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 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,”. [1]

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.

Secondly, 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.” [2].

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.

This 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.

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. 

gas_to_eu_final_3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 [3].

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 [4].  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 [5].

Iran was always looking for rapprochement with Turkey.  Iran wanted to be part of Nabucco, and made the offer as early as 2009 before the outbreak of hostilities, and now it looks like they will have that opportunity.  Indeed Erdogan told a gathering of Nabucco partner countries and regional countries in that same year, which included Iraq and Georgia: “We desire Iranian gas to be included in Nabucco when conditions allow,” [6]

But the US’s own special energy envoy Richard Morningstar was clear that Washington would not allow the Iranians to take part.  The strangeness of the US opposition may have escaped the average American reader, here.  Nabucco in no way involved the US directly, it is not a trans-Atlantic project.  This is, at the very most, a question which only ought to be of concern to those countries that will be involved in the production, transport, and consumption of the goods and services provided.

What the US offered instead to Turkey was that it should throw its international reputation into the wind, and facilitate an ultimately failed attempt to make ‘regime change’ in Syria.

It was always known that the Nabucco plan and the South Stream plan, while pitched as competing plans, really seem to be the same project, pitched differently, involving different power blocs, but interestingly, some of the same project companies.

In theory, then, nothing will be different for Serbia or the other countries along the pipeline.  In fact, this might even work better for Russia in that it now involves Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia as it re-routes to get back on its path which travels north through Serbia, into Hungary, Austria, etc.  For the consumer states, price wise, we should not expect a tremendous difference.  The discount that Turkey receives from Russia will allow for Turkish profitability with a savings that can be passed onto the consumer states.

This is not just about energy markets, but changing political and military partners.

Serbia, Austria, and Hungary are not only still on board with South Stream, or any other name this rose is called, but Hungary and Serbia have sworn off sanctions on Russia.  Hungary has even threatened to leave the EU over South Stream, and has also refused to become entangled again in a problematic IMF loan, now after having paid off its debt.  Russia is presently building the facility and military intelligence infrastructure, in what could soon become an actual military installation, in the south of Serbia near Nish. This is also an area where the South Stream, or by any other name, will travel through Serbia.

Serbia has not made significant progress in moving towards the EU.  It has still not recognized Kosovo, which is an unofficial condition for EU entry.  Other matters such as the above mentioned Russian military intelligence hub, Putin’s presence and receiving the highest award at a distinctly Slavic style military parade, have emerged since, which have infuriated EU bureaucrats and NATO chiefs alike.

Thus, Hungary and Serbia, and because of details ironed out with OMV, Austria as well, are still on board with the project.  With very minor adjustments, this Russian-Turkish stream will be the same for them as the South Stream.  So, Russia’s December 1 announcement was not targeted at them.  In fact, taken together with the Russian-Turkish Stream, it is a big sigh of relief.

Rather, certain sections of the Bulgarian establishment are the immediate target of this announcement.  It is very important to create the all-round sense that Bulgaria can be left out of the equation, if it doesn’t do something decisive, and quickly.  If these matters were as simple to understand as the official statements made, then most people following the headlines would understand matters as they stand.  The truth, however, is more complicated.

In bargaining, to say that a deal is off the table is actually part of the bargaining process.  For those already familiar with this point, please forgive that we must belabor it for a moment. This is true all over the world, but is a particularly known bargaining tactic in Eurasia and the Middle-east.  It is accurate to include that this tactic is used in the far west, even where business culture tends to be based more on the proclivities and sensitivities of those in the Anglosphere.  Nevertheless, Slavs, Arabs,Turks, and Iranians do business differently.  Saying that a deal is off the table is neither rude, nor is it a deal breaker.  It is also not limited to business, but also informs other spheres of life such as romance and friendships.  It is an often critical part of the deal making process.  In a way which may seem counter-intuitive to westerners, this actually builds trust.

Concepts and legal norms against things like regressive bargaining still exist, but this is not a case of that.  In the face of interesting, new, and creative interpretations of the Third Energy Package that was forced upon Europe under the influence of a semi-suicidal hypnotic trance, induced by the Trans-Atlantic power structure, Bulgaria reneged on its obligation to go forward with the plan.

And yet, to say that Bulgaria does not want to be included in a pipe-line project is not at all true.  Bulgaria still wants the plan, and on their end they insist there can still be one.  It was Europe that placed Bulgaria into this situation.  It was the EU that has interfered with Bulgaria’s electoral process, resulting in the present government.

Putin’s announcement was also aimed at the EU, and by extension, the US.

This is about calling Europe’s bluff.  Europe assumed that it could then change the legal framework of doing energy business with Europe by interpreting the Third Energy Package in new and creative ways, even after its own member states had bent over backwards to meet the already onerous and cumbersome restrictions, derived from the last round of sabotage.

Europe then assumed that it could act with increased hostility to Russia, involving themselves in the training, arming, and equipping of neo-nazis in Ukraine, and staging a coup to frustrate Ukraine’s integration into the Eurasian Customs Union.  Then Europe assumed that it could then proceed to impose on itself some serious self-inflicted wounds under the title “sanctions on Russia”, which have also not been a walk in the park for the Russians.  Europe assumed that it could do all of this, and more, and that Russia would be so desperate that in light of all of this, in light of the TEP, Ukraine, sanctions, and more, that Russia would pay forward the costs of developing the project, but let Europe control the physical infrastructures , revenues, and other critical aspects.

Still, it is possible that the deal is off the table for Bulgaria.  But no one can say definitively whether it is right now.  Sections from the Bulgarian elite are saying there is still a deal.  This means that they are doing one of two things.  One, they are accurately interpreting this December 1st statement as being serious bargaining language, and are trying to figure out how to reorganize themselves politically, making a ‘civilizational’ decision regarding Russia vs. the EU in its Atlanticist incarnation, and looking to make a counter-offer.   Or, they are unable to meet these demands.

Thus they would be buying time by trying to give false assurances to the tremendous and powerful interests inside of Bulgaria involved in the South Stream project.  As well, they would trying to placate the general populace who supported this, in order to stave off a rapid descent into political chaos.

Alexei Miller blames Bulgaria entirely, plays the role of bad cop, and says that the closing of the project had nothing to do with TEP.  This is an important warning to Bulgaria that it needs to move quickly. Putin plays the role of good cop, and allows PR cover for the Bulgarian government, blaming the EU, and giving the Bulgarian government some face-saving wiggle room.

A Russian-Turkish line does not have to exclude Bulgaria.  Russia has Bulgaria very concerned, for not only have they been told that the new line will exclude them, but that after it is complete, they will also be cut out of the line that runs from Ukraine.  That is a major cause for concern for Bulgaria, one which can force them to make a ‘civilizational’ decision, one which will determine their alignment for the next number of decades to come, and beyond.  Bulgaria may have been misled into thinking that they could play games.  They may have believed that in the event of a South Stream collapse, the Nabucco project could be brought back to life, despite problems with the Shah Deniz  energy consortium, and the failure for the Nabucco project to make headway in the Levant, in the wake of serious Turkish, US and Israeli defeats vis-à-vis Syria and Egypt.

People are wondering why Europe is making such a huge mistake with the way they are interpreting and enforcing the TEP.  Yes, it can be said that Europe made a mistake here. Or, it can be said that Europe intentionally sabotaged this, and in so doing, sabotaged its own economy.  This latter case is almost understandable with an understanding of the considerable pressure which the US exerts on Europe.  The latter case makes more sense.

There are several critical factors facing Europe.  We can look at a few of them.

One critical factor which is often ignored by analysts looking at the ‘Triangle’ of Atlanticist Europe, Eurasia, and the ‘Near East’ (the Balkans, Turkey, and Arab World) is that this is actually a ‘Square’.  Europe is being threatened by the US that it will lose access to Latin America.

One point worth mentioning here is that the US has said that the age of the “Monroe Doctrine” is over.  Of course, this statement was aimed at Russia regarding Georgia, but in a different way also at Europe.  Today European investment in Latin America – considered in the 19th century to be within the US’s realm of influence by the Monroe Doctrine – is not insignificant.  Formal institutions, aimed at coordination, like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Latin American Investment Facility (LAIF) represent but a tip of the iceberg in this regard.  There is also increasing investment from Latin American countries and firms into Europe.  All countries in Western Europe are tied to investments in Latin America.  The US tries to project to Europe that it has the capacity to effect coups or transitions of power in Latin America.  It shows it can do this through its traditional means of the military coup, or new methods such as the Color Revolution and Arab Spring tactic.

Both of these methods have failed to effect change in the so-called ‘Pink Tide’ countries in Latin America.  But a statistically improbably number of Pink Tide leaders either have cancer, or in the case of Chavez, have already died of it.  Of course the US still does business with Pink Tide countries.  But those terms are not as lucrative as they would be if those governments were mere puppets.  A portion of US trade with Latin America is done through proxies in Europe, or through MNC’s and TNC’s whose governing boards are comprised of both US and European nationals.

The European elite are divided.  Those who follow US dictates are tied to US interests in numerous ways.

Others in this lot are heavily invested in Latin America, and have not been convinced that the Russians or Chinese can protect these European investments from the US, in the event of a US initiated change of government in most Latin American countries, as in,  signifying a return to the Monroe Doctrine.  On the other hand are those in Europe who are more connected to Eurasia.  Right now they are both upset, and weakened.  Perhaps the window of opportunity for them to effect a concerted effort to change the present course has passed.  Perhaps it has not.

There is also another critical factor which revolves around other gas deals that had been in the works.

Indeed there is still yet another rational explanation, however, to Europe’s otherwise blundering arrogance.  Europe, like Bulgaria, was also thinking that it had options, which the Russian-Turkish deal actually makes an end-run around.

The US was also excited about this, and it related to its efforts in the Middle-East.  This was the so-called Southern Corridor plan, a part of Nabucco.

So, this partly explains the extraordinary efforts that the US has engaged in to overthrow the government of Syria.  Syria was the best choice to host a branch for Egyptian and Israeli liquefied natural gas into the Nabucco pipeline network.

The Nabucco line was to be a Turkish project, but on the European side involved a number of the same firms that would later go over to the South Stream project.  The Nabucco line also involved a number of the same countries as well.   Critically; Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria.

The South Stream was different in its starting point, and its trans-Pontic route.  Instead of Romania, it favored Serbia. Other than this, they were very similar projects.  Because they involved many of the same project companies on the European side, and promised to deliver similar volumes, the final decision to go with South Stream was a product of Russian success in the realms of diplomacy and related areas of intrigue.

gasmap

Additionally, the Nabucco project did not have the assurances on the eastern end, and would also have been a project that involved a number of companies and interests before arriving in Europe.  This also increased the cost. Thus, the ease of doing business, and the superior form of coordination that comes from dealing with a single state-owned company, such as Gazprom, was another important factor.  Keeping various and even conflicting multiple project companies all together, for ten years on a project that had not even broken ground, as was the case with Nabucco, was a lot like herding cats.

However, the Nabucco line was to get a good portion of its gas from the Azeri controlled Caspian offshore, a project under the control of the Shah Deniz energy consortium which works closely with BP.  This was to rely on support from Azerbaijan, passing through it, and as well possibly Georgia, and then into Turkey.

For a number of reasons, which Nabucco was nixed when the Shah Deniz  consortium decided to handle the project differently.  Then it was resurrected with a different route.  The background to this issue involves matters out of the scope of this report, but revolves around the complicated relationships between Russia and the post-Soviet states in the Caucuses, and the manner by which the latter have also made relationships with Turkey, within the context of constant meddling from the US and EU.

To state it clearly, time-frames notwithstanding, there were three projects.  The South Stream, the Nabucco, and the Trans-Anatolian to Trans Adriatic (TANAP/TAP).  But all three of them could not all go forward.  Contradictions or overlaps not only between the project companies, but also the underlying broader geostrategic and geopolitical concerns meant that TANAP/TAP could not go forward without the Nabucco going forward as most plans have these merged, and Nabucco was less viable at any rate with South Stream going forward.

Upon closer inspection, the TANAP/TAP and the Nabucco are really one and the same.  This is so even if  there were differences in project conceptions, involving some different project companies and minor differences in route.  At a point last year, it looked as Nabucco would work with the Shah Deniz  consortium and actually take a Central European route, through the North-South corridor.  This would have meandered up from Nabucco in Hungary, and towards the Baltic Sea cutting through both Slovakia and Czech Republic, and through Poland.

This would have undermined the importance of two Russian lines, through Ukraine and Nord Stream.  But changes in the Hungarian political landscape, towards an overtly pro-Russian position, made this route unlikely. To cut up from Romania through Ukraine would be a burdensome addition by way of kilometers of pipe, given the project always had funding problems and what were perceived as inflated costs.

What this boiled down to was the EU encouraged on by the US, having Turkey and Russia compete endlessly.

This is also why, since last week’s announcement, EU’s optimistic talk of the TANAP/TAP project revival can seem strangely out of touch with reality.  Turkey, of course, is wise to diversify its sources, working with Azeri partners as well as Russian.  The Shah Deniz fields are estimated at no more than 1 trln. cm as opposed to Russia’s 48 trln. cm.  The Azeri estimated reserves are thus only about 2 % of the Russian [7].

Yes, the Azeris may produce, together with what they have and with the Shah Deniz II expansion, as much as 40 bcm per year.  But with a realistic reserve quantity of 1trln. cm, this isn’t going to last very long in the scheme of things, especially if production is to be expanded further.  So we can see that while Azeri contributions meant something, if the entire plan is to be worth the long term aims, always meant a combination with Nabucco.

This  in turn substantively meant the Southern Corridor through the Levant.

The Southern Corridor is a critical piece.  Azeri gas from the Shah Deniz field promised to make a new route viable.  Without Nabucco and Turkey, the Azeri’s really could not fund this.  Construction never began on Nabucco, and experienced all of the confusion between project companies, funding issues, and changed routes as described above.  What it relied on, to work, was incorporating Egyptian, Israeli, and Syrian gas to make a Southern Corridor, into Turkey and connect with the rest of Nabucco.

map_middleeast_oil3-499x453

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TANAP/TAP cannot really work as a stand-alone project.  Europeans are at best talking their book, at worst, sorely misinformed.  Given the levels of ineptitude and nepotism which prevail in ‘Old Europe’, this last possibility is actually a great one.

This reality played a factor in the Arab Spring in Egypt and Syria.  Turkey backed the Arab Spring in Egypt, and had their man, Morsi, installed.  Morsi was not simply installed as part of the Arab Spring tactic by the US and Israel as part of a broader regional move against Iran.  Of course, this much is true.  But further, this in Egypt, was supposed to be a major development allowing for Egyptian natural gas to get to Turkey, through Israel and a Syria under a new western backed “FSA” leadership that favored Egypt, Israel, and Turkey over Iran and broadly speaking, Russia.

Still Turkey’s previous plans with the Southern Corridor can be combined with a new Russian-Turkish pipeline.  This possibility may really underscore the significance of the Russian-Turkish deal, and the entire geostrategic and geopolitical realignment which may be underway.

Essentially, the position of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel as being firm pro-Western and anti-Russian natural gas interests meant  that Egypt and Syria would have to experience ‘regime change’ for all the pieces to link up.  While Egypt under Mubarak received western military aid and was an important US ally during the last decade of the cold war, and interpreting most generously could be said to have “looked the other way” on Israel-Palestine, he was opposed to regime change in Syria.  Syria could not act in line with a Turkish and Israeli plan given its relations with Iran, and Turkish relations with Iran.

The stage was set, then to make a “regime change” in Egypt and Syria, thus angling out  Iran, and perhaps even forcing Lebanon to act in concert with Israel against Hezbollah.

But Iran and Russia, working with Syria and its SAA effectively pushed back the foreign mercenary and Salafist invasion of Syria.  Yes, the US and Israel still push with its Saudi friends to finance a quasi-mythical ISIS, and even here in recent days we have seen a series of big defeats for ISIS.  In fact, these three latest major events – The Turkish-Russian gas deal announcement, the defeats suffered by ISIS, and the Israeli air-force provocations on Syria, are all intimately connected.

In the course of the Turkish end of the war against Syria, the disorganization, losses, and problematic western led alliance were such that pre-existing tensions between the Sauds and Qataris were exacerbated.  Turkey’s friendly Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt was subject to severe persecution in the pro-Salafist realm of peninsular Arabia.  Turkey’s friendly MB front in Palestine, Hamas, was being actively courted by Iran.

In the last year of this conflict, in the wake of the failed western attempt to blame Syria for a chemical attack it staged itself, Iran-Turkey relations have in fact warmed, seeing a 400% increase in bilateral trade.  Furthermore, Turkey reversed its decision on the convictions of leading Pro-Russian ‘Eurasianist’ leaders, some even in the military, who had been caught up in the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy.  This included the prominent Worker’s Party leader, Dogu Perencek, and other of his ranking Maoist-Kemalist comrades.  This last piece is significant in its symbolism more than anything else, but we live in a world of symbols and signs.

What we were left with, finally then, as a result, was the total fracturing of the US and Israeli led alliance against Syria.  Russia worked with some partners in the region to reverse the Arab Spring in Egypt, seeing the ousting of Morsi and his replacement by Sisi.  At first glance, this is a set-back for Turkey as well, and Russians may have either worked with, or fooled, the Saudis in helping with this.  Analysis on Saudi-Russian bilateral relations are generally a nebulous cloud of disinformation and misinformation, and we will leave these and related questions out of this report.

Now there is a new reality, the situation has reversed.

Iran-Turkey relations have warmed, and so have Russian-Turkish relations.  Egypt has committed itself in the area of foreign policy, to a good relationship with Ba’athist Syria of Assad.  Egypt will maintain Mubaraks’ old arrangement with Israel with regard to Palestine, tunnels, and the like.  But Egyptian natural gas will only make its way, now, through to Turkey’s ‘Russian Turkish Line’, replacing Nabucco, if it goes through the legitimate government of Syria.

If it is also to involve Israel, it may be possible to place some conditions on Israel.

Besides ending its war against Syria, and ending its rhetoric on Iran, it could also include the recognition of Palestine and profit sharing with Palestine, whom the offshore Gazan resource legally belongs to.  We should not be optimistic here, but as well it is possible for a new route for the Egyptian end, as the southern-most part of the ‘new’ Southern-Corridor project, to meander through the Sinai through Jordan, or go by sea to Syria.

This may mean that if Israel wants to expand their market, it may need to work through its Netanyahu disaster period, and elect a Labor government with center-right instead of far-right social and economic policy, and policy on Palestine.  All of this is entirely speculative, and probably unlikely.  But Israel needs this project more than the other parties need Israel.  Israel will need to weigh, however, numerous factors which not only directly relate to energy markets.  In reality, Israel finds itself increasingly isolated in the region.  Experts have already explained for at least a decade, that the Israeli Zionist project may be unsustainable and could be winding down.  Some have even pondered if the Zionist entity would be looking to relocate to the emerging rump-state of Western Ukraine, where, biblical lore aside, many Israelis can materially trace their recent history to.  Nevertheless, Israel has reached a critical place, and has some difficult decisions to make.

Israel is going to be the most problematic piece, but the Azeris also have an opportunity to re-align their interests with the new plan.  The fusion of Nabucco and South Stream with TANAP/TAP is still a possibility too.  BP will not like this per se, but the Shah Deniz consortium is going to have to make some difficult decisions and work that piece out.  This is doubly true if there is a serious policy change in Azerbaijan.  Like with Israel, the Azeris need to be a part of this project more than the project needs them.

The Azeri’s only other option is the ever elusive White Stream. Yulia Tymoshenko herself proposed this to the EU as far back as 2008.  There are numerous problems here, including that it was to cross from Georgia into the Black Sea and to Crimea.  But Crimea is Russia now, and at present time it is truly up in the air if Ukraine will become a landlocked rump-state, or have regime change, long before such a project can be completed, let alone started.  Romania, which has been removed from the Russian-Turkish proposal in its Nabucco form, may be the only viable partner.  But this would mean extensive construction across the black sea from Georgia to Romania.  These were the same obstacles which precluded the possibility of any kind of TANAP/TAP project that didn’t go through Turkey.  In reality, if a project cannot pay by itself for a relatively limited supply (Azeri) to traverse the Black Sea, it will have  to work with Russia or Turkey, who have now teamed up.

With regard to the entire scope of the Russian-Turkish gas deal in general, we should be cautious in speculating much on the future course of it, or what it all may mean.  We have attempted to sketch out what some of the primary factors are.  We have given some details and the related background, of the natural gas contest and its primacy not only to Russia and Ukraine, and the Balkans.  We have explained also how this collided and yet now coincides with a Turkish supported project.

We should still expect future public talk on this subject which places the new deal into question.  This is all part of the process and the spectacle.  It is even still possible that Israel will provoke such a response in Syria and Lebanon that Iran will be hard pressed not to react, increasing the bellicosity and instability in the region, making a Turkish re-orientation of the Southern Corridor more difficult.

Likewise, the West may still effectively divide Russian from Turkish interests.  It will definitely make every attempt to.  The Russians and Turks, if they are to stay together on this project, will likely entertain the illusion for the West that its disruptive efforts are working at times, because this is how it’s done.

It made little sense for Russia and Turkey to both have lines through roughly the same route, with the success of the Turkish one requiring instability in the Levant, the destruction of Syria, and a coup in Egypt.  Now that Russia and Turkey have announced to the world that they will not have their interests placed at odds with each other through the manipulation of the US, EU, and Israel, we can see a geopolitical shift in the making, of tectonic proportions.

Again, this is not over for Bulgaria either, but as with Bosnia and Serbia, the conflict in Ukraine stands a good chance at spreading, especially as Balkans states could re-align in a decisively pro-Russian direction.  Still, energy markets are huge, but they are not everything.

Russia’s future tasks are clear.  If Bulgaria can come to its senses, Russia must help Bulgaria with its security apparatus, for example, helping to restructure its intelligence and secret police agencies.  It must provide Bulgaria with these and other assurances.  Russia must also, if is to build again with the EU, demonstrate that it can protect assets and investments in Latin America.

Europe must understand that the Balkans can only be a place where either both EU, Russia and Turkey can have an interest, or that it will be without Europe, with only Russia and Turkey having an interest.  This would mirror an historical pattern, as well.

The EU should not be forced to commit suicide by cutting off its access to affordable energy resources from Russia and the Middle-East, at the threat of losing access to Latin American markets under conditions of increased US bellicosity in that region.

Some analysts have looked at the low prices and attractive terms which Russia have offered to its partners, including China, and now Turkey and India, regarding energy markets.  Some have said that Putin is showing Russian weakness with such a low price.  Others, more accurately have said that Putin is broad in thinking, and is focusing more on market share than market price.  This is a fair point, and closer to the truth.

But all of these exciting adventures in capitalism are not going to mean very much on an irradiated earth primarily populated by cockroaches, feeding off of highly adaptive bacteria.   The bigger picture we can draw from all of this is a Russia that is thinking long term, and issues like stability are more important than quarterly fluctuations.   It is committed to building a multi-polar world which will save the world from the US Empire, save Europe from itself, and enable conditions for sovereignty and development in whole regions like the Balkans, Middle-east, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

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 he has a strong proficiency in Middle East affairs. Flores is particularly adept at analyzing the psychology of the propaganda wars. He is a political scientist educated at California State University. 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.

Notes

This morning at 10:40am, net neutrality demonstrators interrupted the FCC’s monthly meeting by unfurling a large banner reading “Reclassify Now!” behind the seated FCC commissioners. The activists, both union members, were escorted from the room by security after speaking out and asking FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler why he continues to delay Title II net neutrality, which should have been voted on at today’s meeting.

Other activists inside the meeting held paper signs calling for reclassification of the Internet under Title without delay. Several stood up and spoke to Chairman Wheeler from the floor to ask why net neutrality was left off the agenda before being escorted from the room. Outside, a crowd of protesters gathered with signs reading “Save the Internet! and “Reclassify Under Title II!”

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Activist Vanessa Beck of PopularResistance.org, who participated in the action, said “Nearly 4 million people submitted comments to the FCC on net neutrality, a record number, and more than 99% supported reclassification under Title II. If the FCC was a truly democratic agency, we would have a Title II rule today. Chairman Wheeler needs to stop stalling and listen to the public.”

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

While demonstrators made their voices heard at the FCC, digital rights group Fight for the Future, who helped publicize the protests, also rallied support online launching a new feature on CallTheFCC.com that allows supporters to easily email FCC employees with a few clicks. The group has has helped drive more than 40,000 phone calls to the FCC in recent months.

The disruption today was organized by PopularResistance.org, the activist group that helped lead Occupy the FCC and famously blockaded FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s driveway last month. Net neutrality supporters vowed to continue escalating their efforts until the FCC votes to approve Title II reclassification and protect the Internet from cable company abuse and censorship.

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.


The world’s geopolitics, major trade patterns and military alliances have changed radically in the past month. Russia has re-oriented its gas and oil trade, and also its trade in military technology, away from Europe toward Eurasia.

The result is the opposite of America’s hope for the past half-century of dividing and conquering Eurasia: setting Russia against China, isolating Iran, and preventing India, the Near East and other Asian countries from joining together to create an alternative to the U.S. dollar area. American sanctions and New Cold War policy has driven these Asian countries together in association with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an alternative to NATO, and in the BRICS moves to avoid dealing with the dollar area, the IMF and World Bank austerity programs.

Regarding Europe, America’s insistence that it join the New Cold War by imposing sanctions on Russia and blocking Russian gas and oil exports has aggravated the Eurozone’s economic austerity, making it even more of a Dead Zone. This week a group of Germany’s leading politicians, diplomats and cultural celebrities wrote an open letter to Angela Merkel protesting her pro-U.S. anti-Russian policy. By overplaying its hand, the United States is in danger of driving Europe out of the U.S. economic orbit.

Turkey already is moving out of the U.S.-European orbit, by turning to Russia for its energy needs. Iran also has moved into an alliance with Russia. Instead of the Obama administration’s neocons dividing and conquering as they had planned, they are isolating America from Europe and Asia. Yet there has been almost no recognition of this in the U.S. press, despite its front-page discussion throughout Europe and Asia. Instead of breaking up the BRICS, the dollar area is coming undone.

This week, President Putin is going to India to negotiate a gas and arms deal. Last week he was in Turkey diverting what was to be the South Stream pipeline away from southern Europe to Turkey. And Turkey is becoming an associate of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization integrating the BRICS in a defensive alliance against the United States, now that it is obvious that it has no chance of joining the EU.

A few months earlier, Russia announced the largest oil and gas trade and pipeline investment ever, with China – along with a transfer of missile defense technology.

2. There has been almost no discussion of this vast geopolitical realignment in the U.S. media, largely because it represents a defeat for the New Cold War policy pushed by the neocons over the past year, ever since Russia convinced President Obama not to go to war in Syria, which had been a neocon military aim.

Their response was to isolate Russia and economically attack its trade and hence balance-of-payments strength: its gas and oil trade with Europe. Last February, U.S. diplomats engineered a Pinochet-style coup d’état in Ukraine, and used this as a lever to reverse Europe’s buildup of trade with Russia.

The aim was to punish Russia’s economy – and in the process to press for a regime change against Putin, putting in place a more pro-U.S., neoliberal Yeltsin-style regime by causing a financial crisis.

The assumption underlying this policy was that since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Russia was turning toward Europe to re-integrate its economy and society. And Europe for its part sought to make Russia its main energy supplier – of oil as well as gas, through new pipelines being built to circumvent Ukraine. Northstream ran via the North Sea to northern Europe. Southstream was to be built via Bulgaria and Serbia to southern Europe – mainly Italy and Austria.

Germany for its part looked to Russia as an export market, to earn the rubles to pay for Russian gas and oil. Other European countries stepped up their agricultural trade with Russia, and France agreed to build the enormous Mistral aircraft carrier. In short, the ending of the Cold War promised to bring a much closer economic and hence political integration of Russia with Europe – cemented largely by a gas pipeline network.

3. U.S. Cold Warriors have tried to disrupt this trade. The plan was to isolate Russia and lock Europe into the U.S. economy. The dream was to export U.S. shale gas to Europe, squeezing out Russia and thereby hurting its balance of payments.

This was always a pipedream. But what U.S. heavy-handed military confrontation with Russia really has done is to drive a political wedge between the United States and Europe. Last week, Putin gave a speech saying he found little point in negotiating with European politicians, because they simply followed U.S. orders via NATO and by U.S. pressure on German politicians, French politicians and other European politicians.

In following U.S. New Cold War confrontation, Europe has been acting against its own economic interests. Its neoliberal Third Energy law has effectively blocked Russia from having any economic gain in selling more gas to Europe.

4. Rentier pipeline politics
The U.S. neoliberal plan has been to insist on non-Russian control of the pipelines that would carry Russian gas and oil to Europe. The idea is to use this pipeline as a tollbooth to siphon off the revenue that Russia had hoped to receive from Europe.

Here’s the best way to understand what has occurred. Imagine that the United States had a law that owners of buildings could not also own the elevators in them. This would mean that the owners of the Empire State Building, for instance, could not own their elevators. Some other investors could buy the elevators, and then tell the building’s renters or other occupants that they would have to pay a fee each time they rode up to the 40th floor, the 50th floor, the 60th floor, and so forth.

The result would be that instead of the landlord receiving the rental value of the Empire State Building, the elevator owner could demand the lion’s share. Without access, the building would be a walk-up and its rents would fall – unless renters paid the elevator tollbooth.

This is what would happen with an oil pipeline owned by parties hostile to Russia. It is to avoid this that Gazprom insisted on building its own pipeline, under Russian control, to prevent rent-extracting investors. When Europe sought to block this by pretending that “free markets” meant separating pipeline ownership from the gas suppliers, it was trying to carve out a rent-extraction opportunity to siphon off Russian gas revenue.

The European Commission earlier had pressed an anti-Gazprom policy last year, in the process of imposing its austerity program on Greece. It insisted that Greece pay the IMF for having bailed out foreign bondholders by selling off assets in the public domain. The largest asset was Greece’s oil rights in the Aegean and its commercial oil-related infrastructure. When Gazprom was the largest bidder, Europe blocked the sale. The result has been to impose even deeper austerity on Greece, polarizing that nation’s politics in an increasingly anti-EU and anti-IMF stance – and hence, anti-US Cold War politics.

5. What is occurring is a radical shift in U.S.-European diplomacy – in a way that according to textbook theory is inherently unstable and unworkable.

Europe has inverted the major textbook premises of how national diplomacy is conducted. Instead of basing this diplomacy on economic and commercial interests, it is subordinating these interests to U.S. control. And as for Europe’s membership in NATO, instead of viewing military policy as an arm of foreign diplomacy, it is subordinating economic diplomacy, trade patterns, gas and oil supplies, export markets for industry and agriculture all to serve NATO’s military ends.
The objective no longer is military security as originally was the logic for NATO. Europe’s economic realignment against Russia threatens to bring military conflict directly into the continent as a result of the proxy war in Ukraine.

It has been said that nations do not have friends or enemies, only national interests. Most of these are economic. But today in Europe, German Chancellor Merkel seems to be ignoring German and other European economic interests. Still obsessed with her hatred of the East German Communist regime, she sees in Russia only an enemy, not an economic market and supplier of raw materials and customer for German manufactures and technology. Likewise, her political love for the United States deems it Europe’s natural friend, without taking into account how its New Cold War policy toward Europe – “Let’s you and Russia fight” – undercuts European continental interests and exacerbates its austerity.

The United States for its part has adopted von Clausewitz’s statement that war is an extension of foreign policy by other means in a very limited form: war seems to be the only lever that the United States is using in its foreign policy these days. And lacking an ability to mount a ground invasion, its only real threat is to tear economies apart by aerial bombing, as it has done to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libra and now Syria – and is doing by backing a proxy war in Ukraine.

Michael Hudson is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971).

Who’s Right … Torture Defenders or Critics?

December 12th, 2014 by Washington's Blog

The Senate says that torture didn’t produce any actionable intelligence.

The CIA and a handful of those who ordered torture say that it was necessary.

Who’s right?

We don’t have to guess, get in a personality conflict, or engage in a partisan fight.

There is an overwhelming consensus among top interrogation experts of all stripes …

Overwhelming Consensus: Torture Doesn’t Work

Virtually all of the top interrogation experts – both conservatives and liberals (except for those trying to escape war crimes prosecution) – say that torture doesn’t work:

“Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”

  • The C.I.A.’s 1963 interrogation manual stated:

Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress. A time-consuming delay results, while investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue. During this respite the interrogatee can pull himself together. He may even use the time to think up new, more complex ‘admissions’ that take still longer to disprove.

  • According to the Washington Post, the CIA’s top spy – Michael Sulick, head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service – said that the spy agency has seen no fall-off in intelligence since waterboarding was banned by the Obama administration. “I don’t think we’ve suffered at all from an intelligence standpoint.”
  • The Chief Prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions (Colonel Morris Davis) says:

As person responsible for prosecuting KSM [i.e. alleged 9/11 “master mind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed], I spent 2 yrs immersed in the intel/evid. Torture did no good.

  • A 30-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate who rose to the most senior managerial ranks (Milton Bearden) says (as quoted by senior CIA agent and Presidential briefer Ray McGovern):

It is irresponsible for any administration not to tell a credible story that would convince critics at home and abroad that this torture has served some useful purpose.

***

The old hands overwhelmingly believe that torture doesn’t work ….

  • The head of Army intelligence in 2006 (General John Kimmons) says:

No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.

  • A former high-level CIA officer (Philip Giraldi) states:

Many governments that have routinely tortured to obtain information have abandoned the practice when they discovered that other approaches actually worked better for extracting information. Israel prohibited torturing Palestinian terrorist suspects in 1999. Even the German Gestapo stopped torturing French resistance captives when it determined that treating prisoners well actually produced more and better intelligence.

  • Another former high-level CIA official (Bob Baer) says:

And torture — I just don’t think it really works … you don’t get the truth. What happens when you torture people is, they figure out what you want to hear and they tell you.

  • Michael Scheuer, formerly a senior CIA official in the Counter-Terrorism Center, says:

“I personally think that any information gotten through extreme methods of torture would probably be pretty useless because it would be someone telling you what you wanted to hear.”

  • A retired C.I.A. officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002 (Glenn L. Carle) says:

[Coercive techniques] didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information…Everyone was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work.”

  • A former top Air Force interrogator who led the team that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, and wrote a book called How to Break a Terrorist writes:

As the senior interrogator in Iraq for a task force charged with hunting down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former Al Qaida leader and mass murderer, I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight. Consider that 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are these foreign fighters and you can easily conclude that we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives because of our policy of torture and abuse. But that’s only the past. Somewhere in the world there are other young Muslims who have joined Al Qaida because we tortured and abused prisoners. These men will certainly carry out future attacks against Americans, either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or possibly even here. And that’s not to mention numerous other Muslims who support Al Qaida, either financially or in other ways, because they are outraged that the United States tortured and abused Muslim prisoners.

In addition, torture and abuse has made us less safe because detainees are less likely to cooperate during interrogations if they don’t trust us. I know from having conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, that when a captured Al Qaida member sees us live up to our stated principles they are more willing to negotiate and cooperate with us. When we torture or abuse them, it hardens their resolve and reaffirms why they picked up arms.

He also says:

[Torture is] extremely ineffective, and it’s counter-productive to what we’re trying to accomplish. When we torture somebody, it hardens their resolve … The information that you get is unreliable. … And even if you do get reliable information, you’re able to stop a terrorist attack, al Qaeda’s then going to use the fact that we torture people to recruit new members.

And he repeats:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

And:

They don’t want to talk about the long term consequences that cost the lives of Americans…. The way the U.S. treated its prisoners “was al-Qaeda’s number-one recruiting tool and brought in thousands of foreign fighters who killed American soldiers.

  • The FBI interrogators who actually interviewed some of the 9/11 suspects say torture didn’t work
  • Another FBI interrogator of 9/11 suspects said:

I was in the middle of this, and it’s not true that these [aggressive] techniques were effective

  • The FBI warned military interrogators in 2003 that enhanced interrogation techniques are “of questionable effectiveness” and cited a “lack of evidence of [enhanced techniques’] success.
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously found that torture doesn’t work, stating:

The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.

  • General Petraeus says that torture is unnecessary
  • Retired 4-star General Barry McCaffrey – who Schwarzkopf called he hero of Desert Storm – agrees
  • Former Navy Judge Advocate General Admiral John Hutson says:

Fundamentally, those kinds of techniques are ineffective. If the goal is to gain actionable intelligence, and it is, and if that’s important, and it is, then we have to use the techniques that are most effective. Torture is the technique of choice of the lazy, stupid and pseudo-tough.

He also says:

Another objection is that torture doesn’t work. All the literature and experts say that if we really want usable information, we should go exactly the opposite way and try to gain the trust and confidence of the prisoners.

  • Army Colonel Stuart Herrington – a military intelligence specialist who interrogated generals under the command of Saddam Hussein and evaluated US detention operations at Guantánamo – notes that the process of obtaining information is hampered, not helped, by practices such as “slapping someone in the face and stripping them naked”. Herrington and other former US military interrogators say:

We know from experience that it is very difficult to elicit information from a detainee who has been abused. The abuse often only strengthens their resolve and makes it that much harder for an interrogator to find a way to elicit useful information.

  • Major General Thomas Romig, former Army JAG, said:

If you torture somebody, they’ll tell you anything. I don’t know anybody that is good at interrogation, has done it a lot, that will say that that’s an effective means of getting information. … So I don’t think it’s effective.

  • The first head of the Department of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – says we were wrong to torture
  • The former British intelligence chairman says that waterboarding didn’t stop terror plots
  • A spokesman for the National Security Council (Tommy Vietor) says:

The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003.

In researching this article, I spoke to numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts … Here, they say, far from exposing a deadly plot, all torture did was lead to more torture of his supposed accomplices while also providing some misleading “information” that boosted the administration’s argument for invading Iraq.

  • Neuroscientists have found that torture physically and chemically interferes with the prisoner’s ability to tell the truth
  • An Army psychologist – Major Paul Burney, Army’s Behavior Science Consulting Team psychologist – said (page 78 & 83):

was stressed to me time and time again that psychological investigations have proven that harsh interrogations do not work. At best it will get you information that a prisoner thinks you want to hear to make the interrogation stop, but that information is strongly likely to be false.

***

Interrogation techniques that rely on physical or adverse consequences are likely to garner inaccurate information and create an increased level of resistance…There is no evidence that the level of fear or discomfort evoked by a given technique has any consistent correlation to the volume or quality of information obtained.

  • An expert on resisting torture – Terrence Russell, JPRA’s manager for research and development and a SERE specialist – said (page 209):

History has shown us that physical pressures are not effective for compelling an individual to give information or to do something’ and are not effective for gaining accurate, actionable intelligence.

Indeed, it has been known for hundreds of years that torture doesn’t work:

  • As a former CIA analyst notes:

During the Inquisition there were many confessed witches, and many others were named by those tortured as other witches. Unsurprisingly, when these new claimed witches were tortured, they also confessed. Confirmation of some statement made under torture, when that confirmation is extracted by another case of torture, is invalid information and cannot be trusted.

  • The head of Britain’s wartime interrogation center in London said:

“Violence is taboo. Not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information.”

  • The national security adviser to Vice President George H.W. Bush (Donald P. Gregg) wrote:

During wartime service with the CIA in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972, I was in charge of intelligence operations in the 10 provinces surrounding Saigon. One of my tasks was to prevent rocket attacks on Saigon’s port. Keeping Saigon safe required human intelligence, most often from captured prisoners. I had a running debate about how North Vietnamese prisoners should be treated with the South Vietnamese colonel who conducted interrogations. This colonel routinely tortured prisoners, producing a flood of information, much of it totally false. I argued for better treatment and pressed for key prisoners to be turned over to the CIA, where humane interrogation methods were the rule – and more accurate intelligence was the result.

The colonel finally relented and turned over a battered prisoner to me, saying, “This man knows a lot, but he will not talk to me.”

We treated the prisoner’s wounds, reunited him with his family, and allowed him to make his first visit to Saigon. Surprised by the city’s affluence, he said he would tell us anything we asked. The result was a flood of actionable intelligence that allowed us to disrupt planned operations, including rocket attacks against Saigon.

Admittedly, it would be hard to make a story from nearly 40 years ago into a definitive case study. But there is a useful reminder here. The key to successful interrogation is for the interrogator – even as he controls the situation – to recognize a prisoner’s humanity, to understand his culture, background and language. Torture makes this impossible.

There’s a sad twist here. Cheney forgets that the Bush administration followed this approach with some success. A high-value prisoner subjected to patient interrogation by an Arabic-speaking FBI agent yielded highly useful information, including the final word on Iraq’s weapons programs.

His name was Saddam Hussein.

  • Top interrogators got information from a high-level Al Qaeda suspects through building rapport, even if they hated the person they were interrogating by treating them as human

Senator John McCain explains, based upon his own years of torture:

I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering. Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading.

According to the experts, torture is unnecessary even to prevent “ticking time bombs” from exploding (see this, this and this). Indeed, a top expert says that torture would fail in a real ‘ticking time-bomb’ situation. (And, no … it did NOT help get Bin Laden).

As shown above, torture doesn’t produce actionable intelligence …

But even if it did, the specific type of torture used by the U.S. is famous for producing false evidence.

A U.S. Army helicopter taking off from Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2012. (Photo: DoD/public domain)

The government funding bill that narrowly passed the House of Representatives on Thursday has been widely criticized, including from within Congress, as a give-away to Wall Street. However, its 1,600 pages raise numerous other red flags for activists and analysts, including a bloated military budget and what journalist Julia Harte calls ”a long-term blank check for ‘war’ spending.”

The bill approves $554 billion overall in Pentagon spending—in keeping with the trajectory of a country that spends more on the military than the next 11 countries combined. As Dave Gilson points out in Mother Jones, this sum means that total Pentagon funding during 2015 is “close to what it got during the height of the Iraq War” and “close to its highest level since World War II.”

When this sum is broken down, its sources raise further concerns, say analysts.

Buried within the budget is $64 billion in military funding from what is called the Overseas Contingency Operations. Established in 2001 under a different title, the OCO was supposed to be for “temporary” emergencies relating to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it has become a permanent, and seemingly bottomless, source of funding for war. Even President Obama noticed this in 2008, when he issued the campaign promise to reign in abuse of emergency war spending.

As Harte writes for the Center for Public Integrity, “The OCO budget isn’t subject to spending limits that cap the rest of the defense budget for the next seven years; it’s often omitted altogether from tallies of how much the military spends each year; and as an ‘emergency’ fund, it’s subject to much less scrutiny than other military spending requests.”

Furthermore, Lindsay Koshgarian points out for National Priorities Project, included within the bill is a “spending spree for defense contractors,” which includes $479 million for F-35s and war ships. In addition, the bill green-lights $5 billion for the expanding U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria, despite the fact that that military operation still has not been approved—or even subject to real debate—in Congress.

Congress Authorizes Unlimited Spying on US Citizens

December 12th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

Merriam-Webster call police states “political unit(s) characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures.”

Police state ruthlessness defines today’s America. Affirmed by congressional legislation. Executive order diktats.

So called National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directives.

NSPD-51 lets presidents claim national emergencies. Whether or not warranted. Declare martial law. Suspend constitutional protections. Without congressional authorization.

Continuity of government (COG) authority gives presidents and homeland security unprecedented powers. Free from constitutional constraints.

Patriot Act legislation compromised First Amendment rights. Fifth and 14th Amendment due process protection is lost.

Indefinite detentions of undocumented immigrants are authorized. Now affecting anyone anywhere. Including targeted law abiding US citizens.

Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is gone. Unchecked surveillance was authorized. More on this below.

Sixth Amendment rights guaranteeing defendants fair trials without delay are lost.

Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment no longer applies.

Domestic terrorism criminality was created for the first time. Broadening the definition. Affecting US citizens and aliens.

Attempts to influence government policy by whatever Washington calls “intimidation or coercion” is now called terrorism.

Endangering human rights workers. Anti-war and environmental activists. Global justice advocates. Anyone engaging in justifiable civil disobedience. Or publicly criticizing government policy.

Homeland Security is America’s Gestapo. Combining 22 federal agencies. Under one repressive authority.

Creating unprecedented executive powers. Police state ones. A dagger in freedom’s heart.

For the first time, America was officially militarized. Troops may be deployed on US streets. Suppressing whatever is called disorder.

Earlier permitted only in times of insurrection or justifiable national emergencies. No longer. Presidents can operate ad libitum.

By diktat authority. Mocking checks and balances. Eviscerating democratic freedoms. Consigned to history’s dustbin.

Anyone can be targeted for any reason or none at all. Detained. Held indefinitely. Uncharged. Untried.

Denied fundamental international law/constitutionally protected rights. Obama presides over a police state apparatus. Things go from bad to worse.

Big Brother watches everyone. Now more than ever. In May, House members passed HR 4681: Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. By a 345 – 59 majority.

A Senate amendment required revoting. Passage followed. By a 325 – 100 majority. On Tuesday, Senate members passed the bill unanimously. By voice vote.

House members intended the same. Rep. Justin Amash (R. MI) intervened. Attempted an 11th hour effort to block passage.

Concerned about Section 309. Authorizing “the acquisition, retention and dissemination” of private communications. Including those of US citizens. Without judicial authorization.

Giving them to state and local police departments. For criminal or other investigations.

Amash called the measure “(o)ne of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative.”

Saying “(i)t grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.”

On his Facebook page, he posted the following for his colleagues, constituents and others, saying:

“When I learned that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 was being rushed to the floor for a vote – with little debate and only a voice vote expected (i.e., simply declared ‘passed’ with almost nobody in the room) – I asked my legislative staff to quickly review the bill for unusual language. What they discovered is one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American. On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the House floor to demand a roll call vote on the bill so that everyone’s vote would have to be recorded. I also sent the letter below to every representative. With more time to spread the word, we would have stopped this bill, which passed 325-100. Thanks to the 99 other representatives – 44 Republicans and 55 Democrats – who voted to protect our rights and uphold the Constitution. And thanks to my incredibly talented staff.”

Amash’s letter was as follows:

“Block New Spying on U.S. Citizens: Vote ‘NO’ on H.R. 4681

Dear Colleague:

The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on US citizens without legal process.

Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309 – one the House never has considered.

Sec. 309 authorizes ‘the acquisition, retention, and dissemination’ of nonpublic communications, including those to and from US persons.

The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.”

To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of US persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena.

The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333.

However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications.

It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications.

With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them – although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.

In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications.

The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents – especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.

I urge you to join me in voting ‘no’ on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.

Justin Amash

Member of Congress”

HR 4681 expands bogus war on terror powers. Police state ones writ large. Ones just societies prohibit. What America prioritizes.

Waging war on freedom. Eroding it in plain sight. Heading toward eliminating it altogether. With bipartisan support.

Expect Obama to sign HR 4681 into law. Increasing his power. Taking full advantage.

Political philosopher Montesquieu (1689 – 1755) once said:

“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”

Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) said “(t)he only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Jefferson said “law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always when it violates the rights of the individual.”

“A Bill of Rights is what people are entitled to against every government,” he explained.

Justice Louis Brandeis said “(w)e can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Justice William O. Douglas said “(t)he liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected.”

Justice William J Brennan, Jr called liberty “a fragile thing. You can’t give up” fighting for what’s right. In a mid-1980s speech he said:

“We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses.”

“Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of our nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle.”

Liberty is too precious to lose. Keeping it requires commitment. No matter how long the odds. Or sacrifices made. The alternative is too intolerable to accept.

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. 

Image: An advertisement at the “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” conference. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

Three weeks after Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip concluded, Israeli military and political leaders attended a conference next to Ben Gurion Airport to sell the successes of what Israel dubbed Operation Protective Edge, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 521 children. The annual conference, named “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014,” took place in business-as-usual atmosphere — even with a complimentary beer keg. But the fare was anything but humdrum. Among the offerings were suicide drones, “loitering munitions” that need to explode; a 16-year-old showing off high-tech robots designed by fellow high schoolers and future drone makers; and “premature” weapons, armaments that have not been fully tested before they are used on a live Palestinian population. Such is Israel the military power.

The conference showcased the latest drone technology and previewed the industry’s prospects to a few hundred international buyers, vendors, and military figures. Inside a private conference room, political and industry leaders gave presentations — speaking in military euphemisms that avoided any uncomfortable references to the humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the 51-day bombing campaign.

