmed women to protect him. What sense does it make that the US would murder the terrorist mastermind with all the plots in his head instead of capturing and questioning him? How can anyone be so gullible as to believe such a nonsense tale as told to them by Obama and the presstitute media?  Is America really a nation of utter fools? 

Like the 9/11 story, the story of bin Laden’s murder is losing credibility with the US population. Pakistani National TV shot Obama’s story down with an eyewitness interview that reported that not one single person, dead body, or any piece of evidence left Abbottadad, because the only helicopter that landed blew up when it attempted to leave and there were no survivors.  No other helicopters landed.  So there was no dead bin Laden to be buried at sea (there are no known witnesses to the alleged burial) and no photographs of a dead bin Laden.

Yet the nonexistent photos of a dead bin Laden have now emerged in controversy. Allegedly, the US government had photos of bin Laden’s corpse after he was blown away by trigger-happy SEALs who didn’t have enough sense to keep the “mastermind” alive for questioning. The tough macho SEALs were so threatened by two unarmed women that they just opened fire. 

Judicial Watch has been trying to pry the (nonexistent) photos of a dead bin Laden from the government’s hands.  For “national security reasons” the US government does not want anyone to see evidence that supports its far-fetched tale of bin Laden’s murder.  The photographic evidence of a successful raid are off limits.  They are like the alleged videos of the airliner hitting the Pentagon that we are not permitted to see for “national security reasons.”

In other words, the photos and videos do not exist and never did. No government, not even the American one, would be so totally stupid as to withhold the evidence for its claims.

The government, seeing its unbelievable stories lose believability at home and abroad used Judicial  Watch’s lawsuit to boost the credibility of its story. Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the photos that the Obama regime alleged to have of the murdered bin Laden but refused to release.  Obviously, the government has no such photos and never had any such photos.  But the government does not need evidence when it can rely on the gullibility of the American people.

As the government had no photos to release, the US government decided to use the opportunity presented by Judicial Watch to bolster its story that photos of bin Laden murdered and dead were once in its possession. The government released to Judicial Watch a document under the Freedom of Information Act that is an order from Special Operations Commander Admiral William McRaven to “destroy immediately” the photos of the dead bin Laden. 

Judicial Watch took the bait. Instead of realizing that there was no reason whatsoever for the government to destroy the only evidence that might support its claim to have murdered bin Laden, Judicial Watch focused on the illegality of destroying the evidence.

Judicial Watch says that “Federal law contains broad prohibitions against the ‘concealment, removal, or mutilation generally’ of government records.” http://www.globalresearch.ca/top-pentagon-leader-ordered-destruction-of-bin-laden-death-photos/5368389

Judicial Watch played into the government’s hands. Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton was maneuvered by the government into defining the scandal as the destruction of evidence, “revealing both contempt for the rule of law and the American people’s right to know.” To the contrary, the real scandal is the massive lie that bin Laden was killed by a SEAL raid and the acceptance of this lie by the American people and Judicial Watch. 

By damning the government for destroying evidence, Judicial Watch has given credibility to the government’s claim that SEALs murdered Osama bin Laden.

The SEAL team credited with bin Laden’s murder was quickly eliminated when the team was loaded onto a 1960s vintage helicopter in Afghanistan.  Apparently the team members were asking one another, “Were you on that mission that killed bin Laden?”

Of course, no one was, and this information was too dangerous for the Obama regime.

Africa Beware of Imperialism’s Fatherly Advice

April 3rd, 2014 by Mark P. Fancher

Washington’s military tentacles daily tighten their grip on Africa, in ever deepening collusion with France. “Allowing the U.S., France and others to essentially take charge of Africa’s militaries creates or maintains an almost childlike dependence on imperialist forces.”

Throughout Africa, supposedly sovereign, independent countries are teeming with western military personnel who claim to be friends, advisors or partners with Africans. In truth, they create paternalistic relationships that lock a continent into submissive, subordinate facilitation of its own domination and exploitation.

Perhaps no entity flings “partnership” rhetoric with greater frequency and abandon than U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). An AFRICOM statement says: “AFRICOM’s Theater Security Cooperation programs (TSCP) remain the cornerstone of our sustained security engagement with African partners, are focused on building operational and institutional capacity and developing human capital, and provide a framework within which the command engages with regional partners in cooperative military activities and development.”

Nevertheless, it is France and not AFRICOM that is the undisputed master of paternalism in Africa. During the colonial era, a French government official boasted of a strategy to transform “the best indigenous [African] elements into complete Frenchmen.” Even during the period of decolonization France presented itself as a benevolent guardian and attempted to strong-arm its colonies into a continuing master-servant relationship. At the time, only the people of Guinea had the pride and character to sever ties with the colonizer. In recent years France has maintained an active military presence in Africa, particularly in places like Mali and Libya. It is therefore troubling that through AFRICOM the U.S. is now formally making common cause with France, which unlike the U.S. makes no efforts to disguise its troops in Africa as advisors.

A French Special Forces officer said: “The Americans want to get involved in Africa. That’s good for us. We know that with the Americans it will be more efficient. We use American logistics – that’s what we are missing. On the other hand, we provide the local knowledge.” With respect to support the U.S. is supplying France, Reuters reported: “The United States fast-tracked the sale of 12 Reaper drones to France last year, the first two of which started operating in Niger in January alongside U.S. drones already there.”

In return for U.S. support, France takes on the large, sustained military operations in Africa that are off-limits to the U.S. because of military budget cuts and a U.S. public that is increasingly war weary. The U.S. military is left to lurk in Africa’s shadows training and manipulating African armies and staging occasional quick-hit raids on alleged terrorists.

Although the U.S. must remain committed to the militarization of Africa in order to preserve its empire, the situation is nevertheless awkward. Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo said: “It’s a balancing act. Many of these [African] countries consider the U.S. a partner and strong ally, but they have serious concerns about what our footprint looks like.”

Africa’s concern should extend beyond what the U.S. footprint “looks like.” At issue is the continent’s dignity. Horrific, devastating attacks such as the recent murders of dozens of children at a Nigerian boarding school by the group Boko Haram, make it easier for western countries to persuade African governments that they lack the expertise and resources to counter terrorism. But allowing the U.S., France and others to essentially take charge of Africa’s militaries creates or maintains an almost childlike dependence on imperialist forces. Africa should have enough pride to engage in an independent analysis of its own circumstances. In some cases it is likely the solutions won’t require a military approach at all.

Human Rights Watch researcher Eric Guttschuss told a UN news service the “root causes” of support for Boko Haram are “poverty and unemployment, driven by poor governance and corruption.” Guttschuss added that one of the group’s former leaders rallied support “by speaking out against police and political corruption [on behalf of Nigeria’s] vast numbers of unemployed youth.”

Abdulkarim Mohammed, another Boko Haram researcher, noted: “Boko Haram is essentially the fallout of frustration with corruption and the attendant social malaise of poverty and unemployment…The young generation sees how [the nation’s resources] are squandered by a small bunch of self-serving elite which breeds animosity and frustration, and such anger is ultimately translated into violent outbursts.”

Thus, African leadership has the capacity to address the root causes of the Boko Haram crisis without inviting western military involvement. A regional, if not continental focus on the needs of the most desperate elements of African societies would do much to eliminate the pool of recruits for groups engaged in violent attacks on civilians. Long-term, the solution is certainly the elimination of neo-colonial governments and a continent-wide, unified approach to the mass control and use of Africa’s natural resources. However, when Africa begins to walk down that path it will almost certainly find that its current western military “partners” will become fierce military adversaries.

Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes frequently about the U.S. military presence in Africa. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Obama seemed so traumatized by his Middle East blunders he decided to take a break, giving Ukraine a try instead. The distraction was just what the president needed. And the U.S. media followed obediently, while barely glancing at the flames in the rear-view mirror — until another explosion piqued their interest. The predictable break down of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians occurred when the Palestinian Authority backed out of a “peace process” they had zero to gain from.

 Yet another failure after a string of Middle East fiascoes: Obama’s failed “surge” in Afghanistan, his disastrous bombing campaign and regime change in Libya (an international crime initially cheered as a “success” in the U.S. media), and his catastrophic proxy war in Syria, which grinds on with no end in sight and which helped re-ignite the Iraq conflict — another “success” turned disaster for U.S. foreign policy.

Obama has turned away in denial from the chaos he helped create, but the Middle East is still there, still in crisis, and balancing on a razor’s edge: Israel has bombed Syria and the Palestinian territories several times in recent months; while al-Qaeda style extremists still dominate giant swaths of Iraq and Syria (thanks to Obama’s Syrian proxy war). Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt are especially combustible, though one could make such an argument for every single country in the region. Obama’s proxy war in Syria is acting as the fuel.

 Having turned away from the Middle East, Obama has been throwing fresh flames at Russia; perhaps Obama’s policy in Ukraine — backing a fascist-filled provisional government — will be more successful than his policy in Syria — supporting a Jihadi-packed political opposition.

Like President Bush, Obama prefers the role of arsonist to firefighter.

Obama’s current silence on Middle East issues should be unsettling; he is, of course, not going to simply pack his bags and forget about the region. His so-called “pivot” to Asia — to set China ablaze — has been delayed, there is simply too much at stake in the Middle East, and the U.S. military is stretched too thin.

But what about the peace process Obama started with Syria and Iran? Obama saved face by backing off of his bombing threat in Syria by agreeing to Russia’s plan of removal of Syrian chemical weapons, and later beginning peace talks with the regional power Iran. This process has stalled, no doubt due to the right-wing pressure in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and in the U.S. corporate elite.

The recent lack of action in the Middle East reflects the crisis of U.S. foreign policy — Obama simply has no idea what to do next; he’s continued the Bush-era policy of tearing the region asunder and, like Bush, he doesn’t have the political-military power to put the smoldering jigsaw back together again — at least not in a way favorable to “U.S. interests.”

The president is under immense pressure from his base: the U.S. corporate elite — especially the military-industrial complex — is demanding that he act tough, especially after he’s been humiliated by his lack of power in Syria and with Russia. The sanctions against Russia are his first timid steps back in the ring after getting his nose bloodied in Syria.

The globe’s only super power will not react to these affronts by adopting a foreign policy of peace. And peace could be easily achieved. The U.S. still has immense diplomatic power in the region, which Obama has used thus far to pressure his Middle East allies — the Gulf monarchy dictatorships — to pursue the Syrian proxy war, as Obama directs the politics and military arms running behind the scenes.

A fair and equitable peace could easily be achieved, and as author Franklin Lamb recently pointed out, Syria and Iran are fulfilling their end of their diplomatic agreements with the U.S.  Will Obama respond in kind? Or will he escalate tensions for the sake of re-enforcing “U.S. regional power?”

Unfortunately, peace is never as profitable as war. If Obama leaves the Middle East, Russia and China will fill in the gaps, slurping up the profits that would have otherwise gone to U.S. corporations. And if U.S. corporations felt that they were making enough profit at home, they’d politely bow out of the contest, especially since U.S. foreign policy has been one Godzilla-like disaster after another.

But U.S. corporations remain starving for overseas profits; the U.S. domestic economy is still struggling towards the endlessly promised land of “recovery,” and the really big profits of U.S. corporations have come from foreign investments, using the cheap Fed-printed dollars to speculate in foreign currency and foreign raw materials — an obviously unsustainable strategy. At home U.S. corporations are largely continuing their investment strike, waiting for cheaper labor, additional tax breaks, fewer regulations, and larger guaranteed opportunities for profit than currently exist, which is why corporations are refusing to invest over $7 trillion of hoarded dollars.

A just and fair peace with Iran and Syria would thus be especially infuriating for the corporate U.S. war hawks, since treating Iran and Syria in a fair way would imply that they deserve to be “equal partners” in the foreign policy world, again making the U.S. seem weak, unable to push around “inferior” nations into unequal political and economic arrangements favorable to U.S. corporations — violating the spirit of imperialism.

 Another equally vexing problem with creating a fair peace with Iran and Syria is getting “buy in” from their regional rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia — the two most important regional allies of Obama’s, regardless of their rampant violations of human rights and violent foreign policy.

Egypt, too, has slid out of the grasp of the U.S., which Saudi Arabia is no doubt using as an important regional bargaining chip to lure the U.S. back in the fight against Syria and to crush the Iran peace process. Nothing Obama can do will solve the current dilemma he’s put himself into.

Ultimately, it’s safe to say that Obama is incapable of accomplishing the peace process he started with Iran, Syria and Israel-Palestine. The domestic profit rate of U.S. corporations is too thin, while Saudi Arabia and Israel are determined to go down swinging. All working and poor people have a direct interest in achieving peace in the Middle East, for their own future and the future of the millions suffering from decades of the U.S. foreign policy nightmare of unending war.

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

Notes

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/02/middle-east-peace-talks-john-kerry-edge-collapse

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/03/19/israel-syria-airstrikes-army/6598085/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eugene-robinson-ukraines-ultra-nationalists-present-a-need-for-us-caution/2014/03/10/2bdfd92a-a890-11e3-8d62-419db477a0e6_story.html

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/01/us-fight-jihadists-syria-isis-islamic-front.html http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2014/03/24/assad-and-khomeini-are-keeping-their-word-will-obama-keep-his/

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324034804578348131432634740

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101354173

The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) between the US and EU aims to ‘protect’ investment and remove ‘unnecessary regulatory barriers’. Corporate interests are driving the agenda, the public have been sidelined and unaccountable, pro-free-trade bureaucrats are facilitating the strategy (1). 

 There is growing concern that the negotiations could result in the opening of the floodgates for GMOs and shale gas (fracking) in Europe, the threatening of digital and labour rights and the empowering of corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regulations which they dislike.

One of the key aspects of the negotiations is that both the EU and US should recognise their respective rules and regulations, which in practice could reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator. The official language talks of ‘mutual recognition’ of standards or so-called reduction of non-tariff barriers. For the EU, that could mean accepting US standards in many areas, including food and agriculture, which are lower than the EU’s.

Even the leaders of the US Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, made it clear that any agreement must reduce EU restrictions on genetically modified crops, chlorinated chickens and hormone-treated beef.

Food lobby group Food and Drink Europe, representing the largest food companies (Unilever, Kraft, Nestlé, etc.), has welcomed the negotiations, with one of their key demands being the facilitation of the low level presence of unapproved GM crops.

The TAFTA negotiations are shrouded in secrecy and are closed to proper public scrutiny (2,3,4). They amount to little more than grubby back room deals, while striving to give the appearance of somehow being democratic, and effectively constitute part of the ongoing corporate hijack of democracy and the further restructuring of economies in favour of elite interests (5,6,7).

However, despite claims by the European Commission that there is no secrecy (8), the notes of European Commission meetings with business lobbyists released to Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) under the EU’s freedom of information law were heavily censored. The documents showed that the EC invited industry to submit wish lists for ‘regulatory barriers’ they would like removed during the negotiations. There is no way for the public to know how the EU has incorporated this into its negotiating position as all references have been removed (4). The documents show clearly that removing differences in EU and US regulations is the key issue in the talks: in other words, a race to the bottom in setting the lowest barriers possible.

A leaked EU document (9) from the winter of 2013 shows the Commission proposing an EU-US Regulatory Cooperation Council, a permanent structure to be created as part of the TAFTA deal. Existing and future EU regulation will then have to go through a series of investigations, dialogues and negotiations in this Council. This would move decisions on regulations into a technocratic sphere, away from democratic scrutiny. Also, there would be compulsory impact assessments for proposed regulation, which will be checked for their potential impact on trade. This would be ideal for big business lobbies: creating a firm brake on any new progressive regulation in the very first stage of decision-making.

As if all of this isn’t bad enough, there is also the highly contentious trade-investor dispute settlement provision in TAFTA. It would enable US companies investing in Europe to bypass European courts and challenge EU governments at international tribunals whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, environmental or social protection interfere with their profits. EU companies investing abroad would have the same privilege in the US.

This constitutes a charter for the systematic destruction and dismantling of legislation that exists to protect the hard-won rights of workers and ordinary people.

Across the world, big business has already used such investor-state dispute settlement provisions in trade and investment agreements to claim massive sums in compensation.  Tribunals, consisting of ad hoc three-member panels hired from a small club of private lawyers riddled with conflicts of interest, have granted billions of euros to companies, courtesy of taxpayers (10).

EU and US companies have used these lawsuits to destroy any competition or threats to their profits by for example challenging green energy and medicine policies, anti-smoking legislation, bans on harmful chemicals, environmental restrictions on mining, health insurance policies and measures to improve the economic situation of minorities.

If governments and parliaments fail to act to protect the public’s interests, powerful corporations will acquire carte blanche to rein in democracy and curb policies devised for the public good.

Despite such major concerns, campaigners from the Seattle to Brussels Network (11) have criticised the European Commission’s recently implemented consultation on the investor rights in the EU-US trade deal as a mock consultation aimed at selling its pro-industry agenda, rather than an honest attempt to have a much-needed open debate on the issue.

Roos van Os of the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), a member of the Seattle to Brussels Network, has said:

“Those who reject the undemocratic and dangerous investor-state dispute settlement system will have no opportunity in this consultation to voice their opposition because the Commission’s biased questions provide no option for that. The Commission should make itself available for a real debate, not a cowardly advertising campaign for its corporate agenda.”

In meetings with the Commission, members of its civil society advisory group on the EU-US trade deal had stressed the need for the consultation to be intelligible for non-experts and for there to be balanced questions. But the Commission’s consultation questionnaire only contains questions about its agenda for minor reforms to salvage the controversial investor-state dispute settlement system, in a 40-page legalistic text which will be difficult for members of the public to understand.

Marc Maes of the Belgian development organisation and also a member of the Seattle to Brussels Network:

 “The Commission’s so-called reform agenda does nothing to address the basic flaws of the investor-state dispute settlement system. Therefore foreign companies will continue to have greater rights than domestic firms and citizens. And international tribunals consisting of three for-profit lawyers will continue to decide over what policies are right or wrong, disregarding domestic laws, courts and democracy.”

Analyses of leaked investment texts from the EU-Canada trade negotiations indicate that the EU’s approach to investment protection does very little to protect the right to regulate (in fact it sometimes does the exact opposite) and it will establish an arbitration system that is far inferior to domestic legal systems in the EU and North America (12).

Pia Eberhardt, trade campaigner with CEO, another member of the Seattle to Brussels Network, said:

“The investor-state arbitration system cannot be tamed. Profit-greedy law firms and their corporate clients will always find a way to attack countries for actions that threaten their profits. The corporate super-rights should be abolished – and people in Europe should not miss this crucial opportunity to tell the Commission to do so.”

To enhance public scrutiny and democratic debate about the controversial investor rights in EU trade agreements, members of the Seattle to Brussels Network have set up a website to publish leaked negotiating texts and critical analyses of these texts: http://eu-secretdeals.info/

The network is also inviting civil society organisations and members of the public to participate in ongoing online actions against the dangerous corporate rights in EU trade deals.

Be informed and take action:

Seattle to Brussels Network: http://www.s2bnetwork.org/themes/eus-free-trade-agreements/eu-us-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership-ttip.html

Corporate Europe Observatory: http://corporateeurope.org/tags/ttip

Stop the Crop: http://www.stopthecrop.org/

Notes

1) http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-eu-free-trade-agreement-a-corporate-stitch-up-by-any-other-name/5339789

2) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-us-eu-transatlantic-free-trade-agreement-tafta-big-business-corporate-power-grab/5352885

3) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-eu-india-free-trade-agreement-corporate-driven-neocolonial-plunder/5338049

4) http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-eu-transatlantic-free-trade-agreement-more-secrecy-and-more-duplicity-revealed/5369272

5) http://www.globalresearch.ca/free-trade-agreements-the-bypassing-of-democracy-to-institute-economic-plunder/5354197

6) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-us-eu-transatlantic-free-trade-agreement-tafta-big-business-corporate-power-grab/5352885

7) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-eu-india-free-trade-agreement-india-up-for-sale-to-western-corporate-capital/5332214

8) http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/18/wrong-george-monbiot-nothing-secret-eu-trade-deal

9) http://corporateeurope.org/trade/2013/12/regulation-none-our-business

10) http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-4150-Clear-and-present-danger-to-democracy

11) The Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B) includes development, environmental, human rights, women’s and farmers’ organisations, trade unions and social movements working together for a truly sustainable, just and democratic trade policy in Europe. www.s2bnetwork.org

12) See, for example: IISD (2014): A Response to the European Commission’s December 2013 Document “Investment Provisions in the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement (CETA)”, http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2014/reponse_eu_ceta.pdf; Seattle to Brussel Network (2014): Investment in CETA – A response to a lobby document by DG Trade, http://eu-secretdeals.info/upload/2014/03/S2B-Marc-Maes-CETA-Investment_Response-to-DG-Trade-claims-March-7-2014_v2.pdf.

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April 2nd, 2014 by Global Research

The U.S.-European “Left’s” tepid – and even supportive – response to NATO’s destabilization of Ukraine reveals the deep workings of white supremacy on the “western” mind. We face the specter of a “left-right convergence” to save the global imperial project. How else to explain widespread “leftist” acceptance of racist doctrines like “humanitarian intervention” and “responsibility to protect?”

Some years ago Italian anarchist Camillo Berneri suggested that while not always visible in the social practices of everyday European life, the racist foundation for European fascism was still present, safely confined to a space in the European psyche but always ready to explode in what he called a racist delirium.

Today, white workers and the middle classes in Europe and the U.S., traumatized by the new realities imposed on them by the decline of the Western imperialist project and the turn to neoliberalism, are increasingly embracing a retrograde form of white supremacist politics.

This dangerous political phenomenon is developing in countries throughout the European Union and in the U.S. Just recently, the National Front, a racist, authoritarian party that labored on the fringes of French politics for years, has emerged as one of the dominant forces in French politics. The Tea Party in the U.S., Golden Dawn in Greece, the People’s Party in Spain, the Partij Voor de Vrijheid in the Netherlands – in these and other countries, a transatlantic radical racist movement is emerging and gaining respectability.

The hard turn to the right is not a surprise for those of us who have a clear-eyed view of Euro-American history and politics. In all the 20th Century fascist movements in Europe, two elements combined to express the fascist project: 1) the rise of far-right parties and movements as the political expression of an alliance of authoritarian, pro-capitalist class forces bankrolled by sections of the capitalist class and constructed in the midst of capitalist crisis; and 2) racism grounded in white supremacist ideology.

The neo-fascism that is now emerging within the context of the current capitalist crisis on both sides of the Atlantic has similar characteristics to the movements of the 1930s but with one distinguishing feature. The targets for racist scapegoating are different. The targets today are immigrants: Arab, Muslim and African in Europe; Latinos and the never-ending target of poor and working class African Americans in the U.S.

What makes the rise of the racist radical right even more dangerous today is that it is taking place in a political environment in which traditional anti-racist oppositional forces have not recognized the danger of this phenomenon or for strategic reasons have decided to downplay the issue. That strategy has been tragically played out in the “immigrant rights” movement in the U.S.

The brutal repression and dehumanization witnessed across Europe in the 1930s has not found generalized expression in the U.S. and Europe, at least not yet. Nevertheless, large sectors of the U.S. and European left appear to be unable to recognize that the U.S./NATO/EU axis that is committed to maintaining the hegemony of Western capital is resulting in dangerous collaborations with rightist forces both inside and outside of governments.

The manufactured crisis with Russia over the issue of Ukraine is a case in point. The incredible recklessness and outrageous opportunism of the U.S./NATO/EU axis in destabilizing Ukraine – knowing that the driving forces on the ground were racist, neo-Nazi elements from the Right Sector and the Svoboda party – demonstrated once again the lengths that this axis is prepared to go to achieve its geo-strategic objective of full-spectrum economic and political global domination.

Yet strangely, not only did many radicals in the U.S. and Europe not see the potential threat that this situation represented but they seemed unable to penetrate the simplistic cold-war propaganda that suddenly reemerged to frame events in Ukraine.

Instead of being concerned that as a direct consequence of U.S. actions a government came to power in Europe that for the first time since the 1930s included ultra-nationalist, racist neo-Nazis in key positions, the left along with the general population allowed the corporate media and U.S. propagandists to turn the narrative away from U.S./EU destabilization of Ukraine to Putin’s supposed expansionist aspirations.

The ease with which the corporate media was able to flip that script and to make Putin the new face of evil has been truly astonishing. And the fact that that narrative was embraced by most liberals and large sectors of the white left in the U.S. only affirmed that having abandoned class analysis, anti-imperialism and never really understanding the insidious nature of white supremacist ideology, the U.S. left has no theoretical framework for apprehending the complexities of the current period.

The inability to extricate itself from the influences of white supremacist ideology has to be considered as one explanation for the strange positions taken by large sectors of the white liberal/left over the last few years. How else can one explain the bizarre incorporation of the discourse of humanitarian intervention and the obscenely obvious racism of the “responsibility to protect?

Could it be that many white radicals have fallen prey to the subtle and not-so-subtle racial appeal to a form of cross-class white solidarity in defense of “Western values,” civilization and the prerogative to determine who has the right to national sovereignty that is at the base of the rationalization of the “responsibility to protect” asserted by the white West?

The apparent incapacity of white leftists to penetrate and understand the cultural and ideological impact of white supremacy and its powerful effect on their own consciousness has weakened and deformed left analysis of U.S. and European foreign policy initiatives. It has also resulted in the U.S. and European left taking political positions that either objectively championed U.S./NATO imperialist aggression or provided tacit support for that aggression though silence.

As a consequence of the abandonment of anti-imperialism and an active class/racial collaboration with the Western bourgeoisie, an almost insurmountable chasm has been created separating the Western left from its counterparts in much of the global South.

Instead of more resolute anti-imperialist solidarity, broad elements of the white left in the U.S. and Europe have consistently aligned themselves with the policies of the U.S/NATO/EU axis that are giving support to right-wing forces from Ukraine to Venezuela.

Exaggeration, racial paranoia, an overly simplistic and a divisive, even “racist” assessment of the liberal/left will be the charge. We accept those charges. We accept them because we know they will come. For those of us living outside the walls of privilege, who must nevertheless accept the realities of the colonialist/imperialist-created global South, we don’t have the luxury of comforting illusions. Our lived experiences negate the false history of Europe’s benevolent civilization. We see developing in Europe and the U.S. a very real possibility of a left-right racial convergence fueled by crisis, leftist ideological confusion and what appears to be a mutual commitment to maintaining the global structures of white supremacy.

Understanding the violent history of the Western project and the pathological nature of white supremacy, we are forced to see with crystal clarity that within the context of the volatile economic and social conditions in Europe, giving legitimacy to neo-fascist forces like the ones in Ukraine might just be the fuel needed to ignite that racist, fascist delirium Berneri referred to.

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist and organizer. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. His latest publications include contributions to two recently published books “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” and “Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral.”

On Sat., Mar. 29, 2014, the anniversary of the 1987 Haitian Constitution, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Haïtien, to demand the unconditional departure of President Michel Joseph Martelly, despite a strange reticence from the Lavalas Family party’s Executive Committee.

The Lavalas Family put out the original call for a march to commemorate the Constitution with the ambiguous slogan: “Mobilization or death,” and then called for Prime Minister Lamothe’s departure, but not Martelly’s, in a statement issued after the demonstration.

Meanwhile, in Cap-Haïtien, the initiative to demonstrate for Martelly’s departure was taken by the Movement for the Liberation of Haiti, a popular organization supported by another opposition current, the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD).

The new party, the Dessalines Coordination (KOD), for its part, in a Mar. 27 press conference at the International Lawyers Office (BAI), announced that it would also participate in the Port-au-Prince mobilization.

Dessalines did not give us this nation for colonists to come back to whip us as they did in the days of the colony and slavery,” said KOD spokesperson Manette Chery at the press conference. “So on Mar. 29, just as we are saying NO to Martelly remaining in power, we will also be saying NO to the UN’s continued occupation of Haiti. We say 10 years is enough! It is too much! There can be no credible election in an occupied country!

In Port-au-Prince, protesters gathered at two different points: the Church of Perpetual Help in Belair and St. Jean Bosco Church in La Saline.

At about 10 a.m., the protesters gathered outside the Church of Perpetual Help marched down the hill towards St. Jean Bosco, where they arrived around 10:30 a.m., creating a huge crowd in the city center. The protesters, mostly from the grassroots organizations, marched peacefully but noisily down several streets accompanied by riot police of the National Police of Haiti (PNH).

Among the many slogans on posters and banners were: “Down with Martelly! Down with Lamothe! Down with MINUSTAH [UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti]! Down with [Catholic Cardinal] Chibly Langlois! Down with the El Rancho Agreement [which created a bogus political compromise between Martelly-friendly parties]. Down with domination! Down with exploitation! Down with hunger! Vive Haiti!

These slogans showed the large political divide between the Lavalas Family’s Executive Committee and the Lavalas grassroots organizations which have historically made up the party’s base.

The KOD contingent carried its own posters denouncing the Martelly-Lamothe regime and the occupation of the country in these terms: “KOD demands the departure of  Martelly-Lamothe and MINUSTAH!“, “KOD says there can be no free and fair elections under occupation!“, and “KOD says elections and occupation are lemon and milk!

Like the KOD contingent, most protesters were adamant in their demands for the departure of Martelly and Lamothe, rejection of the El Rancho agreement, and MINUSTAH’s withdrawal. They also sent a clear message to the international community, saying: “The dew dances as long as the sun has not risen. Sooner or later, things have to change in the country. Down with the El Rancho Accord between the little friends Martelly and [Sen. Steven] Benoit. We are proving to the international community that we are stronger, more numerous, and we are not playing. We are here, we don’t have Galils [assault rifles], we don’t have weapons, we are not involved in kidnappings, we are not in so-called dialogue. But we have the 1987 Constitution in our hands.

Demonstrators also pointed to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary, and current U.S. President Barack Obama as all having conspired against Haiti. They placed a “mental slave” like Michel Joseph Martelly at the head of the first black republic to keep the country under their control and that of so-called leaders in their service. The failure of the Martelly/Lamothe regime is also their failure, demonstrators said.

The model imposed on Haiti since 2004 has two elements,” said former Organization of American States ambassador to Haiti Ricardo Seitenfus in a long interview published in French in Haïti Liberté just days before the march. “On the one hand, there is the military presence through MINUSTAH, and on the other the civil presence in the form of the [Transnational Non-governmental organizations] TNGOs and the alleged private development corporations. Added to these are the bilateral strategies of the member states in the so-called Group of Friends of Haiti.”

Dr. Maryse Narcisse, the coordinator of the Executive Committee of the Lavalas Family Political Organization, has called for the departure of Lamothe and his ministers, but, it must be emphasized, she did not call for Martelly’s departure. The party’s statement said: “Lamothe must go. He symbolizes corruption, waste of national resources, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, impunity, lying, and kidnapping.” This focus soley on Lamothe’s departure is also the position of Deputy Arnel Belizaire Delmas, a leader of FOPARC (Patriotic Front for Respect of the Constitution), which only helps, objectively, to strengthen the Martelly/Duvalier camp.

The position of the Lavalas Family leadership and Deputy Bélizaire reflects nothing more than an internal contradiction between two factions within the Martelly regime: the Duvalierist wing, represented by the Mayard-Paul brothers, Gregory and Thierry, and the pocket-patriot  bourgeoisie represented by Lamothe. This position to give Martelly a pass while demanding Lamothe’s resignation reflects the sad fact that the Executive Committee of the Lavalas Family party is now dominated by politicians from the two wings of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie and the big-landowners, many of whom ironically supported the two coups, in 1991 and 2004, against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The KOD, on the other hand, took a very different position. “Michel Martelly is an illegal president,” the party said in its press conference. “It’s Bill and Hillary Clinton, the OAS, the United Nations, and Washington which gave him power so he can sell the country to the multinationals. Martelly and Lamothe are two agents, two servants of imperialism. We of the Dessalines Coordination we say loudly: Down with Martelly! Down with Lamothe! Down with the occupation! Martelly is an illegal president; the Provisional Electoral Council never signed for President Martelly to become president. It is MINUSTAH’s chief Edmond Mulet and the U.S. Embassy which decided who would be the president of Haiti in the last election.

Despite these differences, Mar. 29 was the first large demonstration uniting all of the anti-Martelly opposition currents since last year. “If [the march on the U.S. Embassy] of Nov. 29 2013 divided us, we are please to say that the demonstration of Mar. 29, 2014 has again united all of us against the regime” said Rony Thimoté, a spokesman for FOPARC, which is a somewhat renegade base organization of the Lavalas Family party. It is clear that this unity among the people must be strengthened and consolidated to maintain a general mobilization against the regime.

Many prominent political figures representing different political currents also joined in the Mar. 29 demonstration: Senator Moïse Jean Charles, Deputy Arnel Bélizaire, former Senator Turneb Delpé, former Deputy Serge Jean-Louis, and former Minister of Women’s Affairs and Rights Marjorie Michel.

The demonstration ended without the usual police repression such as the firing of tear-gas at protestors. However, a serious incident occurred at the march’s final rally on Champ-de-Mars’ Constitution Square, where Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles was physically accosted by two Lavalas Family second-tier leaders, Duclos Bénissoit and Dounnaxient “Engineer” Bastien.

Mr. Bastien, ironically, is a former member of the Mobilization for the Progress of Haiti (MPH), a party headed by Samir Georges Mourra, a right-wing bourgeois leader of both the 1991 and 2004 coups. Today Mr. Bastien has ostensibly converted himself into a henchman for the Lavalas Family party. Mar. 29 was not the first time he has acted as a provocateur and agent of destabilization. On Sep. 29, 2013, he attempted to disrupt a KOD-sponsored “Popular Forum” which was working out how to arrive at a provisional government to replace Martelly. He also, along with Duclos Bénissoit and former Sen. Gérard Gilles, assaulted Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles at the studios of Radio Zenith earlier in March. He is a classic example of someone who says he is defending the people but who, in reality, objectively or knowingly, is working on behalf of the people’s enemies.

Nonetheless, such stunts only reveal those working against the people and do little to derail the growing mobilization. On the contrary, the masses appear to be gaining strength in their struggle for their two key demands: Martelly must go! MINUSTAH must go!

As things stand, the banks are the permanent government of the country, whichever party is in power.”  – Lord Skidelsky, House of Lords, UK Parliament, 31 March 2011)

On March 20, 2014, European Union officials reached an historic agreement to create a single agency to handle failing banks. Media attention has focused on the agreement involving the single resolution mechanism (SRM), a uniform system for closing failed banks. But the real story for taxpayers and depositors is the heightened threat to their pocketbooks of a deal that now authorizes both bailouts and “bail-ins” – the confiscation of depositor funds. The deal involves multiple concessions to different countries and may be illegal under the rules of the EU Parliament; but it is being rushed through to lock taxpayer and depositor liability into place before the dire state of Eurozone banks is exposed.

The bail-in provisions were agreed to last summer. According to Bruno Waterfield, writing in the UK Telegraph in June 2013:

 Under the deal, after 2018 bank shareholders will be first in line for assuming the losses of a failed bank before bondholders and certain large depositors. Insured deposits under £85,000 (€100,000) are exempt and, with specific exemptions, uninsured deposits of individuals and small companies are given preferred status in the bail-in pecking order for taking losses . . . Under the deal all unsecured bondholders must be hit for losses before a bank can be eligible to receive capital injections directly from the ESM, with no retrospective use of the fund before 2018.

As noted in my earlier articles, the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) imposes an open-ended debt on EU member governments, putting taxpayers on the hook for whatever the Eurocrats (EU officials) demand. And it’s not just the EU that has bail-in plans for their troubled too-big-to-fail banks. It is also the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other G20 nations. Recall that a depositor is an unsecured creditor of a bank. When you deposit money in a bank, the bank “owns” the money and you have an IOU or promise to pay.

Under the new EU banking union, before the taxpayer-financed single resolution fund can be deployed, shareholders and depositors will be “bailed in” for a significant portion of the losses. The bankers thus win both ways: they can tap up the taxpayers’ money and the depositors’ money.

The Unsettled Question of Deposit Insurance

But at least, you may say, it’s only the uninsured deposits that are at risk (those over €100,000—about $137,000). Right?

Not necessarily. According to ABC News, “Thursday’s result is a compromise that differs from the original banking union idea put forward in 2012. The original proposals had a third pillar, Europe-wide deposit insurance. But that idea has stalled.”

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, speaking before the March 20th meeting in the Belgian capital, hailed the compromise plan as “great progress for a better banking union. Two pillars are now in place” – two but not the third. And two are not enough to protect the public.As observed in The Economist in June 2013, without Europe-wide deposit insurance, the banking union is a failure:

[T]he third pillar, sadly ignored, [is] a joint deposit-guarantee scheme in which the costs of making insured depositors whole are shared among euro-zone members. Annual contributions from banks should cover depositors in normal years, but they cannot credibly protect the system in meltdown (America’s prefunded scheme would cover a mere 1.35% of insured deposits). Any deposit-insurance scheme must have recourse to government backing. . . . [T]he banking union—and thus the euro—will make little sense without it.

All deposits could be at risk in a meltdown. But how likely is that?

Pretty likely, it seems . . . .

What the Eurocrats Don’t Want You to Know

Mario Draghi was vice president of Goldman Sachs Europe before he became president of the ECB. He had a major hand in shaping the banking union. And according to Wolf Richter, writing in October 2013, the goal of Draghi and other Eurocrats is to lock taxpayer and depositor liability in place before the panic button is hit over the extreme vulnerability of Eurozone banks:

European banks, like all banks, have long been hermetically sealed black boxes. . . . The only thing known about the holes in the balance sheets of these black boxes, left behind by assets that have quietly decomposed, is that they’re deep. But no one knows how deep. And no one is allowed to know – not until Eurocrats decide who is going to pay for bailing out these banks.

When the ECB becomes the regulator of the 130 largest ECB banks, says Richter, it intends to subject them to more realistic evaluations than the earlier “stress tests” that were nothing but “banking agitprop.”  But these realistic evaluations won’t happen until the banking union is in place. How does Richter know? Draghi himself said so. Draghi said:

 “The effectiveness of this exercise will depend on the availability of necessary arrangements for recapitalizing banks … including through the provision of a public backstop. . . . These arrangements must be in place before we conclude our assessment.”

Richter translates that to mean:

The truth shall not be known until after the Eurocrats decided who would have to pay for the bailouts. And the bank examinations won’t be completed until then, because if any of it seeped out – Draghi forbid – the whole house of cards would collapse, with no taxpayers willing to pick up the tab as its magnificent size would finally be out in the open!

Only after the taxpayers – and the depositors – are stuck with the tab will the curtain be lifted and the crippling insolvency of the banks be revealed. Predictably, panic will then set in, credit will freeze, and the banks will collapse, leaving the unsuspecting public to foot the bill.

What Happened to Nationalizing Failed Banks?

Underlying all this frantic wheeling and dealing is the presumption that the “zombie banks” must be kept alive at all costs – alive and in the hands of private bankers, who can then continue to speculate and reap outsized bonuses while the people bear the losses.

But that’s not the only alternative. In the 1990s, the expectation even in the United States was that failed megabanks would be nationalized. That route was pursued quite successfully not only in Sweden and Finland but in the US in the case of Continental Illinois, then the fourth-largest bank in the country and the largest-ever bankruptcy. According to William Engdahl, writing in September 2008:

 [I]n almost every case of recent banking crises in which emergency action was needed to save the financial system, the most economical (to taxpayers) method was to have the Government, as in Sweden or Finland in the early 1990’s, nationalize the troubled banks [and] take over their management and assets … In the Swedish case the end cost to taxpayers was estimated to have been almost nil.

Typically, nationalization involves taking on the insolvent bank’s bad debts, getting the bank back on its feet, and returning it to private owners, who are then free to put depositors’ money at risk again. But better would be to keep the nationalized mega-bank as a public utility, serving the needs of the people because it is owned by the people.

As argued by George Irvin in Social Europe Journal in October 2011:

[T]he financial sector needs more than just regulation; it needs a large measure of public sector control—that’s right, the n-word: nationalisation. Finance is a public good, far too important to be run entirely for private bankers. At the very least, we need a large public investment bank tasked with modernising and greening our infrastructure . . . . [I]nstead of trashing the Eurozone and going back to a dozen minor currencies fluctuating daily, let’s have a Eurozone Ministry of Finance (Treasury) with the necessary fiscal muscle to deliver European public goods like more jobs, better wages and pensions and a sustainable environment.

A Third Alternative – Turn the Government Money Tap Back On

A giant flaw in the current banking scheme is that private banks, not governments, now create virtually the entire money supply; and they do it by creating interest-bearing debt. The debt inevitably grows faster than the money supply, because the interest is not created along with the principal in the original loan.

For a clever explanation of how all this works in graphic cartoon form, see the short French video “Government Debt Explained,” linked here.

The problem is exacerbated in the Eurozone, because no one has the power to create money ex nihilo as needed to balance the system, not even the central bank itself. This flaw could be remedied either by allowing nations individually to issue money debt-free or, as suggested by George Irvin, by giving a joint Eurozone Treasury that power.

The Bank of England just admitted in its Quarterly Bulletin that banks do not actually lend the money of their depositors. What they lend is bank credit created on their books. In the U.S. today, finance charges on this credit-money amount to between 30 and 40% of the economy, depending on whose numbers you believe.  In a monetary system in which money is issued by the government and credit is issued by public banks, this “rentiering” can be avoided. Government money will not come into existence as a debt at interest, and any finance costs incurred by the public banks’ debtors will represent Treasury income that offsets taxation.

New money can be added to the money supply without creating inflation, at least to the extent of the “output gap” – the difference between actual GDP or actual output and potential GDP. In the US, that figure is about $1 trillion annually; and for the EU is roughly €520 billion ($715 billion). A joint Eurozone Treasury could add this sum to the money supply debt-free, creating the euros necessary to create jobs, rebuild infrastructure, protect the environment, and maintain a flourishing economy.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and a candidate for California State Treasurer running on a state bank platform. She is the author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt and her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, which explores successful public banking models historically and globally.

Radioactive seafood isn’t foreign to Canadian grocery stores, but we have no research and development professionals to thank for that information—just a 10th grader from Alberta.

Bronwyn Delacruz of Grande Prairie Composite High School in Alberta made her discovery with the help of a $600 Geiger counter her father purchased and the need to complete a science project. She told Metro Canada that she decided to test the radioactivity of seafood—mostly seaweed—because she was shocked to learn that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) stopped testing imported foods in that manner the year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

“Some of the kelp that I found was higher than what the International Atomic Energy Agency sets as radioactive contamination, which is 1,450 counts over a 10-minute period,” she said. “Some of my samples came up as 1,700 or 1,800.”

Since the Canadian stopped testing seafood for radiation, an Alberta teenager took matters into her own hands. Photo credit: AP / Ahn Young-joon

Since the Canadian stopped testing seafood for radiation, an Alberta teenager took matters into her own hands. Photo credit: AP / Ahn Young-joon

 According to the Daily Herald TribuneBronwyn tested more than 300 seaweed samples, including 15 brands exported from Japan, China, California, Washington, New Brunswick and British Columbia. Her work earned her gold honors at a regional science fair in Peace River, Alberta. In May, she will compete nationally in Ontario.

“I’m kind of concerned that this is landing in our grocery stores and that if you aren’t measuring it, you could just be eating this and bringing home to your family,” Bronwyn said.

The CFIA’s website says that it found more than 200 seafood samples in 2011 and 2012 that were “found to be below Health Canada’s actionable levels for radioactivity.” That was enough to lift the country’s enhanced import controls.

“No additional testing is planned,” the site reads.

According to Miles O’Brien, it’s the same scenario in the U.S. One of his recent PBS reports revealed that scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were turned down after requesting minimal federal support by five agencies. There are no federal agencies conducting comprehensive, on-the-ground analyses of how much Fukushima radiation has made its way into the air and oceans of the U.S.

In October, Dr. David Suzuki predicted that it would take three years from the time of the incident for the radiation plume to reach the West Coast. That would have been in the past month. That concept wasn’t lost on young Bronwyn.

“The way the currents and the radiation would arrive in Canada, it wouldn’t arrive until now, about 2014 or 2013,” she said.

In 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137, the radioactive form of cesium, was found in various seafood products that were imported from Japan, including:

• 73 percent of the mackerel

• 91 percent of the halibut

• 92 percent of the sardines

• 93 percent of the tuna and eel

• 94 percent of the cod and anchovies

• 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish

“Any amount of leaked radiation is harmful to the planet and the health of all species, including humans,” Suzuki wrote. “A major release of radioactivity, such as that from Fukushima, is a huge concern, with unknowns remaining around long-term health risks such as cancers.”

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel. Credit: International Students’ Committee/cc by 3.0

The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Pro-Israeli commentators have openly criticised the Obama administration for failing to explicitly demand that Iran confess to charges by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of a covert nuclear weapons programme.

All the intelligence in question can be traced back to Israel, and investigation of it has shown that the documents and reports that have been most widely publicised betray multiple indications of having been fabricated.

Demanding such a confession would be an obvious deal-breaker, because Iran has consistently denied those past charges and denounced the documents and intelligence reports on which they were based as fraudulent.  In fact, the failure of the talks appears to be precisely the Israeli intention in pressing Washington to make that demand.

All the intelligence in question can be traced back to Israel, and investigation of it has shown that the documents and reports that have been most widely publicised betray multiple indications of having been fabricated, as reported by IPS.

A “senior administration official” told reporters after the Nov. 24 Joint Plan of Action was announced that the United States had “made clear” in the negotiations that “the Security Council resolutions must still be addressed…and that Iran must come come into compliance with its obligations under the NPT and its obligations to the IAEA.”

The U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 of Jun. 9, 2010 says Iran “shall cooperate with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme….”

The term “possible military dimensions” had been used by the IAEA in referring to the claims publicised by the agency over the past six years of covert Iranian nuclear weapons development projects, including an alleged facility at Parchin for testing nuclear weapons designs.

The administration thus seemed to suggest that some kind of Iranian admission to past nuclear weapons work is a condition for a final agreement.

But the Obama administration’s rhetoric on resolving IAEA claims of a nuclear weapons programme appears to be less about forcing Iran to confess than responding to pressures from Israel and its supporters in the United States.

The first explicit indication of Israeli pressure on Obama to demand an Iranian confession as part of any diplomatic settlement came in a September 2012 article by Patrick Clawson and David Makovsky, then both senior staff members of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), whose analysis and recommendations reflect Israeli government policy.

“Given Iran’s past undeclared activities,” Clawson and Makovsky wrote, “a particular concern is that Iran will develop clandestine nuclear facilities.  Tehran’s coming clean about the past will therefore be an important determinant of whether it has any hidden capabilities.”

The demand that Iran “come clean” on its alleged nuclear weapons program entered into the Obama administration’s public posture for the first time after consultations with Israel in advance of the October 2013 round of negotiations with Iran.

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel. Credit: International Students’ Committee/cc by 3.0

Secretary of State John Kerry declared in Tokyo Oct. 3 that Iran would “have to prove it’s willing to come clean about the nuclear programme”.

That same day, Ambassador James Jeffrey, a senior fellow at WINEP, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Iran “must come clean on its nuclear-related military research”.

By the time the negotiations on the joint Plan of Action were completed in November, however, the State Department adopted language on the issue that harkened back to Kerry’s testimony at his Senate confirmation hearings in January 2013.  Kerry had said then that “questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear weapons programme” had to be “resolved”.

It quickly became apparent that Israel had wanted the United States to demand not only a pro forma confession by Iran but the details of its alleged work on nuclear weapons.  On the very day the agreement was announced, however, Robert Satloff, the executive director of WINEP, expressed his unhappiness that the deal did not include “getting Iran to come clean on all its past clandestine programmes….”

Also on Nov. 24, Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is well known for expressing Israeli policy on Iran, criticised the Joint Plan of Action in the Wall Street Journal for failing to “make clear reference to Iran revealing its past nuclear weapons research.”

The following day WINEP managing director Michael Singh complained in the Wall Street Journal objected again to the same U.S. failure to demand all the details of Iranian work on nuclear weapons. “Without insight into the full extent of Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities,” Singh wrote, “no amount of monitoring and inspection can provide confidence that Iran lacks a parallel programme beyond the inspectors’ view.”

Along with Kerry’s initial adoption of the “come clean” rhetoric, these sharp criticisms of the U.S. refusal to call explicitly for a confession indicate that the Obama administration had initially went along with Israel’s  in calling for Iran to “come clean”, but concluded that such a demand risked a premature breakdown in the talks.

Since the interim agreement, moreover, the State Department has avoided language that would commit it to requiring anything resembling an Iranian confession.  In Israel Feb. 22, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is the primary negotiator with Iran, said, “What we have said to Iran is that [the 'possible military dimensions' issue] will have to be addressed in some way.”

Sherman suggested for the first time the possibility of a less than complete and clear-cut outcome of the process. The IAEA was “very much focused on working through PMD with Iran,” said Sherman. “And the more Iran can do with the IAEA, which is where this belongs, the more likely we will have successful comprehensive agreement.”

A former U.S. official who had worked on Iran suggested in a recent off-the-record meeting that the “possible military dimensions” issue could not be resolved completely, but that one or more parts could be clarified satisfactorily.  The rest could be left for resolution by the IAEA after the comprehensive agreement is signed, the ex-official said.

That possibility arises because Iran and the IAEA agreed in February to work on the “Exploding Bridgewire” (EBW) issue – the claim published by the IAEA that Iran had carried out experiments on high explosives developed for the purpose of detonating a nuclear weapon.

That claim was based on a document that was part of the large collection originally said by anonymous intelligence sources to have come from the laptop computer of a participant in a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research project.

The documents were actually turned over to German intelligence by the Iranian terrorist organisation Mujahedin-E-Khalq, which had close links to Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad.

Iran provided the IAEA with an account of its actual EBW development programme in 2008. The Iranian account, cited by the agency in its May 2008 report, indicated the rate of explosions in its experiments, which was just one-eighth the rate mentioned by then IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen in a briefing for member states in 2008.

But instead of acknowledging that fact in its report, the IAEA suggested repeatedly that Iran had acknowledged carrying out the EBW experiments described in the purported document from the secret weapons programme while claiming it was for non-nuclear applications.

The new Iran-IAEA agreement on the EBW issue raises the question of whether IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is now ready to reach a deal with Iran, despite having staked his own reputation on the November 2011 report on intelligence claims of covert Iranian nuclear weapons research coming from Israel.

Such an agreement might be based on the IAEA’s stating accurately the Iranian explanation for the EBW – and thus implicitly admitting that the agency had distorted the issue in the past. Other issues might be left to be resolved quietly after the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement are completed.  

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.

 

Last week, Bank of America became the latest major financial institution to announce a multi-billion-dollar settlement with US regulators of charges related to the 2008 financial meltdown. In a settlement worked out with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the bank agreed to pay $5.83 billion in fines and buy back $3.2 billion in mortgage-backed securities from the government-sponsored mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to whom it sold the toxic assets in the run-up to the Wall Street crash. The settlement involves the largest fine levied by a single federal regulator in US history.

The agreement adds to the more than $100 billion in fines that have been levied by US regulators on major American and global banks since the financial crisis, more than half of which has been imposed over the past year.

The record size of the settlements points to the pervasiveness and scale of the criminality of the banks and their top officials. And yet, not a single leading bank executive has been criminally charged.

This is not for lack of evidence. The 2011 reports by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission document in considerable detail the fact that the 2008 crash was triggered by criminal wrongdoing by bank executives. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said that the committee had found “a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest and wrongdoing.”

The most egregious crimes by Wall Street and international banks that have led to financial settlements with US regulators include the following:

  •  Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase and other banks sold mortgage-backed securities they knew to be virtually worthless, helping to trigger the 2008 crash. Even as the banks were selling these securities to investors, they were making huge profits by betting against the same securities, without telling those to whom they were palming off the securities.
  •  Major US banks, including Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, illegally processed and even forged home mortgage documents in order to more quickly foreclose on the homes of families that had fallen behind on their mortgage payments. The number of people illegally foreclosed on will never be known because the Obama administration put a stop to the tally, but the figure is likely in the millions.
  •  Nearly all of the major US and international banks manipulated the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), the benchmark global interest rate used to set rates on some $350 trillion in financial assets, including mortgages, credit cards, student loans and bonds. By falsely reporting the interest they paid for loans from other banks, these institutions concealed their losses and increased their profits—at the expense of individual retirees, home and car owners, pension funds and municipalities all over the world.
  •  Major banks, including JPMorgan and UBS, were key partners in the $65 billion Ponzi scheme operated by Bernard Madoff. Earlier this year, JPMorgan, Madoff’s main banker, agreed to pay $2 billion to settle charges that it knowingly profited from Madoff’s scam. The deal shielded JPMorgan and its CEO, Jamie Dimon, from criminal charges through a “deferred prosecution” provision.

The settlements themselves were worked out between the banks and their regulators so as to have the maximum public relations effect, creating the appearance that the banks were being held accountable while minimizing the financial impact on the companies. The banks write off the fines—many of which are tax deductible—as part of the “cost of doing business.”

Not only have no top bankers been prosecuted, no major US banks have been broken up or nationalized. The big banks have grown even bigger and more powerful and have recovered their previous levels of profitability. Even taking into account the settlements with regulators, the six largest US banks made $76 billion in profits last year, just under the record set in 2006 and eclipsing every other year since 2008.

Wall Street pay, too, has hit record levels. The average bonus payout for Wall Street employees grew by 15 percent in 2013, reaching its highest level since the crash. Last week, both Bank of America and Morgan Stanley announced they were nearly doubling the pay of their respective chief executives for 2013.

Prior to the great democratic revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, Europe was dominated by an entrenched economic and political aristocracy that enjoyed special privileges and immunities—enshrined in law—that set it apart from the rest of society.

What has emerged today in the United States and the other capitalist countries is a new, financial aristocracy, consisting of multimillionaires and billionaires who make their wealth through financial speculation and manipulation, diverting untold resources from the development of the productive forces, infrastructure and the well-being of the population into their own bank accounts and stock portfolios.

The refusal of the government of the United States or that of any other major industrialized country to prosecute the bankers whose illegal operations triggered the crash of 2008 and subsequent global recession, or take any action against the banks that they head, demonstrates that society is once again dominated by a parasitic elite that, like the aristocrats of old, is above the law.

The government serves not to oversee and regulate the financial elite, let alone hold it accountable. It is their servant and protector. The regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission, are themselves filled with former or future employees of the banks they are supposed to regulate.

The Hill reported last week that over two dozen officials who worked on the Obama administration’s Dodd-Frank financial overhaul have moved on to “lucrative jobs in the private sector,” with many working for law firms and consultancies that advise banks how to avoid the very regulations they drafted.

Democracy in America and around the world is collapsing under the weight of immense and ever-growing levels of social inequality, bound up with the domination of a financial mafia that uses its political power to enrich itself at the expense of society. Congress, the White House, the courts, the regulators, the Democrats and Republicans are all subservient to this financial aristocracy.

Holding to account the criminals who are responsible for the crisis is a vital part of the defense of the social rights of the working class and the struggle to break the grip of the financial kleptocracy on social and political life.

This cannot be carried out through appeals to Congress, the courts or the Democratic Party, which is no less subservient to the banks than the Republicans. The stranglehold of the financial aristocracy can be broken only through a mass political offensive by the working class. Such a movement must be based on the perspective of reorganizing society on a socialist basis, in which the banks and corporations are removed from private ownership and control and transformed into publicly owned utilities under the democratic control of the people.

A still-classified Senate Intelligence Committee report contains damning information on both the extent of US torture methods and the lies of top CIA officials about these programs, according to information in a Washington Post article on Monday.

The government torture methods revealed by the Post, based on information from anonymous administration officials, include sadistic forms of inflicting pain that are associated with the most brutal police state and fascistic regimes.

According to the Post, the Senate report “concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years—concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.”

The terms utilized by the Washington Post in its article—“brutal” torture methods, “excruciating” pain, “sprawling” black sites—gives an indication of the chilling and deeply criminal character of a torture operation directed by the highest levels of the CIA as a matter of official state policy. The original crimes and their subsequent coverup, by both the Bush and Obama administrations, are all impeachable and prosecutable offenses.

The report details how one prisoner, Ammar al-Baluchi, was taken from Pakistan in 2003 to a CIA black site called “Salt Pit” near Kabul, where he “endured a regime that included being dunked in a tub filled with ice water. CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under the water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly, hitting him with a truncheon-like object and smashing his head against a wall, officials said.”

After he endured torture at “Salt Pit,” Baluchi was transferred to a CIA torture chamber in Romania where he was held until 2006. He was then taken to Guantanamo Bay, where he remains today. Military prosecutors have opposed a Senate Intelligence Committee request for Baluchi’s medical records.

Anonymous US officials also pointed to the similar case of Hassan Ghul, an alleged al-Qaeda operative who was captured in Iraq, tortured at the black site in Romania, turned over to Pakistani authorities and eventually released, before being killed by a CIA drone strike in 2012.

Other prisoners had buckets of ice water poured into their noses and mouths and over their bodies until they felt they were suffocating, and until they were close to dying of hypothermia.

CIA-employed “doctors” would monitor vital signs so as to ensure that prisoners did not die and thereby prevent further interrogation.

So heinous were some torture methods that in at least one case lower-level CIA officials walked off the job when forced by their superiors to inflict pain in a manner that even they saw as unconscionable. According to the Post, “The report also cites cases in which officials at CIA headquarters demanded the continued use of harsh interrogation techniques even after analysts were convinced that prisoners had no more information to give.”

The material leaked to the Post also makes clear that the inhumane treatment of prisoners did not lead to a significant increase in the amount of “intelligence information” gathered by the CIA. Such a revelation contradicts the chorus of lies used by the Bush administrations to justify the programs, and by the Obama administration to cover up for their blatant unconstitutionality.

Current CIA Director John Brennan (then in the private sector after a stint in the Bush administration) told CBS News in 2007, “There have been a lot of information [sic] that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the [Central Intelligence] Agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the deaths of 3,000 innocents.”

The Post cites one US official who said, “The CIA described [its program] repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives. Was that actually true? The answer is no.” Criticism of the efficacy of torture has been raised by sections of the political establishment, as well as officials in the FBI.

The report details how the CIA lied about statements made by a suspected al-Qaeda operative named Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times by the CIA after his capture in 2002. Videotapes of these and other torture interrogations were later destroyed by the agency. Though the CIA has claimed that Zubaydah gave-up valuable information upon being waterboarded, the Senate report contains evidence that “almost all of the critical threat-related information from Abu Zubaida was obtained during the period when he was questioned… at a hospital in Pakistan, well before he was interrogated by the CIA.”

