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

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

*    *    *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Boston Bombing Web of Lies

April 2nd, 2014 by Julie Lévesque

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

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

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

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

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

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

She would say of the FBI to Russia Today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tamerlan Tsarnaev in custody

Was Tamerlan Assassinated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was unarmed and obviously brutalized by police 

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

Canada’s Complicity in the War on Terror

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

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

RCMP press conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Globe stated further:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SELECTED ARTICLES

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

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

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

Terrorists “R” UsStephen Lendman, April 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Terrorists “R” UsStephen Lendman, April 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chechen Terrorists and the NeoconsColeen Rowley, April 22, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thailand: Thaksin’s Red Shirts and the Ongoing Violence

April 2nd, 2014 by Global Research News

by Michael Pirsch

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

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

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

-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

[3].IBID. pp. 43-46

[4].IBID. p. 5

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

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

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

[8].IBID. Nation Multimedia Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminalizing Criticism of Israel in Canada

April 2nd, 2014 by Michael Keefer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Bill C-13 and its deceptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

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

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

 (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.17

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

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

 3. The Lellouche Law: another Trojan horse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all know about the old anti-Semitism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Refuting the so-called “new antisemitism”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This also implies an increasing international isolation:

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

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

 8. Most disgracefully of all … an apartheid state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26Ibid.

27Ibid.

27Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

35Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

49Ibid.

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

51Ibid.

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

53Illouz, “47 years a slave.”

54Ibid.

55Ibid.

56Ibid.

57Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Fracture and the Rise of Racism in France

April 2nd, 2014 by Annamaria Rivera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Translations by Sam Putinja.

Image: Marine Le Pen

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In her unpublished letter, Reme Sakr concludes:

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stock Buybacks and Margin Debt

April 1st, 2014 by Mike Whitney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

unnamed

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

Who benefits from QE?Now you know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Blacklisted News, 2014

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

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

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

Right Sector militants expelled from Kiev

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good protesters.

 Venezuela: Good protesters.

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Palestine: Not good.

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

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

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

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

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

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April 1st, 2014 by Global Research News

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

April 1st, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The videos use powerful and emotional quotes, yet they fail to acknowledge the dramatic economic, social and geopolitical realities affecting humanity.

“Move out and do it”. But in relation to what?

Does the Wave of Action have an Action Program?

Beautiful slogans:

Can you hear me, wherever you are,

We are coming into a new World

The Glorious Future

The solar planet has been given wings

On April 4th a Global Spring begins.

Moment of Clarity

Our Time has Come

Begin to Form Affinity Groups and Then Do It.

Evolve society

Let’s make transforming the world the cool thing to do.

Let’s create a culture of transformation.”

The Manipulation of the Protest Movement

The World  is indeed at a dangerous Crossroads: At the height of a Worldwide crisis characterized by the collapse of social programs, unemployment, IMF engineered global poverty and US led wars, Washington is now supporting Al Qaeda “freedom fighters” and a Neo-Nazi government in Ukraine.

Beyond the rhetoric, the music and the video-montage, none of these issues are addressed.

This Wave of Action fails to provide an understanding of global capitalism.

The word “war” or “anti-war” are not mentioned, nor is the word “austerity”.

This initiative has all the appearances of a Psy Op., a carefully staged propaganda campaign to create confusion and channel people into manipulated protest movements.

(more videos below)

What is the functioning of the corrupt structures of global capitalism?

What “revolutionary changes” are required to dismantle the underlying power structures?

The answers:

We are a leaderless movement. We do our own thing. We want a new paradigm.

But that paradigm is not clearly identified nor is it coupled with concrete proposals.

Powerful messages in the videos by Martin Luther King and Charlie Chaplin are casually distorted, manipulated and quoted out of context.

More slogans:

“The decentralized movement toward freedom is raging across the world.  It cannot be stopped.

Let’s blaze a contagious nonviolent wave of action through mass consciousness, signaling the end of the old world, ushering in a new paradigm.

Let’s pick a three-month span, perhaps throughout this coming spring, and unite our collective actions into an unprecedented Worldwide Wave that cannot be ignored by anyone.

If we begin preparing now, a massive spring offensive can lead to a summer of transformation.”

“Cool Thing to Do”

Economic and social realities are obfuscated. The nature of the New World Order, the underlying economic system and its oppressive police state apparatus are carefully omitted from the videos.

Transforming the world is “the cool thing to do”, according to the “Global Spring” initiative, as long as it does not threaten the corporate elites which in all likelihood are funding this Worldwide awakening.

The names of the major actors on Wall Street, the White House and the Pentagon are not mentioned.

The US led wars on Syria, Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic, the US-NATO-EU led Coup d’etat in Ukraine are not mentioned.

Wall Street is mentioned but the nature of financial fraud and stock market manipulation is not addressed.

Ritual of dissent? This new thrust of “Manufactured Dissent” uses catch phrases, revolutionary symbols and narrative, but fails to identify who is the target of the revolutionary movement.

Who is Anonymous?

Anonymous is launching the “Global Spring” initiative. Who is Anonymous?

Anonymous symbols were visible in the Neo-Nazi protest movement in Ukraine, which serves US-NATO interests.

Anonymous has supported the violent riots against the elected president of Ukraine (see video below)

Sinister: An opposition supporter wearing a mask associated with the anarchic Anonymous movement stands on a roof in front of protests

An opposition supporter wearing a mask associated with Anonymous. The neo-Nazi  symbol appears on the top of the mask.

Prior to its activities in the Ukraine protest movement, “Anonymous” waged cyberattacks on Iran and Syria. The latter conducted in 2011 directed against the Syrian government, were waged in support of Syria’s “opposition” (in exile) which is also integrated by Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists. (See  Syrian Ministry Of Defense Website Hacked By ‘Anonymous’, Huffington Post, August 8, 2011). Since then the atrocities committed by opposition rebels against civilians has been amply documented.

The actions of “Anonymous” in Syria and Iran are consistent with the framework of the “Colored Revolutions”, which seeks to demonize the political regime and create economic and social instability.

Subsequent actions led against Syria by Anonymous (2012) were coordinated with those of the US and its allies,  with a view to closing down Syria’s communications network including the internet and telephone.

While serving the interests of the US State Department in acts aggression against Ukraine and Syria, Anonymous is upheld as a progressive yet “invisible” entity supportive of “democratization”.

A Global Awakening Wave has allegedly been launched by Anonymous. Anonymous has ties to the Adbusters Media Foundation which in turn is funded by the Tides Foundation.

The Global Call was initiated by Anonymous. Is it funded by corporate foundations?

How convenient. Everybody is Anonymous, but Anonymous has been “visible” in Ukraine, Venezuela, and the Middle East in ways which are broadly supportive of Wall Street and the White House.

ANONYMOUS DOES NOT HAVE A WEBSITE. WE DO NOT HAVE ANY LEADERS OR  REPRESENTATIVES. ANYONE CLAIMING TO BE A LEADER OR REPRESENTATIVE IS NOT RELATED TO ANONYMOUS. EVERYONE IS ANONYMOUS. liveleak.com

The Awakening Wave

Excerpts below from EvolveSociety.org  (many of the concepts below are contained in the videoclips)

https://evolvesociety.org/feature/a-call-for-a-crowdsourced-worldwide-wave-of-action-www/

“This new Anonymous call to action was originally posted to our social network in binary code and is quickly spreading around the internet. We are featuring it here to show our support for the proposed campaign.

The decentralized movement toward freedom is raging across the world.  It cannot be stopped.

Radical change is urgently needed, so let’s make transforming the world the cool thing to do. Let’s create a culture of transformation. Let’s blaze a contagious nonviolent wave of action through mass consciousness, signaling the end of the old world, ushering in a new paradigm.

The Awakening Wave

The last time we all rallied together in a loosely knit collective fashion, the Occupy movement was born and the 99% meme brought the corruption of our political and economic system, along with the grotesque inequality of wealth, into mass consciousness in a profound and lasting way. It was the opening act, the awakening wave.

Since the Occupy camps were crushed by brutal police state force, the movement has splintered in many different directions.

It’s Time For A Worldwide Wave of Transformation

Let’s pick a three-month span, perhaps throughout this coming spring, and unite our collective actions into an unprecedented Worldwide Wave that cannot be ignored by anyone.

Let’s crowdsource a relentless global wave of action that protests the corrupt, while also rallying around and celebrating effective alternatives and solutions to the vast problems we are confronted by. Imagine thousands of nonviolent guerrilla armies swarming corrupt targets and rallying for viable solutions for a sustained three-month cycle. If we begin preparing now, a massive spring offensive can lead to a summer of transformation.

Staying true to the vital nature of the movement, you lead, in your own way. Pick whatever issues concern you most and run with them, knowing that likeminded people throughout the world will also be fighting in solidarity, in whatever way they can, at the same time you are.

Not Focused Enough?

In an attempt to dismiss and undermine us, status quo propagandists will once again criticize us by saying that our message of systemic change is not focused enough or lacks coherent goals. This feeble attempt to keep people from joining in with us will be overcome by our widespread and consistent actions, which will lead by example and inspire the cultural shift in mass consciousness that we urgently need. Our diverse crowdsourced actions will boldly demonstrate our will to expose, fight and overcome tyrannical systems. By rallying around viable solutions and protesting what we are against, the goals and freedoms that we aspire to will organically become self-evident to all.

Throughout history, when people have fought against tyranny and oppression, they didn’t have one perfect utopian model outcome agreed upon beforehand. They just knew that the invading and old systems were detrimental to their wellbeing and had to go. We are now in that position.

Don’t let the propagandists fool you. We do not need corrupt corporations or aristocratic government rulers anymore. They are obsolete. People throughout this interconnected technological world have already come up with much more effective systems to replace the tyrannical one that is currently dominating our lives. There are already many effective solutions to our problems, solutions that are held back by the entrenched forces of shortsighted greed. Once a small percentage of us withdraw our participation from corrupt entities and opt out of tyranny, the old and obsolete systems of rule will quickly fall away.

Extensive empirical evidence demonstrates that nonviolent movements toward freedom result in positive outcomes. Research has proven that it only takes approximately 3% of the population engaging in various forms of nonviolent action to create significant meaningful change, for the betterment of society. We now have the necessary critical mass of aware people who are ready, willing and capable.

Guerrilla Tactics

This time the police state will not be able to crush us. We will not have stationary targets. We will be everywhere, fluid and evasive. The movement will be an unstoppable crowdsourced, decentralized and autonomous revolutionary force.

We will engage in a diversity of nonviolent tactics, from large-scale mobilizations to small daily acts. Most of you already know the actions and tactics that are needed. Without revealing too much strategic information, here are a few basic actions to get a fire going in your mind:

> Mass gatherings, demonstrations;
> Marches, parades;
> Flash mobs, swarms;
> Shutdown harmful corporate and governmental operations;
> Worker Strikes;
> Hunger strikes;
> Sit-ins;
> Strategic defaults, debt strikes;
> Foreclosure prevention;
> Boycotting corrupt corporations;
> Move your money out of the big banks and the stock market;
> Use alternative currencies and economic systems;
> Cancel your cable television and support independent media;
> Use independent online tools that don’t sell your info and protect your privacy;
> Online civil disobedience, Anonymous operations;
> Leak information on corruption;
> Use alternative energy;
> Build your own urban and hydroponic farms, or get your food from them;
> Support local businesses;
> Join local community organizations;
> Take part in food banks and help develop community support systems;
> Start or join intentional and autonomous communities;
> Experiment with new governing systems, Liquid Democracy;
> Host teach-ins;
> Organize socially conscious events;
> Make conscious media;
> Guerrilla postering, messages on money;
> Help inspiring groups and organizations spread their message;
> Random acts of kindness and compassion;
> Mass meditations, prayer sessions and spiritual actions.

The list goes on and on. You know what you can do to play a part. Do whatever you feel inspired to do.

Radical change is urgently needed, so let’s make transforming the world the cool thing to do. Let’s create a culture of transformation. Let’s blaze a contagious nonviolent wave of action through mass consciousness, signaling the end of the old world, ushering in a new paradigm.

Now is the time.

Ride the Worldwide Wave of Transformation
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#www

Tweak this meme! This is a draft call to action, a work in progress. Feel free to make changes to it and spread it around however you see fit.”

This call to action does not identify the nature of the crisis, nor does it mention the names of the main architects of this Global New World order.

The motto is do your own thing. Its a “leaderless” spontaneous movement.

We are familiar with the logic of “colored revolutions” whereby the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and various Wall Street foundations generously fund NGOs with a view to toppling the governments of sovereign countries.

While the logic of  this self-proclaimed Worldwide Wave of Transformation is different, it is geared towards manipulating people while also weakening meaningful forms of grassroots activism and organized dissent.

“What do you think, Powerful or Impotent? Genius or Idiocy? Productive or Counterproductive?”

These videos are intended to create confusion.

Our thanks to Washington Blog for having brought the above videos to our attention

UK: Thousands Prosecuted Under Controversial Law of Joint Enterprise

April 1st, 2014 by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

An eight-month investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals, for the first time, comprehensive data showing at least 1,800 people have been prosecuted for homicide using the little-known law of joint enterprise: a law which experts have called “unclear” and “capable of producing injustice”.

The revelation comes as leading members of the judiciary call for its reform. The criminal Law Commissioner, Professor David Ormerod, told the Bureau the case for reform was “overwhelming” as joint enterprise was “unclear” and posed “a risk of injustice”.

Professor Jeremy Horder, former criminal Law Commissioner and now at the London School of Economics, said there needs to be major statutory reform of the law.

And Lord Phillips, former Lord Chief Justice, told the Bureau joint enterprise needs reform as it was “capable of producing injustice, undoubtedly”.

Until now, there has been no information on the scale of the use of this powerful part of the criminal justice system as no official records are kept. New data collected and analysed by the Bureau shows that since 2005 at least 1,800 people and up to 4,590 have been prosecuted for homicide under joint enterprise – a legal tool that allows the prosecution of multiple defendants for the same crime. This represents at least 17.7% of all homicide prosecutions in this period.

Key findings:

  •  Between 2005 and 2013, 1,853 people were prosecuted for homicides that involved four or more defendants. This is the closest approximation that can be made to the use of joint enterprise. Most academics agree these prosecutions almost certainly relied on the joint enterprise doctrine.
  • In the same eight years 4,590 people were prosecuted for homicides involving two or more defendants – a definition the CPS suggests is a clear indication of the use of joint enterprise.
  • The rate of use has remained relatively constant, though there was a small rise in the rate of homicide prosecutions involving four or more defendants in 2008 (20.4%).
  • The more defendants involved in a prosecution, the lesser the chances of securing a conviction. The average conviction rate for all homicides is 80.4%. Where there are two or more defendants the conviction rate drops to 76.7% and for four or more defendants it is 73.3%.
  • The rate at which joint enterprise cases are appealed appears to be on the rise. In 2008 11% of published Court of Appeal rulings dealt with convictions where there had been some element of joint enterprise. In 2013 the rate had increased to 22%.

Read report and full investigation

Some people in some Republican-governed states are too poor to qualify for subsidies to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

You get that right: too poor to qualify for subsidies.