Elad Aharonson, General Manager of the Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems’ Unmanned Systems Division, praised the “relative advantage” Israel enjoys due to the “intimate ties” between the “developers and users” of the military industry. “In some cases, we must admit these are the same people and that is a great advantage,” Aharonson said.

Suicide Drones

Lieutenant Colonel Itzhar Jona, who heads Israel Aerospace Industries, spoke about “loitering munitions” — what he called a “politically correct” name for Suicide Drones. They are a hybrid of drone and missile technology that have “autonomous and partially autonomous” elements, and are “launched like a missile, fly like an UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle],” and once they identify a target, revert to “attack like a missile.” Jona called the Suicide Drone a “UAV that thinks and decides for itself,” then added, “If you [the operator] aren’t totally clear on the logic, it can even surprise you.”

Jona praised the advantage of the Suicide Drone because the operator “doesn’t have to bring it home or deal with all sorts of dilemmas.” The Suicide Drone will quickly find a target using its internal logic, which Jona explained in this way: “It carries a warhead that eventually needs to explode. There needs to be a target at the end that will want to explode. Or it won’t want to and we will help it explode.”

Still Undergoing Test Flights

Within 48 hours of the first airstrikes of Operation Protective Edge last July, the military began operating the Hermes 900, nicknamed the “star” of Israel’s arsenal of drones. Made by the Israeli weapons giant Elbit Systems, the drone was “still undergoing test flights” when it was first deployed. The assault presented an opportunity to expedite the testing process by launching strikes on Gaza’s captive population — which allows Israel weapons makers to market their products as “combat proven.” This places the Israeli brand squarely at the top of the arms industry.

This phenomenon is nothing new. Colonel Erez Karabiti, who heads the Israeli Air Force’s UAV division, admitted implementation of premature weapons systems has been the norm for at least 15 years — what he referred to as the “pre-standard era.” Though he praised the benefits of Israel’s use of premature weapons because it “brings results”, he suggested that in the future, the Israeli arms industry should adhere to testing standards in order to ensure reliability, effectiveness and, “obviously to sell” the weapons.

Another aspect of Operation Protective Edge was the widespread use of Sky Rider mini-drones by ground forces — part of a program that Israeli troops pushed for and was first implemented in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. “Every brigade — even the reserves — got at least two air vehicles and flew them nonstop; at the same time,” the Israeli military’s chief artillery officer, Brigadier General Roy Riftin told a reporter.

Battlefield-Proven

 

Rami Shmuely, CEO of RT Technologies, which makes Aerostat surveillance balloons, informed me that in addition to 13 systems flying around the Gaza Strip, the company has a subsidiary at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Additionally, the US army purchased surveillance systems from RT for use in Afghanistan. Shmuely explained that the United States is “the most promising market in the world.”

Drew Marks, from ESC BAZ, which makes unmanned surveillance systems, said that the Israeli company sells to governments and militaries in Europe, Asia and Africa. He continued, “We sell to other markets — friends in Asia. I can’t tell you where exactly but I can tell you Asian countries — southeast Asian countries. People can maybe understand where it is.”

Marks boasted that a video that showed Palestinian fighters emerging from the sea to attack an Israeli military base, which was recently revealed to be only partial, “was taken by this system right here.” He added, “We call it battlefield-proven!”

Drone Youth

In front of the trade show was a team of Israeli high school students who were being groomed as part of the next generation of drone engineers and electricians. They operated remote-controlled robots designed to launch large yoga balls into a basket at a given height and distance. Their team was called FIRST Israel, part of an international competition that has been featured on National Geographic’s television channel.

There I met Omer Golan-Kaplan, 16, who told me, “I’m sure at least half of the people who participate in the project will go to make electronic devices [in the military].” As for herself, Golan-Kaplan was torn between spending her military service in a unit working with electronics, or being “a tank teacher or a shooting teacher.” “I really want to get to know the cool stuff.” She added, “I’m still young to know what I want to do with my life.”

Nothing illustrated the complete militarization of the Israeli society so much as the interaction with Crosslab Networks (XLN). XLN is a project of the Reut Institute, an Israeli national security and socioeconomic policy think tank that has called on the Israeli government to “sabotage” and “attack” that global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement or what it described as an international Delegitimization Network. Under the leadership of former Reut Institute CEO Roy Keidar, XLN creates centers for 3D printing and other advanced technologies which are becoming an integral part of Israel’s ability to quickly design and build weapons. Keidar admitted that children as young as 14 were instrumental in building a mini-copter that could navigate the network of tunnels that Palestinian resistance groups had constructed.

“You wouldn’t believe who is leading who. I’ve got 14-year-olds working on sensors and writing codes so fast,” Keidar said. “That’s the future!”

Footage shot by Dan Cohen and Lia Tarachansky with thanks to Ronnie Barkan for translation.

Iran Nuclear Talks: A Perilous Slippery Slope

December 12th, 2014 by Prof. Ismael Hossein-Zadeh

Soon after the Iran nuclear talks were recently extended for another seven months (beyond the November 22, 2014 deadline), President Rouhani spoke with the Iranian people in a televised address in which he sought to portray the inconclusive negotiations as a diplomatic victory for Iran, as an indication that his team of negotiators “stood their ground” in the face of excessive demands by the US and its allies.

In reality, however, the extension meant the failure of the Iranian negotiators to achieve anything of substance (in terms of sanctions relief) in exchange for the significant unilateral concessions they had made a year earlier. To put it differently, it meant that the US and its allies refused to honor what they had promised Iran in return for its suspension and/or downgrading of its nuclear technology.

A year earlier, that is, in the first round of negotiations on 24 November 2013, Iran had agreed to the following significant concessions: limit its enrichment of uranium from the level of 20 percent to below 5 percent purity, render unusable its existing stockpile of 20 percent fuel for further enrichment, not activate its heavy-water reactor in Arak, not use its more advanced IR-M2 centrifuges for enrichment, and consent to extensive IAEA inspections of its nuclear industry/facilities.

This obviously means that Iranian negotiators had agreed to more than freezing Iran’s nuclear technology; more importantly, they had reversed and rolled back significant scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs of recent years.

In return, the US and its allies had agreed that following the “confidence building” implementation of these commitments by Iran, economic sanctions against that country would be lifted.

A year later, and despite the fact that IAEA has consistently confirmed Iran’s compliance with these commitments, major sanctions continue unabated. At a press conference on November 22, 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry boasted that undiminished sanctions have forced Iran to either reverse or freeze much of its nuclear program. “Today,” Kerry stated, “Iran has no 20 percent enriched uranium. Zero. None. They have diluted and converted every ounce that they have… Today, IAEA inspectors have daily access to Iran’s enrichment activities and a far deeper understanding of Iran’s program.”

Instead of honoring what they had promised during the initial negotiations of year ago, the US and its allies now argue that Iran needs to make more concessions, and that therefore more time is needed for further negotiations—hence the seven-month extension of negotiations, to July 1, 2015.

And what are the new demands that are made of Iran? The new requirements, which the Iranian negotiators have now additionally agreed to, include the following:

1. Expanded snap Inspections of Iran’s Centrifuge Production Facilities: under the seven-month extended negotiations, the IAEA will double its unannounced, snap inspections of Iran’s centrifuge production facilities.

2. Conversion of more 20% Uranium Oxide to Reactor Fuel: Iran will convert 35 additional kg of its remaining 75 kg of 20% enriched uranium powder from oxide form into reactor fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, thereby helping prevent the reversibility of a key concession Iran has made.

3. Further Limitations on Research and Development (R&D) of Advanced Centrifuges and Enrichment Technology. The most important of these new limits are:

  • Iran cannot pursue semi-industrial-scale operation of the IR-2M, a necessary prerequisite toward mass production of the model.
  • Iran cannot feed IR-5 model centrifuges with uranium gas.
  • Iran cannot pursue gas testing of the IR-6 centrifuge on a cascade level.
  • Iran cannot install the IR-8 centrifuge at the Natanz Pilot Plant, preventing it from being tested with uranium gas.
  • Iran is prohibited from using other/new forms of enrichment, including laser enrichment [source].

And what would Iran gain in return for these significant additional/new concessions? Not much. Under the extended interim agreement, as in the two previous interim agreements, dating back to November 2013, Iran will be permitted to repatriate only $700 million per month of its nearly $100 billion assets that are frozen overseas under the sanctions regime.

This explains why many critics have pointed out that Iranian negotiators have, once again, made significant one-sided concessions without much reciprocity in the way of sanctions relief. It also explains why President Rouhani’s (and his negotiating team’s) portrayal of the extension of negotiation as a diplomatic victory for Iran is far from warranted—it is, indeed, tantamount to self-deception, or more precisely, deception of the Iranian people.

Off-the-record briefings in Washington indicate that the US is projecting a long period of 15 to 20 years of protracted negotiations before restrictions on Iran’s civilian nuclear program are fully lifted. In light of the fact that the US and its allies have already achieved their goal of downgrading and freezing Iran’s nuclear program, while retaining crippling sanctions on that country, their policy of prolonging negotiations—as a tactic to avoid honoring what they have promised Iran—is understandable. As Keith Jones, a keen observer of the Iran nuclear talks, points out:

“Washington is determined to continue to subject Iran to crippling economic sanctions, with relief doled out incrementally and over a period of years. Moreover, during a lengthy initial period, the Western powers want only piecemeal suspension of the sanctions, not their repeal, so that they can be quickly reinstituted should they determine that Tehran has failed to fulfill its commitments” [source].

This means that President Rouhani’s (and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s) wishful thinking that a combination of generous concessions and a diplomatic charm offensive would suffice to have the US lift the economic sanctions against Iran has, effectively, placed his negotiators on a slippery slope, with no end to ever newer demands and additional conditions required of them by the US and its allies.

The perils of prolonged negotiations—increasingly resembling the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations—go beyond downgrading and/or freezing Iran’s nuclear technology. Equally devastating are the crippling effects of the continued sanctions on the Iranian economy/society.

Detrimental effects of sanctions on the Iranian economy have been further exacerbated by the Rouhani administration’s misguided policy of having tied the fate of Iran’s economy to the outcome of nuclear negotiations—effectively, making the future of the economy hostage to the unreliable and unpredictable consequences of the nuclear talks. This policy stems from the administration’s neoliberal economic outlook that seeks solutions to economic stagnation, poverty and under-development in unreserved integration into world capitalist system. The policy tends to hurt Iran in two major ways.

First, by tying the chances of economic recovery in Iran to the removal of the sanctions, that is, to the “successful” conclusion of the nuclear talks, the policy has undermined Iran’s bargaining position in the negotiations. Indeed, it can reasonably be argued that President Rouhani condemned Iran to a losing nuclear negotiation long before he was elected. He did so during his presidential campaign by pinning his chances for election on economic recovery through a nuclear deal. This was a huge mistake, as it automatically weakened Iran’s bargaining position and, by the same token, strengthened that of the United States and its allies. By exaggerating the culpability of his predecessor in the escalation of economic sanctions against Iran, he committed two blunders: (a) downplaying the culpability of the US and its allies, and (b) placing the onus of reaching a nuclear deal largely on Iran.

Second, the policy of linking the chances of an economic recovery to the outcome of nuclear negotiations and/or the lifting of sanctions has created an ominous atmosphere of business/market uncertainty among the Iranian investors and entrepreneurs. Uncertainty is perhaps the worst enemy of a market economy, which explains why long-term, productive investment is drying up in Iran, or why economic stagnation has deteriorated since President Rouhani took office in early 2013.

Iran could minimize the baleful effects of sanctions by trying to delink its economic policies from nuclear negotiations and the threat of further sanctions. This would be possible if the Rouhani administration’s economic outlook somehow tilted away from outward-looking to inward-looking strategies of economic development; that is, the development of a “resistance economy,” as Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei has put it. This requires an economic strategy that would view the sanctions as an opportunity to mobilize national resources and chart an industialization course toward import-substitution and economic self-reliance—something akin to a war economy, since Iran has effectively been subjected to a brutal economic war by the United States and its allies.

Such a path of development would be similar to the eight years (1980-88) of war with Iraq, when at the instigation and support of regional and global powers Saddam Hussein launched a surprise military attack against Iran. Not only did the Western powers and their allies in the region support the Iraqi dictator militarily but they also subjected Iran to severe economic sanctions. With its back against the wall, so to speak, Iran embarked on a revolutionary path of a war economy that successfully provided both for the war mobilization to defend its territorial integrity and for respectable living conditions of its population.

By taking control of the commanding heights of the national economy, and effectively utilizing the revolutionary energy and dedication of their people, Iranian policy makers further succeeded in bringing about significant economic developments. These included: extensive electrification of the countryside, expansion of transportation networks, construction of tens of thousands of schools and medical clinics all across the country, provision of foodstuffs and other basic needs for the indigent at affordable prices, and more.

Alas, despite its record of success, this option seems to be altogether alien to President Rouhani and his team of economic advisors who, following the neoliberal/neoclassical school of economic thought, maintain that the solution to Iran’s economic problems lies in an unrestrained integration into world capitalism, in a wholesale (and often fraudulent) privatization of the economy, and in an IMF-style of economic austerity.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press 2012).

Congressman John Conyers in May introduced an amendment to the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives that would bar US funding to neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine (see Amendment to the Rules Committee Print for H.R. 4435 offered by Mr. Conyers of Michigan). Currently the amendment is buried and no action has been taken. Few are paying attention to this explosive issue.

Such a ban would certainly apply to the Azov Battalion, who openly wear Nazi symbols and glorify WWII Ukrainian Nazis who committed mass murder. Further, they were deeply involved in the shooting and burning alive of more than 100 people in Odessa last May, an event which has been very downplayed in the US media.

The Kiev regime is expanding this group and supplying heavy weapons to them. On October 9, the Ministry of Internal Affairs held a ceremony for this purpose at their Kiev headquarters. What was notable was that the ministry has its name on the building in Ukrainian and in English, so that CIA advisors know which building to habitate.

The head of this thug operation won an election to parliament and his deputy was put over all Kiev police. Note that the Kiev regime plans to put this neo-Nazi organization into the National Guard, a long-discussed plan that would apply to several dozen other paramilitary formations. So US funding to the Kiev military would easily benefit Azov Nazis and would be hard to trace.

With the failure of the Kiev regular army to retake control of Eastern Ukraine, Kiev is now discussing applying for membership in NATO, so that NATO troops can intervene in this civil war. In September, NATO conducted a training exercise on Ukrainian soil, with over 100 US soldiers involved. The US has conducted multiple naval exercises on Russia’s doorstep in the Black Sea.

This aggressive military encirclement of Russia is in violation of US agreements decades old not to expand NATO and its weapons systems to Russia’s borders, now a clear military threat. Consider how the US reacted with the prospect of missiles being placed in Cuba in 1962, the US government was ready to go to war over it, even though it had placed Jupiter missiles on Russia’s borders. In 1983, the US invaded Grenada over allegations that the government there was building airstrips that could accommodate Russian bombers, even though no such infrastructure existed.

The US presence is much larger in Ukraine, but is only one of manyprovacative operations put into place over the last decade. Plus, there are plans for the US to spend a trillion dollars to rebuild its nuclear weapons stockpiles, weapons which can only be considered to be used against  Russia or China. Russia has hinted that such an encirclement is a provocation to war. Certain US policy types have suggested that if Moscow did not let the US take Ukraine, it could be a cause for war.

Europe has a history of irrationally spiraling into world wars, based on senseless actions that no one would walk back from. For centuries Europe has invaded Russia, whether Germanic tribes (drang nach osten), Napoleonic French, British or Americans (twice in 1919), Kaiser Wilhelm or Adoph Hitler’s Germany. Russia has not ever invaded those countries. But the drumbeat of the war party is on a steady, historically repetitive path.

Russ Bellant (Detroit, US) – an American writer, author of “Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party: Domestic fascist networks and their effect on US cold war politics”.

Will Falling Oil Prices Crash the Markets?

December 12th, 2014 by Mike Whitney

Crude oil prices dipped lower on Wednesday pushing down yields on US Treasuries and sending stocks down sharply. The 30-year UST slipped to a Depression era 2.83 percent while all three major US indices plunged into the red. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) led the retreat losing a hefty 268 points before the session ended. The proximate cause of Wednesday’s bloodbath was news that OPEC had reduced its estimate of how much oil it would need to produce in 2015 to meet weakening global demand. According to USA Today:

“OPEC lowered its projection for 2015 production to 28.9 million barrels a day, or about 300,000 fewer than previously forecast, and a 12-year low…. That’s about 1.15 million barrels a day less than the cartel pumped last month, when OPEC left unchanged its 30 million barrel daily production quota…

The steep decline in crude price raises fears that small exploration and production companies could go out of business if the prices fall too low. And that, in turn, could cause turmoil among those who are lending to them: Junk-bond purchasers and smaller banks.” (USA Today)

Lower oil prices do not necessarily boost consumption or strengthen growth. Quite the contrary. Weaker demand is a sign that deflationary pressures are building and stagnation is becoming more entrenched. Also, the 42 percent price-drop in benchmark U.S. crude since its peak in June, is pushing highly-leveraged energy companies closer to the brink. If these companies cannot roll over their debts, (due to the lower prices) then many will default which will negatively impact the broader market. Here’s a brief summary from analyst Wolf Richter:

“The price of oil has plunged …and junk bonds in the US energy sector are getting hammered, after a phenomenal boom that peaked this year. Energy companies sold $50 billion in junk bonds through October, 14% of all junk bonds issued! But junk-rated energy companies trying to raise new money to service old debt or to fund costly fracking or off-shore drilling operations are suddenly hitting resistance.

And the erstwhile booming leveraged loans, the ugly sisters of junk bonds, are causing the Fed to have conniptions. Even Fed Chair Yellen singled them out because they involve banks and represent risks to the financial system. Regulators are investigating them and are trying to curtail them through “macroprudential” means, such as cracking down on banks, rather than through monetary means, such as raising rates. And what the Fed has been worrying about is already happening in the energy sector: leveraged loans are getting mauled. And it’s just the beginning…

“If oil can stabilize, the scope for contagion is limited,” Edward Marrinan, macro credit strategist at RBS Securities, told Bloomberg. “But if we see a further fall in prices, there will have to be a reaction in the broader market as problems will spill out and more segments of the high-yield space will feel the pain.”…Unless a miracle happens that will goose the price of oil pronto, there will be defaults, and they will reverberate beyond the oil patch.” (Oil and Gas Bloodbath Spreads to Junk Bonds, Leveraged Loans. Defaults Next, Wolf Ricter, Wolf Street)

The Fed’s low rates and QE pushed down yields on corporate debt as investors gorged on junk thinking the Fed “had their back”. That made it easier for fly-by-night energy companies to borrow tons of money at historic low rates even though their business model might have been pretty shaky. Now that oil is cratering, investors are getting skittish which has pushed up rates making it harder for companies to refinance their debtload. That means a number of these companies going to go bust, which will create losses for the investors and pension funds that bought their debt in the form of financially-engineered products. The question is, is there enough of this financially-engineered gunk piled up on bank balance sheets to start the dominoes tumbling through the system like they did in 2008?

That question was partially answered on Wednesday following OPEC’s dismal forecast which roiled stocks and send yields on risk-free US Treasuries into a nosedive. Investors ditched their stocks in a mad dash for the exits thinking that the worst is yet to come. USTs provide a haven for nervous investors looking for a safe place to hunker down while the storm passes.

Economist Jack Rasmus has an excellent piece at Counterpunch which explains why investors are so jittery. Here’s a clip from his article titled “The Economic Consequences of Global Oil Deflation”:

“Oil deflation may lead to widespread bankruptcies and defaults for various non-financial companies, which will in turn precipitate financial instability events in banks tied to those companies. The collapse of financial assets associated with oil could also have a further ‘chain effect’ on other forms of financial assets, thus spreading the financial instability to other credit markets.” (The Economic Consequences of Global Oil Deflation, Jack Rasmus, CounterPunch)

Falling oil prices typically drag other commodities prices down with them. This, in turn, hurts emerging markets that depend heavily on the sale of raw materials. Already these fragile economies are showing signs of stress from rising inflation and capital flight. In a country like Japan, however, one might think the effect would be positive since the lower yen has made imported oil more expensive. But that’s not the case. Falling oil prices increase deflationary pressures forcing the Bank of Japan to implement more extreme measures to reverse the trend and try to stimulate growth. What new and destabilizing policy will Japan’s Central Bank employ in its effort to dig its way out of recession? And the same question can be asked of Europe too, which has already endured three bouts of recession in the last five years. Here’s Rasmus again on oil deflation and global financial instability:

“Oil is not only a physical commodity bought, sold and traded on global markets; it has also become an important financial asset since the USA and the world began liberalized trading of oil commodity futures…

Just as declines in oil spills over to declines of other physical commodities…price deflation can also ‘spill over’ to other financial assets, causing their decline as well, in a ‘chain like’ effect.

That chain like effect is not dissimilar to what happened with the housing crash in 2006-08. At that time the deep contraction in the global housing sector ( a physical asset) not only ‘spilled over’ to other sectors of the real economy, but to mortgage bonds…and derivatives based upon those bonds, also crashed. The effect was to ‘spill over’ to other forms of financial assets that set off a chain reaction of financial asset deflation.

The same ‘financial asset chain effect’ could arise if oil prices continued to decline below USD$60 a barrel. That would represent a nearly 50 percent deflation in oil prices that could potentially set in motion a more generalized global financial instability event, possibly associated with a collapse of the corporate junk bond market in the USA that has fueled much of USA shale production.” (CounterPunch)

This is precisely the scenario we think will unfold in the months ahead. What Rasmus is talking about is “contagion”, the lethal spill-over from one asset class to another due to deteriorating conditions in the financial markets and too much leverage. When debts can no longer be serviced, defaults follow sucking liquidity from the system which leads to a sudden (and excruciating) repricing event. Rasmus believes that a sharp cutback in Shale gas and oil production could ignite a crash in junk bonds that will pave the way for more bank closures. Here’s what he says:

“The shake out in Shale that is coming will not occur smoothly. It will mean widespread business defaults in the sector. And since much of the drilling has been financed with risky high yield corporate ‘junk’ bonds, the shale shake out could translate into a financial crash of the US corporate junk bond market, which is now very over-extended, leading to regional bank busts in turn.” (CP)

The financial markets are a big bubble just waiting to burst. If Shale doesn’t do the trick, then something else will. It’s just a matter of time.

Rasmus also believes that the current oil-glut is politically motivated. Washington’s powerbrokers persuaded the Saudis to flood the market with petroleum to push down prices and crush oil-dependent Moscow. The US wants a weak and divided Russia that will comply with US plans to increase its military bases in Central Asia and allow NATO to be deployed to its western borders. Here’s Rasmus again:

“Saudi Arabia and its neocon friends in the USA are targeting both Iran and Russia with their new policy of driving down the price of oil. The impact of oil deflation is already severely affecting the Russian and Iranian economies. In other words, this policy of promoting global oil price deflation finds favor with significant political interests in the USA, who want to generate a deeper disruption of Russian and Iranian economies for reasons of global political objectives. It will not be the first time that oil is used as a global political weapon, nor the last.” (CP)

Washington’s strategy is seriously risky. There’s a good chance the plan could backfire and send stocks into freefall wiping out trillions in a flash. Then all the Fed’s work would amount to nothing.

Karma’s a bitch.

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

With CIA torture programs now fully exposed to the world, a common background theme has emerged. The CIA torture report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is a summary of the original report which you can read for yourself. In the first few pages of the Senate report we are quietly reminded that the backdrop which set the stage for the justification of torture is 9/11. More specifically, the 9/11 “official story” narrative. The much questioned, challenged, and refuted official story narrative that is. The report quietly pulls the reader in with a  passionate recollection of 9/11:

I recall vividly watching the horror of that day, to include the television footage of innocent men and women jumping out of the World Trade Center towers to escape the fire. The images, and the sounds as their bodies hit the pavement far below, will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Reading down further in the report, the 9/11 official story meme continues fully settling on the clear determined narrative that would be used in the CIA’s attempt to justify torture by reminding the audience of the “terrorist plots”

It is worth remembering the pervasive fear in late 2001 and how immediate the threat felt. Just a week after the September 11 attacks, powdered anthrax was sent to various news organizations and to two U.S. Senators. The American public was shocked by news of new terrorist plots and elevations of the color-coded threat level of the Homeland Security Advisory System. We expected further attacks against the nation.

Do you remember now? The day when (CIA asset) Bin Laden and his (CIA) Al Qaeda terrorist (supposedly) took over four commercial planes and strategically overpowered the world’s greatest military, all from a cave in Afghanistan? For anyone with any sense of logic and reason, just think for a minute. We are asked to believe that the same Al Qaeda that the establishment media claims did 9/11 is STILL alive and well, and fully operational, never having missed a beat fighting against the world’s most sophisticated military, and returning fire (even-steven and tit-for-tat) while keeping up on supplies and ammo. All of this for over 13 plus years!!

One problem with this 9/11 backdrop ‘war on terror’ narrative is that long after the war in Afghanistan seemed like it should have been over, the war (or more correctly, the occupation) mysteriously and illogically continues without missing a beat. Even as humanity has witnessed 13 years of a “war” with literally no evidence of a war, the “war” continues. That’s right, for over 13 years, while the CIA torture program rolls on fully implemented, no one has ever produced, authenticated and validated video proof of a war in Afghanistan showing the opposition clearly firing at U.S. troops in a war-like scenario and sustaining themselves in the heat of battle. It’s been over 13 years and yet there is still no clear-cut footage showing the Al Qaeda tanks, artillery and grunts running around fighting hard against their U.S. enemies. It’s been 13 years, where is this footage??

Another problem with the war on terror narrative is that humanity has long woken up to the fake terror and long-term (U.S.-Israeli/PNAC) Middle East plans. With the help of the alternative media, citizen journalists, independent media and investigative journalists, expansions of government engineered synthetic terrorism has been fully exposed. Thanks to the U.S./Israeli/NATO ongoing Middle East aggressive ambitions exemplified by the creation, arming and funding of ISIS and their terror partners (FSA, Al-Nusra), the continued engineered war on terror is now fully exposed to the world.

Consequently, looming in the background of this most recent revelation of CIA torture and public indignation over Bush and Cheney war crimes, is the years of lies and how much the 9/11 official story meme has fallen apart since 2001. No longer does the story fit into the reality we now experience. From the Bin Laden death hoax and all the secrecy surrounding this event that never quite happened the way U.S. officials and the media say happened, to the long list of oddities andmysterious deaths of key witnesses and characters, to the now deeply established scientific facts about the improbable destruction of the 3 WTC towers, the 9/11 official story is no longer easy to believe.

Thus looming in the background of the hideous CIA torture programs is the powerful and liberating truth of 9/11. It sits in everyone’s consciousness waiting to come out. Now that horrific torture is fully revealed to the world, government can only hope that the masses somehow still believe the 9/11 official story lie.

Mixed unofficial polls have been taken which indicate anywhere from 35 to 70+ percent of Americans question the official story narrative. What the actual percentages is no one really knows. This much is true, however: the 9/11 official story doesn’t make any more sense. The story suffers from too many holes, too many convenient oddities and coincidences, a blatant violation of the laws of science, frightening coincidental and untimely deaths of witnesses and outdated logic justifying the continued existence of Al Qaeda (and now ISIS) who of course never attack Israel or plan other 9/11-style attacks from caves in Afghanistan.

It’s absolutely time for the world to wake up to 9/11 Truth, which is primarily based on the overwhelming scientific evidence and secondarily on gathered evidence against the truemasterminds. We know factually that the towers were brought down by controlled demolition. Three teams of researchers confirmed the presence of nano-sized thermite in the dust of the world trade centers. Samples (of WTC dust) which when tested, each time showed the confirmed presence of thermite, a military-grade incendiary compound whose thermite form has been used for controlled demolition in the past. This irrefutable evidence for controlled demolition should loom in the background of everyone’s mind as they continue to read about the CIA (engineered, staged, pre-planned, malicious) torture program actually designed to torture innocent people for which there is no credible evidence of a crime or wrongdoing other than being verbally accused of being a “terrorist”.

So as the illegal prison in Guantanamo remains wide open against all promises by candidate Obama, let us forever remember the men illegally imprisoned there without rights and without justice. Let us consider the possibilities that too many Americans are too afraid to face. Americans would rather bury their heads in the sand than to face the reality of 9/11, torture, illegal prisons and war crimes.

Remember this, however: 9/11 Truth will eventually be admitted by the mainstream media. It may not happen today or tomorrow. Perhaps the system is not quite ready to admit 9/11 Truth and merge all of these charges to the record of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld quite yet. But the puzzle has come together for many of us and we are waiting for critical mass awareness to move forward with justice.
Many of us believe justice for 9/11 will happen sooner or later. This is the course humanity is on, and today I’m happy to say I believe this CIA torture exposure brings America and humanity as a whole one step closer to accepting and thus acting upon 9/11 Truth.

Bernie Suarez is an activist, critical thinker, radio host, musician, M.D, Veteran, lover of freedom and the Constitution, and creator of the Truth and Art TV project. He also has a background in psychology and highly recommends that everyone watch a documentary titled The Century of the Self. Bernie has concluded that the way to defeat the New World Order is to truly be the change that you want to see. Manifesting the solution and putting truth into action is the very thing that will defeat the globalists. 

The publication of the US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture has exposed the European powers’ complicity in ghastly crimes of US intelligence. Even though European states’ complicity in CIA torture and rendition operations has been documented for nearly a decade, no European officials have been held accountable.

In 2005, the Council of Europe tasked former Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty with preparing a report on secret CIA prisons in Europe. He released two reports, in 2006 and 2007, documenting the complicity of dozens of European states in setting up facilities for illegal CIA rendition and torture. The states involved included Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Albania.

The existence of approximately 1,000 CIA flights and of secret prisons in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Bucharest (Romania), Antavilas (Lithuania), and Stare Kiejkuty (Poland) has since been confirmed.

Nonetheless, after the US Senate recognized CIA use of the grisliest forms of torture—including murder, sexual assault, sleep deprivation and forcing inmates to stand on broken limbs—officials across Europe reacted by insisting that they should enjoy immunity.

Top officials of the Polish government, which is appealing a July ruling against it over its role in CIA torture by the European Court on Human Rights, denounced the report. “Certain secrets should stay that way,” said Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak.

Polish prosecutors have been investigating the case for six years, including a two-year investigation of former Polish intelligence chief Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, without bringing any charges. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was waterboarded as soon as he arrived at Stare Kiejkuty. One medical officer there noted: “We are basically doing a series of near-drownings.”

Other detainees at Stare Kiejkuty, which housed Saudi, Algerian and Yemeni detainees, were subjected to mock executions with a power drill while standing hooded and naked.

Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski lamely claimed that CIA officials did not explain how they planned to use their secret prisons in Poland. “It was a question as we saw it only of creating secret sites,” he said, adding that he closed down the facility in 2003 because “the Americans’ secret activities began to worry” Polish authorities.

Lithuanian officials confirmed that the black site named “detention center Violet” by the US Senate report appears to be the Lithuanian detention center near the capital, Vilnius, identified in a 2009-2010 parliamentary investigation. Lawmaker Arvydas Anusauskas told Reuters, “The US Senate report, to me, makes a convincing case that prisoners were indeed held at the Lithuanian site.”

Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi detainee now kept at Guantanamo Bay, has stated that he was kept and tortured at the site. Washington paid the Lithuanian government $1 million to “show appreciation” for operating the prison, according to the US Senate report, though the funds were reportedly paid out through “complex mechanisms.”

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius has asked Washington to confirm whether or not the CIA tortured prisoners at its secret prisons in Lithuania.

British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the issue of torture and Britain’s role in rendition flights to countries including Libya, saying that it had been “dealt with from a British perspective.” He told the public to trust British intelligence to police itself, as official investigations had “produced a series of questions that the intelligence and security community will look at … I’m satisfied that our system is dealing with all of these issues.”

In fact, the CIA torture report has revealed the advanced state of collapse of democratic forms of rule not only in the United States, but also in Europe. What has emerged across Europe since the September 11 attacks is the framework of a police state far more technically powerful than even the most ruthless dictatorships of twentieth-century Europe. The methods deployed as part of the “war on terror” will also be used against opposition in the working class to unpopular policies of austerity and war.

European governments participate in the digital spying on telecommunications and Internet activities of the European population, carried out by the US National Security Agency and its local counterparts, as revealed by Edward Snowden. They also are planning joint repression of social protests, based on talks between German federal police, France’s Gendarmerie, and other security forces with the European Commission.

“During my investigation, people called me a traitor and said I was making things up,” Marty told the Tribune de Genève. “The Europeans disappointed me. Germany, the United Kingdom, and many others blocked the establishment of the truth. In fact, most European countries actively participated in a system that legitimated large-scale state crimes.”

“I think we must recall, and it is very important, that this operation, this anti-terrorist policy, was decided and carried out under the aegis of NATO,” Marty told Swiss television channel RTS.

“The United States invoked Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which says that if one member of the alliance is attacked militarily [e.g., as Washington claimed, on September 11], all NATO members are required to come to its aid,” Marty said. Once this was accepted, he added, “there were a whole series of secret accords between the United States and European powers. And all the European countries pledged to grant total immunity to CIA agents, which is manifestly illegal.”

The European powers’ participation in the CIA torture program underscores the utter hypocrisy of the humanitarian pretensions used to justify operations ranging from NATO wars in Syria and Libya to this February’s NATO-backed, fascist-led putsch in Ukraine.

The ferocious opposition of the European ruling elites to attempts to bring this criminality to light is the clearest indication that the democratic rights of the population cannot be secured by appeals to any section of the state. The defense of the population’s democratic and social rights is a question of the revolutionary mobilization of the working class in an international struggle against European capitalism.

Torture, Police Killings and the Militarization of America

December 12th, 2014 by Bill Van Auken

The fact that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report exposing CIA torture has been released in the United States as the country is being swept by angry protests over a series of vicious and unpunished police killings has been little noted by the American mass media.

What are treated as unrelated stories are, in fact, two facets of the same phenomenon: the growth of a massive and criminal police state apparatus that enjoys absolute impunity. The crimes carried out abroad and the crimes carried out at home have a common source in an economic and social system that is in deep crisis and whose overriding features are social inequality, militarism and a relentless assault on basic democratic rights.

The cops who shot down unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, strangled to death Eric Garner in Staten Island and killed defenseless individuals in Cleveland, Phoenix and elsewhere go unpunished as prosecutors employ a deliberate system of exoneration by grand jury to prevent them from ever being called to account for their crimes.

The actions in the Senate report are sufficient to require the immediate arrest and prosecution not merely of the CIA’s killers and torturers, but of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and other top officials who authorized and oversaw a system of depravity and violence in violation of both US and international law.

Yet no one in the US Congress, the Obama administration or any other section of the American ruling establishment suggests that such prosecutions are even remotely possible. On Thursday, Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan, himself implicated in the crimes, organized a press conference from CIA headquarters in Langley to defend the “enhanced interrogation” torture program and denounce the Senate report.

It was Cofer Black, the former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who told an approving congressional committee in 2002 that “there was ‘before 9/11 and after 9/11.’ After 9/11 the gloves came off.”

The phrase, conjuring up the image of a bare-knuckled brawl, became a favorite cliché within both the Bush White House and the US military command. It was translated into far more gruesome forms of violence, ranging from waterboarding to hanging people from manacles and “rectal hydration.”

But the “gloves” that were taken off had more far-reaching implications. They involved dispensing with any adherence to the US Constitution, the Geneva Conventions or other bodies of domestic and international law.

The gloves came off not just for the interrogators at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and CIA black sites scattered across the globe, but for every level of the state, down to the local police.

Whatever Obama may say today about torture being “contrary to our values,” this process has only qualitatively deepened over the course of his presidency.

Mr. Obama’s “values” allow him to arrogate to himself the power to designate American citizens as enemy terrorists and order their execution via drone missile strikes with absolutely no judicial review. They permit the codification into law of his supposed right to declare anyone, American or foreign national, an enemy combatant and lock him away in indefinite detention without charges or trial. And they are in concert with his presiding over a massive expansion of domestic and foreign spying that encompasses virtually all forms of communication of innocent people across the globe.

This same process has found noxious expression within local police departments across the United States. “Homeland security” policing has become the new standard, in which “national security” is the overriding principle, and the entire population is looked on as potential enemies. The fradulent narrative of a never-ending “war on terrorism” has become an all-purpose justification for arbitrary and disproportionate violence leading to murder.

The military-police mindset has been embodied in the creation of Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country, bringing local cops together with Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal agencies. At the same time, billions of dollars worth of military hardware, from assault rifles to armored vehicles, are being funneled annually from the Pentagon to local police departments, creating a militarized force suitable for deployment in a domestic war.

The real significance of these developments was demonstrated first in the martial law lockdown of the Boston metropolitan area following the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013. An entire population was turned into prisoners in their own homes and subjected to warrantless searches by helmeted and machine-gun toting police backed by armored vehicles—all supposedly to capture one 19-year-old youth.

More recently in Ferguson, peaceful protests against police murder have been met with cops who look like they are headed for combat in Afghanistan, followed by the Missouri governor’s preemptive declaration of a state of emergency and callout of the National Guard in anticipation of further protests over the grand jury’s failure to indict the killer cop.

In the course of the current protests over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there has been a concerted attempt by political forces ranging from President Obama to the millionaire operative Al Sharpton, along with a network of organizations orbiting the Democratic Party, to insist that the entire issue is one of racism, to be answered by a “conversation on race,” a “new civil rights movement” or various police reform palliatives.

All of this is meant to divert popular outrage into safer channels and conceal a far more sinister reality. A militarized police force, working in close collaboration with the US military and intelligence complex, is being prepared for violent repression against the working class as a whole. It will be used against strikes, demonstrations, protests and other forms of opposition to the policies of the corporate and financial elite.

Torture, police killings, the destruction of core democratic rights—all are methods employed by a criminal ruling class whose wealth is secured through financial parasitism. It has built up its fortunes by transferring social wealth from the working class—the overwhelming majority of the population—to the top 1 percent, while employing militarist violence to further its plunder abroad.

These ruling layers operate not out of strength or confidence in their system, but rather out of fear. They know that record levels of social inequality are not only incompatible with democracy, but must give rise to social revolt at the next, inevitable eruption of global financial crisis. If the torturers and the police killers enjoy impunity, it is because preparations are being made to turn them loose against a rebellious population.

The mystery behind skyrocketing rates of Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and other wheat-related illnesses may not have anything to do with wheat or even gluten, but rather the process by which conventional American wheat is grown and harvested.

Unbeknownst to most consumers is the fact that just before harvest, a vast majority of conventional wheat grown in the U.S. is doused in Roundup herbicide, which ends up poisoning your favorite breads, cereals, cakes, and pastries.

Many conventional wheat farmers in America, driven by greed and carelessness, flood their wheat crops with Roundup just before harvest in order to slightly boost yields and reduce harvest time. But the end result is Roundup being absorbed directly into the wheat kernels that end up processed on your dinner plate.

The Healthy Home Economist‘s Sarah Pope explains in a recent article how the pre-harvest application of Roundup is used to dry conventional wheat and make it easier to harvest. This process helps wheat crops release their seeds more quickly, resulting in moderately higher yields.

But according to wheat farmer Keith Lewis, this practice isn’t licensed, though it is quite common in the U.S. When Roundup-sprayed wheat is eventually processed for human consumption, unknown levels of it end up in the final product.

“A wheat field often ripens unevenly, thus applying Roundup pre-harvest evens up the greener parts of the field with the more mature,” he explained during a 2012 interview with Dr. William Davis, author of the bestselling book Wheat Belly.

“The result is on the less mature areas, Roundup is translocated into the kernels and eventually harvested as such.”

Stop buying corporate American wheat products

In her report, Pope highlights a graph that was included in a 2013 study published in the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology, which clearly illustrates a corresponding increase in both Celiac disease incidence and glyphosate use on wheat crops.

Since it first became an option for American wheat farmers in the early 1990s, spraying conventional wheat crops with Roundup just prior to harvest has basically become the norm. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures show that, as of 2012, 99 percent of durum wheat, 97 percent of spring wheat, and 61 percent of winter wheat is doused in herbicides prior to harvest.

“Using Roundup on wheat crops throughout the entire growing season and even as a desiccant just prior to harvest may save the farmer money and increase profits, but it is devastating to the health of the consumer who ultimately consumes the glyphosate residue laden wheat kernels,” writes Pope.

The reason this is problematic is that Roundup damages several key pathways by which the human body processes and absorbs nutrients. Besides inhibiting cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, which detoxifies the body of foreign chemical compounds, glyphosate damages the gut microbiome, which is responsible for absorbing nutrients.

“… just because Roundup doesn’t kill you immediately doesn’t make it nontoxic,” writes Pope. “In fact, the active ingredient in Roundup lethally disrupts the all important shikimate pathway found in beneficial gut microbes which is responsible for synthesis of critical amino acids.”

“In synergy with disruption of the biosynthesis of important amino acids via the shikimate pathway, glyphosate inhibits the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes produced by the gut microbiome. CYP enzymes are critical to human biology because they detoxify the multitude of foreign chemical compounds, xenobiotics, that we are exposed to in our modern environment today.”

The only way to avoid this is to avoid all conventional wheat grown in the U.S., as well as all products made from it. Pope recommends sticking with low gluten, unhybridized Einkorn wheat, or wheat grown in other countries.

Until American farmers wake up to the fact that they are actively poisoning the public with their toxic, glyphosate wheat, it is vital to avoid purchasing all American-grown wheat that is not certified organic.

Sources:

http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com

http://www.inquisitr.com

http://www.wheatbellyblog.com

An undercover cop in Oakland pulled out a gun and pointed it at protesters Wednesday night after they exposed him and a partner as police officers attempting to incite crime.

The shocking moment was captured by Reuters photographer Noah Berger, who was covering protests spurred by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

Reports indicate that two police officers were posing as protesters, while wearing bandanas over their faces. Others in the group cottoned on to the fact that they were not legitimate demonstrators and began pointing at them and yelling, “Hey, they’re undercover, they’re cops!”

The two cops attempted to break off from the group, but were followed. A legitimate protester attempted to remove one of the cops’ balaclavas, and one of the officers pushed a protester, causing a scuffle to break out.

One of the officers slammed the protester to the ground, and handcuffed him, riling up the crowd. The second officer then pulled out a concealed weapon and waved it around telling protesters to back off, before scores of uniformed back up cops arrived on the scene.

 

Witnesses at the scene claimed that the two undercover cops were attempting to rile up the crowd up and get them to vandalize property and loot businesses.

 

Protesters say that the officers were banging on windows and shouting inflammatory statements. One protester claims to have a video of the officers doing just this, but has not yet posted it

 

Later commenting on the incident, Oakland police Lt. Chris Bolton revealed that the cops were from an “outside” agency and that he would investigate the claims of them acting as agent provocateurs.

 

 

 

Protesters claimed that the person who was tackled to the ground and taken into custody by the cops has a concussion stemming from the incident.

 

Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

“A group of Afghan friends,” writes Kelly, “had entrusted me with a simple message, their grievance, which they couldn’t personally deliver:  please stop killing us.” (Image: MettaCenter)

On December 10, International Human Rights Day, federal Magistrate Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in prison for having crossed the line at a military base that wages drone warfare. The punishment for our attempt to speak on behalf of trapped and desperate people, abroad, will be an opportunity to speak with people trapped by prisons and impoverishment here in the U.S.

Our trial was based on a trespass charge incurred on June 1, 2014.  Georgia Walker and I were immediately arrested when we stepped onto Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force where pilots fly weaponized drones over Afghanistan and other countries.  We carried a loaf of bread and a letter for Brig Gen. Glen D. Van Herck.  In court, we testified that we hadn’t acted with criminal intent but had, rather, exercised our First Amendment right (and responsibility) to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance.

“The prosecution recommended the maximum six month sentence.  “Ms. Kelly needs to be rehabilitated,” said an earnest young military lawyer. The judge paged through a four page summary of past convictions and agreed that I hadn’t yet learned not to break the law.”A group of Afghan friends had entrusted me with a simple message, their grievance, which they couldn’t personally deliver:  please stop killing us.

I knew that people I’ve lived with, striving to end wars even as their communities were bombed by drone aircraft, would understand the symbolism of asking to break bread with the base commander.

Judge Whitworth said he understood that we oppose war, but he could recommend over 100 better ways to make our point that wouldn’t be breaking the law.

The prosecution recommended the maximum six month sentence.  “Ms. Kelly needs to be rehabilitated,” said an earnest young military lawyer. The judge paged through a four page summary of past convictions and agreed that I hadn’t yet learned not to break the law.

What I’ve learned from past experiences in prison is that the criminal justice system uses prison as a weapon against defendants who often have next to no resources to defend themselves.  A prosecutor can threaten a defendant with an onerously long prison sentence along with heavy fines if the defendant doesn’t agree to plea bargain.

In his article “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty,” Jed S. Rakoff draws attention to the institution of plea bargaining which now ensures that less than 3% of federal cases go to trial at all.  “Of the 2.2 million U.S. people now in prison,” Rakoff writes, “well over 2 million are there as a result of plea bargains dictated by the government’s prosecutors, who effectively dictate the sentence as well.”

“In 2012, the average sentence for federal narcotics defendants who entered into any kind of plea bargain was five years and four months,” Rakoff writes, “while the average sentence for defendants who went to trial was sixteen years.”

It’s one thing to read about the shameful racism and discrimination of the U.S.  criminal justice system. It’s quite another to sit next to a woman who is facing ten or more years in prison, isolated from children she has not held in years, and to learn from her about the circumstances that led to her imprisonment.

Many women prisoners, unable to find decent jobs in the regular economy, turn to the underground economy. Distant relatives of mine knew plenty about such an economy several generations ago, in Boston. They couldn’t get work, as Irish immigrants, and so they got into the bootlegging business when alcohol was prohibited. But no one sent them to prison for 10 years if they were caught.

Women prisoners may feel waves of guilt, remorse, defiance, and despair. In spite of facing extremely harsh punishment, harsh emotions, and traumatic isolation, most of the women I’ve met in prison have shown extraordinary strength of character.

When I was in Pekin Prison, we would routinely see young men, shackled and handcuffed, shuffling off of the bus to spend their first day in their medium-high security prison next door.  The median sentence there was 27 years. We knew they’d be old men, many of them grandfathers, by the time they walked out again.

The U.S. is the undisputed world leader in incarceration, as it is the world leader in military dominance.  Only one in 28 of drone victims are the intended, guilty or innocent, targets.  One third of women in prison worldwide, are, at this moment, in U.S. prisons.  The crimes that most threaten the safety and livelihood of people in the U.S. of course remain the crimes of the powerful, of the corporations that taint our skies with carbon and acid rainfall, peddle weapons  around an already suffering globe,  shut down factories and whole economies in pursuit of quick wealth, and send our young people to war.

Chief Executive Officers of major corporations that produce products inimical to human survival will most likely never be charged much less convicted of any crime.  I don’t want to see them jailed.  I do want to see them rehabilitated

Each time I’ve left a U.S. prison, I’ve felt as though I was leaving the scene of a crime. When I return to the U.S. from sites of our war making, abroad, I feel the same way. Emerging back into the regular world seems tantamount to accepting a contract, pledging to forget the punishments we visit on impoverished people.  I’m invited to forget about the people still trapped inside nightmare worlds we have made for them.

On January 23, 2015, when I report to whichever prison the Bureau of Prisons selects, I’ll have a short time to reconnect with the reality endured by incarcerated people.  It’s not the rehabilitation the prosecutor and judge had in mind, but it will help me be a more empathic and mindful abolitionist, intent on ending all wars.

Protests in US cities and towns has continued to make headlines over the acquittal of the police officers involved in the unjustified homicides in Ferguson, Missouri involving the shooting death of Michael Brown and in New York City where Eric Garner’s death was the result of a chokehold by the NYPD. Now the Obama Administration and police departments across the US are in agreement to have the police wear body cameras to record their actions when they interact with the public. Eric Garner’s death was recorded by the public, but the police officers responsible for his death were aquitted by the jury. Since the tragic deaths of both Micheal Brown and Eric Garner, the Obama administration is  now seeking $263 million to purchase body cameras so that any wrongdoing by the police can be recorded.  The funds will also be used to “better train police officers.”