On top of this, the CIA inflated the importance of many prisoners in order to justify their torture. The Senate report reveals that several “masterminds” and “senior al-Qaeda operatives” were only recruiters or foot soldiers.

The appearance of the Post article and the possibility that some or part of the Senate report will be declassified, or leaked by whistleblowers, sharpens the crisis that has emerged within the state over the program itself and the unconstitutional efforts of the CIA and the Obama administration to spy on Senate investigators, to suppress the report and to intimidate Congress and Congressional staff into halting their investigation.

The dispute began three weeks ago, when Senator Dianne Feinstein delivered a speech in which she charged the CIA with violating the separation of powers doctrine in the Constitution and of breaking laws by spying on Senate staff carrying out an investigation of the CIA torture program.

A week later, Senator Harry Reid issued a letter to CIA Director Brennan, informing Brennan that he had instructed the Senate Sergeant at Arms to perform a “forensic examination” of the computer network used by Senate staff for their investigations.

The CIA and the Obama administration have ignored Senate requests for an assurance that such illegal surveillance and intimidation will not occur again. The Obama administration has given its full support to the CIA, with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explaining that President Obama has “great confidence in John Brennan and confidence in our intelligence community and in our professionals at the CIA.”

The administration has itself withheld over 9,000 top-secret documents from the Senate investigators.

Whatever may come of the developing crisis within the state apparatus, no genuine support for the democratic rights of the population will come from the likes of Feinstein and Reid, whose proclivities for state surveillance are made clear by their avid support for the spying programs of the National Security Agency. In line with this approach, the Senate has kept the chilling content of the report secret and has proceeded with closed-door appeals to the CIA, made entirely behind the backs of the American public.

Moreover, according to the Post, “U.S. officials said the committee refrained from assigning motives to CIA officials whose actions or statements were scrutinized. The report also does not recommend new administrative punishment or further criminal inquiry into a program that the Justice Department has investigated repeatedly.” The recent Senate report even keeps secret the locations of hitherto unknown black sites and the names of those guilty of committing torture.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is due to vote on Thursday to send the Obama administration an executive summary of the report. If it is declassified at all, that process will take many months and will be subjected to redaction and censorship.

But the recent revelations raise another question: If torture does not lead to intelligence gathering, as the CIA previously claimed, then what purpose does the program serve and why did it continue? The reality that is beginning to emerge is that the barbaric torture regime initiated and legitimized by the state under the auspices of the events of September 11 is aimed not simply or even primarily at perceived challenges from “terrorists” abroad, but at developing methods of fear and state oppression that will be directed at all opposition to the policies of the ruling class, abroad and at home.

Venezuela is torn between the destabilising attempts of the right-wing, the limits of the Bolivarian process and the possibility the working class and the popular movements will advance the revolutionary project, but not without tensions and contradictions.

The following is an interview by Valeria Ianni, first published in Spanish by Rebelion, with Franck Gaudichaud, member of the editorial team of Rebelión.org, a doctor of political science and author of several books on Latin America, with a directed research by Michael Löwy on people power and industrial ties under the Allende government in Chile (1970 -1973).

How can you characterise the current situation in Venezuela? What is the issue here?

Franck Gaudichaud: As a starting point, we must recognise that we are in the midst of a tremendous global media war against the Bolivarian process. It’s therefore essential to create spaces of counter-information. To start with, in front of so much misinformation, we must again emphasise that the Bolivarian process is a long term process of broad social gains (health, education, reducing inequality), democratisation (the new constitution), growing empowerment and inclusion of the popular classes, in a very tense relationship with the charismatic leader that [Hugo] Chavez had been.

This process has also been instrumental in the establishment of new popular national sovereignties in the creation of ALBA, UNASUR and CELAC. Thus, a relapse and a neoliberal regression in Venezuela would have important, immediate collateral effects on the entire region. All this seems obvious, but it is essential to stress the essential relations and geopolitical forces, [particularly] at a time when the mainstream media, and the Venezuelan opposition are talking about a “Castro-communist dictatorship” and a “genocide in Venezuela …”

The current situation is extremely tense because the most reactionary sectors of the opposition have wagered on violence and destabilisation from the street. In this context, there is a tendency within the rank and file of the leftists to simplify our understanding of the circumstances, expressing opposition to imperialism or support of the coup against the “fascist” state. To me, this binary reading [of the situation] seems disastrous. Of course, the united manner of the right-wing’s “insurrectionist” intentions must be denounced and opposed.

We know that the United States has clear geopolitical interests in this destabilisation. The link between Washington “hawks” and the faction of the opposition led by Leopoldo López in Venezuela isn’t a conspiracy theory, but is an objective fact. There is also a real intervention from Colombia and Uribismo,  and paramilitary incursions, especially in the border state of Táchira. These factors are important. Now, is there a coup in the style of April, 2002? […] I think not. Firstly, the real power relations differ from 2002. The armed forces and military chiefs clearly support the government without division – for now – and the big bourgeoisie aren’t betting on the violence or an unconstitutional exit [from the Maduro administration]. Fedecámaras and its masters (like Polar’s [head, Lorenzo] Mendoza) are participating in the peace conference with Maduro and condemning the violence in the streets. In other words, the key elements of the situation of April, 2002 aren’t part of the current situation today. Mind you, there is a sector of the opposition around Leopoldo López that clearly is betting on street violence [and] calling to overthrow Maduro.

Worryingly, this sector has succeeded in holding very significant demonstrations – in the state of Tachira, in Merida with the student movement, but also in the streets of Caracas. It’s true that the participants of these demonstrations essentially come from the wealthy neighbourhoods, from the upper and middle classes; but now [protesters] also come from the less wealthy middle class. Violent sectors have gained space in society, using violence against the workers and barrio militants, constructing barricades (the “guarimbas”); they’re responsible for the majority of killings in recent weeks. The neoliberal opposition is partially fragmented, but each [faction of the opposition] plays its role against the [revolutionary] process; from Henrique Capriles or COPEI (Political Electoral Independent Organisation Committee) that say they back dialogue after successive electoral defeats, to parties like Leopoldo López’s Voluntad Popular or like the organisation Súmate and the legislator María Corina Machado. [The latter] back the creation of a semi-insurrectionalist climate without awaiting the next elections. Other analysts like Ignacio Ramonet have noted the existence of a “slow coup” based on the destabilisation theories of Gene Sharp.

However, I think from the anti-capitalist left, the key issue isn’t just to denounce all this, without also continuing to think “downwards and to the left” in a manner both critical and dialectical; [and] who are the elements within Chavismo that allow such expression of discontent in various strata of society – not just from the student movement. In this sense, we also have to explore the contradictions and weaknesses of the Bolivarian revolution and listen to the critical voices of the popular and revolutionary movement, within and outside of Chavismo. At Rebelión, we have published various Venezuelan authors that go in this direction: Roland Denis, Simón Rodríguez P., Javier Biardeau, Gonzalo Gómez, etc.

What are these main weaknesses of Chavismo?

First you have to differentiate between the governmental Chavismo and the working Bolivarian people. I understand there are tensions here, especially a year after the departure of the central manager of the [revolutionary] process, Hugo Chavez; [who was] capable of oscillating between the vertical leader and the horizontal-ness of popular participation. In the era of “Chavismo wihout Chavez”, Maduro has the legitimacy of electoral democracy. He won the [April, 2013] presidential election in a just manner, and the [December, 2013] municipal elections confirmed a new Bolivarian victory at the ballot box (with 17 victories in 18 elections). But, Maduro doesn’t have the charismatic leadership of Chavez, while at the same time a degradation of the economy accelerated. Of course, much is said about insecurity, particularly from the right-wing, though this is also a significant, daily concern for the popular classes. [However,] most of the recent problems appear on the economic level. The Central Bank of Venezuela [BCV] acknowledges a scarcity level of [consumer] goods above 28% and in 2013 inflation of 56% eroded the salaries of the workers. Poor economic and [currency] exchange management reinforces speculation, the black market and hoarding on the part of the bourgeois consumer on a greater scale.

Other Marxist economists like Manuel Sutherland or Víctor Álvarez speak of the greatest capital flight from South America. Several Marshall Plans are escaping to Miami. It’s true that inflation and scarcity are products of an offensive from the ruling classes, but they’re also [caused by] inefficient economic policy. Corruption is another underlying issue after 15 years of the Bolivarian process. How to pretend to build “socialism of the 21st Century” in these conditions of bureaucratic corruption? Faced with a phenomenon of this nature, a model of petro-rentier capitalism is still hegemonic [i]. It’s not enough to have a ministry of “popular power”* [see editor's notes]. I don’t see a solution other than to create control from below, [with] participatory democracy, workers’ councils [and a] strengthening of the existing communal councils. Otherwise, how is the right-wing offensive to be lastingly stopped? With dialogue and peace with the ruling sectors, with the Democratic Unity Roundtable [MUD], with [Venezuelan-born media mogul and billionaire Gustavo] Cisneros and the boli-bourgeoisie**?

Moreover, remember impunity that continues today for those responsible for the coup of April, 2002 and the April, 2013 killings. The impunity facing the anti-unionist killings that take place in the country are also very concerning, along with the the level of repression against some labour strikes and the growing militarisation of some regions (which caused distress and the distancing of the public from the Bolivarian governor of Tachira). These days, President Maduro and the Attorney General have acknowledged the responsibility of the National Guard and the Bolivarian Police in the death and mistreatment of demonstrators. Hopefully this doesn’t go unpunished, because the state has to be the guarantor of basic [human] rights.

Here you have referred critically to the path being taken by the government to stop the right-wing’s offensive. For you, what is the most effective way to confront the right-wing?

Without doubt, as proposed by some Venezuelan anti-capitalists, the best defense for the deepening of the revolution and the achievements of the [revolutionary] process is to strengthen a critical, popular and independent view of the bureaucracy or the boli-bourgeoisie, pointing to an empowerment from below. I think this perfectly justifies the intent of the government to pour cold water on the street violence, [and] call for dialogue and peace. Now, dialogue and peace, yes, but for what and with whom? Hopefully, the dialogue prioritises the mobilisation of the popular sectors, the organised workers that search for the paths of popular power, the … [rural poor and agricultural workers] that want agricultural reform, the indigenous people, together with more concrete announcements to improve the economic situation. Of course, Maduro has already announced a front to face the “economic war”, but as well as the “law of just prices”, positively, were measures to adjust [economic policy] and devaluation. To the contrary, small [political] currents like Marea Socialista and others outside Chavismo (libertarians, Marxists [and] Trotskyists) propose dealing with the neoliberal right by taking revolutionary measures: for example, taking control of foreign trade, but with citizen oversight (to prevent corruption), strongly combating speculation and centralising foreign currency exchange, intervening to bring the banking system under social control so that oil revenue isn’t partially captured by hoarders, supporting more decisions by the communal councils, [supporting] national food production, [creating] a national, democratic system of planning etc. I emphasise, I’m only reiterating the declarations of Bolivarian collectives and anti-capitalist Venezuelans.
Certainly, progress in this direction also means starting to think about the internal contradictions the popular movement – its weaknesses and limitations, as well as the weight of the political bonapartism present in the PSUV, for example.

What similarities and differences do you find between the process of Chile during the Allende government and that of Venezuela? More than anything, the role of the relationship between the spaces of popular organisation and a state that – despite all the changes – remains a capitalist state.

First, this seems essential to me: there still exists a capitalist state in Venezuela, though with a new institutionalism that’s more democratic. Predominantly, [there is] state-rentier capitalism and more than 70% of GDP is in the private sector. To strategically orient [ourselves], first we must know where we stand. Like in Venezuela, in 1973 Chile the Unidad Popular signified great democratic and social conquests, empowerment from below, as well as support from a very well organised working class on the union and political level. Actually, the big deficiency in Venezuela is the inability to build a democratic movement that is working and union class-conscious, independent of the state bureaucracy. Another interesting aspect of the Chilean experience is the tense relationship between the popular movement and the Allende government. I studied the industrial ties [ii] as sui generis [unique] forms of popular power, and, at various moments, elements were able to stand against Allende and claim revolutionary measures. Another point of debate is just how much we can trust the institutions, the possibility of  “using” the state to reform society from above. That is, if we build socialism from the state or build socialism from the popular constituent power, workers’ control and citizen participation. When in Venezuela, for example, joint management initiatives [between the state and workers] such as Sidor have been rapidly suffocated. It’s the same with the extremely complicated issue of political violence, the role of imperialism and the armed forces.

The fact is that in Venezuela, unlike the Chilean way, the process has been thought as “peaceful, but armed”. In Venezuela there is a very different civil-military dynamic [compared] to the Chilean experience. Beyond that, the Bolivarian revolution updates an unresolved debate of Unidad Popular: what can we do with the state, and what kind of state? To what extent are the government [and] elections tools of democratic conquest, and how to support this using grassroots organising to advance. How to deal with the rightists and imperialism from the best relationship that’s as strong as possible?

Valeria Ianni is an Argentinian historian, and member of the collective “Hombre Nuevo”. 

Translated for Venezuelanalysis by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim.

 

*All Venezuela government ministries include the words “Popular Power” in their official titles; eg, Ministry of Popular Power for Education.
** Boli-bourgeoisie (boliburguesía) is a colloquial term mostly used to describe wealthy, corrupt Chavista bureaucrats.

References (in Spanish)

[i] Ver: F. Gaudichaud, “Las tensiones del proceso bolivariano: nacionalismo popular, conquistas sociales y capitalismo rentista”, Rebelión, dic. 2012, www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=160554.

[ii] Ver: F. Gaudichaud, Poder popular y cordones industriales en Chile, Santiago, LOM, 2004.

Ukraine and NATO representatives on Tuesday discussed the possibility of sending NATO military instructors to Ukraine to train Ukrainian civil defence forces, Ukraine’s acting Defence Minister Andrei Deshchitsa said after a meeting of the NATO -Ukraine commission on Tuesday.

“We discussed a possibility of sending mobile groups of instructors to Ukraine to train its civil defence forces,” he said.

NATO’s former Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen did not rule out sending mobile groups of military instructors to Ukraine. However, he excluded the possibility of sending NATO’s armed forces to Ukraine.

In the meantime, NATO has stopped all practical military and civilian cooperation with Russia over Ukraine’s crisis, the NATO Council at the level of foreign ministers said in its final statement on Tuesday.

However, the Russia-NATO Council will continue meeting at the level of ambassadors and at a higher level in order to keep the door open for a dialogue with Russia.

In recent developments, US Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that federal authorities will “seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if he is found guilty of the Boston Marathon bombing last April.”

This article by professor James Tracy first published in the week following the bombings, sheds light on the nature of this tragic event. 

*    *    *

“For the most part we do not first see, and then define,” Walter Lippmann observed in 1921, “we define first and then see. In the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture.”[1]

A founding member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Lippmann looked with suspicion to the potential dangers the hopelessly uninformed public posed in the unfolding “Great Society.” Along these lines, a veteran mind control expert interviewed in 2001 by investigative journalist Jon Rappoport observes,

The media gives you the illusion that you are seeing something. That’s the billion‐dollar key to mind control … 90% of all the mind control in the world is done by the media, and it is all based on the viewer or the reader never seeing anything really beyond the surface of what is presented.”[2]

What exactly took place on April 15 at the Boston Marathon is unclear, yet what is now evident is a stark divergence between the narrative description of excessive carnage meted out as a result of the explosive devices and at least a portion of the video and photographic documentation of the bombing itself.

The corporate media proceeded in lockstep with dutifully propagating the authorized narrative of a combat-like environment at the marathon finish line. “Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said Monday night that the death toll had risen to three,” CNN told its viewers.

Scores were injured at the scene. One of the dead was an 8-year-old boy, according to a state law enforcement source. Hospitals reported at least 144 people are being treated, with at least 17 of them in critical condition and 25 in serious condition. At least eight of the patients are children. At least 10 people injured had limbs amputated, according to a terrorism expert briefed on the investigation. Several of the patients treated at Massachusetts General Hospital suffered injuries to lower limbs that will require “serial operations” in the coming days, trauma surgeon Peter Fagenholz said Monday night. Some injuries were so severe amputations were necessary, Fagenholz added.[3]

Much like the 24-hour cable news coverage, more prestigious venues such as the New York Times provided a graphic account alongside disturbing images of the aftermath, under the April 16 headline, “BLASTS AT BOSTON MARATHON KILL 3 AND INJURE 100.”

“These runners just finished and they don’t have legs now,” said Roupen Bastajian, 35, a Rhode Island state trooper and former Marine. “So many of them. there are so many people without legs. It’s all blood. There’s blood everywhere. You got bones, fragments. It’s disgusting … We put tournquets on,” Mr. Bastajian said. “I tied at least five, six legs with tourniquets.”[4]

Testimony in the newspaper of record from another eyewitness relates similarly gory details.

Deidre Hatfield, 27, was steps away from the finish line when she heard a blast. She saw bodies flying out into the street. She saw a couple of children who appeared lifeless. She saw people without legs. “When the bodies landed around me I thought: Am I burning? Maybe I’m burning and I don’t feel it,” Ms. Hatfield said … She looked inside a Starbucks to her left, where she thought a blast might have occurred. “What was so eerie, you looked in you knew there had to be 100 people in there, but there was no sign of movement.”[5]

The country’s commander-in-chief then publicly confirmed how the federal government would avenge the violence and bloodshed.

President Obama, speaking at the White House, vowed to bring those responsible for the blast to justice. “We will get to the bottom of this,” the president said. “We will find who did this, and we will find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”[6]

Does a compelling description of a terrorist attack replete with “eyewitness accounts” of the terrifying scene and official pronouncements constitute an actual event? The available video evidence reveals an explosion occurring at 2:50PM across Boylston Street from the finish line bleachers, the exact point where the national media’s camera lenses were transfixed. The abundant media presence alongside personal cellphone cameras have provided abundant footage of the event and its immediate aftermath.

Despite the seemingly formidable explosions very few bodies and no severed limbs are observable on the ground, even though there are numerous people exhibiting bewilderment and apparent injuries. In short, the event closely resembles a mass-casualty drill, many of which are for training purposes designed to be as lifelike as possible. Since it is mediated, however, and primarily experienced from afar through the careful assemblage of words, images, and the official pronouncements and commentary of celebrity journalists, it has the semblance of being for all practical purposes “real.”

Here is footage of a “mass casualty exercise” conducted at the Community College of Aurora in Colorado that includes explanation and commentary from emergency drill and response experts coordinating the exercise.

Below is another video of a similar drill shot at Bagram military base in Afghanistan produced by US Army personnel .

Reports arising in the Boston bombing’s aftermath suggest how local authorities in possible coordination with the Department of Homeland Security were in the process of carrying out such drills, complete with the announcement of bombs being detonated and bomb-sniffing dogs present at the start and finish lines

For example, University of Mobile’s Cross Country Coach, found it unusual how there were bomb sniffing dogs at the event’s start and finish lines. “They kept making announcements to the participants do not worry, it’s just a training exercise,” Stevenson remarked.[7]

Alternative news media have also pointed to the presence of what appear to be private military contractors in matching civilian apparel operating in coordination with an unmarked SUV close to the Marathon finish line. Identically-dressed men are observable before the bomb blasts in the immediate proximity of where the first bomb exploded and across the street thereafter.[8]

With the above in mind, photographic evidence of the event suggests the possibility of play actors getting into position after the detonation of what may in fact have been a smoke bomb or similarly benign explosive. The photo album from which the following photos are taken is available here.

Viewing at the immediate bomb blast from the following angle, one can see a dearth of people where the explosive is set off, suggesting how the immediate area may have been cleared before detonation.

Further, there is whispy smoke with no sign of any shrapnel piercing the smoke, the race sideline fabric, or anything outside of the sidewalk perimeter.

If this is the case the highly-circulated photo showing an orange-hued “fireball” explosion may have been embellished.

-MARATHON-BOSTON-BLAST
The photo below shows what appears to be either a man with his legs blown off or an amputee with his stump curled around the head of a woman. A man in a “hoodie” jacket is also sitting upright behind the woman. The injured man or amputee, later identified in major media outlets as Jeff Bauman Jr.[9] who also participated in helping the FBI identify the alleged bombers,[10] appears preoccupied with something in his hands that are close to his face. This is unusual behavior for a man who has just sustained a severely traumatic and mortal injury.
blast6
The third and fourth photos show the man wearing the hoodie garment apparently helping the injured man/amputee with his right leg. Could he be removing this man’s prosthetic?
blast 7
blast9
In the next photo it appears as if the injured man/amputee is absent but he may be obscured behind the black woman who appears in earlier photos. One can see what looks like his “bone” protruding behind the woman’s head. In contrast to the above shots, the man wearing the hoodie jacket appears at ease after what may have involved assisting the injured man/amputee with his limbs and/or makeup.
Further, in the next two photos there are far fewer than the reported 3 dead and 170 additional casualties. No bones or severed limbs are evident anywhere on the sidewalk pavement.
-boston-marathon-bombings
The next photo is especially unusual given the apparent sequence of events: the amputee is lying on the ground still unattended after the less-severely wounded black woman appears to have been taken away by emergency response workers. Others, such as the man sporting the hoodie, having likewise sustained far less serious injuries, yet are among the first to be carted away to receive medical attention.
amputee 3
The use of a wheelchair to aid and transport an individual with such severe injuries–who amazingly is still conscious and discharging little-if-any blood–runs counter to common emergency medical procedure.
http://willyloman.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/boston-5.jpg?w=468&h=663

Much is still unknown about the tragic bombing to draw any concrete conclusions. However, much like 9/11, Oklahoma City, Aurora, and Newtown, an official storyline complete with the execution and/or capture of bad-guy culprits has been forged and vigorously drummed into the public mind.

In the law enforcement panic that followed martial law was declared and militarized police were unleashed in a paradoxical attempt to reestablish the order that was disrupted through their own incompetence or coordinated intent, another startling flash of the unfolding police state’s severity.

The upshot will be a continued program of more intensified repression at taxpayer expense alongside a corresponding erosion of civil liberties. All the while, future terror-inducing events magnified through the corporate news media’s falsifying prism reinforce our cursed tendency to welcome the illusion—to define first, and then see.

Notes

[1] Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, New York: New Press, 1979 (1922).

[2] Jon Rappoport, “Jon Rappoport Interviews Jack True (alias),” March 23, 2001. In Jon Rappoport, The Matrix Revealed Vol. 1 (CD), 2012, http://nomorefakenews.com/

[3] Josh Levs and Monti Plott, “Boy, 8, One of Three Killed in Bombings at Boston Marathon,” CNN.com, April 18, 2013.

[4] Tim Rohan, “War Zone at Mile 26; ‘So Many People Without Legs,’” New York Times, April 16, 2013.

[5] Ibid.

[6] John Eligon and Michael Cooper, “Blasts at Boston Marathon Kill 3 and Injure 100,” New York Times, April 16, 2013.

[7] John Dzenitis, “UM Coach: Bomb Sniffing Dogs, Spotters on Roof Before Explosion,” NBC Local15, April 15, 2013.

[8] Tony Cartalucci, “Contractors at Boston Marathon Stood Near Bomb, Left Before Detonation,” Infowars.com, April 19, 2013.

[9] Connor Adams Sheets, “Meet Jeff Bauman,” International Business Times, April 16, 2013.

[10] Katherine Bindley, “Jeff Bauman, Double Amputee, May have Helped FBI With Boston Marathon Bombing Investigation,” Huffington Post, April 19, 2013.

-Andrew Whooley contributed ideas and research for this article. Mr. Whooley is an independent researcher originally from New Zealand who resides in Perth, WA, Australia.

The Boston Bombing Web of Lies

April 2nd, 2014 by Julie Lévesque

In recent developments,  United States Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that “federal authorities will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if he is found guilty of the Boston Marathon bombing last April.” Below is a GR’s Julie Levesque’s analysis and selection of GR articles published in the immediate wake of the April 2013 bombings

As with many “terrorism” related events since 9/11, the Boston bombing official narrative proves to be a web of lies as important facts are revealed. It turns out that the FBI has lied about its knowledge of the alleged suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, already being presented as guilty not only in the mainstream press but by the President himself.

According to the suspects’ mother, the FBI had been following them for years:

The FBI originally feigned ignorance over the identity of the two Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as they appealed to an unwitting public to help them “identify” and “find” the suspects. […]

Russia Today, in an article titled, “‘They were set up, FBI followed them for years’- Tsarnaevs’ mother to RT,” stated of the suspects’ mother:

But her biggest suspicion surrounding the case was the constant FBI surveillance she said her family was subjected to over the years. She is surprised that having been so stringent with the entire family, the FBI had no idea the sons were supposedly planning a terrorist act.

She would say of the FBI to Russia Today:

They used to come [to our] home, they used to talk to me…they were telling me that he [the older, 26-y/o Tamerlan] was really an extremist leader and that they were afraid of him. They told me whatever information he is getting, he gets from these extremist sites… they were controlling him, they were controlling his every step…and now they say that this is a terrorist act! Never ever is this true, my sons are innocent!

[…] The FBI would then be forced to concede that indeed it had interviewed the suspects, in 2011, two years before the Boston bombings.  (Tony Cartalucci Boston Bombing Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev Reported Killed, Was Alive When Detained: Tamerlan’s Aunt, Global Research, April 22, 2013.)

We were also told that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in an exchange of gunfire after he and his brother had robbed a 7-Eleven:

When the shootout ended, one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, a former boxer, had been shot and fatally wounded. He was wearing explosives, several law enforcement officials said. (Katharine Q. Seelye, William K. Rashbaum and Michael Cooper 2nd Bombing Suspect Caught After Frenzied Hunt Paralyzes Boston, The New York Times, April 19, 2013.)

With a bomb strapped to his chest, one of the Boston Marathon suspects was killed early Friday after he and his accomplice brother robbed a 7-Eleven, shot a police officer to death, carjacked an SUV and hurled explosives in an extraordinary firefight with law enforcement, authorities told NBC News. (Pete Williams, Richard Esposito, Michael Isikoff and Erin McClam, NBC News, One Boston Marathon suspect killed; second suspect, his brother, on loose after firefight, NBC News, April 19, 2013.)

The events surrounding Tamerlan’s death reported by the media are simply not true. It turns out that Tamerlan’ aunt identified him as a  “naked, cuffed, clearly alive and well detainee seen in video aired by CNN”:

Tamerlan Tsarnaev in custody

Was Tamerlan Assassinated?

The Boston Globe confirmed that Marathon Bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was in custody, contradicting earlier reports that he had been killed in crossfire. If he was in custody and is now dead, does that not suggest that he might have been the object of  an extrajudicial assassination? The circumstances of his death remain to be clarified.

Moreover, the 7-Eleven robbery was actually unrelated to the Tsarnaev brothers:

There was a 7-Eleven robbery in Cambridge last night, but it had nothing to do with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

Margaret Chabris, the director of corporate communication at 7- Eleven, says the surveillance video of the crime was not taken at a 7-Eleven and that the suspect that did rob the 7-Eleven does not look like Tamerlan or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“The suspect in the photos for that particular 7-Eleven robbery looks nothing like the suspects,” Chabris says. “The police or someone made a mistake. Someone was confused.”

[…] Again, they might be guilty. But as Glenn Greenwald notes:

The overarching principle here should be that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is entitled to a presumption of innocence until he is actually proven guilty. As so many cases have proven – from accused (but exonerated) anthrax attacker Stephen Hatfill to accused (but exonerated) Atlanta Olympic bomber Richard Jewell to dozens if not hundreds of Guantanamo detainees accused of being the “worst of the worst” but who were guilty of nothing – people who appear to be guilty based on government accusations and trials-by-media are often completely innocent. Media-presented evidence is no substitute for due process and an adversarial trial. (Washington’s Blog, Boston Terror Narrative Starts Falling Apart, Global Research, April 23, 2013)

On April 19 Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested and brought to a hospital. According to Reuters, “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded during at least one of two gun battles with police on Friday, suffering gunshot wounds to his head, neck, legs and hand [...]“. On April 24, the Huffington Post reported:

Two U.S. officials say the surviving suspect in the Boston bombings was unarmed when police captured him hiding inside a boat in a neighborhood back yard.

Authorities originally said they had exchanged gunfire with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for more than one hour Friday evening before they were able to subdue him. (Adam Goldman and Pete Yost, Boston Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Reportedly Unarmed When Arrested In Boat, Officials Say, Huffington Post, April 24, 2013.)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was unarmed and obviously brutalized by police 

We still don’t know what really happened in Boston and who committed the attacks even though the mainstream media report that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has admitted being guilty. What we know for sure is that the official Boston bombing narrative is filled with lies and that since 9/11 and in the context of the fictitious “War on Terror”, Western governments, intelligence agencies and mainstream media have proven to be untrustworthy sources of information on alleged “terrorist attacks” or “foiled terrorist plots”.

Canada’s Complicity in the War on Terror

Three days after Boston was locked down, invaded by a colossal police-military apparatus on a surreal “teenagehunt”, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police made a very timely announcement: they had foiled a terrorist plot targeting a Via Rail passenger train. Or so they say.

In a very absurd press conference where three RCMP officers repeatedly answered questions with “we cannot comment as the investigation is ongoing”, the only information they seemed very eager to disclose was that the suspects “received guidance from Al-Qaeda in Iran”.

RCMP press conference

While the Canadian mainstream media take these RCMP allegations at face value, independent news outlets suspect hidden political motives behind the highly publicized announcement:

Neither the police nor government have given any reason as to why, after allowing the accused to remain at large for months, they were suddenly arrested Monday afternoon and in a very high-profile manner. […]

Speaking Tuesday after Jaser’s arraignment in a Toronto court, his lawyer, John Norris, drew attention to the timing of the police-government announcement that they had uncovered Canada’s first “al-Qaeda-sponsored” terror plot. Said Norris, “The timing of the arrest is a bit of a mystery and certainly I would like to hear the RCMP’s explanation for that. They have been very clear that there is no risk of public safety and it is surprising to say the least that this arrest would be made now, close on the heels of what happened in Boston and timed perfectly with what was happening in the House of Commons yesterday.”

On Friday, the Conservative government announced that it was changing the House of Commons’ agenda, scheduling third and final reading of its “Combating Terrorism Act” (Bill S-7) to begin Monday and conclude this week. Bill S-7 gives the state vast new powers. These include: the right to hold terrorism suspects for 72 hours without charge, to convene “investigative hearings” at which those believed to have information about an imminent terrorist attack are stripped of their right to remain silent, and the power to place restrictions for up to a year on the movements and rights of persons deemed by the state to be terrorist suspects but against whom they have insufficient evidence to lay charges. […]

US authorities have been quick to trumpet the Canadian claims of a thwarted terrorist attack—claims that boost their own efforts to portray North America as under siege from terrorists and justify a vast expansion of the national-security apparatus and coercive powers of the state. The US ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, issued a statement Monday saying the arrests of Esseghaier and Jaser “were the result of extensive cross-border cooperation” and had underscored “that we face serious and real threats.” […]

At Monday’s press conference, the RCMP asserted that Esseghaier and Jaser had acted under the “direction and guidance” of “al-Qaeda elements located in Iran.”

The RCMP said that they had no evidence of Iranian government involvement. […]

The Harper Conservative government, which has declared itself Israel’s strongest ally and has expanded Canada’s decades’ old military-strategic alliance with Washington, broke off diplomatic relations with Teheran last summer. In justifying this action, Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird labeled Iran “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.” (Keith Jones Canadian Government unveils “Terror Plot” as it Adopts Draconian New Law, World Socialist Web Site, April 24, 2013.)

We may recall a “terrorist plot” revealed in late November 2001. According to mainstream reports, Ahmed Ressam, who was convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999, had also planned to bomb a Montreal area with “the most visible concentration of Jews in Canada — a vibrant area of some 5,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews who stand out because of their traditional outfits of black coats and hats for men, long skirts and wigs for women. » (Ingrid Peritz, Montreal’s brush with terror, The Globe and Mail, November 30, 2001.)

The Globe stated further:

Members of the Hasidic community in Outremont responded with shock after hearing that Mr. Ressam and Samir Ait Mohamed wanted to detonate a bomb in the area because it was predominantly Jewish.

The stated choice of explosives — a bomb on a gasoline truck — evoked the detonating power of the fuel-laden planes that ripped through the World Trade Center. (Ibid.)

Samir Aït Mohamed happened to be a fake Algerian refugee and “an informant for Canadian law-enforcement authorities [RCMP].” (Mike Carter, Montreal bomb plot revealed in Ressam case documents, Seattle Times, November 30, 2001.)

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was also involved in a terrorist plot. Joseph Gilles Breault, a.k.a. Youssef Mouammar or Abou Djihad, had threatened to attack the Montreal metro with a biochemical weapon in 1998. He was a CSIS agent.

With that in mind, the latest RCMP “exploit” raises even more questions on this revived Al-Qaeda threat focused on Iran. Who’s behind Al-Qaeda in Iran?:

As the FBI reels from what now appears to be revelations it was directly involved in the Boston Marathon bombings, a deluge of FBI “success” stories have been “serendipitously” splashed across Western headlines. Among them was an allegedly “foiled” terror attack in Canada, reported to be the work of terrorists supported by “Al-Qaeda operatives in Iran.” The Globe and Mail, in its report, “Canada joins U.S. in alleging al-Qaeda has operatives based in Iran,” states:

[…] The Sunni-based al-Qaeda and Shia Iran belong to different branches of Islam that have been at odds historically. But in recent years U.S. officials have formally alleged that Iran has allowed al-Qaeda members to operate out of its territory.”

[…] Hersh in his 2008 New Yorker piece titled, “Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran,” spelled out a damning indictment of US involvement in bolstering, arming, and funding terror organizations, not linked to, but described as actually being Al Qaeda [...]:

One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefiting from U.S. support. (Tony Cartalucci, Who is Behind “Al Qaeda in Iran”?, Global Research, April 23, 2013.)

Otherwise the brothers’ links to Chechen terrorists makes very little sense, since the latter, like many other terrorist groups and/or so-called freedom fighters depending on the strategy of the day, have been supported by the US:

What is abundantly clear is that the US government is not committed to fighting terrorists.

Quite the opposite. US intelligence has been recruiting and grooming terrorists for more than thirty years, while at same time upholding the absurd notion that these terrorists, who are bona fide CIA “intelligence assets”, constitute a threat to the American Homeland.  These alleged threats by “An Outside Enemy” are part of a propaganda ploy behind the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT).

[...] The development of an Islamist terrorist militia in different countries around the World is part of an intricate US intelligence project.

While the Tsarnaev brothers are casually accused without evidence of having links to Chechen terrorists, the important question is who is behind the Chechen terrorists?

In an utterly twisted logic, the protagonists of the ‘Global War on Terrorism” directed against Muslims are the de facto architects of “Islamic terrorism.” (Michel Chossudovsky, BOSTON TRUTH: The “Chechen Connection”, Al Qaeda and the Boston Marathon Bombings, Global Research, April 22, 2013.)

Even former US Ambassador Craig Murray says the “Chechen Connexion” story is surreal:

We are asked to believe that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was identified by the Russian government as an extremist Dagestani or Chechen Islamist terrorist, and they were so concerned about it that in late 2010 they asked the US government to take action. At that time, the US and Russia did not normally have a security cooperation relationship over the Caucasus, particularly following the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. For the Russians to ask the Americans for assistance, Tsarnaev must have been high on their list of worries.

In early 2011 the FBI interview Tsarnaev and trawl his papers and computers but apparently – remarkably for somebody allegedly radicalised by internet – the habitually paranoid FBI find nothing of concern.

So far, so weird. But now this gets utterly incredible. In 2012 Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who is of such concern to Russian security, is able to fly to Russia and pass through the airport security checks of the world’s most thoroughly and brutally efficient security services without being picked up.

He is then able to proceed to Dagestan – right at the heart of the world’s heaviest military occupation and the world’s most far reaching secret police surveillance – again without being intercepted, and he is able there to go through some form of terror training or further Islamist indoctrination. He then flies out again without any intervention by the Russian security services.

That is the official story and I have no doubt it did not happen. I know Russia and I know the Russian security services. Whatever else they may be, they are extremely well-equipped, experienced and efficient and embedded into a social fabric accustomed to cooperation with their mastery.

This scenario is simply impossible in the real world. (Craig Murray, The Boston Bombings and the FBI: “Official Tsarnaev Story Makes No Sense”, 21st Century Wire, April 22, 2013.)

The idea that Tamerlan was, in fact, a US intelligence asset seems closer to the truth, since according to a Russian newspaper, he attended a US-sponsored workshop in the Caucasus, the goal of which was to destabilize southern regions of Russia:

Today, Russian newspaper Izvestia alleges that the older Boston Tamarlan bombing brother attended a workshop – sponsored by an American organization – on destabilizing the Russian satellite states:

At the disposal of “Izvestia” has documents Counterintelligence Department Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, confirming that the Georgian organization “Fund of Caucasus” [here's their website], which cooperates with the U.S. non-profit organization “Jamestown” (the board of directors of NGOs previously entered one of the ideologists of U.S. foreign policy, Zbigniew Brzezinski), was engaged in recruiting residents North Caucasus to work in the interests of the United States and Georgia.

According to the reports of Colonel Chief Directorate Counterintelligence Department Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia Gregory Chanturia to the Minister of Internal Affairs Irakli Garibashvili, “Caucasian fund” in cooperation with the Foundation “Jamestown” in the summer of 2012 conducted workshops and seminars for young people of the Caucasus, including its Russian part. Some of them attended Tsarnaev Tamerlane, who was in Russia from January to July 2012.

“Caucasian fund” writes Tchanturia was established November 7, 2008, just after the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, “to control the processes taking place in the North Caucasus region.” Accordingly, the Department of the Interior Ministry counterintelligence case was brought intelligence operations called “DTV”. Main purpose is to recruit young people and intellectuals of the North Caucasus to enhance instability and extremism in the southern regions of Russia. (Washington’s Blog, Was Boston Bomber “Radicalized” at a U.S. Sponsored Counterterrorism Workshop, Global Research, April 24, 2013.)

Overall, the Boston tragedy is clearly and sadly being exploited to revamp the “War on terror”, justify the police state apparatus in the US and other Western countries such as Canada, and legitimize attacks on our rights and liberties.

Global Research brings to the attention of its readers a list of articles on this very important topic.


SELECTED ARTICLES

Boston Truth: Both FBI & CIA Watched Boston Bombing Suspects for YearsTony Cartalucci, April 26, 2013

The Roots of Terror: FBI’s Fingerprints All Over the Boston BombingsBill Van Auken, April 24, 2013

“Boston on the Tigris”: Iraq’s Unreported Terror Event. Twenty-six Car Bombs…Dirk Adriaensens, April 23, 2013

Terrorists “R” UsStephen Lendman, April 23, 2013

Martial Law in Boston: American Democracy in ShamblesBarry Grey, April 23, 2013

Boston Truth: The Suspects – Who Is Behind al Qaeda?Bonnie Faulkner and Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Canadian Government unveils “Terror Plot” as it Adopts Draconian New LawKeith Jones, April 24, 2013

Was Boston Bomber “Radicalized” at a U.S. Sponsored Counterterrorism WorkshopWashington’s Blog, April 24, 2013

Political Opportunism. The Boston Marathon Tragedy Used as a Pretext To Extend the “Global War on Terrorism”Colin Todhunter, April 24, 2013
The Roots of Terror: FBI’s Fingerprints All Over the Boston Bombings
Bill Van Auken, April 24, 2013

Terrorists “R” UsStephen Lendman, April 23, 2013

Who is Behind “Al Qaeda in Iran”?Tony Cartalucci, April 23, 2013

Martial Law in Boston: American Democracy in ShamblesBarry Grey, April 23, 2013

Boston Terror Narrative Starts Falling ApartWashington’s Blog, April 23, 2013

The European Homeland Security State. EU Anti-Terror Drills and Fear CampaignsR. Teichmann, April 23, 2013

The Boston Bombings and the FBI: “Official Tsarnaev Story Makes No Sense”Craig Murray, April 22, 2013

Boston Bombing Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev Reported Killed, Was Alive When Detained: Tamerlan’s AuntTony Cartalucci, April 22, 2013

In the Wake of the Boston Bombings: America’s War on Islam 2.0Stephen Lendman, April 22, 2013

Chechen Terrorists and the NeoconsColeen Rowley, April 22, 2013

Boston Bombers: Role of CIA in Chechen TerrorKurt Nimmo, April 22, 2013

BOSTON TRUTH: The “Chechen Connection”, Al Qaeda and the Boston Marathon BombingsProf Michel Chossudovsky, April 22, 2013

Boston Bombings Suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev “Has No Rights” and Should be Categorized as an “Enemy Combatant”Patrick Henningsen, April 21, 2013

19 Year Old Student in Custody: President Obama has already delivered a Guilty Verdict to Suspected Boston BomberPatrick Henningsen, April 21, 2013

Boston Suspect Arrested Stripped Naked so WHEN was he shot and killed?Global Research News, April 21, 2013

Boston Black Ops: Manufacturing Terror?Stephen Lendman, April 21, 2013

Boston Bombing Suspects: It was a Set Up. They were Framed by the FBIGlobal Research News, April 20, 2013

Boston Bombing Suspects Were on FBI Radar for YearsTony Cartalucci, April 20, 2013

19 year Old Boy Suspect: Why does Boston Celebrate Martial Law with Chants of ‘USA, USA’?Patrick Henningsen, April 20, 2013

 

Thailand: Thaksin’s Red Shirts and the Ongoing Violence

April 2nd, 2014 by Global Research News

by Michael Pirsch

March marked the beginning of the sixth month of protests against the corrupt proxy government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former prime minister of Thailand, who currently micro manages Thai government affairs through his youngest sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the proxy Phuea Thai political party. He lives in Dubai, but frequently travels to the region around Thailand to give orders to his proxies.

Image: Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts comb the aftermath of a pro-regime attack on protesters in the Thai province of Trat.

2 children were killed in the attack – an attack the regime’s “red shirts” cheered upon hearing about at a rally taking place simultaneously in another province.

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However, the start of the sixth month was not a festive occasion because a large dark cloud has enveloped Thailand since February 22, 2014. In the early evening hours, unknown gunmen fired grenades and automatic weapons at the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) demonstration in the province of Trat. They targeted the area on the perimeter of the demonstration, killing two five-year-old girls who were helping their respective mothers at their noodle stands.

At the same time the little girls were shot and killed, the core members and leaders of Thaksin’s red shirt supporters were meeting in Nakhon Ratchasima. One of the Red Shirt leaders, “Dab Daeng” took the stage and proceeded to announce: “I have good news to tell my red shirt brothers and sisters from all provinces. The PDRC members of Suthep at the protest stage in Khao Saming (Trat) were deservedly given a reception by the locals. Five PDRC people were killed and over 30 injured. The locals welcomed them because they love Suthep a lot…” [1]

Upon hearing this news, many of the Red Shirts cheered, pumping their fists in the air and applauding. While the Red Shirts were cheering the cold blooded murder of two five year old girls, the rest of Thailand wept. This was Saturday night, February 24, 2014.

For Thai people, crying time was not over. On Sunday afternoon, three people, including two more children, were murdered in front of a shopping mall they had just left. They were waiting to get on a “tuk-tuk” to return home when they were blasted apart by M-79 grenades. This took place at the far edge of a central Bangkok rally location. Thailand continued to weep. To this date (March 25) no one has been arrested.

These same Red Shirt cheerleaders of hate and violence have emerged as the greatest threat to peace in Thailand since the demonstrations began in October, 2013. The protesters have exhibited a long term commitment to peaceful protest in addition to performing acts of civil disobedience directed at government agencies. The demonstrators have stayed peaceful even though their protest sites, the homes of protest leaders and homes of Democrat Party leaders have been shot at with grenade launchers and automatic weapons dozens of times since November 2013. This is still ongoing.

Image: Weapons seized by police from “red shirts” outside the National Anti-Corruption Commission building in northern Bangkok.

The building has come under frequent gunfire and has been targeted by M-79 grenades – both weapons systems can be seen on the table above in addition to RGD-5 hand grenades which have been responsible for several attacks on protesters in recent months. 

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Buildings housing the Criminal Court, the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC), and the Constitution Court have recently been targeted with bombs and grenades late at night. No one has been arrested or charged by the police for these acts of terrorism. The attacks and seeming indifference on the part of the police have resulted in the military setting up checkpoints in the vicinity of the four remaining protest sites and the recently targeted court buildings. Following the murder of four children, PDRC leaders decided to close three protest sites in the interest of providing a safer environment for the protesters. This hasn’t stopped the terrorists as they have continued to attack the remaining three sites, mostly late at night. They have never been caught by the police.

These attacks mirror the acts of terrorism against the army during the 2010 Red Shirts demonstrations in Bangkok. The Red Shirt demands in 2010 were to overthrow the Democrat Party led coalition; to allow Thaksin to return to Thailand without having to face justice for his 2008 abuse of power conviction; to drop all charges against Thaksin from over 25 corruption cases; and to return his money confiscated as a result of the 2008 conviction. The Red Shirts accomplished one of those objectives when Thaksin’s proxy won the 2011 election following Abhisit’s dissolution of parliament. The remaining objectives are all about Thaksin’s wealth and legal standing. However, these objectives are hidden in claims of defending democracy.

The largest group of Red Shirts in 2010 were ordinary people from each region of the country. The next largest were the Red Shirt guards who were modeled after the “Thahaan Phran,” a paramilitary army tasked with terrorizing members of the Communist Party of Thailand in the 1970s. A much smaller group, the Black Shirts, were described to Human Rights Watch by journalist Oliver Sarbil: “…their job was to protect the Red Shirt protestor, but their real job was to terrorize soldiers… these guys were fearless. They operated mostly at night, but sometimes during the day. They went out in small teams [to confront the Army]…”They weren’t really ‘black-shirts’ – they were sometimes in green military uniforms and others dressed like Red Shirt protestors. They…weren’t interested in dealing with the Red Shirt leaders…The guys I met knew how to move and shoot. They also had experience handling explosives…The Black Shirts didn’t come to try and take territory – they shoot and then they leave, they hit [the soldiers] and retreat.” [2]

The Black Shirts and the Red Shirt guards were organized by army Major General Khattiya Sawasipol at Thaksin’s request. [3] In addition, the speeches of the Red Shirt leaders advanced violent solutions rather than peaceful solutions. [4] The leaders advocated widespread arson and looting in order to defend Thaksin. Notably, when the army began its operation to take back the Red Shirt rally site on May 19, 2010, the same leaders deserted the Red Shirt protestors, fleeing to the safety of the headquarters of the Royal Thai Police which was less than 100 meters from the rally stage. The protestors were left to fend for themselves and more than 55 were killed that day. None of the Red Shirt leaders were killed or wounded.

Image: Record low 2014 turnout shatters the myth of Thaksin’s “popularity.

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The mood of the anti-Thaksin protestors is different. There is no talk of burning down Bangkok; no talk of “rivers of blood” in the streets; there is only talk of enacting much needed reforms before elections can be held.

On Friday March 21, the Courts ruled the February 2 election invalid as the Constitution requires the election to be held in one day. With the Democrat Party boycotting the election, it was impossible to meet the constitutional requirement. In fact, prior to the elections, the Election Commission asked the proxy government to postpone the elections – which Thaksin refused to do. The February 2 election saw less than 50% of eligible voters take part compared to over 67% in 2011. Even in the proxy government strongholds, the turnout was less than 2011. Many of those who voted, voted no or caused their ballot to be invalidated. The election was an expensive farce. Now it appears there is a chance of exacting reforms before scheduling new elections, providing Thaksin agrees, which is highly doubtful. Instead, rhetoric has taken a turn toward violence exploiting the sharp divisions in Thailand.

Time Magazine ran a story on January 16, 2014 revealing, “…members of the Red Shirts…are readying a cache of arms in case the 46 year old premier (Yingluck) is forced from office by either military or judicial intervention.” The article also quoted an unnamed Red Shirt as saying, “There are strong anti-coup and anti-court sentiments among the Red Shirt mavericks who are familiar and experienced with weapon use.” [5]

The Economist in its January 25, 2014 issue highlighted the possibility of a break-up of Thailand, reporting, “Thus most Red Shirts in the north and northeast now contemplate – indeed they seem to be preparing for – a political separation from Bangkok and the south. Some can barely wait.” [6]

 At the same meeting where the Red Shirts cheered the murder of two five year old girls, members of the proxy caretaker government appeared on stage making violent threats against the country. Nattawut Saikua, caretaker deputy minister of commerce endorsed setting up a caretaker government “in exile” in the north or northeast and announced the Red Shirt movement was set to go to 100% combat mode. [7]

Those present also proposed that Thaksin’s proxy government commit itself to civil disobedience against “unjust” rulings and decisions by independent agencies, i.e. the court system.[8] This is a unique concept whereby a government announces its decision not to adhere to any court decision not favorable to itself.

Additional threats to the military and courts were made by the proxy caretaker minister of the interior, Charupong Ruangsuwan, who said ten million guns were legally owned by Thai people, “These guns are for self defense. If anyone underestimates the power of the people, you’ll know about it. I believe that we must be prepared to enter a decisive situation….In today’s fight, lives are at stake. It is not the kind of fight we watch on cinemas. In this fight when people die, it is for real. But I am confident we won’t die and we will win.”[9] His comments were interpreted by many on both sides of the divide as an endorsement of secession, just as the Economist predicted in January.

Following this meeting, Red Shirt leaders expressed their support of using violence to “protect democracy.” In Chiang Mai, Red Shirt leaders threatened violence against anybody who blew a whistle, signifying opposition to the proxy government. [10] Also in Chiang Mai, patrons of night clubs were threatened with violence if the club employed musicians who appeared on any of the stages at the Bangkok demonstrations. In 2009, these same Red Shirts prevented a gay pride HIV/AIDS awareness march from marching. The marchers were herded into an enclosed area while Red Shirts threw rocks and verbally abused the marchers. We have to keep in mind all this is being done to “protect democracy.”

The Red Shirt’s reputation as stalwart defenders of democracy was blown apart on Saturday March 15 when it was suddenly announced that Red Shirts chairwoman Thida Tawornseth had resigned as leader and Jatuporn Promphan was “appointed” – not elected – to replace her. Democracy is defined as “rule by the governed.” Thus, basic democracy must involve the governed in determining the direction and policy of the government or organization. Democracy requires a well educated population. Thailand’s education system fails to provide the tools necessary for critical thinking. There are no institutions in Thailand which practice democracy, such as democratic labor unions. Thida’s resignation and Jatuporn’s ascension were not the result of democracy, but more characteristic of top-down decision-making. The Red Shirts are not a grassroots organization; it is controlled by a few at the top absent any policy-making direction from the bottom.

Many believe Thaksin Shinawatra is the shot caller of the Red Shirts. His vice-like grip on Thai politics is well known, most particularly with the current proxy caretaker government. For example, the 2011 election campaign posters of Phuea Thai Party promised, “Thaksin Thinks; Phuea Thai Acts.” In addition, stories have been written by Forbes Magazine, New York Times, Der Spiegel amongst others which describe how he continues to micro-manage the proxy government led by his youngest sister, Yingluck. [12] No one elected him in 2011 because he was not on the ballot. He was not on the ballot because he is a fugitive from the Thai judicial system. A government which is tightly controlled by a fugitive from justice is not democratic.

Thaksin reportedly even tries to micro-manage the government’s response to the protests. On February 17, 2014, Wassayos Ngamkhom reported in the Bangkok Post that on at least two occasions Thaksin, from Dubai, ordered the arrest of protest leader Suthep who was eating lunch at a restaurant near the Democracy Monument and ordered the dispersal of a demonstration site. Thaksin was not concerned there could be clashes and “losses.” The second order reported by Wassayos was to attack the NSPRT (Network of Students and People to Reform Thailand) stage near the Government House. Police were summoned to the office of Chalerm, the head of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO), to carry out the orders from the man in Dubai. The Police leadership balked at carrying out these orders out of concern that large-scale violence would break out. Although the man in Dubai was reportedly not concerned about “losses,” the Police leadership apparently was. [13]

Bombings and shootings directed at individuals and institutions continue. Armed gunmen have come out to protect demonstrators on three occasions after demonstrators had come under attack, once by the police and twice by the 2014 model of the Black Shirts. It is this deterrent which has frustrated efforts to cause so much violence the military would have to intervene. An overwhelming number of Thai people do not want the military to intervene, although there may be some who want an intervention in order to justify civil war.

Failing to draw the military into the fray, gunmen are now launching grenades at court buildings and last week fired several grenades at the home of a member of the Constitution Court on the eve of its decision to invalidate the 2011 election. Considering the Red Shirt demand for the government to commit to civil disobedience against court actions, it appears civil disobedience is the carrot and grenades are the stick. Kraisak Choonhavan, former Thai senator, argues the “People’s Courts” are under attack due to their effectiveness and that is why “they are loathed by corrupt politicians, arrogant civil servants and avaricious corporate despoilers of our environment.” [14]

Arguably the appropriate term to describe the political nature of Thaksin’s proxy government, would be “dictatorship of the majority.” The proxy government did not receive the majority of votes in the 2011 election; they were forced to recruit smaller parties to form a parliamentary majority. The proxy Pheua Thai Party has ignored long standing protocols and rules directing the operation of Parliament since taking the reins. It cuts off debate prematurely. Arbitrarily cutting off debate in violation of the operating rules and practices of parliament was one of the grounds two attempts to amend the Constitution were ruled unconstitutional. It is arrogance in the practice of “dictatorship of the majority” that has brought unfavorable court rulings against the government.

The most virulent attacks on the courts have been directed at the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC). It has been investigating the rice pledging scheme enacted by this government in 2011. The policy was supposed to pay rice farmers 40-50% over market price for their rice harvest. To date, this scheme has caused losses to the government of between 10-15 billion dollars because the government has not been able to sell the rice at those inflated prices. The government has falsified sales on a government to government basis with China and it still refuses to release all documents relating to sales, citing business secrecy reasons. The money has gone somewhere, but not to the rice farmers who are now coming into their seventh month without payment for rice already delivered. It is safe to say a substantial number of Pheua Thai votes in 2011 came from rice farmers excited about Thaksin’s promise of a windfall.

The NACC warned the government when the bill was passed in 2011 about the necessity of transparency in the program which was duly ignored by the “dictatorship of the majority.”

In September 2013, the opposition Democrat Party filed a no-confidence motion against the proxy prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The motion was based on the apparent corruption and losses related to the rice pledging scheme. Again, “dictatorship of the majority” intervened. She was unwilling to answer questions and unwilling to provide needed government documents about the scheme because she held a majority.

 Now she has been charged with dereliction of duty regarding the rice scheme. She named herself chairwoman of the rice pledging committee so she should be on top of all related matters. Instead, when charged with dereliction of duty by the NACC, she pleaded for more time to respond. She and her supporters accused the NACC with being unfair.

 She has had plenty of time and opportunity to prepare. She chose not to. She was not transparent about the rice scheme during the no-confidence debate. She didn’t need to because she enjoyed protection by the “dictatorship of the majority.” However, the judicial system is not parliament.

Image: Pro-Thaksin “red shirts” assault a monk who allegedly condemned their mob in passing.Violence against those who merely speak up against the means, methods, and mission of the red shirts is one of their infamous trademarks.

-

That is apparently why there are increasing numbers of middle of the night bombings directed at court buildings and a group of Red Shirts are blockading the building housing the NACC. This week, a group from the Red Shirt blockade beat up a Buddhist monk who admonished them about beating up another person. Thaksin’s supporters, known or unknown to him, are beating up Buddhist monks, killing children, and terrorizing areas of Bangkok with late night bombings in what appears to be a repeat of the lead-up to the death and destruction of the 2010 protests.

 Is Thailand suffering simply so Thaksin Shinawatra can get his money back and have his convictions and more than 25 corruption charges dismissed? A virulent anti-democracy movement, the Red Shirts, masquerades as “protectors of democracy.” As options run out for Thaksin, a change in Red Shirt leadership appears out of nowhere with no input from grassroots Red Shirts. The new leader, Jatuporn, still faces charges of terrorism relating to his role in the 2010 violence. Along with his appointment, caretaker government ministers and deputy ministers speak openly about “combat mode” and secession. Even the proxy caretaker prime minister got into the act melodramatically proclaiming, “I’m also the defense minister meaning I’m like a soldier who has to do his duty until the last minute. A soldier has to keep the last stronghold and die on the battlefield. I will die in the democratic battlefield.”[15]

The proxy government’s corruption has caught up with it, rendering the party virtually powerless. Now that the parliamentary path is closed, it appears supporters of the man in Dubai are becoming more violent and dangerous. The leadership of the anti-government protests announced they will call off their protests if the Red Shirts start killing protestors. The numbers who are willing to fight and die in order that Thaksin get his money back and all charges and conviction dropped are diminishing over time.

Thailand deserves much better. Choosing between two sets of elites benefits no one. The idea of reform before elections is now more likely than not. It seems to depend on how much divisiveness and bloodshed the Red Shirts employ. It would be a great benefit if the sensible Red Shirts start thinking about how low income people nationwide can participate on an equal basis in this reform effort. Thailand has a short window of opportunity to address a myriad of serious problems. It is time to recognize the serious problem that has most of the population existing outside of the decision-making process in the Kingdom.

