Cardenales alemanes encontraron una formula que pudiera permitir a divorciados vueltos a casar a comulgar. Una noticia considerada como de gran importancia por los obispos alemanes y que Religión Digital publica en su pagina principal y supongo varios otros medios religiosos tanto en Alemania como en otros países.

Con todo mi respeto, si esta problemática de la comunión del divorciado vuelto a casar tiene su importancia para muchos cristianos, queda, sin embargo, muy segundaria en relación a lo que esta pasando en nuestro mundo. Mientras los cardenales discuten de este problema de la comunión del divorciado, el mundo avanza a paso rápido hacia una tercera guerra mundial, la cual, a suceder, haría desaparecer todo lo que hay de vida sobre la tierra. Se acabaría con la discusión de la comunión de los divorciados vueltos a casar.

Me interesa mucho poner atención a lo que esta pasando en nuestro mundo como en nuestra Iglesia. Lo que esta pasando ahora entre Estados Unidos y Rusia es algo de extremadamente peligroso. La política de expansión y de dominación de los primeros, a los cuales los países de la OTAN sirven de manos de obra, conduce directamente a este conflicto calificado por muchos como la gran guerra profetizada en el Apocalipsis. Una guerra de destrucción masiva de la vida sobre la tierra.

Los tres cardenales alemanes pertenecen al país que se hace mas agresivo contra Rusia y que alimenta por su promoción de las sanciones el fuego de la guerra. Ucrania es el pretexto que permite a la coalición, Estados-Unidos y la OTAN, llegar hasta las fronteras con Rusia y de allí poner de rodilla esta ultima para que se súmete al imperio. Los que principiaron las acciones de invasión son los mismos que acusan ahora a Rusia de invadir a Ucrania.

Los que siguieron de cerca lo sucedido en Ucrania saben muy bien que la toma del poder del gobierno de este país se realizo por un golpe de Estado preparado de largo plazo. El presidente legitimo tuvo que exiliarse y la coalición puso sus marionetas a través un semblante de elecciones para darles credibilidad. Hasta el papa Francisco se presto a este reconocimiento, recibiendo, sin dejarlo esperar, el nuevo primer ministro, Arseny Yatseniuk, hombre electo de Washington para seguir el trabajo de la conquista. No sé si el papa sintió el olor de lo que se estaba tramando. La foto lo sugiere.

Aquí, en la foto que sigue vemos al vice-presidente de Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, fraternizando con el nuevo primer ministro. Por supuesto que este ultimo es objeto de todas la atenciones de Washington.


Varias veces el vicepresidente de Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, cuyo hijo es miembro del Consejo de administración de la mas importante empresa de explotación de gas ucranio, fue a Ucrania como uno va a su casa. Esta fraternidad se revela igualmente fuerte con el nuevo presidente. ¿Cómo no reconocer esa complicidad que no se deja molestar por los derechos democráticos, tampoco por las leyes internacionales. Ucrania tiene tres cosas que atraen a Estados Unidos : la primera es ponerse a la frontera de Rusia con una base militar de fuerza; la secunda es que Ucrania le queda algo como 42 toneladas de oro que llevaron a Estados Unidos; la tercera es que en Ucrania la Burisma Holding es la mas importante empresa de explotación de gas natural y que es importante tomar el control de esta. Al respecto, el hijo del vice-presidente Joe Biden, ha sido nombrado miembro del consejo de administración de este Holding.

Para saber mas al respecto, les recomendó este articulo.

Tras ese teatro de marionetas y predadores hay victimas, sufrimientos, muertos, heridos y una cordillera de mentiras. Todo el sur-este de Ucrania, la parte pro-ruso, allí están las victimas. Una verdadera tragedia humana toca a centenares de miles de personas. Ya, se habla de mas de 4500 muertos, de mas de diez mil heridos y de centenares de miles de desplazados. Los bombardeos se realizan a la ciega, poco les importa los civiles, las mujeres y los niños. La ayuda humanitaria viene de Rusia que manda centenares de camiones con todo lo que puede responder a las primeras necesidades. Mientras Rusia manda ayuda humanitaria, los aliados de Kiev mandan y ofrecen siempre mas armas.

De eso nuestros medios de comunicación no hablan mucho, tampoco nuestra Iglesia. Es como si tuviera, sobre el tema de Ucrania, una directiva de no tocas este tema para no molestar la parte occidental involucrada en el conflicto.

Por el momento, solo Rusia manda centenares de camiones con alimentos, medicamentos, todo tipo de equipamientos para sobre vivir a una guerra interna entre Kiev, bajo el mandato de Washington y de la OTAN, y el sur-este, Doneck y Lugansk. En el mismo tiempo los aliados de Kiev se dedican a multiplicar el armamento y a favorecer la destrucción completa de esta población ucrania pro-rusa. Gracias a la intervención de Poutin en septiembre pasado, las partes internas al conflicto se encontraron y llegaron a un acuerdo que llamaron “acuerdos de Minsk”.

El mundo se alegró, esta semana, de lo sucedido entre Estados Unidos y Cuba. El primero reconoció que la política del bloqueo económico que duro mas de 50 anos no había dado los resultados esperados. El segundo mantuvo la línea de su abertura al dialogo siempre y cuando se respete sus derechos y la igualdad en el tratamiento de los problemas.

A pena terminada la celebración de este paso importante de parte de Estados Unidos y de Cuba, el presidente Obama anuncia sanciones contra Venezuela y añade nuevas sanciones contra Rusia. No hubo reacciones ni del Vaticano ni de los episcopados tanto de Estados Unidos que de Venezuela. Al final, nos volvemos con la misma política intervencionista y agresiva contra gobiernos democráticos e independientes.

Este contexto nos permite entender mejor lo desconectado de la intervención de los obispos de Alemania que hacen noticias con la problemática de la comunión de los divorciados vueltos a casar. El mundo anda hacia una guerra mundial. Alemania alimenta el fuego con sus sanciones y discursos. Les toca denunciar esas sanciones, despertar las consciencias y llamar a mas respeto del derecho internacional, promover el dialogo y condenar el uso de las armas que generan muertos, heridos, odios y que no solucionan nada como dice el papa Francisco.

Emmanuel, el Dios con nosotros, se encuentra donde están las victimas de las guerras, los sufrimientos y los pobres de la tierra. Su reino es un reino de justicia, de verdad, de compasión y de amor. Se apartó de la hipocresía de los fariseos y doctores de la Ley también de los poderes imperiales de dominación. Hoy nos pregunta ¿Donde esta mi Iglesia y con quienes anda ?

Oscar Fortin
El 23 de diciembre 2014

http://www.periodistadigital.com/religion/mundo/2014/12/22/los-obispos-alemanes-abogan-oficialmente-por-abrir-la-comunion-a-divorciados-vueltos-a-casar-religion-iglesia-alemania-francisco-kasper-marx.shtml

http://mundo.sputniknews.com/mundo/20141218/1032542165.html

http://www.cubadefensa.cu/?q=node/2783

http://www.voltairenet.org/article183783.html

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=181954

http://www.abc.es/internacional/20140907/abci-ucrania-acuerdo-minsk-201409070941.html

https://ahoravision.com/merkel-pide-mas-sanciones-contra-rusia-por-ucrania/

El asesinato de un alto cargo palestino por parte del ejército israelí durante un acto en conmemoración del Día Internacional de los Derechos Humanos el 10 de diciembre de 2014 sorprendió a todo el mundo. Esta nueva demostración de la falta total de respeto por la vida de los palestinos, de los derechos humanos y de la opinión internacional debería marcar una nueva era en nuestros objetivos diplomáticos y nuestras estrategias de resistencia.

Ziyyad Abu Ein, al que un soldado israelí estranguló hasta que se desvaneció y falleció, era el ministro que presidía la Comisión de la Autoridad Palestina para las cuestiones relacionadas con el Muro y las colonias israelíes, además de ser miembro del Consejo Revolucionario de Fatah. Tanto los dirigentes palestinos como el pueblo en la calle reaccionaron conmocionados y con incredulidad. A su funeral asistieron miles de personas, incluidos representantes de todo el espectro político. Gran parte de la comunidad internacional expresó su condena y exigió una investigación independiente del asesinato de Abu Ein.

Los hechos exacerbaron la enormidad de la conmoción y de la indignación ya que no había habido una verdadera confrontación. Las fuerzas de ocupación israelíes atacaron a un grupo de personas que trataban de plantar olivos en Tarmasa’iya, en tierra palestina bajo la amenaza de ser confiscada para ampliar aún más las ilegales colonias palestinas de la zona.

Este asesinato no fue accidental sino que es inherente al ataque total emprendido por Israel desde principios de este año para liquidar definitivamente la causa palestina. La implosión por parte del lado israelí de las “negociaciones de paz” dirigidas por la Casa Blanca preparó el terreno para esta agresión. Los aspectos más espantosos de esta política son la última masacre perpetrada en la Franja de Gaza y la bruta e irresponsable represión de todo lo que sea presencia palestina en Jerusalén.

Se está especulando acerca de que tanto la composición de derecha del gobierno israelí como los cálculos electorales influyen en esta escalada de limpieza étnica y de represión. Puede que influyan en parte pero sus motivaciones estratégicas son mucho más profundas: la única explicación lógica de las últimas decisiones políticas israelíes es que los dirigentes políticos israelíes están convencidos de haber llegado a un punto de no retorno. Saben que se les acaba el tiempo para su proyecto colonial de apartheid y se dan cuenta de que en este momento la contención sólo cuesta un tiempo precioso y en lo esencial no cambiaría la posición global de Israel. La reputación internacional de Israel está casi irreparablemente dañada y las políticas de apoyo por parte de la comunidad internacional se están convirtiendo rápidamente en una pesada responsabilidad para las élites políticas. La mejor muestra de ello es el cada vez más amplio movimiento de boicot, desinversión y sanciones (BDS).

Por ello , Israel arremete literalmente contra todo tipo de advertencia y de crítica. Hace todo lo posible por cambiar lo más rápidamente posible el mapa geopolítico y la demografía de Cisjordania, al tiempo que refuerza el aislamiento de Gaza y sus políticas genocidas en contra de su población palestina. Israel ha desencadenado en Jerusalén una serie interminable de protestas populares y con ese pretexto hace casi imposible la vida de los palestinos en su capital y acelera la “judaización” de la ciudad. A esto se añade el intento de consagrar la naturaleza del apartheid de Israel por medio de una nueva ley que en la práctica supondrá pocos cambios para los ciudadanos palestinos de Israel que padecen la limpieza étnica y la discriminación institucional y legal desde el preciso momento de la fundación del Estado de Israel, pero que acaba con la última cortina de humo que podrían esgrimir los defensores de Israel como “única democracia de Oriente Próximo”.

Israel está convencido de hacer progresar su propio “estatuto final” como un hecho consumado antes de que sea demasiado tarde: está violando extremadamente el derecho internacional y todos y cada uno de los derechos palestinos inalienables, como el derecho al retorno y el derecho de autodeterminación, y mina toda posibilidad de establecer un Estado soberano independiente en las fronteras de 1967. Sin embargo, con toda probabilidad Israel prepara el ataque suicida supremo.

Por consiguiente, el asesinato de Ziyyad Abu Ein debe desencadenar una nueva fase de la planificación política palestina. La política palestina debe pasar de reaccionar ante los crímenes y violaciones de derechos humanos israelíes a una postura proactiva que haga frente al proyecto de ocupación y apartheid israelí. Ante las políticas autodestructivas de Israel, vuelve a ser imperante la pregunta de cuál es de facto una opción de estatus final factible. Ahora que se ha abandonado de una vez por todas el modelo de “negociaciones”, utilizado por Israel durante décadas como tapadera mientras consolidaba sobre el terreno su proyecto colonial, hay que redefinir las estrategias políticas y diplomáticas en los ámbitos palestino, árabe e internacional.

En una reunión de urgencia entre los miembros de comité ejecutivo de la Organización para la Liberación de Palestina y dirigentes de Fatah se discutieron acciones en respuesta a la muerte del ministro Abu Ein. Están adoptando los llamamientos que durante años han estado promoviendo la sociedad civil palestina y nuestros movimientos populares en las consignas gritadas durante las protestas en las calles y de las que se han hecho eco organizaciones internacionales de derechos humanos y movimientos sociales de todo el mundo. La primera propuesta es poner fin a la “coordinación de seguridad” [de la Autoridad Palestina] con Israel, en la que se incluye el intercambio de información y la coordinación sobre el despliegue policial y militar. La segunda propuesta es acelerar la adhesión a diferentes tratados internacionales, sobre todo la Corte Penal Internacional. Por último, en la reunión se pidió fortalecer la resistencia popular sobre el terreno y poner un énfasis mayor tanto en la promoción del boicot y la antinormalización locales como del movimiento mundial de boicot, desinversión y sanciones.

La pregunta que se plantea ahora es si estas propuestas se llevarán a la práctica o bien la inevitable presión internacional y el temor a una reacción israelí impedirán una vez más cualquier acción real y eficaz. Más pronto que tarde los dirigentes palestinos tendrán que responder a esta pregunta.

Ante la escalada israelí, la actual estrategia diplomática de los dirigentes palestinos de presionar para que se reconozca el Estado palestino en Europa ya no parece una respuesta adecuada. Con toda probabilidad Estados Unidos vetará el intento de aprobar una resolución en el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU con el fin establecer un calendario que ponga fin a la ocupación.

Más allá de la ruptura de las relaciones diplomáticas con Israel, la propuesta estrategia política de tres aspectos requería varias acciones simples pero concretas. Se deben crear en cada localidad comités de dirigencia de unidad nacional. Estos comités unidos deben incluir a todos los actores políticos y sociales que trabajan sobre el terreno y deben promover las reivindicaciones del pueblo para fortalecer su determinación en el enfrentamiento a la ocupación. Debería cambiar el enfoque diplomático oficial con el fin de crear el entorno necesario para la ratificación de los tratados internacionales, en particular el Estatuto de Roma. Habría que ganar a los países del Sur global en América Latina, Asia, África, los Estados Árabes e incluso Europa a favor de este esfuerzo dirigido a la implementación del derecho internacional y de los derechos humanos. Esto sería un paso eficaz para deslegitimar aún más en todo el mundo las políticas coloniales e ilegales israelíes y hacer que se le obligue a asumir sus responsabilidades. Por último, los dirigentes palestinos deberían facilitar y promover en todos los ámbitos el movimiento internacional de boicot, desinversión y sanciones (BDS), dirigido con éxito por el Comité Nacional de BDS. La restauración de la unidad nacional palestina sería una consecuencia casi natural teniendo en cuenta que en caso de que existiera un frente unido en contra de la ocupación se vendría abajo cualquier justificación objetiva para la división interna.

El hecho de no actuar ahora tendrá una serie de funestas consecuencias directas, incluida la consolidación de la impunidad y la intensificación de los crímenes contra nuestro pueblo que va unida a esa impunidad . Igualmente la falta de acción profundizará el abismo y la falta de confianza entre el pueblo palestino y sus dirigentes y fuerzas nacionales. Un resultado de ello sería una despolitización arraigada en la frustración que paraliza la acción popular y acentúa la división política. También es posible que el pueblo palestino reaccione con protestas y enfrentamientos generalizados contra la ocupación, sin sus dirigentes y sin una visión estratégica.

Las actuales fuerzas nacionales palestinas deben asumir ahora sus responsabilidades y avanzar en la representación de las reivindicaciones de su pueblo, de lo contrario la siguiente fase producirá inevitablemente sus propias herramientas y dirigentes. Como pueblo bajo ocupación no podemos permitirnos el lujo de la inacción.

Jamal Juma

Fuente: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/israels-human-rights-day-ultimate-suicide-attack-719414924

Traducido del inglés por Beatriz Morales Bastos para Rebelión.

Everyone wants good news, so the government makes it up. The latest fiction is that US real GDP grew 4.6% in the second quarter and 5% in the third.

Where did this growth come from?

Not from rising real consumer incomes.

Not from rising consumer credit.

Not from rising real retail sales.

Not from the housing sector.

Not from a trade surplus.

The growth came from a Bureau of Economic Analysis survey of consumer spending on services. The BEA found that spending on Obamacare drove the US real GDP growth to 5% in the third quarter. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-23/here-reason-surge-q3-gdp

In America, unlike in other countries, a huge chunk of medical spending goes to insurance company profits, not to health care. Another big chunk goes to paperwork, which has a variety of purposes such as collecting personal information on patients and combating fraud (probably the paperwork costs more than fraud). Another chunk goes for tests and procedures in order to justify further procedures. For example, if a doctor thinks a patient’s diagnosis requires a MRI, he must often first order an x-ray to establish that a cheaper procedure does not suffice. If a cancerous skin growth needs to come off, first a biopsy must be done to establish that it is a cancer so that a needless removal is not performed. And, of course, medical practicians must order unnecessary tests in order to protect themselves from the liability of relying on their medical judgment.

To regard any of these expenses as economic growth is farfetched.

There are sampling and other problems with the survey of personal consumption, and apparently Obamacare spending was all dumped into the third quarter. Why the third quarter?

The answer is that the illusion of economic recovery must be kept alive.

Real GDP growth of 5% in the third quarter is inconsistent with the sharp fall in key industrial commodity prices. It is not only oil (down 47%) but iron ore prices (down 49%), natural gas (down 30%), copper (down 15%). Pam and Russ Martens show that the fall in the producer price index for industrial commodities in 2014 is sharper than in 2008, the year of the crash. http://wallstreetonparade.com/2014/12/oil-crash-dont-believe-the-happy-clatter/

With 30% of 30-year old Americans and almost 50% of 25-year olds living with parents, with debt-based derivative instruments impacted by falling oil and industrial commodity prices, with the likelihood that the US and EU economic attack on Russia will fail and perhaps produce retaliatory measures that could bring down the European banking system, look for 2015 to be the year that Washington will cease to get away with its economic lies.

The financial media and Wall Street economists by refusing to ask obvious questions have left the American people unprepared for another drop in their living standards and ability to cope.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.

The US National Security Agency (NSA) published a cache of “transparency” reports on its web page Wednesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The internally generated NSA reports, covering the years 2001-2013 and previously submitted to the Presidential Intelligence Oversight Board, show that NSA agents have consistently violated US law and the agency’s own internal regulations over the past decade.

The timing of the release, on Christmas Eve, was clearly designed to ensure that the event could be buried by the US media.

The reports show that NSA agents have carried out a range of illegal activities, including electronic spying on US persons (USP), stockpiling data that the agency is required by law to delete, continuing surveillance against targets after they have been found to be USP, and “disseminating” data acquired from surveillance against USP to other government agencies and entities.

Agents specifically targeted individuals not covered by any existing order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and used electronic surveillance technology to spy on significant others, spouses, and other associates.

Agents have failed to implement legally required “minimization” procedures, which supposedly remove individuals who have been “incidentally” swept up in the electronic dragnet from the agency’s constantly expanding set of surveillance targets, frequently neglecting to remove targets from surveillance lists even after they are known to the agency to be USP or other unauthorized targets.

The reports make clear that NSA agents have enormous leeway to spy on targets of their choosing, and that the already minor restrictions on spying stipulated by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are not seriously enforced.

Making a mockery of claims that the agency is implementing “greater transparency,” huge portions of the reports are either redacted entirely or redacted to the point of being completely unintelligible.

In one report, immediately under the heading “Computer Network Exploitation,” which refers to the US government’s hacking and electronic data mining programs, the first several large paragraphs are completely redacted.

All numbers referring to the quantity of violations have been redacted. One report states, for instance, that agents executed a “REDACTED” number of “overly broad” “database queries,” which led to the unlawful targeting of USP.

Ominous references to the expansion of surveillance operations within the US appear in one of the NSA reports, dated 2010.

After a lengthy redaction, the report states, “If approved, this change [text containing referent completely redacted] would align NSA/CSS’s procedures with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) procedures, which permit such searches.”

Brushing aside the overwhelming evidence provided by Edward Snowden’s leaks and substantiated in its own reports, the NSA claims in a statement on the documents that “the vast majority of compliance incidents involve unintentional technical or human error.”

“The NSA goes to great lengths to ensure compliance with the Constitution, laws and regulations,” the official NSA statement reads.

In reality, the NSA’s own documents further substantiate the mountain of evidence showing that the agency is responsible for systematic crimes against US and international law.

Previous disclosures stemming from Edward Snowden’s leaks show that the agency runs numerous surveillance programs that target the same types and sources of data. On a daily basis, the Snowden documents show, NSA programs troll through data from virtually all internet and telephone users worldwide.

Based solely on the NSA’s own secret reports to the executive branch, there is no doubt that the agency is responsible for persistent violations of the specific legislation authorizing the surveillance programs and of essential democratic protections laid down in the US Bill of Rights.

Yet far from facing any form of accountability, the NSA will continue to receive the vast resources and virtually free reign it has enjoyed since 2001, when it expanded its surveillance operations in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Thousands of supporters of the right-wing extremist Pegida movement gathered once again at a demonstration in Dresden on Monday. According to the police, there were 17,500 participants, 2,500 more than the previous week. While tens of thousands more demonstrated in several cities against anti-immigrant chauvinism and racism, leading politicians announced they would enter dialogue with the right-wing radicals.

The Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Western World (Pegida) called for a gathering in front of the Semper Opera in Dresden to sing Christmas carols. As in previous weeks, large numbers of right-wing extremists from across the country attended, carrying countless German flags from almost every German state.

Anti-immigrant and racist slogans could be seen on banners and placards. According to the police, the aggressive atmosphere at Pegida’s tenth demonstration culminated in an attack on an opposing protester who was taken to hospital with injuries.

In other cities where groups supporting the right-wing extremist movement have been formed, only several hundred gathered to protest. In Bonn, the demonstration was organised by a former official of the fascist National Democratic Youth (JN), Melanie Dittmar, among others. In Leipzig, supporters of the right-wing conservative Alternative for Germany (AfD), are planning demonstrations for January.

Tens of thousands took to the streets across Germany to protest against the Pegida demonstrations. In Munich alone, the organisers estimated that 25,000 people gathered in front of the state opera to protest against anti-immigrant chauvinism. Dresden saw a protest of more than 5,000. Further demonstrations occurred in Kassel, Bonn and Wurzburg.

While the counter-demonstrators expressed their genuine concerns about the march by the right-wing extremists, the organisers sought to avoid the central political issues and lead the protests into a blind alley. Churches, party representatives and organisations stated that the struggle against the right was purely a moral question, and portrayed the sudden emergence of Pegida as a spontaneous development.

In fact, the mobilisation of the right-wing dregs of society is connected with a deliberate campaign in the media and by politicians of all the main bourgeois parties. From the outset, the protests received overblown media coverage and were supported by government representatives such as interior minister Thomas de Maizière (Christian Democratic Union, CDU). Over the last week, representatives of all parties in parliament and numerous commentators expressed their understanding for the actions of the fascist mob and offered dialogue.

It is no accident that the demonstrations have been engineered in the capital of Saxony. The integration of the state government with the right-wing extremist scene is more advanced in Saxony than in any other German state.

Exemplary of this development is Steffen Flath, a former chairman of the CDU faction in the Saxony state parliament. Flath was a member of the CDU in East Germany prior to German reunification and is a speaker on behalf of the Christian fundamentalist organisation “March for Life,” which vehemently opposes abortion. Flath also has close ties to the arch-conservative splinter group “Action to stop the left trend … which opposes what it calls the “creeping Islamisation” of Germany.

Its section in Saxony was well known for its links to the right-wing extremist and anti-Islamic website Politically Incorrect, which now calls for the Pegida demonstrations.

Former justice minister in Saxony, Steffen Heitmann (CDU), declared as far back as the mid-1990s his “great concern for this, our western society.” In keeping with the Pegida demands, he stated, “Hordes of foreigners are endangering the right of Germans to realise their identity in some areas.”

The right-wing terrorist group National Socialist Underground (NSU) was able to go underground for years in the Saxon town of Zwickau, relying on an extensive support network. There is considerable evidence that this network was largely composed of intelligence agents and police employees.

Acts of criminal violence by right-wing extremists in Saxony are regularly written off as non-political clashes. When right-wing radicals pursued a group of South Asians in the small town of Mügeln with the cry “foreigners out!” and attacked them, then Interior Minister Albrecht Buttolo called it a “scuffle which escalated.” Even though “right-wing extremist slogans” had been used, this did not mean that the crime had right-wing extremist motives.

But the judiciary in Saxony takes ruthless action against those who oppose right-wing extremism. When thousands of people demonstrated against a Nazi march on February 13, 2012, the police took brutal action against the participants. The state prosecutor then lodged charges against the anti-Nazi demonstrators.

Together with large sections of the CDU, the AfD also supports the demonstrations. The state chairman of the AfD in Saxony, Frauke Petry, announced a meeting with the Pegida leaders in January. “Others are speaking about Pegida, we will speak with them,” said Petry. “It will be an initial meeting to understand what these people want, and to exchange views without any obligations.”

Alexander Gauland, AfD fraction leader in the Brandenburg state parliament, was the first high-ranking politician to attend the Pegida demonstrations in Dresden last week. The former CDU politician described Pegida’s main demands as “things that one could sign up to.”

Gauland’s attendance at the protest, accompanied by a cabal of journalists, makes clear what the Pegida movement is about. The most backward layers are to be mobilised to impose Germany’s new aggressive foreign policy and attacks on social conditions against opposition from workers.

Gauland is in favour of this more than any other politician. Two years ago, in an article in the Berlin-based Tagespiegel, he proclaimed the Germans had a “troubled relationship with military force” and a “lack of appreciation for the German army.” The “pacifist obsession” had to be finally abandoned, he argued, in favour of participation in military interventions against Libya and Syria. In line with Bismarck, he declared that the decisive issues of the day would be resolved with “blood and iron.”

This programme is now to be implemented with Pegida’s assistance. In this, Gauland serves as a conduit between the openly right-wing extremists and the CDU. He is well connected in the ultra-conservative circles of Saxony’s CDU under Alfred Dregger, and maintains close ties to his former party colleagues.

The current state president in Hesse, Volker Bouffier, was state secretary along with Gauland at the end of the 1980s in the Hesse state government under Walter Wallmann (CDU). Today, he states that the Pegida demonstrators can’t “be labelled extremists.” Instead, they must be “taken seriously” and spoken to.

Yet the downplaying and embrace of Pegida is not confined to the right wing of the CDU. In the same way that all of the parties have been involved in the revival of German militarism, they are opening up to the right-wing mob in order to force through these policies.

The mayor of the Berlin district of Neuköln, Heinz Bushkovsky, defended Pegida and attacked the counter-demonstrators instead. It was entirely normal that people have fears about foreigners, and official politics had to take up these fears and concerns, the Social Democratic politician said.

The first Left Party state president, Bodo Ramelow, also spoke out in favour of dialogue with Pegida demonstrators who were motivated by the fear that immigrants would take jobs away from them. It had to be explained that such fears were unfounded, Ramelow said.

The support for Pegida from the media and politicians is directly bound up with the revival of an aggressive German foreign policy and militarism. As was the case in the 1930s, once again the preparations for war are being accompanied by the deliberate propagation of nationalism and racism and the building up of far-right organizations.

On Saturday, December 27th, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided that though Ukraine cannot now pay for coal and will soon go bankrupt, so that any ‘sale’ of coal to Ukraine will be a donation, Russia will nonetheless supply 50,000 tons of coal per day to Ukraine in order to help them through the winter. The official announcement said that “this is a demonstration of good will of President Vladimir Putin to provide real support for the Ukrainian people.”

In a bill that had passed both houses of the U.S. Congress, with more than 98% support from members of both houses, and which U.S. President Barack Obama then signed into law on December 18th, the United States has made available to the Ukrainian Government the possibility of up to $450 million to aid its war against the residents in Ukraine’s far-eastern region, Donbass. The Ukrainian Government is killing the residents there because the vast majority of them don’t recognize the legitimacy of the U.S. coup on 22 February 2014 that overthrew Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, for whom the people in that now-rebelling region had voted 90%. Obama has said that this military aid will not immediately be supplied, and that he will hold this expense and threat in abeyance for the time being.

So, the Ukrainian Government either is, or will be, receiving donations, or possible donations, from the taxpayers in both the United States and Russia.

An earlier announcement from Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Kozak, said that Russia would supply Ukraine with “up to a total of 1 million tons of coal per month, … to remove energy problems that arise in that country.” President Putin has decided instead on 1.5 million tons per month. He did this despite Russia’s own economic hardships from the Obama-imposed economic sanctions against Russia, and from the Saudis’ agreement with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in September to flood the global markets with oil in order to drive down oil prices enough to hurt Russia, which both the U.S. and Saudi aristocracies want to destroy. Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. are all major exporters of oil and gas. The Saudi and American aristocracies want to control the aristocrats in Russia, who are currently controlled by Russia’s President Putin, whom U.S. and Saudi aristocrats want to replace.

Putin seems to be saying that the Americans and the Saudis will not dictate his policies, and that he is more interested in ameliorating the extreme hardships that are being suffered by the victims of Obama’s February coup in Ukraine. Perhaps this response from Putin will anger Obama even more, but what can Obama do about it?

Probably, things are not playing out in the way that things had been gamed out inside the U.S. White House at the time when the Ukrainian coup was being planned by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, CIA Director John Brennan, and the other Obama advisors. However, only future historians will be able to write about that; no reporter today can.

The status of South Stream and the newly announced Russia-Turkey gas deal is much more than it seems. It is primarily about putting the brakes on what has slowly been developing into the next world war.

This new deal may also represent a serious culmination of Russian, Chinese, and Iranian efforts to realign the entire bandwidth between the Adriatic Sea and India. This has ramifications not only for the EU, Bulgaria, and Turkey, but also Syria, Egypt, Israel, Iran, China and most of Latin America. Its effects reach far beyond the scope of this report, and includes currency wars, and military alliances.

Thus, this turn of events may be massive, and the culmination of the success which Iraq, Iran, and Syria have had, with their allies, in rolling back ISIS. Additionally, this comes on the heels of the big changes in Egypt, which saw Turkey’s main ally in the war on Syria removed. It also represents a major revival of the Russian effort to build an alternative route to the line going through Ukraine. That line has been the subject of numerous problems as the Ukrainians had been difficult partners.The recent outbreak of hostilities within Ukraine has made them an even less reliable partner, pushing the need to speed up the process of an alternative Russian gas route into high gear.

Let us begin with the reality as it has been presented. On December 1st, Russia declared to the world that it had dumped the South Stream project because the European Union had decided that it did not want it.

The EU can be said to have decided this simply because it placed too many barriers on the project, mostly surrounding two factors.

The first factor was a constraint placed on the project by the Third Energy Package (TEP), which was passed in the EU in 2009. This was done much after the South Stream project had already been proposed in 2007, and the tentative agreement already inked. This change of conditions after the fact

The Third Energy Package was passed in 2009 applies also on a South Stream project that was signed in 2007.

The Third Energy Package was passed in 2009 but applies also on a South Stream project that was signed in 2007.

means that Russia has not abrogated any of its commitments, either morally or legally.This is important in terms of Russia’s other numerous important trading and strategic partners, both in the region, and in the world. No one will see that Russia pulls the plug on deals it makes.

In fact, Russia showed both good faith and due diligence in all spheres of the South Stream negotiations and construction process. The initial terms of South Stream were made under conditions prior to the latest round of restrictions placed upon Russia, on top of the Third Energy Package. In other considerations, as the project evolved, some elements of the TEP were interpreted in a way which still made the South Stream a viable project. This means that the signatories to the South Stream tentative agreement cannot be held retroactively accountable for newer restrictions to the execution or workability of said agreement, which were unforeseeable at the time of the deal. As the deal evolved over time, the manner by which the restrictions imposed by TEP were interpreted, also figured into the entire project.

The second factor is that Bulgaria had been under extraordinary pressure to conform to EU dictates in this arena. The Bulgarian reluctance to buck EU dictates was understood by Putin, which is reflected in the exact words that were used to describe the failure on the Bulgarian end. By and large, blame was placed on the EU for pressuring Bulgaria. At the level of diplomacy, this gives the Bulgarians an important out, which will figure into this analysis, shortly. Simultaneously, given how power is popularly understood, the Bulgarian government is being held by Bulgarians – who mostly wanted this project for a range of obvious reasons – as being primarily responsible. The Bulgarians were also thinking they had an option, which was snapped away from them with this Russian-Turkish deal. This will also figure into the scope of things to come, that we will describe.

Various news agencies around the world ran with the simple headline that Putin had cancelled South-Stream. Some agencies and analysis groups viewed this as a show of Russian weakness, and others of Russian strength. On the balance, just looking at the headlines as wholly descriptive, we can determine that Russia has acted out of strength. They are actually leaving room for flexibility, and has hinted at conditions for workability.

We are justified in saying this for three main reasons.

The first is that Putin made the statement, it was not made by Europe or for him by others. This means that he was not responding to a question or unforeseen circumstance, but rather this was a calculated pronouncement and made at a time of his choosing. The words were chosen quite carefully. His exact words must be examined.

“Bearing in mind the fact that we have not yet received Bulgaria’s permission, we think Russia in such conditions cannot continue this project,”

He continued on,

“If Europe doesn’t want to realize this, then it means it won’t be realized. We will redirect the flow of our energy resources to other regions of the world.”

The first clause of the first quote, uses the word ‘yet’. Alternate words that would eliminate any room for consideration would have been ‘Bearing in mind the fact that we will never receive Bulgaria’s permission.’.

In order to clarify the open nature that is communicated here, he says ‘in such conditions’. That is, under these conditions, but not other conditions. In other conditions, logically if follows, perhaps something is possible. But, also, perhaps not.

In the second quote, he uses the word ‘If’. Not ‘Since’, or ‘Because’, but ‘If’. In short, “if” they don’t want to realize this, it won’t be realized. If they do want this realized, then perhaps it can be realized. Or not.

Also in this second quote is a statement which runs counter to the actual concept behind the Russian-Turkish gas deal. Indeed it does aim to direct the flow to Europe, and not other regions of the world as such. Recall that the Turkish hub is on the European side, near the Greek border.Russia’s Ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov was clear when he said, “The gas pipeline thread may go in any direction from the Turkish hub,”

These statements furthermore seem to align not only with developments in Ukraine, but also in Syria, which we will elaborate on here as well. This also means that the statement ought to be viewed in light of how Russia makes its official statements, which are almost always multi-layered messages.

35d06050304c022f670f6a7067003285Secondly, most news stories and news analysis also somewhat correctly mentioned that Putin simultaneously had been in Ankara where he ironed out a deal with Erdogan. Putin announced that he and Erdogan had come to terms on increasing the volume of the Blue-Stream pipeline to Turkey, and creating a new pipeline to Turkey. It is chiefly important here to mention that such a high level meeting means that there is much more to this than an energy deal.

After all, if this was the sole subject of the meeting, such a deal could have been made between Gazprom’s Alexei Miller, or even one of his subordinates, and their Turkish counterparts. However, importantly is the fact that Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz has gone on record saying that final terms have not been made. A number of outstanding issues remain, apparently, such as the price of gas. Russia has offered a 6% discount, but Turkey may end up with two or three times greater than that figure (18%). Still, Turkey has enabled Russia to make an important announcement at a critical time. Turkey is no doubt aware that this relates to the two aforementioned conflicts. Still relevant are the more banal and well publicized economic concerns concerning solvency in the EU as well, including decreased demand.

Additionally, Russia has publically announced a $40-bn+ gas deal with India, as well as commitment to build nuclear power facilities. Interestingly, India and Russia planned as far back as August, and perhaps April of 2014, to make this announcement in December. This lends credence to the ‘strategic nature’ hypothesis of Putin’s well timed announcement on Turkey. ”An announcement on this initiative is expected to be made in December when the two leaders meet at the India-Russia annual summit to be held in New Delhi.”.

It is possible that an outstanding issue may relate to how Turkey’s previous plans can be combined with a new Russian-Turkish pipeline, which we will also explore in this report.

Third, as we will explain here in greater detail, this plan removes some of the alternate projects which Bulgaria and the EU thought they could rely on resurrecting, or further developing, in the final event of a Russian pull-out from the South Stream project. Perhaps they had even intended for the Russians to further build in the Black Sea, only to pull the plug at a later phase, and ultimately have their efforts be for nothing, at great expense for Russia.

In truth, it is both too soon and too hard to tell what will happen exactly.

What Putin stressed was that the decision on whether or not this project can work was Europe’s to make. This is an open door.

Nabucco_and_South_StreamThis seems to really contradict Putin’s statement about not having gas go to Europe. Indeed, what we have actually been presented is, for the European project, a rebranded South Stream which now may also simply be combined with Nabucco. This is because the new proposed line to Turkey goes to the European region of Turkish Thrace.

What we are to make of this depends on how we understand larger questions about the world we live in.

The reality of the ‘cancellation of South Stream’ is an example of a creation of a simulated hyper-reality to dissemble the actual reality of the situation. This meme has now bounced off of all media walls, including alternative media and new media. It has created an echo-chamber truth of its own. We can understand that there are numerous targets of this weaponized bit of information, within the context of the information war at hand.

It should be no surprise that things are not what they seem. We live in an increasingly complex world which witnesses an increasing sophistication in the multiple layers of meaning, which are embedded in official statements as they are reported. We can say that the increasing bellicosity in general parallels the increased complexity of these messages.

The details of the proposed deal with Turkey are of some significance. But we can only say with certainty, that what is important at this stage is that the plans seem credible insofar as they are workable.

gas_to_eu_final_3

Russia has officially gone on a media campaign to sell the workability of the Russian-Turkish Stream plan. In a map provided to the public by RT, Russia’s English language state news agency, we can see clearly what the intended message is.

Given that the main Russkaya CS plant which was built to handle the capacity of the South Stream line will still be used, and together with this, and the portions of pipe which have already been laid outside of Bulgaria that can still be used, the 5-bn Euros already spent on the project can be easily switched for similar use in a Russian-Turkish Stream scenario. That alone foils one part of a possible US backed EU ploy to lure Russia into an ultimately dead-end project, which would have had the real potential of destabilizing the political structure inside of Russia itself.

If an actual Russian-Turkish stream is built, this will be the case, that Russian efforts have not gone to waste. But what is most critical at this stage is that it adds credence to the Russian announcement. Looking at the map we can see that this is not simply a pipeline to Turkey. It is not simply a different deal, now aimed at Turkey.

No, clearly this is a repackaged South Stream pipeline which now simply routes 150km south of the Bulgarian South Stream proposal, and through Turkey instead. It also combines, now, elements of the Turkish Nabucco plan, as it now involves Greece and Macedonia, before it would turn north through Serbia, as well as having the potential to reconsider the Southern Corridor, as we will explore later in this report.

Perhaps under Russian consultation of this possibility, we can understand why Serbia began construction not in the south-east where it would have connected to the Bulgarian line, but rather in Novi Sad in the north. This pipe laid in Novi Sad would be the route of either a South Stream or a slightly revised Nabucco in its new incarnation as the Russian-Turkish line. Taken together, this new plan is the Russian-Turkish deal.

Indeed, we can see that with some modification, Russia and Turkey has proposed to combine the Nabucco and South Stream projects. This was actually proposed by  Chief Executive Officer of Italian energy company EniPaolo Scaronione, the Italian project company involved in South Stream, at an early stage of negotiations. While mainstream reporting gave a number of reasons why this proposal was initially rejected, what we know for certain is that the logistics and workability of such a plan to combine these two projects have been known about for several years.

Trans Adriatic Pipeline

It is interesting to consider then, that in retrospect, after all of the intrigue and blood spilt over this contest, that the Scaronione plan based on cooperation, collaboration, and peace, would be the one that actually worked out. Moreover, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) which was sometimes a variation of the Nabucco plan, was also a variation of South Stream.

The more one looks at this, given the considerable weight which is given to the opinions of Scaronione, the more one must entertain the possibility that this Turkish reversal was in the works from the start. Turkey always seemed to play its role with NATO against Syria, but in retrospect we can see that they did not ‘retaliate’ as expected when Syrian air defenses shot down the Turkish fighter jet, among other things. They did not move against Syria as robustly as they could have, and they never entirely shut the door on Iran. From the start, they did not freely allow just any mercenary or jihadi passage from Turkey into Syria, and even arrested (and captured caches) those connected to Libya (Belhaj) and Europe, funded by the Saudis and Qataris.

To be continued…

Joaquin Flores is an American expat living in Belgrade. He is a full-time analyst at the Center for Syncretic Studies, a public geostrategic think-tank. His expertise encompasses Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and has a strong proficiency in Middle East affairs. Flores is particularly adept at analyzing the psychology of the propaganda wars, and cutting through the noise of ‘information overload’. In the US, he worked for a number of years as a labor union organizer, chief negotiator, and strategist for a major trade union federation.

Source Center for Syncretic Studies

According to the late professor Sam Noumoff, the North Korean leader had requested Denis Rodman of the Basket Ball Team Harlem Globetrotters who was visiting North Korea to ask president Obama to contact him by telephone, with a view to reaching a peace agreement. 

 This article was published in May of 2013, two months before the 50 years commemoration of the 1953 armistice agreement which led to the end of the Korean war. 

*      *     *

Does the recent [2013] visit of Denis Rodman and members of the Basket Ball Team Harlem Globetrotters to North Korea raises the specter of normalization of DPKR-US relations? 

Ping-Pong diplomacy was the normalization of relations between China and the US. Tragically, this is an unlikely parallel. Ping-Pong was known internationally as the premier Chinese sport, while basketball has never been associated with North Korea. More importantly the China-US rapprochement was always driven by the US wanting to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet dispute as part of its cold war strategy.

Following upon the Rodman visit, the US is in the process of re-launching its annual massive joint military exercise with South Korea, which the North has always seen as a preparatory run for the invasion of the North. In response the North has organized its own military exercises with all of the associated risks. On the US initiative the UN Security Council condemned the North’s recent nuclear bomb test, imposing further sanctions, which in its turn resulted in the North threatening a missile attack on the US mainland and an abandonment of the 1953 Korean War ceasefire and cut the Red Cross hot line between North and South, while lines remain open, for the moment, between the military and aviation authorities. The UN has complicated the issue by asserting under Article V of the Armistice, that any amendment must be agreed to by both sides, and therefore cannot be unilaterally abrogated. A silly argument, as the North can simply not participate in any activity associated with the Armistice, such as the Military Armistice Commission which is charged with meeting daily, with no more than a seven day recess. The US could then charge the North with violating the agreement, but with what penalty? The North will counterclaim that Article IV has been violated which called for negotiation within three months of signing the Armistice for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The lawyers will have a field day shouting invective at each other.

Portrayal of the issue in the mainstream media runs something like this: The North provokes, the US imposes sanctions. The North responds with further provocation followed by a subsequent round of sanctions, ad infinitum. As it is generally agreed this cycle has been without any effect, or likely to result in any change. The policy has failed abysmally. In order to project a change, one must go back some years.

Background 

Korea was occupied by Japan after the 1895 war between Japan and China, integrated into Japan in 1910 and remained so until Japan’s defeat in 1945. Korea was then divided into two zones, one occupied by the US and the other by the USSR. The Red Army retreated as per previous agreement, while the US remains with more than 28,000 troops in South Korea to this day. The northern zone became the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1948. Initially the US installed a Korean resident of Hawaii, Syngman Rhee, as President of the Republic of Korea, who violently repressed the popularly supported people’s committees that had emerged in the south in the face of the Japanese retreat. While the North saw a guerilla General who had been based on the Sino-Korean border, Kim II Sung, rise to power. Two years later, in June war between the two Koreas formally began. One should say formally, as southern forces were engaged in coastal raids for some time prior to June. The Korean war devastated the entire country, with only one building standing in the northern capital when an armistice was signed in 1953. In the absence of a subsequent peace treaty, the DPRK and the US remain technically at war to this day.

From 1953 to 2013 the fundamental and primary objectives of the northern government has been

(1) the signing of a peace treaty with the US; and,

(2) normalization and a reparations agreement with Japan. Both of these normalization agreements are aimed at stabilization of the Korean peninsula and are viewed as precluding any strategy of regime change. North Korea for 60 years has remained under the nuclear threat by the US, and all of its attempts to address this threat are based on this threat perception. No country can tolerate six decades of threat to its survival without consequences, US verbiage to the contrary notwithstanding.

When Kim Jong un recently asked Denis Rodman to ask President Obama to phone him this was not meant lightly. The North has and will continue to try any means to begin negotiations for a peace treaty.

The US has consistently refused, arguing that this would reward the north for its bellicose behaviour, and consequently the cycle continues. In the late 1970′s during an academic visit to the North, the Foreign Minister asked this writer to deliver a very courteous letter to Cyrus Vance, Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State, requesting peace treaty discussions. Six months passed before the State Department agreed to meet. At that meeting, Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary for East Asia, said ‘we do not accept such messages… as he held out his hand to take the letter’. The sole result of this initiative was its publication the next month by the South Korean Unification Ministry.

US hostility is grounded in the assertion that North Koreans are duplicitous and will break their word. It is also grounded in the fact that the US military won every war since 1812 until the Koreans and their Chinese friends fought them to a draw. Here is a quotation from an Australian colleague, Gavin McCormack (http://www.globalresearch.ca/index,php?context=va&=30179):

“Following bilateral talks in Beijing, on 29 February 2012, it reached a fresh bilateral agreement: North Korea would implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities and agree to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor its observance. In return the US would grant 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance, and it stated that it did not have any “hostile intent” and was prepared to take steps to improve the bilateral relationship in the “spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality.” Those three words – respect, sovereignty, equality – were scarcely mentioned in media reports of the agreement, but to North Korea they were the essence, since the goal of its foreign policy for decades has been to accomplish “normalization” of relations with the US on such a basis, to secure the lifting of the sanctions under which it has labored for more than half a century and to transform the “temporary” 1953 ceasefire into a peace treaty.

In that 29 February Agreement, the US also reaffirmed its commitment to the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement. This apparently inconsequential sentence was profoundly significant, since that agreement addressed comprehensively the problems of the peninsula and mapped out a path to their resolution, by a graduated, step-by-step process leading to North Korean denuclearization in exchange for diplomatic and economic normalization. {1} In 2005, the US had declared it harboured no aggressive intent and all parties (i.e., US, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan) affirmed the principle of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, “respect” for the North Korean insistence on the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and agreement to discuss provision of a light water reactor to North Korea at an appropriate time. The agreement also included a Japanese commitment to take steps to normalize relations and of the directly related parties to “negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula” and to do so “in the spirit of “mutual respect and equality.” {2} In fact, throughout the Six Party talks (beginning in 2003), these words, inserted at North Korean insistence, became a leitmotif. The most reluctant party, in 2005 and indeed throughout the talks, was the US, described by former Department of State’s top North Korea expert Jack Pritchard as “a minority of one … isolated from its four other allies and friends,” and facing an ultimatum from the Chinese chair of the conference to sign or else bear responsibility for their breakdown. After affixing its reluctant signature on 19 September, however, on 20 September the US launched financial sanctions designed to bring the Pyongyang regime down, plainly in breach of the agreement it had just signed. When the US in 2012 proclaimed its commitment to the 2005 principles, therefore, North Korea must have been inclined to accept the assurance with a grain of salt. Blame for the breakdown in the multilateral Beijing negotiations and the stalling of the 2005 (and later, 2007) Beijing agreements (to which now presumably the 2012 agreement will also have to be added) attaches to other parties at least as much as to North Korea.”

One may ask why should one pay any attention to what much of the rest of the world considers a brutal dictatorship?

North Korea has been under constant threat of annihilation from the days of General Douglas McArthur, who wanted to drop more than 30 atomic bombs on the North, to the “axis of evil” of Bubba Bush to Susan Rice’s most recent comments at the UN.

The North has not been given any breathing space divorced from attempts at overthrowing the government. This has been a conscious US policy which was honed during the era of Allan Dulles, OSS and CIA head. Dulles’ approach was simple. If you maintain a maximum overt and covert threat level against an adversary, that adversary is likely, for the sake of survival, to maintain a powerful security apparatus. The more the pressure is exerted, the stronger the security apparatus will grow. The result of this stimulus-response strategy, Dulles assumed, will finally result in the population revolting. If the pressure was eased, the internal response would likely reflect that easement. There was a small positive ray of hope when former Secretary of State Madeline Albright visited Pyongyang during the late days of the Clinton Administration, which tragically was pushed aside when President Clinton was obliged to fight off impeachment.

A recent blog by Stephen Gowans, titled Why North Korea Needs Nuclear Weapons (http://www.trinicenter, com/modules.php?name=News&file=artic le&sid=2438) reminds concerned people of three salient historic points:

—   Asked by The New York Times to explain the aim of US policy on North Korea, then US under secretary of state for arms control John Bolton “strode over to a bookshelf, pulled off a volume and slapped it on the table. It was called ‘The End of North Korea’.” “That, he said, ‘is our policy’.”
—   In the late 1960s, nuclear-armed US warplanes were maintained on 15-minute alert to strike North Korea.
—   In February 1993, Lee Butler, head of the US Strategic Command, announced the United States was retargeting hydrogen bombs aimed at the old USSR on North Korea (and other targets.)

In summary, the conventional demonization of North Korea has resulted in a distorted mirror of reality. To break the cycle of stimulus/response, it is essential that the US and Japan make clear their willingness to negotiate normalization.

As tough and at times infuriating as this may be, it would properly pay homage to all on every side who shed blood on the Korean Peninsula. All issues must be on the table from all three sides. Canada has a critical role to play if it returns to its historical middle-power role crafted by Mike Pearson.

Notes 
(1)    For details, see my “North Korea and the Birth Pangs of a New Northeast Asian Order,” in Sonia Ryang, ed., North Korea: Towards a Better Understanding, Lexington Books, Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 23-40
(2)   “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six Party Talks” Beijing, 19 September 2005. 
End Note https://mail.qoogle.com/mail/?tab=wm# inbox/13d6491655906cfd\, Francis A Boyle, Professor of Law, University of Illinois, Champaign Under the US Army Field Manual 27-10 and the Hague Regulations, the only requirement for termination of the Korean War Armistice Agreement is suitable notice so as to avoid the charge of ‘perfidy’. North Korea has given that notice. The armistice is dead. See Army Field Manual: “In case it [the armistice] is indefinite, a belligerent may resume operations at any time after notice.”

Frontier Vol. 45, No. 43, -May 5-11, 2013

Eight people died yesterday in two drone strikes in North Waziristan, a remote and impoverished area of Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.

US officials are increasingly reluctant to discuss Washington’s barbaric drone murder program, as it has been condemned by the UN for violating international law and is seen as deeply sinister by masses of people worldwide. US officials refused to comment on the two strikes. However, Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed that both attacks in North Waziristan were drone strikes.

One strike killed five people in a compound suspected of serving as a base for the Pakistani Taliban, the group that carried out a December 16 Peshawar school attack in which 150 people were killed. The other strike killed three people who allegedly belonged to the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

Pakistani intelligence notoriously calls all drone strike victims “terrorists,” and it was impossible to independently verify their claims that the strike victims belonged to the Pakistani Taliban or IMU.

North Waziristan has been the target of intense drone warfare, as Washington has sought to crush resistance to the NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Hundreds have died in raids on schools, farmhouses, funerals, and medical aid teams rushing to assist the victims of other US drone strikes.

In the first half of 2014, Washington suspended its drone murder program, which claimed over 2,200 lives in Pakistan, provoking escalating popular opposition to US war operations, divisions between Washington and Islamabad, and mass protests inside Pakistan. US drone strikes restarted, however, as the Pakistani army launched its Zarb-i-Azb operation in June against Taliban fighters in North Waziristan. Sixty percent of the population, that is, several hundred thousand people, fled the region after the Pakistani army warned it would treat anyone who stayed as terrorists.

There have been approximately two dozen drone strikes since then, and the pace of US drone murders has accelerated after the horrific Pakistani Taliban attack of December 16 on a military-run public school in Peshawar. The attack led to the death of 150 people, including 130 children.

Last Saturday, another drone strike in Datta Khel, North Waziristan killed six. In a separate operation on Thursday, the Pakistani army killed a man they identified as “Saddam,” who they claimed had been involved in planning and coordinating the Peshawar school attack.

Working closely with US imperialism, the Pakistani regime is seizing upon the Peshawar school attack to impose military rule in all but name. On Tuesday, US General John F. Campbell, the commander of NATO occupation forces in Afghanistan, came to Islamabad with Afghan Army Chief of Staff General Sher Mohammad Karimi to discuss the operation.

After they left, a series of draconian measures were announced in quick succession, as part of the National Action Plan adopted after the Peshawar attack. They aim to install a regime of terror to silence all opposition to the Pakistani ruling elite’s collaboration with US imperialism’s occupation of Afghanistan.

Late Wednesday, after an all-day meeting of his government, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif set up military tribunals to try terror cases. This effectively suspends the civilian judiciary system, whose officials have been involved in protests against collaboration with US war operations by the army and the executive.

In the next two days, they announced plans for a mass roundup of 6,500 people across Pakistan on terror charges, and for mass executions of 500 people held in Pakistani jails. Such operations will be carried out by a federal counterterrorism force controlled by the Ministry of Defense, working with Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence agency as well as civilian security forces.

A civil judge on Friday issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Abdul Aziz, a cleric at the Lal Masjid mosque, who had refused to condemn the Peshawar school killings.

The Sharif government is also carrying out a mass clampdown on the media and the financial system. It announced that the publication of “hate material” would be banned and punishable by law. The State Bank of Pakistan, meanwhile, was instructed to freeze all bank accounts deemed to be involved in the financing of terror activity.

“We have to act fast and whatever is agreed, we have to implement it immediately,” declared Sharif, who hailed the decision to institute military courts as a “historic moment” for Pakistan.

The opposition Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) quickly dropped counterproposals to install military tribunals only for a specific time period and aligned itself with Sharif’s positions. Senior PPP official Aitzaz Ahsan said, “We are for speedy punishment of terrorists, and if the draft legislation for military courts is shared with us, we can work out a way within a constitutional and legal framework.”

The Balochistan National Party’s Hasil Bizenjo also praised the initiative for military courts, declaring, “We have to fight the mindset, and stopping now will lead to perpetual failure. If we lose, the next rulers will be the Taliban.”

Senator Mushahid Hussain of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam group) applauded the measures, pointing to the support he expected from Washington. “I fully support this move; the US has also done the same in the past,” he said, apparently referring to Washington’s use of military tribunals to try people captured overseas on terrorism charges.

US drone murder and the NATO powers’ encouragement of the slide towards military rule in Pakistan testify to the comprehensive criminalization of imperialist foreign policy. To crush broad resistance to their neocolonial war in Afghanistan and prop up their tottering client state in Pakistan, they are resorting to murder and terror unchecked by any form of judicial process.

Obama in particular has continued and intensified the criminal policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush. This month, the population of the United States and the world was horrified by the US Senate report’s official confirmation of the widespread use of torture by the CIA against those it accused of terrorist activities. The report demonstrated the necessity of bringing criminal charges against top officials of the Bush administration.

The Obama administration, however, has only compounded the criminality of its predecessor, trying to avoid detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects by murdering them outright, without trial, through drone strikes. It was widely reported that President Obama personally supervised the drawing up of “kill lists” for America’s aerial death squads, in White House meetings dubbed “Terror Tuesdays.” Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder even briefly suggested that drone strikes could be used for extrajudicial killings of US citizens inside the United States.

The Obama administration’s policy remains shrouded in secrecy and itself demands the bringing of criminal charges against the current occupant of the White House. However, even the limited information publicly available makes clear that extrajudicial drone murders have led to massive losses of innocent lives.

In a recent report titled “You Never Die Twice: Multiple Kills in the US Drone Program,” the British human rights organization Reprieve estimated that US drone strikes aimed at 41 terrorism suspects in Pakistan and Yemen had led to deaths of 1,147 people. Each suspect was “killed” an average of three times, with one suspect being targeted for drone killings seven times.

The CIA’s unsuccessful strikes against Ayman al Zawahiri, who reportedly took over leadership of Al Qaeda after the killing of Osama bin Laden, led to the deaths of at least 105 people, including 76 children and 29 adults. These attacks failed, and Zawahiri is still alive.

As the year draws to a close, there is an ever-widening gap between what is taking place in financial markets and the state of the underlying real economy. Wall Street has reached record highs, with the Dow topping 18,000 this week, while the world economy remains largely in the grip of tightening recessionary conditions. This disparity portends the eruption of economic and social contradictions.

Throughout this year, financial markets have followed a basic pattern: periods of sudden turbulence followed by a new surge. The most serious was the bond market “flash crash” of October 15, when conditions emerged resembling those following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

But at every point, financial markets have been revived with the promise that the supply of cheap money from central banks would continue. At the same time, stagnation and outright recession continue across much of the world.

While there are signs of a modest up-tick in US growth, the European economy has yet to reach the levels it attained as long ago as 2007, with no sign of recovery in the immediate future. Japan is in recession, despite the stimulus measures unleashed by “Abenomics,” and the Chinese economy is slowing amid mounting fears that it is ripe for a financial crisis.

But financial markets power on. The plunge in the value of the Russian rouble over the past two weeks could have been the start of further instability, but after the US Federal Reserve made it clear that there would be no sudden increase in interest rates, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged ahead, bringing its rise over the past year to 1,000 points.

The rouble collapse is a product of two processes: the precipitous fall in the price of oil, down more than 50 percent since June, and the use of sanctions by the US and the European Union against Russia, which have led to it being cut off from financial markets in what amounts to economic warfare.

Undoubtedly, there is also a large element of manipulation, directed in the first instance against Russia, in the fall of oil prices. But more broadly, the oil price plunge reflects deepening recessionary trends that stand directly at odds with the rise in the financial markets.

Oil is only one of the major industrial commodities that have experienced a significant decline this year. The price of iron ore has dropped by almost 50 percent and is at its lowest level in five years. The price of wheat, a key agricultural commodity, is down by 20 percent.

The overall decline in economic growth, and particularly its key driver, investment spending, is indicated by the fact that this year commodities are on track to be the worst performing major asset class for the third consecutive year. The Bloomberg Commodity index has fallen 14 percent this year and is at a five-year low.

It is not just the fall in commodity prices that points to deepening slump, but also the actions of the major producers. On Monday, the Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said in an interview that the OPEC oil cartel would not cut production to maintain prices even if oil went as low as $20 per barrel. “It is not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut their production,” he declared, “whatever the price is. Whether it goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant.”

This statement represents a major shift in OPEC strategy, which has been based on regulating supply to maintain a certain price range. However, in the present conditions of falling demand and increased supply, not least because of the development of shale oil in the US, OPEC is adopting a new strategy based on maintaining a given market share, arguing that cutting production to boost prices will benefit only its competitors.

Maintaining production in the face of falling demand means forcing down the price in order to send higher-cost producers, shale oil producers and deep-water drillers, to the wall.

The same process is taking place in the iron ore mining industry, where BHP Billiton, Rio and other lower cost producers are maintaining or even increasing production levels in the face of falling prices.

These actions are in response to the continuous downward pressure in the world economy and reflect the calculation that any strategy for survival must be based on waging a war to the finish, rather than an expectation of a genuine and extended upturn sometime in the near future.

The divergence between the real economy and the financial markets is rooted in the economic breakdown that began with the financial crisis of September 2008. After mobilising trillions of dollars to prevent a complete meltdown of the financial system, central banks, with the US Fed taking the lead, have continued to pump money into the sclerotic arteries of the financial system in order to maintain it.

Nothing like it has been seen in history, as even a brief review of the amounts involved makes clear. From its founding in 1913, it took the Fed 94 years to expand its balance sheet to $900 billion, where it stood on the eve of the financial crisis. Just six weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, it had doubled in size.

By the end of the year, it had tripled. It now stands at more than $4 trillion.

Where the Fed has gone, others have followed, including the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England, with the result that the combined balance sheet of central banks now totals $16 trillion, or three times the level before the crisis.

This massive injection of money has not gone to increase production, boost wages or generate jobs, but to boost the financial markets. The combined valuation of global equity markets is now around $75 trillion, compared to the low of $25 trillion in March 2009. This has brought a vast increase in social inequality, as the banks, speculators and financial operatives have increased their wealth through asset inflation, while the real wages of working people have either stagnated or declined.

The growth of fabulous wealth at the heights of society, the result of speculation and parasitism, together with worsening conditions for the overwhelming majority, signifies a build-up of enormous tensions that will erupt in social and political struggles.

At the same time, the conditions are being created for another financial crisis that could set these struggles in motion. The actions of the central banks in fuelling the insatiable demands of finance have created a massive financial asset bubble that threatens to burst if the supply of cheap cash is turned off or reduced.

As a recent report by the credit strategy department at Deutsche Bank put it: “The problem for central bankers is that they have inflated certain asset prices to levels where, if they reined in their actions too much, then they would likely see adverse market moves and a loss of confidence in the system.” The report concluded that those in charge of monetary and economic policy were nowhere nearer to finding a solution than they were in 2008–2009.

The reason is that there is no solution under the profit system. There is no return to “normal.” There is only the ever-growing threat of economic destruction through a global collapse, coupled with the impoverishment of the working class, and, at the same time, an increasingly ferocious conflict between corporate and financial giants for resources, markets and profits, leading to a new world war.

New York Times: Enemy of Truth

December 27th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

The Times is America’s leading establishment publication. Its longstanding history is unprincipled. 

Supporting wealth, power and privilege. At the expense of populist interests.

Functioning as a quasi-official propaganda ministry. Offering a daily diet of managed news misinformation rubbish. On issues mattering most.

No nation in world history committed more high crimes against humanity than America. The Times supports its worst policies.

Ignoring rule of law principles. Supporting might over right. When America goes to war or plans one, it marches in lockstep.

When sitting governments are opposed, it vilifies them supportively. Backing numerous ruthless regimes Washington supports. Including ones installed by rigged elections, coups or  US wars.

Throughout his tenure, The Times vilified Hugo Chavez. After his 1998 election, its Latin American correspondent, Larry Roher, lied calling him a “populist demagogue. (A)n authoritarian. (A) caudillo (strongman).”

On April 13, 2002, a Times editorial headlined “Hugo Chavez Departs,” saying:

“With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator.”

“Mr. Chavez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.”

Carmona represented business interests. Corporate predators. Chavez established model democracy. Bolivarian fairness.

Removing him was short-lived. Lasting two days. Overwhelming public support returned him to office. Including from Venezuela’s military.

Times editors endorsed his ouster. Consistent bashing followed throughout his tenure.

Continuing against current President Nicholas Maduro. Carrying Chavez’s torch. Honorably. Serving all Venezuelans responsibly.

After Washington toppled democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, The Times lied.

Claiming he resigned. Sending in Marines to abduct him was “the right thing to do,” it said. Arriving after “Mr. Aristide yielded power.”

Blaming him for “contribut(ing) significantly to his own downfall.” Because of his “increasingly autocratic and lawless rule.”

Accusing him of manipulating 2000 elections. Not “deliver(ing) the democracy he promised.”

Aristide’s tenure was Haiti’s only democratic governance since its short-lived 1804 independence. Times editors didn’t explain. Substituting Big Lies for hard truths.

Discredited correspondent Judith Miller represented one of the most deplorable chapters in Times history. In the run-up to Bush’s Iraq war.

Functioning as weapon of mass deception. Writing daily propaganda rubbish.

Pentagon press releases masquerading as real news and information. Featuring a Noah’s Ark of scam artists.

The late Gore Vidal called The Times the “Typhoid Mary of American journalism” for good reason.

Currently bashing Russia relentlessly. Targeting Putin irresponsibly. Practically labeling him public enemy number one.