For some reason, I find that hard to believe. Something does not sound right with this picture. “President Barack Obama announced Monday that he will seek $263 million in order to better train police officers – and a large chunk of that money will fund the purchase of roughly 50,000 body cameras” RT News reported. In all, President Obama wants congress to approve $75 million to purchase 50,000 body cameras for police officers across the U.S. while continuing the transfer of military equipment to state and local police departments with a “controversial Pentagon program which transfers old equipment – including vehicles and other military gear – to local police departments will remain largely intact.” The report also stated funding to improve training and reform law enforcement agencies were also in the bill, but a large portion would allow for the creation of “outreach programs intended to build trust between communities and law enforcement, The Hill reported.” Improving training to police departments while sending military grade weapons hardly seems comforting to the public. Body cameras would not change anything; in fact it would only add another tool for authorities to increase their surveillance capabilities to monitor the public. Earlier this year, an article published by Jay Stanley, a Senior Policy Analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) titled ‘Big Data, George Orwell, and Tanks’explains why video surveillance and other gadgets used by law enforcement is not a good idea:

Of course the effects of particular tools and technologies are not always open-and-shut; often they are contested. We’re seeing that play out today with regard to video surveillance, for example. Police departments are increasingly putting video surveillance cameras up in our public spaces—often entire networks of them (despite the fact that every day there is less and less reason to do so). But at the same time, individuals are using their own cameras to record what the police do—and too often finding police attempting to (mis)use their authority to stop them from doing so. And into the middle of this contested space comes the far more ambiguous police body cameras, which could serve one function or the other depending on the nitty-gritty details of the rules governing their deployment.

How could Big Data analytics help individuals? In theory, where data sets are made available to all, they could expand individuals’ access to information about the world and enable oversight over their government or companies. Big Data could also help empower individuals by allowing them to analyze their own data.

But unfortunately transparency is usually a hard-fought result—normally institutions fight to keep their data to themselves. And sometimes there will be privacy issues that make opening up databases legitimately problematic.

One other problem with the police carrying body cameras is that they are aimed at civilians, not the police. They will be used by the police to collect evidence against people who commit crimes but it can be used against a person who might fall under any suspicion. This is why very few police departments and other intelligence agencies have opposed body cameras. It is just another way of recording indivials or groups (protesters) for its mega databases. Recently, surveilance cameras have been outfitted with facial recognition technology as PhysOrg.com reported in 2012:

A new surveillance camera by Hitachi Kokusai Electric can look at footage that contains an image of someone, either still or video, and then search other video or still images on file for other instances of that same face. It can search, process and display up to thirty six million faces in just one second. Each hit is displayed immediately, in thumbnail form, which its makers say, allows the camera to display the actions of a person prior to, or after, being seen by the surveillance camera.

Police departments across the U.S. are adopting a facial recognition systems. The Chicago Police Department has the system in place as the Chicago Sun Times reported last year when a crime took place. It stated:

Pierre Martin’s face sealed his fate. Earlier this year, Martin became the first person in Chicago arrested as a result of a little-known Chicago Police Department high-tech program just getting started, which uses facial-recognition software.

Police had a photo captured on a CTA surveillance camera on Jan. 28 of a suspected mugger, looking to the side, after he had just allegedly stolen a cellphone from a man at gunpoint on a Pink Line train. Police also had an ocean of photos for comparison — 4.5 million criminal booking shots. They ran the program. And Pierre Martin ranked No. 1 on a list no one wants to top.

Makes me think about how surveillance is used in the U.K., home of George Orwell. This past summer, BBC news reported that “Met Police officers are to start wearing cameras on their uniforms as part of plans to boost transparency and accelerate convictions. The cameras are designed to capture evidence at crime scenes.” But others who oppose the plan such as Jack Hart of the ‘The Freedom Association’ “says the move means “everyone is under suspicion” according to the report. With cameras on every corner in British society, the police with cameras only means more surveillance.

Imagine the future where facial recognition, domestic drones both armed and unarmed, satellites and now police officers with cameras recording you 24 hours a day. Adding to the list, government databases with criminal mugshots and facebook profiles allows the police to have more facial data to work with. Therefore, the constant monitoring of the public is inevitable. If people were afraid of being identified and prosecuted, would they be willing to participate in peaceful protests? That is a good question.

The U.K. has roughly 6 million CCTV cameras. The UK is considered by many security experts, one of the most surveilled countries on the planet.  An individual’s right to privacy is evaporating.  Governments and their intelligence agencies, along with the police on both the local and state level say that good people have nothing to hide, but with facial recognition, all types of cameras recording you, NSA wire taps, the concept of privacy is almost non-existent.  Let’s be clear, not all police officers are bad actors, some do believe that the technology is a weapon to fight against real criminals, but then again, there are those who will obey their superiors in the name of fighting terrorists.

So the question is, who is a terrorist? Read Robert Wenzel’s ‘85 Things That Might Get You on a DHS Terrorist Watch List’ on Economic Policy Journal published in 2012 to answer that question. When people know that they are being watched and judged and behave differently, it is because they conform. We can call it the Hawthorne Effect when individuals improve their behavior when they become aware that they are being observed. This is what governments of the U.K. and U.S. prefer, a docile population run by an elite class and its corporations that can dominate the population through its surveillance technology. With this type of technology they impose fear among the population because they are constantly being watched.  Unfortunately, this is what George Orwell warned humanity about a long time ago.

Bhopal: A Metaphor

December 12th, 2014 by Dr. Vandana Shiva

December 3, 2014, marks the 30th anniversary of the terrible Bhopal gas tragedy, which killed more than 3,000 people almost immediately, another 8,000 in the following days, and more than 20,000 in the last three decades.

Despite the tragedy of humongous proportions, the people of Bhopal are still fighting for justice despite the apathy they continue to face.
Bhopal was a watershed moment. The tragedy woke up the world to industrial, chemical violence. The chemicals being manufactured at the Bhopal plant had their roots in warfare.

Bhopal gas tragedy was a political, economic, legal watershed for India and the planet. It was a toxic tragedy at two levels the leakage of a toxic gas from a plant producing toxic pesticides, the continued presence of 350 metric tonnes of hazardous toxic waste from the now-defunct Union Carbide India Ltd’s plant in Bhopal, combined with a toxic influence of corporations on courts and successive governments. Legally, Union Carbide and the US courts escaped liability and responsibility for the damage, setting a precedent of governments shrugging their duty to protect their citizens, taking away citizens’ rights and sovereignty in order to make settlements with corporations, letting them off lightly.

The cases brought by the victims to US courts were dismissed on the grounds that the appropriate platform was the Indian legal system, though other cases involving US corporations and foreign victims were being heard in US courts. In 1999, when the victims again approached the US federal court seeking compensation for the 1984 incident as well as for the alleged ongoing environmental contamination at and around the Bhopal plant site, the case was dismissed again.

In 1989, the Indian Supreme Court approved a settlement of the civil claims against Union Carbide for $470 million. The state forcefully took over the representation of the victims on the principle of parens patriae (Latin for “parents of the nation”) — “a doctrine that grants the inherent power and authority of the state to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf”.

A criminal lawsuit against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson, its former CEO, continues since 1989. In June 2010, a court in India handed down a verdict in the case. It found Union Carbide India Ltd. and seven executives of the company guilty of criminal negligence (this came after the September 1996 order that had reduced their charges). The company was required to pay a fine of Rs 500,000 ($10,870) and the individuals were each sentenced to two years in prison and fined Rs 100,000. On August 2, 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking to reinstate the charges of culpable homicide against the accused. In May 2011, the Supreme Court rejected this petition and declined to re-open the case to reinstate harsher charges. However, after the protests of the Bhopal survivors in November 2014, the government promised to strengthen the “curative petition” that Dow Chemical was already facing in the Supreme Court. The petition is designed to address inadequacies in the 1989 settlement on the basis that the correct figures for dead and injured were not used. The Indian government is seeking an additional amount of up to $1.24 billion, but Bhopal survivor groups, quoting the Government of India’s published figures (Indian Council of Medical Research, epidemiological report, 2004), say the required settlement amounts to $8.1 billion.

On February 6, 2001, Union Carbide Corpo-ration became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company following an $11.6 billion transaction approved by the boards of directors of Union Carbide and the Dow Chemical Company. Owning means owning both, assets and liabilities. However, Dow would like to disown the Bhopal gas disaster. While Dow wants immunity from liability in the case of deaths and diseases caused by Union Carbide in Bhopal, it has accepted liability for harm caused to workers of Union Carbide in the US.

In January 2002, Dow settled a case brought against its subsidiary UCC by workers exposed to asbestos in the workplace and set aside $2.2 billion to address future liabilities.

The case was filed before the acquisition of Union Carbide by Dow. Dow refuses to address the death and damage caused by Union Carbide in India.
This pattern of double standards, of privatising profits and socialising disaster runs through the pattern of corporate rule being institutionalised since the Bhopal tragedy. Dow, along with Monsanto, is involved in pushing hazardous, untested GMOs on society, along with the same war-based chemicals such GMOs rely on.

On October 15, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency, in spite of protests from citizens and scientists, gave final approval to Dow’s Enlist Duo genetically engineered corn and soya resistant to round-up and 2,4-D, or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, which was one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, the Vietnam War defoliant that was blamed for numerous health problems suffered during and after the war.

As this chemical arms race unfolds, more and more communities and countries are making the democratic choice to become GMO free. In the mid-term elections of November 2014, Maui County of Hawaii voted to become GMO free. Dow and Monsanto immediately sued Maui to stop the law banning GMO cultivation.

The 30th anniversary of Bhopal gas tragedy should catalyse actions worldwide for justice for Bhopal and for all victims of an economy based on toxics. It should strengthen our resolve to create toxic-free food and agriculture systems, and to defend our freedom to be free of poisons.

Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

I’m happy to be at this annual Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy (Russian abbreviation SVOP). It is always a great pleasure for me to meet people and feel the intellectual potential, which enables the Council, its leaders and representatives to respond to global developments and analyse them. Their analysis is always free from any hysteria, and its members offer well-grounded and solid arguments, taking a step back, since those caught in the midst of events can hardly adopt an unbiased perspective. We are inevitably influenced by the developments, which makes your observations, analysis, discourse and suggestions even more valuable to us.

As far as I know, this year’s Assembly will focus on prospects for accelerating domestic growth in Russia. There is no doubt that concerted efforts by our society as a whole to bring about comprehensive economic, social and spiritual development are a prerequisite for making Russia’s future sustainable. That said, by virtue of my professional duties, I have to focus on foreign policy issues, which are still relevant for the Assembly’s agenda, since in this interconnected, globalised world, isolating internal development from the outside world is impossible.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin provided a detailed analysis of the international developments at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi, as well as in his interviews during his trip to Asia. For this reason, I won’t offer any conceptual observations, as everything has already been said. Nevertheless, I would like to share with you some considerations based on our day-to-day foreign policy efforts. It is not my intention to deliver a comprehensive or clear outlook, since at this stage all forecasts are provisional, no matter who makes them. Moreover, diplomats seek to influence developments as they unfold, not contemplate them.

Naturally, I will start with Ukraine. Long before the country was plunged into the crisis, there was a feeling in the air that Russia’s relations with the EU and with the West were about to reach their moment of truth. It was clear that we could no longer continue to put issues in our relations on the back burner and that a choice had to be made between a genuine partnership or, as the saying goes, “breaking pots.” It goes without saying that Russia opted for the former alternative, while unfortunately our Western partners settled for the latter, whether consciously or not. In fact, they went all out in Ukraine and supported extremists, thereby giving up their own principles of democratic regime change. What came out of it was an attempt to play chicken with Russia, to see who blinks first. As bullies say, they wanted to Russia to “chicken out” (I can’t find a better word for it), to force us to swallow the humiliation of Russians and native speakers of Russian in Ukraine.

Honourable Leslie Gelb, whom you know all too well, wrote that Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU had nothing to do with inviting Ukraine to join the EU and was aimed in the short term at preventing it from joining the Customs Union. This is what an impartial and unbiased person said. When they deliberately decided to go down the path of escalation in Ukraine, they forgot many things, and had a clear understanding of how such moves would be viewed in Russia. They forgot the advice of, say, Otto von Bismarck, who had said that disparaging the millions-strong great Russian people would be the biggest political mistake.

President Vladimir Putin said the other day that no one in history has yet managed to subjugate Russia to its influence. This is not an assessment, but a statement of fact. Yet such an attempt has been made to quench the thirst for expanding the geopolitical space under Western control, out of a mercantile fear to lose the spoils of what they across the Atlantic had persuaded themselves was the victory in the Cold War.

The plus of today’s situation is that everything has clicked into its place and the calculus behind the West’s actions has been revealed despite its professed readiness to build a security community, a common European home. To quote (singer/song-writer) Bulat Okudzhava, “The past is getting clearer and clearer.” The clarity is becoming more tangible. Today our task is not only to sort out the past (although that must be done), but most importantly, to think about the future.

Talks about Russia’s isolation do not merit serious discussion. I need hardly dwell on this before this audience. Of course, one can damage our economy, and damage is being done, but only by doing harm to those who are taking corresponding measures and, equally important, destroying the system of international economic relations, the principles on which it is based. Formerly, when sanctions were applied (I worked at the Russian mission to the UN at the time) our Western partners, when discussing the DPRK, Iran or other states, said that it was necessary to formulate the restrictions in such a way as to keep within humanitarian limits and not to cause damage to the social sphere and the economy, and to selectively target only the elite. Today everything is the other way around: Western leaders are publicly declaring that the sanctions should destroy the economy and trigger popular protests. So, as regards the conceptual approach to the use of coercive measures the West unequivocally demonstrates that it does not merely seek to change Russian policy (which in itself is illusory), but it seeks to change the regime — and practically nobody denies this.

President Vladimir Putin, speaking with journalists recently, said that today’s Western leaders have a limited planning horizon. Indeed, it is dangerous when decisions on key problems of the development of the world and humankind as a whole are taken on the basis of short electoral cycles: in the United States the cycle is two years and each time one has to think of or do something to win votes. This is the negative side of the democratic process, but we cannot afford to ignore it. We cannot accept the logic when we are told to resign, relax and take it as a given that everyone has to suffer because there are elections in the United States every two years. This is just not right. We will not resign ourselves to this because the stakes are too high in the fight against terror, the threats of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and many bloody conflicts whose negative impact goes far beyond the framework of the corresponding states and regions. The wish to do something to gain unilateral advantages or to endear oneself to the electorate ahead of another election leads to chaos and confusion in international relations.

We hear the daily repeated mantra that Washington is aware of its own exclusiveness and its duty to bear this burden, to lead the rest of the world. Rudyard Kipling spoke about “the white man’s burden.” I hope that this is not what drives Americans. The world today is not white or black, but multi-coloured and heterogeneous. Leadership in this world can be assured not by persuading oneself of one’ exclusiveness and God-given duty to be responsible for everyone, but only by the ability and craft in forming a consensus. If the US partners committed their power to this goal, this would be priceless, and Russia would be actively helping them.

However, so far, US administrative resources still work only in the NATO framework, and then with substantial reservations, and its writ does not reach beyond the North Atlantic Alliance. One proof of this is the results of US attempts to make the world community follow its line in connection with the anti-Russian sanctions and principles. I have spoken about it more than once and we have ample proof of the fact that American ambassadors and envoys across the world seek meetings at the highest level to argue that the corresponding countries are obliged to punish Russia together with them or else face the consequences. This is done with regard to all countries, including our closest allies (this speaks volumes about the kind of analysts Washington has). An overwhelming majority of the states with which we have a continuing dialogue without any restrictions and isolation, as you see, value Russia’s independent role in the international arena. Not because they like it when somebody challenges the Americans, but because they realise that the world order will not be stable if nobody is allowed to speak his mind (although privately the overwhelming majority do express their opinion, but they do not want to do so publicly for fear of Washington’s reprisals).

Many reasonable analysts understand that there is a widening gap between the global ambitions of the US Administration and the country’s real potential. The world is changing and, as has always happened in history, at some point somebody’s influence and power reach their peak and then somebody begins to develop still faster and more effectively. One should study history and proceed from realities. The seven developing economies headed by BRICS already have a bigger GDP than the Western G7. One should proceed from the facts of life, and not from a misconceived sense of one’s own grandeur.

It has become fashionable to argue that Russia is waging a kind of “hybrid war” in Crimea and in Ukraine. It is an interesting term, but I would apply it above all to the United States and its war strategy – it is truly a hybrid war aimed not so much at defeating the enemy militarily as at changing the regimes in the states that pursue a policy Washington does not like. It is using financial and economic pressure, information attacks, using others on the perimeter of a corresponding state as proxies and of course information and ideological pressure through externally financed non-governmental organisations. Is it not a hybrid process and not what we call war? It would be interesting to discuss the concept of the hybrid war to see who is waging it and is it only about “little green men.”

Apparently the toolkit of our US partners, who have become adept at using it, is much larger.

In attempting to establish their pre-eminence at a time when new economic, financial and political power centres are emerging, the Americans provoke counteraction in keeping with Newton’s third law and contribute to the emergence of structures, mechanisms, and movements that seek alternatives to the American recipes for solving the pressing problems. I am not referring to anti-Americanism, still less about forming coalitions spearheaded against the United States, but only about the natural wish of a growing number of countries to secure their vital interests and do it the way they think right, and not what they are told “from across the pond.” Nobody is going to play anti-US games just to spite the United States. We face attempts and facts of extra-territorial use of US legislation, the kidnapping of our citizens in spite of existing treaties with Washington whereby these issues are to be resolved through law enforcement and judicial bodies.

According to its doctrine of national security, the United States has the right to use force anywhere, anytime without necessarily asking the UN Security Council for approval. A coalition against the Islamic State was formed unbeknownst to the Security Council. I asked Secretary of State John Kerry why have not they gone to the UN Security Council for this.

He told me that if they did, they would have to somehow designate the status of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Of course, they had to because Syria is a sovereign state and still a member of the UN (no one excluded it from UN membership). The secretary of state said it was wrong because the United States is combating terrorism and the al-Assad regime is the most important factor that galvanises terrorists from around the world and acts as a magnet attracting them to this region in an attempt to overthrow the Syrian regime.

I believe this is perverse logic. If we are talking about precedents (the United States adheres to case law), it is worth remembering the chemical disarmament in Syria when the Assad regime was a completely legitimate partner of the United States, Russia, the OPCW and others. The Americans maintain talks with the Taliban as well. Whenever the United States has an opportunity to benefit from something, it acts quite pragmatically. I’m not sure why the ideologically-driven position took the upper hand this time and the United States chose to believe that Assad cannot be a partner. Perhaps, this is not so much an operation against the Islamic State as paving the way for toppling al-Assad under the guise of a counter-terrorist operation.

Francis Fukuyama recently wrote the book, Political Order and Political Decay, in which he argues that the efficiency of public administration in the United States is declining and the traditions of democratic governance are gradually being replaced with feudal fiefdom ruling methods. This is part of the discussion about someone who lives in a glass house and throws stones.

All of this is happening amid the mounting challenges and problems of the modern world. We are seeing a continued “tug of war” in Ukraine. Trouble is brewing on the south border of the EU. I don’t think the Middle Eastern and North African problems will go away all by themselves. The EU has formed a new commission. New foreign actors have emerged, who will face a serious fight for where to send their basic resources: either for the continuation of reckless schemes in Ukraine, Moldova, etc., within the Eastern Partnership (as advocated by an aggressive minority in the EU), or they will listen to the Southern European countries and focus on what’s happening on the other side of the Mediterranean.

This is a major issue for the EU.

So far, those who are not guided by real problems, but rather by a desire to quickly grab things from freshly turned up ground. It is deplorable. Exporting revolutions – be they democratic, communist or others – never brings any good.

State, public and civilisational structures are actually disintegrating in the MENA region. The destructive energy released in the process can scorch states that are located far beyond this region. Terrorists (including the Islamic State) are claiming a national status. Moreover, they are already beginning to create quasi-governmental bodies there that engage in the administrative work.

On this backdrop, minorities, including Christians, are banished. In Europe, these issues are deemed not politically correct. They are ashamed when we invite them to do something about it together at the OSCE. They wonder why would we focus specifically on Christians? How is that special? The OSCE has held a series of events dedicated to keeping memories about the Holocaust and its victims alive. A few years ago, the OSCE started holding events against Islamophobia. We will be offering an analysis of the processes leading to Christianophobia.

On 4-5 December, OSCE ministerial meetings will be held in Basel, where we will present this proposal. The majority of EU member states elude this topic, because they are ashamed to talk about it. Just as they were ashamed to include in what was then the EU constitution drafted by Valery Giscard d’Estaing a phrase that Europe has Christian roots.

If you don’t remember or respect your own roots and traditions, how would you respect the traditions and values of other people? This is straightforward logic. Comparing what’s happening now in the Middle East to a period of religious wars in Europe, Israeli political scientist Avineri said that the current turmoil is unlikely to end with what the West means when it says “democratic reforms.”

The Arab-Israeli conflict is dead in the water. It’s hard to play on several boards at a time. The Americans are trying to accomplish this, but it doesn’t work for them. In 2013, they took nine months to sort out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I will not go into the reasons, they are known, but they failed at this as well. Now, they asked for more time to try to achieve some progress before the end of 2014, so that the Palestinians wouldn’t go to the UN and sign the Statute of the International Criminal Court, etc. Suddenly, it transpired that negotiations on Iran are underway. The US State Department dumped Palestine to focus on Iran.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and I agreed to talk on this subject some time soon. It’s important to understand that you can’t keep the problem of the Palestinian state deeply frozen forever. Failure to resolve it for nearly 70 years has been a major argument of those who recruit extremists in their ranks, “there’s no justice: it was promised to create two states; the Jewish one was created, but they will never create an Arab state.” Used on a hungry Arab street, these arguments sound quite plausible, and they start calling for a fight for justice using other methods.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi that we need a new version of interdependence. This was a very topical statement. The leading powers must return to the negotiating table and agree on a new framework that takes into account the basic legitimate interests of all the key parties (I can’t tell you what it should be called, but it should be based on the UN Charter), to agree on reasonable self-imposed restrictions and collective risk management in a system of international relations underpinned by democratic values. Our Western partners promote respect for the rule of law, democracy and minority opinion within countries, while failing to stand up for the same values in international affairs. This leaves Russia as a pioneer in promoting democracy, justice and rule of international law. A new world order can only be polycentric and should reflect the diversity of cultures and civilisations in today’s world.

You are aware of Russia’s commitment to ensuring indivisibility of security in international affairs and holding it in international law. I won’t elaborate on this.

I would like to support the point the SVOP has been making that Russia won’t succeed in becoming a major, successful and confident power of the 21st century without developing its eastern regions. Sergei Karaganov was among the first to conceptualise this idea, and I fully agree. Taking Russia’s relations with the Asia Pacific countries to a new level is an absolute priority. Russia worked along these lines at the Beijing APEC meeting and the G20 forum. We will continue moving in this direction in the new environment created by the upcoming launch of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) on 1 January 2015.

We have been treated as “subhumans.” For over a decade, Russia has been trying to establish partnership ties with NATO through CSTO. These efforts were not just about putting NATO and CSTO “in the same league.” As a matter of fact, CSTO is focused on catching drug dealers and illegal migrants around the Afghan border, and the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the backbone of the international security forces, which, among other things, were tasked with fighting the terrorist threat and eliminating its financing schemes, which involve drug trafficking. We tried everything: we pleaded and then demanded real-time contact, so that once NATO detects a caravan transporting drugs and is unable to stop it, it alerts us across the border, so that this caravan could be intercepted by CSTO forces. They simply refused to talk to us. In private conversations, our NATO well-wishers (and I actually mean this in the positive way) told us that the alliance can’t view CSTO as an equal partner for ideological reasons. Until recently, we saw the same condescending and arrogant attitude with respect to the Eurasian economic integration. And that despite the fact that countries intending to join the EAEU have much more in common in terms of their economies, history and culture than many EU members. This union is not about creating barriers with anyone. We always stress how open this union is expected to be. I strongly believe that it will make a significant contribution to building a bridge between Europe and Asia Pacific.

I can’t fail to mention Russia’s comprehensive partnership with China. Important bilateral decisions have been taken, paving the way to an energy alliance between Russia and China. But there’s more to it. We can now even talk about the emerging technology alliance between the two countries. Russia’s tandem with Beijing is a crucial factor for ensuring international stability and at least some balance in international affairs, as well as ensuring the rule of international law. We will make full use of our relations with India and Vietnam, Russia’s strategic partners, as well as the ASEAN countries. We are also open to expanding cooperation with Japan, if our Japanese neighbours can look at their national interests and stop looking back at some overseas powers.

There is no doubt that the European Union is our largest collective partner. No one intends to “shoot himself in the foot” by renouncing cooperation with Europe, although it is now clear that business as usual is no longer an option. This is what our European partners are telling us, but neither do we want to operate the old way. They believed that Russia owed them something, while we want to be on an equal footing. For this reason, things will never be the same again. That said, I’m confident that we will be able to overcome this period, lessons will be learned and a new foundation for our relations will emerge.

The idea of creating a single economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok can now be heard here and there and is gaining traction. Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has said publicly (while we have been saying it for a long time) that the EU and the EAEU should engage in dialogue. The statement President Vladimir Putin made in Brussels in January 2014, when he proposed the first step by launching negotiations on a free-trade zone between the EU and the Customs Union with an eye on 2020, is no longer viewed as something exotic. All of this has already become part of diplomacy and real politics. Although this is so far only a matter of discussion, I strongly believe that we will one day achieve what is called “the integration of integrations.” This is one of the key topics we want to promote within the OSCE at the Ministerial Council in Basel.

Russia is about to assume BRICS and SCO presidency. The two organisations will hold their summits in Ufa. These are very promising organisations for the new age. They are not blocks (especially BRICS), but groups where members share the same interests, representing countries from all continents that share common approaches regarding the future of the global economy, finance and politics.

The History of Russia: The Road to the Revolutions

December 11th, 2014 by Julien Paolantoni

Introduction

Part 2 of this series was an attempt to explain how Russia progressively asserted itself on the international stage. As for the present part, it will deal with the long downfall of tsarism during the nineteenth century which eventually resulted in the Russian Revolutions. We may use the plural here, because of the 1905 and February Revolutions, little known compared to the October one but they have been instrumental nevertheless, as it will hopefully be shown in the next part of this series.

Napoleon made a major mistake when he declared war on Russia over a dispute with Tsar Alexander I in 1812. Unable to decisively defeat the Russian army, he attempted to seize Moscow at the onset of winter. But his troops were unprepared for winter warfare especially in the harsh Russian weather and thousands of French soldiers were killed by peasant guerrilla fighters as a result. Alexander became known as the ‘Savior of Europe’ and he participated in the redrawing of the European map at the Congress of Vienna (1815), with his fellow allied statesmen Klemens von Metternich (Prince of Austria), Viscount Castlereagh (Foreign Minister of England) and Karl von Hardenberg (Chancellor of Prussia). [1]

Thanks to this prestigious position as the power that defeated Napoleonic France, the Russian Empire would play a leading political role in the next century. However, the upholding of serfdom prevented any economic progress in Russia. Indeed, in the meantime West European economic growth accelerated during the Industrial Revolution through sea trade and colonialism while Russia kept being an underdeveloped nation, thereby creating new problems for the empire as a great power. In fact, Russia’s great power status concealed its economic backwardness, which would be a key (if not the main) factor in the engagement of the revolutionary process. [2]

Moreover, following the defeat of Napoleon, Alexander I was willing to discuss constitutional reforms but only a few were introduced, meaning no dramatic changes were attempted, which was of course another reason for public discontent. [3]

The Decembrist Revolt and its Intellectual Aftermath

Alexander I was succeeded by his younger brother, Nicholas I, who ruled from 1825 to 1855. At the beginning of his rule, he was challenged by an uprising known as the Decembrist Revolt. The background of this protest laid in the Napoleonic Wars, when a handful of Russian officers traveled across Europe, where they were exposed to liberalism. It encouraged them to seek change on their return to autocratic Russia. Therefore, the Decembrist Revolt of 1825 has been the output of a small circle of army officers and liberal nobles who wanted to install Nicholas’ brother as a constitutional monarch, the English political system being considered by West European elites of that time as the highest available standard.

[4] Unfortunately for them, the revolt was easily smashed, leading Nicholas to turn away from the Westernization program begun by Peter the Great and to coin the doctrine “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality”. [5] Then in 1831 he crushed a major revolt in Congress Poland, which would be followed by another significant Polish and Lithuanian uprising in 1863. [6]

In this context, Mikhail Bakunin emerged as the father of anarchism. In 1842, he moved to Western Europe where he became active in the early socialist movement. In particular, he took part in the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849, joining forces with Karl Marx despite significant ideological differences. [7]

The debate over Russia’s political direction has existed since Peter the Great’s reforms (see part 2 of this series). However, in the course of the nineteenth century this question became more and more urgent.

The Slavophiles opposed bureaucracy and preferred the collectivism of the medieval Russian mir (i.e village community) to the individualism advocated by Western philosophers and the “enlightened” elite that promoted such ideas. Still, Russia has been forced into involvement in the affairs of Europe, as part of the “Holy Alliance” designed as the “Policeman of Europe” since the war against Napoleon (a move that sounds like a foretaste of NATO, as pointed out by Bertrand Badie). [8]

But in order to be the policeman of Europe, he Holy alliance needed large armies. Therefore, Russia supplied the forces needed by the Holy Alliance to quell the revolutionary uprisings in Europe in 1848 and 1849, which would become known as the Spring of Nations. [9]

In exchange, Nicholas I expected that the other great powers would leave Russia free to deal with the Ottoman Empire, considered as the “sick man of Europe” by the tsar. Some observers including Karl Marx and Frederick Engels predicted that there would be a Russo-Turkish War soon. Marx and Engels predicted that any conflict between these two nations would necessarily turn into a European War. [10]

One year before the death of Nicholas I, Russia became involved in the Crimean War. After defeating Napoleon, Russia was regarded as militarily invincible, but the reverses it suffered during the Crimean War exposed the weakness of Nicholas’ regime. [11]

Political Shifts During Alexander II’s Reign

In 1855, Alexander II came to the throne when desire for reform had become widespread. The most urgent issue facing the Government was that of serfdom. Indeed, four years after the coronation of the new tsar there were around 35% of serfs within the Russian population. [12]

The emancipation of the serfs in 1861 can be considered as one of the most important events in Russian history, because it marked the beginning of the fall of the landed aristocracy, who has managed to secure a monopoly on power since the creation of the Russian state. The freed peasants bought land from the landowners with state assistance but these properties were owned collectively by the mir, the village community, which divided them among the peasants. This move can be seen as a first attempt at collectivizing lands, which would one of the main policies undertaken during the first half of the USSR’s lifetime [13]

Then, Alexander II reformed the military service and the judiciary system in 1864. In general, the judicial system was quite effective but the government lacked cultural influence and finances to extend the court system to villages, where traditional justice prevailed with minimal interference from provincial officials. He abolished capital punishment and decided to mold the Russian judicial system after contemporary French and German law, which means that each case had to be decided on its merits and not on precedents. This approach has remained in place ever since. [14] He also introduced local self-governments (zemstva) for the rural districts and towns, made up of representatives of all classes who were in charge of health, education, transport facilities, food supply, and other issues. It was during Alexander’s reign that education became widespread and elected city councils (duma) dominated by property owners were formed in 1870. The zemstva and duma raised taxes to support their activities. [15]

Moreover, the intensity of censorship decreased significantly and universities became autonomous, which greatly helped to expose corruption and thus improve the efficiency of public policies. Regarding financial regulation, Alexander II has to be credited along with the Ministry of Finance for setting up the State Bank in 1866, which supported railroad development. Besides, the Ministry of Finance founded the Peasant Land Bank in 1882 to enable enterprising farmers to acquire more land. However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs countered this policy by establishing the Nobles’ Land Bank in 1885 to prevent foreclosures. [16]

Foreign Policy after the Treaty of Paris

In 1856, the Treaty of Paris put an end to the Crimean War between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, allied with France, the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The “Black Sea clause”, which demilitarized the area, came at a tremendous disadvantage to Russia, because it significantly decreased the naval threat it posed to the Ottomans. Besides, Russian protectorates of Moldavia and Wallachia acquired in the previous war were returned to the Ottoman Empire while the Great Powers pledged to respect the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty also caused a symbolic setback to Russia, as it gave the West European powers the duty of protecting Christians living in the Ottoman Empire, a role that was once attributed to Russia by the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji (1774). [17]

As a result, Russia’s primary goal during the beginning of Alexander II’s reign was to alter the Treaty of Paris to regain naval access to the Black Sea. Russian statesmen considered the British Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire as opposed to that goal, therefore the tsar sought to maintain good relations with France, Prussia, and the United States. Nevertheless, following the Crimean War Russia revived its expansionist policies, which was not seen positively by the other great powers, especially Great Britain. The Russian army first moved to gain control of the Caucasus region, where the revolts of Muslim tribes (Chechens, Dagestanis and Circassians) had continued despite numerous Russian campaigns in the nineteenth century. In 1859, the forces of Baryatinsky captured Shamil (the Chechen leader) and the Russian army was able to resume its expansion into Central Asia that had begun under Nicholas I. By 1867, Russian forces had captured enough territory to form the Guberniya (i.e Governorate General) of Turkestan. Then, the Bukhara Khanate lost the crucial Samarkand area to Russian forces in 1868. To avoid a conflict with the British Empire, which had strong interests in protecting India, Russia left independent the Bukharan territories located at the Afghan and Persian borders. The Central Asian khanates managed to retain a degree of autonomy until 1917. [18]

On the other hand, Russia followed Britain, France and the United States in establishing relations with Japan, and also obtained concessions from China with Britain and France after the Second Opium War (1856–1860). Indeed, under the Treaty of Aigun (1858) and the Treaty of Beijing (1860) China ceded to Russia extensive trading rights and regions located near the Ussuri and Amur rivers and allowed Russia to begin building a naval base and a port in Vladivostok. Regarding the foreign policy issues in Europe, Russia initially gave military support to France’s anti-Austrian diplomacy, but the Franco-Russian entente weakened quickly and France even backed a Polish uprising against Russian rule in 1863. [19]

Afterwards, Russia got closer to Prussia by approving the unification of Germany in exchange for a revision of the Treaty of Paris and the remilitarization of the Black Sea. These diplomatic achievements came at the London conference (1871), following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. After 1871, Germany united under Prussian leadership and became the strongest continental power in Europe. [20]

In 1873, Germany set up the League of the Three Emperors with Austria-Hungary and Russia to prevent them from forming an alliance with France. However, Russian and Austro-Hungarian ambitions clashed in the Balkans, where rivalries among anti-Ottoman feelings and Slavic nationalities erupted. In fact, throughout the 1870’s Russian nationalist opinion became a serious domestic factor in favor of making Bulgaria and Serbia quasi-protectorates and “liberating” Balkan Christians from Ottoman rule. As a result, a kind of Russian crusade took place four centuries after the Siege of Belgrade (1456), which was the last western crusade, in order to prevent the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II from conquering Hungary. Then, in the late 1870s the Ottoman Empire and Russia fought each other again during the Russo-Turkish War. Within one year, Russian troops were nearing Constantinople, and the Ottomans chose to surrender. In 1878, nationalist diplomats and generals convinced Alexander II to force the Ottomans to sign the Treaty of San Stephano, which created an independent and enlarged Bulgaria that stretched into southwestern Balkans. [21]

However, Britain wouldn’t let any other nation decide important international issues without its approval, that’s why Britain threatened to declare war over the terms of the above-mentioned treaty. Russia couldn’t afford an open conflict with the British Empire so the tsar backed down at the Congress of Berlin a few months later, where Russia agreed to the creation of a smaller Bulgaria. Russian nationalists were furious with Germany and Austria-Hungary for failing to back their country as part of the League of the Three Emperors, but the tsar agreed in terms to strengthen the alliance as well as Austro-Hungarian hegemony in the western Balkans. Despite this revived agreement, the previous war increased tension with Austria-Hungary, which also had ambitions in the region. [22]

During this period, Russia outstretched its empire into Central Asia, conquering the khanates of Bokhara, Khiva and Kokand (all located in present-day Uzbekistan), as well as the Trans-Caspian region. These regions were (and still are) rich in raw materials, therefore one can argue that the origins of Russian energy politics in Central Asia can be found in the period following the Crimean War. [23]

The Populist Movement, Intellectual Background of the Revolutions to Come

Alexander II’s reforms, the lifting of state censorship in particular, enabled the formation and expression of diverging political thoughts. Indeed, the regime relied on state-controlled newspapers to gain support for its policies but nationalist, liberal and various radical writers also helped to mold public opinion against the imperial state and private property. From the 1860s through the 1880s, Russian radicals, collectively known as Populists, focused mainly on the peasantry. [24]

The leaders of the Populist movement included idealists and advocates of terrorism, i.e direct and violent action intended to achieve a religious or political goal, mostly regime change (although it is a basic concept, in this age of endless propaganda providing a simple yet precise definition of original terrorism in certainly no waste of time). In the 1860s, Chernyshevsky, who was arguably the most influential radical writer of the period, defended the thesis that Russia could move directly to socialism under the leadership of an individual of a superior nature who would guide a new and revolutionary generation. His main work, entitled What Is to Do ? would have a tremendous impact on the dynamics of the October Revolution, for the emergence of Lenin as uncontested leader of the movement is certainly no stranger to the myth of the “superior” individual. By the way, Lenin’s 1902 political treaty bears the same title as Chernyshevsky’s. [25]

One of the leading streams of the Populist movement became known as nihilism, a concept originally coined by Turgenev in Fathers and Sons (1862). The advocates of this doctrine aimed at the destruction of human institutions and laws, because of their supposedly inherent artificiality and corruption. The fundamental idea behind Russian nihilism is that the world lacks comprehensible moral ideals such as truth or value, or even a broad meaning allowing the definition of objectives. As a result, the nihilists shocked the Russian establishment, for they questioned all old values stemming from Western Enlightenment. However, they eventually moved beyond being purely philosophical to becoming major political forces by getting involved in the cause of reform. Their path was eased by the previous actions of the Decembrists (1825) and the financial and political distress caused by the Crimean War, which led a huge proportion of Russian people to lose faith in political institutions. [26]

Surprisingly, the nihilists attempted to convert the aristocracy to the cause of reform in the first place. But failing to do so, they turned to the peasants, hence the denomination of “Populist movement”. It was based on the idea that the people carried the wisdom and ability to lead the nation.

Another noteworthy dissident to tsarism was Tkachev, who argued against marxists that a centralized revolutionary organization had to seize power before capitalism could fully develop. [27]

Eventually, anarchists had the most significant impact, killing prominent officials one after another, establishing anarchy as a powerful revolutionary force in the country. After several attempts, acting under the group name Narodnaya Volya (“People’s will”) they managed to murder Alexander II in 1881, on the very day he had approved a proposal to call a representative assembly to consider new reforms designed to meet revolutionary demands. [28]

Alexander III and the Reign of “Unlimited Autocracy”

The new tsar (1881–1894) took on Nicholas I’s doctrine “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and National Character”. Alexander III’s belief was that his country’s salvation relied on moving away from western ideas introduced in Russia by Peter the Great, for they were deemed subversive. The “Slavophiles” considered that a return to a simpler peasant society centered on the Orthodox faith would be beneficial, as opposed to the “pollution” generated in the West by materialism, atheism, and the new worship of science and technique in their supposed ability to solve all the problems faced by the human race. [29]

At that time, the most influential adviser in the Winter Palace was Pobedonostsev, the procurator of the Holy Synod (1880-1895), the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church. His lessons dealt mainly with the political system: the message was that democracy should be considered as an unfit option, especially in its parliamentary variety, and that freedom of speech should be feared by the monarch. As a result, the tsar strengthened the security police (Okhrana) and placed it under the command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A witch hunt against revolutionaries began. [30]

On the other hand, Alexander III has to be credited for the introduction of labor legislation in 1882, which included both a sort of compliance body (the inspectorate of factories in charge of health and life saving regulations) and a regulation of working hours and child labor. He continued the longstanding imperial infrastructure policy as well, with the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1891 as main achievement. [31]

Regarding foreign affairs, during Alexander III’s reign Russia gained significant territorial and commercial concessions from China, completed the conquest of Central Asia undertook by Peter the Great and reached an agreement with France to contain the growing power of Germany. For a short period of time, the tension between Russia and Germany remained at a low intensity, probably thanks to the latter’s diplomatic support towards Russia when Great Britain expressed its concerns over the Russian occupation of Turkmen lands on the Afghan and Persian borders in 1881. [32]

In the meantime, the tar’s decision to sponsor the Bulgarian independence turned out to be unproductive, for Russia’s continuing interference in domestic affairs fueled the Bulgarians’ will to gain the support of their mighty neighbor, Austria-Hungary. In the ensuing dispute, Germany officially stood by Russia once again by concluding a bilateral defensive alliance, known as the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887. However, less than a year after the signature of this new agreement, Bismarck decided to forbid any further loan to Russia, with France becoming the latter’s main financier. Bismarck would be dismissed in 1890, which marked the official end of the 25-years-lasting entente between Russia and Germany. Three years later, Russia entered into a joint military coalition with France aimed at matching the dual alliance formed by Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1879. [33]

Let’s remark that as soon as 1893 the general power framework which led to World War I was already in place, although the possibility of the Triple Entente would need to wait until 1904 that Great Britain and France settle their dispute over colonial policy.

A Renewed Revolutionary Atmosphere under Nicholas II

Nicholas II, son of Alexander III, has been the last Russian tsar (1894–1917). While the country finally experienced the Industrial Revolution, high taxes and dreadful living conditions led to more frequent strikes and peasant unrest. [34]

In this context, a lot of political parties were created to address the issues unfolding from industrialization. In 1892, the nationalistic Polish Socialist Party was founded in Paris by some Russian Poles, to further the interests of their relatives who had suffered major educational and administrative Russification. Its stated final ambition was to reunite a divided Poland with the territories held by Germany, Russia and Austria–Hungary. Another important political movement was Social Democracy: in 1898, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was created and received support from Georgians and Latvians whereas the Finnish Social Democrats decided to remain an autonomous organization. To continue with ethnical and religious minorities, Armenians were generally inspired by both Balkan and Russian revolutionary traditions. Consequently, they were politically engaged in Russia and in the Ottoman Empire. Speaking of the Ottoman Empire, Russian Muslims tended to be influenced by pan-Turkic and pan-Islamic movements that were developing there and in Egypt as well.

However, at that time the largest radical movement in Russia was without contest the United Socialist Revolutionary Party (USRP), founded in 1901. Paradoxically, the most important event in Russian politics in the early 20th century did not occur within the USRP: in 1903, the RSDLP split into two wings, the “moderate” Mensheviks led by Martov and the radical Bolsheviks led by Lenin. The first was convinced that Russian socialism could grow gradually and peacefully and that tsarism should be succeeded by a democratic republic in which the socialists would cooperate with liberal parties. The latter advocated for the formation of a small elite of professional revolutionists who would strictly respect party discipline and whose mission would be to seize power by force in the name of the proletariat. [35]

Imperialist Competition in China

Alongside the denunciation of the harsh economic conditions of the people, opposition to imperialist policies was the main theme of Russian revolutionaries.

By the end of the 19th century, Russia itself was an imperialist power, whose alliance with France combined with the growing rivalry between Britain and Germany allowed to extend its reach in Asia, in China more precisely. In 1896, Witte (Minister of Finance) founded the Russo-Chinese Bank with the support of French capital. The newly created bank was aimed at financing the construction of a railroad across northern Manchuria to shorten the Trans-Siberian Railway. Moreover, Russia managed to acquire leases in Port Arthur and on the Liaotung Peninsula and began to build a trunk line from Harbin in central Manchuria to Port Arthur on the coast within two years. In the meantime, Germany and Great Britain respectively occupied the provinces of Kiaochao and Wei-Hai-Wei. [36]

China’s reaction to foreign interference on its territory took the form of an armed popular uprising in Northern China, known as the Boxer Rebellion. A coalition of European powers, Russia, Japan and the United States came together to crush the revolt (some Russian forces were already stationed in China before the war to secure the railroads). A succession of battles including the one on Amur River and the Russian invasion of Central and Northern Manchuria (1900) can be seen as early developments of the upcoming Russo-Japanese War, which began officially when Japan opened hostilities at Port Arthur in 1904. The city was finally conquered one year later by Japanese forces, at the cost of a 60000 death toll.

These heavy casualties prevented Japan from pursuing Russian forces north of Mukden but a few months later they destroyed the tsar’s fleet at the Tsushima Straits, which was Russia’s last hope in the war.

Indeed, diplomatic pressure and a growing social unrest at home forced Nicholas II to seek peace. Russia accepted mediation by Theodore Roosevelt, which resulted mainly in the acknowledgement of Japan’s ascendancy in southern Manchuria and Korea. The disastrous performance of the Russian armed forces during the Russo-Japanese War was both a significant blow to the Russian State and a supplementary reason to challenge the tsar’s authority … [37]

Conclusion

Part 3 of this series was aimed at pointing out the political, economic and intellectual dynamic that would lead to the Russian Revolutions.

One of the instrumental moments on the path to the fall of the Romanov Dynasty has been Alexander III’s decision not to continue the administrative and social reforms implemented by his father. Part 2 developed the long hesitation of the tsarist regime between Enlightenment-oriented ideals and autocratic rule. One can argue that after Alexander III’s reign, the decision had been made. On the international stage, the Russian will to be recognized as the uncontested ruler of Central Asia and to get access to Chinese resources as well fueled the hostility of all the other major powers except France. In particular, the British Empire was busy enough containing fellow European colonial powers to accept the assertion of another contender in the “Eastern front” of the race for world domination.

The financial cost of this expansionist ambition combined with the economic backwardness of the country focused the attention of a new and talented generation of revolutionary thinkers, from anarchists to social-democrats (not to be confounded with modern impostors acting under the same denomination, who have nothing to do with socialism).

Part 4 will be dedicated to the successive revolutions that took place in Russia from 1905 to 1917 and to the ensuing civil war.

Julien Paolantoni graduated in Economics, Public Law and International Relations from Sciences Po Bordeaux and the University of Bordeaux. He also holds the professional certificate delivered by the French Financial Markets Authority (Autorité des Marchés Financiers, AMF) and can be reached at: [email protected]

Notes

[1] Adam Zamoyski, Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, Harper, 2007

[2] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, Oxford University Press, 8th ed., 2010

[3] Ibid.

[4] It is common knowledge that English, French and German philosophers of the Enlightenment regarded England as the political promised land. For instance, Montesquieu stated in The Spirit of Laws (1748): “Britain is a nation that may be justly called a republic, disguised under the form of a monarchy”.

[5] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[6] Norman Davies, God’s Playground: A History of Poland, Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present, Columbia University Press, 2nd ed., 2005

[7] See textbooks on the history of political thought. In English, Alan Ryan’s On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (Liveright, 2012) is considered as an excellent work. Personally, throughout my studies I have been using : Pascal Ory, Nouvelle histoire des idées politiques, Hachette Littérature, 1989 and Henri Denis, Histoire de la pensée économique, PUF, 2008

[8] Bertrand Badie, La diplomatie de connivence, La Découverte, 2011

[9] Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Volume 10, 1849-51, Intl Pub, 1978

[10] Ibid.

[11] Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History, Picador, 2012

[12] Richard Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, Penguin Books, 2nd ed., 1997

[13] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[14] Randall Lesaffer, European Legal History: A Cultural and Political Perspective, Cambridge University Press, 2009

[15] Richard Pipes, op. cit.

[16] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[17] Orlando Figes, op. cit.

[18] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Harper Perennial, 1998

[21] Walter G. Moss, A History of Russia Vol. 2: Since 1855, Anthem Press, 2nd ed., 2004

[22] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism, Stanford University Press, 1979

[25] Nikolai Chernyshevsky, What Is to Be Done ? Cornell University Press, 1989 (1st ed.: 1863)

[26] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[27] Glenn E. Curtis (Ed), Russia: A Country Study, Claitors Pub Div, 1998

[28] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Konstantin P. Pobedonostsev, Reflections of a Russian Statesman, University of Michigan Press, 1964 (1st ed.: 1898)

[31] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, op. cit.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Roberta Thompson Manning, The Crisis of the Old Order in Russia: Gentry and Government, Princeton University Press, 1982

[36] Paul S. Ropp, China in World History, Oxford University Press, 2010

[37] Glenn E. Curtis, op. cit.

Lawless US Sanctions on Venezuela

December 11th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

On December 8, US Senate members passed “S. 2142: Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014.” 

“A bill to impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters in Venezuela, to strengthen civil society in Venezuela, and for other purposes.”