Notes

[1].http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/39672/red-shirt-celebration-of-fatal-attack-on-protestors-in-trat-repugnant-says-veera-prateepchaekul

[2].Human Rights Watch, “Descent Into Chaos: Thailand’s 2010 Protests and Government Crackdown”, May 2011, http://hrw.org/reports/2011/05/03/descent-chaos-0 pp 43-46

[3].IBID. pp. 43-46

[4].IBID. p. 5

[5].http://www.world.time.com?2014/01/16/bangkok-shutdown-yingluck-supporters-prepare-to-fight-for-democracy

[6].http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21594989/thailands-very-unity-under-threat-you-go-your-way-ill-go-mine#sthash.e85302mt.dpbs

[7].http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Redshirt-threats-get-political-tension-boiling-30227587.html

[8].IBID. Nation Multimedia Group

[9].http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/world/asia/deadly-violence-strikes-antigovernment-rallies-in-thailand.html?-r=0

[10].http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/398810-blowing-up-a-storm

[11].http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/3971921

[12].http://www.forbes.com/sites/timferguson/2012/10/30/qa-thaksin-sits-down-with-forbes/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/world/asia-thaksin-shinawatra-of-thailand-wields-influence-from-afar.html

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-interview-with-thaksin-shinawatra-Thailand-must-be-united-again-a-768492.html

[13]. http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/crime/1395415/

[14].http://bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/394330/judicial-activism-in-thepeoples-court-comes-of-age

[15].http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Pm-ready-to-die-on-the30228118.html -democratic-battlefield-ying-3022804.html

Criminalizing Criticism of Israel in Canada

April 2nd, 2014 by Michael Keefer

The international campaign calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, as a peaceful means of persuading that state to abandon its systematic violations of international law and its policies of apartheid dispossession, colonization, and blockade in the occupied Palestinian territories, has recently enjoyed a burgeoning number of successes.1

In early February 2014, The Economist noted that BDS “is turning mainstream,”2 and former Israeli Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg wrote in Haaretz that the “BDS movement is gaining momentum and is approaching the turning point [.... at which] sanctions against Israel will become a fait accompli.”3

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a point of indicating that he and his allies would respond vigorously to this trend. Some of the reports about a cabinet meeting where “tactics” were discussed revealed more about internecine divisions than about the substance of the meeting: “Netanyahu convenes strategy meeting to fight boycotts”—but he deliberately excluded some senior ministers:

“Left Ministers Kept Out of Secret Cabinet BDS Session.”4

Yet although Israeli media indicated “that ‘the discussion was held in secret’, with an imposed ‘media blackout’,” one source that reported this fact was able to give a fairly precise sense of what went on behind closed doors:

Ideas apparently discussed by senior ministers included lawsuits “in European and North American courts against [pro-BDS] organizations” and “legal action against financial institutions that boycott settlements … [and complicit] Israeli companies”. There is also the possibility of “encouraging anti-boycott legislation in friendly capitals around the world, such as Washington, Ottawa and Canberra”, and “activat[ing] the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.” for such a purpose.5

This kind of “lawfare,” as it is sometimes called, is nothing new (nor, one can add, is the notion, also discussed at this meeting, of bolstering surveillance of pro-BDS organizations by military intelligence, the Shin Bet Security Service, and the Mossad). It’s also evident that the pro-Israel lobby has been active in mobilizing politicians in the “friendly capitals” of Washington, Ottawa, and Canberra for many years.

Recent fruits of that labour have included, in Canberra, threats made in June 2013 by Julie Bishop, a senior member of Julia Gillard’s incoming Australian government, that “supporters of an academic boycott of Israel” would have their “access to public research funds summarily cut off.”6 In Washington, a bipartisan “Protect Academic Freedom Act” that would deny federal funding “to colleges and universities that participate in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars”7 has been brought before Congress.

 But what of Canada, whose Prime Minister is Mr. Netanyahu’s most faithful friend?8

This essay will argue that revisions to the Canadian Criminal Code proposed by the Harper government contain wording that is designed to enable lawfare prosecutions of human rights activists in precisely the manner desired by Mr. Netanyahu and his associates.

1. Bill C-13 and its deceptions

Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, received first reading in the House of Commons in November 2013. In a web page devoted to “Myths and Facts” about this bill, the Department of Justice rejects the “myth” that “Bill C-13 is an omnibus crime bill that deals with more than cyberbullying.”

 Bill C-13 is not an omnibus crime bill. It combines a proposed new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images to address cyberbullying with judicially-authorized tools to help police and prosecutors investigate not only the proposed new offence, but other existing offences that are committed via the Internet or that involve electronic evidence. [....] The Bill does not contain the former Bill C-30′s controversial amendments relating to warrantless access to subscriber information and telecommunication infrastructure modification.9

However, Dr. Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, has observed that Bill C-13 does indeed retain provisions that permit an increased warrantless access to personal information, far beyond what is envisioned by the current Criminal Code.10 Criminal lawyer Michael Spratt has denounced the bill as a “digital Trojan horse for the surveillance state”:

most of C-13 has little to do with protecting victims [of cyber-bullying]. This bill would recklessly expand the surveillance powers of the state. It sacrifices personal privacy. It limits or eliminates judicial oversight. It is inconsistent with recent Supreme Court jurisprudence. It’s a dangerous bill.11

The Department of Justice’s claim that “Bill C-13 is not an omnibus crime bill” is transparently false. As another critic, Terry Wilson, has remarked, despite being promoted “as legislation to prevent online bullying, the bill actually has very little to do with bullies and has sections ranging from stealing cable, hacking, surveillance, to terrorism (cyberbullying accounts for 2 out of the 50 pages in the bill) [...]. The bill even includes ‘hate legislation’….”12

In this latter respect Bill C-13 incorporates, once again, a Trojan horse. The bill adds wording to the Hate Propaganda sections of the Criminal Code that seems, on the face of it, to do no more than to bring these sections into conformity with other parallel texts—with several important documents of international law, and with a sentencing provision later in the Criminal Code where the same wording already appears. But a second intention is also arguably at work in this part of Bill C-13, for there is good reason to believe that the new wording is intended, while deceptively avoiding any public debate over the matter, to make it possible to prosecute human rights discourse and advocacy relating to the oppressive treatment of Palestinians by the state of Israel as hate speech or incitement of hatred.

This view of the intention underlying Bill C-13 is supported by Prime Minister Harper’s speech to the Israeli Knesset on January 20, 2014 (which will be discussed below). It can draw support as well from the fact that an identical change to the wording of the French penal code made in 2003 by the so-called Lellouche Law has permitted the conviction of some twenty French human rights activists for incitement of racial hatred.13

The results in France have been paradoxical. France is, like Canada, a High Contracting Party of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949—whose first article states that “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.”14 The people convicted for incitement of racial hatred under the Lellouche Law are participants in a movement that has been consistent in its firm rejection of antisemitism and all other forms of racism.15 This movement advocates a peaceful exertion of economic pressure with the aim of persuading the Israeli state to end its multiple and systematic violations of international law, including in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel has been repeatedly been condemned for flouting by UN committees and reports, as well as by independent agencies such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The facts of the matter are thus unambiguous: in enforcing the Lellouche Law, and redefining human rights activists as people guilty of hate crimes, the French state has simultaneously been violating its prior solemn commitment “to respect and to ensure respect for” the Fourth Geneva Convention “in all circumstances.”

One of the aims of Bill C-13 appears to be to place Canada in a similar situation of openly violating one of the central instruments of international law.

 2. Alterations to the meaning of Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code

Section 12 of Bill C-13 proposes several small additions within that part of the Criminal Code (Sections 318-321.1) that carries the subtitle “Hate Propaganda.” Section 12 reads as follows:

12. Subsection 318.(4) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(4) In this section, “identifiable group” means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental and physical disability.16

(The emphasis here indicates the wording being added to the current Criminal Code by Bill B-13.)

These proposed additions within Section 318 of the Criminal Code, which is concerned with the crime of “Advocating genocide,” also have an impact on the meaning and application of Section 319, which is concerned with the crimes of “Public incitement of hatred” and “Wilful promotion of hatred,” and in which—as Subsection 319.(7) states—“’identifiable group’ has the same meaning as in section 318”. The relevant clauses in Section 319 read as follows:

319. (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of

 (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

 (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

 (2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of

 (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

 (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.17

 The most noteworthy addition to the concept of “identifiable group” is that of the category of national origin, which has no evident connection to the ostensible purpose of Bill C-13, but may be understood as linked to another agenda that was forcefully enunciated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his January 20, 2014 speech to the Israeli Knesset—namely, that of re-defining criticism of the policies and behaviour of the nation-state of Israel in relation to its Palestinian citizens and to the inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territories as hate propaganda.

 As a February 2014 report in the leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz indicated, the hate-crime convictions in France several months previously of twelve human rights activists, supporters of the international campaign advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, were secured under the Lellouche Law, which “extended the definition of discrimination beyond the expected parameters of race, religion and sexual orientation to include members of national groups.”18

 3. The Lellouche Law: another Trojan horse?

 Whether intentionally or not, the Lellouche Law has functioned as a kind of Trojan horse. Dr. Jean-Yves Camus has remarked that this law, “passed on 3 February 2003, in the wake of an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitic violence, allows judges to impose harsher sanctions upon perpetrators of racist violence, than those they would normally receive in the case of a similar act of violence not motivated by racism.”19 As the Haaretz report on the criminalization of BDS activism in France indicates, the law’s ostensible purpose, at a time when the openly antisemitic, anti-immigrant and neofascist Front National of Jean-Marie LePen had been attracting increased support, in southern France especially, was “to strengthen French republican values and counter sectarian tendencies”:

The law was passed in 2003, shortly after unprecedented gains by the far right National Front party in the presidential election.

 The measure was designed to respond to a social climate of not only mounting anti-Semitism, but also anti-Arab discrimination and xenophobia.20

 The “Outline of motives” that prefaced the Lellouche Law when it was presented to the Assemblée Nationale in November 2002 was explicit in its repeated statements that the additions to the Penal Code proposed by this law were primarily intended to target openly racist violence:

“violences ouvertement racistes,” “actes de violence intentionellement racistes,” “violences à caractère raciste,” “agressions à caractère raciste.”21

Although this text specified that racist violence could be “moral” as well as physical,22 the two recent examples it offered to the deputies of the Assemblée Nationale were the “openly racist murder” of a young Frenchman of Moroccan origin in northern France in October 2002, and racist aggression directed against young students of a private Jewish school in the 13th arrondissement of Paris in early November.23 Noting that existing French laws already targeted racial discrimination, the incitement of hatred or violence, and Holocaust revisionism, the prefatory outline defined the purpose of this law as being to significantly enhance the penalties imposed in cases where attacks on people or property are racist in character—as when racism is involved in acts of torture and barbarism, violence resulting unintentionally in death, and acts leading to mutilation or permanent disability, as well as acts involving damage to or the destruction of property.24

Despite this explicit statement of intention, the Lellouche Law has been applied in another manner altogether—on the pretext that in eight of its nine articles it includes the category of “nation” in the definition of groups that can be understood as victimized. As the Haaretz report indicates, this law “has been invoked repeatedly against anti-Israel activists. France has seen 10 trials against BDS supporters based on Lellouche.”25

Pascal Markowitz, head of the BDS legal task force of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), is frank in his assessment of the Lellouche Law’s instrumental value. He is quoted by Haaretz as saying that “the law is ‘the most effective legislation on BDS today.’ ‘We had only one acquittal, so the statistics are looking good,’ he said.”26 But other political figures in France have taken a different view of the matter:

“These convictions are unconscionable,” Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, a French member of the European Parliament, said at a special session on the case in Strasbourg in 2011. “Governments are doing nothing to end Israel’s illegal occupation [of the Palestinian territories] and the French court is wrongfully denying citizens from acting through BDS.”27

 It’s important to understand what is meant, in the present context, by a “Trojan horse.” In every version of the ancient story, from Homer to Virgil,28 the essential point is the same. The hollow wooden horse was a duplicitous stratagem used by the Greek army that had for ten years been besieging Troy; it succeeded because the horse was deceptively dual-purpose in nature. Pretending to abandon their siege, the Greeks left this huge artefact behind: its plausible overt function was as an offering to the gods, which the Trojans were persuaded to drag into their city in celebration of their supposed victory. But it also had a second concealed function—as a treacherous means of getting a body of armed Greeks inside the walls of Troy, so that they could open the city gates at night when the rest of their army returned.

 The Lellouche Law has served as a Trojan horse because when it was passed it seemed an appropriate and plausible means of dealing with an increase in racially motivated violence in France that coincided with an upsurge in support for a frankly racist far-right political party. But the law has since been used for a quite different purpose: that of criminalizing the discourse of human rights activists who speak out in support of respecting and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law.

 4. The insertion of “national” into Sections 318 and 319: just “housecleaning”?

 According to a report by Paul McLeod of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the addition of the word “national” to Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code is explained by the Department of Justice as being “designed to match the wording of a protocol from the Council of Europe, a human rights organization.”29 The reference is to the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, adopted in Strasbourg in January 2003. In Chapter I, Article 2.1 of this text the word “national” occurs in a definition of the groups understood to be victimized by “racist and xenophobic material.”30

 McLeod indicates that some legal experts have proposed that the change is “likely a mere housecleaning amendment to bring the Criminal Code in line with the wording of other statutes.”31 The word “national” does indeed occur in similar contexts in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 20, and in Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide. Moreover, Bill C-13 brings Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code into conformity with the sentencing provision in Section 718, which already includes all the groups (national origin, age, sex, and mental and physical disability) that were not included in Section 318.(4) but have now been added.

A “housecleaning” explanation of the changes is thus entirely plausible.

 However, the housecleaning has not actually been very thorough. In its current form, Section 318 of the Criminal Code, which defines the appropriate punishment for the crime of advocating or promoting genocide, is a somewhat peculiar text—for its subsection 2, while clearly derived from Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide, omits clauses (b), (d), and (e) of that article’s definition.32

 David MacDonald and Graham Hudson have remarked that when Parliament ratified the Convention on Genocide in 1952, it excluded some of the clauses of Article 2 from Canada’s Criminal Code, on the grounds that matters such as the forcible removal of children are not relevant to this country. (Given the existence of Canada’s system of church-run residential schools, into whose custody native children were forcibly transferred, it seems obvious that the last clause of the Convention’s Article 2 was excluded in bad faith.) MacDonald and Hudson note as well that when in 2000 Parliament adopted the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, it thereby made the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (which includes the Convention on Genocide’s full definition of genocide) a part of Canadian statutory law.33 Section 318 of the Criminal Code is thus anomalous in its current form, in that its definition of the crime of genocide excludes clauses which are nonetheless part of Canadian statutory law because of their incorporation into the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

 In a thorough housecleaning of this part of the Criminal Code, the inclusion of the three omitted clauses from Article 2 of the Convention on Genocide would have been an obvious step to take.

I mention this not because it tells with any force against a “housecleaning” explanation of Bill C-13′s insertion of the word “national” into Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code: as noted above, that explanation remains wholly plausible. But what this example does suggest is that the framers of Bill C-13 may not have been single-mindedly focused on housecleaning.

Prime Minister Harper’s January 20, 2014 address to the Israeli Knesset leads us toward a second explanation of the purpose of Bill C-13′s insertion of the word “national” into the definition of groups that can be victimized by hate propaganda. In suggesting that this speech reveals with some clarity the thinking that underlies this addition to the text of the Criminal Code, I do not mean to imply that the primary and overt explanation of the change as a “housecleaning” matter is displaced by this second underlying intention—for that is not how Trojan horses work.

A Trojan horse is by its nature duplicitous, but that duplicity can only be successful to the degree that the horse’s overt and primary purpose remains plausible.

5. Prime Minister Harper’s January 20, 2014 address to the Israeli Knesset

In this speech the Prime Minister asked, rhetorically, what it is today that threatens societies that, like Israel, embrace “the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.” His answer was sweeping:

Those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others, and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt. Those who, often begin by hating the Jews, but, history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not them. Those forces, which have threatened the state of Israel every single day of its existence, and which, today, as 9/11 graphically showed us, threaten us all.34

This might seem imprecise. But as Prime Minister Harper went on to explain, “we live in a world where [...] moral relativism runs rampant.”

And in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can easily be planted.

And so we have witnessed, in recent years, the mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain.

We all know about the old anti-Semitism.

It was crude and ignorant, and it led to the horrors of the death camps.

Of course, in many dark corners, it is still with us.

But, in much of the Western world, the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society.

People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East.

As once Jewish businesses were boycotted, some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel.

On some campuses, intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students.

Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state.35

In the Prime Minister’s view, any profound criticism of Israeli policies and governance can only be a product of antisemitic hatred, spewed forth by people who are simply looking for further ways of victimizing Jews. By this account it is, very precisely, as members of a national group—as potential or actual citizens of Israel—that Jews are being victimized by these devious, sophisticated new antisemites. Canadian Jews could be counted among those victimized in this manner, for those who do not actually hold Israeli citizenship are all potentially Israeli nationals, under Israel’s Law of Return.

This claim that criticisms of Israel are motivated by a “new strain” of antisemitism, and can therefore legitimately be categorized and stigmatized as a form of hate propaganda, is not an invention of the Prime Minister. As the historian Norman G. Finkelstein wrote in 2005, “the allegation of a new anti-Semitism is neither new nor about anti-Semitism”: it is, rather, an ideology formulated in the early 1970s for the explicit purpose of deflecting pressures on the state of Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank that had been captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Days War.36

The following sections will show that the ideology and rhetoric of the “new antisemitism” have been decisively rejected by many contemporary Jewish scholars and public intellectuals, a significant number of whom have come to recognize in the moral debate within the Jewish community over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians a reason for adding their support to the growing international support for the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. This division within the Jewish community provides further grounds for recognizing the Prime Minister’s claims as misleading and untrue. It will be shown as well that the judgment that Israel has become an apartheid state (which Mr. Harper regards as the ‘most disgraceful of all’) has in fact been endorsed by prominent scholars and public figures both in Israel and internationally—including in South Africa, a country whose legal experts and public figures could surely claim with some cause to know better than Mr. Harper what apartheid is.

6. Refuting the so-called “new antisemitism”

The “new antisemitism” can be briefly defined as a rhetorical gambit which consists in claiming that the tropes of antisemitism, one of whose traditional functions has been (and continues to be) to justify the exclusion of Jews from the full rights of citizenship in whatever country they inhabit, are now being turned against the “collective Jew,” as embodied in the state of Israel—with the purpose this time of excluding Jews as a national collective from enjoying their full rights of participation in the family of nations. The aim of this rhetorical turn is to defend Israeli policies and actions by proposing that their critics are only pretending to be acting on the basis of universal principles of justice and equity; these people are instead antisemites who in a “sophisticated” manner have redirected their hatred against the Jewish nation-state.

We can sample the workings of this gambit in three recent instances involving attributions of a re-deployment of some of the most vicious traditional tropes of antisemitism: the ‘Jew’ as embodiment of abjection, filth and excrement; the ‘Jew’ as a contaminating presence or poisoner (most especially of communal water sources); and the ‘Jew’ as child-murderer.37 Over the centuries, antisemites have used all of these foul accusations, especially the third (known as the “blood libel”), to arouse mob violence and state persecutions of Jewish communities.

 The first of these tropes was turned against English journalist Johann Hari when he wrote in 2008 that he could not join the celebrations of the sixtieth year since Israel’s founding because of Israel’s well-documented mistreatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, which has included the flushing of untreated sewage from illegal hilltop settlements onto Palestinian farmland, and an embargo on equipment needed to repair Gaza’s sewage system, resulting in potentially catastrophic health hazards. Britain’s Community Security Trust (parallel in some respects to B’nai Brith Canada) accused Hari of “us[ing] the themes of Israeli ‘raw untreated sewage’ and ‘shit’ to help explain why he could not bring himself to celebrate 60 years since Israel’s creation”—thus leaving readers to suppose, since no mention was made of Hari’s on-site reporting and references to reports on the subject, that he had engaged in a literally filthy piece of antisemitism aimed at the Jewish collectivity of Israel.38

 The second trope was activated by former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler in a paper on “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness,” published in the Jerusalem Post in 2004, in the course of which he declared that “in a world in which human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time, the [UN] portrayal of Israel as the metaphor for a human rights violator is an indictment of Israel as the ‘new anti-Christ’—as the ‘poisoner of the international wells’….”39 It is noteworthy that Cotler provides no indication of these antisemitic tropes being used by anyone in the UN committees he attacks—and one can only regret that a legal expert who earned an international reputation as an advocate of human rights has turned against that discourse to the point of caricaturing it as a pseudo-religion suffused with antisemitism.

The third trope was used on March 22, 2009 by Jonathan Kay, when he complained in the National Post that “From the opening days of the Gaza campaign [i.e. Operation Cast Lead], the blood-libels of ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’ have flown thick and fast”; on the same day Melanie Phillips, writing in the Spectator, accused the Israeli newspaper Haaretz of a blood libel for having reported the testimony of Israeli soldiers that they had witnessed and participated in war crimes against Gaza civilians.40

 Common to all three cases is a deliberate avoidance of the material evidence relating to allegations of Israeli wrong-doing: any such evidence is conveniently made to vanish by a rhetorical inversion which turns the state of Israel from the victimizer of Palestinians into the victim of its antisemitic accusers, and turns the human rights activist or journalist who has gathered or reported on evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity into someone who must instead answer to charges of being an antisemitic disseminator of hatred.

 The rhetorical strategy of this ideology of the “new antisemitism,” in short, is to move expeditiously away from material evidence and into the domain of rhetorical inversions and slander. In 2009, Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, explained at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem how to go about it. The capital letters are his:

 We must repeat again and again these basic facts—TO BE ‘anti-Israel’ IS TO BE ANTI-SEMITIC. TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL, ISRAELI PROFESSORS and ISRAELI business, these are not political acts, these are acts of hate, acts of anti-Semitism! Anti-Israel hysteria is anti-Semitic hysteria. They are one and the same.41

 Leading Jewish intellectuals have been dismissive of the ideology out of which this rhetoric of a “new antisemitism” arises. Of the many who could be mentioned, I will cite just two.42 University of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug wrote in an essay on “The Myth of the New Antisemitism” that “when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing—the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance.”43 And American philosopher and literary theorist Judith Butler, while insisting that one must “refuse to brand as anti-Semitic the critical impulse or to accept anti-Semitic discourse as an acceptable substitute for critique,” has analyzed with characteristic lucidity the manner in which a false charge of antisemitism “works to immunize Israeli violence against critique by refusing to countenance the integrity of the claims made against that violence.” She has called for “a certain collective courage” to enable the public to “speak out, critically, in the face of obvious and illegitimate violence….”44

 An attempt to re-activate this already-refuted ideology of the “new antisemitism” was undertaken in Canada between 2009 and 2011 by a group of MPs, led by Irwin Cotler and by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, who formed themselves into a Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA). This attempt failed. Evidence given by senior police officers and university administrators to the inquiry held by the CPCCA refuted its claims that Canada is experiencing a surge of antisemitic incidents, and that Jews (especially those supportive of Israel) are routinely persecuted and harassed on Canadian campuses. The CPCCA, which had initially had all-party representation, lost its Bloc Québécois members, who resigned over the CPCCA’s refusal to give space in its hearings to human rights groups whose views differed from those of its principal organizers. The CPCCA’s final report was delayed for many months due to dissension prompted in part by the Conservative Party’s disgraceful attempts (for which Jason Kenney refused any apology) to undermine Irwin Cotler in his own riding with robocalls and a whispering campaign that charged him, ironically, with being insufficiently supportive of Israel. And although the CPCCA took pains not to accept any submission to its inquiry that was critical of its own announced presuppositions, eighteen of those submissions were published in a book that appeared many months before the CPCCA’s own belated report, and that was recommended in the Globe and Mail as late-summer reading “for Tories willing to learn.”45

7. The debate among Jews over the morality of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians

As mentioned above, many Jewish scholars and public intellectuals, both in Israel and internationally, have placed themselves firmly in opposition to Israel’s policies of apartheid treatment of the Palestinians and of ongoing colonization of the occupied territories. The mere fact that this is so, and that in Canada and elsewhere they are joined in this by many Jewish citizen activists, amounts to a living refutation of Prime Minister Harper’s repetition of the rhetoric of the “new antisemitism.”

 As one might expect, Israeli opinions as to the value of Harper’s speech were not unanimous. In confident anticipation of Harper’s declarations, Benjamin Netanyahu called him “a friend who always stands by us.”46 Other Israelis, though they are certainly in a minority, think differently. Uri Avnery, a former member of the Knesset, a founding figure in Israel’s (sadly faltering) peace movement, and an internationally respected journalist, dismissed Harper’s speech as “ridiculous.”47

 A fortnight after that speech was delivered, one of Israel’s leading sociologists, Professor Eva Illouz of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, published a long essay in Haaretz that explored the depth and significance of the division in Jewish opinion over the moral issue of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The title of that essay, “47 years a slave: a new perspective on the occupation,” is striking enough;48 Illouz’s analysis is more so.

Illouz begins by remarking that on any given day, half or three-quarters of the news items in Haaretz “will invariably revolve around the same two topics: people struggling to protect the good name of Israel, and people struggling against its violence and injustices.” She points to two surprising features of this struggle: first, that while it involves copious mudslinging, “this mud is being thrown by Jews at Jews”; and secondly, that “the valiant combatants for the good name of Israel miss an important point: the critiques of Israel in the United States are increasingly waged by Jews, not anti-Semites.”49

Claiming that “If Israel is indeed singled out among the many nations that have a bad record in human rights, it is because of the personal sense of shame and embarrassment that a large number of Jews in the western world feel toward a state that, by its policies and ethos, does not represent them anymore,” Illouz cites the observation of Peter Beinart that “the Jewish people seems to have split into two distinct factions….”50

Unlike most communal divisions in history, this one, she says, has occurred over a moral issue, that of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Both sides claim to be impelled by moral imperatives. What she calls the “security as morality” group feel that “because Jews were the super victim of history and because of Israel’s inherently vulnerable state amidst a sea of enemies,” Israel “is twice morally beyond reproach.” The second group  derives its positions from universal standards of justice, and from the observation that Israel is fast moving away from the pluralistic, multiethnic, pacific democracies of the world. Israel stopped being a valid source of identification for these Jews not because they are self-hating, but because many of them have been actively involved, in deed or thought, in the liberalization of their respective societies—that is, in the extension of human, economic and social rights to a wider variety of groups.51

Illouz then argues, at length, that the best historical analogy for understanding this communal division is the nineteenth-century debate in the United States over slavery.

Two factors make this analogy persuasive. The first follows from the view of Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, “a specialist in the history and sociology of slavery,” that the central fact about slavery is not that people are bought and sold as property, but rather that they are forced to endure a condition of “permanent, violent and personal domination” and of being “natally alienated and generally dishonored.”52 Illouz observes that “what started as a national and military conflict” between Israelis and Palestinians  has morphed into a form of domination of Palestinians that now increasingly borders on conditions of slavery. If we understand slavery as a condition of existence and not as ownership and trade of human bodies, the domination that Israel has exercised over Palestinians turns out to have created the matrix of domination that I call “a condition of slavery.”53

As she explains in detail, this matrix of domination includes subjection to arbitrary arrest, incarceration, and torture; the imposition of a Kafkaesque legal system quite unlike the one under which Jewish Israelis live; military attacks (which have included using Palestinians as “human shields”), as well as violence and property destruction inflicted with impunity by settlers; severe restrictions on movement and an accompanying economic strangulation; restrictions on marriage, and a systematic undermining of property ownership; and the imposition of “a permanent sense of dishonor” on people who “conduct their lives without predictability and continuity, live in fear of Jewish terror and of the violence of the Israeli military power, and are afraid to have no work, shelter or family.”54

The second factor is the shocking degree to which an ideology of inherent Jewish superiority to Arabs—fully analogous to the biblically-supported doctrines of white supremacy preached by pro-slavery advocates in nineteenth-century America—has been adopted in Israel to legitimize the subjugation of Palestinians, in a now-mainstream settlers’ discourse. “Like the whites in the American south,” Illouz writes, Israeli Jews “view themselves as obviously more moral, superior, civilized, technologically and economically far more accomplished than the inferior Arabs”; and “exactly like their southern 19th-century counterparts the settlers have abundantly sanctified the land through Bible narratives and see themselves, like the proslavery owners, as executing God’s will.”55

As a responsible scholar, Illouz explains very precisely both the limitations of this analogy and also—through extended analysis and citation that unfold full details of the conditions of slavery endured by Palestinians and the discourse of domination that has become implanted in Israel—its explanatory power.

Her conclusions are indeed forceful. Israel, although it is “the most security-conscious state on the planet,”  has failed to make its conflict with the Palestinians into a military one. Instead, it has been dragged into a humanitarian disaster that has provoked a moral war and unbridgeable rift within the Jewish people. The public relations strategies of the state will not silence this moral war.

This also implies an increasing international isolation:

Israel is dangerously sailing away from the moral vocabulary of most countries of the civilized world. The fact that many readers will think that my sources are unreliable because they come from organizations that defend human rights proves this point. Israel no longer speaks the ordinary moral language of enlightened nations. But in refusing to speak that language, it is de facto dooming itself to isolation.56

It should be obvious how strongly Professor Illouz’s essay tells against the false pieties of Stephen Harper’s Knesset speech. On the most basic level of fact, Mr. Harper’s claim that critics of Israel’s policies and governance are by definition antisemites is exposed as wretchedly untrue—and one might hope that the analogy Professor Illouz develops at such length and with such precision would make even someone of his moral obliquity to squirm.

 8. Most disgracefully of all … an apartheid state

In the concluding section of her essay, Eva Illouz remarks that Israelis fail to understand the nature of their colonization and occupation “because language has itself been colonized.” Most Israelis interpret the occupation in terms of “terrorists and enemies, and the world sees weak, dispossessed and persecuted people. The world reacts with moral outrage at Israel’s continued domination of Palestinians, and Israel ridicules such moral outrage as an expression of double standards….” Because of this “colonization” of discourse, “the debate dividing the Jewish people is more difficult than the debate about slavery, because there is no agreement even on how to properly name the vast enterprise of domination that has been created in the territories.”57

There is in fact quite widespread agreement—at least on the “universal standards of justice” side of the divide analyzed by Professor Illouz—as to an appropriate name.58

The term “apartheid” was applied with clinical accuracy by Marwan Bishara in 2001 to describe what Israel has done in the occupied territories from the early 1990s onward, “physically and demographically divid[ing] up the West Bank and Gaza into islands of poverty, or bantustans, while maintaining economic domination and direct control over Palestinian land and natural resources.”59 It was re-used by former US President Jimmy Carter in 2006—a usage validated in 2007 by Israel Prize laureate and former Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni.60 And in January 2010, Henry Siegman, the former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress and current President of the US/Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that Israel’s “relentless” construction of new settlements “seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that ‘achievement,’ one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.”61

As Dr. Jason Kunin has remarked, there is a pungent irony to the fact that while Canadian university administrators—not to mention politicians—denounce as unacceptable any application of the term “apartheid” to the structures of land theft, cantonment, and racialized subjugation, separation, and oppression of a subject-population that characterize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, “South African legal scholars, who might be expected to have a more immediate understanding of the nature of apartheid, have not hesitated to describe the state of Israel’s behaviour in the occupied Palestinian territories as ‘a colonial system that implements a system of apartheid.’”62 (His reference is to a report by South African scholars and jurists published by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa in May, 2009: Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A reassessment of Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law.)63

A finding that the state of Israel has implemented a system of apartheid has consequences under international law—in which apartheid is defined as a crime against humanity. It is scarcely surprising, then, that as Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has observed, “Some people are enraged by comparison between the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what happened in South Africa….” But as Tutu went on to insist, “For those of us who lived through the dehumanizing horrors of the apartheid era, the comparison seems not only apt, it is also necessary [...] if we are to persevere in our hope that things can change.”64

This comparison does not involve any claim that the Israeli system of apartheid is identical to the one that existed in South Africa. In the words of Naomi Klein,  the question is not “Is Israel the same as South Africa?”, it is “do Israel’s actions meet the international definition of what apartheid is?” And if you look at those conditions which include the transfer of people, which include multiple tiers of law, official state segregation, then you see that, yes, it does meet that definition—which is different than saying it is South Africa.65

But supporters of Israeli policies would be mistaken to think that they can draw consolation or encouragement from the differences between the Israeli and the South African systems. In the words of Ronnie Kasrils, who was one of the many South African Jews who struggled honourably against apartheid, and who subsequently served as a minister in Nelson Mandela’s government:

 [W]ithout a doubt, we South Africans who fought apartheid have been unanimous in finding Israel’s methods of repression and collective punishment far, far worse than anything we saw during our long and difficult liberation struggle. Israel’s indiscriminate, widespread bombing and shelling of populated areas, with scant regard for the civilian victims, was absent in South Africa, because the apartheid system relied on cheap black labor. Israel rejects outright an entire people, and seeks to eliminate the Palestinian presence entirely, whether by voluntary or enforced “transfer.” It is clearly this that accounts for Israel’s greater degree of sustained brutality in comparison to apartheid South Africa.66

Perhaps, in view of Eva Illouz’s analysis, we should supplement the term “apartheid” by speaking as well of “conditions of slavery.” But whether or not we accept this intensification of the term, we should remember something else that is underlined in a recent article by Professor Jake Lynch, Director of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. As he notes, the South African Human Sciences Research Council report that found Israel to be in breach of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid also declared that such a finding obliges governments to “co-operate to end the violation; not to recognise the illegal situation arising from it; and not to render aid or assistance to the State committing it.”67

There seems no need to comment on Prime Minister Harper’s view that it is disgraceful to apply the term “apartheid” to what Israel is doing. Uri Avnery may be right in thinking that the best response to such vapourings is ridicule.

9. Conclusion

But something more than ridicule is required to deal with an evident threat to the right of citizens to engage in nonviolent protests, boycotts, and the like when they find it necessary to draw public attention to the failure of our government (and many others) to fulfil their formal obligations under international law.

Two actions seem appropriate in response to what I have argued is a Trojan horse in Bill C-13′s revisions to Sections 318 and 319 of the Canadian Criminal Code. The first should be uncontroversial, and can be undertaken at once. Section 12 of Bill C-13 (the section that contains these revisions) can simply be amended to include the statement that “Nothing in this Section shall be interpreted as conflicting with Canada’s responsibility, in accordance with Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, ‘to respect and ensure respect for’ that Convention ‘in all circumstances’; nor shall anything in this section be interpreted as conflicting with Canada’s responsibilities under other instruments of international humanitarian law of which Canada is a signatory.”

The second action I would recommend is for Canadians to replace the government that engages in Trojan-horse lawfare of this kind with a better one.

Michael Keefer is Professor Emeritus in the School of English and Theatre Studies of the University of Guelph. A graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, the University of Toronto, and Sussex University, he is a former president of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, a member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, and an associate member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Notes

1See, for example, Michael Deas, “Norway’s pension fund divests from Israel’s largest real estate firm,” The Electronic Intifada (19 June 2012), http://www.electronicintifada.net/blogs/michael-deas/norways-pension-fund-divests-israels-largest-real-estate-firm; “Major US pension fund divests ethical fund from Veolia,” BDS Movement (22 November 2013), http://www.bdsmovement.net/2013/tiaa-cref-social-choice-veolia-11431; “Veolia Campaign Victories: Total value of lost Veolia contracts: €18.122 billion ($23.97 billion),” Global Exchange (c. February 2014), http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/veolia/victories; Asa Winstanley, “Dutch pension giant divests from 5 Israeli banks,” BDS Movement (13 January 2014), http://www.bdsmovement.net/2014/dutch-pension-giant-divests-from-5-israeli-banks-11594; Elena Popina, “SodaStream Drops Amid Sanctions Over Jewish Settlements,” Bloomberg (3 February 2014), http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-03/sodastream-slumps-on-sanction-campaign-over-jewish-settlements.html.

2“Sanctions against Israel: A campaign that is gathering weight,” The Economist (8 February 2014), http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21595948-israels-politicians-sound-rattled-campaign-isolate-their-country/.

3Avraham Burg, “What’s wrong with BDS, after all? Israel will be helpless when the discourse moves from who’s stronger/tougher/more resilient to a discourse on rights and values,” Haaretz (3 February 2014), http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.572079; quoted from Rev. Robert Assaly, “BDS movement scores huge in Superbowl victory over Sodastream,” NECEF: Near East Cultural & Educational Foundation (20 February 2014), www.necef.org.

4Herb Keinon, “Netanyahu convenes strategy meeting to fight boycotts,” Jerusalem Post (10 February 2014), http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Netanyahu-convenes-strategy-meeting-to-fight-boycotts-340904; Gil Ronen, “Leftist Ministers Kept Out of Secret Cabinet BDS Session,” Arutz Sheva 7 (10 February 2014), http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/177294#.UwZ3FkJdUfJ. The fact that figures like Tzipi Livni can be described as “leftist” is one sign of a far-right skewing of the Israeli political spectrum.

5“Israeli ministers discuss using lawyers and Mossad to fight BDS,” Middle East Monitor (10 February 2014), https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/9666-israeli-ministers-discuss-using-lawyers-and-mossad-to-fight-bds.

6Jake Lynch, “Coalition plans to punish those who boycott Israel,” The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (25 June 2013), http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4778144.html.

7Abdus-Sattar Ghazali, “Academic Freedom Act threatens academic freedom?” OpEd News (16 February 2014), http://www.opednews.com/articles/Academic-Freedom-Act-threa-by-Abdus-Sattar-Ghaza-Academic-Freedom_Associations_Backlash_Boycott-140216-464.html.

8Campbell Clark, “Netanyahu calls Harper a ‘friend that always stands by us’,” Globe and Mail (19 January 2014, updated 20 January 2014), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-arrives-in-israel-on-inaugural-middle-east-visit/article16398905/.

9“Myths and Facts: Bill C-13, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act,” Department of Justice Canada (November 2013, modified 5 December 2013), http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/news-nouv/nr-cp/2013/doc_33002.html.

10See Michael Geist, “The Privacy Threats in Bill C-13, Part One: Immunity for Personal Info Disclosures Without a Warrant,” Michael Geist (25 November 2013), http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/7006/125/; and “The Privacy Threats in Bill C-13, Part Two: The Low Threshold for Metadata,” Michael Geist (11 December 2013), http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/7028/125/.

11Michael Spratt, “C-13: A Digital Trojan horse for the surveillance state,” iPolitics (28 November 2013), http://www.ipolitics.ca/2013/11/28/c-13-a-digital-trojan-horse-for-the-surveillance-state/.

12Terry Wilson, “The Dangers Hidden in Bill C-13 ‘Protecting Canadians From Online Crime Act’,” Canadian Awareness Network (23 November 2013), http://www.canadianawareness.org/2013/11/the-dangers-hidden-in-bill-c-13-protecting-canadians-from-online-crime-act/.

13“BDS a hate crime? In France, legal vigilance punishes anti-Israel activists,” Haaretz (15 February 2014), http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/1.574361.

14Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949, http://www.icrc.org/ihl/nsf/385ec082b509e76c41256739003e636d/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5, Article 1.

15See, for example, Omar Bargouti, “Besieging Israel’s Siege,” The Guardian (12 August 2010), http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/aug/12/besieging-israel-siege-palestinian-boycott: “Created and guided by Palestinians, BDS opposes all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and is anchored in the universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights that motivated the anti-apartheid and US civil rights struggles.”

16Bill C-13. An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Docid=6311444&File=4.

17Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46. Act current to 2014-01-14 and last amended on 2013-12-12, Justice Laws Website, http://www.laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-46/FullText.html.

18“BDS a hate crime?” Haaretz (15 February 2014). Italics added.

19Dr. Jean-Yves Camus, Racist Violence in France (Brussels: European Network Against Racism, 2011), http://www.cms.horus.be/files/99935/MediaArchive/Racist%20Violence%20Report%20France%20-%20online.pdf, p. 4.

20“BDS a hate crime?” Haaretz (15 February 2014).

21“Proposition de loi visant à agraver les peines punissant les infractions à caractère raciste et à renforcer l’efficacité de la procédure pénale,” N° 350, Présentée par MM. Pierre Lellouche et Jacques Barrot, Députés, Assemblée Nationale (7 novembre 2002), htttp://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/12/propositions/pion0350.asp, “Exposé de motifs.”

22Ibid.: “Morales ou physiques, les violences racistes offensent non seulement les personnes qui en sont victimes, mais elles portent aussi atteinte à la cohésion national et aux valeurs essentielles de la Nation.”

23Ibid.: “Reste que le phénomène peut à tout moment resurgir, comme l’attestent plusieurs cas récents, particulièrement préoccupants, tels l’assassinat ouvertement raciste au mois d’octobre d’un jeune Français d’origine marocaine dane le département du Nord, ou l’agression perpetuée début novembre contre les jeunes élèves d’une école privée juive du XXXe arrondissement de Paris, du seul fait de leur confession.”

24Ibid.: “L’objet de la présente proposition, sans créer de nouvelles incriminations dans le code pénal, vise à prendre en compte l’intention raciste, et dès lors à aggraver lourdement les peines encourues par les auteurs d’atteintes à la personne humaine et aux biens lorsqu’elles ont un caractère raciste. Ces aggravations de peines sont appelées à s’appliquer aux actes de torture et barbarie, aux violences ayant entrainé la mort sans intention de la donner, une mutilation, une infirmité permanente ou un incapacité de travail, ainsi qu’aux actes de destruction, dégradation et déterioration de biens.”

25“BDS a hate crime?” Haaretz (15 February 2014).

26Ibid.

27Ibid.

27Ibid.

28The earliest version of the Trojan horse story is in Homer’s Odyssey, Books IV. 271-89, and VIII. 492-520. The story was re-told by later poets, among them Quintus Smyrnaeus, in The Fall of Troy, Books XII. 104-520, and XIII; and Virgil, in his Aeneid, Book II. 13-267.

29Paul McLeod, “Hate law favours Israel, critics charge,” Chronicle-Herald (19 March 2014), http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/canada/1194592-hate-law-bill-favours-israel-critics-charge?from=most_read&most_read=1194592.

30 Additional Protocol…, http://www.conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/189.htm, Ch. I, Art. 2.1: “For the purposes of this Protocol: “racist and xenophobic material” means any written material, any image or any other representation of ideas or theories, which advocates, promotes or incites hatred, discrimination or violence, against any individual or group of individuals, based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion if used as a pretext for any of these factors.”

31 McLeod, “Hate law favours Israel, critics charge.”

32 In the Criminal Code, 318.(2), “’genocide’ means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group, namely, (a) killing members of the group; or (b) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.”

Article 2 of the Convention on Genocide declares that “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” (See Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Adopted by Resolution 260 [III] A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948, https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume%2078/volume-78-1-1021-English.pdf.)

33David MacDonald and Graham Hudson, “The Genocide Question and Indian Residential Schools in Canada,” Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique 45.2 (June 2012): 427-49, http://www.journals.cambridge.org/action/display/Abstract?fromPage=online&aid=8649111; see especially pp. 434-38. MacDonald and Hudson remark that the 2000 Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act explicitly excluded the possibility of retroactive prosecutions for genocidal crimes committed in Canada prior to 1998.

34“Read the full text of Harper’s historic speech to Israel’s Knesset,” The Globe and Mail (20 January 2014), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/read-the-full-text-of-harpers-historic-speech-to-israels-knesset/article16406371/?page=1.

35Ibid.

36Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 21 ff.

37Following the example of Brian Klug, I have referred to “the ‘Jew’” in quotation marks in order to make it clear that what is being referred to in this sentence is the fantasy-figure generated by antisemitic stereotyping. See Klug, “What do we mean when we say ‘antisemitism’?” Plenary lecture at the Jewish Museum, Berlin, 8 November 2013, YouTube (21 November 2013), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytzSZxIS3OI, quoting Shoah survivor Imre Kertész: “In a racist environment, a Jew cannot be human, but he cannot be a Jew either, for ‘Jew’ is an unambiguous designation only in the eyes of the antisemite.”

38This incident is discussed in Michael Keefer, “Data and Deception: Quantitative Evidence of Antisemitism,” in Keefer, ed., Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (Waterloo, ON: The Canadian Charger, 2010), pp. 183-85. See Johann Hari, “Israel is suppressing a secret it must face,” The Independent (28 April 2008), http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-israel-is-suppressing-a-secret-it-must-face-816661.html; Hari, “The loathsome smearing of Israel’s critics,” The Independent (8 May 2008), http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-loathsome-smearing-of-israels-critics-822751.html; and Community Security Trust, Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2008 (CST, 2009), http://www.thecst.org.uk.docs/Antisemitic%20discourse%20Report%202008.pdf, p. 24 (italics in the original text).

39See Keefer, “Desperate Imaginings: Rhetoric and Ideology of the ‘New Antisemitism’,” in Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 212-15; and Irwin Cotler, “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness,” Jerusalem Post (5 February 2004); available at SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=128.

40Ibid., p. 211; see Jonathan Kay, “Here is the difference between Israel and its Arab enemies,” National Post (22 March 2009), http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/03-kay-here-is-the-difference-between-israel-and-its-arab-enemies-aspx; and Melanie Phillips, “The Ha’aretz Blood Libel,” Spectator (22 March 2009), http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3464331/the-haaretz-blood-libel.html.

41Quoted in Keefer, ed., Antisemitism Real and Imagined, “Introduction,” p. 15.

42Others who could be cited include Shulamit Aloni, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Marc Ellis, Richard Falk, David Theo Goldberg, Neve Gordon, Amira Hass, Tony Judt, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Baruch Kimmerling, Naomi Klein, Joel Kovel, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappe, Harold Pinter, Yakov Rabkin, William I. Robinson, Jacqueline Rose, Israel Shahak, Avi Shlaim, and David Shulman. (Many of these people have also been supporters of BDS.)

43Brian Klug, “The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism,” The Nation (15 January 2004), http://www.thenation.com/article/myth-new-anti-semitism.

44Judith Butler, “The Charge of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and the Risks of Public Critique,” in Precious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2004; rpt. London and New York: Verso, 2006), pp. 126-27.

45Gerald Caplan, “A Mideast reading list for Tories willing to learn,” Globe and Mail (27 August 2010, updated 15 November 2010), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/a-mideast-reading-list-for-tories-wlling-to-learn/article1314259/. The book, Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, contains in the first of its three parts eleven submissions by scholars and human rights activists (a majority of them Jewish, as it happens), and in its second part, rejected submissions by seven human rights organizations; the third part consists of three essays by the editor (whose submission to the CPCCA had also been rejected).

46Campbell Clark, “Netanyahu calls Harper a ‘friend that always stands by us’,” Globe and Mail (19 January 2014). This statement was made a day before Harper’s address to the Knesset. But as Netanyahu knew, Harper’s statements on Israel-Palestine echo what he has been saying for years. In March 2014, Netanyahu declared to AIPAC that supporters of BDS “should be opposed because they’re bad for peace and because BDS is just plain wrong. Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. They should be exposed and condemned” (video clip reproduced by Lia Tarachansky, “Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase,” The Real News [23 March 2014], http://www.therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11633).

47Uri Avnery, “Nothing New Under the Sun,” Gush Shalom.org (25 January 2014), http://www.zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1390578868.

48Eva Illouz, “47 years a slave: a new perspective on the occupation,” Haaretz (7 February 2014), http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.572880. Illouz is the author of eight books and more than eighty articles and book chapters; her work has been widely translated, and has won major awards in Germany, France, and the United States, including, in 2013, the Anneliese Meier Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She has also been, since 2012, President of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, her country’s national arts academy.

49Ibid.

50Ibid. Illouz is referring to Peter Beinarts essay “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” New York Review of Books (10 June 2010), http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/jun/10/failure-american-jewish-establishment/; and perhaps also to his book The Crisis of Zionism (New York: Times Books, 2012).

51Ibid.

52These words are quoted by Illouz from another internationally respected authority on slavery, David Brion Davis, who cites Patterson in his book Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). Orlando Patterson’s books include the classic study Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).

53Illouz, “47 years a slave.”

54Ibid.

55Ibid.

56Ibid.

57Ibid.

58The two following paragraphs are repeated from my essay “Desperate Imaginings: Rhetoric and Ideology of the ‘New Antisemitism’,” in Antisemitism Real and Imagined, p. 231.

59Marwan Bishara, Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid (2001; 2nd ed., London and New York: Zed Books, 2002), p. 4.

60Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006; rpt. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007); see also “Canada’s withholding funds from Palestinians ‘criminal’: Carter,” CBC News (9 December 2006), http://www.cbca/ca/canada/story/2006/12/08/carter-israel.html; and Shulamit Aloni, “Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel,” CounterPunch (8 January 2007), http://www.counterpunch.org/aloni01082007.html. Aloni is also the author of Demokratia ba’azikim [Democracy or Ethnocracy] (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2010).

61Henry Siegman, “Imposing Middle East Peace,” The Nation (7 January 2010), http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100125/siegman.

62Jason Kunin, “Freedom to Teach, Freedom of Speech: Israel-Palestine,” in Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 58-59 n. 2.

63Middle East Project of the Democracy and Governance Programme, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law (Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, May 2009), 302 pp.; available at http://www.electronicintifada.net/files/090608-hsrc.pdf.

64Quoted by Ronnie Kasrils, “Sour Oranges and the Sweet Taste of Freedom,” in Audrea Lim, ed., The Case for Sanctions Against Israel (London and New York: Verso, 2012), p. 109 (quoting from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “Realizing God’s Dream for the Holy Land,” Boston Globe [26 October 2007]). See also “Palestinian ‘humiliation’ by Israel reminds Tutu of apartheid,” Mail & Guardian (10 March 2014), http://www.mg.co.za/article/2014-03-10-palestinian-humiliation-by-israel-reminds-tutu-of-apartheid.

65“Transcript of Naomi Klein Lecture in Ramallah,” BDS Movement (10 July 2009), http://www.bdsmovement.net/2009/transcript-of-naomi-klein-lecture-in-ramallah-465; quoted by Ken Loach, Rebecca O’Brien, and Paul Laverty, “Looking for Eric, Melbourne Festival, and the Cultural Boycott,” in Lim, ed., The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, p. 200.

66Ronnie Kasrils, “Sour Oranges…,” in Lim, ed. The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, pp. 109-110.

67Jake Lynch, “Coalition plans to punish those who boycott Israel,” The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (25 June 2013)l. The relevant section of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid is Article IV: “The States Parties to the present Convention undertake: (a) To adopt any legislative or other measures necessary to suppress as well as to prevent any encouragement of the crime of apartheid and similar segregationist policies or their manifestations and to punish persons guilty of that crime….” The text is available at http://www.oas.org/dil/1973%20International%20Convention%20on%20the%20Suppression%20and%20Punishment%20of%20the%20Crime%20of%20Apartheid.pdf.

Social Fracture and the Rise of Racism in France

April 2nd, 2014 by Annamaria Rivera

The crisis of the European Union is not only economic and financial; it is also, perhaps first and foremost, a political-ideological crisis, as reiterated by Slavoj Zizek. One of the most manifest and alarming expressions of this crisis is the presence in Europe of growing sectors of public opinion voicing intolerant attitudes toward others; of populist political parties sharing anti-immigrant and anti-Roma programmes and rhetoric; as well as of fringes that are openly racist, neo-Nazi, and often homophobic.

Almost everywhere the growth of intolerance is fostered by the social effects of the economic crisis and the increasing fracture that divides the class of the super wealthy from the multitude that comprises the poor, wage earners, the unemployed, the socially declassed, and those who live in fear of social declassment. Also important is the crisis of representation, and in great measure, what has been defined as democratic racism, practiced by parties of the centre, and even of the Left, who attempt to regain popularity and electoral approval by competing with the Right.

An exemplary case is present-day France, an increasingly segmented society, marked by increasing difficulties in coexistence between its diverse people; beset also by a serious crisis of identity. Here the spectacular electoral advance of the Front National, led by Marine Le Pen, has triggered a rush to the right by the parties of the centre and even of the Left on the subjects of ‘national identity,’ immigration, the presence of Roma, and the role of Islam. Le Pen had the cunning to embellish her discourse with rhetoric defending secularism and republican values, making her programme more easily digestible, which, even so remains essentially racist.

It was in the vain attempt to counteract the rise of the Front National, by depriving the Lepénistes of the securitarian sceptre, that Nicolas Sarkozy, at the outset as president of the Republic, hardened immigration policies and fostered a debate on ‘national identity,’ whose basic idea, implicitly, is to purify the nation from the debris of foreigners.

The mediocre presidency of Sarkozy under the banner of law-and-order – only for others, since he is at the centre of numerous political and economic scandals – left a profound impression on public opinion and on the political class. Consider the torsion in his party, the UMP, in the direction of intolerance, in some cases open racism, and of the policies that the Socialist Party conveys on the questions regarding immigration and above all the ‘Roma question.’

When one considers that the Roma population in France does not exceed 20,000 persons, of which half are children, one can grasp how this ‘question’ is skilfully inflated, reviving widespread anti-gypsy hostility; a feature constitutive of French history, like the tendency to make the Roma a scapegoat. It is enough to recall the law of 16 July 1912, which established the requirement for an anthropometric document reserved solely for ‘nomads,’ with a photograph, fingerprints and information such as eye colour, length of right ear, left foot, middle finger, and left elbow, etc.

This infamous law was only abrogated in 1969, substituting the document with an obligatory “right of movement.” In 2010 Le Monde revealed that OCLDI (Central Office for the Fight against Mobile Organized Crime Groups), an agency of the French gendarmerie, created and maintained until 2007, completely illegally, a catalogue of Roma, with genealogical data for the mapping of “gypsy families” and “groups at risk”; almost to reaffirm the old racist biological theorem that classified the Roma as delinquent by nature.

In particular, from the presidency of Sarkozy up to the current one of Hollande, racist statements or acts otherwise disrespectful of basic human rights against the Roma increased exponentially. This includes the mass expulsions of persons, despite being citizens of the European Union, and even attacks with corrosive acid, in the heart of Paris, against Roma adults and children on the part of “exasperated people.” To say nothing of the violent clearing of informal settlements, sometimes requested by mayors of the Left and Far-Left, as in the case last November with the mayor of Saint-Ouen, Jacqueline Rouillon, of the Front de Gauche.

While advocating for the removal of the word “race” from the constitution, the ‘socialist’ Interior Minister, Manuel Valls,[1] rehabilitated the ‘good old’ racism legitimizing, on 24 September 2013, the theory of the non-assimilability of the Roma. This is in continuation, at bottom, with what a couple of months before Gilles Bourdouleix, of the UDL (Union of Democrats and Independents), another so-called centrist party recently established, dared to declare publically: “Hitler did not kill enough of them.”

“The name is erased in order to make the unmentionable reappear,” observed the philosopher Michel Feher in an interview in Les Inrocks on 26 September 2013. The demure racism of the bien pensants, differentialist, as we have defined it, now often gives way to that which is expressed, even coarsely, with ‘classic’ racist attacks and insults, as for example, those against minister Christiane Taubira, who was depicted several times with ape-like features, and even mocked by a group of children shaking bananas, incited by parents hostile to “marriage for everybody.”

In the meantime, as reported by the most recent report prepared by the CNCDH (National Consultative Commission on Human Rights), 2012 witnessed, next to as always a progression of islamophobia, “a disturbing return” of anti-Semitism, and for the third consecutive year, an increase in racist acts against persons presumed to be religiously Muslim, identified only with North Africans and considered “a separate social group.” This is the old colonial spectre, still present in the imagination of the French political class and a section of the citizenry.

Data from the report brings to light “the growing rejection of foreigners, perceived increasingly as parasites if not as a menace,” at the bottom of an alarming spread of xenophobia and intolerance, and of a “public liberation of racist discourse”: fostered, in turn, by the instrumental use of themes such as French identity, immigration, and secularism on the part of the political class. Further proof that popular racism is always nurtured and/or exploited by the dominant elites.

In times of economic crisis and increasing social despair, like in the present one, only in the short term can this strategy serve to divert public attention from real problems and from the inadequacy of the elites to resolve them. In the long and medium term it is a highly dangerous game, as history teaches us.

Annamaria Rivera is an anthropologist, activist and writer. This article originally appeared in MicroMega. A slightly shorter version was published by Sbilanciamoci and Il Manifesto.

 Translations by Sam Putinja.

Image: Marine Le Pen

Let’s hope that the solemn blow taken by the socialists in the French municipal elections erases the vapid smiles from the big faces of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, until now untouched by doubt that the policies of austerity pursued by the European Commission would benefit right-wing parties. And not the type of Right, to be clear, of Mario Monti, but of the extreme and fascist(-ized) parties. It is pointless to acknowledge that one such figure is, without pretence, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who held the European presidency for six months. These are also the forces that are everywhere smashing the residual bipolarities between the ‘democratic’ right and left. The latest sensational case is France where on Sunday, March 23rd, elections took place in 36,000 municipalities, and where the Front National of Le Pen, anti-Semitic, xenophobic and anti-European, not only became – where it was present – the first place party, but drove the Socialist Party, which was in the lead in the presidential election two years ago, not into second but into third place, while the Communist Party and the front of left-wing parties frequently slipped to fourth place.

 

Marine Le Pen on the campaign trail, with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of Front National, by her side.

This was to be expected when unemployed and precarity affects four million French citizens; not much different than Italy. For a couple of years now, almost daily, a large or medium-sized French firm relocates or closes, and the Holland government, who had won pledging to fight against finance, has not been able to defend employment, neither in general nor when a firm shuts or relocates while announcing lavish profits. The workers emerge from their departments determined to fight; they receive the solidarity of the mayor if, as often, the effected company was also the most important in the surrounding region. The usual result is that at the end of three weeks one has to be content with negotiating a so-called ‘social plan,’ other and for the most part distant jobs or compensation, and with the condolences of trade union centrals and the ministries concerned. Last week, three days before the municipal elections, the firm La Redoute shutdown. It was the oldest and most famous catalogue mail order company, which alone accounted for a large share of the consumption by the middle classes, but now drags entire industrial cities into ruin, eroding the possibilities for consumption by the mass of workers and the petite bourgeoisie.

Was all this visible and predictable? Yes, except for a socialist government, similar to our PD (Democratic Party) in Italy, for whom treaties dictate non-interference in order to avoid disturbing free competition; and for a government that hopes to get away with costly and difficult military endeavours in the former French imperial colonies in Mali and in the Central African Republic. This while the president and the foreign minister Laurent Fabius clamour for a heavy hand against Putin in Crimea; as if the well-known nationalism of l’Hexagone could make people forget the growing conditions of impoverishment.

Confronted with the results last night the entire staff of the Socialist Party was taken aback, while Marine Le Pen was rolling in the triumph of the blue wave that carried her name. Satisfied with the result is also the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) of Sarkozy, assured that the government will call for national antifascist unity, legitimating the vote for the republican Right, like at the time of the fall of Lionel Jospin in the presidential elections of 2002. Will the European Commission take note? Will the heads of the EU take note of the evidence that the Europe of monetarism and austerity is reviving the extreme Right for the first time since the Second World War? And that the Front National is becoming the leading populist party in France? Will the many in Italy take note, who are benevolently observing Matteo Renzi and the game of three-card monte, which consists of (maybe) putting more into the pay checks of low income earners who will then lose out in public services cuts and in local taxes?

The PD is in fact following the same path as Hollande, and its feeble internal Left does not appear capable of getting it to change course. And what of the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) of Susanna Camusso, who is in an uproar after recently having approved a labour relations accord with Confindustria (Italian Employers’ Federation) considered too extreme even for our battered neighbour? And what of the FIOM (Metal Workers Union) of Maurizio Landini, which, isolated, is also hopeful of Matteo Renzi?