Here is how I discovered this remarkable fact:

There was a Reuters article at Huffington Post on January 22nd, “Target Cuts Health Coverage For Part-Time Workers, Citing Obamacare,” and it reported that Target, “like Home Depot, said it was shifting medical coverage for part-time workers to new public marketplace exchanges,” in order to cut costs.

One of the reader-comments to that news-report came from “Kate,” who said, ”In Alaska, where we have to rely on the federal Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace, a single person has to make at least $14,350 per year and a family of 4 has to bring in a minimum of $29,440 to qualify for tax subsidies to help pay ACA premiums.”

I replied to her comment: “That’s obviously and clearly false, because all of the ACA subsidies kick in only for people whose income is below a given amount — not at all for people whose earnings are above that amount (as you there allege).”

She responded: “You have no idea what you’re talking about. I am a Certified Application Counselor for the ACA and there is an income range within which qualifies folks for the tax subsidies. A single person has to have an AGI between $14,350 and $57,400 to get a subsidy. Those who fall below the $14,350 are out of luck because our governor did not accept the Medicaid Expansion program under the ACA. Check your facts.”

I was shocked to find that my understanding of the Affordable Care Act was so grossly deficient in this crucial regard.

Subsequently, I looked to find verification of what this “Certified Application Counselor for the ACA” had asserted. And I found it, at the “Quick Check Chart for Alaska and Hawaii: Do I qualify to save on health insurance coverage?”

This problem isn’t to be blamed only on Obama, but also on the Republican Governors (such as Sean Parnell in Alaska) who took advantage of U.S. Chief Justice John R. Roberts’ offering governors the opportunity to treat ACA’s Medicaid-expansion as being optional. The Affordable Care Act hadn’t been written with the possibility in mind that a state governor might choose to deny low-income citizens an expansion of Medicaid which would be almost 100% paid for by the Federal Government (rather than by the state). The possibility that Republicans would try to sabotage Obama’s Presidency in this way hadn’t even been contemplated by Obama.

Apparently, Obama must have ignored Rush Limbaugh’s saying, on 16 January 2009, “I hope he fails.” Then, at the “Take Back America Conference” on 27 February 2009, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, endorsed Limbaugh’s statement. Subsequently, on 25 October 2010, the “Think Progress” website bannered “Mitch McConnell: I Want … To Make Obama A One-Term President,” and quoted McConnell, from an interview with the Republican National Journal (which soon removed from its website all record of its interview), in which McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” On 4 November 2010, McConnell gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation saying the same thing: “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” Virtually all of the largest corporations were pouring money into Republican political campaigns to help Mitch McConnell achieve his dream; but, far from Obama’s retaliating, he cooperated with their efforts.

So, this situation resulted from both a stupid President and a vicious Republican Party — not just John Roberts and the other Republican judges, and not just from Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans, but from the President himself, and from the former WellPont VP, Elizabeth Fowler, who actually wrote the law in the offices of the conservative Montana Senator Max Baucus, whom Obama chose to oversee its drafting, so as to keep the political contributions flowing from the health insurance companies and medical providers.

During the past few months, I have asked many people whether there are individuals and families who are too poor to qualify for subsidies under Obamacare, or the ACA, and no one yet has answered “Yes” to that.

Did you know that the answer is “Yes?”

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

On March 18, 2014 Cass Sunstein released his latest collection of essays, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas.[1] Like his other works geared toward a mainstream readership, the prominent Harvard law professor, former Obama administration regulatory czar, and NSA advisor [2] points to numerous alleged dangers posed by even “rational people” who are susceptible to adopting “crippled epistemologies.” What Sunstein fails to explain throughout his most recent medley of gentle authoritarianism is how the “conspiracy theory” term has received vigorous promotion from the editorial practices of certain major corporate news media.

“Conspiracy theory” is not merely a flippant or off-handed water cooler term, but rather a powerful tool of political discourse. “Deployed as a pejorative putdown,” political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith observes,

the label is a verbal defense mechanism used by political elites to suppress mass suspicions that inevitably arise when shocking political crimes benefit top leaders or play into their agendas, especially when those same officials are in control of agencies responsible for preventing events in question or for investigating them after they have occurred.[3]

Along these lines, “conspiracy theory” and its common variants, “assassination buff,” “crackpot,” “wacko,” and so on, were essentially interpolated into news reports and commentary in the late 1960s by CIA media assets as the agency maneuvered to bolster the Warren Commission’s “lone assassin” explanation of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OIiOztc52g

When confronted in 2012, Sunstein does not “remember very well” co-authoring a 2008 paper, “Conspiracy Theories,” the namesake of his most recent book.

Only in the past forty years or so has the label become an especially salient discursive technique for channeling political dialogue and inquiry. From the late 1800s through the first half of the 1900s the phrase can seldom be found in news discourse. A search of the Historical New York Times database finds that “conspiracy theory” is used 30 times between 1870 and 1960, often in accounts of criminal court proceedings. Yet from 1960 to 1969 alone there are 46 instances of the term’s usage in Times articles. Since 1970, it is invoked in over 1,700 pieces, with a peak between 2000 and 2009 (728).[4]

Today the pejorative not only acts as a disciplinary measure–journalists and scholars alike fear such a trenchant smear–but also as a technique to shape information and analysis. It serves as a more-than-subtle way of saying, “Look here, not there,” thereby guiding readers and viewers to place their reasoning faculties in abeyance and adopt what are often uncritical and even misleading modes of substantiation and conclusion. While this phenomenon is clearly demonstrable in print news media, it is also widespread in US-based cable and broadcast news.

A LexisNexis search of news program transcripts for the dates March 1, 2011 to March 1, 2014 reveals 2,469 usages of the “conspiracy theory/theories” term. Probing the surveyed time span reveals CNN (586 transcripts) and MSNBC (382) as the foremost purveyors of the phrase, with Fox News (182) a distant third. The US government’s transcript service, US Federal News, comes in at fourth, suggesting persistent strategic usage of the label at federal government press conferences and similar functions to drive home official positions and dispel challenges to them. Programming on National Public Radio ranks fifth, with 115 instances.

The following is a breakdown of the cable or broadcast outlet/program referencing “conspiracy theory” or “conspiracy theories” in transcript text within the aforementioned three-year span.

CNN Transcripts  -  586
Global Broadcast Database (local broadcast transcripts)  -  416
MSNBC  -  382
Fox News  -  182
US Federal News  -  144
National Public Radio  -  116
Australian Broadcasting Corporation  -  71
NBC News  -  67
Congressional Quarterly Transcripts  -  57
ABC News  -  55
CTV TV (Canada)  -  55
CBS News – 54
CNN International  -  48
Imus Simulcast  -  39
Financial Market Regulatory Wire  -  31
PBS News Hour  -  21
Bloomberg: Surveillance Show  -  17
Congressional Quarterly Testimony  -  16
The Charlie Rose Show  -  15
Follow the Money  -  14
Euro News  -  13
Lou Dobbs Tonight – 12
Cavuto – 8

To be more conclusive, the specific contexts in which the term is mobilized might be more fully examined and delineated. An argument may also be waged that this metric is not exactly proper given the dissimilar breadth of content produced by each outlet. After all, a 24-hour cable news channel such as CNN simply has far more “news hole” to fill than a daily one-hour broadcast like PBS News Hour or Charlie Rose.

Image: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (Wiki Commons)

Yet even here the variances are telling. For example, when comparing domestic CNN transcripts to those of the channel’s counterpart, CNN International, the former uses the term over twelve times as frequently. Such findings suggest the execution of a clear-cut editorial policy to fulfill certain propaganda-related ends–indeed, not unlike the Central Intelligence Agency’s usage of the term to combat alternative interpretations of President Kennedy’s assassination.

Along these lines, further examination of the data sample distinguishes how even news personalities’ bylines are correlated with frequent employment of the “conspiracy theory” label. Searching within the same data set, transcripts with CNN Anderson Cooper’s byline possess the highest incidence of the expression (81), with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Al Sharpton tied for second place (77), and Piers Morgan (38) ranking third. CNN’s Erin Burnett and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tie for fourth. Ostensibly conservative Fox News personalities Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity use the expression less frequently.

Anderson Cooper (CNN)  -  81
Rachel Maddow (MSNBC)  -  77
Al Sharpton (MSNBC)  -  77
Piers Morgan (CNN)  -  38
Erin Burnett (CNN)  -  31
Chris Hayes (MSNBC)  -  31
Sean Hannity (Fox News)  -  29
Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) – 19

Image: CNN’s Anderson Cooper (Wiki Commons)

With the exception of ABC (Australia) and CTV (Canada), all of the outlets are US-based, suggesting how the American population, well known for its limited historical comprehension and political sophistication, is expressly targeted with repeated usage of the “conspiracy theory” phrase. A population relying on sensation, caricature, and hearsay to understand national and world affairs has already forsaken its freedom.  It is perhaps ironic that CNN and MSNBC in particular cater to audiences that see themselves as open-minded and “liberal”–indeed, the opposite of cunning technocrats such as Sunstein. At the same time, if these two networks’ continually depressed ratings are any indication, the public is becoming more and more skeptical of how it is being patronized.[5]

A most profound political act any individual can undertake may involve adopting a basic regimen of intellectual self-defense that would include an increased awareness of the “conspiracy theory” label itself and a resolve to assess the term’s utilization vis-á-vis the context in which it is employed, in an effort to better determine what it seeks to obscure, legitimate, and redirect attention to.

Notes

[1] Cass Sunstein, Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014.

[2] “America’s Joseph Goebbels to Serve on NSA Oversight Panel,” Liberty Blitzkrieg, August 25, 2013.

[3] Lance deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013, 9.

[4] See also deHaven-Smith, 126-131.

[5] “Key Indicators in Media & News,” Pew Research Journalism Project, March 26, 2014.

No Wreckage of Malaysian Airline Plane Recovered

April 1st, 2014 by Alan Leigh

After three weeks of intensive searching, there is still controversy and speculation surrounding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370 on March 8. A series of satellite images that appeared to show debris in remote areas of the southern Indian Ocean have not been verified by the recovery of wreckage. The latest possible debris identified by an Australian plane in a new search zone to west of Australia—orange objects that were described as the most promising lead to date—turned out not to be related to the missing aircraft.

Ten days after MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, news emerged that Thai military radars had detected the missing plane changing direction toward the south-west. According to Thai authorities, this important piece of information, which could have been used to avoid searching in the wrong area for more than a week, was not passed on to Malaysian authorities because they did not ask for it.

No explanation has been provided by Malaysian authorities for the failure of at least three Malaysian military radars to detect Flight MH370’s u-turn toward the south and the lack of any known attempt to contact the crew and question the change of direction. According to Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s defence minister and acting transport minister, an investigation is underway.

Hishammuddin has refused to rule out the possibility that the entire search will be moved away from the current zone, about 1,100 south of Perth. After visiting Perth’s Pearce Air Force base on Monday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott conceded that authorities in charge of the search are operating on limited information.

Despite no wreckage being located, Abbott reiterated his support for the March 24 announcement by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak that MH370 crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing all 12 crew and 227 passengers aboard. “I think that Prime Minister Najib Razak was perfectly entitled to come to that conclusion,” Abbott declared.

Abbott praised the joint operation by a number of countries to resolve the mystery of Flight MH370, calling it a “humanitarian” effort for the “betterment of humanity.” Abbott added: “This multi-country search is a powerful example of international cooperation at a time of adversity.”

In reality, geopolitical rivalries and suspicions have apparently led governments to withhold high-resolution images from military satellites and information sourced in other ways. The search for the aircraft is being used, particularly by Australia and the United States, to rehearse their ability to sustain extensive aerial surveillance operations in the Indian Ocean.

James Brown, a military analyst at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, said it was “a peacetime test of many of the military functions that would be critical in the event of a conflict.” The countries involved in this search for MH370, Brown noted, were “closely watching each other’s performance, and wary of exposing any vulnerabilities to each other, and their own domestic political audiences.”

The appointment of the former Australian Defence Forces chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, to head the joint search operations also points to the military, rather than humanitarian, character of the operation.

According to Reuters, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued rules and guidelines for countries involved in the search operation since Houston’s appointment. No detailed information has been provided about the guidelines, but they are believed to include stipulations that any wreckage must be secured and handed over for investigation by the Malaysian authorities.

The families of passengers on board the missing flight are still demanding that the Malaysian government explain what happened to their loved ones. Desperate Chinese family members who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on March 30 carried a banner reading: “Hand us the murderer. Tell us the truth. Give us our relatives back.”

The Chinese government was initially critical of Malaysia’s handling of the operation and lack of transparency. It is now telling the families to move on and accept that their loved ones have perished. China Daily, a newspaper controlled by the Chinese state, wrote on March 30: “All the related parties can do is to continue to search for the wreckage, carry on negotiations with the Malaysian side for more information and prepare to make arrangements for funerals.”

According to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese government has flagged the possibility of using the failure to locate the plane to justify a significant expansion of its global monitoring network, particularly over the strategic waters of the Indian Ocean.

Professor Liu Yu of Peking University told the newspaper: “International earth-observation services today are dominated by the US and European countries, but if China launches more than 50 satellites for this purpose, the whole landscape will be changed. The more Chinese satellites there are in space, the easier our work becomes. By analysing data from numerous satellites positioned at different locations and equipped with different sensors, we can understand much better an area of interest.”

Professor Zhao Chaofang of the Ocean University of China added: “Many Chinese satellites can only offload their data when they are flying over China… To build up a global monitoring network as efficient as that of the US, our ground stations overseas must be expanded as well.”

On Saturday, Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin said both the British MI6 and the American CIA are now working with their Chinese counterparts in the investigation. This renewed speculation that the plane disappearance is related to a terrorist act, rather than mechanical failure.

One suicide scenario has centered on the MH370 pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. After searches of his house, interviews with his family and an examination of a flight simulator that he possessed, Malaysian police dismissed any suspicions of Zaharie. Lurid speculation published by the British Daily Mail that Zaharie deliberately crashed the plane to protest against the re-conviction of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been categorically rejected by his family, friends, Anwar and other opposition politicians.

A July 2011 cockpit fire at Cairo airport in a Boeing 777—the same model as MH370—involved a short circuit that ignited an oxygen pipe. After the Cairo accident, regulators ordered the replacement of the oxygen pipes, which cost $2,698. According to the Sydney Morning Herald , Malaysia Airlines refused to say whether it replaced the oxygen pipes. A company spokesperson said it complied with all mandatory orders issued by authorities.

Effectiveness of the Flu Vaccine against Influenza?

April 1st, 2014 by Roman Bystrianyk

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie— deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion  without the discomfort of thought. – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963)

Just take a walk or drive around this time of year and you can’t help noticing signs for the flu vaccine. They’re pretty much everywhere, lining entire parking lots and walkways into markets. They encourage everyone to get the shot – telling you to “walk in anytime” and of course accepting insurance. Some even offer incentives to get the vaccine such as a giving a 20% off shopping pass with every flu shot. At workplaces across the country notices are sent out offering shots at flu clinics. It’s a full court press promoting the vaccine everywhere for everyone.