Passed by voice vote. Unanimously. Disgracefully. House members expected to follow suit. More on the bill below.

The world’s leading human rights abuser targeted one of its staunchest defenders. Constitutionally guaranteeing fundamental rights. Enforcing them. Chapter I, Article 19 stating:

 ”The State shall guarantee to every individual, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination of any kind, not renounceable, indivisible and interdependent enjoyment and exercise of human rights. Respect for and the guaranteeing of these rights is obligatory for the organs of Public Power, in accordance with the Constitution, the human rights treaties signed and ratified by the Republic and any laws developing the same.”

Article 21 stating in part:

“All persons are equal before the law, and, consequently:

1. No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual.”

Article 23 states:

“The treaties, pacts and conventions relating human rights which have been executed and ratified by Venezuela have a constitutional rank, and prevail over internal legislation, insofar as they contain provisions concerning the enjoyment and exercise of such rights that are more favorable than those established by this Constitution arid the laws of the Republic, and shall be immediately and directly applied by the courts and other organs of the Public Power.”

In Venezuela, all persons are considered “equal before the law.” Democratic rights are inviolable. Polar opposite US policy.

America’s founders passed Bill of Rights protections for themselves only. Not others. It shows. Democracy is pure fantasy. None whatever exists.

Monied interests control things. Fundamental international law affirmed freedoms are ignored. Routinely breached.

America’s human and civil rights record is deplorable. Far and away the world’s worst. Committing every imaginable crime and then some. At home and abroad.

Letting cops kill with impunity. Politically persecuting thousands. Running the world largest homeland gulag. A blight on the national conscience.

Supplemented by dozens of global torture prisons. Approved by Obama. Still operating. Out of sight and mind. Guantanamo the tip of the iceberg.

Imprisoning whistleblowers exposing government wrongdoing. Targeting a free press. Other fundamental freedoms.

America’s social contract. Destroying what matters most. Ruthlessly. Maliciously. Systematically.

With congressional and judicial support. Heading toward full-blown tyranny. One major false flag attack away.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D. NJ) applauded what demands condemnation. Stating one Big Lie after another, saying:

“Today, the United States Senate sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Government of Venezuela. For too long, Venezuelans have faced state-sponsored violence at the hands of government security forces and watched their country’s judiciary become a tool of political repression. Venezuelan leaders like Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado have become the target of vicious government-led campaigns that seek to silence them for speaking out in defense of democracy and the rule of law. We in the United States have an obligation to shine a bright spotlight on Venezuela’s abuses and must object to the severe human rights violations committed by the Maduro government and his paramilitary thugs.Targeted sanctions to include asset-freezes and additional visa bans against the individuals involved in this violence are a necessary and long overdue response. We must always stand against human rights violations, political persecution and recrimination anywhere in the world, and certainly in our hemisphere. The Venezuelan people deserve a brighter future, not the dismal nightmare they’re enduring at the hands of President Maduro. Our fight to deliver hope and renewed opportunity to Venezuela has only begun.”

White House Deputy National Security Adviser/Deputy Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken expressed support.

Saying the administration “look(s) forward to working with (Congress on imposing) additional sanctions” on Venezuela.

In August, US travel bans targeted 24 Venezuelan officials. Wrongfully accused of human rights violations.

During anti-government protests. Leaving dozens dead. Many more injured and arrested.

Since Chavez’s 1998 election, relations between both countries remained tense. Washington bears full responsibility.

Wanting hardline rule replacing Venezuelan democracy. Control of its vast oil reserves. Targeting Maduro’s government extrajudicially.

Fact: Sanctions imposed are illegal.

Fact: No nation may impose them unilaterally.

Fact: Only Security Council members may do so.

Fact: No nation in human history did more harm to more people over a longer duration than America.

Fact: Millions of corpses attest to its brutality.

Fact: State terror is official policy. So is torture. Under Obama like Bush.

Fact: The Senate’s torture report changes nothing.

Fact: Guilty parties remain unaccountable.

Fact: America supports some of the world’s most ruthless despots.

Fact: Saudi Arabian beheadings and other human rights abuses go unmentioned.

Fact: Daily Bahraini human rights abuses are ignored.

Fact: Fascists running Ukraine, Honduras, Mexico and other nations are supported.

Fact: Israeli slow-motion genocide against millions of Palestinians. Including naked aggression at its discretion.

Fact: Aided and abetted by annual billions of dollars in US aid. The latest weapons and technology.

Venezuelan fascists initiated violent street protests. From February to June. In upscale areas. Middle and upper class.

Around 18 of 334 municipalities. Most Venezuelans opposed them. At the time, government officials denounced violence. Including by Bolivarian supporters. Maduro addressing a peace rally last February saying:

“I want to say clearly: someone who puts on a red t-shirt with Chavez’s face and takes out a pistol to attack isn’t a Chavista or a revolutionary. I don’t accept violent groups within the camp of Chavismo and the Bolivarian revolution. If you want to have arms to fight…get out of Chavismo.”

Washington manipulated anti-government activities. Continues supporting extremists. Wants Bolivarian rights eliminated.

President Maduro ousted. Maybe murdered. America killed Chavez. Chavismo lives. Bolivarianism is too precious to lose.

According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA):

“…Washington has been bent on reversing the gains of the Bolivarian advance towards regional independence for more than a decade.”

Throughout Chavez’s tenure. Continuing under Maduro. Wanting fascist control replacing Venezuelan democracy.

Bolivarian rights ended. Neoliberal harshness replacing them. US human rights concerns ring hollow.

Maduro blasted Senate legislation. Saying “(w)ho (gives) the US Senate (the right to) sanction the nation of Bolivar. We don’t accept insolent imperialist sanctions.”

Earlier he denounced Washington’s “imperialistic vision.” Driven by extremists believing “they can rule and conquer us by force through blackmail and their economic power.”

Venezuela Analysis explained State Department documents. FOIA obtained.

Showing “sustained support from the US Embassy for Venezuelan student leaders such as Gaby Arellano and Freddy Guevara, as well as Leopoldo Lopez, all of whom played leading roles in the violence.”

WikiLeaks obtained cables revealed US financed opposition groups. Fascist ones. Responsible for months of street violence. Wrongfully blamed on Maduro.

Congressional Research Service S. 2142 summary includes duplicitous wording. Polar opposite US policy.

Conditions in Venezuela. A model democracy by any standard. Unlike America’s sham system. Stating:

“Section 3 -

Expresses the sense of Congress that:

(T)he United States aspires to a mutually beneficial relationship with Venezuela based on respect for human rights and the rule of law, and a productive relationship on issues of public security, including counter narcotics and counterterrorism…

(T)he United States supports the efforts of the people of Venezuela to realize their economic potential and advance representative democracy…

(T)he government of Venezuela’s mismanagement of its economy has produced conditions of economic hardship…

(T)he government’s failure to guarantee public security has led Venezuela to become one of the most violent countries in the world…

(T)he government continues to remove checks and balances on the executive, politicize the judiciary, undermine the independence of the legislature, persecute its political opponents, curtail freedom of the press, and limit the free expression of its citizens; the people of Venezuela have turned out in demonstrations throughout the country to protest the government’s inability to ensure their political and economic well-being…

(T)he use of violence by the National Guard and security personnel is intolerable and the use of unprovoked violence by protesters is also a matter of serious concern.

Section4 -

States that it is US policy to:

(S)upport the people of Venezuela in their aspiration to live under peace and representative democracy, work with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU) to ensure the peaceful resolution of the situation in Venezuela and the cessation of violence against antigovernment protestors, hold accountable government and security officials in Venezuela responsible for or complicit in the use of force against antigovernment protests, and support the development of democratic political processes and independent civil society in Venezuela.

Section5 -

Directs the President to impose US asset blocking and US exclusion sanctions against any person, including a current or former government of Venezuela official or a person acting on behalf of such government, who has:

Perpetrated or is responsible for otherwise directing significant acts of violence or serious human rights abuses against persons associated with the antigovernment protests in Venezuela that began on February 4, 2014…

(D)irected or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person primarily because of the person’s legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly; or knowingly materially assisted or provided significant financial, material, or technological support for the commission of such acts.

Sets forth related penalty requirements. States that:

(1) asset blocking sanctions shall not authorize the imposition of sanctions on imported goods, and

(2) US exclusion sanctions shall not apply if necessary to permit the United States to comply with the Agreement regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations or other applicable international obligations.

Authorizes the President to waive sanctions if in US national security interests, and with congressional notification.

Terminates the requirement to impose sanctions on December 31, 2016.

Section 6 -

Directs the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to report to Congress:

(A)n evaluation of the governmental, political, and technological obstacles faced by the people of Venezuela in their efforts to obtain accurate news and information; an assessment of efforts relating to broadcasting, information distribution, and circumvention technology distribution in Venezuela by the US government and otherwise…

(A) strategy for expanding such efforts in Venezuela.”

According to COHA:

“…Venezuelan Committee of Victims of the Guarimba (violent anti-government demonstrations)…tell a story that does not appear to have entered into the political calculations behind the Senate’s sanctions bill.”

Last week, detailed information was sent to US and Spanish embassies. Washington systematically ignores Venezuelan Fourth Republic crimes (1958 – 1998).

Honduran state-sponsored violence. Disappeared Mexican students. Abducted by police. Their bodies found incinerated. In a garbage dump.

Colombian human rights abuses. Targeting human rights defenders. Trade unionists. Independent journalists. Indigenous leaders.

Longstanding US civil and human rights abuses. Including killer cops. State-sponsored repression. Permanent wars on humanity.

A nation unfit to live in. Supporting wealth, power and privilege exclusively. At the expense of beneficial social change.

Venezuela is polar opposite. A model democracy. Bolivarian fairness.

Washington wants what Venezuelans value most eliminated. Not as long as Chavismo lives.

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. 

Image: President Barack Obama talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice in the Oval Office on March 19, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Before last month’s elections, the Democrats thought it would be smart to avoid policy debates. So, they delayed action on immigration, kept President Barack Obama away from many races, and withheld the Senate’s report on CIA torture – while following a “legacy” strategy of nominating Senate candidates with famous family names. The Democrats got clobbered and all their “legacy” candidates went down to defeat.

It turns out that this sort of strategy is not just anti-democratic – by hiding the issues so the people don’t get a chance to weigh in before an election – but it’s bad politics, too. Since then, the Democrats have moved forward with a different approach, with President Obama enunciating a somewhat more humane immigration policy and finally allowing release of the executive summary of the torture report.

And, surprise, surprise, the sky hasn’t fallen. Yes, some Republicans have grumbled about Obama abusing his executive powers over immigration, and some torture-implicated CIA officials and a few far rightists continued quibbling that the torture wasn’t really torture. But the backlash has been surprisingly mild. Generally speaking, the American people especially seem okay with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report.

Even the Washington Post’s neocon editorial page praised the long-delayed disclosures. After citing the horrifying examples of near drownings, painful stress positions, sleep deprivations and “rectal feeding,” the Post concluded: “This is not how Americans should behave. Ever.”

So, what’s the lesson here? It may be that the American people – or at least many of them – are ready for some truth-telling, whether it’s about how black and brown people are treated in this country or about abuses committed by the government that should be confronted and corrected.

Maybe, these Americans are sick and tired of being treated like children or idiots – and perhaps the new “smart” political play, as well as the right pro-democracy move, is to start respecting the people by giving them facts, not just pablum and propaganda.

So, President Obama might consider following up his new immigration policy and the recent protests against the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner with a new commission on race in America (like the 1960s Kerner Commission which warned that “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal”).

And he might continue reinvigorating American democracy by sharing more facts with the American people. From the same era that brought us CIA “black sites,” it would be a no-brainer for Obama to release the hidden pages of the 9/11 report on Saudi funding of the hijackers.

As Saudi Arabia today pushes the United States to engage in a “regime change” in Syria – a move that could lead to a victory by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front affiliate or the Islamic State – the American people might want to know exactly which side the Saudi “allies” are on.

Obama also shouldn’t stop at just releasing unnecessary secrets from George W. Bush’s administration. He should update the American people on controversies in which his own administration rushed to judgments regarding issues related to war or peace.

The Sarin Mystery

On Syria, for instance, the Saudis (along with Turkey and Israel) almost fulfilled their dream of getting the U.S. military to destroy President Bashar al-Assad’s defenses after Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials and media jumped to the conclusion that Assad was at fault for a sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

Though the furor over that incident brought the United States to the brink of another Mideast war, many of the supposed “facts” cited by Kerry and the others have crumbled under closer scrutiny, such as the belief that a barrage of rockets carried the sarin from a Syrian military base when a subsequent United Nations investigation discovered only one sarin-laden rocket. Rocket experts also concluded that its very limited range traced more likely to rebel-held territory.

In other words, the sarin attack may well have been a rebel provocation meant to draw the U.S. military into the Syrian civil war on the side of the rebels whose most effective fighters are connected to either al-Qaeda or the even more extreme Islamic State. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Was Turkey Behind Syria-Sarin Attack?”]

More than a year later, U.S. intelligence analysts have a much more comprehensive take on what actually happened, and President Obama could declassify that information even if it embarrasses Secretary Kerry and other high-ranking members of the administration. If the Assad regime was falsely accused, there is also a fairness imperative to correct the record regardless of what you think about Assad.

Similarly, U.S. intelligence analysts have amassed substantial data on another crucial event, one that has ratcheted up war tensions in Eastern Europe, the July 17 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine. Kerry and others rushed to blame the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supposedly gave the rebels the sophisticated surface-to-air missiles capable of bringing down a plane at 33,000 feet.

The stampede of anti-Russian outrage was so strong that the European Union agreed to U.S. demands for economic sanctions against Moscow, touching off a trade war that has made life harder for people in both Russia and Europe. The shoot-down also gave impetus to the Kiev regime’s “anti-terrorist operation” in eastern Ukraine, dispatching neo-Nazi and other paramilitary militias who have spearheaded the killing of thousands of ethnic Russians.

But I’m told that some U.S. intelligence analysts now view the MH-17 incident much differently from the first few days, with the possibility that the shoot-down may have been committed by a rogue element of the Ukrainian military, possibly trying to bring down a Russian plane and mistakenly destroying the Malaysian airliner which had similar markings.

Whatever the current thinking about who was to blame, clearly U.S. intelligence has much more data today than was available in July when Kerry went on all five Sunday shows pointing the finger at Russia and was joined in his hasty conclusion by virtually the entire U.S. mainstream media.

Obama owes it to the American people and to the families of the 298 dead to release all available U.S. evidence regarding the guilty parties – even if that again embarrasses his Secretary of State.

The Tonkin Precedent

Kerry himself should want the full story told regarding both the Syrian sarin case and the Malaysia plane shoot-down, since – as a young man – he was drawn into the Vietnam War based on false reporting about the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. A suspected clash between North Vietnamese forces and a U.S. destroyer became the basis for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which provided the legal authorization for the Vietnam War.

In the Gulf of Tonkin case, senior officials of Lyndon Johnson’s administration soon realized that the attack probably never happened. But that reality was kept hidden from the American people for years as the slaughter went on, with 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese dying. If the factual correction had been made in a timely manner, many of those dead, including servicemen who served with Lt. John Kerry, might have been saved.

However, Kerry, now 70, has become like the older men who sent him and his comrades to fight in Vietnam, more concerned about reputation and pride inside Official Washington than about the blood and suffering of the people affected by misdirected U.S. policies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What’s the Matter with John Kerry?”]

Today, Kerry’s State Department appears to see both the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as battlefields where U.S. “hard power” is limited so a decision has been made to use propaganda or “information warfare” as a “soft power” alternative.

Thus, exploiting these terrible tragedies – hundreds dying from sarin exposure and 298 dying from a plane attack – is viewed as a way to put the U.S. “adversaries” – Assad and Putin, respectively – on the defensive. In this propaganda world, truth is lost to expediency.

Further following the Tonkin Gulf analogy, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a highly belligerent anti-Russian resolution on Dec. 4, by a 411-10 margin. It cited as one justification for sending U.S. military equipment and trainers to Ukraine the supposed “fact” that “Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a civilian airliner, was destroyed by a Russian-made missile provided by the Russian Federation to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, resulting in the loss of 298 innocent lives.”

But the case of MH-17 is far from resolved, although clearly President Obama has access to information about the incident that could either help confirm or refute the congressional assertion. Yet, he continues to hide that knowledge from the American people as the United States and Russia inch toward a possible nuclear confrontation over Ukraine.

So, it may be time for Obama to embrace a “truth agenda.” After all, facts have a special place in a democracy, which is dependent on an informed electorate to function, and information should be withheld from the public only in extraordinary circumstances.

However, after the early days of his administration, when Obama did release some important documents relating to the legal opinions that justified Bush’s torture policies, the President lost his way regarding respect for the people’s right to know.

Obama became immersed in the gamesmanship of Official Washington where control of information is regarded as a measure of one’s power. But that allowed the Tea Party and others on the Right to present themselves as “populists” who were standing up against the elites, even though many Republicans were more wedded to secrecy than Obama was.

Now, however, Obama is seeing – amid the positive reaction to the release of the torture report – that many Americans are hungry for facts. They, too, understand that information is power and sense that the political leader who trusts them with that power is the one most on their side.

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 and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

The US Senate report on CIA torture, the work of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) is causing a storm of debate.  Not that the realm of torture should ever be up for debate – either it is done, or not, but gray areas have a habit of providing alibis to those who use it. The one to come out the worst in this is the Central Intelligence Agency and its personnel, who were engaged in a global program of torture with executive blessing.

The executive summary of the report itself runs for just under 500 pages – but that is merely the declassified version.  The actual full version of the report runs for roughly 10 times that, and suggests, among other things, that 119 detainees were held at what were termed “black sites” at various global locations.  Such detainees were subjected to a range of actions, including rectal rehydration “as a means of behaviour control”, sexual abuse and an assortment of other threats.

Those implicated in the report in terms of foreign operations could be facing legal avenues straight to the International Criminal Court.  “If I was one of those people,” suggested Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy at Amnesty International, “I would hesitate before making any travel arrangements” (Guardian, Dec 10).

Bochenek is so keen to press his point he suggests that, “say, one of them goes on holiday in Paris, then France would have a clear obligation to arrest and prosecute the individual.  States have clear obligation in cases of torture.”

Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s international justice program, feels that the first “bite” of the prosecutor’s cherry should be based in the United States.  That said, a certain reluctance exists on the subject: “we have not seen any persuasive indicators that the department of justice is willing to step up to its responsibilities.”

This finger pointing at the CIA does obscure a fundamental point. The organisation was not operating in the vacuum of bureaucratic enterprise, dabbling in rogue activities in fits of sadistic rage while lawyers were kept in the dark.  Intelligence officials are in the business of misleading – that is their prerogative.

Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden proved particularly adept at it, with numerous references in the report suggesting he misled governments about CIA activities.  But Hayden had the most misleading, and openly mendacious of administrations, to egg him, and his personnel, on.

It can also be argued that they were given various green lights to pursue the program, be it the infamous John Yoo torture memorandum, which did much to hollow out international jurisprudence with notions of “illegal” combatants, or murmurings of approval from the Pentagon, which deployed that distasteful term “enhanced interrogation” to wrangle information out of a detainee.  Designate individuals in a suitably appropriate way, and the insidious rationale will follow.  If the Geneva conventions do not apply, the subject ceases to be a human one.

What the report also risks doing is deflecting blame of regimes complicit in the torture program.  Black sites run on foreign soil were favourite haunts of CIA rendition practices, covering the Baltic states, Romania, Poland, Afghanistan and Thailand.  Reports in 2013, notably from the Open Society Foundation, suggested that some 50 regimes were involved in the outsourcing of the CIA torture system.[1]

While these were certainly off the books in an official sense, they were very much on the books in terms of awareness from local authorities, who engaged in the rather distasteful complicity that comes with such cooperative enterprises.  The denials have already begun, with former Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, insisting that “there had been no jails and no prisoners from there [in Lithuania].”

Another example is provided by former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who had full knowledge that the CIA was busying itself on Polish soil.  Washing his hands with Pilate-like determination, he claims to have “told Bush that this cooperation must end and it did end.”

Poland’s current president, Bronislaw Komorowski sees the possibility that oxygen will be added to flagging efforts to get an investigation in Poland underway into the use of such black sites.  “I also think that it will provide, if not new information, then guidance as to the conduct of the investigation in Poland.”

The Senate report on torture has not merely placed a “putrid stain upon the reputation – and yes, honour – of the United States” – it has also gotten those in the legal fraternity eager to go about their work.[2] The biggest fish will, however, remain uncaught.  They always are.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

IMF says Ukraine will be bankrupt ‘within weeks’ and needs $15 billion more for war against eastern Ukraine; EU threatens Russia with more sanctions if Russia lets Ukraine go bankrupt; EU will lose billions on Ukraine if Russia won’t bail them out.

The details are here and here.

And here’s the back-story to that:

Mark Adomanis of Forbes is the clearest and most honest writer in the West about Ukraine’s financial situation, though he propagandizes constantly against Russia just like all the rest of the West’s aristocracy-paid ‘reporters’ do (and must do, in order to keep their jobs). He wrote on 15 April 2014, that,

“when it bought $3 billion worth of [Ukrainian Government] bonds at the end of 2013 Russia inserted a clause that stipulates that the total volume of Ukrainian state-guaranteed debt cannot exceed 60% of its annual GDP. If that threshold is breached, Russia can legally demand repayments on an accelerated schedule. Given the parlous state of the Ukrainian economy and its government’s extremely weak finances, this essentially means that if Ukraine’s debt exceeds 60% of its GDP Russia can legally force it to default.”

Ukraine’s foreign debt has soared above that $60 billion limit, because of a demand that the IMF placed upon its $17 billion loan on 1 May 2014, namely that Ukraine eliminate or otherwise crush the people in the area of Ukraine where the public had voted 90% for the pro-Russian Ukrainian President whom Obama had overthrown on February 22nd. The way that CNBC headlined it on May 1st, the day before pro-Government thugs massacred this new Government’s resistors at the Trade Unions Building in Odessa and so started the program to exterminatethe residents of that region, was “IMF Warns Ukraine on Bailout if It Loses East.” What that meant was that, without the gas-fields and the other assets in the east, the Ukrainian Government wouldn’t have valuable-enough assets to sell off or “privatize” so as to be able to make good on the IMF’s $17 billion loan to Ukraine, and taxpayers in the U.S. and Europe would then need to absorb losses on those loans; so, the Ukrainian Government needed to follow-through and exterminate those people in order for the loans to keep coming. The aristocrats want to control their land, not the people on it. The residents are just an obstruction. This money was loaned by the IMF in order to enable Western corporations (mainly Big Oil and Big Ag and Big Military) to take over Ukraine. For examples: the residents in the areas that are being bombed did not want fracking there, and did not want a NATO missile base there.

In addition, the EU itself loaned the Ukrainian Government a further half-billion-euros on December 10th, at the way-below-market interest-rate of only 1.375% for 15 years. This money is being given away by EU taxpayers, and the interest-rate has become almost irrelevant, because it’s now absolutely clear that even the principal won’t be able to be repaid. Both the U.S. and Europe are investing heavily in this extermination-campaign, but taxpayers are paying for it; the aristocratic potential beneficiaries are not — so, they don’t care about those losses to the taxpaying public. But, they want to blame “Putin” for the inevitable losses to taxpayers, and that’s what the new PR campaign against Russia is really all about. The West’s aristocrats want to destroy Russia, and want Russia to get the blame for everything along that rocky road.

So, now Russia is not only being blamed for supporting the residents whom Western aristocrats want to exterminate, but the propagandists for western aristocracies are already starting to blame Russia for not bailing out Western taxpayers — the people who will be absorbing the losses no matter what, even if aristocrats’ business-bets on Ukraine score those ‘entrepreneurs’ a few gains.

Few people are stupid enough to think that Russia will bail out the West for its aggression against Russia and against Ukraine’s ethnic Russians. However, the propaganda-campaign to blame Russia for Ukraine’s coming economic collapse is already well under way.

The Western ‘news’ media don’t lose their audiences even when their ‘news reports’ blame Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin for the hundreds of thousands of southeastern Ukrainians who have been fleeing into Russia, to escape the Western-sponsored ethnic-cleansing against them. Thus, for example, on December 9th, The New York Times bannered “Driving Ukrainians into Putin’s Arms” and opened by ‘reporting’ that:

“A recent United Nations report says that nearly half a million Ukrainians have fled the country since April.

The fact that families run from a war zone is heartbreaking but hardly unexpected. The disturbing part lies in the details — of the roughly 454,000 people who had fled Ukraine by the end of October, more than 387,000 went to Russia.

Most of those who fled were Russian speakers from the east, but this still raises a sobering question: If this is a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, why did so many Ukrainians choose to cast their lot with the enemy?”

The ‘reporter’ shows his ‘independence’ from Washington by denying a statement he alleges to Washington but that the Administration isn’t even asserting:

“Mr. Putin and the Russian news media say that western Ukrainians in Mr. Poroshenko’s government are neo-Nazis. The West denies these claims, averring that there are no neo-Nazi elements in the Kiev government. [But even Victoria Nuland did not deny that some ‘neo-Nazis’ helped bring the new Ukrainian Government to power, and she was never even asked whether some members of that Government are nazi; this ‘reporter’ is lying.] Both are wrong. The Kiev government and the armies fighting in eastern Ukraine contain a small minority of neo-Nazi ultranationalists.

To eastern Ukrainians, however, even one is too many.”

Actually, however, that Government is run by nazis; and the residents in Ukraine’s southeast are fleeing into Russia (or “Putin’s Arms”) in order to escape from them.

Why do people subscribe to lying ‘news’papers, even ones (such as the NYT) that were similarly stenographers for George W. Bush’s lies about “Saddam’s WMD” and “Saddam’s support for Al Qaeda”?

When will the consumer-boycott against America’s lying press begin? Or do the American people still trust them — and, if so, then why, and how long will that trust go on?

Demand for a war crimes trial of U.S. officials reportedly complicit in the abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are at an all-time high after the release of an exhaustive Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture. But the complicated jurisdictional and political nature of international law means pursuing charges on the international level could be a complicated and possibly fruitless endeavor.

The international community has limited jurisdiction when it comes to bringing charges against the citizen of any country that does not willingly allow that person to be tried. The International Criminal Court at The Hague was established in 1998 as a way of holding high-level state officials responsible for their actions against the people of other countries The U.S. is not a member, meaning that the ICC’s rulings are not binding in any way, but some of the countries where abuses reportedly occurred, like Poland, are members. That means the ICC could still try U.S. officials responsible for CIA actions, national security experts said.

“I think it’s possible they’ll try to file papers, but the actual likelihood of an ICC case coming to fruition is further evidence that international law only goes so far,” said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center On National Security at Fordham University’s School of Law. “But I think that it will send a chill through to a number of these top level officials about traveling.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee report outlines numerous abuses perpetrated by CIA interrogators against individuals connected, or suspected of having connections to, terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The report found evidence of interrogators stripping detainees naked, dragging them around their facilities and making death threats to them and their families. It also questions the legality of “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by interrogators, like waterboarding, sleep deprivation and physical punishment, all of which were approved by the Department of Justice at the time.

Some human rights advocates have called for former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and others in Bush’s administration to be tried for the abuses. Bush, Cheney, Rice and others were referred to the ICC in 2010 by a team of prosecutors that later successfully levied war crimes charges against them in the independent and semi-symbolic Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission.

Francis Boyle, a prosecutor in the Kuala Lumpur case and a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, filed that complaint, but it remains pending. He said it’s a good sign it wasn’t immediately dismissed and that the Senate Intelligence Committee report could be what convinces an ICC prosecutor to open an investigation.

“This is important because now we have an official branch of the U.S. government adopting and making these findings fact,” he said. “In addition to ICC prosecution, this now will help us pursue these individuals around the world [through the UN Convention Against Torture]. All states signed to that convention, of which the U.S. is one of them, is required to have domestic legislature in place to prosecute torture. It does seem that if any of these individuals go outside of the U.S., we can go after them.”

Boyle helped lobby the Swiss government to arrest Bush during a visit in 2011, which he, Human Rights Watch, and other rights groups said prompted Bush to cancel that trip. Bush’s spokesman said the group Bush was scheduled to speak to canceled because of security concerns.

Donald Rumsfeld, former defense secretary under Bush, nearly cancelled a trip to Germany in 2005 after prosecutors there initially threatened him with war crimes case, but later backed down. In addition, the U.S. has pursued over 100 “Bilateral Immunity Agreements” with foreign states that essentially bar that state from referring U.S. officials –current or former- to the ICC.

Boyle believes that bringing a case against Bush and his officials is crucial to rebuilding the ICC as a legitimate international court that doesn’t just go after “tin pot dictators” in Africa. He said he will submit follow-up appeals to the ICC after reading through the entirety of the Senate report.

Greenberg, meanwhile, thinks that the revelations in the Senate Intelligence Committee report are more important stateside and are critical for a country pulling itself out of years of abuses in the name of security.

“It puts the burden on the U.S. to face this and have a discussion,” she said. “One, [the current government] has to raise the possibility of prosecution. They might decide to not go down that road, but I think they need to raise that possibility and look into it. And two, they’re going to have to rethink oversight over intelligence community and rethink how that can be done with such a secret and guarded entity.”

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it would not seek to prosecute any of the individuals named in the report.

Remember how Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to mass surveillance, and how the government promised to rein in spying on Americans?

Yeah, that never happened …

Instead, Congress snuck a provision into the Intelligence Authorization Act which will ramp up spying on us normal, average, innocent Americans.

Congressman Justin Amash explains:

When I learned that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 was being rushed to the floor for a vote—with little debate and only a voice vote expected (i.e., simply declared “passed” with almost nobody in the room)—I asked my legislative staff to quickly review the bill for unusual language. What they discovered is one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.

On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the House floor to demand a roll call vote on the bill so that everyone’s vote would have to be recorded. I also sent the letter below to every representative.

With more time to spread the word, we would have stopped this bill, which passed 325-100. Thanks to the 99 other representatives—44 Republicans and 55 Democrats—who voted to protect our rights and uphold the Constitution. And thanks to my incredibly talented staff.

###

Block New Spying on U.S. Citizens: Vote “NO” on H.R. 4681

Dear Colleague:

The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without legal process.

Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309—one the House never has considered. Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.

To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications. It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications. With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them—although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.

In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications. The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents—especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.

I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.

Justin Amash
Member of Congress

The House subsequently passed H.R. 4681.

Top NSA officials previously said that we’ve got a “police state” … J. Edgar Hoover (or the Stasi) “on super steroids“.

Now what do we call it?

For over a year, the United States has played out a scenario designed to (1) reassert U.S. control over Europe by blocking E.U. trade with Russia, (2) bankrupt Russia, and (3) get rid of Vladimir Putin and replace him with an American puppet, like the late drunk, Boris Yeltsin.

The past few days have made crystal clear the perfidy of the economic side of this U.S. war against Russia.

It all began at the important high-level international meeting on Ukraine’s future held in Yalta in September 2013, where a major topic was the shale gas revolution which the United States hoped to use to weaken Russia. Former U.S. energy secretary Bill Richardson was there to make the pitch, applauded by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Washington hoped to use its fracking techniques to provide substitute sources for natural gas, driving Russia out of the market. This amounts to selling Europe a pig in a poke.

But this trick could not be accomplished by relying on the sacrosanct “market”, since fracking is more costly than Russian gas extraction. A major crisis was necessary in order to distort the market by political pressures. By the February 22 coup d’état, engineered by Victoria Nuland, the United States effectively took control of Ukraine, putting in power its agent “Yats” (Arseniy Yatsenyuk) who favors joining NATO. This direct threat to Russia’s naval base in Crimea led to the referendum which peacefully returned the historically Russian peninsula to Russia. But the U.S.-led chorus condemned the orderly return of Crimea as “Russian military aggression”. This defensive move is trumpeted by NATO as proof of Putin’s intention to invade Russia’s European neighbors for no reason at all.

Meanwhile, the United States’ economic invasion has gone largely unnoticed.

Ukraine has some of the largest shale gas reserves in Europe. Like other Europeans, Ukrainians had demonstrated against the harmful environmental results of fracking on their lands, but unlike some other countries, Ukraine has no restrictive legislation. Chevron is already getting involved.

As of last May, R. Hunter Biden, son of the U.S. Vice President, is on the Board of Directors of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest private gas producer. The young Biden will be in charge of the Holdings’ legal unit and contribute to its “international expansion”.

Ukraine has rich soil as well as shale oil reserves. The U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill is particularly active in Ukraine, investing in grain elevators, animal feed, a major egg producer and agribusiness firm, UkrLandFarming, as well as the Black Sea port at Novorossiysk. The very active U.S.-Ukraine Business Council includes executives of Monsanto, John Deere, agriculture equipment-maker CNH Industrial, DuPont Pioneer, Eli Lilly & Company. Monsanto plans to build a $140 million “non-GMO corn seed plant in Ukraine”, evidently targeting the GMO-shy European market. It was in her speech at a Chevron-sponsored meeting of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council a year ago that Victoria Nuland mentioned the five billion dollars spent by the U.S. in the last twenty years to win over Ukraine.

On December 2, President Poroshenko swore in three foreigners as cabinet ministers: an American, a Lithuanian and a Georgian. He granted them Ukrainian citizenship a few minutes before the ceremony.

U.S. born Natalie Jaresko is Ukraine’s new Finance Minister. With a Ukrainian family background and degrees from Harvard and DePaul universities, Jaresko went from the State Department to Kiev when Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet
foolsjohnstoneUnion, in order to head the economic department of the newly opened U.S. embassy. Three years later she left the U.S. Embassy to head the U.S. government-financed Western NIS Enterprise Fund. In 2004 she established her own equity fund. As a supporter of the 2004 Orange Revolution, she served on “Orange” victor President Viktor Yushchenko’s Foreign Investors Advisory Council.

Lithuanian investment banker Aivaras Abromavicius is the new Economy Minister, putting government economic policy clearly under U.S. influence, or rather control.

The new Health Minister, Aleksandr Kvitashvili from Georgia, is U.S.-educated and does not speak Ukrainian. He had served as health minister in his native Georgia, when U.S. puppet Mikheil Saakashvili was President.

The U.S. grip on Ukraine’s economy is now complete. The stage is set to begin fracking, perhaps transforming Hunter Biden into Ukraine’s newest oligarch.

Nobody is mentioning this, but the controversial trade agreement between the E.U. and Ukraine, whose postponement set off the Maidan protests leading to the U.S.-steered February 22 coup d’état, removes trade barriers, allowing free entry into E.U. countries of agricultural exports produced in Ukraine by U.S. corporations. The Ukrainian government is deeply in debt, but that will not prevent American corporations from making huge profits in that low-wage, regulation-free and fertile country. European grain producers, such as France, may find themselves severely damaged by the cheap competition.

The Russophobic Kiev government’s assault on Southeastern Ukraine is killing the country’s industrial sector, whose markets were in Russia. But to Kiev’s rulers from Western Ukraine, that does not matter.   The death of old industry can help keep wages low and profits high.

Just as Americans decisively took control of the Ukrainian economy, Putin announced cancellation of the South Stream gas pipeline project. The deal was signed in 2007 between Gazprom and the Italian petrochemical company ENI, in order to ensure Russian gas deliveries to the Balkans, Austria and Italy by bypassing Ukraine, whose unreliability as a transit country had been demonstrated by repeated failure to pay bills or syphoning of gas intended for Europe for its own use. The German Wintershall and the French EDF also invested in South Stream.

In recent months, U.S. representatives began to put pressure on the European countries involved to back out of the deal. South Stream was a potential life-saver for Serbia, still impoverished by the results of NATO bombing and fire-sale giveaways of its privatized industries to foreign buyers. Aside from much-needed jobs and energy security, Serbia was in line to earn 500 million euros in annual transit fees. Belgrade resisted warnings that Serbia must go along with E.U. foreign policy against Russia in order to retain its status as candidate to join the E.U.

The weak link was Bulgaria, earmarked for similar benefits as the landing point of the pipeline. U.S. Ambassador to Sofia Marcie Ries started warning Bulgarian businessmen that they could suffer from doing business with Russian companies under sanctions. The retiring president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso from Portugal, who used to be a “Maoist” back when “Maoism” was the cover for opposition to Soviet-backed liberation movements in Portugal’s African colonies, threatened Bulgaria with E.U. proceedings for irregularities in South Stream contracts. This refers to E.U. rules against allowing the same company to produce and transfer gas. In short, the E.U. was attempting to apply its own rules retroactively to a contract signed with a non-EU country before the rules were adopted.

Finally, John McCain flew into Sofia to browbeat the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Plamen Oresharski, to pull out of the deal, leaving South Stream out in the Black Sea without a point of entry onto the Balkan mainland.

This is all very funny considering that a favorite current U.S. war propaganda theme against Russia is that Gazprom is a nefarious political weapon used by Putin to “coerce” and “bully” Europe.

The only evidence is that Russia has repeatedly called on Ukraine to pay its long-overdo gas bills. In vain.

Cancellation of South Stream amounts to a belated blow to Serbia from NATO. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic bewailed the loss of South Stream, noting that: “We are paying the price of a conflict between big powers”.

Italian partners to the deal are also very unhappy at the big losses. But E.U. officials and media are, as usual, blaming it all on Putin.

Perhaps, when you are repeatedly insulted and made to feel unwelcome, you go away. Putin took his gas pipeline project to Turkey and immediately sold it to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. This looks like a good deal for Russia, and for Turkey, but the whole affair remains ominous.

Russian oil as a means of coercion? If Putin could use Gazprom to get Erdogan to change his policy on Syria, and drop his determination to overthrow Bachar al Assad, in order to defeat the Islamic State fanatics, that would be an excellent outcome. But so far, there is no sign of such a development.

The switch from the Balkans to Turkey deepens the gulf between Russia and Western Europe, which in the long run is harmful to both. But it also sharpens the economic inequality between Northern and Southern Europe. Germany still gets gas deliveries from Russia, notably from Gerhard Schroeder’s co-project with Putin, Nord Stream. But Southern European countries, already in deep crisis caused largely by the euro, are left out in the cold.   This turn of events might contribute to the political revolt that is growing in those countries.

As voices were being raised in Italy complaining that anti-Russian sanctions were hurting Europe but leaving the United States unscathed, Europeans could take comfort in kind words from the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the White House, who praised the European Union for doing the right thing, even though it is “tough on the European economy”.

In a speech to leading CEOs on December 3, Obama said the sanctions were intended to change Putin’s “mindset”, but didn’t think this would succeed. He is waiting for “the politics inside Russia” to “catch up with what’s happening in the economy, which is why we are going to continue to maintain that pressure.” This was another way of saying that stealing Russia’s natural gas market, forcing Europe to enact sanctions, and getting Washington’s bigoted stooges in Saudi Arabia to bring down petroleum prices by flooding the market, are all intended to make the Russian people blame Putin enough to get rid of him. Regime change, in short.

On December 4, the U.S. House of Representatives officially exposed the U.S. motive behind this mess by adopting what must surely be the worst piece of legislation ever adopted: Resolution 758.   The Resolution is a compendium of all the lies floated against Vladimir Putin and Russia over the past year. Never perhaps have so many lies been crammed into a single official document of that length. And yet, this war propaganda was endorsed by a vote of 411 to 10. If, despite this call for war between two nuclear powers, there are still historians in the future, they must judge this resolution as proof of the total failure of the intelligence, honesty and sense of responsibility of the political system that Washington is trying to force on the entire world

Ron Paul has written an excellent analysis of this shameful document. Whatever one may think of Paul’s domestic policies, on international affairs he stands out as a lone – very lone – voice of reason. (Yes, there was Dennis Kucinich too, but they got rid of him by gerrymandering his district off the map.)

After a long list of “Whereas” lies, insults and threats, we get the crass commercial side of this dangerous campaign. The House calls on European countries to “reduce the ability of the Russian Federation to use its supply of energy as a means of applying political and economic pressure on other countries, including by promoting increased natural gas and other energy exports from the United States and other countries” and “urges the President to expedite the United States Department of Energy’s approval of liquefied natural gas exports to Ukraine and other European countries”.

The Congress is ready to risk and even promote nuclear war, but when it comes to the “bottom line”, it is a matter of stealing Russia’s natural gas market by what so far is a bluff: shale gas obtained by U.S. fracking.

Worse Than Cold War

The neocons who manipulate America’s clueless politicians have not got us into a new Cold War. It is much worse. The long rivalry with the Soviet Union was “Cold” because of MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction. Both Washington and Moscow were perfectly aware that “Hot” war meant nuclear exchanges that would destroy everybody.

This time around, the United States thinks it already “won” the Cold War and seems to be drunk with self-confidence that it can win again. It is upgrading its nuclear weapons force and building a “nuclear shield” on Russia’s border whose only purpose can be to give the United States a first strike capacity – the ability to knock out any Russian retaliation against a U.S. nuclear attack. This cannot work, but it weakens deterrence.

The danger of outright war between the two nuclear powers is actually much greater than during the Cold War. We are now in a sort of Frozen War, because nothing the Russians say or do can have any effect. The neocons who manufacture U.S. policy behind the scenes have invented a totally fictional story about Russian “aggression” which the President of the United States, the mass media and now the Congress have accepted and endorsed. Russian leaders have responded with honesty, truth and common sense, remaining calm despite the invective thrown at them. It has done no good whatsoever. The positions are frozen. When reason fails, force follows. Sooner or later.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book, Queen of Chaos: the Foreign Policy of Hillary Clinton, will be published by CounterPunch in 2015. She can be reached at [email protected]

“In refusing to prosecute, Obama and Holder demonstrate their own profound disregard for the collective rights of Black Americans as a people.”

Black Americans know all about “law and order”: the term, itself, is code for the state-wielded hammer that is relentlessly deployed against us. No people on earth are more conditioned to concentrated bludgeoning under “color of law” than African Americans, who account for one out of out eight of the world’s prison inmates. Black males are 21 times more likely than their white peers to be killed by U.S. lawmen, and make up a clear majority of young police shooting victims under the most draconian law and order regime on the planet. Of all the world’s peoples, none have been so unremittingly inculcated with the lessons of crime and punishment – especially punishment, whether merited or not.

For a people so acculturated, justice demands retribution – even for Pharaoh and his army. Thus, the simple and near-universal Black American demand that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder prosecute killer cops.

But, this they will not do.

The Obama administration has no intention of pursuing prosecution of Darren Wilson, or Trayvon Martin’s vigilante killer George Zimmerman, or the whole crew of New York City homicidal and/or depravedly indifferent first-responders in the Eric Garner case. Obama and Holder have nothing worthwhile to say to thenine grieving Black mothers now visiting Washington demanding justice for their murdered loved ones, other than empty assurances that they feel the families’ pain.

The U.S. Justice Department, which marshals unlimited resources to pursue long and sometimes fruitless prosecutions of whistleblowers and other “national security” targets, claims it is helpless to confront police impunity in the murder of Black Americans. The law, Holder and his apologists claim, requires that federal criminal prosecutions under the civil rights statute must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers “acted willfully” for the specific purpose of violating the victim’s 4th Amendment constitutional right to life. Making that case, they say, is near-impossible, requiring that prosecutors “get inside the officer’s head” to divine his intentions at the moment the trigger was pulled. Therefore, despite Holder and Obama’s public statements of concern, no good faith attempt is made to mount prosecutions.

The Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union doesn’t buy that argument. In an article in this issue of BAR, ACLU lawyer Mark Fancher, a counsel in the case of the police “circular firing squad” killing ofMilton Hall, in Saginaw, Michigan, contends that the law fully supports charges of “open defiance” or “reckless disregard” for the constitutional rights of the victims in such case. Although prosecutions of police are more difficult than trying civilians, the ACLU cites U.S. Supreme Court and federal appellate rulings from 1945, 1972, 1993 and 1997, that continue to sustain the vitality of the original, Reconstruction era federal statue forbidding deprivation of constitutional rights, including the right to life, “under cover of law” – that is, by police. “It is enough…if it can be proved – by circumstantial evidence or otherwise – that a defendant exhibited reckless disregard for a constitutional or federal right,” according to U.S. v. Johnstone, 1997.

That’s not nearly as high a bar to a good faith prosecution as federal officials contend, and an easy argument for any federal prosecutor to make before malleable grand juries. Whether an actual trial jury convicts the cop is a different story, but the prosecutor has an obligation to pursue justice to the full extent of the law. It is not “the law” that stands like a brick wall of impunity for police, but the interpretation of the law by attorneys general and their subordinates who view prosecutions of police as akin to unnatural acts that cannot be performed in public view.

As Atty. Fancher writes, it is “hard to imagine why charges cannot be brought when police officers fire dozens of bullets at a homeless man armed only with a pen knife; or when police use a choke hold to put a submissive man on the ground because he was alleged to be engaged in unauthorized cigarette sales. By almost anyone’s reckoning, such conduct should be regarded as ‘open defiance’ or ‘reckless disregard’ for the constitutional rights of the victims.”

In refusing to prosecute, Obama and Holder demonstrate their own profound disregard for the collective rights of Black Americans as a people. Police immunity from prosecution begins with the prosecutors. If the Obama regime were serious about establishing “trust” between Black America and the authorities, as they claim, they would begin with a campaign of police prosecutions for “reckless disregard” and “open defiance” of Black people’s constitutional rights. There is no lack of actionable cases. As BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley writes: “There is no need for more task forces or advisory commissions. The police must stop killing black people with impunity and nothing will make that less likely to happen than the sight of Wilson and his partners in crime sitting in federal prisons.”

The penalty for “reckless disregard” of people’s constitutional rights, involving violence, is ten years in prison and a stiff fine.

Of course, the feds and their state and local counterparts will not break their pact with the police – not until a people in angry, righteous motion create conditions of ungovernability in America’s cities that allows no other choice. Police impunity is the domestic counterpart of the legal immunity that U.S. military personnel enjoy overseas. The U.S. deploys troops in the majority of countries in the world, but does not station soldiers anywhere in the absence of Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) granting them immunity from prosecution under the host country’s laws. Failure to secure an extension of the SOFA agreement with Iraq required the withdrawal of U.S. troops, in 2010. The United States claims it has not joined the International Criminal Court because, among other reasons, compliance with the treaty could lead to “foreign” prosecution of its military personnel.

Essentially, prosecutors in the United States maintain an informal kind of Status of Forces Agreement, immunizing the police from prosecution in the deaths of Black and brown “natives” in the areas they occupy. At home and abroad, the armed forces of the racist, imperial State are beyond the law. As such, their very presence is an affront to human dignity. That’s just as true in Ferguson and Oakland and New York City, as it is in Kabul and Ouagadougou and Bogota.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].

Haiti’s political crisis deepened on Tue., Dec. 9 as an 11-member presidential “advisory commission” proposed that Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe step down, a recommendation which will swell the ranks of thousands of demonstrators nationwide calling for President Michel Martelly’s resignation. The capital’s next major demonstration, planned for Dec. 12 when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits Haiti, is expected to be massive.

The advisory commission’s 10-page report also recommended the sacking of Martelly-pawn Anel Alexis Joseph, who heads the Supreme Court and the Superior Council of the Judiciary Power (CSPJ), the resignation of the Electoral Council, and the release of all political prisoners.

“The country is facing an economic and structural crisis,” says the report, according to the Miami Herald. “To avoid a worsening of the current situation, ‘the most credible solution to the crisis’ should allow a return, in a reasonable time, to constitutional normalcy and well-functioning institutions.”

 “This is a rescue operation by the international community aimed at saving the mandate of President Martelly while Martelly is primarily responsible for the crisis,” said outspoken lawyer Andre Michel, a leader of the Patriotic Movement of the Democratic Opposition (MOPOD), the Miami Herald reported.

In its eight days of existence, the advisory commission had some clashes. On Sun., Dec. 7, former Sen. Gabriel Fortuné, who was expelled from the anti-Martelly Dessalines Children platform for taking part in the commission, made headlines when he said that commission coordinator Reginald Boulos refused to allow investigation into the unaccounted funds of the National Education Fund (opaquely filled with and emptied of millions of dollars in illegal taxes of $1.50 on every international money transfer and 5 cents on every minute of Haiti’s overseas phone calls over the past three years) and the PetroCaribe account (which receives about 40% of the revenues from Haiti’s Venezuelan oil sales). Fortuné also said he would not sign the report unless all 10 prominent political prisoners were immediately released.

To the surprise of many, all the commissioners signed the report on the evening of Mon., Dec. 8 at the Ritz Kinam Hotel in Pétionville following a meeting with Senate President Simon Desras Dieuseul and President Martelly. The commission then handed the report to Martelly in an official ceremony at the National Palace on Dec. 9.