In short, we can only hope that the hard blow in France, difficult to recover from in the second round, will function as a severe lesson against the excesses of folly during the last twenty years in Europe.

Rossana Rossanda is a journalist and leading figure of the Italian Left. Her memoir The Comrade from Milan is published by Verso. This article was originally published in Sbilanciamoci.

A turn to reactionary politics is nowhere more clearly seen than in a formerly independent voice moving away from criticism of the high and mighty towards attacks on little people. That is precisely what happened when Media Watch (the media watchdog of Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC) bought into the propaganda war on Syria.

Media Watch had gained a reputation for making corporate monopolies squirm when their lies and manipulations were exposed. This was best done by lawyer Stuart Littlemore, who started and presented the show for much of the 1990s. Since then the program, run by ABC journalists, became tamer and more sensitive to political criticism.

The ABC itself was subject to a witch-hunt style inquiry in 2003, after the Howard Government accused it of biased reporting of the Iraq invasion. That inquiry upheld 17 of the government’s 68 complaints. Several management reshuffles and a fair degree of self-censorship later and the ABC is much less likely to ‘rock the boat’ over any new Washington-led war.

Nevertheless, it was surprising to see the near compete turn-around in ‘A Syrian Homecoming’ (Media Watch), ostensibly the critique of a story about a young Syrian-Australian woman’s visit to Syria, published in the Good Weekend magazine (‘Cry my father’s country’). In practice this was a savage personal attack on a young woman who opposed the foreign-backed war.

The Good Weekend story profiled Reme Sakr, who visited Syria last December both to see her father and to participate in an Australian solidarity delegation to Syria. This writer was also part of that 11 member group. Freelance journalist Chris Ray, who accompanied the delegation, wrote several articles on matters that emerged from our meetings with political, religious and community leaders; but the Good Weekend article was commissioned as a personal profile.

This long and well written piece covered Reme and her journey to visit her father in the Druze area of Sweida, after her work with the delegation. Reme had gone to school there and her father had returned home from Australia, after he retired. She was worried about him and Sweida, after hearing of attacks on Sweida by the western-backed al Qaeda groups.

The story therefore humanised a young woman and her family in the context of a war which has been characterised by many well-publicised atrocities by the western backed ‘rebels’, and a series of highly contested accusations of war crimes by the Syrian Army.

Media Watch researcher Emily Watkins asked Reme, Chris and the Good Weekend several questions before the program, but the narrative by veteran journalist Paul Barry, was one-eyed and relentless. Unusually, he focussed on subject of the story much more than the journalist, attacking Reme for her support of the Syrian Government.

Paul Barry, a journalist who made a fair amount of money on the side writing tame books on Australian media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer, seemed keen to re-ingratiate himself with the Murdoch stable. He quoted The Australian and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as authority figures who had condemned Reme and her fellow travellers.

The program inexplicably attacked her for her minority Druze origins, falsely claimed she had received special favours from the Syrian Government, falsely claimed the story had covered up her active opposition to the war on Syria, and falsely claimed she was part of a group which was personally committed to President Assad and had covered up war crimes.

Media Watch also criticised the Good Weekend story for ‘sidestepping’ the alleged crimes of the ‘Syrian regime’ and for ignoring the ‘moderate Syrian opposition’. However author Chris Ray responded in a letter: “I wrote about and identified rebel groups who attacked Malek Sakr’s district and the road between Damascus and Druze territory in Sweida. Should I have written about other rebels who did not attack Druze territory? … Who is the moderate opposition anyway? The rebellion is dominated by Islamists who differ mainly in the extent of their sectarian intolerance.”

Outraged by the misrepresentations of the story, Reme wrote a two page reply to Media Watch; at the time of writing this letter was not posted on their website.

To the disgrace of the ABC, in the course of trying to de-humanise Reme and re-assert the western media line on Syria, presenter Paul Barry told several lies.

1. Barry said: “A couple of things seemed not right. The father turned out to be a leader of the minority Druze community”. This was both false and an ethnic slur. As Reme said in her letter ‘It is simply not true – and a complete fabrication on your part – to claim my father is a leader of the Druze. He is a religious man, an ‘Uqqal’ … [but] in no way is he a community leader … And why does belonging to the Druze, a religious minority, seem “not quite right” to you? Does it devalue my family’s story or our position regarding the conflict in Syria?’

2. Paul Barry said: “Reme Sakr clearly received special favours on her trip”, referring to a letter of safe passage she had from the government, when travelling to Sweida. This ‘special favour’ claim was untrue; and the Media Watch researcher didn’t even bother to ask Reme about it. In fact, as her Syrian ID card had expired, she needed a temporary identity document to travel through areas with many army checkpoints. Providing her with such a travel document and assisting with her safety, in these circumstances, is a duty that governments owe to their citizens.

3. The Media Watch presenter said Reme was “a leading light in Hands off Syria, which backs President Assad, refuses to admit he’s used chemical weapons.” This was another deception. Reme has publicly spoken out against the war on Syria and the Good Weekend story noted that her delegation had met with several Syrian ministers, including the Prime Minister and the President. Reme responded: “Since when did speaking out in support of a cause we believe in ever make us … less deserving to have our stories told?” The false suggestion was that Reme or the story had somehow covered up her anti-war activism.

Hands off Syria for its part, has always made it clear that it supports the Syrian people and their nation, not any particular political leader. Barry repeatedly misrepresented Hands off Syria and the delegation as “backing Assad” or expressing “solidarity with Assad”. Reme responded: “While many Syrian-Australians do back President Assad, Hands off Syria as an organisation supports principles rather than personalities – especially the principle that Syria has the right to self-determination free from aggressive interference by foreign powers and foreign-backed terrorists.” That distinction was lost on Media Watch.

4. In an effort to back up its claim that Hands off Syria and Reme “paint the popular uprising as a foreign invasion”, Media Watch showed three video clips of Reme speaking at rallies and referring to “foreign militants” and “foreign militants who are destroying the country of my mother and father”. The evidence presented does not support the deceptive claim that she suggested a Bush-style “invasion” was underway. Further, no evidence was cited to back the claim that the sectarian Islamist groups were part of a “popular uprising”. Indeed analysts for NATO, after more than two years of war, said President Assad probably had 70% support. The sectarian groups themselves have admitted that they have little popular support. Paul Barry’s claim that there was a “popular uprising” was baseless war propaganda.

5. Barry twice claimed that President Assad and his government had used chemical weapons, and that Hands off Syria and Reme had tried to cover this up. He cited a UN report from February 2014. This is highly misleading. While it is true that UN investigators (in most case conducting interviews from outside Syria) have “accused both sides of war crimes”, they have not accused individuals nor have they moved into any prosecutions. Further, no UN body has accused the Syrian Government of using chemical weapons. Indeed the available evidence is quite the reverse. It was the Syrian Government that first invited UN inspectors to visit and investigate chemical weapon use in Syria, after several attacks on Syrian soldiers and civilians. The NATO-backed groups tried to turn that around with the East Ghouta incident, launching an attack precisely when the inspectors were in Damascus. The UN’s report of December 2013 was not mandated to allocate blame, but did conclude that 3 of the 5 attacks were “against soldiers” as well as civilians – that is, they were attacks carried out by opponents of government soldiers. The February 2014 report said: “In no incident was the commission’s evidentiary threshold met with respect to the perpetrator”.

The independent evidence, which Media Watch ignores, was stronger. With the exception of the Washington-based Human Rights Watch (in lock step with the Washington establishment, as regards Syria), almost all independent reports on chemical weapon attacks in Syria tell a very different story. Gavlak and Ababneh (MINT PRESS, 29 Aug) reported that residents in East Ghouta blamed the Saudis for providing chemical weapons to untrained ‘rebels’. The ISTEAMS group led by Mother Agnes-Mariam provided a 17 September report which analysed video evidence of the attacks and said the massacre videos preceded the attack, and that staged and fake images were used. Seymour Hersh, the famous US journalist, wrote on 19 December that US intelligence was fabricated “to justify a strike” on Syria. The Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice group in Turkey issued a report in December saying that “most of the crimes” against Syrian civilians, including the East Ghouta attack, were committed by “armed rebel forces in Syria”. The New York Times in December retreated from its telemetry evidence claims, admitting the earlier vector analysis was ‘speculative’; and MIT investigators Lloyd and Postol reported on 14 January that sarin gas “could not possibly have been fired … from government controlled areas”. In its zeal to back the war on Syria, Media Watch covered up all these reports.

The scale of independent reporting which undermines claims against the Syrian Government stands in stark contrast to the open and boastful publicity given to atrocities (beheadings, mutilations, public executions including executions of children for blasphemy, launching of chemical canisters on rockets, attacks on civilian airliners, bombing of hospitals, destruction of mosques and churches) committed on an almost daily basis by the western backed terrorist groups.

6. Finally Paul Barry, who quoted The Australian to label the Syrian President “dictator and accused war criminal Bashar al-Assad”, took it one step further. He wrapped up by saying that the Syrian President was “a man the UN has branded a war criminal”. This is false and must be a deliberate lie. No UN body has “branded” President Bashar al Assad “a war criminal”. This may be wishful thinking, but dishonest journalism.

In her unpublished letter, Reme Sakr concludes:

“Contrary to what you tried to imply, I have no ulterior agenda in supporting one side or another in this war, but unlike you … I see Syria being pillaged and burnt to the ground by foreign-sponsored terrorists, I see my family fearing for their lives every time they leave their homes, and I see young women, just like me, being raped and made to watch as their fathers and brothers are beheaded.”

 If Reme and Hands off Syria really have served as “useful propaganda for the Syrian Government” then, equally, Paul Barry and Media Watch have served as useful propaganda for the al Qaeda groups, which boast of their atrocities, often blaming them on the Syrian Government.

There was no hint of any controversy over the atrocity claims, in the Media Watch polemic. Given their experience and the time they had to investigate, we can safely conclude that Paul Barry lied repeatedly, as an exercise in war propaganda which served to cover up the crimes of western-backed al Qaeda style forces.

Far from the action of a media watchdog, this was the pits of tabloid, propaganda journalism. Rupert Murdoch’s media dynasty will be well pleased to see that the ABC’s former ‘watchdog’, on this particular dirty war, has pulled its own teeth.

References

 Cosimer Marrina (2003) ABC loses points in Alston’s ‘bias’ plea, SMH, online: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/10/10/1065676163446.html

 Chris Ray (2014) ‘Cry my father’s country’, 1 March, online: http://www.smh.com.au/national/cry-my-fathers-country-20140224-33b69.html

 Media Watch (2014) A Syrian Homecoming (and see the published responses), ABC, 24 march online: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3970590.htm

 Paul Barry (2013) Breaking News: Sex, lies and the Murdoch succession, Allen and Unwin

 Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice in Turkey (2013) War Crimes Committed Against the People of Syria, December, online: http://www.barisdernegi.org/en/war-crimes-committed-against-people-syria-report-peace-association-turkey-and-lawyers-justice

Human Rights Watch (2013) ‘Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria’, 10 September, online: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta-0

 Robert Parry (2013) ‘NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis’, Global Research, 30 December, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/nyt-backs-off-its-syria-sarin-analysis/5363023

 ISTEAMS (2013) ‘Independent Investigation of Syria Chemical Attack Videos and Child Abductions’, 15 September, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/STUDY_THE_VIDEOS_THAT_SPEAKS_ABOUT_CHEMICALS_BETA_VERSION.pdf

 Seymour M. Hersh (2013) ‘Whose Sarin?’, London Review of Books, Vol. 35 No. 24, 19 December, 9-12, online: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

 Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh (2013) ‘EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack’, MINT PRESS, August 29, online: http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

 Richard Lloyd and Theodore A. Postol (2014) ‘Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013’, Jan 14, online: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/01/15/214656/new-analysis-of-rocket-used-in.html

 

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ( TTIP – previously known as TAFTA, Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement) is a trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.

There is growing concern that the negotiations could result in the opening of the floodgates for genetically modified organisms and shale gas (fracking) in Europe, the threatening of digital and labour rights and the empowering of corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regulations which they dislike. The negotiations are shrouded in secrecy and, while striving to give the appearance of somehow being democratic, effectively constitute part of the ongoing corporate hijack of democracy and the further restructuring of economies in favour of elite interests (1,2,3,4,5,6).

 A European alliance of over 50 civil society organizations (7) are in the process of launching the ‘Alternative Mandate’ pledge campaign (8), calling on European Parliament election candidates to make EU trade and investment policy serve people and the planet, not just the profit of a few large corporations.

 Lyda Fernanda Forero of the Transnational Institute, a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance says:

“The EU’s current trade and investment policy is a recipe for disaster for people around the world. The EU is leading an aggressive agenda to open markets for global agri-business. This is wiping out small farmers and is a major cause of hunger. Excessive investor rights take away much needed policy space. We need to break away from this corporate driven agenda.”

The online pledge campaign will run in six EU languages (EN, FR, ES, DE, GR, HU) and will enable activists and citizens to ask candidates to pledge in support of a paradigm shift in EU trade and investment policy. The website will monitor which candidates have supported different parts of the pledge.

MEP candidates will be asked to support measures that enable people to control their own local food systems as well as core labour standards and human rights’ assessments of EU trade and investment policy. Candidates will also be asked to oppose the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism and to call on the European Commission to immediately publish all texts from trade and investment negotiations with third countries such as, for example, the United States.

Sergi Corbalán, executive director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance:

“EU trade deals are negotiated behind closed doors in the interests of a few rich corporations. People who are affected by these deals, both in the EU and abroad, are not consulted. We need MEPs to stand up for an open and democratic EU trade policy-making process which is controlled by the people of Europe and their elected representatives, rather than being driven by unelected technocrats and corporate lobby groups.”

The pledge campaign is the result of a four-year process of public workshops held all over Europe during which the Alternative Trade Mandate was developed; it is a 20-page civil society proposal to democratise EU trade and investment policy and put environmental protection as well as human and labour rights at its heart (9). Some MEPs have already supported the proposal via video messages (10).

Amélie Canonne, co-ordinator of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance:

 “At a time of multiple global crises, the European Parliament needs MEPs who will support trade rules that work for people and the planet. We need MEPs who will bring trade deals out of the shadows and into the light. We call on MEP candidates to stand up for democratic trade and investment rules that serve people, the economy and the environment at large – not just the profit interests of a few.”

Notes:

1) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-us-eu-transatlantic-free-trade-agreement-tafta-big-business-corporate-power-grab/5352885

2) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-eu-india-free-trade-agreement-corporate-driven-neocolonial-plunder/5338049

3) http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-eu-transatlantic-free-trade-agreement-more-secrecy-and-more-duplicity-revealed/5369272

4) http://www.globalresearch.ca/free-trade-agreements-the-bypassing-of-democracy-to-institute-economic-plunder/5354197

5) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-us-eu-transatlantic-free-trade-agreement-tafta-big-business-corporate-power-grab/5352885

6) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-eu-india-free-trade-agreement-india-up-for-sale-to-western-corporate-capital/5332214

7) Current members of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance are: Afrika Kontakt (Denmark), Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (Germany), AITEC (France), Alternative Trade Network (Greece), Attac Austria, Attac France, Attac Germany, Attac Hungary, Attac Spain, Bothends (Netherlands), CAWN, CNCD (Belgium), Colibri (Germany), Comhlamh (Ireland), Commission of Filipino migrant workers (Netherlands), Corporate Europe Observatory (Belgium), Ecologistas en Accion (Spain), European Milkboard, Fair Trade Advocacy Office (Belgium), Fairwatch (Italy), FDCL (Germany), FIAN Germany, Food & Water Europe, Germanwatch (Germany), GMB (UK), Misereor (Germany), No Patents on Life! (Germany), Oxfam Germany, Philippinenbuero (Germany), Platform Aarde Boer Consument (Earth, Farmer, Consumer – Netherlands), Platform of Filipino Migrant Organisations in Europe, PowerShift (Germany), Seattle to Brussels Network, SOMO (Netherlands), Terra Nuova (Italy), Trade Justice Movement (UK), Transnational Institute (Netherlands), Trocaire (Ireland), Vedegylet (Hungary), War on Want (UK), WEED (Germany), World Development Movement (UK), Za Zemiata (Bulgaria), 11.11.11. (Belgium)

Supporter organisations: ActionAid Netherlands, Africa Roots Movement (Netherlands), Afrikagrupperna (Sweden), Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), Afrikagrupperna (Sweden), ASEED Europe, Attac Denmark, CEE Bankwatch Network (headquatered in the Czech Republic), Clean Clothes Campaign Netherlands, Confédération paysanne (France), Dutch section of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF – Netherlands), European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), FAIR TRADE HELLA (Greece), FIOM-CGIL (Metalworkers Federation – Italy), FIAN Netherlands, FNV Netherlands, France Amérique Latine (France), Friends of the Earth Europe, Glopolis (Czech Republic), Hegoa (Spain), Indian Committee of the Netherlands, Milieu Defensie (Netherlands), National Peace and Justice Network (UK), OIKOS (Netherlands), Philippinenbüro (Germany), Platform Aarde Boer Consumer (Netherlands), Platform for an economy based on sustainability and solidarity (Netherlands), Respect Network in Europe, STRO (Netherlands), Supermacht (Netherlands), Traidcraft (UK), Transnational Migrant Platform (TMP), TRUSTED Migrants (Netherlands), La Via Campesina Europe, Wemos (Netherlands), XminY (Netherlands)

 8) Visit the pledge campaign website at: www.alternativetrademandate.org

9) Download the Alternative Trade Mandate in English ( http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Trade-time_for_a_new_vision-JAN14-PRINT.pdf), Spanish (http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Time_for_a_new_vision-ES-JAN14-PRINT.pdf), French (http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Time_for_a_new_vision-FR-PRINT.pdf) and Dutch (http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Time_for_a_new_vision-NL-PRINT.pdf)

 

10) Why support the Alternative Trade Mandate? Responses from trade justice activists, http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/why-supporting-the-alternative-trade-mandate-some-responses-in-video/

 

Zbigniew Brzezinski, an originating Trilateralist along with David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger, has called for the European Union to step up to the plate and increase its involvement in Ukraine.

“If the EU is serious about playing a role in the world, it has to start here. And that means putting up the money to help stabilize Ukraine’s teetering economy,” Brzezinski told The World Post last month.

“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire,” Brzezinski wrote in his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives.

“If the EU is serious about playing a role in the world, it has to start here. And that means putting up the money to help stabilize Ukraine’s teetering economy,” Brzezinski told The World Post last month.

“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire,” Brzezinski wrote in his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives.

On Tuesday, the EU’s economy boss, Olli Rehn, a Bilderberg attendee and also vice president of the European Commission, said the EU will soon lavish a nearly bankrupt Ukraine with cash as part of the ongoing effort to yank it out of the Russian orbit.

The EU, which has imposed austerity on its member states, will fork over 11 billion euros to the junta in Kyiv as part of a package cooked up by the International Monetary Fund.

Late last month the junta, led by former central banker Arseniy Yatsenyuk, voted to impose draconian austerity measures on the Ukrainian people as part of an IMF package designed to facilitate neoliberal looting of the economy and impoverish millions of Ukrainians.

Speaking from Athens, where the standard of living is set to fall by fifty percent by the end of the year as a result of EU and IMF-imposed austerity measures, Rehn said it “is in the interests of Ukraine and Europe to maintain peace and stability on our continent.”

Meanwhile, NATO has announced it will advance “peace and stability” in Ukraine and Eastern Europe by stationing forces in the Baltic states and stepping up military exercises on Russia’s border.

Rehn also admitted economic sanctions are unlikely to modify Russia’s reaction to a hostile, partially fascist regime in Ukraine and provocative moves by NATO to ratchet up tension along its frontier. “As regards sanctions, no sensible European would want to see economic sanctions,” he said.

Although the EU and the United States have attempted to impose sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials, it has stopped short of imposing wider economic sanctions on Russia, and for good reason – a large number of transnational corporations do business with the Russian Federation and anything more than token sanctions would have a negative impact of business.

In response to the threat of economic sanctions levied by the United States, last month Russia prepared “a bill that would freeze the assets of European and American companies operating in Russia,” Press TV reported, a move that put a damper on sanctions called for by the United States and the European Union.

“It should be possible for Ukraine to develop closer economic and political ties with the EU and maintain good neighborly relations with Russia,” said Rehn.

Good neighborly relations, however, will be difficult with the likes of Ukraine’s former Prime Minister and convicted kleptocrat Yulia Tymoshenko telling her junta colleagues Russia should be nuked. Tymoshenko, who has announced her bid for the presidency, has made it her goal to disassociate Ukraine from Russia (despite its sizable Russian-speaking minority) and move the country into the grasp of the European Union where IMF austerity awaits average Ukrainians.

“Ukraine should be a part of the united Europe, a part of the European Union. I will do my best to achieve this goal. Ukraine’s security should be ensured by means of integration into European security systems. I stand for Ukraine’s participation in collective security systems,” she said on Tuesday.

“European security systems” is doublespeak for NATO and its adversarial relationship with Russia.

Tymoshenko also said the referendum returning Crimea to Russia was unacceptable and she would do everything within her power if elected to nullify the will of the Crimean people. She said the junta in Kyiv stands for “further sanctions to force Russia give Crimea back.”

“Ukraine should engage the best law experts to word (sic) its claims to Russia’s overseas property, including on the territory of Ukraine,” Tymoshenko said.

The former Prime Minister expressed her intransigence by stating she is against “any bargaining with Russia, especially on matters of the Ukrainian domestic policy.”

Stock Buybacks and Margin Debt

April 1st, 2014 by Mike Whitney

Are you looking for signs of froth in the stock market? Then you might want to take a look at stock buybacks.According to the Wall Street Journal, almost 20 percent of the total value of stocks today are stock buybacks, that is, corporations that purchase their own shares to push up prices. Here’s the scoop from Jason Zweig at the WSJ:

“Last year, the corporations in the Russell 3000, a broad U.S. stock index, repurchased $567.6 billion worth of their own shares—a 21% increase over 2012, calculates Rob Leiphart, an analyst at Birinyi Associates, a research firm in Westport, Conn. That brings total buybacks since the beginning of 2005 to $4.21 trillion—or nearly one-fifth of the total value of all U.S. stocks today.” (Will Stock Buybacks Bite Back?, Wall Street Journal)

“$4.21 trillion” is a heckuva lot of froth. It means that the market is overpriced by at least 20 percent. Corporate bosses have been aggressively pumping up prices to reward shareholders even though earnings and revenues are looking increasingly shaky. The reason buybacks have caught fire is because– up to now– they’ve been considered a reasonably safe bet. With interest rates locked at zero, and the Central Bank flooding the financial system with $55 billion every month, stocks have been following the path of least resistance which is up, up, and away. (As of Friday, the S and P was up 176 percent from its March 2009 lows.)The point is, stock buybacks are a natural reaction to the Fed’s easy money policies. Corporations are just following the Fed’s lead. If the Fed didn’t want companies to engage in this kind of reckless behavior, it could either turn off the liquidity or raise rates. Either way, the buybacks would stop. The fact that the Fed keeps juicing the system just shows that the it’s real objective is to buoy stock prices regardless of the risks involved. And there are risks too. Keep in mind, that most of the money corporations use for buybacks is borrowed, which leaves them vulnerable to fluctuations in prices. If the market suddenly goes South, then over extended investors have to sell other assets to cover their bets. That leads to firesales, plunging prices and deflation.Surging margin debt is another sign of froth. Margin debt is money that investors borrow to finance the purchase of stocks. Margin debt has been trending higher since the recession ended in 2009, but it’s really skyrocketed in the last year as eager investors have piled into equities confident that the Fed has their back. The problem is that large amounts of margin debt usually indicate a peak in the market. Here’s a little background from an article in USA Today:

“The amount of money investors borrowed from Wall Street brokers to buy stocks rose for a seventh straight month in January to a record $451.3 billion, a potential warning sign that in the past has coincided with irrational exuberance and stock market tops…“One characteristic of getting closer to a market top is a major expansion in margin debt,” says Gary Kaltbaum, president of Kaltbaum Capital Management. “Expanding market debt fuels the bull market and is an investors’ best friend when stocks are rising. The problem is when the market turns (lower), it is the market’s worst enemy.”…“Forced liquidations can occur,” says Price Headley, CEO of BigTrends.com. “If the decline in the market is dramatic, it can cause a true flush-out, when everyone is getting forced out by margin calls.” (Record margin debt poses risk for bull market, USA Today)

Investors seem to think that the Fed has superhuman powers and can stop the market from correcting. But that’s a bad bet. Stocks will tumble, and when they do these same speculators will get a call from their broker telling them they need more cash to meet the required minimum. That “margin call” will lead to the dumping of stocks and other assets in a mad scramble for cash. If the margin call is broad-based enough, then debt deflation dynamics will kick in pushing down prices across the board paving the way for another spectacular stock market crash. That’s what happened in 2008 when a run on the shadow banking system (repo) sparked a panic that sent global shares plunging. Here’s a chartthat shows how closely stock prices follow the build up of margin debt.Like stock buybacks, margin debt is a natural reaction to Fed policy. Zero rates provide a subsidy for speculation while QE reduces the aggregate supply of financial assets thus pushing up prices. This is why there’s so much froth in the markets, because the Fed creates incentives for risk taking. Remove the incentives, and the bubbles quickly vanish. Poof.There are other areas where bubbles are emerging too, but it may be more worthwhile to consider “valuation metrics” which give us a better idea of where stock prices would be without the Fed’s liquidity injections. Here’s a brief excerpt from a post by John Hussman who’s done extensive research on the topic and who believes that the S&P 500 is currently more over-valued than the housing market in 2006:

“Based on valuation metrics that have demonstrated a near-90% correlation with subsequent 10-year S&P 500 total returns, not only historically but also in recent decades, we estimate that U.S. equities are more than 100% above the level that would be associated with historically normal future returns…It is the series of extreme instances over the past year that give investors the hope and delusion that historically reckless market conditions will lead only to further gains and greater highs. This is a mistake born of complacency in the face of a nearly uninterrupted, Fed-enabled 5-year market advance, and is the same mistake that was made in 2000 and again in 2007. By the time the present market cycle is completed, we expect the S&P 500 to be at least 40% lower than present levels.” (Hussman Warns S&P 500 Over-Valuation Now Higher Than Housing In 2006, Zero Hedge)

Okay, so what does that mean in plain English?It means that stocks are ridiculously overpriced, and the reason they’re overpriced is because the Fed has been juicing the market with easy money and monthly liquidity injections. Chief US Equity Strategist for Goldman Sachs, David J. Kostin, was even more blunt than Hussman. He said, “The current valuation of the S&P 500 is lofty by almost any measure, both for the aggregate market as well as the median stock.”So by any measure, the market is overvalued. That means that investors can expect either lower returns in the future or big losses. It’s going to be one or the other.So what are the chances that stocks will fall sharply in the next few months putting another dent in the pensions and life savings of the many of the Mom and Pop investors who just got back into the market in the last 12 months?I don’t have the foggiest idea. But the outlook is pretty bleak. Take a look at this from Mark Hulbert at Marketwatch:

“Nejat Seyhun, a finance professor at the University of Michigan, has found from his research…that only some (corporate) insiders have a consistently accurate view of their companies’ prospects.The insiders worth paying attention to are a company’s officers and directors…Prof. Seyhun — who is one of the leading experts on interpreting the behavior of corporate insiders — has found that … insiders do have impressive forecasting abilities. In the summer of 2007, for example, his adjusted insider sell-to-buy ratio was more bearish than at any time since 1990, which is how far back his analyses extended.Ominously, that degree of bearish sentiment is where the insider ratio stands today, Prof. Seyhun said in an interview.” (Corporate insider bearishness at pre-2008 crash levels; Opinion: Don’t ignore the behavior of executives in the know, Mark Hulbert, Marketwatch)

Then there’s this brief summary from Baupost Group founder and billionaire Seth Klarman who advises his clients to be prepared for a “trend reversal”. Here’s the quote from Business Insider:

“Six years ago, many investors were way out over their skis. Giant financial institutions were brought to their knees…The survivors pledged to themselves that they would forever be more careful, less greedy, less short-term oriented.But here we are again, mired in a euphoric environment in which some securities have risen in price beyond all reason, where leverage is returning to rainy markets and asset classes, and where caution seems radical and risk-taking the prudent course. Not surprisingly, lessons learned in 2008 were only learned temporarily. These are the inevitable cycles of greed and fear, of peaks and troughs.Can we say when it will end? No. Can we say that it will end? Yes. And when it ends and the trend reverses, here is what we can say for sure. Few will be ready. Few will be prepared.” (If You’re Bullish About Stocks, You Should Ponder This Warning From One Of The Smartest Investors Ever, Business Insider)

So the Fed has done what the Fed always does; set us up for another crash. Stocks are over-priced, insiders are selling and QE is winding down. It’s only a matter of time before the roof caves in and all hell breaks loose.But why? Why does the Fed keep steering the economy from one financial catastrophe to the next?That’s easy. Just take a look at this chart by economists Atif Mian and Amir Sufi and you’ll see for yourself who’s getting rich on this deal. This is the class of people who actually benefit from the Fed’s serial bubblemaking. Take a look:

“Here is the distribution of financial asset holdings across the wealth distribution. This is from the 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances:

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The top 20% of the wealth distribution holds over 85% of the financial assets in the economy. So it is clear that the direct income from capital goes to the wealthiest American households.” (Capital Ownership and Inequality, House of Debt)

Who benefits from QE?Now you know.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

The word dollar didn’t even come up. “The volume of transactions that can be carried out in the Chinese currency in international and German financial centers is not commensurate with China’s importance in the global economy,” the Bundesbank explained in its dry manner on Friday in Berlin, after signing a memorandum of understanding with the People’s Bank of China. President Xi Jinping and Chancellor Angela Merkel were looking on. It was serious business. Everyone knew what this was about. No one had to say it.

The agreement spelled out how the two central banks would cooperate on the clearing and settlement of payments denominated in renminbi – to get away from the dollar’s hegemony as payments currency and as reserve currency.

This wasn’t an agreement between China and a paper-shuffling financial center like Luxembourg or London, which are working on similar deals, but between two of the world’s largest exporters with a bilateral trade of nearly $200 billion in 2013. German corporations have invested heavily in China over the last 15 years. And recently, Chinese corporations, many of them at least partially state-owned, have started plowing their new money into Germany.

This “renminbi clearing solution” – the actual mechanism, clearing bank or clearing house, hasn’t been decided yet – will be an important step for China to internationalize the renminbi and ditch its reliance on the dollar. It will be located in Frankfurt; that the city is “home to two central banks,” Bundesbank Executive Board Member Joachim Nagel pointed out, made it “a particularly suitable location.”

As a world payments currency, the renminbi is still minuscule but growing in leaps and bounds: in February, customer initiated and institutional payments, inbound and outbound, denominated in RMB accounted for only 1.42% of all traffic, but it set a new record, according to SWIFT, the NSA-infiltrated, member-owned cooperative that connects over 10,000 banks, corporations, the NSA, and other intelligence agencies around the world.

Despite China’s heft as the second largest economy, the yuan was only in eighth place as payments currency, behind the Swiss franc. The dollar and the euro have been duking it out over the top spot. In February, the dollar accounted for 38.9% and the euro for 33.0% of all payments traffic. January last year, for example, the euro was in first place with a share of 40.2%, while the dollar only came up with 33.5%. As China moves away from the dollar, its share as payments currency will continue to drop.

And Merkel, whose job it had been to keep the Eurozone together by tightening duct tape and bailing wire around the necks of other countries, hasn’t forgotten: “We’re very thankful that China made efforts during the euro crisis to consider the euro a stable currency,” she said at the press conference. “China never questioned its trust in the euro, and I find that very important….”

Setting up Frankfurt as an offshore renminbi trading center has been in the works since 2012. A steering committee was set up in July 2013 that included the Economics Ministry of the state of Hesse, the Federal Finance Ministry, and the Bundesbank. In October 2013, the “RMB Initiative Group” – which included the four Chinese banks with a presence in Frankfurt, German financial services giants, and the Bundesbank – met for the first time. The working group that deals with the establishment of the RMB clearing solution is headed by the Bundesbank and counts SWIFT among its members. German corporations and trade associations all support the initiative.

It was “a major step forward in intensifying Germany’s economic relations with China,” said Bundesbank Executive Board Member Carl-Ludwig Thiele.

In its coverage of the event, state-owned Xinhua News Agency outlined China’s “three-pronged” strategy for promoting the internationalization of the RMB: “facilitating international trade and investment denominated and settled in RMB, encouraging offshore RMB service centers to develop offshore RMB-denominated financial products, and encouraging central banks to hold RMB assets as part of their foreign exchange reserves.”

A succinct definition of breaking the dollar’s hegemony as payments currency, investment currency, and reserve currency – China’s strategy since 2009.

At the time, the financial crisis in the US sent cold shivers down the spine of China’s government that until then had been sitting loosey-goosey on mountains of US paper that suddenly threatened to evaporate, such as Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s mortgage backed securities that China had somehow thought were worth something when in fact they were not – at least not until China applied enough pressure on the Bush Administration to guarantee them and on the Fed to buy them to inflate their value.

China got bailed out by the US taxpayer and the Fed, but the episode taught the government a lesson: dump the dollar. And so it went about it, carefully, systematically, step by step, but relentlessly, as Xinhua said, in a “multi-pronged” strategy that included making broad-ranging bilateral currency deals with one country at a time.

Compared to China, Russia is small fry in terms of trade and financial relations with the US. But it too has had it. The first official warning shot was fired before its all-out assault on the dollar system begins. Not by a Putin advisor that can be brushed off, but by Russia’s Minister of Economy and former Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank. A major escalation.

Copyright Blacklisted News, 2014

The Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada has adopted a resolution on the immediate disarmament of illegal armed groups. The most notorious is the nationalistic Right Sector, whose members have been involved in the bloodiest turmoil in Ukraine’s recent past.

The vote passed by the parliament on Tuesday allows for the banning of Right Sector if it refuses to give up arms. The decision was supported by 256 MPs, while the minimum needed to legitimate it is 220 votes.

“Considering the extraordinary public and political situation in the country, aggravation of the crime rate and systematical provocations on the part of foreign citizens in the south-east of Ukraine and in Kiev, the Parliament of Ukraine decrees to oblige the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine and Security Service of Ukraine to immediately disarm illegal armed formations,”RIA Novosti quoted the Rada resolution.

Right Sector militants expelled from Kiev

On Monday, Ukraine’s acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov urged militants to clear out of the capital following a shootout in downtown Kiev instigated by a Right Sector member injured three people, including Deputy Mayor Bogdan Dubas.

A police special operations taskforce armed with automatic weapons besieged the Dnepr Hotel, where Right Sector had been based for the last several weeks, and delivered an ultimatum to abandon the building leaving all weapons behind. In return, police promised a safe corridor out of the city for the militants, who primarily arrived to Kiev from western regions of Ukraine.

Armed special team police officers surround the Dnipro hotel in the center of Kiev late on March 31, 2014 (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)

Armed special team police officers surround the Dnipro hotel in the center of Kiev late on March 31, 2014 (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)

The Right Sector militants fulfilled the condition and were taken out of the city in a convoy of buses. At the same time, nobody searched for hidden weapons either on their persons or among their numerous belongings loaded on the buses. Earlier there were reports that valuable items were missing from the government buildings ‘guarded’ by Right Sector members.

Police officers entered the abandoned RS headquarters and reportedly have already found some weapons and a self-made explosive device hidden inside. The discovered arms are now being inspected to establish if any of them were used in the crime-wave that swept through the Ukrainian capital lately.

Last Thursday up to 2,000 nationalists from the Right Sector encircled the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev and tried to storm it. They demanded Avakov’s resignation following the death of one an RS leader, Aleksandr Muzychko, apparently in a police operation. Days earlier they threatened to kill Avakov to avenge Muzychko’s death.

Last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview that Moscow has “factual information” about Right Sector coordinating the sniper shootings in downtown Kiev on February 20, when unidentified snipers were killing both the protesters and law enforcement officers.

It’s fair to say that the complex anti-government protest movements in both Venezuela and Ukraine were boiled down by US corporate media to send a clear message to their domestic audience: These are the good guys.

In Ukraine, the takeaway was that there are two sides, and the people seeking to topple the government (successfully, as it turned out) wanted to be more like us. On NBC Nightly News (2/18/14), correspondent Richard Engel explained: “The Ukrainian government is backed by Moscow. The protesters want closer ties with Europe and the United States.”

ABC World News correspondent Terry Moran (2/19/14) framed it this way:

Will this country of 46 million people turn West toward the US and Europe and democracy, or turn East to Vladimir Putin and Russia, which ruled here for centuries?”

And ABC anchor Diane Sawyer(2/20/14) called it

an unremitting duel between protesters who say they want Western freedom and police enforcing the alliance with Russia and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and all that he represents.

This casting of the conflict is obviously simplistic. There is a case to be made that now-deposed Yanukovych spurned an economic deal with the European Union–one that he seemed inclined to accept weeks earlier–because it was insufficient to deal with the scale of the country’s economic problems (Reuters12/19/13), which made Putin’s offer more attractive.

That is not to suggest that anti-government protesters do not have serious grievances with the state of their country. Likewise, it has to be said that, for all the portraits of a movement that wants US-style freedoms, a substantial minority of the protest movement is drawn from fascist and neo-Nazi factions (Guardian1/29/14Slate2/20/14).

In Venezuela, meanwhile, demonstrators are similarly labeled. Here’s Mariana Atencio on ABC World News (2/23/14):

It’s been 12 straight days of violent clashes here in Venezuela. On one side, students and the middle class. On the other, police and pro-government groups, followers of the party of anti-American President Hugo Chavez.

So it’s students versus people who support the “anti-American” government–not difficult to figure out whose side you’re supposed to take. Nor didNewsweek (2/21/14) leave much doubt when it described protest leader Leopoldo Lopez this way:

With twinkling chocolate-colored eyes and high cheekbones, López seems to have it all: an attractive and supportive wife, two children who get along with each other and impossibly adorable Labrador puppies. He is charismatic, athletic and good-looking.

Good protesters.

 Venezuela: Good protesters.

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Palestine: Not good.

In the Washington Post (2/26/14), the Venezuelan protests were portrayed as a reaction to the country’s “hangover from 14 years of Chávez rule: a country with not enough milk or sugar in the supermarkets and far too many carjackings and murders in the streets.”

If that were the most important legacy of the past dozen years, you’d expect the entire country to be protesting–and it’d be hard to fathom how Chavez and current president Nicolas Maduro managed to win numerous elections. But in truth, by many indicators, life for poor Venezuelans sharply improved during the Chavez years (FAIR Media Advisory3/6/13), which explains their support for his party.

But the lesson is these are protest movements–despite adopting militant and in some cases quite violent tactics–that US media by and large were cheering.

In the midst of these conflicts, a new report from Amnesty International (2/27/14) on Israeli violence in the West Bank “documented the killings of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, at least 14 of which were in the context of protests.” The report received minimal coverage in the US press, though–and perhaps because–it raised profound questions about how a close US ally attacks protesters against military occupation.

Would the US press champion the cause of Palestinian demonstrators, or criticize harsh Israeli response to dissent? How about actually cheering on violent Palestinian resistance? It is simply unfathomable–Palestinians are the wrong kind of protester.

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April 1st, 2014 by Global Research News

The IMF “Rescue Package”: Western Looting of Ukraine Has Begun

April 1st, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

It is now apparent that the “Maiden protests” in Kiev were in actuality a Washington organized coup against the elected democratic government. The purpose of the coup is to put NATO military bases on Ukraine’s border with Russia and to impose an IMF austerity program that serves as cover for Western financial interests to loot the country. The sincere idealistic protesters who took to the streets without being paid were the gullible dupes of the plot to destroy their country.

Politically Ukraine is an untenable aggregation of Ukrainian and Russian territory, because traditional Russian territories were stuck into the borders of the Ukraine Soviet Republic by Lenin and Khrushchev. The Crimea, stuck into Ukraine by Khrushchev, has already departed and rejoined Russia. Unless some autonomy is granted to them, Russian areas in eastern and southern Ukraine might also depart and return to Russia. If the animosity displayed toward the Russian speaking population by the stooge government in Kiev continues, more defections to Russia are likely.

The Washington-imposed coup faces other possible difficulties from what seems to be a growing conflict between the well-organized Right Sector and the Washington-imposed stooges. If armed conflict between these two groups were to occur, Washington might conclude that it needs to send help to its stooges. The appearance of US/NATO troops in Ukraine would create pressure on Putin to occupy the remaining Russian speaking parts of Ukraine.

Before the political and geographical issues are settled, the Western looting of Ukraine has already begun. The Western media, doesn’t tell any more truth about IMF “rescue packages” than it does about anything else. The media reports, and many Ukrainians believe, that the IMF is going to rescue Ukraine financially by giving the country billions of dollars.

Ukraine will never see one dollar of the IMF money. What the IMF is going to do is to substitute Ukrainian indebtedness to the IMF for Ukrainian indebtedness to Western banks. The IMF will hand over the money to the Western banks, and the Western banks will reduce Ukraine’s indebtedness by the amount of IMF money. Instead of being indebted to the banks, Ukraine will now be indebted to the IMF.

Now the looting can begin. The IMF loan brings new conditions and imposes austerity on the Ukrainian people so that the Ukraine government can gather up the money with which to repay the IMF. The IMF conditions that will be imposed on the struggling Ukraine population will consist of severe reductions in old-age pensions, in government services, in government employment, and in subsidies for basic consumer purchases such as natural gas. Already low living standards will plummet. In addition, Ukrainian public assets and Ukrainian owned private industries will have to be sold off to Western purchasers.

Additionally, Ukraine will have to float its currency. In a futile effort to protect its currency’s value from being driven very low (and consequently import prices very high) by speculators ganging up on the currency and short-selling it, Ukraine will borrow more money with which to support its currency in the foreign exchange market. Of course, the currency speculators will end up with the borrowed money, leaving Ukraine much deeper in debt than currently.

The corruption involved is legendary, so the direct result of the gullible Maiden protesters will be lower Ukrainian living standards, more corruption, loss of sovereignty over the country’s economic policy, and the transfer of Ukrainian public and private property to Western interests.

If Ukraine also falls into NATO’s clutches, Ukraine will also find itself in a military alliance against Russia and find itself targeted by Russian missiles. This will be a tragedy for Ukraine and Russia as Ukrainians have relatives in Russia and Russians have relatives in Ukraine. The two countries have essentially been one for 200 years. To have them torn apart by Western looting and Washington’s drive for world hegemony is a terrible shame and a great crime.

The gullible dupes who participated in the orchestrated Maiden protests will rue it for the rest of their lives.

When the protests began, I described what the consequences would be and said that I would explain the looting process. It is not necessary for me to do so. Professor Michel Chossudovsky has explained the IMF looting process along with much history.

One final word. Despite unequivocal evidence of one country after another being looted by the West, governments of indebted countries continue to sign up for IMF programs. Why do governments of countries continue to agree to the foreign looting of their populations? The only answer is that they are paid. The corruption that is descending upon Ukraine will make the former regime look honest.

 

The Worldwide #WaveOfAction begins April 4th and runs through July 4th…”

Washington’s Blog has brought to our attention a series of videos produced by “ Wave of Action ” and “Anonymous” concerning the launching of a “Worldwide Global Awakening”, a so-called “Global Spring.”

“What do you think, Powerful or Impotent? Genius or Idiocy? Productive or Counterproductive?” asks Washington’s Blog.

The videos use powerful and emotional quotes, yet they fail to acknowledge the dramatic economic, social and geopolitical realities affecting humanity.

“Move out and do it”. But in relation to what?

Does the Wave of Action have an Action Program?

Beautiful slogans:

Can you hear me, wherever you are,

We are coming into a new World

The Glorious Future

The solar planet has been given wings

On April 4th a Global Spring begins.

Moment of Clarity

Our Time has Come

Begin to Form Affinity Groups and Then Do It.

Evolve society

Let’s make transforming the world the cool thing to do.

Let’s create a culture of transformation.”

The Manipulation of the Protest Movement

The World  is indeed at a dangerous Crossroads: At the height of a Worldwide crisis characterized by the collapse of social programs, unemployment, IMF engineered global poverty and US led wars, Washington is now supporting Al Qaeda “freedom fighters” and a Neo-Nazi government in Ukraine.

Beyond the rhetoric, the music and the video-montage, none of these issues are addressed.

This Wave of Action fails to provide an understanding of global capitalism.

The word “war” or “anti-war” are not mentioned, nor is the word “austerity”.

This initiative has all the appearances of a Psy Op., a carefully staged propaganda campaign to create confusion and channel people into manipulated protest movements.

(more videos below)

What is the functioning of the corrupt structures of global capitalism?

What “revolutionary changes” are required to dismantle the underlying power structures?

The answers:

We are a leaderless movement. We do our own thing. We want a new paradigm.

But that paradigm is not clearly identified nor is it coupled with concrete proposals.

Powerful messages in the videos by Martin Luther King and Charlie Chaplin are casually distorted, manipulated and quoted out of context.

More slogans:

“The decentralized movement toward freedom is raging across the world.  It cannot be stopped.

Let’s blaze a contagious nonviolent wave of action through mass consciousness, signaling the end of the old world, ushering in a new paradigm.

Let’s pick a three-month span, perhaps throughout this coming spring, and unite our collective actions into an unprecedented Worldwide Wave that cannot be ignored by anyone.

If we begin preparing now, a massive spring offensive can lead to a summer of transformation.”

“Cool Thing to Do”

Economic and social realities are obfuscated. The nature of the New World Order, the underlying economic system and its oppressive police state apparatus are carefully omitted from the videos.

Transforming the world is “the cool thing to do”, according to the “Global Spring” initiative, as long as it does not threaten the corporate elites which in all likelihood are funding this Worldwide awakening.

The names of the major actors on Wall Street, the White House and the Pentagon are not mentioned.

The US led wars on Syria, Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic, the US-NATO-EU led Coup d’etat in Ukraine are not mentioned.

Wall Street is mentioned but the nature of financial fraud and stock market manipulation is not addressed.

Ritual of dissent? This new thrust of “Manufactured Dissent” uses catch phrases, revolutionary symbols and narrative, but fails to identify who is the target of the revolutionary movement.

Who is Anonymous?

Anonymous is launching the “Global Spring” initiative. Who is Anonymous?

Anonymous symbols were visible in the Neo-Nazi protest movement in Ukraine, which serves US-NATO interests.

Anonymous has supported the violent riots against the elected president of Ukraine (see video below)

Sinister: An opposition supporter wearing a mask associated with the anarchic Anonymous movement stands on a roof in front of protests

An opposition supporter wearing a mask associated with Anonymous. The neo-Nazi  symbol appears on the top of the mask.

Prior to its activities in the Ukraine protest movement, “Anonymous” waged cyberattacks on Iran and Syria. The latter conducted in 2011 directed against the Syrian government, were waged in support of Syria’s “opposition” (in exile) which is also integrated by Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists. (See  Syrian Ministry Of Defense Website Hacked By ‘Anonymous’, Huffington Post, August 8, 2011). Since then the atrocities committed by opposition rebels against civilians has been amply documented.

The actions of “Anonymous” in Syria and Iran are consistent with the framework of the “Colored Revolutions”, which seeks to demonize the political regime and create economic and social instability.

Subsequent actions led against Syria by Anonymous (2012) were coordinated with those of the US and its allies,  with a view to closing down Syria’s communications network including the internet and telephone.

While serving the interests of the US State Department in acts aggression against Ukraine and Syria, Anonymous is upheld as a progressive yet “invisible” entity supportive of “democratization”.

A Global Awakening Wave has allegedly been launched by Anonymous. Anonymous has ties to the Adbusters Media Foundation which in turn is funded by the Tides Foundation.

The Global Call was initiated by Anonymous. Is it funded by corporate foundations?

How convenient. Everybody is Anonymous, but Anonymous has been “visible” in Ukraine, Venezuela, and the Middle East in ways which are broadly supportive of Wall Street and the White House.

ANONYMOUS DOES NOT HAVE A WEBSITE. WE DO NOT HAVE ANY LEADERS OR  REPRESENTATIVES. ANYONE CLAIMING TO BE A LEADER OR REPRESENTATIVE IS NOT RELATED TO ANONYMOUS. EVERYONE IS ANONYMOUS. liveleak.com

The Awakening Wave

Excerpts below from EvolveSociety.org  (many of the concepts below are contained in the videoclips)

https://evolvesociety.org/feature/a-call-for-a-crowdsourced-worldwide-wave-of-action-www/

“This new Anonymous call to action was originally posted to our social network in binary code and is quickly spreading around the internet. We are featuring it here to show our support for the proposed campaign.

The decentralized movement toward freedom is raging across the world.  It cannot be stopped.

Radical change is urgently needed, so let’s make transforming the world the cool thing to do. Let’s create a culture of transformation. Let’s blaze a contagious nonviolent wave of action through mass consciousness, signaling the end of the old world, ushering in a new paradigm.

The Awakening Wave

The last time we all rallied together in a loosely knit collective fashion, the Occupy movement was born and the 99% meme brought the corruption of our political and economic system, along with the grotesque inequality of wealth, into mass consciousness in a profound and lasting way. It was the opening act, the awakening wave.

Since the Occupy camps were crushed by brutal police state force, the movement has splintered in many different directions.

It’s Time For A Worldwide Wave of Transformation

Let’s pick a three-month span, perhaps throughout this coming spring, and unite our collective actions into an unprecedented Worldwide Wave that cannot be ignored by anyone.

Let’s crowdsource a relentless global wave of action that protests the corrupt, while also rallying around and celebrating effective alternatives and solutions to the vast problems we are confronted by. Imagine thousands of nonviolent guerrilla armies swarming corrupt targets and rallying for viable solutions for a sustained three-month cycle. If we begin preparing now, a massive spring offensive can lead to a summer of transformation.

Staying true to the vital nature of the movement, you lead, in your own way. Pick whatever issues concern you most and run with them, knowing that likeminded people throughout the world will also be fighting in solidarity, in whatever way they can, at the same time you are.

Not Focused Enough?

In an attempt to dismiss and undermine us, status quo propagandists will once again criticize us by saying that our message of systemic change is not focused enough or lacks coherent goals. This feeble attempt to keep people from joining in with us will be overcome by our widespread and consistent actions, which will lead by example and inspire the cultural shift in mass consciousness that we urgently need. Our diverse crowdsourced actions will boldly demonstrate our will to expose, fight and overcome tyrannical systems. By rallying around viable solutions and protesting what we are against, the goals and freedoms that we aspire to will organically become self-evident to all.

Throughout history, when people have fought against tyranny and oppression, they didn’t have one perfect utopian model outcome agreed upon beforehand. They just knew that the invading and old systems were detrimental to their wellbeing and had to go. We are now in that position.

Don’t let the propagandists fool you. We do not need corrupt corporations or aristocratic government rulers anymore. They are obsolete. People throughout this interconnected technological world have already come up with much more effective systems to replace the tyrannical one that is currently dominating our lives. There are already many effective solutions to our problems, solutions that are held back by the entrenched forces of shortsighted greed. Once a small percentage of us withdraw our participation from corrupt entities and opt out of tyranny, the old and obsolete systems of rule will quickly fall away.

Extensive empirical evidence demonstrates that nonviolent movements toward freedom result in positive outcomes. Research has proven that it only takes approximately 3% of the population engaging in various forms of nonviolent action to create significant meaningful change, for the betterment of society. We now have the necessary critical mass of aware people who are ready, willing and capable.

Guerrilla Tactics

This time the police state will not be able to crush us. We will not have stationary targets. We will be everywhere, fluid and evasive. The movement will be an unstoppable crowdsourced, decentralized and autonomous revolutionary force.

We will engage in a diversity of nonviolent tactics, from large-scale mobilizations to small daily acts. Most of you already know the actions and tactics that are needed. Without revealing too much strategic information, here are a few basic actions to get a fire going in your mind:

> Mass gatherings, demonstrations;
> Marches, parades;
> Flash mobs, swarms;
> Shutdown harmful corporate and governmental operations;
> Worker Strikes;
> Hunger strikes;
> Sit-ins;
> Strategic defaults, debt strikes;
> Foreclosure prevention;
> Boycotting corrupt corporations;
> Move your money out of the big banks and the stock market;
> Use alternative currencies and economic systems;
> Cancel your cable television and support independent media;
> Use independent online tools that don’t sell your info and protect your privacy;
> Online civil disobedience, Anonymous operations;
> Leak information on corruption;
> Use alternative energy;
> Build your own urban and hydroponic farms, or get your food from them;
> Support local businesses;
> Join local community organizations;
> Take part in food banks and help develop community support systems;
> Start or join intentional and autonomous communities;
> Experiment with new governing systems, Liquid Democracy;
> Host teach-ins;
> Organize socially conscious events;
> Make conscious media;
> Guerrilla postering, messages on money;
> Help inspiring groups and organizations spread their message;
> Random acts of kindness and compassion;
> Mass meditations, prayer sessions and spiritual actions.

The list goes on and on. You know what you can do to play a part. Do whatever you feel inspired to do.

Radical change is urgently needed, so let’s make transforming the world the cool thing to do. Let’s create a culture of transformation. Let’s blaze a contagious nonviolent wave of action through mass consciousness, signaling the end of the old world, ushering in a new paradigm.

Now is the time.

Ride the Worldwide Wave of Transformation
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#www

Tweak this meme! This is a draft call to action, a work in progress. Feel free to make changes to it and spread it around however you see fit.”

This call to action does not identify the nature of the crisis, nor does it mention the names of the main architects of this Global New World order.

The motto is do your own thing. Its a “leaderless” spontaneous movement.

We are familiar with the logic of “colored revolutions” whereby the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and various Wall Street foundations generously fund NGOs with a view to toppling the governments of sovereign countries.

While the logic of  this self-proclaimed Worldwide Wave of Transformation is different, it is geared towards manipulating people while also weakening meaningful forms of grassroots activism and organized dissent.

“What do you think, Powerful or Impotent? Genius or Idiocy? Productive or Counterproductive?”

These videos are intended to create confusion.

Our thanks to Washington Blog for having brought the above videos to our attention

UK: Thousands Prosecuted Under Controversial Law of Joint Enterprise

April 1st, 2014 by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

An eight-month investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals, for the first time, comprehensive data showing at least 1,800 people have been prosecuted for homicide using the little-known law of joint enterprise: a law which experts have called “unclear” and “capable of producing injustice”.

The revelation comes as leading members of the judiciary call for its reform. The criminal Law Commissioner, Professor David Ormerod, told the Bureau the case for reform was “overwhelming” as joint enterprise was “unclear” and posed “a risk of injustice”.

Professor Jeremy Horder, former criminal Law Commissioner and now at the London School of Economics, said there needs to be major statutory reform of the law.

And Lord Phillips, former Lord Chief Justice, told the Bureau joint enterprise needs reform as it was “capable of producing injustice, undoubtedly”.

Until now, there has been no information on the scale of the use of this powerful part of the criminal justice system as no official records are kept. New data collected and analysed by the Bureau shows that since 2005 at least 1,800 people and up to 4,590 have been prosecuted for homicide under joint enterprise – a legal tool that allows the prosecution of multiple defendants for the same crime. This represents at least 17.7% of all homicide prosecutions in this period.

Key findings:

  •  Between 2005 and 2013, 1,853 people were prosecuted for homicides that involved four or more defendants. This is the closest approximation that can be made to the use of joint enterprise. Most academics agree these prosecutions almost certainly relied on the joint enterprise doctrine.
  • In the same eight years 4,590 people were prosecuted for homicides involving two or more defendants – a definition the CPS suggests is a clear indication of the use of joint enterprise.
  • The rate of use has remained relatively constant, though there was a small rise in the rate of homicide prosecutions involving four or more defendants in 2008 (20.4%).
  • The more defendants involved in a prosecution, the lesser the chances of securing a conviction. The average conviction rate for all homicides is 80.4%. Where there are two or more defendants the conviction rate drops to 76.7% and for four or more defendants it is 73.3%.
  • The rate at which joint enterprise cases are appealed appears to be on the rise. In 2008 11% of published Court of Appeal rulings dealt with convictions where there had been some element of joint enterprise. In 2013 the rate had increased to 22%.

Read report and full investigation

Some people in some Republican-governed states are too poor to qualify for subsidies to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

You get that right: too poor to qualify for subsidies.

Here is how I discovered this remarkable fact:

There was a Reuters article at Huffington Post on January 22nd, “Target Cuts Health Coverage For Part-Time Workers, Citing Obamacare,” and it reported that Target, “like Home Depot, said it was shifting medical coverage for part-time workers to new public marketplace exchanges,” in order to cut costs.

One of the reader-comments to that news-report came from “Kate,” who said, ”In Alaska, where we have to rely on the federal Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace, a single person has to make at least $14,350 per year and a family of 4 has to bring in a minimum of $29,440 to qualify for tax subsidies to help pay ACA premiums.”

I replied to her comment: “That’s obviously and clearly false, because all of the ACA subsidies kick in only for people whose income is below a given amount — not at all for people whose earnings are above that amount (as you there allege).”

She responded: “You have no idea what you’re talking about. I am a Certified Application Counselor for the ACA and there is an income range within which qualifies folks for the tax subsidies. A single person has to have an AGI between $14,350 and $57,400 to get a subsidy. Those who fall below the $14,350 are out of luck because our governor did not accept the Medicaid Expansion program under the ACA. Check your facts.”

I was shocked to find that my understanding of the Affordable Care Act was so grossly deficient in this crucial regard.

Subsequently, I looked to find verification of what this “Certified Application Counselor for the ACA” had asserted. And I found it, at the “Quick Check Chart for Alaska and Hawaii: Do I qualify to save on health insurance coverage?”

This problem isn’t to be blamed only on Obama, but also on the Republican Governors (such as Sean Parnell in Alaska) who took advantage of U.S. Chief Justice John R. Roberts’ offering governors the opportunity to treat ACA’s Medicaid-expansion as being optional. The Affordable Care Act hadn’t been written with the possibility in mind that a state governor might choose to deny low-income citizens an expansion of Medicaid which would be almost 100% paid for by the Federal Government (rather than by the state). The possibility that Republicans would try to sabotage Obama’s Presidency in this way hadn’t even been contemplated by Obama.