I called my local pharmacy to find out who could get the shot. They told me I didn’t even need a doctor’s note. I asked if a pregnant woman could get the shot and they said that it wasn’t contraindicated, but some people ask for preservative free shots. I asked if I was feeling under the weather if I could still get the shot and the answer was “sure no problem.”

So it’s easy. No doctor’s note. All you need is insurance and if you don’t have it just $31.99 per shot – at least that’s the price at my local pharmacy. It didn’t even matter if you were sick you’re ready for your shot. It couldn’t be any simpler.

But a couple of things were missing – science and information. Of course there is no debate when questioning vaccination in general and so it goes with the flu vaccine. Simply blindly accept, roll up your sleeve and get the injection that will supposedly protect you from getting sick. It has to be true doesn’t it? The government and medical organizations have all signed on and each year there is more and more push for everyone young and old to get vaccinated. But let’s do something you’re never supposed to do – ask questions and look for answers.

One of the most obvious questions is “did the flu vaccine reduce deaths?”

Looking at the Vital Statistics of the United States you can get all sorts of interesting information. Some of that information is the deaths from various infectious diseases. The statistics usually group influenza and pneumonia together with data for the United States starting in the year 1900 to the present. What it shows is that the death rate for influenza and pneumonia was at 200 per 100,000 and that slowly declined over the years. Aside from the 1918 flu pandemic the death rate continued to decline and reached about 20 to 25 per 100,000 by the early 1970s when there was the initial push for flu vaccines. You can see this decline in this graph

Deaths from influenza and pneumonia had decreased by 90% before there was an idea to push for widespread vaccination. This isn’t surprising at all since infectious disease death rates had declined well before there were vaccines. Measles deaths had declined by almost 100%

and whooping cough deaths by over 99%

before either of their perspective vaccines. Other infectious disease such as scarlet fever, typhoid, typhus, cholera, and others all decrease to virtually zero without any widespread use of any vaccine.

It is quite amazing that there was a 90% decrease in deaths before the use of any flu vaccine. What caused this massive decrease in deaths from infectious disease? What lessons have we learned? When you go get your flu shot do they share any of this information with you? Chances are probably not.

Even if we hadn’t learned any lessons as to why there was such a decrease in deaths, there were still people dying of the flu and pneumonia. With a vaccine the idea is of course to reduce those deaths. The question is how well has it done?

Let’s look at the data again. This time let’s examine the mortality rate and vaccine coverage. You would expect that with an increasing vaccine coverage that the death rate would decline. After all, vaccines are supposed to protect the population from the disease that they target. When we look at that data we find something surprising – we find that as the coverage rate for vaccination improved the death rate actually increased not decreased.

The data shows that influenza and pneumonia deaths were 20-25 per 100,000 in the mid to yearly 1970s and increases to about 30 per 100,000 with a much greater flu vaccine coverage.

This phenomenon was reported by the CDC epidemiologists in 2003 as reported in an article in the journal Vaccine.

    …national influenza-related mortality rates among seniors increased in the 1980s and 1990s as the senior vaccination coverage quadrupled. [1]

What’s more is that same article reported that only approximately 5% of winter deaths are related to influenza. The often stated 50% of senior deaths could be prevented by vaccination are incorrect and that belief has arisen out of a selection bias in previous studies.

    …there was no evidence that the vaccine prevented more deaths in the influenza period than in surround time periods… But much of the evidence for vaccine effectiveness from observational studies in seniors over 70 years of age is unreliable, and the remaining evidence suggests that vaccination is far less effective than previously thought… there are only a few well-controlled observational studies at this point; these studies suggest low vaccine benefits for seniors, with point estimates ranging from 0% to 29%.[2]

It’s important to note that 90% of influenza and pneumonia related deaths occur in seniors older than 70 years of age. Data from the National Vital Statistics[3] in 2001 shows the death rate per 100,000 for all age groups with clearly the biggest problem in seniors over 75 and over 85 at 148 and 685 rate per 100K respectively. Also, if you’re between the ages of 1 and 65 when you look at other causes of death (some are listed in the TABLE) the flu and pneumonia are not as nearly as high as a lot of other risks in life.

2Age

So a less than stellar 0 to 29% effectiveness in seniors isn’t all that we are led to believe in advertisements and public announcements. The authors of this study harshly conclude:

    …the idea that influenza vaccine can prevent up to 50% of ALL winter deaths is preposterous.[4]

A 2009 review by the Cochrane Collaboration identified, retrieved, and assessed all studies evaluating the effects (efficacy, effectiveness and harm) of vaccines against influenza in healthy adults. This study also came to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence for the use of widespread vaccination for the flu.

    There is not enough evidence to decide whether routine vaccination to prevent influenza in healthy adults is effective… The results of this review seem to discourage the utilisation of vaccination against influenza in healthy adults as a routine public health measure.[5]

A February 14, 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined the influenza related deaths in the entire US elderly population. The authors expected that since influenza vaccination had greatly increased over the last 25 years that there should be a reduction in mortality by about 35% to 40%. What they found instead was no reduction in death despite increased vaccination.

    …the 50-percentage-point increase in vaccination coverage among the elderly after 1980 should have reduced both excess P&I [Pneumonia and Influenza] and excess all-cause mortality by about 35% to 40%. We found no evidence to indicate that such a reduction had occurred in excess P&I or excess all-cause mortality in any elderly age group.[6]

Again, the authors conclude that previous observational studies must have been biased to overestimate the benefits of the flu vaccine.

    …these estimates, which provide the best available national estimates of the fraction of all winter deaths that are specifically attributable to influenza, show that the observational studies must overstate the mortality benefits of the vaccine.[7]

In a recent article Peter Doshi, Ph.D reiterated this position. He declared that:

    The vaccine may be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza seems to be overstated… This means that influenza vaccines are approved for use in older people despite any clinical trials demonstrating a reduction in serious outcomes.[8]

He also stated that public officials only need to claim that the vaccine saves lives and that most people, including doctors, assume there is solid research behind the claim and unfortunately that is not the case. So in seniors – the group that has the greatest need – there really isn’t any good science to backup the use of the flu vaccine.

What about in children under 1 year of age where there is also a higher mortality rate? After all, the CDC currently recommends children 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. A 2008 study found no evidence as to the benefits of flu vaccination in children under two years of age.

    …vaccine effectiveness was not clearly shown in children under 2 years of age. Further studies using different methods, in different locations, and in different seasons, are needed to clarify the effectiveness of influenza vaccine among young children.[9]

In 2012 a comprehensive review of 75 randomized control studies in healthy children under 16 years of age was published.

    Inactivated vaccines in children aged two years or younger are not significantly more efficacious than placebo… little evidence is available for children younger than two years of age… No safety comparisons could be carried out, emphasising the need for standardisation of methods and presentation of vaccine safety data in future studies. In specific cases, influenza vaccines were associated with serious harms such as narcolepsy and febrile convulsions. It was surprising to find only one study of inactivated vaccine in children under two years, given current recommendations to vaccinate healthy children from six months of age in the USA, Canada, parts of Europe and Australia. If immunisation in children is to be recommended as a public health policy, large-scale studies assessing important outcomes, and directly comparing vaccine types are urgently required.[10]

What’s surprising is not only was an evaluation of all the available studies showing that there was no benefit for vaccinating children under 2 years of age, but that there was only 1 study at all in children in that age group. The authors also note that serious problems such as narcolepsy and convulsions were also associated with the vaccine.

In yet another study examining the flu vaccine in children under 5 years old for two seasons the authors found no benefit. The vaccine did not prevent emergency room visits or inpatient/outpatient visits during the years 2003-2005.

    Each year, US children aged 6 to 59 months experience high rates of hospitalizations, ED [Emergency Department] visits, and outpatient visits due to influenza. Despite this, we were unable across 3 large communities to demonstrate that influenza vaccination was effective in preventing influenza-related inpatient/ED visits or outpatient visits during 2 consecutive seasons (2003-2004 and 2004-2005) among 6- to 23-month-olds, 24- to 59-month-olds, or the entire age span.[11]

So why are we vaccinating children as young as 6 month old?

Looking at all this information it’s surprising how much time and effort has been invested in vaccinating against the flu. And here is part of the problem – what is the flu anyway? Most people think of the flu as being caused by a single entity – an influenza virus. Is this really the case?

“Flu” is basically defined as a 100°F or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever), a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and/or body aches, chills, and fatigue. So if you have that you think you have the flu. Right? Not so fast. What is often poorly understood is that a person actually has a syndrome (influenza-like illness, or ILI) that can be caused by various agents. Only a proportion of these syndromes is caused by influenza A and B viruses, but differential diagnosis on clinical grounds alone is not possible. So in other words, just because you or your doctor think you have the “flu” doesn’t mean you have the influenza virus.

In a 2009 editorial by Thomas Jefferson of the Cochrane Vaccines Field, explained just what the incidence of ILI is and what percentage are actually caused by the influenza virus. Using perspective studies the Cochrane group determined that during the winter season about 7% of people come down with ILI – 93% don’t. Of that 7% only a small fraction are from influenza – 11% influenza, 6% RSV [Respiratory syncytial virus], 3% Rhinovirus, 2% PIV [Parainfluenza virus], and a whopping 77% from unknown causes. Based on this the conclusion was:

    …evidence presented here points to influenza being a relatively rare cause of ILI and a relatively rare disease. It follows that vaccines may not be appropriate preventive interventions for either influenza or ILI.[12]

So when you’re supposed to be protected from the flu you’re really getting an injection against a small subset of influenza-like illnesses. It’s no small wonder why those looking at the effectiveness of the flu vaccine have seen so little of it.

Although it’s often thought as impossible, people sometimes even get sick with the flu after being vaccinated. But, as we just discovered, feeling like you have the flu doesn’t mean you have an influenza virus. It could be that you’ve gotten another type of infection. This is exactly what is discussed in the 2012 research paper by Cowling et al. In a double-blind randomized controlled trial, children aged 6–15 years either received a 2008–2009 seasonal trivalent influenza inactivated vaccine [TIV] or a REAL SALINE placebo (which you don’t often see in vaccine trials).

    TIV recipients had higher (5 times) risk of confirmed noninfluenza respiratory virus infection. The majority of the noninfluenza respiratory virus detections were rhinoviruses and coxsackie/echoviruses, and the increased risk among TIV recipients was also statistically significant for these viruses.[13]

The author’s note that the influenza vaccine may have reduced immunity to noninfluenza respiratory viruses by “some unknown biological mechanism.” What’s worse is what they noticed between the vaccine versus the placebo:

    There was no statistically significant difference in the risk of confirmed seasonal influenza infection between recipients of TIV or placebo.[14]

Perhaps that is why a hepatitis A vaccine or another old influenza vaccine is so often used as a placebo in vaccine trials?

The immunity picture that we might have of a vaccine stimulating an antibody to protect us from a specific illness is actually much more complicated. There are multiple infections that can cause us to feel like we have the flu and when we get a shot it can make us more susceptible to another infection. This is exactly what has appeared to have happened with the use of the flu vaccine and susceptibility to the swine flu.

      Professor Peter Collignon has called for a review of Australia’s flu vaccine… “What was a bit surprising when we looked at some of the data from Canada and Hong Kong in the last year is that people who have been vaccinated in 2008 with the seasonal or ordinary vaccine seemed to have twice the risk of getting swine flu compared to the people who hadn’t received that vaccine, Some interesting data has become available which suggests that if you get immunised with the seasonal vaccine, you get less broad protection than if you get a natural infection. It is particularly relevant for children because it is a condition they call original antigenic sin, which basically means if you get infected with a natural virus, that gives you not only protection against that virus but similar viruses or even in fact quite different flu viruses in the next year. We may be perversely setting ourselves up that if something really new and nasty comes along, that people who have been vaccinated may in fact be more susceptible compared to getting this natural infection.”[15]

Confused? Don’t be upset because diseases are complicated and, moreover, the immune system is very superficially understood by even the most accomplished immunologists today.

    …“the immune system remains a black box,” says Garry Fathman, MD, a professor of immunology and rheumatology and associate director of the Institute for Immunology, Transplantation and Infection . . . “Right now we’re still doing the same tests I did when I was a medical student in the late 1960s . . .” It’s staggeringly complex, comprising at least 15 different interacting cell types that spew dozens of different molecules into the blood to communicate with one another and to do battle. Within each of those cells sit tens of thousands of genes whose activity can be altered by age, exercise, infection, vaccination status, diet, stress, you name it. . . . That’s an awful lot of moving parts. And we don’t really know what the vast majority of them do, or should be doing . . . We can’t even be sure how to tell when the immune system’s not working right, let alone why not, because we don’t have good metrics of what a healthy human immune system looks like. Despite billions spent on immune stimulants in supermarkets and drugstores last year, we don’t know what—if anything—those really do, or what “immune stimulant” even means. [16]

There is one more thing you probably have noticed by now – that the statistics almost always lump the flu and pneumonia together. It’s assumed that influenza and pneumonia are strongly linked so that’s why there are often grouped together for data reporting, but that association is often lost when claims are made that 36,000 people die each year from the flu. For example this is from the American Lung Association:

    Many confuse the flu with the common cold, but in actuality, the flu is much more serious. In the United States, the flu is responsible for 226,000 hospitalizations and an average of 36,000 deaths annually.[17]

But what they actually mean is “flu-related” deaths not from the flu itself and that complication is pneumonia.

    …according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), “influenza and pneumonia” took 62,034 lives in 2001—61,777 of which were attributed to pneumonia and 257 to flu, and in only 18 cases was flu virus positively identified. Between 1979 and 2002, NCHS data show an average 1348 flu deaths per year (range 257 to 3,006).[18]

So in actuality the number of lives lost to the flu by percentage is less than 1%, and only a few were actually positively identified as the flu. So where does this 36,000 flu deaths figure come from? It comes from a model and not actually verified numbers.

      CDC’s model calculated an average annual 36,155 deaths from influenza associated underlying respiratory and circulatory causes. Less than a quarter of these (8,097) were described as flu or flu associated underlying pneumonia deaths. Thus the much publicized figure of 36,000 is not an estimate of yearly flu deaths, as widely reported in both the lay and scientific press, but an estimate—generated by a model—of flu-associated death.[19]

Remember that the “flu” isn’t always caused by the flu virus (7% of ILI is the influenza virus) and since no one is really looking to test for the influenza virus association to pneumonia (the biggest part of the killer statistic) it is just an assumption. So how can the flu vaccine help prevent the lion’s share of the deaths when the association is more with ILI? According to Cochrane Reviews when they went to find how well vaccination helped people prevent pneumonia or death – they couldn’t find any.

      After reviewing more than 40 clinical trials, it is clear that the performance of the vaccines in healthy adults is nothing to get excited about. On average, perhaps 1 adult out of a 100 vaccinated will get influenza symptoms compared to 2 out of 100 in the unvaccinated group. To put it another way we need to vaccinate 100 healthy adults to prevent one set of symptoms. However, our Cochrane review found no credible evidence that there is an effect against complications such as pneumonia or death.[20]

So what are we supposed to do to help us not get sick?