In the run-up to Kerry’s much-anticipated visit, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White reiterated Washington’s support for Martelly. “We believe he was elected for a certain period of time,” she told Le Nouvelliste in an interview. “He must stay until his mandate ends” on May 14, 2016.

But the tens of thousands expected to march on Dec. 12 disagree and are calling for Martelly’s immediate resignation, as they have in many demonstrations, each larger than the last, over the past two months.

Asked by Le Nouvelliste about Lamothe, White responded that “it is not at all the decision of the United States if the Prime Minister stays or goes.” But she added that she felt he “has done many good things for the country.”

Lamothe is expected to run for President of Haiti at the end of 2015.

On Dec. 5 and 6, Port-au-Prince saw giant marches calling for both Martelly and Lamothe to step down. Demonstrators hurled epithets in front of the French and Canadian embassies, as they had on Nov. 29 in front of the U.S.’s, and held up pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a way to express their rejection of U.S. and French imperialist meddling in Haiti.

On Dec. 6, thousands also marched for Martelly’s resignation in Cap Haïtien, Haiti’s second largest city, and in the southern city of Aux Cayes, where protestors were also marking the 85th anniversary of the 1929 massacre by U.S. Marines of a dozen demonstrating Haitian peasants in Marche-à-Terre during the first U.S. military occupation of Haiti (1915-1924).

From Dec. 3-5, 11 of Haiti’s remaining 20 senators, most of them pro-Martelly, held a desperate conclave at the fancy Club Indigo resort in Montrouis near St. Marc to “find a way to save state institutions” and to “avoid disruption, dislocation, and chaos.” Their final pathetic resolution called on President Martelly to “urgently convoke all the major powers of the State to take all necessary measures to safeguard the Nation-State of Haiti,” and all that before Christmas. Needless to say, the six senators who have opposed Martelly’s efforts to ram through a rigged electoral law and electoral council did not sign the final document.

Martelly plans to begin ruling by decree on Jan. 12, 2015 if no agreement is reached and Parliament is allowed to expire. But demonstrators want Martelly to step down and to have a provisional government set up a new electoral council that will hold elections now delayed for over three years. It is a high-stakes game of chicken into the middle of which Kerry will be stepping.

“We are definitely witnessing the final days of the regime,” said Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles, who has been at the forefront of the anti-Martelly protests. “We do not expect to celebrate Haiti’s independence on New Years 2015 with Martelly still in power. We are not going to negotiate now with Martelly. We simply want Martelly and Lamothe to go.”

Last Thursday, a town hall meeting at Harvey Government Center in Key West drew a large crowd that erupted in opposition to a proposal to release genetically modified mosquitoes this coming Spring. It’s a proposal from a seemingly strange choice – the United Kingdom.

British company Oxitec is petitioning the U.S. Government for permission to release male GE Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that contain a gene whereby they die unless receiving an antidote in the form of antibiotic tetracycline. The males released will live long enough to mate, but the offspring will die before maturation. The proposal that is now gaining ground has been in preparation for three years, with significant involvement by Wellcome Trust. In 2012, the plan to go through was thwarted when a resolution didn’t pass.

Of course the company insists that the technology is totally safe.

The expressed idea behind using Key Haven for the trial run is to eradicate the possibility of dengue and chikungunya viruses – yet, the area hasn’t experienced dengue since 2010. The FDA, CDC, USDA, and EPA are in tandem reviewing the process.

Among the most vocal opponents is Mila de Mier, whose massive petition caught a lot of attention.

She says:

There are lots of questions that need to be answered. This is bigger than a couple people raising objections; the government is trying to do an experiment with the people of Florida.

Residents have listed several concerns:

  • The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not native to the Keys.
  • Future resistance problems when certain mosquitoes don’t actually die off [and what problems would that pose for potential disease too]?
  • The mosquitoes’ effect on the bat population that feeds on them.
  • Where are the peer-reviewed safety studies to support Oxitec’s safety claims?
  • Could other disease-carrying mosquitoes fill in the void left by a dwindled Aedes aegypti population?

Yahoo News adds the following:

Critics also contend that Oxitec cannot completely sort mutated insects by gender, resulting in the release of biting females into the environment (male mosquitoes do not bite humans).

Oxitec spokesperson Chris Creese said it was possible some females could get released but being bitten by one was no different than being bitten by a wild female….

She said of the five different dengue viruses/subtypes:

They are all transmitted by this species of mosquito – So yes, it is clear the virus will mutate. But if you can stop the mosquito, you can stop the disease.

[...]

The safety of the GM mosquitoes has been reviewed by regulatory agencies in Brazil, Malaysia, Cayman and Panama…and none of the agencies determined any [increased] risk to human health or the environment.

All the unanswered or non-reassuring answers to the questions lead to a fear that even scientists have of a major ecological disruption. Even the company cannot answer concerns with complete certainty.

Creese, who did not mention where previous trials in the wild took place or how they were certain the mosquitoes don’t affect the bat population, added that in the lab up to five percent of the GE male population can survive,

However in the open environment one has harsher conditions and we don’t see that level of survival. We haven’t seen any survivors after a couple of weeks.

But a big question remains unanswered – why now? Why the urgency? Why did the wheels for this trial project keep turning after dengue disappeared from the Keys? Why is Oxitec (and Wellcome)so willing to generously finance the entire operation?

I think a look at the people behind the company is revealing. Syngenta, Bayer, biotech and pharma alums top the list.

A final comment from the Oxitec spokesperson who pointed out to dengue outbreaks in the Caribbean Islands as a reason for prompt release.

The situation is, can we afford to do nothing? Prevention is the best defense.

In other words, this is a vastly uncharted and extreme preemptive move – where no threat currently exists. Where no other options have been placed on the table for future possibilities. Where no benefits exist except for a trial run to test their work on insects, a human population and the ecosystem.

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.

One day after the release of the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture in Washington, the government of Brazil officially unveiled a nearly 2,000-page report detailing the political murders, torture and other crimes carried out during two decades of dictatorship that began with a US-backed military coup in 1964.

The report was prepared by a National Truth Commission set up by President Dilma Rousseff in 2012 and is based on over 1,000 interviews with victims and some of the perpetrators of the dictatorship’s crimes as well as a review of official records, including from the country’s hospitals and morgues.

In a speech praising the report, Rousseff broke into tears when speaking about “those who lost family members, friends, companions and continue to suffer as if they died again each and every day.” The Workers Party (PT) president was herself imprisoned by the dictatorship for three years and subjected to electric shock and other tortures after joining an urban guerrilla group while a student under the military regime.

In the same speech, however, Rousseff declared that just as those who had “fallen in this fight confronting the illegal truculence of the state” were honored, so too, “we recognize and deeply respect the political pacts that have led us to re-democratization.”

The remark, which repeated virtually word for word a statement she issued on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 coup, was an unmistakable reference to the 1979 general amnesty imposed in the waning days of the military dictatorship. This law has left Brazil virtually the only country in Latin America not to prosecute any of those responsible for the thousands of political killings and endemic torture that the continent suffered under a series of military juntas.

The National Truth Commission, which named nearly 400 individuals, including ex-presidents, generals, police torturers, diplomats and doctors who collaborated in the torture, included in its recommendations a rather toothless call for those responsible to face criminal prosecution. In presenting the report to Rousseff, Pedro Dallari, the commission’s coordinator, stressed that, “It’s not the commission’s job to determine whether the amnesty law should apply or whether it should be revoked.”

Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court upheld the military’s self-amnesty as constitutional in 2010, while insisting that the statute of limitations would prevent prosecution in any case. Two justices interviewed by O Globo insisted that this remained the case and that the court’s word was final.

Both the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations have warned Brazil that it is in violation of international law in failing to prosecute state murders and torture, which are considered international crimes against humanity.

While the content of the report is horrific, and many of the filmed interviews of testimony by surviving torture victims moving, there is not that much new in the report, compared to previous investigations conducted by non-governmental groups, such as Projeto “Brasil: Nunca mais” [“Brazil: Never again” Project] nearly 30 years ago.

Cecilia Coimbra, a former political prisoner who founded the Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais, described herself as “frustrated, revolted and outraged” by the report. “This history is being told in accordance with the interests of the forces that are in power,” she said, calling the document superficial and crafted to “soften the accusations against the military.”

The report correctly insists that political murders and torture were not the acts of individual military or police officers but rather, “Under the military dictatorship, repression and the elimination of political opposition became the policy of the state, conceived and implemented based on decisions by the president of the republic and military ministers.”

The document presents detailed accounts of the deaths or disappearances of 434 individual students, factory workers, leftist politicians, journalists and others, while stressing that these numbers “certainly don’t correspond to the total of deaths and disappearances, but only to cases that it was possible to prove.”

Similarly, it documents numerous torture histories, without giving a precise number of victims. It does cite a previous estimate by the human rights secretary that “around 20,000 Brazilians were subjected to torture during the period of dictatorship.”

“Torture became systematically employed by the Brazilian state after the 1964 coup, whether as a method of collecting information or obtaining confessions (technique of interrogation), or as a means of disseminating fear (strategy of intimidation),” the report states. “It ceased being restricted to the violent methods already employed by the Brazilian police against common criminals, becoming more sophisticated and turning into the essence of the military system of political repression, based on the arguments of the supremacy of national security and the existence of a war against terrorism.”

This “sophistication” was facilitated in large measure by training and advisers provided by Washington. CIA and military intelligence officials were sent to Brazil to participate in this grisly repression, while Brazilian military and police officers were sent to the US Army’s School of the Americas and other institutions for instruction.

While the refusal of the Obama administration to declassify many CIA and Pentagon documents that implicate individuals from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on down in the crimes carried out against the Brazilian people, one document cited in the report gives an indication of the intimacy of US involvement.

It is the entry log of the DOPS [Department of Political and Social Order—the dictatorship’s political police] headquarters in Sao Paulo, a main torture center. It includes multiple entries for US officials, including Claris Halliwell, Lincoln Chapin and C. Harlow Duffin. Halliwell, listed as a political attaché (a title frequently used by CIA agents) at the US consulate in Sao Paulo, visited the center 47 times between 1971 and 1974, on a number of occasions signing in at night and leaving the next morning. Duffin was named by ex-CIA agent Philip Agee as his “desk chief” in Washington.

The same visitor logs show frequent visits to the torture center by leading Sao Paulo business figures, including the representative of the Federation of Industries of the State of Sao Paulo (FIESP), Geraldo Rezende de Matos. He came to the torture center 40 times in the course of just two months in 1971, also at times staying overnight. It is known that business leaders provided financing for the dictatorship’s repression and also fingered militant workers in their factories for abduction, torture and murder. The National Truth Commission’s report has studiously avoided the strong connection between profit interests and military state terror.

In addition to the torture training by US advisers, the British government is also named as a provider of such aid to the dictatorship. It describes one British intelligence innovation, known as the “geladeira” [refrigerator] in which prisoners were placed in a box measuring 1.5 meters wide and 1.5 meters high, making it impossible to either stand or lie down. Insulated from all light and sound, the box had cooling and heating systems capable of inflicting freezing temperatures or intolerable heat. A loudspeaker was used to emit screams and other terrifying noises at an overwhelming volume. Victims were kept in this device for days at a time without food or water.

Other barbaric methods had already been enumerated in previous reports. These include electric shocks to the genitals, inserting insects in body orifices, burning flesh, rape and other forms of sexual violence against both men and women, and procedures known by such names as the “parrot’s perch” and the “dragon’s chair” in which subjects were tortured to the point of death and beyond.

The commission’s report includes a recommendation for the removal of Brazil’s Military Police (PM) from military control. A recent report revealed that Brazilian police kill civilians at the rate of six a day, a level of violence that many connect to the impunity enjoyed by the military killers and torturers of the dictatorship.

Rousseff is not expected to act on this recommendation, any more than she is likely to push for an end to the military amnesty. Having secured re-election in October by the narrowest victory for the PT in a dozen years, her administration has been swamped by a massive corruption scandal at the state-owned oil giant Petrobras. Contractors have charged that they were forced to pay bribes to the PT to secure contracts at the company, whose board Rousseff chaired from 2003 to 2010.

The crisis has emboldened Brazil’s political right, which has called a series of demonstrations raising the demand for Rousseff’s ouster and calling for “military intervention.”

Kerry Demands Open-ended Mideast War Resolution

December 11th, 2014 by Patrick Martin

In an extraordinary appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the Obama administration’s demand for a congressional resolution to authorize military action in Iraq and Syria that would be unlimited in scope, time frame and methods.

Kerry argued for an open-ended resolution that would set no binding time limit on the war, nor any limit on the geographical area in which US operations could be conducted. He stressed as well that the resolution should not bar President Obama from ordering the use of US combat troops.

The three-and-a-half-hour hearing saw Senate Republicans, who will control the panel starting in January, criticizing the White House for not seeking broader authority and presenting a full-scale war plan, while the outgoing chairman, Democrat Robert Menendez, favored a more narrowly focused resolution. None of the Democratic senators expressed opposition to the current war in Iraq and Syria or to its escalation.

Kerry began the hearing claiming the resolution should be “limited and specific to the threat posed by” the Sunni fundamentalist ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) militia, which currently controls the eastern third of Syria and the western third of Iraq, including Mosul, a city of nearly two million, Iraq’s third largest.

But when he turned to the details of the proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the limitations evaporated. “We do not think an AUMF should include a geographical limitation,” he said.

“We don’t anticipate conducting operations in countries other than Iraq or Syria. But to the extent that [ISIS] poses a threat to American interests and personnel in other countries, we would not want an AUMF to constrain our ability to use appropriate force against [ISIS] in those locations if necessary. In our view, it would be a mistake to advertise to [ISIS] that there are safe havens for them outside of Iraq and Syria.”

Such language would make the entire world a potential target of the war resolution, a fact on which several senators commented later in the hearing. Republican Rand Paul said, referring to the two holiest cities in Islam, “If Medina or Mecca pledges allegiance to the Islamic State, they are open to being bombed by the United States. You are sending a message to the Middle East that no city is off limits.”

Kerry treated such concerns with contempt. “Nobody’s talking about bombing everywhere,” he said, telling Paul to “make a presumption in the sanity of the President of the United States.”

While Paul, an ultra-right libertarian, occasionally postures as an opponent of US wars in the Middle East, he suggested at a previous Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Congress adopt a declaration of war against ISIS. If enacted, this would mark the first formal war declaration since World War II and provide the legal basis to outlaw antiwar opposition as “treason” or “aiding the enemy.”

Among the countries that could become battlefields with ISIS in the near future is Lebanon, where Sunni fundamentalists have been active in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley. Two other Arab states, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, border on ISIS-controlled territory.

Last week, press reports suggested the Obama administration was moving towards imposing a limited no-fly zone along part of the Turkish-Syrian border, to be enforced by US warplanes based at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. This would make Incirlik and other territory in southern Turkey a likely target for combat between ISIS and US-NATO forces.

Kerry and the outgoing Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Robert Menendez, disagreed briefly on language Menendez was proposing that would bar “ground combat operations except as necessary for the protection or rescue of US soldiers or citizens, for intelligence operations, spotters to enable air strikes, operational planning, or other forms of advice and assistance.”

The administration did not plan to commit combat troops to the war with ISIS, Kerry claimed, but he went on to insist, “[T]hat does not mean we should preemptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief—or our commanders in the field—in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee.”

As for the length of the war, “we can be sure that this confrontation will not be over quickly,” Kerry said. “We understand, however, the desire of many to avoid a completely open-ended authorization. I note that Chairman Menendez has suggested a three-year limitation; we support that proposal, subject to provisions for extension that we would be happy to discuss.”

In other words, there would be no time limit to the war. Three years would take the fighting into the next administration, and the next president would have authority to extend the timeframe more or less indefinitely.

Republican members of the Senate committee criticized Kerry for not bringing with him an administration draft of proposed language for the AUMF. The White House has rebuffed such requests, preferring to operate with a completely free hand in the absence of any congressional resolution.

Moreover, with the Republicans taking control of the Senate in January as a result of the Democratic rout in the November 4 elections, the administration counts on a far more expansive war resolution than was likely when Obama first ordered air strikes on Syria in September.

The bellicose stance of the Republicans was expressed by Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who will replace Menendez as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. He disparaged placing any limitation on Obama’s power to order military action in Iraq and Syria, saying sarcastically that such a resolution would be “really an ISIS protection plan… Because you can use all force against Al Qaida and others, but against ISIS you cannot. It’s kind of an interesting approach.”

There is another significant issue on which there was little discussion reported from the committee hearing, although Kerry made an indirect reference to it: whether the resolution would permit US military action against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Kerry urged the senators not to limit the war resolution to ISIS per se, but to permit US attacks on “associated forces.” This kind of language was used by the Bush administration to justify attacks on local Islamists in virtual every country in North Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, whether or not they were actually affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The CIA-backed Syrian opposition groups have repeatedly charged that the Assad regime is in a tacit alliance with ISIS, as both wage war against the “rebel” forces. By that definition, the Syrian Army and ISIS would be considered “associated forces” and the war resolution could be construed to authorize US air strikes or full-scale combat against the regime in Damascus.

One prominent Senate Democrat, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, called for precisely such a maneuver in an op-ed piece published in the pro-war Washington Post on November 27, under the headline “The US Plan to Destroy the Islamic State Must Also Take Down Bashar al-Assad.”

Whatever the exact form of the resolution that eventually emerges from Congress, there is no question that American imperialism is moving steadily towards a full-scale war in Syria and Iraq, whose consequences—particularly in relation to Iran and Russia, the Syrian government’s main allies—would dwarf those of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

According to Congressman Justin Amash, Congress just passed a bill which grants the government and law enforcement “unlimited access to the communications of every American”.

When the Michigan lawmaker discovered that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 had been amended with a provision that authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of all communications data from U.S. citizens, he desperately attempted to organize a roll call vote on the bill.

However, the legislation was passed yesterday 325-100 via a voice vote, a green light for what Amash describes as “one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative”.

The bill allows the private communications of Americans to be scooped up without a court order and then transferred to law enforcement for criminal investigations.

The legislation effectively codifies and legalizes mass warrantless NSA surveillance on the American people, with barely a whimper of debate.

Read the full text of Congressman Amash’s letter below, which was sent out before the bill was passed.


Dear Colleague:

The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without legal process.

Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309—one the House never has considered. Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.

To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications. It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications. With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them—although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.

In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications. The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents—especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.

I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.

/s/

Justin Amash
Member of Congress

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor at large of Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com.

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The Province, Dec 5, 2014 (emphasis added): For an endangered orca population living off the B.C. coast, Thursday’s death of a young adult female “couldn’t be much worse,” according to a marine scientist… “It couldn’t be much worse than losing an 18-year-old female,” [Dr. Peter Ross, a senior scientist at the Vancouver Aquarium] said. “This was a female who was at the sunrise of her reproductive life.”… “There’s virtually no survival of the babies anymore,which of course means there’s no future… We have to turn this around somehow,” said [Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research].

Dr Andrew Trites, U. of British Columbia: “To lose a female of reproductive age, that’s absolutely the worst thing possible that could happen… without them, the population is doomed.”

Times Colonist, Dec 5, 2014: The death of J32 [and] her baby, paints a grim future for the southern resident whales… Balcomb said. “We haven’t had any survivals in babies for a couple of years. We have had stillborns and newborns die… It’s like zero survival in birth rate here.” Howard Garrett of Orca Network said… “There was a calf born in early September that lived less than a month and that was the first calf in two years… There should be two or three births at least per year… Instead, there have been seven mortalities and no births.”

Fox News, Dec 9, 2014: [It's] thought to be one of only 18 able to reproduce… a calf birthed by an orca in the J, K, or L pod hasn’t survived longer than a year in the last three years.

KUOW, Dec 7, 2014: Scientists determined this weekend that the dead orca… was pregnant when she died… The fetus was already decomposing, suggesting to scientists that the mother was attempting to expel her stillborn calf when she died.

Earth Fix, Dec 7, 2014: Experts believe the young female may have been trying to expel her dead fetus when she herself died. The fetus… was already decomposing. — Balcomb: “Over the last two and a half years we have not had any calves survive and of course 100 percent mortality in offspring is not good for the future.”… Balcomb and others believe that lack of food and high levels of pollution in the orcas bodies are to blame for the low survival rates of the young. There are just 77 southern resident killer whales left.

CHEK, Dec 2014: Biologist [say] a sustainable population needs at least 500 individuals.

CBC, Dec. 8, 2014: They can live to be 90 or even 100 years of age. — Peter Ross, Vancouver Aquarium: “The alarm bells are starting to ring because we have not had a successful calf born… in almost 3 years.”

Michelle Rachel, CETUS: Nov. 29… she was healthy [&] happy… We don’t know how she got up here, why she got up here. It’s so far away from her regular range.

Balcomb: We’re going to lose this population… they’ll be extinct for sure in 100 yrs, maybe 20

Watch CTV’s extensive coverage of the orcas here

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was grilled Wednesday by a reporter over the fact that while Obama has denounced the details revealed in the Senate CIA torture report, two of the architects of the policy are still on his national security team.

Earnest was given the third degree by Fox News’ Ed Henry, who demanded to know why both current CIA head John Brennan and FBI head James Comey, who were instrumental in the development of enhanced interrogation techniques policy under George W. Bush, still hold prominent roles under the Obama administration.

“Following up on Jon’s questioning about John Brennan, you also have as the FBI Chief, James Comey, who served in the Bush Justice Department and helped endorse the legal memo, the legal memo blessing waterboarding and other enhanced techniques.” Henry noted.

“How could the President appoint John Brennan and James Comey to two of the most sensitive jobs in the administration CIA and FBI if he believes they endorsed un-American tactics?” Henry asked.

“Following up on Jon’s questioning about John Brennan, you also have as the FBI Chief, James Comey, who served in the Bush Justice Department and helped endorse the legal memo, the legal memo blessing waterboarding and other enhanced techniques.” Henry noted.

“How could the President appoint John Brennan and James Comey to two of the most sensitive jobs in the administration CIA and FBI if he believes they endorsed un-American tactics?” Henry asked.

Earnest gave a stock reply saying that both Brennan and Comey are reliable and have strong records when it comes to keeping the country safe.

Henry pressed on with his line of questioning, asking “But you don’t see any contradictions that you’re attacking Bush administration policies but you have two of the architects of those policies serving?”

Again, Earnest gave a stock answer, avoiding the question and saying the President has confidence in both men.

Henry then caught Earnest out again, drawing him into an admission that the current administration fundamentally disagrees with former vice president Dick Cheney, who has said that the torture policy makes America safer.

“Why does this President’s CIA. director basically agree with Dick Cheney that these tactics saved lives? Your CIA director agrees with him.” Henry said.

“For questions about Mr. Brennan’s position on these issues I would direct you to the CIA” Earnest said, again avoiding the question.

Henry then interrogated Earnest over the Obama drone policy, noting “You have repeatedly talked about moral authority. So can you explain how the President believes that it’s un-American to use these techniques, but it was okay to ramp up the drone policy?”

“Basically thousands of people around the world, innocent civilians, were killed. What’s the moral equivalency there? How do you have moral authority when innocent civilians are killed by drones?” Henry urged.

Once again, Earnest gave a stock answer, saying that the Obama administration goes “to great lengths to protect the lives of innocent civilians,” and that “there are significant checks and balances included in the system.”

As we have previously noted, the Obama White House has merely sought to protect Bush administration officials and CIA agents from prosecution for torture and sexual abuse. Obama and Holder signed off on granting final immunity to the CIA torturers. As we have discovered, this is because top Democrats like Nancy Pelosi are complicit in the illegal torture program because they gave their approval for it to be instituted in the first place.

The media has not even broached the fact that this information has been public for five years now. Indeed, at the beginning of 2010, government accountability group Judicial Watch obtained and released a CIA report via a FIOA lawsuit, that revealed leading members of Congress were briefed specifically on the torture program between 2002 and 2007, and signed off their approval on it.

The report (embedded below) reveals that at least 68 members of Congress were briefed by the CIA regarding the interrogation program, including specific “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs). The report shows that by the end of 2002, one year after the 9/11 attacks, most senior members of the House and Senate committees, including Diane Feinstein, were engaged in meetings solely focused on EITs.

CIA Interrogation Briefings 02232010

Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

The words “possible criminal actions” by CIA employees are used in the report.

The terms unethical and immoral are mentioned. The criminality of those who ordered these actions at the highest levels of government, however, is not acknowledged.

The actions directed against alleged jihadists are categorized as ineffective in the process of revealing intelligence. This in itself is a red herring. The objective of torture was not to reveal  intelligence. 

What of course is not acknowledged is that the alleged  terrorists who were tortured were framed by the CIA.

Known and documented the Al Qaeda network is a creation of US intelligence.

The jihadists are “intelligence assets”.

Torture serves to perpetuate the legend that the evil terrorists are real and that the lives of Americans are threatened.

Torture is presented as “collateral damage.” Torture is an integral part of war propaganda  which consists in demonizing the alleged terrorists.

And the Senate committee report ultimately upholds the legitimacy of the US intelligence apparatus, the US government, its military and intelligence agenda and its “humanitarian wars” waged in different parts of the World.

Guantanamo Camp (right)

The term “legally misguided” is mentioned but the fact that these actions were “illegal” and “criminal” is casually dismissed.

According to Senator Feinstein: “The CIA plays an incredibly important part in our nation’s security and has thousands of dedicated and talented employees.”

The actions documented by the Senate report were undertaken from 2001-2009, namely during the Bush administration, overlapping into the Obama presidency. This inevitably raises  the issue of responsibility of the current US administration. There is no evidence that these practices were abandoned by the Obama presidency. In fact quite the opposite.

And the “Global War on Terrorism” prevails with new initiatives on the drawing board of the Pentagon.

The Role of 9/11

9/11 serves as a justification for the torture program in the same way as it served as a justification to wage war on Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Senator Feinstein:

“All of us have vivid memories of that Tuesday morning when terror struck New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“Make no mistake, on September 11, 2001 war was declared on the United States.

“Terrorists struck our financial center. They struck our military center. And they tried to strike our political center and would have, had brave and courageous passengers not brought down the plane.

“We still vividly remember the mix of outrage and deep despair and sadness as we watched from Washington.

“Smoke rising from the Pentagon. The passenger plane lying in a Pennsylvania field. The sound of bodies striking canopies at ground level as innocents jumped to the ground below from the World Trade Center.

Enemy Number One: Osama bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks 

The tacit argument –which is contained in the Senate report– is that America was under attack. Evil folks are lurking. The security of the Homeland was at stake.

And these evil people knew things (namely intelligence) which were threatening our security. They were arrested by the CIA.  And the CIA had a mandate “to go after the terrorists”.

Yet we all know by now that the 9/11 official narrative is a fabrication.  The official 9/11 story is that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks. Lest we forget, bin Laden was hospitalized in a Pakistani military hospital in Rawalpindi on September 9, 2001.

9/11 was used as a pretext, a casus belli to wage an illegal war against Afghanistan.  What we are dealing with is the criminalization of the US State apparatus.

Jihadists were not behind the 9/11 attacks. The evidence points to a conspiracy at the highest levels of the US government including the involvement of the intelligence apparatus.

We must  ”learn from our mistakes”, says Senator Feinstein.

These decisions were from an administrative point of view “misguided”, according to the Senate Committee. It was all a “big mistake”, according to the Senate report.

The evidence contained in the report, nonetheless, points to criminal wrongdoing at the highest levels of government. Yet the political statements underlying the report as well as the media coverage constitute a whitewash.

The September 11, 2001 attacks provided the green light to wage a “Global War on Terrorism”.  While the report acknowledges CIA brutality, it does not question the legitimacy of the “Global War on Terrorism”.  The acts of torture were all for a good cause.

The truth is that the CIA is a criminal entity within the US State apparatus.

Nobody is to be held responsible. The report is in essence a political whitewash.  In substance what the report says is:

We are clean and moral people, it was an administrative error to torture the terrorists.  But under the circumstances with our nation under attack,  it is understandable that we acted in that way. Let us learn from our mistakes. It will never happen again.  (paraphrase)

But history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again.’”

Never again? The ugly truth underlying the “Global War on Terrorism” has not acknowledged.

The fact that torture has been routinely applied since the establishment of the CIA under the Truman presidency, extensively applied in Latin America, Africa and South East Asia, is casually dismissed.

President Bush is not alone. What he did was to implement a policy which was already firmly entrenched in the intelligence community. Blaming Bush is a convenient scapegoat. it avoids opening up a can of worms.

Every single administration since the end of World War II has endorsed the practices of torture.

What distinguishes the Bush and Obama administrations in relation to the historical record of U.S. sponsored crimes and atrocities, is that the concentration camps, targeted assassinations and torture chambers are known to the public and are openly considered as legitimate forms of intervention, which sustain “the global war on terrorism” and support the spread of Western democracy.

The Criminalization of Justice:  Will the Architects of Torture be Indicted for Crimes against Humanity?

Today’s legal system in America has all the essential features of an inquisitorial order, which supports torture and provides a green light to CIA atrocities.

The Senate report ultimately upholds clearly defined “guidelines” of the Department of Justice adopted in the immediate wake of 9/11.  Torture is permitted “under certain circumstances”, according to an August 2002 Justice Department “legal opinion” which had been requested by the CIA:

“if a government employee were to torture a suspect in captivity, ‘he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the Al Qaeda terrorist network,’ said the memo, from the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel, written in response to a CIA request for legal guidance. It added that arguments centering on “necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability” later.  (See Washington Post, June 7, 2004)

What the above DoJ report confirms is that the CIA had received a green light to torture alleged “jihadists” inasmuch at contributes to preventing further attacks by Al Qaeda directed against the US.  It follows that “interrogation methods” bordering on torture do not imply an unconstitutional infringement according to the U.S. Justice Department:

“Even if an interrogation method might arguably cross the line drawn in Section and application of the stature was not held to be an unconstitutional infringement of the President’s Commander in Chief authority, we believe that under current circumstances [the war on terrorism] certain justification defenses might be available that would potentially eliminate criminal liability.” (Complete pdf memorandum, Department of Justice, August 1, 2002: “Justice Dept. Memo Says Torture ‘May Be Justified’” Washington Post, June 13, 2004 

Screenshot of first page of original memo (to consult complete doc click here)

According to the Washington Post,

“The memo was written at the request of the CIA. The CIA wanted authority to conduct more aggressive interrogations than were permitted prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The interrogations were of suspected al Qaeda members whom the CIA had apprehended outside the United States. The CIA asked the White House for legal guidance. The White House asked the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel for its legal opinion on the standards of conduct under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” (WP, June 13, 2004)

A legal opinion is an interpretation of the law. It cannot under any circumstances be considered as providing “legal authority”.

In other words, a legal opinion by the  Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel for Alberto R. Gonzales, who was counsel to President Bush does not imply that CIA actions are legal.  The Justice department cannot override the law  by issuing an enabling “carte blanche” legal opinion to the CIA. What this legal opinion entails –when it is used to bypass the law–  is the de facto criminalization of Justice.  The White House instructed the Justice Department to instruct Alberto R. Gonzalez

Under a criminalized judicial system,  the “Inquisitors” in high office cannot be indicted or prosecuted. In a twisted irony, anybody who doubts the legitimacy of the American inquisition (i.e. 9/11 and the “Global War on Terrorism”) is a heretic conspiracy theorist or an accomplice of the terrorists, who can be indicted on criminal charges.

Michel Chossudovsky, December 11, 2014


Read this statement very carefully.

Statement by Senator Feinstein (emphasis added)

“Today a 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s five and a half year review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program—which was conducted between 2002 and 2009—is being released publicly.

“The executive summary, which is going out today, is backed up by a 6,700 page classified and unredacted report (with 38,000 footnotes), which can be released if necessary at a later time.

“The report released today examines the CIA’s secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques—in some cases amounting to torture.

“Over the past couple of weeks, I have gone through a great deal of introspection about whether to delay the release of this report to a later time. This clearly is a period of turmoil and instability in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future, whether this report is released or not.

“There are those who will seize upon the report and say ‘see what Americans did,’ and they will try to use it to justify evil actions or to incite more violence. We cannot prevent that. But history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again.’

“There may never be the ‘right’ time to release this report. The instability we see today will not be resolved in months or years. But this report is too important to shelve indefinitely.

“My determination to release it has also increased due to a campaign of mistaken statements and press articles launched against the report before anyone has had the chance to read it. As a matter of fact, the report is just now, as I speak, being released.

“This is what it looks like. Senator Chambliss asked me if we could have the minority report bound with the majority report. For this draft, that is not possible. But in the final draft, it will be bound together. But this is what the summary of the 6,000 pages look like.

“My words give me no pleasure. I am releasing this report because I know there are thousands of employees at the CIA who do not condone what I will speak about this morning, and who work day in and out, day and night, long hours, within the law for America’s security in what is certainly a difficult world. My colleagues on the intelligence committee and I are proud of them, just as everyone in this chamber is, and we will always support them.

“In reviewing the Study in the past few days with the decision looming over the public release, I was struck by a quote, found on page 126 of the Executive Summary. It cites the former CIA Inspector General, John Helgerson, who in 2005 wrote the following to the then-Director of the CIA, which clearly states the situation with respect to this report years later as well: ‘… we have found that the Agency over the decades has continued to get itself in messes related to interrogation programs for one overriding reason: we do not document and learn from our experience – each generation of officers is left to improvise anew, with problematic results for our officers as individuals and for our Agency.’ (Source: E-mail, John Helgerson to Porter Goss, Jan. 28, 2005)

“I believe that to be true. I agree with Mr. Helgerson. His comments are still true today. But this must change.

“On March 11, 2009, the Committee voted 14-1 to begin a review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Over the past five years, a small team of committee investigators pored over the more than 6.3 million pages of CIA records the leader spoke about to complete this report, or what we call the ‘study.’

“It shows that the CIA’s actions a decade ago are a stain on our values and on our history.

“The release of this 500-page summary of our report cannot remove that stain, but it can and does say to our people, and the world, that America is big enough to admit when it’s wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes. Releasing this report is an important step to restore our values and show the world that we are in fact a just and lawful society.

“Over the next hour, I’d like to lay out for senators and the American public the report’s key findings and conclusions.

“And I ask that when I complete this, Senator McCain be recognized.

“Before I get to the substance of the report, I’d like to make a few comments about why it’s so important that we make this study public.

“All of us have vivid memories of that Tuesday morning when terror struck New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“Make no mistake, on September 11, 2001 war was declared on the United States.

“Terrorists struck our financial center. They struck our military center. And they tried to strike our political center and would have, had brave and courageous passengers not brought down the plane.

“We still vividly remember the mix of outrage and deep despair and sadness as we watched from Washington.

“Smoke rising from the Pentagon. The passenger plane lying in a Pennsylvania field. The sound of bodies striking canopies at ground level as innocents jumped to the ground below from the World Trade Center.

“Mass terror that we often see overseas had struck in our front yard, killing 3,000 innocent men, women, and children. What happened? We came together as a nation, with one singular mission: bring those who committed these acts to justice.

“But it’s at this point where the values of America come into play — where the rule of law and the fundamental principles of right and wrong become important.

“In 1990 the United States Senate ratified the Convention Against Torture. The Convention makes clear that this ban against torture is absolute. It says: ‘No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, (including what I just read) whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.’

“Nonetheless, it was argued that the need for information on terrorist plots after 9/11 made extraordinary interrogation techniques necessary.

“Even if one were to set aside all of the moral arguments, our review was a meticulous and detailed examination of records. It finds that coercive interrogation techniques did not produce the vital, otherwise unavailable intelligence the CIA has claimed.

“I will go into further detail on this issue in a moment. But let me make clear, these comments are not a condemnation of the CIA as a whole. The CIA plays an incredibly important part in our nation’s security and has thousands of dedicated and talented employees.

“What we have found is that a surprisingly few people were responsible for designing, carrying out, and managing this program. Two contractors developed and led the interrogations. There was little effective oversight. Analysts — analysts — on occasion, gave operational orders about interrogations and CIA management of the program was weak and diffuse.

“Our final report was approved by a bipartisan vote of 9-6 in December 2012 and exposes brutality in stark contrast to our values as a nation.

“This effort was focused on the actions of the CIA from late 2001 to January of 2009. The report does include considerable detail on the CIA’s interactions with the White House; the Departments of Justice, State, and Defense; and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“The review is based on contemporaneous records and documents during the time the program was in place and active. Now, these documents are important because they aren’t based on recollection, they aren’t based on revision and they aren’t a rationalization a decade later.

“It’s these documents, referenced repeatedly in thousands of footnotes, that provide the factual basis for the study’s conclusions.

“The committee’s majority staff reviewed more than 6.3 million pages of these documents provided by the CIA, as well as records from other departments and agencies.

“These records include: finished intelligence assessments, CIA operational and intelligence cables, memoranda, e-mails, real-time chat sessions, inspector general reports, testimony before Congress, pictures, and other internal records.

“It’s true we didn’t conduct our own interviews. Let me explain why that was the case.

“In 2009, there was an ongoing review by DOJ Special Prosecutor John Durham.

“On August 24, Attorney General Eric Holder expanded that review. This occurred six months after our study had begun.

“Durham’s original investigation of the CIA’s destruction of interrogation videotapes was broadened to include possible criminal actions of CIA employees in the course of CIA detention and interrogation activities.

“At the time, the committee’s Vice Chairman Kit Bond withdrew the minority’s participation in the study, citing the attorney general’s expanded investigation as the reason.

“The Department of Justice refused to coordinate its investigation with the Intelligence Committee’s review. As a result, possible interviewees could be subject to additional liability if they were interviewed.

“And the CIA, citing the attorney general’s investigation, would not instruct its employees to participate in our interviews.  (Source: classified CIA internal memo, Feb. 26, 2010)

“Notwithstanding this, I am really confident of the factual accuracy and comprehensive nature of this report for three reasons:

“First, it’s the 6.3 million pages of documents reviewed, and they reveal records of actions as those actions took place, not through recollections more than a decade later.

“Second, the CIA and CIA senior officers have taken the opportunity to explain their views on CIA detention and interrogation operations. They have done this in on-the-record statements in classified Committee hearings, written testimony and answers to questions, and through the formal response to the Committee in June 2013 after reading the Study.

“And third, the committee had access to, and utilized, an extensive set of reports of interviews conducted by the CIA inspector general and the CIA’s oral history program.

“So while we could not conduct new interviews of individuals, we did utilize transcripts or summaries of interviews of those directly engaged in detention and interrogation operations. These interviews occurred at the time the program was operational and covered the exact topics we would have asked about had we conducted interviews ourselves.

“Those interview reports and transcripts included, but were not limited to, the following: George Tenet, director of the CIA when the agency took custody and interrogated the majority of its detainees; Jose Rodriguez, director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center (CTC), a key player in the program; CIA General Counsel Scott Muller; CIA Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt; CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo; CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin; and a variety of interrogators, lawyers, medical personnel, senior counterterrorism analysts and managers of the detention and interrogation program.

“The best place to start, about how we got into this, and I’m delighted Senator Rockefeller is on the floor, is a little more than eight years ago, on September 6, 2006, when the Committee met to be briefed by then Director Michael Hayden.

“At that 2006 meeting, the full committee learned for the first time — for the first time — of the use of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ or EITs.

“It was a short meeting, in part because President Bush was making a public speech later that day, disclosing officially for the first time the existence of CIA “black sites” and announcing the transfer of 14 detainees from CIA custody to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“It was the first time the interrogation program was explained to the full Committee as details had previously been limited to the chairman and vice chairman.

“Then, on December 7, 2007, the New York Times reported that CIA personnel in 2005 had destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of two CIA detainees: the CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, as well as ‘Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

“The committee had not been informed of the destruction of the tapes. Days later, on December 11, 2007, the committee held a hearing on the destruction of the videotapes.

“Director Hayden, the primary witness, testified that the CIA had concluded that the destruction of videotapes was acceptable, in part, because Congress had not yet requested to see them. (Source: SSCI transcript, Dec. 11, 2007 hearing)

“Director Hayden stated that, if the committee had asked for the videotapes, they would have been provided. But, of course, the committee had not known that the videotapes existed. And we now know from CIA emails and records that the videotapes were destroyed shortly after senior CIA attorneys raised concerns that Congress might find out about the tapes.

“In any case, at that same December 11th committee hearing, Director Hayden told the committee that CIA cables related to the interrogation sessions depicted in the videotapes were, and I quote, “a more than adequate representation of the tapes and therefore, if you want them, we’ll give you access to them.” (Source: SSCI transcript, December 11, 2007 hearing)

“Senator Rockefeller, then chairman of committee, designated two members of the committee staff to review the cables describing the interrogation sessions of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri.

“Senator Bond, then vice chairman, similarly directed two of his staffers to review the cables.

“The designated staff members completed their review and compiled a summary of the content of the CIA cables by early 2009, by which time I had become chairman. The description in the cables of CIA’s interrogations and the treatment of detainees presented a starkly different picture from Director Hayden’s testimony before the committee.

“They described brutal, around the clock interrogations, especially of Abu Zubaydah, in which multiple coercive techniques were used in combination and with substantial repetition. It was an ugly, visceral description.

“The summary also indicated that Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri did not, as a result of the use of these so-called EITs, provide the kind of intelligence that led the CIA to stop terrorist plots or arrest additional suspects.

“As a result, I think it’s fair to say the entire committee was concerned, and it approved the scope of an investigation by a vote of 14-1, and the work began.

“In my March 11, 2014, floor speech about the study, I described how in 2009 the committee came to an agreement with the new CIA director, Leon Panetta, for access to documents and other records about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, so I won’t repeat that here.

“From 2009 until 2012, our staff conducted a massive and unprecedented review of CIA records.

“Draft sections of the report were produced by late 2011 and shared with the full committee. The final report was completed in December 2012 and approved by the committee by a bipartisan vote of 9-6.

“After that vote, I sent the full report to the president and asked the administration to provide comments on it before it was released.

“Six months later, in June of 2013, the CIA responded.

“I directed then that if the CIA pointed out any error in our report, we would fix it, and we did fix one bullet point that did not impact our Findings and Conclusions. If the CIA came to a different conclusion than the report did, we would note that in the report and explain our reasons for disagreeing, if we disagreed.

“You will see some of that documented in the footnotes of that executive summary as well as in the 6,000 pages.

“In April 2014, the committee prepared an updated version of the full study and voted 12-3 to declassify and release the executive summary, findings and conclusions, and Minority and additional views.

“On August 1, we received a declassified version from the Executive Branch. It was immediately apparent that the redactions to our report prevented a clear and understandable reading of the Study and prevented us from substantiating the findings and conclusions. So we obviously objected.

“For the past four months, the Committee and the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House have engaged in a lengthy negotiation over the redactions to the report. We have been able to include some more information in the report today without sacrificing sources and methods or our national security. I’d like to ask following my remarks that a letter from the White House dated yesterday conveying the report, also points out that the report is 93 percent complete and redactions amount to 7 percent of the bulk of the report.

“Mr. President, this has been a long process. The work began seven years ago when Senator Rockefeller directed committee staff to review the CIA cables describing the interrogation sessions of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri.

“It’s been very difficult. But I believe the documentation and the findings and conclusions will make clear how this program was morally, legally and administratively misguided, and that this nation should never again engage in these tactics.

“Let me turn now to the contents of the study.

“As I noted, we have 20 findings and conclusions, which fall into four general categories:

“First, the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were not an effective way to gather intelligence information.

“Second, the CIA provided extensive amounts of inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to the White House, the Department of Justice, Congress, the CIA inspector general, the media and the American public.

“Third, the CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.

“And fourth, the CIA program was far more brutal than people were led to believe.

“Let me describe each category in more detail:

“The first set of findings and conclusions concern the effectiveness — or lack thereof — of the interrogation program.

“The committee found that the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques were not an effective means of acquiring accurate intelligence or gaining detainee cooperation.

“The CIA and other defenders of the program have repeatedly claimed that the use of so-called interrogation techniques was necessary to get detainees to provide critical information, and to bring detainees to a ‘state of compliance’ in which they would cooperate and provide information.

“The study concludes that both claims are inaccurate.  [but not criminal]

“The report is very specific in how it evaluates the CIA’s claims on the effectiveness and necessity of its enhanced interrogation techniques. Specifically, we used the CIA’s own definition of effectiveness as ratified and approved by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.  (Source: DOJ Office of Legal Counsel memos)

“The CIA’s claims that EITs were necessary to obtain ‘otherwise unavailable’ information, that could not be obtained from any other source, to stop terrorist attacks and save American lives — that’s a claim we conclude is inaccurate.

“We took 20 examples that the CIA, itself, claimed to show the success of these interrogations. These include cases of terrorist plots stopped or terrorists captured.

“The CIA used these examples in presentations to the White House, in testimony to Congress, in submissions to the Department of Justice, and ultimately to the American people.

“Some of the claims are well-known: the capture of Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, the prevention of attacks against the Library Tower in Los Angeles, and the take-down of Osama bin Laden.

“Other claims were made only in classified settings, to the White House, Congress, and Department of Justice.

“In each case, the CIA claimed that critical and unique information came from one or more detainees in its custody after they were subjected to the CIA’s coercive techniques, and that information led to a specific counterterrorism success.

“Our staff reviewed every one of the 20 cases, and not a single case holds up.

“In every single one of these cases, at least one of the following was true:

“One, the intelligence community had information separate from the use of EITs that led to the terrorist disruption or capture; two, information from a detainee subjected to EITs played no role in the claimed disruption or capture; and three, the purported terrorist plot either didn’t exist or posed no real threat to Americans or U.S. interests.

“Some critics have suggested the study concludes that no intelligence was ever provided from any detainee the CIA held. That is false, and the Study makes no such claim.

“What is true is that actionable intelligence that was ‘otherwise unavailable’ — otherwise unavailable — was not obtained using these coercive interrogation techniques.

“The report also chronicles where the use of interrogation techniques that do not involve physical force were effective.

“Specifically, the report provides examples where interrogators had sufficient information to confront detainees with facts and know when the detainees were lying, and where they applied rapport-building techniques developed and honed by the U.S. military, the FBI, and more recently the interagency High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, called the ‘HIG,’ that these techniques produced good intelligence.

“Let me make a couple of additional comments on the claimed effectiveness of CIA interrogations.

“At no time did the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques lead to the collection of intelligence on an imminent threat that many believe was the justification for the use of these techniques. The committee never found an example of this hypothetical ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario.

“The use of coercive technique methods regularly resulted in fabricated information. Sometimes, the CIA knew detainees were lying. Other times, the CIA acted on false information, diverting resources and leading officers or contractors to falsely believe they were acquiring unique or actionable intelligence and that its interrogations were working when they were not.

“Internally, CIA officers often called into question the effectiveness of the CIA’s interrogation techniques, noting how the techniques failed to elicit detainee cooperation or produce accurate information.

“The report includes numerous examples of CIA officers questioning the agency’s claims, but these contradictions were marginalized and not presented externally.

“The second set of findings and conclusions is that the CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the program and its effectiveness to the White House, the Department of Justice, Congress, the CIA inspector general, the media, and the American public.

“This conclusion is somewhat personal for me. I recall clearly when Director Hayden briefed the Intelligence Committee for the first time on the so-called EITs at that September 2006 committee meeting.

“He referred specifically to a ‘tummy slap,’ among other techniques, and presented the entire set of techniques as minimally harmful and applied in a highly clinical and professional manner. They were not.

“The committee’s report demonstrates that these techniques were physically very harmful and that the constraints that existed, on paper, in Washington did not match the way techniques were used at CIA sites around the world.

“Of particular note was the treatment of Abu Zubaydah over a span of 17 days in August 2002.

“This involved non-stop interrogation and abuse, 24/7 from August 4 to August 21, and included multiple forms of deprivation and physical assault. The description of this period, first written up by our staff in early 2009, while Senator Rockefeller was chairman, is what prompted this full review.

“But the inaccurate and incomplete descriptions go far beyond that. The CIA provided inaccurate memoranda and explanations to the Department of Justice while its [Office of] Legal Counsel was considering the legality of the coercive techniques.

“In those communications to the Department of Justice, the CIA claimed the following: the coercive techniques would not be used with excessive repetition; detainees would always have an opportunity to provide information prior to the use of the techniques; the techniques were to be used in progression, starting with the least aggressive and proceeding only if needed; medical personnel would make sure that interrogations wouldn’t cause serious harm, and they could intervene at any time to stop interrogations; interrogators were carefully vetted and highly trained; and each technique was to be used in a specific way, without deviation, and only with specific approval for the interrogator and detainee involved.