Apparently, Obama must have ignored Rush Limbaugh’s saying, on 16 January 2009, “I hope he fails.” Then, at the “Take Back America Conference” on 27 February 2009, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, endorsed Limbaugh’s statement. Subsequently, on 25 October 2010, the “Think Progress” website bannered “Mitch McConnell: I Want … To Make Obama A One-Term President,” and quoted McConnell, from an interview with the Republican National Journal (which soon removed from its website all record of its interview), in which McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” On 4 November 2010, McConnell gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation saying the same thing: “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” Virtually all of the largest corporations were pouring money into Republican political campaigns to help Mitch McConnell achieve his dream; but, far from Obama’s retaliating, he cooperated with their efforts.

So, this situation resulted from both a stupid President and a vicious Republican Party — not just John Roberts and the other Republican judges, and not just from Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans, but from the President himself, and from the former WellPont VP, Elizabeth Fowler, who actually wrote the law in the offices of the conservative Montana Senator Max Baucus, whom Obama chose to oversee its drafting, so as to keep the political contributions flowing from the health insurance companies and medical providers.

During the past few months, I have asked many people whether there are individuals and families who are too poor to qualify for subsidies under Obamacare, or the ACA, and no one yet has answered “Yes” to that.

Did you know that the answer is “Yes?”

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

On March 18, 2014 Cass Sunstein released his latest collection of essays, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas.[1] Like his other works geared toward a mainstream readership, the prominent Harvard law professor, former Obama administration regulatory czar, and NSA advisor [2] points to numerous alleged dangers posed by even “rational people” who are susceptible to adopting “crippled epistemologies.” What Sunstein fails to explain throughout his most recent medley of gentle authoritarianism is how the “conspiracy theory” term has received vigorous promotion from the editorial practices of certain major corporate news media.

“Conspiracy theory” is not merely a flippant or off-handed water cooler term, but rather a powerful tool of political discourse. “Deployed as a pejorative putdown,” political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith observes,

the label is a verbal defense mechanism used by political elites to suppress mass suspicions that inevitably arise when shocking political crimes benefit top leaders or play into their agendas, especially when those same officials are in control of agencies responsible for preventing events in question or for investigating them after they have occurred.[3]

Along these lines, “conspiracy theory” and its common variants, “assassination buff,” “crackpot,” “wacko,” and so on, were essentially interpolated into news reports and commentary in the late 1960s by CIA media assets as the agency maneuvered to bolster the Warren Commission’s “lone assassin” explanation of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OIiOztc52g

When confronted in 2012, Sunstein does not “remember very well” co-authoring a 2008 paper, “Conspiracy Theories,” the namesake of his most recent book.

Only in the past forty years or so has the label become an especially salient discursive technique for channeling political dialogue and inquiry. From the late 1800s through the first half of the 1900s the phrase can seldom be found in news discourse. A search of the Historical New York Times database finds that “conspiracy theory” is used 30 times between 1870 and 1960, often in accounts of criminal court proceedings. Yet from 1960 to 1969 alone there are 46 instances of the term’s usage in Times articles. Since 1970, it is invoked in over 1,700 pieces, with a peak between 2000 and 2009 (728).[4]

Today the pejorative not only acts as a disciplinary measure–journalists and scholars alike fear such a trenchant smear–but also as a technique to shape information and analysis. It serves as a more-than-subtle way of saying, “Look here, not there,” thereby guiding readers and viewers to place their reasoning faculties in abeyance and adopt what are often uncritical and even misleading modes of substantiation and conclusion. While this phenomenon is clearly demonstrable in print news media, it is also widespread in US-based cable and broadcast news.

A LexisNexis search of news program transcripts for the dates March 1, 2011 to March 1, 2014 reveals 2,469 usages of the “conspiracy theory/theories” term. Probing the surveyed time span reveals CNN (586 transcripts) and MSNBC (382) as the foremost purveyors of the phrase, with Fox News (182) a distant third. The US government’s transcript service, US Federal News, comes in at fourth, suggesting persistent strategic usage of the label at federal government press conferences and similar functions to drive home official positions and dispel challenges to them. Programming on National Public Radio ranks fifth, with 115 instances.

The following is a breakdown of the cable or broadcast outlet/program referencing “conspiracy theory” or “conspiracy theories” in transcript text within the aforementioned three-year span.

CNN Transcripts  -  586
Global Broadcast Database (local broadcast transcripts)  -  416
MSNBC  -  382
Fox News  -  182
US Federal News  -  144
National Public Radio  -  116
Australian Broadcasting Corporation  -  71
NBC News  -  67
Congressional Quarterly Transcripts  -  57
ABC News  -  55
CTV TV (Canada)  -  55
CBS News – 54
CNN International  -  48
Imus Simulcast  -  39
Financial Market Regulatory Wire  -  31
PBS News Hour  -  21
Bloomberg: Surveillance Show  -  17
Congressional Quarterly Testimony  -  16
The Charlie Rose Show  -  15
Follow the Money  -  14
Euro News  -  13
Lou Dobbs Tonight – 12
Cavuto – 8

To be more conclusive, the specific contexts in which the term is mobilized might be more fully examined and delineated. An argument may also be waged that this metric is not exactly proper given the dissimilar breadth of content produced by each outlet. After all, a 24-hour cable news channel such as CNN simply has far more “news hole” to fill than a daily one-hour broadcast like PBS News Hour or Charlie Rose.

Image: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (Wiki Commons)

Yet even here the variances are telling. For example, when comparing domestic CNN transcripts to those of the channel’s counterpart, CNN International, the former uses the term over twelve times as frequently. Such findings suggest the execution of a clear-cut editorial policy to fulfill certain propaganda-related ends–indeed, not unlike the Central Intelligence Agency’s usage of the term to combat alternative interpretations of President Kennedy’s assassination.

Along these lines, further examination of the data sample distinguishes how even news personalities’ bylines are correlated with frequent employment of the “conspiracy theory” label. Searching within the same data set, transcripts with CNN Anderson Cooper’s byline possess the highest incidence of the expression (81), with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Al Sharpton tied for second place (77), and Piers Morgan (38) ranking third. CNN’s Erin Burnett and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tie for fourth. Ostensibly conservative Fox News personalities Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity use the expression less frequently.

Anderson Cooper (CNN)  -  81
Rachel Maddow (MSNBC)  -  77
Al Sharpton (MSNBC)  -  77
Piers Morgan (CNN)  -  38
Erin Burnett (CNN)  -  31
Chris Hayes (MSNBC)  -  31
Sean Hannity (Fox News)  -  29
Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) – 19

Image: CNN’s Anderson Cooper (Wiki Commons)

With the exception of ABC (Australia) and CTV (Canada), all of the outlets are US-based, suggesting how the American population, well known for its limited historical comprehension and political sophistication, is expressly targeted with repeated usage of the “conspiracy theory” phrase. A population relying on sensation, caricature, and hearsay to understand national and world affairs has already forsaken its freedom.  It is perhaps ironic that CNN and MSNBC in particular cater to audiences that see themselves as open-minded and “liberal”–indeed, the opposite of cunning technocrats such as Sunstein. At the same time, if these two networks’ continually depressed ratings are any indication, the public is becoming more and more skeptical of how it is being patronized.[5]

A most profound political act any individual can undertake may involve adopting a basic regimen of intellectual self-defense that would include an increased awareness of the “conspiracy theory” label itself and a resolve to assess the term’s utilization vis-á-vis the context in which it is employed, in an effort to better determine what it seeks to obscure, legitimate, and redirect attention to.

Notes

[1] Cass Sunstein, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014.

[2] “America’s Joseph Goebbels to Serve on NSA Oversight Panel,” Liberty Blitzkrieg, August 25, 2013.

[3] Lance deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013, 9.

[4] See also deHaven-Smith, 126-131.

[5] “Key Indicators in Media & News,” Pew Research Journalism Project, March 26, 2014.

No Wreckage of Malaysian Airline Plane Recovered

April 1st, 2014 by Alan Leigh

After three weeks of intensive searching, there is still controversy and speculation surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370 on March 8. A series of satellite images that appeared to show debris in remote areas of the southern Indian Ocean have not been verified by the recovery of wreckage. The latest possible debris identified by an Australian plane in a new search zone to west of Australia—orange objects that were described as the most promising lead to date—turned out not to be related to the missing aircraft.

Ten days after MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, news emerged that Thai military radars had detected the missing plane changing direction toward the south-west. According to Thai authorities, this important piece of information, which could have been used to avoid searching in the wrong area for more than a week, was not passed on to Malaysian authorities because they did not ask for it.

No explanation has been provided by Malaysian authorities for the failure of at least three Malaysian military radars to detect Flight MH370’s u-turn toward the south and the lack of any known attempt to contact the crew and question the change of direction. According to Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s defence minister and acting transport minister, an investigation is underway.

Hishammuddin has refused to rule out the possibility that the entire search will be moved away from the current zone, about 1,100 south of Perth. After visiting Perth’s Pearce Air Force base on Monday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott conceded that authorities in charge of the search are operating on limited information.

Despite no wreckage being located, Abbott reiterated his support for the March 24 announcement by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak that MH370 crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing all 12 crew and 227 passengers aboard. “I think that Prime Minister Najib Razak was perfectly entitled to come to that conclusion,” Abbott declared.

Abbott praised the joint operation by a number of countries to resolve the mystery of Flight MH370, calling it a “humanitarian” effort for the “betterment of humanity.” Abbott added: “This multi-country search is a powerful example of international cooperation at a time of adversity.”

In reality, geopolitical rivalries and suspicions have apparently led governments to withhold high-resolution images from military satellites and information sourced in other ways. The search for the aircraft is being used, particularly by Australia and the United States, to rehearse their ability to sustain extensive aerial surveillance operations in the Indian Ocean.

James Brown, a military analyst at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, said it was “a peacetime test of many of the military functions that would be critical in the event of a conflict.” The countries involved in this search for MH370, Brown noted, were “closely watching each other’s performance, and wary of exposing any vulnerabilities to each other, and their own domestic political audiences.”

The appointment of the former Australian Defence Forces chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, to head the joint search operations also points to the military, rather than humanitarian, character of the operation.

According to Reuters, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued rules and guidelines for countries involved in the search operation since Houston’s appointment. No detailed information has been provided about the guidelines, but they are believed to include stipulations that any wreckage must be secured and handed over for investigation by the Malaysian authorities.

The families of passengers on board the missing flight are still demanding that the Malaysian government explain what happened to their loved ones. Desperate Chinese family members who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on March 30 carried a banner reading: “Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back.”

The Chinese government was initially critical of Malaysia’s handling of the operation and lack of transparency. It is now telling the families to move on and accept that their loved ones have perished. China Daily, a newspaper controlled by the Chinese state, wrote on March 30: “All the related parties can do is to continue to search for the wreckage, carry on negotiations with the Malaysian side for more information and prepare to make arrangements for funerals.”

According to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese government has flagged the possibility of using the failure to locate the plane to justify a significant expansion of its global monitoring network, particularly over the strategic waters of the Indian Ocean.

Professor Liu Yu of Peking University told the newspaper: “International earth-observation services today are dominated by the US and European countries, but if China launches more than 50 satellites for this purpose, the whole landscape will be changed. The more Chinese satellites there are in space, the easier our work becomes. By analysing data from numerous satellites positioned at different locations and equipped with different sensors, we can understand much better an area of interest.”

Professor Zhao Chaofang of the Ocean University of China added: “Many Chinese satellites can only offload their data when they are flying over China… To build up a global monitoring network as efficient as that of the US, our ground stations overseas must be expanded as well.”

On Saturday, Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin said both the British MI6 and the American CIA are now working with their Chinese counterparts in the investigation. This renewed speculation that the plane disappearance is related to a terrorist act, rather than mechanical failure.

One suicide scenario has centered on the MH370 pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. After searches of his house, interviews with his family and an examination of a flight simulator that he possessed, Malaysian police dismissed any suspicions of Zaharie. Lurid speculation published by the British Daily Mail that Zaharie deliberately crashed the plane to protest against the re-conviction of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been categorically rejected by his family, friends, Anwar and other opposition politicians.

A July 2011 cockpit fire at Cairo airport in a Boeing 777—the same model as MH370—involved a short circuit that ignited an oxygen pipe. After the Cairo accident, regulators ordered the replacement of the oxygen pipes, which cost $2,698. According to the Sydney Morning Herald , Malaysia Airlines refused to say whether it replaced the oxygen pipes. A company spokesperson said it complied with all mandatory orders issued by authorities.

Effectiveness of the Flu Vaccine against Influenza?

April 1st, 2014 by Roman Bystrianyk

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie— deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion  without the discomfort of thought. – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963)

Just take a walk or drive around this time of year and you can’t help noticing signs for the flu vaccine. They’re pretty much everywhere, lining entire parking lots and walkways into markets. They encourage everyone to get the shot – telling you to “walk in anytime” and of course accepting insurance. Some even offer incentives to get the vaccine such as a giving a 20% off shopping pass with every flu shot. At workplaces across the country notices are sent out offering shots at flu clinics. It’s a full court press promoting the vaccine everywhere for everyone.

I called my local pharmacy to find out who could get the shot. They told me I didn’t even need a doctor’s note. I asked if a pregnant woman could get the shot and they said that it wasn’t contraindicated, but some people ask for preservative free shots. I asked if I was feeling under the weather if I could still get the shot and the answer was “sure no problem.”

So it’s easy. No doctor’s note. All you need is insurance and if you don’t have it just $31.99 per shot – at least that’s the price at my local pharmacy. It didn’t even matter if you were sick you’re ready for your shot. It couldn’t be any simpler.

But a couple of things were missing – science and information. Of course there is no debate when questioning vaccination in general and so it goes with the flu vaccine. Simply blindly accept, roll up your sleeve and get the injection that will supposedly protect you from getting sick. It has to be true doesn’t it? The government and medical organizations have all signed on and each year there is more and more push for everyone young and old to get vaccinated. But let’s do something you’re never supposed to do – ask questions and look for answers.

One of the most obvious questions is “did the flu vaccine reduce deaths?”

Looking at the Vital Statistics of the United States you can get all sorts of interesting information. Some of that information is the deaths from various infectious diseases. The statistics usually group influenza and pneumonia together with data for the United States starting in the year 1900 to the present. What it shows is that the death rate for influenza and pneumonia was at 200 per 100,000 and that slowly declined over the years. Aside from the 1918 flu pandemic the death rate continued to decline and reached about 20 to 25 per 100,000 by the early 1970s when there was the initial push for flu vaccines. You can see this decline in this graph

Deaths from influenza and pneumonia had decreased by 90% before there was an idea to push for widespread vaccination. This isn’t surprising at all since infectious disease death rates had declined well before there were vaccines. Measles deaths had declined by almost 100%

and whooping cough deaths by over 99%

before either of their perspective vaccines. Other infectious disease such as scarlet fever, typhoid, typhus, cholera, and others all decrease to virtually zero without any widespread use of any vaccine.

It is quite amazing that there was a 90% decrease in deaths before the use of any flu vaccine. What caused this massive decrease in deaths from infectious disease? What lessons have we learned? When you go get your flu shot do they share any of this information with you? Chances are probably not.

Even if we hadn’t learned any lessons as to why there was such a decrease in deaths, there were still people dying of the flu and pneumonia. With a vaccine the idea is of course to reduce those deaths. The question is how well has it done?

Let’s look at the data again. This time let’s examine the mortality rate and vaccine coverage. You would expect that with an increasing vaccine coverage that the death rate would decline. After all, vaccines are supposed to protect the population from the disease that they target. When we look at that data we find something surprising – we find that as the coverage rate for vaccination improved the death rate actually increased not decreased.

The data shows that influenza and pneumonia deaths were 20-25 per 100,000 in the mid to yearly 1970s and increases to about 30 per 100,000 with a much greater flu vaccine coverage.

This phenomenon was reported by the CDC epidemiologists in 2003 as reported in an article in the journal Vaccine.

    …national influenza-related mortality rates among seniors increased in the 1980s and 1990s as the senior vaccination coverage quadrupled. [1]

What’s more is that same article reported that only approximately 5% of winter deaths are related to influenza. The often stated 50% of senior deaths could be prevented by vaccination are incorrect and that belief has arisen out of a selection bias in previous studies.

    …there was no evidence that the vaccine prevented more deaths in the influenza period than in surround time periods… But much of the evidence for vaccine effectiveness from observational studies in seniors over 70 years of age is unreliable, and the remaining evidence suggests that vaccination is far less effective than previously thought… there are only a few well-controlled observational studies at this point; these studies suggest low vaccine benefits for seniors, with point estimates ranging from 0% to 29%.[2]

It’s important to note that 90% of influenza and pneumonia related deaths occur in seniors older than 70 years of age. Data from the National Vital Statistics[3] in 2001 shows the death rate per 100,000 for all age groups with clearly the biggest problem in seniors over 75 and over 85 at 148 and 685 rate per 100K respectively. Also, if you’re between the ages of 1 and 65 when you look at other causes of death (some are listed in the TABLE) the flu and pneumonia are not as nearly as high as a lot of other risks in life.

2Age

So a less than stellar 0 to 29% effectiveness in seniors isn’t all that we are led to believe in advertisements and public announcements. The authors of this study harshly conclude:

    …the idea that influenza vaccine can prevent up to 50% of ALL winter deaths is preposterous.[4]

A 2009 review by the Cochrane Collaboration identified, retrieved, and assessed all studies evaluating the effects (efficacy, effectiveness and harm) of vaccines against influenza in healthy adults. This study also came to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence for the use of widespread vaccination for the flu.

    There is not enough evidence to decide whether routine vaccination to prevent influenza in healthy adults is effective… The results of this review seem to discourage the utilisation of vaccination against influenza in healthy adults as a routine public health measure.[5]

A February 14, 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined the influenza related deaths in the entire US elderly population. The authors expected that since influenza vaccination had greatly increased over the last 25 years that there should be a reduction in mortality by about 35% to 40%. What they found instead was no reduction in death despite increased vaccination.

    …the 50-percentage-point increase in vaccination coverage among the elderly after 1980 should have reduced both excess P&I [Pneumonia and Influenza] and excess all-cause mortality by about 35% to 40%. We found no evidence to indicate that such a reduction had occurred in excess P&I or excess all-cause mortality in any elderly age group.[6]

Again, the authors conclude that previous observational studies must have been biased to overestimate the benefits of the flu vaccine.

    …these estimates, which provide the best available national estimates of the fraction of all winter deaths that are specifically attributable to influenza, show that the observational studies must overstate the mortality benefits of the vaccine.[7]

In a recent article Peter Doshi, Ph.D reiterated this position. He declared that:

    The vaccine may be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza seems to be overstated… This means that influenza vaccines are approved for use in older people despite any clinical trials demonstrating a reduction in serious outcomes.[8]

He also stated that public officials only need to claim that the vaccine saves lives and that most people, including doctors, assume there is solid research behind the claim and unfortunately that is not the case. So in seniors – the group that has the greatest need – there really isn’t any good science to backup the use of the flu vaccine.

What about in children under 1 year of age where there is also a higher mortality rate? After all, the CDC currently recommends children 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. A 2008 study found no evidence as to the benefits of flu vaccination in children under two years of age.

    …vaccine effectiveness was not clearly shown in children under 2 years of age. Further studies using different methods, in different locations, and in different seasons, are needed to clarify the effectiveness of influenza vaccine among young children.[9]

In 2012 a comprehensive review of 75 randomized control studies in healthy children under 16 years of age was published.

    Inactivated vaccines in children aged two years or younger are not significantly more efficacious than placebo… little evidence is available for children younger than two years of age… No safety comparisons could be carried out, emphasising the need for standardisation of methods and presentation of vaccine safety data in future studies. In specific cases, influenza vaccines were associated with serious harms such as narcolepsy and febrile convulsions. It was surprising to find only one study of inactivated vaccine in children under two years, given current recommendations to vaccinate healthy children from six months of age in the USA, Canada, parts of Europe and Australia. If immunisation in children is to be recommended as a public health policy, large-scale studies assessing important outcomes, and directly comparing vaccine types are urgently required.[10]

What’s surprising is not only was an evaluation of all the available studies showing that there was no benefit for vaccinating children under 2 years of age, but that there was only 1 study at all in children in that age group. The authors also note that serious problems such as narcolepsy and convulsions were also associated with the vaccine.

In yet another study examining the flu vaccine in children under 5 years old for two seasons the authors found no benefit. The vaccine did not prevent emergency room visits or inpatient/outpatient visits during the years 2003-2005.

    Each year, US children aged 6 to 59 months experience high rates of hospitalizations, ED [Emergency Department] visits, and outpatient visits due to influenza. Despite this, we were unable across 3 large communities to demonstrate that influenza vaccination was effective in preventing influenza-related inpatient/ED visits or outpatient visits during 2 consecutive seasons (2003-2004 and 2004-2005) among 6- to 23-month-olds, 24- to 59-month-olds, or the entire age span.[11]

So why are we vaccinating children as young as 6 month old?

Looking at all this information it’s surprising how much time and effort has been invested in vaccinating against the flu. And here is part of the problem – what is the flu anyway? Most people think of the flu as being caused by a single entity – an influenza virus. Is this really the case?

“Flu” is basically defined as a 100°F or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever), a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and/or body aches, chills, and fatigue. So if you have that you think you have the flu. Right? Not so fast. What is often poorly understood is that a person actually has a syndrome (influenza-like illness, or ILI) that can be caused by various agents. Only a proportion of these syndromes is caused by influenza A and B viruses, but differential diagnosis on clinical grounds alone is not possible. So in other words, just because you or your doctor think you have the “flu” doesn’t mean you have the influenza virus.

In a 2009 editorial by Thomas Jefferson of the Cochrane Vaccines Field, explained just what the incidence of ILI is and what percentage are actually caused by the influenza virus. Using perspective studies the Cochrane group determined that during the winter season about 7% of people come down with ILI – 93% don’t. Of that 7% only a small fraction are from influenza – 11% influenza, 6% RSV [Respiratory syncytial virus], 3% Rhinovirus, 2% PIV [Parainfluenza virus], and a whopping 77% from unknown causes. Based on this the conclusion was:

    …evidence presented here points to influenza being a relatively rare cause of ILI and a relatively rare disease. It follows that vaccines may not be appropriate preventive interventions for either influenza or ILI.[12]

So when you’re supposed to be protected from the flu you’re really getting an injection against a small subset of influenza-like illnesses. It’s no small wonder why those looking at the effectiveness of the flu vaccine have seen so little of it.

Although it’s often thought as impossible, people sometimes even get sick with the flu after being vaccinated. But, as we just discovered, feeling like you have the flu doesn’t mean you have an influenza virus. It could be that you’ve gotten another type of infection. This is exactly what is discussed in the 2012 research paper by Cowling et al. In a double-blind randomized controlled trial, children aged 6–15 years either received a 2008–2009 seasonal trivalent influenza inactivated vaccine [TIV] or a REAL SALINE placebo (which you don’t often see in vaccine trials).

    TIV recipients had higher (5 times) risk of confirmed noninfluenza respiratory virus infection. The majority of the noninfluenza respiratory virus detections were rhinoviruses and coxsackie/echoviruses, and the increased risk among TIV recipients was also statistically significant for these viruses.[13]

The author’s note that the influenza vaccine may have reduced immunity to noninfluenza respiratory viruses by “some unknown biological mechanism.” What’s worse is what they noticed between the vaccine versus the placebo:

    There was no statistically significant difference in the risk of confirmed seasonal influenza infection between recipients of TIV or placebo.[14]

Perhaps that is why a hepatitis A vaccine or another old influenza vaccine is so often used as a placebo in vaccine trials?

The immunity picture that we might have of a vaccine stimulating an antibody to protect us from a specific illness is actually much more complicated. There are multiple infections that can cause us to feel like we have the flu and when we get a shot it can make us more susceptible to another infection. This is exactly what has appeared to have happened with the use of the flu vaccine and susceptibility to the swine flu.

      Professor Peter Collignon has called for a review of Australia’s flu vaccine… “What was a bit surprising when we looked at some of the data from Canada and Hong Kong in the last year is that people who have been vaccinated in 2008 with the seasonal or ordinary vaccine seemed to have twice the risk of getting swine flu compared to the people who hadn’t received that vaccine, Some interesting data has become available which suggests that if you get immunised with the seasonal vaccine, you get less broad protection than if you get a natural infection. It is particularly relevant for children because it is a condition they call original antigenic sin, which basically means if you get infected with a natural virus, that gives you not only protection against that virus but similar viruses or even in fact quite different flu viruses in the next year. We may be perversely setting ourselves up that if something really new and nasty comes along, that people who have been vaccinated may in fact be more susceptible compared to getting this natural infection.”[15]

Confused? Don’t be upset because diseases are complicated and, moreover, the immune system is very superficially understood by even the most accomplished immunologists today.

    …“the immune system remains a black box,” says Garry Fathman, MD, a professor of immunology and rheumatology and associate director of the Institute for Immunology, Transplantation and Infection . . . “Right now we’re still doing the same tests I did when I was a medical student in the late 1960s . . .” It’s staggeringly complex, comprising at least 15 different interacting cell types that spew dozens of different molecules into the blood to communicate with one another and to do battle. Within each of those cells sit tens of thousands of genes whose activity can be altered by age, exercise, infection, vaccination status, diet, stress, you name it. . . . That’s an awful lot of moving parts. And we don’t really know what the vast majority of them do, or should be doing . . . We can’t even be sure how to tell when the immune system’s not working right, let alone why not, because we don’t have good metrics of what a healthy human immune system looks like. Despite billions spent on immune stimulants in supermarkets and drugstores last year, we don’t know what—if anything—those really do, or what “immune stimulant” even means. [16]

There is one more thing you probably have noticed by now – that the statistics almost always lump the flu and pneumonia together. It’s assumed that influenza and pneumonia are strongly linked so that’s why there are often grouped together for data reporting, but that association is often lost when claims are made that 36,000 people die each year from the flu. For example this is from the American Lung Association:

    Many confuse the flu with the common cold, but in actuality, the flu is much more serious. In the United States, the flu is responsible for 226,000 hospitalizations and an average of 36,000 deaths annually.[17]

But what they actually mean is “flu-related” deaths not from the flu itself and that complication is pneumonia.

    …according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), “influenza and pneumonia” took 62,034 lives in 2001—61,777 of which were attributed to pneumonia and 257 to flu, and in only 18 cases was flu virus positively identified. Between 1979 and 2002, NCHS data show an average 1348 flu deaths per year (range 257 to 3,006).[18]

So in actuality the number of lives lost to the flu by percentage is less than 1%, and only a few were actually positively identified as the flu. So where does this 36,000 flu deaths figure come from? It comes from a model and not actually verified numbers.

      CDC’s model calculated an average annual 36,155 deaths from influenza associated underlying respiratory and circulatory causes. Less than a quarter of these (8,097) were described as flu or flu associated underlying pneumonia deaths. Thus the much publicized figure of 36,000 is not an estimate of yearly flu deaths, as widely reported in both the lay and scientific press, but an estimate—generated by a model—of flu-associated death.[19]

Remember that the “flu” isn’t always caused by the flu virus (7% of ILI is the influenza virus) and since no one is really looking to test for the influenza virus association to pneumonia (the biggest part of the killer statistic) it is just an assumption. So how can the flu vaccine help prevent the lion’s share of the deaths when the association is more with ILI? According to Cochrane Reviews when they went to find how well vaccination helped people prevent pneumonia or death – they couldn’t find any.

      After reviewing more than 40 clinical trials, it is clear that the performance of the vaccines in healthy adults is nothing to get excited about. On average, perhaps 1 adult out of a 100 vaccinated will get influenza symptoms compared to 2 out of 100 in the unvaccinated group. To put it another way we need to vaccinate 100 healthy adults to prevent one set of symptoms. However, our Cochrane review found no credible evidence that there is an effect against complications such as pneumonia or death.[20]

So what are we supposed to do to help us not get sick?

In this randomized clinical trial, daily supplementation with 1200 IU vitamin D3 in school children between December and March showed a significant preventive effect against influenza A, although no significant difference was observed for influenza B… daily dietary probiotic supplementation was a safe effective way to reduce fever and other symptoms in small children. Moreover, a significant preventive effect of a product containing echinacea, propolis, and vitamin C on the incidence of respiratory tract infections was observed in children. [21]

We could use vitamin D – you produce this if you get good amount of sunshine – probiotics, vitamin C, and other natural options. We can also be careful to wash our hands properly and even use a face mask when appropriate.

    We found a significant reduction in the rate of ILI among participants randomized to the face mask and hand hygiene intervention during the latter half of this study, ranging from 35% to 51% when compared with a control group that did not use face masks. Our results are consistent with a previous review of studies examining the effectiveness of mask use in reducing the transmission of respiratory viruses.[22]

There is plenty you can do to maintain your health and not get sick. If you do get sick then there are ways to help keep you from getting really sick. But is your local pharmacy or your doctor or the CDC going to tell to make sure you wash your hands, get plenty of sunlight, take lots of vitamin C and D, get proper rest, and the many other things to keep you from coming down with the flu or other illness? Don’t hold your breath. Right now they believe in and push a mythical magic wand to keep you from getting the flu and that’s not going to stop anytime soon.

Roman Bystrianyk is co-author of Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines and the Forgotten History which is available on AMAZON.

Notes

1. Lone Simonsen, Cecile Viboud, Robert J. Taylor, Mark A. Miller, Lisa Jackson, “Influenza vaccination and mortality benefits: New insights, new opportunities,” Vaccine, 2009, pp. 6300-6304.
2. Ibid.
3. Table 9.Death rates by age and age-adjusted death rates for the 15 leading causes of death in 2001, National Vital Statistic Report, VOl. 52, No. 3, September 18 2003: United States, 1999-2001 , p. 28, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr52/nvsr52_03.pdf
4. Ibid Simonsen.
5. Demicheli V, Di Pietrantonj C, Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Rivetti D, “Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults (Review),” The Cochrane Collaboration, 2009.
6. Lone Simonsen, PhD; Thomas A. Reichert, MD, PhD; Cecile Viboud, PhD; William C. Blackwelder, PhD; Robert J. Taylor, PhD; Mark A. Miller, MD, “Impact of Influenza Vaccination on Seasonal Mortality in the US Elderly Population,” JAMA Internal Medicine, February 14, 2005, vol. 165, no. 3, http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=486407
7. Ibid.
8. Sylvia Booth Hubbard, “John Hopkins Scientist Slams Flu Vaccine,” NewsMax, May 16 2013, http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/Headline/influenza-virus-flu-vaccine-Peter-Doshi-Ph-D-/2013/05/16/id/504942
9. Megumi Fujieda, Akiko Maeda, Kyoko Kondo,Wakaba Fukushima, Satoko Ohfuji, Masaro Kaji, Yoshio Hirota, “Influenza vaccine effectiveness and confounding factors among young children,” Vaccine, 2008, pp. 6481-6485
10. Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C, Demicheli V, Ferroni E, “Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children (Review),” The Cochrane Library, 2012, Issue 8.
11. Peter G. Szilagyi, MD, MPH; Gerry Fairbrother, PhD; Marie R. Griffin, MD, MPH; Richard W. Hornung, DrPH; Stephanie Donauer, MS; et al., “Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Among Children 6 to 59 Months of Age During 2 Influenza Seasons,” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, October 2008, pp. 943-951.
12. Tom Jefferson, Cochrane Vaccines Field, Clinical Evidence, October 5th, 2009, http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/mce/file/05-10-09.pdf
13. Benjamin J. Cowling, Vicky J. Fang, Hiroshi Nishiura, Kwok-Hung Chan, Sophia Ng, Dennis K. M. Ip, Susan S. Chiu, Gabriel M. Leung, and J. S. Malik Peiris, “Increased Risk of Noninfluenza Respiratory Virus Infections Associated With Receipt of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine,” Clinical Infectious Disease, 2012, pp. 1778-1783
14. Ibid.
15. B. Goldman, “The Bodyguard: Tapping the Immune System’s Secrets,” Stanford Medicine, Summer 2011
16. “Vaccines may have increased swine flu risk,” ABC New Australia, March 5 2011, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-03-04/vaccines-may-have-increased-swine-flu-risk/1967508
17. http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/publications/solddc-chapters/i-p.pdf
18. Peter Doshi, “Are US flu death figures more PR than science?” BMJ, 2005
19. Ibid.
20. Influenzae, Reviewer, Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group and Cochrane Vaccines Field, http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2010/Jefferson_statement.pdf
21. Mitsuyoshi Urashima, Takaaki Segawa, Minoru Okazaki, Mana Kurihara, Yasuyuki Wada, and Hiroyuki Ida, “Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010, pp. 1255-1260.
22. Aiello AE, Murray GF, Perez V, Coulborn RM, Davis BM, Uddin M, Shay DK, Waterman SH, Monto AS, “Mask use, hand hygiene, and seasonal influenza-like illness among young adults: a randomized intervention trial,” Journal of Infectious Diseases, February 2010, vol. 201, no. 4, pp. 491-498.

 

A report released last week by the House Committee on Homeland Security pinpoints what it presents as failures of state, local and federal authorities to communicate and share information that could have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings last April 15.

By attributing to mere mistakes or oversights numerous unanswered questions relating to government contacts with and knowledge of the terrorist sympathies of one of the alleged bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the report serves the political function of promoting the most innocent—and least plausible—explanation for the failure of intelligence and police agencies to stop the perpetrators.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged along with his deceased older brother Tamelan with detonating two bombs near the finish line of the marathon, killing three people and wounding 264 others. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police four days after the bombings. Dzhokhar is facing trial on capital charges in Massachusetts.

In the aftermath of the bombings, authorities locked down Boston and its suburbs and imposed virtual martial law, forcing citizens to “shelter in place” while armed police conducted warrantless searches of homes and National Guard troops with armored vehicles and helicopters occupied the city.

The Committee on Homeland Security’s document notes that in the initial period of its investigation, the committee was stonewalled by federal agents, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) dismissing attempts to gather information as “non-oversight activities” and refusing to comply. The report states that in December of last year, the committee met with “representatives of the executive branch” to discuss the report’s “classification level and to provide comments … and recommendations.”

“As such,” the report notes, “certain portions have been redacted to preserve the integrity of the sensitive and classified evidence provided to the committee throughout this investigation.”

In fact, the 38-page report is heavily redacted, with large sections of text dealing with the most critical issues blacked out.

According to the report, after the FBI was initially warned by Russian authorities about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, in early 2011, the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which is overseen by the FBI, conducted a threat assessment of Tsarnaev. This entailed tracking his telephone conversations, online activities and associations with potential terrorist suspects, as well as holding face-to-face interviews with the suspect and his parents.

Claiming to have found no derogatory information, the FBI closed the case several months later, but entered Tsarnaev’s name in the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), along with a request that the agent in charge of his case be alerted should he attempt to leave the US.

In October of 2011, Tsarnaev’s name was reentered in the TECS database after officials received a second request from Russian authorities that an investigation be carried out. A comment was attached to Tsarnaev’s file calling for customs agents to “Detain, isolate and immediately call the lookout duty officer at NTC [National Counter-Terrorism Center] (24X7),” should the suspect attempt to leave the country. The note further said that such a call would be “mandatory whether or not the officer believes there is an exact match” with the suspect.

Despite these explicit directions, no attempt was made to detain Tamerlan Tsarnaev at any time after both US and Russian officials had requested notice of his movements. In 2012, Tsarnaev took a six-month trip to Dagestan in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region, where he sought to establish connections to radical jihadists, attending mosques known to be frequented by Islamic militants. No attempts were made to hinder his flight to Russia or question him upon his reentry into the US.

Upon Tsarnaev’s return, the influence of his interactions with extremists could be seen in his behavior, as he began cultivating a pro-jihadist persona on social media web sites. A joint comment published in the Boston Globe by Texas Republican Michael McCaul and Massachusetts Democrat Bill Keating, both authors of the report, stated, “Had even a simple Internet search been performed, Tsarnaev’s increased posting of radical propaganda would have been uncovered.”

Though the report has been presented in the media as a “damning indictment” of the counter-terrorism agencies’ actions in the lead-up to the bombings, the authors manage to omit far more than they reveal. The most critical passages—those pertaining to the 2011 investigation conducted by the FBI into Tsarnaev and the failure to detain him at the airport as he attempted to leave the country in early 2012—have been heavily redacted.

Last week, lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev submitted legal papers alleging that the FBI attempted to recruit Tamerlan as an informant and requested that the FBI turn over relevant documents. The FBI has denied the allegation and is opposing the release of documents to the defendant’s legal team (see: “New evidence of US intelligence links to Boston Marathon bomber”). 

The connection of the Tsarnaev family to Chechen radicals and the US are well documented. Ruslan Tsarni, an uncle of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, ran an organization that supplied materials to Chechen rebels from the suburban Washington DC home of Graham Fuller, former vice-chairman of the US National Intelligence Council and ex-CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The committee report raises suspicions about the official handling of a September 11, 2011 triple homicide case in Waltham, Massachusetts, in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev has since been implicated by the FBI. At the time, the authorities said the victims—Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken—all of Jewish origin, were suspected of dying in a drug-related crime.

The report notes that investigators at the time suspected a religious motive in the killings. Tsarnaev, a martial arts enthusiast, had trained at a local gym with one of the victims and is on record as referring to him as his “best friend.” The date of the homicides would place the crime within days of the second alert US authorities received from Russian officials about Tsarnaev’s extremism.

The House Committee on the Homeland Security report fails to answer a number of crucial questions:

* Why was Tsarnaev given a clean bill of health by the FBI?

* Why was he allowed to travel out of the country unhindered after both US and Russian officials had demanded to be notified of his movements?

* Why did the FBI keep local and state officials in the dark about their contacts with Tsarnaev, who lived in metropolitan Boston, and the warnings about his terrorist connections in the lead-up to the Boston Marathon, a widely attended international event?

The explanation offered by the committee, that there was simply a failure to “connect the dots,” repeats the discredited, all-purpose disclaimer used to avoid a serious accounting for previous unexplained failures of government agencies to prevent terror attacks, from the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington DC, to the attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing over Detroit Metro airport.

The Republican 2016 presidential primary season opened with the “Sheldon Adelson Primary.” The eight wealthiest person in the country, worth an estimated $40 billion, doesn’t have to wait for the official GOP primary season to start. He holds his own primary.

Adelson granted audience to GOP presidential hopefuls at the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, in Las Vegas. Over the course of four days of Scotch tastings, golf, poker tournaments, and private meetings, the 80-year-old casino mogul examined the GOP’s most likely 2016 presidential candidates.

Adelson single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich in the 2012 presidential race, with nearly $16 million in campaign contributions, some of which financed Gingrich’s infamous documentary, “When Mitt Romney Came To Town.” When Gingrich ran out of hot air, Adelson poured more than $30 million into Romney’s campaign. Whoever wins Adelson’s support will have his billions behind them in 2016.

Spending $93 million on losing candidates in 2012 hasn’t made Adelson gun-shy about 2016. Adelson is placing his bets more carefully. “He doesn’t want some crazy extremist to be the nominee,” Adelson friend and GOP donor Victor Chaltiel says. “He wants someone who has the chance to win the election, who is reasonable in his positions, but not totally crazy.” (Adelson has advocated using nuclear weapons against Iran. So, “crazy” is relative.)

The “Billionaire’s Primary” is a return to what Paul Krugman calls “patrimonial capitalism,” where a wealthy few control the “commanding heights of the economy, and use their wealth to influence politics. Thanks to the biggest wealth transfer in U.S. history, the rich are richer than ever. And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, there’s no limit on what they can spend.

The new billionaire political bosses aren’t limiting themselves to national politics. Charles and David Koch made the top 10 in Forbes magazine’s list of the wealthiest people on the planet. According to a George Washington University Battleground poll, most Americans have never heard of the Koch brothers, but the Koch’s wealth is “trickling down” into local politics.

Along with spending tens of millions of dollars on 2014 Senate races, the Washington Postreports that the Kochs are funneling money into “hyperlocal” races, through their Americans For Prosperity organization. The Wisconsin chapter is engaged in an Iron County board election, challenging incumbents as “anti-mining” radicals, and distributing 1,000 flyers in a county with just 5,000 voting age residents. AFP is also involved in a local race in Iowa, and property tax fights in Kansas, Ohio, and Texas.

Image: DonkeyHotey/cc/flickrRepublicans even called it “the Sheldon Primary.”

What are the Kochs up to? David Koch says, “Somebody has got to work to save the country and preserve a system of opportunity.” But the New York Times is more specific: “The idea is to embed staff members in a community, giving conservative advocacy a permanent local voice through field workers who live in the neighborhood year-round and appreciate the nuances of local issues.”

This is nothing new. It’s a time-honored strategy, rooted in the notion that, “all politics is local.” It worked well for Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition in the 80s and 90s. Now billionaires are using this strategy, but to what ends, and what are the implications for American politics?

Right-wing billionaires are building their own political machines, to promote their personal interests and preserve their profits. The Koch brothers have poured millions in to campaigns against Obamacare and climate science, as part of a broader campaign against government regulation — which they perceive as a threat to their fossil fuel investments and personal fortunes.

Adelson will do “whatever it takes” to stop internet gambling, to protect the profit margins of his casinos. He’s hired former Democratic senator Blanche Lincoln’s government consulting firm to lobby for his Vegas corporation. Though not a long-time supporter, Adelson has given Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, SC) $15,600 in campaign contributions. Graham reportedly preparing a bill to ban internet gambling.

Adelson and the Kochs show how the wealthy can use their wealth — in a post-Citizens United political landscape — to impact races and shape policy. Their fire-hoses of money can easily drown out other messages, and narrow the field of candidates for office. The cost of running for office increasingly requires candidates have personal wealth, or wealthy patrons. Those who have neither almost need not apply, even at the state and local level.

Wealthy patrons like Adelson and the Kochs don’t invest without expecting an eventual return. They’re likely to get what they pay for. A joint Yale and U.C. Berkeley study is evidence that money  does buy access. The study showed that campaign donors are more likely than constituents to get meetings with lawmakers — as a result of, or in hopes of getting campaign contributions. Meeting with constituents may secure votes, but meeting with donors or potential donors can secure enough money for re-election campaigns. (So much for Justice Anthony Kennedy’s argument that huge campaign contributions “do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.”)

Billionaire political bosses like Adelson and the Kochs are America’s new oligarchs. Political parties may at least be influenced by public opinion, but American oligarchs act in their self-interest without concern for public sentiment. They are accountable to no one, and the lawmakers on their payrolls are more accountable to their billionaire political bosses than to the rest of the American electorate.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Terrance Heath is the Online Producer at Campaign for America’s Future. He has consulted on blogging and social media consultant for a number of organizations and agencies. He is a prominent activist on LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues.

History: What does Crimea Mean to Russia?

April 1st, 2014 by Oriental Review

On March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a historic speech about the reunification of Crimea and Russia.  A referendum held in Crimea two days before in full compliance with standard democratic procedures and the rules of international law, shocked many by it’s results: there was an 82% turnout rate, with almost 97% of those casting their ballots in favor of reunification with Russia.  These numbers were so astonishing that there still seem to be many people in the West who cannot bring themselves to believe how much the Crimeans truly longed to return home.  And indeed, without an awareness of this land’s heroic history that has been so liberally washed in Russian blood, this public enthusiasm might seem irrational, or even artificial. Baptism of Holy Grand Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus in 988 AD (icon).

Understanding why they made this choice requires a careful look at what Russia has always meant to Crimea, as well as vice versa. This common history and pride emanates from literally every place and object in Crimea.  The ancient Greek city of Chersonesus, where in 988 AD St. Grand Prince of Kiev Vladimir was baptized, was founded here. It would truly be difficult to overstate the significance this fabled region holds for Russia. The colony was established on the Crimean Peninsula by the ancient Greeks, 500 years before the birth of Christ. The footsteps of St. Andrew, one of Jesus’ original disciples, who is known as ‘the apostle to the southern, eastern, and northern shores of the Black Sea’, are found here. Crimea is the place where the blood of Apostle Peter’s disciple St. Clement was spilled for Christ, consecrating the soon-to-be-Christian Rus’ and here the apostles of Slavic people, St. Cyril and Methodius, preached the Gospel.  Prince Vladimir’s conversion to Christianity in the Crimean city of Chersonesus paved the way for the Russian civilization and made an invaluable contribution to world history and culture.

In the tenth century, Russian princes founded the Tmutarakan principality on the shores of the Black and Azov seas, which sat on the Crimean shore on the Kerch Peninsula, along with the city of Korchev (now known as Kerch).  This was the historical period during which the Slavs of Kievan Rus gradually put down roots throughout Crimea.  It was in Old Crimea, Sudak, Mangup, and Chersonesus that the Slavs comprised the most significant part of the population.

Tmutarakan quickly become the world’s second most important port, after Constantinople, through which passed almost all 11th-12th century trade routes that crossed the sea or steppe.  The son of Grand Prince Vladimir, Mstislav, who ruled the principality until 1036, consolidated and expanded its borders.  At the end of the tenth century, the remnants of the restored Byzantine Bosporan Kingdom were incorporated into the principality.  Much later, a marble slab was found on the Taman Peninsula with an inscription dating to 1068:

“In the summer of 6576 [since the creation of the world, which corresponds to the year 1068 - OR] Prince Gleb measured across the frozen sea, from Tmutarakan to Korcheva, 14,000 sazhen” [which is about 28 km - OR].

As the Cuman people increasingly intruded into Rus’ at the end of the 11th century, Tmutarakan was virtually cut off from Kievan Rus’ and lost its independence, by 1094 finding itself under the rule of the Cumans, Byzantium, the Golden Horde, Genoa, and Turkey.

Russian Empress Catherine the Great. At the end of 18th century, Empress Catherine the Great worked to see Crimea returned to Russia.  It was the Russian Empire’s dominion over Crimea that rescued the ruins of Chersonesus, so sacred to Russian history, from complete oblivion.  The Empress, with the willing assistance of Prince Grigory Potemkin, is remembered for founding a naval base, which was named Sevastopol, in Akhtiar harbor (now known as the Bay of Sevastopol).  The history of Sevastopol tells the remarkable story of Russian military valor and fortitude.

Sevastopol, Balaklava, Kerch, Malakhov Hill, and Sapun Ridge are landmarks that embody Russian military glory and true valor.  Each of them has been bathed in the blood of the soldiers who battled fearlessly there to defend a future of peace.  The 349 days of the heroic defense of Sevastopol during the Crimean War will forever be commemorated in the histories of Russia and of these two kindred peoples, as will the 250-day defense of the city during WWII.

The armies of Britain, France, Turkey, and Sardinia (Italy) invaded the Crimean Peninsula in 1854.  On Sept. 13, this city, which had never before faced aggression from any direction but the sea, found itself under siege.  Fortifications and gun batteries were constructed while under fire from enemies who held an overwhelming advantage in troops and cannons.  The city’s defense was directed by the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Kornilov, and his subordinate, Vice Admiral Pavel Nakhimov.  Five battleships were sunk in order to prevent the enemy from gaining entry to Sevastopol Harbor, and naval guns and crews arrived to join the defenders.  The tenacity and patriotic fervor of the Russian soldiers, sailors, and townspeople astonished the world.  On Oct. 5 the invaders began the first bombardment of Sevastopol, during which the city’s defenses suffered no great losses, but Admiral Kornilov was mortally wounded.  The hub of the defense then shifted to Malakhov Hill.

On March 28, 1855 the invaders began a second assault.  Although at the cost of a large number of casualties, they succeeded in pressing our positions.  The third and fourth assault ended in the same way as the previous onslaughts, but on June 28 Vice Admiral Nakhimov was killed during an exchange of gunfire.  The French General Jean-Jacques Pélissier, the commander of the allied forces, was ordered by Napoleon III to capture the fortress, regardless of the toll.   After the fifth (!) and equally unsuccessful (!) attack, the allied forces began to prepare for a decisive strike on the half-destroyed Russian fortifications.  The sixth and final assault on Sevastopol began on Aug. 27.  The barrage involved eight French and five British divisions, plus one brigade from Sardinia – a total of 60,000 combatants – who fought against 40,000 Russians, most of whom had been diverted to the back line of the defense.  The fortunes of the battle shifted back and forth.  The French were able to capture and hold Malakhov Hill.  crimea4 At the order of the commanding general, Mikhail Gorchakov, the defenders retreated to the southern side of Sevastopol, blowing up the powder magazines and sinking the remaining ships.  This outward defeat at Sevastopol sapped the strength of the invaders’ troops, and they were forced to agree to peace negotiations on conditions that were far different from those they had expected at the beginning of the war.  The defense of Sevastopol – the most vivid page in the history of the Crimean War – demonstrated once again the indefatigable spirit of the Russian soldier and his ability to fight even under the most difficult conditions of siege, when there seemed no chance for deliverance.

After 87 years, a new siege, and again a heroic defense and indefatigable spirit, awaited Sevastopol.  Nazi troops invaded Crimea on Oct. 20, 1941 and within 10 days had reached the outskirts of Sevastopol.  The city was not prepared in advance to defend itself from an approach by land, but the attempt by the Germans and Romanians to take it forthwith did not succeed.  A stubborn defense of Sevastopol began.  Field fortifications were constructed as the fighting raged, and supplies, reinforcements, and evacuations of the wounded and civilians could only be carried out by sea, often under enemy air raids.

On Nov. 4, all the Soviet forces banded together inside the city’s defensive zone.  On Nov. 11, with significant superiority in troops and artillery, the enemy launched an offensive.  After fierce battles and suffering heavy casualties, the Germans ceased their frontal attacks on Nov. 21 and proceeded to lay siege to the city.  On Dec. 17, seven German infantry divisions and two Romanian brigades, far outnumbering the Russian forces, launched a new offensive with tank support.  The attacks were rebuffed with the support of naval artillery fire, and any further incursion was foiled when Russian troops landed in Kerch and Feodosia.  Moreover, by forcing the Germans to divert to Feodosia the 11th Wehrmacht Army that was besieging the city under the command of General Erich von Manstein, the Sevastopol regional defense battalions began a partial offensive and had improved their position by March 1942. crimea6

Beginning on May 27, Sevastopol was subjected to incessant shelling and air attacks.  On the morning of June 7, the enemy launched a punishing attack around the entire perimeter of the defensive zone.  After a fierce battle, the Russian troops abandoned Malakhov Hill on June 30.  But resistance continued on the outskirts of the devastated city.  The battle went on until July 4, and even as late as July 9 in some areas.  Most of the city’s defenders were killed or taken prisoner, with only a few managing to make their way to the mountains to join the partisans.  The 250-day defense of Sevastopol, despite its tragic end, showed the world that Russian soldiers and sailors were capable of incredible sacrifices.

In the hearts and minds of the public Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia. This belief, based on truth and justice, has been unwavering. It has been something passed down from generation to generation with no regard for either time or circumstances.  Even the dramatic changes experienced by Russia during the twentieth century were powerless to alter this conviction. It would have been impossible for anyone to imagine how Ukraine and Russia could be two different states. But then the Soviet Union collapsed.  Events progressed so quickly that few at the time grasped the full drama of the unfolding events or their consequences.

And when Crimea suddenly became part of another country, Russia felt that she had not just been robbed, but plundered. Millions of Russians went to bed in one country and woke up in another, transformed overnight into minorities within the former Soviet republics. Thus the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, partitioned nation in the world.  But the populace was unable to stomach this egregious historical injustice.  During those years, both common people as well as many public figures often raised this issue, claiming that Crimea was native Russian soil and Sevastopol was a Russian city.  For 23 years Crimea has retained its Russian soul and every Crimean has spent this time breathlessly waiting for the peninsula to return home to Russia. And now it has happened – to general elation, tears of happiness, and long-awaited joy – a triumph of historical justice!

Crimeans celebrating reunification with Russia, March 18, 2014.

It has recently come to our attention that the extremist organization “Regavim” has distributed to the foreign press an English version of the document they produced in November essentially  supporting the government’s position that the Bedouin of the Negev have no legitimate land claims and are “taking over the Negev.”   We are therefore reissuing the English version of our response highlighting the inaccuracies upon which both the Israeli government and Regavim base their positions.

british-tent-map-and-current-villages

IMAGE: A map of current Bedouin communities, shown on top of a map of British tents. Courtesy of Professor Yiftachel.

READ: RHR’s response to Regavim’s harmful distortion of facts on the Negev Bedouin  

A government sponsored bill currently in front of the Knesset would likely lead to the demolition of tens of “Unrecognized” Israeli Bedouin villages in the Negev, and transfer of some 40,000 Israeli citizens from their homes to artificially created poverty stricken townships.  They would be dispossessed from most of their remaining lands.  The legislation has been temporarily frozen after an international “Day of Rage” on November 30th organized jointly by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from the Occupied Territories drove home the widespread opposition.  Agricultural Minister Yair Shamir replaced former minister Benny Begin as responsible for the legislation, but in fact increased home demolitions and the approval of new Jewish communities where “Unrecognized” villages currently exist lead to great concern that the government intends to implement their plan without legislation.

The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, along with the Israeli NGO of socially responsible planners, “Bimkom,” has created an alternative zoning plan showing that all of the 35 “Unrecognized” villages can be recognized and developed according to the highest planning standards, while allowing Israel’s other development goals in the region.

An RHR commissioned opinion poll indicates that most Israeli Jews believe disinformation, such as the claim also in the Regavim document that “The Bedouin are taking over the Negev.” When they learn that the sum total of documented historic Bedouin land claims are a mere 5.4% of the Negev for over 30% of the population, the majority of Israeli Jews indicated that this is fair.

In the U.S., the Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal movements are on record opposing the current plan, as are sixty British rabbis ranging from Orthodox to liberal.

Click here for extensive additional information about the Begin/Prawer plan, or contact us at [email protected]

Protesters put down placards and pick up pragmatism as they begin solving the problems created and/or neglected by the regime they oppose. 

 Since late October, 2013, protesters across Thailand have taken to the streets, occupied rally sites, seized government buildings and made their grievances known to the world. They stand in opposition of the regime of Thaksin Shinawatra – a Wall Street-backed billionaire autocrat, convicted criminal, accused mass murderer, and fugitive who is openly running the country from abroad via his nepotist appointed proxy, his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Not entirely unlike other protests seen unfolding around the world, large mobilizations have periodically flooded the streets of Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok, at times attracting over a million protesters.

Image: One protest leader, Buddha Issara, traded in placards for pragmatism, purchasing a rice mill and operating it at his rally site in northern Bangkok. The mill is processing rice from destitute, desperate farmers and creating an ad hoc farm-to-city market to put cash from consumers directly into the hands of farmers as opposed to the corrupt middlemen and regime warehouses overflowing with unsold, rancid rice. If Thailand’s political future is decided by actions rather than words, anti-regime protesters like Buddha Issara and his followers are well on their way to victory. Others would be wise to follow his sage example not just in Thailand, but around the world. Find more images via ASTV’s Manager.co.th.

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However, unlike many protests, particularly those promoted heavily by the Western media, including the so-called “Arab Spring” and the recent “Euromaidan” protests in Ukraine later found out to have been led by Neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalist parties with Hitleresque names like the “Fatherland Party,” hollow slogans such as “democracy” and “freedom” in Thailand are overshadowed by more specific, better articulated, and enumerated demands.

Also unlike many protests promoted by the West where regime change in favor of a pro-Western client is the one and only true objective, protesters in Thailand have begun turning their placards in for pragmatism to solve the problems that have brought them out into the streets to begin with. Rather than empower others to speak and act on their behalf, they have elected instead to circumvent the dysfunctional electoral process and empower themselves through a series of direct action campaigns.

What To Do While the Regime Clings to Power?

  While much progress has been made regarding many of the protesters’ demands – the fact still remains that Thaksin Shianwatra through his proxy regime is still clinging to power. The collapse of the regime is inevitable, but for Thaksin and his foreign backers – completely removed from any risk of continuing on in vain – they believe there is nothing to lose in search of even the faintest chance of political survival.

As long as the regime clings to power, the effects of its corruption, incompetence, and criminality will continue to reverberate across Thai society. Most acutely felt is the damage it has exacted across Thailand’s agricultural industry upon which much of Thailand’s work force depends. Mobilizing the resources of the state to solve this problem is not only untenable because the regime continues to hover above the levers of power, but also because more handouts – which created the problem in the first place – will ultimately not solve the plight of Thailand’s farmers, only compound them.

The real solution to this problem is to undermine entirely the edifice on which the regime is clinging. Instead of prying its claws from the ledge, the entire edifice should be separated from the cliff’s face and sent tumbling down into the ravine below, regime and all. This requires the parallel creation of a new model for Thai agriculture – side-by-side with the dysfunctional ruins left behind by the regime. The successful creation of a parallel agricultural system could serve as a model for solving other social problems, and the first tentative steps toward accomplishing this have already been taken by Thailand’s innovative and resourceful protesters.

Farmers Facing Ruin Given Second Chance at Protest Site

The plight of Thailand’s farmers began in 2011 with the fantastical vote-buying promise of over-market prices per ton for rice delivered to government warehouses. Almost immediately, Thailand’s traditional trade partners avoided the overpriced grain and turned toward neighboring Asian nations. As rice sat in government warehouses long past what industry standards allow for, fumigation, fungus, and rot rendered the rice unfit for human consumption.

By the summer of 2013, promised subsidy prices were first slashed before payments to farmers were altogether halted. Many farmers have now gone without compensation for rice they have already turned in, and that has long since turned rancid, for well over half a year. Compounding the farmers’ dilemma was the cancellation of the subsidy program in conjunction with intentionally delayed delivery of  irrigation water for farmers to begin planting their next crop.  The regime feared another deluge of rice deliveries on top of the overflowing warehouses they already have failed to sell – the delay of irrigation water was a means of buying more time at the farmers’ expense.

  Even as farmers now begin receiving water Thailand’s rice industry lies in such ruins, few know to whom they will be able to sell their rice and at what price. For a segment of the population already struggling against the constant fear of insurmountable debt and lacking any means to diversify their economic activity, they are facing destitution and desperation unlike anything they have seen in decades.

Image: Buddha Issara prepares rice milled at his rally site for sale.

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Enter Buddhist monk and activist Luang Pu Buddha Issara, who has led the permanent occupation of northern Bangkok’s Government Complex for months. Between leading protesters and coordinating with the larger anti-regime movement, Buddha Issara has also done something novel, innovative, and rare – added pragmatism to the sea of placards found among his followers.

Money raised by the various fundraising activities has gone into the purchase of a modest rice mill.  The mill processes about 1 ton of rice per day, brought in by desperate farmers unable to receive compensation from the regime. The milled rice is then sealed in bags and sold to Bangkok’s city goers. The proceeds are given back to the farmers. Buddha Issara has also asked farmers to bring other forms of produce – fruits and vegetables – to the protest site to likewise be sold. It is the first steps toward a farm-to-city market, short-circuiting the corrupt middlemen and rancid warehouses that constitute the failed rice scheme the regime has created.