In this randomized clinical trial, daily supplementation with 1200 IU vitamin D3 in school children between December and March showed a significant preventive effect against influenza A, although no significant difference was observed for influenza B… daily dietary probiotic supplementation was a safe effective way to reduce fever and other symptoms in small children. Moreover, a significant preventive effect of a product containing echinacea, propolis, and vitamin C on the incidence of respiratory tract infections was observed in children. [21]

We could use vitamin D – you produce this if you get good amount of sunshine – probiotics, vitamin C, and other natural options. We can also be careful to wash our hands properly and even use a face mask when appropriate.

    We found a significant reduction in the rate of ILI among participants randomized to the face mask and hand hygiene intervention during the latter half of this study, ranging from 35% to 51% when compared with a control group that did not use face masks. Our results are consistent with a previous review of studies examining the effectiveness of mask use in reducing the transmission of respiratory viruses.[22]

There is plenty you can do to maintain your health and not get sick. If you do get sick then there are ways to help keep you from getting really sick. But is your local pharmacy or your doctor or the CDC going to tell to make sure you wash your hands, get plenty of sunlight, take lots of vitamin C and D, get proper rest, and the many other things to keep you from coming down with the flu or other illness? Don’t hold your breath. Right now they believe in and push a mythical magic wand to keep you from getting the flu and that’s not going to stop anytime soon.

Roman Bystrianyk is co-author of Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines and the Forgotten History which is available on AMAZON.

Notes

1. Lone Simonsen, Cecile Viboud, Robert J. Taylor, Mark A. Miller, Lisa Jackson, “Influenza vaccination and mortality benefits: New insights, new opportunities,” Vaccine, 2009, pp. 6300-6304.
2. Ibid.
3. Table 9.Death rates by age and age-adjusted death rates for the 15 leading causes of death in 2001, National Vital Statistic Report, VOl. 52, No. 3, September 18 2003: United States, 1999-2001 , p. 28, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr52/nvsr52_03.pdf
4. Ibid Simonsen.
5. Demicheli V, Di Pietrantonj C, Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Rivetti D, “Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults (Review),” The Cochrane Collaboration, 2009.
6. Lone Simonsen, PhD; Thomas A. Reichert, MD, PhD; Cecile Viboud, PhD; William C. Blackwelder, PhD; Robert J. Taylor, PhD; Mark A. Miller, MD, “Impact of Influenza Vaccination on Seasonal Mortality in the US Elderly Population,” JAMA Internal Medicine, February 14, 2005, vol. 165, no. 3, http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=486407
7. Ibid.
8. Sylvia Booth Hubbard, “John Hopkins Scientist Slams Flu Vaccine,” NewsMax, May 16 2013, http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/Headline/influenza-virus-flu-vaccine-Peter-Doshi-Ph-D-/2013/05/16/id/504942
9. Megumi Fujieda, Akiko Maeda, Kyoko Kondo,Wakaba Fukushima, Satoko Ohfuji, Masaro Kaji, Yoshio Hirota, “Influenza vaccine effectiveness and confounding factors among young children,” Vaccine, 2008, pp. 6481-6485
10. Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C, Demicheli V, Ferroni E, “Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children (Review),” The Cochrane Library, 2012, Issue 8.
11. Peter G. Szilagyi, MD, MPH; Gerry Fairbrother, PhD; Marie R. Griffin, MD, MPH; Richard W. Hornung, DrPH; Stephanie Donauer, MS; et al., “Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Among Children 6 to 59 Months of Age During 2 Influenza Seasons,” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, October 2008, pp. 943-951.
12. Tom Jefferson, Cochrane Vaccines Field, Clinical Evidence, October 5th, 2009, http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/mce/file/05-10-09.pdf
13. Benjamin J. Cowling, Vicky J. Fang, Hiroshi Nishiura, Kwok-Hung Chan, Sophia Ng, Dennis K. M. Ip, Susan S. Chiu, Gabriel M. Leung, and J. S. Malik Peiris, “Increased Risk of Noninfluenza Respiratory Virus Infections Associated With Receipt of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine,” Clinical Infectious Disease, 2012, pp. 1778-1783
14. Ibid.
15. B. Goldman, “The Bodyguard: Tapping the Immune System’s Secrets,” Stanford Medicine, Summer 2011
16. “Vaccines may have increased swine flu risk,” ABC New Australia, March 5 2011, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-03-04/vaccines-may-have-increased-swine-flu-risk/1967508
17. http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/publications/solddc-chapters/i-p.pdf
18. Peter Doshi, “Are US flu death figures more PR than science?” BMJ, 2005
19. Ibid.
20. Influenzae, Reviewer, Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group and Cochrane Vaccines Field, http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2010/Jefferson_statement.pdf
21. Mitsuyoshi Urashima, Takaaki Segawa, Minoru Okazaki, Mana Kurihara, Yasuyuki Wada, and Hiroyuki Ida, “Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010, pp. 1255-1260.
22. Aiello AE, Murray GF, Perez V, Coulborn RM, Davis BM, Uddin M, Shay DK, Waterman SH, Monto AS, “Mask use, hand hygiene, and seasonal influenza-like illness among young adults: a randomized intervention trial,” Journal of Infectious Diseases, February 2010, vol. 201, no. 4, pp. 491-498.

 

A report released last week by the House Committee on Homeland Security pinpoints what it presents as failures of state, local and federal authorities to communicate and share information that could have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings last April 15.

By attributing to mere mistakes or oversights numerous unanswered questions relating to government contacts with and knowledge of the terrorist sympathies of one of the alleged bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the report serves the political function of promoting the most innocent—and least plausible—explanation for the failure of intelligence and police agencies to stop the perpetrators.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged along with his deceased older brother Tamelan with detonating two bombs near the finish line of the marathon, killing three people and wounding 264 others. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police four days after the bombings. Dzhokhar is facing trial on capital charges in Massachusetts.

In the aftermath of the bombings, authorities locked down Boston and its suburbs and imposed virtual martial law, forcing citizens to “shelter in place” while armed police conducted warrantless searches of homes and National Guard troops with armored vehicles and helicopters occupied the city.

The Committee on Homeland Security’s document notes that in the initial period of its investigation, the committee was stonewalled by federal agents, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) dismissing attempts to gather information as “non-oversight activities” and refusing to comply. The report states that in December of last year, the committee met with “representatives of the executive branch” to discuss the report’s “classification level and to provide comments … and recommendations.”

“As such,” the report notes, “certain portions have been redacted to preserve the integrity of the sensitive and classified evidence provided to the committee throughout this investigation.”

In fact, the 38-page report is heavily redacted, with large sections of text dealing with the most critical issues blacked out.

According to the report, after the FBI was initially warned by Russian authorities about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, in early 2011, the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which is overseen by the FBI, conducted a threat assessment of Tsarnaev. This entailed tracking his telephone conversations, online activities and associations with potential terrorist suspects, as well as holding face-to-face interviews with the suspect and his parents.

Claiming to have found no derogatory information, the FBI closed the case several months later, but entered Tsarnaev’s name in the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), along with a request that the agent in charge of his case be alerted should he attempt to leave the US.

In October of 2011, Tsarnaev’s name was reentered in the TECS database after officials received a second request from Russian authorities that an investigation be carried out. A comment was attached to Tsarnaev’s file calling for customs agents to “Detain, isolate and immediately call the lookout duty officer at NTC [National Counter-Terrorism Center] (24X7),” should the suspect attempt to leave the country. The note further said that such a call would be “mandatory whether or not the officer believes there is an exact match” with the suspect.

Despite these explicit directions, no attempt was made to detain Tamerlan Tsarnaev at any time after both US and Russian officials had requested notice of his movements. In 2012, Tsarnaev took a six-month trip to Dagestan in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region, where he sought to establish connections to radical jihadists, attending mosques known to be frequented by Islamic militants. No attempts were made to hinder his flight to Russia or question him upon his reentry into the US.

Upon Tsarnaev’s return, the influence of his interactions with extremists could be seen in his behavior, as he began cultivating a pro-jihadist persona on social media web sites. A joint comment published in the Boston Globe by Texas Republican Michael McCaul and Massachusetts Democrat Bill Keating, both authors of the report, stated, “Had even a simple Internet search been performed, Tsarnaev’s increased posting of radical propaganda would have been uncovered.”

Though the report has been presented in the media as a “damning indictment” of the counter-terrorism agencies’ actions in the lead-up to the bombings, the authors manage to omit far more than they reveal. The most critical passages—those pertaining to the 2011 investigation conducted by the FBI into Tsarnaev and the failure to detain him at the airport as he attempted to leave the country in early 2012—have been heavily redacted.

Last week, lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev submitted legal papers alleging that the FBI attempted to recruit Tamerlan as an informant and requested that the FBI turn over relevant documents. The FBI has denied the allegation and is opposing the release of documents to the defendant’s legal team (see: “New evidence of US intelligence links to Boston Marathon bomber”). 

The connection of the Tsarnaev family to Chechen radicals and the US are well documented. Ruslan Tsarni, an uncle of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, ran an organization that supplied materials to Chechen rebels from the suburban Washington DC home of Graham Fuller, former vice-chairman of the US National Intelligence Council and ex-CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The committee report raises suspicions about the official handling of a September 11, 2011 triple homicide case in Waltham, Massachusetts, in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev has since been implicated by the FBI. At the time, the authorities said the victims—Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken—all of Jewish origin, were suspected of dying in a drug-related crime.

The report notes that investigators at the time suspected a religious motive in the killings. Tsarnaev, a martial arts enthusiast, had trained at a local gym with one of the victims and is on record as referring to him as his “best friend.” The date of the homicides would place the crime within days of the second alert US authorities received from Russian officials about Tsarnaev’s extremism.

The House Committee on the Homeland Security report fails to answer a number of crucial questions:

* Why was Tsarnaev given a clean bill of health by the FBI?

* Why was he allowed to travel out of the country unhindered after both US and Russian officials had demanded to be notified of his movements?

* Why did the FBI keep local and state officials in the dark about their contacts with Tsarnaev, who lived in metropolitan Boston, and the warnings about his terrorist connections in the lead-up to the Boston Marathon, a widely attended international event?

The explanation offered by the committee, that there was simply a failure to “connect the dots,” repeats the discredited, all-purpose disclaimer used to avoid a serious accounting for previous unexplained failures of government agencies to prevent terror attacks, from the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington DC, to the attempted 2009 Christmas Day bombing over Detroit Metro airport.

The Republican 2016 presidential primary season opened with the “Sheldon Adelson Primary.” The eight wealthiest person in the country, worth an estimated $40 billion, doesn’t have to wait for the official GOP primary season to start. He holds his own primary.

Adelson granted audience to GOP presidential hopefuls at the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, in Las Vegas. Over the course of four days of Scotch tastings, golf, poker tournaments, and private meetings, the 80-year-old casino mogul examined the GOP’s most likely 2016 presidential candidates.

Adelson single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich in the 2012 presidential race, with nearly $16 million in campaign contributions, some of which financed Gingrich’s infamous documentary, “When Mitt Romney Came To Town.” When Gingrich ran out of hot air, Adelson poured more than $30 million into Romney’s campaign. Whoever wins Adelson’s support will have his billions behind them in 2016.

Spending $93 million on losing candidates in 2012 hasn’t made Adelson gun-shy about 2016. Adelson is placing his bets more carefully. “He doesn’t want some crazy extremist to be the nominee,” Adelson friend and GOP donor Victor Chaltiel says. “He wants someone who has the chance to win the election, who is reasonable in his positions, but not totally crazy.” (Adelson has advocated using nuclear weapons against Iran. So, “crazy” is relative.)

The “Billionaire’s Primary” is a return to what Paul Krugman calls “patrimonial capitalism,” where a wealthy few control the “commanding heights of the economy, and use their wealth to influence politics. Thanks to the biggest wealth transfer in U.S. history, the rich are richer than ever. And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, there’s no limit on what they can spend.

The new billionaire political bosses aren’t limiting themselves to national politics. Charles and David Koch made the top 10 in Forbes magazine’s list of the wealthiest people on the planet. According to a George Washington University Battleground poll, most Americans have never heard of the Koch brothers, but the Koch’s wealth is “trickling down” into local politics.

Along with spending tens of millions of dollars on 2014 Senate races, the Washington Postreports that the Kochs are funneling money into “hyperlocal” races, through their Americans For Prosperity organization. The Wisconsin chapter is engaged in an Iron County board election, challenging incumbents as “anti-mining” radicals, and distributing 1,000 flyers in a county with just 5,000 voting age residents. AFP is also involved in a local race in Iowa, and property tax fights in Kansas, Ohio, and Texas.

Image: DonkeyHotey/cc/flickrRepublicans even called it “the Sheldon Primary.”

What are the Kochs up to? David Koch says, “Somebody has got to work to save the country and preserve a system of opportunity.” But the New York Times is more specific: “The idea is to embed staff members in a community, giving conservative advocacy a permanent local voice through field workers who live in the neighborhood year-round and appreciate the nuances of local issues.”

This is nothing new. It’s a time-honored strategy, rooted in the notion that, “all politics is local.” It worked well for Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition in the 80s and 90s. Now billionaires are using this strategy, but to what ends, and what are the implications for American politics?

Right-wing billionaires are building their own political machines, to promote their personal interests and preserve their profits. The Koch brothers have poured millions in to campaigns against Obamacare and climate science, as part of a broader campaign against government regulation — which they perceive as a threat to their fossil fuel investments and personal fortunes.

Adelson will do “whatever it takes” to stop internet gambling, to protect the profit margins of his casinos. He’s hired former Democratic senator Blanche Lincoln’s government consulting firm to lobby for his Vegas corporation. Though not a long-time supporter, Adelson has given Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, SC) $15,600 in campaign contributions. Graham reportedly preparing a bill to ban internet gambling.

Adelson and the Kochs show how the wealthy can use their wealth — in a post-Citizens United political landscape — to impact races and shape policy. Their fire-hoses of money can easily drown out other messages, and narrow the field of candidates for office. The cost of running for office increasingly requires candidates have personal wealth, or wealthy patrons. Those who have neither almost need not apply, even at the state and local level.

Wealthy patrons like Adelson and the Kochs don’t invest without expecting an eventual return. They’re likely to get what they pay for. A joint Yale and U.C. Berkeley study is evidence that money  does buy access. The study showed that campaign donors are more likely than constituents to get meetings with lawmakers — as a result of, or in hopes of getting campaign contributions. Meeting with constituents may secure votes, but meeting with donors or potential donors can secure enough money for re-election campaigns. (So much for Justice Anthony Kennedy’s argument that huge campaign contributions “do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.”)

Billionaire political bosses like Adelson and the Kochs are America’s new oligarchs. Political parties may at least be influenced by public opinion, but American oligarchs act in their self-interest without concern for public sentiment. They are accountable to no one, and the lawmakers on their payrolls are more accountable to their billionaire political bosses than to the rest of the American electorate.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Terrance Heath is the Online Producer at Campaign for America’s Future. He has consulted on blogging and social media consultant for a number of organizations and agencies. He is a prominent activist on LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues.