Backing fascists running Ukraine. Ones Washington lawlessly installed. The most brazen European coup since Mussolini’s 1922 march on Rome.

Supports Obama’s war on Syria. His Iraq war. His 2011 Libya war. Bush I’s Iraq war. Years of illegal sanctions. Responsible for killing around 5,000 Iraqi children monthly.

Bush II’s Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Homeland force-fed austerity when vital stimulus is needed.

During protracted Main Street Depression conditions. Pretending phony numbers claiming otherwise are real.

“Magic growth numbers,” according to Paul Craig Roberts. Manufactured. Not real. “Not from rising real consumer incomes,” he explained.

Or growing consumer credit. Or higher retail sales. Or an improving housing sector.

Economist John Williams reengineers phony government data. Offering a true picture of economic conditions. Calling recent US growth numbers “nonsense.”

Misleading garbage. Not according to The Times. Citing the “fastest” economic growth “in over a decade.”

Providing “the strongest evidence to date that the recovery is finally gaining sustained power…” Despite hard truths proving otherwise.

Including sharply lower commodity prices. A key indicator of economic weakness. At a time “30% of 30-year old Americans and almost 50% of 25-year olds liv(e) with parents,” said Roberts.

Because of unemployment or underemployment. After six years of fake economic recovery, Eurozone countries face deflation and recession.

Economist Jack Rasmus calls Japan’s economy “a spent force since the late 1990s.” China’s economy is slowing.

So are emerging markets. Real US growth is subpar. Global debt levels are unprecedented. Leaving world economies vulnerable to financial crisis.

Roberts calls America’s economy “a house of cards.” Don’t expect the Times to explain. Or promote healthy eating.

Last February, it gave agricultural economist Jayson Lusk and right-wing Hoover Institution fellow Henry I. Miller op-ed space. They took full advantage.

Headlining “We Need GMO Wheat.” Saying “not a single acre of genetically engineered wheat being grown commercially in the United States.”

Claiming wheat farmers and consumers lack “the benefits of (so-called) newer molecular techniques of genetic engineering.”

A litany of misinformation followed. Touting nonexistent benefits of GMO crops. Ignoring their hazards to human health.

Vandana Shiva calls genetically transformed seeds “food totalitarianism.” Waging war on human health. By corporate giants like Monsanto.

“We would have no hunger in the world if” ordinary farmers controlled their own seeds and land, she maintains.

Calling enormous sums the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation spends on agricultural research and assistance “the greatest threat to farmers in the developing world.”

“If you look at the graph of the growth of GMOs, the growth of application of glyphosate and autism, it’s literally a one-to-one correspondence,” she explains.

“And you could make (the same) graph for kidney failure…for diabetes…for Alzheimer’s.” For other diseases.

Clear evidence shows GMO foods and ingredients are toxic. Unsafe to eat. Harmful to human health.

Producing hazardous intestinal bacteria. Responsible for numerous illnesses. infertility. Immune problems. Accelerated aging.

Faulty insulin regulation. Gastrointestinal abnormalities. Major organ changes. Lower life expectancy.

Roundup pesticide used for GM crops causes birth defects. GM soy causes sterility.

Americans don’t know what they’re eating. Labeling is prohibited. Violating First Amendment rights.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) calls GM plants and animals “one of the greatest and most intractable environmental challenges of the 21st century.”

Over 90% of US soybeans are genetically engineered. Around 85% of corn. About 88% of cotton. Cottonseed oil commonly used in processed foods.

Over 80% of them contain GM ingredients. From soda pop to soup to salad dressings. Crackers to condiments. Potatoes to “super” pigs. Bananas to baked beans.

Despite known harm to human health, no congressional legislation regulates GM foods and ingredients.

Americans are human guinea pigs without knowing it. Part of an unregulated mass experiment, Entailing enormous risks.

Once GM seeds are planted, nothing known to science can reverse their contamination. Over two-thirds of arable US farmland is affected.

Despite known human health risks. US politics trumps science. Unsafe foods and ingredients are declared fit to eat.

So far, wheat is GMO free. For how long remains to be seen. It’s one of America’s three major crops. Along with corn and soybeans.

GMO crops are toxic. Poison. Hazardous to human health. Banning them should be mandated. Don’t expect The Times to explain.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

On Friday, December 26th, National Public Radio aired two superbly done pieces of anti-Russia propaganda, which could as well have been written by the U.S. CIA, or by Voice of America, it was so skillfully deceiving.

One of these propaganda-pieces, on “Morning Edition,” presented Eleanor Beardsley alleging that the anti-immigrant political parties in Britain and France are anti-U.S. and pro-Russian because they are supposedly all “far right”; and the other piece, on “All Things Considered,” presented Corey Flintoff alleging that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin “seized Crimea” (as if he hadn’t actually rescued it) and thereby caused U.S. President Barack Obama and the EU to respond with economic sanctions as punishment for the ‘seizure” (actually, as we’ll show, rescue).

Here, the two ‘news reports’ will be exposed:

First, Beardsley’s propaganda-piece: it was titled “Europe’s Far Right And Putin Get Cozy, With Benefits For Both.”She noted that, in France, “Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front, has made no secret of her admiration for Putin,” while, across the English Channel, “Nigel Farage, the head of UKIP, Britain’s far-right party, called Putin one of the world leaders he admires most.” Beardsley was trying to suggest that Vladimir Putin is a fascist, and she argued on this false basis that “Europe’s Far Right And Putin Get Cozy” because they’re all “far right.”

What she was trying to get across is more like the opposite of the truth than the truth, because what Putin and Europe’s anti-immigrant parties actually share is not extreme conservatism (which they don’t share at all; Putin isn’t that) but is instead more like the very opposite of that: they share a rejection of U.S. global supremacy or “hegemony”: they reject the U.S. as having a right to control their country’s policies and destinies — in other words: they reject U.S. imperialism, and this is a rejection that all of them share also with progressives in America, hardly with America’s champions of imperialism, such as are, for example, in the U.S., Bill Kristol’s and Robert Kagan’s Project for a New American Century, which was the actually far-right, Rupert-Murdoch-funded, movement that George W. Bush adhered to, that beat the drums incessantly for his “regime change in Iraq,” and for invading Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

To put this matter clearly, here’s what they all reject, and what President Obama asserted at West Point on May 28th:

“Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us. … So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed [properly spelled ‘past,’ but this is his text] and it will be true for the century to come.”

Obama was saying there that any nation, such as Russia, which challenges the right of the U.S. Government to determine the appropriate parameters for all other nations’ policies, must be crushed, because the U.S. is superior. By contrast, anti-imperialists argue that no nation possesses any such right of being “world policeman” — the international judge, jury, and executioner — as Obama claims for America. None: not the U.S., not Russia, none at all.

This is an extremely different reality from the lie, the PR hoax, that Eleanor Beardsley was selling to listeners on NPR.

That’s hers; and here’s the other:

Corey Flintoff’s propaganda-piece was titled, “For Russia’s President, A Year Of Costly Triumphs,” and it repeatedly said that the cause of the economic sanctions against Russia is “Russia’s seizure of Crimea.” Parroting the White House’s line that the transfer of Crimea back to Russia — after the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had donated it to Ukraine in 1954 against the wishes of Crimea’s residents, which Flintoff conveniently failed even to mention — had instead been “Russia’s aggression,” Flintoff’s account made no mention at all of the key relevant facts, necessary to understand the event, including also the following three:

(1) The March 16th, 2014, referendum of the voters in Crimea, produced a 96% vote to secede.

(2) Gallup polled 500 Crimeans during May 16-30 in 2013, and found that only 15% considered themselves “Ukrainian.” 24% considered themselves “Crimean.” But 40% considered themselves “Russian.” Even before Obama’s February 2014 coup which overthrew the Ukrainian President whom 80% of Crimeans had voted for, the Crimean people overwhelmingly wanted to secede from Ukraine — and, especially now they did, right after the President for whom they had overwhelmingly voted, Viktor Yanukovych, had been overthrown in this extremely bloody coup. Furthermore, in April 2014, Gallup again polled Crimea, and they found that 71.3% of Crimeans viewed as “Mostly positive” the role of Russia there, and 4.0% viewed it as “Mostly negative”; by contrast, only 2.8% viewed the role of the United States there as “Mostly positive,” and a whopping 76.2% viewed it as “Mostly negative.” During the intervening year, Crimeans’ favorability toward America had plunged down to 2.8%, from its year-earlier 6%. Clearly, what Obama had done in Ukraine (his violent coup in Kiev) had antagonized the Crimeans. And, as if that weren’t enough, the 2014 poll provided yet more evidence: “The 500 people that were sampled in Crimea were asked [and this is crucial] ‘Please tell me if you agree or disagree: The results of the referendum on Crimea’s status [whether to rejoin Russia] reflect the views of most people here.’ 82.8% said ‘Agree.’ 6.7% said ‘Disagree.’” In the hearts of the local residents, Crimea was still Russian territory, after an involuntary hiatus of 60 years; and so the Russian Government accepted them back again, into Russia — this was not as Corey Flintoff droned, “Russia’s seizure of Crimea.” It was Russia’s protection of them from the invasion of Ukraine by the United States in a bloody coup.

(3) Ever since 1783, Russia’s core national security asset, its Black Sea Fleet, was stationed in Crimea, but Obama’s Ukrainian coup-Government wanted to kick them out (and this is one of the reasons why Obama perpetrated his coup). The aggression here was entirely on the American side. Russia wasn’t responding only in order to protect Crimeans; Russia was especially responding in order to protect its core naval base.

The Obama regime overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected leader in February 2014 in a brazen act of military aggression against Russia; and National Public Radio (like so many ‘news’ media) is trying to fool the American public into thinking what the Administration wants them to think: that the aggression is instead by Russia, and is against the rest of the world, so that the already bloated U.S. military should get involved in yet another war, this one that’s now building, against Russia.

In closing, the key fact should be mentioned that it is Obama and not Putin who is following in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler. The extreme-conservative, at least in foreign policy, is Obama, not Putin. So, Eleanor Beardsley’s falsehood was just about as egregious as can possibly be imagined.

US supplied TOW anti-tank missiles have ended up in the hands of Jabhat Al Nusra, Syria’s branch of Al Qaeda. The US provided the missiles to CIA vetted Syrian rebel faction Harakat Hazm in May. A video posted by Al Nusra shows the weapons being used to take over Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh in Idlib province.

A story that should have been headline news of Obama’s arming of Al Qaeda across all US media, largely went unnoticed. The only evidence of the story in the mainstream media can be found in the International Business Times and the Washington Post. However both articles try to cast doubt on the claims that Al Nusra has TOW missiles, choosing to quote the Syrian Opposition Council spokesman Oubai Shahbandar who downplayed the incident, calling it an “Al Nusra psyop”. The New York Times did not headline the story and instead buried the information in an article headlined “2 Military bases in Syria Fall to Rebels”. However, The New York Times claimed the TOW missiles may have plaid a central role in Jabhat AL Nusra’s takeover of the bases.

Contrary to Shahbandar’s and the mainstream media’s insinuation that the evidence is an ‘Al Nusra pysop’, it is known that the US armed and trained Harakat Hazm group had signed a ceasefire agreement with Jabhat AL Nusra in November in the same region of Idlib Province. At that time Al Nusra had claimed TOW and Grad missiles were now in their hands.

It is questionable whether or not Al Nusra had ‘seized’ the arms as the New York Times suggests, or if it had simply been given the arms by Harakat al Hazm. Rather than fighting Al Nusra, Harakat Hazm has had no problem uniting with them. Currently Harakat al Hazm are united with Jabhat al Nusra, in Handarat Aleppo, and are jointly fighting the Syrian Army. The militant employing the TOW missile in the video, shows clear proficiency in its use, indicating that he has directly or indirectly benefited from US training.

In spite of this revelation, there is evidence to suggest the US is still arming the FSA with TOW missiles. Videos continue to emerge of Harakat al Hazm employing Tow Missiles. The US government has not made a statement on whether or not they have stopped providing the rebels with TOW missiles and munitions.

FSA and Al Qaeda collaboration

The alliance between FSA faction Harakat Hazm and Al Nusra in Aleppo, is not a new or isolated occurrence. US vetted rebels have in fact have been allied with Al Qaeda for much of the Syrian War, with localised clashes over control being rare. The leader of the “Syrian Revolutionary Front,

‘ Jamal Ma’arouf, touted as a moderate by the West, admitted to The Independent that he has openly fought battles alongside Jabhat Al Nusra and refuses to fight against them. In 2012 the Free Syrian Army (FSA), referred to as the ‘moderate rebels’ by the US State Department, fought along side Islamist State In AlSham (ISIS) in Aleppo against the Syrian military for control over Menagh Airbase. The FSA head of Aleppo Military Council Abdul Jabbar Al Oqaidi, who has met with US Ambassador Robert Ford, was filmed with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal praising ISIS for helping take the base using a suicide car bomb. As late as September 2014, FSA commander Bassel Idriss said that they had joined forces with ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra in Qalamoun Mountain.

Quote Global Post:

“Let’s face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now in Qalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values,” the [FSA] commander concluded.

As well as fighting alongside Al Qaeda the US vetted rebels have also defected to, and sold weapons and hostages to Al Qaeda groups. The line between the FSA and Al Qaeda groups is often blurred with entire FSA factions and individual fighters defecting to Jabhat Al Nusra or ISIS on multiple occasions [1][2][3][4], taking along with them the training and weapons paid for by US taxes in the process.

An ISIS commander, Abu Atheer, told Al Jazeera that his group bought weapons from the FSA.

“Anyhow we are buying weapons from the FSA. We bought 200 anti-aircraft missiles and Koncourse anti tank weapons. We have good relations with our brothers in the FSA.”

The spokesman for the family of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist beheaded by ISIS, told CNN that US backed FSA rebels had sold Sotloff to ISIS for 25,00 to 50,000 USD. The White House denied the claim. However the claim was corroborated by Theo Padnos, another journalist held hostage in Syria, who said he was returned to his Jabhat Al Nusra captures by the FSA every time he tried to escape.

Plausible deniability

Given the Syrian rebels’ history of openly working along side or defecting to Al Qaeda groups, it is highly doubtful the US government did not predict the TOW missiles would end up in Al Qaeda’s hands.

It is more likely the US provided the rebels with the TOW missiles whilst knowing it would end up in the hands of Al Qaeda. Indeed it has been widely accepted, that Jabhat Al Nusra, ISIS and Ahrar al Sham , another Al Qaeda linked group, are the most powerful groups opposing the Syrian army. The CFR wrote:

The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks.

Whilst in future these weapons may be used against American personnel, for now the US is desperate for a victory against the Syrian government. The US might find reports of arms ending up with Al Qaeda embarrassing, but such embarrassment can be mitigated by controlling the amount of attention it gets from the US run media.

Therefore the purpose of advertising a ‘moderate rebel force’ is to maintain plausible deniability whilst still supporting what is largely an Al Qaeda rebellion against the Syrian government. In fact there is evidence to suggest the US would prefer Al Qaeda to other rebel groups. They are far cheaper to run given that they are funded by Gulf States and they may fit better with the US long term objective of balkanise Syria along sectarian lines.

Maram Susli also known as “Syrian Girl,” is an activist-journalist and social commentator covering Syria and the wider topic of geopolitics. especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

Since the anti-war protests on Vietnam, the U.S. government has made “perception management” of the American people a high priority, feeding them a steady diet of propaganda about foreign crises, even getting “peace groups” to buy into “pro-democracy” wars, write Margaret Sarfehjooy and Coleen Rowley.

By Margaret Sarfehjooy and Coleen Rowley

“War is peace” double-speak has become commonplace these days. And, the more astute foreign policy journalists and commentators are beginning to realize the extent of how “liberal interventionists” work in sync with neocon warhawks to produce and sustain a perpetual state of U.S. war.

More and more “peace and social justice” groups are even being twisted into “democracy promotion,” U.S. militarism style. But rarely do we get a window to see as clearly into how this Orwellian transformation occurs as with the “Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria” (CISPOS) based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, a spin-off of “Friends for a Nonviolent World” (FNVW), steering its Quaker-inspired founding in nonviolence to promote speakers and essayists with strong ties to the violent uprising to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, resulting in a war that has already taken some 200,000 lives.

A scene of destruction after an aerial bombing in Azaz, Syria, Aug. 16, 2012. (U.S. government photo)

A scene of destruction after an aerial bombing in Azaz, Syria, Aug. 16, 2012. (U.S. government photo)

Do the real pacifist members approve? Or even know?

Middle Eastern expats who support U.S. intervention in their countries are especially effective in promoting their message to Western audiences because they provide “proof” of the demonization of governments that the U.S. plans to invade and dominate, and often peace groups include these expats in presentations believing them to be representatives of an entire country.

In Minneapolis, FNVW and its spin-off CISPOS hosted several events with Syrian expats who were on record as supporting the U.S. bombing of their country. (This isn’t only happening in the U.S. In April 2011, a Vancouver peace group documented its objection to the fact that other Canadian “peace” groups were sponsoring speakers who justified and advocated “in favour of the NATO bombing of Libya.”)

Often Syrian “experts” speaking to peace groups, such as FNVW/CISPOS’s upcoming speaker, Mohja Kahf, have ties to the early destabilization of Syria. This American Prospect article documents how Najib Ghadbian, Kahf’s husband of over 20 years (apparently up to last year when they divorced) was one of the Syrian dissidents who attended the early 2006 meeting with Liz Cheney (then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter), along with other Syrian dissidents to plan how to destabilize Syria and topple its government. Like some Syrian version of Ahmed Chalabi, the neocons’ choice to run post-invasion Iraq, Kahf’s husband apparently got himself invited to Liz Cheney’s “Iran-Syria Operations Group” by having signed the “Damascus Declaration” in 2005, the year before.

When Najib and Mohja sat down for a long 2011 interview with The Arkansas Traveler, they discussed their involvement with the Syrian Revolution, even joking about Ghadbian becoming the next Prime Minister. Kahf and Ghadbian reportedly divorced in 2013 but when CISPOS-FNVW first published her long essays, they were still appearing together at Syrian revolutionary meetings and speaking forums. Additionally, CISPOS’s latest handout (December 2014) lists Ghadbian’s organization, www.etilaf.us (The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary Forces) as a resource “For More Information on Syria and How to Help.”

Resources for information on Syria often come from “citizen journalists” with deep ties to neocons and U.S. government sources. From the State Department’s website  the $330 million in support for the Syrian opposition includes training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers and cyber-activists to support their documentation and dissemination of information on developments in Syria.

Syrian dissidents received funding from the Los Angeles-based Democracy Council, which ran a Syria-related program called the “Civil Society Strengthening Initiative” funded with $6.3 million from the State Department. The program is described as “a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners” to produce, among other things, “various broadcast concepts.”

James Prince, the founder and President of the Democracy Council, is also an adviser toCyberDissidents.org , a project created in 2008 by the Jerusalem-based Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, founded and funded by Sheldon Adelson, a patron and confidant of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Other resources include postings on social media and alternative websites with sensational stories such as the anti-Assad activist “Gay Girl in Damascus” who turned out to be a middle-aged American man in Scotland or Syrian Danny Abdul Dayem, who was frequently interviewed using fake gun fire and flames in his interviews.

With all of the information about Syria, what are we to believe as true? We know the facts about recent U.S. interventions in Middle Eastern countries. Why would Syria be any different?

Afghanistan is still in shambles with the majority of the people living in extreme poverty; Libya, which had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent, is now a failed state; Western intervention transformed Iraq from an emerging country with moderate prosperity into an impoverished country with a starving population. In the lead-up to each intervention, “experts” emerged to explain that while anti-imperialism is good in general and in past scenarios, this time is different. Is it?

Isn’t it time for war-weary Americans to wise up and stop falling for these pretexts of bringing democracy and human rights to foreign countries through training and funding of “color (and umbrella) revolutions,” inciting of coups and regime changes and eventually, through U.S.-NATO military might?

Liberal interventionists clearly assist neocon warhawks towards their mutual goal of “full spectrum dominance” under the euphemistic guise of Pax Americana. Only the “Pax” always turns out to be endless war and occupation.

Margaret Sarfehjooy is an anti-war activist and registered nurse in Minnesota. Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel.

War in Ukraine Over Christmas

December 27th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

On Wednesday, Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine members met in Minsk. Discussing ongoing onbas conflict conditions. Ways to end them.

Attended by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Donetsk People’s Republic Vice Chairman Denis Pushilin.

Lugansk People’s Republic representative Vladislav Deinego. Russia’s ambassador to Kiev Mikhail Zurabov. OSCE envoy Heidi Tagliavini.

Nothing so far was accomplished. Except agreement on exchanging prisoners. Talks will continue.

A date yet to be announced. While conflict persists in Donbas. Kiev bears full responsibility. Virtually ignored in the West. Ukraine’s defense ministry lied.

Claiming heavy artillery will be withdrawn from Donbas after December 26. Allegedly creating a 30-kilometer security zone.

Ukraine’s armed forces general staff representative Alexander Rozmaznin saying:

“We are trying to unconditionally implement the Minsk memorandum. The first stage is to observe ‘silence regime.’ ”

“We will get over to the next stage after December 26. We will start withdrawing 100-mm and over 100-mm artillery guns to the established distances.”

“That is how a 30-kilometer security zone will be created.” In April, Kiev agreed to four-party Geneva terms. Involving America, Russia, the EU and Ukraine.

Agreeing to end hostilities. Disarm and restore peace. Violating terms agreed on straightaway. Again after agreeing to Minsk protocol terms.

Kiev’s word isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Conflict never ended. Continuing now. During illegitimate oligarch president Petro Poroshenko’s declared “regime of silence.”

Nothing in prospect suggests peaceful conflict resolution soon. Kiev wants Donbas democracy destroyed. Hardline rule instituted nationwide.

IMF-demanded austerity imposed. Benefitting Western corporate predators. At the expense of impoverished Ukrainians.

While increasing military spending. Police state crackdowns. Renouncing Ukraine’s nonaligned status. Seeking NATO membership. Despite strong Russian opposition.

On Christmas day, Stop NATO reported Kiev’s “night of the long knives.” Poroshenko sacking 77 district administration heads.

In 18 regions. Including Kiev, Lugansk, Lvov, Poltava, Rovno, Kharkov and Kherson. With no explanation. Perhaps on orders from Washington.

On Christmas day, legislators expanded national security and defense council (NSDC) powers. Supposedly in line with constitutional and Ukrainian statute laws. The kind commonplace in police states.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov oftenstresses the urgency of fundamental Ukrainian constitutional reform. Promised but not delivered.

Legislation adopted lets NSDC authorities act independently. Without head of state or legislative approval. Under whatever they call emergency conditions.

Permitting martial law. Poroshenko appointing former parliament speaker/neo-Nazi Oleksandr Turchynov NSDC secretary. Succeeding Andriy Parubiy.

One fascist extremist replacing another. While Kiev’s dirty war on Donbas continues. Including on Christmas day.

Voice of Sevastopol reported artillery fire on Petrovsky district. Other militia held areas attacked. Using “cannon artillery.” “(I)ncenriary shells.” “(M)ortars.” (S)mall arms.”

“In the area of the settlement Peski, there was a shooting battle at night of December 25.”

“It began around midnight and gradually gained strength, but in the morning the battle subsided.”

“Around 20:52, it was again uneasy…(T)he sounds of small and barreled weapons were heard.”

A tank battle between Mayorsk and Shumy settlements began. Militia forces fought it off.

Fighting in various areas continued until around midnight. Before subsiding. Ready to resume at Kiev’s discretion.

“At Zholtoye, Ukrainian security forces attempted to cross the river Seversky Donets by 15 floating AFVs and infantry on several rafts,” said Voice of Sevastopol.

Militia forces blocked them. Lugansk explosions were heard. Ukrainian artillery fire targeted various other Donbas areas.

Deaths and injuries were reported. On both sides. During Christmas day, “a battle began in the settlement Valuiskoye at Stanitsa Luganskaya” was reported.

Kiev advanced troops “and up to five tanks with the strong support of artillery.”

Militia forces repulsed them. “(F)ive houses of local residents were destroyed.”

On Christmas day, Itar Tass reported an “unidentified attacker fir(ing) a hand grenade at (Kiev) lawmakers…”

Standing outside a central Kiev hotel. A Ukrainian press service statement saying:

“A young man threw an explosive device at members of Ukraine’s parliament. Experts are to establish whether it was a hand grenade RGD-5 or a flash bang grenade.”

The same individual fired another grenade at policemen chasing him. One injury was reported. A criminal case was opened. On hooliganism charges.

Ukraine is a hotbed of fascist extremism. On Christmas day, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich addressed Moscow’s concerns.

Including categorical opposition to Ukraine’s NATO membership. “Our fundamental position…is well known,” said Lukashevich.

“The alliance’s further advance to the east will imminently lead to a serious military and political shift in Europe and the world, affect Russia’s national security interests and compel our country to retaliate appropriately.”

“The impression is that the Ukrainian authorities today regard rapprochement with NATO as an alternative to the development of normal relations with Russia.”

“This can further worsen Russian-Ukrainian bilateral ties and impede the resolution of important issues pertaining to collaboration in various fields, including the economy and the energy sector.”

“(T)he Ukrainian leadership’s NATO ambitions will further impede the Ukrainian state in tackling the major challenge it is facing: a search for national accord.”

Russia urges mutual cooperation among all nations. Putin and Sergey Lavrov stress it. So did Lukashevich. In an “atmosphere of trust,” he said.

Conditions today call for “non-confrontational formulas in interstate interaction.”

Ukrainian and NATO officials say all nations have the right choose methods for ensuring their own security. True enough, said Lukashevich.

But they forgot a key OSCE/Russian-NATO Council principle. “(N)amely that in choosing the forms of ensuring national security it is essential to take into account the threats this can create for other states.”

“(N)ational security must not be ensured at the expense of the security of others.”

Doing so is longtime US policy. Pursuing its imperial agenda. Heading for direct confrontation with Russia. Perhaps in the new year.

Obama governs recklessly. Waging multiple direct and proxy wars. Threatening world peace. A previous article calling impeaching him a national imperative.

Removing him from office. Holding him accountable for high crimes against peace. For governing under a police state apparatus.

Destroying fundamental freedoms in plain sight. Letting Big Brother watch everyone. Risking the unthinkable. Direct confrontation with Russia.

Mission creep heads in this direction. Imposing sanctions. Perhaps more to come. Deploying US combat troops close to Russia’s border.

Flying thousands of sorties close to its airspace. Sailing US warships in Black Sea waters.

Pressuring NATO members to support its rogue agenda. It bears repeating. Risking the unthinkable.

Possible war with Russia no one can win. Assuring mass casualties. America’s homeland perhaps attacked for the first time since mid-19th century civil war.

A catastrophic conflict killing the equivalent of millions of Americans today. Lunatics influencing policy in Washington make anything possible. Stopping them before it’s too late matters most.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

On 10.07.2014, CBS aired a five minute news piece titled “Militia accused of Rwanda genocide facing onslaught,” produced with the aid of the ENOUGH Project to End Geocide and Crimes Against Humanity, a non-profit corporation sheltering under the umbrella of the Center for American Progress, the Democratic Party’s corporate funded think tank and organizing operation. 

The Enough Project was founded by career intelligence professional John Prendergast, who now identifies as a human rights activist, and Gayle Smith, who now serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council. Prendergast, Smith, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and UN National Security Adviser Susan Rice are the best known proponents of a doctrine known as “Mass Atrocity Prevention,” meaning US obligation to undertake humanitarian military interventions. The Rwandan Genocide and the Holocaust are centerpieces of this military doctrine. In Presidential Study Directive 10, which created the inter-agency Mass Atrocities Review Board, President Obama wrote that, “Sixty-six years since the Holocaust and 17 years after Rwanda, the United States still lacks a comprehensive policy framework and a corresponding interagency mechanism for preventing and responding to mass atrocities and genocide.”

It’s therefore not surprising that the ENOUGH Project would collaborate with CBS to promote a military “onslaught” against the “militia accused of Rwanda Genocide” without reference to any of the well documented books and reportage that have upended the widely held belief about who was killed and who was responsible for the massacres that came to be known as the Rwandan Genocide. These include Surviving the SlaughterDying to Live; A Rwandan Family’s Five Year Flight Across the Congo, Rwanda and the New Scramble for AfricaAccidental Genocide,Rwanda 1994: The Myth of the Akuza Genocide Conspiracy and Its ConsequencesEnduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later, and the recent BBC documentary “Rwanda’s Untold Story.“ 

The CBS report quoted UN official Abdallah Wafywho said that, “The FDLR are here living with their wives and children. Maybe we need the Marines or special forces with special equipment to engage and neutralize them. I’m not quite sure with our blue helmet and the blue flag [of the U.N.], we can neutralize them.”  US Special forces are the preferred agents of Mass Atrocities Prevention interventions, as outlined in the Mass Atrocities Prevention Military Handbook produced by the Harvard Kennedy School and the Pentagon.  

So, with US Marines and/or Special Forces this close to engaging in a military “onslaught” in the heart of Africa, I decided to see what I could learn about its target, the FDLR militia. The most obvious way to start was to find out how the FDLR explain themselves, so I made inquiries until someone sent me the FDLR’s founding document, the Nasho Declaration, which follows here. I was told that FDLR leadership held a meeting in Lubumbashi, DR Congo, and produced the Nasho Declaration, which they then read on local radios and in front of media in the year 2000, though the written statement was not published until April 6, 2001, on the seventh anniversary of the assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira.  -Ann Garrison

*       *      *

STATEMENT BY DEMOCRATIC FORCES FOR THE LIBERATION OF RWANDA -FDLR- (FORCES DEMOCRATIQUES DE LIBERATION DU RWANDA DEMOCRATIC LIBERATION FORCES OF RWANDA)

Translated from French

The Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) take this opportunity of the commemoration of the inter-ethnic massacres in Rwanda to present their sincere condolences to the Rwandan People. The condolences and mutual solidarity are especially expressed to the families of the victims of this unprecedented human tragedy.

The FDLR take this opportunity to make a strong call for justice, an end to impunity in Rwanda, and a state of law with democratically elected institutions. The FDLR condemn all criminals and culprits regardless of their ethnic background or political affiliation.

- Considering that security and reconciliation among all elements of Rwandan Society cannot be guaranteed without peace and justice,

- Considering that the international community and media continue to promote the interests of the conqueror, at the detriment of the conquered, by supporting the current dictatorial and bloodthirsty regime in Rwanda,

- Considering the ever increasing number of refugees and innocent people detained in Rwanda prisons,

-Given that any person opposed to the current regime in Kigali is falsely accused of being Interahamwe or genocidaire, and that the accusation demeans,    discriminates, and destroys the human dignity of those accused,

-Considering that in Rwanda dictatorship replaced democracy,

-Given the continued hegemonic invasion of the region by the regime in Kigali,

-Profoundly saddened by the daily persecution of Rwandan people,

The Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) consider that the Rwandan people cannot remain passive spectators of the destruction of their country and the relentless extermination of the population at the whim and megalomania of General Paul Kagame. They call the attention of the international community to the extreme plight of the Rwandan people. The international community must acknowledge the right for the Rwandan people to liberate themselves using all available means. The FDLR are prepared to face the challenge of liberating Rwanda and to free their fellow citizens nowadays reduced to slavery by a clique of professional killers and corrupt thugs who form the inner circle of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)-INKOTANYI led by Paul Kagame.

The FDLR asks Mr. Paul Kagame to abandon the logic of war, to stop using genocide as a commercial fund, and to finally engage on the path of a comprehensive inter-Rwandan dialogue.

The Rwandan people are fed up.

Ten years and five months ago to the day, Rwanda and its people sank into extreme poverty, injustice, and an unjustified and deadly war. The war was launched on October 1, 1990 by the coalition of NRA/FPR-Inkotanyi with the support of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda. The time bomb that was launched from the Northeastern Rwandan border decimated everyone in its path from embryos to elderly people who resisted the invasion by a clique of cynical individuals seeking power at all costs.

The tragic situation reached its fiercest levels in the night of April 6, 1994 with the assassination of Presidents General Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi along with their entourage. In fact, the assassination was the opportunity for the RPF and its army the RPA to resume their 4-year invasion and war that had already created despicable conditions in Rwanda. The RPF and RPA intensified the fighting and massacred anyone on the hit lists established by its agents who had infiltrated all levels of the Rwandan administration. Unfortunately, the international media embargo on RPF’s opponents did not allow the truth on the massacres committed by RPF and RPA to come out.

From April 1994 to July 1994, when the RPF seized power in Kigali, thousands of our compatriots, from all ethnic groups, had been massacred in horrible conditions; millions more had fled to neighboring countries, especially Tanzania, Burundi, and Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda have always strongly condemned and reiterated their condemnation of those barbaric acts. The criminals, not the scapegoats, must be brought to justice.

When the RPF-Inkotanyi seized power, it chose to institutionalize vengeance and hatred by promoting hatred groups such as Ibuka and AVEGA Agahozo. Instead of bringing peace, promoting reconciliation and justice, and defending human rights principles, RPF-Inkotanyi created a terrorist and police government and militarized all political and civil institutions.

At the judiciary level, Rwanda has become a huge prison. About 200,000 people have been held in filthy prisons, containers, dungeons, private confinements, leaking bathrooms, military camps and military positions without access to human rights organizations. Most of these detainees have neither official charges nor judicial files. Those outside prisons spend their productive time finding and bringing food to the detainees.

With the militarization of the administration, General Kagame has dispatched death squads in the villages to terrorize or massacre the people. Hundreds of thousands of people are forced into concentration camps, called imidugudu, where death squads select people to summarily execute on simple suspicion or accusation of not supporting the RPF. Under RPF, Rwanda has arguably become the only country in the world where killing a person has become a game and death squads roam and rule the country.

The policy of lies and hypocrisy, initiated with the invasion of Rwanda, has allowed General Kagame to blindfold the international community on the war crimes

and crimes against humanity committed by the RPF. In fact, according to human rights organization, more than 3,000,000 Rwandan have been killed since October 1990. With its the responsibility in these massacres, the RPF has foiled any attempt by the International Community to investigate the assassination of President Habyarimana, to conduct a census of Rwandans killed since 1990 or determine the circumstances of these massacres, to find those responsible, and to punish the culprits. Currently, testimonies establishing the responsibility of General Kagame for the assassination of Presidents Habyarimana and Ntaryamira abound. The testimonies demonstrate how General Kagame is the planer, executor, and beneficiary of the assassinations.

With its extreme megalomania and warmongering and expansionist ambitions, the militaro-political oligarchy of RPF invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo, leaving a trail of death and rape and looting the natural riches of this country.

The FDLR condemn the barbaric and ignominious aggression that tarnishes the reputation of the Rwandan People. Hence, the FDLR hold Kagame and his army responsible for genocide of the Rwandan people, war crimes and crimes against humanity and economic crimes committed in Rwandan and in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

The current regime of Kigali imposes its rule by ways of the arms. Benefits of the 1959 Social Revolution are denied to the People. Democratic rules and symbols of national independence are trembled with. The FDLR oppose these dilatory maneuvers aimed at erasing the symbols of freedom from slavery and servitude.

The bloodthirsty, expansionist, and hegemonic regime of Kigali is now gangrened by corruption and nepotism. In order to attract more international aid in order to sustain its aggression against the sovereign states of the Region conducted sham elections.

The Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda reject the fake elections. The elections were coercive, unfair and nontransparent. Paul Kagame has suffocated all political parties and organizations but the RPF. The Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda urge all countries that value peace, justice, and democracy and the International Community in general to condemn these elections intended to legitimate a bloody dictatorship the RPF is. Furthermore, Kagame and his clique being responsible for the Rwandan tragedy do not deserve to govern the Country and therefore, cannot organize legitimate elections.

On several occasions calls were made to the Kigali regime to open up for dialogue with armed and unarmed opposition in order to bring back democracy and the respect of basic human rights. To these calls the RPF responded with arrogance, disdain and systematic repression. Nevertheless, FDLR support the idea of an International Conference of Peace in the Great Lakes Region. The Conference will constitute an ideal forum for debating the lack of democracy and the source of insecurity. The Conference will become a privileged place where regimes in power must start dialogue with their oppositions without distinction or exclusion. The dialogue will lead to durable solutions to the crises destroying the countries and the People of the region.

The FDLR invite Rwandans inside the country and in the Diaspora to defend their cause, claim their rights, and reject the intimidation by the RPF. In fact, in order to discourage people from rejecting the RPF and its crimes, to deny their rights to the refugees, and to suffocate and behead any opposition, the so-called genocidaire lists are established on the basis of false accusations. Anyone who refuses to serve the RPF or denounces its crimes is labeled genocidaire Interahamwe. This concept has lost its meaning to designate the bad person from RPF’s perspective.

The FDLR believe that criminals must be found and punished. However, as the voice for the voiceless, the FDLR urge the International Community and host countries to reject the lists established by RPF and not to use them as a reference or a basis to decide on the cases of Refugees and asylum seekers. The FDLR ask that the refugees be given the right to express their opinion and claims against the regime of Kagame.

The RPF wants the international community to believe that Rwandans who fled the country in 1994 are genocidaire. However, recent events point to the contrary. The exile of the two Prime ministers of the RPF, the Speaker of the Parliament, Ministers, Members of the Parliament, Ambassadors, high ranking civil servants and business people who had rallied behind the RPF, high ranking military officers of the RPA and the recent resignation of some of the founders of the Rwandan Patriotic Front show that those who fled in 1994 had anticipated the current dangers posed by the RPF regime.

The Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda invite the Rwandan People to adhere to its objectives and the international community to support its program. The Objectives of the FDLR are to:

- Promote long lasting peace in Rwanda and the region;

- Establish a regime based on universal principles of the rule of law, the multiparty system of democracy, free and honest elections organized on the basis of one man = one vote principle, as well as the republican values;

- Promote moral values with strict respect of life and human dignity, honesty, truth, freedom, individual emancipation, equality, justice, respect, brotherhood, confidence, and interdependence among the Rwandan people;

- Work for national reconciliation and reconstruction and for social and economic development of the country;

- Establish the truth on the Rwandan tragedy, in order to punish the culprits and to rehabilitate all victims without distinction;

- Promote peace as well as co-operation between Rwanda, the neighboring nations, and the International Community;

- Ensure good management of the public property.

The FDLR are committed to the guarantee of individual and collective fundamental freedoms, the respect of minority rights, the protection of cultural identities, the right of the Rwandan people to establish a state of law and a democratic rule based on the cultural values of Rwanda and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The FDLR invite Rwandans of all ages to raise up as one and mount a strong resistance against the ignominious and dictatorial regime of Kigali in order to restore Democracy and equitable justice, the respect of human rights, and peace in Rwanda and in the Great Lakes Region of Africa in order to achieve development for the benefit of all people of the region.

Together victory is ours!

Signed in NASHO, April 6, 2001,

Alexis Nshimyimana FDLR Spokesperson

This week, the FDLR released a statement available here, which says that they are prepared to disarm and engage in dialogue with the Rwandan government.

U.S. War Against Russia Is Now Against Hungary Too

December 27th, 2014 by Eric Zuesse

Hungary has decided to align itself with Russia against the United States.

The Western Alliance is starting to fray, over the insistence by Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to go to war against Russia.

This is called a ‘new cold war,’ but it’s actually already a hot war within Ukraine, immediately next door to Russia.

America’s plan to locate nuclear missiles there aimed against Russia has made stunning progress this year. The formerly neutral nation of Ukraine has now become officially anti-Russian. Because of the Obama coup, Ukraine is suffering a civil war between the Ukrainian regime that Obama’s CIA and mercenaries installed in Kiev on 22 February 2014, versus the people in Ukraine’s far eastern districts, where the Ukrainian President whom Obama was overthrowing had received around 90% of all the votes that had been cast there, and so the newly installed Obama regime in Kiev in the west was overwhelmingly rejected by them — hence, Ukraine’s civil war is raging there now, with Obama’s Kiev regime trying to eliminate the residents there.

But, within the European Union, and especially among its former member-states of the Soviet Union, this is, as of yet, still only a cold war, which is in the process of heating up toward perhaps the super-hot temperature of a nuclear conflict between Russia and NATO (the latter organization consisting of the United States and its vassal nations against Russia). And America is already investing heavily in it.

According to German Economic News (GEN), on December 25th, “Hungary Will Not Take Part in the Cold War Against Russia.” They report that, “Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban takes his distance from the EU, and accuses the US government of trying to instigate a new Cold War against Russia. Hungary will not participate.” GEN also links to an earlier, October 19th, GEN article, which had reported that, “After Russia, Hungary is now apparently also being targeted by Americans: the United States is hitting senior Hungarian government officials and businessmen with entry bans. The Americans throw corruption-charges against the Hungarians.”

Actually, the United States Government is also very corrupt, and uses corruption-charges against other nations’ officials in order to provide a pretext to force them to buckle to America’s aristocracy — to become vassal nations. Will the U.S. Government now place entry-bans against high U.S. officials, also, such as against Joe Biden even now, and perhaps including against Barack Obama after his Presidency ends and he starts taking favors that are widely expected for him, on and from Wall Street (such as did his friend Timothy Geithner)? (And this was already after the cascade of corruption during George W. Bush’s Presidency — none of which Obama allowed to be investigated and prosecuted.)

In 2013, a Gallup poll asked Americans, “Is corruption widespread throughout the government in the United States?” and 73% said “Yes.” But the corrupt Obama Administration pretends to be in the position of international arbiter against corruption in other corrupt nations. Whom is he fooling? (Perhaps people who don’t read this news-site, for example?)

On Tuesday, December 23rd, Reuters headlined, “Hungary PM Orban: U.S. uses corruption charges to gain influence,” and reported that, “The United States is using corruption allegations against some Hungarian public officials as a ‘cover story’ to boost its influence in central Europe amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Tuesday. Orban’s comments come amid a wider souring of relations between Hungary, a NATO ally, and the United States over what America perceives as Orban’s increasingly authoritarian rule and Budapest’s warm relations with Russia.”

America’s pervasive NSA snooping, militarizing of local police-forces, and invasions of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other countries that never threatened the United States, are not considered (by the British Reuters) ‘authoritarian,’ but somehow Hungary now is ‘authoritarian.’ Suddenly (though the U.S. didn’t say this when Hungary was trying to meet the demands of the American aristocracy), Hungary is ‘authoritarian,’ and is ‘too’ corrupt to do business with.

When more than two-thirds of the United States public are against the U.S. Government’s selling arms to the Ukrainian Government, but 98% of the U.S. House of Representatives wants not only to sell them to Ukraine but to donate them to Ukraine, with U.S. taxpayers paying the tab for this largesse, and when 100% of the U.S. Senate then goes along with that, and the U.S. President signs it into law, how fake is American ‘democracy’?

Even on such a vital war-and-peace issue as nuclear war, America’s aristocracy, which overwhelmingly finances all ‘elections’ to national office, is controlling the U.S. Government, no matter what the U.S. public want.

Obama hasn’t succeeded in fooling the American public into invading Russia, as George W. Bush succeeded in fooling the American public into invading Iraq, but now he won’t even need to.

All of this trouble is being done in order to surround Russia with our nuclear missiles. It’s not resulting from too much democracy; it’s resulting from fake ‘democracy.’

So: now we know that it’s fake.

It’s fake: that’s the reality. Once this reality is understood, everything else can begin to make sense. Getting rid of the illusion from the lies from the many liars is the prerequisite to understanding. Before that, is only myths. They’re getting more dangerous day-by-day. Nuclear war is deadly serious.

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.

The latest of a series of official Canadian verbal darts aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin was published December 15 on BuzzFeed.

The content was propaganda or as BuzzFeed would have it, advertorial. It was part of a Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) campaign surrounding Stephen Harper’s announcement of new sanctions against Russia, which, no surprise, coincided with updated sanctions from Washington.

On December 16 headlines read ”Ruble Routed.” The impression re-enforced was that Russia faced severe financial problems, and that investor support for its economy was sliding. The ultimate U.S. objective of forcing regime change in Russia through economic sanctions aimed at limiting its influence in Ukraine seemed to be on track.

The Russian ruble had been falling in value against the U.S. dollar. It fell as much as 11 per cent on Dec. 16. Speculators borrowed rubles in the morning and sold them for dollars immediately. At the end of that day, the rubles were bought back for 11 per cent less, the loan repaid, and the speculators picks up an 11 per cent profit in one day, just short of 4,000 per cent if it could be sustained for a year.

Except that on December 17, the Russian Central Bank intervened in the foreign exchange market to support the value of the ruble. By selling from its deep U.S. dollar reserves, the Russians were able to drive up the value of the ruble, forcing speculators to take huge losses. The new headline was “Ruble Surges.”

Later last week, and again to start the week of December 22, the ruble has been gaining ground against the dollar. The engineer of the turnaround is Ms. Elvira Nabiullina, Governor of the Bank of Russia, the first woman to head a G8 central bank, and formerly economic adviser to Putin.

By defeating attempts to drive its currency down, the Russian Central Bank had executed a procedure known as a “bear squeeze,” the bears being those who believed the ruble would fall in value. Feeding this belief was major misinformation, and misunderstanding of the Russian economic and financial situation.

While an almost 50 per cent decline in the price of oil has hurt Russian export earnings, the even greater fall in the value of the ruble has meant that the ruble value of the oil exports has not declined.

Sanctions introduced by the West against Russia are a form of hot economic warfare. But the attack on the ruble resulted in a competitive currency devaluation for Russia, limiting its ability to import from the West (saving foreign currency), and protecting the value of its declining volume of exports by increasing the number of dollars it receives for each devalued ruble.

As Michael Hudson has explained, Putin has responded to the U.S.-led sanctions movement by diversifying oil and gas exports towards China and Turkey, and signing sales agreements in rubles or currencies other than the U.S. dollar. By abandoning the U.S. dollar as its trading currency, and accepting payments in Chinese yuan, for instance, Putin is signalling his desire to break the stranglehold the U.S. currency has enjoyed over oil and gas trade, and within the world economy.

On December 22, China announced its willingness to support the ruble through currency swaps from its $4-trillion reserves.

Russia has a favourable balance of trade and healthy foreign exchange reserves. Its overseas assets exceed its overseas debts. Contrary to reports from even American liberals such as Paul Krugman, Russia is well placed to meet its overseas payments, as French specialist Jacques Sapir has shown.

The Russian economy grew on average by nearly seven per cent per year from 1999-2008 (Putin took power in 2000) before it tanked in the world financial crisis of 2008. While U.S. and Eurozone (except Germany) economic growth remained about zero from 2008 until 2013, Russia grew slowly in that period.

Importantly, in 2014 the level of Russian government debt is small at 16 per cent of GDP, especially when compared to other industrial countries such as France or the U.K., where it is over 90 per cent.

Russian corporate debt especially in banking and in the oil and gas sector has grown and because these companies are tied to the Russian state their operations remains vulnerable to Western sanctions.

Russia is attempting to divert its purchases of foodstuffs to non-Western countries and wants to adopt an aggressive import substitution policy for manufacturing. Instead of importing manufacturing goods it wants foreign manufactures to re-locate to Russia and produce for the large domestic market.

Russia is a nuclear power. In another era, when Canada practiced diplomacy, the goal would have been to reduce tensions between the U.S. and the Russian bear. Today, as DFATD resorts to BuzzFeed, shows the Conservatives eschew foreign policy as such, preferring to promote themselves as pro-American or pro-Ukrainian with the voting public.

An experienced observer, Patrick Armstrong, former political counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow, has serious concerns with NATO policy, but foreign policy distinctions do not trouble Foreign Minister Baird or the Prime Minister. The oafs are in charge in Ottawa.

Duncan Cameron is the president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Image: Christopher Haughery/flickr

Probably the most serious and alarming recent development at the UN is the deadly process by which North Korea was referred to the Security Council for “human rights abuses”, and this subject was adopted for the agenda of the Security Council, against the opposition of Russia and China. Meanwhile the Senate torture report is dismissed. 

The double standards are glaring, in this, but even more dangerous is the probable motivation for the demonization of the DPRK.  It is imperative to expose the reasons for this focus on the DPRK, and its relevance for US/NATO’s agressive agenda toward Russia, and especially China.

What is at stake is another example of the surreptitious manipulation of the UN to facilitate (and if possible, justify) aggressive war.

Double Standards. Security Council Dismisses UN Report on Senate Torture Report

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, stated that senior Bush administration officials who planned and authorized crimes must be prosecuted, along with CIA and other US government officials who committed torture.  “As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,”  Emmerson said in a statement issued in Geneva.  “The U.S. Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”   To date, the United Nations has taken no action whatsoever in response to Emmerson’s explosive charges.

On Wednesday, December 10, 2014 the front page headline of The New York Times stated:

SENATE PANEL FAULTS CIA OVER BRUTALITY AND DECEIT IN TERRORISM INTERROGATIONS.

At no point in the United Nations Third Committee human rights debates was the United States held responsible for now documented institutionalization of the most heinous torture of human beings, although newspapers worldwide reported the most horrific criminal actions committed by the C.I.A. against helpless, defenseless prisoners, many of whom they knew to be innocent.  The Torture Report further acknowledges that no terrorist act was prevented by the use of torture, and that torture is a failed method of obtaining accurate information.  According to The New York Times on December 10, (and multiple other sources):

“At the Salt Pit, outside Kabul, a junior officer ordered a prisoner, Gul Rahman, shackled to the wall of his cell and stripped of most of his clothing.  Mr. Rahman was found dead of hypothermia the next morning, lying on the bare concrete floor.  Four months later, the junior officer was recommended for a cash award of $2,500.00 for his ‘consistently superior work.’”

On October 4, 2005, The Washington Post’s Dana Priest reported that Mandouh Habib, pulled off a bus in Pakistan, and eventually delivered to Bagram and Guantanamo, ‘during interrogations, Habib was sometimes suspended from hooks in the wall, and repeatedly kicked, punched, beaten with a stick, rammed with an electric cattle prod and doused with cold water when he fell asleep.  He was suspended from hooks, with his feet resting on the side of a large cylindrical drum attached to wires and a battery.  When Mr. Habib did not give the answers his interrogators wanted, they threw a switch and a jolt of electricity went through the drum.  The action of Mr. Habib ‘dancing’ on the drum forced it to rotate, and his feet constantly slipped, leaving him suspended by only the hooks on the wall.  This ingenious cruelty lasted until Mr. Habib fainted.  Habib says he gave false confessions to stop the abuse.’

In his book, “The Reluctant Spy,” (published in 2007) CIA officer John Kiriakou confirmed that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, “raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied.” (p. 191).  Kiriakou states (p. 140)

“Even if torture worked, it cannot be tolerated – not in one case or a thousand or a million.  If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sort of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable.”

Keriakou is currently serving a prison term for having leaked information to the press about the U.S. systematic use of torture.

One prisoner was waterboarded more than 183 times,  “The report said the agency had evidently forgotten its own conclusion, sent to Congress in 1989, that ‘inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.    The Democratic Senate staff members who studied the post-Sept.11 program came up with an identical assessment:  that waterboarding, wall-slamming, nudity, cold and other ill treatment produced little information of value in preventing terrorism.  The report spends little time condemning torture on moral or legal grounds.  Instead, it addresses mainly a practical question:  Did torture accomplish anything of value?  Looking at case after case, the report answers with an unqualified no.

For perhaps the first time, the Obama Administration acknowledged that the US Government was responsible for institutionalizing torture.  According to the spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “The prohibition against torture is absolute.”  Under no circumstances is torture permissible or justifiable.  The December 10, 2014 New York Times report of U.S. perpetrated gross human rights abuses states:

“In exhaustive detail, the torture report gives a macabre accounting of some of the grisliest techniques that the C.I.A. used to torture and imprison terrorism suspects.  Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody.  With the approval of the C.I.A.’s medical staff, some prisoners were subjected to medically unnecessary ‘rectal feeding’ or ‘rectal hydration,’ a form of rape, – a technique that the C.I.A.’s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert ‘total control over the detainee.’  C.I.A. medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed as a series of ‘near-drownings.’”

Although efforts were made by other UN member states, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to raise the matter of systemic torture perpetrated by the U.S. government, these efforts were completely ignored.  By stark contrast, the resolution adopted by the General Assembly, on December 18, 2014, after referral by the Third Committee, not only condemns the DPRK for human rights abuses, but this condemnation is based almost entirely on an unreliable report by the “Commission of Inquiry,” led by Michael Kirby.  The “Commission of Inquiry” based its dubious report upon interviews with some defectors from North Korea.  Kirby never actually entered the DPRK, nor interviewed any citizen currently living in North Korea.  Indeed, Assistant Secretary-General Simonovic admitted, at a stake- out following the December 22 Security Council meeting, that the Kirby report did not meet the threshold of admissible evidence, and would not hold up in a court of law.

On December 18, and in the subsequent December 22 Security Council meeting, the double standards within the United Nations are shockingly visible, and one can only gasp at the arrogance of the blatantly biased and politically motivated resolution A/69/488/Add.3 which “condemns the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in the DPRK.”  The resolution condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is clearly an attempt to eviscerate the socialist government of North Korea.

The use of allegations of human rights abuses by the United States, the world’s most powerful country, and the powerful country whose own documented record of criminal human rights abuses has just been published, causing revulsion and horror throughout the world, constitutes an assault on justice which so dishonors the United Nations that the adoption of this resolution condemning the DPRK can only be described as shameful.  Operative paragraphs 7. and 8. of this resolution are infamous:

7.  “Acknowledges the commission’s finding that the body of testimony gathered and the information received provide reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades.

8.  Decides to submit the report of the commission of inquiry to the Security Council, and encourages the Council to consider the relevant conclusions and recommendations of the commission and take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court and consideration of the scope for effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for acts that the commission has said may constitute crimes against humanity.”

On November 18, 2014, in the Third Committee, Cuba proposed an amendment to draft resolution A/c.3/69/L28 which stated:

“Delete operative paragraphs 7 and 8 and insert a new operative paragraph reading as follows:

“decides to adopt a new cooperative approach to the consideration of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that will enable (a) the establishment of dialogues by representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with States and groups of States interested in the issue; (b) the development of technical cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and (c) the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the country.”

The government of the DPRK had already agreed to all these conditions which would have  provided reliable, factual evidence of the reality of the human rights situation within the DPRK, and would have defused a potentially combustible problem.  Clearly neither the European Union nor Japan nor the U.S. had an actual interest in resolving this questions.  Human rights is merely a subterfuge concealing their actual agenda.

The Cuban delegate, representing the Non-aligned Movement, stated that politicization and double standards motivated resolutions against countries belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement.  Many delegations, including Cuba expressed alarm at the

“trigger mechanism by which the Human Rights Council was becoming a tool for some countries, who were not interested in dialogue, to use to attack other countries.  The resolution was being used to establish a pattern that would permanently endanger all developing countries.  We are trying to insure that a precedent is not being set here.”

China was opposed to making human rights a pretext for political gains, and stated differences on human rights issues should be resolved through constructive dialogue, and the Council was the wrong forum for dealing with such issues.

The Cuban amendment was rejected.  The representative of the U.S. hypocritically opposed the Cuban amendment, stating the Cuban amendment would “‘strip the resolution of crucial language regarding accountability.”  The U.S. representative must at that time, have been fully aware of the U.S. Senate’s imminent release of The Torture Report, and her sanctimonious demand for “accountability” hoists her, and her own government on their own petard:  as UN Special Rapporteur On Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson stated:  former President Bush and Vice-President Cheney must be held accountable for crimes against humanity.  Torture is an international crime and perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country to which they might travel,” Emmerson stated.

India voted in favor of the Cuban amendment and stated:

“India was unable to sign the statute of the International Criminal Court because the statute did not allow the court to be free from political interference.  It also gave the Security Council powers that went beyond international laws.  In the current resolution, operative paragraphs 7 and 8 were the very reasons that prevented India from joining the Rome Statute.”

Pakistan stated:

“As a firm believer in the universality of human rights, Pakistan emphasizes that efforts to advance the agenda of human rights at the global level should be pursued in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation.  Human rights violations are not confined to a single country.  Pakistan is opposed to the practice of ‘naming and shaming’ through country-specific resolutions.  Referring matters to the International Criminal Court would further complicate the situation.”

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated:

“The report of the Commission of Inquiry (the Kirby report) was based on fabricated testimonies by a handful of defectors who had fled the country after committing crimes.  The report is a compilation of groundless political allegations and has no credibility as a U.N. document. “

His country has consistently prioritized dialogue, but the EU and Japan are provoking confrontation by pushing ahead the draft resolution.  People around the world remember how the United States unleashed a “war against Yugoslavia” in the name of “humanitarian intervention.”  The sponsors of the draft should be held responsible for destroying the opportunity for human rights cooperation.”

The resolution was adopted by the Third Committee: 111 in favor, 19 opposed, 55 abstained.  Those opposed included Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, China, the Russian Federation, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Belarus and Egypt.  On December 18, the UN General assembly adopted this resolution 69/188:  in support 116, opposed 20, abstaining: 53.  With incredible speed, four days later, on December 22, 2014 “The Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was placed on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council, against the opposition of China and Russia.

During the December 22 Security Council meeting, in a melodramatic diatribe, the U.S. Ambassador’s lurid litany of alleged atrocities by the DPRK included a defector’s description of the cooking of a newborn infant, spawned of the rape of its mother.  This Ambassador is evidently oblivious or indifferent to the current U.S. Senate Torture Report, and the fact that for two decades (1973-1990) the U.S. installed and supported a regime in Chile whose standard method of torture included forcing live rats into the vaginas of female political prisoners, and the drenching with gasoline of teen age political protestors, who were then set on fire, dying in agony.  This is documented and published on November 23, 1986 in The Washington Post, in an article by David Remnick.  The New York Times had reported these crimes the previous August.  As Orwell might have phrased it, all victims of torture are equal, but some are more equal than others.  The U.S. Ambassador’s speech to the December 22 Security Council is the grossest example of double standards, and impunity for crimes committed by U.S. client states.

Paragraphs 7 and 8 remained intact:

“Deciding to submit the report to the Security Council, and recommending referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court,..and consideration of the scope for effective targeted sanction.”  This ostracizing and demonization of the DPRK slides down the “slippery slope” that leads to military action, regime change, and the destruction of the socialist government and economic system of the DPRK.

Although within the same week the Obama Administration “normalized” relations with Cuba, in The New York Times coverage of the event, on page A17 of its print version, Rick Gladstone’s article is headlined:

“Blacklist shrinks, leaving North Korea as the last Cold War Pariah.”

“The normalization of the diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of enmity would leave only North Korea on America’s Cold War blacklist.”  Obama’s “normalization” of relations with Cuba, reported, coincidentally on the day the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution virulently attacking the core integrity and legitimacy of the DPRK can be seen as another subterfuge, welcome, perhaps, but also distracting attention from the Resolution’s (69/188) importance for the geopolitical goals of the U.S. “pivot to Asia.”

CHINA IS NOW THE WORLD’S NUMBER 1 ECONOMIC POWER

In its January issue, Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz writes in “Vanity Fair”:

When the history of 2014 is written, it will take note of a large fact that has received little attention: 2014 was the last year in which the U.S. could claim to be the world’s largest economic power. China enters 2015 in the top position, where it will likely remain for a very long time, if not forever.  In doing so, it returns to the position it held through most of human history…..Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States then made two critical mistakes.  First, it inferred that its triumph meant a triumph for everything it stood for.  But in much of the Third World, concern about poverty – and the economic rights that had long been advocated by the left – remained paramount.  The second mistake was to use the short period of its unilateral dominance, between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Lehman Brothers, to pursue its own narrow economic interests – or more accurately, the economic interests of its multinationals, including its big banks – rather than to create a new, stable world order…….The rise of China also shines a harsh spotlight on the American model.  That model has not been delivering for large portions of its own population.  The typical American family is worse off than it was a quarter-century ago, adjusted for inflation;  the proportion of people in poverty has increased.  China, too is marked by high levels of inequality, but its economy has been doing some good for most of its citizens.  China moved some 500 million people out of poverty during the same period that saw America’s middle class enter a period of stagnation. An economic model that doesn’t serve a majority of its citizens is not going to provide a role model for others to emulate.  America should see the rise of China as a wake-up call to put our own house in order.”

Stiglitz’s excellent article would have been enhanced had he included the fact that capitalism obeys its own inexorable dynamic, based on maximization of profit and the concentration of capital in an oligarchy, whose profits are maximized by war, and depend on the military-industrial complex, the oil industry and imperialism.  To sustain this irrational and inhumane system, torture is necessary, not as a means of extracting information to “protect” its citizens, but as a means of intimidating its citizens and insuring their submission to this brutally unjust economic order which protects the privileges of the most rapacious and unscrupulous.  Unable to change, it can only resort to domination and confrontation with any economic system which, by contrast, provides a more just and equitable economic model.  China is precisely this  competitor, and cooperation, advocated by Stiglitz, and by the Chinese, themselves, is precluded.

And in multiple ways, the U.S. has been attempting to undermine and destabilize China since 1949.  Both the violent Uighur separatist movement, based in Northwest China’s Xinjiang, but whose increasingly frequent terrorist suicide bombings have reached as far as the heart of China:  Beijing’s Forbidden City; and the more recent “Umbrella Revolution,” destabilizing Hong Kong, but spawned with the support of Washington’s National Endowment of Democracy,” are efforts to fragment China, incite chaos, impeding China’s ability to govern effectively, and contribute, ultimately to “regime change.”  On October 2, 2014, page A8 of The New York Times quoted Lisa Bao, 26, from Zhejiang Province questioning “why Hong Kong people had not staged democracy protests against their former British colonial rulers.  ‘In the past they had the British choose their leaders, and they weren’t terribly upset.  Now they’re part of China and under our socialist system, and they choose to stand up.  I’ve heard that the United States is influencing this.”

In his 2007 book, “Legacy of Ashes, The History of the CIA,”  Tim Weiner describes (p. 301)

“In the name of combating Chinese communism the CIA had spent tens of millions of dollars parachuting tons of weapons to hundreds of Tibetan guerrillas who fought for their spiritual leader, the fourteenth Dalai Lama….The agency set up a training camp for the Tibetan fighters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  It had paid an annual subsidy of some $180,000 directly to the Dalai Lama, and it created Tibet houses in New York and Geneva to serve as his unofficial embassies.”

From the moment of its inception, in 1949, the destruction of the Communist government in China has been one of the highest priorities of the U.S. government.  According to Jung Chang, author of a biography of Madame Sun Yat-sen (known as Soong Ching-ling in China) (Page 109)  “Just when China desperately wanted a period of peace to rebuild its war-ravaged economy, the Korean War broke out in 1950.  The Chinese thought that the Americans were attempting to use Korea as a springboard for the invasion of China to restore Chiang Kai-shek to power.  The nation was filled with indignation….Soong Ching-ling attacked the U.S. intervention in Korea and was prominently involved in the international left-wing peace campaign (duly recorded in her FBI dossier).  In 1952, when a volume of her texts was published in English in Beijing, Ching-ling dedicated it ‘To the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers.’  In December that year she headed the Chinese delegation to the Congress of Peoples for peace held in Vienna.  There she sat on a platform with Brecht, Sartre, Aragon, Ehrenburg and other radical luminaries.  She took an active part in the campaign denouncing America for using germ warfare in Korea and north-east China.  She said:  “I firmly believe that in the future socialism and ultimately communism will become universal social systems.’”