Image: Bangkok Farmers’ Market. (Facebook page)

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Buddha Issara’s “protest market” is putting cash from consumers directly into the hands of farmers. With the success of his market, Buddha Issara is planning on purchasing additional mills and expanding his operation. Other protest sites, including the mass encampment at Bangkok’s central Lumpini Park may serve their cause well by also adopting this model.

Additionally, apolitical social enterprises like the Bangkok Farmers’ Market (Facebook page here) could also augment its progressive pro-farmer/consumer paradigm by integrating milling and distribution into both a business model and as part of their educational activities – showing and perhaps even teaching city-goers the process of milling and packing as well as expanding the network of “middleman-less” distribution.

  The potential for Buddha Issara’s pragmatic activism to move past politics and immediately begin helping people is owed to the fact that regardless of one’s political affiliations, the merits of his actions are apparent. While political slogans and agendas can endlessly be debated, tangible pragmatism that puts cash into people’s hands by leveraging technology can’t.

 Ultimately the battle for Thailand’s future will be won by actions not slogans or political promises. While the regime’s supporters are caught almost weekly with weapons and amid deadly attacks on protesters, the protesters are carrying out direct action that is relieving the plight of those victimized and abandoned by the regime. For now, and by a clear lead, the resourceful protesters are winning. Should Buddha Issara’s fellow protesters learn from his example, and expand his innovative means of direct action, they will continue to win.

Malaysia says may Sue over ‘False’ MH370 Media Reports

April 1st, 2014 by The Voice of Russia

Malaysia’s authoritarian government, which has been under harsh global scrutiny over the handling of its missing-plane drama, said Tuesday it would compile “false” media reports over the crisis and consider filing lawsuits.

Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on his Twitter feed the country’s attorney general had been instructed to “compile evidence and advise” on possible legal action.

Earlier in the day Hishammuddin was quoted by the Malay Mail newspaper as saying: “We have been compiling all the false reports since day one. When the time is right, the government should sue them.”

The MH370 saga and resulting world attention has put Malaysia’s long-ruling government – which muzzles its own pliant mainstream press – in the unaccustomed position of having to answer tough questions from reporters.

Hishammuddin, who has run the government’s near-daily briefings on the situation, has repeatedly denied various anonymously-sourced reports revealing details of Malaysia’s investigation into the March 8 disappearance of MH370 with 239 people aboard. He took particular aim on Monday against British tabloid the Daily Mail, which at the weekend quoted a “source close to the family” of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah as saying police had learned he was emotionally unstable before the flight amid alleged marital trouble, AFP reports.

“I can confirm to you that the information did not come from the police and you should ask Daily Mail how they get the information,” Hishammuddin said tersely when asked about the report.

In a Facebook comment reported by local media, Zaharie’s daughter Aishah Zaharie accused the Daily Mail of “making up” the report. The Daily Mail also reported earlier that Zaharie was said to be a fanatical supporter of Malaysia’s political opposition. Friends and acquaintances have denied that.

Suspicions have fallen on Zaharie, 53, and his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid after Malaysian officials said the plane was believed to have been deliberately diverted by someone with flying knowledge. But nothing has emerged to suggest either had any motive to go rogue.

The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in power since independence in 1957 has a poor record of transparency, routinely sweeping corruption scandals and other embarrassments under the rug. Malaysia’s independent web-based news organisations are largely unfettered due to a promise by the government in the 1990s not to censor the Internet, but their reporters say they are routinely harassed or blocked from government press briefings.

Malaysia Airlines MH370: any light at the end of the tunnel?

Late on Monday the Malaysian authorities came up with an update of the MH370 cockpit last words. “Good night Malaysian three seven zero”–this was last recorded from the missing MH370 flight cockpit, Malaysian authorities say.

Previously the utterance was deciphered as “all right, good night”. The most recent update is seemingly more in line with what the crew are expected to say than the previous, more informal version, but it’s still unclear why it took the authorities so long to come up with the update on the wording. Forensic investigators are now set to determine whether the pilot or co-pilot spoke the words. The plane’s last contact took place at 01:19 Malaysian time, and the indicators registered then that the plane continued flying seven hours after the last contact took place.The Malaysian authorities say that based on satellite data they have concluded that it crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

Ukraine: Western Gangsterism and Propaganda

March 31st, 2014 by Andre Vltchek

As my plane left Dubai for Kiev, I began browsing through an endless pile of newspapers and magazines: from the New York Times to the Economist, from the Times to several Gulf-based and Turkish periodicals, as well as Spanish and German ones.

The consensus on Putin being a villain was absolute. There were no dissident voices, but also, not surprisingly, no Russian intellectual voices. There were absolutely no editorials written by Russians attacking the Western destabilization of Ukraine and the destruction of its democratically elected government.

It was also shocking how the Arabic and Turkish press was translating and reprinting all that appeared in the West.

There were no clear, simple and logical explanations of what actually happened in Ukraine recently.

That is, that the West, particularly the greedy and desperate EU, wanted to get its hands on the tremendous natural resources of the Ukraine, on its heavy industry and cheap but highly-educated work force. They offered a deal. A very bad deal, under which, European companies would be allowed to plunder the country, but Ukrainian people would not be even allowed to enter the EU, let alone seek employment there.

The elected government rejected such farce. The West accelerated its support to ‘the opposition’, which included several clearly gangster forces, full of ultra-nationalists and Nazis. The legitimate government was overthrown. Crimea decided to leave such an illegitimate entity. People voted, democratically. Russia simply accepted the outcome.

The West began crying murder, simply because, for once, it was not allowed to rob, to loot, what it wanted. It is not used to such resistance – for centuries it has been accustomed to taking, to raping and to fleecing anything it fancies.

In the meantime, the fascist pro-Western military regime in Egypt (a regime that is actually financed by the US) sentenced 529 people to death, mostly those belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was overthrown last summer.

Egyptian students who support the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi clash with riot police following a demonstration outside Cairo University on March 26, 2014. (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)Egyptian students who support the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi clash with riot police following a demonstration outside Cairo University on March 26, 2014. (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)

There was strong language from the West, but no condemnation. Fascist, Pinochet-style Egypt is a close Western ally.

Another ally, Indonesia, a miserable failed state plundered by multinationals, with many indicators mirroring sub-Saharan Africa, has once again been poisoning the entire region, with smoke coming from its burning forest-fires: proof of a gangster-run economy. Fires are destroying forests and giving way to palm oil plantations. Again no condemnation. Not even an alarm.

Like Rwanda and Uganda, which are by now responsible for between 6 and 10 million lost lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There, the killing is done on behalf of Western companies and governments, so it should not be discussed.

The same could be said about the present occupation of Southern Somalia by Kenyan forces, an invasion that was triggered on a ridiculous, pre-fabricated platform.

Fellow looters

The destruction of entire nations, as well as the obliteration of the environment, is not to be noticed by a fellow looter if ‘a friend’ does it.

In our recent book, ‘On Western Terrorism – From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare’, my friend and mentor Noam Chomsky clarified how the West reserves the right to ruin, and even liquidate, countries that it considers uncooperative, and how it is done with absolute impunity, even with legal support.

 

“Take the invasion of Iraq – nothing can be discussed or potentially regarded as criminal. In fact there is a legal reason for that, which is not too well-known. The United States is self-immunized from any prosecution. When the US joined the World Court in 1946, the US basically initiated the modern International Court of Justice, which it joined but with the reservation that the US cannot be judged by any international treaty – meaning the UN charter, the charter of the Organization of American States, the Geneva Conventions. The US is self-immunized from any trial on those issues. And the Court has accepted that. So, for example, when Nicaragua brought a case against the United States at the World Court for the terrorist attacks against Nicaragua, most of the case was thrown out because it invoked the charter of the Organization of American States, which bars interventions strongly, and the US is not subject to that and the Court accepted it.”

“In fact the same happened, interestingly, at the trial where Yugoslavia brought a case against NATO for its being bombed, to the International Court of Justice, I think, and the United States excluded itself from the case and the Tribunal agreed because one of the charges mentioned was that it was a genocide, and when the United States signed the Genocide Convention after 40 years, it had a reservation saying it was ‘inapplicable to the United States’, and so therefore the Court rightly excused the United States from prosecution. There literally are legal barriers established just in case anyone dares to try to bring some charge against the powerful. I am sure you recall when the Rome Treaty was signed, and the International Criminal Court was established, the US refused to participate… but then it was more than that. The Congress passed legislation, which the Bush Administration happily signed, which granted the White House authority to invade The Hague by force, in case any American was brought there. In Europe it is sometimes called the Netherlands Invasion Act. Well, that was passed here enthusiastically, so the self-immunization is at many levels. One is the impossibility to perceive, such as when you deny what happened to the indigenous population in the United States, when you just can’t see it even if it is in front of your eyes. The other is that it’s actually fortified by legislation.”

Is such an arrangement outrageous and totally racist? It is, but it appears that most Western intellectuals and journalists are so disciplined, brainwashed or cowardly, that they hardly notice.

David Castle, the senior commissioning editor of Pluto Publishing House in London is clearly aware of the game the Western mass media is playing. Pluto is one of the major opposition publishing houses in English language.

“Most people in Britain understand international politics through television news and mainstream newspapers. Both are heavily skewed towards domestic issues and so international coverage is scanty. Major conflicts, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, barely get reported at all. Also, most of the press is notoriously right-wing – far to the right of the people as a whole, and often owned by media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, who aggressively pursue a right-wing agenda through their publications. The state-owned BBC is committed to presenting a ‘balanced’ view of political issues, but its concept of balance is to present the views of both major British political parties. When they agree on an issue such as Ukraine, you can fail to find any dissenting voices,” David told me about this issue.

International gangsterism

The question is where this revisionism will take the planet? Is the West really ready to face Russia and China, two major powers, just to secure fully its dictatorial role over the world? Is its greed, is its insane Protestant desire to control and rule, truly so overwhelming?

It is all resembling, increasingly, gangsterism, not an international consensus.

Christopher Black, a leading international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, clearly defines the possible endgame, for this report: “The Ukraine is the latest theatre of operations in the world war that erupted with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the drive thereafter by the West to dominate world resources and markets. The first theaters of operation in this global war were Africa and Yugoslavia. In Africa, America ejected France from Central Africa and turned Rwanda into a military state used to maintain a state of deadly chaos in the Great Lakes region of Africa.”

The destruction of Yugoslavia during the same period culminated in the final brutal NATO attack of 1999 and the overthrow of Milosevic in 2001, Black says. In rapid succession the NATO states attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, then Libya and Syria. The ultimate target of these wars is, of course, Russia and its vast resources, and those countries such as China, Iran, and of Latin America that insist on maintaining their independence and sovereignty.

“But these wars cannot be conducted without propaganda, and as the wars themselves are total wars – that is, wars targeting civilians as well as military forces – so the propaganda techniques used are total, using every aspect of communication and penetrating all levels of society. Important elements of this propaganda are the various war crimes tribunals whose primary function is the dissemination of false histories of the wars concerned, and criminalization of those who resist,” Black told me.

Christopher Black says that we see this technique used in Ukraine with the absurd call by the Kiev junta to have President Yanukovich charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes probably committed by members of that junta.

Legendary radio host Dr. Kevin Barrett, based in the US, described the situation in a recent article which made waves all over the world. It is called ‘USA declares war on democracy’.

“In Ukraine, Venezuela, and Thailand, as in Syria and Egypt before them, the banksters are adding violence to their ‘color revolution’ game plan for destroying democracy. This may seem incongruous, since the NWO [New World Order] intellectual hired gun Gene Sharp, the so-called ‘Machiavelli of non-violence’, designed the original color revolutions as purportedly peaceful and democratic uprisings. But Sharp’s so-called color revolutions, beginning with Georgia’s ‘Rose Revolution’ of 2003 and Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2004, were never genuine people’s revolutions. They were bankster takeover attempts from the beginning. George Soros would funnel Rothschild money to ambitious, power-hungry apparatchiks, who would inundate their target countries with propaganda and hire rent-a-mobs to dress in a particular color and make a spectacle of themselves in a public square, in the hope of duping naive young people into joining the ‘revolution’ – whose real goal is always to install a NWO puppet leader,” Barrett wrote.

But Barrett, like myself, is one of those outraged voices surrounded by a cacophony of the propaganda dissonance.

While Noam Chomsky, Christopher Black, Kevin Barrett, David Castle and so many other determined free thinkers are constantly defining reality as well as the horror of what may yet come, it appears that the great majority of the Western public is thoroughly confused by, and even shows hostility towards, the alternative voices.

Dmitry Kolesnik, a brave Ukrainian journalist, my translator and co-editor on the site of Ukrainian leftists, Liva.com.ua, put everything into context.

“What’s most remarkable in the Western coverage of Ukrainian turmoil? It’s the almost total ignoring or even whitewashing of those far-right and open Nazi paramilitary forces that played the leading role in the recent coup. There were only some rare reports in mainstream media that highlighted the Nazi paramilitaries in Ukraine,” Kolesnik said.

What he is saying could be applied across Zimbabwe, South Africa, Egypt, Bahrain, Cuba, China, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Eritrea, North Korea, Vietnam, and dozens of other places worldwide. Kolesnik continued that as usual the issue of the leading role of the far-right is dismissed as ‘Putin’s propaganda’. So the media willingly turns a blind eye to everything that Putin claims.

“If [Putin] claimed that the Earth is round, the Western media would most likely denounce it as a ‘propagandist’ statement. And Putin seems to understand it quite well, but the Western media denouncing the evident facts reveal their total servility,” Kolesnik said.

He also describes a typical message in online groups of the ‘Euromaidan’ movement and the network of Nazi ‘Right Sector’ units.

“As far as I follow some groups, I can notice that sometimes they mobilize their supporters on a certain day in a certain place so as to provide the picture needed: ‘Western journalists are coming, so we have to be in the square at… and show them our democratic intentions. Please, no Nazi salutes and anti-Semitic slogans at this time, as journalists will be there. And we can see how some mainstream media makes ‘professional’ reports,” he asserts.

Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

Kolesnik says that when Nazi paramilitaries attack the meetings of anti-fascist forces, the rallies of the left forces, or pro-Russian protesters, the Western media never show it. But when an attack of Nazis is being kicked off, they willingly present it as ‘brutality against pro-democracy protesters’. Media dubs the unelected Ukrainian regime as ‘legitimate’ and tries not to notice its policy directed to the unleashing of a civil war or the ethnic cleansing of the country.

“Actually, we see in media coverage an example of a cynical info-war, when even Nazi thugs are being whitewashed whatever they do. Thus, we see in Ukraine a coordinated coalition of Nazis, neoliberals, some NGOs and mainstream media – all working hand in hand for the brutal demolition of the country,” he says.

I am finishing this report as my flight begins its descent to Kiev International Airport. I create a nice, neat folder that consists of several international periodicals. I am aware that soon, very soon, the reality will hit me in the face, metaphorically as well as in the real sense.

Everything will be in reverse of what is so thoughtfully written in those well-edited and designed propaganda sheets.

I look at the cover of the Economist and at the tasteless caricature of a half-naked President Putin on a heavily-armed tank. It reads ‘The New World Order’.

But it is not yet here, this New World Order. It is still the same nightmare of some dozen or so extremely arrogant, brutal and canny Western nations, tormenting the world with impunity. And it is done, they claim, in order to ‘save it’, to make it pure and happy, as was done for centuries by fanatical and cruel religions.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries.

Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”

According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.

CRIME GOES DOWN, JAIL POPULATION GOES UP

According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:

. Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.

. The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.

. Longer sentences.

. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.

. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.

. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.

HISTORY OF PRISON LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES

Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.

During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.

Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.

Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.

[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”

PRIVATE PRISONS

The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.

Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES

Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.

After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 – ending court supervision and decisions – caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.

STATISTICS

Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

Several African States Boycott the EU Summit in Belgium

March 31st, 2014 by Abayomi Azikiwe

A planned summit between the European Union (EU) and the African nation-states has been met with controversy and rejection. The Republics of Zimbabwe and South Africa, two very important states in Southern Africa which won their independence through formidable mass and armed struggles, have stated that their leaders will not attend the gathering in Belgium.

Controversy surfaced over the way in which the 4th EU-Africa Summit has been organized. Zimbabwe expressed objections when President Robert Mugabe was extended an invitation but his wife, First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, a public figure who works on children’s rights and education, was denied a visa.

Zimbabwe said that it would not attend and was deeply offended over how the EU was approaching the meeting. A Zimbabwe Herald editor interviewed the EU envoy to Zimbabwe where he revealed that the approach to the meeting was not to invite the African Union (AU) but individual continental states.

This interview involving the upcoming Summit included a question from Herald news editor Herbert Zharare which asked EU envoy Aldo Dell’Ariccia to “Explain how you chose participants? On the list there are some countries like Egypt where President Mohamed Morsi was deposed with the assistance of the military and the AU has made its position clear on that.”( March 28)

Dell’Ariccia responded saying “You have to consider that the EU-Africa Summit is the meeting between the European Union and African continent. I want to be very clear on that, it is not the AU-European Union meeting. Participation is not guided by the membership of the African Union.”

The EU envoy continued by pointing out that “This event is the highest incidence of political dialogue between the European Union and Africa and the intention of the European Union is to make it possible to talk to all who are relevant to the subject of the event, investing in people, prosperity and peace and be able to talk very frankly with them and to have progress in these partnerships between the European Union and this region. That is why Egypt has been invited despite the fact that it has been suspended from the African Union.”

Such a response exposes the aim of bypassing the regional structures established by the AU and to in fact defy decisions made by the continental organization in relationship to the seizure of political power outside an electoral framework, which is a cardinal principle of the body. Egypt was suspended by the AU after the coup against ousted President Mohamed Morsi by the military leader Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

A delegation from the AU has visited Egypt in an effort to resolve the internal crisis.

South African President Announces His Withdrawal While Sudan and Eritrea Are Not Invited

On March 31, President Jacob Zuma announced that he would not participate in the Summit. South Africa maintains good relations with Zimbabwe and other states throughout the region of the sub-continent.

In an article published by Business Day Live it reports that the head-of-state said “I think that time must pass wherein we are looked (on) as subjects, we are told who must come, who must not come…. It is wrong and causes this unnecessary unpleasantness,” President Zuma told the SABC on March 30 during a campaign stop in the Western Cape for the May 7 national elections. (March 31)

“I thought the AU (African Union) and EU was equal organizations representing two continents, but there is not a single one of them who must decide for others.” Although Zuma personally will not attend, the South African government will send representatives according to Business Day Live.

This same above-mentioned article says “The Department of International Relations and Co-operation said on Sunday (March 30) that Mr. Zuma would not participate in the April 2-3 summit and that International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane would lead South Africa’s delegation. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies will also participate.”

Later the article says that “On Monday (March 31), the EU’s ambassador in South Africa, Roeland van de Geer, said the organization was surprised and disappointed, adding that Mr. Zuma had confirmed his participation in a letter on March 25.”

The EU claims that the Republic of Sudan has not been invited at all to the Summit. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been targeted by the West for years.

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors have issued warrants for al-Bashir’s arrest over alleged crimes against humanity involving Khartoum’s handling of the war against rebels in Darfur. Despite the refusal of the AU to acknowledge these legal actions by the ICC, the EU says that al-Bashir’s appearance in Brussels could prompt his arrest.

Eritrea in the Horn of Africa has also not been invited to the EU-Africa Summit over alleged human rights violations. The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) from the Western Sahara, which is still under the occupation of the U.S.-backed monarchy in Morocco, has not been invited as well because of the objections by Rabat.

It appears as if some African leaders will attend the Summit. Reports indicate that the president of Zambia, Michael Sata, and others had arrived in Brussels.

Nonetheless, the AU Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) had advised during late March for member-states to stay away from the meeting. Irrespective of how many African leaders will attend the withdrawal of leading states and presidents will damage the credibility of the meeting.

The EU along with the U.S. has been escalating their military and political interventions in the affairs of independent African states. Both Washington and Brussels have maintained sanctions against the government of Zimbabwe and Sudan despite the continuing opposition from the AU governing structures.

Both the EU and the U.S. are involved with the training of a military force in Libya three years after the Pentagon-NATO war of regime-change in this North African state. EU Naval Forces along with the Pentagon also maintain warships off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden which is one of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world.

Lynch Law: The Root of US Imperialism

March 31st, 2014 by Danny Haiphong

The political and economic foundation of the United States is built on the corpses of legal lynching, or “lynch law”. Without the genocide and enslavement of Black and indigenous peoples, the US capitalist class could not have amassed its profits, wealth, or power.  Following the passage of the 13th Amendment that supposedly ended Black chattel slavery at the close of the Civil War, the US capitalist class moved quickly to reorganize the capitalist economy so newly “freed” Blacks would remain enslaved. Convict-leasing, sharecropping, and legalized segregation ensured Black exploitation and white power. These brutal forms of exploitation were kept intact by white terrorism in the form of lynching.

Thousands of Black people were lynched by white supremacists from the end of the Civil War until 1968.  Ho Chi Minh, the first revolutionary president of socialist Vietnam, worked in the US in the mid-1920s and examined the horrors of lynching.  He described the gruesome details of white vigilantes torturing and killing Black people with impunity.  Local law enforcement officials protected white lynch mobs like the KKK and Black Legion and often participated in lynching alongside their white counterparts. ‘Uncle Ho’ states in his work Lyching (1924) that “the principle culprits [of lynching] were never troubled, for the simple reason that they were always incited . . . then protected by the politicians, financiers, and authorities . . . “ It wasn’t until Black people organized themselves to defend and arm their communities that white mobs were forced to curtail their racist murder sprees.

The so-called end of “Jim Crow” racism only changed the form in which Black people would be lynched by the US racist order. The US capitalist class responded to the force of the Black liberation movement by institutionalizing “lynch law” into its criminal injustice system.  Today, some form of law enforcement murders a Black person in this country every 28 hours.  Nearly half of the estimated 3 million US prisoners are Black and nearly all are “people of color.” 80,000 mostly Black prisoners are caged in solitary confinement, which by definition is torture and illegal under international law.  Numerous states in the US have “Stand your ground” laws that allow white supremacists to murder Black people with impunity. Sound familiar? And President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of US imperialism, is too concerned with pathologizing Black America than forwarding substantive policies that address ‘lynch law” on behalf of his most loyal constituency.

In this period of heightened exploitation for the oppressed in general and Black America in particular, the propertied classes are becoming increasingly paranoid about the potential for popular unrest.  “Lynch law” is becoming the law of the land for the entire populace. A homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico was shot dead by local police for being homeless on March 16th.  More US citizens have been murdered by US law enforcement in the last decade than have died in the US invasion of Iraq over the same period.  The surveillance US imperialism had to conduct in secret on radical dissent in the past has expanded to the entire population through a massive surveillance state of federal intelligence agencies, private contractors, and US multinational corporations. The prospect of being lynched by Obama’s “kill list” or detained under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is just a “terrorist” label away from any American the US government finds a threat to its “national security.”

“Lynch law” is also a global tactic for US imperialism to maintain its global domination.  Washington uses a nexus of intelligence and military institutions to lynch the world’s people of their lives and resources. This can be examined in specific instances like the thousands of people in the Middle East and Africa murdered by Obama Administration drone strikes or the NATO bombing of Libya that killed tens of thousands and nearly exterminated the Black Libyan population. The CIA has overthrown over 50 foreign governments since the end of World War II.  These are just a few important examples of how Washington and its masters, the capitalist class, must lynch the majority of the world’s people to obtain their wealth and power.

The increasing violence, suffering, and social death imposed on oppressed people by US imperialist “lynch law” exposes the bankruptcy of the liberal wing of the capitalist class.  Propped up by the corporate media like MSNBC, this self-proclaimed “left” actively participates in bi-partisan lynching in all of its forms to further their careers with the liberal imperialist Democratic Party and the untouchable fascist Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama. Any movement that depends on this corporate brand of leftism to bring about the end of US lynch law is destined to fail.  A people’s movement for complete justice will have to be led by the struggle of Black America’s oppressed majority and all communities suffering from US fascist rule.  We must spend each day building a movement that empowers oppressed people to demand the power to determine their own destiny collectively.  This movement is far from victory’s reach, but each day we fail to act, another exploited human being is lynched by the US imperialist system.

Danny Haiphong is an activist and case manager. You can contact Danny at: [email protected]

122 World Leaders on NSA Target List

March 31st, 2014 by Joseph Fitsanakis

A list of high-priority intelligence targets published over the weekend includes the names of over a hundred current and former heads of state, who were systematically targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The list appears to be part of a wider “Target Knowledge Base” assembled by the NSA in order to help produce “complete profiles” of what the NSA calls “high-priority intelligence targets”.

The list is contained in a classified top-secret briefing created by the NSA in 2009. It was published by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which said it acquired it from American intelligence defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former computer expert for the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency, is currently living in Russia, where he has been offered political asylum.

The leaked briefing explains the function of an extensive NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection program codenamed NYMROD. The computer-based program is allegedly able to sift through millions of SIGINT reports and collate information on individual targets from the transcripts of intercepted telephone calls, faxes, as well as computer data.

The list provided to Der Spiegel by Snowden contains 122 names of international political figures, said the newsmagazine, adding that all of them were “heads of foreign governments”. It includes the name of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Colombia’s former President, Alvaro Uribe, and Malaysia’s Prime Minster from 2003 to 2009, Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, also figure on the list.

Interestingly, the leaders of Malaysia, Somalia, the Palestinian Authority and Peru top the NSA’s list of high-value executive targets. It is worth noting that, according to the leaked presentation, intelligence collated through NYMROD is shared by the NSA with its sister agencies in the so-called five-eyes alliance, which consists of SIGINT agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In a separate article published Saturday, Der Spiegel said that the NSA collaborated with its British equivalent, the General Communications Headquarters, in order to compromise the networks of private telecommunications firms who provided service to individuals included in the NYMROD high-value target database. The newsmagazine said a 26-page document in its possession “explicitly names” three German telecommunications providers, Stellar, Cetel and IABG.

Crimea may be bigger than an archduke, but not more important

If American media seem filled these days with bellicose, jingoistic, uniform perspectives on a new Cold War, that’s probably because so many news outlets can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to framing new events in the tired terms of the last generation’s ingrained propaganda. At a time that needs fresh contemplation, even people like Amy Goodman on Democracy NOW are talking about recent events in and around Ukraine as having “sparked the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War” or words to more extreme effect.

This construct (a no longer relevant “East-West” divide) reflects an unreflective, outdated group think. This approach is clearly wrong about the “worst crisis,” unless one ignores various wars and terrorist attacks and drone strikes of recent years. A difference between Iraq and Crimea is one of scale, certainly, but also of response, as the rest of the world accepted the American view of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (just as they passively accept the American view of Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Venezuela, and Honduras, as well as all those other places where might makes right irrelevant). 

 Any of those other countries might well argue that the “worst crisis” since the end of the Cold War was actually any of the wars visited on them and still not over. This comparison is not made in the sealed mind room of the New Cold Warriors, where the non-violent, legally ambiguous and possibly welcome occupation of Crimea is seen as so much worse than tens of thousands of dead Iraqis (or pick your own odious comparison). It is an expression of mental sterility that will do most of us no good.

The endlessly parroted mantra of a new Cold War is worse than merely mindless. Such irresponsible repetitive chatter also functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy by heightening a few fairly insignificant events (and omitting others) until the tunnel vision focus on only a part of the whole becomes widely perceived as the totality of a real crisis and reality is discredited. Can anyone say Archduke Franz Ferdinand, 1914?

 Intellectual dishonesty, as illustrated by NBC News

NBC News, in its “First Read feature on March 24, 2014, provided what could some day be a textbook example of how media bias works to make war more thinkable, by emphasizing conflict and ignoring cooperation as appropriate responses to difficult questions (which media also tend to oversimplify). Covering the White House European trip, NBC reporters picked up on an interview President Obama did with a newspaper in the Netherlands, de Volkskrant, which submitted eight questions in advance for the President to answer in writing. The President answered five (relating to Ukraine, the European Union, nuclear weapons, Iran, and the Mideast).

Without describing (or linking to) those five questions, or their answers, the NBC reporters instead commented: “However, the paper also noted the three questions he did NOT answer. And all of them were MUCH trickier to answer….

The THREE unanswered questions were the best three questions, and they’re the ones we’re looking forward to others asking the president later this week.”

This approach by NBC deprives the reader of the opportunity to compare, contrast, and make an independent judgment on all eight questions and answers. Instead, NBC guides its audience to the assumption that the real news is actually NBC’s editorial point of view (although that’s not said directly). This technique of asking editorially charged questions is common in American “journalism” and helps “news” organizations shape a story to whatever pre-determined perspective might be desired (it’s rarely clear who desires it).

Here, NBC provides an excellent exercise for analyzing fundamentally dishonest questions (questions that, in and of themselves, raise the question of the questioner’s agenda). NBC’s choice of the “three best questions” comes out of an apparent mindset that represents current conventional wisdom (which, by definition, demands inquiry by those who distrust any herd instinct). Here are the three questions the President left unanswered, and some of the reasons they may not deserve an answer:

“1. How do you fight the perspective that America withdraws from the world and is no longer feared by his [sic] opponents?”

What does the questioner mean by “the perspective”? Whose perspective? The questioner’s perspective? The perspective for a New American Century? Some hypothetical perspective? Is it anyone’s perspective at all? Why should such a question even be considered seriously without some clarity on the presumed “perspective”? Without context, it is not a serious question.

The first hidden assumption here is that America needs to “fight,” that America should fight,  that America should start by fighting a “perspective,” but get into a real fight soon enough. The point of the question is to get into a fight, not to consider whether there’s anything worth fighting about.

Another hidden assumption here is that America has, in fact, withdrawn from the world. That hidden assumption is blatantly false, as those who engineered the February coup in Kiev are well aware. Close American involvement in the unconstitutional overthrow of an elected, Russian-leaning government and its replacement with a Western-leaning junta is a reality that rather blurs the picture of exceptional American purity and persistent Russian perfidy.

So one partial answer to the question would correctly be: I don’t “fight the perspective that America withdraws from the world,” because that perspective is disconnected from reality. A more expansive answer might mention that the “perspective” is a rightwing talking point that would lead logically to the experience of Iraq-in-Ukraine, only much messier.

Rhetorically, one might add: “withdraws from the world”? Really? You mean the “pivot to Asia,” maybe? Or are you referring to the thousand or so U.S. military bases in countries that may have missed our “withdrawal” (Okinawa has perhaps a majority population that would rejoice at any “withdrawal”)? Or maybe you’re relying on the “need” to contain all those five Russian overseas military bases (in Armenia, Syria, Tajikistan, Kyrggystan, and Transnistria)?

The assumption that there is such a perspective of American withdrawal hides yet another assumption, that any American “withdrawal” from the world would, in and of itself, be a Bad Thing. And that hidden assumption hides yet another: that American imperialism is unquestionably a Good Thing.

Sometimes the invisible hides the imaginary, sometimes the opposite 

And then there’s the second half of the question, the assumption that America “is no longer feared by his [sic] opponents.”  Again, no evidence is offered or implied for this assumption, which is another New American Century-type rightwing talking point. A more realistic assumption would be that America is feared by everyone to a greater or lesser degree, whether for some act of active destruction (see list above) or some passive act of destruction (such as inaction on climate change that leaves island nations to the mercy of rising sea level).

Another hidden assumption here is that “fear” is a desirable basis for an international relationship, especially with one’s “opponents.” Since fear is a basic tool of the bully, the further assumption here is that it’s good for America to bully any part of the world that opposes it. Fear is also the tool of the colonizer, the slave master, the imperialist, the aggressor. Fear is a tool of direct attack on the sovereignty of others, and opens the way to attacks on their territorial integrity. Fear has its uses, to be sure, and can be effective sometimes, but is it a default value of peacemaking statecraft seeking a stable world of interdependence?

As the United States proceeds with its military build-up in the Baltic countries, in Poland, and in other places proximate to Russia, is there anyone who should not be afraid? Is there anyone who does not understand that advancing US/NATO forces, by definition, bring the threat of tactical nuclear weapons that much closer to Moscow, which has tactical nuclear weapons of its own?

And then there’s the geographically separate Russian state of Kaliningrad (formerly Konigsberg, among many other names), located on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania (both NATO members). Kaliningrad has a vulnerability similar to that of Crimea and an area about half the size. Ethnically cleansed of its former majority German population in the aftermath of World War II, Kaliningrad’s population of 430,000 is now predominantly Russian. Kaliningrad may or may not be a base for Russian tactical nuclear weapons.      

 So who are these “opponents” who are supposed to be afraid of the United States? Who defines them, and how? Does the determination lie with someone in Washington unhappy with the way another country distributes its oil or runs its beach resorts? Does Washington just pick whatever fight amuses it (two decades of encircling Russia with NATO), or does it wait for some actual act of opposition? And who decides what opposition is legitimate (Canadian opposition to American wars once, say, or opposition to U.S. environmental law now)? How dare Russia assert its authority over Crimea, or China assert its rights in the South China Sea?

Framing the question with “opponents” hides the assumption that the world must always be based on competition and hostility. The truth of that assumption is hardly self-evident. But making an assumption of eternal opposition does contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes any other assumption impossible.

What if the Dutch newspaper had asked a different question, along these lines: How do you fight the perspective that America doesn’t play well with others 

and so, instead of cooperating in order to ease tensions over the long term, 

quickly resorts to temper tantrums, often violent ones, that do far more

damage than just sitting still and trying to understand?

“2. Sanctions are a slow working medicine which perhaps doesn’t work at all. How do you expect to keep Putin in the meantime in check?”

Here the stated assumption is that sanctions work slowly, if at all, but it is asserted ex cathedra without reference to any specific evidence. However reasonable the assumption is, it carries a hidden assumption that is at best dubious. That assumption, hidden in the word “medicine,” is that sanctions are inherently good and proper instruments of restoring health, rather than tools for exercising control, or means of punishment or destruction. This also assumes that those applying the medicine are all good doctors following the imperative of the Hippocratic Oath – first, do no harm.

Or, as the European Union might put it: if only we could do to Russia what we’ve already imposed on Greece, Portugal, and Spain. Of course those weren’t sanctions, that was austerity, and it was for their own good to protect our good. Are you listening, Ukraine? We want only the best medicine for you! 

 Another assumption hidden in the way sanctions are defined is that probably the use of stronger medicine will be called for sooner or later – so why aren’t you ready to use force?

The assumption is that if the medicine doesn’t work, or works too slowly, then America should employ sterner measures. And this is another rightwing New American Century talking point, albeit a second tier argument needed only when America has failed to be tough enough in the first place.

Then there’s the assumption that Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to be kept in check. Given the volatility of recent events in Ukraine, there’s good reason to see the Russian occupation of Crimea as an opportunistic tactic in the midst of chaos rather than part off some strategic grand plan for which there is scant evidence. Those who argue the grand plan idea have to go back to Georgia in 2008 and not much else but the projection of their fears, usually in a context free of uncomfortably contradictory and aggressive behavior by others during the same period.

The assumption that Putin needs to be kept in check becomes plausible thanks to another hidden assumption: that Putin is an evil person motivated by evil intent. This acceptance of the demonization of Putin is the result of great effort over a long time by much of the American media, the job of demonizing Putin abroad made so much easier by the closed media in Russia. Demonization is, by definition a false narrative, but it is accepted more easily when there is no credible counter-narrative. In a sense Putin’s demonization becomes an East-West collusion that manages to serve the power politics on either side. If, in fact, the truth will set you free, why would any government want that? 

The demonization is further a barrier to thinking clearly, by substituting the ad hominem caricature of a cartoon Czar for a rational assessment of the legitimate interests of the Russian state. Ruthless demonization is what Republicans and their ilk have done to President Obama since 2009, with the same basic intent: to turn a president into a legitimate target, based on a purely emotional appeal that is designed to elicit visceral hatred. Those demonizing either Putin or Obama can not afford to allow fact-based, rational discussion emerge, for fear that the result might turn out be some sort of peaceful settlement. 

Perhaps the Dutch newspaper would have served us better by asking something to the effect of: can you apply sanctions with sufficient balance so that they do not become a new provocation to Russia but are still sufficient to keep American war hawks in check? And is that something you actually want to do? 

“3. Is it still possible for countries like Ukraine and Georgia to become NATO member? How likely is it that we return to a situation of limited sovereignty for the immediate neighbors of Russia?”

Taking the words at face value, asking about the membership of Ukraine and/or Georgia in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is inherently absurd. These countries are nowhere near the North Atlantic.

In isolation, the question about “possibility” seems to assume that NATO membership for Ukraine or Georgia might be a good thing, and should be open to discussion. But the assumption that such expansion might still be possible is itself inherently threatening to Russian interests. Who benefits from raising the issue again in this new context? Certainly those who prefer to have opponents in the world, and who want to make those opponents afraid, will be happy to press the question of NATO membership ad infinitum.

If the NATO question was intended to be neutral, that neutrality is curdled by the coded message of the second question about “limited sovereignty.” In a stripped down translation, the question amounts to a challenge: President Obama, are you going to allow a new Iron Curtain to come down across Europe?

That question is essentially the same as the initial question about fighting “the perspective that America withdraws.” The argument behind these questions is circular for a reason — because the questioner has already determined the correct answer, regardless of whether that answer is right, wrong, or irrelevant.

No wonder, then, that NBC considers these “the three best questions.”

And no wonder media so often ignore the hidden reality: that questions like these aren’t journalism worthy of the name. These questions are more like Russian dolls, full of hidden assumptions, one within another. Accept the outer doll, you get them all, and the reasonedexchange that never began is already over.

ADDENDUM:  

President Obama’s news conference in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 25, 2014, provides another real world example of media obtuseness, as argued above. An excerpt from the transcript follows. The questioner is Jonathan Karl of ABC News asking the mindless herd’s thoughtless question:

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  In China, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Russia, we’ve seen you make strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored.  Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world, your influence in the world, is on the decline?  And in the light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s biggest geopolitical foe?  If not Russia, who?…

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, Jonathan, I think if the premise of the question is that whenever the United States objects to an action and other countries don’t immediately do exactly what we want, that that’s been the norm, that would pretty much erase most of the 20th century history.  I think that there’s a distinction between us being very clear about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what principles we believe in versus what is I guess implied in the question that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something….  

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March 31st, 2014 by Global Research News

A aliança atlântica : a verdadeira agenda de Obama

March 31st, 2014 by Manlio Dinucci

O objetivo principal da visita de Obama na Europa – declara Susan Rice a qual é conselheira para a segurança nacional – é o de “pressionar para uma unidade ocidental” frente a “invasão russa na Criméia”.

O primeiro passo será reforçar ainda mais a OTAN. Essa aliança militar que, abaixo do comando dos Estados Unidos, englobou, de 1999  a 2009, todos os países do ex-pacto de Varsóvia, três da ex- União Soviética, e duas ex repúblicas da Iugoslávia, (destruida com a guerra da OTAN;  essa aliança que colocou suas bases e forças militares, inclusive aquelas de capacidade nuclear, sempre mais ao redor, e para perto da Rússia, armando-as com um “escudo anti-míssel”, que é um instrumento não de defesa mas de ataque; essa aliança que penetrou na Ucrânia, organizando o golpe de Kiev, incitando dessa maneira a Criméia a separar-se da mesma e unir-se a Rússia. “O cenário geopolítico está mudando”, anunciou o secretário geral da OTAN: “Os aliados devem reforçor seus elos econômicos e militares frente a agressão militar russa contra a Ucrânia”. Projeta-se, entretanto, não só um reforçamento militar da OTAN para que aumente a “prontidão operativa e a eficácia no combate”, mas ao mesmo tempo uma “OTAN Econômica”, através do “acordo do comércio livre USA-UE”, funcional ao sistema geopolítico ocidental, dominado pelos Estados Unidos.

Uma OTAN que, ressalta Washington, “continuará sendo uma aliança nuclear”. Significativo aqui é que a visita de Obama a Europa tenha começado com o terceiro cimo sobre a segurança nuclear. Uma criação do próprio Obama (não pelo Prêmio Nobel da Paz), mas para “pôr em segurança o material nuclear, e prevenir assim um terrorismo nuclear”. Este objetivo nobre é então perseguido pelos Estados que tem 8.000 ogivas nucleares, dos quais 2.150 prontas para lançamento, as quais se acrescentam ainda as 500 francesas e britânicas, o que leva ao total da OTAN, outras 2.500 prontas para um lançamento, isso sendo então frente as das cerca de1.800 russas. Esse potencial foi agora aumentado pelo fornecimento do Japão aos Estados Unidos de outros 300  kg. de plutônio assim como de uma grande quantidade de urânio enriquecido, adaptado para a fabricação de armas nucleares, ao quais se ajuntam então os 20 kg  por parte da Itália. Israel também participa no cimo da “segurança nuclear” —  Israel, a única potência nuclear no Oriente Médio (não aderente ao Tratado e não-proliferação) — que possui até 300 ogivas nucleares e produzindo tanto urânio que daria para fabricar a cada ano, 10  a 15 bombas daquela do tipo de Nagasaki. O Presidente Obama contribuiu em particular para a  “segurança nuclear” da Europa, ordenando que cerca de 200 bombas B-61 instaladas na Alemanha, Itália, Bélgica, Holanda e Turquia (violando o Tratado de não-proliferação) fossem substituídas por novas bombas nucleares B61-12, com guia de precisão, projetadas particularmente para o caça F-35, incluindo-se aqui então também aquela anti-bunker [casamata- abrigo em betão] para destruir os centros de comando num primeiro ataque nuclear.

A estratégia de Washington tem um objetivo duplo. De um lado redimensionar a Rússia, que relançou a sua política exterior – (v. papél desenvolvido na Síria) -  reaproximando-se da China, criando uma potencial aliança capaz de contrapor-se a superpotência estadunidense. Pelo outro lado o seu objetivo seria o alimentar na Europa um estado de tensão que permitiria aos Estados Unidos de manter, através da OTAN, a sua liderança sobre os aliados, os quais são considerados basicamente em diferentes escalas de valores: com o governo alemão Washington inclina-se a dividir a área de influência, com o italiano (“nosso amigo mais precioso no mundo) ele se limita a dar umas palmadinhas nas costas, sabendo que sempre poderá conseguir o que deseja…

Ao mesmo tempo Obama pressiona seus aliados para que reduzam a importação de gás e petróleo russo. Não é um fácil objetivo. A União Européia depende por cerca de 1/3 do fornecimento energético russo: A Alemanha e a Itália por 30%. A Suécia e a Romênia por 45%, a Finlândia e a República Checa [ex-parte da Checoslováquia] por 75%, a Polônia e a Lituânia por 90%. A administração Obama, escreve o New York Times, segue uma “estratégia agressiva” que tem em mira a redução do fornecimento energético russo à Europa: a administração de Obama prevê então que a Exxon Mobil, e outras companhias estadunidenses, poderiam fornecer uma crescente quantidade de gás a Europa, aproveitando-se aqui das capacidades do Oriente Médio, da África assim como de outras partes, inclusive então dos Estados Unidos, do qual a produção está sendo aumentada o que permitiria aos Estados Unidos exportar gás liquefeito.

Nesse cenário aparece de novo a “guerra dos gasodutos”: o objetivo estadunidense sendo o de bloquear o Nord Stream – a Corrente do Norte, que leva à UE o gás russo, através do Mar Báltico, assim como o de impedir a realização do South Stream- a Corrente do Sul, que portaria esse gás à UE através do Mar Negro. Ambos evitariam a Ucrânia, através da qual passa hoje o grosso do gás russo, realização essa a qual é dirigida pela Gazprom, da qual fazem parte companhias europeias. Paolo Scaroni, número um da ENI, advertiu o governo que se o projeto da Corrente Sul fosse bloqueado, a Itália iria perder um importante e rico contrato, como uma emtrepenagem de 2 bilhões de euros, que a Saipem tem atribuída a si para construir o trecho submarino do mesmo. É necessário aqui entretanto ter em conta também as pressões dos Estados Unidos.

De qualquer maneira o presidente Obama se dedica também a obras de beneficência. Com o Papa Francisco ele falará amanhã “no objetivo comum de combater a pobreza e a crescente desigualdade”. Ele, que durante sua administração fez a frequência da pobreza nos Estados Unidos subir de 12% a 15% (outros 46 milhões de pobres) e a  pobreza infantil subir de 18% ao 22%, enquanto os superricos (o 0.01 % da população) quadrupiclaram o seu rendimento. Obama também “agradecerá ao papa pelo seus apelos a paz”. Ele, presidente de um país que expende, em armamentos e guerra, o equivalente a cerca da metade do expendido mundialmente.

Manlio Dinucci

Tommaso Di Francesco

Editição de quarta-feira 26 de março de 2014 de il manifesto

Artigo original : Il pacco atlantico, il manifesto, de 26 de março de 2014.

Tradução Anna Malm, artigospoliticos.wordpress.compara mondialisation.ca

Since 2011, Syria has been the target of an attempted foreign-backed regime change. Riding on the momentum of the US-engineered “Arab Spring,” protesters took to the streets across Syria, serving as cover for armed militants the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia – on record – had been preparing since at least as early as 2007.

It was in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that prophetically stated (emphasis added): 

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

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Syria’s destabilization was ongoing alongside other Arab nations, including Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. In Tunisia and Egypt, the fallout was political, with limited street violence. In Libya, the fallout was absolute – the nation utterly decimated by so-called “freedom fighters” later revealed as Al Qaeda militants of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). 

The West’s blitzkrieg across North Africa and the Middle East took many nations by surprise. Their inability to respond effectively to orchestrated “color revolution” have resulted in 3 years of regional destabilization, regime change, and even war.

In Syria however, the government and the people held on, and then, began fighting back.

It was clear by January 2013 that Syria’s security forces had turned the tide against the foreign-backed militants who had for 2 years been flowing across their border and sowing deadly chaos across the Middle Eastern nation. Irreversible gains were being made everywhere from the north near Syria’s largest city Aleppo, all along the Lebanese border, and particularly in the southern city of Daraa, the so-called “birthplace” of  the “uprising.” 

The Western media continued portraying the situation in Syria as fluid, with the Syrian government teetering and their militant proxies on the verge of making a breakthrough. In reality, desperation had set in across Washington, London, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv. Attempts to provoke a wider war with direct Israeli attacks on Syrian territory were carried out but with no effect, and by August of 2013, the West had grown so desperate to directly intervene to salvage their floundering proxy forces, they even staged a false-flag chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Much to the West’s dismay, the false-flag attack not only failed to provide them with the pretext needed for direct intervention, it severely and perhaps irreparably hobbled their credibility and international standing.

Syria’s Triumph Hidden No More

Recent gains by Syria against the West’s proxy militant invaders could be seen most clearly in Yabroud this month, 80 kilometers northwest of Damascus and a strategic city for militant campaigns carried out against both Syrians and Lebanese across the nearby border. The city of Yabroud was considered firmly in the hands of militants throughout the duration of conflict. With the restoration of order in Yabroud, and with militant factions folding en masse, it appears that large-scale military operations against Syria have largely drawn to a close and are shifting instead toward a low-intensity terrorist campaign.

The West is unable to portray their militant proxies as a viable opposition force, politically, socially, and now strategically. Syrian forces have pushed the militants to the very borders of Syria.

Just today, Turkey resorted to firing on, and claims to have shot down a Syrian warplane as Syrian forces battled militants along the border. In the southern city of Daraa near the Syrian-Jordanian border, the so-called “Southern Front” comprised of allegedly 49 militant factions and claiming to have up to 30,000 fighters in its rank, had doubt cast on it even from Western sources calling the force, “an alliance on paper.”

242341The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provided a disturbing report of continued military support for terrorists flooding into Syria from Jordan, armed and funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia – even as both feigned chastisement recently of Qatar for doing the very same. In its report titled, “Does the “Southern Front” Exist?” it claimed: 

According to several sources, there has still been an uptick in support to rebels in the south since late February, with large amounts of money spent on rebel salaries and Saudi trucks moving cargo toward the Jordan-Syria border. But without a major increase in support and, probably, the addition of qualitative weapons like antiair missiles, it is hard to imagine that the rebels can advance very far—or that they will be able to unite around a single leadership.

It appears to be the last desperate push by a depleted force against a well entrenched and capable Syrian military. While the West is no doubt still trying to fuel unrest in Syria, it appears that gains by the Syrian military have reached a tipping point that no amount of indirect support can turn back. Short of direct large-scale military intervention by Western forces, the proxy war has been effectively lost.

What Syria’s Victory Means for Western Hegemony

The modern pursuit of Western hegemony stems back to the end of the Cold War when Wall Street and London believed it was possible to reorder the planet under their control in the absence of any significant opposing superpower. Color revolutions across Eastern Europe, the plundering of Russia in the 1990′s, the first Iraq War, and the breakup of the Balkans seemed to suggest this reordering was well underway. However, Russia, China, India, and other developing nations sprung back too quickly and the West’s ambitions were slowly put in check.

Today, with the West ousted from Iraq, mired in Afghanistan, its machinations revealed in Libya as marauding aggressors, and confounded in both Syria and Ukraine, not only does it seem Western ambitions are in check, but may in fact be in danger of being reversed altogether.

The failure of the West in Syria sends a message to other targets of Western meddling. There is no need to compromise nor negotiate, nor any need to pander to the conventions the West has put in place to tie the hands of their intended targets. In fact, by doing so, a nation only makes itself more vulnerable as they attempt to adhere to rules the West insists others follow but willfully violates itself.

While the West compounds its growing impotence globally by insisting on the continued pursuit of its failed unipolar model built on achieving global hegemony, nations like Russia and China insist on mutual partnerships with other nations in a multipolar world – neither dictating nor violating the sovereignty of any nation beyond its borders.

The West’s failure in Syria is an indicator that its power and influence is on the decline and provides a modern illustration of the dangers historically faced by empire as it overreaches. Even if the West was able to overturn its failures in Syria, its reputation and legitimacy has been hobbled to such a degree that any geopolitical push beyond Syria would be all but impossible.

The West’s columnists and policy scribes lament over the “retreat” of Western primacy – but it is only in “retreat” because it chooses to be a belligerent in the first place. A nation playing a positive, constructive role internationally can still be influential if it respects those it is interacting with and effects change by setting an appealing example. For the West and its centuries of subjugating others, this concept is not only alien, but apparently less preferable than the collapsing order they are currently presiding over.

Syria’s emerging victory means that while the West may despoil other nations in the near and intermediate future, the vector sum of its power and influence will be perpetual decline.

For Syria and other nations facing the same potential destabilization within their own borders, a costly lesson has been learned about attempting to appease and accommodate Western ambitions. Establishing the moral high-ground early on, and having the means through domestic media targeting international audiences like Iran’s Press TV or Russia’s RT to tell their side of the story to the world, allows a targeted nation the ability to stand its ground, and if necessary, fight back. Attempting to use the very system the West put in place to achieve global primacy – including the UN, its human rights racket, and the international media – is to play the West’s game, by their rules, and entirely on their terms at a clear and immense disadvantage.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”

For the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Atomic bomb was nothing short of cataclysmic.

This article was originally published by Who What Why

But Americans were shown a sanitized version of the devastation, and for many years, photographic evidence of the real damage was locked away. This is the final part of our three part series on the Atomic Cover-up. You can read the first two parts in the series here and here.

Japan Chases Its History

1In the mid-1970s, Japanese activists discovered that few pictures of the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki existed in their country. Many of the images had been seized by the U.S. military and taken out of Japan. The Japanese had as little visual exposure to the true human effects of the bomb as had most Americans. Activists, led by Tsutomu Iwakura, tracked down hundreds of photographs in archives and private collections, published them in a popular book and, in 1979, mounted an exhibit at the United Nations in New York.

There, by chance, Iwakura met Herb Sussan, a former network TV producer, who informed him about the existence of color footage shot by a U.S. military film crew not long after the bombings. Sussan had been with the documentary crew, along with then-Lt. Daniel McGovern, a combat photographer and film director with the U.S. Air Force.

After a little digging, Iwakura found the color footage at the National Archives. About one-fifth of it showed the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs went off. According to a shot list, reel #11010 included, for example: “School, deaf and dumb, blast effect, damaged Commercial school demolished School, engineering, demolished.  School, Shirayama elementary, demolished, blast effect.  Tenements, demolished.” Included were many minutes of stoic survivors sadly, or in anger, displaying their burns and scars.  The rest of the footage was shot in several other cities.

2

U.S. National Archives at College Park, Maryland

Actually, the film had been quietly declassified a few years earlier, but the outside world seemed unaware of it. An archivist there later told me,

“If no one knows about the film to ask for it, it’s as closed as when it was classified.”

In short order, Iwakura raised half a million dollars from more than 200,000 Japanese citizens to buy a copy of the color footage. Then he traveled around Japan filming survivors who had posed for the U.S. military cameramen in 1946.

Iwakura completed his compilation film, entitled “Prophecy”, and arranged for the June 1982 New York premiere described in Part 1 of this series.

3A few months later, brief segments of the McGovern/Sussan footage turned up for the first time in an American film, called “Dark Circle”, which was screened at the 1982, New York Film Festival. The film’s co-director, Chris Beaver, told me,

“No wonder the government didn’t want us to see it. I think they didn’t want Americans to see themselves in that picture. It’s one thing to know about that and another thing to see it.”

Still, the historic footage drew little attention until the article on Sussan I edited for Nuclear Times was published. It inspired a flood of inquiries at the National Archives.

McGovern told me,

“The main reason [the footage] was classified was because of the horror, the devastation. The medical effects were pretty gory. The attitude was: do not show any medical effects. Don’t make people sick.”

It’s clear that certain people in the U.S. government worked hard to keep the true effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings from the American public. Who exactly was behind the cover-up?  McGovern told me,

“I always had the sense that people in the AEC were sorry they had dropped the bomb. The Air Force—it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn’t want those images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. But the AEC, they were the ones that stopped it from coming out. They had power of God over everybody. If it had anything to do with nukes, they had to see it. They were the ones who destroyed a lot of film and pictures of the first US nuclear tests after the war.”

“Dark Circle” director Chris Beaver added,

“With the government trying to sell the public on a new civil defense program and Reagan arguing that a nuclear war is survivable, this footage could be awfully bad publicity.”

Sussan was now ill with a form of lymphoma that doctors had found in soldiers exposed to radiation in atomic tests during the 1950s—and among survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts.

To walk in the footsteps of McGovern and Sussan, and meet some of the people they filmed in 1946, I made my own pilgrimage to the atomic cities in the summer of 1984.  (My “Atomic Cover-up“ book and e-book has a lengthy chapter describing what it was like to interview survivors on-site.) By then, the U.S. footage had turned up in several new documentaries. In September 1985, Herb Sussan passed away.

Researching “Hiroshima in America,” a book I would write with Robert Jay Lifton in 1995, I discovered the deeper context for suppression of the US Army film: it was part of a broad effort, starting but hardly ending with the Manhattan Project, to suppress a wide range of material related to the atomic bombings, including photographs, reports on radiation effects, information that might have raised questions about the decision to drop the bomb, even that Hollywood movie The Beginning or the End.

“I couldn’t bear to look…”

A documentary film that drew on footage from” the McGovern/Sussan footage premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2004.  It was called “Original Child Bomb” and won the top Silverdocs award. (I was the chief adviser.)  Later, the film aired on the Sundance cable channel. The film was unflinching and powerful, as its creators intended. It included unforgettable stories of surviving witnesses, such as this one:

“I saw so many corpses drifting in the water…countless bodies came floating… I couldn’t bear to look.  People without heads… people without arms… people with their guts hanging out… without eyes…”

Americans who view the footage today (see video) can now judge why the authorities suppressed it, and what impact these images, if widely seen, might have had on the nuclear arms race—and could still have on the nuclear proliferation that endangers the world today.

Only small parts of the original 90,000 feet of color film have been used, and a relatively small number of Americans have seen any of it. A major documentary on the footage, and its decades-long suppression, has yet to be made.

Without a full understanding of the effects of nuclear warfare, the American public cannot begin to reach judgment on the future of our vast nuclear arsenal.

Nine nations—so far—have the bomb

After building first-strike weapons and detailing scenarios for their use, the temptation for any nuclear power to use them may one day become irresistible. Treaties today bar the use, testing or proliferation of nuclear weapons, but at least nine nations, with the addition of North Korea, now possess The Bomb. And every American president—except Eisenhower—has endorsed their use against Japan to help bring the Second World War to a swift close.

With terrorist organizations around the world itching to get their hands on a nuclear device, it’s hardly comforting to reflect that a line against using nuclear weapons has been drawn—in the sand.

Greg Mitchell is the author of “Atomic Cover-up” and “Hiroshima in America.

- See more at: http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/03/31/death-suffering-living-color/#sthash.rmwwgVua.dpuf

On March 27 the United Nations General Assembly resolution entitled «Territorial integrity of Ukraine» (A/RES/68/262) was adopted with 100 votes in favour, 11 against (1) and 58 abstentions (2) (24 member states were either absent or present and not voting). Council members voted as follows: Russia voted against, Argentina, China and Rwanda abstained, while the remaining Council members voted in favour.

What does the new United Nations General Assembly document state? It affirms the UN commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, underscoring the invalidity of the 16 March referendum held in autonomous Crimea. (3) There are two moments to note here: first, it is forbidden by the United Nations Charter to refer the issues considered by the Security Council within its competence to the UN General Assembly. No matter that, the issue of Ukraine was referred to the United Nations General Assembly. Second, as the Charter states, the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are non-binding. Now, have the states, that supported the resolution, put forward solid arguments? Can these 100 states be considered to be united by taking the same legal and political stance? The answer is no!

A lot of time has passed since the start of anti-Russian campaign related to Crimea; the authors of the resolution have failed to come up with convincing arguments to substantiate their initiative in the form of the resolution A/RES/68/262.

The affirmation that the referendum in Crimea «contravenes international law» has no whatsoever justification at all. The representatives of Moldova, Japan and other states insisted that the referendum is in conflict with international law, but not any of them remembered which exactly article it contravenes. Their poor memory is explainable, they had nothing to say. International law offers no articles which ban referendums. To the contrary,the International Court of Justice has ruled that a unilateral declaration of independence does not contravene international law.