History: What does Crimea Mean to Russia?

April 1st, 2014 by Oriental Review

On March 18, 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a historic speech about the reunification of Crimea and Russia.  A referendum held in Crimea two days before in full compliance with standard democratic procedures and the rules of international law, shocked many by it’s results: there was an 82% turnout rate, with almost 97% of those casting their ballots in favor of reunification with Russia.  These numbers were so astonishing that there still seem to be many people in the West who cannot bring themselves to believe how much the Crimeans truly longed to return home.  And indeed, without an awareness of this land’s heroic history that has been so liberally washed in Russian blood, this public enthusiasm might seem irrational, or even artificial. Baptism of Holy Grand Prince Vladimir in Chersonesus in 988 AD (icon).

Understanding why they made this choice requires a careful look at what Russia has always meant to Crimea, as well as vice versa. This common history and pride emanates from literally every place and object in Crimea.  The ancient Greek city of Chersonesus, where in 988 AD St. Grand Prince of Kiev Vladimir was baptized, was founded here. It would truly be difficult to overstate the significance this fabled region holds for Russia. The colony was established on the Crimean Peninsula by the ancient Greeks, 500 years before the birth of Christ. The footsteps of St. Andrew, one of Jesus’ original disciples, who is known as ‘the apostle to the southern, eastern, and northern shores of the Black Sea’, are found here. Crimea is the place where the blood of Apostle Peter’s disciple St. Clement was spilled for Christ, consecrating the soon-to-be-Christian Rus’ and here the apostles of Slavic people, St. Cyril and Methodius, preached the Gospel.  Prince Vladimir’s conversion to Christianity in the Crimean city of Chersonesus paved the way for the Russian civilization and made an invaluable contribution to world history and culture.

In the tenth century, Russian princes founded the Tmutarakan principality on the shores of the Black and Azov seas, which sat on the Crimean shore on the Kerch Peninsula, along with the city of Korchev (now known as Kerch).  This was the historical period during which the Slavs of Kievan Rus gradually put down roots throughout Crimea.  It was in Old Crimea, Sudak, Mangup, and Chersonesus that the Slavs comprised the most significant part of the population.

Tmutarakan quickly become the world’s second most important port, after Constantinople, through which passed almost all 11th-12th century trade routes that crossed the sea or steppe.  The son of Grand Prince Vladimir, Mstislav, who ruled the principality until 1036, consolidated and expanded its borders.  At the end of the tenth century, the remnants of the restored Byzantine Bosporan Kingdom were incorporated into the principality.  Much later, a marble slab was found on the Taman Peninsula with an inscription dating to 1068:

“In the summer of 6576 [since the creation of the world, which corresponds to the year 1068 - OR] Prince Gleb measured across the frozen sea, from Tmutarakan to Korcheva, 14,000 sazhen” [which is about 28 km - OR].

As the Cuman people increasingly intruded into Rus’ at the end of the 11th century, Tmutarakan was virtually cut off from Kievan Rus’ and lost its independence, by 1094 finding itself under the rule of the Cumans, Byzantium, the Golden Horde, Genoa, and Turkey.

Russian Empress Catherine the Great. At the end of 18th century, Empress Catherine the Great worked to see Crimea returned to Russia.  It was the Russian Empire’s dominion over Crimea that rescued the ruins of Chersonesus, so sacred to Russian history, from complete oblivion.  The Empress, with the willing assistance of Prince Grigory Potemkin, is remembered for founding a naval base, which was named Sevastopol, in Akhtiar harbor (now known as the Bay of Sevastopol).  The history of Sevastopol tells the remarkable story of Russian military valor and fortitude.

Sevastopol, Balaklava, Kerch, Malakhov Hill, and Sapun Ridge are landmarks that embody Russian military glory and true valor.  Each of them has been bathed in the blood of the soldiers who battled fearlessly there to defend a future of peace.  The 349 days of the heroic defense of Sevastopol during the Crimean War will forever be commemorated in the histories of Russia and of these two kindred peoples, as will the 250-day defense of the city during WWII.

The armies of Britain, France, Turkey, and Sardinia (Italy) invaded the Crimean Peninsula in 1854.  On Sept. 13, this city, which had never before faced aggression from any direction but the sea, found itself under siege.  Fortifications and gun batteries were constructed while under fire from enemies who held an overwhelming advantage in troops and cannons.  The city’s defense was directed by the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Kornilov, and his subordinate, Vice Admiral Pavel Nakhimov.  Five battleships were sunk in order to prevent the enemy from gaining entry to Sevastopol Harbor, and naval guns and crews arrived to join the defenders.  The tenacity and patriotic fervor of the Russian soldiers, sailors, and townspeople astonished the world.  On Oct. 5 the invaders began the first bombardment of Sevastopol, during which the city’s defenses suffered no great losses, but Admiral Kornilov was mortally wounded.  The hub of the defense then shifted to Malakhov Hill.

On March 28, 1855 the invaders began a second assault.  Although at the cost of a large number of casualties, they succeeded in pressing our positions.  The third and fourth assault ended in the same way as the previous onslaughts, but on June 28 Vice Admiral Nakhimov was killed during an exchange of gunfire.  The French General Jean-Jacques Pélissier, the commander of the allied forces, was ordered by Napoleon III to capture the fortress, regardless of the toll.   After the fifth (!) and equally unsuccessful (!) attack, the allied forces began to prepare for a decisive strike on the half-destroyed Russian fortifications.  The sixth and final assault on Sevastopol began on Aug. 27.  The barrage involved eight French and five British divisions, plus one brigade from Sardinia – a total of 60,000 combatants – who fought against 40,000 Russians, most of whom had been diverted to the back line of the defense.  The fortunes of the battle shifted back and forth.  The French were able to capture and hold Malakhov Hill.  crimea4 At the order of the commanding general, Mikhail Gorchakov, the defenders retreated to the southern side of Sevastopol, blowing up the powder magazines and sinking the remaining ships.  This outward defeat at Sevastopol sapped the strength of the invaders’ troops, and they were forced to agree to peace negotiations on conditions that were far different from those they had expected at the beginning of the war.  The defense of Sevastopol – the most vivid page in the history of the Crimean War – demonstrated once again the indefatigable spirit of the Russian soldier and his ability to fight even under the most difficult conditions of siege, when there seemed no chance for deliverance.

After 87 years, a new siege, and again a heroic defense and indefatigable spirit, awaited Sevastopol.  Nazi troops invaded Crimea on Oct. 20, 1941 and within 10 days had reached the outskirts of Sevastopol.  The city was not prepared in advance to defend itself from an approach by land, but the attempt by the Germans and Romanians to take it forthwith did not succeed.  A stubborn defense of Sevastopol began.  Field fortifications were constructed as the fighting raged, and supplies, reinforcements, and evacuations of the wounded and civilians could only be carried out by sea, often under enemy air raids.

On Nov. 4, all the Soviet forces banded together inside the city’s defensive zone.  On Nov. 11, with significant superiority in troops and artillery, the enemy launched an offensive.  After fierce battles and suffering heavy casualties, the Germans ceased their frontal attacks on Nov. 21 and proceeded to lay siege to the city.  On Dec. 17, seven German infantry divisions and two Romanian brigades, far outnumbering the Russian forces, launched a new offensive with tank support.  The attacks were rebuffed with the support of naval artillery fire, and any further incursion was foiled when Russian troops landed in Kerch and Feodosia.  Moreover, by forcing the Germans to divert to Feodosia the 11th Wehrmacht Army that was besieging the city under the command of General Erich von Manstein, the Sevastopol regional defense battalions began a partial offensive and had improved their position by March 1942. crimea6

Beginning on May 27, Sevastopol was subjected to incessant shelling and air attacks.  On the morning of June 7, the enemy launched a punishing attack around the entire perimeter of the defensive zone.  After a fierce battle, the Russian troops abandoned Malakhov Hill on June 30.  But resistance continued on the outskirts of the devastated city.  The battle went on until July 4, and even as late as July 9 in some areas.  Most of the city’s defenders were killed or taken prisoner, with only a few managing to make their way to the mountains to join the partisans.  The 250-day defense of Sevastopol, despite its tragic end, showed the world that Russian soldiers and sailors were capable of incredible sacrifices.

In the hearts and minds of the public Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia. This belief, based on truth and justice, has been unwavering. It has been something passed down from generation to generation with no regard for either time or circumstances.  Even the dramatic changes experienced by Russia during the twentieth century were powerless to alter this conviction. It would have been impossible for anyone to imagine how Ukraine and Russia could be two different states. But then the Soviet Union collapsed.  Events progressed so quickly that few at the time grasped the full drama of the unfolding events or their consequences.

And when Crimea suddenly became part of another country, Russia felt that she had not just been robbed, but plundered. Millions of Russians went to bed in one country and woke up in another, transformed overnight into minorities within the former Soviet republics. Thus the Russian nation became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, partitioned nation in the world.  But the populace was unable to stomach this egregious historical injustice.  During those years, both common people as well as many public figures often raised this issue, claiming that Crimea was native Russian soil and Sevastopol was a Russian city.  For 23 years Crimea has retained its Russian soul and every Crimean has spent this time breathlessly waiting for the peninsula to return home to Russia. And now it has happened – to general elation, tears of happiness, and long-awaited joy – a triumph of historical justice!

Crimeans celebrating reunification with Russia, March 18, 2014.

It has recently come to our attention that the extremist organization “Regavim” has distributed to the foreign press an English version of the document they produced in November essentially  supporting the government’s position that the Bedouin of the Negev have no legitimate land claims and are “taking over the Negev.”   We are therefore reissuing the English version of our response highlighting the inaccuracies upon which both the Israeli government and Regavim base their positions.

british-tent-map-and-current-villages

IMAGE: A map of current Bedouin communities, shown on top of a map of British tents. Courtesy of Professor Yiftachel.

READ: RHR’s response to Regavim’s harmful distortion of facts on the Negev Bedouin  

A government sponsored bill currently in front of the Knesset would likely lead to the demolition of tens of “Unrecognized” Israeli Bedouin villages in the Negev, and transfer of some 40,000 Israeli citizens from their homes to artificially created poverty stricken townships.  They would be dispossessed from most of their remaining lands.  The legislation has been temporarily frozen after an international “Day of Rage” on November 30th organized jointly by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from the Occupied Territories drove home the widespread opposition.  Agricultural Minister Yair Shamir replaced former minister Benny Begin as responsible for the legislation, but in fact increased home demolitions and the approval of new Jewish communities where “Unrecognized” villages currently exist lead to great concern that the government intends to implement their plan without legislation.

The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages, along with the Israeli NGO of socially responsible planners, “Bimkom,” has created an alternative zoning plan showing that all of the 35 “Unrecognized” villages can be recognized and developed according to the highest planning standards, while allowing Israel’s other development goals in the region.

An RHR commissioned opinion poll indicates that most Israeli Jews believe disinformation, such as the claim also in the Regavim document that “The Bedouin are taking over the Negev.” When they learn that the sum total of documented historic Bedouin land claims are a mere 5.4% of the Negev for over 30% of the population, the majority of Israeli Jews indicated that this is fair.

In the U.S., the Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal movements are on record opposing the current plan, as are sixty British rabbis ranging from Orthodox to liberal.

Click here for extensive additional information about the Begin/Prawer plan, or contact us at [email protected]

Protesters put down placards and pick up pragmatism as they begin solving the problems created and/or neglected by the regime they oppose. 

 Since late October, 2013, protesters across Thailand have taken to the streets, occupied rally sites, seized government buildings and made their grievances known to the world. They stand in opposition of the regime of Thaksin Shinawatra – a Wall Street-backed billionaire autocrat, convicted criminal, accused mass murderer, and fugitive who is openly running the country from abroad via his nepotist appointed proxy, his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Not entirely unlike other protests seen unfolding around the world, large mobilizations have periodically flooded the streets of Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok, at times attracting over a million protesters.

Image: One protest leader, Buddha Issara, traded in placards for pragmatism, purchasing a rice mill and operating it at his rally site in northern Bangkok. The mill is processing rice from destitute, desperate farmers and creating an ad hoc farm-to-city market to put cash from consumers directly into the hands of farmers as opposed to the corrupt middlemen and regime warehouses overflowing with unsold, rancid rice. If Thailand’s political future is decided by actions rather than words, anti-regime protesters like Buddha Issara and his followers are well on their way to victory. Others would be wise to follow his sage example not just in Thailand, but around the world. Find more images via ASTV’s Manager.co.th.

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However, unlike many protests, particularly those promoted heavily by the Western media, including the so-called “Arab Spring” and the recent “Euromaidan” protests in Ukraine later found out to have been led by Neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalist parties with Hitleresque names like the “Fatherland Party,” hollow slogans such as “democracy” and “freedom” in Thailand are overshadowed by more specific, better articulated, and enumerated demands.

Also unlike many protests promoted by the West where regime change in favor of a pro-Western client is the one and only true objective, protesters in Thailand have begun turning their placards in for pragmatism to solve the problems that have brought them out into the streets to begin with. Rather than empower others to speak and act on their behalf, they have elected instead to circumvent the dysfunctional electoral process and empower themselves through a series of direct action campaigns.

What To Do While the Regime Clings to Power?

  While much progress has been made regarding many of the protesters’ demands – the fact still remains that Thaksin Shianwatra through his proxy regime is still clinging to power. The collapse of the regime is inevitable, but for Thaksin and his foreign backers – completely removed from any risk of continuing on in vain – they believe there is nothing to lose in search of even the faintest chance of political survival.

As long as the regime clings to power, the effects of its corruption, incompetence, and criminality will continue to reverberate across Thai society. Most acutely felt is the damage it has exacted across Thailand’s agricultural industry upon which much of Thailand’s work force depends. Mobilizing the resources of the state to solve this problem is not only untenable because the regime continues to hover above the levers of power, but also because more handouts – which created the problem in the first place – will ultimately not solve the plight of Thailand’s farmers, only compound them.

The real solution to this problem is to undermine entirely the edifice on which the regime is clinging. Instead of prying its claws from the ledge, the entire edifice should be separated from the cliff’s face and sent tumbling down into the ravine below, regime and all. This requires the parallel creation of a new model for Thai agriculture – side-by-side with the dysfunctional ruins left behind by the regime. The successful creation of a parallel agricultural system could serve as a model for solving other social problems, and the first tentative steps toward accomplishing this have already been taken by Thailand’s innovative and resourceful protesters.

Farmers Facing Ruin Given Second Chance at Protest Site

The plight of Thailand’s farmers began in 2011 with the fantastical vote-buying promise of over-market prices per ton for rice delivered to government warehouses. Almost immediately, Thailand’s traditional trade partners avoided the overpriced grain and turned toward neighboring Asian nations. As rice sat in government warehouses long past what industry standards allow for, fumigation, fungus, and rot rendered the rice unfit for human consumption.