Soong-Ching-ling was the daughter of the richest man in pre-revolutionary China.  She was one of three sisters, (Ai-ling and May-ling) of whom it was said:  One loves money, one loves power and one loves China.  Soong Ching-ling could have lived in pomp and luxury in exile in Europe or the USA.  Instead, she committed her entire life to the well-being of the Chinese people, and her courageous devotion remains an inspiring and sacred example in China today.

The wheel has come full circle.  The destruction of the socialist government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is still a top priority of US/NATO, as UN General Assembly Resolution 69/188 made clear on December 18, 2014.  The destruction of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, spearheaded by US/NATO powers would result, most probably, in a unified, capitalist  Korean peninsula, once again a “springboard” to force “regime change”in China, an insane fantasy.  For today, China is a great nuclear-armed superpower, though vulnerable to destabilization and disintegration by separatist movements in the Northwest, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

With indefatigable intelligence and courage, the Chinese leadership and people have endured and overcome almost insurmountable hardship from 1927 through today.  They may have to overcome future obstacles, once again, a fact of which they are, no doubt, supremely aware.  Historically China has not been expansionist. And following the collapse of the Soviet Union, they could only have shuddered as they witnessed the expanding and seemingly unlimited dominance of the United States, over the Middle East, with the first Gulf War, shamefully endorsed by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, and soon thereafter the US/NATO propaganda and military support for the independence of Kosovo, culminating in the bombing of Belgrade, during which the Chinese embassy was also demolished by bombs. (The US claimed this was an accident because their maps were out-of-date).

According to Aaron L. Friedberg in his recent book “Beyond Air-Sea Battle,”

“A much higher percentage of the weapons delivered against targets in Serbia were ‘smart,’ precision guided munitions, as opposed to ‘dumb’ unguided bombs.  Most impressive of all, the US-led coalition achieved its strategic objectives primarily through the use of air power without suffering a single casualty.  Ironically, it was the precision of most allied air operations that made it virtually impossible to convince Beijing that a misguided strike on its embassy in Belgrade was an accident.”

“Startled by what they perceived as a new level of American aggression, some Chinese analysts began to question whether peace and development were truly prevailing trends in world affairs.  If the First Gulf War revealed the potentially devastating impact of the US technical edge, and the Taiwan crisis (1995-1996) highlighted its apparent proclivity for intervention, the 1999 war in Kosovo reinforced both concerns.  This time Washington did not go to the UN for approval, instead rounding up a few of its NATO allies to provide a cloak of international legitimacy.  In the First Gulf War, the Americans could at least justify their actions by pointing out that Iraq had invaded another sovereign state;  in Kosovo, they were openly supporting what could only be regarded as a separatist movement.”

THE RUSSIAN WARNING

In a historic act of almost unprecedented criminal irresponsibility, Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the destruction of  the Soviet Union, which had, for the 70 years of its existence, been one of the great engines of progressive human development, creating the infrastructure necessary to provide a decent standard of living for the citizens of its fifteen member countries.  Following the destruction of the Soviet Union, its fifteen member countries were left destitute.  As was said to me by a great diplomat of Tadjikistan:  “The destruction of our countries, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, was as complete and terrible as it would have been if the Nazis had won World War II.”

Today, US imposed sanctions and the manipulation of the price of oil are pulverizing the Russian economy, and threatening the destabilization of the Putin government.  This quickly followed the US instigated destabilization and overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Yanukovich, and the installation of a nazi inspired puppet regime in Kiev, which is embarking on “ethnically cleansing” pro-Russian East Ukranians.  Putin is in the process of abandoning allies in East Ukraine, to avoid internecine warfare with Ukraine, one of the deadliest form of slaughter, which will further bleed the Russian economy and decimate both countries.  China needs no further evidence of what is imminent.  Alert to the juggernaut of US/NATO aggression, and its obvious global intent, China recently offered a bailout to the Russian government.

In a brilliant essay entitled “Russia’s Vulnerabiity to EU-US Sanctions and Military Encroachments”, recapitulating recent history, Professor James Petras wrote:

“Over the past quarter century, several trillion dollars worth of public property in every sector of the Russian economy was illegally transferred or violently seized by gangster-oligarchs acting through armed gangs, especially during its ‘transition to capitalism.’  From 1990 to 1999 over 6 million Russian citizens died prematurely as a result of the catastrophic collapse of the economy;  life expectancy for males declined from 67 years during the Soviet era to 55 years during the Yeltsin period.  Russia’s GNP declined sixty percent – a historic first for a country not at war.  Following Yeltsin’s violent seizure of power and his bombing of the Russian parliament, the regime proceeded to ‘prioritize’ the privatization of the economy, selling off the energy, natural resources, banking, transport and communication sectors at one-tenth or less of their real value to well-connected cronies and foreign entities.  Armed thugs, organized by emerging oligarchs ‘completed’ the program of privatization by assaulting, murdering and threatening rivals.  Hundreds of thousands of elderly pensioners were tossed out of their homes and apartments in a vicious land-grab by violent property speculators……Meanwhile, living standards collapsed, impoverishing two thirds of Russian households, suicides quadrupled and deaths from alcoholism, drug addiction, HIV and venereal diseases became rampant.  Syphilis and tuberculosis reached epidemic proportions – diseases fully controlled during the Soviet era reemerged with the closure of clinics and hospitals.”

Currently, as Petras continues,

“In the face of Western sanctions Putin’s leading oligarch-allies are his weakest link in formulating an effective response.  They press Putin to give in to Washington as they plead with Western banks to have their properties and accounts exempt from the sanctions.  They are desperate to protect their assets in London and New York….This highlights the contradiction within Putin’s strategy of working with the ‘economic’ oligarchs who have agreed not to oppose Putin within Russia, while transferring their massive wealth to Western banks, investing in luxury real estate in London, Paris and Manhattan and forming loyalties outside of Russia.  In effect, they are closely tied to Russia’s current political enemies.  Putin’s tactical success in harnessing oligarchs to his project of growth via stability has turned into a strategic weakness in defending the country from crippling economic reprisals.   It is not enough to claim that oligarchs who remain in Russia and declare loyalty to the Putin administration are legitimate economic agents.  They have generally disinvested from Russia, transferred their wealth abroad and have questioned legitimate state authority under pressure from Western sanctions…Russia needs a new economic and political revolution – in which the government recognizes the West as an imperial threat and in which it counts on the organized Russian working class and not on dubious oligarchs.”

Further weakening Russia is another current trend, (which would have been unthinkable during the Soviet Union) which Russia may justify as “realpolitik,” but which can also be regarded as unprincipled opportunism, alienating Russia’s  most loyal friends, allies and “strategic partners.”  An example of this is Russia’s recent behavior toward Armenia, one of its staunchest and most loyal allies.  While discussing building a nuclear power station in Armenia, which desperately needs this as its only source of energy, Russia offered to invest one billion dollars in the construction of this power plant.  Although the construction required a 5 billion dollar investment, Russia claimed it could only afford to invest one billion dollars to help Armenia.  Soon thereafter, Russia agreed to invest 20 billion dollars in Turkey to build a huge nuclear power plant, an act that Armenia could only regard as treacherous, considering the trauma of the Turkish genocide of Armenians, an ineradicable part of the historic memory of Armenians today.  Russia’s betrayal of its promise to Armenia, and its unprincipled investment in Turkey drives a knife into the hearts of almost every Armenian.

Prior to that, Russia had sold Bal E rocket system, with immense destructive capacity, to Azerbaijan – weapons which would inevitably be used against Armenia.  In desperation, Armenia then bought weapons from China and Iran, infuriating Russia by their independent action, which had actually been precipitated by Russia’s own unprincipled behavior, however rationalized.  According to one reliable source, Russia did not want a strong, self-sustaining Armenia, they wanted to enforce Armenia’s dependency upon Russia, in a form of semi-feudal relationship reducing Armenia to the status of a vassal.  These actions, unthinkable in the Soviet Union, may be the result of Russia’s desperation, as it embraces a ruthless economic system which is driving it into the abyss, adopting unprincipled policies which are alienating loyal allies.

These tragic developments are largely the result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which destroyed the viable infrastructure for human development…  China has observed this with alarm, and alerted by this “cautionary tale,” seeks to avoid this catastrophe.

The Security Council meeting on December 22, 2014, on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with its attempt to refer the DPRK to the International Criminal Court, is menacing, and a very serious cause for alarm for both China and Russia.

The session, itself, bore an ugly resemblance to the beating of drums of war which preceded the Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 1973, which authorized the bombing of Libya in 2011, and the beating of war drums which preceded the UN Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 678, in 1990, which authorized the ultimate destruction of Iraq.  It will require the greatest skill and strength to circumvent this monstrous outcome.

The Road to Torture

December 27th, 2014 by Philip Giraldi

Christmas week is possibly a good time to reflect on what kind of nation we have become. Americans are much given to think of themselves as exceptional, so much so that “exceptionalism” as a national attribute has entered the political vocabulary.

Americans also like to think of themselves as generous, fair minded to a fault, and willing to help foreigners who are less fortunate than they. Unfortunately, Americans can also be ignorant, bigoted, small minded and brutal. They tend to ignore the fact that every nation crafts itself around a national myth that incorporates its own unique virtues, believing instead that only the Uncle Sam version is for real. Isolated and protected by two broad oceans Americans frequently have difficulty in realizing that virtues and vices are pretty much evenly distributed among most countries, including the United States.

Most Americans rightly love both family and country. The birth of the United States as a new nation incorporating moral principles in both its Declaration and Independence and Constitution gave it a unique quality which was subsequently copied worldwide. That was something to be proud of. The American way of doing things referred to as “ingenuity” and the freedom afforded both by custom and a resource rich environment has historically benefited most citizens, giving them a level of personal liberty and prosperity that for a long time could not be matched anywhere in the world.

But when we have had so much and have enjoyed such liberties why do we persist in ruining it? The Greeks would call it hubris. Most Americans would probably agree that when real enemies actually do threaten the citizen has a right to resist by force if necessary to preserve and protect. But where are the enemies that justify Congress spending nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on weapons and soldiers?

And loving and defending one’s country does not mean that Washington should be constantly going out looking for new dragons to slay, which has been the norm since 1945. Nor should every international crisis be politically hyped to make it appear to be morally equivalent to possible national annihilation. And no threat currently confronting the United States can possibly justify doing the unthinkable by engaging in abominable practices like torture.

Torture is not generally regarded as an American value unless one’s name is Dick Cheney but it is a symptom of a government that is largely out of control. The unindicted war criminals in the Bush Administration who established and managed the torture regime are products of a certain institutional mindset, which my good friend Major Todd Pierce has described as “authoritarian psychology.” Pierce cites how neocon guru Leo Strauss explained that believers in the concept appreciate that “Authority is the possibility of an agent acting upon others without these others reacting against him, despite being capable to do so, and without making any compromises. Any discussion is already a compromise.” It is a description of how a largely self-appointed cadre of elitists uses clever control of the narrative to create a sense of fear and uncertainty that permits the continuous shearing of the sheeple.

At the heart of the matter in its political manifestation there is the “unitary executive doctrine,” aproposition that the government chief executive’s authority is virtually unlimited, particularly in time of national emergency. Those who support the doctrine accept that declaring a national emergency is itself conveniently the responsibility of the chief executive, meaning that he can de factogrant himself unrestricted authority. The doctrine was developed by jurists in Germany in the 1930s where it was described as the Führer Prinzip or leader principle in English. It essentially means that the government can do no wrong and cannot be held accountable precisely because it is the government. Those who cite the principle do so to override what might be referred to as constitutionalism, which limits the authority of the leader.

This anti-constitutional formulation whereby there are no controls over the leadership has long been hidden in the United States though the most recent Republican and Democratic administrations have allowed it to emerge to justify their unilateral decision making. The high levels of largely hidden political corruption and cronyism that go hand in hand with executive rule had been hitherto masked by a pervasive general belief in the national myth that the system for all its faults somehow serves “the people.”

But sometimes the mask falls off. The debate over torture ignited by the recent Senate report should be rightly seen as an indictment of a large part of the United States government. Recall for a moment that torture was not only carried out in black site prisons. It was also systemic in places like Abu Ghraib and at Bagram, which were run by the military. The Senators now making the accusation are to a certain extent scapegoating because they were themselves either complicit in the actions taken or willfully looking the other way. The White House knew what was occurring and gave its formal approval. Dick Cheney insists that if given the opportunity he would do it all over again.

One political party, the Republicans, has by-and-large disputed the substantial body of evidence that the United States government has engaged in torture, presumably because it occurred under a GOP administration. But it is clearly a practice that is a violation of both federal statutes and the United Nations Convention against Torture. The Convention was ratified by the US Senate in 1994 and is legally binding in the United States. The body of existing law condemning the practice means that no American president, White House lawyer or legislative body can declare torture to be “legal.”

Many leading Republicans promote variations on a statement issued by perennial presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, labeling the report as “a highly partisan attack on the previous administration” which “puts Americans at grave risk as it fuels propaganda efforts of radical Islamic terror groups and sympathizers already trying to destroy our nation.”

So per Huckabee, a very outspokenly religious Christian, torture itself makes us safer while revealing the crime is both divisive and empowers one’s enemies who are trying to destroy us. Have even “unconventional” Republicans including Rand Paul spoken out forcibly on what is a national disgrace? No, Rand only commented that “We should not have torture” while adding that the release of the report might be “inflammatory.” And both parties plus the White House and judiciary have chosen to ignore the troublesome details contained in the UN Convention whereby signatories agree to automatically try and punish both those who order and carry out torture.

But politics and politicians aside as they are nearly all liars and knaves, the coup de grace comes from the American people themselves. A recent Washington Post/NBC News poll indicates that a clear majority of the public supports Dick Cheney and believe that it is acceptable to use torture on terrorist suspects. Among self-described Republicans the approval rate is over 70%. Why? Because it makes us safer, or so some would have us believe. So “We, the People” are part of the problem, possibly the biggest part, and it would perhaps not be inappropriate to suggest that the “safer” doctrine means that any new terrorist action directed against the United States will be met with more torture and no one will have the courage to say “enough.” And it might not be out of line to suggest further that throwing away the rule book when it comes to staying safe might well also increasingly apply to domestic policing, which many have noted is become more militarized as the country accustoms itself to a national program of unending warfare both at home and abroad.

Why is this important? It is important because the United States is now regarded by most of the world as a hypocritical rogue regime where torture is allowed and then covered up. As the South Africans discovered, a Truth Commission or something like it is needed not necessarily to punish but to establish what exactly happened so everyone can reflect on the errors and move on. Read the summary of the Senate report if you have any doubts that the US government engaged in systematic torture. What took place was heinous, leading one to ask seriously whether Dick Cheney and the “leaders” like him were psychotic in the same way that Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot had their own forms of madness.

A nation built on a legal system that does not respect its own laws is no better than a dictatorship, particularly in the post-9/11 world where all the movement has been towards unconstitutional police-state authority placed in the hands of the executive branch and its various attached agencies. Over Christmas, Americans should contemplate just what we have become. It is not pretty but there is a way out and that consists of unqualified acceptance of the truth and an unshakable resolve that no such horrors shall ever occur again.

Almost all wars begin with false flag operations.

The coming conflicts in North Korea and Russia are no exception.

Mass public hysteria is being manufactured to justify aggression against Moscow and Pyongyang, in retaliation for acts attributed to the North Korean and Russian governments, but orchestrated and carried out by the CIA and the Pentagon.

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The false flagging of North Korea: CIA weaponizes Hollywood

The campaign of aggression against North Korea, from the hacking of Sony and the crescendo of noise over the film, The Interview, bears all the markings of a CIA false flag operation.

The hacking and alleged threats to moviegoers has been blamed entirely on North Korea, without a shred of credible evidence beyond unsubstantiated accusations by the FBI. Pyongyang’s responsibility has not been proven. But it has already been officially endorsed, and publicly embraced as fact.

The idea of “America under attack by North Korea” is a lie.

The actual individuals of the mysterious group responsible for the hacking remain conveniently unidentified. A multitude of possibilities—Sony insiders, hackers-for-hire, generic Internet vandalism—have not been explored in earnest. The more plausible involvement of US spying agencies—the CIA, the NSA, etc. , their overwhelming technological capability and their peerless hacking and surveillance powers—remains studiously ignored.

Who benefits? It is illogical for Pyongyang to have done it. Isolated, impoverished North Korea, which has wanted improved relations with the United States for years (to no avail), gains nothing by cyberattacking the United States with its relatively weak capabilities, and face the certainty of overwhelming cyber and military response. On the other hand, Washington benefits greatly from any action that leads to regime change in North Korea.

But discussion about Pyongyang’s involvement—or lack of—risks missing the larger point.

This project, from the creation of The Interview to the well-orchestrated international incident, has been guided by the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department from the start. It is propaganda. It is a weapon of psychological warfare. It is an especially perverted example of military-intelligence manipulation of popular culture for the purpose of war.

There is nothing funny about any of it.

The Interview was made with the direct and open involvement of CIA and Rand Corporation operatives for the express purpose of destabilizing North Korea. Star and co-director Seth Rogen has admitted that he worked “directly with people who work in the government as consultants, who I’m convinced are in the CIA”. Originally conceived to be a plot taking place in an “unnamed country”, Sony Pictures co-chairman Michael Lynton, who also sits on the board of the Rand Corporation, encouraged the film makers to make the movie overtly about murdering Kim Jong-Un. Bruce Bennett, the Rand Corporation’s North Korean specialist, also had an active role, expressing enthusiasm that the film would assist regime change and spark South Korean action against Pyongyang. Other government figures from the State Department, even operatives connected to Hillary Clinton, read the script.

The infantile, imbecilic, tasteless, reckless idiots involved with The Interview, including the tasteless Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg, worked with these military-intelligence thugs for months. “Hung out” with them. They do not seem to have had any problem being the political whores for these Langley death merchants. In fact, they had fun doing it. They seem not to give a damn, or even half a damn, that the CIA and the Pentagon have used them, and co-opted the film for an agenda far bigger than the stupid movie itself. All they seem to care about was that they are getting publicity, and more publicity, and got to make a stupid movie. Idiots.

The CIA has now succeeded in setting off a wave of anti-North Korea war hysteria across America. Witness the ignorant squeals and cries from ignorant Americans about how “we can’t let North Korea blackmail us”, “we can’t let Kim take away our free speech”. Listen to the ridiculous debate over whether Sony has the “courage” to release the film to “stand up to the evil North Koreans” who would “blackmail America” and “violate the rights” of idiot filmgoers, who now see it as a “patriotic duty” to see the film.

These mental midgets—their worldviews shaped by the CIA culture ministry with its endorsed pro-war entertainment, violent video games, and gung-ho shoot ‘em ups—are hopelessly brain-curdled, irretrievably lost. Nihilistic and soulless, as well as stupid, most Americans have no problem seeing Kim Jong-Un killed, on screen or in reality. This slice of ugly America is the CIA’s finest post-9/11 army: violent, hate-filled, easily manipulated, eager to obey sheeple who march to whatever drumbeat they set.

And then there are the truly dumb, fools who are oblivious to most of reality, who would say “hey lighten up, it’s only a comedy” and “it’s only a movie”. Naïve, entitled, exceptionalist Americans think the business of the war—the murderous agenda they and their movie are helping the CIA carry out —is all just a game.

The CIA’s business is death, and that there are actual assassination plans in the files of the CIA, targeting heads of state. Kim Jong-Un is undoubtedly on a real assassination list. This is no funny, either.

The real act of war

The provocative, hostile diplomatic stance of the Obama administration speaks for itself. Washington wanted to spark an international incident. It wants regime change in Pyongyang, does not care what North Korea or China think, and does not fear anything North Korea will do about it.

On the other hand, imagine if a film were about the assassination of Benjamin Netanyahu and the toppling of the government in Tel Aviv. Such a film, if it would ever be permitted even in script form, would be stopped cold. If it made it through censors that “magically” never slowed down The Interview (and yes, there is censorship in America, a lot of it) Obama would personally fly to Tel Aviv to apologize. At the very least, Washington would issue statements distancing themselves from the film and its content.

Not so in the case of The Interview. Because American elites actually want the Kim family murdered.

Despite providing no proof of North Korean involvement, President Barack Obama promised a “proportional response”. Promptly, North Korea’s Internet was mysteriously shut down for a day.

Unless one is naïve to believe in this coincidence, all signs point to US spy agencies (CIA, NSA, etc.) or hackers working on behalf of Washington and Langley.

Given the likelihood that North Korea had nothing to do with either the hacking of Sony, the initial pulling of the movie (a big part of the publicity stunt, that was not surprisingly reversed) or the “blackmailing” of moviegoers, the shutting down of North Korea’s Internet was therefore a unilateral, unprovoked act of war. Washington has not officially taken responsibility. For reasons of plausible denial, it never will.

Perhaps it was a dry run. A message. The US got to test how easily it can take down North Korea’s grid. As we witnessed, given overwhelming technological advantage, it was very easy. And when a war against Pyongyang begins in earnest, American forces will know exactly what they will do.

The US is flexing its Asia-Pacific muscles, sending a message not only to Pyongyang, but to China, a big future target. Some of the other muscle-flexing in recent months included the anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong (assisted by the CIA and the US State Department), ongoing provocations in the South China Sea over disputed oil, and new defense agreements that place new anti-missile systems and missile-guided naval vessels to the region.

The bottom line is that America has once again been mobilized into supporting a new war that could take place soon. The CIA and Sony have successfully weaponized a stupid movie, making it into a cause and a battle cry.

If and when bombs fall on North Korea, blood will be on the hands of the makers of The Interview, every single executive who allowed it to be made, and the hordes who paid to see it.

If America were a decent, sane society, The Interview would be exposed, roundly denounced, boycotted and shunned. Instead it is celebrated.

The CIA should be condemned. Instead, Seth Rogen hangs out with them. America, increasingly dysfunctional, loves them. Obeys them.

The false flagging of Russia

Regarding The Interview, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich issued a statement in sympathy with North Korea, correctly calling the film’s concept aggressive and scandalous, and decried the US retaliatory response as counterproductive and dangerous to international relations.

Of course. Washington has no interest in improved international relations.

The Russians should know.

Like Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin has been vilified, demonized and false-flagged, incessantly. If Kim is today’s object of ridicule, Putin is Evil Incarnate.

Consider the hysterical, desperate provocations by Washington in recent months.

A US-NATO coup, engineered by the CIA, toppled the government of Ukraine, planting a pro-US neo-Nazi criminal apparatus on Russia’s doorstep. The CIA and its worldwide network of propagandists pinned the blame on Putin and Russia for aggression, and for obstructing “democracy”.

The MH-17 jetliner is downed by Ukrainian operatives, with the support of the CIA, Mi-6, etc. etc. This false flag operation was blamed on Russia— “Putin’s Missile”. The US and NATO are still trying to pin these murders on Putin.

The war against the Islamic State—a massive CIA false flag operation—seeks to topple with the the Assad government as well as to militarily counter Russia. The ongoing Anglo-American conquest of regional oil and gas supplies, and energy transport routes is also aimed at checkmating Russia and China across the region.

The US and NATO have attacked the Russian federation with sanctions. The US and Saudi Arabia have collapsed oil prices, to further destroy the Russian economy. Full-scale military escalations are being planned. The US Congress is pushing new legislation tantamount to an open declaration of war against Russia.

What next? Perhaps it is time for the CIA to produce a Seth Rogen-James Franco movie about assassinating Putin. Another “parody”. Or how about a movie about killing Assad, or anyone else the United States wants to make into a Public Enemy? Don’t think Langley isn’t working on it.

The return of the Bushes (who were never gone) 

In the midst of all escalating war hysteria comes news that Jeb Bush is “actively exploring” running for president in 2016. The long predicted return of the Bush family, the kings of terrorism, the emperors of the false flag operation, back to the White House appears imminent.

The CIA will have its favorite family back in the Oval Office, with true CIA scion to manage the apocalyptic wars are likely to be launched in earnest in the next two years: Russia/Ukraine, North Korea, the Middle East.

Jeb Bush will “finish the job”.

The 2016 presidential “contest” will be a charade. It is likely to put forth two corrupt establishment political “friends” posing as adversaries, when in fact, they are longtime comrades and conspirators. On one side, Hillary (and Bill) Clinton. On the other side, Jeb Bush, with George H.W., George W. and all of the Bush cronies crawling back out of the rotten woodwork. The fact is that the Clintons and Bushes, and their intertwined networks, have run the country since the 1980s, their respective camps taking turns in power, with Obama as transitional figurehead (his administration has always been run by neoliberal elites connected to the Clintonistas, including Hillary Clinton herself).

The collective history of the Bushes stretches back to the very founding of the American intelligence state. It is the very history of modern war criminality. The resume is George H.W. Bush—the CIA operative and CIA Director—is long and bloody, and littered with cocaine dust. The entire Bush family ran the Iran-Contra/CIA drug apparatus, with the Clintons among the Bush network’s full partners in the massive drug/weapons/banking frauds of that era, the effects of which still resonate today. And we need not remind that the Bush clan and 9/11 are responsible for the world of terror and false flag foreign policy and deception that we suffer today.

While it remains too early to know which way the Establishment will go with their selection (and it depends on how world war shakes out between now and 2016), it is highly likely that Jeb

Bush would be the pick.

Hillary Clinton has already been scandalized—“Benghazi-ed”. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, has ideal Establishment/CIA pedigree. He has waited years for the stupid American public to forget the horrors that his family—Georges H.W. and W.— brought humanity. And now Americans , with their ultra-short memories, have indeed forgotten, if they had ever understood it in the first place.

And the American public does not know who Jeb Bush is, beyond the last name. Jeb Bush, whom Barbara Bush always said was the “smart one”, has been involved in Bush narco-criminal business since Iran-Contra. His criminal activities in Florida, his connection with anti-Castro Cuban terrorists and other connections are there, for those who bother to investigate them. His Latin American connections—including his ability to speak fluent Spanish, a Latin wife and a half-Latin son (George P. Bush, the next up and coming political Bush)—conveniently appeals to the fastest-growing demographic, as well as those in the southern hemisphere drug trade. Recent Obama overtures towards the Latino demographic—immigration, Cuba—appear to be a Democratic Party move to counter Jeb Bush’s known strengths in the same demographic.

Today, in the collective American mind, Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin are “the bad guys”. But the mass murdering war criminal Bushes are saints. “Nice guys”.

A Jeb Bush presidency will be a pure war presidency, one that promises terror, more unspeakable than we are experiencing now, lording it over a world engulfed in holocaust.

This is not a movie.

In December, the Bank of Russia offered a new service to credit institutions for the transfer of financial messages in SWIFT format for domestic operations. Banks can be connected to the service on the basis of their agreements with the Bank of Russia.

“The new service has been implemented in order to ensure smooth and safe transfer of financial messaging inside the country. The service is another step in the direction of improving the system of services provided by the Bank of Russia,” a message from the Central Bank of the Russian Federation said.

The new service will enable credit institutions to transmit messages in SWIFT format via the Bank of Russia in all regions of the country without restrictions. The Central Bank intends to protect Russian banks from possible problems should the West decides to disconnect Russia from the system of international payments SWIFT.

In September, the EU called for new restrictive measures against Russia. In particular, some European officials said that Russia should be disconnected from SWIFT. However, representatives of the company SWIFT have repeatedly stated that they had no intention to cut Russia from the service.

The REAL Santa Claus, A “Real Historical Person”

December 27th, 2014 by Washington's Blog

Saint Nicholas was a real, historical person.

But he didn’t live in some snowy Northern place like the North Pole or Scandinavia. And he probably wasn’t fair-skinned with ruddy cheeks.

He lived in the town of Myra – on the Southern Coast of Turkey – in the fourth century (it was then part of Greece). So he likely had an olive-colored, Mediterranean complexion.

And he didn’t ride a magic sleigh driven by flying reindeer, have a workshop full of elves, squeeze through chimneys with belly-defying dimensions, or maintain a naughty-or-nice list rivaling the NSA.

The real St. Nick came from a wealthy family, and his parents died in an epidemic when he was young.  Nick used his large inheritance to help the poor.

For example, poor young girls were likely to be sold into slavery because they didn’t have a dowry with which to attract a husband.  So on 3 occasions, Nicholas threw a bag of gold into a poor girl’s house through an open window … enough to provide a dowry so the girl could get married.

The bags of gold are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left in front of the fire to dry.  This led to the custom of kids hanging stockings or putting out shoes, hoping for gifts from Saint Nick.

Wikipedia notes:

He had a reputation for secret gift-giving … and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”.

My wife and I visited Nick’s church in Myra (now called Demre) on the beautiful Antalya coast of Turkey, where he served as Bishop for many years.

In addition to the bags of gold mentioned above, Wikipedia notes another basis for the Christmas stocking tradition: St. Nick put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.

Further information.

This article was first published in February 2005. The tsunami warning system was also examined by the author in two texts published in the immediate wake of the December 26, 2004 tsunami

Foreknowledge of a Natural Disaster , (29 Dec  2004) and

Discrepancies in the Tsunami Warning System (14 Jan 2005).

The text below examines the broader seismic network as well as the system of satellite imagery, which provides data in near real time.

SUMMARY

(Scroll down for text of complete article)

One of the most destructive and powerful earthquakes in recorded history, more than a quarter of a million recorded deaths, local economies destroyed, the lives of entire communities shattered, and no serious investigation into the flaws of the global seismic warning system is contemplated.

According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute the M-9.0 Sumatra – Andaman Island earthquake on December 26th released energy, equivalent roughly to 700 million Hiroshima bombs.

Seismic information regarding what scientists identify as a  “rare great earthquake”, was available in near real time (i.e. almost immediately) to seismic centers around the World.

Other types of data, including satellite imagery were also available in near real time.

The advanced global seismic information and communications systems were fully operational.

Why then, did the information not get out on the morning of December 26th?

Ten of thousands of lives could have been saved.

The issue has been skirted by the Western media, sidestepped by the governments and the UN, not to mention the international scientific community.

GIF animation

What Happened on the Morning of December 26th?

The tsunami was triggered within minutes of the earthquake, prior to the release of the first tsunami advisory bulletin by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii, so it was no longer a question of emitting “a warning” of an imminent danger. The catastrophe had already happened.

In other words, by the time the first tsunami bulletin had been issued at 01.14 GMT, the deadly seismic wave was already sweeping Banda, the capital of Aceh province in Northern Sumatra, causing thousands of deaths.

This ex post facto bulletin emitted by the PTWC, did not even warn of the potential danger of a tsunami. Moreover, it casually dismissed an established and scientifically accepted relationship:

“If it were a 9 earthquake … with the thrusting in an ocean basin margin, the likelihood is almost 1:1 that it would generate a tsunami” (Dr. Charles Groat, Director, US Geological Survey in testimony to the Science Committee of the US House of Representatives, 26 Jan 2005).

Tip of the Iceberg

The PTWC bulletins are but the tip of the iceberg. The information on the quake was known and available in real time, to an entire network of seismic organizations.

It was also on hand and accessible to a number of government agencies both in the US and internationally, almost immediately. Numerous officials, scientists, members of the military and intelligence services, had advanced knowledge of an impending disaster.

In other words, we are not dealing with the failures of a single warning Center in Ewo, Hawaii, but with an entire Worldwide network of seismic information, satellite imagery and other sophisticated data, which was available almost immediately.

Who informs Whom?

The question is not why the PTWC did not emit a tsunami warning, but why did an entire global network of scientists and officials not emit a warning, in relation to one of the largest quakes in recorded history.

While the PTWC had indeed formally notified Washington and the Military at the Diego Garcia island base, the US government and military already knew, because the seismic data had been processed within minutes by an agency under the jurisdiction of the US Department of the Interior, namely the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) based in Golden, Colorado.

The data regarding the magnitude of the earthquake originated from four seismic stations located in the Indian Ocean, operated by the International Deployment of Accelerometers (IDA) Project .

“Received signals three minutes, thirty seconds after the quake began” 

In testimony to the US Congress (Jan 26, 2005), Scripps (SIO) Deputy-Director John Orcutt which overseas the Indian Ocean IDA seismic stations confirmed that on December 26, the data pertaining to the Sumatra-Andaman quake had been “immediately and automatically forwarded by computer to the USGS National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden, Colorado and the NOAA tsunami warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska” 

The US Military Base at Diego Garcia

The first news reports underscored the fact that the US military base at Diego Garcia had been given advanced warning, but that the information reached military officials at the US island naval base “after” the tsunami had hit India and Sri Lanka:

 ”An NOAA log shows that the US Pacific Command, including Diego Garcia, was given a specific warning about the tsunami some two and three quarter hours after the earthquake” (The Guardian, 7 Jan 2005)

These earlier reports must be qualified. The fact of the matter, is that the data concerning the earthquake originated from monitoring stations situated in the Indian Ocean, including the The IDA/IRIS seismic station DGAR (Diego Garcia) seismic station located directly on the site of the US island military base.

Moreover, in addition to the IDA/IRIS stations, the International Monitoring System (IMS) of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) based in Vienna, operates several stations in the Indian Ocean region, three of which are located in the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory). Two of these stations are situated directly on the site of the US military base.

There are in all four monitoring stations in the Chagos archipelago, which use the communications system of the US military base.

In other words, the US military base at Diego Garcia , with its advanced monitoring facilities, research labs, etc. was not the “recipient” but rather “the source” of the relevant data regarding the earthquake.

Satellite Imagery transmitted in Real Time

In addition to real time seismic data (as well as hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide data transmitted out of Diego Garcia), satellite images of the disaster on the North Sumatra coastline were also available in near real time to a number of agencies and international organizations.

The US has an advanced “spy satellite” system, with very precise capabilities of monitoring the terrain, including changes in the natural environment, not to mention moving objects. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which was responsible for launching the first spy satellites of the Cold War era operates a sophisticated system of reconnaissance satellites, which transmit imagery and other data in real time.

Another key US body, involved in satellite imagery is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, (NGA) , formerly known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The latter was in fact the architect of the global positioning system (GPS), which was conducive to creating a system of global geospatial intelligence (GEOINT).

NGA is part of the US defense system, it serves the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. It has very precise capabilities of monitoring the geographic and physical terrain by satellite, all over the world, using the techniques of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT).

In other words, state of the art satellite imagery (available to military, intelligence, civilian as well as private commercial entities)  provides “a real time set of eyes”. With regard, to the M-9.0 tsunami of December 26, satellite images were available almost immediately. The US military confirms in this regard, that it has access from its satellite systems  “to vital intelligence in real time”. These real time images were used extensively in the Iraq and Afghan war theaters. (Hearings of Sen Armed Services Committee, 25 Feb 2004).

The Role of the European Space Agency

Real time seismic and other data (including satellite imagery) were also available to a number of countries including Russia, China, Japan  and the European Union.

In this regard, The European Space Agency (ESA ), which has links to NOAA, has “multi-sensor access” in real time to data from satellites including very precise imagery which allows:

,em>”for complete large-scale phenomena to be observed to an accuracy and entirety it would take an army of ground level observers to match”

In addition to imagery, the satellite transmits other relevant data which measures very accurately “ground motion” and “sea height”:

While “before” and “after” images of the disaster have been made public, the images which show the progress and movement of the tsunami, in the period immediately following the earth quake have not been released.

Concluding Remarks: The Need for an Investigation into the Warning System

More than a quarter of million people have died in one of the World’s most devastating natural disasters.

The overriding issues pertaining to the warning / information systems, cannot be drowned or brushed aside. They must be the object of a full-fledged inquiry, preferably by an independent body.

This report has outlined a number of broad issues pertaining to the global information network. The latter requires detailed examination in the context of full-fledged inquiry.

What agencies in the US, the European Union, in the Indian Ocean countries and internationally were informed? The failures are by no means limited to the US seismic network.

When were they informed? What type of data did they have? Some of that data has not been released.

Why did the information not reach the people on time in the countries affected by the tsunami?

What factors, administrative, scientific or otherwise, contributed to preventing the information from being transmitted?

We are not dealing strictly with seismic data. Satellite images of the devastation in Northern Sumatra were also available. Other types of data were also transmitted in near real time by satellite.

The approximate speed of the seismic wave was known and confirmed. According to the news reports, the tsunami was moving at a speed of roughly 20 km a minute (on average) in relation to Sri Lanka.

The seismic information was known to the NEIC and other seismic centers within less than four minutes after the quake.

The tsunami hit the Indonesian coast within 5 minutes, in other words 10 minutes before the release of the first TPWC bulletin. Banda Aceh was hit by the tsunami 11 minutes after the earthquake, approximately 3 minutes before the release of the TPWC bulletin.

In other words, it was possible to predict in a very precise way, at what time the seismic wave would hit the coastlines of Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, The Maldives and Somalia. Had this information been transmitted in a consistent fashion, there would have been ample time to evacuate people from the coastal areas of Sri Lanka, India, not to mention the East coast of Africa.

There are no Ocean sensors in the Indian Ocean. But this was not the cause of the failures and omissions in the warning system.

The tsunami became active immediately following the earthquake. No warnings were sent out following the seismic readings despite the fact that the tsunami had already hit the Indonesian coast.

This is the key issue.

The Tsunami was active, and this was known, corroborated not only by seismic information but also by satellite images and other data, roughly 30 minutes prior to hitting Thailand.

Michel Chossudovsky, December 26, 2014


TEXT OF COMPLETE ARTICLE

Indian Ocean Tsunami. Why did the Information Not Get Out?

by Michel Chossudovsky

December 26, 2004

One of the most destructive and powerful earthquakes in recorded history, more than a quarter of a million recorded deaths, local economies destroyed, the lives of entire communities shattered, and no serious investigation into the flaws of the global seismic warning system is contemplated.

According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute the M-9.0 Sumatra – Andaman Island earthquake on December 26th released energy, equivalent roughly to 700 million Hiroshima bombs.

Seismic information regarding what scientists identify as a  “rare great earthquake”, was available in near real time (i.e. almost immediately) to seismic centers around the World.

Other types of data, including satellite imagery were also available in near real time.

The advanced global seismic information and communications systems were fully operational.

Why then, did the information not get out on the morning of December 26th?

Ten of thousands of lives could have been saved.

The issue has been skirted by the Western media, sidestepped by the governments and the UN, not to mention the international scientific community.

The blame was casually placed on the Indian Ocean countries, described as having “inadequate communications systems”,  not to mention the local people who “have to be trained to know what to do…If the people don’t respond, don’t understand what the communication is all about, it is for naught.” (Washington Times, 30Dec 2004)

What Happened on the Morning of December 26th?

The tsunami was triggered within minutes of the earthquake, prior to the release of the first tsunami advisory bulletin by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii, so it was no longer a question of emitting “a warning” of an imminent danger. The catastrophe had already happened.

In other words, by the time the first tsunami bulletin had been issued at 01.14 GMT, the deadly seismic wave was already sweeping Banda, the capital of Aceh province in Northern Sumatra, causing thousands of deaths.

Moreover, this ex post facto bulletin emitted by the PTWC, not only failed to acknowledge an ongoing disaster, it did not even warn of the potential danger of a tsunami, when the deadly seismic wave had already started, devastating densely populated areas. (PTWC bulletins apply to the Pacific as well as regions adjacent to the Pacific. For details, see:Discrepancies in the Tsunami Warning System )

Inconsistencies in the Tsunami Bulletins

Three days earlier, on the 23d of December, a M-7.9 earthquake was recorded with an epicenter off the South Pacific MacQuarie islands The PTWC issued the following routine tsunami advisory:

“THIS EARTHQUAKE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO GENERATE A WIDELY DESTRUCTIVE TSUNAMI IN THE SEA NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE. AUTHORITIES IN THAT REGION SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS POSSIBILITY.”

Why then in the case of a M-9.0 earthquake, which is more than ten times greater in magnitude than a M-7.9 earthquake, did the PTWC authorities fail to even issue a tsunami warning?

An event of this type and magnitude is known as a “megathrust,” which in its specific Indian Ocean location is said to occur  “approximately every few hundred years.” (See Columbia University Earth Institute ).

Scientists in fact suggested that the quake had unleashed enough energy that “it could have rocked the earth off its axis.” (See: Huge quake resonates, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Boston Globe)

In other words, the least one would have expected in the case of a “megathrust” was a similar routine statement to that issued in relation to the McQuarie islands earthquake, three days earlier, on December 23. (see:Discrepancies in the Tsunami Warning System )

The first bulletin emitted on the 26th not only failed to conform to established criteria used in previous and subsequent seismic occurrences, it casually dismissed an established and scientifically accepted relationship. According to

“If it were a 9 earthquake … with the thrusting in an ocean basin margin, the likelihood is almost 1:1 that it would generate a tsunami” (Dr. Charles Groat, Director, US Geological Survey in testimony to the Science Committee of the US House of Representatives, 26 Jan 2005).

The Earthquake took place at 00.58.50 GMT on the 26th of December. Roughly five minutes later it had hit the coast of Northern Sumatra, 11 minutes after the earthquake it devastated Banda, capital of Aceh. Fifteen minutes after the earthquake, at 01.14 GMT the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii confirmed in its bulletin:

“THERE IS NO TSUNAMI WARNING OR WATCH IN EFFECT”

Moreover, both official and news reports out of Aceh province, following the disaster, were either delayed or were not transmitted on time.

In other words, despite the dramatic nature of the quake, the seismic information, which was available in real time, failed to reach the countries affected by the seismic wave.

Why were the countries not informed of an impending disaster?

In the words of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe:

“… what efforts, if any, were made to contact those other nations in the region that were also in harm’s way? If NOAA did not have the appropriate contacts, as has been reported, why was this the case? Was an attempt made to obtain that contact information – and if not, why not? These are questions that must be answered.”

The Western media not only failed to address the failures in the warning system, they admonished those who raised the issue.

In fact, any serious analysis of the warning system was dismissed outright.

A few press reports, nonetheless, confirmed that, with the exception of Indonesia and Australia, the Indian Ocean countries had not been informed. These same reports, largely based on statements of the Pacific Tsunami Warning system (PTWC) in Hawaii, also acknowledged that the US State Department and the Military, including the US Navy base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago had been duly notified.

In retrospect, however, these earlier press reports (including our own analysis ) need to be qualified. Published in the immediate wake of the disaster, they quote official statements to the effect that the US government and military had been informed by the PTWC, when in fact the PTWC was on the “receiving end” of the flow of seismic data. (See Foreknowledge of a Natural Disaster , Richard Norton Taylor, US island base given warning: Bulletins sent to Diego Garcia ‘could have saved lives’, The Guardian, Jan 2005).

The Information was Known to an Entire Network of Organizations

Upon closer examination, the PTWC bulletins are but the tip of the iceberg: The information on the quake was known and available in real time, to an entire network of seismic organizations. It was also on hand and accessible to a number of government agencies both in the US and internationally, almost immediately. Numerous officials, scientists, members of the military and intelligence services, had advanced knowledge of an impending disaster.

In other words, we are not dealing with the failures of a single warning Center in Ewo, Hawaii, but with an entire Worldwide network of seismic information, satellite imagery and other sophisticated data, which was available almost immediately.

Who informs Whom?

The question is not why the PTWC did not emit a tsunami warning but why did an entire global network of scientists and officials not emit a warning, in relation to one of the largest quakes in recorded history.

While the PTWC had indeed formally notified Washington and the Military at the Diego Garcia island base, the US government and military already knew, because the seismic data had been processed within minutes by an agency under the jurisdiction of the US Department of the Interior, namely the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) based in Golden (close to Denver), Colorado.

“The National Earthquake Information Service (NEIS) of the U. S. Geological Survey is located at the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden, Colorado, USA which also serves as World Data Center A for Seismology. The NEIS is a member of the Council of the National Seismic System (CNSS) which coordinates activities among the national and regional seismograph networks, including “finger quake” services. The NEIS is also closely associated with the U.S. National Seismograph Network (USNSN) and cooperates with national and international seismological organizations around the world. Unlike other members of the CNSS, the NEIS is responsible for reporting on moderate to large earthquakes throughout the U. S. and large earthquakes worldwide… On an immediate basis, all Earthquake Early Alerting Service alarm events will be made available to the “quake” list. At a minimum, this includes… most foreign earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or greater. In practice, many foreign earthquakes smaller than a magnitude of 6.5 will also be provided on an immediate basis…” 

For further details: See http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/finger/qk_info.html
,
http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/finger/qk_info.html
,
http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/neic_slav_ts.html
,
http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/neic_slav_ts.html
,
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqinthenews/2004/usslav/neic_slav_faq.html

The seismographic data did not originate at the PTWC, which is part of the Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Commerce.

The seismic data was recorded both within the Indian Ocean region and around the World by a number of stations, relayed to a network of seismic centers in a number of countries. (see below).

In other words, omissions and failures in the warning system, not to mention red tape, were by no means limited to the PTWC, which is integrated into a global information network which records, processes and transmits seismic data in near real time. Several key organizations (including the Earthquake Information Center World Data Center for Seismology, Denver (NEIC) and The European Space Agency (ESA) among others, are part of this network, and could have duly advised the countries concerned.

Where did the seismic data originate from? 

This issue, which is crucial to understanding the flaws in the seismic warning system, was barely mentioned by the media.

The data regarding the magnitude of the earthquake originated from four seismic stations located in the Indian Ocean, operated by the International Deployment of Accelerometers (IDA) Project . The Scripps Institution Of Oceanography (SIO) at the University Of California at San Diego overseas the IDA seismic stations.

In turn, the IDA is integrated into the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and its Global Seismographic Network (GSN ), and into the data system of the National Earthquake Information Center World Data Center for Seismology, Denver (NEIC (WDCS-D)). (See Eric Waddell, The Tsunami: Why Weren’t They Warned? Jan 2005, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/WAD501A.html )

“Received signals three minutes, thirty seconds after the quake began” 

In testimony to the US Congress (Jan 26, 2005), Scripps (SIO) Deputy-Director John Orcutt confirmed that “data telemetry”, namely the transfer of data immediately via phone line, cable, or satellite is central to the SIO’s mandate:

“Data acquired via telemetry may be used  … as [a] :tsunami warning:… Prompt transmission of the seismic data permits experts to locate earthquakes quickly, assess the likelihood they have generated a tsunami, and predict when the destructive wave will arrive. Such predictions have already saved numerous lives.”(SIO’s Project IDA, http://ida.ucsd.edu/Telemetry/index.html )

Scripps Dr. Orcutt also confirmed that on December 26, the data pertaining to the Sumatra-Andaman quake had been telemetered from 30 IDA stations and had been “immediately and automatically forwarded by computer to the USGS National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) in Golden, Colorado and the NOAA tsunami warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska”: 

“Due to their proximity to the event, IDA stations were critical in the early detection of the December 26th earthquake. The two closest global seismic stations, IDA stations on Cocos (Keeling) Island and Sri Lanka, received signals three minutes, thirty seconds after the quake began. Data from these and other IDA GSN stations in the region were used by the NEIC, and other civil, academic, and military systems to quickly determine the quake’s size and location.” (Statement to the Science Committee of the US House of Representatives, 26 Jan 2005. emphasis added).

Contradicting the substance of his own testimony, Dr. Orcutt stated that Scripps (SIO) officials got the news from the NEIC, by email one hour and 17 minutes after the earthquake, when in fact it was the Scripps IDA stations, that had transmitted the data in near real time to the NEIC in the first place, and that this data had been made available to other agencies, in the US and internationally:

“Scripps staff first learned of the quake at 6:16 PM PST (one hour seventeen minutes after the earthquake) when they received notice via automatic email from the NEIC of the initial earthquake detection. SIO [Scripps Institution of Oceanography] also received an inquiry from the IDA/Sri Lanka operator at 6:57PM (one hour fiftyeight minutes after the quake) asking whether there had been any earthquakes in or near Sri Lanka. The operator had received many phone calls from local residents who had felt tremors and wanted to know the source. SIO’s analyst replied at 7:13PM with information about the NEIC announcement of the earthquake and a plot of the seismic waves recorded by the IDA station in Sri Lanka.” (Ibid)

Not explicitly mentioned in Dr. Orcutt’s statement is that one of the Indian Ocean IDA stations, which transmitted seismic data on December 26th, DGAR (Diego Garcia) is actually located on the site of the US military base in the Chagos Archipelago. (DGAR became operational in January 2004). The other three stations are:

COCO (Cocos [Keeling] Islands located in an Australian administered territory,

PALK (Sri Lanka),

MSEY (Seychelles) .

In addition to the seismic stations of the IDA/IRIS network, the quake was recorded at stations in a number of countries including China, Russia and Japan, not to mention several “auxiliary seismic stations” in Indonesia as well as one in Sri Lanka. (Parapat, Sumatera PSI Auxiliary Seismic Station AS043 2.7 98 is the closest facility to the epicenter). (See http://ida.ucsd.edu/SpecialEvents/2004/361/a/index.shtml#parameters . Auxiliary Stations as  opposed to Primary stations do not transmit data in real time to the IDA)

The Chain of information

Seismographic data was transmitted in real time from the four IDA Indian Ocean stations DGAR (Diego Garcia),  COCO (Cocos [Keeling] Islands , PALK (Sri Lanka), and MSEY (Seychelles) to both the IRIS and NEIC centers, where they were then immediately retransmitted (in real time) to the PTWC as well as to other agencies and organizations.                                                                                                         

The latest station in the network established in Feb 2004 is Diego Garcia, DGAR.

Source:  http://ida.ucsd.edu/IDANetwork/index.html (click map to get Station information)

In other words, while the press reports acknowledge that the Diego Garcia island military base was formally notified of the dangers of a seismic wave, what they failed to mention was that part of the seismic data used by the PTWC to justify its advisory had in fact originated in Diego Garcia, and that the data from Diego Garcia (together with that of three other Indian Ocean stations) had also been transmitted to the IDA/IRIS and NEIC networks.

The US Military Base at Diego Garcia

The IDA/IRIS seismic station DGAR (Diego Garcia) , is in a vault located on the grounds of the US Air Force’s Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) station at the US military base. (The GEODSS Diego Garcia facility provides “space surveillance data” through three powerful telescopes. GEODSS also monitors moving objects and meteorites; concomitantly, it also uses seismographic data.)

The Seismic Station At Diego Garcia established in Feb 2004 transmits data to IRIS and NEIC

The seismic recording equipment installed in the underground vault. The sensors rest on the central pier, which is directly attached to the coral that underlies the vault so that the instruments can best record the shaking caused as seismic waves travel through the earth. 

While DGAR was established with the cooperation of the US military, it is categorized as a civilian scientific facility. The later uses the island’s military base’s communications facilities to transmit its seismic readings to the IDA/IRIS center in Seattle.

Whether the seismographic readings from DGAR were directly available to military personnel on location at Diego Garcia at the GEODSS facility is not known, although the Diego Garcia military authorities would most probably have near real time access to the seismic data monitored by NEIC and other seismic centers, which are hooked up to the Military.

In other words, in all likelihood, the US military had the relevant data on their computer screens within minutes of its transmission.

More generally, there are close interagency links between the relevant civilian and military entities. NOAA, while formally a civilian body under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, is headed by a former Vice Admiral, and NOAA Weather services, which oversees the PTWCs in Hawaii and Alaska is administered by a retired US Air Force Brig. General. (See  http://www.nws.noaa.gov/johnson_bio.php )

The Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBTO)

In addition to the IDA/IRIS stations, the International Monitoring System (IMS) of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) based in Vienna, operates several stations in the Indian Ocean region, three of which are in fact located in the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory). (See map below)        Two of these stations are situated directly on the site of the US military base. In other words, there are in all four stations in the Chagos archipelago, which use the communications system of the US military base.

The IMS confirmed that it recorded the December 26th earthquake at 78 of its stations, including those in the Indian Ocean in near real time,  “within seconds to minutes of the event.” (of the 78 IMS stations, 71 were using the seismic, six the hydroacoustic and one the infrasound technologies. The latter (infrasound station) was located within proximity of the Diego Garcia military base in the Chagos Archipelago.

The CTBTO confirms in this regard that “the first automatic event list containing the Sumatra earthquake was released by the International Data Center (IDC) in Vienna two hours after the event.” It nonetheless confirms that the “raw data from the monitoring stations” were communicated “in near real time” ( almost immediately) to national data centers of state signatories including Australia, Indonesia and Thailand. (See text of CTBTO Press Release ).

Four Monitoring Stations in the Chagos Archipelago

The first news reports underscored the fact that the US military base at Diego Garcia had been given advanced warning, but that the information reached military officials at the US island naval base “after” the tsunami had hit India and Sri Lanka:

 ”An NOAA log shows that the US Pacific Command, including Diego Garcia, was given a specific warning about the tsunami some two and three quarter hours after the earthquake” (The Guardian, 7 Jan 2005)

The fact of the matter, as mentioned earlier, is that the data concerning the earthquake originated from monitoring stations situated on the site of the US island military base.  In other words, the US military base at Diego Garcia , with its advanced monitoring facilities, research labs, etc. was not the “recipient” but rather “the source” of the relevant data regarding the earthquake. (See Table 1).

It is the source not only of seismic information (not to mention satellite imaging) but of other types of data, used to ascertain the causes of an earthquake, from three other monitoring stations in the Chagos islands, which are linked up to the IMS/ CTBTO :

BIOT/Chagos Radionuclide Station (RN66) at Diego Garcia military base is a radionuclide station which monitors traces of radioactivity in the Indian Ocean basin

BIOT/Chagos Hydroacoustic Station (HA08)(Diego Garcia military base ), which has the ability of “detecting explosions on the ocean surface and under the water”

the BIOT/Chagos Infrasound Station (IS52) (located North of Diego Garcia, see map below) which “provides evidence of a possible atmospheric explosion by detecting sound pressure waves in the atmosphere”.

(see  http://pws.ctbto.org/verification/facilities/monfacoutput.dhtml?&vcol=a.name&vord=desc )

The Vienna based IMS also had relevant information, within minutes of the M-9.0 earthquake. To date, none of the data recorded at its Indian Ocean stations has been made public, although it is normally transmitted to the signatory governments and is no  doubt also available to the US military.

The functions of these three IMS stations under the CTBTO mandate are as follows:

“The IMS uses seismic, hydroacoustic and infrasound monitoring technologies to detect the transient signals created when the energy is released in underground, underwater and atmosphere environments, respectively. Radionuclide monitoring technologies collect and analyze air samples for evidence of the physical products created and carried by the winds. Seismic, hydroacoustic and infrasound, or the wave technologies, all utilize sensors which record signals from explosions and naturally occurring events in the form of digital waveforms. These digital waveforms or time series provide diagnostic information to detect, locate and characterize the energy source. Radionuclide technology is based on air samplers which collect and analyse atmospheric particulate matter deposited on collection filters. The analysis of the radionuclide content uniquely confirms the fact of a nuclear explosion.”

(For further details see, CBTO, The Global Verification Regime and the International Monitoring System, Vienna, 2001  http://pws.ctbto.org/reference/outreach/booklet3.pdf )

In other words, the data collected by the three Chagos islands IMS stations have the capacity of “registering shock waves emanating from a nuclear explosion underground, in the seas and in the air, as well as detecting radioactive debris released into the atmosphere.”

This data could shed light on the nature of the disaster, while also dispelling speculation by some news media that the tsunami could have been caused by an underground explosion.

It is therefore crucial that the readings from these three BIOT IMS stations, which are available to the signatory governments, be promptly released and analyzed.

Map of Diego Garcia Military Base and Chagos archipelago

Click image to enlarge

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/diego_garcia_pol80.jpg

In addition to real time seismic data (as well as hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide data), satellite images of the disaster on the North Sumatra coastline were also available in near real time to a number of agencies and international organizations.

The US has an advanced “spy satellite” system, with very precise capabilities of monitoring the terrain, including changes in the natural environment, not to mention moving objects. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which was responsible for launching the first spy satellites of the Cold War era operates a sophisticated system of reconnaissance satellites, which transmit imagery and other data in real time.

The data received by the NRO are relayed to a number of US government/ military  bodies including the Department of Defense and the CIA.

As part of its mandate, the NRO has the ability to:

” warn of potential trouble spots around the World, help plan military operations and monitor the environment”

The NRO has close links to the Diego Garcia base from which it operates “The Global Broadcast System”, a special classified broadband communication system. “A GBS satellite parked above the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia relayed everything from video feeds of Predator UAVs, to video downlinks for special operations soldiers on horseback in remote regions of western Afghanistan.” ( See http://www.globenet.free-online.co.uk/articles/spacesupremacy.htm )

Another key US body, involved in satellite imagery is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, (NGA) , formerly known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.  The latter was in fact the architect of the global positioning system (GPS), which was conducive to creating a system of global geospatial intelligence (GEOINT).

NGA is part of the US defense system, it serves the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. It has very precise capabilities of monitoring the geographic and physical terrain by satellite, all over the world, using the techniques of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT).

Geospatial intelligence is described by the NGA as:

“the most valuable tool for envisioning and predicting activity around the World. It serves anyone from the White House to the pilothouse, from the Situation room to the ready room”

In other words, state of the art satellite imagery (available to military, intelligence, civilian as well as private commercial entities)  provides “a real time set of eyes”. With regard, to the M-9.0 tsunami of December 26, satellite images were available almost immediately. The US military confirms in this regard, that it has access from its satellite systems  “to vital intelligence in real time”. These real time images were used extensively in the Iraq and Afghan war theaters. (Hearings of Sen Armed Services Committee, 25 Feb 2004).

The European Space Agency

Real time seismic and other data (including satellite imagery) were also available to a number of countries including Russia, China, Japan  and the European Union.

In this regard, The European Space Agency (ESA ), which has links to NOAA, has “multi-sensor access” in real time to data from satellites including very precise imagery which allows:

“for complete large-scale phenomena to be observed to an accuracy and entirety it would take an army of ground level observers to match”

According to ESA ,

” a single satellite image has the potential to show the spread of air pollution across a continent, the precise damage done to a region by an earthquake or a forest fires, or the entire span of a 500 km, hurricane from the calmness of its eye to its outermost storm fronts. The same space based sensor gathers data from sites across the World, including places too remote or otherwise inaccessible for ground based data acquisition.”

In addition to imagery, the satellite transmits other relevant data which measures very accurately “ground motion” and “sea height”:

“Other sensors known as radar instruments actively shine microwaves pulses down to Earth in order to record how these pulses get reflected back up to space.

These instruments measure surface roughness instead of light or heat energy, and have the advantage of being able to see through cloud and darkness. And by combining together different radar images of the same location – a technique known as interferometry – tiny millimeter-scale ground motion can be identified.

A different type of instrument named an altimeter records very precisely the time it takes for a microwave or laser pulse to be bounced back to the satellite, measuring both land and sea height to an accuracy of a few centimetres.“(http://www.esa.int/export/esaEO/SEMH2Q1VQUD_index_0.html )

The European Space Agency (ESA) is part of a network. It is a member of the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters along with the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Argentina’s Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE)

While “before” and “after” images of the disaster have been made public, the images which show the progress and movement of the tsunami, in the period immediately following the earth quake have not been released.

Concluding Remarks: The Need for an Investigation into the Warning System

More than a quarter of million people have died in one of the World’s most devastating natural disasters.

The overriding issues pertaining to the warning / information systems, cannot drowned or brushed aside. They must be the object of a full-fledged inquiry, preferably by an independent body.

This report has outlined a number of broad issues pertaining to the global information network. The latter requires detailed examination in the context of full-fledged inquiry.

What agencies in the US, the European Union, in the Indian Ocean countries and internationally were informed? The failures are by no means limited to the US seismic network.

When were they informed? What type of data did they have? Some of that data has not been released.

Why did the information not reach the people on time in the countries affected by the tsunami?

What factors, administrative, scientific or otherwise, contributed to preventing the information from being transmitted?

We are not dealing strictly with seismic data. Satellite images of the devastation in Northern Sumatra were also available. Other types of data were also transmitted in near real time by satellite.

In addition to the seismic data, the Vienna based IMS/CTBTO monitors and compiles hydroacoustic, infrasound and radionuclide data, which is transmitted in near real time from its stations in the Indian Ocean (including three stations in the Chagos islands archipelago).

Moreover, satellite reconnaissance technology, not to mention the use of simulation models, have the ability to assess and monitor the speed of the tsunami in near real time.

The approximate speed of the seismic wave was known and confirmed. According to the news reports, the tsunami was moving at a speed of roughly 20 km a minute (on average) in relation to Sri Lanka.

The seismic information was known to the NEIC and other seismic centers within less than four minutes after the quake.

The tsunami hit the Indonesian coast within 5 minutes, in other words 10 minutes before the release of the first TPWC bulletin. Banda Aceh was hit by the tsunami 11 minutes after the earthquake, approximately 3 minutes before the release of the TPWC bulletin.

In other words, it was possible to predict in a very precise way, at what time the seismic wave would hit the coastlines of Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, The Maldives and Somalia. Had this information been transmitted in a consistent fashion, there would have been ample time to evacuate people from the coastal areas of Sri Lanka, India, not to mention the East coast of Africa.

There are no Ocean sensors in the Indian Ocean. But this was not the cause of the failures and omissions in the warning system.

The tsunami became active immediately following the earthquake. No warnings were sent out following the seismic readings despite the fact that the tsunami had already hit the Indonesian coast.

This is the key issue.

The Tsunami was active, and this was known, corroborated not only by seismic information but also by satellite images and other data, roughly 30 minutes prior to hitting Thailand.


Annex

Map: Animation Simulating the propagation of the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean .

GIF animation

Approximate Timeline

(based on News Reports published in the immediate wake of the earthquake)

Sunday 26 December 2004 (GMT)

00.58.50 GMT: a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurs on the seafloor near Aceh in northern Indonesia.

01.02.20 GMT: IDA seismic stations in the Indian Ocean transmit data to the IRIS/IDA network and the National Earthquake Information Center World Data Center for Seismology, Denver(3 min 30 sec.  after the earthquake)

Shortly after 01.00 GMT: Earthquake hits several cities in Indonesia, creates panic in urban areas in peninsular Malaysia. The news of the earthquake is reported immediately.

01.04 GMT the tsunami hits the coast of Northern Sumatra ( roughly 5 min after the earthquake)

01.10 minutes after the earthquake it devastated Banda, capital of Aceh. (11 minutes after the earthquake)

01.14 GMT: The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii emits its first bulletin, confirming that there is no tsunami warning in effect.

01.3O GMT: Phuket and Coast of Thailand: The tidal wave hits the coastline after 8.30 am, 01.30 GMT

02:16 GMT (one hour seventeen minutes after the earthquake). SIO staff received notice via automatic email from the NEIC of the initial earthquake detection.

02.30 GMT: Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka is hit. The seismic wave hits the coastal regions close to the capital Colombo, according to report at 8.30 am local time,  02.30 GMT (approximately, an hour and a half after the earthquake)

02:57 PM:  One hour fifty-eight minutes after the quake, SIO staff receive request from Sri Lanka “asking whether there had been any earthquakes in or near Sri Lanka.”  (By that time the tsunami had already devastated the coast of Sri Lanka).

02.45 GMT: India’s Eastern Coastline. The tsunami hits India’s eastern coast as of 6:15 a.m.(02:45 GMT)

0.3.43 GMT:  NOAA log indicates that US Pacific Command, including the Diego Garcia military base, were “given a specific warning about the tsunami some two and three quarter hours after the earthquake” (The Guardian, 7 Jan 2005). Subsequent reports suggest that the Military received the seismic data in near real time shortly after the earthquake.

04.00 GMT: Male, Maldives: From about 9:00 am (04.00 GMT), three hours after the earthquake, the capital, Male, and other parts of the country were flooded by the tsunami. (more than three hours after the earthquake)

08.00 -11.00 GMT (according to news dispatches): East Coast of Africa is hit. Seven to ten hours after the earthquake (see animated map).