“None of these assurances, which the Department of Justice relied on to form its legal opinions, were consistently or even routinely carried out.

“In many cases, important information was withheld from policymakers. For example, former Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham asked a number of questions after he was first briefed in September 2002, but the CIA refused to answer him, effectively stonewalling him until he left the committee at the end of the year.

“In another example, the CIA, in coordination with White House officials and staff, initially withheld information of the CIA’s interrogation techniques from Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“There are CIA records stating that Colin Powell wasn’t told about the program at first because there were concerns that, and I quote, ‘Powell would blow his stack if he were briefed.’ (Source: E-mail from John Rizzo dated July 31, 2003)

“CIA records clearly indicate and definitively that — after he was briefed on the CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zubaydah — the CIA didn’t tell President Bush about the full nature of the EITs until April 2006. That’s what the records indicate.

“The CIA similarly withheld information or provided false information to the CIA inspector general during his conduct of a special review by the IG in 2004.

“Incomplete and inaccurate information from the CIA was used in documents provided to the Department of Justice and as a basis for President Bush’s speech on September 6, 2006, in which he publicly acknowledged the CIA program for the first time.

“In all of these cases, other CIA officers acknowledged internally — they acknowledged internally — that information the CIA had provided was wrong.

“The CIA also misled other White House officials. When Vice President Cheney’s counsel, David Addington, asked CIA General Counsel Scott Muller in 2003 about the CIA’s videotaping the waterboarding of detainees, Muller deliberately told him that videotapes “were not being made,” but did not disclose that videotapes of previous waterboarding sessions had been made and still existed. (Source: E-mail from Scott Muller dated June 7, 2003)

“There are many, many more examples in the committee’s report.

“The third set of findings and conclusions notes the various ways in which CIA management of the Detention and Interrogation Program — from its inception to its formal termination in January ’09 — was inadequate and deeply flawed.

“There is no doubt that the Detention and Interrogation Program was, by any measure, a major CIA undertaking. It raised significant legal and policy issues and involved significant resources and funding. It was not, however, managed as a significant CIA program. Instead, it had limited oversight and lacked formal direction and management.

“For example, in the six months between being granted detention authority and taking custody of its first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, the CIA had not identified and prepared a suitable detention site.

“It had not researched effective interrogation techniques or developed a legal basis for the use of interrogation techniques outside of the rapport-building techniques that were official CIA policy until that time.

‘In fact, there is no indication the CIA reviewed its own history — that’s just what Helgerson was saying in ’05 — with coercive interrogation tactics. As the executive summary notes, the CIA had engaged in rough interrogations in the past.

“In fact, the CIA had previously sent a letter to the Intelligence Committee in 1989, and here is the quote, that “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.” (Source: Letter to the SSCI from John Helgerson, CIA Director of Congressional Affairs, Jan. 8, 1989)

“However, in late 2001 and ’02, rather than research interrogation practices and coordinate with other parts of the government with extensive expertise in detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects, the CIA engaged two contract psychologists who had never conducted interrogations themselves or ever operated detention facilities.

“As the CIA captured or received custody of detainees through 2002, it maintained separate lines of management at headquarters for different detention facilities.

“No individual or office was in charge of the detention and interrogation program until January of 2003, by which point more one-third of CIA detainees identified in our review had been detained and interrogated.

“One clear example of flawed CIA management was the poorly managed detention facility, referred to in our report by the code name “COBALT” to hide the actual name of the facility. It began operations in September of 2002.

“The facility kept few formal records of the detainees housed there and untrained CIA officers conducted frequent, unauthorized and unsupervised interrogations using techniques that were not — and never became — part of the CIA’s formal enhanced interrogation program.

“The CIA placed a junior officer with no relevant experience in charge of the site. In November 2002, an otherwise healthy detainee — who was being held mostly nude and chained to a concrete floor — died at the facility from what is believed to have been hypothermia.

“In interviews conducted in 2003 by the CIA Office of the Inspector General, CIA’s leadership acknowledged that they had little or no awareness of operations at this specific CIA detention site, and some CIA senior officials believed, erroneously, that enhanced interrogation techniques were not used there.

“The CIA, in its June 2013 response to the committee’s report, agreed that there were management failures in the program, but asserted that they were corrected by early 2003. While the study found that management failures improved somewhat, we found they persisted until the end of the program.

“Among the numerous management shortcomings identified in the report are the following:

“The CIA used poorly trained and non-vetted personnel.

“Individuals were deployed — in particular, interrogators — without relevant training or experience.

“Due to the CIA’s redactions to the report, there are limits to what I can say in this regard, but it is clear fact that the CIA deployed officers who had histories of personal, ethical and professional problems of a serious nature.

“These included histories of violence and abusive treatment of others and should have called into question their employment with the United States government, let alone their suitability to participate in a sensitive CIA covert action program.

“The two contractors that CIA allowed to develop, operate, and assess its interrogation operations conducted numerous ‘inherently governmental functions’ that should never have been outsourced to contractors.

“These contractors are referred to in the report in special pseudonyms ‘SWIGERT’ and ‘DUNBAR,’ they developed the list of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that the CIA employed.

“They personally conducted interrogations of some of the CIA’s most significant detainees using the techniques, including the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, and al-Nashiri.

“The contractors provided the official evaluations of whether detainees’ psychological states allowed for the continued use of the enhanced techniques, even for some detainees they themselves were interrogating or had interrogated.

“Evaluating the psychological state of the very detainees they were interrogating is a clear conflict of interest and a violation of professional guidelines.

“The CIA relied on these two contractors to evaluate the interrogation program they had devised and in which they had obvious financial interests, again, a clear conflict of interest and an avoidance of responsibility by the CIA.

“In 2005, the two contractors formed a company specifically for the purpose of expanding their work with the CIA. From ’05 to ’08, the CIA outsourced almost all aspects of its Detention and Interrogation program to the company as part of a contract valued at more than $180 million.

“Ultimately, not all contract options were exercised. However, the CIA has paid these two contractors and their company more than $80 million.

“Of the 119 individuals found to have been detained by the CIA during the life of the program, the committee found that at least 26 were wrongfully held. These are cases where the CIA itself determined that it had not met the standard for detention set out in the 2001 Memorandum of Notification, which governs a covert action.

“Detainees often remained in custody for months after the CIA determined they should have been released. CIA records provide insufficient information to justify the detention of many other detainees.

“Due to poor record keeping, a full accounting of how many specific detainees were held and how they were specifically treated while in custody may never be known.

“Similarly, in specific instances, we found that enhanced interrogation techniques were used without authorization, in a manner far different and more brutal than had been authorized by the Office of Legal Counsel, and conducted by personnel not approved to use them on detainees.

“Decisions about how and when to apply interrogation techniques were ad hoc and not proposed, evaluated, and approved in the manner described by the CIA in written descriptions and testimony about the program.

“Detainees were often subject to harsh and brutal interrogation and treatment because CIA analysts believed, often in error, that they knew more information than what they had provided.

“Sometimes, CIA managers and interrogators in the field were uncomfortable with what they were being asked to do and recommended ending the abuse of a detainee. Repeatedly in such cases, they were overruled by people at CIA headquarters who thought they knew better, such as by analysts with no line authority. This shows again how a relatively small number of CIA personnel — perhaps 40 to 50 — were making decisions on detention and interrogation, despite the better judgments of other CIA officers.

“The fourth and final set of findings and conclusions concern how the interrogations of CIA detainees were absolutely brutal, far worse than the CIA represented them to policymakers and others.

“Beginning with the first detainee, Abu Zubaydah, and continuing with numerous others, the CIA applied its so-called enhanced interrogation techniques in combination and in near non-stop fashion for days or even weeks at a time, on one detainee.

“In contrast to CIA representations, detainees were subjected to the most aggressive techniques immediately—stripped naked and diapered, physically struck, and put in various painful stress positions for long periods of time.

“They were deprived of sleep for days — in one case up to 180 hours — that’s 7 and half days, over a week with no sleep, usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands tied together over their heads, chained to the ceiling.

“In the COBALT facility I previously mentioned, interrogators and guards used what they called ‘rough takedowns’ in which a detainee was grabbed from his cell, clothes cut off, hooded, and dragged up and down a dirt hallway while being slapped and punched.

“The CIA led several detainees to believe they would never be allowed to leave CIA custody alive, suggesting to Abu Zubaydah that he would only leave in a coffin-shaped box. (Source: CIA cable from Aug. 12, 2002)

“According to another CIA cable, CIA officers also planned to cremate Zubaydah should he not survive his interrogation. (Source: CIA cable from July 15, 2002)

“After the news and photographs emerged from the United States military detention of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib, the Intelligence Committee held a hearing on the matter on May 12, 2004.

“Without disclosing any details of its own interrogation program, CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin testified that CIA interrogations were nothing like what was depicted at Abu Ghraib, the United States prison in Iraq where detainees were abused by American personnel.

“This, of course, was false.

“CIA detainees at one facility, described as a “dungeon,” were kept in complete darkness, constantly shackled in isolated cells with loud noise or music and only a bucket to use for human waste.

“The U.S. Bureau of Prisons personnel went to that location in November 2002 and, according to a contemporaneous internal CIA email, told CIA officers they had never ‘been in a facility where individuals are so sensory deprived.’ (Source: CIA e-mail, sender and recipient redacted, Dec. 5, 2002)

“Throughout the program, multiple CIA detainees subject to interrogations exhibited psychological and behavioral issues including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation.

“Multiple CIA psychologists identified the lack of human contact experienced by detainees as a cause of psychiatric problems.

“The executive summary includes far more detail than I am going to provide here about things that were in these interrogation sessions, and the summary itself includes only a subset of the treatment of the 119 CIA detainees. There is far more detail, all documented, in the full 6,700-page study.

“This summarizes, briefly, the committee’s findings and conclusions.

“Before I wrap up, I’d like to thank the people who made this enormous undertaking possible.

“First, I thank Senator Jay Rockefeller. He started this project by directing his staff to review the operational cables that described the first recorded interrogations after we learned that the videotapes of those sessions had been destroyed. And that report was what led to this multi-year investigation. And without it, we wouldn’t have any sense of what happened.

“I thank the other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee — one of whom is on the floor today, from the great state of New Mexico, others have been on the floor — who voted to conduct this investigation, to approve its result and to make the report public.

“But most importantly, I want to thank the Senate Intelligence Committee staff who performed this work.

“They are dedicated and committed public officials who sacrificed, really sacrificed, a significant portion of their lives to see this report through to its publication.

“They have worked days, nights, weekends for years, in some of the most difficult circumstances, it’s no secret to anyone the CIA did not want this report coming out, and I believe the nation owes them a debt of gratitude.

“They are: Dan Jones, who has led this review since 2007. More than anyone else, today is a result of his effort; Evan Gottesman and Chad Tanner, two other members of the Study Staff. Each wrote thousands of pages of the full report and have dedicated themselves and much of their lives to this project; and Alissa Starzak, who began this review as co-head and contributed extensively until her departure from the committee in 2011.

“Other key contributors to the drafting, editing and review of the report were Jennifer Barrett, Nick Basciano, Mike Buchwald, Jim Catella, Eric Chapman, John Dickas, Lorenzo Goco, Andrew Grotto, Tressa Guenov, Clete Johnson, Michael Noblet, Michael Pevzner, Tommy Ross, Caroline Tess, and James Wolfe.

“And finally, David Grannis, who has been a never-faltering staff director throughout this review.

“Madame President, this study is bigger than the actions of the CIA.

“It’s really about American values and morals. It’s about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our rule of law.

“These values exist regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. They exist in peacetime and in wartime. And if we cast aside these values when convenient, we have failed to live by the very precepts that make our nation a great one.

“There is a reason why we carry the banner of a great and just nation. So we submit this Study on behalf of the committee, to the public, in the belief that it will stand the test of time. And with it, the report will carry the message “never again.”

“I very much appreciate your attention, and I yield to Senator McCain.”

In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press

An article published in August by The New Republic said “Harper’s antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans,” pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that “Bush’s replacement,” President Barack Obama, “has reversed course” in this area.

Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion.

In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists’ queries to speak toEPA-associated scientists.

“We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency,” said the letter.

“We urge you…to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it.”

Press NGOs: Muzzling Policy Impacts

Harper maintains similar procedures, with scientists unable to speak directly to the press without prior authorization from public relations higher-ups.

Unlike the Harper rules, EPA Science Advisory Board members do not work directly for the U.S. government. Instead, they serve as advisors for U.S.environmental policy, but almost all members work full-time at U.S.universities, corporations or environmental groups.

Critics say muzzling of these scientists matters because they make policy decisions with real-world impacts on society.

“Federal advisory committees are generally composed of experts outside the federal government who provide advice to policymakers on a broad range of issues,” the Society for Professional Journalists, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Society of Environmental Journalists and others wrote in an earlier August letter.

“Very often, their advice carries great weight and is reflected in final rules, especially when statutes require that regulations be developed based solely on the best available science.”

Muzzling Fits into Broader Trends

Due to National Security Administration (NSA) surveillance of electronic communications and the U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaing phone records of the Associated Press’ newsroom, the Committee to Protect Journalists — which generally only covers the media of other countries — wrote an October 2013 report about Obama’s press treatment.

The committee’s report concludes that the AP subpoena and NSA electronic surveillance has gone a step further than the EPA’s procedure to route journalists to PR spokespeople for comment. That is, they also want to control and know who journalists are talking to off-the-record or confidentially, which the report concludes has had a chilling effect for both sources and reporters.

“I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,” R. Jeffrey Smith, a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, said in a statement to the Committee to Protect Journalists. “It leaves a digital trail that makes it easier for the government to monitor those contacts.”

Due to the report’s findings and other related issues, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill has said on multiple occasions that the Obama Administration has launched a “war on journalism.”

Stop Spin, Let Sunshine In

A July letter written by many free press and open government organizations called on the Obama Administration “to stop the spin and let the sunshine in.”

“You recently expressed concern that frustration in the country is breeding cynicism about democratic government,” they wrote. “You need look no further than your own administration for a major source of that frustration – politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. We call on you to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in.”

These groups also demanded the Obama administration reverse course and issue a new, press-friendly policy.

“We ask that you issue a clear directive telling federal employees they’re not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so,” they continued. “We believe that is one of the most important things you can do for the nation now, before the policies become even more entrenched.”

To date, there is little indication a policy shift from Obama is in order in this sphere, though.

So for now, not only do Canada and the U.S. have a shared bond in that record amounts of Alberta’s tar sands now flow into the U.S, but also that the muzzling of scientists, and by extension the press at-large, is a threat to democracy in both countries.

Russia’s Rossiya and SMP banks, which fell under Western sanctions, are among the eight lenders that will start testing the country’s new national payment system on December 15.

“The pilot project involves SMP Bank and Rossiya Bank, those for which the story is very critical and important. These are quite large banks,” the head of the Russian National payment system (NPS) Vladimir Komlev said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV.

The move comes as a part of Russia’s ambitious initiative to move away from the Western dominance of its financial markets. Last month the Russian Central Bank said it would have its own international inter-bank payment system, an alternative to the global SWIFT network up and running by May 2015.

Gazprombank, Rosbank, Alfa Bank and Ural Bank for Reconstruction and Development are among eight other banks to join the pilot project. They were selected based on the size of business, location and technology platform, Komlev said.

Another bank involved in NPS testing is Russia’s second largest VTB. Recently its management has been vocal about the need to make Russia’s financial system more self-sufficient and ditch the US Dollar, Vedomosti reports.

The bank will soon connect to the NPS to test the system and be ready for any potential difficulties with payments in the future.

Komlev said the new system’s principle of operating will remain the same. The use of the existing formats will be more convenient for banks; they won’t have to reconfigure their software.

The latest version of the NPS technology is being tested by the Russian Openway Solutions company.

“The modules themselves are something unique, independent, only partly related to the Openway. Now all this belongs to us: our code, the knowledge of how the system is built, and its logic. We are able to develop it and provide support,” said Komlev.

NPS was established in 2014 after a number of Russian banks were hit by US and EU sanctions. In March international payment systems Visa and MasterCard stopped servicing cards issued by the banks following the introduction of the sanctions.

The Boston Marathon bombing is much more important than has been acknowledged, principally because it is the defining domestic national security event since 9/11—and has played a major role in expanding the power of the security state. For that reason, WhoWhatWhy is continuing to investigate troubling aspects of this story and the establishment media treatment of it. We will be exploring new elements of the story regularly as the January trial of accused co-conspirator Dzhokhar Tsarnaev approaches.

***

All dead: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 2011 murder victim Brendan Mess, Ibragim Todashev. By WGBH.

For nearly any crime requiring a “Whodunnit” answer in Boston around the time of the April 15, 2013, Marathon bombing, the authorities answered: The Tsarnaev brothers.

One egregious crime pinned on them was a grisly Sept. 11, 2011, triple murder in Waltham, Mass.

Now, prosecutors in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have delivered a shocking reversal. They admit to having no evidence that his dead brother, Tamerlan, was involved in the slayings.

That wasn’t the case right after the bombing: law enforcement fingered Tamerlan as the perpetrator, and suggested Dzokhar may have been involved. Much of the media has presented it as fact ever since.

This is a pattern we’ve seen since the bombing: The government feeds prejudicial information (usually anonymously) to the press, implying Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s guilt, despite having flimsy or no evidence. In the most extreme example, prosecutors had to completely recant their accusation thatthe brothers robbed a 7-Eleven.

The Waltham triple murder case got the same treatment. Within weeks of the bombing on Boylston Street, law enforcement officials confidently proclaimed they had a “growing” amount of “forensic evidence,” along with a written confession from a now-dead friend of Tamerlan’s, that implicated Tamerlan in the Waltham slaying.

But now, the government admits that, other than the confession, it “has no evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually participated in the Waltham murders.” And it turns out that the damning confession has some serious holes in it too.

So, what happened? First, a little history.

Cold Case: The Waltham Murders

On Sept. 12, 2011, the bodies of Brendan Mess, 25; Erik Weissman, 31; and Raphael Teken, 37; were discovered in Mess’s Waltham apartment, their throats slashed, with pounds of marijuana and thousands of dollars in cash scattered over them.

Investigators immediately assumed that these murders in a small suburban community outside Boston likely involved some type of illicit drug dispute. But the trail to the perpetrators of the triple homicide soon went cold—until the Marathon bombing.

While the public was still riveted by wall-to-wall news coverage of the bombing, law enforcement began to speculate about the Tsarnaevs’ involvement in the slayings. Tamerlan had been friends and an occasional martial arts and boxing sparring partner with one of the three victims, officials told the media.

But the government’s own story called into question the behavior of law enforcement officials in the same case. Despite the fact that Tamerlan’s link to the murder victims was known then, it appears he was never questioned about the crime. This is just one of the many inexplicable mysteries surrounding Tamerlan’s pre-bombing relationship with authorities.

Pointing the Finger

The Boston bombing somehow changed everything.

Eight days after the attack, the Boston Globe first reported the possible link, and sourced it to an unnamed relative of one of the victims. The families of the victims asked that the investigation be reopened in light of the bombing.

An ABC news report three weeks later upped the ante: Law enforcement had “forensic evidence” tying the brothers to the slayings, the network said, quoting unidentified Massachusetts investigators.

But how solid was this evidence linking the Tsarnaevs to Waltham? All but nonexistent. We know that because Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team in the bombing trial asked prosecutors to share the proof they had of Tamerlan’s involvement in the Waltham murders.

***

Why does Tamerlan’s participation in a murder have anything to do with his younger brother’s trial for a wholly separate crime, the Marathon Bombing? The defense is trying to gather proof that Tamerlan dominated his younger brother, which would help Dzokhar’s arguments against the death penalty. Presiding Judge George O’Toole ultimately denied the defense request.

Nonetheless, the answer the prosecution gave in court filings demonstrated one thing: that what was leaked to multiple news outlets as evidence was nothing more than innuendo.

In terms of incrimination, all that’s left is the confession by the dead friend of Tamerlan’s, Ibragim Todashev. Which also appears, on close scrutiny, to raise more questions than it answers.

In fact, Boston Magazine uncovered an important inconsistency in Todashev’s description of the crime scene that calls its legitimacy into question. Due to an improper redaction which made the confession public, the magazine was able to compare Todashev’s written description of the victims with what the first eyewitness encountered at the crime scene.

Taped or Not Taped

When referring to the three victims, Todashev wrote in broken English that “we taped their hands up.” (Please see a photo of the handwritten confession here).

But the first eyewitness to the gruesome scene, Hiba Eltilib, girlfriend of Brendan Mess, said otherwise: “None of their hands were tied as I recall,” she said in an interview.

So here we have another example of the authorities’ early assertions about the Tsarnaevs looking suspiciously shaky under close scrutiny. The Tsarnaevs’ imputed connection to the Waltham murders rests on nothing but a questionable confession by a friend — a man who was later shot down by an FBI investigator while being interrogated. And dead men tell no tales.

***

Meanwhile, as so often happens in these high-profile cases, the initial allegations are still widely circulating in media accounts, while the later, potentially exculpatory information barely registers in the mind of the public.

Certainly there’s a lot of pressure on public officials to solve particularly horrific crimes like the Waltham murders. But a year-and-a-half after the government’s confident claims of Tamerlan’s guilt, we’re finding out that what they really have is next to nothing.

Can this rush to judgment be blamed on expediency, wishful thinking, or something else?

The Senate Committee Report: Torture is Good?

December 11th, 2014 by Chris Floyd

A truncated version of the Senate investigation into the CIA’s Terror War torture regime has finally been released. Even in its limited form, it details an operation of vile depravity, one which would plunge a civilized nation into a profound crisis of conscience and spark a deep and anguished debate on how best to transform a system of government — and a national ethos — that could lead to such putrid crimes. It would also occasion a wide-ranging effort to subject the originators, perpetrators and accomplices of the torture program to the full measure of legal punishment they deserve.

Needless to say, nothing like that is going to happen in America. Indeed, even before the report was released, the New York Times — the standard-bearer and shaper of “decent” liberal thought for the nation — was splashing an opinion piece on the front page of its website, demanding that we “Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured.” This was the very first “think piece” pushed by the Times on the morning of the report’s release.

I’m sure that by the end of the day, the dust will have already settled into the usual ruts. The Hard Right — and its pork-laden publicists — will denounce the investigation and continue to champion torture, as they have done in the weeks running up to the release. The somewhat Softer Right that constitutes the “liberal” wing of the ruling Imperial Party (and its outriders in the “progressive” media) will wring their hands for a bit — as they did during the multitude of previous revelations about systematic torture, White House death squads, Stasi-surpassing surveillance programs, war profiteering, military aggression and so on. Then they will return to what is always their main business at hand: making sure that someone from their faction of the Imperial Party is in the driver’s seat of the murderous War-and-Fear Machine that has now entirely engulfed American society.

Speaking of the Machine, what has been the reaction of the current driver, the belaurelled prince of progressivism, Barack Obama? He sent out the present head of the CIA, John Brennan, an “Obama confidante,” as the Guardian notes, to … defend the use of torture.

You see, one of the main points of the report was that the abominable practices ordered at the highest levels of the American government and used far more widely than previously admitted were not even effective. This is, of course, the most damning criticism one can make of the soul-drained technocrats who staff the Empire. Morality and humanity be damned; the real problem was that torture didn’t work. It produced reams of garbage and falsehood from hapless victims who, like torture victims the world over, from time immemorial , simply regurgitated what they thought their tormentors wanted to hear.

So in the end, the torture regime was not only ineffective, it was counterproductive: this is the report’s conclusion. But it is this that the Technocrat-in-Chief cannot bear. And so he sent his confidante Brennan out to refute this heinous charge. Brennan actually got up in public and said, openly, that torture did work and that it’s a good thing:

“Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day,” Brennan said.

“EIT” is, of course, the technocratic euphemism for the systematic brutalization of helpless, captive human beings by wretched cowards armed with the power of the state and backed to the hilt by national leaders. Brennan — Obama’s confidante — says, in the name of the president, that torture “saved lives.” What’s more, he admits that Obama is still using the fruits of the torture program to “inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day.”

Let’s say this again: the conclusion of the Barack Obama administration is that the use of torture is a good thing, and that it is still “informing” its Terror War operations “to this day.”

One of the chief objections mouthed by the torture champions opposed to the release of the report was that public exposure of these crimes would rouse anger and anti-American feeling around the world. This was always a specious argument, of course; the people targeted by Washington’s Terror War have always known full well what is being done to them and theirs. This latest report will merely be another confirmation, another tranche of evidence to add to the mountain of atrocity they have experienced.

No, it is not the report itself, but the reaction of the American establishment — particularly the Obama Administration itself — that will be the true scandal, a new outrageous slap in the face. A door opens up on a sickening chamber of horror …. and all that Obama can say is that torture is good; yea, it is even salvific, it saves lives, it is good and effective and necessary and we need it.

Torture is good. That is Barack Obama’s takeaway from the Senate report. It is astounding — or would be astounding, if we were not living in an age given over to state terror and elite rapine.

Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com.

The Great Class War, 1914-1918

December 11th, 2014 by Jacques R. Pauwels

Summary of Dr. Jacques Pauwels’ new book, “The Great Class War of 1914-1918”:

The Great War did not suddenly “break out” in that glorious summer of 1914, and it was not a case of collective “folly.” War had been “in the air” for many years, and was very much wanted. It was wanted, and was gratuitously unleashed, by Europe’s elite: a combination of the aristocracy of large landowners and the upper bourgeoisie, consisting of industrialists and financiers. It was wanted not only by the elite of Germany, but of all countries that would be involved in the bloody conflict. These gentlemen did not “sleepwalk” into the war, but entered it with a clear head and open eyes. The European elite expected that war would bring great benefits.

War would make it possible to put an end to the process of political and social democratization, a process that had started with the French Revolution in 1789. In other words, it would offer the elite an opportunity to arrest, and perhaps even to “roll back” the rise of the allegedly ignorant and dangerous lower classes, which threatened its power, wealth and privileges.

The elite also believed that war would exorcize the spectre of social revolution, eliminating that danger once and for all. The “symbiosis” of aristocracy and upper bourgeoisie also expected that war would yield considerable economic dividends, especially the acquisition of territories such as Mesopotamia (now Iraq), bursting with precious raw materials such as oil.

It is one of the major ironies of history that after four years of unprecedented bloodshed, the Great War produced exactly the opposite of what the elite had expected, namely, a revolutionary tsunami that swept through virtually all belligerent nations. The revolution succeeded in Russia, and elsewhere it could only be prevented by the hasty introduction of more of the kinds of democratic reforms of a political and social nature that the war was supposed to have phased out, such as universal suffrage and the eight-hour workday. Subsequent efforts by the elite to reverse this democratic tide produced fascism and led to a new “Great War” or, as some historians see things, to part two of the 20th century’s “Thirty Years’ War.”

The First World War, a “child” of the 19th century, thus revealed itself to be the “father” of the 20th century.

Details of the French and Dutch editions:

http://www.aden.be/index.php…

http://www.epo.be/uitgeverij/boekinfo_boek.php…

Given that Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the U.S. Senate intelligence committee, is an admitted supporter of AIPAC and the government of Binyamin Netanyahu that routinely uses torture in its prisons and detention centres, her exhortation of ‘never again’ is apparently a hollow piece of political hyperbole.

The Netanyahu government not only implicitly endorses the use of torture but is alleged by both the United Nations and, yesterday, by Amnesty International, of having committed war crimes in Gaza when it deliberately ordered the bombing of blocks of residential flats during its attack in August, leaving hundreds of civilians either dead, injured or homeless.

Yet no action has yet been taken to bring those alleged responsible before the International Criminal Court.

Why not? Is the United States and its client state, totally outside of international law and the provisions of the Geneva Conventions to which the rest of the free world is subscribed?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/11282525/Israeli-destruction-of-tower-blocks-were-war-crimes-says-Amnesty.html

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/americas/article4292821.ece

The Department of Treasury is spending $200,000 on survival kits for all of its employees who oversee the federal banking system, according to a new solicitation. As FreeBeacon reportssurvival kits will be delivered to every major bank in the United States and includes a solar blanket, food bar, water-purification tablets, and dust mask (among other things). The question, obviously, is just what do they know that the rest of us don’t?

As Free Beacon reports, 

The Department of Treasury is seeking to order survival kits for all of its employees who oversee the federal banking system, according to a new solicitation.

The emergency supplies would be for every employee at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which conducts on-site reviews of banks throughout the country. The survival kit includes everything from water purification tablets to solar blankets.

The government is willing to spend up to $200,000 on the kits, according to the solicitation released on Dec. 4.

The survival kits must come in a fanny-pack or backpack that can fit all of the items, including a 33-piece personal first aid kit with “decongestant tablets,” a variety of bandages, and medicines.

The kits must also include a “reusable solar blanket” 52 by 84 inches long, a 2,400-calorie food bar, “50 water purification tablets,” a “dust mask,” “one-size fits all poncho with hood,” a rechargeable lantern with built-in radio, and an “Air-Aid emergency mask” for protection against airborne viruses.

Survival kits will be delivered to every major bank in the United States including Bank of America, American Express Bank, BMO Financial Corp., Capitol One Financial Corporation, Citigroup, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Company, and Wells Fargo.

The agency has roughly 3,814 employees, each of which would receive a survival kit. The staff includes “bank examiners” who provide “sustained supervision” of major banks in the United States.

It is not clear why the Treasury Department is ordering the kits.

*  *  *

One can only imagine what the Treasury department is thinking will happen in the near-future… while it is indeed good to be prepared, the timing as domestic social unrest ramps up, the driver of the recovery is crashing, and the Fed has stepped away is ‘odd’ to say the least.

*  *  *

Full OCC RFP below:

Survival Kits RFP

 

Many who will read this work have been sitting patiently waiting for the house of cards to collapse.  For me personally, I confess the current maniacal financial bubble has gone on much longer than I ever imagined.  What did we miss?  Are we wrong or just early?  In my opinion, we were early, mathematically correct yet the “rules” changed.  For my part, I can say that I missed just how much “leverage” could be used to extend the game.  In the current instance, we are not even talking about garden variety leverage.  We live in a world where leverage is leveraged, leveraged again and again and again.  We have personal, public, and “private” (OTC) leverage. The garden variety leverage is bad enough as is sovereign leverage, but the real problem are derivatives piled on top of derivatives with collateral which in many cases no longer even exists.  Too much leverage in the past has always led to burst bubbles.  All bubbles eventually burst …and it looks like this one is bursting now.

While I originally thought about talking of Venezuela and Ukraine today, and making a comparison and wondering which one will bankrupt first, it dawned on me …the current bubble is busting right now!  From a big picture standpoint, the Fed was forced to stop QE because they were taking too much collateral from the system.  The baton was then passed to Japan because the Germans said “nien” to the ECB.  QE3 started in Sept. 2012 …which is exactly the point in time where the world of asset valuations was turned further upside down.  Call these last two years the “last gasp” or whatever you’d like, the world does not have the ability to reflate any further and in fact, the “bubble of all bubbles” looks to be deflating piece by piece, let me explain this.

Oil is arguably the most important commodity on the planet from a financial standpoint.  Oil has collapsed in price by over 40% in less than 3 months.  There are many repercussions from this, oil exporting nations are watching as their coffers run dry and  the economic activity from lower prices means lower individual employment.  From a financial standpoint the oil derivatives outstanding have already killed someone (we just don’t know who yet) and the “underpinning” of the dollar has been weakened.  My last point needs an explanation.  The dollar is otherwise known as the “petrodollar” because petro revenues have been for years recycled back into dollar assets, lower oil revenues means lower recycling.  This action had already begun while oil was still over $100 per barrel as less demand for dollar assets was evident.  Now, on top of less “willingness” on the part of petroleum exporters to recycle, they have less (or none) to recycle.  No problem because the Fed will just monetize you say?  Think again!

Look what is currently happening.  The reflation of the reflation of U.S. real estate is failing.  Oil has deflated 40%+++.  High yield credit is in an outright crash and already at record “wides” to Treasuries.  The euro and yen have deflated drastically …even against gold.  The Chinese stock market dropped over 5% last night, this is like a 900 point drop in the Dow.  They changed their “collateral rules” and now only AAA and AA credits can be used as collateral.  While speaking of China, let’s not forget their shadow banking system which has basically now been frozen solid.  Commodities across the board have been hammered lower while growth rates across the globe (except of course the U.S. as we lie about every economic report) have either slowed drastically or turned negative.  The “reflation” is clearly failing!  There is no way around it, we are watching a credit contraction unfold.

Yet, gold has bottomed?  How could this be?  Gold surely should be close to or even under $1,000 if you listen to the Dent’s and Armstrong’s of the world?  Let me put this together for you.  Everything is “controlled”.  By “controlled” I mean “price”.  The price of everything is controlled.  I could have said “hidden”.  The “hiding” process began in 2008-09 when the Fed took all sorts of toxic (insolvent) paper on to their balance sheet.  They did this to hide their values.  Yes, they did this to get liquidity into the banks but in my mind their primary reason was to get these assets off the market so they could not be used as “comps” are in real estate.  They carry these on their books at par when they could not even get .18 cents on the dollar when they tried to sell them.  Do you see?  This is where the scheme kicked into high gear.

Back to gold, how could it possibly be going higher if all of a sudden asset values are declining or deflating?  First, gold has also been “priced”.  Gold, more than any other asset (except silver) HAD to be “priced”.  It had to be suppressed because the numbers on the thermometer had to be altered to foster confidence.  As you know, I absolutely believe gold’s price has been “made” on the paper markets.  Nothing else could explain a falling price with increasing and greater demand than supply.  If other markets are being lost control of, then so are gold and silver, they are only moving away from being controlled and towards a natural price.

It looks like to me that “confidence” if it is not broken yet, will very soon because control is being lost in too many of these markets.  Was the price drop in oil a “control” measure by the U.S. to punish Russia?  I believe yes, this was “our” plan but not “THE” plan.  As I wrote a week ago, we may have thought it was our bright idea but I am sure the new Chinese/Saudi relations are as big of a factor, if not greater.  Because so many different markets now begin to tell a story opposite of the “official” story, it tells me that “control” is now beginning to slip.  If you doubt this, think to yourself  “why have we had extraordinary measures” for six years?  Why are we still six years later talking about recovery?  What happened to the “expansion” phase?  It’s like the Dutch boy with all of his fingers and toes in the dike, leaks are springing up everywhere and with each one more control is lost!  If I am correct and this is true then we will either see massively convulsive markets or an outright closure and re set of prices.

Please remember this, volatility will create more volatility just as a small fire or fires in a dry forest will spread and create more fire.  Volatility will create losses and losses will create bankruptcies.  It is these bankruptcies which will turn winners on the other sides of trades …also into losers.

Quite simply, we have lived through the greatest Ponzi scheme of all time where leverage of over 100 to (probably 1,000 to one when all is said and done) has been employed for control.  The recent volatility suggests that control is finally being lost.  If this is true and I firmly believe it is, we are on the doorstep of the worst financial panic event in all of human history.  The sad part is the humanity.  Only a small percentage of the global population ever even played in this game but everyone will be affected by it!

Bill Holter, Miles Franklin associate writer

THE GLOBALIZATION OF NATO

Author:  Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Clarity Press (2012)
Pages:  411 with complete index

Now Available: Order directly from Global Research

The world is enveloped in a blanket of perpetual conflict. Invasions, occupation, illicit sanctions, and regime change have become currencies and orders of the day. One organization – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – is repeatedly, and very controversially, involved in some form or another in many of these conflicts led by the US and its allies. NATO spawned from the Cold War. Its existence was justified by Washington and Western Bloc politicians as a guarantor against any Soviet and Eastern Bloc invasion of Western Europe, but all along the Alliance served to cement Washington’s influence in Europe and continue what was actually America’s post-World War II occupation of the European continent. In 1991 the raison d’être of the Soviet threat ended with the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. Nevertheless NATO remains and continues to alarmingly expand eastward, antagonizing Russia and its ex-Soviet allies. China and Iran are also increasingly monitoring NATO’s moves as it comes into more frequent contact with them.

Yugoslavia was a turning point for the Atlantic Alliance and its mandate. The organization moved from the guise of a defensive posture into an offensive pose under the pretexts of humanitarianism. Starting from Yugoslavia, NATO began its journey towards becoming a global military force. From its wars in the Balkans, it began to broaden its international area of operations outside of the Euro-Atlantic zone into the Caucasus, Central Asia, East Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian Ocean. It has virtually turned the Mediterranean Sea into a NATO lake with the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, while it seeks to do the same to the Black Sea and gain a strategic foothold in the Caspian Sea region. The Gulf Security Initiative between NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council seeks to also dominate the Persian Gulf and to hem in Iran. Israel has become a de facto member of the military organization. At the same time, NATO vessels sail the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. These warships are deployed off the coasts of Somalia, Djibouti, and Yemen as part of NATO’s objectives to create a naval cordon of the seas controlling important strategic waterways and maritime transit routes.

The Atlantic Alliance’s ultimate aim is to fix and fasten the American Empire. NATO has clearly played an important role in complementing the US strategy for dominating Eurasia. This includes the encirclement of Russia, China, Iran, and their allies with a military ring subservient to Washington. The global missile shield project, the militarization of Japan, the insurgencies in Libya and Syria, the threats against Iran, and the formation of a NATO-like military alliance in the Asia-Pacific region are components of this colossal geopolitical project. NATO’s globalization, however, is bringing together a new series of Eurasian counter-alliances with global linkages that stretch as far as Latin America. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have been formed by Russia, China, and their allies as shields against the US and NATO and as a means to challenge them. As the globalization of NATO unfolds the risks of nuclear war become more and more serious with the Atlantic Alliance headed towards a collision course with Russia, China, and Iran that could ignite World War III.


AVAILABLE TO ORDER FROM GLOBAL RESEARCH

The Globalization of NATO

Author:  Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
ISBN:  978-0-9852710-2-2
Clarity Press

Year:  2012
Pages:  411 with complete index

Price: $22.95

Click to visit the Global Research ONLINE STORE


Global Research Editor’s Note

We bring to the attention of our readers this important and timely book by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, award winning author, geopolitical analyst and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

This book analyses in detail the historical evolution of NATO’s post-Cold War mandate and military interventions.

The author takes the reader across the Eurasian geopolitical chessboard, from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, to Central Asia and the Far East, through the “military corridors” of the Atlantic Alliance, the Pentagon and the Washington think tanks, where the new post-Cold War military doctrine of global warfare is decided upon.

And from the formulation of military doctrine,  Nazemroaya examines NATO’s mandate, its military campaigns, focusing on the geopolitical regions where Global NATO has extended its Worldwide grip.

The book from the outset examines the economic dimension of NATO’s military undertakings, how the latter support the imposition of deadly macroeconomic reforms on sovereign countries. War and globalization are intricately related.  Economic globalization under the helm of Wall Street and the IMF is endorsed by a global military agenda.

Nazemroaya explores how dominant economic interests are supported by the “internationalization” of NATO as a military entity, which has extended its areas of jurisdiction from the European-North Atlantic region into new frontiers. “The Globalization of NATO” endorses and sustains the Worldwide imposition of neoliberal economic doctrine.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a man of tremendous courage and conviction. Having lived through the extensive NATO bombing raids of Tripoli at the height of NATO’s humanitarian” war on Libya, the lives of others within his entourage were always more important than his own life.

It is within this frame of mind and commitment, having witnessed firsthand the horrors of NATO’s “Responsibility to Protect”, that upon returning from Libya in September 2011, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya started working relentlessly on his manuscript.

While the conclusions of Nazemroaya’s detailed analysis and investigation are by no means optimistic, this globally military agenda can be reversed when people around the world, in the true spirit of internationalism and national sovereignty, join hands in dismantling the NATO killing machine and its corporate sponsors.

That is why this book is an important landmark, a handbook for action.

Through commitment, courage and truth at all levels of society, across the land, nationally and internationally, this process of “global militarization” described by Nazemroaya, can be forcefully reversed.

At this critical juncture in our history, “the criminalization of  war” is the avenue which must be sought, as a means to instating World peace.

Can the objective of World peace be achieved? In the words of former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, read Nazemroaya’s book “before it is too late.”

Michel Chossudovsky, Montreal, October 8, 2012


REVIEWS

“The Globalization of NATO by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is simply magnificent, erudite and devoid of the ethnocentrism to which one has become so accustomed from Western authors. The book deals with what doubtless are the most important and relevant issues of the day for all those committed to saving life and protecting Mother Earth from rampant human irresponsibility and crime. There is no other book that, at this particular time, I would most heartily endorse. I think Africans, Near Eastern peoples, Iranians, Russians, Chinese, Asians and Europeans generally and all the progressive Latin American countries of today will find a much needed reinforcement and support for their peaceful ideals in this excellent must-read book.”
MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, Foreign Minister of Nicaragua (1979-1990) and President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (2008-2009): Managua, Nicaragua.

“We are far away from the principles and objectives for which the United Nations was created and the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal stipulating that some state actions can be considered crimes against peace. Nazemroaya’s book, in addition to reminding us that the role of the United Nations has been confiscated by NATO, elaborates the danger that the North Atlantic Treaty represents to world peace.”
JOSÉ L. GÓMEZ DEL PRADO, Chairman of the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries (2005-2011): Ferney-Voltaire, France.

“Through carefully documented research, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya analyzes the historical and geopolitical evolution of NATO from the Cold War to the post 9/11 US- led “Global War on Terrorism.” This book is a must read for those committed to reversing the tide of war and imperial conquest by the world’s foremost military machine.”
MICHEL CHOSSUDOVSKY, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG): Montréal, Canada.

“A very timely book. Yes, US-led NATO is globalizing, like the US-led finance economy. No doubt also for it to protect the latter, the “free market.” It is a classical case of overstretch to help save the crumbling US Empire and Western influence in general, by countries most of whom are bankrupt by their own economic mismanagement. All their interventions share two characteristics. The conflicts could have been solved with a little patience and creativity, but NATO does not want solutions. It uses conflicts as raw material it can process into interventions to tell the world that it is the strongest in military terms. And, with the help of the mainstream media, it sees Hitler everywhere, in a Milosevic, a bin Laden, a Hussein, a Qaddafi, in Assad, insensitive to the enormous differences between all these cases. I hope this book will be read by very, very many who can turn this morbid fascination with violence into constructive conflict resolution.”
JOHAN GALTUNG, Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies and Sociology at the University of Oslo and Founder of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO), the Galtung- Institut, and the Transcend Network: Oslo, Norway.

“Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya’s prolific writings give us a comprehensive understanding of the character of the military thrust and it’s all out, no holds barred STRATEGIC plans and moves to invade, occupy and plunder the resources of nations, inflicting unprecedented barbaric acts on civilian populations. He is one of the prescient thinkers and writers of contemporary times who deserves to be read and acted upon by people with a conscience and concern for humanity’s future.”
VISHNU BHAGWAT, Admiral and Chief of the Naval Staff of India (1996-1998): Mumbai, India.

“This is a book really necessary to understanding the role of NATO within the frame of long-term US strategy. The Globalization of NATO by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya not only provides an articulate analysis on the Atlantic Alliance: it is the best modern text devoted to the hegemonic alliance. With this book Nazemroaya reconfirms his ability as a brilliant geopolitical analyst.”
-TIBERIO GRAZIANI, President of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Geopolitics and Auxiliary Sciences/L’Istituto di Alti Studi in Geopolitica e Scienze Ausiliarie (IsAG): Rome, Italy.

“Nazemroaya is an unbelievable prolific writer. What has often amazed many is his almost nonstop writing on extremely important issues for the contemporary world and his analysis about the globalization of NATO. What amazes many of us in other parts of the world are his seemingly limitless depth, breadth and the thoroughness of his knowledge that has been repeatedly appearing in his work. We are deeply indebted to Nazemroaya’s humble, tireless and invaluable contributions through his fearless, insightful and powerful writings.”
KIYUL CHUNG, Editor-in-Chief of The 4th Media and Visiting Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University: Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

“The Journalists’ Press Club in Mexico is grateful and privileged to know a man who respects the written word and used it in an ethical way without another interest other than showing the reality about the other side of power in the world. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya gives voice to the “voiceless.” He can see the other side of the moon, the side without lights.”
CELESE SÁENZ DE MIERA, Mexican Broadcaster and Secretary-General of the Mexican Press Club: Federal District of Mexico City, Mexico.

“With his very well documented analysis, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya has conducted a remarkable decryption of the strategies implemented by NATO – in the interests of the United States, the European Union and Israel – to expand its military grip on the world, ensure its control over energy resources and transit routes, and encircling the countries likely to be a barrier or a threat to its goals, whether it be Iran, Russia or China. Nazemroaya’s work is essential reading for those that want to understand what is being played out right now on the map in all the world’s trouble spots; Libya and Africa; Syria and the Middle East; the Persian Gulf and Eurasia.”
SILVIA CATTORI, Swiss political analyst and journalist: Geneva, Switzerland.

AVAILABLE TO ORDER FROM GLOBAL RESEARCH

The Globalization of NATO

Author:  Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
ISBN:  978-0-9852710-2-2
Clarity Press

Year:  2012
Pages:  411 with complete index

Price: $22.95

 

Click to visit the Global Research ONLINE STORE

Five years on from President Barack Obama scooping a Nobel Peace Prize, and the White House has taken anything but a Zen approach to foreign policy under his watch.

Here are the top 5 not-so-peaceful moves the laureate has made in the past half-decade.

-

1. Afghan Surge

Obama didn’t start the war in Afghanistan, but he certainly took a page from his predecessors playbook in trying to finish it. He recognized his precarious position at prize time.

Image: US President Barack Obama holds his Noble Peace Prize during the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony at the Oslo City Hall in Oslo on December 10, 2009.(AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

“But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the commander-in-chief of a nation in the midst of two wars,” he said after accepting the Nobel Prize in Oslo, Norway, on December 9, 2009.

While he said the war in Iraq was “winding down,” things in Afghanistan were just starting to heat up. A week before accepting the prize, Obama announced he was sending 33,000 more troops to Afghanistan as part of his “surge policy,” intended to beat back the Taliban and train Afghan security forces to take the country into their own hands. The following years would become the deadliest for both US troops and Afghan civilians. Again, it wasn’t Obama’s war. But then came…

Image: Reuters / Mark Wilson

2. Military strikes in Libya

Following UN Resolution 1973 on March 17, 2011, which called for “an immediate ceasefire” in Libya and authorized the international community to set up a no-fly zone to protect civilians, Obama, along with his NATO allies, would soon launch military strikes to turn the tide of the 2011 Civil War in the North African state. NATO conducted 9,700 strike sorties and dropped over 7,700 precision bombs. A Human Rights Watch report would go on to detail eight incidents where at least 72 Libyan civilians died as a result of the aerial campaign.

Image: A building used by Gaddafi troops to service vehicles is seen in rubble following a NATO airstrike in the town of Bir al-Ghanam in western Libya, August 8, 2011.(Reuters / Bob Strong)

But the real damage to overthrowing the Gaddafi regime came in the ensuing years, with the country descending into a civil war between Islamist forces and the weak post-revolutionary government. In August, Obama admitted his Libyan policy was a failure, but not because he chose to intervene militarily. Rather, he says the problem was that America and its European partners did not “come in full force” to take Gaddafi out. Although his then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to rejoice in his death, wryly noting “We came, we saw, he died.”

Image: A building used by Gaddafi troops to service vehicles is seen in rubble following a NATO airstrike in the town of Bir al-Ghanam in western Libya, August 8, 2011.(Reuters / Bob Strong)

3. Drone Wars in Yemen, Pakistan

Since the US first started targeting Yemeni militants in 2002, Obama has launched all but one of the 15 airstrikes and 101 drone strikes in the country. According to the web portal New America.net, which has meticulously complied data on the strikes, up to 1,073 people have been killed in the strikes. An estimated 81-87 of those killed were civilians, while the identity of another 31-50 remains unknown. But Yemen was just one prong in Obama’s so-called Drone War, though, as we shall see, it was the site of a game-changing incident.

Image: Map from newamerica.net showing location of drone strikes in Yemen.

Unlike in Yemen, drone strikes in Pakistan were in favor long before Obama came to power. A report conducted by Stanford and New York Universities’ Law schools found that between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed by drone strikes in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September 2012. Anywhere between 474 and 881 of those were civilians, and 176 were children. While Obama didn’t start the Pakistani drone war, he aggressively expanded it.