By the summer of 2013, promised subsidy prices were first slashed before payments to farmers were altogether halted. Many farmers have now gone without compensation for rice they have already turned in, and that has long since turned rancid, for well over half a year. Compounding the farmers’ dilemma was the cancellation of the subsidy program in conjunction with intentionally delayed delivery of  irrigation water for farmers to begin planting their next crop.  The regime feared another deluge of rice deliveries on top of the overflowing warehouses they already have failed to sell – the delay of irrigation water was a means of buying more time at the farmers’ expense.

  Even as farmers now begin receiving water Thailand’s rice industry lies in such ruins, few know to whom they will be able to sell their rice and at what price. For a segment of the population already struggling against the constant fear of insurmountable debt and lacking any means to diversify their economic activity, they are facing destitution and desperation unlike anything they have seen in decades.

Image: Buddha Issara prepares rice milled at his rally site for sale.

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Enter Buddhist monk and activist Luang Pu Buddha Issara, who has led the permanent occupation of northern Bangkok’s Government Complex for months. Between leading protesters and coordinating with the larger anti-regime movement, Buddha Issara has also done something novel, innovative, and rare – added pragmatism to the sea of placards found among his followers.

Money raised by the various fundraising activities has gone into the purchase of a modest rice mill.  The mill processes about 1 ton of rice per day, brought in by desperate farmers unable to receive compensation from the regime. The milled rice is then sealed in bags and sold to Bangkok’s city goers. The proceeds are given back to the farmers. Buddha Issara has also asked farmers to bring other forms of produce – fruits and vegetables – to the protest site to likewise be sold. It is the first steps toward a farm-to-city market, short-circuiting the corrupt middlemen and rancid warehouses that constitute the failed rice scheme the regime has created.

Image: Bangkok Farmers’ Market. (Facebook page)

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Buddha Issara’s “protest market” is putting cash from consumers directly into the hands of farmers. With the success of his market, Buddha Issara is planning on purchasing additional mills and expanding his operation. Other protest sites, including the mass encampment at Bangkok’s central Lumpini Park may serve their cause well by also adopting this model.

Additionally, apolitical social enterprises like the Bangkok Farmers’ Market (Facebook page here) could also augment its progressive pro-farmer/consumer paradigm by integrating milling and distribution into both a business model and as part of their educational activities – showing and perhaps even teaching city-goers the process of milling and packing as well as expanding the network of “middleman-less” distribution.

  The potential for Buddha Issara’s pragmatic activism to move past politics and immediately begin helping people is owed to the fact that regardless of one’s political affiliations, the merits of his actions are apparent. While political slogans and agendas can endlessly be debated, tangible pragmatism that puts cash into people’s hands by leveraging technology can’t.

 Ultimately the battle for Thailand’s future will be won by actions not slogans or political promises. While the regime’s supporters are caught almost weekly with weapons and amid deadly attacks on protesters, the protesters are carrying out direct action that is relieving the plight of those victimized and abandoned by the regime. For now, and by a clear lead, the resourceful protesters are winning. Should Buddha Issara’s fellow protesters learn from his example, and expand his innovative means of direct action, they will continue to win.

Malaysia says may Sue over ‘False’ MH370 Media Reports

April 1st, 2014 by The Voice of Russia

Malaysia’s authoritarian government, which has been under harsh global scrutiny over the handling of its missing-plane drama, said Tuesday it would compile “false” media reports over the crisis and consider filing lawsuits.

Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on his Twitter feed the country’s attorney general had been instructed to “compile evidence and advise” on possible legal action.

Earlier in the day Hishammuddin was quoted by the Malay Mail newspaper as saying: “We have been compiling all the false reports since day one. When the time is right, the government should sue them.”

The MH370 saga and resulting world attention has put Malaysia’s long-ruling government – which muzzles its own pliant mainstream press – in the unaccustomed position of having to answer tough questions from reporters.

Hishammuddin, who has run the government’s near-daily briefings on the situation, has repeatedly denied various anonymously-sourced reports revealing details of Malaysia’s investigation into the March 8 disappearance of MH370 with 239 people aboard. He took particular aim on Monday against British tabloid the Daily Mail, which at the weekend quoted a “source close to the family” of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah as saying police had learned he was emotionally unstable before the flight amid alleged marital trouble, AFP reports.

“I can confirm to you that the information did not come from the police and you should ask Daily Mail how they get the information,” Hishammuddin said tersely when asked about the report.

In a Facebook comment reported by local media, Zaharie’s daughter Aishah Zaharie accused the Daily Mail of “making up” the report. The Daily Mail also reported earlier that Zaharie was said to be a fanatical supporter of Malaysia’s political opposition. Friends and acquaintances have denied that.

Suspicions have fallen on Zaharie, 53, and his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid after Malaysian officials said the plane was believed to have been deliberately diverted by someone with flying knowledge. But nothing has emerged to suggest either had any motive to go rogue.

The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in power since independence in 1957 has a poor record of transparency, routinely sweeping corruption scandals and other embarrassments under the rug. Malaysia’s independent web-based news organisations are largely unfettered due to a promise by the government in the 1990s not to censor the Internet, but their reporters say they are routinely harassed or blocked from government press briefings.

Malaysia Airlines MH370: any light at the end of the tunnel?

Late on Monday the Malaysian authorities came up with an update of the MH370 cockpit last words. “Good night Malaysian three seven zero”–this was last recorded from the missing MH370 flight cockpit, Malaysian authorities say.

Previously the utterance was deciphered as “all right, good night”. The most recent update is seemingly more in line with what the crew are expected to say than the previous, more informal version, but it’s still unclear why it took the authorities so long to come up with the update on the wording. Forensic investigators are now set to determine whether the pilot or co-pilot spoke the words. The plane’s last contact took place at 01:19 Malaysian time, and the indicators registered then that the plane continued flying seven hours after the last contact took place.The Malaysian authorities say that based on satellite data they have concluded that it crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

The MH 370 Boeing 777 had  advanced “emergency locator equipment” which was emitting signals, which should have facilitated its location.  It was subsequently established that the MH 370 flight had gone Southbound towards the Indian Ocean.

Located in the Indian Ocean, the US Diego Garcia military and intelligence base –described by defense observers as the “best-kept secret in the navy”– has a gamut of advanced observation and detection equipment which should have facilitated the search of the Malaysian airlines plane.

But instead, the US military preferred to remain mum on the subject, as outlined by a carefully documented article by Matthias Chang.

According to Reuters (28th March, 2014, quoted by Matthias Chang):

Ultimately, the only country with the technical resources to recover the plane – or at least its black box recorder, which could lie in water several miles deep – may be the United States. Its deep-sea vehicles ultimately hauled up the wreckage of Air France 447 after its 2009 crash into a remote region of the South Atlantic.

The US has a state of the art spy satellite system, with very precise capabilities of monitoring the earth’s surface, including moving objects. These technologies are part of the United States Space Surveillance Network. The Diego Garcia base “is one of only a handful of locations equipped with a Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance system for tracking objects in deep space”.  Given the levels of sophistication of these observation technologies, it is highly unlikely that the MH370 flight could have travelled unnoticed over a large span of the Indian Ocean.

Another Indian Ocean Disaster: The December 2004 Tsunami

The recent stance of the US military and its failure to act in relation to flight MH 370 bears a canny resemblance to that adopted by Washington in relation to the Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy in December 2004.

Both events pertain to advanced observation and tracking technologies located at Diego Garcia. In both cases the US military remained mum.

In the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami hitting the coastline of Sri Lanka and Thailand on December 26, 2004, “a spokesman for the US national weather service confirmed … that the Hawaii centre, part of America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had alerted the Diego Garcia base. He did not know if American military personnel at the base alerted anyone else in the region to the danger.” (The Guardian, January 6, 2005, emphasis added)

The Weather Service alerts the Military? The presumption was that the people at the Diego Garcia military facility were totally unaware of what was going on and had no information concerning the tsunami and its deadly trajectory. An absurd proposition.

Known and documented, the US military at Diego Garcia had advanced systems which enabled it to monitor in a very precise way the movement of the seismic wave in real time as well as the precise trajectory of the Tsunami. Yet they chose not send out an emergency warning which would have saved hundreds of lives in Thailand,  Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia.

Who informs whom? While the Hawaii Centre had formally notified Washington and the Military at Diego Garcia, the US government already knew, because the seismic data pertaining to the tsunami (transmitted out of the Diego Garcia facility) had been processed within minutes by an agency under the jurisdiction of the US Department of the Interior, namely the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) based in Golden, Colorado.

Metallic Debris on the Ocean Floor

The search for the debris of the Malaysian Boeing 777 and its blackbox has terminated without obtaining relevant evidence on the causes of the accident.

The key question: does the US military know where these debris are?

The Diego Garcia base also has advanced technologies which enable it to undertake detection of metal objects on the Indian Ocean floor. Why are these technologies not being applied?

Articles on the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

Foreknowledge of A Natural Disaster Dec 29, 2004 … … in the Tsunami Warning System, by Michel Chossudovsky … The tsunami swept across the Pacific also causing destruction along the Pacific …

Nine Years Ago, December 26, 2004: Indian Ocean Tsunami. Why …Dec 24, 2013 … … Information Not Get Out? By Prof Michel Chossudovsky … Indian Ocean Tsunami: Why did the Information Not Get Out? This article was first …

Ukraine: Western Gangsterism and Propaganda

March 31st, 2014 by Andre Vltchek

As my plane left Dubai for Kiev, I began browsing through an endless pile of newspapers and magazines: from the New York Times to the Economist, from the Times to several Gulf-based and Turkish periodicals, as well as Spanish and German ones.

The consensus on Putin being a villain was absolute. There were no dissident voices, but also, not surprisingly, no Russian intellectual voices. There were absolutely no editorials written by Russians attacking the Western destabilization of Ukraine and the destruction of its democratically elected government.

It was also shocking how the Arabic and Turkish press was translating and reprinting all that appeared in the West.

There were no clear, simple and logical explanations of what actually happened in Ukraine recently.

That is, that the West, particularly the greedy and desperate EU, wanted to get its hands on the tremendous natural resources of the Ukraine, on its heavy industry and cheap but highly-educated work force. They offered a deal. A very bad deal, under which, European companies would be allowed to plunder the country, but Ukrainian people would not be even allowed to enter the EU, let alone seek employment there.

The elected government rejected such farce. The West accelerated its support to ‘the opposition’, which included several clearly gangster forces, full of ultra-nationalists and Nazis. The legitimate government was overthrown. Crimea decided to leave such an illegitimate entity. People voted, democratically. Russia simply accepted the outcome.

The West began crying murder, simply because, for once, it was not allowed to rob, to loot, what it wanted. It is not used to such resistance – for centuries it has been accustomed to taking, to raping and to fleecing anything it fancies.

In the meantime, the fascist pro-Western military regime in Egypt (a regime that is actually financed by the US) sentenced 529 people to death, mostly those belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was overthrown last summer.

Egyptian students who support the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi clash with riot police following a demonstration outside Cairo University on March 26, 2014. (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)Egyptian students who support the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi clash with riot police following a demonstration outside Cairo University on March 26, 2014. (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)

There was strong language from the West, but no condemnation. Fascist, Pinochet-style Egypt is a close Western ally.

Another ally, Indonesia, a miserable failed state plundered by multinationals, with many indicators mirroring sub-Saharan Africa, has once again been poisoning the entire region, with smoke coming from its burning forest-fires: proof of a gangster-run economy. Fires are destroying forests and giving way to palm oil plantations. Again no condemnation. Not even an alarm.

Like Rwanda and Uganda, which are by now responsible for between 6 and 10 million lost lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There, the killing is done on behalf of Western companies and governments, so it should not be discussed.

The same could be said about the present occupation of Southern Somalia by Kenyan forces, an invasion that was triggered on a ridiculous, pre-fabricated platform.

Fellow looters

The destruction of entire nations, as well as the obliteration of the environment, is not to be noticed by a fellow looter if ‘a friend’ does it.

In our recent book, ‘On Western Terrorism – From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare’, my friend and mentor Noam Chomsky clarified how the West reserves the right to ruin, and even liquidate, countries that it considers uncooperative, and how it is done with absolute impunity, even with legal support.

 

“Take the invasion of Iraq – nothing can be discussed or potentially regarded as criminal. In fact there is a legal reason for that, which is not too well-known. The United States is self-immunized from any prosecution. When the US joined the World Court in 1946, the US basically initiated the modern International Court of Justice, which it joined but with the reservation that the US cannot be judged by any international treaty – meaning the UN charter, the charter of the Organization of American States, the Geneva Conventions. The US is self-immunized from any trial on those issues. And the Court has accepted that. So, for example, when Nicaragua brought a case against the United States at the World Court for the terrorist attacks against Nicaragua, most of the case was thrown out because it invoked the charter of the Organization of American States, which bars interventions strongly, and the US is not subject to that and the Court accepted it.”

“In fact the same happened, interestingly, at the trial where Yugoslavia brought a case against NATO for its being bombed, to the International Court of Justice, I think, and the United States excluded itself from the case and the Tribunal agreed because one of the charges mentioned was that it was a genocide, and when the United States signed the Genocide Convention after 40 years, it had a reservation saying it was ‘inapplicable to the United States’, and so therefore the Court rightly excused the United States from prosecution. There literally are legal barriers established just in case anyone dares to try to bring some charge against the powerful. I am sure you recall when the Rome Treaty was signed, and the International Criminal Court was established, the US refused to participate… but then it was more than that. The Congress passed legislation, which the Bush Administration happily signed, which granted the White House authority to invade The Hague by force, in case any American was brought there. In Europe it is sometimes called the Netherlands Invasion Act. Well, that was passed here enthusiastically, so the self-immunization is at many levels. One is the impossibility to perceive, such as when you deny what happened to the indigenous population in the United States, when you just can’t see it even if it is in front of your eyes. The other is that it’s actually fortified by legislation.”

Is such an arrangement outrageous and totally racist? It is, but it appears that most Western intellectuals and journalists are so disciplined, brainwashed or cowardly, that they hardly notice.

David Castle, the senior commissioning editor of Pluto Publishing House in London is clearly aware of the game the Western mass media is playing. Pluto is one of the major opposition publishing houses in English language.

“Most people in Britain understand international politics through television news and mainstream newspapers. Both are heavily skewed towards domestic issues and so international coverage is scanty. Major conflicts, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, barely get reported at all. Also, most of the press is notoriously right-wing – far to the right of the people as a whole, and often owned by media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, who aggressively pursue a right-wing agenda through their publications. The state-owned BBC is committed to presenting a ‘balanced’ view of political issues, but its concept of balance is to present the views of both major British political parties. When they agree on an issue such as Ukraine, you can fail to find any dissenting voices,” David told me about this issue.

International gangsterism

The question is where this revisionism will take the planet? Is the West really ready to face Russia and China, two major powers, just to secure fully its dictatorial role over the world? Is its greed, is its insane Protestant desire to control and rule, truly so overwhelming?

It is all resembling, increasingly, gangsterism, not an international consensus.

Christopher Black, a leading international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, clearly defines the possible endgame, for this report: “The Ukraine is the latest theatre of operations in the world war that erupted with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the drive thereafter by the West to dominate world resources and markets. The first theaters of operation in this global war were Africa and Yugoslavia. In Africa, America ejected France from Central Africa and turned Rwanda into a military state used to maintain a state of deadly chaos in the Great Lakes region of Africa.”