Table 1

FOUR MONITORING STATIONS IN THE BIOT CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO

1. IDA/ IRIS DGAR (Diego Garcia), Seismometer on the site of the US Air Force’s Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) station at Diego Garcia. -7.3 S 72.4 E

2. IMS/ CTBTO BIOT Chagos Hydroacoustic Station (HA08) at -7.3 S 72.4 E located at the Diego Garcia US military base

3. IMS/ CTBTO BIOT Chagos Radionuclide Station (RN66) at -7.0 S 72.0 E located at the Diego Garcia US military base.

4. IMS/ CTBTO  BIOT Chagos Infrasound Station (IS52) at -5.0 S 72.0 E located near Peros Banhos Island

The IMS stations transmit data in real time to the CTBTO International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna, The IDa station transmits data in real to IRIS and NEIC

Functions of CTBTO International Monitoring System

  • The primary and auxiliary seismic stations  monitor seismic signals propagating through the earth from natural events (earthquakes) and man-made events (mining blasts and explosions);
  • The radionuclide stations pick up traces of radioactivity following a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere or leaked from an underground nuclear test;
  • The hydroacoustic stations detect explosions on the ocean surface and under the water; and
  • The infrasound stations provide evidence of a possible atmospheric explosion by detecting sound pressure waves in the atmosphere.

Source: FAS

Table 2 IDA Project Links to Seismographic Readings

Source: IDA Project. Magnitude 9.0 quake off the west coast of Northern Sumatra (click to access the relevant data)

http://ida.ucsd.edu/SpecialEvents/2004/361/a/index.shtml#parameters

Figure 1: Seismographic readings for Dec 26, 2005 at Diego Garcia DGAR

click image to enlarge

Source: Project IDA, http://ida.ucsd.edu/SpecialEvents/2004/361/a/DGARunclip.gif

Table 3:

480 Stations sorted by distance from the epicenter recorded the seismic data

IRIS ONLINE DATA ON WILBER II

Event: 2004/12/26 00:58:50.7  OFF W COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATERA

(CLICK TO ACCESS EVENT,  SELECT  STATIONS AND PROCEED)

Mag: 8.5 Type: MS Lat: 3.30 Lon: 95.78 Depth: 10.00
Catalog: NEICALRT Contributor: NEIC Source: SPYDER®

480 Responding Stations  

Source: Wilber II

Table 4:

2004/12/26 00:58:50. First Four Responding Stations Sorted by Distance from the Epicenter (click station name to access seismographic readings)

name.net   (distance/azimuth)

 COCO.II (15.42°/176°) Coco Islands, Australia

 PALK.II (15.52°/285°) Pallekele, Sri Lanka 

  QIZ.IC (20.82°/40°)  Guandong Province, China

 DGAR.II (25.60°/245°) Diego Garcia, BIOT

Source: Wilber II

The Global Tsunami Warning System

While the PTWC failed to acknowledge the existence of the tsunami in its first two bulletins, the Tsunami was in fact monitored in real time by a number of monitoring stations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to which the PTWC belongs.

Modeling enabled scientists to evaluate the traveling time of the tsunami. From the outset of the earthquake at 00.59 UTC on the 26th, tsunami waves were monitored by a number of stations. Moreover, NOAA has acknowledged that it had very precise satellite images which enables it to measure the height of the tsunami. These height measurements were available but were only processed at a later period (See http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2365.htm )

NOAA: Tsunami Height Measurements (satellite) click to enlarge 


Related Global Research Articles

Foreknowledge of a Natural Disaster: Washington was aware that a deadly Tidal Wave was building up in the Indian Ocean, Michel Chossudovsky

The Tsunami: Why Weren’t They Warned? Eric Waddell

Discrepancies in the Tsunami Warning System, Michel Chossudovsky

US island base given warning: Bulletins sent to Diego Garcia ‘could have saved lives’ Richard Norton-Taylor

Senator Snowe Questions Absence of Tsunami Warning

Links to important sources of information:

Columbia University Earth Institute

Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) , Washington D.C

IRIS network of  128+ (often unmanned) seismic monitoring stations worldwide.

IRIS Data Management Center in Seattle

International Deployment of Accelerometers (IDA)

IDA 40 stations worldwide,

IDA stations in the Indian Ocean:

COCO (Cocos [Keeling] Islands

PALK (Sri Lanka),

MSEY (Seychelles)

DGAR (Diego Garcia).

The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC)

World Data Center of the National Earthquake Information Center in Denver, USA.

Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics , University of California, San Diego,

USGS United States Geological Survey

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA)

NOAA: West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center: Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26 December, 2004

NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, PTWC

NOAA West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, WCATWC

DART: Animated TSUNAMI Warning System

The National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program

International Monitoring System (IMS) of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)

IMS monitoring Stations

Map of IMS Facilities (takes time to download)

IISSE:  Off Coast of Northern Sumatra Earthquake (Japan)

IISSE: Preliminary Results of Rupture Process for 2004 OFF COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA Giant Earthquake (ver. 1)

İstanbul Technical University, Department of Geophysical Engineering, Seismology Section

SUMATRA EARTHQUAKE (Mw~9.0) of DECEMBER 26, 2004 Source Rupture Processes and Slip Distribution Modelling

On Satellite Imagery

The European Space Agency (ESA )

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, (NGA)

Natural Hazards Research Websites

Satellite Images, Data and Information Websites

Earth Observing System, Direct Broadcast

Earth Science Info Project

Earth Observing System Data Gateway

EO PORTAL

Earth Observation Imagery Disasters

QUAKELINE: bibliographic database produced by the MCEER Information Service . It covers earthquakes, earthquake engineering, natural hazard mitigation, and related topics. It includes records for various publication types, such as journal articles, conference papers, technical reports, maps, and videotapes.

MCEER Joins Multi-lateral Reconnaissance Team to Investigate the Effects of the Tsunami/Earthquake Disaster in South Asia

Eqnet

Wilber II IRIS Event: 2004/12/26 00:58:50.7

International Charter: Space and Major Disasters

The International Charter aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through authorized users. Each member agency has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and thus is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property.

View PDF of the Charter Pamphlet The International Charter was declared formally operational on November 1, 2000. An authorized user can now call a single number to request the mobilization of the space and associated ground resources (RADARSAT, ERS, SPOT) of the three agencies to obtain data and information on a disaster occurrence

Participating Agencies and Space Resources

The following Space Agencies are currently members of the Charter. Click on the name for more information about the Agency and its space resources.

Member

Space Resources

European Space Agency (ESA)

ERS, ENVISAT

Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES)

SPOT

Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

RADARSAT

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

IRS

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

POES, GOES

Argentina’s Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE)

SAC -C

International Charter: Tsunami 26 December (click for specific details)

Provides satellite images, before and after.

The images showing the progress of the tsunami on the 26th of Dec, obtained in near real time have not been released.

ESA (European Space Agency)  Earth Observation, Earthnet Online

Indonesia – Sri Lanka – Thailand – India
Earthquake/Tsunami – 26 December 2004

Envisat Altimetry

ENVISAT Radar Altimeter contribution

(Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the preview image)

For more information, please click here: http://www-dase.cea.fr

DOSSIERS DE LA TERRE ET ENVIRONNEMENT (FRANCE) at  http://www-dase.cea.fr/actu/dossiers_scientifiques/2004-12-26/index.html

EMSC Study:

European Mediterranean Seismological Centre

Mw 8.9 earthquake in Sumatra on December 26th, 2004 at 00:58 UTC           (Click for report)

University of Evora Study:

Source Rupture Process of Mw 9.0 26/12/2004 Sumatra earthquake

Earthquake (Mw=8.9) of 26 December 2004

Preliminary Results

José Fernando Borges, Bento Caldeira and Mourad Bezzeghoud

Accusations of the West towards Putin are traditionally based on the fact that he worked in the KGB. And therefore he is a cruel and immoral person. Putin is blamed for everything. But nobody ever accused Putin of the lack of intelligence.

Any accusations against this man only emphasize his ability for quick analytical thinking and making clear and balanced political and economic decisions.

Often Western media compares this ability with the ability of a grandmaster, conducting a public chess simul. Recent developments in US economy and the West in general allow us to conclude that in this part of the assessment of Putin’s personality Western media are absolutely right.

Despite numerous success reports in the style of Fox News and CNN, today, Western economy, led by the United States is in Putin’s trap, the way out of which no one in the West can see or find.And the more the West is trying to escape from this trap, the more stuck it becomes.

What is the truly tragic predicament of the West and the United States, in which they find themselves? And why all the Western media and leading Western economists are silent about this, as a well guarded military secret? Let’s try to understand the essence of current economic events, in the context of the economy, setting aside the factors of morality, ethics and geopolitics.

Development of crude oil prices.

Development of crude oil prices.

After realizing its failure in Ukraine, the West, led by the US set out to destroy Russian economy by lowering oil prices, and accordingly gas prices as the main budget sources of export revenue in Russia and the main sources of replenishment of Russian gold reserves. It should be noted that the main failure of the West in Ukraine is not military or political. But in the actual refusal of Putin to fund the Western project of Ukraine at the expense of the budget of Russian Federation. What makes this Western project not viable in the near and inevitable future.

Last time under president Reagan, such actions of the West’s lowering of oil prices led to ‘success’ and the collapse of USSR. But history does not repeat itself all the time. This time things are different for the West. Putin’s response to the West resembles both chess and judo, when the strength used by the enemy is used against him, but with minimal costs to the strength and resources of the defender. Putin’s real policies are not public. Therefore, Putin’s policy largely has always focused not so much on effect, but on efficiency.

Very few people understand what Putin is doing at the momentAnd almost no one understands what he will do in the future.

No matter how strange it may seem, but right now, Putin is selling Russian oil and gas only for physical gold.

Putin is not shouting about it all over the world. And of course, he still accepts US dollars as an intermediate means of payment. But he immediately exchanges all these dollars obtained from the sale of oil and gas for physical gold!

To understand this, it is enough to look at the dynamics of growth of gold reserves of Russia and to compare this data with foreign exchange earnings of the Russia coming from the sale of oil and gas over the same period.

goldMoreover, in the third quarter the purchases by Russia of physical gold are at all-time high record levels. In the third quarter of this year, Russia had purchased an incredible amount of gold in the amount of 55 tons. It’s more than all the central banks of all countries of the world combined (according to official data)!

In total, the central banks of all countries of the world have purchased 93 tons of the precious metal in the third quarter of 2014. It was the 15th consecutive quarter of net purchases of gold by Central banks. Of the 93 tonnes of gold purchases by central banks around the world during this period, the staggering volume of purchases – of 55 tons – belongs to Russia.

Not so long ago, British scientists have successfully come to the same conclusion, as was published in the Conclusion of the U.S. Geological survey a few years ago. Namely: Europe will not be able to survive without energy supply from Russia. Translated from English to any other language in the world it means: “The world will not be able to survive if oil and gas from Russia is subtracted from the global balance of energy supply”.

Thus, the Western world, built on the hegemony of the petrodollar, is in a catastrophic situation. In which it cannot survive without oil and gas supplies from Russia. And Russia is now ready to sell its oil and gas to the West only in exchange for physical gold! The twist of Putin’s game is that the mechanism for the sale of Russian energy to the West only for gold now works regardless of whether the West agrees to pay for Russian oil and gas with its artificially cheap gold, or not.

Because Russia, having a regular flow of dollars from the sale of oil and gas, in any case, will be able to convert them to gold with current gold prices, depressed by all means by the West. That is,at the price of gold, which had been artificially and meticulously lowered by the Fed and ESF many times, against artificially inflated purchasing power of the dollar through market manipulation.

Interesting fact: the suppression of gold prices by the special department of US Government – ESF (Exchange Stabilization Fund) – with the aim of stabilizing the dollar has been made into a law in the United States.

In the financial world it is accepted as a given that gold is an antidollar.

  • In 1971, US President Richard Nixon closed the ‘gold window’, ending the free exchange of dollars for gold, guaranteed by the US in 1944 at Bretton Woods.
  • In 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reopened the ‘gold window’, without asking Washington’s permission.

Right now the West spends much of its efforts and resources to suppress the prices of gold and oil. Thereby, on the one hand to distort the existing economic reality in favor of the US dollar and on the other hand, to destroy the Russian economy, refusing to play the role of obedient vassal of the West.

Today assets such as gold and oil look proportionally weakened and excessively undervalued against the US dollar. It is a consequence of the enormous economic effort on the part of the West.

And now Putin sells Russian energy resources in exchange for these US dollars, artificially propped by the efforts of the West. With which he immediately buys gold, artificially devalued against the U.S. dollar by the efforts of the West itself!

sourcesThere is another interesting element in Putin’s game. It’s Russian uranium. Every sixth light bulb in the USA depends on its supply. Which Russia sells to the US too, for dollars.

Thus, in exchange for Russian oil, gas and uranium, the West pays Russia with dollars, purchasing power of which is artificially inflated against oil and gold by the efforts of the West. But Putin uses these dollars only to withdraw physical gold from the West in exchange, for the price denominated in US dollars, artificially lowered by the same West.

This truly brilliant economic combination by Putin puts the West led by the United States in a position of a snake, aggressively and diligently devouring its own tail.

The idea of this economic golden trap for the West, probably originated not from Putin himself. Most likely it was the idea of Putin’s Advisor for Economic Affairs – doctor Sergey Glazyev. Otherwise why seemingly not involved in business bureaucrat Glazyev, along with many Russian businessmen, was personally included by Washington on the sanction list?  The idea of an economist, doctor Glazyev was brilliantly executed by Putin, with full endorsement from his Chinese colleague – Xi Jinping.

Especially interesting in this context looks the November statement of the first Deputy Chairman of Central Bank of Russia Ksenia Yudaeva, which stressed that the Central Bank of Russia can use the gold from its reserves to pay for imports, if needed. It is obvious that in terms of sanctions by the Western world, this statement is addressed to the BRICS countries, and first of all China. For China, Russia’s willingness to pay for goods with Western gold is very convenient. And here’s why:

China recently announced that it will cease to increase its gold and currency reserves denominated in US dollars. Considering the growing trade deficit between the US and China (the current difference is five times in favor of China), then this statement translated from the financial language reads: “China stops selling their goods for dollars”. The world’s media chose not to notice this grandest in the recent monetary history event . The issue is not that China literally refuses to sell its goods for US dollars. China, of course, will continue to accept US dollars as an intermediate means of payment for its goods. But, having taken dollars, China will immediately get rid of them and replace with something else in the structure of its gold and currency reserves. Otherwise the statement made by the monetary authorities of China loses its meaning: “We are stopping the increase of our gold and currency reserves, denominated in US dollars.” That is, China will no longer buy United States Treasury bonds for dollars earned from trade with any countries, as they did this before.

Thus, China will replace all the dollars that it will receive for its goods not only from the US but from all over the world with something else not to increase their gold currency reserves, denominated in US dollars. And here is an interesting question: what will China replace all the trade dollars with? What currency or an asset? Analysis of the current monetary policy of China shows that most likely the dollars coming from trade, or a substantial chunk of them, China will quietly replace and de facto is already replacing with Gold.

Are we witnessing the end of dollar era?

Are we witnessing the end of dollar era?

In this aspect, the solitaire of Russian-Chinese relations is extremely successful for Moscow and Beijing.Russia buys goods from China directly for gold at its current price. While China buys Russian energy resources for gold at its current price. At this Russian-Chinese festival of life there is a place for everything: Chinese goods, Russian energy resources, and gold – as a means of mutual payment. Only US dollar has no place at this festival of life. And this is not surprising. Because the US dollar is not a Chinese product, nor a Russian energy resource. It is only an intermediate financial instrument of settlement – and an unnecessary intermediary. And it is customary to exclude unnecessary intermediaries from the interaction of two independent business partners.

It should be noted separately that the global market for physical gold is extremely small relative to the world market for physical oil supplies. And especially the world market for physical gold is microscopic compared to the entirety of world markets for physical delivery of oil, gas, uranium and goods.

Emphasis on the phrase “physical gold” is made because in exchange for its physical, not ‘paper’ energy resources, Russia is now withdrawing gold from the West, but only in its physical, not paper form. So does China, by acquiring from the West the artificially devalued physical gold as a payment for physical delivery of real products to the West.

The West’s hopes that Russia and China will accept as payment for their energy resources and goods “shitcoin” or so-called “paper gold” of various kinds also did not materialize. Russia and China are only interested in gold and only physical metal as a final means of payment.

For reference: the turnover of the market of paper gold, only of gold futures, is estimated at $360 billion per month. But physical delivery of gold is only for $280 million a month. Which makes the ratio of trade of paper gold versus physical gold: 1000 to 1.

Using the mechanism of active withdrawal from the market of one artificially lowered by the West financial asset (gold) in exchange for another artificially inflated by the West financial asset (USD),Putin has thereby started the countdown to the end of the world hegemony of petrodollar. Thus, Putin has put the West in a deadlock of the absence of any positive economic prospects. The West can spend as much of its efforts and resources to artificially increase the purchasing power of the dollar, lower oil prices and artificially lower the purchasing power of gold. The problem of the West is that the stocks of physical gold in possession of the West are not unlimited. Therefore, the more the West devalues oil and gold against the US dollar, the faster it loses devaluing Gold from its not infinite reserves. In this brilliantly played by Putin economic combination the physical gold is rapidly flowing to Russia, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan and India, the BRICS countries, from the reserves of the West. At the current rate of reduction of reserves of physical gold, the West simply does not have the time to do anything against Putin’s Russia until the collapse of the entire Western petrodollar world. In chess the situation in which Putin has put the West, led by the US, is called “time trouble”.

The Western world has never faced such economic events and phenomena that are happening right now. USSR rapidly sold gold during the fall of oil prices. Russia rapidly buys gold during the fall in oil prices. Thus, Russia poses a real threat to the American model of petrodollar world domination.

The main principle of world petrodollar model is allowing Western countries led by the United States to live at the expense of the labor and resources of other countries and peoples based on the role of the US currency, dominant in the global monetary system (GMS) . The role of the US dollar in the GMS is that it is the ultimate means of payment. This means that the national currency of the United States in the structure of the GMS is the ultimate asset accumulator, to exchange which to any other asset does not make sense. What the BRICS countries, led by Russia and China, are doing now is actually changing the role and status of the US dollar in the global monetary system. From the ultimate means of payment and asset accumulation, the national currency of the USA, by the joint actions of Moscow and Beijing is turned into only an intermediate means of payment. Intended only to exchange this interim payment for another and the ulimate financial asset – gold. Thus, the US dollar actually loses its role as the ultimate means of payment and asset accumulation, yielding both of those roles to another recognized, denationalized and depoliticized monetary asset – gold.

Traditionally, the West has used two methods to eliminate the threat to the hegemony of petrodollar model in the world and the consequent excessive privileges for the West.

Map of Coloured revolutions

One of these methods – colored revolutions. The second method, which is usually applied by the West, if the first fails – military aggression and bombing.

But in Russia’s case both of these methods are either impossible or unacceptable for the West.

Because, firstly, the population of Russia, unlike people in many other countries, does not wish to exchange their freedom and the future of their children for Western sausage. This is evident from the record ratings of Putin, regularly published by the leading Western rating agencies. Personal friendship of Washington protégé Navalny with Senator McCain played for him and Washington a very negative role. Having learned this fact from the media, 98% of the Russian population now perceive Navalny only as a vassal of Washington and a traitor of Russia’s national interests. Therefore Western professionals, who have not yet lost their mind, cannot dream about any colour revolution in Russia.

As for the second traditional Western way of direct military aggression, Russia is certainly not Yugoslavia, not Iraq or Libya. In any non-nuclear military operation against Russia, on the territory of Russia, the West led by the US is doomed to defeat. And the generals in the Pentagon exercising real leadership of NATO forces are aware of this. Similarly hopeless is a nuclear war against Russia, including the concept of so-called “preventive disarming nuclear strike”. NATO is simply not technically able to strike a blow that would completely disarm the nuclear potential of Russia in all its many manifestations. A massive nuclear retaliatory strike on the enemy or a pool of enemies would be inevitable. And its total capacity will be enough for survivors to envy the dead. That is, an exchange of nuclear strikes with a country like Russia is not a solution to the looming problem of the collapse of a petrodollar world. It is in the best case, a final chord and the last point in the history of its existence. In the worst case – a nuclear winter and the demise of all life on the planet, except for the bacteria mutated from radiation.

The Western economic establishment can see and understand the essence of the situation.Leading Western economists are certainly aware of the severity of the predicament and hopelessness of the situation the Western world finds itself in, in Putin’s economic gold trap. After all, since the Bretton Woods agreements, we all know the Golden rule: “Who has more gold sets the rules.” But everyone in the West is silent about it. Silent because no one knows now how to get out of this situation.

If you explain to the Western public all the details of the looming economic disaster, the public will ask the supporters of a petrodollar world the most terrible questions, which will sound like this:

How long will the West be able to buy oil and gas from Russia in exchange for physical gold?
And what will happen to the US petrodollar after the West runs out of physical gold to pay for Russian oil, gas and uranium, as well as to pay for Chinese goods?

No one in the West today can answer these seemingly simple questions.

And this is called “Checkmate”, ladies and gentlemen. The game is over.

Source in Russian: Investcafe

Translated by ORIENTAL REVIEW

Amnesty International has found that “the already desperate situation in eastern Ukraine is being made even worse by” so-called ‘volunteer’ or mercenary forces for the Ukrainian Government, which are blocking the supply of food to residents in that region, and trying to starve them to death.

Thus, “The region is facing a humanitarian disaster with many already at risk of starvation,” said Denis Krivosheev, acting Director of Europe and Central Asia for Amnesty International, on Wed., December 24th.

Amnesty International reports that, “Over half of the population in these areas are now entirely dependent on food aid.”

The AI report quotes one commander of these mercenary forces as giving his reason for blocking the humanitarian supplies, as being: “We’re at war with them and we’re spilling our blood, but in the same time we’re feeding them”; so, they refuse to allow the aid convoys through.

Germany’s Nazi forces during World War II gave the same explanation for why they treated the entire population in their conquered regions as being the enemy: they were the enemy, to be exploited and not served; they were thus to be cleared out, or else slaughtered, in order to provide “lebensraum” for the conquering people (‘Aryans’), who would be moving in and taking over the natural and other resources of the region, to be used by the Nazi state. (In the present instance, gas is one of the main resources in the rebelling region, which is the site of the vast Yuzivska gas field, and Obama’s people want it; and one of the Obama team’s appointed leaders there, the billionaire Ihor Kolomoysky, hired Joe Biden’s son and a friend of John Kerry for the board of his gas-exploration company.)

The situation is similar in southeastern Ukraine to that during WW II. The United States Government (in the person of Victoria Nuland of the State Department) chose Arseniy Yatsenyuk on 4 February 2014, which was 18 days prior to the coup, to become the new leader of Ukraine as soon as the democratically elected leader, Viktor Yanukovych would be overthrown, which turned out to be on February 22nd (though Nuland had no way of knowing at the time what the specific date of the overthrow would be). Almost immediately after Yatsenyuk became the leader of Ukraine, on March 5th, he sacked the existing three Deputy Defense Ministers, and replaced them with three rabidly anti-Russian racist-fascists or nazis, who were committed to the policy of bombing the residents in that area,the area that had voted 90% for Yanukovych.

The person who was made the Minister of Defense, Mikhail Koval, then announced his intention to ethnically cleanse from southeastern Ukraine the “subhumans” who voted for Yanukovych, who will “be resettled in other regions,” meaning either Russia (if Russia accepted these Ukrainian refugees) or else concentration-camps inside Ukraine (and then perhaps death). Their property was to be confiscated, and “Land parcels will be given out for free to the servicemen of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other military formations, as well as to the employees of Interior Ministry and the Security Service of Ukraine that are defending territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country in eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine.” That’s the euphemism for the ethnic cleansing, and mass-theft. In other words, Obama’s new rulers of Ukraine were offering their soldiers the opportunity to grab legally the property of their victims. Ukraine doesn’t have the money to pay for all the soldiers that are needed to do this ethnic cleansing; so, they’re being promised war-booty, instead. Destroying the residents is the way to get it.

Amnesty International cannot afford to say this. According to sourcewatch (before they took their site down)Amnesty International is largely funded by Western aristocrats, and the famous Professor Francis H. Boyle has said, “Amnesty International is primarily motivated not by human rights but by publicity. Second comes money. Third comes getting more members. Fourth, internal turf battles. And then finally, human rights.” So: they’re heavily dependent upon Western, and especially upon American, aristocrats, including such people as George Soros and his Open Society Foundation, and his International Renaissance Fund (which donated heavily to promoting the coup). In other words: AI needs to watch out.

Here is an uncensored description of the situation in that region of Ukraine, which is called “Donbass.” It comes from George H. Eliason, an American who lives there, and whose reports on the situation in Ukraine I have always found to be true in the past:

The reality in Donbas is this blockade has been in place for almost 6 months now. The bank runs happened in the late spring through the mid summer. I was there as thousands of people stood in line literally for days in front of bank ATMs.

During this time a surcharge was added to every deposit in Donbass banks and the funds went to buy the bullets used to kill people here. When Kiev lost ground in the east mid summer they closed the banks altogether. The banks closed without warning all deposits were stolen and used to buy more bullets.

How is it possible to have a bank run in November when banks haven’t been open for 4 months?

The vulnerable, the dying, and the dead

Pensions and benefits to the elderly and disabled were also cut off in mid summer. State and oligarch owned businesses functioning and reaping profits stopped paying salaries. By early July retirees across the countryside were surviving on leftovers from the last harvest, unripened fruit, and help from their neighbors.

In August I started hearing about the starvation among the most vulnerable people which were the shut-ins. People that were bed ridden or because of disabilities could no longer leave their apartments died of starvation and thirst. Where were their neighbors?

In early summer the Ukrainian army started targeting apartment buildings and homes. Throughout the summer this never let up. At first Kiev denied it but later it didn’t matter anymore in the news. Kiev suspended the human rights of people in Southeast early in the spring.

The shelling of civilian homes had the effect Kiev was hoping for. It created a flood of terrified refugees that simply ran and almost overwhelmed the capacity to take care of them in Belarus and Russia.

I have watched people come to this decision. They don’t talk about it out of fear. They quietly slip away. The neighbors of the shut-ins thought someone else was staying and would look after them. In a lot of cases no one could. No one talked to anyone else, they ran. …

The social net that Poroshenko cynically cut off in November has not existed since late spring. Kiev destroyed it with shells not democracy.

Medications

Medications for chronic life threatening illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and basic antibiotics became in short supply in late spring. Early on medication was transported by clearly marked vehicles with red cross insignia or ambulances. These became the favored targets of mercenaries and para military forces like Donbass battalion [from the Ukrainian Government]. In every major city hospitals have been prime targets the entire time.

Until then most medications were distributed through warehouses in Kiev. As early as June publications such as the Telegraph reported on the humanitarian efforts which was caused by Kiev’s humanitarian blockade.

The reality since summer is people dying because the medications they needed were kept out of their reach. No matter how how much effort is put into the humanitarian effort the population of over 7 million people are in a war zone that is constantly bombarded with rockets and shells.

Creating Famine Conditions

Beginning in the late spring the Ukrainian army set landmines across the grain fields needed to support the area for human and livestock consumption. The landmines set in grain fields aren’t in contested areas. They are not marked and the locals weren’t told to stay away by the Ukrainian army.

These are the fields where farmers make their living and produce the grain needed for bread. One of my neighbors hit a mine trying to harvest his wheat. It destroyed his tractor and he was lucky to be thrown clear. He woke to see his tractor burning. In early summer another neighbor on his tractor was used for sniper practice.

The Ukrainian army burnt grain and corn fields that were under their control. This continued throughout most of the summer as noted across many articles.

The scorched earth policy was geared at creating the current situation which will soon be mass starvation and the sicknesses associated with it. Tens of thousands of acres could not be harvested.

To make the point a few short weeks ago Kiev’s appointed Governor in the occupied Lugansk region stated bluntly that Kiev’s humanitarian blockade of Lugansk and Donetsk was geared to reproduce the effects of the Soviet Union’s 1932-33 famine in which millions across central and southeast Ukraine perished from starvation and sickness.

Camps

When the refugee problem started getting international attention in mid-summer president Poroshenko made a big deal about how Donbass refugees would be welcomed by the Ukrainians and how much money was set aside for them. It is Kiev of course and the money was stolen like the donations for the families of Kiev’s heavenly hundred.

The refugees were set up in summer camps without utilities and for the most part no humanitarian aid. What humanitarian aid isn’t stolen goes to the soldiers. The men that ran from the war found themselves conscripted and sent back. The families sent to the summer camps still sit there in December with no heat. Many will perish from exposure.

Refugees that thought they were fortunate enough to make it to Kiev or other nationalist cities are denied jobs and benefits because they are from Donbass. They ran from the referendum, thought they were good Ukrainians, and yet are still Moskal [the derogatory term for Russians]. Kiev’s new laws take the children from their mothers so they can be raised in orphanages and become good Ukrainian nationalists.

There is much more in his informative report, which is aptly titled, “Kiev Forcing Death by Starvation or Relocation in Donbass.”

Obama’s Permanent War Agenda

December 26th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

He continues a longstanding tradition. America’s agenda is permanent war.

Lew Rockwell calls it “The Forever War.” Law Professor Marjorie Cohn says it “perpetual war.”

So did Gore Vidal in his 2002 book titled “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace,” saying:

“(O)ur for more than half a century have made sure that we are never to be told the truth about anything that our government has done to other people, not to mention our own.”

In his same year book titled “Dreaming War,” he compared GW Bush’s imperial ambitions to WW II and the 1947 Truman Doctrine’s pledge:

“To support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

Truman initiated America’s National Security State strategy. It included establishing NATO in 1949. For offense, not defense.

Containing Russia was prioritized . NSC 4 outlined “US Objectives with Respect to the USSR to Counter Soviet Threats to US Security.”

NSC 7 followed. It covered “The Position of the United States With Respect to Soviet Dominated World Communism.”

Saying: “(A) defensive policy cannot be considered an effective means of checking the momentum of Soviet expansion.”

Defeating communism was considered “vital to the security of the United States.” Washington should organize and lead a “counter-offensive” aimed at undermining Soviet strength.

“(D)evelop(ing), and at the appropriate time carry(ing) out, a coordinated (anti-Soviet) program…”

In April 1950, NSC-68 called Russia an enemy “unlike previous aspirants to hegemony…”

Saying it was “animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own (wishing to) impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world.”

Sounds like how Obama characterizes ISIS/ISIL/the Islamic State (IS) today.

“(U)nique in (its) brutality,” he says. “Posing a threat to the people of…the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities.”

“If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States.”

No matter that IS is a US creation. US special forces and CIA operatives train its fighters in Jordan, Turkey and Georgia.

They’re sent to Syria to fight Assad. Part of America’s regime change strategy. Used against Gaddafi.

US allies and enemies at the same time. Big Lies substitute for truth and full disclosure. MSM scoundrels regurgitate them ad nauseam.

In his 1953 book “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: A Critical Examination of the Foreign Policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and It’s Aftermath,” historian Harry Elmer Barnes said:

“If trends continue as they have during the last fifteen years, we shall soon reach this point of no return, and can only anticipate interminable wars, disguised as noble gestures for peace.”

“Such an era could only culminate in a third world war.” He explained America’s needless involvement in two world wars.

Doing so transformed its pre-1914 dream “into a nightmare of fear, regimentation, destruction, insecurity, inflation, and ultimate insolvency.”

He challenged America’s alleged just cause for entering WW I.  Its foolhardiness for doing so. Disastrous results that followed.

Explained popular WW II fictions. Precipitating German/Austrian injustices. Censored Forrestal Diaries. Showing Roosevelt wanted war in the early 1930s.

His June 1940 “Stab in the Back” address promoted war. He asked

“(w)hat is to become of the country we know?”

“(Y)oung men and young women of America ask…with even greater anxiety than before.”

“They ask, not only what the future holds for this Republic, but what the future holds for all peoples and all nations that have been living under democratic forms of Government-under the free institutions of a free people.”

“It’s an obvious delusion that we of the United States can safely permit the United States to become a lone island, a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force.”

Europe was at war. Roosevelt rallied Americans to support US involvement. Supplied Britain with vast amounts of weapons and munitions.

In September 1940, America’s Selective Training and Service Act became law. Initiating peacetime conscription for the first time in US history.

In January 1941, Roosevelt advisor Harry Hopkins told Winston Churchill:

“The President is determined that we shall win the war together. Make no mistake about it.”

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold Stark told fleet commanders:

“The question of our entry into the war now seems to be when, and not whether.”

Only a pretext was needed. Months later it came. Roosevelt manipulated things to assure it.

On July 4, he said:

“(S)olemnly (understand) that the United States will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship.”

His July 25 Executive Order froze Japanese assets, saying:

It was “(t)o prevent the use of the financial facilities of the United States in trade between Japan and the United States in ways harmful to national defense and American interests, to prevent the liquidation in the United States of assets obtained by duress or conquest, and to curb subversive activities in the United States.”

From 1933 through late 1941, Roosevelt spurned Japanese peace overtures. They would have protected America’s East Asian interests.

By late November, the die was cast. War Secretary Henry Stimson said it depended on how to maneuver Japan to attack with minimum US casualties.

In the late 1930s, Roosevelt encouraged a Japanese attack.

Against the advice of Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold Stark and Pacific Fleet Commander James Richardson, he stationed America’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

An embargo on Japan assured war. So did arming its enemies. Breaking the Japanese code let Washington track its fleet to Pearl Harbor.

“At a December 5 cabinet meeting, Navy Secretary Frank Knox said: “Well, you know Mr. President, we know where the Japanese fleet is?”

“Yes, I know,” responded Roosevelt. On December 7, 1941 at 7:55AM Hawaii time, Roosevelt got the war he wanted.

In his book titled “The Good War: An Oral History of World War II,” Studs Terkel (1912 – 2008) said the only thing good about it was America’s heartland was spared.

Wars are “lunatic” acts, said Terkel. Resolving nothing. Horrific by any standard.

Turning ordinary people into crazed killers. Destroying any hope for peace. Begetting more war.

Howard Zinn denounced the myth of good wars. They prevent peace. Perpetuate violence. World War II was worst of all.

Modern warfare is indifferent about who dies from 30,000 feet. “You just press a button, you know, and somebody dies,” said Zinn.

“You don’t see faceless victims. You don’t hear children scream. You don’t know about human flesh ripped to pieces. You think you’re the good guys. Kill the bad ones.”

“World War II is not that simple,” said Zinn. “The good guys became the bad guys. War poisons everybody. It corrupts everybody.”

Neither side reflects saintliness. Both sides are villainous. All sides wage dirty war. Without mercy. Slaughtering innocent civilians.

Did WW II stop fascism, asked Zinn? Did it stop racist persecution? End militarism? Restore peace?

When it ended, Zinn got a letter from General George Marshall. It wasn’t a “Dear Howie,” he said.

All US armed forces personnel got the same one. It was “something like this,” said Zinn.

“We’ve won the war. Congratulations for your service. It will be a new world.”

“It wasn’t a new world,” said Zinn. “War after war after war after war” followed. They rage today. The second war to end all wars perpetuated them.

Millions died for nothing. Fascism, despotism and militarism remain. Wars can’t be tolerated “no matter what we’re told,” said Zinn.

So-called good wars don’t exist. They’re worst of all. Civilians suffer most in all wars. Children suffer like adults.

Wars institutionalize violence. Assuring more wars. Continuing without end.

America’s only enemies are ones it invents. Mass slaughter and destruction persist. Planet earth is America’s battleground.

How many more millions will die? How much human misery is enough? How much longer will people tolerate the intolerable?

When will one century of war after another end? When will America’s rage to fight be challenged? When will swords be turned into plowshares?”

In 2003, “economic (military to civilian production) conversion” expert Seymour Melman addressed America’s permanent war economy, saying:

It shapes all aspects of US life. Its horrific toll includes:

  • a de-industrialized nation;
  • government financing and promoting “every kind of war industry and foreign investing by US firms;”
  • doing it at the expense of homeland needs;
  • maintaining the same policy since WW II; and
  • prioritizing war over all else in US society.

The result is thirdworldizing America. It’s a nation of beggars, poverty, homelessness, hunger, unemployment, underemployment, desperation and despair.

Growing millions are “disconnected from society’s mainstream,” said Melman. (They’re) restless and unhappy, frustrated, angry and sad.”

“State capitalism” characterizes America. It’s a government/business partnership.

For wealth, power and privilege. Advancing America’s imperium. For unchallenged US dominance.

Hugely corrupt. Unstable. Lawless. Inhumane. Exploiting suffering millions.

America’s agenda is pursued at the expense of lost industrialization. Crumbling infrastructure. A madness for waging wars without end.

No matter the cost. The toll. The downside. How badly things will end.

What can’t go on forever, won’t. Chalmers Johnson predicted eventual bankruptcy and ruin.

War on freedom persists. Disappearing in plain sight. Full-blown tyranny looms.

Melman said “(f)urther evasion is out of order. We must come to grips with America’s State Capitalism and its Permanent War Economy.”

Re-industrialization is essential “to restore jobs and production competence – industry by industry.”

“Failing that, there is no hope for any constructive exit.” Not for America. Nor its people. Nor others affected globally.

Not any time soon under Obama’s open-ended wars without end. His rage to fight.

Doing so based on Big Lies. Serving monied interests over popular ones.

Spurning rule of law principles. Trashing democratic values. Leading NATO’s killing machine. Its freedom-crushing monster.

Risking nuclear war with Russia. Waging it will be war to end all future ones.

No coming back. No second chances. No life left worth living. Extinguished from planet earth.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].  His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

From Energy War to Currency War: America’s Attack on the Russian Ruble

December 26th, 2014 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

A multi-spectrum war is being waged against Moscow by Washington. If there are any doubts about this, they should be put to rest. Geopolitics, science and technology, speculation, financial markets, information streams, large business conglomerates, intelligentsia, mass communication, social media, the internet, popular culture, news networks, international institutions, sanctions, audiences, public opinion, nationalism, different governmental bodies and agencies, identity politics, proxy wars, diplomacy, countervailing international alliances, major business agreements, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), human rights, prestige, military personnel, capital, and psychological tactics are all involved in this multi-spectrum war. On a daily basis this struggle can be seen playing out on the airwaves, in the war theaters in Ukraine and the Middle East, through the statements and accusations of diplomats, and in the economic sphere.

Additionally, the debates and questions on whether a new cold war—a post-Cold War cold war—has emerged or if the Cold War never ended should be put to rest too. The mentality of the Cold War never died in the Washington Beltway. From the perspective of Russian officials, it is clear that the US never put down its war mace and continued the offensive. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, defeating the Soviets and Eastern Bloc, and seeing the Soviet Union dismantled into fifteen republics was not enough for the Cold War warriors in the US. The newly emergent Russian Federation had to be placated in their views.

Petro-politics have been a major feature of this multi-spectrum war too. [1] Not only have energy prices been a factor in this struggle, but so are financial markets and national currencies. The manipulated decline in the price of energy, which has been driven by the flooding of the global market with oil, is now being augmented by a siege on the value of the Russian ruble. This is part of what appears to be a deliberate two-pronged attack on the Russian Federation that seeks to cut Russia’s revenues through market manipulation via economic sanctions and price drops. It is what you would call a «double whammy». While sanctions have been imposed on the Russian economy by the US and its allies, including Australia, Canada, the European Union, and Japan, offensives on Russia’s main source of revenue — energy — and its national currency have taken place.

Currency Warfare and Inflation

The price of the Russian ruble begun to drop in December 2014 as a consequence of the economic siege on the Russian Federation, the drop in global energy prices, and speculation. «Judging by the situation in the country, we are in the midst of a deep currency crisis, one that even Central Bank employees say they could not have foreseen in their worst nightmares», Interfax’s Vyacheslav Terekhov commented on the currency crisis while talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a Kremlin press conference on December 18, 2014. [2] Putin himself admitted this too at the press conference. While answering Terekhov, Putin explained that «the situation has changed under the influence of certain foreign economic factors, primarily the price of energy resources, of oil and consequently of gas as well». [3]

Some may think that the drop in the Russian ruble’s value is a result of the market acting on its own while others who recognize that there is market manipulation involved may turn around and blame it on the Russian government and Vladimir Putin. This process, however, has been guided by US machinations. It is simply not a result of the market acting on its own or the result of Kremlin policies. It is the result of US objectives and policy that deliberately targets Russia for destabilization and devastation. This is why Putin answered Terekhov’s question by saying that the drop in the value of the Russian ruble «was obviously provoked primarily by external factors». [4]

Both US Assistant-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland — the wife of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) co-founder and neo-conservative advocate for empire Robert Kagan — and US Assistant-Secretary of the Treasury Daniel Glaser told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives in May 2014 that the objectives of the US economic sanctions strategy against the Russian Federation was not only to damage the trade ties and business between Russia and the EU, but to also bring about economic instability in Russia and to create currency instability and inflation. [5] In other words, the US government was targeting the Russian ruble for devaluation and the Russian economy for inflation since at least May 2014.

It appears that the US is trying to manipulate the Kremlin into spending Russia’s resources and fiscal reserves to fight the inflation of the Russian ruble that Washington has engineered. The Kremlin, however, will not take the bait and be goaded into depleting the approximately $419 billion (US) foreign currency reserves and gold holdings of the Russian Federation or any of Russia’s approximately 8.4 trillion ruble reserves in an effort to prop the declining value of the Russian ruble. In this regard, while holding a press conference, President Putin stated the following on December 18, 2014: «The Central Bank does not intend to ‘burn’ them all senselessly, which is right». [6] Putin emphasized this again when answering Vyacheslav Terekhov’s question by saying that the Russian government and Russian Central Bank «should not hand out our gold and foreign currency reserves or burn them on the market, but provide lending resources». [7]

The Kremlin understands what Washington is trying to do. The US is replaying old game plans against Russia. The energy price manipulation, the currency devaluation, and even US attempts to entrap Russia in a conflict with its sister-republic Ukraine are all replays of US tactics that have been used before during the Cold War and after 1991. For example, dragging Russia into Ukraine would be a replay of how the US dragged the Soviet Union into Afghanistan whereas the manipulation of energy prices and currency markets would parallel the US strategy used to weaken and destabilize Baathist Iraq, Iran, and the Soviet Union during the Afghan-Soviet War and Iran-Iran War.

Instead of trying to stop the value of the ruble from dropping, the Kremlin appears to have decided to strategically invest in Russia’s human capital. Russia’s national reserve funds will be used to diversify the national economy and strengthen the social and public sectors. Despite the economic warfare against Russia, this is exactly why the wages of teachers in schools, professors in post-secondary institutions of learning and training, employees of cultural institutions, doctors in hospitals and clinics, paramedics, and nurses — the most important sectors for developing Russia’s human capital and capacity — have all been raised.

The Russian Bear Courts the Turkish Grey Wolf

The Kremlin, however, has an entire list of options at its disposal for countering the US offensive against Russia. One of them involves the courting of Turkey. The Russian courtship of Turkey has involved the Russian move away from the construction of the South Stream natural gas pipeline from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria.

Putin announced that Russia has cancelled the South Stream project on December 1, 2014. Instead the South Stream pipeline project has been replaced by a natural gas pipeline that goes across the Black Sea to Turkey from the Russian Federation’s South Federal District. This alternative pipeline has been popularly billed the «Turk Stream» and partners Russian energy giant Gazprom with Turkey’s Botas. Moreover, Gazprom will start giving Turkey discounts in the purchase of Russian natural gas that will increase with the intensification of Russo-Turkish cooperation.

The natural gas deal between Ankara and Moscow creates a win-win situation for both the Turkish and Russian sides. Not only will Ankara get a discount on energy supplies, but Turk Stream gives the Turkish government what it has wanted and desired for years. The Turk Stream pipeline will make Turkey an important energy corridor and transit point, complete with transit revenues. In this case Turkey becomes the corridor between energy supplier Russia and European Union and non-EU energy customers in southeastern Europe. Ankara will gain some leverage over the European Union and have an extra negotiating card with the EU too, because the EU will have to deal with it as an energy broker.

For its part, Russia has reduced the risks that it faced in building the South Stream by cancelling the project. Moscow could have wasted resources and time building the South Stream to see the project sanctioned or obstructed in the Balkans by Washington and Brussels. If the European Union really wants Russian natural gas then the Turk Stream pipeline can be expanded from Turkey to Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, and other European countries that want to be integrated into the energy project.

The cancellation of South Stream also means that there will be one less alternative energy corridor from Russia to the European Union for some time. This has positive implications for a settlement in Ukraine, which is an important transit route for Russian natural gas to the European Union. As a means of securing the flow of natural gas across Ukrainian territory from Russia, the European Union will be more prone to push the authorities in Kiev to end the conflict in East Ukraine.

In more ways than one the Turk Stream pipeline can be viewed as a reconfigured of the failed Nabucco natural gas pipeline. Not only will Turk Stream court Turkey and give Moscow leverage against the European Union, instead of reducing Russian influence as Nabucco was originally intended to do, the new pipeline to Turkey also coaxes Ankara to align its economic and strategic interests with those of Russian interests. This is why, when addressing Nabucco and the rivalries for establishing alternate energy corridors, this author pointed out in 2007 that «the creation of these energy corridors and networks is like a two-edged sword. These geo-strategic fulcrums or energy pivots can also switch their directions of leverage. The integration of infrastructure also leads towards economic integration». [8]

The creation of Turk Stream and the strengthening of Russo-Turkish ties may even help placate the gory conflict in Syria. If Iranian natural gas is integrated into the mainframe of Turk Stream through another energy corridor entering Anatolia from Iranian territory, then Turkish interests would be even more tightly aligned with both Moscow and Tehran. Turkey will save itself from the defeats of its neo-Ottoman policies and be able to withdraw from the Syrian crisis. This will allow Ankara to politically realign itself with two of its most important trading partners, Iran and Russia.

It is because of the importance of Irano-Turkish and Russo-Turkish trade and energy ties that Ankara has had an understanding with both Russia and Iran not to let politics and their differences over the Syrian crisis get in the way of their economic ties and business relationships while Washington has tried to disrupt Irano-Turkish and Russo-Turkish trade and energy ties like it has disrupted trade ties between Russia and the EU. [9] Ankara, however, realizes that if it lets politics disrupt its economic ties with Iran and Russia that Turkey itself will become weakened and lose whatever independence it enjoys

Masterfully announcing the Russian move while in Ankara, Putin also took the opportunity to ensure that there would be heated conversation inside the EU. Some would call this rubbing salt on the wounds. Knowing that profit and opportunity costs would create internal debate within Bulgaria and the EU, Putin rhetorically asked if Bulgaria was going to be economically compensated by the European Commission for the loss.

The Russian Bear and the Chinese Dragon

It is clear that Russian business and trade ties have been redirected to the People’s Republic of China and East Asia. On the occasion of the Sino-Russian mega natural gas deal, this author pointed out that this was not as much a Russian countermove to US economic pressure as it was really a long-term Russian strategy that seeks an increase in trade and ties with East Asia. [10] Vladimir Putin himself also corroborated this standpoint during the December 18 press conference mentioned earlier when he dismissed — like this author — the notion that the so-called «Russian turn to the East» was mainly the result of the crisis in Ukraine.

In President Putin’s own words, the process of increasing business ties with the Chinese and East Asia «stems from the global economic processes, because the East – that is, the Asia-Pacific Region – shows faster growth than the rest of the world». [11] If this is not convincing enough that the turn towards East Asia was already in the works for Russia, then Putin makes it categorically clear as he proceeds talking at the December 18 press conference. In reference to the Sino-Russian gas deal and other Russian projects in East Asia, Putin explained the following: «The projects we are working on were planned long ago, even before the most recent problems occurred in the global or Russian economy. We are simply implementing our long-time plans». [12]

From the perspective of Russian Presidential Advisor Sergey Glazyev, the US is waging its multi-spectrum war against Russia to ultimately challenge Moscow’s Chinese partners. In an insightful interview, Glazyev explained the following points to the Ukrainian journalist Alyona Berezovskaya — working for a Rossiya Segodnya subsidiary focusing on information involving Ukraine — about the basis for US hostility towards Russia: the bankruptcy of the US, its decline in competitiveness on global markets, and Washington’s inability to ultimately save its financial system by servicing its foreign debt or getting enough investments to establish some sort of innovative economic breakthrough are the reasons why Washington has been going after the Russian Federation. [13] In Glazyev’s own words, the US wants «a new world war». [14] The US needs conflict and confrontation, in other words. This is what the crisis in Ukraine is nurturing in Europe.

Sergey Glazyev reiterates the same points months down the road on September 23, 2014 in an article he authors for the magazine Russia in Global Affairs, which is sponsored by the Russian International Affairs Council — a think-tank founded by the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russian Ministry of Education in 2010 — and the US journal Foreign Affairs — which is the magazine published by the Council on Foreign Relation in the US. In his article, Glazyev adds that the war Washington is inciting against Russia in Europe may ultimately benefit the Chinese, because the struggle being waged will weaken the US, Russia, and the European Union to the advantage of China. [15] The point of explaining all this is to explain that Russia wants a balanced strategic partnership with China. Glazyev himself even told Berezovskaya in their interview that Russia wants a mutually beneficial relationship with China that does reduce it to becoming a subordinate to Beijing. [16]

Without question, the US wants to disrupt the strategic partnership between Beijing and Moscow. Moscow’s strategic long-term planning and Sino-Russian cooperation has provided the Russia Federation with an important degree of economic and strategic insulation from the economic warfare being waged against the Russian national economy. Washington, however, may also be trying to entice the Chinese to overplay their hand as Russia is economically attacked. In this context, the price drops in the energy market may also be geared at creating friction between Beijing and Moscow. In part, the manipulation of the energy market and the price drops could seek to weaken and erode Sino-Russian relations by coaxing the Chinese into taking steps that would tarnish their excellent ties with their Russian partners. The currency war against the Russian ruble may also be geared towards this too. In other words, Washington may be hoping that China becomes greedy and shortsighted enough to make an attempt to take advantage of the price drop in energy prices in the devaluation of the Russian ruble.

Whatever Washington’s intentions are, every step that the US takes to target Russia economically will eventually hurt the US economy too. It is also highly unlikely that the policy mandarins in Beijing are unaware of what the US may try to be doing. The Chinese are aware that ultimately it is China and not Russia that is the target of the United States.

Economic Terrorism: An Argentina versus the Vulture Funds Scenario?

The United States is waging a fully fledged economic war against the Russian Federations and its national economy. Ultimately, all Russians are collectively the target. The economic sanctions are nothing more than economic warfare. If the crisis in Ukraine did not happen, another pretext would have been found for assaulting Russia.

Both US Assistant-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Assistant-Secretary of the Treasury Daniel Glaser even told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives in May 2014 that the ultimate objectives of the US economic sanctions against Russia are to make the Russian population so miserable and desperate that they would eventually demand that the Kremlin surrender to the US and bring about «political change». «Political change» can mean many things, but what it most probably implies here is regime change in Moscow. In fact, the aims of the US do not even appear to be geared at coercing the Russian government to change its foreign policy, but to incite regime change in Moscow and to cripple the Russian Federation entirely through the instigation of internal divisions. This is why maps of a divided Russia are being circulated by Radio Free Europe. [17]

According to Presidential Advisor Sergey Glazyev, Washington is «trying to destroy and weaken Russia, causing it to fragment, as they need this territory and want to establish control over this entire space». [18] «We have offered cooperation from Lisbon to Vladivostok, whereas they need control to maintain their geopolitical leadership in a competition with China,» he has explained, pointing out that the US wants lordship and is not interested in cooperation. [19] Alluding to former US top diplomat Madeline Albright’s sentiments that Russia was unfairly endowed with vast territory and resources, Putin also spoke along similar lines at his December 18 press conference, explaining how the US wanted to divide Russia and control the abundant natural resources in Russian territory.

It is of little wonder that in 2014 a record number of Russian citizens have negative attitudes about relations between their country and the United States. A survey conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center has shown that of 39% of Russian respondents viewed relations with the US as «mostly bad» and 27% as «very bad». [20] This means 66% of Russian respondents have negative views about relations with Washington. This is an inference of the entire Russian population’s views. Moreover, this is the highest rise in negative perceptions about the US since 2008 when the US supported Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi’s war against Russia and the breakaway republic of South Ossetia; 40% viewed them as «mostly bad» and 25% of Russians viewed relations as «very bad» and at the time. [21]

Russia can address the economic warfare being directed against its national economy and society as a form of «economic terrorism». If Russia’s banks and financial institutions are weakened with the aim of creating financial collapse in the Russian Federation, Moscow can introduce fiscal measures to help its banks and financial sector that could create economic shockwaves in the European Union and North America. Speaking in hypothetical terms, Russia has lots of options for a financial defensive or counter-offensive that can be compared to its scorched earth policies against Western European invaders during the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, and the Second World War. If Russian banks and institutions default and do not pay or delay payment of their derivative debts and justify it on the basis of the economic warfare and economic terrorism, there would be a financial shock and tsunami that would vertebrate from the European Union to North America. This scenario has some parallels to the steps that Argentina has taken to sidestep the vulture funds.

The currency war eventually will rebound on Washington and Wall Street. The energy war will also reverse directions. Already, the Kremlin has made it clear that it and a coalition of other countries will de-claw the US in the currency market through a response that will neutralize US financial manipulation and the petro-dollar. In the words of Sergey Glazyev, Moscow is thinking of a «systemic and comprehensive» response «aimed at exposing and ending US political domination, and, most importantly, at undermining US military-political power based on the printing of dollars as a global currency». [22] His solution includes the creation of «a coalition of sound forces advocating stability — in essence, a global anti-war coalition with a positive plan for rearranging the international financial and economic architecture on the principles of mutual benefit, fairness, and respect for national sovereignty». [23]

The coming century will not be the «American Century» as the neo-conservatives in Washington think. It will be a «Eurasian Century». Washington has taken on more than it can handle, this may be why the US government has announced an end to its sanctions regime against Cuba and why the US is trying to rekindle trade ties with Iran. Despite this, the architecture of the post-Second World War or post-1945 global order is now in its death bed and finished. This is what the Kremlin and Putin’s presidential spokesman and press secretary Dmitry Peskov mean when they impart—as Peskov stated to Rossiya-24 in a December 17, 2014 interview — that the year 2014 has finally led to «a paradigm shift in the international system».

NOTES

[1] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Oil Prices and Energy Wars: The Empire of Frack versus Russia,» Strategic Culture Foundation, December 5, 2014.
[2] Official Kremlin version of the transcribed press conference — titled «News conference of Vladimir Putin» (December 18, 2014)—has been used in quoting Vladimir Putin.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Psychological War In The Financial Markets And The Sino-Russian Gas Deal,» Mint Press News, May 29, 2014.
[6] Supra. n.2.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «The ‘Great Game’ Enters the Mediterranean: Gas, Oil, War, and Geo-Politics,» Global Research, October 14, 2007.
[9] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Oil Prices and Energy Wars,» op. cit.; Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Turkey & Iran: More than meets the eye»RT, January 20, 2014.
[10] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «Psychological War In The Financial Markets,» op. cit.
[11] Supra. n.2.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Sergey Glazyev, «Alyona Berezovskaya interviews Sergei Glazyev,» Interview with Alyona Berezovskaya, Ukraine.ru, July 17, 2014: .
[14] Ibid.
[15] Sergey Glazyev, «The Threat of War and the Russian Response,» Russia in Global Affairs, September 24, 2014.
[16] Sergey Glazyev, «Alyona Berezovskaya interviews,» op. cit.
[17] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, «WWIII aimed to redraw map of Russia?» Strategic Culture Foundation, September 10, 2014.
[18] Sergey Glazyev, «Alyona Berezovskaya interviews,» op. cit.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Всероссийский центр изучения общественного мнения [Russian Public Opinion Research Center], «Россия-США отношенияв точке замерзания» [«Russia-US Relations at Freezing Point»], Press release 2729, December 4, 2014: .
[21] Ibid.
[22] Sergey Glazyev, «The Threat of War,» op. cit.
[23] Ibid.

Christmas Who’s Who: Jesus was Jewish, Was Muhammad a Christian or a Jew?

December 25th, 2014 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Jesus was Jewish 

He was born in Bethlehem, a Palestinian city which is now in the West Bank under Israeli military occupation.

Jesus is a Palestinian from Galilee.  Jesus was considered as a Jewish rabbi (teacher). He also preached his oral message in synagogues in Galilee. 

Jesus was referred to as “Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth”. 

Both Joseph and Mary were Jews. 

Jesus was Aramaic speaking.

Aramaic was a Semitic language of communication and trade in the Levant. Aramaic is still spoken in certain parts of  Syria. Arabic and Hebrew are related to Aramaic.

Jesus was a Jew, so that the first attempts to understand his message took place within the context of Judaism. The New Testament was written in Greek, but the language Jesus and his disciples usually spoke seems to have been Aramaic, a Semitic tongue related to Hebrew but not identical with it. Aramaic words and phrases are scattered throughout the Gospels and other early Christian books, reflecting the language in which various sayings and liturgical formulas had been repeated before the transition to Greek became complete (Jesus Many Face, PBS)

Jesus was not born on Christmas Day

There is no evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th.  Historians confirm that Christmas was borrowed from pagan celebrations.

The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, …

According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated. (Biblical History Archive)

Judaism, Christianity and Islam

(Mohamed) Muḥammad, born 570 AD: Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim.

Muhammad viewed Christians and Jews, as “People of the Book” referring to the Old Testament.

Muslims consider that Jesus was a prophet and a Messiah. So were Abraham and Moses.

Muhammad was influenced by Nestorian Christians in Arabia and the Levant (al Sham):

The Nestorians … established schools in many towns. In their monasteries monks could be heard chanting their offices, so that the Arabs became accustomed to seeing the monks at pray day and night, …  The monastery at Hira was established by the Nestorians in the fifth century, and from thence Christianity was carried to Bahrayn. While Muhammad was a young man, King Nu’man of Hira was converted to Christianity. The church in the east was predominately Nestorian, though a fair number of Monophysites were to be found there. (Guillaume, “Islam”, p. 15)

Bahira, a Nestorian Christian monk who lived in Al Sham (Syria) is considered to have influenced Muhammad.

Muhammed sought to unify the Pagan, Jewish and Christian tribes of Arabia.

Reverse the Tide of War and Global Poverty

Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, Atheists, the various communities of faith around the World:

The Obama administration seeks to create sectarian divisions as an instrument of imperial conquest.

On Christmas, let us remember what unites humanity in terms of fundamental values against the imperial architects of global warfare and poverty, not to mention the lies and fabrications of the corporate media which seek to divide us.

Christmas greetings from Global Research.

Let us celebrate Christmas and the New Year together in the spirit of World Peace, Solidarity and Social Justice.

Consider a Christmas donation to Global Research.

It will be used to further the causes of  World Peace and Truth in Media

Without our readers support, we would not be here.

Washington is the grinch that stole Christmas. Bah Humbug defines its agenda. 

Unprecedented in modern times. Privileged Americans never had it better. Ordinary ones face lump of coal harshness. Hard times keep getting harder.

Reflected in institutionalized inequality. Growing poverty. High unemployment. Multiples higher than phony Labor Department numbers. An epidemic of underemployment persists.

Jobs paying poverty or sub-poverty wages. With few or no benefits.

Households need two or three to get by.

Growing millions face “one impossible choice after another,” according to Poverty USA. “(B)etween food and medicine(s), getting to work or paying the heating bill.”

Census data show around half the population living in poverty or bordering it. In the world’s richest country.

Affecting nearly 60% of children. America has a higher percent of working poor than any other industrialized country.

Human suffering is real. Neoliberal harshness is official policy. Force-fed austerity reflects it. Social injustice is rife.

Bipartisan complicity supports it. Ordinary people are increasingly on their own out of luck.

America’s social contact is targeted for elimination. Disappearing when most needed. Monied interests alone are served.

Inequality is appalling. A race to the bottom persists. Class warfare defines it.

Most working Americans get by from paycheck to paycheck. One missed one away from possible homelessness, hunger and despair.

Inflation adjusted median household income keeps dropping. Americans have less to spend on increasingly more expensive goods and services.

People who eat. Drive cars. Pay rent. Service mortgages. Have medical expenses. Heat and/or air-condition residences.

Have children in college. Pay transportation costs. Know more about inflation than talking-head tout TV economists. The twelve days of Christmas now cost $27,673.

Shadowstats economist John Williams estimates real inflation at 9%. Based on 1980s calculation model.

Manipulated government data produce phony numbers. Across-the-board. Creating an illusion of prosperity.

Ignoring protracted Main Street Depression conditions. Growing human misery. Beautiful America exists for its privileged elites alone.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data show over 600,000 homeless Americans on any given night. Including nearly 140,000 children. Over 57,000 veterans.

Living in cars. Parks. Bus or train stations. Under bridges. On city streets. In homeless shelters. Short-term transitional housing.

According to the National Center for Homeless Education, over one million homeless children attend public schools.

America’s hunger crisis is real. A daily reality for nearly 50 million people. Affecting around 13 million families. Mostly hardworking ones.

Not earning enough to live on. About 16 million children don’t get enough to eat. One in six Americans face hunger.

So do one in five children. Missing meals is commonplace. Nutritious balanced diets for growing millions don’t exist. Belly-fillers substitute.

Food stamps provide a woefully inadequate $1.40 per person per meal.

Food banks supplement recipients when monthly benefits run out. Most often around 10 days or more before month’s end.

Vital benefits are being cut when most needed. US resources go for war-making. Corporate handouts.

Massive public and private corruption in high places takes its toll.

Vital needs increasingly go begging.

Thirdworldizing America is official policy. Privileged interests alone benefit. Social inequality is institutionalized.

Millions struggle daily to pay rent. Service mortgages. Handle medical bills. Heat homes. Cover transportation costs. Manage increasingly more expensive daily expenses.

On October 31, Fortune magazine headlined “Wealth inequality in America: It’s worse than you think.”

Citing analysis of economists Emmanuel Saez an Gabriel Zucman. Showing a more extreme US wealth gap than any time since the Great Depression.

In a London School of Economics and Political Science web site article, Saez abd Zucman show increased income inequality in America over the past four decades.

Saying “(t)he share of total income earned by the top 1 percent of families was less than 10 percent in the late 1970s but now exceeds 20 percent as of the end of 2012.”

“A large portion of this increase is due to an upsurge in the labor incomes earned by senior company executives and successful entrepreneurs.”

Wealth inequality rose. Defined as “the stock of all the assets people own, including their homes, pension savings, and bank accounts, minus all debts.”

According to Saez and Zucman:

“Wealth inequality, it turns out, has followed a spectacular U-shape evolution over the past 100 years.”

“From the Great Depression in the 1930s through the late 1970s there was a substantial democratization of wealth.”

“The trend then inverted, with the share of total household wealth owned by the top 0.1 percent increasing to 22 percent in 2012 from 7 percent in the late 1970s.”

“The top 0.1 percent includes 160,000 families with total net assets of more than $20 million in 2012.”

The wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million. It’s about 10 times as unequal as income.

Affected by taxes made less progressive for decades. Soaring stock market valuations. Lack of middle and low-income family savings. Stagnant wages.

A changing job market. Low wage/poor or no benefit part-time or temp ones replacing living wage/good benefit full-time jobs.

Offshored to low-wage countries. New generations worse off than previous ones. In his book titled “Ill Fares the Land,” Tony Judt addressed the effects of post-2008 financial crisis.