Neither the sponsors of Ukrainian revolution, nor the pro-Western majority at the General Assembly, took great pains to substantiate their arguments. It all boiled down to pure propaganda. They purposefully distort the factual and legal state of things. For instance, they constantly use the term «annexation» while Crimea acceded by its own choice based on free expression of people’ will to leave Ukraine and become part of another state.

Now a few words about the violation of Ukraine’ territorial integrity. As I have mentioned before, the principle of territorial integrity is mentioned in the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law within the context of outside intervention. It does not apply to internal referendums held by people who have a right to self-determination. International law puts it plain that a part of a state has a right to become independent or accede to another state of its choice. For instance, it is stated in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or Between International Organizations, as well as other documents.

What about a large group of states who supported the resolution? First, there are grounds to believe that many of them were subject to pressure or even blackmail. (4) Second, many states are simply not aware of the situation in Ukraine, so their decision to vote was based on distorted information. Quite often those who vote fail to make head or tail of what is happening in the country referred to a UN vote. It’s enough to browse the verbatim transcripts of the United Nations General Assembly’s sessions when regional conflicts or official stances of states are considered by those who geographically happen to be situated at great distances. There were also the ones who had no idea of what was going on in Ukraine but voted for the resolution taking for granted what Washington’s propaganda had to say. For instance, the representative of Nigeria supported the resolution saying he did it solely to protect the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter. He shied away from applying the slightest effort to understand what really happened. Some of those who voted for the resolution made it with strings attached, for instance, Chile said the sanctions against Russia were unacceptable.

There are quite different cases when some states, no matter how small they may be, did apply efforts to see what is what and were able to stand up to blackmail. The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said the draft resolution had other motivation than principles and said he was sorry the Assembly refused to take into consideration the historic facts and the truth about the new regime in Ukraine.

Russia has rejected the UN resolution as «confrontational», Russian UN Ambassador Churkin, said before the vote, adding that the document «undermines the referendum» and the right to self-determination of the Crimean people.

He said that there were «some right things» about the document, however, as it speaks out against unilateral actions and provocative rhetoric. According to him, no UN resolution was needed to achieve those goals, as all sides simply need to start acting in the interests of the Ukrainian people. The initiative of Crimea’s reunification with Russia came from the Crimean people themselves, not from Moscow, Churkin noted. The revocation of the official status of the Russian language and threats to send militants to Crimea by the coup-imposed government in Kiev provided «the critical mass» to push the peninsula to the referendum, added the Ambassador.

Having studied the vote procedure one is led to the following conclusion. The correlation of 100 «yes» versus «no» votes does not reflect the reality. Even if it were 100 versus 69 it would not provide the picture accurate enough. The real balance is 100 to 93. 169 countries took part in the vote (100+11+58) while there are 193 UN members. These votes should be added to the ones who did not support the resolution, certainly not the ones who voted «yes». It means 24 states, who took no part in the vote, should be added to the 58 who abstained.

It can be said the result is an evident testimony to the fact that the Western diplomacy failed. 100 states supported the Ukrainian territorial integrity while 93 did not. 100 states voted against the Crimea’s new status, but 93 did not. This is the major total of the Western demarche in the United Nations.

Notes

(1) Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.  
(2) South Africa abstained – special note by the author, who is writing this article from  South Africa. 
(3) The text of the resolution: UN Document А/68/L.39.
(4) Official Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of  Foreign Affairs  on the UN General Assembly resolutionon territorial integrity of Ukraine

European Sovereignty and Independence: How to Free the EU from the American Trap

March 31st, 2014 by Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB)

This crisis is well and truly a test of national leaders’ ability to grasp the tools of independence, power and peace that their fathers (the generations of politicians which ruled right until the end of the 80s basically) have put at their disposal, this united and institutionalized Europe which only remains to be put under political control.…

If the Ukraine, a country with a population of less than 50 million having frontiers with the two monsters of Europe and Russia, really has no other option than to “choose sides” in effect it’s not the same in Europe. And this crisis is well and truly a test of national leaders’ ability to grasp the tools of independence, power and peace that their fathers (the generations of politicians which ruled right until the end of the 80s basically) have put at their disposal, this united and institutionalized Europe which only remains to be put under political control.The difficulty is that the tool which politicians must now grasp isn’t the EU. As we have repeatedly explained, the EU is a stage in European construction which, on the contrary, must now be offloaded. The Ukrainian crisis is, incidentally, the ultimate indicator. The EU framework, born out of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty[1] , and which should have led to the continent’s political and democratic union has been diverted from its objectives. From Maastricht to Lisbon[2] , it’s an all economic Europe (endless enlargement of a free trade zone) which has been put in place, that which the people now justifiably rejects, which only serves the interests of the biggest Brussels lobbies (which are not the Member States, far from it) and of which we will now see to what dramatic ends (war, loss of autonomy) it’s ready to expose the continent.

Here are eight recommendations which, according to our team, are to be implemented urgently to get Europe out of the trap which has been set for it.

1. Return to the intergovernmental method

In this extremely serious situation it’s no good waiting for Brussels (no more than the European Commission or the European Parliament, sadly), quite the contrary. Business must, therefore, imperatively return to the Member States and the so-called “intergovernmental” method.

2. Disable or put the European External Action Service under political control

To do this, it’s imperative to punish the European Commission’s External Action Service political irresponsibility and remind it of its duty to execute the decisions taken by the Member States. The External Action Service is a European diplomatic service that has no legitimacy to speak on Europeans’ behalf, even less to take strategic decisions whose consequences are the destruction of relations with our neighbours, the starting up of civil wars in neighbouring countries and the ground-up creation of risks of war or iron curtains. Both in substance and form there is nothing easier than to remind the EEAS of its duties and to link it to a more democratically legitimate political decision-making body.

3. Express a common position on the crisis

This is where things get tough. In fact, if Baroness Ashton and Mr. O’Sullivan can do anything from their ivory tower, it’s because “Europeans are unable to speak with one voice”. How many times have we read this phrase over the last 25 years? And it suits it to have more than one up its sleeve. But this time Europe doesn’t have a choice: it must reach a common position; otherwise other agendas will continue to control operations remotely. Therefore, the objective is urgent and the question is “how to get there?”

4. Defining a relevant common agenda

First of all, it’s a question of everyone agreeing on the objective of this common position. And given the fact that war and being placed under foreign supervision are the dangers facing Europe today, let’s say that the discussion’s objective is to find a way to keep Europe’s peace and independence. For 60 years we have been sold Europe as a guarantor of peace; it’s the time to show that it does. And throw out the standard questions “how to guarantee the Ukraine’s integrity?” and other nonsense. If Europe isn’t capable of guaranteeing its own, what could it usefully do for the Ukraine? And moreover, in the light of what it’s already done, it’s out of the game for the moment. It should put its own house in order first.

5. Identify the relevant group of Member States

The topic of discussion is now established, it must be asked who the participants should be, the players in this common position. But already, what are the possibilities?The 28? The 28, it’s the EU, first of all…this EU which has always been unable to speak with one voice…and which in the Ukraine’s particular case is more than ever. Too many, with too many divergent interests, the 28 consist of a fringe of small countries, former Soviet Union satellites where it’s difficult, which it’s fairly excusable, to rely on their objectivity in the current circumstances (even if the anti-“Russianism” is actually much weaker than the European Commission is trying to make us believe, with an obviously instrumental goal); and a big country, the US stooge in Europe (even if the EU-UK link has been considerably distended in recent years: loss of effectiveness, distancing of continental philosophies, supervision of the country by financial markets). Getting to a common position on the Ukrainian question is an exercise in acrobatic flying in which it’s better not to go astray.

. The Franco-German motor? Unfortunately its too weak to cope with the violence of the attack which Europe is facing… Illegitimate also: how could the position of two countries impose on 26 others from whom it must at least win passivity? Finally, if the couple have recently begun to work well on the medium-term on less important questions (Europe’s resurrection[3] , EU data protection with the NSA[4] , European defence out to 2025[5] , etc.), it doesn’t seem to be able to produce much when faced with an urgent and very grave matter[6] . Moreover, Germany’s positions (especially a Germany led by an East German) on the issues of relations with Russia are of a coherence which is difficult to decipher: between a very strong interdependence with Russia (energy in particular, but trade as well) and old anti-Soviet reflexes, the straight line doesn’t seem to be the shortest path. Nevertheless, it must be recognized that Merkel is the only one to try to sometimes take a more balanced position on the Ukrainian question and our relationship with the Russians[7]   (which, moreover, earned her a vicious attack by the media and, more hypocritically, by the European institutions). But, from the French side, a country central to the fundamental principle of the continent’s independence, we are being disappointed by surprise. We are desperately trying to guess the subtle diplomacy beyond the intelligence of the average citizen. We managed to see it in the French position as regards Syria; but this time we can only speculate: a diplomatic snub thrown in Russia’s face by François Hollande’s trip to the US[8]  the day of the inauguration of the Sochi Olympics, intransigent martial positions as regards Yanukovych and Putin since[9] … That said, as we have seen media pressure considerably reduces politicians’ room for manoeuvre; but when one has been elected as a political leader one also has the duty to free oneself from traps like this… especially in such grave circumstances. Certainly, the Franco German pair won’t be the motor.

. An ad hoc group of volunteer countries to restore calm on the continent? This would be a tempting track… if it didn’t come back to the first: bring forward a common position from the cacophony of the 28. Forget it!

6. Request a « Convention of the Eurozone heads of state for European peace and independence »

By process of elimination, only one track remains: the Eurozone or Euroland, that again. But, although on the attacks on the Euro it was the obvious and unavoidable interlocutor, it seems less simple on the geopolitical issue that concerns us. And yet!First of all, it is and remains the nascent entity composed of the founding countries’ hard-core; it’s free of Europe’s western and westernized British fringe; and as regards Europe’s Eastern and anti-Eastern (anti-Russian) fringe, it’s shown (which is important) but in a way that won’t weigh too heavily and leaves the more central countries the possibility of sharpening their arguments intended to reassure this group of Europeans on the safety of their border position with the Russian zone of influence (and the arguments are numerous and easy to find); its make-up is representative of the EU’s diversity, therefore it’s competent to generate a ripple effect and win membership (or, as we have already said, at least the passivity) of the others.

Moreover, Euroland was built during the Euro crisis and now has tools, certainly incomplete, but modern and efficient. And more importantly, this new entity’s politicization was already on the agenda, such as manifestoes for the Euro’s political union[10] , proposals for a Eurozone Parliament[11] , and other innovative ideas[12]  have appeared in recent months.

After all, Europe was always built during crises; and the Ukrainian crisis, as dangerous and desperate as it is, is probably also the one that Europe needs to finally overcome this last and so difficult stage of political union.

And one last argument: that Euroland manages to speak with one voice on the current crisis isn’t certain… but it’s only that a faint glimmer of hope is shining; Europe really hasn’t another chance of succeeding in expressing a common position.

It’s therefore a “Convention of the Eurozone heads of state for European peace and independence” that we must have… and quickly! But the last question is, who will call such a Convention? It could be the Franco German pair but we have seen that, for reasons which haven’t been fully made clear, this couple’s leadership skills have been defused as regards the current crisis.

7. If the states can’t do it by themselves, constitute a citizens’ pressure group calling this Convention

In reality, we are on test here again, that of the vitality of the European style principle: it probably belongs to the citizens, through the creation of a qualitatively representative group of European civil society’s organizations, to call for this Convention to be held, or even call it itself.But the game is far from won. The European political and democratic machinery has been considerably weakened. Coups d’état have taken place that no longer bother anyone (Renzi in Italy[13] ), countries can live without a government without it causing a problem (Belgium[14]), and young 29 year olds have been appointed as Ministers of Foreign Affairs[15] without anyone seeing anything wrong (Austria)… Moreover, governments are derailing the rule of law (Spain[16] , the United Kingdom[17] , Hungary[18] …).Some countries give the impression that national politics still count because they have a seat at international bodies (the United Kingdom, France, Germany); in reality, instead of serving these countries’ independence and supra-national groups which they should represent, these seats buy their subjection to the strongest… The disconnect between politics (national) and the instruments of power (European), have been weakening our governments for more than two decades which, immediately elected, lose all popular support in the absence of being able to achieve the political and social changes demanded by the expressed majority but blocked by ultra-active minorities (France of course[19] , but not the only one).

Finally, the last crisis has further weakened national governments and at the European level politically.

In short, it’s time to end European countries’ political division whose governments, separately, serve little or no purpose. It’s only by completing the initial objective of all the European construction work to which we committed post-war Europe’s major political visionaries, namely by organizing their union, that European citizens can take control of their collective destiny.

8. Block any process of Eurozone enlargement until its political union

And we must act quickly, because we are not the only ones to identify this relevant base for political union supplied by Euroland. Washington’s system strategies[20] have also realized this Eurozone’s potential for transition which they themselves, despite them, helped to strengthen as we said earlier, through their attack on the Euro. Renzi’s coup d’état puts at the head of Italy, a big part of the Eurozone, a pro-American non-democratic government[21] the Estonian Commissioner,  Siim Kallas, a friend of the pro-American Barroso who, contrary to all legal precedent, was allowed to campaign for the Prime Minister’s post in his country[22] , will be a servile leader to Washington’s cause fed on this EU’s bottle of which almost nothing European remains[23] ; recently France seems to have been the object of enormous pressure from Washington that is already bearing fruit… In short, the Eurozone is beginning to lose any ability to build.

A final recommendation is, therefore, required: block any Eurozone enlargement until political union has taken place. EU enlargement has served the cause of the European project’s de politicization; let’s not knowingly repeat the mistakes!

A new US float[24] or an independent continent? Europe’s future will play out in the coming weeks. A bipolar world, the West-rest of the world, locked behind an iron wall, or a multi-polar world where an independent Europe and a regenerated US will take their rightful places alongside the Chinese, Brazilian, African, Indian and Russian powers? It’s today that we must fight for the better of these two futures. All options are still on the table, in this case Europe’s, but in a few months one or other of these scenarios will get a foothold.

Ukraine’s Inconvenient Neo-Nazis

March 31st, 2014 by Robert Parry

Far-right militia members demonstrating outside Ukrainian parliament in Kiev. (Screen shot from YouTube video from RT.)

When Ukrainian neo-Nazis – infuriated over the killing of an ultranationalist leader – surrounded the Parliament in Kiev, the incident presented a problem for the U.S. news media which has been trying to airbrush the neo-Nazis out of the Ukraine narrative.

The U.S. media’s take on the Ukraine crisis is that a “democratic revolution” ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, followed by a “legitimate” change of government. So, to mention the key role played neo-Nazi militias in the putsch or to note that Yanukovych was democratically elected – and then illegally deposed – gets you dismissed as a “Russian propagandist.”

But Ukraine’s neo-Nazis are not some urban legend. Their presence is real, as they swagger in their paramilitary garb through the streets of Kiev, displaying Nazi insignias, honoring SS collaborators from World War II, and hoisting racist banners, including the white-power symbol of the Confederate battle flag.

Over the past few days, the neo-Nazis have surged to the front of Ukraine’s unrest again by furiously protesting the killing of one of their leaders, Oleksandr Muzychko, known as Sashko Bily. The Interior Ministry reported that Muzychko died in a Monday night shoot-out with police in Rivne in western Ukraine.

But the right-wing paramilitaries claim that Muzychko was murdered in a cold-blooded contract hit, and these modern-day storm troopers have threatened to storm the parliament building if the interim Interior Minister is not fired.

This renewed disorder has complicated the storytelling of the major U.S. news media by challenging the sweetness-and-light narrative preferred by U.S. policymakers. The New York Times, the Washington Post and other leading news outlets have worked hard to airbrush the well-established fact that neo-Nazi militants spearheaded the coup on Feb. 22.

To dismiss that inconvenient fact, the major U.S. media has stressed that the extreme rightists made up a minority of the demonstrators, which – while true – is largely irrelevant since it was the paramilitary Right Sektor that provided the armed force that removed Yanukovych and then dominated the “transition” period by patrolling key government buildings. As a reward, far-right parties were given control of four ministries.

Some U.S. outlets also have picked up on the unsubstantiated U.S. government theme that Russia is dispatching unidentified “provocateurs” to destabilize the coup regime in Kiev, though it doesn’t seem like Moscow would have to do much besides stand aside and watch the interim government’s unruly supporters turn on each other.

But reality has stopped playing much of a role in the U.S. news media’s Ukraine reporting as the U.S. press continues to adjust the reality to fit with the desired narrative. For instance, the New York Times, in its boilerplate account of the uprising, has removed the fact that more than a dozen police were among the 80 or so people killed. The Times now simply reports that police fired on and killed about 80 demonstrators.

Fitting with its bowdlerized account, the Times also ignores evidence that snipers who apparently fired on both police and protesters before the coup may have been working for the opposition, not Yanukovych’s government. An intercepted phone call by two European leaders discussed those suspicions as well as the curious decision of the post-coup government not to investigate who the snipers really were.

Surrounding the Parliament

But most significantly, the U.S. mainstream media has struggled to downplay the neo-Nazi angle as was apparent in the Times’ report on President Vladimir Putin’s call on Friday to President Barack Obama to discuss possible steps to defuse the crisis. Putin noted that neo-Nazis had surrounded the parliament.

“In citing extremist action, Mr. Putin sought to capitalize on a tense internal showdown in Kiev,” the Times wrote. “The presence of masked, armed demonstrators threatening to storm the Parliament building offered the Russian government an opportunity to bolster its contention that the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a Moscow ally, after pro-European street protests last month was an illegal coup carried out by right-wing extremists with Western encouragement.”

But the Times couldn’t simply let those facts speak for themselves, though they were all true: right-wing extremists did provide the key manpower and organization to overrun government buildings on Feb. 22 and there is no doubt that these right-wing elements were getting Western encouragement, including a shoulder-to-shoulder appearance by Sen. John McCain.

The Times felt compelled to interject an argumentative counterpoint, saying: “In fact, the nationalist groups, largely based in western Ukraine, had formed just one segment of a broad coalition of demonstrators who occupied the streets of Kiev for months demanding Mr. Yanukovych’s ouster.”

And, that has been a consistent pattern for the supposedly objective U.S. news media. If the Russians say something, even if it is clearly true, the point must be contradicted. However, when a U.S. official states something about the Ukraine crisis, the claim goes unchallenged no matter how absurd.

For example, when Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Putin’s intervention in Crimea by declaring, “you just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext,” mainstream U.S. news outlets simply let the statement stand without noting that Kerry himself had voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

You might think that Kerry’s breathtaking hypocrisy would be newsworthy or at least a relevant fact that should be pointed out to readers, but no. The Times also has routinely distorted Crimea’s secession from Ukraine. The Black Sea peninsula, a longtime Russian province that was only attached to Ukraine for administrative purposes during Soviet days, asserted its independence after the coup ousting Yanukovych, who had won Crimea overwhelmingly.

No one seriously doubts that the vast majority of Crimean citizens wanted to escape the disorder and hardship enveloping Ukraine – and to return to Russia with its higher per capita income and functioning national government – but the Obama administration and the dutiful U.S. news media have pretended otherwise.

In New York Times speak, Crimea’s popular vote to secede from Ukraine and to join Russia was simply Putin’s “seizure” of Crimea. The Times and other mainstream news outlets dismissed Crimea’s March 16 referendum as somehow rigged – citing the 96 percent tally for secession as presumptive evidence of fraud – although there was no actual evidence of election rigging. Exit polls confirmed the overwhelming majority favoring secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia.

IMF’s ‘Reforms’

And, really, who could blame the people of Crimea? As Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has said, Ukraine “is on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy” and the International Monetary Fund agreed to throw a financial lifeline only if Ukraine imposes “reforms” that Yatsenyuk has admitted are “very unpopular, very difficult, very tough.”

They will be toughest on average Ukrainians who will face severe public sector budget cuts, slashed pensions, soaring heating costs and rapid inflation due to changes in the exchange rate. The cumulative impact of these IMF “reforms” is expected to result in a 3 percent contraction of Ukraine’s already depressed economy.

Yet, much of the mainstream U.S. media ignores the understandable desire of the Crimean people to bail out on the failed Ukrainian state. Instead, the MSM pretends that Russia simply invaded Crimea and now is threatening to do the same in eastern Ukraine, or as the Times put it, Putin has engaged in “provocative moves punctuated by a menacing buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border.”

The bottom line is that the U.S. government and media have constructed a substantially false narrative for the American people, all the better to manufacture consent behind a $1 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine and the launch of a new Cold War with the expectation of many more exciting confrontations to come – in places like Syria and Iran – all justifying fatter military budgets.

A more objective and less alarmist narrative on the Ukraine crisis would describe Putin’s actions as primarily defensive and reactive. He was distracted by the Winter Olympics in Sochi and was caught off-guard by the violent putsch that removed Yanukovych.

In light of Yanukovych’s democratic election victory in 2010 and his agreement on Feb. 21 to speed up new elections (a deal that was negated within hours by the U.S./EU-supported coup), Russia has a legitimate argument that the coup regime in Kiev is illegitimate.

The removal of Yanukovych not only was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias but subsequent parliamentary actions to “impeach” him did not follow Ukraine’s constitutional rules. The putsch essentially disenfranchised the large ethnic-Russian populations in the east and south, where Yanukovych had his political base.

Then, the rump parliament in Kiev – reflecting the intense Ukrainian nationalism in the western section – passed punitive laws targeting these Russian speakers, including elimination of Russian as an official language. For Putin to be troubled by this crisis on his border — and to take action — was neither surprising nor particularly provocative.

If the New York Times and other leading U.S. outlets did their journalism in a professional way, the American people would have had a more nuanced understanding of what happened in Ukraine and why. Instead, the Times and the rest of the MSM resumed their roles as U.S. propagandists, much as they did in Iraq in 2002-03 with their usual preference for a simplistic “good-guy/bad-guy” dichotomy.

In the case of Ukraine, that happy dichotomy has been challenged again by the reemergence of those inconvenient neo-Nazis.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Danger of False Narrative.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon andbarnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

The deadline for signing up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is midnight tonight. Under the legislation popularly known as Obamacare, people uninsured through their employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid must obtain insurance from private companies by March 31, 2014 or pay a tax penalty in 2015.

The White House and media are gauging the initial success of the program by the number of people who sign up by the March 31 deadline, with estimates placing that figure at around 6 million. Those visiting the insurance “marketplaces” have been shocked to find that the most affordable “bronze” plans carry deductibles of more than $5,000 and other high out-of-pocket costs that will lead to self-rationing and the foregoing of health services by many working families.

Perhaps the most insidious component of the legislation is its impact on health care delivery in the not-so-distant future. In his new book, Reinventing American Health Care, Ezekiel J. Emanuel outlines how the ACA lays the groundwork for the virtual elimination of employer-sponsored health insurance in America over the next decade.

Emanuel is a close ally of President Barack Obama, having served from January 2009 to January 2011 as a special adviser on health care reform to the White House. As we wrote in 2009, “An examination of Emanuel’s vision of health care restructuring reveals that Obama’s proposals have been informed by many of its guiding principles. Key among them are the defense of a health system based on private profit and the delivery of class-based, rationed medical care for the majority of Americans.”

In a section near the end of his book, titled “The End of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance,” Emanuel explains that before Obamacare, some 150 million people—close to half of the US population—received their health insurance through their employer or a relative’s employer. This was despite the fact that no “employer mandate” existed requiring businesses to do so.

“The ACA changes all of that,” Emanuel writes approvingly. He states categorically: “By 2025 few private-sector employers will still be providing health insurance.” He predicts that traditional employer-sponsored coverage will be replaced by a combination of defined contributions to employees to purchase coverage on private exchanges, basically vouchers, or the elimination of insurance coverage altogether.

What is posed is a sea change in the way Americans receive health insurance, with devastating implications for working people.

In contrast to Western Europe, Canada, Australia and other industrialized capitalist countries, where health insurance is sponsored by the state, employer-sponsored insurance became the norm in post-World War II America.

The absence of universal government-sponsored health insurance was the result of the reactionary politics of the US trade union bureaucracy, which blocked the development of an independent political movement of the American working class during and after the explosive industrial battles of the 1930s and 1940s that established the mass industrial unions. Instead, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which in 1955 merged to form the AFL-CIO, subordinated the labor movement to big business at home and American imperialism abroad, primarily by tying it to the Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, the working class was able, on the basis of militant struggles and industry-wide strikes, to wrench from the corporations the system of company-sponsored health insurance that provided decent medical coverage at little or no cost to workers. This became the model for businesses across the country, including many nonunion firms.

This ad hoc system, never institutionalized as a matter of law, was taken by tens of millions of working people as a social right, even though millions more were left without any health coverage. Over the past several decades, however, as part of the ruling class offensive against workers’ living standards, and with the complicity of the unions, workers have been forced to absorb an ever-greater share of the cost of employer-provided health insurance.

In the aftermath of the financial crash of 2008, the ruling class is determined to shed its share of the cost of health care for workers by ripping up the postwar system and forcing workers to buy insurance on the private market on an individual basis, leaving them completely at the mercy of the giant insurance firms.

Enter the Obama administration and its so-called health care “reform.” Emanuel explains how Obamacare creates the framework for this massive shift.

One of the biggest incentives for employers to drop insurance is the “Cadillac tax” imposed under the ACA, which will kick in after 2018. Under this tax, companies will be taxed at a 40 percent rate for benefits paid to individuals in excess of $10,200, and for families above a threshold of $27,500. Emanuel writes that this tax will make it undesirable for employers to continue to offerlavish health insurance ” (emphasis added).

Emanuel also points to the toothless $2,000 penalty per employee to be imposed on businesses for failure to provide insurance: “For a company with 1,000 employees, their health insurance bill is probably between $7 [million] and $10 million depending on how many families they cover. With the ACA, if they drop insurance, their penalty payments will be $2 million.” In other words, dropping employee-sponsored coverage makes good financial sense for big employers.

He notes as well that given the fact there is no mandate for businesses with fewer than 50 employees to provide insurance, “why small businesses will continue to provide health insurance is hard to fathom.” He writes that “in the end, exit they will” from employer-sponsored coverage.

Beginning “sometime before 2020—probably 2016 or 2017,” Emanuel predicts, “a few big, blue-chip companies will announce their intention to stop providing health insurance.” Management consultant Accenture agrees with this assessment, forecasting that by 2017, 18 percent of the US population will be buying insurance on a private insurance exchange.

Emanuel claims that out of the goodness of their hearts, and in order to continue to attract quality employees, companies will shift whatever they have saved through cutting health insurance costs to “significantly higher salaries” for workers. This is a fantasy, as Emanuel likely knows. American business today is hoarding trillions of dollars in cash reserves, obtained largely as a result of downsizing and wage-cutting, and using its bonanza to drive up stock prices and the pay and fortunes of top executives, even as it continues to ruthlessly slash wages and pensions and impose speedup.

Emanuel’s book is a confirmation, “from the horse’s mouth,” of the analysis of Obamacare developed since the program’s origins by the World Socialist Web Site. As the WSWS wrote last year: “The essential aim of the ACA is rapidly emerging. Behind the talk of providing coverage for the uninsured, Obamacare was devised from the outset as a means of dismantling the employer-based system of health insurance that for decades guaranteed a basic level of health care for tens of millions of workers in the US.”

From the start, Obamacare was based on cutting costs for the government and employers while boosting the profits of the health care industry, first and foremost, the insurance conglomerates. The concerted attack on health care in the US demonstrates the incompatibility of the basic needs of working people, on the one hand, and private ownership of the health care infrastructure and its subordination to corporate profit, on the other.

A true reform of health care requires the reorganization of the entire health care industry on socialist foundations, placing the private insurers, pharmaceutical corporations and health care chains under public ownership and the democratic control of the working class.

NATO Steps Up Military Pressure on Russia

March 31st, 2014 by Stefan Steinberg

NATO continued its military build-up on the Russian border even as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Paris Sunday evening to discuss the conflict over Ukraine. The meeting, involving four hours of “frank” talks, ended with no breakthrough and separate news conferences.

The two men met after Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated his readiness to make certain concessions. Last Friday he phoned US President Barack Obama in Saudi Arabia to discuss a “diplomatic resolution to the crisis.” On Sunday, Kerry dismissed Lavrov’s proposal for a Federal Ukraine that was not part of NATO, cynically declaring that was “up to the Ukrainians”—that is, the fascist-led regime in Kiev backed by Washington.

Kerry again rejected Russia’s annexation of the Crimea as “illegal and illegitimate” and accused Russia of massing troops on its border with Ukraine. Western governments are using the alleged Russian troop movements to justify the steady boosting of their military presence in the Baltic states. The former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were admitted into NATO in 2004, but the military alliance did not previously deploy troops there in order not to provoke Russia. The three states have tiny armies, numbering between 5,000 and 12,000 each, and without any tanks or fighter jets.

This is now being changed. The US has already sent six F-15C combat planes to Lithuania. Britain has promised to send four jets. Other NATO members, including Germany, have also been asked to provide aircraft, including AWACS spy planes that can look deep into Ukraine and Russia.

Simultaneously, NATO has decided to hold Navy exercises in the Baltic Sea, with Norway or Germany providing the command vessel.

Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine, is also the scene of a military build-up. The US has already sent 300 military personnel and 12 warplanes to the country.

NATO foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday in Brussels are expected to decide on further measures. A NATO spokesman announced that they will halt practical collaboration with Russia in the Russia–NATO Council and “extensively” increase military collaboration with Ukraine.

Outgoing NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the German press that the alliance was considering options “to revise military plans, hold military maneuvers and increase troops in an appropriate way.” He said the extension of NATO to Eastern Europe over the last 15 years had been a huge success and proposed that new countries be admitted to the alliance, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Georgia and Montenegro. He did not mention Ukraine, but said NATO’s partnership with the country had grown “ever closer.”

These developments confirm that the crisis in Ukraine, which was instigated by the United States, Germany and their European allies, is being used to encircle and intimidate Russia in order to subordinate it to the dictates of Western imperialism.

Within Ukraine, a tug-of-war is developing over the presidential election to be held May 25. Vitali Klitschko, one of the spokesmen of the Maidan protests and leader of the UDAR party, withdrew his candidacy and announced he would support the billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko. Klitschko will instead run for another influential post, mayor of Kiev, to be elected the same day.

With a fortune of $1.8 billion, Poroshenko is ranked seventh on the Forbeslist of Ukrainian oligarchs. He made his fortune in candies and chocolate, shipbuilding and the armaments industry. He also owns the influential television station Channel 5.

Poroshenko began his political career in the late 1990s and repeatedly changed sides. Initially, he was a supporter of President Leonid Kuchma. Then, together with the recently deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, he founded the Party of Regions. Soon after, he joined up with Yanukovych’s rival Viktor Yushchenko and supported the so-called “Orange Revolution.” After Yushchenko was elected president, Poroshenko became foreign minister. When Yanukovych returned to power, Poroshenko briefly assumed leadership of the country’s Economics Ministry.

Poroshenko apparently decided to support the Maidan protests after Russia, in an attempt to pressure the Yanukovych government, banned the import of his brand of chocolate, costing him millions in profits. His Channel 5 TV was continuously present on Maidan Square, pumping out propaganda in support of the protests.

Poroshenko has the support of Germany and other European governments. Together with Klitschko, who has been heavily backed by Berlin, he was invited to the Munich Security Conference in February. Poroshenko and Klitschko have in recent weeks met with both British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande.

According to Ukrainian opinion polls, Poroshenko has the support of 25 percent of voters, far more than any other candidate. He is considered to be a more conciliatory figure than his main rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, whose rabid Ukrainian nationalism threatens to divide the country and plunge it into civil war.

Kyryl Savin of the Green Party-affiliated Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kiev toldDeutsche Welle: “I don’t think he is going to play the radical nationalist card. On the contrary, he’ll try to keep the country together somehow.”

Evidently, European governments have concluded that Tymoshenko is too much of a loose cannon and they need a safer pair of hands in Kiev to ensure their interests. They also see billionaire businessman Poroshenko as the ideal candidate to implement the draconian austerity measures and mass sackings demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

The fact that one of the richest oligarchs is now promoted by leaders of the Maidan and the Western powers to be Ukraine’s next president explodes the claim that the protests in Kiev represented a struggle for democracy and against corruption. The new government was installed as a result of a fascist-led coup whose purpose was to bring to power a pro-Western government, deepen the subordination of the country to the dictates of the Ukrainian oligarchs and international finance capital, and provide a staging ground for Western imperialist efforts to weaken and isolate Russia.

Eleven years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the war has largely disappeared from the corporate media, and President Obama recently took the widely-criticized step of defending the invasion and claiming the Iraqi people now have “sovereignty.” Yet, on Wednesday night, Iraqi civil society organizers and U.S. military veterans gathered at a “People’s Hearing” in Washington, DC to tell a different story: of a war that is not over, that is still taking life, spreading trauma, and poisoning Iraq.

In two hours of emotionally-charged testimony — curated by the Right to Heal campaign, a joint effort of Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Federation of Workers Councils and Unions of Iraq, and Iraq Veterans Against the War — the hearing traced the ongoing impacts of the U.S.-led war and occupation. This legacy includes environmental poisoning, Iraqi government repression, sectarian conflict, poverty, trauma, displacement, and death.

Yanar Mohammed, president and co-founder of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, testifies on toxic legacy of U.S. war on Iraq Wednesday, March 27. (Photo: Cassidy Regan)

Throughout the event, which was moderated by journalist Phil Donahue and followed an earlier briefing in the House featuring the testimony of witnesses, an overwhelming call emerged. The U.S. must give reparations to the Iraqi people, clean up its toxic legacy, and stop waging wars and occupations around the world.

“Relations based on militarism need to be changed,” said Yanar Mohammed, president and co-founder of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. “The change can come from places like this.”

Toxic Legacy

Speakers described a country poisoned for decades by the U.S. military — from depleted uranium used in the 1991 Gulf War and recent Iraq War, chemical weapon white phosphorousused in the 2004 U.S. attack on Fallujah, and burn pits — which are run by the U.S. military and private contractors and burn munitions, chemicals, rubbers, plastics, and a host of other substances often within close proximity of Iraqi civilians. The toxic legacy in Iraq was repeatedly compared to the U.S. nuclear legacy in Japan and Agent Orange attacks in Vietnam.

Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (Photo: Cara Solomon)

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist, testified that U.S. burn pits in Iraq are exposing the Iraqi public to a litany of dangerous compounds, including lead and mercury. Research teams sent to Iraqi hospitals in Basra and Falluja found abnormally high rates of cancer, birth defects, and heart defects, she stated.

Kristi Casteel, mother of IVAW member Joshua Casteel, explained that her son passed away August 25, 2012 due to what she believes were complications from cancer caused by exposure to burn pits in Abu Ghraib during his Army service. “Had we known he was at risk from toxins in Iraq, he might have been saved,” said Kristi, adding that the military was “allowing more harm to our soldiers than our supposed enemies were inflicting.” Joshua became a conscientious objector, writer, and anti-war activist. According to his mother, his dying wish was that burn pits be eradicated and those exposed to these pits, especially Iraqis, receive care.

Mohammed, who fled Iraq during the first Gulf war but then returned after 2003 to “help people,” described epidemics of birth defects in cities and towns across Iraq. “There are some mothers who have three or four children who don’t have limbs that work, who are totally paralyzed, their fingers fused to each other. These children have mental disabilities,” she said. “There needs to be reparations for families facing birth defect and areas that have been contaminated. There needs to be cleanup.”

U.S.-Backed Repression

Speakers testified that the U.S. has also left behind another poison — the Nouri al-Maliki regime that is stoking sectarian conflict and repressing protesters and organizers fighting for their rights — against the backdrop of health problems, trauma, and a climbing refugee crisis.

“We will not surrender to sadness. We will not surrender to subjugation. We will have our say.” —Yanar Mohammed, Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq

According to Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, the Iraqi government has carried forward old laws from Saddam Hussein that repress and punish workers for organizing in their workplaces. “The new government is busy with how to re-divide the wealthy and seize the resources of society,” he said. “They are supported directly by the U.S. government. They want to issue new labor laws to control the workers and restrain them from stating their demands.”

Mohammed slammed the “corrupt” U.S.-backed and armed Iraqi government and scoffed at Obama’s claims about Iraqi sovereignty. “The U.S. occupation taught us how to hate each other based on sectarian divides,” she said. “The U.S. occupation has alienated the women of Iraq and the ethnicities of Iraq.”

The Traumas That Spread

“The truth is that war is a devastating thing,” said Savabieasfahani. “And if we unleash it on innocent populations, it will harm us all.”

One by one, Iraq veterans took to the podium to testify to the wounds they still carry and the U.S. military’s refusal to account for the harm done. IVAW member Rebekah Lampman described the harrowing experience of being raped by a fellow soldier and being denied recourse for winning justice and accountability. In fact, she was blamed for her own assault, she stated. Reflecting on her own healing process following her military discharge, she said, “I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor.”

Former marine and IVAW member Ramon Mejia (Photo: Cassidy Regan)

Former marine and IVAW member Ramon Mejia, who said he joined the military out of the “economic necessity” of providing for his family, explained that he was taught to dehumanize Iraqi people. When he made the decision, while deployed, to start “really seeing” Iraqi people after an experience hearing the call to prayer, he says everything shifted. “My war had changed: I went from going through the motions to questioning,” he said.

After his discharge, Ramon faced seizures and mental health problems, and at one point had suicidal ideations. He declared, “I wish I could express to you how sorry I am for what happened in Iraq, and I’m dedicating my life to making things right.”

Savabieasfahani pointed out that “very little work has been done on the mental effects of this war” on the Iraqi population. “Imagine the kinds of mental, emotional, physical pressure on the population of Iraq,” she stated.

Said Mohammed, “You get devastated out of fear. You have no hope.”

Justice and Reparations

Speaker after speaker repeated the call for reparations and accountability for a war that,according to some estimates, has killed over one million Iraqi people. Reparations include research into the toxic legacy of the U.S. war in Iraq, and a “clean-up” of these sites. While the Iraqi government is corrupt, there is a civil society that can oversee reparations and move it to the right places, urged Mohammed. Veterans repeated the “Right to Heal” call for true care for returning veterans, and Savabieasfahani also spoke about the need to combat U.S. racism against Arabs and people of color more broadly.

Yet, speakers urged that the real solution is ending the U.S.-led wars responsible for creating the trauma and devastation in the first place.

“The war brings us here today,” said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, in an address delivered in Arabic for the Iraqi audience — including those remotely watching a live-stream of the event. “There is nothing that can compensate for the damage that this war has caused, but we are committing ourselves to seeking justice.”

“We are looking for solutions and answers for how not to let it happen again,” said Mohammed. “We will not surrender to sadness. We will not surrender to subjugation. We will have our say.”

The full hearing is featured in the video below.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Animal Rights and Britain’s Badger Cull

March 31st, 2014 by Lesley Docksey

Why are we waiting?

 The UK Secretary for the Environment Owen Paterson, called by some the “worst Environment Secretary ever” because of his support for so many ecologically damaging initiatives, disappeared in February.  Having been responsible for an expensive and highly unpopular badger cull, he became embroiled in the crisis that brought a lot of southern England to its knees – catastrophic flooding.

 Arriving far too late on the scene down in Somerset it was then announced that he had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina – and he totally vanished.  He did come back very quietly, but was unavailable to all those seeking answers about badger culling.

But on 27 March Paterson finally came out of his badger sett and appeared before MPs to answer just a few questions about bovine TB and the badger cull.  Pity it was the first business of the day so there was not a full house to welcome him back.

His appearance had been flagged up by the Sunday Times which said that “Defra was expected to make an announcement this week, alongside the publication of a scientific assessment of last year’s cull.”

According to the Times: “The government’s badger culls are to be restarted this summer with a third killing zone, in Dorset, added to the two existing ones, in Somerset and Gloucestershire, say Whitehall sources.”

But did Paterson have anything definite to say about continuing the culls?  No.  Any mention of the publication of the “scientific assessment” (the report from the Independent Expert Panel, some details of which had been leaked in February)?  Er – no.

Following the chaotic disaster of the two pilot culls, most reasonable people would be making changes to the way ahead.  Thus Angela Smith, a staunch anti-cull MP asked what changes he plans to make to his policy on bovine TB.

He replied that the draft strategy to combat bovine TB had been published in July 2013 and that the final version, outlining Defra’s comprehensive plan, “will be published shortly.”

  More “shortly”, one presumes, than that long-awaited report.  Angela Smith said that, considering the leaked information from the report had shown the culls to be inhumane, “would he not think it vital to reconsider the policy and to abandon absolutely any plans for rolling out culling later in the year?”

Paterson was still not giving anything away: “I received the panel’s report only recently. I am considering it, and I will come back to the House in due course, when it has been fully considered.”

 How much longer is he going to sit on the time bomb of an unpublished report that most people expect to be damning in its judgement on the pilot culls?  How long is “due course?”  How long is a piece of Paterson string?

When asked to consider all the other strategies for ridding England of TB he did mention “… a strict cattle movement regime, which has been a key to success in other countries.”  A slight change there from his mantra that “There is no example anywhere in the world of a country that has successfully tackled TB without also tackling the reservoir of disease in the wildlife population.”

Prompted by Ian Paisley, who has been endlessly and loudly lobbying for Northern Ireland to have badger culling, Paterson again came out with the nonsense that the horrific long-term killing of badgers in Ireland had resulted in dramatically lowering the incidence of TB in Irish cattle.  Neither he nor Paisley will ever accept that Northern Ireland has done better in tackling the disease than the south, without killing any badgers.

Another MP asked for an update on cattle vaccine, only to be told that “we are doing this and we are doing that that but I’m afraid it will be at least 10 years before everything’s in place.”

 But it was going to take 10 years last year, and the year before that and 10 years ago too.  If ever there was a moving goalpost in this sorry saga, it is the 10-year one.

 The Shadow Farming Minister Huw Irranca-Davies delighted the anti-cull MPs with the news that during the debate on the cull earlier this month, Mr Paterson had been visiting a chocolate factory.  Well – you have to hide somewhere while you’re considering reports!

 He then demanded that any decision to continue the culls should have a proper Parliamentary vote.

 No, said Mr Paterson.  He went on to say that: “The last vote on a substantive motion showed considerable support, with a majority of 61, for our strategy.”  He mentioned the figure of a 61 majority twice, just to emphasise it.

Someone should remind Mr Paterson that that was back in June 2013, and the majority was 49 votes, not 61.  MPs have become considerably better informed since then and many of them, having viewed the chaotic mess of the two pilot culls, have wisely changed their minds.

 And they will soon break out into a rousing chorus of “Why are we waiting…?”

 

Human Rights in North Korea

March 31st, 2014 by Christine Hong

This essay offers a historicized overview of the consolidation of contemporary human rights as the dominant lingua franca for social justice projects today and applies it to the debate over human rights in North Korea. Highlighting what the rights framework renders legible as well as what it consigns to unintelligibility, it examines the antinomies of contemporary human rights as an ethico-political discourse that strives to reassert the dominance of the global North over the global South.

Relentlessly presentist in its assignment of blame and politically harnessed to a regime-change agenda, the human rights framing of North Korea has enabled human rights advocates, typically “beneficiaries of past injustice,” to assume a moralizing, implicitly violent posture toward a “regime” commonsensically understood to be “evil.” Cordoning off North Korea’s alleged crimes for discrete consideration while turning a willfully blind eye to the violence of sanctions, “humanitarian” intervention, and the withholding of humanitarian and developmental aid, the North Korean human rights project has allowed a spectrum of political actors—U.S. soft-power institutions, thinly renovated Cold War defense organizations, hawks of both neoconservative and liberal varieties, conservative evangelicals, anticommunist Koreans in South Korea and the diaspora, and North Korean defectors—to join together in common cause.

This thematic issue, by contrast, enables a range of critical perspectives—from U.S.– and South Korea–based scholars, policy analysts, and social justice advocates—to attend to what has hovered outside or been marginalized within the dominant human rights framing of North Korea as a narrowly inculpatory, normative structure. This article is adapted and revised from the introduction to a two-part thematic issue of Critical Asian Studies on “Reframing North Korean Human Rights” (December 2013 and March 2014).

I. Victors’ Justice?

In February 2014, upon completing a several-month investigation into “human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK, or North Korea]”—an investigation initiated in the sixtieth anniversary year of the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement that halted combat but did not end the war—the three-member Commission of Inquiry (COI) established by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) concluded that North Korea had committed crimes against humanity. Such “unspeakable atrocities,” in the framing account of Commission chair Michael Kirby, “reveal a totalitarian State [without] parallel in the contemporary world.”1 Analogies to the “dark abyss” of North Korea, the Australian jurist maintained, could be found only in the brutality of the Third Reich, South African apartheid, and the Khmer Rouge regime.2 Reproduced in news reports around the world, Kirby’s markedly ahistorical examples may have succeeded in inflaming global public opinion yet they failed to contextualize the issue of North Korean human rights in a way that might generate peaceful structural resolution. Indeed, insofar as the 372-page COI report singularly identified the North Korea government as the problem—both as “a remaining and shameful scourge that afflicts the world today,” in Kirby’s jingoistic phrase, and as the primary obstacle to peace in Korea—the Commission gave new life to the vision of regime change that has animated post-9/11 North Korean human rights campaigns. By recommending that North Korea and its high officials be brought up before the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), it continued the hostilities of the unresolved Korean War “by means purporting to be judicial.”3 The urgent question of a long-deferred peace relative to the Korean peninsula, which the Commission incoherently addressed, bedeviled its conclusions, rendering its findings partial, its recommendations in some instances uneasily one-sided, and its premise of impartiality suspect.4 Moreover, that the COI proceedings and report aligned the United Nations with the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Great Britain while singling out North Korea and, to a far lesser degree, China, for blame performed an unsettling restaging of the Korean War on the agonistic terrain of human rights, suggesting an encrypted “victor’s justice” with regard to an unending war that up to now has had no clear winners.5

By overlooking the roots of North Korean militarism and underdevelopment in the unending Korean War, by failing to offer a “systematic and widespread” account of “crimes against humanity” that critically assessed the impact of unresolved war on the entire peninsula and in the greater region, and by assuming the neutrality of the United Nations, the United States, South Korea, Great Britain, and Japan relative to North Korea, the Commission thereby offered an inculpatory account of North Korean human rights that obscured rather than illuminated the complex consequences of unresolved interventionist war.6 Indeed, the footnote status accorded to the Korean War’s historical and ongoing violence within today’s dominant international human rights framework speaks to the limitations of available “post-Cold War” structures of recognition when it comes to the unsettled, in many cases active, legacies of the asymmetrical wars waged by the United States and its allies throughout the Cold War. Justice, with regard to the ongoing Korean War, as Kim Dong-choon, a former standing commissioner of South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRCK), has maintained, cannot be had in the present. Instead, as he has soberingly argued, “dignity for all” and meaningful peace are conceivable “only after the unification of North and South Korea.”7 Implicit in this future prospect for broad structural reckoning is precisely what the TRCK (2005-2010), constrained in its mandate by the U.S.-ROK “security” alliance, could not compel, and what the ICC, for reasons of Realpolitik, is similarly not empowered to address: namely, U.S. accountability.8

In this regard, the Commission’s principal recommendation that North Korea be referred to the ICC for its perpetration of “crimes against humanity” should be critically evaluated against the attenuation, in our historical moment, of “crimes of aggression,” or “crimes against peace.” Crucial, here, is not only the legal limbo of the unresolved Korean War, but also, the repeated efforts by North Korea as well as scholars and activists in South Korea and the United States to emphasize the right to peace as the foremost priority on the Korean peninsula and to render the war’s consequences visible within a human rights framework. To the extent that North Korea’s grievances with regard to the unending Korean War are referenced at all in the COI report, they are framed as baseless propaganda wielded by the North Korean state to justify its human rights violations against the North Korean people.

Riven by contestatory claims, unsettled truths about “North Korean human rights,” as we thus can begin to see, are invariably entangled with competing truths about the Korean War. More to the point, justification for “international” intervention under UN auspices on the Korean peninsula at mid-century functions as a necessary premise for today’s interventionist human rights posture toward North Korea. Indeed, in its conclusions, the COI report incomprehensibly identifies the “responsibility” of the “international community” in delivering “an effective response” to North Korea’s human rights violations “because of the unresolved legacy of the Korean War.”9

It bears recalling: if the stated rationale for U.S. and UN intervention in Korea was that North Korea, on June 25, 1950, aggressed the “border” of the 38th parallel—a demarcation line, to be clear, rather than an international boundary drafted by the United States in 1945 with zero Korean input—this studiously reactive account of the war’s origins fails to account for the indiscriminate aggression that followed. The brutal U.S. occupation of the North and its massive aerial bombing campaigns, perpetrated under the cover of the United Nations Command, would generate a swath of ruin impossible to justify as self-defense on the part of the United States. When all was said and done, North Korea’s major cities and towns would be reduced to rubble, its civilian infrastructure smashed, and an estimated twelve to fifteen percent of its population killed. As historian Bruce Cumings has pointed out: “Why is it aggression when Koreans cross the 38th parallel, but imaginary when Americans do the same thing?”10

As Cumings’s critique begins to intimate, the persistent legal illegibility of aggressive war, a crime “predominately committed by the political and military authorities of the major powers,” point less to a breakdown in a global system of rule of law than they do to the workings of an imperial model of global governance that rescripts geopolitical terrain through superior military force and makes recourse to legitimation from “reactive, politically unaccountable institutions (such as courts of law).”11 By definition legibus solutus, or beyond the law, imperial sovereignty, to some degree, could be said to throw the system of international law into “legal incoherence.”12 As jurist Danilo Zolo has pointed out, “[i]mperial power is incompatible both with the general character of law and with the formal equality of subjects in the international legal order.”13 It is revealing, along these lines, that crimes against peace, which were prioritized as “the supreme international crime,” indeed placed, in seriousness, above crimes against humanity and war crimes at the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals and enshrined as crimes of aggression in the Rome Statute of the ICC, are functionally little more than a dead letter in international law.14

We might also think of what Walter Benjamin referred to as the “lawmaking character of violence.”15 Effectively immune to prosecution for crimes of aggression, the United States has wielded the lesser category of crimes against humanity, a legal classification dormant for the duration of the Cold War, against the sovereignty of small postcolonial states. Since the fall of the socialist bloc, we have been repeatedly witness to the unfurling of a spectacular dramaturgy staged around the vanquished that takes the sequence of U.S. interventionist war followed by criminal proceedings under a highly selective interpretation of jus in bello, namely, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide. In this era, the international criminal tribunal, with its fractured and uneven system of justice, has served as a vital mechanism for the consolidation of what Neda Atanasoski refers to as a “postsocialist imperialist” world order in which international legal mechanisms have been monopolized by the United States and its allies and harnessed to a dubious “global ethic of humanitarianism,” which is itself inextricably linked to a regime of U.S. perpetual warfare.16

As an intended prelude to a juridical process, whether via the ICC (doubtful given the likelihood of China’s and possibly Russia’s veto) or the establishment of an international criminal tribunal along the lines of those set up for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the COI proceedings and report on North Korean human rights thus must be understood within the context of “a dual-standard system of international criminal justice…in which a justice ‘made to measure’ for the major world powers and their victorious leaders operates alongside a separate justice for the defeated and the downtrodden.”17 Indeed, prior to recommending that North Korea be referred to the ICC for its alleged commission of crimes against humanity, the Commission, in late 2013, held a series of carefully orchestrated hearings in four sites: namely, Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington, DC. Again, the unsettled past (and present) of the Korean War served as prologue. That South Korea, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States not only equipped and financed the COI proceedings but also were allied parties or participants in the Korean War hovered as illegible context for the work and mandate of the Commission, even as this unresolved structure of enmity everywhere informed and, one could argue, contaminated the Commission’s informational base, procedures, and findings.18 Occasionally referenced but nowhere analyzed in the COI report for its profound structural impact on human security both north and south of the DMZ, the irresolution of the Korean War was, for the most part, topically confined to a short perfunctory section in the report dedicated to historical and political context. This glaring failure to wrestle with the human costs of the unending Korean War and to prioritize the right to peace on the Korean peninsula haunted the Commission’s one-sided findings with regard to chronic North Korean hunger, separated families, and war abductees. Far from tackling the consequences of unresolved war head-on, the report displaced and minimized its significance.

Insofar as the COI human rights report rehearsed a narrative familiar in its details to “those who know North Korea well,” as historian Charles Armstrong stated to Vice News, it thereby reified, rather than challenged, a structure of enmity whose consequences must be understood as grave human rights matters meriting critical scrutiny in their own right.19 Although the report, in its synopsis of Korean history, offered a cursory overview of the Korean War that cited the research of “Bruce Cummings [sic]” and gestured toward “wounds inflicted by the Korean War [which] were deep and are still felt…on both sides of the border [sic],” it nonetheless doggedly restricted its investigation of state criminality to North Korea, and in a few instances, to China—a narrow nation-based investigation inadequate to the task of examining the structural consequences and human costs of unending war as itself a crime against humanity and, even more seriously, a crime against peace.20 When discussion of the war’s consequences surfaced, the latter were unintelligibly framed as human rights violations on the part of North Korea alone. In its final recommendations, for instance, the COI report singularly calls on North Korea to “[a]llow separated families to unite,” without addressing the root causes of their separation, much less the UN role in fomenting the state of division, peacelessness, and human tragedy that prevails on the Korean peninsula.21

With its focus on “widespread and systematic attack directed against any civilian population,” the COI report conceivably could and arguably should have offered some structural reckoning with the profound human costs of unabated war that extended across the DMZ and outward to the larger Asia-Pacific region, including the system of U.S. and UN sanctions reaching back over six decades; the ongoing U.S. military presence south of the DMZ (against the 1953 Armistice recommendation); massive U.S. joint and trilateral military exercises with South Korea and Japan, some that simulate nuclear strikes against North Korea and practice the takeover and occupation of North Korea; regional nuclear proliferation and ambitions; South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) cyber-warfare against “North Korea” that tilted domestic election results; the National Security Law and redbaiting in South Korea; the undemocratic militarization of Jeju, Okinawa, Guam, and Hawai‘i under the resurgent sign of a U.S. military pivot to Asia and the Pacific in response to a “North Korean threat”; and so forth.

Incongruously, the Commission closes its 372-page report with a recommendation impossible to square with its reiteration of near-singular North Korean culpability: “the United Nations and the states that were parties to the Korean War should take steps to convene a high-level political conference…and, if agreed, ratify a final peaceful settlement of the war that commits all parties to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”22 If recalling the 1953 Armistice Agreement’s recommendation that a “political conference of a higher level of both sides [the United States and North Korea/China] be held by representatives appointed respectively to settle through negotiation the questions of the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Korea [and] the peaceful settlement of the Korean question,” the COI report, in all other respects, failed to locate the issue of North Korean human rights within a structure of persistent enmity that has adversely impacted the human rights of the peoples of not only North Korea but also South Korea and the larger Asia-Pacific region.23

Instead, the COI report identified North Korea’s “instrumental” use of the “fear of invasion and infiltration”—what the Commission held to be North Korea’s cynical orchestration of a “state of emergency” (apparently not to be conflated with the indisputable fact that the war is far from over)—to explain how the North Korean state has justified and carried out its “harsh governmental rule and its accompanying human rights violations.”24 Although the report elsewhere makes brief mention of the fact that the United States has tied food aid to nuclear concessions, it described food shortages in North Korea as being irrationally “blamed on a hostile outside world” by North Korean authorities.25 Here, we would do well to take stock of analysis of the root causes of North Korea’s persistent food insecurity by David Austin, head of Mercy Corps’ humanitarian aid program to North Korea—a perspective, one would hope, not facilely dismissible as the propagandistic construction of the North Korean government:

The food security situation is a symptom of the greater problem,…which is technically that the U.S. is still at war with North Korea. And so there are sanctions on North Korea. They are not allowed to get fuel; there’s no fertilizer. And so the greater political situation has a tremendous effect on the lives of the ordinary people who are not privileged to be a part of that broader solution. They’re ordinary farmers, and they’re suffering the consequences of the non-solution to the political questions. …[U]ntil there is engagement, there’s not going to be greater solutions.26

On the conspicuous narrowness of COI’s data culture, particularly with regard to the complexity of North Korea’s food security issues, Hazel Smith observes: “[w]hat is most striking about the [UNHRC] reporting on the DPRK is the almost complete absence of reference to relevant data from other UN agencies, donor governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), to the extent that the…reporting seems unaware of the existence of reports on the DPRK from within the UN system itself.”27 Instead, the Commission appears to have relied heavily on an extremely dated account from Médecins Sans Frontières from 1998 and the testimony of former USAID administrator and current co-chairman of the conservative U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Andrew Natsios, despite the wealth of much more discerning, rigorous scholarship and firsthand knowledge of North Korea’s food situation that has emerged in the past decade. In this regard, the Commission’s ascription of blame to the DPRK for food violations, as Smith further argues, “demonstrates a securitization of evidence and analysis through a heavy reliance on assumptions [about North Korean state-level culpability for food-related human rights violations] and a filtering of information through those assumptions,” even as “the weight of [other] UN agency reporting contradicts” those very premises.28

The COI report, it should be noted, concedes the political bias of the data culture on which it based its findings and recommendations: “The Commission is conscious of the fact that most victims and witnesses cooperating with the Commission had an overall unfavourable opinion of the DPRK’s authorities.”29 This was uncomfortably apparent in a peculiar exchange between Commission chair Kirby and a North Korean defector residing in the United States. During the October 30, 2013 public hearing in Washington, DC, Kirby repeatedly pressed Jo Jin-hye to comment upon North Korea’s hostile stance toward the COI investigation: “Now are you aware that the government of North Korea says that the type of testimony that you have given to the Commission of Inquiry today is false and that you are a defector and a person who should not be believed because you are defaming North Korea?”30 The leading nature of this question notwithstanding, Jo offered up a response that symptomatically attested to the structure of enmity and the geopolitics of unresolved war underpinning—and to no small degree compromising—the proceedings: “I am well aware. I know who my enemy and my friend are.”31

Although the Commission conducted roughly 240 confidential interviews and held four sets of public hearings, the solicited testimony of seasoned political actors long at the helm of a well-funded, transnational “North Korean human rights” industry aimed at North Korean regime-change or regime-collapse loomed large within the 372-page COI report. In particular, the report relied heavily for its framing on testimony from prominent North Korean defectors like Kang Chol-hwan, Ahn Myong-chol, Shin Dong-hyuk, Kim Hyuk, and Kim Young-soon, and the “expertise” of unabashedly right-wing South Korean, American, and Japanese “North Korean human rights” advocates like Kim Young-hwan, Andrew Natsios, Victor Cha, and Ishimaru Jiro. The insight of this cadre of “witnesses and experts” into North Korea appears frequently in the COI report, furnishing its narrative contours. In other words, despite the Commission’s assertion that all testimonies were carefully vetted for reliability and Kirby’s strained assurances that such testimonies represent “authentic voices,” the 372-page COI report troublingly allocates outsized representational value to the words and views of ultimately only a handful of institutionalized actors whose relationship to U.S. and South Korean intelligence, U.S. soft-power institutions, thinly renovated Cold War defense organizations, hawks of neoconservative and liberal varieties, conservative evangelicals, and anticommunist Koreans in South Korea and the diaspora goes completely unquestioned.32 It treats their testimony, moreover, as primary data, ascribing a false positivism to sources that “divulge their secrets at some distance in time and space from the ongoing developments inside the target they are reporting on.”33

Although the COI report offers a perfunctory account of its own methodological underpinnings, we should remark what goes unsaid: namely, the interoperability of the technologies of North Korean human rights, namely defector testimony and satellite imagery, and the technologies of war. Indeed, North Korean human rights testimony is morphologically indistinguishable from what the CIA and military intelligence agencies call “human intelligence” (Humint). As former CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz points out: “Where it has no physical presence, the [CIA] has historically relied for humint primarily on defectors, detainees, legal travelers, opposition groups and foreign government liaison services.” That the COI report gives extensive space to defector testimony without weighing the perils of an over-reliance on this sort of informational base raises the question of the empirical nature of the North Korean human rights project. Donald MacIntyre, former Seoul bureau chief for Time magazine, observes:

North Koreans who have left their country have provided some of the best information that we have. But you can’t go to North Korea and check what they tell you. An example arose in 2004 when the BBC ran a documentary alleging that North Korea was using political prisoners as guinea pigs in chemical weapons tests. The issue is now part of the human rights agenda on North Korea. …The problem has become worse…as a result of the Japanese and Korean media’s practice of paying defectors for interviews. Paying for interviews creates an incentive to pad, or create, stories that will boost your own market value. …Bad news about evil North Korea sells.34

In his memoir The Aquariums of Pyongyang (2001), co-authored with the French anti-communist Pierre Rigoulot, Kang Chol-hwan, a major COI witness, states that Japanese and South Korean media paid him so handsomely “for opening [his] mouth” about North Korea that he “occasionally felt [he] was trading [his] experience for a story…no longer entirely [his] own.”35

Yet the question today goes beyond whether “authentic voices” like Kang’s represent the truth of North Korea. Rather, in light of the fact that approximately 26,000 North Koreans resettled in South Korea both during and after the 1990s’ North Korean famine, we might more pointedly ask whether the testimony of North Korean defectors and migrants featured in the COI report bears a sufficiently representative relationship to the diversity of views and experiences of this significant minority population. On this point, in a South Korean civil society organizational response to the COI findings, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) highlights one of the report’s major shortcomings: “North Korean human rights issues should not be limited to the situation inside the DPRK [but should] cover human rights concerns of all North Korean people, their separated families, and relatives,” including “DPRK defectors living in the ROK.”36 It is, above all, the complexity of allegiance and nuance of perspective within this demographic that merit careful regard. Not only does this post-famine wave of migrants constitute a critical new phase in the separated-family phenomenon, with phone calls and remittances flowing, often in circuitous ways, across the DMZ, but also, the South Korean state’s past instrumentalization of North Korean defectors toward anti-communist Cold War ends, plausible when they were few and far between, is no longer a broadly applicable strategy. Moreover, that North Korean migrants face crippling labor and educational discrimination, social stigma, and diminished life chances in South Korea complicates a human rights narrative that assigns all blame to North Korea—indeed calls for other interpretive approaches which possess more explanatory power.37

Ultimately, little in the COI findings departs from a well-honed human rights narrative about North Korea, an account of neo-Orientalist sadism, depravity, and inhumanity that took shape after the collapse of the socialist bloc but crystallized in the wake of George W. Bush’s infamous designation of North Korea as part of an “axis of evil.” Even as the COI report, in its details, offers information that lends itself to multiple interpretations, the Commission’s findings, in keeping with a familiar “demonization script” toward North Korea, rehearse the standard postulates of North Korean human rights campaigns.38 These are worth restating insofar as they form the contours of a globally dominant narrative about North Korea: to wit, North Korea is unsurpassingly “evil.” The defector is the voice and representative of the North Korean people. Satellite images reveal the truth about North Korea.