The destruction of Yugoslavia during the same period culminated in the final brutal NATO attack of 1999 and the overthrow of Milosevic in 2001, Black says. In rapid succession the NATO states attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, then Libya and Syria. The ultimate target of these wars is, of course, Russia and its vast resources, and those countries such as China, Iran, and of Latin America that insist on maintaining their independence and sovereignty.

“But these wars cannot be conducted without propaganda, and as the wars themselves are total wars – that is, wars targeting civilians as well as military forces – so the propaganda techniques used are total, using every aspect of communication and penetrating all levels of society. Important elements of this propaganda are the various war crimes tribunals whose primary function is the dissemination of false histories of the wars concerned, and criminalization of those who resist,” Black told me.

Christopher Black says that we see this technique used in Ukraine with the absurd call by the Kiev junta to have President Yanukovich charged by the International Criminal Court for crimes probably committed by members of that junta.

Legendary radio host Dr. Kevin Barrett, based in the US, described the situation in a recent article which made waves all over the world. It is called ‘USA declares war on democracy’.

“In Ukraine, Venezuela, and Thailand, as in Syria and Egypt before them, the banksters are adding violence to their ‘color revolution’ game plan for destroying democracy. This may seem incongruous, since the NWO [New World Order] intellectual hired gun Gene Sharp, the so-called ‘Machiavelli of non-violence’, designed the original color revolutions as purportedly peaceful and democratic uprisings. But Sharp’s so-called color revolutions, beginning with Georgia’s ‘Rose Revolution’ of 2003 and Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2004, were never genuine people’s revolutions. They were bankster takeover attempts from the beginning. George Soros would funnel Rothschild money to ambitious, power-hungry apparatchiks, who would inundate their target countries with propaganda and hire rent-a-mobs to dress in a particular color and make a spectacle of themselves in a public square, in the hope of duping naive young people into joining the ‘revolution’ – whose real goal is always to install a NWO puppet leader,” Barrett wrote.

But Barrett, like myself, is one of those outraged voices surrounded by a cacophony of the propaganda dissonance.

While Noam Chomsky, Christopher Black, Kevin Barrett, David Castle and so many other determined free thinkers are constantly defining reality as well as the horror of what may yet come, it appears that the great majority of the Western public is thoroughly confused by, and even shows hostility towards, the alternative voices.

Dmitry Kolesnik, a brave Ukrainian journalist, my translator and co-editor on the site of Ukrainian leftists, Liva.com.ua, put everything into context.

“What’s most remarkable in the Western coverage of Ukrainian turmoil? It’s the almost total ignoring or even whitewashing of those far-right and open Nazi paramilitary forces that played the leading role in the recent coup. There were only some rare reports in mainstream media that highlighted the Nazi paramilitaries in Ukraine,” Kolesnik said.

What he is saying could be applied across Zimbabwe, South Africa, Egypt, Bahrain, Cuba, China, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Eritrea, North Korea, Vietnam, and dozens of other places worldwide. Kolesnik continued that as usual the issue of the leading role of the far-right is dismissed as ‘Putin’s propaganda’. So the media willingly turns a blind eye to everything that Putin claims.

“If [Putin] claimed that the Earth is round, the Western media would most likely denounce it as a ‘propagandist’ statement. And Putin seems to understand it quite well, but the Western media denouncing the evident facts reveal their total servility,” Kolesnik said.

He also describes a typical message in online groups of the ‘Euromaidan’ movement and the network of Nazi ‘Right Sector’ units.

“As far as I follow some groups, I can notice that sometimes they mobilize their supporters on a certain day in a certain place so as to provide the picture needed: ‘Western journalists are coming, so we have to be in the square at… and show them our democratic intentions. Please, no Nazi salutes and anti-Semitic slogans at this time, as journalists will be there. And we can see how some mainstream media makes ‘professional’ reports,” he asserts.

Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. (Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko)

Kolesnik says that when Nazi paramilitaries attack the meetings of anti-fascist forces, the rallies of the left forces, or pro-Russian protesters, the Western media never show it. But when an attack of Nazis is being kicked off, they willingly present it as ‘brutality against pro-democracy protesters’. Media dubs the unelected Ukrainian regime as ‘legitimate’ and tries not to notice its policy directed to the unleashing of a civil war or the ethnic cleansing of the country.

“Actually, we see in media coverage an example of a cynical info-war, when even Nazi thugs are being whitewashed whatever they do. Thus, we see in Ukraine a coordinated coalition of Nazis, neoliberals, some NGOs and mainstream media – all working hand in hand for the brutal demolition of the country,” he says.

I am finishing this report as my flight begins its descent to Kiev International Airport. I create a nice, neat folder that consists of several international periodicals. I am aware that soon, very soon, the reality will hit me in the face, metaphorically as well as in the real sense.

Everything will be in reverse of what is so thoughtfully written in those well-edited and designed propaganda sheets.

I look at the cover of the Economist and at the tasteless caricature of a half-naked President Putin on a heavily-armed tank. It reads ‘The New World Order’.

But it is not yet here, this New World Order. It is still the same nightmare of some dozen or so extremely arrogant, brutal and canny Western nations, tormenting the world with impunity. And it is done, they claim, in order to ‘save it’, to make it pure and happy, as was done for centuries by fanatical and cruel religions.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries.

Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”

According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.

CRIME GOES DOWN, JAIL POPULATION GOES UP

According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:

. Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.

. The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.

. Longer sentences.

. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.

. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.

. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.

HISTORY OF PRISON LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES

Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.

During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.

Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum. And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.

Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.

[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”

PRIVATE PRISONS

The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.

Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES

Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.

After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 – ending court supervision and decisions – caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.

STATISTICS

Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

Several African States Boycott the EU Summit in Belgium

March 31st, 2014 by Abayomi Azikiwe

A planned summit between the European Union (EU) and the African nation-states has been met with controversy and rejection. The Republics of Zimbabwe and South Africa, two very important states in Southern Africa which won their independence through formidable mass and armed struggles, have stated that their leaders will not attend the gathering in Belgium.

Controversy surfaced over the way in which the 4th EU-Africa Summit has been organized. Zimbabwe expressed objections when President Robert Mugabe was extended an invitation but his wife, First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, a public figure who works on children’s rights and education, was denied a visa.

Zimbabwe said that it would not attend and was deeply offended over how the EU was approaching the meeting. A Zimbabwe Herald editor interviewed the EU envoy to Zimbabwe where he revealed that the approach to the meeting was not to invite the African Union (AU) but individual continental states.

This interview involving the upcoming Summit included a question from Herald news editor Herbert Zharare which asked EU envoy Aldo Dell’Ariccia to “Explain how you chose participants? On the list there are some countries like Egypt where President Mohamed Morsi was deposed with the assistance of the military and the AU has made its position clear on that.”( March 28)

Dell’Ariccia responded saying “You have to consider that the EU-Africa Summit is the meeting between the European Union and African continent. I want to be very clear on that, it is not the AU-European Union meeting. Participation is not guided by the membership of the African Union.”

The EU envoy continued by pointing out that “This event is the highest incidence of political dialogue between the European Union and Africa and the intention of the European Union is to make it possible to talk to all who are relevant to the subject of the event, investing in people, prosperity and peace and be able to talk very frankly with them and to have progress in these partnerships between the European Union and this region. That is why Egypt has been invited despite the fact that it has been suspended from the African Union.”

Such a response exposes the aim of bypassing the regional structures established by the AU and to in fact defy decisions made by the continental organization in relationship to the seizure of political power outside an electoral framework, which is a cardinal principle of the body. Egypt was suspended by the AU after the coup against ousted President Mohamed Morsi by the military leader Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

A delegation from the AU has visited Egypt in an effort to resolve the internal crisis.

South African President Announces His Withdrawal While Sudan and Eritrea Are Not Invited

On March 31, President Jacob Zuma announced that he would not participate in the Summit. South Africa maintains good relations with Zimbabwe and other states throughout the region of the sub-continent.

In an article published by Business Day Live it reports that the head-of-state said “I think that time must pass wherein we are looked (on) as subjects, we are told who must come, who must not come…. It is wrong and causes this unnecessary unpleasantness,” President Zuma told the SABC on March 30 during a campaign stop in the Western Cape for the May 7 national elections. (March 31)

“I thought the AU (African Union) and EU was equal organizations representing two continents, but there is not a single one of them who must decide for others.” Although Zuma personally will not attend, the South African government will send representatives according to Business Day Live.

This same above-mentioned article says “The Department of International Relations and Co-operation said on Sunday (March 30) that Mr. Zuma would not participate in the April 2-3 summit and that International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane would lead South Africa’s delegation. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies will also participate.”

Later the article says that “On Monday (March 31), the EU’s ambassador in South Africa, Roeland van de Geer, said the organization was surprised and disappointed, adding that Mr. Zuma had confirmed his participation in a letter on March 25.”

The EU claims that the Republic of Sudan has not been invited at all to the Summit. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been targeted by the West for years.

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors have issued warrants for al-Bashir’s arrest over alleged crimes against humanity involving Khartoum’s handling of the war against rebels in Darfur. Despite the refusal of the AU to acknowledge these legal actions by the ICC, the EU says that al-Bashir’s appearance in Brussels could prompt his arrest.

Eritrea in the Horn of Africa has also not been invited to the EU-Africa Summit over alleged human rights violations. The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) from the Western Sahara, which is still under the occupation of the U.S.-backed monarchy in Morocco, has not been invited as well because of the objections by Rabat.

It appears as if some African leaders will attend the Summit. Reports indicate that the president of Zambia, Michael Sata, and others had arrived in Brussels.

Nonetheless, the AU Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) had advised during late March for member-states to stay away from the meeting. Irrespective of how many African leaders will attend the withdrawal of leading states and presidents will damage the credibility of the meeting.

The EU along with the U.S. has been escalating their military and political interventions in the affairs of independent African states. Both Washington and Brussels have maintained sanctions against the government of Zimbabwe and Sudan despite the continuing opposition from the AU governing structures.

Both the EU and the U.S. are involved with the training of a military force in Libya three years after the Pentagon-NATO war of regime-change in this North African state. EU Naval Forces along with the Pentagon also maintain warships off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden which is one of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world.

Lynch Law: The Root of US Imperialism

March 31st, 2014 by Danny Haiphong

The political and economic foundation of the United States is built on the corpses of legal lynching, or “lynch law”. Without the genocide and enslavement of Black and indigenous peoples, the US capitalist class could not have amassed its profits, wealth, or power.  Following the passage of the 13th Amendment that supposedly ended Black chattel slavery at the close of the Civil War, the US capitalist class moved quickly to reorganize the capitalist economy so newly “freed” Blacks would remain enslaved. Convict-leasing, sharecropping, and legalized segregation ensured Black exploitation and white power. These brutal forms of exploitation were kept intact by white terrorism in the form of lynching.

Thousands of Black people were lynched by white supremacists from the end of the Civil War until 1968.  Ho Chi Minh, the first revolutionary president of socialist Vietnam, worked in the US in the mid-1920s and examined the horrors of lynching.  He described the gruesome details of white vigilantes torturing and killing Black people with impunity.  Local law enforcement officials protected white lynch mobs like the KKK and Black Legion and often participated in lynching alongside their white counterparts. ‘Uncle Ho’ states in his work Lyching (1924) that “the principle culprits [of lynching] were never troubled, for the simple reason that they were always incited . . . then protected by the politicians, financiers, and authorities . . . “ It wasn’t until Black people organized themselves to defend and arm their communities that white mobs were forced to curtail their racist murder sprees.

The so-called end of “Jim Crow” racism only changed the form in which Black people would be lynched by the US racist order. The US capitalist class responded to the force of the Black liberation movement by institutionalizing “lynch law” into its criminal injustice system.  Today, some form of law enforcement murders a Black person in this country every 28 hours.  Nearly half of the estimated 3 million US prisoners are Black and nearly all are “people of color.” 80,000 mostly Black prisoners are caged in solitary confinement, which by definition is torture and illegal under international law.  Numerous states in the US have “Stand your ground” laws that allow white supremacists to murder Black people with impunity. Sound familiar? And President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of US imperialism, is too concerned with pathologizing Black America than forwarding substantive policies that address ‘lynch law” on behalf of his most loyal constituency.

In this period of heightened exploitation for the oppressed in general and Black America in particular, the propertied classes are becoming increasingly paranoid about the potential for popular unrest.  “Lynch law” is becoming the law of the land for the entire populace. A homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico was shot dead by local police for being homeless on March 16th.  More US citizens have been murdered by US law enforcement in the last decade than have died in the US invasion of Iraq over the same period.  The surveillance US imperialism had to conduct in secret on radical dissent in the past has expanded to the entire population through a massive surveillance state of federal intelligence agencies, private contractors, and US multinational corporations. The prospect of being lynched by Obama’s “kill list” or detained under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is just a “terrorist” label away from any American the US government finds a threat to its “national security.”

“Lynch law” is also a global tactic for US imperialism to maintain its global domination.  Washington uses a nexus of intelligence and military institutions to lynch the world’s people of their lives and resources. This can be examined in specific instances like the thousands of people in the Middle East and Africa murdered by Obama Administration drone strikes or the NATO bombing of Libya that killed tens of thousands and nearly exterminated the Black Libyan population. The CIA has overthrown over 50 foreign governments since the end of World War II.  These are just a few important examples of how Washington and its masters, the capitalist class, must lynch the majority of the world’s people to obtain their wealth and power.

The increasing violence, suffering, and social death imposed on oppressed people by US imperialist “lynch law” exposes the bankruptcy of the liberal wing of the capitalist class.  Propped up by the corporate media like MSNBC, this self-proclaimed “left” actively participates in bi-partisan lynching in all of its forms to further their careers with the liberal imperialist Democratic Party and the untouchable fascist Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama. Any movement that depends on this corporate brand of leftism to bring about the end of US lynch law is destined to fail.  A people’s movement for complete justice will have to be led by the struggle of Black America’s oppressed majority and all communities suffering from US fascist rule.  We must spend each day building a movement that empowers oppressed people to demand the power to determine their own destiny collectively.  This movement is far from victory’s reach, but each day we fail to act, another exploited human being is lynched by the US imperialist system.

Danny Haiphong is an activist and case manager. You can contact Danny at: [email protected]

122 World Leaders on NSA Target List

March 31st, 2014 by Joseph Fitsanakis

A list of high-priority intelligence targets published over the weekend includes the names of over a hundred current and former heads of state, who were systematically targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The list appears to be part of a wider “Target Knowledge Base” assembled by the NSA in order to help produce “complete profiles” of what the NSA calls “high-priority intelligence targets”.

The list is contained in a classified top-secret briefing created by the NSA in 2009. It was published by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which said it acquired it from American intelligence defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former computer expert for the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency, is currently living in Russia, where he has been offered political asylum.

The leaked briefing explains the function of an extensive NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection program codenamed NYMROD. The computer-based program is allegedly able to sift through millions of SIGINT reports and collate information on individual targets from the transcripts of intercepted telephone calls, faxes, as well as computer data.