Saying “(t)here has been a collapse in intergenerational mobility: in contrast to their parents and grandparents, children today in the UK as in the US have very little expectation of improving upon the condition into which they were born.”

“The poor stay poor. Economic disadvantage for the overwhelming majority translates into ill health, missed educational opportunity, and – increasingly – the familiar symptoms of depression: alcoholism, obesity, gambling, and minor criminality.”

A new Pew Research Center (PRC) study found an unprecedented wealth gap between middle and upper-income Americans.

“In 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families ($639,400) was nearly seven times the median wealth of middle-income families ($96,500), the widest wealth gap seen in 30 years when the Federal Reserve began collecting these data,” said PRC.

America’s rich have a median net worth nearly 70 times greater than low-income families. Data show a disproportional wealth gap along racial and ethnic lines.

White household wealth is 13 times greater than for Blacks. Ten times more than for Hispanics.

So-called economic recovery for most Americans is pure fantasy. Protracted Main Street Depression conditions persist.

University of Michigan research shows wealth inequality doubled since 2003. America’s top 5% has 426.5 times the wealth of bottom 25% households.

Other studies show America’s top 1% has more wealth than the bottom 95%. The 400 richest families have as much as the bottom 50%.

In 1965, one in 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today it’s one in six. In the 1970s, about one in 50 Americans were on food stamps. Now it’s one in five.

Over half the population needs aid to survive. Increasingly eroding en route to eliminating it altogether.

Tens of millions of working age Americans wanting jobs can’t find them. Middle income households are fast disappearing.

Poverty is a growth industry. So is human misery. America is banana republicanized. Unfit to live in for growing millions.

Democracy is pure fantasy. A facade masking New World Order harshness. Monied interests run things. Class war rages.

Inside the bubble it’s paradise. Outside it’s dystopian hell. America is venal. Corrupted. Depraved. Degenerate. Too broken to fix.

“The foul stench of corruption and hypocrisy that emanates from Washington is the smell of a dying country,” says Paul Craig Roberts.

Good tidings and cheer at Christmas and throughout the year are for America’s privileged alone. No joy to the world for most others.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Author, poet, and former Canadian diplomat Peter Dale Scott describes the Deep State in an interview for the Voltaire network, as

“the wider interface in America between the public, the constitutionally established state, and the deep forces behind it of wealth, power, and violence outside the government.” He adds, “You might call it the back door of the public state, giving access to dark forces outside the law.”

The Deep State that he describes is a type of largely unaccountable shadow or parallel government that operates at the international and domestic levels as a driver for policies in our so-called democracies. It functions outside the reach of constitutional law, and it requires top-down forces of public repression. Today, the Deep State arguably supersedes the public government in power and importance.

Corporate media monopolies themselves are appendages of deep state, as they set narrow agendas and censor through omission, some of the most important issues facing civilization. Not surprisingly, some of these momentous but censored issues are also deep state issues.

Transformative deep state issues that alter the face of society are described as “deep structural events”. One such event, which passed well below the corporate media radar was the “coup” that “renovated” Canada’s indigenous Progressive Conservative Party (PC) into the hybrid, “republicanized”, Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), reviled as it is by many informed Canadians.

The notorious International Republican Institute (IRI), an offshoot of the CIA, and funded by USAID, enabled the rise of Stephen Harper to the office of Prime Minister in Canada. The leaked Caracas Cable attests to the involvement of the IRI in Canada’s domestic politics. This involvement is likely related to the unprecedented, and as yet largely unresolved, voter suppression issues that continue to plague our country. (See Harper’s Plan Means Canada Will Be Associated With War Crimes Instead of Peacekeeping), 

The illegal coup in Ukraine that violently overthrew the democratically-elected government of Viktor Yanukovych, another structural deep event – this one international – is changing the face of the world. Details of U.S clandestine funding of regime change have been supressed though not entirely ignored by corporate media. But some core facts about the coup itself have been entirely omitted by North American media. German media, for example, noted that Academi mercenaries were, at the time of the report, on the ground in Ukraine. A translated article, published by Spiegel On-Line, asserts that

“According to ‘Bild am Sonntag’ the Ukrainian security forces are supported by Academi 400 elite soldiers. They should have led operations against pro-Russian rebels around the city EAST UKRAINIAN Slavyansk. “

Another article, this one from Washington’s Blog, and titled,” “Is the West DIRECTLY Responsible for the Massacres In Ukraine?” confirms the Spiegel report and adds, “Indeed, the German newspapers apparently claim that the American mercenaries are directing and coordinating the attacks by the fascist Right Sector militia.”

Finally, an article by Alex Lantier in The World Socialist Website, entitled, “Blackwater mercenaries direct Kiev regime’s crackdown in Ukraine” supports the contentions of the previously listed sources, and adds,

“Significantly, US news media have completely blacked-out both the German and the Russian reports of Blackwater involvement in Ukraine.”

And now a civil war rages in Ukraine, the result of a wide spectrum of foreign, deep state interference, for which the perpetrators are applauded when they should be condemned and prosecuted.

On a final note, the pretext for Islamophobia, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria, were the tragic false-flag events of September 11, 2001 — another structural deep state event.

A critical mass of evidence presented by distinguished authors such as David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott present enough credible information at this time to support indictments against credibly accused perpetrators. The official narrative is simply too weak to stand.

Dr. Antonius Hall, Professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, in his commentary for a video by former marine Ken O’Keefe, “Ken O’Keefe and the Battle for 9/11 Reality” decries

“The Totalitarianism Implicit in This Oppressive State of Affairs is No Where So Well Illustrated as in the Tactics Deployed to Block Out Evidence-Based Discourse From Most Media Venues, Elected Assemblies, and Educational Institutions Concerning the World’s First Global Coup d’Etat Executed Through the 9/11 False Flag Terror Event.”

As with other deep state events, the perpetrators of the 9/11 crimes remain at large, even as the event triggered the fraudulent “War On Terror” and its horrendous slaughters. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria, have been all but destroyed by the West, and the ensuing “terror” has increased exponentially, as might be expected.

Instead of transferring vast sums of money from the public to the industrial military complex, and also the corollary: repression at home and abroad, structural deep state crimes need to be unmasked, and the perpetrators must be prosecuted.

By Mark Taliano, Public Editor, Daily Clout

This article first appeared on Whatsupic

The Ukrainian President whom U.S. President Obama overthrew in a violent coup this past February is now proposing that “people will be able to negotiate and Ukraine will once again be united.”

The former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, in a lengthy interview published on Christmas Eve day in Russia’s weekly newspaper, “Arguments and Facts,” says this after having asserted in the very same statement, “Ordinary Ukrainians from the west and east have nothing to share.”

So: he’s advising that the people in Donbass in Ukraine’s southeast, who, since soon after his overthrow, are being bombed and gunned down by Ukraine’s military from Ukraine’s northwest, should nonetheless negotiate with and come to agreement with them — a government they played no part in electing and that has been trying to kill them. He says they should be ruled by a Government that’s largely elected by people in Ukraine’s northwest, with whom they “have nothing to share” (such as this Gallup poll confirmed to be the actual case: the gulf between Ukraine’s east and west is, indeed, enormous).

In other words, Yanukovych wants Donbass to be ruled by the Obama-installed gang that are trying to exterminate the residents in Donbass and to control the land in Donbass but with the residents gone from it.

This is like proposing that Germany’s Jews should have accepted Hitler’s ruling over them, or that Israel’s Palestinians should accept zionists ruling over them.  Yanukovych’s statement is equally insensitive, equally stupid, equally anti-democratic, and equally repugnant, as that.

He modifies this by saying that it should happen only “as soon as the current policies are gone,” but he doesn’t say how this miracle can even possibly happen. He vaguely asserts that it can occur via “negotiations.” The exterminees are supposed to “negotiate” with their exterminators until “the current policies are gone.” This idea is morbidly fit for “Saturday Night Live” — to be laughed at — but certainly not for any real political leader. In fact, it’s an insult to the people who voted 90% for him, that’s to say, to the people who live in Donbass (it’s shown there as the purple area on the far-eastern side of that map). He’s metaphorically spitting on the graves of his former voters.

This is yet another in a long line of indications that the rulers in Ukraine, at least since the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union, are so profoundly corrupt that they don’t even think seriously at all about the welfare of the people they rule over (not even of their former supporters). They just live in their secure and corruptly gained wealth, with no concern for the people over whom they rule or have ruled.

The Government of Ukraine might be as psychopathic as America’s Government is — maybe even more so, if that’s possible. The major difference between the two Governments is that America’s wasn’t always this way; Ukraine’s unfortunately has been.

Today’s American Government is now so psychopathic as to be seeking to surround Russia with NATO missiles, even for them to be in Ukraine (with a Ukrainian Government that’s elected by the people in the Russia-hating northwestern portion of that country), despite the fact that when the Soviet Union in 1962 tried to install nuclear missiles into Cuba off our own shores, our President at that time, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, made clear that if they did it, we would launch a nuclear war against the Soviet Union.

Why isn’t Russia’s President Vladimir Putin publicly telling Obama and Obama’s NATO exactly what JFK publicly told Nikita Khrushchev: Don’t do that, or else our nukes will fly against you, because doing that will be a mortal threat against all Russians. You must leave your military away from our borders, just like we left our military away from Cuba. (Of course, he should first privately tell Obama this; then, if Obama refuses to back off, Putin should publicly warn it; but Obama hasn’t backed off, and we don’t know whether he’s yet been privately warned.)

Yanukovych is proposing a final solution in Ukraine that’s just as psychopathic as is Obama’s final solution to the whole world, which is: either you accept U.S. rule (or “hegemony”) over this entire planet, or else we shall crush you.

President Obama’s speech at West Point, on 28 May 2014, propagandized for (i.e., rationalized) this conquer-Russia viewpoint, on the part of America’s aristocracy, who want to control the aristocracy in every other nationincluding in Russia, and he lied there about such things as “Russia’s aggression” (when the world’s huge problem is actually America’s aggression, against Russia, and against many other countries; not Russia’s ‘aggression’ against Ukraine) while he asserted: “Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us.” He was telling West Pointers that the emerging newly important national economies are “competing” with us, and that this is the U.S. military’s business, to deal with by weapons and by force, not really by economic competition at all (which isn’t supposed to be the military’s business). Obama was also making clear to the graduating West Point cadets that the “BRIC” countries are America’s enemy (that Russia, and its leading supporters of international independence, are the enemies against a mono-polar or “hegemonic” world, American Empire), from the standpoint of America’s aristocracy, whom the U.S. military now even so blatantly serves to the exclusion of any authentically public-interest at all. Ours want to crush the aristocrats in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. The newly graduating professional U.S. killers at West Point are being given their marching-orders from our ‘democratically’ elected President, their Commander-in-Chief. He said there:

“So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed [properly spelled ‘past,’ but this is his text] and it will be true for the century to come.”

He might as well have been Hitler there, or Stalin, or Attila the Hun, all of whom could have said the same thing to their troops. It makes sense, then, that in the 2013 WIN/Gallup international poll, the nation that’s considered the biggest threat to world peace is the United States — not, as Obama said: “Russia’s aggression.” In fact, this poll found: “Rather surprisingly, in Ukraine, which is often described as being deeply divided between pro-Russian and pro-Western camps, the U.S. did not fare well — 33 percent of respondents choose the U.S. as [presenting] the greatest danger, compared to just five percent who picked Russia.” Moreover: “Germans were more ambivalent, with the U.S. selected as the greatest threat (17 percent), just ahead of Iran (16 percent); as were British respondents, who put the U.S. and Iran in joint first place among threats to peace (15 percent each). … In Spain — while not in the same league as Greece — respondents also had a dim view of the U.S., with 25 percent picking it as the greatest danger, compared to just 11 percent for North Korea and 10 percent for Iran.”

So: Obama is scaring-up America’s future warriors against Russia, by lying to them about “Russia’s aggression,” and telling them that “Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe,” and by nottelling them that those “capitals” are controlled by America’s aristocracy, and that Russia’s is not. He is indoctrinating them with lies, not educating them with truths.

Democracy has been stolen from the American people and is now being controlled by the American aristocracy;they’re the people who are the greatest threat to world peace — and the world knows it, though the U.S. aristocracy and its agents keep Americans ignorant of it.

In fact, whereas 98% of the U.S. House, and 100% of the U.S. Senate, want a war against Russia, more than two-thirds of the American public still do not. This is supposed to be a ‘democracy’? WW III won’t be a result of democracy, but of the lack of it.

The problem is aristocracy: the aristocracy itself, and our Government of the people, for the aristocracy, by the aristocracy’s representatives, via pervasive corruption of the political process in America.

Just as Ukraine is controlled by its “oligarchs” or billionaires, so too is the U.S. controlled by our billionaires. And, it’s now endangering the entire world.

As a propagandist on a Ukrainian TV station that’s financed by the U.S. and Netherlands Governments and by George Soros’s International Renaissance Fund said to Ukrainians: “Donbass is overpopulated with people nobody has any use for. … At least 1.5 million of them are superfluous. … Donbass must be exploited as a resource, which it is. … No matter how cruel it may sound, there is a certain category of people who must be exterminated.”

The U.S. President, 98% of the House, and 100% of the Senate, are using Americans’ tax dollars to fund that extermination. But the American people don’t even know about it. And no one in the American Government is condemning that propagandist’s statement, nor its being carried out by the Ukrainian Government that they’re forcing us taxpayers to finance.

How BRICS Became Co-Dependent Upon Eco-Financial Imperialism

December 25th, 2014 by Prof. Patrick Bond

Contrary to rumour, the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa alliance confirmed it would avoid challenging the unfair, chaotic world financial system at the Fortaleza summit on July 15.

The BRICS “are actually meeting Western demands,” as China Daily bragged, “to finance development of developing nations and stabilize the global financial market.”

If BRICS subservience continues, remarked financier Ousmène Jacques Mandeng of Pramerica Investment Management in a Financial Timesblog, it would help overcome the main constraints of the global financial architecture. It may well be the piece missing to promote actual financial globalisation.”

Fawning to finance reminds us of the term Brazilian political economist Ruy Mauro Marini coined a half-century ago, ‘sub-imperialism’: i.e., “collaborating actively with imperialist expansion, assuming in this expansion the position of a key nation.”

Marini described Brazil’s ‘deputy sheriff’ role in Latin America, but the concept also applies to the global-scale imperialist project. As part of the civil society counter-summitry, we launched a collection on this theme in the Fortaleza journal Tensoes Mundiais-World Tensionsco-edited with Rio de Janeiro political economist Ana Garcia. Two dozen writers including Elmar Altvater, Omar Bonilla, Virginia Fontes, Sam Moyo, Leo Panitch, James Petras, William Robinson, Arundhati Roy and Immanuel Wallerstein grappled with the BRICS’ contradictory geopolitical location.

By all accounts, the two overarching problems of our time – as the most recent Pew global public opinion survey confirms – are climate change and systemic financial instability. In both, the BRICS suffer what in psychology is termed ‘co-dependency.’ The word “comes directly out of Alcoholics Anonymous, part of a dawning realization that the problem was not solely the addict, but also the family and friends who constitute a network for the alcoholic,” according to Lennard Davis in his 2008 book Obsession.

BRICS are friendly-family enablers of Western capitalists who are fatally addicted to speculative-centric, carbon-intensive accumulation. Suffering what increasingly appears to be the neurological impairment of a junkie, officials in Washington, London, Brussels, Frankfurt and Tokyo continue helter-skelter pumping of zero-interest dollars, euros and yen into the world economy. This is a hopeless drug-addict’s fix: maintaining policies of economic liberalization that lower national economic barriers and generate new asset bubbles.

Another fatal Western obsession facilitated by the BRICS is emission of greenhouse gases at whatever level maximizes corporate profits – future generations be damned to burn. (The last time the world’s 1 percent seriously kicked the habit – and momentarily succeeded – was in 1987 when the Montreal Protocol was signed and CFCs banned so as to halt ozone hole expansion. But since that successful Cold Turkey episode, neoliberal and neoconservative fetishes took hold. Half-hearted efforts at the UN and other multilaterals to address global-scale environmental, economic and geopolitical disasters have conspicuously failed.)

BRICS elites are not enemies of the Western economic hedonists, as revealed in the Fortaleza declaration’s exceedingly gentle advice: “Monetary policy settings in some advanced economies may bring renewed stress and volatility to financial markets and changes in monetary stance need to be carefully calibrated and clearly communicated in order to minimize negative spillovers.” (This refers to currency crashes suffered by most BRICS when the West began reducing ‘Quantitative Easing’ money-printing in May 2013 – yet another example of co-dependency.)

The BRICS repeatedly enable the West’s most self-destructive habits during times of acute eco-financial crisis:

* the April 2009 G20 bailout of Western banks via consensus on a $750 billion IMF global liquidity infusion;

* the  December 2009 Copenhagen Accord in which four of the five BRICS did a deal to continue emitting unabated (they “wrecked the UN,” according to Bill Mckibben of 350.org);

* the 2011-12 acquiescence to the (s)election of new European and US chief executives for the Bretton Woods Institutions, for despite a little whinging, the BRICS couldn’t even decide on joint candidates; and

* the 2012 agreement to pay over another $75 billion to  the IMF even though it was apparent Washington wasn’t going to change its undemocratic ways (the US Congress has refused to allocate the BRICS a higher IMF voting share).

Washington’s co-dependents in Delhi and Pretoria are the most blindly loyal. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reactionaries and African National Congress (ANC) neoliberals have regular economic, political and even military dalliances with Washington, and the BJP is so irretrievably backward that it won’t countenance even a parliamentary debate about Israel’s Gaza terrorism.

Playing the role of a frosty, distant relative, the other BRICS elites in Moscow, Brasilia and Beijing occasionally fulminate against Washington’s internet snoopery and the Pentagon’s propensity to bomb random Middle Eastern targets. To their credit last September at the G20 summit, they pulled Barack Obama’s itchy trigger finger back after the Syrian regime apparently used chemical warfare against civilians. Vladimir Putin instead cajoled Assad’s chemical-weapon disarmament. And thank goodness the US whistle-blower spy Edward Snowden is at least safe in Russia. But it’s likely that BRICS promises to establish new internet connectivity safe from US National Security Agency data-thieves will be broken.

Another Fortaleza let-down: the refusal by Moscow and Beijing to support the other three BRICS’ ascension to the UN Security Council in spite of their repeated requests for UN democratisation, because that would lead to dilution of Russian and Chinese power.

The greatest heartbreak, however, will be the passing of sub-imperialism’s financial costs to BRICS citizenries and hinterlands. Before the Fortaleza summit, economic-justice activists hoped the BRICS would decisively weaken and then break dollar hegemony, especially given the inevitability of rising Chinese yuan convertibility and the Moscow-Beijing (non-$) energy deal a few weeks ago.

But revealingly, both the New Development Bank (NDB) and ‘Contingent Reserve Arrangement‘ (CRA) announced have this feature: “The Requesting Party’s [borrower’s] central bank shall sell the Requesting Party Currency to the Providing Parties’ central banks and purchase US$ from them by means of a spot transaction, with a simultaneous agreement by the Requesting Party’s central bank to sell US$ and to repurchase the Requesting Party Currency from the Providing Parties’ central banks on the maturity date.” That’s techie talk for ongoing $-addiction: a retox not detox.

The dollar is an inappropriate crutch in so many ways, but aside from an excellent article by University of London radical economist John Weeks, few analysts acknowledge that genuinely “inclusive sustainable development” finance would not require much US$ (or any foreign-currency denominated) credits.

Hard currency isn’t needed if BRICS countries – or even future hinterland borrowers – want to address most of their vast infrastructure deficits in basic-needs housing, school construction and teacher pay, water and sanitation piping, road building, agriculture support, and the like. The US$ financing hints at huge import bills for future mega-project White Elephant infrastructure entailing multinational corporate technology. (Like most of our 2010 World Cup stadiums.)

Weeks continues, “The suspicion uppermost in my mind is that the purpose of the BRICS bank, as a project funding bank, is to link the finance offered, to the construction firms and materials suppliers located in the BRICS themselves. Certainly, the Chinese Government is notorious for doing this.” (For example, a $5 billion loan from the China Development Bank to the South African transport parastatal Transnet announced at Durban’s 2013 BRICS Summit resulted in $4.8 billion worth of locomotive orders from Chinese joint ventures a year later.)

As Weeks also observes, “the voting proposal for the BRICS bank follows the IMF/World Bank model: money votes with shares, reflecting each government’s financial contribution. The largest voting share goes to China, whose record on investments in Africa is nothing short of appalling… The warm endorsement of the NDB by the president of the World Bank suggests enthusiasm rather than tension.”

But isn’t the CRA a $100 billion ‘replacement’ for the IMF, as was widely advertised? No, it amplifies IMF power. If a BRICS borrower wants access to the final 70 percent of its credit quota, the founding documentsinsist, that loan can only come contingent on “evidence of the existence of an on-track arrangement between the IMF and the Requesting Party that involves a commitment of the IMF to provide financing to the Requesting Party based on conditionality, and the compliance of the Requesting Party with the terms and conditions of the arrangement.”

The neoliberal BRICS bureaucrats who laboured over that stilted language – and over the (self-obfuscating) name of the CRA – may or may not have a sense of how close global finance is to another meltdown, in part because of relentless IMF austerity conditionality. But it does reveal their intrinsic commitment to “sound banking” mentality, by limiting their own liabilities to each other. Current quotas are in the range of $18-20 billion for the four larger BRICS and $10 billion for South Africa (though the latter will only contribute $5 billion, and China $41 billion).

Will it matter? According to Sao Paolo-based geopolitical analyst Oliver Stuenkel, “arrangements similar to the BRICS CRA already exist and have not undermined the IMF. The BRICS’ CRA is closely modeled on the Chiang Mai Initiative signed between the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations countries as well as China, Japan and South Korea in May 2000.” The initiative is useless, Stuenkel observes, for no one has borrowed from it since. Likewise, he tells me, “The CRA is fully embedded in the IMF system!”

What might that mean in future? The last BRICS-country default managed by Washington was when Boris Yeltsin’s Russia – with $150 billion in foreign debt – required a $23 billion emergency loan in 1998. Fifteen years later, four of the five BRICS suffered currency crashes when the US Federal Reserve announced monetary policy changes, and with higher interest rates, hot money flooded back to New York.

An emergency bailout may soon be necessary here in South Africa, where foreign indebtedness has risen to $140 billion, up from $25 billion in 1994 when Nelson Mandela’s ANC inherited apartheid debt and, tragically, agreed to repay. Measured in terms of GDP, foreign debt is up to 39 percent and even the neoliberal SA Reserve Bank warns that we are fast approaching “the high of 41 percent registered at the time of the debt standstill in 1985.”

That crisis and an accompanying $13 billion default split the white ruling class, compelling English-speaking big business representatives to visit Zambia to meet the exiled liberation movement. Less than nine years later, capital had ditched the racist Afrikaner regime, in favour of bedding down with the ANC in what Mandela’s key military strategist Ronnie Kasrils termed the ‘Faustian Pact’.

SA Finance Minister Nonhlanhla Nene predicted that the first NDB borrowers would be African, to “complement the efforts of existing international financial institutions.” But since Nene’s own Development Bank of Southern Africa is rife with self-confessed corruption and incompetence, and the two largest NDB precedents – the China Development Bank and Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development – epitomize destructive extractivism, is this really to be welcomed?

After all, the largest single World Bank project loan ever ($3.75 billion) was just four years ago, to abet Pretoria’s madcap emergency financing of the biggest coal-fired power plant anywhere in the world now under construction, Medupi, which will emit more greenhouse gases (35 million tonnes/year) than do 115 individual countries. A year ago, as Medupi came under intense pressure from community, labour and environmental activists (thus setting back the completion two years behind schedule), World Bank president Jim Yong Kim could no longer justify such climate-frying loans. He pledged withdrawal from the Bank’s dirtiest fossil fuel projects.

That’s potentially the gap for an NDB: to carry on filthy-finance once BRICS countries issue securities for dirty mega-projects and can’t find Western lenders. For in even the most backward site of struggle, the United States, a growing activist movement is rapidly compelling disinvestment from oil and coal firms and projects. (Here in South Durban, Transnet’s eight-fold expansion of the port-petrochemical complex is one such target of ‘BRICS-from-below’ activists, especially the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for Africa, Desmond D’Sa.)

Of course there is a need for a genuinely inclusive and sustainable financial alternative, such as the early version, prior to Brazilian sabotage, of the Banco del Sur that was catalysed by the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Launched a year ago in Caracas with $7 billion in capital, it has an entirely different mandate and can still be maneuvered not to ‘stabilize’ world finance but instead to offer a just alternative.

To help BRICS elites stop jonesing for the Western model of exclusionary, unsustainable  capitalism, a revamped 12-step program will be necessary. The first two steps of the classic Alcoholic Anonymous program are obvious enough: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable [and] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

The cleansing power of political-economic sanity absent in the BRICS elites comes from only one place: below, i.e., social activism. For example, just like any rational South African who loved the World Cup and hated its Swiss Mafiosi organizers from Fifa, Brazilian society remains furious about Sepp Blatter’s politically-destructive relationship with Workers Party president Dilma Rousseff. That and other neoliberal tendencies – such as raising public transport prices beyond affordability – mobilised millions of critics, which in turn was met by vicious police repression.

In Russia, activist challenges come as a result not only of Putin’s expansion into Ukraine, but attacks on protesters. Civil society has been courageous in that authoritarian context: a democracy movement in late 2011, a freedom of expression battle involving a risque rock band in 2012, gay rights in 2013 and at the Winter Olympics, and anti-war protests in March and May 2014.

In India, activists shook the power structure over corruption in 2011-12, a high-profile rape-murder in late 2012, and a municipal electoral surprise by a left-populist anti-establishment political party in late 2013.

In China, protesters hit the streets an estimated 150 000 times annually, at roughly equivalent rates in urban and rural settings, especially because of pollution, such as the early April 2014 protest throughoutGuandong against a Paraxylene factory. But just as important are labour struggles, such as ongoing strikes against Nike and Adidas.

In South Africa, multiple resource curses help explain what may be the world’s highest protest rate. Certainly the labour movement deserves its World Economic Forum rating as the world’s most militant working class the last two years. But South Africa’s diverse activists, including those who on 1882 occasions in 2013 turned violent (according to the police), still fail to link up and establish a democratic movement (though the metalworkers union seeks to change this through its United Front initiative).

In this extraordinary context, critics are opening up two crucial debates: first, is BRICS anti-imperialist as advertised, or potentially inter-imperialist as the Ukraine battleground portends, or merely sub-imperialist where it counts most: in the ongoing global financial and climate meltdowns?

Second, how can BRICS-from-below struggles intensify and link? The detox of our corrupted politics, a sober reassessment of our economies and fortification our ecologies – all catalysed by re-energized civil societies – rely upon clear, confident answers to both.

Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society in Durban.

This originally ran on teleSUR English.

Dear Global Research members, subscribers and readers,

We send you our best wishes and greetings for Christmas and the New Year.

We express our solidarity with those who are affected by war and economic devastation.

We remain firmly committed to providing unbiased news and opinion concerning key World events including Ukraine, the Middle East war and the financial crisis, ultimately with a view to reversing the tide.

At this juncture in our history, more than ever, freedom of expression is threatened.

Truth in media is a powerful instrument.

Pressures are being exerted on the alternative media to conform to standards which serve the interests of the political and economic elites.

Our sincere hope is that truth will ultimately prevail and will be used as an instrument of social and economic change.

We are much indebted to our readers, to our authors and staff for their support and commitment,

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How Facebook Killed the Internet

December 25th, 2014 by David Rovics

Facebook killed the internet, and I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of people didn’t even notice.

I can see the look on many of your faces, and hear the thoughts. Someone’s complaining about Facebook again.  Yes, I know it’s a massive corporation, but it’s the platform we’re all using.  It’s like complaining about Starbucks.  After all the independent cafes have been driven out of town and you’re an espresso addict, what to do?  What do you mean “killed”?  What was killed?

I’ll try to explain.  I’ll start by saying that I don’t know what the solution is.  But I think any solution has to start with solidly identifying the nature of the problem.

First of all, Facebook killed the internet, but if it wasn’t Facebook, it would have been something else.  The evolution of social media was probably as inevitable as the development of cell phones that could surf the internet.  It was the natural direction for the internet to go in.

Which is why it’s so especially disturbing.  Because the solution is not Znet or Ello.  The solution is not better social media, better algorithms, or social media run by a nonprofit rather than a multibillion-dollar corporation.  Just as the solution to the social alienation caused by everybody having their own private car is not more electric vehicles.  Just as the solution to the social alienation caused by everyone having their own cell phone to stare at is not a collectively-owned phone company.

Many people from the grassroots to the elites are thrilled about the social media phenomenon.  Surely some of the few people who will read this are among them.  We throw around phrases like “Facebook revolution” and we hail these new internet platforms that are bringing people together all over the world.  And I’m not suggesting they don’t have their various bright sides.  Nor am I suggesting you should stop using social media platforms, including Facebook.  That would be like telling someone in Texas they should bike to work, when the whole infrastructure of every city in the state is built for sports utility vehicles.

But we should understand the nature of what is happening to us.

From the time that newspapers became commonplace up until the early 1990’s, for the overwhelming majority of the planet’s population, the closest we came to writing in a public forum were the very few of us who ever bothered to write a letter to the editor.  A tiny, tiny fraction of the population were authors or journalists who had a public forum that way on an occasional or a regular basis, depending.  Some people wrote up the pre-internet equivalent of an annual Christmas-time blog post which they photocopied and sent around to a few dozen friends and relatives.

In the 1960s there was a massive flowering of independent, “underground” press in towns and cities across the US and other countries.  There was a vastly increased diversity of views and information that could be easily accessed by anyone who lived near a university and could walk to a news stand and had an extra few cents to spend.

In the 1990s, with the development of the internet – websites, email lists – there was an explosion of communication that made the underground press of the 60’s pale in comparison.  Most people in places like the US virtually stopped using phones (to actually talk on), from my experience.  Many people who never wrote letters or much of anything else started using computers and writing emails to each other, and even to multiple people at once.

Those very few of us who were in the habit in the pre-internet era of sending around regular newsletters featuring our writing, our thoughts, our list of upcoming gigs, products or services we were trying to sell, etc., were thrilled with the advent of email, and the ability to send our newsletters out so easily, without spending a fortune on postage stamps, without spending so much time stuffing envelopes.  For a brief period of time, we had access to the same audience, the same readers we had before, but now we could communicate with them virtually for free.

This, for many of us, was the internet’s golden age – 1995-2005 or so.  There was the increasing problem of spam of various sorts.  Like junk mail, only more of it.  Spam filters started getting better, and largely eliminated that problem for most of us.

The listservs that most of us bothered to read were moderated announcements lists.  The websites we used the most were interactive, but moderated, such as Indymedia.  In cities throughout the world, big and small, there were local Indymedia collectives.  Anyone could post stuff, but there were actual people deciding whether it should get published, and if so, where.  As with any collective decision-making process, this was challenging, but many of us felt it was a challenge that was worth the effort.  As a result of these moderated listservs and moderated Indymedia sites, we all had an unprecedented ability to find out about and discuss ideas and events that were taking place in our cities, our countries, our world.

Then came blogging, and social media.  Every individual with a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc., became their own individual broadcaster.  It’s intoxicating, isn’t it?  Knowing that you have a global audience of dozens or hundreds, maybe thousands of people (if you’re famous to begin with, or something goes viral) every time you post something.  Being able to have conversations in the comments sections with people from around the world who will never physically meet each other.  Amazing, really.

But then most people stopped listening.  Most people stopped visiting Indymedia.  Indymedia died, globally, for the most part.  Newspapers – right, left and center – closed, and are closing, whether offline or online ones.  Listservs stopped existing.  Algorithms replaced moderators.  People generally began to think of librarians as an antiquated phenomenon.

Now, in Portland, Oregon, one of the most politically plugged-in cities in the US, there is no listserv or website you can go to that will tell you what is happening in the city in any kind of readable, understandable format.  There are different groups with different websites, Facebook pages, listservs, etc., but nothing for the progressive community as a whole.  Nothing functional, anyway.  Nothing that approaches the functionality of the announcements lists that existed in cities and states throughout the country 15 years ago.

Because of the technical limitations of the internet for a brief period of time, there was for a few years a happy medium found between a small elite providing most of the written content that most people in the world read, and the situation we now find ourselves in, drowning in Too Much Information, most of it meaningless drivel, white noise, fog that prevents you from seeing anywhere further than the low beams can illuminate at a given time.

It was a golden age, but for the most part an accidental one, and a very brief one.  As it became easy for people to start up a website, a blog, a Myspace or Facebook page, to post updates, etc., the new age of noise began, inevitably, the natural evolution of the technology.

And most people didn’t notice that it happened.

Why do I say that?  First of all, I didn’t just come up with this shit.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people for many years, and a lot of people think social media is the best thing since sliced bread.  And why shouldn’t they?

The bottom line is, there’s no reason most people would have had occasion to notice that the internet died, because they weren’t content providers (as we call authors, artists, musicians, journalists, organizers, public speakers, teachers, etc. these days) in the pre-internet age or during the first decade or so of the internet as a popular phenomenon.  And if you weren’t a content provider back then, why would you know that anything changed?

I and others like me know – because the people who used to read and respond to stuff I sent out on my email list aren’t there anymore.  They don’t open the emails anymore, and if they do, they don’t read them.  And it doesn’t matter what medium I use – blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Of course some people do, but most people are now doing other things.

What are they doing?  I spent most of last week in Tokyo, going all over town, spending hours each day on the trains.  Most people sitting in the trains back during my first visit to Japan in 2007 were sleeping, as they are now.  But those who weren’t sleeping, seven years ago, were almost all reading books.  Now, there’s hardly a book to be seen.  Most people are looking at their phones.  And they’re not reading books on their phones.  (Yes, I peeked.  A lot.)  They’re playing games or, more often, looking at their Facebook “news feeds.”  And it’s the same in the US and everywhere else that I have occasion to travel to.

Is it worth it to replace moderators with algorithms?  Editors with white noise?  Investigative journalists with pictures of your cat?  Independent record labels and community radio stations with a multitude of badly-recorded podcasts?  Independent Media Center collectives with a million Facebook updates and Twitter feeds?

I think not.  But that’s where we’re at.  How do we get out of this situation, and clear the fog, and use our brains again?  I wish I knew.

David Rovics is a singer/songwriter based in Portland, Oregon.

War criminals George W. Bush and Tony Blair were banned for life in April 2003 from the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, widely believed to be the birth-place of Jesus Christ. The ban was announced at the height of the illegal US-allied bombing and invasion of Iraq.

Below are the original 2003 press reports pertaining to that decision as well as a subsequent introductory note published by Global Research in December 2006.

“The Bethlehem sanctuary issued a ringing reprisal Sunday [April 2003] of the coalition attack, going as far as barring US President George W. Bush, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw from entering church grounds, due to their “aggressive war on Iraq.”

“The priest in the Church of the Nativity has every right to ban Bush and his supporters since they have marred the teachings of Christ. Their entry into the church will tarnish it as [Bush's] hands are covered in the blood of the innocent,” Karmash told The Jordan Times.

The local priest went on to say that he felt the punishment was not enough. “We need a tougher one to eradicate evil at its very root,” he exclaimed.

The Nativity Church’s parishioner, Father Panaritius, said during a rally organised Sunday by the Greek Orthodox community in Bethlehem that Bush, Rumsfeld, Blair and Straw are “war criminals and children killers that will be banned from entering the church forever!”

The Church Parishioner Father Panaritius made the decision public at a massive protest demonstration organized by Orthodox institutions in front of the Church of Nativity.”They are war criminals and murderers of children. Therefore the Church of Nativity decided to ban them access into the holy shrine for ever,” the parishioner said.”

There is no indication from The Church of  the Nativity that this ban on war criminals Bush, Blair et al. has been revoked. 

This ban should now be extended to a number of other Western leaders including President Barack Obama, who in the course of their mandate have waged illegal and criminal wars on the people of Libya and Syria.

In recent developments,  the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal has found former United States president George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of “crimes against peace”.

“The five panel tribunal unanimously decided that Bush and Blair had committed genocide and crimes against peace and humanity when they invaded Iraq in 2003 in blatant violation of international law.”

The indictment was based on testimonies presented to the Tribunal as well the findings and report of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC)

May the Spirit of Christmas  prevail in criminalizing war and bringing  the war criminals to justice

 

Michel Chossudovsky,

Member of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, 

Global Research, December 24, 2012

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Their entry into the church will tarnish it as [Bush's] hands are covered in the blood of the innocent…”

The Spirit of Christmas consists in spreading Peace and Justice.

The Spirit of Christmas is when War Criminals are banned from the Birthplace of Jesus Christ.

In April 2003 at the height of the military campaign directed against Iraq, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem decided to ban President Bush and Prime Minister Blair from the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

“They are war criminals and murderers of children. Therefore the Church of Nativity decided to ban them access into the holy shrine for ever,”

“Their entry into the church will tarnish it as [Bush's] hands are covered in the blood of the innocent,”

The Church of the Nativity is under the authority of the Greek Orthodox church.

Of utmost significance, the US News media has not reported this story.

Spread the word to Church parishes in the US and around the World.

Unseat the War criminals.

Michel Chossudovsky,  Global Research, 24 December 2006

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

BETHLEHEM, April 01, 2003 (Online): The Church of Nativity, widely believed to be the birth-place of Jesus Christ, decided to ban entry each of the US President George Bush, his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw the privilege of visiting this sacred place, which is one of the holiest Christian shrines.

The move came in protest of “the aggressive war these leaders have waged against Iraq,” top Clergy of the church said.

The Church Parishioner Father Panaritius made the decision public at a massive protest demonstration organized by Orthodox institutions in front of the Church of Nativity.”They are war criminals and murderers of children. Therefore the Church of Nativity decided to ban them access into the holy shrine for ever,” the parishioner said.

AMMAN — Jordan Times. Parish Priest of the Greek Orthodox community in Amman, Economos Constantine Karmash, said Tuesday he fully supports the Church of the Nativity decision to ban a number of top coalition leaders from entering the house of worship.

The Bethlehem sanctuary issued a ringing reprisal Sunday of the coalition attack, going as far as barring US President George W. Bush, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw from entering church grounds, due to their “aggressive war on Iraq.”

“The priest in the Church of the Nativity has every right to ban Bush and his supporters since they have marred the teachings of Christ. Their entry into the church will tarnish it as [Bush's] hands are covered in the blood of the innocent,” Karmash told The Jordan Times.

The local priest went on to say that he felt the punishment was not enough. “We need a tougher one to eradicate evil at its very root,” he exclaimed.

The Nativity Church’s parishioner, Father Panaritius, said during a rally organised Sunday by the Greek Orthodox community in Bethlehem that Bush, Rumsfeld, Blair and Straw are “war criminals and children killers that will be banned from entering the church forever!”

Karmash explained that the banning was different from an official church ban, or “excommunication,” which requires a supreme church power. If this is done, the excommunicated are no longer considered members of the church and will not be provided any church services such as a marriage or funeral.

Bush and his supporters are not members of the Greek Orthodox Church, said Karmash, hence they cannot be subjected to an official church ban.

“We hope that their respective churches, which condemn the current war, will strip Bush and his supporters from their church rights so that they become ostracised from their church as they have become ostracised by the humanitarian and international community,” pointed out the priest.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Statins are the most profitable medications in the history of Big Pharma. They are promoted as the go-to medications to prevent/treat heart disease. A recent study found nearly 100% of men and 62% of women aged 66-75 should take a statin medication even if their cholesterol level is normal. (1)

Listening to conventional cardiologists, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and many other mainstream groups would have you believe that statins should be placed in the water supply. If statins significantly lowered the risk of heart disease–they don’t–and if statins were not associated with adverse effects–they areؘ–then I could entertain a discussion on the widespread use of statins. However, statins are associated with a wide range of serious adverse drug reactions which should cause any health care provider to think twice or at least to use caution when prescribing this class of medication.

Let’s look at some of the adverse drug reactions from statins. The following numbers come from the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System. The information was compiled by Philip Blair, M.D. When I saw the huge numbers of serious reactions reported for statin users gathered from Dr. Blair’s data analysis, I said, “holy cow”. Dr. Blair explained that the FDA data, reported by practicing physicians in the trenches, shows frequent associations between statins and numerous serious conditions. Keep in mind that very few adverse drug reactions—from 1-10%–are actually reported to the FDA. This information was first reported to me by my colleague Duanne Graveline, M.D. Dr. Graveline suffered two transient global amnesia events and chronic neuropathy all due to taking a statin medication. He has written an excellent book about his experience with Lipitor. The book is titled, “Lipitor, Thief of Memory.”

Statins work by poisoning an enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) which is needed to produce cholesterol, adrenal and sex hormones, memory proteins and maintain cell energy. The highest concentration of cholesterol in the body is found in the brain. Can you guess an organ that will suffer when cholesterol production is blocked? If you guessed the brain, you would win the prize.

All of the following events occurred from 2004 to 2014 and were gathered from the FDA Adverse Events Databases.

  • Brain function: There were 36,605 reports of brain dysfunction which included memory impairment, transient cases of global amnesia, confusion, paranoia, disorientation, depression, and dementia related to statin use. Remember, this number is thought to represent only 1-10% of the true number of adverse drug reactions.

Can you imagine how quickly the FDA would pull a vitamin from the market place if is shown to cause tens of thousands of cases of brain dysfunction?

I have seen many patients suffer with a decline in brain function from taking a statin drug. Knowing how statins work—they poison an enzyme needed to make cholesterol—would allow anyone to predict that brain problems will be more common from statin use.

Folks, statins are responsible for many more adverse effects. In fact, there are well over 100,000 adverse event reports related to statins. In addition to the brain, statins negatively affect the functioning of the liver, kidneys, and muscles. I will report more about these other adverse drug effects in later posts.

I wrote in my book, Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do, “You can’t poison a crucial enzyme or block an important receptor for the long-term and expect a good result.”

Perhaps we could live with all these adverse drug reactions if statins significantly lowered the risk for cardiovascular disease. But, they don’t. Statins have never been convincingly shown to prevent a first heart attack in both men and women. In men, the best of the statin studies show a 1-4% reduced risk of preventing a secondary cardiac event. In women, the numbers are worse.

It is shocking to me that so many health care providers and nearly all cardiologists would ever prescribe these medications for any patient. Heart disease patients are not developing heart disease due to a statin-deficiency syndrome. Perhaps these health care providers should start doing what doctors were taught to do: Search for the underlying cause of the illness and address that.

More information about statins can be found in my book along with recommendations about what you can do to avoid taking a statin medication.

Notes

  1. JAMA Int. Med. Published online November 17, 2014. E1
  2. Duanne Graveline, M.D. Lipitor, Thief of Memory

They never forget. Or forgive. Even for what happened over half a century ago. When Cuba got back what they stole.

When Castro ousted Fulgencio Batista’s despotic rule, he nationalized foreign corporate assets. Originally valued at around $1.8 billion.

At 6% simple interest, now worth around $7 billion. From sugar processing plants, other factories, mines, oil refineries, power plants, hotels, 75% of Cuba’s arable land, cattle ranches, other assets.

US companies have 5,913 outstanding claims. Including from ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Freeport-McMoRan, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter and Gamble, Goodyear, Firestone, General Motors, Owens-Illinois, Avon Products, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and many others.

Office Depot is the largest claimant. It wasn’t around during the revolution. A Cuban Electric subsidiary supplied over 90% of the island’s electricity.

Its nationalized operations included a utility plant. Worth over $200 million at the time. In 1969, Boise Cascade became a majority Cuban Electric owner.

In 2003, it bought OfficeMax. Adopting the company’s name. Last year merging with Office Depot. OD now claims rights to Cuban Electric.

Obama didn’t mention asset claims during his announcement last week. The State Department is responsible for handling them.

It calls settling them an important part of normalization. On Friday, a spokesperson said:

“Reestablishment of diplomatic relations will allow the US to engage more effectively with the Cuban government on a range of important issues, including the claims of Americans.”

“Resolution of outstanding US claims remains a priority for the US government, but we are unable to provide a specific time frame or details at this time.”

According to Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson:

“We do not believe those things would be resolved before diplomatic relations would be restored, but we do believe that they would be part of the conversation.”

Attorney Robert Muse specializing in Cuban affairs said major companies won’t write off the kind of value involved.

In 1964, Congress directed the Justice Department’s Foreign Claims Settlement Commission to determine the validity and value of claims filed.

Certification took six years to complete. Billions of dollars in nationalized assets are involved.

Rights linked to claims remain enshrined in US statutes. America’s embargo was imposed largely in retaliation for nationalizations.

According to attorney Matias Travieso-Diaz familiar with US/Cuban relations, lifting the embargo may be illegal under US law. Without settling outstanding claims.

Sanctions give claimants other legal protections. Helm’s-Burton legislation states:

“(A)ny person or government that traffics in US property confiscated by the Cuban government is liable for monetary damages in US federal court.”

Cuban specialist Julia Sweig believes outstanding claims aren’t as big an obstacle to US/Cuban trade as they used to be.

Because they’re over half a century old. Earlier negotiations over things went nowhere.

Cuba says America owes it hundreds of billions of dollars. For embargo caused harm.

International Law Professor Michael Kelly believes US companies can be compensated in ways other than cash. In development rights. Tax breaks. Other foreign investment incentives.

At the same time, he calls resolving outstanding claims “one of the first dominos that has to fall in a whole series of dominos for the embargo to be lifted.”

Former Foreign Claims Settlement Commission chairman Timothy Feighery said America has “a long history of making sure our citizens are compensated for losses suffered at the hands of foreign governments.”

Muse and other experts believe settling claims won’t top the list of normalization priorities. At the same time, they call resolving them important. A process no expert expects to be easy.

It’s unclear precisely how Obama officials intend doing it. A fact sheet released coincidentally with Obama’s announcement didn’t say.

For embargo conditions to be fully lifted, outstanding claims must be resolved. So far, the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission only said:

“Although the broad outlines of these changes have been unveiled, it is not yet clear what effect such changes will have on the status of the claims previously adjudicated by the Commission.”

Some companies filing claims no longer exist. Some individual claimants died. In recent years, Cuban experts began studying how to resolve claims realistically and fairly.

In 1960, the Eisenhower administration sharply cut Cuban sugar purchases. Latin American Studies Professor Jonathan Hansen said “(w)e kin of went ballistic at the thought that anyone would take our property.”

Tempers were hot on both sides. Standoff followed. Cuban sugar purchases ended entirely. A near-total embargo was imposed.

Other countries were more amenable to Castro’s terms than America. Perhaps convinced some compensation was better than nothing. Even in Cuban bonds Castro offered.

American companies wanted cash. US/Cuban relations deteriorated. Diplomatic ties were cut.

For years, claims got little attention. According to former Foreign Claims Settlement Commission chairman Mauricio Tamargo:

“The corporations that have these claims are very sensitive to bad press, so they decide to keep a low profile and work quietly behind the scenes where possible.”

Cuban expert Professor Jorge Dominguez says Washington “is obligated by law to defend the claims of US citizens and enterprises whose properties were expropriated by the Cuban government.”

“(O)ne can imagine a range of possibilities,” he added. At the same time, resolving half century old claims won’t be simple.

RT International interviewed National Committee to Free the Cuban Five director Gloria La Riva.

Britain wasn’t compensated for lost assets after America’s revolution, she said.

Legislation affecting things today didn’t exist at the time. La Riva believes Cuba intends remaining true to its revolutionary principles. Despite economic changes underway.

“What is needed in terms of relations between the US and Cuba is respect for Cuba’s sovereignty, and independence, and the ownership of its wealth which is for the benefit of all the Cuban population,” she said.

“What the American owners, the corporations and landholders owned in Cuba was stolen wealth, and that is not going to be returned to them.”

How Cuban/American economic relations develop ahead remains to be seen, La Riva said.

“Already Cuba enjoys many relations economically, commercially, financially with many countries and many corporations around the world, other than the US,” she explained.

“(M)uch of what Cuba claims is billions and billions of dollars…” Assets America froze. Stole from Cuba.

“So (it) has a great deal to claim against US corporations and the US government.”

“The US from the 1800s until the Cuban revolution basically stole the land.”

In 1959, Cubans got back what’s rightfully theirs. Cuba has outstanding claims against America of $1.2 trillion, said La Riva.

In damages. Economic “distraction.” Economic embargo. Cuba is willing “to engage in mutually respectful negotiations on all issues,” she explained.

America wants things its way. It remains to be seen how tough issues are handled. Expect months of negotiations to follow.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Christmas: The Greatest Gift For All

December 24th, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Although readers have kept me working yet another year past retirement age, I find it encouraging that there are some Americans who can think independently and who want to know.  As Margaret Meade said, it only takes a few determined people to change the world. Perhaps some of you will be those people.

My traditional Christmas column goes back to sometime in the 1990s when I was a newspaper columnist. It has been widely reprinted at home and abroad.  Every year two or three readers write to educate me that religion is the source of wars and persecutions. These readers confuse religion with mankind’s abuse of institutions, religious or otherwise. The United States has democratic institutions and legal institutions to protect civil liberties.  Nevertheless, we now have a police state.  Shall I argue that democracy and civil liberty are the causes of police states?

Some readers also are confused about hypocrisy. There is a vast difference between proclaiming moral principles that one might fail to live up to and proclaiming immoral principles that are all too easy to keep.

Liberty is a human achievement. We have it, or had it, because those who believed in it fought to achieve it. As I explain in my Christmas column, people were able to fight for liberty because Christianity empowered the individual.

The other cornerstone of our culture is the Constitution.  Indeed, the United States is the Constitution.  Without the Constitution, the United States is a different country, and Americans a different people. This is why assaults on the Constitution and assaults on Christianity are assaults on all of us. There is not much that we can do about these assaults, but we should not through ignorance enable the assaults or believe the government’s claim that safety requires the curtailment of civil liberty.

In a spirit of goodwill, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a successful New Year.

Paul Craig Roberts

The Greatest Gift For All

Christmas is a time of traditions. If you have found time in the rush before Christmas to decorate a tree, you are sharing in a relatively new tradition. Although the Christmas tree has ancient roots, at the beginning of the 20th century only 1 in 5 American families put up a tree. It was 1920 before the Christmas tree became the hallmark of the season. Calvin Coolidge was the first President to light a national Christmas tree on the White House lawn.

Gifts are another shared custom. This tradition comes from the wise men or three kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus. When I was a kid, gifts were more modest than they are now, but even then people were complaining about the commercialization of Christmas. We have grown accustomed to the commercialization. Christmas sales are the backbone of many businesses. Gift giving causes us to remember others and to take time from our harried lives to give them thought.

The decorations and gifts of Christmas are one of our connections to a Christian culture that has held Western civilization together for 2,000 years.

In our culture the individual counts. This permits an individual person to put his or her foot down, to take a stand on principle, to become a reformer and to take on injustice.

This empowerment of the individual is unique to Western civilization. It has made the individual a citizen equal in rights to all other citizens, protected from tyrannical government by the rule of law and free speech. These achievements are the products of centuries of struggle, but they all flow from the teaching that God so values the individual’s soul that he sent his son to die so we might live. By so elevating the individual, Christianity gave him a voice.

Formerly only those with power had a voice. But in Western civilization people with integrity have a voice. So do people with a sense of justice, of honor, of duty, of fair play. Reformers can reform, investors can invest, and entrepreneurs can create commercial enterprises, new products and new occupations.

The result was a land of opportunity. The United States attracted immigrants who shared our values and reflected them in their own lives. Our culture was absorbed by a diverse people who became one.

In recent decades we have lost sight of the historic achievement that empowered the individual. The religious, legal and political roots of this great achievement are no longer reverently taught in high schools, colleges and universities or respected by our government. The voices that reach us through the millennia and connect us to our culture are being silenced by “political correctness” and “the war on terror.” Prayer has been driven from schools and Christian religious symbols from public life. Constitutional protections have been diminished by hegemonic political ambitions. Indefinite detention, torture, and murder are now acknowledged practices of the United States government. The historic achievement of due process has been rolled back. Tyranny has re-emerged.

Diversity at home and hegemony abroad are consuming values and are dismantling the culture and the rule of law. There is plenty of room for cultural diversity in the world, but not within a single country. A Tower of Babel has no culture. A person cannot be a Christian one day, a pagan the next and a Muslim the day after. A hodgepodge of cultural and religious values provides no basis for law – except the raw power of the pre-Christian past.

All Americans have a huge stake in Christianity. Whether or not we are individually believers in Christ, we are beneficiaries of the moral doctrine that has curbed power and protected the weak. Power is the horse ridden by evil. In the 20th century the horse was ridden hard, and the 21st century shows an increase in pace. Millions of people were exterminated in the 20th century by National Socialists in Germany and by Soviet and Chinese communists simply because they were members of a race or class that had been demonized by intellectuals and political authority. In the beginning years of the 21st century hundreds of thousands of Muslims in seven countries have already been murdered and millions displaced, because their religion does not submit to Washington’s hegemony.

Power that is secularized and cut free of civilizing traditions is not limited by moral and religious scruples. V.I. Lenin made this clear when he defined the meaning of his dictatorship as “unlimited power, resting directly on force, not limited by anything.” Washington’s drive for hegemony over US citizens and the rest of the world is based entirely on the exercise of force and is resurrecting unaccountable power.

Christianity’s emphasis on the worth of the individual makes such power as Lenin claimed, and Washington now claims, unthinkable. Be we religious or be we not, our celebration of Christ’s birthday celebrates a religion that made us masters of our souls and of our political life on Earth. Such a religion as this is worth holding on to even by atheists.

As we enter into 2015, Western civilization, the product of thousands of years of striving, hangs in the balance. Degeneracy is everywhere before our eyes. As the West sinks into tyranny, will Western peoples defend their liberty and their souls, or will they sink into the tyranny, which again has raised its ugly and all devouring head?

Iran and Modern Cyber Warfare

December 24th, 2014 by Vladimir Platov

Today US intelligence services seem to finally have become aware of the potential damage a cyber-attack can inflict, therefore Washington is placing particular stress on enhancing its “combat capabilities” in virtual space. Therefore, not only the CIA, but the NSA and the Pentagon have started getting substantial resources on an annual basis in order to be able to create the most advanced cyber-weapons conceivable.

In 2013 alone Washington has allocated one billion dollars to the NSA and 685 million dollars for the CIA for them to carry out offensive cyber-operations and develop spyware like Flame and Duqu and malware like Stuxnet, which had previously been used against countries “that are unfriendly to the United States”, specifically against Iran, Syria, North Korea, and China.

Additionally, Washington has been busy with the creation of a 5000 men strong specialized unit that goes under the name of United States Cyber Command, which is headquartered, according to Bloomberg, at Fort Meade military base in Maryland. This unit alone has been provided with a hefty 3.94 billion dollars in 2013, while in 2014 this sum increased to 4.65 billion dollars, forcing countries that are being targeted by the United States’ offensive cyber-operations to increase their own defensive capabilities as well as creating similar units.

It’s no coincidence then, that Iran has started developing a new cybersecurity strategy, which will make cyber-operations top priority for both the army and national intelligence agencies. According to Western analysts, should the conflict between Iran and the West turn from bad to worse, Tehran could use cyber-attacks to inflict substantial damage on critical infrastructure in the United States and its allies, including power plants and financial networks.

Additionally, the new cybersecurity strategy of Iran specifies the two critical goals that the national agencies are to achieve. First – is the creation of technological capabilities that would allow the protection of critical infrastructure and top-secret information from various forms of intrusion (including malicious viruses such as Stuxnet, which had caused a considerable amount of damage to Iran’s uranium enrichment program), and opposition to anti-Iranian activities in cyberspace, since it has been been a key tool for the spread of disinformation and the organization of anti-government rallies.

To attain these goals Iran has recently created an elaborate network of educational and research institutions. In addition, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies has established the Iran Telecommunications Research Center which is playing a key role in advanced research in various high-tech fields, including information security. On top of this, there’s been created the position of Technology Cooperation Officer in the President’s office, since the control on research projects in across the field of information technology is established at the highest level of the Iranian government. As for the emergency response to cyberattacks and other challenges there’s the MAHER Information Security Center which is working under the authority of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies.

There is also an operation under the supervision of the High Council of Cyberspace (Shoray-e Aali-e Fazaye Majazi) which is formed by high-profile Iranian authorities, including the President. Once the High Council was created back in 2012, all other Iranian organizations and groups responsible for cyber operations were placed under this new government body. The most active part in today’s Iranian cyber operations is played by Cyber Defense Command (Gharargah-e Defa-e Saiberi), established in November 2010, which operates under the supervision of the Passive Civil Defense Organization, an independent unit of the Joint Staff.

The better part of offensive cyber operations is being carried out by the Iranian cyber army, that employs highly qualified specialists in the field of information technology. One of the most active well-known units of this army is the Ashiyane Digital Security Team, which has become known for its ideological commitment to the Iranian government. The technical capabilities of Iranian cyber troops is apparent in the fact that they were able to repeatedly infiltrate Western government and intelligence networks, despite all the security measure that were taken. In December 2011, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt in an interview with CNN noted that Iranians are unusually talented in cyberwarfare, for reasons that the US fails to fully understand.

In May 2009, an American cybersecurity company Defense Tech has named Iran among the five countries with the strongest cyber capabilities in the world.

Additionally, Iran is using supplementary units that are somewhat less proficient than central Iranian cyber units, among them is Basij – Iran’s paramilitary volunteer militia formed by Ayatollah Khomeini in November 1979, which according to various estimates, has more than 11 million members.

Iranian police has been paying an increasing amount of attention to cyberspace operations as well. It has been involved in them for many years, while its involvement has only grown since 2009, when the presidential elections in Iran were held. In September 2009, Iranian police commander Ismail Ahmadi-Moghadam announced the creation of the Iranian cyber police. This unit was labeled FETA, which in Persian stands for “the Police of the Space of Creating and Exchanging Information”. Its chief task is to confront Internet crime ( fraud, identity theft, etc.), as well as “crimes of a political nature and related to national security.”

To establish its control over local cyberspace Iran has established the Committee to Identify Unauthorized Internet Sites on July 2009. The committee is composed of the Attorney General, Minister of Culture, the head of the national police, intelligence and telecommunication experts along with radio and television professionals. To date the Committee has effectively banned a number of anti-Iranian websites for local users.

In September 2012 numerous financial institutions in the United States (in particular, Bank of America, Citigroup, and others) were subjected to Iranian cyber-attacks. According to American analysts, the most destructive attack occurred in August 2012 on the computers of the Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco and the Qatari gas company RasGas. The attack was carried out by a virus called Shamoo, which spread across all corporate servers and destroyed all data stored within. A group that goes under the name the “Cutting Sword of Justice” has assumed responsibility for this attack, by stating that it was aimed at the main source of income for Saudi Arabia. According to this group, Saudi Arabia has been committing crimes in Syria and Bahrain.

Despite a number of calls made by international leaders to end wars of all kinds, some of them were awarded with peace prizes (like Barack Obama with his Nobel Peace Prize), and these very same leaders are taking military operations to cyberspace, carrying out acts of cyber-terrorism and full-scale information warfare, involving, unfortunately, the rest of the world in a new cyber arms race.

Vladimir Platov, Middle East expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”

The Western media has attempted to portray Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitious plan to get every human being online as altruistic at first, but later revealed as simply what could be called “profitable empathy.” In reality however, the truth is much more sinister, with Facebook already revealed to be much more than a mere corporation run by Zuckerberg and his “ideas”

Facebook is the pinnacle of social engineering, an online operant conditioning chamber – also known as a Skinner box – that is being used to track, trace, document, and manipulate half of the entire online population. Despite users attempting to utilize Facebook to connect and communicate with individuals and organizations of interest, Facebook has turned its features against users, insidiously manipulating their timelines to show selected posts and updates while “soft censoring” others to manage public perception.

“Studies” have even been published proving the effectiveness of Facebook’s unethical social engineering. In one study, the emotions of users were successfully manipulated by selectively posting only negative or only positive posts from individuals or organizations on users’ contact lists.

A report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) titled, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” stated in its abstract that (emphasis added):

We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues. Not only are the findings troubling – illustrating that Facebook possesses the ability to influence the emotions of its users unwittingly through careful manipulation of their news feeds – but the invasive, unethical methods by which Facebook conducted the experiment are troubling as well.

In another experiment Facebook manipulated the news feed of some 2 million Americans in 2012 in order to increase public participation during that year’s US presidential election.

Facebook was also an official sponsor of the US State Department’s training program preparing political subversion across North Africa and the Middle East years before the so-called “Arab Spring” unfolded. The very activists audiences around the world were told “spontaneously” sprung up across North Africa and the Middle East were in fact trained, funded, and equipped by the US State Department and various corporations including tech giants Google and Facebook years beforehand.

Turning a Network of Information into a One-Way Propaganda Pipeline

The implications of an Internet commandeered by a conglomerate of Wall Street and Washington special interests is the mitigation of user-driven content and the retrenchment of information consumerism.

Television “programming” could be perceived as both the process of programming what will appear on TV, but also could be perceived as programming the minds of those consuming television. TV, being a one-way process, effectively eliminates competing ideas and limits the scope of information down to only what those who control television networks want audiences to see and hear. It is clear that Facebook is part of a process to turn the Internet into a similar one-way experience.

As a result of Facebook’s successful experiments in social engineering, including the very successful political subversion carried out across the Arab World – subversion still ravaging the region to this day –  Facebook and the corporate-financier interests behind it seek to put the entire planet within this increasingly insidious, pervasive, and one-way network.

The Bait and Switch 

4534534522Time Magazine’s article, “The Man Who Wired the World,” claims Facebook’s “crusade” to get the entire human population online is merely business. What is described however is a global campaign to produce content offline users will care enough about to get online, where Facebook believes it will be only inevitable that they end up on Facebook as well to share that content. Time’s article would state specifically (emphasis added):

Here’s the idea. First, you look at a particular geographical region that’s underserved, Internet-wise, and figure out what content might be compelling enough to lure its inhabitants online. Then you gather that content up, make sure it’s in the right language and wrap it up in a slick app. Then you go to the local cell-phone providers and convince as many of them as possible that they should offer the content in your app for free, with no data charges. There you go: anybody who has a data-capable phone has Internet access—or at least access to a curated, walled sliver of the Internet—for free. 

This isn’t hypothetical: Internet.org released this app in Zambia in July. It launched in Tanzania in October. In Zambia, the app’s content offerings include AccuWeather, Wikipedia, Google Search, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action—there’s a special emphasis on women’s rights and women’s health—and a few job-listing sites. And Facebook. A company called Airtel (the local subsidiary of an Indian telco) agreed to offer access for nothing. “I think about it like 911 in the U.S.,” Zuckerberg says. “You don’t have to have a phone plan, but if there’s an emergency, if there’s a fire or you’re getting robbed, you can always call and get access to those kinds of basic services. And I kind of think there should be that for the Internet too.”

Already, these free applications include Western-driven agendas and of course access to Facebook which is now confirmed to be insidiously manipulating user perception.

Indeed, while “free Internet access” through such apps seems “liberating” and “empowering,” Facebook does not let users freely share content. Under the guise of managing cluttered timelines for users, Facebook has already begun involuntarily filtering what posts users will see from accounts they are following, indicating that their manipulative experiments have now become a permanent matter of policy. Facebook’s own explanation of this policy is as follows:

Rather than showing people all possible content, News Feed is designed to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them. Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.

Facebook’s “world plan” then, seeks to plug the entire human population into a highly manipulative Skinner box through a bait and switch campaign to lure people online to seek what interests them before Facebook takes over and displays information Facebook itself determines “interests them.”