Image: Map from newamerica.net showing location of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Between 2004 and 2007, only 10 drone strikes were launched in Pakistan. The following year saw 36 such strikes, and 54 were launched in 2009.

Image: People gather at the site of a drone strike on the road between Yafe and Radfan districts of the southern Yemeni province of Lahj August 11, 2013.(Reuters / Stringer)

But 2010 would be the deadliest year by far, with 122 strikes launched and 849 people killed. He would go on to authorize 73 and 46 strikes in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Image: Pakistani Islamic students gather at a destroyed religious seminary belonging to the Haqqani network after US drone strike in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on November 21, 2013.(AFP Photo / SB Shah)

Following widespread opposition at home and abroad, in May 2013, Obama promised a new era of transparency to protect civilians, saying control of the program would be transferred from the CIA to the Pentagon. But…

4. Obama has a secret kill list

In February 2013, the Obama administration’s internal legal justification for assassinating US citizens abroad came to light for the first time. According to the Justice Department document, the White House has the legal authority to kill Americans who are “senior operational leaders,” of Al-Qaeda or “an associated force” even if they are not actively engaged in any active plot to attack the US.

In September 2011, a US drone strike in Yemen killed two American citizens: Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. The following month, a drone strike killed al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, who was born in Colorado.

 

The concept of the US president exercising the right to kill US citizens without the benefit of a trial has resonated throughout American culture.

Image: U.S. President Barack Obama.(Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)

In the comic-book-inspired film ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, the issue of targeted killings and “kill lists” features prominently in the plot.

5. Redrawing red lines

President Barack Obama drew a red line around Syria’s use of chemical weapons, pushing the international community to punish Damascus with military strikes following the August 21 Ghouta Attack.

Image: People, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, are treated at a hospital in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus August 21, 2013. (Reuters)

After the UK balked at airstrikes, Moscow and Washington took the diplomatic route, resulting in a historic deal that has seen Damascus abandon its chemical weapons stockpiles.

Image: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gesture, following meetings regarding Syria, at a news conference in Geneva September 14, 2013.( Reuters / Larry Downing)

But US-led airstrikes on Syria were only postponed. On August 8, 2014, the United States started bombing so-called Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq to protect embattled Kurds. The following month, the US would launch airstrikes against IS militants in Syria as well. Of all the US military interventions in recent years, the battle against the IS has been met with widespread approval. Still, Syria was the seventh country Obama has bombed in six years.

Image: An explosion following an air-strike is seen in the Syrian town of Kobani from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, in Sanliurfa province, October 29, 2014.(Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)

Quite a feat for a Nobel Peace Prize-winner.

The US Senate Torture Report: “Crime Without Punishment”

December 10th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

Longstanding US policy reflects business as usual. Ruthless and then some. With bipartisan support.

Democrats and Republicans largely in lockstep. Rhetoric alone separating them.

Supporting permanent wars of aggression. State terror at home and abroad. Abrogation of fundamental democratic principles.

Systematic breaches of international, constitutional and US statute laws. Supporting wealth, power and privilege exclusively. Letting popular needs go begging.

Burying hard truths. Substituting Big Lies. Including about torture remaining official US policy. At home and abroad.

In US prisons. Federal, state and local ones. Global black sites. In dozens of countries. Authorized by Bush and Obama.

Guantanamo the tip of the iceberg. Unknown thousands brutalized worldwide. Some murdered. Others traumatized into zombies.

Coverup and denial buries the worst of what remains ongoing. Sadism writ large.

The Senate Intelligence Committee torture report excluded what most needs explaining.

Stopped short of demanding accountability. Punishing wrongdoers to the full extent of the law.

Including CIA, Pentagon and administration officials. Congressional members supporting wrong over right.

Federal courts approving indefinite detentions and torture. Official Obama administration policy.

Torture is illegal at all times under all circumstances with no allowed exceptions. Earlier US Supreme Court rulings condemned force and other forms of ill-treatment.

Saying they constitute torture. Including harsh interrogations. Threats. Sleep and food deprivation.

Prolonged isolation. Beatings. Cruel and unusual punishment of any kind. Prohibited by America’s Eight Amendment.

Laws forbidding torture are jus cogens. Higher compelling laws. No nation may pass legislation permitting what’s impermissible.

No courts may justify the unjustifiable. Jus cogens prohibitions allow no immunity from criminal liability. Justice remains denied.

October 17, 2006 remains a day of infamy. The Military Commissions Act (MCA) became law. With bipartisan support.

Authorizing the unjustifiable. Tyranny by any standard. Torture. Other sweeping unconstitutional powers.

Detaining, harshly interrogating, and prosecuting alleged suspects and collaborators. Including US citizens.

Holding them indefinitely in military prisons. Charged or uncharged. Without trials. Denying habeas and other constitutional protections.

Obama continuing what Bush began. “Unlawful enemy combatants” became “unprivileged enemy belligerents.”

Lawlessness maintained. Guantanamo remains open. Despite Obama’s pledge to close it within 12 months of taking office.

His January 22, 2009, his Executive Order saying:

“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base (Guantánamo) and promptly to close detention facilities at Guantánamo, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice…”

Promising “immediate review of all” detainees within 30 days. “Humane standards of confinement.”

He lied. He’s a serial liar. Braking every major promise made. Guilty of the highest of high crimes. Continuing unabated.

Including torture. Other forms of ill-treatment and abuse. Enforced MCA lawlessness.

Sweeping police state powers. Scrapping habeas protection. For US citizens and non-citizens alike. Rights dating back to the 1215 Magna Carta.

MCA remains the law of the land. Stating “(a)ny person is punishable…who…aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures…” In so doing helps a foreign enemy.

Provides “material support” to alleged terrorist groups. Engages in spying. Commits other offenses previously handled in civil courts.

Targeted suspects are pronounced guilty by accusation. Innocence is no defense. No credible evidence needed.

Key provisions authorize secret detentions. Indefinite ones. With or without charges or trials.

Torture. Against anyone. By presidential diktat. Denying detainees international law protection. Constitutional ones for US citizens.

Letting presidents convene military commissions by diktat. Letting torture coerced confessions be used as evidence at trial. Despite Supreme Court decisions calling them illegal.

Permitting hearsay and so-called secret evidence. Manufactured out of whole cloth.

Congress and Obama authorized indefinite detentions. With or without charges or trial.

Permitting so-called enhanced interrogation methods. Torture by any standard. Targeting anyone based solely on suspicions, baseless allegations or none at all.

Potentially affecting anyone anywhere. US citizens and foreign nationals alike. Giving presidents unchecked authority. Rule by diktat.

Targeting anyone accused of potentially posing a threat. Subjecting them to harsh interrogation methods. Torture by any standard. Worse than anything at Abu Ghraib.

At currently operating global black sites. Methods still used include long term isolation (sensory deprivation).

Water-boarding. Beatings. Including with electric cables. Electro-shocking. Sleep deprivation.

Chained naked. In painful stress positions. In intense heat or extreme cold. For extended periods. Causing excruciating pain.

Hooded, slapped, kicked, punched and dragged naked down a long corridor. Bombarded with deafening sounds. Round the clock for weeks.

Thrown against walls forcefully. A procedure called walling. Ceiling suspension so toes barely touch the ground. Confinement in coffin-like boxes. Rectal hydration.

Force-feeding hunger strikers for justice. Causing excruciating pain. Torture by any standard.

To extract confessions, detainees told “(w)e’re not going to kill you. But we’re going to take you to the brink of death and brought back.” Repeatedly.

Earlier Supreme Court decisions ruled torture extracted confessions illegal. Brown v. Mississippi (February 1936) saying “(t)he rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand.”

Fisher v. State (November 1926) stating:

“Coercing the supposed state’s criminals into confessions and using such confessions so coerced from them in trials has been the curse of all countries. It was the chief iniquity, the crowing infamy of the Star Chamber (the notorious 15 – 17th century English court), and the Inquisition, and other similar institutions. The Constitution recognized the evils that lay behind these practices and prohibited them in this country… (W)herever the court is clearly satisfied such violations exist, it will refuse to sanction such violations and will apply the corrective.”

In other words, torture extracted confessions are illegal. Inadmissible at trial.

Evidence obtained through FOIA requests showed few Guantanamo detainees committed violent acts. Or other crimes.

Around 95% were sold for bounty – $5,000 per claimed Taliban; $25,000 for alleged Al Qaeda members.

Including young children. Tortured like adults. Suspects held at secret black sites. Isolated. Denied legal help. Or family contacts.

Obama continues what Bush began. ACLU director Anthony Romero saying earlier he “utterly failed” to uphold humanitarian and human rights laws.

Authorizing “indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as illegal military commissions…” Breaching his promise “to close Guantanamo…” Imprisoning scores of innocent victims.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) compiled damning evidence of Guantanamo detainees subjected to “torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”

Most detainees held in brutalizing solitary confinement. “Virtually none” ever charged or tried.

Many remaining prisoners are zombie-like. Resembling the living dead. Appalling treatment continues out of sight and mind. Media scoundrels say nothing.

UK-based Reprieve investigates, educates and litigates on behalf of injustice victims. Executive Director Clare Algar commented on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, saying:

It’s “a good start, but…far from the whole picture. The names of many victims of rendition and torture are absent… (N)ot least that of Khadija al Saadi, who was just 12 years old when she was ‘rendered’ along with her entire family to Gaddafi’s Libya, in a joint CIA – MI6 operation. She, her younger brothers and sister, and so many others are still owed an apology. Instead, those responsible for signing off on her abuse are feted on book tours and chat shows. We are still a long way from acknowledging the horrors of the CIA’s torture programme, and achieving real accountability. We already know the UK was up to its neck in the CIA’s rendition and torture programme. Yet the British Government continues to fight against real accountability in the UK courts, and have broken its promise to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry into (its) role in CIA torture. This is not the behaviour of a government committed to transparency and democratic accountability.”

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) legal director Baheer Azmy issued the following statement, saying:

“The long-delayed Senate report proves what we have been saying since 2006: that the CIA engaged in a sophisticated program of state-sanctioned torture, notable for its elaborate planning and ruthless application. We have witnessed firsthand the devastating human consequences in meetings with our clients at Guantanamo. The report also exposes the CIA’s lies about how the program operated and the utility of the information obtained: False claims about the usefulness of that information were used to justify and cover up monstrous crimes. We renew our demand for accountability for those individuals responsible for the CIA torture program. They should be prosecuted in US courts; and if our government continues to refuse to hold them accountable, they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction.”

ACLU executive director Anthony Romero issued a statement saying:

“This is a shocking report, and it is impossible to read it without feeling immense outrage that our government engaged in these terrible crimes. This report definitively drags into the light the horrific details of illegal torture, details that both the Bush and Obama administrations have worked hard to sweep under the rug. The government officials who authorized illegal activity need to be held accountable. The administration’s current position – doing absolutely nothing – is tantamount to issuing tacit pardons. Tacit pardons are worse than formal ones because they undermine the rule of law. The CIA’s wrongful acts violated basic human rights, served as a huge recruiting tool for our enemies, and alienated allies world-wide. Our response to the damning evidence in this report will define us as a nation. This should be the beginning of a process, not the end. The report should shock President Obama and Congress into action, to make sure that torture and cruelty are never used again. The Department of Justice needs to appoint a special prosecutor to hold the architects and perpetrators of the torture program accountable for its design, implementation, and cover-ups. Congress must assert its constitutional role in the system of checks and balances, and oversee the CIA, which in this report sounds more like a rogue paramilitary group than the intelligence gathering agency that it’s supposed to be. The president needs to use the moral authority of his office to formally recognize both the torture program’s victims and those in government who resisted this shameful and illegal policy.”

Torture extracted information produced no valuable intelligence. None! Former CIA directors George Tenet, Michael Hayden and others lied claiming otherwise. Calling innocent victims “terrorists.”

A joint statement saying in part:

“The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report…missed (an) opportunity to deliver a serious and balanced study of an important public policy question. The committee has given us instead a one-sided study marred by errors of fact and interpretation – essentially a poorly done and partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America after the 9/11 attacks.”

CIA operatives ignore fundamental rule of law principles. Remain unaccountable.

Rewarded for committing high crimes too serious to ignore. Gestapo-like and then some.

Revealing America’s dark side. Ruthless by any standard. Torture continuing out of sight and mind.

Accountability nowhere in sight. Obama forbids it. Justice remains denied.

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. 

When Police and Journalists Become “Media Partners”

December 10th, 2014 by Prof. James F. Tracy

Close to three weeks have passed since the mass shooting incident at Florida State University where three individuals were injured and Attorney Myron May perished in a hail of police gunfire.

Major news media consider the FSU shooting more or less a closed case. After all, journalists appear to have been spoon-fed a story that includes its own sort of “The End” moment. A madman with a gun showed up in a public place. Terrified witnesses were interviewed and their fearful testimony publicized. The shooter’s bizarre online statements were duly noted. Then, official pleas for “unity,” “strength,” and “healing” were unquestioningly parroted, and less than two days later the entire affair was capped off with a photo op candlelight vigil.

With the notion of a full scale, coordinated media production in mind, it should be unsurprising that law enforcement and news media now consider themselves to be “partners” in such a tragedy’s public presentation. A November 21 press statement from Tallahassee Police Public Affairs Officer David Northway to select news media reads:

As the investigation into the tragedy at FSU continues, the Tallahassee Police Department is releasing the original report written on the night of the event. This report is short in nature as it was written to be a “starting point” as the crime scene was very large and the multiple officers on scene that evening had many duties, including identifying victims, evacuating the students and maintaining scene security …

TPD would like to thank our media partners for their patience with the incident, in particular releasing the identity of the victims. This has allowed TPD to conduct interviews with some of them and begin to piece the facts of the case together.

Why would police refer to journalists as “media partners” in the affair? One of the first things a fledgling journalist learns in J-school is to take a skeptical and discerning stance in her/his reportage on public affairs and personages. Here Tallahassee police go so far as to suggest that the very publicity generated around the victims facilitated their interrogation.

The “media partners” remark is emblematic of the now common amalgamation of reporter and publicity hack. In the context of the similarly routine “active shooter” exercises committed in the presence of unwitting bystanders, it curiously echoes a 2008 plan for carrying out a Boston Marathon-related mass casualty drill, where officials emphasized “[w]orking with the media … Building a longstanding relationship with journalists and reporters,” the blueprint reads, “ensures that they get the right story and that they serve as a resource when needed.”[1]

Police Records Remain Withheld

Citing an “ongoing investigation” (Section 119.071(2)(c), Florida Statute) FSU and Tallahassee police departments immediately involved in the incident have yet to release any substantive documentation addressing what actually took place in the early morning hours of November 21, 2014 in front of FSU’s campus library.

Excepting press conferences and severely redacted police reports (here and here) virtually no forensic information has been made available to news media and the broader public on the incident. Such records would include closed-circuit video footage of the incident, photographs of evidence and crime scene, detailed officer and eyewitness accounts, and forensic details of May’s fatal injuries.

In a pro forma maneuver, the “active criminal investigative and intelligence exemption” of Florida’s public records law is being invoked by Tallahassee and FSU police as an inquiry by Leon County’s Attorney ensues over whether Tallahassee and FSU officers used inordinate force against May in responding to the incident.

“Traditionally, the State Attorney in this circuit has taken all officer-involved shootings to the Grand Jury,” Tallahassee Assistant City Attorney Richard Courtemanche remarked in response to a public records request, concluding that the Grand Jury will likely hear the case by December 17, at which time the records will be made public.

Although FSU police comprised the overall majority of officers responding to the event and present when May was fatally shot, the university was ambiguous concerning whether such records would be forthcoming. On December 8 FSU counsel recommended that MHB’s public records request be refiled “at a later date, at which time records may be available.”

Public Titillated, Ill-Informed

Law enforcement’s “media partners” exhibited a feeding frenzy in the hours and days following the FSU shooting, taking advantage of most every reportorial technique to sensationalize the tragedy. In keeping with the “mentally ill gunman” news frame, they have failed to seriously ponder whether inordinate force was deployed in dealing with a clearly distressed figure, not to mention the party’s repeated claims to be a target of electronic surveillance and harassment–well documented technologies and methods for compromising individuals.

In the unusual rash of mass shooting incidents over the past few years, the most prominent occurring in Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown, official investigations have been glaringly slipshod and opaque, leaving an array of unanswered questions and missing information.

In the Isla Vista and Las Vegas shootings in early 2014, for example, dubious crime scene investigations were conducted while police reports and related documentation still remains under wraps. As one mass shooting follows on the heels of another, the public is poorly served by a news media far more concerned with fleeting titillation than genuinely delving into what really happened in each instance.

Note

[1] James F. Tracy, “Obama’s FEMA Director Planned Boston Mass Casualty Event in 2008,” MemoryHoleBlog.com, May 21, 2013. Since the mid-2000s FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System and Digital Emergency Alert System, working in coordination with broadcast and social media, constitute an apparatus that can effectively control important elements of the broader public’s perceptions and sentiment. FEMA’s Integrated Capstone Event (ICE) is a comprehensive exercise involving a “multi-disciplined response” of federal, state, and local emergency responders reacting in unison to a common mass casualty event. According to FEMA, “Each scenario focuses on the foundations of CDP training—incident management, mass casualty response, and emergency response to a catastrophic natural disaster or terrorist act.” Shannon Arledge, “Integrated Capstone Event Merges Four Mass Casualty Response Courses,” FEMA.gov, last updated May 28, 2013. See also Tracy, “Mass Traumatization and the Body Politic,” MemoryHoleBlog.com, July 2, 2013.

The Secret History of Cannabis in Japan

December 10th, 2014 by Jon Mitchell

Today Japan has some of the strictest anti-cannabis laws in the world.

Punishment for possession is a maximum 5 years behind bars and illicit growers face 7-year sentences. Annually around 2000 people fall foul of these laws – their names splashed on the nightly news and their careers ruined forever. The same prohibition that dishes out these punishments also bans research into medical marijuana, forcing Japanese scientists overseas to conduct their studies.

For decades, these laws have stood unchallenged. But now increasing numbers of Japanese people are speaking out against prohibition – and at the heart of their campaign is an attempt to teach the public about Japan’s long-forgotten history of cannabis.1

“Most Japanese people see cannabis as a subculture of Japan but they’re wrong. For thousands of years cannabis has been at the very heart of Japanese culture,” explains Takayasu Junichi, one of the country’s leading experts.

According to Takayasu, the earliest traces of cannabis in Japan are seeds and woven fibers discovered in the west of the country dating back to the Jomon Period (10,000 BC – 300 BC). Archaeologists suggest that cannabis fibers were used for clothes – as well as for bow strings and fishing lines. These plants were likely cannabis sativa – prized for its strong fibers – a thesis supported by a Japanese prehistoric cave painting which appears to show a tall spindly plant with cannabis’s tell-tale leaves.

“Cannabis was the most important substance for prehistoric people in Japan. But today many Japanese people have a very negative image of the plant,” says Takayasu.

In order to put Japanese people back in touch with their cannabis roots, in 2001 Takayasu foundedTaima Hakubutsukan (The Cannabis Museum) – the only museum in Japan dedicated to the much-maligned weed.2

The museum is located in a log cabin 100 miles from Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture – an area long-associated with Japanese cannabis farming. The prefecture borders the Tohoku region which was devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake – but being inland from the tsunami and shielded by mountains from radioactive fall-out, it largely escaped the effects of the disaster.

The museum is packed with testimony to Japan’s proud cannabis heritage. There are 17th century woodblock prints of women spinning fibers and photos of farmers cutting plants. In one corner sits a working loom where Takayasu demonstrates the art of weaving. He points to a bail of cannabis cloth – warm in winter, cool in summer, it’s perfectly suited to Japan’s extreme climate.

“Until the middle of the twentieth century, Japanese cannabis farming used to be a year-round cycle,” explains Takayasu. “The seeds were planted in spring then harvested in the summer. Following this, the stalks were dried then soaked and turned into fiber. Throughout the winter, these were then woven into cloth and made into clothes ready to wear for the next planting season.”

Playing such a key role in agriculture, cannabis often appeared in popular culture. It is mentioned in the 8th century Manyoshu - Japan’s oldest collection of poems and features in many haiku and tanka poems. Ninjas purportedly used cannabis in their training – leaping daily over the fast-growing plants to hone their acrobatic skills.

According to Takayasu, cannabis was so renowned for growing tall and strong that there was a Japanese proverb related to positive peer pressure which stated that even gnarly weeds would straighten if grown among cannabis plants.

In a similar way, school songs in cannabis-growing communities often exhorted pupils to grow as straight and tall as cannabis plants. Due to these perceived qualities, a fabric design called Asa-no-ha based upon interlocking cannabis leaves became popular in the 18th century. The design was a favorite choice for children’s clothes and also became fashionable among merchants hoping for a boom in their economic fortunes.

Accompanying these material uses, cannabis also bore spiritual significance in Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous religion, which venerates natural harmony and notions of purity. Cannabis was revered for its cleansing abilities so Shinto priests used to wave bundles of leaves to exorcise evil spirits. Likewise, to signify their purity, brides wore veils made from cannabis on their wedding days. Today, the nation’s most sacred shrine - Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture – continues to have five annual ceremonies called taima dedicated to the nation’s sun goddess. However many modern visitors fail to connect the names of these rituals with the drug so demonized by their politicians and police.3

Early 20th century American historian George Foot Moore also recorded how Japanese travelers used to present small offerings of cannabis leaves at roadside shrines to ensure safe journeys. Families, too, burned bunches of cannabis in their doorways to welcome back the spirits of the dead during the summer obon festival.

Given this plethora of evidence that cannabis was essential in so many aspects of Japanese life, one question remains in doubt: Was it smoked?

Takayasu isn’t sure – and nor are many other experts. Historical archives make no mention of cannabis smoking in Japan but these records tends to focus primarily on the lifestyles of the elite and ignore the habits of the majority of the population. For hundreds of years, Japanese society used to be stratified into a strict class system. Within this hierarchy, rice – and the sake wine brewed from it – was controlled by the rich, so cannabis may well have been the drug of choice for the masses.

Equally as important as whether cannabis was smoked is the question of could it have been? The answer to that is a clear yes. According to a 1973 survey published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, THC levels of indigenous Japanese cannabis plants from Tochigi measured almost 4%. In comparison, one study conducted by the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Potency Monitoring Project found average THC levels in marijuana seized by U.S. authorities in the 1970s at a much lower 1.5%.4

Until the early 20th century, cannabis-based cures were available from Japanese drug stores. Long an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, they were taken to relieve muscle aches, pain and insomnia.

Meanwhile the Tohoku region was renowned for wild wariai kinoko (laughing mushrooms). In a country in love with its fungi – think shiitakemaitake and thousand-dollar matsutake - the sale of a range of psychedelic mushrooms was legal until 2002 when they were prohibited to improve the country’s international image prior to the Japan-South Korea World Cup.5

The prohibition against the Japanese cannabis industry also has a foreign origin.

According to Takayasu, the 1940s started well for cannabis farmers as the nation’s military leaders – like those in the U.S. – urged farmers to plant cannabis to help win the Asia-Pacific War.

“The Imperial navy needed it for ropes and the air force for parachute cords. The military categorized cannabis as a war material and they created patriotic war slogans about it. There was even a saying that without cannabis, the war couldn’t be waged,” says Takayasu.

However after Japan’s surrender in 1945, U.S. authorities occupied the country and they introduced American attitudes towards cannabis. Having effectively prohibited its cultivation in the States in 1937, Washington now sought to ban it in Japan. With the nation still under U.S. control, it passed the 1948 Cannabis Control Act. The law criminalized possession and unlicensed cultivation – and more than 60 years later, it remains at the core of Japan’s current anti-cannabis policy.

At the time, the U.S. authorities appear to have passed off the Act as an altruistic desire to protect Japanese people from the evils of drugs. But critics point out that occupation authorities allowed the sale of over-the-counter amphetamines to continue until 1951. Instead, several Japanese experts contend that the ban was instigated by U.S. petrochemical lobbyists who wanted to overturn the Japanese cannabis fiber industry and open the market to American-made artificial materials, including nylon.

Takayasu sees the ban in a different light, situating it within the wider context of U.S. attempts to reduce the power of Japanese militarists who had dragged Asia into war.

“In the same way the U.S. authorities discouraged martial arts such as kendo and judo, the 1948 Cannabis Control Act was a way to undermine militarism in Japan. The wartime cannabis industry had been so dominated by the military that the new law was designed to strip away its power.”

Regardless of the true reasons, the impact of the 1948 Cannabis Control Act was devastating. From a peak of more than 25,000 cannabis farms in 1948, the numbers quickly plummeted – forcing farmers out of business and driving the knowledge of cannabis cultivation to the brink of extinction. Today there are fewer than 60 licensed cannabis farms in Japan – all required to grow strains of cannabis containing minimal levels of THC – and only one survivor versed in the full cannabis cycle of seed-to-loom – an 84 year-old woman.

Simultaneously, a sustained propaganda campaign has cleaved the Japanese public from their cannabis cultural roots – brainwashing them into perceiving marijuana as a poison on a par with heroin or crack cocaine.

These campaigns might have stamped out all traces of Japan’s millennia-long history were it not for one factor – the resilience of the cannabis plants themselves. Every summer millions of these bushes – the feral offspring of cannabis legally cultivated before 1948 – pop up in the hills and plains of rural Japan. In 2006, 300 plants even sprouted in the grounds of Abashiri Prison in Hokkaido – much to the embarrassment of the powers-that-be.6

Every year, the Japanese police wage well-publicized eradication campaigns against these plants. On average, they discover and destroy between one and two million of them. But like so many other aspects of the drug war, theirs is a losing battle and the next year, the plants grow back in larger numbers than ever.

Due to the taboos surrounding discussions of cannabis, many people had been reluctant to condemn these police campaigns. But now critics are beginning to attack both the waste of public resources and the needless destruction of such versatile plants.

Nagayoshi Hideo, author of the 2009 book, Taima Nyuumon - An Introduction to Cannabis – argues for the wild cannabis plants to be systematically harvested and put to use as medicines, biomass energy and in the construction industries.

Funai Yukio – another advocate and author of Akuhou! Taima Torishimarihou no Shinjitsu - Bad Law! The Truth Behind the Cannabis Control Act (2012) – calls cannabis a golden egg for Japan. In a detailed breakdown of the potential economic benefits of legalization, he factors in savings from reduced policing and incarceration – concluding the country could reap as much as 300 billion dollars in the long term.

In a nation facing unprecedented economic problems, and at a time when marijuana legalization is advancing in the United States and other countries, it appears these arguments are striking a chord. Recently Japan slipped behind China as the world’s third economic power and the country owes more than ten trillion dollars in debt – double its GDP. These problems contribute to the human toll of an estimated 6.5 million alcoholics and a suicide rate that hovers at around 30,000 a year.

The legalization of cannabis could solve some of these problems. By luring young entrepreneurs back to the land, it could counter agricultural decline – particularly in post-earthquake Tohoku. It might improve the quality of care for thousands of cancer patients and halt the brain drain of scientists forced overseas to research medical cannabis. Legalization would also prevent the annual arrests of 2000 Japanese people – many in their 20s and 30s – whose lives are destroyed by their nation’s illogical and ahistorical laws.

In years to come, Taima Hakubutsukan might be seen as a true beachhead in this struggle.

“People need to learn the truth about the history of cannabis in Japan,” says Takayasu. “The more we learn about the past, the more hints we might be able to get about how to live better in the future. Cannabis can offer Japan a beacon of hope.”

Cannabis: What’s in a name?

Botanists usually divide the cannabis family into three broad categories – tall cannabis sativa, bushy cannabis indica and small cannabis ruderalis.However this simple taxonomy is often frustrated in practice by the interfertility of these three types, which allows them to be crossbred into limitless new varieties.

The desired properties of these hybrids tend to determine the name by which they are commonly known.

Marijuana, for example, usually refers to cannabis plants that are grown for ingestion for medical or recreational uses. Cannabis sativa is said to give users a feeling of energetic euphoria and can be prescribed for depression, whereas cannabis indica is apparently more sedating so can be used as a muscle relaxant or to treat chronic pain.

Hemp, is the name often applied to tall plants from the cannabis sativa category which are primarily grown for their strong fibres – but may also contain significant  levels of THC.

Most recently, the term industrial hemp has been coined in the U.S. to refer to cannabis plants which have been specially-bred to contain very low levels of THC (less than 1%) in order to conform to current drug laws. Today, many of Japan’s licensed cannabis farms grow a low-THC strain calledTochigi shiro which was first developed in the post-War period.

Jon Mitchell is a Welsh journalist based in Japan and an Asia-Pacific Journal Contributing Editor. He writes about human rights issues – particularly on Okinawa – and more of his work can be found at www.jonmitchellinjapan.com

Notes

1 Two of the best Japanese texts on the nation’s cannabis history are Nagayoshi Hideo, Taima Nyuumon (An Introduction to Cannabis), Gentosha, 2009 and Funai Yukio, Akuhou! Taima Torishimarihou no Shinjitsu (Bad Law! The Truth Behind the Cannabis Control Act), Business Sha, 2012. Although not updated since 2010, the most detailed English website about cannabis in Japan is at taima.org accessible here.

2 For more information on the museum, see here. For a Japanese interview with Takayasu about the origins of the museum, see here.

3 For more details about the religious role of cannabis in Japan, see here.

4 For the text of the UN report, see here; for the THC levels in the 1970s, see for example here.

5. CBC News, “Japan stuffs magic mushroom loophole”, May 14 2002. Available here.

6 Sydney Morning Herald, “Japanese jail bugged by marijuana plants”, August 29 2007. Available here.

After Belgian scholar Filip Reyntjens read what had been said about him at Rwanda’s Commission of Inquiry into “genocide denial” by the BBC, he offered to speak to them himself, but they refused to hear him, despite their own accusations that the BBC was biased and willing to listen to only one side.

Transcript

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: The government of Rwanda, a longstanding U.S. ally and military partner in Africa, has established a Commission of Inquiry to indict the British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC, for the crime of genocide denial in its recently aired documentary, “Rwanda’s Untold Story.” The government and its supporters have accused the BBC of bias and speaking only to one side.

This week, however, when Belgian scholar Filip Reyntjens offered to speak to the commission in response to those attacking him for what he told the BBC, they refused to speak with him. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Filip Reyntjens.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Filip Reyntjens, aren’t these Rwandan government attacks on you and the BBC typical of totalitarian expression, in that they presume that there is only one truth, that that truth is sacred, and everyone knows what it is, so anyone who even questions it is either evil or perverse or, in this case, a genocide denier?

Filip Reyntjens: Yes, that is correct, and every Rwandan, from President Kagame down to a peasant on a hill somewhere, they all know what that truth is. I mean it’s very consistent. They know what to say. Many people of course think otherwise, but they’re not allowed to express it openly.

This is the difference between what an American scholar calls the public transcript and the hidden transcript. So the public transcript is a transcript of history, for instance, or of what happens today, and that is the one that is put forward by the rulers, so to speak, by those who run the country.

And then there’s a hidden transcript of the oppressed, and one should realize that the oppressed in Rwanda are not just the Hutu. There are many Tutsi who feel oppressed as well. We should, I think, abandon this dichotomist or Manichean view of Hutu vs. Tutsi. Many Tutsi suffer from this dictatorship as much as Hutu do.

KPFA: Wasn’t one of the most widely held beliefs that you helped to upend in the BBC documentary the belief that Gen. Paul Kagame and his RPF army stopped a genocide?

Filip Reyntjens: Well, what we can see is – and I mentioned this in a piece I published in the African Arguments website – that the main concern of Paul Kagame and the RPF was not to stop the genocide. It was to win the war. And I quote extensively from General Dallaire’s memoirs. Dallaire was the commander of the UN Peacekeeping operation there. And Dallaire, on several occasions, went to see Kagame and said, “Listen. These people, these Tutsi there, your troops are about 20 kilometres from where those Tutsi are assembled and they will be killed, so please intervene and rescue these people.”

And Kagame would routinely answer, “I’m sorry. I can’t do that because I’ve got a war to win.” And he even uses the expression “sacrifice.” I mean he says, “Well, there are sacrifices in every war and I imagine these are the sacrifices of this war.” So he accepted massive slaughter of Tutsi, of his own kinsmen, on the altar, so to speak, of military victory.

The main concern of Paul Kagame and the RPF was not to stop the genocide. It was to win the war.

KPFA: Kagame himself has been hugely empowered by the genocide or, rather, the dominant narrative about the genocide, hasn’t he?

Filip Reyntjens: That is part of the RPF narrative, of course. That the RPF put an end to genocide, according to their narrative, has been a major asset, a trump card in Kagame’s hands. No doubt about that. And this is coupled with the idea that the international community did not do anything.

Now those two things are what I call the “genocide credit.” The genocide, for Kagame, has been and to some extent still is today an element that he constantly uses to, for instance, deflect attention from his own human rights abuse.

KPFA: A number of writers have said that Kagame deliberately sacrificed the Tutsi to create the moral justification for his minority dictatorship, because he knew that he couldn’t win the democratic, multi-party election scheduled in the Arusha Peace Accords. There’s even a book titled, “How Paul Kagame Deliberately Sacrificed the Tutsis.”

Filip Reyntjens: I don’t think Kagame had a real interest in having so many Tutsi killed, but I think his interest was to have Hutu extremists conducting a genocide live on television, and we’ve all seen those images on television, of a genocide conducted almost live. This of course gave him the moral upper hand, so to speak.

Filip Reyntjens

And this very much reinforced the good-guys-bad-guys story. I mean the bad guys were there. You could see them on television. So the other guys had to be the good guys. I’ve been saying almost from Day One, that this was not the story of good guys and bad guys. It was a story of bad guys. Period.

KPFA: Here in the West, we can talk about how brutally the Rwandan police state punishes anyone who contradicts its false heroic narrative about stopping genocide, but, until the BBC broadcast “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” that false narrative, the same false narrative, was the one reprinted or retold by every major corporate or public broadcasting outlet in the West for the past 20 years.

Filip Reyntjens: Yes, that is correct. The BBC has done something here that was taboo. The title of the documentary is “[Rwanda’s] Untold Story.” Actually, it’s not an untold story. The story has been told on several occasions, but it’s not the dominant narrative.

KPFA: And that was Filip Reyntjens, Belgian scholar and professor at the University of Antwerp. Reyntjens also said that Rwanda is very dependent on foreign aid, and the loss of foreign aid is the greatest danger it faces from criticism in the West.

For PacificaKPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, CounterpunchColored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening NewsKPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at [email protected]. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.

Rwanda’s Untold Story Documentary from RDI-Rwanda Rwiza on Vimeo.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been negotiated in secret throughout the Obama administration.

They continue to keep the text secret and classified. This week TPP trade negotiators are in Washington, DC. 

The 12 countries have been unable to reach agreement as the United States demands extreme corporate power undermining the sovereignty of nations.

Popular Resistance Light Brigade at the offices of the US Trade Representatives  building in Washington, DC on December 7, 2014.. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

Right: Popular Resistance Light Brigade at the offices of the US Trade Representatives building in Washington, DC on December 7, 2014. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber of Popular Resistance.

The Obama administration has also been stalled on trade on the homefront as Congress has refused to give the administration fast track trade promotion authority. Fast track would allow the President to sign the agreement before it went to Congress and would restrict Congress’ power to review it. It would ensure Congress plays virtually no role in regulating trade as is its constitutional mandate under the Commerce Clause.

On Sunday night Popular Resistance began the week of negotiations with a Light Brigade putting messages on the US Trade Representative’s office in Washington, DC.

Sit-in at front door of USTR Dec 8 2014. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber.

Left: Sit-in at front door of USTR Dec 8 2014. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber.

On Monday morning members of Popular Resistance held a ‘Sit-in to End the Secrecy’ on the front steps of the USTR office . As Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators and USTR staff arrived for their first day of meetings this week, demonstrators demanded that they stop hiding the text of the trade agreement and instead make it available to the public telling them “secret negotiations are anti-democratic.”

Several activists tried twice to deliver an open letter signed by more than 1,000 people to the trade ambassador but were met with an aggressive removal from the lobby by security personnel. Richard Ochs, a 76 year old former steelworker from Baltimore, was pulled down the stairs and ejected from the building. Ochs exclaimed “I thought that as citizens we had the right to petition the government. This shows how afraid they are of transparency.”

Cassidy Regan, trade organizer for Popular Resistance, remarked that after public pressure the European Union recently agreed to release its negotiating proposals for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to the public. The EU wanted to release the full text of the agreement but was blocked by the United States. “The trade agreements being drafted in secret threaten everything from worker rights and wages to public health and access to medicines. The negotiators keep texts hidden because these agreements aren’t made with the public in mind — instead, they serve to give transnational corporations further power to exploit people and the planet for the sake of profit. The unprecedented lack of transparency denies communities’ right to know policies that could impact so many aspects of our lives, for generations to come.”

People gather outside of USTR on December 8, 2014. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber.

Right: People gather outside of USTR on December 8, 2014. Photo by Elias Weston-Farber.

After several hours of blocking the front entrance and disrupting business by chanting, singing and banging on a cow bell, pots and blowing whistles, the protesters were joined by close to 200 more people from Public Citizen, Citizens Trade Campaign, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, National Family Farm Coalition, Friends Committee on National Legislation and labor unions such as the Teamsters, Communication Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and United Students Against Sweatshops.

The crowd sang and chanted. They had a spirited march around the block carrying banners, signs and big red balloons that said “There will be no fast track.” They let the negotiators know that the American people were united in their opposition to fast track and predicted  Congress would not pass fast track legislation. .

This is the first of several days of negotiations. More actions are expected throughout the week. Online actions are being organized through ReleasetheText.com.

The movement of movements bringing together people concerned about the environment, labor, food and water, Internet freedom, energy policy, banking regulation and so many other issues has been able to stop the rigged corporate trade agreement being pushed by the Obama administration. A critical test will come in the coming months when the new Congress is put in place. We are confident that we continue to work in unity to stop these corporate trade agreements that we can stop fast track and prevent these treaties from becoming law.

In an openly-confrontational appearance with leading American supporters of Israel in Washington this weekend, Israel’s economics minister, Naftali Bennett, dismissed global threats of boycott criticisms of Israel, referring to “a little thing called the rest of the world.” He said that if Europe cuts Israel off, Israeli products might stop working and Europeans will have heart attacks.

The warning about heart attacks came in a defiant response to a concerned question from Haim Saban, a huge supporter of Israel who has funded the Clintons [Video below, Minutes 59 and 1:01].

Saban: “Are you willing to cut commercial ties with Europe, because this is what’s going to happen if you have your way in annexing Area C [most of the occupied West Bank]. Can you afford disconnecting from Europe?”

Bennett, the leader of the rightwing Jewish Home Party, who is thought to have a real chance to become Israel’s next Prime Minister, said that he does not envision annexing Area C tomorrow.

Things take time. I’m not suggesting overnight… We have to change the direction. It’s already working in Israel, now we have only a little thing called the rest of the world. But you have to start somewhere.

Regarding cutting commerce? Look, if today you pressed the button, and you stopped using Israeli products, you wouldn’t wake up in the morning because the chip in your cell phone doesn’t work because it’s made in Israel. You wouldn’t get to work because you don’t have Waze. You might have a heart attack because the stent in your heart doesn’t work. The vegetables you eat would be lousy because you’re not getting Netafim [irrigation system]. Your account would be hacked and I could go on and on.  Israel needs to be indispensable, and it is. And what we’re good at, we’re not good at selling products. We export innovation.

It wasn’t clear just what Bennett meant by these threats, but he implied that Israeli-made stents and chips that are now working would cease to work the morning after “you pressed the button” of boycott. Bennett dismissed the threat of European boycotts. “We’ve had boycotts since our inception… [When he was a boy] we didn’t have Pepsi in Israel… If anyone boycott us, they’re anti-semtiic.”

Bennett spoke at the Saban Forum’s annual conference on the US and Israel. The conference is part of the special relationship between Israel and the U.S.; it is funded by Saban, an ardent Zionist and Democratic Party giver who lately palled around with Republican warchest Sheldon Adelson, musing about buying the New York Times together to support Israel.

Bennett has opposed the creation of a Palestinian state and was often harshly treated in the appearance. Martin Indyk, a longtime Israel supporter, opened the talk by saying he was going to “kick Naftali’s ass,” audience members expressed open discomfort with Bennett’s defiance of the world, and another longtime Israel supporter, Dennis Ross, said Bennett was not talking to Palestinians. While Brookings Institution fellow Khaled Elgindy said that Bennett was trampling Palestinian rights.

What in the last 100 years of this conflict and the history of the conflict would suggest to you or lead you to believe that Palestinians would accept the money, the roads, establishing their own curricula [that you are offering them]… as opposed to something more fundamental such as their rights? You don’t want Palestinians as citizens of Israels. There’s only one other way for Palestinians to have the right to self determination, and that is through a state of their own… Can you make the case… for why the Palestinians are the only group of humans in the world that do not have the right to self-determination?

Bennett responded that the situation was tragic, but that Palestinians deny the existence of a Jewish state, thereby threatening his children’s survival– and said that there was enough land on the highway medians from Atlanta to Columbus GA to give Palestinians a state 17 times over, but not enough in the West Bank for them to have a state.

Saban thanked Bennett for serving in an elite unit of the Israeli army, but he also said, “You and I live in different bubbles and in different realities.”

Bennett is having a rough trip in the United States. He was sharply questioned by Joe Scarborough this morning on Morning Joe, and the Israeli press is highlighting his differences with former peace processor Martin Indyk.

If you watch Bennett’s performance at the Saban Forum, he seems to swagger even as the audience is dead silent; and he seems not to notice the audience’s discomfort. For instance, speaking of his qualifications to be prime minister of Israel, Bennett emphasized contempt for the world’s opinion as a prerequisite for the office.

I think in our very difficult situation there is one quality that is almost more important than the rest. And that is that internal spine. I’d buy even less on intelligence…. The immense pressures– like Martin is presenting, the whole world is going to be against us… When you look at Israel’s history, ultimately, the big distinction was the people having that inner spine.

He also defended the highly-controversial bill to define Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.This bill has been widely opposed by American supporters of Israel. As Bennett spoke in favor of the bill, you could hear a pin drop.

He said that basic laws giving rights to all citizens of Israel were passed in the dead of night during the Shamir government (86-92) and with these laws “you only have the human-rights piece and not the Jewish piece.” Under those laws, Bennett said, Palestinians could sue to be included on the free Birthright trips to Israel, and they might win the case; and Palestinians could demand to exercise the right of return to their homes, as Jews exercise the law of return to move to Israel.

He went on to deride former Supreme Court justice Aharon Barak, a hero of liberal Zionists, for knocking down a host of laws that denied Palestinian rights.

Bennett’s appearance will surely catalyze the growing distance between American supporters of Israel and the rightwing political establishment of the state. Even Haim Saban is uncomfortable with Bennett, along with Establishmentarians Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk. If as seems likely the Israeli government continues to lurch rightward, we’re going to see some real tumult inside the special relationship, leaving room for politicians to be openly critical of Israel. Maybe almost as critical as the members of the Israel lobby who spoke up at the Saban Forum.

A new law will place restrictions on scientists with clear knowledge on GMO dangers, and create room for experts with overt financial ties to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries affected by EPA regulations. H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, is an earthquake rumbling through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Board.

This means that the EPA can no longer be advised on their own research regarding GMOs or pharmaceutical drugs like antibiotics or vaccines. Can you say circular reasoning, or insular logic? This ‘reform’ means industry-appointed experts will determine what is ‘safe’ and what is not safe for the public, and that the scientists with the most knowledge about the risks pertaining to GMOs and pharmaceuticals will be gagged.

As usual, is the classic political bait and switch, being touted as a means for ‘more transparency.’ But the White House, which threatened to veto the bill, said it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

As the Lindsay Abrams points out:

“. . . the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research.”

This also means that while Monsanto hides the toxicity results on RoundUp Ready GMO crops and experts call GMO testing woefully inadequate, we now have yet another layer of bureaucracy to protect Big Biotech. With all the anti-science claims made by biotech toward individuals and non-profits who claim GMOs are not safe, this is the exact pot calling the kettle black.

“In other words,” says Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

If there was ever a question that our government has been completely infiltrated by extremely questionable interests, let it be known that the stakes have just been raised.

Ferguson Killing Illuminates How Sociopaths in Power Act

December 10th, 2014 by William Boardman

The same night the manipulated Ferguson grand jury delivered the unjustifiable  non-indictment sought by a prosecutor nursing his own childhood hurts, the lawyers for homicidal cop Darren Wilson issued a dishonest statement in Wilson’s name, concluding with this falsehood:

‘Moving forward, any commentary on this matter will be done in the appropriate venue and not through the media.’

At the same time the Wilson team was making up this statement, they were also running an auction with TV networks to get the most money for Wilson’s first “exclusive” interview. NBC dropped out of the bidding when the price rose into the “high six figures.” Less then 24 hours and close to a million dollars after his lawyers said he would not comment “through the media,” this unindicted killer was at ABC News getting a toadying interview from George Stephanopoulos. The full edited version runs about 46 minutes of mostly fawning deceit and truthlessness.

This is the way our world works these days, when you have commercial television determined to get ratings for any popular fraudulence, when you have mercenary “journalists” ready to follow any unbelievable script their bosses buy, and especially when you have lawyers who are determined to get paid by any means available. The Ferguson story is a perfect storm of corrupt practices, none of them admitted, much less reported accurately. From the outside, it looks like ABC paid big bucks to affirm the corrupt practices of a Missouri prosecutor playing to race hatred, even if that meant the network was setting up its own employee as an after-the-fact accessory to state-sanctioned manslaughter.

Looked at honestly from the inside, these institutions would likely appear even more horrifying to a morally aware observer, but to their inmates they may well seem normal. Corruption like this tends to be situational, not pervasive. The participants spend most of their time acting like “solid citizens,” creating a context that always leaves room for the required corrupt exception, the necessary evil, the false choice among self-limited “bad” options, the self-serving situation in which “we had no choice.” That is always a lie. There is always another choice.

Currently such behavior is called “sociopathic.” In the past, the clinical level of this condition has gone under such descriptive terms as “guiltlessness,” “psychopathic inferiority,” and “moral imbecility.” In recent decades, the United States appears to have been increasingly controlled by the moral imbeciles among us, including at least the three most recent presidents (but that’s for another piece).

No one coerced Americans to choose to enslave other human beings

Ferguson was a corrupt paradigm of a corrupt nation long before a homicidal cop executed an unarmed black teenager. Polling appears to show that a majority of Americans is reasonably pleased with the turn of events there so far. Among white people, a much greater majority is pleased. In other words, when Americans get played by the mainstream media on stories like Ferguson, most of them seem to like it (if they actually notice). ABC News knows this about its American  audience, ABC News (like all other network news) has always known this. ABC News pandered to power and popular delusion with similar corrupt reporting on the Viet-Nam War (which, when I suggested a different choice, got me fired).

Common to the performance of all these personal and institutional corruptions is a behavior that appears sociopathic, in the sense that the performers show little sign of having an active conscience. It is the absence of conscience that defines the sociopath, as discussed by Martha Stout in her book, “The Sociopath Next Door” (2005, Broadway Books). As Stout observed people’s reactions to September 11, 2001, including irrational enthusiasms for war, torture, suspension of civil liberties, a terrified search for homeland “security,” she found herself asking: “Will the shameless minority really inherit the earth?” Without naming the president at the time, or members of his administration, she began her book this way:

“Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.

Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.”

Does this mean that either Wilson or Stephanopoulos is a sociopath? No, but there’s no way of being certain, short of the clinical evaluation neither will probably ever have. The point is not to label them, but to observe how some of their behavior is both commonplace and consistent with sociopathology. Stout says one in 25 Americans is a sociopath, that they come with all degrees of intelligence, lucidity, ambition, and other human qualities, and that they hide well in plain sight.

Wilson expresses no remorse, no second thoughts, no empathy

Under his present circumstances, with other possible investigations pending, there is no reason to expect Darren Wilson to display the full range of human emotion on national television. But even just a little apparently real emotion would have helped persuade us of his fundamental mental health and basic humanity. For Darren Wilson to go on national television as he did and express no emotion about anything, is more than passing strange and reinforces the notion that this appearance was all about staging a performance designed to avoid accountability.