“North Korean human rights” singularly denotes those abuses, violations, and crimes perpetrated by the North Korean state (and in a few instances, China). It does not compass those abuses, violations, and crimes committed by other states or organizations against the North Korean people. Relative to North Korea, human rights and humanitarianism are, by and large, separate, non-intersecting tracks.39 The politicized withholding of food aid by donor nations, even if it adversely impacts, to the point of death, the North Korean people, is not itself a human rights violation.40 Six decades of U.S. and UN sanctions and of unending war are simply business as usual and not themselves human rights violations; any argument to the contrary is the stuff of North Korean propaganda. The violation of the right to peace and the commission of the crime of aggression are the least consequential of human rights in the international human rights regime. The Korean War is a mere footnote.

II. Shadow Archive of North Korean Human Rights

In December 1951, the Civil Rights Congress presented a petition titled We Charge Genocide to the United Nations. Submitted as the Korean War was raging, this document, as with other black radical human rights petitions addressed to the United Nations during the Cold War, tested the interpretive limits of the legal instruments of the emergent international human rights regime. Specifically, the petition insisted that the U.S. “record of mass slayings on the basis of race, of lives deliberately warped and distorted by the willful creation of conditions making for premature death, poverty and disease” be recognized as a violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention—a convention that had entered into force earlier that year but that the United States would ratify only in 1988, long after its brutal hot war counterinsurgencies in Asia had cooled.41

Principally aimed at making Jim Crow legible as a crime within the supranational framework of human rights, this petition posited the two-front nature of U.S. genocidal violence—violence instrumentally motivated at home and abroad by a desire for “economic profit and political control.”42 Linking mass violence perpetrated with impunity in the imperial center to that furiously unleashed on millions in the periphery—here implying a homology between police brutality in the United States and the U.S. “police action” in Korea—We Charge Genocide maintained that the roots of the devastating U.S. war in Korea could be found in the racist logic of American capitalism. Salvaged from history’s dustbin, this account of U.S. aggression in Korea has a place within a shadow archive of North Korean human rights—an archive whose unredressed grievances lurk uneasily below the smooth surface of dominant North Korean human rights narratives today.43

Attempting to indict U.S. criminality on the world stage, the Civil Rights Congress petition sought to place both Jim Crow and the U.S. war in Korea squarely under the innovative legal rubric of genocide and in so doing to indict racist and imperialist violence within the framework of universal human rights law:

We, Negro petitioners whose communities have been laid waste, whose homes have been burned and looted, whose children have been killed, whose women have been raped, have noted with peculiar horror that the genocidal doctrines and actions of the American white supremacists have already been exported to the colored people of Asia. We solemnly warn that a nation which practices genocide against its own nationals may not be long deterred, if it has the power, from genocide elsewhere.44

Paul Robeson and members of the Civil Rights Congress submitting We Charge Genocide to the United Nations Secretariat, New York, December 17, 1951, Daily Worker/Daily World Photographs Collection, Tamiment Library, New York University. 

 

In highlighting the devaluation of nonwhite life—life subjected to collateralization under U.S. sovereignty—this 1951 petition offered analysis along critical human rights lines that neither peddled in a politics of pity and rescue nor reinscribed the inequality of the world system. Instead, it gestured toward a humanism that had yet to assert its fullest political possibility—what Aimé Césaire would in 1955 call “a humanism made to the measure of the world.”45 During a juncture in which the United States was waging an “appallingly dirty” war in Korea that would leave roughly 4 million dead, this petition strove to expose the inhumanity of U.S. capitalist democracy.46 Arguing that “[w]hite supremacy at home makes for colored massacres abroad” insofar as both evince “contempt for human life in a colored skin,” We Charge Genocide contested the immunity enjoyed by the lyncher and the bomber. “Jellied gasoline in Korea and the lynchers’ faggot at home,” the petition stated, “are connected in more ways than that both result in death by fire. The lyncher…cannot murder unpunished and unrebuked without so encouraging the [bomber] that the peace of the world and the lives of millions are endangered.”47 That the Civil Rights Congress, which openly opposed the U.S. war against North Korea, would be labeled subversive by the U.S. federal government, hounded by the House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), audited by the IRS, infiltrated by the FBI, and mercilessly red-baited until its remaining members voted to disband in the mid 1950s only partly suffices to explain why its charge of two-front genocide was, and continues to be, unintelligible as a human rights claim.48 Rather, detectable in its struggle to make the charge of genocide stick to the greatest military power in the global community—and to criminalize U.S. wars of aggression and its asymmetrical wars in a consequential way—was a hint of the “something rotten” at the heart of the emergent international human rights regime.

Pyongyang, North Korea, in the aftermath of an air raid by U.S. planes in fall 1950. A total of 420,000 bombs eventually would be dropped on a city that then boasted approximately 400,000 residents.

As Césaire would trenchantly comment in Discours sur le colonialisme (1955), “capitalist society…is incapable of establishing a concept of the rights of all men”—and further noted that it degrades humans by subjecting them to “thingification.”49 Césaire’s critique begins to alert us to a “major deficiency in the doctrinal analysis of international law,” namely, “that no systematic undertaking is…offered of the influence of colonialism in the development of the basic conceptual framework of the subject.”50 Indeed, the very “edifice of international law embed[s] relations of imperialist domination.”51 It is thus no coincidence that the various human rights vernaculars—anticolonial, race radical, communitarian, Third World—that flashed up during the Cold War with visions of “a humanism made to the measure of the world,” have today been relegated to the status of “rebellious specters” in the dominant paradigm of international human rights.52 That the liberal model of rights has prevailed in this era of advanced global capitalism “as the privileged ideological frame through which excessive cruelty [is] conceived and interpreted” has meant the neutralization, as Randall Williams has argued, of “other epistemic forms and political practices.”53

On the institutional consolidation of the human rights movement in the late Cold War period, historian Samuel Moyn observes that its emergence as a “new, moralized” policy regime was catalyzed by “the reception of Soviet and later East European dissidents by politicians, journalists, and intellectuals” in the West, giving rise to a narrow notion of internationalism based on individual rights.54 Human rights are thus central to a U.S. triumphalist narrative of global socialist declension. For neoconservatives, human rights, “understood as anticommunism by another name,” energized a U.S. foreign policy that systematically aimed to quash any vestige of socialism around the world and to erode Third World self-determination, despite the fact that “the master principle of collective self-determination” rhetorically inflamed the imagination of the nascent human rights regime at mid century.55

This is to point out that human rights critique, brandished as an incriminating tool, may have been wielded by capitalist and socialist states alike in a mutual tu quoque calling-out of abuses throughout the Cold War. As that era waned, however, the international human rights regime tilted fatally and collusively toward U.S. unilateralism.

How we think of human rights today, in other words, is conditioned by the “ascendance of the US over the past two decades to the position of global hegemon, secured by its relative monopoly over the capacity for mass destruction.”56 Nowhere is this more apparent than in the demotion, in our era, of Third World self-determination, with its “basis in collectivity and sovereignty,” from its former status “as the first and most important threshold right.”57 In the contemporary moment, the liberal human rights frame appears as the “consensual real,” a self-evident vehicle for social justice concerns.58 Yet with their near-exclusive focus on pain and suffering in the present and exculpatory stance toward their own violence—violence now branded as “emancipatory”—human rights as an “moral discourse” supposedly divorced from politics has functioned to evacuate historical and geopolitical contexts, and indeed to imply the obscenity of explanatory frames other than the most immediate.59 Legacies of past U.S. interventions, superficially acknowledged as “anti-Americanism,” might occasion cursory regard from U.S.–based human rights activists who otherwise decry and assiduously catalog the rights violations of long-standing enemies of the United States. Mobilized in this way as a jargon of power deployed across uneven geopolitical terrain, today’s discourse of universal human rights renders illegible or “rogue” rights-based interpretations of the structural violence perpetrated by imperial nations.

As a ruling idea that obscures the brutality of the imperial past and disavows the violence of the imperial present, human rights enact a temporal claim on modernity. Of human rights as decontextualizing ideology, Costas Douzinas states: “[t]he specific political situation that led to the abuses, the colonial history and the conflicts that matured into civil war, the economics that allowed the famine to develop, all these are irrelevant from the perspective of the moralist.”60 In other words, despite their profound structural effects, the seismic deformations wrought by colonialism, the world-altering predations of capitalism, the unresolved Cold War counterinsurgencies, and the militarized asymmetry of the post–Cold War world are pushed to the background—if they factor in at all—of the “universal” human rights framework. When marshaled against the states in the global South, human rights critique amnestically wipes the slate of colonialism clean, adopting a conveniently presentist perspective. As John Feffer states, “In determining causality, this framework has proven unhelpful.”61 Fixated on spectacles of pain and suffering in the now, crises in some instances of their own making, human rights campaigns thus accord mere footnote status to unsettled histories of colonial violence. This is no oversight. In the contemporary human rights frame, which assumes the centrifugality of a rights-based tradition cultivated in imperial centers, Frantz Fanon’s decolonizing insight, “it will take centuries to humanize this world which the imperialist forces have reduced to the animal level,” is unrecognizable not only as a human rights critique but also as an urgent, unfinished project of the present.62

Identified in the human rights frame as “one of the worst examples of a failed experiment in social engineering in the twentieth-century”—a pariah without parallel—North Korea is regarded as lacking a meaningful rights paradigm of its own.63 Rarely does the human rights framing of North Korea expand to acknowledge the country’s realization of economic and social rights during its “Golden Age,” an era from the 1960s to early 1970s—according to Stephen Linton of the Eugene Bell Foundation—characterized by “a public distribution system that provided citizens with a food and clothing ration, housing, education, and medical care free of charge.”64

Nor does today’s dominant human rights frame recognize that North Korea’s leadership seriously endeavored “to fix the systematic problems that accelerated the food crisis in the early 1990s,” much less concede that “anecdotal evidence” over the past fifteen years, even according to some longtime Korea watchers, appears to point to “a lessening of repression.”65 Instead, as an inculpatory discourse, human rights critiques of North Korea have served hegemonic interests, cordoning off the North Korean state’s alleged crimes for discrete consideration, while turning a willfully blind eye to the violence of human rights as well as the brutality of the world economic system. Rights-based approaches to North Korea, in other words, have promoted violence in the name of human rights—justifying war, occupation, sanctions, the withholding of humanitarian and developmental aid, and neoliberal marketization—while indicting what is singularly presented as North Korea’s repellant violence.66

This unilateral framing of North Korea has enabled the United States, in its position as global rescuer, to attempt to extend its imperium over North Korea while exempting its past and present exercise of “sovereignty as terror” toward the North Korean people from the very standards it applies to the North Korean state.67 Rife with troubling implications, the twenty-first-century U.S. adoption of a rights frame toward North Korea has not signaled simply a shift in conceptual categories—with what would once have been regarded as “domestic problems” now construed as “actionable offenses in the international arena.”68 Rather, it has placed soft and hard interventionist options, with their predictably devastating consequences, firmly on the table.

This antinomy between the ends of the North Korean human rights project, or regime change in the service of the individual rights of the North Korean people, and the violent means of human rights, which bears the potential to harm, if not to kill, the imperiled subjects that rights campaigns purportedly wish to save, bespeaks a discomfiting political truth about human rights as a tool of unilateral U.S. power. This project’s ideological trappings are nowhere more evident than in the stark dissonance between human rights and human security approaches to North Korea. Both profess concern for the North Korean people yet only the human rights camp has consistently argued against food aid while advocating for fortified sanctions, military intervention, and even advance plans for refugee camps to house fleeing North Koreans after an externally triggered regime collapse. Arguing that “humanitarian concern” toward North Korea inadvertently “undermin[es] our national security,” U.S. Congressman Ed Royce, a major author of human rights legislation aimed at North Korea, referenced Kim Duk Hong, a defector who declared that extending food aid to North Korea “is the same as providing funding for North Korea’s nuclear program.” During the George W. Bush administration, Kim Duk Hong tellingly advocated: “If we really want to destroy Kim Jong Il, we should be brave. We shouldn’t be afraid of war.”

It bears reflecting on what the dominant rights-based approach to North Korea has epistemically foreclosed.69 As a geopolitical construct that has naturalized contemporary perceptions of North Korea, facilitating the appearance of global consensus, the human rights frame may have assumed institutional form in the wake of world-altering calamities confronting North Korea at the Cold War’s end: the collapse of the socialist bloc, the devastating 1990s’ famine, and the surge of thousands of North Koreans across the border into China and eventually South Korea. Yet these crises alone cannot account for the character of the North Korean human rights project. Rather, in its embrace of transnational interventionist politics, the North Korean human rights agenda tellingly located itself “against, rather than within, an engagement framework” during an optimistic juncture of thawed inter-Korean relations.70 In doing so, it revealed the prospect of U.S. intervention to be its animating spirit.

III. Jargon of North Korean Human Rights

If presented by its advocates as “an unqualified good,” human rights in our era have in fact frequently functioned as a hegemonic interpretive lens and discursive framework of power—keyed to the prospect of unilateral military violence—whereby the “evils” of North Korea and other “rogue nations” and “outposts of tyranny” can be marked for elimination.71 In 2000, Hazel Smith critically observed that “the dominant approach [to North Korea] remains heavily coloured by a security perspective which is…curiously old-fashioned in its reliance upon the use and potential of military force.”72 After 9/11, with North Korea demonized as part of the axis of evil, the proclivity to securitize human rights relative to North Korea has in no way abated. Human rights were transformed during the George W. Bush era into a defining U.S. policy instrument toward North Korea. This era would moreover spawn a coalitional spectrum of anticommunist, neoconservative, evangelical, and defector-based NGOs in both the United States and South Korea.73

Indeed, the past decade has been witness to the consolidation of a U.S.–funded transnational advocacy, propaganda, and intelligence network under the elastic banner of North Korean human rights. Tellingly, the two primary ways ofknowing North Korea within today’s implicitly militarized human rights frame are through forms of intelligence whose reliability is far from assured—specifically, defector testimony and satellite imagery, referred to as human intelligence (Humint) and imagery intelligence (Imint), respectively, in intelligence circles. Both forms of “evidence,” we might be reminded, were central to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s supposedly airtight case for U.S. intervention in Iraq, which he delivered before the UN Security Council in 2003.

Colin Powell, at the United Nations on February 5, 2003, making the case for U.S. war in Iraq 

Capturing the Bush imprint on North Korean human rights as a politics and critique aimed at North Korea’s collapse, the phrase “axis of evil” is worth scrutinizing for what it reveals about the jargon of North Korean human rights as a unilateral discourse and vocabulary of imperial domination. Coined by Bush speechwriter David Frum to justify preemptive U.S. attack against longstanding U.S. foes, the original phrase “axis of hatred” was altered to “axis of evil” to reflect Bush’s just-folks variety of “theological” rhetoric.74 The evangelical cast to this idiom of power cannot be facilely dismissed. As a moralizing take on North Korea, the phrase made no pretense as to evidentiary basis. Rather, it performatively sought to elicit belief. In a 2009 presentation before the Senate, in which he referred to North Korea as “Holocaust Now,” Sam Brownback, the leading Congressional hawk on U.S. North Korea policy, conceded the epistemological indeterminacy of the North Korean human rights enterprise. “[P]erhaps all of the evils of Camp 22 and these other camps are fictions,” he startlingly admitted before calling on the United States to give North Korea’s leadership “a stark choice: transparency or extinction.”75 Echoing South Korean intelligence assessments of defector testimony, which have held that “absence of proof does not mean the absence of reality,” Brownback’s dogmatic belief in evil also speaks volumes about the preemptive militarized logic of the North Korean human rights project—in essence, a willingness to extract “transparency” from North Korea at the barrel of a gun. His either/or logic, moreover, excludes the possibility of a third term—a complex middle ground unaccounted for in his default equation of North Korea with evil.76

Satellite imagery that Colin Powell furnished as evidence of Iraq’s possession of WMDs at the United Nations on February 5, 2003

Indeed, axiomatic to North Korean human rights campaigns is what today more generally passes as common sense: North Korea’s association with an inhumanity and atrociousness so total and thoroughgoing, so totalitarian, that these attributes defy evidentiary analysis. Absence of evidence confirms what therefore must be sinisterly true about North Korea—that it is “the most repressive regime extant, scoring at the absolute bottom on all standard measures with respect to regime type, political and civil liberties, and human rights,” that “[i]t is a living hell on earth where citizens have no rights”; that it is “the worst human rights situation in the world today”; that it is the “world’s worst persecutor.”77 In the vivid yet empty jargon of North Korean human rights, these superlative claims, which solicit our belief, serve as the murky epistemological basis of the interventionist rights-based agenda toward North Korea. They are expressed in the range of analogies deployed by campaigns mounted to rescue the people of North Korea from evil. Alluding to “what we all know to be true” about North Korea, the language of North Korean human rights enacts a relational stance—a Manichean posture between us as the universal benchmark for the human and the North Korean “regime” as the global standard of inhumanity. Its pariah status implied in the metaphors in which it is routinely cast, North Korea figures in rights campaigns as a negative space, in effect a terra nullius, impossible to comprehend in autochthonous terms. If illegible or impenetrable, it invites the imposition of phantasmic meanings: carceral (prison, gulag, concentration camp), apocalyptic (hell on earth, place of darkness), Christian irredentist (Jerusalem of the East, land of the gospel), historical (antebellum slavery, the Third Reich, Khmer Rouge), and quasi-scientific (black hole). The violence-to-come suggested by these teleological and eschatological terms, oriented toward North Korea’s “liberation” or “salvation,” raises the question of whether recognition of humanity in these human rights frameworks holds out “the promise…of liberating the flesh [and] redeeming one’s suffering” or rather of “intensifying it.”78 Yet the implicit violence of affect that darkens the fiat lux imperative of North Korean human rights campaigners—today’s “emissar[ies] of light” and “gang of virtue”—might give us some pause.79

As a condensed figuration of the evil, danger, and wanton disregard for life human rights activists ascribe to North Korea, the “hidden” yet paradoxically hyper-visible gulag—captured in what they claim are unassailable satellite images —facilitates the rescripting of imperialist narratives of the past along securitized lines, authorizing intervention in the name of a safer world. Not simply, in these accounts, a state like any other with its own carceral system, North Korea is deemed to be the “world’s largest prison camp” or, in the words of Mark Palmer, cofounder of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the “larger gulag which is North Korea.”80North Korea, in the demagogic assessment of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) cofounder Adrian Hong, is a “staggering system entirely built and mastered for the express purpose of propagating human suffering.”81

Not simply, this is to say, a neutral analytic or mimetic representational technology by way of which the violence of North Korea can be recognized, censured, and archived, human rights mystify the structural violence that produces and conditions the “geopolitical divide between first and third worlds.”82 They affirm the prerogatives of the global North, leaving its neoconservative, neoimperial, and neoliberal underpinnings, not to mention legacies of violence, unexamined. Perversely identifying with figures they regard as victims rather than with those they condemn as “perpetrators of social injustice,” today’s global human rights advocates are themselves typically “beneficiaries of past injustice.”83 Insofar as the injustice in question—slavery, settler colonialism, native genocide, Jim Crow, imperial wars, CIA-engineered coups, political purges—is “now regarded as past,” even if its benefits continue to accrue, human rights activists of brutally enriched imperial and sub-imperial nations have not seen fit to “disgorge their unjust gains” in any systematic way.84

Unsettling today’s dominant framework of North Korean human rights is the violence of the unresolved Korean War. If limited and “forgotten” from the perspective of Americans, the Korean War was total and searingly unforgettable from the perspective of Koreans who directly bore its consequences. As early as 1952, journalist I.F. Stone observed that the Korean War rehabilitated a U.S. economy geared, as a result of World War II, toward total war. Seized as opportunity, this devastating war permitted “the Truman Administration to get authorization from a fiscally conservative Congress to solve the world liquidity crisis.”85 On top of tripling U.S. defense spending, it furnished a rationale for the bilateral linking of “client states in Asia to the US.”86 Indeed, General James Van Fleet, commanding officer of U.S. and UN forces in Korea, described the war as “a blessing” and remarked, “There had to be a Korea either here or some place in the world.”87

“Central to [the] ideological enterprise” of human rights, however, “is the scripting of Washington as an outsider to [the] horrors [of human rights], an exterior power watching from afar” rather than an actor in any way central to the catastrophe.88 Self-fashioned not as a beneficiary or perpetrator of violence but rather as an innocent observer ab extra, the human rights advocate “presume[s] to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, even define[s] the interests of those [she or he] speak[s] for (as if people are unable to do this for themselves).”89 Staged across geopolitical lines—colonial periphery/global South and imperial center/global North—the human rights narrative strips historical context away, offering a notably partial account, in both senses of the word. Yet, in this regard, the human rights narrative of North Korea draws on earlier modes of colonial narration that feature encounters between unequal forms of humanity. Here, we might recall Wayne Booth’s theory of unreliable narration, which he elaborates in a study of the rhetoric of fiction, for what it reveals about the perspectival limitations of geopolitical modes of narration that privilege imperial perspectives toward violence in the colonial periphery: “the reflector, in becoming inconscient about his own motives and about the reality about him, becomes a vicious agent in the story.”90 It is precisely “his viciousness and his unconscious distortions” that render the account mediated by this narrator unreliable.91 Complicit in the spectacle of suffering before him, the narrator who at first appears to be a dispassionate observer “becomes involved in the action so deeply” that he risks “producing…catastrophe.”92 In this way understood as a perceptual problematic, U.S.–based human rights politics toward North Korea not only must disavow the counterrevolutionary nature of prior U.S. intervention in the Korean War, “a civil and revolutionary war, a people’s war,” but also, invert the militarized legacies and illiberal consequences of U.S. involvement in the Korean peninsula as cause for potential further interventionist action.93

In Songhwan (2003)—a documentary that follows South Korean grassroots solidarity efforts for the repatriation of long-term unconverted communist prisoners, who had been incarcerated and tortured in South Korea for their alleged spying activities, to North Korea—South Korean filmmaker Kim Dong-won records his journalist colleague Ishimaru Jiro’s rightward political transformation into a budding activist focused on North Korea human rights. Conceding that he himself “couldn’t survive where [he couldn’t] make films freely,” Kim remarks that Ishimaru nonetheless “downplay[s] the fact that North Korea has been at war with America for the past 50 years” and that “[w]ars limit the human rights of North Koreans, and aggravate…the food shortage.”94 In Kim’s structural account, which refuses the seductive immediacy of the human rights narrative frame, the political incarceration of prisoners who withstood decades-long efforts to brutalize them into renouncing North Korea is akin to the isolation imposed on North Korea as a result of over half a century of aggressive U.S. policy. As Kim puts it: “By refusing to sign a nonaggression pact, the US must also share the blame. The US’s economic sanctions and threats of war against the North remind me of the conversion scheme against the prisoners. Just as the scheme failed to break the prisoners, American threats will fail to break the North.”

IV. Parlous Refuge

Human rights campaigns of the global North are structured by a geopolitical imaginary that reproduces and naturalizes a divided-world system: “Danger there, safety here. Victims there, saviors here. Tyranny there, freedom here.”95 Specific to the discourse of North Korean human rights, this list might be extended. WMDs, nuclear proliferation, over-the-top defense spending? There. Domestic surveillance, class stratification, labor exploitation, political imprisonment, militarized borders, sexual trafficking, religious intolerance, hunger and immiseration? There. Geared therefore toward regime change—a supersession, by whatever means, of the vile “there” with a kinder, gentler “here”—human rights campaigns against North Korea have colluded in a remarkably homogeneous, neoliberal vision of its future. In human rights schema, not only are North Korea’s liberation and salvation synonymous with free-market principles, but also those advocating for its freedom verge upon asserting a proprietary right, if not a shareholder’s stake, in its post-collapse future. In this regard, advocates figure, in the framework of North Korean human rights, as beneficiaries of future violence.

In a speech delivered to U.S. and South Korean business leaders in 2003, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hailed the prospect of a future in which “freedom will come to the people [of North Korea] and light up that oppressed land with hope and promise.”96 The fact that Rumsfeld had also notoriously insisted on the viability of a hypothetical two-front U.S. military campaign against Iraq and North Korea suggests that he envisioned “hope and promise” to be the liberal fruits of an illiberal war.97 In serial calls for regime change in North Korea, LiNK cofounder Adrian Hong has also glibly pitched the vast growth potential of a post-collapse North Korea brightened by capitalism and annexed to U.S. financial interests: “With the right inputs, a North Korea free of the Kim regime would bring about…opportunities for economic development, investment, and trade.”98 That neoliberal designs for North Korean reconstruction animate calls for regime change should alert us to the risk-based nature of the human rights project aimed at North Korea. In her appearance in the now-classic North Korean human rights documentary Seoul Train (2004), Suzanne Scholte—president of the hard-right Defense Forum Foundation, an organization that brings North Korean defectors to Washington, D.C.— critiqued South Korea’s pro-engagement policy toward North Korea: “[The] South Korean government is afraid of a regime collapse but that’s wrong to fear that. They should be welcoming it and they should be planning for it.”99 Recognizing that engineered regime collapse would have grave humanitarian consequences on average North Koreans, the very people deemed to be “the most suffering…on earth” by U.S.–based human rights advocates, South Korean scholars have cautioned against the hubris of the interventionist human rights vision.100 It is nonetheless revealing that within the political economy of North Korean human rights, the human dimension factors as an oversight.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld points to a satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night in a 2005 Pentagon press briefing

If utopian in its stated aims to save North Korean humanity, the North Korean human rights project reveals its darker, dystopian side in the apocalyptic scenarios it envisions as a means toward that emancipatory goal. North Korean human rights advocacy is strikingly riddled with the neoliberal rhetoric of financialization, interest, and speculation—so much so that when weighing in on the post-regime collapse scenario, the human rights advocate, gripped by market-fever, is scarcely distinguishable from a speculator. As Naomi Klein has pointed out, destruction, in the form of “countries smashed to rubble, whether by so-called Acts of God or by Acts of Bush,” represents glistening possibility—a paradise—to the disaster capitalist: “where there is destruction there is reconstruction, a chance to grab hold of ‘the terrible barrenness,’…and fill it with the most perfect, beautiful plans.”101

In sounding a death knell for socialism, the hegemonic human rights project is “as much a brief for capitalism as human rights.”102 It scarcely acknowledges the fact that “even as capitalism has declared victory, it has grossly failed in its destructive effects on a vast number of the world’s people.”103 Running as a continuous thread in North Korean human rights discourse is the teleological presumption that the Korean peninsula must be unified “under a peaceful, politically free, market-oriented system.”104The North Korean Freedom Act of 2003 explicitly stipulated funding for “entities that promote market economies.”105Signed by Bush into law, the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, the successor to the 2003 bill, retained this highly political provision, authorizing the U.S. president “to provide grants to private, non-profit organizations that promote…the development of a market economy in North Korea.”106Declaring North Korea to be “the most closed society on Earth,” Brownback, a driving force behind both major human rights bills, asserted in ringing tones that “a brighter, fuller, free, and open Korean Peninsula is in our ultimate national interest.”107 The irony is inescapable: the most voluble condemnation of the North Korean government’s supposed resistance to marketization comes from the very human rights camp that has agitated for a fortified sanctions regime against the country, thereby restricting its access to capital. This not only stands to harm the “ordinary” North Koreans whom such measures purport to help but also effectively announces to the international community that North Korea is closed for business.108 It is hard to avoid the conclusion that subtending the push for “human rights” in North Korea is less concern for the actual people of North Korea than an external desire to open it, in lieu of the North Korean government, for investment.

The neoliberal euphoria of North Korean human rights is most troublingly evident in the degraded place of the human within the vision of post-collapse reconstruction conjured by advocates. The rehabilitated “human” of the North Korean human rights project may have been rescued from a “space of darkness,” extracted from the familiar web of social relations that structured her or his life in North Korea. Once deracinated, however, this subject is precariously situated in the neoliberal economic order.109 Poorly served in such a setting by abstract assurances of universal humanity, the “liberated” subject of North Korean human rights campaigns must navigate a perilous landscape whose operative logic is “possessive individualism, property rights, market economies, and financial deregulation.”110 In this regard, as David Harvey contends, the project of human rights may champion its “concern for the individual” yet it does so at the expense of “any social democratic concern for equality, democracy, and social solidarities.”111 In its “insistence upon the individual as the foundational element in political-economic life,” North Korean human rights offer the dubious freedom of the market as a foil to the unfreedom of the North Korean state.112

As an anticipatory account of North Korea’s “inevitable” absorption by the South, the North Korean defector memoir—a geopolitical genre heavily subsidized by both U.S. and South Korean governments—frames the trajectory from North Korea to South Korea, via China and other third-party countries, as an emancipatory journey from “hell” to “loud, luminous paradise.”113 Central to the redemptive arc of such memoirs is the conversion of the benighted North Korean to “liberal personhood.”114 Yet the resettlement of thousands of North Koreans in South Korea in the wake of North Korea’s devastating 1990s famine—with roughly 26,000 now below the DMZ—has challenged the monopoly that subsidized anticommunist defector accounts have had on representing North Korea.115 Promoted by the U.S. Congress–funded NED as a “second,” implicitly more legitimate “North Korean” culture—and thus as a counter to official North Korean self-representations—defector narratives are structured as progressive narratives of emancipation.116 Yet challenging the developmental narrative arc that would posit North Korea as a space of inhumanity and South Korea as a liberating sanctuary is the inequality, discrimination, and alienation confronting resettled North Koreans, as degraded human capital, in the South. As South Korean activist and scholar Lee Daehoon has pointed out, South Korean prejudice against resettled North Koreans challenges “the myth of ethnic homogeneity” and is, moreover, of a continuum with racism against labor migrants from Southeast and South Asian countries who “represent what the South Korean nation does not want to be: nonwhite, poor, non-Christian, [and] out of place.”117 We might inquire: is market freedom, with its production of historically specific forms of humanity—namely, at-risk subjectivities subordinated to the market as an ostensible “ethic…for all human action”—the vision of liberation particular to the North Korean human rights project?118 “We risked our lives to come here,” states a North Korean defector in the 2011 South Korean independent film The Journals of Musan (Musanilgi), only to be “work[ed] to death, making just five dollars an hour.”119 At the end of Dance Town (2010), another recent South Korean independent film, North Korean defector Ri Jeong-Rim stands on the northern banks of Seoul’s Han River facing southward toward the Gangnam district as she sobs with grief and loneliness. Depicted as having fled to South Korea out of fear of prosecution for having watched smuggled porn, this character makes faltering steps toward assimilation including dating a South Korean police officer who rapes her in an alley. Albeit described in human rights discourse as “heaven,” South Korea in these films, which highlight the anomie of capitalist dystopian spaces, appears as a “parlous refuge” at best.120


Ri Jeong-Rim (Rha Mi-ran) in Dance Town (2010).

Human rights discourse “exhorts us, always, to identify with victims whose suffering it graphically depicts,” yet the typical victim is rarely the detritus of neoliberal capitalism and the empathy of human rights is no substitute for political solidarity across a divided-world system.121 Pointing out that “[a]t no point in human history has there been a greater gap between the North and the South, between the poor and the rich in the developed world,” Douzinas argues that charity, so central to the humanitarian and human rights campaigns of advanced capitalist societies, is “part of a risk-aversion strategy,” an “insurance policy” against restitutory claims from the global South.122 Such campaigns rarely, if ever, address the “simple and undoubted fact” that the states in which they are based are often “the main cause, through colonialism, imperialism and exported neoliberal capitalism, of the huge disparities between the North and the South.”123 Yet risk also inheres in the human rights project. Even as human rights campaigns might “save” select individuals, transporting the war orphan, the dissident, the informant, the trafficked woman, and the refugee to what are in theory safer shores, with their implicit emphasis on “free market individualism,” these initiatives seldom account for, much less strive to mitigate, the perils of neoliberalism that await the uprooted subjects of human rights “rescue.”124

Offering critical reflection on the dominant discursive frame of North Korean human rights as a modality of asymmetrical power, “Reframing North Korean Human Rights,” a two-part thematic issue of Critical Asian Studies, attends to what has hovered as disavowed, marginalized, seemingly obsolete, or epiphenomenal in the shadows of the North Korean human rights project, not the least of which is the right to peace. Furnishing a multifaceted account of North Korean human rights from U.S.–, U.K.–, and South Korea–based scholars, policy analysts, and social justice advocates, this issue illuminates the strictures of North Korean human rights—as an amnestic posture toward imperial violence; a lethal politicized agenda gussied up as a moral mission; a geopolitical language and structure of post–9/11 U.S. unilateralism; and an ideological mode of perception, conversion, subject-formation, and historiography. Working beyond these limitations, a number of the essays in this issue inquire into modes of understanding and engaging North Korea in addition to human rights practices that have been sidelined by the dominant, regime-change–oriented North Korean human rights project.

Christine Hong is an assistant professor of literature at UC Santa Cruz and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She is co-editor with Hazel Smith of the Critical Asian Studies double issue on “Reframing North Korean Human Rights” (45:4 (2013) and 46:1 (2014)).

Recommended Citation: Christine Hong, “War by Other Means: The Violence of North Korean Human Rights”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 13, No. 2, March 31, 2014.

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Notes

1 Kirby 2014.

2 Ibid.

3 Zolo 2009, 28.

4 We should be reminded, here, that the United Nations played a vital role in fomenting the Korean War and crystallizing the structure of division that has prevailed on the Korean peninsula since the United Nations “legitimat[ed] an election in the South of Korea in May 1948 which was boycotted by many Koreans and from which all North Koreans and many South Koreans were excluded” and sanctioned U.S. military command in South Korea by permitting it to “wear the hat,” which it still dons today, of the “United Nations Command.” See Hauben 2013.

5 In remarks before an audience of American veterans on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, President Obama declared: “[The Korean] war was no tie. Korea was a victory. When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom—a vibrant democracy, one of the world’s most dynamic economies, in stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North—that’s a victory; that’s your legacy.” See Obama 2013.

6 An account that “blam[es] the government of the DPRK as the only perpetrator of human rights violations…is a narrow approach” the South Korean NGO People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) cautioned in a public response to the COI report endorsed by numerous South Korean civil society and human rights organizations, and it “raises concerns on politicising public discourses on North Korean human rights.” See People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy statement 2014.

7 Em and Hong, n.d.

8 On the “unique position of the crime of aggression within the Rome Statute,” the NGO, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, writes: “In a compromise reached during the negotiation of the Rome Statute in 1998, Article 5 of the Rome Statute lists the crime of aggression as one of the core crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction. However, in contrast to the other three crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes), the Court remained unable to exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as the Statute did not define the crime or set out jurisdictional conditions.” See The crime of aggression, n.d.

9 Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 366, emphasis added.

10 Cumings 2010, 23.

11 Mattei and Nader 143, 2008; Zolo 2009, 31.

12 Ibid., 41.

13 Zolo 2009, 123.

14 Charter of the United Nations 1945.

15 Benjamin 1986, 283.

16 Atanasoski 2013, 27.

17 Zolo 2009, 30.

18 The COI report states: “The authorities of the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America provided operational and substantive support for the conduct of the public hearings, including by facilitating the identification and hiring of a venue, assisting in the provision of the services of professional interpreters and providing video-recording and transcripts of the proceedings.” See Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 10.

19 Becker 2014.

20 Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 27.

21 Ibid., 368.

22 Kirby 2014; Commission of Inquiry 2014, 372, emphasis added.

23 Korean War Armistice Agreement 1953.

24 Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 26.

25 Ibid.

26 Hong 2011.

27 Smith 2014, 135.

28 Ibid., 134.

29 It bears remarking the obvious—namely, that a more balanced perspective might have been had not only were North Korea to have agreed to participate in the proceedings but also had the Commission sought out a broader spectrum of views. Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 15.

30 Ibid., 35.

31 Ibid., 38.

32 Kirby 2014.

33 Hitz 2007, 127.

34 MacIntyre 2006, 406. This rumor about the “gruesome medical testing of chemical and biological weapons…on persons with disabilities” appears as the most extreme allegation of mistreatment of people with disabilities in the COI report. Yet, here, it is worth pointing out the incoherence of the report, which elsewhere notes that, despite the “widespread prejudice against people with disabilities,” North Korea has taken legal measures to ensure their human rights, including passing a domestic law “promising free medical care and special education for persons with disabilities” in 2003 and signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013, as well as establishing the Korean Federation for the Protection of Disabled People in 1998 and sending a North Korean athlete to the 2012 Paralympics. The report further makes nodding mention of North Korea’s construction of “11 special boarding schools for hearing-impaired children and vision-impaired children” as early as 1959, during the period of North Korean reconstruction. See Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 93, 91, 92.

35 Kang and Rigoulot 2001, 224.

36 People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy 2014.

37 At moments, atypical views on the part of defectors momentarily surface in the transcriptions for the COI hearings, though they do not translate into Commission’s findings; for example, at the same October 30, 2013 hearing in Washington, DC, “Mrs. X,” a North Korean defector living in the United States, inadvertently commented on the limitations of the COI’s reliance on defector testimony: “Well, people can say many different things about North Korea depending on what they saw there. Some people might say, ‘I saw cell phones in North Korea’ or some people [might] say, ‘They seem to be doing okay there’ depending on what they saw…. Even in the United States, there are homeless people but you don’t call the United States the country of the homeless.” Commission of Inquiry Public Hearing 2013, 73.

38 On the “demonization script” toward North Korea, see MacIntyre 2006, 407.

39 Of the “human rights/humanitarian divide” relative to North Korea, Erich Weingartner writes: “For human rights activists, the main problem in North Korea lies with a dictatorial government ruled by the Kim family dynasty, which has imposed its iron will on a disenfranchised population.” Ultimately, for human rights activists, the “human rights deficit is considered to be so extreme in North Korea that the only solution is regime change [which] is unlikely to evolve through internal reform.” See Weingartner 2013.

40 As Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland have pointed out: “Like genocide, food aid requires alacrity; waiting for evidence of starvation means you are already too late.” See Haggard and Noland, The logic and illogic of food aid 2011.

41 Civil Rights Congress 1951, xi.

42 Ibid., 7.

43 The formal name for North Korea is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—hereafter, in this introduction, “North Korea.”

44 Civil Rights Congress 1951, 7.

45 Césaire 2000, 73.

46 Cumings 2010, xviii.

47 Civil Rights Congress 1951, 7.

48 In its framing of U.S. involvement in the Korean War as illegal violence against “the people of Asia,” the Civil Rights Congress would not be alone. On the obliterating U.S. air campaign against North Korea, historian Bruce Cumings, among others, has pointed out that the Genocide Convention “was approved in 1948 and entered into force in 1951—just as the USAF [U.S. Air Force] was inflicting genocide, under this definition and under the aegis of the United Nations Command, on the citizens of North Korea.” See Cumings 2010, 161, emphasis added

49 Césaire 2000, 37, 42. In a similar vein, jurist Joseph Hornung states, “International law exists only for the powerful. Up to now they have shown no consideration for the weak. The other peoples, who make up three-quarters of humanity, have no recourse against injustice.” As quoted in Lindqvist 2001, 19.

50 Miéville 2006, 225, emphasis added. As scholars have increasingly noted, colonialism as a historical pattern of destruction is the reference for Raphael Lemkin’s conceptualization of genocide. Lemkin theorized the Holocaust not in exclusive or exceptional terms but as a form of colonialism internal to Europe. As A. Dirk Moses writes, “Genocide for Lemkin…was a special form of foreign conquest, occupation, and often warfare. It was necessarily imperial and colonial in nature.” Yet “cultural genocide”—what Lemkin had in earlier scholarship identified as “vandalism”—was stripped from the final draft of the 1948 Convention in no small part for fear of its utility in prosecuting the brutality of colonialism. See Moses 2010, 26. Highlighting Amnesty International’s disqualification of Nelson Mandela from its “prisoner of conscience” category, Randall Williams offers an illuminating discussion of the fateful cleavage between Amnesty International and decolonization struggles in the 1960s. See Williams 2010, 1–23.

51 Miéville 2006, 271.

52 Williams 2010, xvii. I borrow the term “race radical” from Jodi Melamed’s definition of the term: “race radicalism…refers to points of resistance to official anti-racisms” of the U.S. state, and it “originated in the forceful anticolonial and leftist antiracist movements of the 1930s and 1940s.” See Melamed 2011, xvii, emphasis in original.

53 Williams 2010, xvii.

54 Moyn 2010, 8.

55 Ibid., 157, 86.

56 Williams 2011, 9.

57 Moyn 2010, 107, 98.

58 Melamed 2011, xiv.

59 Brown 2004, 453. Wendy Brown observes that human rights activism might “generally present…itself as something of an antipolitics—a pure defense of the innocent and the powerless against power, a pure defense of the individual against immense and potentially cruel or despotic machineries of culture, state, war, ethnic conflict, tribalism, patriarchy, and other mobilizations or instantiations of collective power against individuals.” See Brown 2004, 453.

 

 

 

63 Armstrong 2003, 3.

64 Prepared statement of Stephen Linton, Chairman of the Eugene Bell foundation, S. Hrg. 2003 (Life), 37. The Eugene Bell Foundation is a humanitarian organization that has worked in rural North Korea since 1995. John Feffer similarly notes that “For several decades, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) prided itself on meeting the food needs of its population, although it has little arable land. Like many socialist countries, North Korea emphasized this success—along with high literacy rates, an equitable health care system, and guaranteed jobs for all—as proof that it upheld human rights, that its record in fact exceeded that of Western countries.” See Feffer 2006, 1.

65 Feffer 2006, 16; Lankov 2013. The response of Greg Scarlatiou, executive director of the U.S. Committee on Human Rights in North Korea, to Andrei Lankov’s article is instructive. Whereas Lankov reads intelligence reports of a decrease in overall prison population in North Korea as a sign of progress, Scarlatiou interprets the same reports as a likely “staggeringly high rate of death in detention.” See Lankov 2013 and Scarlatiou 2013.

66 Encapsulated in the “twenty-first-century doctrine of humanitarian intervention—the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P)—…proposes a new nomos of the Earth that would repudiate past violence (which always appears as something cyclical and uncontained) by endorsing exceptional violence—that of rescue and occupation.” See Meister 2011, ix.

67 Martti Koskenniemi quoted in Miéville 2006, 255. As Gavan McCormack has observed: “Unlike the US, North Korea has not committed aggressive war (at least in the past half century), overthrown any democratically elected government, threatened any neighbor with nuclear weapons, or attempted to justify the practices of torture and assassination.” Though North Korea “plainly runs roughshod over the rights of its citizens,” according to McCormack, the “major, ongoing, and unapologized [for]” crimes of the United States merit at the very least commensurate critical scrutiny. See McCormack 2006.

68 Feffer 2006, 7. As John Feffer has remarked, by subscribing to a narrative of deliberate malice on the part of the North Korean government, “the human rights framework did little to help us understand the sources of the famine” that North Korea experienced in the mid-to-late 1990s. See Feffer 2006, 23.

69 Drawing, in part, on South Korean intelligence reports based on North Korean defector testimony, the mid to late 1980s’ country reports put out by international human rights organizations offered slender, at times openly speculative accounts of the North Korean human rights landscape, with North Korea’s imprisonment of the Spanish-language translator Ali Lameda looming large. These reports notwithstanding, North Korean human rights emerged as an institutionalized transnational force to be reckoned with in the wake of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech. See Amnesty International concerns in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 1985, and Minnesota Lawyers International Human Rights Committee and Asia Watch 1988.

70 Feffer 2004, 37.

71 Mutua 2002, 1.

72 Smith 2000, 593.

73 Describing the Values Action Team (VAT) as a “cell” of leaders from the religious right that helped to drive the North Korean human rights agenda during the Bush era, Jeff Sharlet, in his portrait of Sam Brownback for Rolling Stone, states: “One victory for the group [VAT] was Brownback’s North Korea Human Rights Act, which establishes a confrontational stance toward the dictatorial regime and shifts funds for humanitarian aid from the United Nations to Christian organizations.” Sean Woo—Brownback’s former general counsel and now the chief of staff of the Helsinki Commission—calls this a process of “privatizing democracy.” See Sharlet 2006, 56.

74 Frum 2003, 236.

75 Brownback 2008, emphasis added. We might note the same logic at play in David Hawk’s assertion during a 2003 Senate hearing on North Korean human rights: “Until such time as onsite verifications are allowed, the refugee testimonies, as are presented in the report, retain their credence and authority.” See S. Hrg. 2003 (Life).

76 Kim 1995, 9.

77 Haggard and Noland 2011, Witness to transformation, 101; Scholte 2009; Moon (Ruth) 2008.

78 Hartman 1997, 5.

79 Conrad 2006, 24, 36.

80 Seoul Train 2004; S. Hrg. 2003 (Hidden). The Economist, commenting on the U.S. prison population, observes: “The land of the Free has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. See America’s overcrowded prisons 2013.

81 Hong 2011, emphasis added.

82 Williams 2010, 29.

83 Meister 2011, viii, 24.

84 Ibid.

85 Palat 2004, 13.

86 Ibid., 17.

87 As quoted in Stone 1952, 348.

88 Williams 2010, 66.

89 Harvey 2005, 177.

90 Booth 1961, 347, emphasis in original.

91 Ibid.

92 Booth 1961, 344.

93 Cumings 1990, 772.

94 Repatriation 2003.

95 Williams 2010, 29.

96 Quoted in N Korea calls Rumsfeld “psychopath” 2003.

97 As Lindqvist succinctly contends, “No state of emergency could exist that would give someone the right to destroy entire countries and their inhabitants,” and here he cites the Indian jurist Nagendra Singh: “It would indeed be arrogant for any single nation to argue that to save humanity from bondage it was thought necessary to destroy humanity itself.” See Lindqvist 2001, 144.

98 Hong 2011.

99 Seoul Train 2004. See Chung Byung-ho’s countervailing commentary in the same film.

100 Scholte 2011.

101 Klein 2005. The “reconstruction business” that attends externally engineered regime collapse, according to Ugo Mattei and Laura Nader, “often hir[es] more or less gullible human rights activists” to furnish “a rhetorical argument for more ‘intervention,’ which sometimes is the province of justice-motivated individuals attempting to restore peace, order, and the rule of law.” See Mattei and Nader 2008, 127.

102 Brown 2004, 456

103 Lin 2006, 13.

104 S. 1903 2003.

105 Ibid.

106 H.R. 4011 2004.

107 S. Hrg. 2003 (Life), 1, 3.

108 On the destabilizing intention behind sanctions against North Korea, Ruediger Frank points out that “[f]rom the outset, it is clear that the sender of sanctions deliberately inflicts damage on the innocent, hoping that their pain will translate into resistance against their leaders.” He also observes the deleterious impact sanctions have on foreign investment in North Korea: “As many foreign businesspeople have complained, the sanctions [against North Korea] have damaged their businesses.” Frank also remarks, “North Korea needs hard currency” for the most basic of provisions, including food for the people. See Frank 2006, 15, 30.

109 See Frank 2006, 41.

110 Melamed 2011, xvii.

111 Harvey 2005, 176.

112 Ibid. On the market as a foil for the state, see Puar 2007, 26.

113 Kang and Rigoulot 2001, 199.

114 Atanasoski 2013, 5.

115 As John Feffer writes, “With the increase in the flow of people out of the country, news of what was going on in North Korea was no longer restricted to a handful of defectors vetted by the South Korean government.” See Feffer 2004, 33.

116 As Chong-ae Yu documents in her account of the transnational political interests behind the North Korean Freedom Act of 2003 and the instrumental role of U.S. state funding of these interests, NED not only has supported the “two most active South Korean NGOs involved in North Korean human rights issues, Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights…and the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights,” but also, through its sponsorship of South Korean organizations and individuals on the issue of North Korean human rights abuses, was instrumental in internationalizing the North Korean human rights movement. See Yu 2004.

117 Lee 2012.

118 Harvey 2005, 165.

119 Park 2011.

120 Ibid., 171.

121 Meister 2011, 34.

122 Douzinas 2007, 71, 73.

123 Ibid., 75.

124 Meister 2011, 236.

The war of words between Russia and the United States is soaring these days over the sovereignty of the Crimean peninsula, and the White House officials are constantly directing accusations and excruciating verbal attacks against Kremlin in what seems to be the most serious dispute between Moscow and the West in the recent years.

 The United States has pulled out all the stops to defeat and isolate Russia diplomatically, and has even gone so far as to impose economic sanctions against the Russian individuals and companies, and excluding Russia from the G8 group of the industrialized nations. The 40th G8 summit was slated to be held in Sochi, Russia on June 4-5, but following the suspension of Russia’s membership in the G8, the summit relocated to Brussels, Belgium, and it would be the first time that a G8 leaders’ convention is going to take place in a non-member state country. Some of the Western media outlets have even started to refer to G8 as G7, implying that Russia does not have any position in this influential group of the affluent, developed nations.

But as always, when it comes to flexing the muscles and showing political prowess, the United States and its partners are behaving in an intolerant, duplicitous and hypocritical manner. In a statement, the newly-termed G7 leaders reaffirmed that Russia’s “occupation of the Crimea” was against the principles of the G7 and contravened the United Nations Charter.

It’s interesting that the innumerable violations of the international law, the UN Charter and Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War by the United States in the recent years have never caught the attention of the G8 leaders and never compelled them to at least consider warning the United States to behave more responsibly and respect the internationally recognized conventions and regulations or refraining from destroying and annihilating other nations through its “humanitarian” missions!

If Russia should be punished for sending troops to Crimea, while it’s legally entitled to do so, and if its military intervention in Crimea represents a violation of the UN Charter in the eyes of the Western leaders, then it will be taken for granted that all violations of the international law and the United Nations Charter should be reprimanded and responded appropriately and the wrongdoers should be penalized in a fair manner. If Russia has occupied a sovereign entity – which is of course not the case, and should bear the burden of sanctions and diplomatic isolation, it’s ok, but why shouldn’t the United States be castigated and prosecuted for the same reason? What makes the military intervention of Russia different from the wars the U.S. offhandedly wages across the world?

 For those of us who willfully ignore the historical facts, it’s noteworthy that the Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet signed between Russia and Ukraine on May 28, 1997, permits Russia to lawfully maintain up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored vehicles and 22 military planes on the Crimean peninsula. This agreement will be effective until 2017, and so it can be the most convincing logical justification for Russia’s military action in Crimea.

So, what has happened is not an “occupation” as the U.S. leaders claim, but that Russia has exercised its legal right for sending troops to a geographical area where the majority of inhabitants are ethnic Russians and don’t want to remain under the Ukraine autonomy and are overwhelmingly inclined to join Russia.

 What every neutral and unbiased observer of the international political developments can easily note is that it’s the United States which is renowned for its hegemonic policies and its imperialistic modus operandi, not Russia. Russia’s intervention in Crimea took place after it felt that its national interests are being seriously endangered on its borders, where 58% of the population is consisted of indigenous Russians who prefer to be reunited with Russia, rather than being seen as an asset and prize for the United States under the leadership of a new government in Ukraine which has neo-fascist backgrounds.

The prominent American syndicated columnist and journalist Ted Rall has recently written on his website that there are traces of neo-fascism and neo-Nazism in the government of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who has just come to power: “There’s no doubt that a Ukrainian nationalist strain runs deep in the new regime. It has been estimated that roughly 1/3 or more of the supporters of the new government come out of xenophobic, anti-Semitic, neo-fascist movements that draw much of their ideological heritage from the Nazi puppet regime that governed Ukraine under German occupation during World War II.”

So, on March 16, the Crimean parliament and the local government of Sevastopol held a public referendum in Crimea to give the citizens two choices for the future of their territory; either to remain associated with Ukraine or reunite with Russia. With a high turnout of 83.1% of the eligible voters, 96.77% of the participants in the plebiscite voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation. The United States and its allies didn’t hesitate to call the referendum as rigged and invalid, as they usually does with the elections in countries with which they are at odds. Washington even drafted a resolution in the United Nations Security Council to call the referendum null and void, but Russia used its veto power, while China abstained, and the United States simply pushed the General Assembly member states to pass a non-binding resolution, declaring the referendum invalid, which doesn’t seem to have any certain impact on the future of Crimea.

 The policy of de-Russanization was long underway in the Crimean peninsula, and many other former Soviet Union republics, as Ted Rall elaborately details. Perhaps the fact that the Ukrainian Parliament Verkhovna Rada voted on February 23 to repeal the 2012 language law that had declared Russian an official language in Ukraine and allowed it to be used in the schools, media and official correspondence, was a driving force for the Crimean people to rise up and call for independence from Ukraine that they believed didn’t respect their cultural and lingual background.

 The future of Crimea and the prospects of the marred relations between Russia and the West remain blurred and unknown, but the United States’ accusations that Russia is “occupying” Crimea and exerting military aggression and so should be punished with economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation sound gravely outrageous and entirely hypocritical. The United States has the biggest war machinery in the world, has been directly or indirectly involved in more than 50 wars and military strikes on other countries without the approval of the UN Security Council, and has incontestably perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity.

As the prominent American lawyer and legal expert Marjorie Cohn has noted in a recent article, the United States is the largest user of unconventional and forbidden chemical weapons in the illegal wars it has waged across the globe. “The U.S. militarily occupied over 75% of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for 60 years, during which time the Navy routinely practiced with, and used, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, napalm and other toxic chemicals and metals such as TNT and mercury. This occurred within a couple of miles of a civilian population that included thousands of U.S. citizens,” wrote Prof. Cohn.

 “The use of any type of chemical weapon by any party would constitute a war crime. Chemical weapons that kill and maim people are illegal and their use violates the laws of war,” she added.

 She also goes on to explain the use of chemical weapons by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria and also underlines that the majority of wars in which the United States has taken part were not ever approved by the Security Council. Aren’t these crimes a contravention of the UN Charter? Why don’t the G7 leaders and European Council and European Commission officials ever react to these violations? Does the United States have the prerogative to attack other countries and maim their people without any legal or moral justification and then get away with its crimes?

The United States is imparting a clear message by adopting this insincere and hypocritical approach toward Russia, which is also a message to other countries: We can invade your countries, we can kill your citizens, we can rule you tyrannically, we can behave in any way we desire, but if you do something which doesn’t please us, we will impose sanctions on you, we will banish you from international organizations, and we will come down on you like a ton of bricks. This is how the American hypocrisy works…