Far from a college kid with an overgrown corporation, what Facebook is doing is the manifestation of every tyranny’s dream scenario since the beginning of human history – a means by which to completely and insidiously manipulate and control the minds of its subjects.

Don’t Protest Facebook, Displace It 

To counteract what is clearly the next step in Facebook’s unethical and unchecked plague-like spread across the Internet, nations individually should produce their own alternatives to Facebook and work to get their populations online on their own terms before Facebook and the interests driving it do. Likewise, locally, communities must begin devising their own information networks including mesh networks and local Internets with local and open source alternatives to Facebook, Google, and other corporations exercising the same unwarranted power and influence online that bankers and industrialist exercise over traditional society.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”

Holiday Season Hypocrisy

December 24th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

This text was first published  in 2007

Christmas is observed December 25 by Christians and others celebrating the spirit of the season while for those of the Eastern Orthodox faith the holiday falls on January 7. It’s to honor the birth of Jesus Christ even though it’s widely acknowledged not to be his birthday.

Along with its religious significance, the season is also for other celebratory events like winter festivals, parties, family get-togethers and Kwanzaa from December 26 – January 1 for Africans Americans to reconnect to their cultural and historical heritage. Jews as well celebrate the season with the Hanukkah Festival of Lights. It’s to commemorate their struggle for survival, but for Jewish children it’s their Christmas with gifts from parents like their Christian friends get.

Christmas is also the time when the national obsession to shop and consume reaches its zenith. It traditionally begins the day after Thanksgiving, runs through Christmas eve, and after the holiday continues into January with plenty of extra buying power from holiday gift cards, year-end bonuses and other resources gotten or borrowed. It’s for everything people never knew they wanted until creative advertising wizardry made their lives incomplete without them.

Perhaps this single dominant trait characterizes American culture more than any other. It’s a variant of the kind of consumerism economist/sociologist Thorstein Veblen called “conspicuous” in his 1899 book “The Theory of the Leisure Class.” F. Scott Fitzgerald explained that “the very rich….are different from you and me.” Veblen wrote about their spending habits and coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption.” Today, it’s called “keeping up with the Joneses” or consumerism, and it’s practiced by status-seeking people obsessed with personal gratification. But not just by the rich. Most people, except the poor, do it and to excess.

The term “consumption” originated hundreds of years ago. Then, it referred to infectious tuberculosis or TB. But its original meaning is relevant in today’s acquisitive society where consuming for essentials is worlds apart from gluttonous consumerism. This variant refers to overindulgent shopping and spending for things people buy irrespective of need but not without consequences for themselves and society.

Untreated TB, or consumption, consumes its victims in a slow, painful death. Consumerism mimics it with it’s similarly harmful fallout: ecological destruction; unhealthy and unsafe consumer products; corporate empowerment; profits pursued over people; militarism and foreign wars; health, education and other essential needs neglected; and democratic decay in a corporatist state disdaining the public interest.

People take pride saying “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping” – but not without consequences. The personal fallout is over-indebtedness millions can’t handle in the wake of unexpected medical emergencies or loss of employment. The toll: since the early 1980s one in seven families forced into bankruptcy, over 2 million in 2005 alone (30% above 2004), and millions more ahead from unchecked borrow and binge-spending made worse by the subprime crisis.

Overindulgent spending is what clinicians call an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). At its worst, it’s pathologically characterized by obsessive, repetitive thoughts that need compulsive tasks and rituals to relieve. For addicted consumers, it’s an obsession to shop and spend and a compulsion to buy and accumulate. In excess, it’s clinically pathological and destructive when it causes bankruptcy.

In America and the West, tens of millions of otherwise normal people shop excessively for what they never knew they wanted until Madison Avenue mind manipulators convinced them. Economist Paul Baran described the process as making us “want what we don’t need (all unessential consumer goods and services) and not….what we do (good health care, education, clean air and water, safe food, and good government providing essential services).”

Future insolvency is risked, but few consider the possibility until it’s too late. It’s worst at Christmas when it becomes a pathological orgy of frenzied spending dismissively called getting into the holiday spirit. Maybe for merchants, but not when bills come due with growing millions unable to pay them or needing more debt to delay for later what they can’t handle now.

Institutionalized consumerism also plays into social control. It’s empowered when people are focused on bread and circus distractions that include the sights and sounds of the season. Media theorist Neil Postman once called Americans the most over-entertained and under-informed people in the world and wrote about it in books like “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” Attracted to self-gratification and its reinforcing images, they’re diverted from what matters most – challenging wars of aggression, loss of civil liberties and human rights, violations of law, gutted social services, environmental harm, and policies benefitting the privileged at the expense of beneficial social change.

Consumerism also lets corporate power prosper and grow. It feeds unfettered capitalism and out-of-control greed. It helps direct our tax dollars to a militarized state instead of going for essential social needs. It diverts the national wealth to an imperial juggernaut that consumers finance through overindulgence. The more we shop, the stronger it gets and is better able to exploit new markets, resources and cheap labor at the expense of the more expensive kind at home whose future consumption is endangered by today’s self-gratifying excesses.

Adam Smith was capitalism’s ideological godfather who was also concerned about concentrated wealth and wrote about it in “The Wealth of Nations.” He explained an “invisible hand” of unseen forces worked best in a free market with many small businesses competing locally against each other. He contrasted them with concentrated mercantilism and wrote about the “merchants and manufacturers” who used their power to wreak “dreadful misfortunes” and grave injustices on the vast majority of people using the British East India Company as a case study example.

Today’s monopoly capitalism would have been unimaginable in his day, but he’d recognize it. He wrote that throughout history we find the wreckage of the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind….All for ourselves and nothing for other people….unless government takes pains to prevent” this outcome. No invisible hand works in manipulated markets where governments sanction Smith’s “vile maxim,” and the greater good is nowhere in sight. Under neoliberal rules, capital wins, people lose, and consumerism makes things worse. It’s most extreme at Christmas when shopping trumps the holiday’s meaning and seasonal sights and sounds drown out everything else.

The toll is tragic. Whatever Christmas was, it no longer is, and our behavior corrupts it and the spirit of the man it honors. He spread it in deeds and teachings from his Sermon on the Mount and message to “turn the other cheek,” love thy neighbor, not kill, and do unto others as you’d want them doing to you. The consumerist ethic glorifies receiving, not giving; condoning predatory capitalism and ignoring its harm; neglecting the greater good; sanctifying overindulgence while forgetting those most in need throughout the year. In the spirit of the season, thoughts should be on helping others and giving thanks. In an unfettered marketplace, it’s impossible.

It’s a sad testimony to a society obsessed with greed and gratification at the expense of beneficial social change. At Christmas, it defiles the holiday spirit and forgets the needy. For them, Christmas is “Bah Humbug,” and Santa Scrooge – all take and no give.

New Year’s Day

New Year’s day is one week after Christmas and concludes the long holiday season. It starts after Thanksgiving, reaches a climax around Christmas, ebbs for a day and builds again for a final celebratory new year’s welcome with more overindulgent eating, drinking, partying, and binge-shopping for nonessentials.

The new year is also a traditional time for resolutions that include some with merit like losing weight, quitting smoking and getting fit. Most are forgotten, and those most important never made: working for peace, good will toward others, loving they neighbor, respecting everyone, and treating people as we want to be treated in a society of caring and sharing with equity and justice for all. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful resolution for the new year. Long ago in simpler times before the old world became America, it was that way. It can be again, but wishing won’t make it so.

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

Also visit his blog site at  www.sjlendman.blogspot.com  and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on www.TheMicroEffect.com Mondays at noon US Central time.

The Roman Empire did it. The British Empire copied it in style. The Empire of Chaos has always done it. They all do it. Divide et impera. Divide and rule – or divide and conquer. It’s nasty, brutish and effective. Not forever though, like diamonds, because empires do crumble. 

A room with a view to the Pantheon may be a celebration of Venus – but also a glimpse on the works of Mars. I had been in Rome essentially for a symposium – Global WARning – organized by a very committed, talented group led by a former member of European Parliament, Giulietto Chiesa. Three days later, as the run on the rouble was unleashed, Chiesa was arrested and expelled from Estonia as persona non grata, yet another graphic illustration of the anti-Russia hysteria gripping the Baltic nations and the Orwellian grip NATO has on Europe’s weak links. [1] Dissent is simply not allowed.

At the symposium, held in a divinely frescoed former 15th century Dominican refectory now part of the Italian parliament’s library, Sergey Glazyev, on the phone from Moscow, gave a stark reading of Cold War 2.0. There’s no real “government” in Kiev; the US ambassador is in charge. An anti-Russia doctrine has been hatched in Washington to foment war in Europe – and European politicians are its collaborators. Washington wants a war in Europe because it is losing the competition with China.

Glazyev addressed the sanctions dementia: Russia is trying simultaneously to reorganize the politics of the International Monetary Fund, fight capital flight and minimize the effect of banks closing credit lines for many businessmen. Yet the end result of sanctions, he says, is that Europe will be the ultimate losers economically; bureaucracy in Europe has lost economic focus as American geopoliticians have taken over.

Only three days before the run on the rouble, I asked Rosneft’s Mikhail Leontyev (Press-Secretary – Director of the Information and Advertisement Department) about the growing rumors of the Russian government getting ready to apply currency controls. At the time, no one knew an attack on rouble would be so swift, and conceived as a checkmate to destroy the Russian economy. After sublime espressos at the Tazza d’Oro, right by the Pantheon, Leontyev told me that currency controls were indeed a possibility. But not yet.

What he did emphasize was this was outright financial war, helped by a fifth column in the Russian establishment. The only equal component in this asymmetrical war was nuclear forces. And yet Russia would not surrender. Leontyev characterized Europe not as a historical subject but as an object: “The European project is an American project.” And “democracy” had become fiction.

The run on the rouble came and went like a devastating economic hurricane. Yet you don’t threat a checkmate against a skilled chess player unless your firepower is stronger than Jupiter’s lightning bolt. Moscow survived. Gazprom heeded the request of President Vladimir Putin and will sell its US dollar reserves on the domestic market. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier went on the record against the EU further “turning the screw” as in more counterproductive sanctions against Moscow. And at his annual press conference, Putin emphasized how Russia would weather the storm. Yet I was especially intrigued by what he did not say. [2]

As Mars took over, in a frenetic acceleration of history, I retreated to my Pantheon room trying to channel Seneca; from euthymia - interior serenity – to that state of imperturbability the Stoics defined as aponia. Still, it’s hard to cultivate euthymia when Cold War 2.0 rages.

Show me your imperturbable missile

Russia could always deploy an economic “nuclear” option, declaring a moratorium on its foreign debt. Then, if Western banks seized Russian assets, Moscow could seize every Western investment in Russia. In any event, the Pentagon and NATO’s aim of a shooting war in the European theater would not happen; unless Washington was foolish enough to start it.

Still, that remains a serious possibility, with the Empire of Chaos accusing Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) even as it prepares to force Europe in 2015 to accept the deployment of US nuclear cruise missiles.

Russia could outmaneuver Western financial markets by cutting them off from its wealth of oil and natural gas. The markets would inevitably collapse – uncontrolled chaos for the Empire of Chaos (or “controlled chaos”, in Putin’s own words). Imagine the crumbling of the quadrillion-plus of derivatives. It would take years for the “West” to replace Russian oil and natural gas, but the EU’s economy would be instantly devastated.

Just this lightning-bolt Western attack on the rouble – and oil prices – using the crushing power of Wall Street firms had already shaken European banks exposed to Russia to the core; their credit default swaps soared. Imagine those banks collapsing in a Lehman Brothers-style house of cards if Russia decided to default – thus unleashing a chain reaction. Think about a non-nuclear MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) – in fact warless. Still, Russia is self-sufficient in all kinds of energy, mineral wealth and agriculture. Europe isn’t. This could become the lethal result of war by sanctions.

Essentially, the Empire of Chaos is bluffing, using Europe as pawns. The Empire of Chaos is as lousy at chess as it is at history. What it excels in is in upping the ante to force Russia to back down. Russia won’t back down.

Darkness dawns at the break of chaos 

Paraphrasing Bob Dylan in When I Paint My Masterpiece, I left Rome and landed in Beijing. Today’s Marco Polos travel Air China; in 10 years, they will be zooming up in reverse, taking high-speed rail from Shanghai to Berlin. [3]

From a room in imperial Rome to a room in a peaceful hutong - a lateral reminiscence of imperial China. In Rome, the barbarians swarm inside the gates, softly pillaging the crumbs of such a rich heritage, and that includes the local Mafia. In Beijing, the barbarians are kept under strict surveillance; of course there’s a Panopticon element to it, essential to assure internal social peace. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – ever since the earth-shattering reforms by the Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping – is perfectly conscious that its Mandate of Heaven is directly conditioned by the perfect fine-tuning of nationalism and what we could term “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics”.

In a different vein of the “soft beds of the East” seducing Marcus Aurelius, the silky splendors of chic Beijing offer a glimpse of an extremely self-assured emerging power. After all, Europe is nothing but a catalogue of multiple sclerosis and Japan is under its sixth recession in 20 years.

To top it off, in 2014 President Xi Jinping has deployed unprecedented diplomatic/geostrategic frenzy – ultimately tied to the long-term project of slowly but surely keeping on erasing US supremacy in Asia and rearranging the global chessboard. What Xi said in Shanghai in May encapsulates the project; “It’s time for Asians to manage the affairs of Asia.” At the APEC meeting in November, he doubled down, promoting an “Asia-Pacific dream”.

Meanwhile, frenzy is the norm. Apart from the two monster, US$725 billion gas deals – Power of Siberia and Altai pipeline – and a recent New Silk Road-related offensive in Eastern Europe, [4] virtually no one in the West remembers that in September Chinese Prime Minister Li Keiqiang signed no fewer than 38 trade deals with the Russians, including a swap deal and a fiscal deal, which imply total economic interplay.

A case can be made that the geopolitical shift towards Russia-China integration is arguably the greatest strategic maneuver of the last 100 years. Xi’s ultimate master plan is unambiguous: a Russia-China-Germany trade/commerce alliance. German business/industry wants it badly, although German politicians still haven’t got the message. Xi – and Putin – are building a new economic reality on the Eurasian ground, crammed with crucial political, economic and strategic ramifications.

Of course, this will be an extremely rocky road. It has not leaked to Western corporate media yet, but independent-minded academics in Europe (yes, they do exist, almost like a secret society) are increasingly alarmed there is no alternative model to the chaotic, entropic hardcore neoliberalism/casino capitalism racket promoted by the Masters of the Universe.

Even if Eurasian integration prevails in the long run, and Wall Street becomes a sort of local stock exchange, the Chinese and the emerging multipolar world still seem to be locked into the existing neoliberal model.

And yet, as much as Lao Tzu, already an octogenarian, gave the young Confucius an intellectual slap on the face, the “West” could do with a wake-up call. Divide et impera? It’s not working. And it’s bound to fail miserably.

As it stands, what we do know is that 2015 will be a hair-raising year in myriad aspects. Because from Europe to Asia, from the ruins of the Roman empire to the re-emerging Middle Kingdom, we all still remain under the sign of a fearful, dangerous, rampantly irrational Empire of Chaos.

Notes:

1. See here.
2. What Putin is not telling us, Russia Today, December 18, 2014.
3. Eurasian Integration vs. the Empire of Chaos, TomDispatch, December 16, 2014.
4. China set to make tracks for Europe, China Daily, December 18, 2014. China’s Li cements new export corridor into Europe, Channel News Asia, December 16, 2014.

Pepe Escobar‘s latest book, just out, is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at [email protected].
 

By Vladimir Sungorkin, Dmitry Steshin, Nikolay Varsegov

Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus for FortRuss.blogspot.com. Originally published in Russian by one of Russia’s leading newspapers, Komsomolskaya Pravda.  This interview should be viewed with caution. It requires further investigation and corroboration. (GR Editor, December 24, 2014)

In the “case of Malaysian Boeing” a “secret witness” stepped forward whose testimony remove all charges from the militia and Russia. And explain the mysterious behavior of Western experts. 

This man came to the editorial office of “Komsomolskaya Pravda” by himself. We checked his papers – he is not an actor and not a fake person. We can not yet reveal his personal information – he still has relatives in Ukraine and is afraid of revenge and blackmail. Judging by what Alexander (let’s name him that) told us, the fear is substantiated. We provide a transcript of our conversation virtually uncut:

THE FIGHTER RETURNED WITHOUT MISSILES

- Where were you on July 17, 2014, the day Malaysian Boeing was shot down?

- I was on the territory of Ukraine, in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, the village Aviatorskoye. It is a regular airport. There at this time were based fighter jets and helicopters. Planes regularly flew on bombing missions, Su-25 attack aircraft bombed Donetsk, Lugansk. This lasted a long time.

- The aircraft flew every day?

- Daily.

- Why did you assume that these airplanes could be related to the downing of the “Boeing”?

- A few reasons. Out of the eight airplanes, which were based there, only two had “air-to-air” missiles. They were suspended.

- Why? Were there any aircraft battles in the air?

- No, the aircraft was fitted with missiles to cover themselves in the air. Just in case. Mostly they had air-to-ground ammunition. NURS, bombs.

-Tell us about July 17.

- Airplanes flew regularly. All day since the morning. In the afternoon, about an hour before the downing of the “Boeing”, three attack fighters were raised into the air. I don’t remember the exact time. One of the airplanes was equipped with such missiles. It was a Su-25.

- Have you personally seen it?

- Yes.

- Where was your vantage point?

- On site. Cannot tell you exactly.

- Did you have an opportunity to see specifically what the pylons of the aircraft where fitted with? Could you confuse “air-to-air” and “air-to-ground” missiles?

- No, I couldn’t confuse it. They vary in size, plumage, coloration. With a guidance head. Very easy to recognize. Anyway, after a short time, only one airplane returned, two were shot down. Somewhere in the East of Ukraine, I was told. The airplane that came back, was the one with those suspended missiles.

- It returned without the missiles?

- Without the missiles. That pilot was very scared.

- Do you know this pilot, have you seen him?

- Yes.

- Can you tell us his name?

- Last name Voloshin.

- Was he alone in the airplane?

- Yes. The airplane is designed for one person.

- Do you know his name?

- Vladislav, I think. Don’t remember exactly. Captain.

- Captain Voloshin came back. What happened next?

- Came back with blank ammunition.

- No missiles left?

- Yes.

889373.jpg

“NOT THE RIGHT PLANE”

- Could you tell us, Alexander, the airplane came back from the mission, you still do not know about the loss of the “Boeing”, but you were somehow surprised by the absence of “air-to-air” missiles. Why?

- These “air-to-air” missiles are not included in the basic ammunition package.

They are used only with a special order. Typically, the aircraft with such rockets were not to allowed into the air. Because this missiles should not be frequently transported in the air.

In all two such missiles can fit on this plane. Never before they had been applied. They were written off previously. But literally on the eve, a week before this incident (the loss of “Boeing” – Ed.) the use of these missiles was urgently renewed. And they put again into service. They have not been used for many years.

- Why?

- They were expired. Made back in the Soviet years. But by the urgent order their expiration date was extended.

- And on this day they were put on the plane?

- They always stood with these missiles.

- But didn’t fly?

- Tried to let them in the air less frequently – every flight depletes the resource. But on this day, the plane flew.

- And came back without them?

- Yes. Knowing this pilot a little bit… (quite possibly, when the other two airplanes were shot down in front of him), he just had a frightened reaction, inadequate. Could out of fright or in revenge launch the missiles into a Boeing. Maybe he took it for some other combat aircraft.

- Are these missiles with self-guiding heads?

- Yes.

- When he launched them, they began to look for a target?

- No. The pilot himself finds the target. Then launches the missile, and it flies at the target.

- Could the pilot use these missiles against ground targets?

- It’s pointless.

- What else do you remember this day? What did the pilot say?

- He said a phrase, when he was led out of the airplane: “It was not the right plane.” And in the evening there was a phrase to a question from one pilot to him, to Voloshin: “What’s up with the plane?” To which he replied: “The plane was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

889377.jpg

“AND AFTER THE TRAGEDY THE FLIGHTS CONTINUED”

- Did this pilot serve there for a long time? How old is he?

- Voloshin is about 30 years old. His base is in Nikolaev. They were transferred to Dnepropetrovsk. Before they were sent to Chuguev near Kharkov. And all this time they bombed Donetsk and Lugansk. And, according to one of the officers of the Nikolaev base, they still continue to do so.

- Did the pilots have good combat experience?

- Those who were there, had experience. Nikolaev base was even one year, in my opinion, 2013, the best base in Ukraine.

- Was the story about the “Boeing” discussed among the pilots?

- All attempts to discuss were immediately stopped. And the pilots mostly talked among themselves only, they are so… stuck-up

 - After everyone learned about this “Boeing” what happened to this pilot, captain Voloshin?

- After all of this flights continued. And the pilots did not rotate. The same faces.

“THERE WAS NO FLIGHTS… BUT IT WAS SHOT DOWN”

- Let’s try to recap the events. How could it develop? Three airplanes left on a combat mission. They were roughly in the same area, as Boeing. Two airplanes were shot down. This captain Voloshin was nervous, got scared, and possibly he mistook the Boeing for combat aircraft?

- Possible. The distance was long, he may have not seen specifically what kind of aircraft.

- What distance do these missiles need?

- At 3-5 kilometers they can find the target.

- And what is the speed difference between combat aircraft and the Boeing?

- No difference: the rockets have pretty good speed. Very fast rocket.

- Will catch up anyway? And height?

- It may easily at its maximum altitude – to 7 thousand meters – quite easily focus on the target.

- To reach it higher?

- Yes. The aircraft can simply lift the nose up, and can find the target with no problems and launch the rocket. The range of this missile is more than 10 kilometers.

- At what distance from the target does this rocket explodes? Does it hit the fuselage and explodes?

- Depending on the modification. Literally could when it hits the body or at a distance of 500 meters.

- We worked at the crash site and noticed that the fragments were trapped in the hull of the aircraft very closely. It seemed like it exploded literally two feet away from the Boeing.

- There is such a missile. The principle of fragments – it breaks, and the fragments hit. And then hits the main warhead of the rocket.

- Ukraine announced that on this day they had no combat flights. We checked different aggregate sources on the downed airplanes, Ukraine denied everywhere that its military aircraft flew on this day.

- I know about this. Ukraine also announced that two of these airplanes were shot down on the 16th, and not the 17th. And many times the date was changed. But actually, the flights were on a daily basis. I saw it myself. Even during the ceasefire there were flights, although, less frequent.

PROHIBITED BOMBS

- What ammunition was on the aircraft at your airfield? Were phosphorus bombs used, incendiary devices? Ukrainian artillery used it very actively on the ground.

- I didn’t see phosphorus bombs. But space-detonating bombs were used.

- Are they prohibited?

- Yes. This bomb was intended for Afghanistan. It was prohibited and was not used until lately. It was prohibited by some Convention, I do not remember, can’t say. This bomb is inhumane, burns everything. Burns absolutely everything.

- They were attached and used during hostilities?

- Yes. And there were also banned cluster bombs. Aircraft cluster bomb – depending on size can hit a very ambitious target. One bomb covers a stadium. Entirely, the whole entire area – two hectares.

- Why did they use such weapons?

- They were following orders. And whose order is unclear.

- What’s the point of such weapons – scare tactic?

- Maximum annihilation of manpower

CAN BE BEATEN FOR EVERY CARELESS WORD

- Why did you go to Russia, why decided to tell? Why, finally, no one learned this before? You’re not the only witness!

- Everyone is intimidated by the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine. – Ed.) and the National Guard. People can be beaten for every careless word, jailed on any insignificant suspicion of sympathies towards Russia or the militia. I was initially against this “anti-terrorist operation”. Did not agree with the policy of the Ukrainian state. The civil war is wrong. To kill your own people is not normal. And to take some part in it or not, but to be on the Ukrainian side and to be partially involved in this, I don’t want to in the first place!

Please go to Komsomolskaya Pravda for the video recording of this conversation (in Russian) and more infographics

Translated by Kristina Rus for FortRuss.blogspot.com

Israel Empowers Islamic State (ISIS) Terrorists in Syria

December 24th, 2014 by Nicola Nasser

Defying a consensus that it is a priority by the world community comprising international rivals like the United States, Europe, Russia and China and regional rivals like Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, Israel, like Turkey, does not eye the U.S. – led war on the IS as its regional priority. Nor fighting Israel is an IS priority.

The Israeli top priority is to dictate its terms to Syria to sign a peace treaty with Israel before withdrawing its forces from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Palestinian territories and Lebanese southern lands.

For this purpose, Israel is determined to break down the Syria – Iran alliance, which has been the main obstacle preventing Israel from realising its goals. Changing the ruling regime in either Damascus or Tehran would be a step forward. Towards this Israeli strategic goal the IS could not be but an Israeli asset.

“To defeat ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as the IS was previously known) and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly last September.

Therefore, “it should not come as a surprise that the (Benjamin) Netanyahu government has not yet taken any immediate steps against IS,” according to Amos Harel, writing in Foreign Policy on September 15.

However, information is already surfacing that Israel is “taking steps” in the opposite direction, to empower the IS and other terrorist groups fighting and infighting in Syria .

Israeli daily Haaretz on last October 31 quoted a “senior Northern Command officer” as saying that the U.S. – led coalition

“is making a big mistake in fighting against ISIS … the United States, Canada and France are on the same side as Hezbollah, Iran and [Syrian President Bashar al] Assad. That does not make sense.”

Regardless, on September 8 Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has provided “satellite imagery and other information” to the coalition. Three days later Netanyahu said at a conference in Herzliya: “Israel fully supports President [Barack] Obama’s call for united actions against ISIS … We are playing our part in this continued effort. Some of the things are known; some of the things are less known.”

Obama’s call was the green light for Israel to support Syrian and non- Syrian rebels. Syrian official statements claim that Israel has been closely coordinating with the rebels.

Israeli statements claim theirs is confined to “humanitarian” support to “moderate” Syrian opposition, which the U.S. has already pledged to train and arm in Saudi Arabia , Jordan and Turkey . A significant portion of the $64 billion earmarked for conflicts abroad in the budget legislation signed by Obama on December 19 will go to these “moderates.”

Both Israel and the U.S. have no headaches about whether the “moderates” would remain as such after being armed with lethal weapons or whether it remains appropriate to call them “opposition.”

But the Israeli “humanitarian” claim is challenged by the fact that Israel is the only neighbouring country which still closes its doors to Syrian civilian refugees while keeping its doors wide open to the wounded rebels who are treated in Israeli hospitals and allowed to return to the battle front after recovery.

IS close to Israeli borders

The Israeli foreign ministry on last September 3 confirmed that the U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff whom the IS had beheaded was an Israeli citizen as well. In a speech addressed to Sotloff’s family, Netanyahu condemned the IS as a “branch” of a “poisonous tree” and a “tentacle” of a “violent Islamist terrorism.”

On the same day Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon officially outlawed the IS and anyone associating with it.

On September 10, Netanyahu convened an urgent security meeting to prepare for the possible danger of the IS advancing closer to the Israeli border, a prospect confirmed by the latest battles for power between the IS and the al – Nusra Front on the southern Syrian – Lebanese borders and in southern Syria , within the artillery range of Israeli forces.

On November 9, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (ABM), which has been operating against the Egyptian army, released an audio clip pledging allegiance to the IS to declare later the first IS Wilayah (province) in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, south of Israel .

On last November 14 The Israeli Daily quoted Netanyahu as saying in a private defense meeting that the IS is “currently operating out of Lebanon … close to Israel’s northern border. We must take this as a serious threat.”

However, “in truth, as most of Israel’s intelligence community has been quick to point out, there are no signs that anything of the sort is actually happening,” according to Amos Harel, writing in Foreign Policy five days later.

Moshe Ya’alon told journalists in September that “the organization operates far from Israel ” and thus presents no imminent threat. Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, on November 14, wrote: “The present and former generals who shape Israel ‘s policy can only smile when this ‘danger’ is mentioned.”

Israel “certainly does not see the group as an external threat” and the “Islamic State also does not yet pose an internal threat to Israel,” according to Israeli journalist and Associate Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations,  Dimi Reider, writing in a Reuters blog on last October 21.

What Netanyahu described as a “serious threat” in the north does not yet dictate any Israeli action against it because “we must assume that Hizballah,” which is allied to Syria and Iran , “does not have its house in order,” according to the Israeli premier.

The presence of the IS Wilayah on its southern border with Egypt is preoccupying the country with an internal bloody anti-terror conflict that would prevent any concrete Egyptian contribution to the stabilization of the Arab Levant or support to the Palestinians in their struggle to end the Israeli occupation of their land, let alone the fact that this presence is already pitting Egypt against Israel’s archenemy, Hamas, in the Palestinian Gaza Strip and creating a hostile environment that dictates closer Egyptian – Israeli security coordination.

Therefore, Israel is not going to “interfere” because “these are internal issues of the countries where it is happening.” Israel is “informally … ready to render assistance, but not in a military way and not by joining the ( U.S. – led) coalition” against the IS, according to the deputy head of the Israeli embassy in Moscow , Olga Slov, as quoted by Russian media on November 14.

Jordan is another story

However, Israel ’s eastern neighbours in Jordan and Syria seem another story.

“ Jordan feels threatened by IS. We will cooperate with them one way or another,” ambassador Slov said. Jordanian media has been reporting that more than 2000 Jordanians had already joined al-Qaeda splinter the IS, al-Qaeda’s branch al-Nusra Front or other rebels who are fighting for an “Islamic” state in Syria . Hundreds of them were killed by the Syrian Arab Army.

The Daily Beast on last June 27 quoted Thomas Sanderson, the co-director for transnational threats at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as saying that Israel considers the survival of Jordan as “a paramount national security objective.”

If Jordan requested Israeli assistance in protecting its borders, Israel would have “little choice” but to help, the Beastquoted the director of the Israeli National Security Council, Yaakov Amidror, as saying.

As a precaution measure, Israel is building now a 500-kilometre “security fence” on its border with Jordan.

While Israel is willing and getting ready to “interfere” in Jordan , it is already deeply interfering in Syria , where the real battle has been raging for less than four years now against terrorists led by the IS.

A few weeks ago The Associated Press reported that the IS and the al-Nusra had concluded an agreement to stop fighting each other and cooperate on destroying the U.S. – trained and supported rebels (The Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the Hazm movement) as well as the Syrian government forces in northern Syria.

But in southern Syria all these and other terrorist organizations are coordinating among themselves and have what Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) called “a gentleman’s agreement” with Israel across the border, according to Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy on June 11.

Last October, Al-Qaeda branch in Syria , al-Nusra, was among the rebel groups which overtook the only border crossing of Quneitra between Syria and the Israeli – occupied Golan Heights . Israel has yet to demonstrate its objection.

“Many Sunnis in Iraq and the Gulf consider ISIS a bullet in their rifles aimed at Shiite extremism, in their bid to restore their lost standing,” Raghida Dergham, a columnist and a senior diplomatic correspondent for the London – based Arabic Al-Hayat daily, wrote in the Huffington Post on September 19.

A political public agreement between Israel and the Gulf Arabs has developed on a mutual understanding that the dismantling of the Syria – Iran alliance as a prelude to a “regime change” in both countries is the regional priority, without loosing sight of the endgame, which is to dictate peace with Israel as the regional power under the U.S. hegemony. The IS is “the bullet in their rifles.” From their perspective, the U.S. war on the IS is irrelevant, for now at least.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories ([email protected]).

Australia in America’s Third Iraq War

December 24th, 2014 by Richard Tanter

Little more than two months after the start of bombing operations, Australia’s new war in Iraq is following the path of its predecessor, a path marked by Australian subordination to American interests, irrelevance to Australian national interests, casual disregard for Iraqi sovereignty and law, increasingly severe restriction of information provided to the Australian public, and an inclination to escalation.

Just as it is America’s, this is Australia’s third war with Iraq in less than 25 years – following on from the Gulf War following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990-1991, and the illegal and destructive invasion and occupation of Iraq between 2003 and 2008. Australia’s 600-strong deployment to Iraq this time is as large as Canada’s, and is exceeded only by the deployments by the United States and Britain.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott welcomed the war with apocalyptic religious imagery, describing the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham as a ‘death cult’ which ‘exults in evil’.1 The real character of the Australian decision to deploy special forces troops and aircraft to the Middle East for the latest phase of the United States Iraq War is best deduced from the Australian Defence Department’s website on the deployment. The last paragraph of thedepartment’s imaginatively uninformative Operation Okra web page advises readers that ‘further information about the international effort to combat the ISIL terrorist threat in Iraq can be found at the U.S. Department of Defense website.’2

In compliance with the mantra of alliance integration, distribution of news about all significant decisions about Australia’s war in Iraq have been handed over to the United States. The incoherence of US strategic policy, together with the inherent military escalation logic of the Iraq-Syria intervention, and the collapse within Australian politics of the capacity to question presumptions of automatic alignment of Australian and US interests, all collude to guarantee outcomes worse than failure.

According to one of the U.S. State Department’s more bizarre statements, Australia is amongst 60 countries that have joined the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL – demonstrating ‘the global and unified nature of this endeavor’.3 Like the Bush-era ‘Coalition of the Willing’, this is a peculiar multilateral structure. Like all of America’s post-Cold War ‘coalitions’ this multilateral formation includes core and peripheral members, with most countries present in name only, and a much smaller number making a visible military contribution. Amongst these, Australia is one of about 15 countries from outside the region collaborating with the United States in the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq precipitated by the summer advances made by the Islamic State insurgency.4

As of the end of November, the United States had carried out 819 air strikes against targets in Iraq, and another 10 countries had carried out 157 strikes.5 The actual number of militarily active countries in the grandly named Global Coalition is unclear, partly because certain Middle Eastern allies of the U.S. prefer that their participation be less than visible to their citizens. Saudi Arabian, United Arab Emirates and Jordanian air force aircraft participated in at least a small number of bombing operations against Syrian targets in late October.6 However, there are no reports of subsequent operations by regional countries, with very few details of those that are known to have taken place.

In an important development, the Financial Times reported in mid-December that the Iraqi Foreign Minister announced that China had offered to assist the Iraqi government with airstrikes against ISIS targets. However, according to the Iraqi Foreign Minister, China had said it would not be joining the multilateral coalition. At the time of writing, no further details or confirmation were available.

ISW-Iraq – ISIS sanctuary map Dec 2014

The Australian military commitment of 200 special forces and a substantial air task group supported by 400 personnel, while dwarfed by that of the United States sits with a group of NATO allies of the United States – Britain, Canada, Italy, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands contributing similar forces.-


Table 1: Coalition military forces in the U.S.-led 2014 intervention in Iraq-Syria

United States*  
  3,000 troops
  7,000 contractors
  USS George H.W. Bush carrier strike group
  USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group
  F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18 Super Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and F-22 Raptor fighter jets
  B-1 Lancer bomber aircraft
  EA-6B Prowler & EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft
  Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters
  MQ-1 armed Predator, MQ-9 armed Reaper drones
Australia  
  400 RAAF personnel
  200 special forces troops
  6 F/A-18 Super Hornets fighter-bombers
  1 Boeing 737 AEW&C surveillance aircraft
  1 KC-30A refueling plane
  C-130J Hercules & C-17A Globemaster transport aircraft
Bahrain*  
  Participation in strike against Syrian targets
Belgium  
  6 F-16 Falcon fighters
  120 supporting troops
Canada  
  600 Canadian Armed Forces personnel
  100 special operations forces
  6 McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet fighter-bombers
  2 Lockheed CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft
  1 Airbus CC-150 Polaris refueling tanker
  C-130J Hercules & CC-177 Globemaster III transport aircraft
Denmark  
  7 F-16 Falcon fighters
  250 supporting troops
  1 C-130J Hercules transport plane and associated support staff
New Zealand  
  10 military advisers
France  
  9 Dassault Rafale fighter-bomber
Germany  
  40 troops
Italy  
  280 troops
  4 Panavia Tornado fighter-bombers (reconnaissance only)
  1 Boeing KC-767 tanker for in-flight refueling
  2 unarmed MQ-1 Predator UAVs
Jordan*  
  Participation in strike against Syrian targets
Netherlands  
  6 F-16 Falcon fighters + 2 spare
  250 supporting troops
  130 trainers for the Iraqi Army
  2 Patriot missile batteries and 200 troops in Turkey (border defence).
Spain  
  300 trainers
  6 Patriot missile batteries and 130 troops in Turkey (against cross-border attacks)
Saudi Arabia*  
  Panavia Tornado fighter bombers participation in strike against Syrian targets
   
United Arab Emirates  
  F-16E/F fighter bombers participation in strike against Syrian targets
United Kingdom*  
  1 Boeing RC-135 Reconnaissance aircraft
  8 Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft
  2 armed MQ-9 Reaper UAVs
  1 Type 45 destroyer
  1 Trafalgar-class submarine (SSN)
  Special forces including the Special Air Service (SAS) and additional cargo aircraft & air to air tanker aircraft on standby in the area.

-

Note: * Only the U.S. and U.K. contingents openly operate frequently in Syria.

Sources: Kenneth Katzman, Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud, Rhoda Margesson, Alex Tiersky, and Matthew C. Weed, ‘The ‘Islamic State’ Crisis and U.S. Policy’, Congressional Research Service, Report R43612, 12 November 2014, pp.9-10, at http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R43612.pdf; ‘Saudi Arabia confirms role in strikes against Islamic State in Syria’, Reuters, 23 September 2014, at http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/23/us-syria-crisis-saudi-idUSKCN0HI1Y120140923.

’2014 American-led intervention in Iraq’, Wikipedia [accessed 4 December 2014], at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_American-led_intervention_in_Iraq;

Craig Whitlock,’U.S. begins airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria’, Washington Post, 23 September 2014, at http://----escape_autolink_uri:96b4503563efc218c54fe0b9810410df----.


Three steps on the Australian escalator to war

While begun in surprised response to the spectacular gains Islamic State made in its offensive in its summer offensive through northern and central Iraq, there has been a theatrical quality to the moves by the main members of the coalition. The Free Press in high propaganda mode (pace Chomsky) obligingly highlighted the manifestly criminal actions of the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, especially towards westerners – while ignoring the role of the US occupation of Iraq in creating key conditions for both the emergence of IS and the enfeebled Iraqi state. The US then led a core group of reliable allies committing forces for ‘advice and training’ and air interdiction, with earnest promises of ‘no ground troops, never’, followed by the other shoe dropping as military analysts discovered, to great surprise, that perhaps, ground troops might be needed after all.

The Australian part of this war in Iraq began with classic – indeed brazenly cynical – mission creepin three choreographed moves.

On June 20th, the day the United States deployed 300 military advisors, Australia’s new war began with the announcement of the deployment of ‘ a small detachment’ of Australian Defence Force personnel to defend the Australian Embassy in the Green Zone of Baghdad.8 No details of the size or makeup of the army detachment have been made public.

In mid-August, stressing the strictly humanitarian nature of the ADF mission, the Prime Minister announced that two RAAF C-130 Hercules transport aircraft were to be based at Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates tocarry relief supplies (bottled water, high-energy biscuits, and hygiene packs), to Iraqi Yazidi refugees trapped by IS forces on Mount Sinjar in the far north of Iraq.9 After a report that one of the C-130s had come under small arms ground fire a small contingent of SAS troops and a detachment of elite RAAF Airfield Defence Guards were sent to provide close security for the transport planes, which also operate with USAF fighter protection.10 Again, the actual size and operational activities of these detachments was not made public.

Finally, on September 15th, Abbott announced the immediate deployment of combat forces to Iraq, made up of an Air Task Group and a Special Operations Task Group, starting with an initial 600 personnel. Australia is likely toincrease the ground troop component of its Iraq deployment following President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the sidelines of the Beijing APEC Summit in mid-November.11

The first two months of ADF operations

Both the air and ground forces were initially based in the United Arab Republic at the huge Al Minhad Air Base which has been the command and logistical centre of Australian Middle Eastern and Afghanistan operations, under the rubric of Joint Task Force 633, since 2008.12 Even before the current build-up, and more than four years after the Australian withdrawal from America’s second Iraq War, there was still a large ADF presence in the Middle East – a region where Australian operations were supposedly winding down.

As of early 2014, Australia already had 800 ADF personnel at Al Minhad, providing, command, logistical, and transport support for the diminished but still ongoing Australian operation in Afghanistan, including 400 special forces troops (Operation Slipper), and the long-running Australian Navy western Indian Ocean patrols in the task forces that make up the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Combined Task Force (Operation Manitou). 13

In-country deployment of the 200-strong Special Operations Task Group was stalled for almost two months by the reluctance of the Iraqi government to agree to Australia’s proposed agreement to limit Iraqi jurisdiction over the actions of Australian forces. In mid-November, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop returned from a visit to Baghdad, telling Parliament on November 22nd that ‘I was able to reach agreement on the legal framework that will now enable our special forces to be deployed to Iraq to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces.’ There were, she said, now just ‘necessary administrative arrangements to enable the deployment to take place’ to be put in place by the ADF.14

As it turned out, these arrangements took another two weeks to complete, and it was not until November 5th that the ADF’s Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston was able to say that ‘a series of administrative actions that we had to take’ were complete. However, said Johnston, ‘the government of Iraq has asked that we not reveal the nature of the arrangement between the two countries.’ 15

On November 25, Johnston announced that the movement of the Special Operations Task Group had been ‘largely completed’, with the special forces installed in the 350-acre State Department-managed Baghdad Diplomatic Security Centre – logistics and accommodation hub within the Baghdad Airport precinct retained by the U.S. after the 2011 troop withdrawal.16

The special forces soldiers will be partnered with Iraqi counter-terrorism forces, and accompanying them to forward operating bases, working in an ‘advise-assist’ role with the Iraqi special forces down to battalion-level. While ‘we’re not on patrol with them in the sense of going out to engage directly with ISIL forces’, Johnston said, SOTG personnel would carry heavy personal weaponry as and where the deployment of their Iraqi partners dictates. According to Paul Toohey of the Murdoch News Corporation, the SOTG is ‘under the leadership of the2nd Commando Regiment’.17

As of early December, the main actions in the opening stages of this Australian war have involved the Air Task Group, currently made up of six F/A-18F Super Hornets, a Boeing E-7A (737) Wedgetail airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft, and a KC-30A heavily modified Airbus A330 airliner used for air-to-air refueling and strategic transport.

In the first month of Australian air operations in Iraq, the six F/A-18F Super Hornets conducted 89 sorties, dropping 27 laser or GPS guided 500-pound bombs on 14 targets, 11 of which were confirmed destroyed, and the rest damaged.18 In the first three weeks of November, Australian aircraft went on to release weapons on 20 occasions, including as part of a multinational strike with 20 aircraft attacking 44 targets, coordinating with a large scale Kurdish military force that the Australian commander said resulted in over 100 ISIL fighters killed. Australian forces took ‘a command role’, leading and planning in a major multinational coalition attack on a bomb factory in a densely populated part of the city of Mosul.19

Raytheon – JSOW

Hardened targets would have been attacked with 500 pound bombs known as AGM-154C Joint Standoff Weapons (JSOWs) costing $700,000 a piece from Raytheon (even though the principal design objective of these weapons is to enable high altitude release far from the danger of radar-guided ground to air missiles). When launched from high altitude these bombs glide more than 130 kilometers to their targets, guided by a combination of GPS coordinates and laser designation, with multiple warheads that can be set to detonate sequentially to allow the main warhead to penetrate hardened structures.20 The cheaper ($25,000) option the Super Hornets based at Al Minhad are equipped with is the GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) made by Boeing.21

 

GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)

The air attack raids in October and November were mainly directed at two target areas in Iraq critical for the possibility of slowing the IS advance.22 60 kilometers west of Baghdad, IS forces sized control of the massive Fallujah Barrage on the Euphrates River, first locking the water gates to deprive downstream communities of water, and later diverting waters leading into the dam, flooding the downstream region and impeding movement of Iraqi security forces.23 Australian and other coalition aircraft have also been attempting to break the IS-built berms of sand diverting the river.

Further to the north of the country, the RAAF has been supporting Iraqi government forces attempting to retake the strategically critical industrial city of Baiji on the Tigris, and in particular the Baiji oil refinery, the largest in the country.24 RAAF aircraft dropped more than 20 500 lb bombs on a range of targets around Baiji up to 25 November.25ISIS took the city on June 12th, and with it, control of the country’s principal north-south corridor along the Tigris to Tikrit, but an isolated Iraqi military group retained control of the refinery, despite repeated ISIS attacks.26

 

Fallujah Dam

 

The eventually successful Iraqi government offensive to retake the city began on October 24th, led by Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services (ICT) special forces, supported by coalition air strikes. By November 9, most of the town had been retaken, but the siege of the city continued for several more weeks before it was back under Kurdish military control.27

Strategically, this was a significant setback for ISIS, as explained by Harleen Gambhir:

‘Baiji is a strategic crossroads that connects ISIS routes across the border to Syria, southwest to Anbar, south to Baghdad, and east to the Hamrin Ridge. Its environs are thus a likely area for ISIS strategic command and control. Since ISIS’s June 2014 offensive, the ISIS military stronghold in the historic Za’ab Triangle has provided forward protection to the ISIS political stronghold in Mosul. Equally important, the Mosul-Tikrit highway has served as a central spine of the caliphate, from which ISIS has projected force to Mosul, Hawija, and Tikrit. The ISF and Shi’a militias have thus taken advantage of a critical ISIS vulnerability: peripheral control zones that, when opened, allow the ISF within striking distance of ISIS’s interior strongholds.’28

See here.

By contrast, Admiral Johnston emphasized the economic importance of the victory for Iraq, pointing out the refinery is capable of producing 170,000 – 300,000 barrels a day. However, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami had pointed out in September, well before the worst fighting for the plant, that repairs to that time to bring the refinery back on line would take more than a year.29

Operating out of the Al Minhad Air Base, far to the south of Iraq in the UAE, the KC-30A refueling aircraft, a heavily modified Airbus A-330, has delivered more than a million kilograms of aviation fuel to RAAF aircraft, as well to French and U.S. aircraft. Each Australian Super Hornet flying on missions from Al Minhad to central or northern Iraq and back could require aerial refueling four times on each flight.30

Asked in early November about the possibility of US planes flying on to operations in Syria after being refueled by the RAAF KC-30A, Admiral Johnston admitted it was quite possible, though he made no comment on the implications of Australia becoming involved in legally unmandated U.S. combat in Syria.

Networked alliance in asymmetrical operation

Tellingly, Vice-Admiral Johnston was most proud of the work of the Wedgetail E-7 airborne early warning and control aircraft, based on a Boeing 737, which he said provides ‘airspace command and control of all Coalition aircraft assigned to operations over in Iraq,’ and is reportedly managing over 80 aircraft on a single mission.31 Like the refueling aircraft, it is capable of being employed in operations involving U.S. strikes over the border in Syria. Although in a November 25 briefing Johnston insisted that the Wedgetail is being used for operations ‘only over Iraq’, he had made clear that the Australian contribution ensures that ‘there has been spare capacity that has been able to then be devoted towards the conflict in Syria.’32

Harvesting the fruits of Australia’s now high level of integration into U.S. military operations built over the past decade or more to establish ‘interoperability’ between the two, the E-7 AEW&C’s work in Iraq includes,

‘the passing of detailed directions that come from the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, including targeting details. And those targeting details work in a virtual network that includes information passed back to the United States in a live timeframe, back to the Middle East for correlation, and then out to the aircraft live. So when a target arises, or is seen, a target of opportunity, it can bounce across three-quarters of the globe, and we can be striking that target within about 15 minutes. So it’s a pretty incredible network that we have to correlate effects there.’33

The ‘pretty incredible network’ Johnston is referring to involves the Australian E-7 aircraft connecting to two components of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). Firstly, just southeast of Iraq in Qatar, Al Udeid Air Base hosts theCombined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC).34 ‘Combined’ in US military-speak means it involves U.S. units (in this case the USAF’s confusingly named 609th Air and Space Operations Center) cooperating with embedded representatives of 30 NATO and other allies, including 24 Australian personnel normally deployed on four-month rotations.35 CAOC in Qatar monitors and coordinates all regional US and allied air attacks – some 50 a day still in Afghanistan, and now comparable numbers, sure to rise, in Iraq and Syria.36

Secondly, apart from operations involving planned targets, Johnston refers to a rapid process of proposal, discussion and tasking of missions to attack potential targets of opportunity, so-called time-sensitive-targets, involving rapid backwards and forwards consultation between CAOC in Qatar, CENTCOM in MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, with the critical parts passing through the Wedgetail high over Iraq. In many cases, the Wedgetail would be working in tandem with MQ-9 Reaper U.S. and British attack drones and Global Hawk surveillance drones, downloading bandwidth-intensive sensor data, as well as uploaded command and control messages back to the drones.37 British Reaper drones have also been used in the campaign to recover Baiji, along with Australian Super Hornets.38 Al Udeid’s CAOC is hardwired through the Defense Information System Network with trans-Atlantic optical fibre to MacDill, as well as to CENTCOM’s two powerful regional computing hubs in Bahrain and Germany, as well as in the US itself.

In this case, this integration of the Australian military as auxiliary forces in U.S. global military operations brings considerable benefits to the United States. In particular, Australian (and other allies on the path to interoperability) aircraft operating in Iraqi air space free up U.S. aircraft to operate over Syria – an illegal step most coalition governments are at present unwilling to take. Moreover, since the aircraft involved are U.S-built, with U.S.-built communications and computing systems operating according to U.S. protocols and operating procedures, and with Australian crews trained with their U.S. counterparts in Australian air weapons and bombing ranges hard-wired with optical fibre into U.S. Pacific Command as well as Canberra headquarters, there is no loss to the U.S. in military effectiveness. As Australian military and political leaders like to assert, Australia is up there with ‘the biggest and the best.’

Yet the interdependence is profoundly asymmetric. The net result of this integration is that Australian forces today can no longer undertake operations like those in Iraq without U.S. approval and without access to U.S. military communications and computing systems. Moreover, a generation of the Australian military is becoming acculturated to a niche role in American imperial interventions, and building a military organisation that can only function effectively in that role.39

Rules of Engagement and civilian casualties

The targets of RAAF sorties in October and early November, Vice Admiral Johnston explained, were Islamic State’s ‘means of transportation, their heavy equipment, command and control modes, their logistic supply centres.’ ‘We go’, Johnston said ‘to enormous lengths to ensure that we have a very good understanding of the collateral damage that may occur from the strikes.’40

Johnston was echoing statements of Australian authorities in earlier Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that ADF standards for acceptable civilian casualties are higher than those currently employed by the United States military.41Throughout post-2000 operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Australian military and political leaders have maintained that ADF Rules of Engagement in those conflicts have maintained that ‘precise knowledge by an adversary of the limitations that have been placed on the use of force by Australian forces could endanger the lives of ADF personnel’, and are ‘by necessity, protected’. However, in the early stages of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, under what was then known as Operation Falconer, some broad guidelines that appear to have characterised subsequent ADF operations were set out by the Department of Defence, including:

  • compliance (‘in broad terms’) with Australia’s domestic and international legal obligations;
  • authorization of ‘necessary and proportionate lethal force all Iraqi military and paramilitary forces’;
  • prohibition on attack of ‘civilians or other persons protected by the Geneva Conventions, such as those who are incapacitated by sickness or wounding, and are unable to defend themselves, or who have surrendered’;
  • prohibition on use of land mines and cluster munitions; and
  • more stringent standards than those of United States military.42

The secrecy surrounding ADF operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past and in Iraq today inhibits verification of these and similar claims, but in 2004 an Australian pilot told the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘each of the 14 RAAF Hornet pilots aborted three to four bombing runs because intelligence given at pre-flight briefings did not concur with what they found at the target’.43

In October 2014, the head of the Australian military, Air Chief Marshal Binskin, said that the Air Task Group commander, Air Commodore Steven Robertson, an experienced Super Hornet pilot, would be based at the Qatar CAOC, and would be responsible for ensuring that RAAF operations conform to the ADF’s Rules of Engagement for the region.

‘They always have the red card and anyone down the chain, right to the men and women that are on the cockpit of the Hornets, have the ability to play that red card should the situation arise where they’re not happy with the targeting or what they’re doing, or there’s a potential for collateral damage in there.’44

As of October 17th, ‘the red card’ had only been applied on one occasion, and that was a decision by operational headquarters in Qatar, on the basis that ‘it now exceeded our risk parameters’.45

While it is possible to imagine circumstances where an adversary could take advantage of precise knowledge of operational guidelines, it is difficult to see much room for IS exploitation of ROEs covering air strikes. The ADF itself has publicly confirmed that the one major constraint that IS could exploit – that is, if IS ground forces were able to see that attacking aircraft are Australian and not American – does not apply, since bombing attacks are conducted at such an altitude that the targets on the ground are rarely aware of the attack until the moment the bombs strike the ground.

The Rules of Engagement under which both the Air Task Group and the Special Forces Task Group operate substantially determine what ADF commanders consider to be acceptable levels of collateral casualties from ADF operations. According to Vice-Admiral Johnston on November 5th, ‘there have been no instances I’m aware of that there’s been a potential for civilian deaths.’46 This is not quite a denial that there have been no civilian deaths, and in fact the ADF public reports on its website listing daily RAAF sorties in the first month of attacks, were highly uninformative, at most saying RAAF fighter-bombers ‘attacked ISIL targets’.47

Moreover, as the war has progressed, the amount of information on RAAF airstrikes has dropped dramatically. Limited though they were, the Air Task Group website provided almost daily reports of air strikes between October 1st and November 3rd. However, there were none in the subsequent five weeks to mid-December, despite the fact that in a press conference on November 25th, the Australian commander spoke of a ‘high tempo’ of air operations, saying that weapons were released on 20 occasions in the preceding 20 days.48

Taking the example of the undated November multinational attack on an IS bomb-making factory in a populated area of the city of Mosul, the Director General Air Operations, Air Commodore ‘Joe’ Vincent Iervasi, outlined the ADF (and coalition) use of target intelligence and surveillance to establish ‘a pattern of life to understand who is generally moving around that area’: ’And generally speaking, leading up to that particular strike the pattern of life indicated that it was ISIL moving in and around those facilities there. So by extension, it was highly unlikely that there were non-ISIL individuals involved or in the vicinity of those particular strikes.’49

While there is no specific reason to challenge the belief of either commander, neither Johnston’s nor Iervasi’s assertions amount to a denial that there have been no civilian deaths – nor, given the circumstances of the air war, would they be able to do so.

On the evidence of past wars by the U.S. and its allies, independent assessment of government claims of avoidance of civilian casualties is essential for their citizens to be able to have confidence of the true character of the wars conducted in their names. In the current case, the minimal information revealed by the Australian government is slowing to a trickle. In the first month of RAAF Iraq operations from October 1st, the ADF posted reports on its website almost listing daily RAAF sorties. While the reports were uninformative, at most saying RAAF fighter-bombers ‘attacked ISIL targets’, even such minimal nods towards informing the Australian public were abandoned. No update of the Air Task Group Operations Timeline appeared between November 3rd and the time of writing December 5th.50

In fact, there is already considerable evidence that air strikes by Australia’s allies and air strikes and shelling by the Iraqi military Iraqi military are repeatedly causing civilian deaths. Iraqi media agencies have reported a number of civilian casualties from coalition air strikes. For example, during the month of October, the National Iraqi News Agency reported the following incidents:51

  • 6 October: ‘A medical source in Hit announced on Monday the killing of 22 civilians, including 5 women and 4 children, and wounding 43 others, mostly women and children by bombing of the international coalition aircraft the center of the popular market of Hit district, in addition to the bombing of an apartment building inhabited with families. The source told the National Iraqi News Agency (Nina) that the planes of the international coalition did not focus so far in their airstrikes on gatherings of the IS, adding that the building, which was bombed by mistake was just 70 meters far of the IS gathering.’ The US military was reported to have rejected the claimed civilian deaths as ‘false’, adding that it had not seen evidence of any civilians killed.
  • 25 October: ‘A medical source in Nineveh said on Saturday that a US raid on a stronghold of the IS killed two civilians by mistake. The source told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that the forensic medicine in Mosul received the body of two civilians were killed by mistake in a US raid in Qayyarah district, southern Mosul.’
  • 26 October: ‘Ten civilians and 13 elements of the IS were killed in the village of Aionat northwest of Mosul by bombing of the aircraft of the international coalition. A security source told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that the forensic medicine in Mosul received the bodies of ten civilians were killed by mistake bombing of the international coalition aircraft, with killing 13 elements of the IS by those aircraft on the strongholds of the organization in the village of Aionat, 110 km northwest of Mosul.’

Given the highly restricted information published by the Australian and other coalition governments about the bombing attacks conducted by their air forces in Iraq, there is no way of knowing which coalition aircraft were involved in these attacks. But the fact remains that responsible Iraqi journalists, working in highly constrained circumstances, have published these plausible claims.

Moreover, the forces of the government the ‘Global Coalition’ seeks to support has itself been conducting military operations that have resulted in many deaths of Iraqi non-combatants. In one of the most critical areas of Islamic State’s advance in recent weeks, a large number of deaths have been reported as a consequence of Iraqi Security Force artillery shelling and air strikes. In the month of October, 178 Iraqi civilians were reported killed by government shelling and air strikes, and 285 wounded.52 In the first week of November alone, 47 were reported killed and 128 wounded. Most of these casualties of Iraqi government forces were in the critical region of Fallujah in Anbar province, where Islamic State has been advancing rapidly in the late summer.53 This is despite repeated promises from Prime Minister Abadi that these highly inaccurate and effectively indiscriminate Iraqi military artillery and air strikes on the Sunni population of the region would be stopped.54

Why is there not a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq?

The reliance of the Australian government on a justification of ‘operational concerns’ to keep secret the Rules of Engagement governing the combat activities of Australian bombers and special forces has a measure of plausibility, however exaggerated. The refusal by the government to provide even a summary account of the nature of the ‘legal framework’ and ‘administrative arrangements’ agreed between the Australian and Iraqi governments that allow the deployment of the Australian air and ground forces in Iraq is quite different, and raises a number of disturbing legal and political questions about the nature of those secret arrangements.

Agreements of this type are usually known as Status of Forces Agreements, and while they vary in their range of concerns, their fundamental concern is to establish limits on the jurisdiction of the host country over troops deployed under the agreement.55

Governments sending military personnel are concerned firstly to limit the exposure of their troops to the legal processes of the country they are defending, and secondly to bolster their own domestic legitimacy by assuring the citizens of their own country that military operations conducted in their name are lawful in the eyes of the host country.

Host country governments usually have the reverse concern, especially where they have had previous experience with foreign deployments. They seek to maximise their own jurisdiction, and to assure their own population that the agreements will provide them with protection from extra-legal operations and activities by foreign troops.

In countries like Japan and South Korea with long standing U.S. military presences the revision of SOFAs written in the past when relations with the U.S were even more hierarchical than at present is a deeply contentious issue, even amongst conservative supporters of alliance with the United States.

In the past, the need for an adequate and appropriately written SOFA has been a deeply contentious issue in Iraq, and a matter of great concern for both the United States and Australian governments. As the U.S. prepared to withdraw from its occupation of Iraq in 2006-7, it sought to negotiate a binding legal basis for its future relationship with Iraq, including astrong element of protection for whatever forces it chose to maintain there. In the year that followed the signing of a framework ‘declaration of principles’, there was bitter conflict within the Iraqi government and parliament over a proposed agreement, and considerable pressure from the United States to overcome Iraqi resistance to the terms of the agreement.56

Eventually, in November 2008, two documents were signed by the representatives of the two governments:the Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Iraq, and the Agreement Between the United States of America and Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq. While dealing with a wide range of issues about the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, the latter was regarded as a Status of Forces Agreement, in principle to be in force for three years after its ratification.

What is important for current purposes is the process of ratification on the Iraqi side. The Iraqi Constitution of 2005 specified that approval of such a treaty or agreement was required from three parts of the Iraqi state: the cabinet or Council of Ministers; the pre-eminent legislative body, the Council of Representatives; and the president and two vice-presidents sitting as the Presidency Council.57 The agreements with the United States were approved by these bodies on 16 November, 27 Novemberand 4 December 2008 respectively.58 The agreements entered into force at the beginning of the following year, and expired at the end of 2011.

The Australian 2008 SOFA process

While this result was extremely important for the United States, it was also one about which the Australian government expressed deep concern – albeit, not in public. A cable from the Political Counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra on 7 February 2008, released by Wikileaksreported on the Australian government’s concern to get a full SOFA, as expressed to the embassy by David Hallett, Director for Iraq, International Policy Division, Department of Defence:

‘According to Hallett, Australia needs a treaty-level agreement for its forces in Iraq, i.e., one requiring consideration by the GOA Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and approval by the National Security Committee of Cabinet. The arrangement must be legally enforceable, not only on Australia but also on Iraq. For that reason, he said, Australia wants to see protections enshrined in Iraqi law. He added Australia is concerned about the length of time it takes for the Iraqi Parliament to pass legislation. Hallett suggested that more limited arrangements that Australia has used in the past, including MOUs, MOAs and exchanges of letters, might not suffice for Iraq, noting that historically Australia has negotiated bilateral SOFAs. ADF forces must have immunity from criminal and civil jurisdiction, with Australia retaining exclusive right to waive immunity.’59

At the time Australia was waiting to see how the U.S. negotiations with a recalcitrant Iraqi government would turn out, hoping possibly to piggyback on the more powerful Americans. But by October, the embassy was reportingthat the Australians ‘sought a green light from the United States to begin bilateral SOFA negotiations with the Iraqi government’.60 By December, the U.S. was losing patience with the Australian government’s conviction ‘that in order for any such agreement to be binding, it must be ratified by the COR [Council of Representatives]’. Michael H. Corbin, the senior political advisor in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad recommended the State Department issue a formal demarche – basically one stop before a protest – to the Australian government recommending that it abandon the attempt to get a SOFA approved by the Iraqi parliament.61

In Baghdad the Iraqi government continued to resist pressures for the Australian SOFA proposal, ultimately declaring it would simply not process any more applications. The Australian government followed the advice in the American demarche and abandoned efforts to obtain a SOFA-level agreement. The Rudd government withdrew all combat forces, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Iraqi government concerning the temporary presence (until mid-2009) of some 120 ADF personnel who were embedded or in administrative roles with the remaining United States-led multinational force or with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).62

Volte face: in lieu of a SOFA, diplomatic passports for foreign soldiers

The United States and Australia accordingly faced the same problem in mid-2014: how could they deploy troops who would likely face combat in strife-torn Iraq without the legal protections of a SOFA, given that the political prospects of Iraqi cabinet and parliamentary approval for a negotiated SOFA, with its intimations of diminished Iraqi sovereignty, were almost zero? The solution constructed by the U.S. and then followed by Australia, was to take refuge under the shelter of the intervention as an ‘emergency’, with its justification by urgency, and with claims that the numbers involved would be small and the duration short.63

After protracted ‘sensitive’ talks, the U.S. government announced in late June that it had come to an agreement with the Iraqi government, confirmed by an exchange of diplomatic notes, that would give the US military personnel then about to be deployed as advisers, trainers, and targeting aides legal status in Iraq ‘similar to those provided for diplomatic and military personnel working inside the U.S. embassy.’64 At that time the White House justified the shift from its 2011 concerns for a legally-viable SOFA saying that there was ‘a difference between the small number of advisers we’re talking about, 300 [now] and the few thousand troops’. By the first week of November, the president had authorized the deployment of 3,100 U.S. military personnel to Iraq, including 820 to guard the U.S. embassy and related facilities, and to secure evacuation routes to the Baghdad airport.65

The Australian government pursued a similar path, but with less ability to assuage the sovereignty concerns of the Iraqi government, the process took much longer. As noted, the Australian public was told through September and October that negotiations were proceeding as well as could be expected, given the situation of the newly formed government, with its cabinet still a work in progress. In mid-October the Australian government maintained that all necessary legal arrangements for the special forces deployment were in hand, and all that remained were apparently minor administrative matters.