Asked again and again in different ways to express any pity or sorrow or understanding of how others might feel, Wilson came up empty. After 45 minutes of dead-voiced repetition, Wilson had achieved no further illumination of the Ferguson story or his own central role in it. Wilson ended up expressing the same, numb perspective/cover story that he’s expressed for months:

“I just did my job. I did what I was paid to do and that was my job. I followed my training, the training took over, the training led me to what happened, I maintained the integrity of this investigation, that’s it.” (Blackout, as the interview tape ends.)

I just did my job. When you “just do your job” and you end up killing an unarmed person with a 12-shot fusillade, doesn’t that suggest something is wrong somewhere? It’s an obvious question, but Stephanopoulos didn’t ask it, nor did he ask any follow-up, clarifying questions about what Wilson thought his job actually was. Stephanopoulos never asked any version of the simplest possible question: isn’t it your duty, first, to do no harm.

Stephanopoulos asked a tepid question about other, non-specific people accusing Wilson of racism, which Wilson impassively denied: “They are wrong.  You can’t perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you. I help people, that’s my job.” The interviewer might then have asked something like: if your job is to help people, how did you do your job with Michael Brown? Stephanopoulos went a different route, changing the subject to the racial nature of the neighborhood (he called it an “anti-police neighborhood). This gave Wilson the opportunity to call it a “high crime area” and talk stereotypically – as well as counterfactually – about drugs, guns, burglaries and assaults, neatly reinforcing his context for being afraid in broad daylight.

The shooting took place on a dead end street

When Wilson first came upon Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson, Wilson was on his way out of a cul de sac. He was not on a heavily-traveled public roadway, but on Canfield Drive, one of the quiet streets more like driveways in the midst of a housing complex. (Canfield Drive matters so little to the city’s traffic circulation that, after the killing, police shut the roadway down, inconveniencing almost no one but the people who lived there.) Wilson was leaving a residential neighborhood, on his way to get lunch. And it was Saturday, around noon.

By his own testimony, Wilson did not know the young men in the street. He had no idea when he first saw them that they might be connected to any theft of cigarillos. All he knew, though he didn’t put it this way, was that he saw two young black men walking toward him down the middle of the road, presenting a cause for caution, but not even blocking traffic. Wilson drove slowly up to them and stopped abreast of Johnson.

This is the beginning of the first beat of the three-beat event, and it is both the least discussed and most provocative beat in the event. This is the beat that, played differently, leaves everyone still alive and relatively well (the cigarillo theft would have remained an issue). All that needed to happen at this moment was for Wilson to keep driving and leave those kids behind on a residential street where they were doing no harm and getting close to home. Worst case, they were kind of jaywalking down the middle of a street where people were supposed to be driving slowly anyway. They were doing no harm.

I just did my job. Has anyone asked Wilson: was it your job to go after jaywalkers on a little-travelled residential roadway when they present no threat and are causing little if any harm? Stephanopoulos didn’t ask that, he didn’t even seem to understand that there was a question to ask. Wilson doesn’t seem to have asked himself that question, either, then or later. And he hasn’t been asked what his training dictated as the best thing for him to do after he stopped beside Johnson and learned that Johnson and Brown were “almost to our destination.” In other words, he knew with reasonable certainty that they would be off the almost empty street very soon. He could have gone on to lunch, confident that he had done all that was necessary for public safety under the circumstance. Instead, what he did next set off the calamitous sequence of events. First Wilson called for back-up. Then Wilson backed up.

“To Serve and Protect” should mean: first, don’t make things worse

According to Wilson on ABC News, he had seen the cigarillos and had connected that with the fragmentary radio report he said he’d heard earlier. “It all sort of clicked then,” Wilson told Stephanopoulos, who just listened. Stephanopoulos did not ask Wilson why he told St. Louis County detectives a different story on August 10 (with Wilson’s lawyer present). Then, less than 24 hours after the event, Wilson made no mention of anything “clicking” about the theft report. “Prior to backing up I did call out on the radio” for another car, Wilson told the detectives. He didn’t say why he called for backup and they did not ask. (Did they do their job?)

Wilson’s supervisor has said Wilson had no knowledge of the cigarillo theft when he encountered Johnson and Brown.

I just did my job. I did what I was paid to do… I followed my training…. This suggests that Wilson was trained to turn a near non-event into a deadly confrontation, since that’s what he did step by step. There’s no reason to believe that, at that point, Wilson had any basis to think that he was dealing with anything more than two recalcitrant teenage jaywalkers who would soon reach their destination on a little traveled street. He had already decided not to go to lunch, the most peaceable choice. He had already called for backup, which he says he expected within a minute (backup apparently arrived in about 60 seconds). He could have just stayed where he was and kept the two young men under observation as they slowly walked away. Or he could have slowly followed them at a discreet distance.

We don’t know why he chose not to take a less provocative course of action. And we don’t know what had already been said. And we don’t know how racially charged the words had been. We don’t know why Wilson decided to back up and ratchet up the confrontation. All we know is that he did back up, and that he did so very aggressively. And he did so in a hurry. What was Wilson’s hurry? Stephanopoulos didn’t ask. Stephanopoulos even got the timeframe wrong.

In the one minute it took backup to arrive on the scene, Wilson pursued and killed Brown. Wilson first backed his police cruiser up to Brown and Johnson, swinging it close to them and across their path. The cruiser was close enough that when Wilson tried to open his door, it either hit Brown or Brown pushed it shut. This is the beginning of the second beat of the event, although most accounts treat it as the first beat of a two-beat event. The elements of this second beat are familiar as reported: backing up, blocking the way, pushing the door, grappling at the window, Wilson firing two shots, Brown wounded and running away. Precisely how these things happened is uncertain. There are several conflicting accounts and no single, complete and credible account. Wilson, in his grand jury testimony (p.211) has Brown holding cigarillos in the hand with which he’s hitting Wilson. That seems unlikely on one hand, but on the other, it would help explain why Wilson had no serious injuries, nothing cut or bleeding. “Hulk Hogan” holding cigarillos doesn’t do that much damage apparently. All accounts seem to agree that this beat ended with Michael Brown running away, leaving Wilson in his cruiser with eleven bullets remaining in his .40 mm handgun.

Again, Wilson chose to escalate rather than wait patiently and safely

I just did my job… I followed my training, the training took over, the training led me to what happened…. If this is literally true, it suggests that Wilson went into some sort of fugue state in which rational thought was no longer an option. And if this is true from another perspective, it raises the further question of why anyone would get the sort of training that turns you into an automaton when you need to be alert, flexible, and careful. Stephanopoulos did not raise these questions, he didn’t ask any questions about how Wilson’s “training” led him to pursue and kill a wounded unarmed man. He didn’t come close to asking why Wilson chose to execute Michael Brown even though Wilson had the near-certain knowledge that backup was only about half a minute away.

Wilson’s version of events relies for its justification on others believing he was in reasonable fear for his own life – even though Wilson himself says he was in an unreasoning state. For his justification to be believable, Wilson has to be a head case. Time after time, his behavior consistent with uncontrolled rage, Wilson chose to make the situation more and more dangerous. Wilson wants us to believe that, even though he had already been afraid for his own survival, he felt the need to put himself at risk once again in chasing Brown. Yet he refuses to take any responsibility for the death that resulted from his hot pursuit of a “dangerous” jaywalker.

“I just did my job. I did what I was paid to do and that was my job.  I followed my training, the training took over, the training led me to what happened, I maintained the integrity of this investigation, that’s it.”

I maintained the integrity of this investigation, that’s it. That’s a strange, mid-sentence shift of focus from the events on Canfield Drive to the aftermath of those events. “This investigation” is all about Wilson’s use of deadly force. “This investigation” was a secret process relating to public events. “This investigation,” from the start, was all about vindication of the killer, starting with police leaks to demonize the victim. Time and again Stephanopoulos asked Wilson why he told the grand jury Michael Brown was a “demon.” Time and again Wilson’s non-answer was some variation on Brown’s seeming to have “such high level of intensity.” Neither Wilson nor Stephanopoulos came close to talking about another reality: that it was necessary for Brown to be a “demon” if Wilson was to evade indictment.

The short interview clip that ABC News chose to run on its Sunday show November 30 highlighted the lazy, soft questioning Stephanopoulos used throughout the interview, instead of asking direct questions like “what happened?” or “what did you think?” Even the Sunday host’s intro to the clip played into the Wilson cover story:  “Darren Wilson told George, in their exclusive interview, that what happened on that night in August was the result of his training.” It wasn’t “that night,” it was noontime, but night is scarier and offers more support to Wilson’s claim to fear. Stephanopoulos proceeded like this:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You describe, I guess, the fear you were thinking. You thought he was coming after you.

WILSON: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: On the street. But is any part of you angry?

WILSON: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No anger?

WILSON: No. There was no time for anger. Like I said, training took over. It was survival mode.

Asking questions that can be answered with a monosyllable is an excellent technique to allow an interviewee to avoid saying anything harmful to his self-interest. It’s a technique that is unlikely to produce any interesting answers, but allows the interviewee to stick to the script that your network has just bought for close to a million dollars.

The rest of the ABC News Sunday clip illustrates another way Stephanopoulos pandered to his guest. Notice how, when Wilson answers with two sentences, still completely on script, Stephanopoulos immediately intervenes, avoiding the risk of Wilson’s going off script and saying too much:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Because some of the witnesses have said they thought you were out of control, that somehow you had snapped.

WILSON: That would be incorrect. There was never — the only emotion I’d ever felt was fear and then it was survival and training.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the training kicked in?

WILSON: The training took over. It didn’t just kick in, it took over.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And in your training, there was no option in those moments when you were faced with Michael Brown but to shoot?

WILSON: Correct.

“Clean conscience,” no second thoughts, no remorse… 

Later, Stephanopoulos helped Wilson out some more with a non-question: “It does really seem like even from the moment this all went down in those 90 [sic] seconds that, um, you are, you, you have a very clean conscience.” Wilson’s whole response was a non-verbal “uh-huh.”

Stephanopoulos went on: “And so there, there’s this way, and you would imagine that when you go back in that time and you think, what happened there, what, what could I have done?  Uh, it, it, something would grab hold of you and say wait a second, maybe, maybe this could have been different, maybe it could have worked out a different way. Nothing?”

Nothing it was. Wilson’s full response was: “The reason I have this clean conscience is because I know I did my job right.”

A minute later, Stephanopoulos commented on Wilson’s impersonal language: “It sounds like you don’t think you were responsible.” And all Wilson said was: “I did my job that day.”

Eventually Stephanopoulos asked directly: “Do you feel any remorse?”

Wilson doesn’t say he feels remorse, he doesn’t say what he feels, he says:

Everyone feels remorse when a life’s lost. I had told you before, I never wanted to take anybody’s life. You know, that’s not the good part of the job, that’s the bad part of the job. So, yes, there’s remorse.”

The day after the ABC News interview, Wilson’s lawyer Neil Bruntrager told CNN about his client, “His remorse and his sadness about what happened is there, and it’s real.” Even in a courtroom, what a lawyer says for his client is not evidence. And what Wilson has said for a fee on his own behalf offers little support for any conclusion that he feels remorse, or that he understands how he might have avoided killing Michael Brown, or that he has a conscience.

The Latin American Revolution continued to score major victories in 2014 with the re-election of leftist parties in Brazil, Bolivia and El Salvador. This is the left’s fourth consecutive term in Brazil, its third in Bolivia, and its first re-election in El Salvador (see “Social movements and the FMLN’s second term,” October 2014). Altogether leftist parties now govern in 10 Latin American countries, with these latest victories showing a deepening of the revolution, and a growing political maturity and confidence on the left.

On October 26, President Dilma Rousseff of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), which has been in power for the past 12 years, narrowly defeated pro-business rival Aécio Neves by 3.5 million votes. Rousseff describes herself as an economist, a mother, grandmother and wife who has overcome lymphatic cancer. She is also a former member of the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard, a Cuban Revolution–inspired urban guerrilla organization that fought the brutal 20-year U.S.-backed military dictatorship that seized power in 1964. She was imprisoned and tortured by the dictatorship.

The close margin of Rousseff’s victory is not particularly unusual, since many U.S. presidents have won with similar numbers. This was, when all is considered, a vote for continuity. However, the tight race does signify important changes in the composition of the PT’s base. Where previous elections were won with support from the middle class in the south of the country, this time Rousseff can thank the poor who live mainly in the north of Brazil.

According to Manuel Larrabure, a PhD candidate in political science at York University who is writing his thesis on alternatives to neoliberalism in Brazil and Venezuela, the Brazilian middle class is split: one faction still supports the PT while another has gone over to the neoliberal opposition represented by Neves.

“The pro-PT middle class could be called the ‘progressive’ middle class,” Larrabure explains. “Although there is some disappointment with the PT in this section of the middle class, most of it voted PT. However, some of this section has drifted to [other parties on] the left.

“The anti-PT middle class opposes the PT’s social programs and could be called the ‘centrist’ middle class. Some of this middle class voted PT in the past hoping for growth and employment. However, a significant part of this middle class switched to Neves in this election in part because of the slowing economy and in part because of the fear and demonization campaigns launched by the corporate media against the PT.”

The social programs of the PT have lifted 40 million Brazilians (from a population of 200 million) out of poverty during the last 12 years. Poverty has been reduced by 55% and extreme poverty by 65% in a country that had one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. The PT also achieved record low levels of unemployment and tripled per capita income growth.

Prominent amongst the PT’s social programs is Bolsa Família, which gives cash payments to poor families on the condition they keep their children in school, andMinha Casa Minha Vida, which facilitates home ownership for low- and middle-income families. The PT’s affirmative action law reserves 50% of seats at all federal universities for low-income and racialized students (51% of Brazilians are Black and of mixed race). And recently, Rousseff introduced Mais Médicos (More Doctors), a program that increases the number of doctors in impoverished areas by bringing in foreign doctors, including from Cuba.

“These changes are significant and explain in part why Brazil’s poverty and inequality rates have improved in the last decade,” comments Larrabure. “Importantly, these changes have been felt more in the north of Brazil, where poverty rates are much higher and the racial composition is mostly Black. These reforms have been effective at alleviating major problems experienced by large sections of the population. As a result, the PT’s base has been slowly shifting towards the north.”

Middle class support for Rousseff has been undermined by the fact that under Rousseff, Brazil has slipped into recession, although a mild one so far. This is mainly due to the global recession finally reaching Brazil after six years.

“For the centrist section of the middle class, the anti-poverty measures of the Dilma government strike the wrong chord. They are simply too much for them, particularly in the context of an economic slump. For them, the PT’s social programs smell too much like Bolivarianism in Venezuela. They therefore voted for Neves,” explains Larrabure.

The Brazilian vote also appears to be split along racial lines, which was encouraged and provoked throughout the election by an elite tiring of Rousseff and the PT.

“The corporate media has taken advantage of the recession to mobilize sentiments of fear. Not only fear about the economy but also xenophobic and racist sentiments targeting PT initiatives,” says Larrabure. “We saw this when Brazilian doctors and supporters mobilized against Cuban doctors who were arriving in Brazil as part of the Mais Médicos program.

“The racism of sectors of the middle class became even more obvious when they realized that the north had been instrumental in re-electing Dilma. Social media and even some newspapers were filled with racist sentiments against the northern population.”

In spite of the hostility of the mainstream media, the financial elite, part of the middle class, and the U.S. government, Rousseff still won largely by refusing to adopt austerity measures and staying faithful to the PT’s redistributive welfare policies.

Bolivia: still moving toward socialism

Where the left squeaked by in Brazil this October, it won by a landslide in Bolivia with the re-election of President Evo Morales. His Movement Towards Socialism party (MAS) secured 60% of the vote versus 25% for his right-wing rival, Samuel Doria Medina Auza. After two terms and nine years in power, Morales is so popular that according to Al Jazeera, “millions of Bolivians have come to worship him.”

This is because Morales has profoundly transformed Bolivia by nationalizing its oil and gas and mineral wealth and redistributing the benefits of these to the poor Indigenous majority through income transfers and the expansion of access to healthcare and education. As a result, the Morales government has wiped out illiteracy in the country and cut poverty by 32.2%, more than any other Latin American country, according to the UN. Bolivia’s economy is currently booming with the highest growth rate on the continent.

Raul Burbano, program director at Common Frontiers, a Canadian network of labour, human rights, environmental, church and development groups focused on Latin America, says the debate came down to opposing economic and political visions: “Morales’ communitarian socialism and nationalization versus the opposition’s capitalism and privatization.”

Burbano has been an international observer in Bolivia on several occasions and has produced two video documentaries on the Bolivian Revolution under Morales. He says people continually choose the MAS because of this revolution, which “has empowered the country’s majority, the Indigenous peoples and popular classes, and at the same time uprooted Bolivia’s historical political elites from power.”

Burbano explains that the October election also re-confirmed the country’s faith in the broader MAS project towards communitarian socialism, or living well—“a vision that is community-centric and values plurality, self-determination, economic and social equality and participation and solidarity.”

Morales’ rival Medina, on the other hand, “is one of the richest men in Bolivia and owner of Burger King. He was proposing to take the country backwards toward capitalism and privatization,” says Burbano, adding that Morales’ political stance also enhanced his popularity with voters.

“Evo’s approach has been one of dialogue and consensus and reaching out to all sectors in Bolivia. He has engaged the urban middle class and even the business elite, which is demonstrated in his electoral success in the wealthy departments [provinces] like Santa Cruz that have historically rejected his policies.”

Burbano points out that another crucial source of Morales’ popularity is the fact that he is the first leader of the country to firmly establish its sovereignty by significantly curbing the influence (and presence) of the U.S. government, which has dominated Bolivia for decades. This step has been key to carrying out Bolivia’s social transformation.

“The Morales government successfully ended the political interference of the U.S. by expelling its ambassador in 2009, then did the same with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2013. All three had to close down their operations in Bolivia as they were accused by the Morales of trying to overthrow him,” says Burbano. Morales also removed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from Bolivia.

The U.S. has overthrown several Bolivian governments in the past and imposed murderous military dictatorships on the country, destroying its development.

Indeed, President Morales told cheering supporters at the presidential palace in La Paz after his October election victory, “this win is a triumph for anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists.” He dedicated his victory to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s late president, both major opponents of the U.S.

In a later interview Morales added: “I have no regrets—in fact, I am pleased to have expelled the U.S. ambassador, the [DEA] and to have closed the U.S. military base in Bolivia. Now, without a U.S. ambassador, there is less conspiracy, and more political stability and social stability. Without the [IMF], we are better off economically.”

Asad Ismi is an international affairs correspondent for The Monitor and the author of the anthology The Latin American Revolution, which can be ordered from the CCPA by writing [email protected]For his publications visit www.asadismi.ws.

Hippocratic Oath:  First Do No Harm

The  US/NATO arrogant and sanctimonious pretense of concern for human rights, in their attempt to force through resolutions which would have led to punitive, and ultimately military action against Syria, is blatant hypocrisy.  

Had Russia and China not vetoed these draft resolutions on Syria, they would have resulted in military action against Syria,  culminating in the collapse of Assad’s government,  a “failed state,” and no doubt, in the extrajudicial murder of President Assad, following the pattern of “Regime Change” coveted by US/NATO governments.  

A review of US/NATO sponsored UN Security Council resolutions 678 against Iraq, and Resolution 1973 against Libya, (resolutions which Russia and China failed to veto) reveals the catastrophic human rights abuses resulting from the implementation of these resolutions.  Later in this article, we examine the pattern of US/UK indifference to, or complicity with egregious human rights abuses in South Africa, as revealed through their own use of the veto. 

The destruction of Iraq was foreordained in 1990, when the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 678 against Iraq (ostensibly to force Saddam Hussein to withdraw troops from Kuwait), unleashing a bombing campaign by US and UK “coalition forces” which resulted, in the words of former UN Official Marti Ahtisaari  in “ the destruction of the infrastructure necessary to sustain human life in Iraq.”  Ahtisaari told me, personally, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that his report, a devastating critique of the results of “coalition” (US/UK) bombing of Iraq, bombing condoned and encouraged by UN Security Council Resolution 678 authorizing “all necessary means,” had cost him the post of UN Secretary-General.  The UN does not like to be held accountable for the tragic consequences of its politically motivated resolutions.

 In Iraq, “Regime Change” culminated in the murder of Saddam Hussein, and the destruction of his progressive government, after which Iraq has descended into a hell of terrorism, mass rape, internecine slaughter, suicide bombing, and now renewed U.S. bombing of an already decimated people.  The territory of what was once a viable independent state in Iraq, anathema to US/NATO and the corporate/oligarchic interests they serve, has now become another “failed state,” chaotic, and ripe for corporate plunder of its rich oil reserves.

The barbaric extrajudicial murder of Libyan President Omar Khaddafi,  whose independent, progressive government elicited the wrath of US/NATO, was the ultimate consequence of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, and was celebrated by US Ambassador Susan Rice and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, until, as in Iraq, Libya descended into an incubator of terrorism, and the Benghazi assault, which led to the murder of US Ambassador Christopher Simpson, cost Ambassador Rice her coveted promotion to the post of U.S. Secretary of State, and may well be an impediment to any future electoral ambitions former Secretary Hillary Clinton may be entertaining.  Libya, too, is now  shattered, easy prey to large multinational corporations coveting the wealth of its resources, which, legally, should belong to the Libyan people.

In 1990 a cowed and collapsing Soviet Union voted in favor of Resolution 678 against Iraq, and a surprisingly gullible Russia several years ago abstained on Resolution 1973 on Libya, evidently forgetting that when Resolution 1973 authorized “all necessary measures” those words were a euphemism authorizing license to murder.  Russia claimed that they were betrayed when NATO exceeded the resolution’s mandate, and, (in the words of India’s former Ambassador Puri)  proceeded to “bomb the hell out of Libya.”

Since 1991, and the implementation of Security Council Resolution 678, the United Nations had become merely a lapdog, giving support to US/NATO hegemonic military ambitions.  In the words of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, “The UN, which was created to prevent the scourge of war, had become an instrument of war.”  Indeed, the UN was often mockingly referred to as “an annex of the U.S. Department of State and the Pentagon.”

And then something changed.  As US/NATO was obviously attempting to repeat the pattern of UN supported “Regime Change” in Syria, Russia and China suddenly and repeatedly vetoed the draft resolutions being put forth by P5 members US, UK and France, which would have condoned, directly, or eventually, military action against the government of President Assad in Syria.  These new draft resolutions always masqueraded sanctimoniously as concern for human rights, in an attempt to obscure and justify the naked and brutal power grab such draft resolutions actually sought to make possible.  But this time, both Russia and China repeatedly vetoed these new draft resolutions,  thereby denying UN Security Council authorization for mass murder.

U.S.  Ambassador Rice stated that she was “disgusted” by the Russian-Chinese “indifference “ to the “suffering of the Syrian people.”  She ignored, however, the multiple civilian deaths resulting from US/NATO bombing of Libya, and regarded Russia’s concern for the suffering of those Libyan civilians as an annoyance.  It was an “inconvenient truth” to her narrative that the Libyan people love US/NATO for freeing them from Khaddafi’s dictatorship, a narrative that lasted until the Benghazi murder of US Ambassador Simpson, and other Benghazi fatalities exposed the flaw in her “logic,” and cost her the post of Secretary of State.

US/NATO USE OF THEIR VETO POWER

An examination of the use of the veto by US/NATO  reveals their consistent use of their veto power to help perpetuate the most horrific human rights abuses committed by the apartheid regime in South Africa.   Numerous highly placed sources accredited to the United Nations have denounced this US/NATO  double standard.

Following are excerpts from UN Security Council draft resolutions condemning atrocious human rights abuses in South Africa, draft resolutions which were vetoed by the United States and United Kingdom. (These draft resolutions can be accessed in their entirety by reference to their symbols, and the date of the voting)

On May 23, 1986, Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Arab Emirates submitted draft resolution S/18087/Rev.1 to the Security Council, which stated:

“Gravely concerned also at the threats to peace and security in southern Africa created by the acts of aggression by the racist regime of South Africa in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe on 19 May 1986,

“Deeply shocked at the loss of life and damage to property caused through these wanton unprovoked military raids into Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe,

“Convinced that the root cause of racial violence in South Africa is the perpetuation of the obnoxious system of apartheid, which has already been termed by the international community a crime against the conscience and dignity of mankind,

“Convinced also that the system of apartheid is encouraged and maintained by the political and economic support which the racist regime of South Africa receives from certain countries,

1.        Strongly condemns the racist regime of South Africa for the recent military raids into Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe;

Acting in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations:

Decides to impose the following selective economic and other sanctions against the South African regime as an effective means of combating the apartheid system and bringing peace and stability to southern Africa:  …. (v)  Prohibition of all new contracts in the nuclear field;  etc.”

In the remarks to the Security Council at that meeting,  Mr. Shustov, representing the Soviet Union,  stated:  “The Soviet Union calls on the Security Council not only formally to condemn the South African attack on Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe but also to adopt the most determined and energetic measures to halt the criminal policy of terror and aggression being pursued by the South African authorities against neighbouring States.”

This draft resolution, S/18087/Rev.1, May 23, 1986, was vetoed by the United States and the United Kingdom. 

 On 19 February, 1987, Argentina, Congo, Ghana, United Arab Emirates and Zambia submitted draft resolution S/18705 to the Security Council, stating:  

“Outraged at the Pretoria racist regime’s further intensification of its repressive rule through the imposition of a state of emergency, vesting limitless powers in its security forces, resulting in the arbitrary arrest, detention without trial and torture of over 30,000 people and the killing of over 2,500 men, women and children in the last 20 months, thus further aggravating the already gravely deteriorating situation,

“Determines (b) That the continued illegal occupation of Namibia as well as the repeated armed attacks perpetrated by South Africa and destabilization of neighbouring States constitute grave acts of aggression and a violation of their sovereignty and territorial integrity,

“Decides, under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations and in conformity with its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, to impose the following mandatory sanctions against South Africa, in accordance with Article 41:   (g)  Prohibitions on nuclear trade with South Africa;   etc. etc.”

The Representative of Ghana, Mr. Gbebo, stated: 

 “The fact of the matter is that apartheid itself is inherently violent.  Its fundamental tenets – deriving from the seventeenth century Calvinist theory of a chosen race with a divine right to dominate other races which, according to that theory, are perpetually condemned to servitude – have all the ingredients of violence.  Furthermore, the  continued banning of the African National Congress of South Africa, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and other national liberation organs is, it must be emphasized, in itself a direct invitation to violence.  As to the charge of communism or Marxism, we can only comment that it is as false as it is tedious.  It is no secret that most people have seen through this excuse because it has always been the global battle-cry used to rouse extremists and the uninformed.  As long ago as 10 December 1965 at Hunter College here in New York, the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said:  ‘In South Africa today all opposition to white supremacy is condemned as communism, and in its name due process is destroyed;  a medieval segregation is organized with twentieth-century efficiency and drive;  a sophisticated form of slavery is imposed by a minority upon a majority which is kept in grinding poverty;  the dignity of the human personality is defiled; and world opinion is arrogantly defied.’  The attitude of the racist minority regime in South Africa has not changed even 20 years later.”

This draft resolution,  S/18705, 19 February, 1987, was vetoed by the United States and United Kingdom.

On March 7, 1988 Algeria, Argentina, Nepal, Senegal, Yugoslavia and Zambia submitted draft resolution S/19585,  which stated:  “Condemns the continuing intensification of repression by the South African racist regime such as the arbitrary mass arrest and detention, torture in detention and murder of the leaders and activists of mass organizations, including children, the near total muzzling of the press, the maintenance and expansion of the state of emergency and, in particular, the restriction of seventeen mass organizations and eighteen individuals committed to peaceful forms of struggle

“Decides, under Chapter VII of the Charter and in conformity with its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, to impose the following mandatory sanctions against South Africa, in accordance with Article 41:   Cessation of all forms of military, police or intelligence co-operation with the authorities of South Africa, in particular the sale of computer equipment, (a) Cessation of further investment in, and financial loans to, South Africa, (c) An end to all promotion of and support for trade with South Africa,  etc.”

Mr. Pejic of Yugoslavia, President of the Council, stated:  

“The policy of apartheid and racial discrimination has transformed South Africa into an anachronism propped up by State terrorism and racism.  Human rights and human dignity are non-existent there.  Oppression, terror and exploitation are the order of the day, bringing in their wake an unbearable plight and suffering for the black population….In yet another vain attempt to suppress people’s resistance and eliminate each and every opposition to apartheid, the regime in Pretoria has imposed new repressive measures.  It banned all political activities and work of 17 democratic popular organizations, including the United Democratic Front and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.  It broke up peaceful demonstrations of church leaders by force, arresting about 150 demonstrators, among them Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Reverend Allan Boesak…By conscious effort, the regime has deliberately burned the bridges leading to peaceful change, thus leaving the deprived black population with no alternative but to take up arms.  This is cause for great concern since it is leading South Africa to bloodshed and destruction…..Apartheid is a crime against humanity, we stated many times in this House, and a serious threat to international peace and security.  It cannot be changed by reforms;  it must be eradicated.  Hence the obligation of the international community to stand united in its action to eliminate apartheid by all means at its disposal.”

The United States and the United Kingdom vetoed this resolution, S/19585, March 7, 1988. 

Internet Censors Viral Sandy Hook Truth Documentary

December 10th, 2014 by Global Research News

Last week, video hosting site Youtube repeatedly obliged requests to remove a documentary which laid out several inconsistencies, discrepancies and anomalies surrounding the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Last Monday, an organization known as the Independent Media Solidarity released an epic documentary entitled “We Need to Talk About Sandy Hook,” which they hosted on their own site as well as on Youtube.

Within hours of the video’s upload, it was well on its way to going viral, however its success was short lived.

Shortly after Infowars began hosting the video the following Tuesday morning, it was suddenly removedfrom Youtube “due to a copyright claim by Lenny Pozner.”

(It should be noted the video was taken down despite carrying a message stating its materials are presented “in compliance with fair use principles,” and that “Use of copyright material in this video generates social benefits that greatly outweigh any cost to the copyright owner, and is therefore a protected form of speech.”)

Pozner is reportedly the parent of one of the children supposedly killed at Sandy Hook and is an outspoken critic of people who claim the shooting to be a staged event. It is noted in the documentary that he is also the chairman and CEO of Traxware, “a company that specializes in removal of internet slander, internet defamation, mugshots, defamations of character and online public records.”

“This guy’s company would come in handy to any Sandy Hook hoax perpetrators with prior convictions,” Youtube researcher MrStosh314 states in the film. “He could ultimately remove any negative associations from the Internet. Could he be hanging around online bloggers and researchers for the purpose of protecting the Sandy Hook parents?”

After Infowars swapped out the video for an alternate copy, the video was again pulled, this time “due to a copyright claim by HONR Netowrk,” a group which seeks “To bring awareness to Hoaxer activity and to criminally and/or civilly prosecute those who wittingly and publicly defame, harass, and emotionally abuse the victims of high profile tragedies and/or their family members.” Honr Network is apparently also linked to Pozner.

The latest upload (above) comes directly from the Independent Media Solidarity website.

This is likely not the first Sandy Hook “truther” video to be censored on Youtube, but its repeated deletion is made all the more curious due to the sheer volume of information and investigative research that went into creating the work.

Regardless of one’s stance on the Sandy Hook issue, most people can agree the free flow of information is imperative to the betterment of mankind and that the open communication of information and ideas, no matter how controversial or outlandish they may seem, is necessary for the functioning of any “free” society.

The video’s censorship is akin to actions taken in the 1984 world envisioned by George Orwell, where history could be deleted and rewritten and information censored at a whim. Sending informational films down the memory hole merely serves to fuel the theories which claim that a larger cover-up is at play.

“Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” the infamous Ingsoc slogan goes.

On Friday, Infowars Nightly News will interview one of the researchers who appeared in the documentary, “We Need to Talk About Sandy Hook.” Stay tuned!

Last week, illegitimate/oligarch Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko declared December 9 a “day of silence.”

Ahead of Human Rights Day. On December 10. This year’s theme: Human Rights 365.

Longstanding Western tool Kan Ki-moon “call(ing) on states to honor their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year.”

“I call on people to hold their governments to account.” Ban is an imperial apologist. Supporting US-led Western wars on humanity.

Doing nothing responsible to denounce them. Demand US and coalition partners be held accountable. Israel for its high crimes against peace.

Kiev putschists for usurping power. Governing illegitimately. Waging dirty war on their own people.

Poroshenko’s so-called “day of silence” is meaningless. He violated agreed on Geneva and Minsk ceasefire terms straightaway.

Why expect anything different this time? Donbas leaders agreed to halt fighting. Doubt Poroshenko’s intentions. Will only “return fire” in self-defense. If attacked.

Day of silence agreement was reached with no preconditions. Ceasefire terms to be discussed in Geneva. Originally scheduled for December 9. Now postponed.

Provisionally rescheduled for December 12. Subject to approval by both sides.

Any time is OK, according to Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) leader Igor Plotnitsky. “(S)ilence…is being observed and has not been violated so far,” he said.

“There was shelling in the morning. Now (silence is) holding, but we will see whether it will last. At the moment, there is no shelling.”

Nor in Donetsk, according to its defense ministry. DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko saying ceasefire terms were declared on September 5.

“We didn’t violate (them) on a single occasion. All the violations (were) committed by the Ukrainian Army. If (it) doesn’t open fire, we won’t open it either.”

DPR Vice Chairman/ceasefire talks representative Denis Pushilin said “(l)et’s hope some kind of ceasefire will begin indeed.”

Hold the cheers. In early November, Poroshenko reneged on Donbas self-rule status. After legislation granted it on September 9.

At the time, state-controlled Ukrainian News Agency reported it as follows:

“The Verkhovna Rada has set special status for some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions for the period of three years…Respective draft law No. 5081 was registered by President Petro Poroshenko at the Verkhovna Rada on September 16. Under the document, bodies of local governments are allowed to create voluntary people’s militia units to protect order on the territory of the said regions. …(L)ocal governments there are able to take measures on assistance in use of Russian and other languages in education, mass media organizations, judicial system, and other sectors of public life. …(T)he law envisions provision of state assistance to socioeconomic development of some districts via the introduction of special economic regime for rendering economic and investment activity aimed at restoration of industry, infrastructure, housing stock and creation of new jobs.”

After enactment, Poroshenko said Donbas will remain part of Ukraine. Federalization won’t happen. Ukraine’s territorial integrity won’t be compromised.

He called naked aggression “an anti-terrorist operation. (F)ully compl(ying) with the United Nations Charter and meets Ukraine’s liabilities under international law, including human rights norms, refugee rights and international humanitarian law.”

Threatened “total war” on Russia. (F)ull-scale war” on Donbas. “Better prepared than five months ago,” he said.

Mobilized Ukrainian forces aggressively. Perhaps intending greater than ever mass slaughter and destruction.

Wants hardline rule replacing Donbas democracy. At the same time claiming he wants people. Fascists operate this way.

Self-rule status legislation wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Poroshenko wants Donbas freedom fighters crushed.

In mid-November, imposed economic blockade conditions on Donetsk and Lugansk. At the same time claiming a possible Russian attack.

Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) leader Igor Plotnitsky called blockading Donbas “an act of genocide designed to impoverish and destroy our people.”

“We are not going to sheer away from our path.” he said. “We are going to live better than Ukraine for which the power of the oligarchs will turn out to be worse and more destructive than any blockade.”

Donetsk People’s Republic (DRP) Vice Chairman Denis Pushilin calling Poroshenko’s decree “another example of the crudest violation of the Minsk protocol.”

Abolishing human rights protections. Imposing economic blockade conditions. Suspending state services. Including for schools, hospitals and emergency needs.

Telling his cabinet “to terminate the activities of state enterprises, institutions and organisations in the various territories where anti-terrorist operations are being conducted.”

Ordering Ukraine’s central bank to suspend operations in Donbas. Freezing individual and company accounts.

Subjecting local power plants to “special procedure(s) for accounting supplies of fuel.” Potentially suspending them altogether for plants unable to pay.

Cutting off heat as winter approaches. A survival issue for many. Putin called Poroshenko’s decree “a big mistake.”

On December 9, Sputnik News reported Washington “working together with Ukraine to broaden US military, financial and economic assistance…”

A previous article discussed Washington arming Ukraine covertly. Supplying heavy weapons and munitions.

Brazenly violating Geneva and Minsk agreements. Stipulating all sides refrain from violence, intimidations and provocations. Mandating an immediate ceasefire.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich warned about supplying weapons and munitions.

Doing so sends “a very serious signal,” he said. In “direct violation of agreements.” Including those achieved in partnership with Washington.

At Geneva and Minsk. UN pledges. Kerry promises to Sergey Lavrov during bilateral meetings.

Washington says one thing. Does another. Rogue states operate this way. Directly aiding Kiev’s naked aggression.

Poroshenko’s declared day of silence is head-fake deception. Sergey Lavrov expressed concern about Kiev operating extrajudicially.

Calling lack of “a constitutional process (a) systematic problem.” Changing things “needs to be done immediately.”

Lavrov urges Council of Europe (CE) involvement. “Russia would like the CE to pay greater attention to extremism and exert more active efforts for the protection of rights of minorities,” he said.

“(W)e believe that the CE should be more actively involved in legal monitoring in Ukraine. A nationwide dialogue on a constitutional reform is needed. (It’s) most pressing for people to stop being killed.”

Lavrov remains cautiously hopeful for peace. At the same time saying “(t)his is not the first time truce was declared.”

In early September, Kiev announced plans for wall construction on Russia’s border. Stretching 2,300 km. Ludicrously claiming to protect against Russian invasion.

Defensive structures including ditches, test-track lanes, vehicle-barrier trenches and optical surveillance towers to detect Russian troop and vehicle movements.

Construction expected to take about four years. Costing an estimated $517 million. For a country effectively bankrupt. Unable to pay bills without financial help.

In late November, Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland reacted harshly.

Saying “(t)he wall destroys the fate of people and their families. This is unacceptable. It is necessary to strengthen an idea of ‘Common European Home.’ ”

Federal Agency for the Development of State Border Facilities (Rosgranitsa) head Konstantin Busygin believes Kiev’s wall won’t last long,” saying:

“At a certain point, Germany was divided by a wall. And this one, even if it’s built, it’s all the same temporary. It will be broken sooner or later. Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha called Kiev’s wall project “worthless. (A) monument to human stupidity. Russian upper house Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko called Kiev’s “step…a very odious, half-baked, unprofessional, and populist manifestation.” Offensively anti-Russian. “(W)hen borders are being wiped off, when more and more countries sign agreements on visa-free travel, on free movements within the framework of globalization processes, the idea to dig up a pit and to build a wall sounds like savagery for me. (W)e should build bridges rather than build a wall or dig up a pit.”

Millions of Ukrainians work in Russia. During times of peace and stability. Another 800,000 or more fled Southeastern Ukraine for safety.

Fascist putschists govern Ukraine. Washington’s newest colony. Threatening regional peace and stability.

Waging war on their own people. Challenging Russia irresponsibly. Risking direct confrontation. Poroshenko’s threatened “total war.”

Bluster and bravado substituting for good sense, rationality and reason. Rule of law principles mean something.

Rogue states operate extrajudicially. Possible full-scale war looms.

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. 

Negative interest rate policy (NIRP) has arrived to the U.S. for large deposits at commercial banks.  This is something we have already seen in Europe over the last few months and a sign (at least to me) that stress is again building.  As of January 1st, bank capital will be classified differently making some large and very mobile deposits at large banks a potential liability and thus not profitable http://finance.yahoo.com/news/banks-urge-clients-cash-elsewhere-015700767.html. This is being done because of the “mobility” of these deposits, the worry is the potential speed of flight capital if (when) it begins to run.

Let me explain what I mean by “stress” and you can decide which one fits the best if not a combination of “all of the above”.  First, the real economies of the Western world are again slowing and in many cases declining again.  Remember, this is happening even though fiscally, deficits are being run everywhere and monetarily, loose policy runs rampant.  As the real economy continues to slow, “more power” is being screamed from the helm to the engine room.  “More”, as in more debt, more liquidity and more of what created the problem in the first place.  This explanation is fairly obvious.

Two other and less obvious explanations  for NIRP are “velocity” and “making preparations”.  Looking at velocity, it continues downward with no signs whatsoever of reversing.  Money is being printed by the trillions but it’s not making it onto the streets.  The money is piling up at banks who are hoarding the cash and making a “risk free” (really?) return by carrying the deposits at central banks.  This works well for the banks and the central banks themselves …but not so much for the real economy as actual “flowing” money feels tight and scarce.  As far as the real economy is concerned, credit policy is anything but loose.

The other aspect is that many large deposits (over the FDIC limits) are very “mobile”.  By this I mean they can move quickly.  So quickly in fact that back in 2008 there were “electronic” and overnight bank runs which no one saw …except the banks.  Banks “borrow low and lend high”, this is how they earn profits.  They traditionally borrowed via deposits and then turned around and lent these deposits out at a higher rate to earn a spread…banking 101 if you will.  But 2008 exposed a flaw in this model, as soon as even the whiff of a rumor of weakness at a bank would arise, this “hot money” would move to safer ground.  Whether this safer ground was another bank or even Treasury securities made no difference, the result was a bank(s) being left unfunded.  Their capital ran away and they were left with too many loans and assets (impaired?) carried by not enough capital.

I know the above explanation was very simplistic, I did this so you could understand the “what or why” the Federal Reserve is changing the banking rules …they see something coming and are trying to prepare the system ahead of time.  I believe they see another crisis dead ahead and are trying to position banks where they have less hot and mobile money in their fundings.

The problems as I see it are several fold.  The days leading up to Jan. 1st may see some hiccups if enough money does in fact move elsewhere.  Also, if this scheme does “work”, money moves and actually begins to turn velocity around, hyperinflation could be a very real result.  Fiat money is a very funny duck as it is strictly based on confidence, there is no way to tell at what point this confidence will turn once it starts to move.

The biggest problem as I see it could be a break in confidence, one which is caused by the perception  of “something else is better”.  If banks actually start to charge for holding balances, depositors will have to make some sort of decision.  They can move to another institution which blesses them with either no interest or less negative interest.  They can also buy Treasury securities or even stocks …or any other number of assets.  This would initially levitate markets even more because of the flow …but what happens when some “leakage” starts?  What happens when some depositors decide to buy “stuff”, any kind of stuff as a form of savings?  What happens if included in this stuff are commodities and other monies such as gold and silver?

This then brings the actual currency into question.  If you cannot earn interest on anything then the comparisons of apples to apples will begin.  The question will arise, which is better, a $20 bill or 6 pounds of copper?  Which would you prefer twelve $100 bills or one ounce of gold?   Can a painting really be worth $100 million?  What does this say about the value of $100 million?  These questions are being asked every day, all day, all around the planet…but there will be a difference.  The difference being, more money will be forced to make these decisions.  “More money” because of the Fed’s January 1st edict!

I am not here to tell you that I understand all of the ramifications or fallout, I do not.  What I do know is banking, the way it has been done even after morphing over the last 20 years is changing.  With this change will come consequences, some seen…some not.  The financial system has never been as leveraged as it is today, this is a fact.  Another fact is, leverage “forces” the actions of participants in ways they would not prefer during crisis.  Leverage will force some who would like to buy…to sell.  Leverage will cause a solvent someone today into insolvency tomorrowmorning.  Not to pick on JP Morgan (though they more than deserve it), they hold some $70 trillion worth of derivatives, so does Deutschebank, does this qualify as “leverage”?  When the next panic comes, we are now too leveraged systemically for the current system to survive, but I digress.

The grand scheme problem as I see it is the “push-pull” effect.  The central banks need to push money out and into the system.  This would aid the real economy and bolster “asset” prices.  Their catch 22 is they cannot make the decision “which” assets are levitated in value because they do not control which direction the money they have pushed will go.  Ideally, the money will stay within the box and continue playing with other paper assets.  Once the bleed into real assets really gets going, it will be noticed and attract other attention …and into other real assets.  They must create more money and more liquidity to keep the paper game going, it is exactly this debt and liquidity creation which will end up making the decision to flee …to safer assets.  In the end, the definition of “safer” will be not only what counts but the exact cause of the crisis.  The central banks are collectively trying as hard as they can to reflate, if they get their wish they will lose their currencies…pretty simple!

Bill Holter, Miles Franklin associate writer

To call it unlikely would be an understatement.

A work of art that challenges the official account of 9/11 has been accepted into the permanent collection of the 9/11 Museum in New York City.

Anthony Freda — who has contributed provocative political art to publications like The New York TimesTimeRolling StoneEsquireThe New Yorker, and Playboy — says he has no idea why the museum would accept his painting, titled “9-11 Questions.”

museum 9/11 truth art

“I still can’t figure out what is in the museum’s mind letting me in there, because literally every part of my being is fighting against the official narrative that they are trying to promote,” he said in an interview. “The thing that fascinates me, and they admitted this, is that this is the only piece in the entire collection that questions the official narrative in any way.”

Freda met with museum staff for 90 minutes to donate the art and to answer questions about the images it contains. The entire exchange was filmed for a documentary called Behind Truth Art, which is planned for release in 2015. (This 30-minute preview shows highlights of the meeting.)

Museum officials told Freda that “9-11 Questions” will rotate with other works on display and that it may also be included in traveling 9/11 art shows organized by the museum. But he concedes that museum officials, now that they own it, can do whatever they want with the piece — including locking it in a vault forever.

Freda created the work eight years ago, when The Village Voice commissioned him to illustrate its article “Fakes on a Plane,” which was intended to “gently make fun” of online 9/11 documentaries like Loose Change and the people who believe them.

The assignment led Freda to research the subject of 9/11, and he reached an unexpected conclusion — that those who were challenging the official story are actually intelligent, serious about their research, and willing to make personal sacrifices to stand up for the truth.

“Oh my God, these guys aren’t crazy like I thought,” he recalls saying to himself. “Why would they put their careers on the line to get this information out when they have everything to lose and nothing to gain?”

Thus began Freda’s personal journey of discovery. The more he explored, the more convinced he became that the evidence put forward by the 9/11 Truth Movement is scientific, factual, and undeniable.

“I didn’t go into this willingly or easily, but when you’re presented with all the evidence, you can only stick your head in the sand so long. The more I look into it, the more the evidence becomes reinforced. It just gets stronger and stronger, and you can’t tear it apart.”

Freda says he also came to understand how much of a price the world has paid as a result of the 9/11 deception: wars, millions dead, a police state, and a pervasive feeling of fear, hysteria, and paranoia.

“The script is literally out of 1984. It’s life imitating art.”

Freda admits to biting the hand that feeds him. “A lot of the publications I’ve worked for are the same people who promoted the lies that took us to Iraq and reinforced the official narrative [of 9/11]. I have a foot in both worlds. When I get some assignments from mainstream media, I try to use those assignments to get some truth messages in there. They have the right to say what they want to say, and we have a right to say they are lying.”

The Documentary

Behind Truth Art director John Massaria will be using the work of Freda as the focal point of his film, which he hopes will be upbeat, not heavy or preachy. “Through this, we’re trying to say to people, ‘What do you think about using art to wake up people?’ Art transcends words and language, and it kind of takes all those barriers down.”

Freda agrees: “The movie’s not just about me, it’s about activists and artists and people who are trying to come up with creative ways to get these messages out there.”

Interviewees for the film include William Binney, Gerald Celente, Richard Grove, Adam Kokesh, Peter Kuper, Lee Camp, and a number of other thinkers and activists.

Massaria says that once Freda’s 9/11 piece was accepted, the museum gave him permission to bring in a film crew to document the artist donating his work. But after the film had been shot, museum officials had a change of heart. “What’s curious is they really didn’t want us releasing that footage at all; they tried to backpedal.”

At that point, Massaria turned for legal advice to Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth founder and CEO Richard Gage, who referred him to a team of lawyers. They confirmed that a film documenting the museum staff accepting Freda’s donation would not be cause for a lawsuit. If it came to that, though, it would “look pretty bad for the public relations department [of the museum],” Massaria observes.

The director couldn’t have scripted things any better: Filming Freda being questioned about his work of art for an hour and a half ended up being much more interesting and revealing than if the staff had said a simple “thank you” for the gift.

Massaria says he was told that the museum has also had several 9/11 Truth films donated by their directors, but that these films will remain in the museum’s internal archives. He says he hopes the public will demand that Freda’s “9-11 Questions” be exhibited.

“It just brings up another side of the story. And if you can’t have both sides shown, then the museum’s a fraud.”

A major obstacle to the film being finished is funding. A Kickstarter campaign brought in $3,500, but more money is needed to complete it. Anyone interested in contributing to the effort can email the filmmaker [here].

Craig McKee is a journalist and the creator of the blog Truth and Shadows.