However, after the issue of the apparent lack of a SOFA was raised on 14 November, the Australian government reversed its position on maintaining the secrecy it claimed had been requested by the Iraqi government on the agreement allowing special forces into Iraq. News Corp. journalist Paul Toohey confirmed that the Iraqi government had indeed rejected the Australian proposal for a SOFA as ‘too great an incursion on their sovereign rights’.

In its place, a Defence Department spokesperson admitted, the Iraqi government had agreed to allow the Australian special forces into Iraq on the basis that each soldier carry an Australian diplomatic passport. Toohey reported that considerable Australian pressure had been exerted to obtain the agreement on the diplomatic passports, which also included ‘certain discretionary rights’, whose nature was not released.66

This end run around both Iraqi constitutional processes and Iraqi reluctance to collaborate in the deployment of foreign fighters is completely outside the normal and expected use of diplomatic passports, particularly in such large numbers, which in any case are certain to increase. It is not clear whether the 400 Air Task Group personnel have also been issued with diplomatic passports, but they are reportedly still based outside Iraq. Nor is it clear whether the ‘small contingent’ of ADF special forces guarding the Australian embassy in Baghdad are covered by this agreement.

There is good reason for both Australians and Iraqi to be concerned about this unprecedented use of Australian diplomatic passports by 200 elite soldiers deployed into a combat zone, reasons which are as much political and strategic as they are legal.

This ‘solution’ is the definition of a bad idea – one that will not provide the legal protection soldiers need when things go wrong, and since the special forces are engaged in anything but diplomatic representation, will degrade the status of Australian diplomatic passports, putting our diplomats at risk in the future.

There are very good prudential and political reasons for fully approved SOFAs, as demonstrated both by Australia’s use of them on numerous occasions in the past two decades (including in Afghanistan, Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands, and with the governments of the United States, Indonesia, South Africa, Tonga, Fiji, and Papua-New Guinea67) and by the anxiety to acquire one from the Iraqi government both in 2008 and again in 2014. Politically, a properly and appropriately worded SOFA ensures that the host government accepts that the presence of the foreign troops (or police) is constrained in ways acceptable to the host country’s citizens – and is prepared to ‘own’ that foreign military presence.

This is very clearly not the case with the present Iraqi government. The fact that the Iraqi government wanted the non-SOFA arrangement kept secret suggests they know full well that the presence of foreign troops is not acceptable to substantial parts of the Iraqi population the ADF is meant to be defending. This in itself should sound a warning bell about the Abbott government’s rush to war.

The fact that the two governments have been caught out trying to do an end run around the Iraqi constitutional requirements for parliamentary approval of the deployment of foreign forces will worsen the mistrust that many Iraqis have shown towards a highly sectarian government and the foreign troops supporting it.

In this situation, a proper and comprehensive SOFA, approved by Iraq’s specified constitutional processes, might have provided some legal protection for Australian special forces troops in the event they are involved in actions that result in loss of life or serious wounding of Iraqi non-combatants. The nature of specific ‘discretionary rights’ attached to the special forces’ use of diplomatic passports is far outside the normal and expected use of diplomatic passports, particularly in large numbers, which are highly likely to increase.

Members of the Special Operations Task Group, advisors and trainers or whatever they may be labelled, are certain to find themselves in combat at some point, and with a high risk of non-combatant Iraqi casualties. Use of diplomatic passports to protect ADF soldiers from Iraqi legal jurisdiction at such points – or from antagonism by those immediately affected – or from the wider Iraqi public, is likely to be politically ineffective and counter-productive.

Indeed the whole approach to the legal basis on which the ADF has been deployed to Iraq, like so much of the American-led war itselfis fundamentally counter-productive, and shows a large measure of disregard, if not contempt, for both Iraqi sovereignty and for the right of Australians to know the basis on which our forces are fighting in foreign wars. 15 December 2014

Richard Tanter is Senior Research Associate at the Nautilus Institute and teaches in the School of Politics and Social Science at the University of Melbourne. A Japan Focus contributing editor, he has written widely on Japanese, Indonesian and global security policy. He co-edited with Gerry Van Klinken and Desmond Ball, Masters of Terror: Indonesia’s Military and Violence in East Timor [second edition 2013]. This is a revised and expanded version of an article that appeared as a Nautilus Institute Policy Forum paper. Email: [email protected] Home page: http://nautilus.org/network/associates/richard-tanter/publications/

Notes

1 Mark Kenny, ‘Abbott declares war on the Islamic State ‘death cult’’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 September 2014.

2 ‘Okra Home’, Defence Operations – Iraq, Department of Defence, accessed 14 November 2014.

3 ‘Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL’, U.S. Department of State.

4 In this article, the English language terms and acronyms Islamic State (IS), Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are used interchangeably. For a review of the differences and their significance, see Lizzie Dearden, ‘Isis vs Islamic State vs Isil vs Daesh: What do the different names mean – and why does it matter?’ The Guardian, 23 September 2014; and ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’, Wikipedia, accessed 15 December 2014.

5 ‘US flies roughly 85 percent of airstrikes against Islamic State, in complex mix of tactics, politics’, Fox News, 30 November 2014.

6 ‘Saudi Arabia confirms role in strikes against Islamic State in Syria’, Reuters, 23 September 2014; Craig Whitlock, ‘U.S. begins airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria’, Washington Post, 23 September 2014; and ‘Arab backing to US-led airstrikes in Syria widens front against Islamic State’, Washington Post, 23 September 2014.

7 Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Lucy Hornby, ‘China offers to help Iraq defeat Sunni extremists’, Financial Times, 12 December 2014.

8 ‘Iraq crisis: Australian troops to be sent to guard embassy in Baghdad’, ABC News, 20 June 2014; and ‘Australian Embassy – Baghdad’, Australia in Iraq, Australian Forces Abroad, Nautilus Institute.

9 Paul Barratt, ‘Here we go again’, Arena Magazine 133, October 2014; and ‘ADF mission in Iraq continues’, Air Force, 11 September 2014, p. 5. In the week pror to 25 November, the RAAF conducted four more humanitarian missions to the Mount Sinjar region. See Chief of Joint Operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and Director General Air Operations, Air Commodore Vincent ‘Joe’ Iervasi on Australian operations in Iraq 25 November 2014, Transcript, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence.

10 Ian McPhedran, ‘ISIS rebels shoot at RAAF C-130 Hercules with Australians on board’, news.co,au, 2 September 2014.

11 David Wroe, ‘Australia may send up to 400 additional troops to Iraq’, The Age, 11 November 2014; and Mark Kenny, ‘Barack Obama ‘having conversations’ with Australia to increase Iraq troop commitment’, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 2014.

12 ‘Al Minhad Air Base’, Australian Bases Abroad, Nautilus Institute; and ‘Headquarters Joint Task Force 633 – Middle East Area of Operations’, Australian Forces Abroad, Nautilus Institute.

13 General D.J. Hurley, AC, DSC, Chief of the Defence Force, Opening Statement, Budget Estimates Hearing, 26 February 2014.

14 Question time – outcomes of visit to Iraq and how it contributes to international efforts to combat ISIL and other terrorist organisations, Transcript, E&OE, Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, 22 October 2014.

15 Chief of Joint Operations and Director General Air Operations brief journalists on ADF operations in Iraq, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence, 5 November 2014.

16 DRAFT, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, BAGHDAD LIFE SUPPORT SERVICES (BLISS) SOLICITATION SAQMMA-12-R-0130, 16 November 2012, p. 5; and Chief of Joint Operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and Director General Air Operations, Air Commodore Vincent ‘Joe’ Iervasi on Australian operations in Iraq 25 November 2014, Transcript, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence.

17 Paul Toohey, ‘Australia’s Special Forces troops Iraq bound for Islamic State fight stuck in UAE’, news.com.au, 15 October 2014.

18 ‘ADF operations in Iraq: RAAF plans and leads attacks on ISIL’, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence, 5 November 2014.

19 Chief of Joint Operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and Director General Air Operations, Air Commodore Vincent ‘Joe’ Iervasi on Australian operations in Iraq 25 November 2014, Transcript, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence.

20 ‘AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW)’, Wikipedia, accessed 14 November 2014; ‘AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW)’, Raytheon; and Ian McPhedran, ‘RAAF fighters and Super Hornets ready to fight IS in Iraq’, news.com.au, 27 September 2014.

21 ‘Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition’, Boeing.

22 Chief of Joint Operations and Director General Air Operations brief journalists on ADF operations in Iraq, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence, 5 November 2014.

23 ‘Al-Qaeda militants close all dam gates in Iraq’s Fallujah’, PressTV, 15 April 2014; and SRSG Mladenov Visits Abu Ghraib, Appeals for Urgent Resolution to the Crisis’, News, United Nations Iraq, 14 May 2014.

24 Chief of Joint Operations and Director General Air Operations brief journalists on ADF operations in Iraq, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence, 5 November 2014.

25 Chief of Joint Operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and Director General Air Operations, Air Commodore Vincent ‘Joe’ Iervasi on Australian operations in Iraq 25 November 2014, Transcript, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence.

26 See the detailed account of the Baiji campaign and its regional implications of its loss for ISIS by Harleen Gambhir: ‘ISIS Risks Losing Baiji City’, Iraq Updates, Institute for the Study of War, 14 November 2014.

27 Jack Moore, ‘Isis Driven Out of Baiji Oil Refinery Town by Iraqi Forces’, International Business Times, 14 November 2014; Charles Poldaian, ‘Battle For Baiji Oil Refinery: Islamic State Militants Are Retreating After Monthlong Siege: Report’, International Business Times, 15 November 2014.

28 Harleen Gambhir: ‘ISIS Risks Losing Baiji City’, Iraq Updates, Institute for the Study of War, 14 November 2014.

29 Humeyra Pamuk, ‘Iraq’s Baiji Refinery repairs to take at least a year’, Reuters, Al Arabiya, 4 September 2014.

30 Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston and Air Commodore ‘Joe’ Vincent Iervasi, deliver the second briefing in the Australia room at the Australian Defence Offices in Russell, Canberra, 17 October 2014. Transcript, Department of Defence.

31 ‘Internationally Integrated’, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence, 10 December 2014.

32 Chief of Joint Operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and Director General Air Operations, Air Commodore Vincent ‘Joe’ Iervasi on Australian operations in Iraq 25 November 2014, Transcript, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence; and Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston and Air Commodore ‘Joe’ Vincent Iervasi, deliver the second briefing in the Australia room at the Australian Defence Offices in Russell, Canberra, 17 October 2014. Transcript, Department of Defence.

33 Chief of Joint Operations and Director General Air Operations brief journalists on ADF operations in Iraq, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence, 5 November 2014.

34 Thom Shanker, ‘Hagel Lifts Veil on Major Military Center in Qatar’, New York Times, 11 December 2013.

35 ‘609 Air and Space Operations Center (ACC)’, Fact Sheet, Air Force Historical Research Agency, 8 February 2010; and Raymond Hoy, ‘Small Australian force filling big role’, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, 1 May 2013.

36 Thom Shanker, ‘Hagel Lifts Veil on Major Military Center in Qatar’, New York Times, 11 December 2013.

37 ‘Military Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria and Iraq Supporting Operation Inherent Resolve’, U.S. Central Command, Department of Defense, 1 December 2014.

38 ‘UK drone carries out first strike in Iraq’, BBC News 10 November 2014.

39 ‘The US military presence in Australia: asymmetrical alliance cooperation and its alternatives’, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 45, No. 1, 11 November 2013.

40 Chief of Joint Operations and Director General Air Operations brief journalists on ADF operations in Iraq, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence, 5 November 2014.

41 ‘Rules of Engagement – Afghanistan and Iraq’, Australia in Afghanistan, Australian Forces Abroad, Nautilus Institute.

42 Richard Tanter, ‘Rules of Engagement – Afghanistan and Iraq’, Australia in Afghanistan Briefing Book, Nautilus Institute.

43 Frank Walker, ‘Our pilots refused to bomb 40 times’, Sydney Morning Herald, March 14, 2004.

44 Brendan Nicholson, ‘All RAAF crews in Iraq have mission veto if populace at risk’, The Australian, 6 October 2014.

45 Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston and Air Commodore ‘Joe’ Vincent Iervasi, deliver the second briefing in the Australia room at the Australian Defence Offices in Russell, Canberra, 17 October 2014. Transcript, Department of Defence.

46 Chief of Joint Operations and Director General Air Operations brief journalists on ADF operations in Iraq, Defence News and Media, Department of Defence, 5 November 2014.

47 ‘Air Task Group (ATG), Operation Okra, Department of Defence.

48 Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston and Air Commodore ‘Joe’ Vincent Iervasi, deliver the second briefing in the Australia room at the Australian Defence Offices in Russell, Canberra, 17 October 2014. Transcript, Department of Defence.

49 Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston and Air Commodore ‘Joe’ Vincent Iervasi, deliver the second briefing in the Australia room at the Australian Defence Offices in Russell, Canberra, 17 October 2014. Transcript, Department of Defence.

50 ‘Timeline, Air Task Group’, Operation Okra, Department of Defence [accessed 5 December 2014].

51 National Iraqi News Agency.

52 Joel Wing, ‘Violence In Iraq October 2014 IS Massacres & ISF Offensives’, Musings on Iraq, 4 November 2014.

53 Joel Wing, ‘Islamic State Executions In Anbar Keep Casualties High In 1st Week of Nov. 2014’, Musings on Iraq, 10 November 2014.

54 Joel Wing, ‘IS Still Making Charge In Anbar While Iraq Forces On Offensive In Babil & Salahaddin 3rd Wk Of October 2014’, Musings on Iraq, 27 October 2014.

55 R. Chuck Mason, Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA): What Is It, and How Has It Been Utilized? Congressional Research Service, RL34531, 15 March 2014.

56 Both the Maliki government and its critics, both Sunni and Shia, resisted U.S. impositions on Iraqi sovereignty. See Sudarsan Raghavan and Saad Sarhan, ‘Top Shiite Cleric in Iraq Raises Concerns About Security Pact’, Washington Post, 30 November 2008; and Sami Moubayed, ‘SOFA not sitting well in Iraq’, Asia Times, 2 December 2008.

57 ‘Iraqi Constitution’, Iraq, World Intellectual Property Organization.

58 R. Chuck Mason, U.S.-Iraq Withdrawal/Status of Forces Agreement: Issues for Congressional Oversight, Congressional Research Service, 13 July 2014.

59 ‘Viewing cable 08CANBERRA103, AUSTRALIAN DEFENSE TEAM TO VISIT U.S. RE IRAQ’, Wikileaks; and Linda Pearson, ‘WikiLeaks shows US pressure for war crimes immunity’, Green Left Weekly, 28 October 2013. Pearson’s account of this sequence, based largely on Wikileaks is a valuable account of the events of 2008.

60 ‘Viewing cable 08CANBERRA1025, 2008 U.S.-AUSTRALIA POL-MIL TALKS: PART I’, Wikileaks; and Pearson. op.cit.

61 ‘Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD3794, STATUS OF COALITION PARTNERS IN IRAQ; RECOMMENDED’, Wikileaks; and Pearson. op.cit.

62 Linda Pearson, ‘WikiLeaks shows US pressure for war crimes immunity’, Green Left Weekly, 28 October 2013; and ‘Viewing cable 09CANBERRA57, SCENE SETTER FOR CDR USN SEVENTH FLEET VADM J.’, Wikileaks.

63 Andrew Tilghman, ‘U.S. and Iraq agree on immunity for American troops’, Navy Times, 23 June 2014.

64 Andrew Tilghman, ‘U.S. and Iraq agree on immunity for American troops’, Navy Times, 23 June 2014.

65 Kenneth Katzman, Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud, Rhoda Margesson, Alex Tiersky, and Matthew C. Weed, ‘The ‘Islamic State’ Crisis and U.S. Policy’, Congressional Research Service, Report R43612, 12 November 2014, pp.9-10.

66 Paul Toohey, ‘Australian special forces enter Iraq with diplomatic passports’, The Australian, 14 November 2014.

67 For listings of a range of previous Status of Force-type agreements involving the Australian defence Force, see Richard Tanter, ‘Status of Forces’, Australian Forces Abroad, Nautilus Institute.

Another MH17 Cover-Up: Hiding a Key Autopsy

December 24th, 2014 by Eric Zuesse

Decisive evidence as to how the July 17th shooting-down of the MH17 Malaysian airliner occurred is being hidden by the four-nation team that’s doing the official ‘investigation’ into the plane-downing incident.

This decisive evidence is the coroner’s report on the corpse of the airliner’s pilot. If the pilot was killed by bullets, then the standard ‘explanation’ of the downing (that the plane was downed by a ground-fired missile) isn’t just false, it’s an outright hoax. So: where’s the pilot’s autopsy?

This investigation is important because stringent economic sanctions against Russia were instituted immediately after the downing; these sanctions were based upon never-substantiated charges from the Ukrainian Government, and from its sponsor the U.S. Government, alleging that the plane had been downed by rebels who were supported by Russia. (The “Buk” missile launcher charged by Ukraine as the cause was actually manned by Ukraine’s soldiers.)

The same Government, the U.S., that had lied its way into invading Iraq, might now be orchestrating still-more-dangerous frauds, with the potential even for a nuclear war against Russia.

The four nations doing the official investigation and report into the airliner-downing are: Ukraine, Australia, Belgium, and Netherlands. All four are U.S. allies; and, one of them, Ukraine, is one of the two main suspects in this case, the other being separatists against the Ukrainian Government. (They’re not represented in this ‘investigation.’) The United States and Ukraine say that the airliner was downed by separatists who mistakenly thought that they were shooting down a Ukrainian bomber instead of an airliner. (Even if that had been true, the U.S. would still have been the ultimate cause of the downing. The whole cover-story was designed to be believed only by fools.)

However, the Ukrainian Government, which until now has maintained steadfastly that there is only one possible explanation for the downing — their explanation, that it had been downed by a “Buk” ground-fired missile controlled by the rebels — finally changed their tune on December 21st, and announced that maybe it wasn’t. Apparently, the other three nations on the team are refusing to sign their names onto a joint report from all four (according to the secret agreement signed by them all on August 8th, this report will be unanimous or else it won’t be at all) that commits to Ukraine’s ‘explanation,’ because the real evidence is overwhelmingly against it — as will herein be explained and documented.

According to London’s Daily Mail on December 5th, a video documentary from a Russian journalist “suggested” that, “pieces of 30mm rounds were found in the bodies of the pilots.” 30mm bullets are the same size of bullets that come from the types of fighter-jet planes that are in the Ukrainian Air Force, including the following jets: Su-25, Su-27, and Mig-29. 30mm bullets are very different from missile-shrapnel, which the U.S. and Ukraine allege had brought down this airliner.

A retired Lufthansa pilot, Peter Haisenko, examined a remarkably clear photo of the key piece of evidence on the downing, which is the side-panel of the fuselage right next to the pilot; this panel was riddled with what he said were 30mm bullet holes, shot right into the spot where the pilot’s belly would be. Apparently (if Haisenko is correct), the airliner’s pilot was machine-gunned to death, his belly was ripped into by a hail of bullets, after which the attacking jet or jets fired a missile into the airliner’s body, and the airliner then promptly plummeted to earth. No ground-fired missile was involved. (The ground-fired “Buk” would have been 33,000 feet below, much too far away for precise targeting at the plane’s pilot; and shrapnel-holes are not round; they’re very different from bullet-holes.)

What’s in question is whether the approximately two-foot-diameter gash into the fuselage right next to the pilot was the result of hundreds of bullets fired into the pilot’s belly, as Haisenko alleges. If any bullets at all were involved in this downing, then the Ukrainian Government is the guilty party in it, because only they have an Air Force; the separatists do not. The separatists had no way to machine-gun the plane’s pilot to death. The separatists were never that close to the airliner.

Because of the allegation in the Daily Mail, I consulted the source of that allegation, which was a documentary film that had been made by Russian journalist Andrei Karaulov. Because it’s in Russian, I engaged a Russian translator, who found that the source of the Daily Mail’s allegation was at 3:50-5:00 on this video.

It says there:

“Judging by the cockpit fragments photos, the cockpit was shot by 30-mm cannon projectiles. There should be plenty of them in the pilots’ bodies. As announced, the bodies of the passengers were transferred to relatives, but the bodies of both main and support jet crews (currently kept in the Netherlands), were in bad condition due to (1) heavy shelling targeted at the cockpit, and (2) crashing to earth. The projectiles must have been found by now, most certainly. Their type must have been definitely ascertained. Why are these findings not announced? There is but one inference: the high professionals on the international investigation board are severely pressured by some powers, which don’t want certain of the findings to be publicly disclosed.”

“One month ago [from the time of shooting the video] the international commission announced that it found certain ‘objects’ in pilots’ bodies. I believe these were 30mm cannon projectile particles. When we were in Copenhagen, we were told by the international investigation commission that investigation results would be made public on 9 October. To this day it hasn’t been done.”

So: Where’s this crucial autopsy-report? We’ve seen the side-panel with its bullet-holes; were bullets lodged in the corpse?

(Here are photos of the Pilot’s coffin and funeral-procession.)

What we have gotten instead is the Ukrainian Government backing away from the ‘explanation’ that U.S. President Barack Obama, who installed their regime, endorsed, and used as his excuse for the EU to hike sanctions against Russia — an act of war, which now has been followed by the President and Congress virtually declaring war against Russia by taking over Ukraine on Russia’s very border. Based totally on lies.

Evidently, Obama believes that if George W. Bush could fool the American public into invading Iraq, Obama can fool them into invading Russia. Can it be: he’s aiming to out-do even Bush?

PS: a note that my translator wants to append:

I have now read the Daily Mail article for the first time — what a distortion of the facts stated in the documentary!!!

1. They claim that, according to the Russian media, the air traffic controller and the pilot fled together, which was never said (nor even suggested) in the documentary. This was apparently done in order to make the documentary look ridiculous and far-fetched, which it is not.

2. They forget to mention, that authorities of Borispol [the airport] tower, when contacted by A. Karaulov’s team, said they never had anyone by the name of Anna Petrenko [the alleged fighter-jet’s pilot alleged girlfriend] on staff, when the opposite was said by lower rank employees. And when the journalists contacted some unnamed boss, s/he just hung up the phone on them.

3. The article doesn’t give any proof of the girl and the pilot still being alive, which makes it seem even more sinister [i.e.: did the Government kill them, to silence them?].

US Embassy in Havana: Washington’s “Cuba Gambit”

December 24th, 2014 by Peter Koenig

The lame duck, Obama, extending a conciliatory hand to Cuba by opening an embassy in Havana, by reopening, after 54 years of a criminal and crippling embargo, diplomatic relations? – At the same time Obama is making not a single concession in terms of lifting the blockade. This smells like a trap.

Imagine – a US Embassy in Havana – it would open the floodgates for US NED (National Endowment for Democracy) funded ‘NGOs’, for Washington’s spies and anti-Castro propaganda machine; it would have free hand to destabilize the country. And what would Cuba gain? – Zilch, zero, nothing. Not even a gradual lifting of the embargo had been announced. To the contrary, it would open Cuba’s borders to the vultures of Florida Cubans, eventually to theirs and other foreign investments, subjugating the country’s huge social gains over the last half a century – universal free education and health services, by far the best social system of the Americas – to the sledgehammer of neoliberal privatization.

Why would Cuba now need a US Embassy? After 54 years of struggling and surviving against Washington’s nod? – In fact, nobody needs the empire – the empire’s consent to financially and economically survive. Suffice it to look at the ‘engineered’ decay of the Russian ruble which eventually will leave Russia better off than before the downward slide of its currency and the likewise ‘engineered’ downward spin of the price of petrol. Everybody knows that the Middle Eastern oil producers, Obama’s stooges, will not forever shoot themselves in the foot by flooding the petrol market and foregoing their oil revenues.

What Cuba needs is free access to international markets – outside and independent of the United States. Cuba needs to integrate into an independent financial and monetary system, detached from the corrupt casino dollar. Solidarity by the rest of the world which has already helped Cuba survive the illegal, inhuman US embargo is now more than ever of the order. The support of a unity of nations must now help stem the temptation to bend to Washington’s offer of ‘diplomacy’.

With the establishment of diplomatic relations, Cuba would be condemned to adopt the dollar as trading currency – no escaping the dollar, if ever Cuba wanted to hope for the good deeds of the empire – the lifting of the blockade.

Look what happened in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador – once a US Embassy is established, all the nefarious destabilizing elements could sneak in, willy-nilly. Plus, economic ‘sanctions’, would be nearer than ever, if Cuba doesn’t behave. Both Bolivia and Venezuela have learned their lessons the hard way. After they closed the US Embassy and sent US organizations and NGOs home, they could breathe again. Though Venezuela is still suffering from Washington’s diabolical arm of propaganda and direct interference in domestic affairs, she has no longer the burden of maintaining a ‘diplomatic’ tie with the northern aggressor.

Most importantly, however – the US is vying for Cuban hydrocarbons, estimated today at 20 billion barrels of offshore oil reserves. Cuba, like Venezuela, is close to US Mexican Gulf shores, where the major refineries are waiting for the crude. During his tour of South America in July 2014, President Putin in a meeting with Cuban President, Raul Castro, signed an agreement whereby the Russian oil company, Rosneft, will assist the Cuban oil producer, Cupet, exploring and exploiting the island’s offshore petrol.

Is it coincidence or sheer self-interest, that just now, when Russia is digging for oil in Obama’s backyard that he is offering diplomatic ties with the 54 years embargoed Caribbean island? – Your guess.

Venezuela has the world’s largest remaining hydrocarbon reserves, about 300 billion barrels. They are close to the US shores and would be the best bet for US mega-oil. But the White House’s destabilizing efforts in Venezuela seem to fail. These efforts and other State Department blunders have helped increase US isolation in Latin America.

Why not trying another approach?  – A well disguised lie; insinuating with the opening of an embassy in Havana that the deadly embargo might ease in some undefined future between the brutal Goliath of the north and castigated David of the Caribbean.  An embassy in Cuba may also earn some much needed kudos with other Latin American neighbors who have been upset for years about the criminal strangulation by the empire of one of their brothers.

In fact, first reactions from Latin America to Obama’s diplomatic initiative were positive. But caution is in order.  – The establishment of a US embassy in Havana might be more than just a floodgate for US secret service agents and anti-Cuba propaganda. A US Embassy in Havana might begin breaking down US isolation in South America, especially in Brazil and Argentina. It might become a backdoor for Washington to gain access to these countries huge natural resources.

Knowing about Washington’s agenda of world dominance, it would be difficult to imagine that there is even a shred of goodwill behind Obama’s move to ‘normalize’ relations with Cuba.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, the Voice of Russia, now Ria Novosti, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.

Christmas versus Xmas: A Political Reading

December 24th, 2014 by Prof. James Petras

The transformation of Christmas from a story about a migrant working-class family fleeing state persecution, in the search for a safe haven and receiving support and solidarity to the biggest capitalist commercial bonanza of the year – has far-reaching political consequences.

 Taking Christ out of Christmas

The fundamental ‘change’, engineered by the capitalist class in pursuit of profits, was to take the ‘Christ Story’ out of Christmas and to convert the weeks before and after into a consumer orgy.  Aided and abetted by “secularist allies”, the capitalist class succeeded in eliminating any reference to the Christmas story, including the nativity scene and carols commemorating it, from public spaces.  The significant social message, embedded in the Christmas story, is diluted by well-meaning cultural diversity-promoters, who demand ‘equal time for ‘Hanukah’ (a Jewish narrative celebrating war, conquest and the slaughter of ‘apostate-assimilated-Hellenized’ Jews by traditionalists-fundamentalists – an event not even mentioned in the Hebrew Bible) and “Kwanzaa” (a holiday invented in the 1960’s by a cultural black nationalist preaching “self-help”).  In place of the Christmas story, we have been given anachronistic ‘Nordic tales of tree worship’ and ‘gift giving’ by an obese bearded sweat-shop owner employing stunted slave workers *(‘Hi Ho, Hi Ho! It’s off to work we go; we work all day, we get no pay! Hi Ho, Hi Ho!’).  This has become the dominant mythology driving the consumerist – profiteering of the global commercial – capitalist production chain.

Over time, it came to pass that ‘Christmas’ commercial sales became the centerpiece of capital accumulation.  New and powerful sectors of capital entered the field.  Finance capital, particularly credit card companies charging debtors usurious, interest rates over 20% per year, became central to and the principal beneficiaries of the great transformation of the Christmas story.

The new, modern, secular monetized, relativized Christmas story redefined the entire meaning of the holiday.

First, there was the language ‘excision’; the prefix was altered.  Christ-mas became Xmas. The X symbol left out what constituted the original narrative and circumstances surrounding the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Once the original class origins of the Christmas story were erased and the conflict between the absolutist state and civil society were abolished, the capitalist class inserted its own ‘props’ into the story:  the Xmas tree became the site for consumer ‘gifts’; the Xmas ‘stocking’ had to be filled with consumer goods; the Xmas day image required the “happy family” opening up boxes of consumer goods – bought on credit at 20% interest rates.

The driving force behind the phony props and imagery is a command headquarters composed of capitalist manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, market analysts, publicists, consultants, advertisers, investors, factory owners employing a vast army of low paid workers in Asian manufacturing sweatshops and huge corporate retail outlets with minimum wage salespeople. Christmas sales are the major profit maximizing occasion for the entire year:  The success or failure of commercial capitalism rides on the profits accrued between November 30 and January 7.  The entire capitalist edifice rests on the notion that “Xmas” is about large-scale buying and selling of consumer goods; it is about ensuring that class inequalities and racial divisions are temporarily blurred; that repressive police state intrusions into the privacy of family life are forgotten and that social solidarity is replaced by an orgy of individual consumerism.

‘Xmas’ is a time to celebrate massive profiteering, based on the indebtedness of the ‘masses’.  It is a time for downsized workers to buy imported goods on credit from manufacturers who had relocated to low wage regions:  Price consciousness replaces class consciousness.  Picketing US retailers, who import from Bangladesh sweatshop death traps, where workers ‘earn’ $25 a month, goes against the ‘Xmas spirit’.  ‘Buy and feel free’!  It’s a time to be jolly!

The new secular, monetized ‘Xmas’ is a consumer-driven commercial event motivated by profits, advertisement and the mindless worship of ‘the market’.  Family and neighborly relations are now tied to the cash nexus:  Who buys or receives the most expensive gifts experiences the greatest gratification.  ‘Gift giving’ is based on ‘consumer spending’; who could imagine any alternative!

Millions of atomized individuals compete to buy the most commodities that their credit/debit cards can cover.  ‘Virtue’ becomes ‘success’ in the frantic engagement with the market.  From the perspective of political power, individual consumerist consciousness means submission to ‘the market’ as well as submission to the ruling class, which dominates ‘market relations’.

The entire ‘Xmas’ period highlights the fact that market relations between wage-earning/salaried individuals and commercial/financial elites take precedence over productive (and state) relations between capital and labor.  In “the market” the struggle is between consumers over commodities, overseen by commercial capital.  In the new Xmas story the consumer is the centerpiece; the market is the mediator of all social relations. The ‘Christ story’ has been relegated to a periphery, if not totally excluded. At most, the story is reduced to a birth scene witnessed by cows, sheep and three ‘Kings’.

The conversion of Christmas into the massive Xmas-market event broadens its consumer appeal, increases sales and profits.  Potential consumers from all religions (and the non-religious) can join the consumer orgy.  It is not about values, ethics or beliefs – it’s about buying, selling, debt and accumulation. To be a successful commercial event ‘Christians’ must suppress the politics and ethics of the Christ story, which is dramatically opposed to the immersion in the marketplace.

The Politics of the Christmas Story

The protagonists of the Christmas story, Joseph and Mary, are a working class household living at a subsistence level.  Joseph, a carpenter, is partially out of work and earns a minimum wage.  They live frugally, spend their meager earnings on essentials and travel cheaply on a donkey.  To escape a repressive government they migrate in search of security, hoping to find a new home.  The pregnant Mary and her unemployed husband Joseph look for sympathy and solidarity among the poor.  They knock on doors but the landlords send them away.  Only a poor farmer offers them a place – they can share a barn with the sheep and cows.

In the face of an uncertain future and a troubled present, Mary and Joseph receive material support from local residents in Bethlehem .  Three wise men (the Magi or mathematicians from Persia ) are internationalists who travel to greet the new family.  They show great concern for the new born baby Jesus by perhaps offering hiss family a scholarship so he can study mathematics and science….  The coming together of local neighborhood people and the three educated “outsiders” to celebrate the birth of Christ and offer support to the homeless family, dispossessed migrants, has been an event for wonder and celebration.

Community solidarity, the sharing of food, shelter, learning and fraternal good cheer, in the face of persecution by a criminal state and an avaricious ruling class, defines the spirit of Christmas.  The Christmas story affirms the virtues of social solidarity and not individual consumerism.  It defines a moment in which the deep bonds of humanity displace the shallow comfort of commodities.  It is the celebration of a moment in which the values and virtues of breaking bread in a fraternal community take precedence over the accumulation of wealth.

The Christmas story, the trials and travails of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus resonate with millions of American workers today:  especially those who have lost employment and been dispossessed of their homes.  The Christmas story resonates with the tens of millions of immigrants persecuted and jailed by tyrannical states.  The Christmas story resonates with the millions of people of color who are “stopped and frisked” by a militarized police. 

The Christmas story does not resonate with the owners, investors and publicists of big commercial enterprises who have converted the multitude into worshipers of their little plastic cards.  Taking ‘Christ out of Christmas’ and destroying the joy and fellowship and solidarity of shared humanity embodied in the celebration of the birth of Christ is essential in order to continue to accumulate wealth.  Putting the ‘Christ story’ back into Christmas is a step toward defeating consumerist consciousness and recreating social solidarity, so necessary for ending injustice.

As mass shooting events become ever more common throughout the United States, so too has their direct coordination under Department of Justice and FBI auspices.

Aggressively publicized by a submissive corporate news media, the continuum of such incidents over weeks, months and years is an essential socialization process for the public’s unquestioning acceptance of the growing police state.

[Image Credit right: Hawai'i Army Weekly]

An under-examined facet of this broader trend is how “active shooter drills” have become massively federalized in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Alongside the militarization of police under the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, which provides high-powered weaponry and armored vehicles to state and local law enforcement agencies, officers are receiving military-style training funded and supervised by the US DOJ and government subcontractors.

shooter-drill1Since 2002 “active shooter training” has been conducted by a project called ALERRT—Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training—housed at Texas State University in San Marcos. Over 60,000 police have been instructed by ALERRT-trained personnel, and over the past 12 years the entity has received over $30 million of funding from the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability program “VALOR”), Texas’ Office of the Governor, and the Department of Homeland Security.[1]

The money for such training is merely a small portion of almost $290 million in DOJ munificence distributed to 56 states and territories, and over 1,000 local jurisdictions in 2014 alone. “These resources are helping to spur innovation and drive evidence-based policing in countless communities,” Attorney General Eric Holder recently remarked.[2]

In March 2013 the Dees_HolderFBI sent 100 of its agents to receive instructor training at ALERRT’s Texas State headquarters. In June of that year Vice President Joe Biden recognized ALERRT “as a primary source for national law enforcement training and response to active shooter events.”[3]

[Image Credit: David Dees]

Within weeks of Biden’s announcement FBI personnel fanned out across the US to conduct ALERRT-approved training to local law enforcement officers. In August 2013 drills were taking place in seemingly every police jurisdiction throughout the US.

“Since these exercises are designed to be as realistic as possible, students, school personnel, and the broader public may be unsuspectingly caught up in the contrived terror, unable to distinguish whether the ‘actors’ alongside the accompanying gunfire and explosions are real or fake.” This essential interpretive element is left up to the relevant local, state, and federal agencies to explain, or “spin,” to the media. Inevitably the implications of federal sponsorship and/or supervision in such maneuvers goes unexamined.[4]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EBmRQpy3I0

Since the 1960s a wealth of compelling research has established that federal law enforcement involvement in violent and controversial events such as assassinations frequently undermines the integrity of serious law enforcement work conducted by those familiar with the given community. As the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, and the more recent Boston Marathon bombing event all but confirm, federal “response” to such mass casualty events is now a carefully-honed procedure. Add to this the allure of federal cash and the broader parameters of mass shooting events reported almost daily become even more uncertain.

Equally concerning is the fact that up until the mid-2000s the location and date of active shooter drills were a matter of public record, being noted in a freely-accessible federal registry.[5] Now with mass shooter training almost entirely outsourced to ALERRT, such statistics no longer exist. This lack of accountability gives federal agencies free reign in terms of how such events might be used.

“’It’s not capability—it’s capacity,’” one FBI official involved in ALERRT training told the Associated Press. “’Every police department, sheriff’s department has the ability to do interviews and to do evidence collection … But we can bring capacity. We can bring 100 agents to a scene in a day and do hundreds of interviews, and have done that time and time again.’”[6]

With the exception of this in-depth Associated Press article, corporate news media don’t consider the massive federalization of active shooter drills an item worthy of close attention. A LexisNexis search of print news for the terms “ALERRT” and “Department of Justice” or “Federal Bureau of Investigation” between March 1, 2013 and December 22, 2014 yields just a handful of items, most of which are US government press releases.

This crucial omission in reportage serves as an oblique form of propaganda, giving the impression that every mass shooting incident is genuine, when in fact some may be the outgrowth of a drill combined with federal law enforcement and/or intelligence sleight of hand.

A seemingly endless stream of federal aid and oversight makes local, regional and state law enforcement highly dependent on the DOJ—an entity capable of deceptive and lethal maneuvers such as “Fast and Furious”—which is now increasingly looked to for such handouts.

In this manner, local and regional law enforcement are potentially compromised toward acquiescing to federally-coordinated active shooter training drills which are then presented via news media as genuine events—a situation that apparently unfolded in Newtown Connecticut, and perhaps in numerous other locales. Without honest policing and competent, impartial journalism the public has no way of discerning reality from what amounts to military training and the manipulable artifice inherent in such exercises.

Notes

[1] Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Media Information, “Boilerplate Language,” http://alerrt.org/Media, accessed December 21, 2014.

[2] “Remarks by Attorney General Holder at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference,” US Official News (Press Release), October 27, 2014.

[3] “ALERRT Names Primary Source for National Active Shooter Response,” ALERRT (Press Release), June 18, 2013, http://alerrt.org/Media, accessed December 21, 2014.

[4] James F. Tracy, “Nationwide Post-Sandy Hook Terror Drills,” GlobalResearch.ca, August 23, 2013.

[5] Personal Communication with Jason Kissner, Associate Professor of Criminology, Fresno State University, December 18, 2014.

[6] Eric Tucker, “FBI Works to Train Police on Mass Killing Response,” Associated Press, August 20, 2013.

Among honest and knowledgeable people, there really isn’t much doubt about what happened in Ukraine last winter. There was a U.S.-backed coup which ousted a constitutionally elected president and replaced him with a regime more in line with U.S. interests. Even some smart people who agree with the policy of going on the offensive against Russia recognize this reality.

For instance, George Friedman, the founder of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, was quoted inan interview with the Russian liberal business publication Kommersant as saying what happened on Feb. 22 in Kiev – the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych – “really was the most blatant coup in history.”

Brushing aside the righteous indignation and self-serving propaganda, Stratfor’s Friedman recognized that both Russia and the United States were operating in what they perceived to be their own interests. “The bottom line is that the strategic interests of the United States are to prevent Russia from becoming a hegemon,” he said. “And the strategic interests of Russia are not to allow the U.S. close to its borders.”

Another relative voice of reason, at least on this topic, has been former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who – in an interview with Der Spiegel – dismissed Official Washington’s conventional wisdom that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the crisis and then annexed Crimea as part of some diabolical scheme to reclaim territory lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

“The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest,” the 91-year-old Kissinger said. “It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia” – as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had suggested.

Kissinger noted that Putin had no intention of instigating a crisis in Ukraine: “Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn’t make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine.”

Instead Kissinger argued that the West – with its strategy of pulling Ukraine into the orbit of the European Union – was responsible for the crisis by failing to understand Russian sensitivity over Ukraine and making the grave mistake of quickly pushing the confrontation beyond dialogue.

While the comments by Henry Kissinger and Stratfor’s Friedman reflect the reality of what demonstrably happened in Ukraine, an entirely different “reality” exists in Official Washington. (Note that both interviews were carried in foreign, not U.S. publications.) In the United States, across the ideological spectrum, the only permitted viewpoint is that a crazed Putin launched a war of aggression against his neighbors and must be stopped.

Facts, such as the declaration in September 2013 from a leading neocon, National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, that Ukraine was “the biggest prize” and an important step toward ousting Putin in Russia, do not fit into this story frame. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow U.S. Foreign Policy.”]

Nor do the comments of neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who was caught in a pre-coup phone call, handpicking Ukraine’s future leaders and discussing how to “glue this thing.” Nor her public statements about the United States investing $5 billion in Ukraine’s “European aspirations.”

White Hats, Black Hats

Instead of dealing with what actually happened in Ukraine, U.S. pundits and politicians – from conservative to liberal – have bought into a fantasy version of events in which the coup-makers all wore white hats and the elected president and his eastern Ukrainian supporters – along with Putin – all wore black hats.

But there are, as always, rhetorical differences across the U.S. partisan liberal-conservative divide. On Ukraine, the American Right urges an escalation of military tensions against Russia while chiding President Barack Obama for weakness (when compared with Putin’s toughness) – and liberals cheer on Obama’s supposed success in driving the Russian economy into a painful recession while accusing the Right of having a man-crush on Putin.

This liberal “theme” of jabbing the Right for its alleged love of Putin takes the Right’s comments about his forcefulness out of context, simply to score a political point. But the Right-loves-Putin charge has become all the rage with the likes of Paul Krugman, Thomas L. Friedman and other liberals who are bubbling with joy over the economic suffering being inflicted on the people of Russia and presumably eastern Ukraine.

Krugman, who is quickly jettisoning his reputation for thoughtfulness, published a second column on this topic in a row, showing that he has fully bought into all the propaganda “themes” emanating from the U.S. State Department and the compliant U.S. mainstream news media.

In Krugman’s mind, it was Putin who instigated the crisis with the goal of plundering Ukraine. Operating from that false hypothesis, Krugman then spins off this question: “why did Mr. Putin do something so stupid? … The answer … is obvious if you think about Mr. Putin’s background. Remember, he’s an ex-K.G.B. man — which is to say, he spent his formative years as a professional thug. Violence and threats of violence, supplemented with bribery and corruption, are what he knows.

“And for years he had no incentive to learn anything else: High oil prices made Russia rich, and like everyone who presides over a bubble, he surely convinced himself that he was responsible for his own success. At a guess, he didn’t realize until a few days ago that he has no idea how to function in the 21st century.”

But Krugman is not only operating from a false hypothesis – the reality was that the Ukraine crisis was forced on Putin, not that he went seeking it – Krugman also has a simplistic view of the KGB, which, like the American CIA, certainly had its share of thugs but also had a significant number of smart analysts. Some of those KGB analysts were in the forefront of recognizing the need for the Soviet Union to reform its economy and to reach out to the West.

Putin was generally allied with the KGB faction which favored “convergence” with the West, a Russian attitude that dates back to Peter the Great, seeking Russia’s acceptance as part of Europe rather than being shunned by Europe as part of Asia.

Putin himself pined for the day when Russia would be accepted as a part of the First World with G-8 status and other big-power accoutrements. I’m told he took great pride in his success helping President Obama in 2013 resolve crises with Syria over the mysterious sarin-gas attack and with Iran over its nuclear program.

As Kissinger noted, Putin’s hunger for Western acceptance was the reason he obsessed so much over the Sochi Olympics – and even neglected the festering political crisis in neighboring Ukraine.

In other words, Paul Krugman doesn’t know what he’s talking about regarding Ukraine. His stab at offering a geopolitical analysis suffers from what an economist should recognize as “garbage in, garbage out.” [See also Consortiumnews.com’s “Krugman Joins the Anti-Putin Pack.”]

A Spreading Idiocy

Still, this liberal mindlessness appears to be catching. On Sunday, the New York Times’ star columnist Thomas L. Friedman weighed in with his own upside-down analysis, smirking about the economic suffering now being felt by average Russians because of the U.S.-led sanctions and the Saudi-spurred collapse of oil prices.

Friedman wrote: “In March, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Mike Rogers, was asked on ‘Fox News Sunday’ how he thought President Obama was handling relations with Russia versus how President Vladimir Putin had been handling relations with the United States. Rogers responded: ‘Well, I think Putin is playing chess, and I think we’re playing marbles. And I don’t think it’s even close.’

“Hmmm. Marbles. That’s an interesting metaphor. Actually, it turns out that Obama was the one playing chess and Putin was the one playing marbles, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say today that Putin’s lost most of his — in both senses of the word.”

Ha-ha-ha. Putin has lost his marbles! So clever! Perhaps it also wouldn’t be wrong to say that Tom Friedman has lost any credibility that he ever had by getting pretty much every international crises wrong, most notably the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 when he was just as smarmy in paving the way for that bloody catastrophe.

Washington Post liberal columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. also joined in the “group think” on Monday,writing

 “even … some of [Obama’s] older bets were paying off. The Russian economy is reeling from sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine (and from low oil prices). An approach seen by its critics as not tough enough is beginning to show its teeth.”

Beyond the propagandistic quality of these columns – refusing to recognize the complex reality of what actually happened in Ukraine, including the overwhelming referendum by the voters of Crimea to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia – there is this disturbingly smug pleasure at how the U.S. actions are hurting the people of Russia.

Whatever you think of Putin, a key reason why he has remained so popular is that he brought some stability to the Russian economy after the “shock therapy” days of plunder under Boris Yeltsin when many Russians were pushed to the brink of starvation. Putin pushed back against some of the corrupt oligarchs who had amassed vast power under Yeltsin (while also striking alliances with others).

But the cumulative effect of a more stable Russian economy was that a fragile middle class was taking shape in a country that has notoriously failed to generate one over the centuries. Because of the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine, which essentially forced Putin’s response and then led to Obama’s sanctions, the Russian middle class is losing its modest savings as the ruble’s value collapses.

In other words, the part of Russia’s population that could best propel Russia toward a more democratic and progressive future is being dismantled, in part, by punitive U.S. policies – while liberals Krugman, Friedman and Dionne celebrate.

Insider Rivalries

What really seems to matter to these pundits is getting a shot in at their conservative rivals, not the fate of average Russians. This attitude reminded me of an earlier phase of these mindless liberal-conservative food fights – in 1990 when conservative Robert Novak looked for ways to resolve Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait by accepting Saddam Hussein’s private offers to withdraw rather than resorting to war.

Yet, when Novak appeared on CNN’s “Capital Gang,” Al Hunt, a centrist who played the role of liberal pundit on the show, ridiculed the old “Prince of Darkness” for his uncharacteristic peaceful bent. Hunt hung the nickname “Neville Novak” around Novak’s neck, comparing him to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who sought to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II.

When I later asked Hunt why he had derided Novak for looking at more peaceful solutions to an international crisis, Hunt defended the “Neville Novak” line by noting all the times that Novak had baited opponents for their softness against communism. “After years of battling Novak from the left, to have gotten to his right, I enjoyed that,” Hunt said.

Yet, the human consequences from the failure to resolve the Kuwait crisis peacefully have been almost incalculable. Beyond the hundreds of U.S. and coalition deaths and the tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians killed, the Persian Gulf War set the stage for a decade of harsh economic sanctions against Iraq and marked a turning point for Saudi Osama bin Laden to begin targeting the United States.

Arguably, if Novak had been listened to – if Hussein’s peace feelers had been taken seriously – history might have taken a very different and less violent course. However, among Washington’s insiders, it seems that nothing is more important than their sparring with each other, in television and in print.

Now, these liberal columnists are enjoying bashing conservatives over their supposed love of Putin and their tolerance for Putin’s “invasion” of Ukraine. Not only are the likes of Paul Krugman, Thomas L. Friedman and E.J. Dionne Jr. spreading dangerous propaganda, they are setting the stage for a new Cold War and possibly even a nuclear confrontation.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest 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.

China’s Triangle Diplomacy

December 23rd, 2014 by Mel Gurtov

Back in the days of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, the “strategic triangle” with the Soviet Union and China was the great game. The idea was to play off the two communist powers against one another, relying on their ideological warfare under Mao, deep cultural differences, and open conflict in border regions to sustain their mutual suspicions and fears of attack. Now the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak: China seems to be in charge of the game, using US-Russia enmity and its own on-again, off-again competition with the US to keep both those countries cooperative with and in need of Beijing.

Obama said his meetings with Xi Jinping had given him the chance to debunk the notion that “our pivot to Asia is about containing China.” Xi said: “It’s natural that we don’t see eye to eye on every issue. But there have always been more common interests between China and the United States than the differences between us.” Indeed, although “strategic mistrust” defines the US-China relationship today, particularly when it comes to the “pivot” and US support of Japan’s position in the Diaoyudao-Senkaku islands territorial dispute, and despite Obama’s unresponsiveness to Xi’s call for “a new type of major power relationship,” the two countries have steered clear of strikingly antagonistic steps that would revitalize a cold war, or lead to hot war, in Asia. Take US-Taiwan military ties, for instance. The Obama administration has already sold Taiwan weapons valued at about twice as much as was sold under the G.W. Bush administration (about $12 billion). But since 2011, when Obama declined to sell F-16s to Taiwan, it hasn’t offered a new weapons package, much to the displeasure of both Taiwan and its supporters in Congress. Another example is the mild US response to the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong. Obama said precious little on this sensitive matter, essentially giving China a pass to handle Hong Kong as it saw fit—precisely as Xi insisted. (“Hong Kong affairs are exclusively China’s internal affairs, and foreign countries should not interfere in those affairs in any form or fashion,” Xi told Obama in Beijing.) For its part, China has done nothing to obstruct US Middle East diplomacy and war making, has moved closer to the US critique of North Korea’s foreign policy, and has joined with the US in an historic agreement (albeit one based on promises, not performance) on climate change.

Besides climate change, the Obama-Xi meeting produced quite a number of other accords that are noteworthy. These are confidence-building measures to avoid potential air or naval confrontations, visa extension that will facilitate people-to-people exchanges, and broadening of trade in information technology. Needless to say, plenty of contentious issues remain unsettled besides the South China Sea territorial dispute, such as cyber hacking, human rights, and free-trade agreements in Asia. But on balance, the US-China agenda moved forward rather than backward as a result of the Obama-Xi meeting. (For further analysis, see David Shambaugh’s article.)

Another element in this “live and let live” moment in US-China relations is Xi’s renewed emphasis on soft power and promotion of China’s unique approach to international affairs. In a recent speech to a party work conference on foreign affairs, Xi proposed “six commitments” or “persistents” (liuge jianchi: 六个坚 持): peaceful coexistence, an end to great-power domination, opposition to the use of force and intervention, “win-win” approaches to international issues, aid to developing countries, and “never sacrificing the country’s core interests.”To be sure, these are standard Chinese foreign-policy themes of recent years. What is significant is that they are now presented as “China’s special characteristics for great-power foreign policy,” according to the foreign ministry. It is Xi’s way of proclaiming that China, far from accepting junior-partner status with the US in international affairs, has its own doctrine in the competition for regional and global influence. China’s forceful assertion of its interests in the South and East China Seas shows that it intends to back doctrine with power.

On the other side of the triangle, China and Russia appear to be moving ever closer. In May, Putin and Xi concluded a huge gas deal between their national oil companies—worth $400 billion over 30 years—as part of a large trade package. Russian gas that might have gone westward to Europe will instead be moving over about 2500 miles of pipeline to China. Their overall trade is climbing rapidly, and is expected to reach $100 billion by the end of 2014. Their militaries have carried out joint exercises, the two countries cooperate to combat ethnic “terrorists and separatists” on their common border, and they have compatible policies on North Korea, Iran, and Ukraine that run against US and European Union calls for escalating sanctions. As one astute observer, Gilbert Rozman, puts it, “Leaders in Moscow and Beijing want to avoid allowing chauvinistic nationalism in either country to trump their mutual national interest in minimizing the influence of the West in their respective regions”.

But appearances can be deceiving here: China and Russia have plenty of tensions that stem from past conflicts as well as present-day issues. China’s huge economic advantage over Russia, a dramatic change from the Soviet era, surely arouses Russian concerns. Russia’s interventions in its so-called near abroad, such as Georgia and Ukraine, may prompt Chinese memories of border clashes and Russian “great-power chauvinism” no matter what Beijing says publicly. And China’s notion of an Asian order doesn’t leave room for Russia except as a junior partner. On the Russian end, even though Putin is looking east for new trade deals, the fact remains that trade with the EU is worth more than five times as much as trade with China: $263 billion versus $59 billion in the first half of 2014.

In a word, notions of a new Sino-Russian entente that spells trouble for the US and its allies seem overblown. Beijing and Moscow are more united by what they oppose—namely, aggressive US foreign policy—than by a common agenda. Neither China nor Russia has powerful allies, so Xi and Putin mute their criticisms and trumpet their ties—two authoritarian regimes that are busy clamping down on domestic dissent. Nevertheless, as US conduct of the strategic triangle in Nixon’s time showed, diplomacy is almost inevitably uneven with respect to the two other sides of the triangle. Then, US relations with the USSR were far more important to Washington—but also more hostile—than relations with China. Today, China’s relations with the US are far more important to Beijing than relations with Russia, as evidenced by China’s deep regional and global involvement in the capitalist order, of which huge commercial and financial ties to the US are a major part.

Japan figures prominently in China’s triangular diplomacy. During the November summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing, Xi Jinping met briefly with Abe Shinzo—a small breakthrough in China-Japan relations inasmuch as the Chinese had previously rejected such a meeting unless Japan acknowledged that their territorial dispute is in fact a dispute. Out of that meeting came a four-point agreement to promote mutual confidence and restore dialogue. () The two sides sidestepped the territorial dispute by acknowledging “different viewpoints” on the issue. More concretely, they agreed to set up a mechanism to avoid maritime conflicts in the East and South China Seas. China showed its reasonableness when dealing with a potentially dangerous situation—a confrontation with Japan at sea that has seen several close calls between vessels in recent years.

Xi probably welcomed Abe’s post-meeting comment that China and Japan “need each other” and are “inseparably bound together.” Since then, in a sign that high-level Sino-Japanese diplomacy has indeed resumed, a senior Japanese advisory group, the 21st Century Committee for China-Japan Friendship, visited Beijing on December 4 and met with two top officials, including Premier Li Keqiang. Full-fledged normalization of relations is still to come, however, as the Chinese repeated the position that the history issue is an obstacle the Japanese would have to overcome for relations to improve significantly.

Strategically for Beijing, the four-point agreement may be an effort to neutralize US expressions of support for Japan’s sovereignty over Diaoyudao/Senkaku. Beijing would like nothing better than to weaken Japan-US ties while Abe, a right-wing nationalist out to restore a prominent place for Japan in world affairs, is in power. And he will be, for another four years, thanks to an electoral victory December 14 for Abe’s Liberal Democrats. Despite his unpopularity, and the lowest level of voting in Japan’s postwar history (about 52 percent), the LDP will have 291 of 495 seats in the lower house of the Diet.

Economically, Beijing would no doubt like to see Japanese trade with and investment in China recover. In 2013, Japan’s trade with China fell by double digits for a second straight year, mainly because Japanese exports dropped by around 10 percent. Japanese investment in China showed the same two-year decline, falling in the first half of 2014 by nearly half of the comparable 2013 figure.

Meanwhile, Abe has several major domestic challenges now that the parliamentary elections are over. He needs to shore up the economy, now technically in recession, overcome opposition to restarting nuclear plants, and decide whether to pursue revision of the constitution’s Article 9 so as to legitimize the military’s participation in “collective defense” missions. He must also oversee what appears to be an officially sanctioned assault on liberal intellectuals and peace groups (see Jeff Kingston, “Extremists Flourish in Abe’s Japan,” Asia-Pacific Journal.) In short, Abe needs a period of calm in relations with China, not a confrontation. But if he uses his electoral victory to push a neonationalist agenda, the calm will not last.

Abe’s economic woes remind us that the foreign policies of states do not take place in a vacuum. Domestic problems invariably complicate and to some extent shape what national leaders do, or attempt to do, abroad. Right now, China’s leaders are dealing with a slowing of the economy, notwithstanding over 7 percent GDP growth. Xi is cracking down on dissent; a growing number of journalists, lawyers, prominent members of Uighur and other ethnic minority groups, and intellectuals are being jailed for supposedly subversive activities, with no promise of a quick, much less fair, trial. Official corruption is also a Xi target as he seeks, but not very credibly, to pose as a champion of justice by making an example of a few high-profile party officials and former officials. In Russia, Putin’s bravado is popular, but the economy is in freefall, in part due to EU and US sanctions. The US economic picture looks strong in comparison to these others, but Obama faces a rocky two years of divided government and constant political battles.

What all these problems add up to is the enduring lesson that leaderships need to spend time and resources dealing with the home front, which often constrains what they can accomplish abroad. China, Russia, Japan, and especially the US will have to tread more carefully abroad, avoiding confrontations with each other. That picture may help explain why China is now conducting triangular diplomacy with a “softer” touch, particularly when it comes to the United States and Japan. How long that will last is another matter.

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Oregon, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, and an Asia-Pacific Journal associate. His most recent book is Will This Be China’s Century? A Skeptic’s View (Lynne Rienner Publishers).

Seven Reasons Why the “Bad Guys” Keep Winning

December 23rd, 2014 by Washington's Blog

How Come They Keeping Getting Away With It?

How come the bad guys keep getting away with it … even after getting caught again and again?

Reason Number 1: Falling for the Big Fib

People are wired to believe our leaders’ big statements, even if they are ridiculous:

As Adolph Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf:

All this was inspired by the principle–which is quite true in itself–that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

Similarly, Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, wrote:

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

Science has now helped to explain why the big lie is effective.

As I’ve previously pointed out in another context:

Psychologists and sociologists show us that people will rationalize what their leaders are doing, even when it makes no sense ….

Sociologists from four major research institutions investigated why so many Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it became obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

The researchers found, as described in an article in the journal Sociological Inquiry (and re-printed by Newsweek):

  • Many Americans felt an urgent need to seek justification for a war already in progress
  • Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.
  • “For the most part people completely ignore contrary information.”
  • “The study demonstrates voters’ ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information”
  • People get deeply attached to their beliefs, and form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter.
  • “We refer to this as ‘inferred justification, because for these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war.
  • “People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war”
  • “They wanted to believe in the link [between 9/11 and Iraq] because it helped them make sense of a current reality. So voters’ ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information, whether we think that is good or bad for democratic practice, does at least demonstrate an impressive form of creativity.

An article yesterday in Alternet discussing the Sociological Inquiry article helps us to understand that the key to people’s active participation in searching for excuses for actions by the big boys is fear:

Subjects were presented during one-on-one interviews with a newspaper clip of this Bush quote: “This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qaeda.”The Sept. 11 Commission, too, found no such link, the subjects were told.

“Well, I bet they say that the commission didn’t have any proof of it,” one subject responded, “but I guess we still can have our opinions and feel that way even though they say that.”

Reasoned another: “Saddam, I can’t judge if he did what he’s being accused of, but if Bush thinks he did it, then he did it.”

Others declined to engage the information at all. Most curious to the researchers were the respondents who reasoned that Saddam must have been connected to Sept. 11, because why else would the Bush Administration have gone to war in Iraq?

The desire to believe this was more powerful, according to the researchers, than any active campaign to plant the idea.

Such a campaign did exist in the run-up to the war…

He won’t credit [politicians spouting misinformation] alone for the phenomenon, though.

“That kind of puts the idea out there, but what people then do with the idea … ” he said. “Our argument is that people aren’t just empty vessels. You don’t just sort of open up their brains and dump false information in and they regurgitate it. They’re actually active processing cognitive agents”…

The alternate explanation raises queasy questions for the rest of society.

“I think we’d all like to believe that when people come across disconfirming evidence, what they tend to do is to update their opinions,” said Andrew Perrin, an associate professor at UNC and another author of the study…

“The implications for how democracy works are quite profound, there’s no question in my mind about that,” Perrin said. “What it means is that we have to think about the emotional states in which citizens find themselves that then lead them to reason and deliberate in particular ways.”

Evidence suggests people are more likely to pay attention to facts within certain emotional states and social situations. Some may never change their minds. For others, policy-makers could better identify those states, for example minimizing the fear that often clouds a person’s ability to assess facts …

The Alternet article links to a must-read interview with psychology professor Sheldon Solomon, who explains:

A large body of evidence shows that momentarily [raising fear of death], typically by asking people to think about themselves dying, intensifies people’s strivings to protect and bolster aspects of their worldviews, and to bolster their self-esteem. The most common finding is that [fear of death] increases positive reactions to those who share cherished aspects of one’s cultural worldview, and negative reactions toward those who violate cherished cultural values or are merely different.

And what about torture? Even after the Senate Intelligence report said that torture didn’t do anything helpful – confirmed by America’s top interrogation experts and 1,700 years of history – the American public still believes the big lie.

And I would argue that the fact that the governments of the world have given trillions to the giant banks has invoked the same mental process – and susceptibility to propaganda -as the war in Iraq.

Specifically, many people assume that because the government has launched a war to prop up the giant banks, it must have a good reason for doing so.

Why else would trillions in taxpayer dollars be thrown at the giant banks? Why else would the government say that saving the big boys is vital?

And I would argue that the fear of another Great Depression (an economic death, if you will) is analogous to the fear of death triggered in many Americans by 9/11.

This creates a regression towards old-fashioned thinking about such things as banks and the financial system, even though the giant banks actually do very little traditional banking these days.

In other words, the big lie appears to be as effective in financial as in military warfare.

Reason Number 2: The Urge to Defend Bad Systems

Psychiatrist Peter Zafirides, M.D sent us an excellent article explaining why good people defend bad systems:

From the bust of the housing bubble and mortgage meltdown to Bernie Madoff and Jerry Sandusky, to political candidates and campaigns, it seems not a week goes by before another story of corruption and scandal breaks. And very predictably, the following questions always seem to follow:

“How could they get away with this?”

- or -

“Why didn’t someone say or do anything about it?”

In trying to answer these questions, we have to first understand a bit about both individual and group psychology. The answers may potentially surprise or frighten you, but it is through this understanding, that any real (and lasting) change can occur. Beyond these obvious questions lies another stark reality: good people tend to continue to defend bad systems.

Why does this happen? What is going on here?

Why do we stick up for a system or institution we live in—a government, company, or marriage—even when anyone else can see it is failing miserably? Why do we resist change even when the system is corrupt or unjust? A new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, reveals the conditions under which we’re motivated to defend the status quo—a psychological process called “system justification.”

The Power of the Status Quo

In system justification theory, people are motivated to defend the status quo. There is a need to see it as being good, just and/or legitimate. People not only want to hold a favorable view of themselves and the groups they associate with, but they also hold favorable views of an entire, overarching social system. There is a lot at stake here on an individual psychological level that may not have anything to do with the particular candidate, or government or social issue.

There are consequences for trying to buck the system. What will happen if you try to introduce a different type of political or economic system? You tend to be mocked, marginalized or completely ignored. People need to believe that the systems they believe in are legitimate. But this can cause bias and very dangerous blind spots when it comes to the issue of corruption in these systems.

“Now this is not the same as acquiescence,” says Aaron C. Kay, a psychologist at Duke University, who co-authored the paper with University of Waterloo graduate student Justin Friesen. “It’s pro-active. When someone comes to justify the status quo, they also come to see it as what should be.”

According to the research, four particular situations significantly increased the likelihood that system justification would occur:

1. When a threat to the system occurred.

2. When one is dependent on the system.

3. When there is no potential escape from the system.

4. When one has low personal control of their lives.

Threat

When we’re threatened we defend ourselves—and our systems. Before 9/11, for instance, President George W. Bush was sinking in the polls. But as soon as the planes hit the World Trade Center, the president’s approval ratings soared. So did support for Congress and the police. During Hurricane Katrina, America witnessed FEMA’s spectacular failure to rescue the hurricane’s victims. Yet many people blamed those victims for their fate rather than admitting the agency flunked and supporting ideas for fixing it. In times of crisis, say the authors, we want to believe the system works. This bias is real. The problem is, it may not even be consciously in our awareness.

Dependency

We also defend systems we rely on. In one experiment, students made to feel dependent on their university defended a school funding policy—but disapproved of the same policy if it came from the government, which they didn’t perceive as affecting them closely. However, if they felt dependent on the government, they liked the policy originating from it, but not from the school.

Inescapability & Loss of Control

When we feel we can’t escape a system, we adapt. That includes feeling okay about things we might otherwise consider undesirable. The authors note one study in which participants were told that men’s salaries in their country are 20% higher than women’s. Rather than implicate an unfair system, those who felt they couldn’t emigrate chalked up the wage gap to innate differences between the sexes. “You’d think that when people are stuck with a system, they’d want to change it more,” says Kay. But in fact, the more stuck they are, the more likely are they to explain away its shortcomings.

Finally, a related phenomenon: The less control people feel over their own lives, the more they endorse systems and leaders that offer a sense of order.

Change Is Possible!

The research on system justification should not be overwhelming or demoralizing. If anything it can really help to enlighten those who are frustrated when people don’t rise up in what would seem their own best interests. The awareness of this psychological tendency in all of us is the first step in trying to minimize its impact. Awareness is critical if one hopes to meaningfully change systems.

According to Dr. Kay, “If you want to understand how to get social change to happen, you need to understand the conditions that make people resist change and what makes them open to acknowledging that change might be a necessity.” This is true whether the change one desires is individual or societal.

But do not despair! Whether on an individual or societal level, change absolutely happen. Awareness and knowledge is the first part of the process.

Never give up the fight.

Never doubt how truly powerful you are.

Reason Number 3: Assuming that the Super-Elite Are “Like Us”

The super-elites are not like us:

Vanderbilt researchers have found that the brains of psychopaths have a dopamine abnormality which creates a drive for rewards at any cost, and causes them to ignore risks.

As PhysOrg writes:

Abnormalities in how the nucleus accumbens, highlighted here, processes dopamine have been found in individuals with psychopathic traits and may be linked to violent, criminal behavior. Credit: Gregory R.Samanez-Larkin and Joshua W. Buckholtz

The brains of psychopaths appear to be wired to keep seeking a reward at any cost, new research from Vanderbilt University finds. The research uncovers the role of the brain’s reward system in psychopathy and opens a new area of study for understanding what drives these individuals.

“This study underscores the importance of neurological research as it relates to behavior,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said. “The findings may help us find new ways to intervene before a personality trait becomes antisocial behavior.”

The results were published March 14, 2010, in .

“Psychopaths are often thought of as cold-blooded criminals who take what they want without thinking about consequences,” Joshua Buckholtz, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and lead author of the new study, said. “We found that a hyper-reactive dopamine reward system may be the foundation for some of the most problematic behaviors associated with psychopathy, such as violent crime, recidivism and substance abuse.”

Previous research on psychopathy has focused on what these individuals lack—fear, empathy and interpersonal skills. The new research, however, examines what they have in abundance—impulsivity, heightened attraction to rewards and risk taking. Importantly, it is these latter traits that are most closely linked with the violent and criminal aspects of psychopathy.

“There has been a long tradition of research on psychopathy that has focused on the lack of sensitivity to punishment and a lack of fear, but those traits are not particularly good predictors of violence or criminal behavior,” David Zald, associate professor of psychology and of psychiatry and co-author of the study, said. “Our data is suggesting that something might be happening on the other side of things. These individuals appear to have such a strong draw to reward—to the carrot—that it overwhelms the sense of risk or concern about the stick.”

To examine the relationship between dopamine and psychopathy, the researchers used positron emission tomography, or PET, imaging of the brain to measure dopamine release, in concert with a functional magnetic imaging, or fMRI, probe of the brain’s reward system.

“The really striking thing is with these two very different techniques we saw a very similar pattern—both were heightened in individuals with psychopathic traits,” Zald said.

Study volunteers were given a personality test to determine their level of psychopathic traits. These traits exist on a spectrum, with violent criminals falling at the extreme end of the spectrum. However, a normally functioning person can also have the traits, which include manipulativeness, egocentricity, aggression and risk taking.

In the first portion of the experiment, the researchers gave the volunteers a dose of amphetamine, or speed, and then scanned their brains using PET to view dopamine release in response to the stimulant. Substance abuse has been shown in the past to be associated with alterations in dopamine responses. Psychopathy is strongly associated with substance abuse.

“Our hypothesis was that psychopathic traits are also linked to dysfunction in dopamine reward circuitry,” Buckholtz said. “Consistent with what we thought, we found people with high levels of psychopathic traits had almost four times the amount of dopamine released in response to amphetamine.”

In the second portion of the experiment, the research subjects were told they would receive a monetary reward for completing a simple task. Their brains were scanned with fMRI while they were performing the task. The researchers found in those individuals with elevated psychopathic traits the dopamine reward area of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, was much more active while they were anticipating the monetary reward than in the other volunteers.

“It may be that because of these exaggerated dopamine responses, once they focus on the chance to get a reward, psychopaths are unable to alter their attention until they get what they’re after,” Buckholtz said. Added Zald, “It’s not just that they don’t appreciate the potential threat, but that the anticipation or motivation for reward overwhelms those concerns.”

Has anyone tested the heads of the too big to fails for this dopamine abnormality?

What are the odds that they have it? And if they have it, what are the odds that they will voluntarily start acting responsibly, especially given the broken incentive system?

Experts also tell us that many politicians also share traits with serial killers. Specifically, the Los Angeles Times noted in 2009:

Using his law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit, Jim Kouri has collected a series of personality traits common to a couple of professions.

Kouri, who’s a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.

These traits, Kouri points out in his analysis, are common to psychopathic serial killers.

But — and here’s the part that may spark some controversy and defensive discussion — these traits are also common to American politicians. (Maybe you already suspected.)

Yup. Violent homicide aside, our elected officials often show many of the exact same character traits as criminal nut-jobs, who run from police but not for office.

Kouri notes that these criminals are psychologically capable of committing their dirty deeds free of any concern for social, moral or legal consequences and with absolutely no remorse.

“This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want,” he wrote. “Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.”

***

“While many political leaders will deny the assessment regarding their similarities with serial killers and other career criminals, it is part of a psychopathic profile that may be used in assessing the behaviors of many officials and lawmakers at all levels of government.”

As Jim Quinn notes:

When their bets came up craps, they had the gall to hold the American people hostage for trillions in bailouts. Their fellow psychopaths in Congress gladly forked over the money. Rather than mend their ways, these evil men have returned to their excessive risk taking and continue to pay themselves billions in compensation, while the American middle class is smothered to death under mountains of debt. These evil Wall Street geniuses have shown no remorse as seven million people have lost their jobs and millions more have lost their homes due to the greed and avarice displayed on an epic scale.

Wall Street bankers exhibit the epitome of psychopathic behavior, showing lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others. Though lacking empathy and emotional depth, they often manage to pass themselves off as average individuals by feigning emotions. These Wall Street bankers will never willingly accept responsibility for their actions. They continue to use their wealth and power to control the politicians in Washington DC and the misinformation propagated by the corporate media they control. They own and control the Federal Reserve and will print money until the whole system collapses in a spectacular implosion that destroys our financial system. They only care about their own wealth, influence and status. They have no shame.

Studies also show that the wealthy are less empathic than those with more modest wealth, and so:

The idea of nobless oblige or trickle-down economics, certain versions of it, is bull,” Keltner added. “Our data say you cannot rely on the wealthy to give back. The ‘thousand points of light’—this rise of compassion in the wealthy to fix all the problems of society—is improbable, psychologically.”

Those in the upper-class tend to hoard resources and be less generous than they could be.

Given that many in Congress and top government posts are multi-millionaires, the study might help explain why politicians seem only to work to make themselves wealthier and to help their wealthy buddies.

We will remain disempowered if we assume that the super-elites are “like us”. Unless we learn to spot “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, we will continue to fall prey to their scams.

This is not to say that all rich or powerful people are psychopaths. There are some great men and women who are affluent or who serve in Washington, D.C. But many do have psycopathic tendencies.

Reason Number 4: The Life-Or-Death Struggle to Defend Our Beliefs

Alternet points out:

When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

***

In 2006, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler at The University of Michigan and Georgia State University created fake newspaper articles about polarizing political issues. The articles were written in a way which would confirm a widespread misconception about certain ideas in American politics. As soon as a person read a fake article, researchers then handed over a true article which corrected the first. For instance, one article suggested the United States found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The next said the U.S. never found them, which was the truth. Those opposed to the war or who had strong liberal leanings tended to disagree with the original article and accept the second. Those who supported the war and leaned more toward the conservative camp tended to agree with the first article and strongly disagree with the second. These reactions shouldn’t surprise you. What should give you pause though is how conservatives felt about the correction. After reading that there were no WMDs, they reported being even more certain than before there actually were WMDs and their original beliefs were correct.

They repeated the experiment with other wedge issues like stem cell research and tax reform, and once again, they found corrections tended to increase the strength of the participants’ misconceptions if those corrections contradicted their ideologies. People on opposing sides of the political spectrum read the same articles and then the same corrections, and when new evidence was interpreted as threatening to their beliefs, they doubled down. The corrections backfired.

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens them instead. Over time, the backfire effect helps make you less skeptical of those things which allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.

***

Psychologists call stories like these narrative scripts, stories that tell you what you want to hear, stories which confirm your beliefs and give you permission to continue feeling as you already do.

***

As the psychologist Thomas Gilovich said, “”When examining evidence relevant to a given belief, people are inclined to see what they expect to see, and conclude what they expect to conclude…for desired conclusions, we ask ourselves, ‘Can I believe this?,’ but for unpalatable conclusions we ask, ‘Must I believe this?’”

***

What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs.

***

The backfire effect is constantly shaping your beliefs and memory, keeping you consistently leaning one way or the other through a process psychologists call biased assimilation. Decades of research into a variety of cognitive biases shows you tend to see the world through thick, horn-rimmed glasses forged of belief and smudged with attitudes and ideologies.

***

Flash forward to 2011, and you have Fox News and MSNBC battling for cable journalism territory, both promising a viewpoint which will never challenge the beliefs of a certain portion of the audience. Biased assimilation guaranteed.

***

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else-by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate

- Francis Bacon

It is very difficult for anyone to really listen to evidence which contradicts our beliefs. But unless we learn how to grit our teeth and do so, we will forever be victims to the divide-and-conquer game which ensures that we have politicians who will ignore our demands, we will be so wedded to one investment strategy that we will forever lose money on our investments, and we will generally be weak and disempowered people.

Reason Number 5: Forgetting that We Don’t Live in Tribes

Our brains are wired for tribal relationships:

Biologists and sociologists tell us that our brains evolved in small groups or tribes.

As one example of how profoundly the small-group environment affected our brains, Daily Galaxy points out:

Research shows that one of the most powerful ways to stimulate more buying is celebrity endorsement. Neurologists at Erasmus University in Rotterdam report that our ability to weigh desirability and value doesn’t function normally if an item is endorsed by a well-known face. This lights up the brain’s dorsal claudate nucleus, which is involved in trust and learning. Areas linked to longer-term memory storage also fire up. Our minds overidentify with celebrities because we evolved in small tribes. If you knew someone, then they knew you. If you didn’t attack each other, you were probably pals.

Our minds still work this way, giving us the idea that the celebs we keep seeing are our acquaintances. And we want to be like them, because we’ve evolved to hate being out of the in-crowd. Brain scans show that social rejection activates brain areas that generate physical pain, probably because in prehistory tribal exclusion was tantamount to a death sentence. And scans by the National Institute of Mental Health show that when we feel socially inferior, two brain regions become more active: the insula and the ventral striatum. The insula is involved with the gut-sinking sensation you get when you feel that small. The ventral striatum is linked to motivation and reward.

In small groups, we knew everyone extremely well. No one could really fool us about what type of person they were, because we had grown up interacting with them for our whole lives.

If a tribe member dressed up and pretended he was from another tribe, we would see it in a heart-beat. It would be like seeing your father in a costume: you would recognize him pretty quickly, wouldn’t you.

As the celebrity example shows, our brains can easily be fooled by people in our large modern society when we incorrectly ascribe to them the role of being someone we should trust.

As the celebrity example shows, our brains can easily be fooled by people in our large modern society when we incorrectly ascribe to them the role of being someone we should trust.

The opposite is true as well. The parts of our brain that are hard-wired to quickly recognize “outside enemies” can be fooled in our huge modern society, when it is really people we know dressed up like the “other team”.

***

Our brains assume that we can tell truth from fiction, because they evolved in very small groups where we knew everyone extremely well, and usually could see for ourselves what was true.

On the other side of the coin, a tribal leader who talked a good game but constantly stole from and abused his group would immediately be kicked out or killed. No matter how nicely he talked, the members of the tribe would immediately see what he was doing.

But in a country of hundreds of millions of people, where the political class is shielded from the rest of the country, people don’t really know what our leaders are doing with most of the time. We only see them for a couple of minutes when they are giving speeches, or appearing in photo ops, or being interviewed. It is therefore much easier for a wolf in sheep’s clothing to succeed than in a small group setting.

Indeed, sociopaths would have been discovered very quickly in a small group. But in huge societies like our’s, they can rise to positions of power and influence.

As with the celebrity endorsement example, our brains are running programs which were developed for an environment (a small group) we no longer live in, and so lead us astray.

Like the blind spot in our rear view mirror, we have to learn to compensate and adapt for our imperfections, or we may get clobbered.

Grow Up

The good news is that we can evolve.

While our brains have many built-in hardwired ways of thinking and processing information, they are also amazingly “plastic“. We can learn and evolve and overcome our hardwiring – or at least compensate for our blind spots.

We are not condemned to being led astray by [banksters and power-hungry sociopaths].

We can choose to grow up as a species and reclaim our power to decide our own future.

Reason Number 6: Pretending We Know

People who don’t know much about a subject tend to over-estimate their understanding. Ironically, experts in any subject tend to underestimate their abilities (because the more you know, the more you realize that you don’t know.)

Moreover, people who don’ t much about a subject are more hesitant to learn about it than people who know something about it.

(This may be learning a sport or a musical instrument. When you get decent at it, it becomes fun … and learning how to improve is pleasurable. On the other hand, if you make nails-on-chalkboard noises while learning how to play electric guitar or fall a lot while you’re learning how to ski, it isn’t as fun … and it is tempting to give up and avoid it if your friends try to “drag you along”. The same dynamic might apply to learning as well.)

If we realize that we are resisting learning new information – either because we assume we already know it all, or because we want to avoid the embarrassment of being a beginner – we will remain stuck where we are, and we will never grow wiser or more powerful. If your mind is already “full”, you can’t fill it any more. Indeed, one of the secrets of really smart people is to adopt a “beginner mind”, so that they are open to learning new information.

Reason Number 7: Apathy

The CIA notes that, public apathy allows government officials to ignore their citizens. While it is easy to slip into apathy, we will as a people be ignored by our politicians unless we remain involved.

Reason Number 8: The CIA and Other Government Agencies Control Media, Movies, TV and Video Games

Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA has already bought and paid for many successful journalists.

A CIA operative allegedly told Washington Post editor Philip Graham … in a conversation about the willingness of journalists to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories:

You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.

The Church Committee found that the CIA submitted stories to the American press:

The New York Times discusses in a matter-of-fact way the use of mainstream writers by the CIA to spread messages.

The government is paying off reporters to spread disinformation.

4-part BBC documentary called the “Century of the Self” shows that an American – Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays – created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions, and the U.S. government has extensively used his techniques.

The Independent discusses allegations of American propaganda.

One of the premier writers on journalism says the U.S. has used widespread propaganda.

Indeed, an expert on propaganda testified under oath during trial that the CIA employs THOUSANDS of reporters and OWNS its own media organizations (the expert has an impressive background).

Of course, the Web has become a huge media force, and the Pentagon and other government agencieshave their hand in that as well. Indeed, documents released by Snowden show that spies manipulate polls, website popularity and pageview counts, censor videos they don’t like and amplify messages they do.

The CIA and other government agencies also put enormous energy into pushing propaganda throughmovies, tv and video games.

We intentionally listed propaganda last, because we only fall for propaganda to the extent we fail to learn the first 7 lessons … i.e. to wake up and think for ourselves.

As Michael Rivero notes:

Most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all.

Moral cowards … or people too lazy to learn how their own minds – and those of the bad guys – work.

In a move unprecedented in recent memory, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Monday for a nearly week-long halt to demonstrations against police violence following the shooting of two New York City police officers. De Blasio’s statement comes amidst a broader drive in the media and political establishment to pin the blame for the officers’ deaths on ongoing protests against police violence, thereby painting them as “violent” and illegitimate.

Earlier in the day, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton told NBC News that the shooting was a “direct spinoff of this issue of these demonstrations.”

“I think it’s a time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time,” de Blasio said at a luncheon of the Police Athletic League Monday. “So I would ask that any organizations that were planning events or gatherings that are about politics and protest—that could be for another day,” he added, urging that the protests be put on hold until the officers’ funerals, which are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Police nationwide have already begun using this attempt to link the shooting and protests against police violence as a means of intimidating opposition.

The New York Post reported that Devon Coley, 18, was charged with making a terroristic threat after he allegedly posted a picture of someone shooting into a police car, with the caption “73Next,” which police interpreted as the 73rd Precinct in Brooklyn.

The local press reported Monday that Police in Chicopee, Massachusetts have filed charges against a man for posting “put wings on pigs”—a phrase allegedly used by the shooter—on Instagram. A spokesman for the Chicopee Police Department said, “In the eyes of every police officer in America today, ‘Putting wings on pigs’ is a threat.”

Monday’s comments by de Blasio amount to a capitulation before the police unions, which had denounced the mayor for having expressed vague sympathy for the protests. “There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers do every day,” said Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), on Sunday. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.”

On Saturday, dozens of police officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he walked into a press conference at the hospital where the officers were taken. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani joined the chorus denouncing de Blasio Sunday, declaring that he and Obama had encouraged protests, including violent protests, against police.

The New York Post reported Sunday that a widely-circulated email among police officers, reportedly issued by one of the police unions, declared, “We have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ Police Department… We will act accordingly.”

De Blasio devoted his Monday press conference to an attempt to delegitimize opposition to the police. When asked by reporters about protestors who called police officers murderers and racists, the mayor denounced those who make “unacceptable” remarks about the police.

“The few who do not represent the majority, who are saying unacceptable things, who shouldn’t be saying those things… everyone must participate in finding those individuals, providing information to the police… alerting the police. There are some bad people who say inappropriate things, who say hateful things… they have no place in these protests.”

De Blasio bent over backwards to demonstrate his loyalty to the police department, touting the fact that he had allocated hundreds of millions in additional funding to the NYPD in recent months. “Actions speak louder than words,” he declared.

The mayor called on New York residents to “protect” police officers, saying, “We as citizens have an obligation to join in protecting our police just as they protect us.” He added, “People are always struggling in a democracy to understand how they can contribute to making things better. So, I can tell you…show respect and support for our police.”

Police departments across the country have put cops on high alert following the shootings. The Associated Press reported that police unions warned New York City officers to “respond to every radio call with two cars—‘no matter what the opinion of the patrol supervisor.’”

The two officers, Rafael Ramos, 40, and Wenjian Liu, 32, were shot around 3PM Saturday while sitting in a patrol car in Brooklyn. Police said the alleged shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had shot and wounded his girlfriend earlier in the day.

There is no evidence linking Brinsley to the protests. His family described him as someone who had struggled with mental illness his entire life and who had recently attempted suicide.

Police said he made Internet posts threatening to “put wings on pigs” in retribution for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, saying, “They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.”

The July choking death of Eric Garner is the most high-profile incident in a wave of murder and violence by the New York Police and Corrections Departments. In October three top officials at Rikers Island prison resigned following revelations of widespread violence by prison guards that led to a series of deaths. Last month, a New York City police officer shot and killed an unarmed 28-year-old in the stairwell of a housing project, prompting renewed protests.

De Blasio’s press conference followed the announcement by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm Monday that Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney would not be charged for shooting unarmed homeless man Dontre Hamilton to death in April.

Chisholm had provoked a confrontation with Hamilton as the latter was sleeping and shot him fourteen times. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker put the National Guard on alert over the weekend, and police carried out 74 arrests at a demonstration Saturday. “We are currently making preparations to stage National Guard members and will be ready to respond rapidly if needed,” Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr told the Journal Sentinel.

China Challenges US Economic War against Russia

December 23rd, 2014 by Alex Lantier

Directly challenging the NATO powers’ policy of cutting off credit to Russia to undermine the ruble and bankrupt the Russian economy, China is pledging to extend financial aid to Moscow.

On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed the need for mutual aid between China and Russia in remarks on the ruble crisis, which has seen a drastic 45 percent fall in its value against the dollar this year. “Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation,” Wang said. “If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity.”

On Sunday, Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng told Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV that Beijing would strengthen ties with Moscow in energy and manufacturing, predicting that Chinese-Russian trade would hit its target of $100 billion this year despite the ruble crisis. As the ruble’s value in dollars or euros swings wildly, Gao proposed moving away from the dollar in financing Chinese-Russian trade and instead using the Chinese currency, the yuan or renminbi.

Gao said China would focus on “fundamental factors such as how the two economies complement each other,” Reuters reported. “Capital investors may be more interested in a volatile stock or foreign exchange market. But in terms of concrete cooperation between the two nations, we shall have a balanced mentality and push forward those cooperations,” Gao said.

Yesterday, China Daily cited Li Jianmin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences saying that aid to Russia could pass through channels like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or the BRICS forum. Significantly, both the SCO (an alliance of China, Russia, and Central Asian states) and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) exclude the United States and Europe.

Li noted that already last month, when Chinese and Russian premiers Li Keqiang and Dmitry Medvedev met in Kazakhstan, they signed extensive deals on railways, infrastructure and development in Russia’s Far East region, north of China. “Loans, cooperation in major projects, and participation in domestic infrastructure investment in Russia are options on the table,” he added. In one such deal last month, China signed a $400-billion, 30-year deal to buy Russian gas.

These offers of assistance cut across the economic war on Russia launched by US and European imperialism to punish Moscow for opposing their neo-colonial restructuring of Eurasia.

In retaliation for Russian support for President Bashar al-Assad against NATO’s proxy war in Syria and Russian opposition to the NATO-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev, the NATO powers sought to financially strangle Russia. As Russian oil revenues fell in line with the fall in world oil prices and the ruble collapsed, they worked to cut off credit to Russia and demanded that Russia acquiesce to the Kiev regime. (See: Imperialism and the ruble crisis)

The basic financial mechanism of this strategy was laid out in London’sFinancial Times by Anders Aslund of the Petersen Institute for International Economics. “Russia has received no significant international financing—not even from Chinese state banks—because everybody is afraid of US financial regulators,” he wrote. With a yearly capital outflow of $125 billion, liquid foreign currency reserves of only $200 billion, and total foreign debts of $600 billion, Russia would run out of dollars and be bankrupted in as little as two years, Aslund calculated.

Now, however, Beijing appears to be accepting the risk of a showdown with the United States and publicly preparing to throw a financial lifeline to Russia. Chinese currency reserves of $3.89 trillion are the world’s largest and, on paper at least, allow Beijing to easily repay Russia’s debts.

Significantly, the calls of Wang and Gao to aid Russia came a day after a divided European Union (EU) summit on Russia last week. Though the EU supported US sanctions against Russia, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French President François Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi all publicly opposed calls for more sanctions. Leading European newspapers also warned of the risk of a collapse of the Russian state.

As it weighs its response to the ruble crisis, the Chinese regime, facing a cooling economy and rising social protests in the working class and peasant masses, doubtless also fears the consequences of an outright economic and political implosion of its northern neighbor.

The economic conflicts erupting between the major powers over the oil crisis and the imperialist war drive in Eurasia testifies to the advanced state of the crisis of world capitalism, and the rising risk of world war.

Chinese aid to Russia, should it materialize, will exacerbate US conflict with China. Washington has tried to militarily encircle it through the “pivot to Asia,” allying with Japan, Australia, and India. Plans for war with China, both economic and military, are doubtless being pored over on Wall Street and in the Pentagon.

A year ago, in an article titled “China must not copy the Kaiser’s errors,”Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf warned China against any action that could be construed as a challenge to US global hegemony. He indicated that a Chinese policy replicating the German Kaiser’s challenge to British hegemony before the outbreak of World War I in 1914 would lead to a similar outcome: all-out conflict.

“If open conflict arrived, the US could cut off the world’s trade with China. It could also sequester a good part of China’s liquid foreign assets,” Wolf wrote, recalling that China’s “foreign currency reserves, equal to 40 percent of GDP are, by definition, held abroad.” Such naked theft of trillions of dollars that China has earned from trade with the United States and Europe would directly raise the prospect of a collapse of global trade and preparation for war between nuclear-armed powers.

With its ever more reckless and violent policies, US imperialism is vastly overplaying its hand, discrediting itself at home and fueling opposition from rival states. By driving Russia and China together, in particular, Washington is undoing what was long seen as a major achievement of US imperialist statecraft: the 1972 rapprochement between US President Richard Nixon and Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which turned China into a US ally against the former Soviet Union.

“Many Chinese people still view Russia as the big brother, and the two countries are strategically important to each other,” Renmin University Associate Dean Jin Canrong said, referring to Soviet backing for China as it fought the United States in the Korean War, shortly after the Stalinist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949. “For the sake of national interests, China should deepen cooperation with Russia when such cooperation is in need.”

“Russia is an irreplaceable partner on the international stage,” the CCP-linked Global Times wrote in an editorial yesterday. “China must take a proactive attitude in helping Russia walk out of the current crisis.”

China is in the midst of its second ‘cultural revolution’ in a half century.  While the first (under Chairman Mao Tse Tung) was intended to ‘revitalize socialism’; the current is directed to ‘moralizing’capitalism.

The first CR was a frontal attack on the hierarchy of power and privilege inside and outside of the Communist Party, launched from above by Mao Tse Tung, but taken up from below by Red Guards in order to bring about a more egalitarian society.

The current ‘cultural revolution’, launched by President Xi Jinping, is directed at ending widespread corruption, theft and pillage of the Chinese economy and society by high and low officials in government and the capitalist sector.

The two cultural revolutions are linked by Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who officially put closure on the first and set in motion the policies and slogans (“Getting Rich is Good!”), necessitating a second cultural revolution three decades later.

The Socio-Economic Roots of the Cultural Revolution Today

Deng’s call to ‘get rich’ was directed at the Communist Party elite, their family, friends and overseas backers; it was an open invitation to the multi-nationals of the world to freely exploit China’s  resources, infrastructure and labor – educated, nurtured and organized through the collective efforts of the preceding Communist regime.  Deng ‘liberated’- or privatized – the means of production and rapidly turned public control and appropriation of earnings over to emerging private capitalists. The corollary was the elimination of all social rights, benefits and protections of labor.  The dual incentives were designed to maximize private profits in order to attract long-term, large-scale investments and to achieve high growth in the shortest time possible.  Deng telescoped a century of growth and exploitation into a few decades.

His strategy succeeded.

Profits soared.  By the late 1980’s and early 1990’s millionaires multiplied like mushrooms after a downpour.  Then came the billionaires.  Aided and abetted by the wholesale privatization of lucrative industries and public lands, a new class of real estate speculators and so-called ‘developers’ emerged , closely linked to corrupt local municipal, regional and national state officials.  Millions of peasants were dispossessed and barely (if ever) compensated; hundreds of millions of workers were employed at starvation wages without the free housing, medical care, education, recreational benefits  and lifetime employment  of the past, socialist system.

China’s GNP exploded at a double-digit rate for three decades – an unprecedented performance.  Most of the profits circulated among a narrow elite of party – state officials and capitalists, while a smaller share ‘trickled down’ to middle and low level functionaries.  The seizure of public wealth, followed by three decades of intense exploitation of labor and the private land grabbing of farmland and homesteads, spurred the boom in real estate profits and laid the basis for all pervasive and large-scale corruption .The pillage of the public treasury led to large-scale conspicuous consumption – of imported luxury goods, multi-tiered mansions in gated communities, multiple purchases of luxury condos for offspring, mistresses and bribe-takers and givers.

By the mid 2000’s the concentration of wealth, property and privilege had reached astronomical heights: hundreds of billions accrued to the top 2%, millions to the top 10%, and hundreds of thousands to the top 15% – the self-styled ‘middle class’ who thrived on lesser but equally pervasive corruption and theft and who aped the elite and imitated their life style of luxury consumerism.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, hundreds of strikes by exploited factory workers demanded and secured higher wages; millions of households, farmers and peasants fought against municipal party officials, linked to real estate capitalists, who were attempting to ‘grab’ their land, homes and neighborhoods.  Hundreds of millions of Chinese in the countryside protested exorbitant medical and educational costs, induced by the privatized health and educational system, which had bankrupted millions of households.  They quickly became aware of the luxurious private medical facilities and specialized clinics for the rich -capitalists and corrupt officials.  The internal migrant workers, who built the hyper-luxury condos and mansions, lived in paper shacks, far from the twelve-course banquets celebrating the ‘grand openings’ by business swindlers and ‘bought officials’.  As wealth grew among the elite, so did the people’s hostility and rejection of the Party and the State, which they personified.

The ever-cautious klepto-capitalists and public pillagers, fearing for their illicit fortunes, smuggled out enormous wealth.  Big swindlers, with big fortunes engaged in massive money laundering while publicly demanding the ‘de-regulation” of the financial sector (i.e. to make it easier to launder and hide their fortunes in overseas accounts).  Between 2005-2011 China hemorrhaged over $2.83 trillion in illegal overseas financial outflows.

Part II: The Consequences of Corruption, Pillage and Exploitation

The illicit flow of Chinese wealth overseas resulted from the elite’s savage and illegal exploitation of labor (failure to meet minimum official standards concerning pay, work safety, child labor, excessive hours) .Wealth from bribes, kickbacks on government contracts, speculation on  illicit seizures of land, and making false invoices overpricing imports and underpricing exports, flowed upward and outward.  While China was profiting from double-digit growth the regime could ‘tolerate’ corruption and illicit outflows.  However, by the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, when China’s economy de-accelerated to about 7 – 7.5%, the regime became less tolerant of wholesale corruption accompanied by capital flight.

Moreover, the new billionaires, millionaires and affluent middle class indulged in what Thorsten Veblen described as “conspicuous consumption”, the purchase and ostentatious display of superfluous luxury products as status symbols of “success”.  According to a Special Report on “Luxury” in the Economist (12/13/14, p.8 -10) “nearly one-third of all personal luxury goods sold worldwide are bought by Chinese consumers.”  Since the global crises of 2009, 70 – 80% of global growth in the (luxury) sector has come from China.

China’s emerging private-public ruling class has advanced from concentrating wealth, to consolidating political power to seeking prestige and social status – recognition from their domestic and foreign peers.  Ideologically, they are decidedly neo-liberal and pro-Western – as evidenced by the billions they spend in the top-end real estate markets of North America, Europe and Australia as well as the millions they spend on their pampered offspring for ‘elite’ private education.  Their children live in half-million dollar condos in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Oxford and Cambridge (England), Toronto and Vancouver (Canada), Sydney and Melbourne Australia. The Chinese oligarchs “make the market” for six-figure Swiss watches, five figure handbags and four digit French cognac.

Corruption, conspicuous consumption and class polarization has delegitimized the ruling Communist Party elite in the eyes of the great mass of the Chinese working class, as well as the professionals and salaried employees who make-up the lower middle class.

The ‘political rot’- the privileged social networks derived from kinship ties-is leading to a relatively closed ruling class – excluding the mass of urban workers and rural peasants, with potentially explosive social consequences.

Already thousands of local protests, strikes and other forms of direct action occur every year, even as they are repressed or resolved.

In addition to the social and political dangers resulting from the massive illegal, ‘squandering and theft of wealth’, the illicit outflow of wealth is undermining domestic investment and productive overseas investments, and corruption is preparing the way for stagnation and financial crisis.

The stars are lining up for a ‘perfect political storm’ – which has unfolded in the form of President Xi Jingping’s launch of China’s second cultural revolution (CR).

Xi Jingping’s Cultural Revolution

From the start of the 2nd CR in 2012 to mid-2014, the Chinese Communist Party’s internal corruption body has prosecuted and punished 270,000 cadres.  That figure includes both the “tigers” (high officials) and the “flies” (low level functionaries).  “Over three dozen officials with ranks of ministers or above, including former security Tsar and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang”, have been arrested and jailed (Financial Times 12/4/14, p. 4).  Earlier, the former Railways Minister was arrested and sentenced to death for rigging contracts worth about $26 billion dollars over his seven-year tenure.  Hundreds of thousands of private business people, paying bribes, have been arrested and sentenced.

President Xi’s campaign has attacked bribes, ‘gift giving’,  frequent ostentatious banquets serving expensive delicacies, and high Party officials’ lodging in five star hotels for weeks  on end, ostensibly “tending to business”, but more frequently ‘cavorting with their mistresses’.

To be precise, President Xi is attacking the triple evils of corruption, conspicuous consumption, and pillage of public wealth.  The new austerity agenda and the public revelations of ill-gained wealth are focused on exposing public officials and private business people in order to regain public legitimacy.  And it is succeeding,…. as far as it goes.  Public indignation at the revelations is matched by high approval for the Xi leadership’s anti –corruption campaign.

What makes this far more than just a “power struggle among privileged elites” as the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have routinely claimed, are: 1. the duration of the campaign of over 2 years, 2. the scope of the campaign, covering top officials and Chinese business equivalents of Wall Street moguls, 3. The nature of the punishment including long prison terms and even death sentences (rather than the mere ‘slap on the wrists and paltry fines’ that US regulators have given to Wall Street’s billion-dollar swindlers), and 4. the ongoing nature of the process.  The sweep and magnitude of Xi’s campaign has all the makings of a ‘cultural revolution’ – not the episodic ‘blowing off steam’ or ‘scapegoating of rivals’ described in the Western press.

The Nature of Xi’s Cultural Revolution

Xi’s ‘cultural revolution’ is directed and driven from above – established legal authorities are in charge – the masses are excluded, and preemptory justice is eschewed:  regular court proceedings decide guilt and sentencing.

Secondly, Xi’s ‘cultural revolution’ does not, in any way or place, call into question capitalist property relations, foreign investors, or large-scale inflows and outflows of investment or legally registered speculative capital.  Nor has Xi called into question existing capital-labor relations.

Xi’s ‘cultural revolution’ is an attempt to sanitize existing capitalist relations, and to infuse a new capitalist ethic.  He wants to ‘revise’ Deng’s famous precept “Getting Rich is Good” to read “Get Rich Lawfully . . . or Face Jail”.  China is rated number 100 out of 175, on a corruption scale published by Transparency in 2014 (Financial Times 12/4/14, p. 4).  Xi’s war on corruption is based on the premise that corruption undermines China’s status as a global power – it ranks with Algeria and Surinam.  Secondly, Xi hopes that he can ‘reform’ the public sector in order to privatize it and he wants the sale to go to the highest bidder, not the biggest bribe giver.

His campaign attacks privileged elites, who accumulate and dispose of wealth illegally but he has never sought to diminish the class system, the hierarchy and inequalities which concentrate political power and forms the basis of corrupt bribe giving and taking.

Xi’s ‘cultural revolution’ is continuing and corruption may lessen.  Ostentatious public spending is declining. But this layer of ‘new morality’ is spread thinly over a system of power that can easily revert to the ‘old system’ once the ‘revolution’ ends.

Xi’s noteworthy ‘cultural revolution’, the moralization of public administration and private capitalism, can only succeed if it is accompanied by a social transformation:  ethics at the service of social justice and equality and by a democratization of the economic decision-making process.  The problem is that Xi, by family, social ties and political allegiances is deeply embedded in a milieu which absolutely rejects any such ‘deepening’ of Xi’s ‘cultural revolution’.

His cultural revolution is strictly guided by a singular objective:  to force ‘morality’ on the ‘captains of capital’ in order to facilitate the smooth transition to fully liberalizing China’s economy.  President Xi, along with his anti-corruption campaign, is steadily loosening state control over foreign financial investments in Chinese stocks and financial sector; he is moving strongly to expand China’s overseas investments; he is accelerating the privatization of public enterprises and increasingly opening financial services to Wall Street and the City of London.  He is also internationalizing the use of the yuan-the Chinese currency- in global transactions, displacing the dollar.

In other words, his cultural revolution is a bridge to a new stage of Chinese capitalist expansion; it will lessen the crude open plunder of the public treasury, but it will not lessen the exploitation of labor nor slow the increasing concentration of wealth and privilege.  That will require a different kind of ‘cultural’ revolution- one led from below by workers, peasants and salaried employees.  A real ‘cultural revolution’ that realizes the ethical ideals of ‘good government’ through a transformation of class relations.

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign confirms what many workers already knew – but it also unmasks the systemic decay and forges an elementary class consciousness:  counter-posing honest, hardworking workers to corrupt privileged oligarchs.  Xi is aware of the danger that his campaign could ignite a popular fire: That is why he has kept a tight hold on the process.  He is trying to navigate the liberal capitalist transition around the shoals of existing capitalist rot without arousing mass unrest.

What if a Jew Swims against the Stream of Zionism?

December 23rd, 2014 by Global Research News

by Özge Özçelik

Many Jews around the world maintain a critical stance against Zionism. As one of those people, Professor Yakov M. Rabkin, expresses his views about the issues of anti-Semitism, coexistence in the Middle East and Jewish perspectives on the state of Israel. This article was originally published in the Daily Sabah. 

On March 2, 2014, hundreds of thousands of Haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jews came together in Jerusalem. They protested against an amendment to the Israeli conscription law that would no longer exempt students of the Torah from compulsory military service. The new law puts in doubt an entire system of agreements made between David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, and non-Zionist Haredi rabbis in 1948. Ben-Gurion, convinced that Judaism would die out, was buying time and trying to calm down the rabbis’ opposition to the Zionist state. Ben-Gurion’s prediction has proven wrong. More than a million Israelis now consider themselves Haredim, and they remain aloof from the country’s secular majority. The demonstration last March was not the first such confrontation between Haredi Jews and the State of Israel.

Yakov M. Rabkin, a Soviet-born Jew who has taught at the University of Montreal in Canada for over forty years, has critically analysed the relations between Zionism and Judaism, and between Jews and the State of Israel. In his academic work, he dispels confusions about Zionism and Judaism, and investigates relations between Zionism and anti-Semitism. While teaching contemporary Jewish history he has studied Judaism with rabbis in Montreal, Paris and Jerusalem. He has also carried out academic studies on the history of science and technology, Jewish history, and has been active in interfaith dialogue.

His 2004 book, “A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism,” grabbed worldwide attention and has been translated into a dozen of languages, including Hebrew and Turkish. In the book he sheds light on the rejection of Zionism on the part of most prominent rabbis of the past one hundred and fifty years.

A brief history of Zionism

It is crucial to know what Zionism really is in order to comprehend all debates for and against it. That is why Rabkin begins by defining Zionism: “Zionism is an attempt to gather Jews in the Holy Land by political, physical means.” And shortly after, he outlines the birth of Zionism as a political ideology. Secularization and nationalism in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe, enabled thousands of European Jews to embrace Zionism, leaving behind their commitment to Torah and its commandments. It is these “secular Jews” who unilaterally declared the independence of Israel in 1948, and have largely governed the country ever since.

It was Theodor Herzl, a Budapest-born Jew profoundly estranged from Judaism, who is considered the father of modern political Zionism. He formed the World Zionist Organization and promoted Jewish migration to Palestine with the purpose of forming a Jewish state. Rabkin emphasizes the Eastern European, particularly Russian, influence on Zionism. “This Eastern European influence is still very strong in Israel. All the prime ministers of Israel without exception were either born in the Russian Empire or come from parents who were born in the Russian Empire. They all come from little towns, none of them come from big cosmopolitan cities like Paris, Saint-Petersburg or Istanbul. No wonder they recreated a ghetto in the Holy Land.”

The original idea of physical, material gathering Jews in Palestine is of Protestant Christian origin. After two centuries of rather marginal existence, this idea gathered momentum in mid-19th century. While still unknown to the Jews, it penetrated the corridors of power in London as it dovetailed with British imperial policies, looking for a reliable foothold in the Middle East. And it was only 50 years later, by the end of the 19th century, that Zionism acquired first adepts among some Jews in Eastern Europe. It is this small minority of Jews that became the pioneers of a new state in the Middle East. This secular minority had no use for Judaism and its moral values, it was determined to act. Rabkin says: “Jews, including myself, pray three or four times a day for the return to the Holy Land. But praying for something and actually taking it from its owner are two different things.”

All Jews hold different opinions

Quite a few people believe that all Jews are Zionists. This is a cardinal belief of the Zionists, who claim to be “the vanguard of the Jewish people”. This confusion between Jews and Zionists is a political misconception and a source of danger. Some Muslim and other media blame local Jews for the way Israel treats Palestinians. This is not only unfair because local Jews have zero influence on Israel’s policies. It is also ironic because those very media that claim to be opposed to Zionism have in fact become purveyors of the Zionist ideology that conflates Jews and Zionists, local Jewish communities and the State of Israel.

“Israel calls itself a Jewish state and claims to belong to all the Jews of the world. But most of the Jews of the world prefer to live outside of Israel. And apparently, about a million Israelis also live outside of Israel.”

Are those who oppose Zionism anti-Semitic?

Criticism of Israel is often confused with anti-Semitism. Indeed, quite a few anti-Semites criticize Israel. But the protagonists of Rabkin’s book are most prominent rabbis of the last century, and nobody would call them anti-Semites. This is why the book has attracted so much attention around the world. Some people are unhappy that the book sheds light on the fundamental differences between Zionism and Judaism. They would rather silence this whole issue. But Rabkin believes that intellectuals must explore such issues even if they go against the current. “Let me tell you an old Jewish story. When one does not know if the fish one has bought is dead or alive, one must put it in a stream. If it swims against the current, this shows it is alive”.

European nationalism: Parallelism between Turkey and Israel

The emergence of nationalism in Europe in the 19th century transformed many countries on the continent and rebuilt them with new secular, national identities. According to Rabkin, such a historic transformation constitutes a common ground for Turkey and Israel in terms of building new secular identities, language reform and regional issues.

He points out that “Ottoman identity was not a national identity just like Jewish identity is not a national identity.” Another parallel between Turkey and Israel, Rabkin adds, is the stance of their first leaders, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and David Ben-Gurion, respectively. “The perception of Atatürk and the perception of Ben-Gurion was nearly the same. For them, religion is a thing of the past. … For Ben-Gurion, religion was to die away within a generation or two. However, it did not happen this way, and the numbers of religious Jews keep growing. Turkey also has known a movement back to Islam.”

Old Yishuv: Coexistence in the Middle East

Jews have lived as a minority for millennia. In Christian lands they experienced a lot more persecution than under Islam. In the Ottoman Empire, including the Holy Land, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in relative harmony. For Jews, Istanbul was the most peaceful corner of Europe for many centuries. This coexistence must continue.

Zionism aimed at and succeeded in building up a Jewish majority in Israel/Palestine, which engendered the century-old conflict. But Rabkin is quite hopeful about prospects for peace: “I am an optimist, even though peace will require tremendous efforts. I believe that there can be no peace without justice. Economically and politically, the Palestinians today are much weaker than the Israelis. Stability demands balance. Many Palestinians lost their houses, their lands since 1947, and they ought to be compensated for lost property. For instance there was a Palestinian village where the campus of Tel Aviv University stands today. Nobody suggests to rebuild that village, but its former residents and their heirs must be compensated.”

Rabkin also published a book this year, “Comprendre l’Etat d’Israël” (Understanding the State of Israel), which offers a new perspective on the Israel-Palestine conflict. And always as a swimmer against the current, his new book should bring a new breath to our understanding of Israel.

North Korea: Longstanding US Punching Bag

December 23rd, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

America needs enemies. For geopolitical reasons. To justify its war machine. Spend more on militarism called defense than the rest of the world combined. 

Let war profiteers gorge at the public trough. Pretend its military might protects against world threats. Divert attention from Main Street Depression conditions.

North Korea is Washington’s longstanding punching bag. Straight from central casting. Truman’s war never ended. An uneasy armistice persists.

Pyongyang wanted normalized relations for decades. US administrations refuse. Tensions remain. Occasionally heightened like now.

Baseless accusations accuse North Korea of hacking Sony Pictures’ “The Interview.” Destabilizing US propaganda. Negatively portraying leader Kim Jong-un. Including a plot to assassinate him.

FBI assistant cyber division director, Joe Demarest, initially said: “There is no attribution to North Korea at this point.”

Sony at first called the incident a likely inside job. Involving a disgruntled employee. Abandoning the notion after the FBI changed tactics.

Blaming North Korea. Citing no verifiable evidence. None exists. Weeks earlier, a group called Guardians of Peace (GOP) claimed responsibility.

Releasing nearly 140 GBs of internal Sony data and communications. Perhaps the largest ever breach of corporate records.

GOP claimed it harvested Sony records for over a year. Before going public. Warning it compromised terabytes of Sony network data.

Containing thousands of internal and personal communications Including film scripts. Proposals. Pending projects.

Emails to and from Sony Pictures Television president Steve Mosko and Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Any Pascal. Containing potentially embarrassing corporate information.

Wired.com addressed the hacking incident. Saying “attribution in breaches is difficult” at best.

“Assertions about who is behind any attack should be treated with a hefty dose of skepticism.”

“Skilled hackers use proxy machines and false IP addresses to cover their tracks or plant false clues inside their malware to throw investigators off their trail.”

“When hackers are identified and apprehended, it’s generally because they’ve made mistakes or because a cohort got arrested and turned informant.”

Nation-state attacks are sophisticated, said Wired.com. “(A)ttribution is no less difficult.”

Hackers can easily plant false flags. Pointing away from themselves. Sorting things out is difficult to impossible.

US intelligence agencies often point fingers the wrong way. So do government officials. Misleading the public. For geopolitical reasons.

North Korea’s UN envoy Ja Song Nam wrote UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon the following:

“To allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.”

“The United States authorities should take immediate and appropriate actions to ban the production and distribution of the aforementioned film; otherwise, it will be fully responsible for encouraging and sponsoring terrorism.”

A November 21 email hackers sent to Sony executives three days before the attack said nothing about North Korea or the film.

It warned of “great damage.” Sought “monetary compensation…Pay the damage or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole,” it said.

Signed “God’sApstls.” The same phrase found in malware used in the November 24 attack. Wiping out many Sony computer systems.

A message headlined “Hacked by #GOP” referenced a previous unheeded warning.

Saying “(w)e’ve already warned you, and this is just the beginning.” Hackers likely had a financial motive.

It’s unclear what dollar amount they sought. What’s known points fingers away from North Korea.

What could it hope to gain from hacking a grade B film? Risking possible retaliation. From Washington. Other nations. World public opinion expressing anger. Media scoundrels piling on.

On December 18, the right-wing Washington Free Beacon headlined  “DIA: North Korea Planned Attacks on US Nuclear Plants.”

According to a so-called declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report. Dated September 13, 2004.

Allegedly involving five covert commando units. Training internally in America to attack. Sounding more like another grade B film plot.

Claiming the North Korean Ministry of People’s Armed Force “established five liaison offices in the early 1990s, to train and infiltrate operatives into the United States to attack nuclear power plants and major cities in case of hostilities.”

In response to a FOIA request, FBI officials claimed no knowledge of North Korean commando teams. No records of a Pyongyang Reconnaissance Bureau.

No likely DPRK plot to attack US sites. What possibly could North Korea gain from doing so. Massive US retaliation would follow.

Perhaps turning the entire country to rubble. Killing millions. Replicating Truman’s war. Korean expert Bruce Cumings explaining its “extraordinary destructiveness.”

Including “widespread and continuous use of firebombing…(T)hreats to use nuclear and chemical weapons. (D)estr(oying) North Korean dams in the final stages of war.”

An estimated three to four million killed. Unimaginable overall casualties inflicted. Innocent civilians suffered most. Terror weapons were used.

America wages wars mercilessly. Cumings said non-nuclear war “leveled North Korea and killed millions of civilians.”

“North Koreans tell you that for three years they faced a daily threat of being burned (alive) with napalm.”

By “1952 just about everything in northern and central Korea had been completely leveled. What was left of the population survived in caves.”

“Bomb damage assessment showed 18 of 22 major cities were half or more obliterated. Big industrial ones were from 75 – 100% destroyed.”

Villages resembled “low, wide mounds of violent ashes.” Pyongyang fears America for good reason. It wants no repeat of its war.

On Monday, Security Council members addressed accusations of North Korean human rights abuses.

AP calling the session an apparent “first time that any country’s human rights situation has been scheduled for” Security Council debate. Despite objections from China and Russia.

US neocon ambassador Samantha Power said “(t)oday, we have broken the council’s silence. We have begun to shine a light, and what it has revealed is terrifying.”

America exceeds all other nations in human rights abuses.  None match its barbarity. Ruthlessness. Contempt for fundamental rights.

Committing genocidal high crimes against peace.

Waging war on its own people. Using its homeland police state apparatus.

Its gulag prison system the world’s largest. Power left what’s most important unmentioned.

North Korea refused to participate in Monday’s session. Reproaching the UN for double standards.

Accusing Washington and rogue allies of irresponsibly using human rights as a weapon against its government.

Its UN envoy Ja Song-nam saying:

“The so-called ‘human rights issue’ in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is politically fabricated and, therefore, it is not at all relevant to regional or international peace and security.”

“(T)he recently revealed CIA torture crimes committed by the United States, which have been conducted worldwide in the most brutal medieval forms, are the gravest human rights violations in the world.”

Requiring “a thorough probe into the CIA torture crimes,” he stressed.

Itar Tass said Russia and China voted against discussing North Korean human rights abuses.

Eleven out of 15 Security Council members decided otherwise. Including America, Australia, Britain, France, Jordan, Lithuania, and South Korea. Chad and Nigeria abstained.

Decisions on Security Council procedural issues require majority approval. Veto rights apply only to resolutions submitted.

On Monday, North Korean Internet connections failed for hours. Perhaps part of what Obama called an unspecified “proportionate response at a time and place of our choosing.”

Obama irresponsibly blaming North Korea rof “cybervandalism.” In response to baseless FBI hacking accusations.

Cyber experts called Monday’s attack one of the worst North Korean network failures in years.

Dyn Research Internet analysis director Doug Madory said North Korea’s system became unstable late Friday.

Worsening over the weekend. Failing entirely on Monday. “Their networks are under duress,” said Madory.

“This is consistent with a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on their routers.” Overloading them until they collapse.

At the same time, calling it “notoriously difficult” to attribute blame. DDoS attacks are easy to replicate, he said.

The New York Times calls “disruption of computers and networks…part of the American offensive playbook.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan ducked suggestions of US responsibility.

“Saying “(w)e have no new information regarding North Korea today…(W)e’d refer you to that government for comment.”

Pyongyang is connected online through China United Network Communications Group Co. (China Unicom).

On Monday, it went dark until hours later. Whether from Washington attacking its network isn’t clear.

According to Arbor Networks, at least six previous denial-of-service attacks originated from America.

North Korea has limited Internet usage. Its networks are vulnerable to attacks.

It may never be known if Washington bears responsibility for what happened. Most important is what’s next.

A previous article called North Korea America’s punching bag. China its target.

Wanting it marginalized. Weakened. Isolated. Contained. The aim of Obama’s Asia/Pacific pivot.

Advancing America’s military footprint. In a part of the world hostile to invaders. Vietnam echoes remain audible.

Permanent war is official US policy. Waging it on humanity reflects it.

Whether Washington intends challenging China military remains to be seen. Lunatics influencing policy make anything possible.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Misleading the World on Iran’s “Bomb”

December 23rd, 2014 by Jonathan Power

The negotiations over Iran’s supposed nuclear bomb-building abilities seem to be stuck in a rut. Given the detailed undertakings by Iran incorporated in the interim agreement made last year it should have only been a hop, skip and a jump to forge a final agreement.

In reality it hasn’t been so easy. Over many years the US with European connivance most – not always – of the time manufactured and manipulated the whole crisis. To overcome the suspicions aroused by that, now past, tactic is not easy. That is not just my opinion after following this subject for 30 years. It is that of the former vice-chair of the US National Intelligence Council, Graham Fuller.

Now a new book, “Manufactured Crisis” by the astute investigative journalist, Gareth Porter, has taken the lid off the attempt by the US, often in collusion with Israel, to paint Iran into a corner, whilst shunning any effort by Iran to resolve the dispute.

But before we get into that I want to make one point about the Islamic sense of morality. Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, the successive top clerics and paramount leaders of the country, have made it clear on a number of occasions that for their country to build a nuclear bomb would go against Islamic belief and jurisprudence.

I don’t find this difficult to believe – during the bitter and savage war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1980 when Iran lost 2 million people Iran refused to deploy chemical weapons even though Iraq did. They too were regarded as un-Islamic. Iran has been consistent in its morality. Iran’s religious practice today is about as far away from the Islamic State or Pakistan’s Taliban as you can get.

The US has not been consistent in its own Western morality, whether judged by Christian belief or secular values. It provided – as did some European states – sophisticated arms and intelligence to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during its long war with Iran.

This is not to say that in recent years Iran has been straightforward in its nuclear dealings. It hasn’t. It has also played a hide and seek game with the US, the EU, Russia and the supervisory nuclear authority, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. In its nuclear research it has not taken the straight road to a peaceful use of nuclear energy. It has on certain key points built in a possible dual use of its nuclear infrastructure.

It has done enough of this to allow the US, the EU, the IAEA and Israel to milk this ambiguity for all its worth. They have tried to convince the world that Iran has no compunction about building a bomb and time was its main constraint.

Never has it been admitted that Iran has been playing chess in a desperate attempt to compel the West to lift the sanctions that were imposed way back in Jimmy Carter’s presidency at the time of the hostage crisis, when US diplomats were detained. Studied ambiguity over its nuclear program is the only lever Iran has had to persuade the West to lift sanctions.

Indeed, it is that that has brought the US and EU to the negotiating table. Enriching uranium has been nothing more than an Iranian tactic to get the sanctions removed and to checkmate President George W. Bush’s plans for regime change.

In his book Porter makes his own devastating points:

• In 2004 Bush explicitly refused to countenance an agreement between Iran and the UK, Germany and France that would have committed Iran to a minimal nuclear program that would not have constituted a threat of proliferation.

• There was a systemic failure in CIA intelligence that parallels the misleading intelligence that Iraq had nuclear weapons – that let Bush get away with his decision to go to war with Iraq. He ignored the findings of his own National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 which concluded Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons research in 2003.

• The well-quoted dossier of “intelligence” that was publicized by the IAEA in 2009, which “proved” that Iran was engaged in secret nuclear weapons work, was made up mainly of information supplied by Israel.

• It was President Bill Clinton who aligned US policy towards Iran with Israel’s. Yet Israel’s top intelligence officials did not share the public alarm mouthed by Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu who used any argument they could lay their hands on to denigrate Iran.

• It was Bush who injected poison into the relationship with his goal of “regime change”. That is why he opposed the European-negotiated compromise.

Now, under President Barack Obama, the US is gradually building a relationship of trust with Iranian leaders. But it needs to bend towards the Iranian position somewhat more if it is to convince them that US policy has truly changed.

Only then will a final agreement made and the fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb be laid to rest.

The US-Israel Alliance: No Palestinian State Solution

December 23rd, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

America and Israel partner against world peace. Stability. Equity. Justice. Responsible governance. According to fundamental rule of law principles.

No two nations operate more ruthlessly. Lawlessly. Recklessly. Reigning terror on adversaries. Supporting like-minded rogue regimes.

Both countries oppose Palestinian statehood. Defying international law. Affirming self-determination as a universal right.

Wanting Palestinians kept in perpetual bondage. Under occupation harshness. Denied all international law guaranteed rights.

Over their lives, welfare and futures. Treating them like criminals. Subhumans. Exploiting them ruthlessly.

Stealing their land and resources. Brutalizing them when they resist. Rogue states operate this way. None worse than America and Israel.

None more ruthless. None more threaten humanity’s survival. None more need to be contained to preserve life on earth.

Obama and Netanyahu exceed the worst of their predecessors. Both oppose Palestinian statehood.

Last September, Obama told General Assembly members: “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN.”

Omitting mention of Washington’s longstanding one-sided support for Israel. Using its veto power irresponsibly. Supporting wrong over right.

“Palestinians must make peace with Israel before gaining statehood,” he claimed.

Obama ludicrously claimed peace depends on both “parties sit(ting) down together.”

“(L)isten(ing) to each other…(U)nderstand(ing) each other’s hopes and fears.”

“That is the project to which America is committed, and that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.”

So-called peace process initiatives reflect the greatest hoax in modern times. Chances for just peace are zero. Israel doesn’t negotiate. It demands. With full US support. Abbas is a longtime Israeli collaborator.

He and Netanyahu pretend talks are legitimate. A sham by any standard.

Palestinians have no say whatever. Their legitimate Hamas government excluded from talks. The one Palestinians democratically elected.

Isolated in Gaza. Attacked at Israel’s discretion. Mass murdering civilians. An Israeli specialty. Furthering its imperial agenda.

Intending no Palestinian state ever. Regardless of international law. UN resolutions. The legitimate rights of millions of people. What everyone deserves.

What Obama opposes. So does Netanyahu. Fascists by any standard. Repeating one Big Lie after another.

Netanyahu ludicrously claiming “Israel is being attacked simultaneously on two fronts.”

“(B)y the terrorism of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and is also subject to the diplomatic offensive led by the Palestinian Authority, which is intended to strip us of our right to defend ourselves and directed at eliminating the legitimacy of our existence.”

It’s hard not gagging on his Big Lies. Repeating them with disturbing regularity.

Promising pushback on both fronts. Code language for collective punishment. State terror. Naked aggression.

Mass slaughter and destruction. Targeting an entire people for elimination. Calling any UN Palestinian statehood resolution “unacceptable.”

Pledging opposition. Saying “obviously we will not follow any diktats.” Kerry in lockstep with Netanyahu.

Shamelessly claiming support for Palestinian statehood strengthens Israeli hardliners. They infest Israel’s government. Leftists practically don’t exist.

Kerry telling other Western diplomats Washington won’t let a Palestinian statehood resolution come to a vote before Israeli March 17 elections.

Outrageously claiming doing so benefits peace opponents. None more so than America and Israel. Rogue state partners in high crimes against peace. United against Palestinian statehood.

Longstanding New York Times policy one-sidedly supports Israel. At  one time suggesting Palestine isn’t occupied. Gaza isn’t besieged.

The Nakba never happened. Lawless settlements are legitimate. Israel is surrounded by enemies. Ones it invents it failed to mention.

Israel is more victim than aggressor. Palestinians choose conflict over peace. Responsible for their own misery.

Examples of rubbish Times editors call news fit to print. Polar opposite hard truths.

Earlier saying “(w)ith peace negotiations at an impasse… Palestinians have only one diplomatic card left – their status at the United Nations. (A)nd once again, they are trying to play it.”

“Israel and the United States say unilateral (Palestinian) moves…violate the 1993 Oslo Accords…”

“(I)ntended to pave the way to a ‘final status’ agreement within five years.” After 21 years, Palestinians are still waiting. Times editors didn’t explain.

Instead turned truth on its head saying it’s “clear that a negotiated deal is the only way to ensure the creation of a viable Palestinian state and guarantee Israel’s security.”

It’s “clear” negotiating with Israel assures continued conflict. Militarized occupation harshness without end. Palestinians denied virtually all rights in perpetuity.

On December 19, Times editors headlined ”The Embattled Dream of Palestine.” Ignoring decades of dead on arrival peace talks.

Occupation harshness. Repeated Israeli high crimes against peace. Claiming “far right” Israelis alone call for one state conflict resolution.

Favoring Israel at the expense of Palestinians. Ignoring others advocating one state serving all its people equitably.

With conflict resolution nowhere in sight, “it is little surprise that some are seeking alternatives,” said Times editors.

“(S)ome Palestinians are also tempted by a one-state solution, but talk of full rights draws skepticism.”

“Many Palestinians who live in Israel and are citizens already feel they are discriminated against and fear this will worsen if Israel adopts a new law under consideration emphasizing the country”s Jewishness over democracy.”

“There are risks in annexation and a one-state solution for Israelis, too.”

“Many Israelis worry that will lead to a Palestinian majority, thus endangering the country’s democratic ideals and Jewish character.”

“Democratic ideals?” They’re nonexistent. Not now. Not earlier. Not ever. According toAdalah, Israeli Arab citizens “live in a state that by definition does not treat you as an equal citizen.”

“As non-Jews in the Jewish state, they are discriminated against and denied their fundamental rights based on their identity.”

Racism in Israel is institutionalized. Dozens of discriminatory laws favor Jews. At the expense of Arab citizens.

Adalah cited an Israeli Arab woman saying her husband isn’t allowed to live with her and their children. Because he was born in the West Bank.

“Israel does not recognize my right to family life,” she said.

“Israel does not recognize my right to express my national identity.”

“Israel does not recognize my right to live on the land.”

“Israel does not recognize my full right to political participation.”

“Israel does not recognize my right to connect with my people and culture.”

“Israel does not protect my right to be free from racial discrimination.”

Rights afforded Jews are denied Arab citizens. Palestinians endure virtually every indignity, degradation and high crime too grave to ignore.

Israel’s 18th and 19th Knessets were its worst ever. Passing dozens of racist laws routinely.

Systematically violating core international laws. Discriminating against its Arab citizens. In virtually every way imaginable.

Denying them equality. Treating them like fifth column threats. Being Arab means being denied rights afforded Jews.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI):

“Arab citizens face entrenched discrimination in all fields of life.”

“In recent years, the prevalent attitude of hostility and mistrust towards Arab citizens has become more pronounced, with large sections of the Israeli public viewing the Arab minority as both a fifth column and a demographic threat.”

“There are glaring socioeconomic differences between Jewish and Arab population groups, particularly with regard to land, urban planning, housing, infrastructure, economic development, and education.”

“Over half of the poor families in Israel are Arab families, and Arab municipalities constitute the poorest municipalities within Israel.”

Times editors ignore what demands headlines. Israeli interests alone matter. Sovereign Palestinian rights remain distant.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.  Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.