The list provided to Der Spiegel by Snowden contains 122 names of international political figures, said the newsmagazine, adding that all of them were “heads of foreign governments”. It includes the name of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Colombia’s former President, Alvaro Uribe, and Malaysia’s Prime Minster from 2003 to 2009, Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, also figure on the list.

Interestingly, the leaders of Malaysia, Somalia, the Palestinian Authority and Peru top the NSA’s list of high-value executive targets. It is worth noting that, according to the leaked presentation, intelligence collated through NYMROD is shared by the NSA with its sister agencies in the so-called five-eyes alliance, which consists of SIGINT agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In a separate article published Saturday, Der Spiegel said that the NSA collaborated with its British equivalent, the General Communications Headquarters, in order to compromise the networks of private telecommunications firms who provided service to individuals included in the NYMROD high-value target database. The newsmagazine said a 26-page document in its possession “explicitly names” three German telecommunications providers, Stellar, Cetel and IABG.

Crimea may be bigger than an archduke, but not more important

If American media seem filled these days with bellicose, jingoistic, uniform perspectives on a new Cold War, that’s probably because so many news outlets can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to framing new events in the tired terms of the last generation’s ingrained propaganda. At a time that needs fresh contemplation, even people like Amy Goodman on Democracy NOW are talking about recent events in and around Ukraine as having “sparked the worst East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War” or words to more extreme effect.

This construct (a no longer relevant “East-West” divide) reflects an unreflective, outdated group think. This approach is clearly wrong about the “worst crisis,” unless one ignores various wars and terrorist attacks and drone strikes of recent years. A difference between Iraq and Crimea is one of scale, certainly, but also of response, as the rest of the world accepted the American view of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (just as they passively accept the American view of Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Venezuela, and Honduras, as well as all those other places where might makes right irrelevant). 

 Any of those other countries might well argue that the “worst crisis” since the end of the Cold War was actually any of the wars visited on them and still not over. This comparison is not made in the sealed mind room of the New Cold Warriors, where the non-violent, legally ambiguous and possibly welcome occupation of Crimea is seen as so much worse than tens of thousands of dead Iraqis (or pick your own odious comparison). It is an expression of mental sterility that will do most of us no good.

The endlessly parroted mantra of a new Cold War is worse than merely mindless. Such irresponsible repetitive chatter also functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy by heightening a few fairly insignificant events (and omitting others) until the tunnel vision focus on only a part of the whole becomes widely perceived as the totality of a real crisis and reality is discredited. Can anyone say Archduke Franz Ferdinand, 1914?

 Intellectual dishonesty, as illustrated by NBC News

NBC News, in its “First Read feature on March 24, 2014, provided what could some day be a textbook example of how media bias works to make war more thinkable, by emphasizing conflict and ignoring cooperation as appropriate responses to difficult questions (which media also tend to oversimplify). Covering the White House European trip, NBC reporters picked up on an interview President Obama did with a newspaper in the Netherlands, de Volkskrant, which submitted eight questions in advance for the President to answer in writing. The President answered five (relating to Ukraine, the European Union, nuclear weapons, Iran, and the Mideast).

Without describing (or linking to) those five questions, or their answers, the NBC reporters instead commented: “However, the paper also noted the three questions he did NOT answer. And all of them were MUCH trickier to answer….

The THREE unanswered questions were the best three questions, and they’re the ones we’re looking forward to others asking the president later this week.”

This approach by NBC deprives the reader of the opportunity to compare, contrast, and make an independent judgment on all eight questions and answers. Instead, NBC guides its audience to the assumption that the real news is actually NBC’s editorial point of view (although that’s not said directly). This technique of asking editorially charged questions is common in American “journalism” and helps “news” organizations shape a story to whatever pre-determined perspective might be desired (it’s rarely clear who desires it).

Here, NBC provides an excellent exercise for analyzing fundamentally dishonest questions (questions that, in and of themselves, raise the question of the questioner’s agenda). NBC’s choice of the “three best questions” comes out of an apparent mindset that represents current conventional wisdom (which, by definition, demands inquiry by those who distrust any herd instinct). Here are the three questions the President left unanswered, and some of the reasons they may not deserve an answer:

“1. How do you fight the perspective that America withdraws from the world and is no longer feared by his [sic] opponents?”

What does the questioner mean by “the perspective”? Whose perspective? The questioner’s perspective? The perspective for a New American Century? Some hypothetical perspective? Is it anyone’s perspective at all? Why should such a question even be considered seriously without some clarity on the presumed “perspective”? Without context, it is not a serious question.

The first hidden assumption here is that America needs to “fight,” that America should fight,  that America should start by fighting a “perspective,” but get into a real fight soon enough. The point of the question is to get into a fight, not to consider whether there’s anything worth fighting about.

Another hidden assumption here is that America has, in fact, withdrawn from the world. That hidden assumption is blatantly false, as those who engineered the February coup in Kiev are well aware. Close American involvement in the unconstitutional overthrow of an elected, Russian-leaning government and its replacement with a Western-leaning junta is a reality that rather blurs the picture of exceptional American purity and persistent Russian perfidy.

So one partial answer to the question would correctly be: I don’t “fight the perspective that America withdraws from the world,” because that perspective is disconnected from reality. A more expansive answer might mention that the “perspective” is a rightwing talking point that would lead logically to the experience of Iraq-in-Ukraine, only much messier.

Rhetorically, one might add: “withdraws from the world”? Really? You mean the “pivot to Asia,” maybe? Or are you referring to the thousand or so U.S. military bases in countries that may have missed our “withdrawal” (Okinawa has perhaps a majority population that would rejoice at any “withdrawal”)? Or maybe you’re relying on the “need” to contain all those five Russian overseas military bases (in Armenia, Syria, Tajikistan, Kyrggystan, and Transnistria)?

The assumption that there is such a perspective of American withdrawal hides yet another assumption, that any American “withdrawal” from the world would, in and of itself, be a Bad Thing. And that hidden assumption hides yet another: that American imperialism is unquestionably a Good Thing.

Sometimes the invisible hides the imaginary, sometimes the opposite 

And then there’s the second half of the question, the assumption that America “is no longer feared by his [sic] opponents.”  Again, no evidence is offered or implied for this assumption, which is another New American Century-type rightwing talking point. A more realistic assumption would be that America is feared by everyone to a greater or lesser degree, whether for some act of active destruction (see list above) or some passive act of destruction (such as inaction on climate change that leaves island nations to the mercy of rising sea level).

Another hidden assumption here is that “fear” is a desirable basis for an international relationship, especially with one’s “opponents.” Since fear is a basic tool of the bully, the further assumption here is that it’s good for America to bully any part of the world that opposes it. Fear is also the tool of the colonizer, the slave master, the imperialist, the aggressor. Fear is a tool of direct attack on the sovereignty of others, and opens the way to attacks on their territorial integrity. Fear has its uses, to be sure, and can be effective sometimes, but is it a default value of peacemaking statecraft seeking a stable world of interdependence?

As the United States proceeds with its military build-up in the Baltic countries, in Poland, and in other places proximate to Russia, is there anyone who should not be afraid? Is there anyone who does not understand that advancing US/NATO forces, by definition, bring the threat of tactical nuclear weapons that much closer to Moscow, which has tactical nuclear weapons of its own?

And then there’s the geographically separate Russian state of Kaliningrad (formerly Konigsberg, among many other names), located on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania (both NATO members). Kaliningrad has a vulnerability similar to that of Crimea and an area about half the size. Ethnically cleansed of its former majority German population in the aftermath of World War II, Kaliningrad’s population of 430,000 is now predominantly Russian. Kaliningrad may or may not be a base for Russian tactical nuclear weapons.      

 So who are these “opponents” who are supposed to be afraid of the United States? Who defines them, and how? Does the determination lie with someone in Washington unhappy with the way another country distributes its oil or runs its beach resorts? Does Washington just pick whatever fight amuses it (two decades of encircling Russia with NATO), or does it wait for some actual act of opposition? And who decides what opposition is legitimate (Canadian opposition to American wars once, say, or opposition to U.S. environmental law now)? How dare Russia assert its authority over Crimea, or China assert its rights in the South China Sea?

Framing the question with “opponents” hides the assumption that the world must always be based on competition and hostility. The truth of that assumption is hardly self-evident. But making an assumption of eternal opposition does contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes any other assumption impossible.

What if the Dutch newspaper had asked a different question, along these lines: How do you fight the perspective that America doesn’t play well with others 

and so, instead of cooperating in order to ease tensions over the long term, 

quickly resorts to temper tantrums, often violent ones, that do far more

damage than just sitting still and trying to understand?

“2. Sanctions are a slow working medicine which perhaps doesn’t work at all. How do you expect to keep Putin in the meantime in check?”

Here the stated assumption is that sanctions work slowly, if at all, but it is asserted ex cathedra without reference to any specific evidence. However reasonable the assumption is, it carries a hidden assumption that is at best dubious. That assumption, hidden in the word “medicine,” is that sanctions are inherently good and proper instruments of restoring health, rather than tools for exercising control, or means of punishment or destruction. This also assumes that those applying the medicine are all good doctors following the imperative of the Hippocratic Oath – first, do no harm.

Or, as the European Union might put it: if only we could do to Russia what we’ve already imposed on Greece, Portugal, and Spain. Of course those weren’t sanctions, that was austerity, and it was for their own good to protect our good. Are you listening, Ukraine? We want only the best medicine for you! 

 Another assumption hidden in the way sanctions are defined is that probably the use of stronger medicine will be called for sooner or later – so why aren’t you ready to use force?

The assumption is that if the medicine doesn’t work, or works too slowly, then America should employ sterner measures. And this is another rightwing New American Century talking point, albeit a second tier argument needed only when America has failed to be tough enough in the first place.

Then there’s the assumption that Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to be kept in check. Given the volatility of recent events in Ukraine, there’s good reason to see the Russian occupation of Crimea as an opportunistic tactic in the midst of chaos rather than part off some strategic grand plan for which there is scant evidence. Those who argue the grand plan idea have to go back to Georgia in 2008 and not much else but the projection of their fears, usually in a context free of uncomfortably contradictory and aggressive behavior by others during the same period.

The assumption that Putin needs to be kept in check becomes plausible thanks to another hidden assumption: that Putin is an evil person motivated by evil intent. This acceptance of the demonization of Putin is the result of great effort over a long time by much of the American media, the job of demonizing Putin abroad made so much easier by the closed media in Russia. Demonization is, by definition a false narrative, but it is accepted more easily when there is no credible counter-narrative. In a sense Putin’s demonization becomes an East-West collusion that manages to serve the power politics on either side. If, in fact, the truth will set you free, why would any government want that? 

The demonization is further a barrier to thinking clearly, by substituting the ad hominem caricature of a cartoon Czar for a rational assessment of the legitimate interests of the Russian state. Ruthless demonization is what Republicans and their ilk have done to President Obama since 2009, with the same basic intent: to turn a president into a legitimate target, based on a purely emotional appeal that is designed to elicit visceral hatred. Those demonizing either Putin or Obama can not afford to allow fact-based, rational discussion emerge, for fear that the result might turn out be some sort of peaceful settlement. 

Perhaps the Dutch newspaper would have served us better by asking something to the effect of: can you apply sanctions with sufficient balance so that they do not become a new provocation to Russia but are still sufficient to keep American war hawks in check? And is that something you actually want to do? 

“3. Is it still possible for countries like Ukraine and Georgia to become NATO member? How likely is it that we return to a situation of limited sovereignty for the immediate neighbors of Russia?”

Taking the words at face value, asking about the membership of Ukraine and/or Georgia in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is inherently absurd. These countries are nowhere near the North Atlantic.

In isolation, the question about “possibility” seems to assume that NATO membership for Ukraine or Georgia might be a good thing, and should be open to discussion. But the assumption that such expansion might still be possible is itself inherently threatening to Russian interests. Who benefits from raising the issue again in this new context? Certainly those who prefer to have opponents in the world, and who want to make those opponents afraid, will be happy to press the question of NATO membership ad infinitum.

If the NATO question was intended to be neutral, that neutrality is curdled by the coded message of the second question about “limited sovereignty.” In a stripped down translation, the question amounts to a challenge: President Obama, are you going to allow a new Iron Curtain to come down across Europe?

That question is essentially the same as the initial question about fighting “the perspective that America withdraws.” The argument behind these questions is circular for a reason — because the questioner has already determined the correct answer, regardless of whether that answer is right, wrong, or irrelevant.

No wonder, then, that NBC considers these “the three best questions.”

And no wonder media so often ignore the hidden reality: that questions like these aren’t journalism worthy of the name. These questions are more like Russian dolls, full of hidden assumptions, one within another. Accept the outer doll, you get them all, and the reasonedexchange that never began is already over.

ADDENDUM:  

President Obama’s news conference in The Hague, Netherlands, on March 25, 2014, provides another real world example of media obtuseness, as argued above. An excerpt from the transcript follows. The questioner is Jonathan Karl of ABC News asking the mindless herd’s thoughtless question:

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  In China, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Russia, we’ve seen you make strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored.  Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world, your influence in the world, is on the decline?  And in the light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s biggest geopolitical foe?  If not Russia, who?…

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, Jonathan, I think if the premise of the question is that whenever the United States objects to an action and other countries don’t immediately do exactly what we want, that that’s been the norm, that would pretty much erase most of the 20th century history.  I think that there’s a distinction between us being very clear about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what principles we believe in versus what is I guess implied in the question that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something….  

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March 31st, 2014 by Global Research News

A aliança atlântica : a verdadeira agenda de Obama

March 31st, 2014 by Manlio Dinucci

O objetivo principal da visita de Obama na Europa – declara Susan Rice a qual é conselheira para a segurança nacional – é o de “pressionar para uma unidade ocidental” frente a “invasão russa na Criméia”.

O primeiro passo será reforçar ainda mais a OTAN. Essa aliança militar que, abaixo do comando dos Estados Unidos, englobou, de 1999  a 2009, todos os países do ex-pacto de Varsóvia, três da ex- União Soviética, e duas ex repúblicas da Iugoslávia, (destruida com a guerra da OTAN;  essa aliança que colocou suas bases e forças militares, inclusive aquelas de capacidade nuclear, sempre mais ao redor, e para perto da Rússia, armando-as com um “escudo anti-míssel”, que é um instrumento não de defesa mas de ataque; essa aliança que penetrou na Ucrânia, organizando o golpe de Kiev, incitando dessa maneira a Criméia a separar-se da mesma e unir-se a Rússia. “O cenário geopolítico está mudando”, anunciou o secretário geral da OTAN: “Os aliados devem reforçor seus elos econômicos e militares frente a agressão militar russa contra a Ucrânia”. Projeta-se, entretanto, não só um reforçamento militar da OTAN para que aumente a “prontidão operativa e a eficácia no combate”, mas ao mesmo tempo uma “OTAN Econômica”, através do “acordo do comércio livre USA-UE”, funcional ao sistema geopolítico ocidental, dominado pelos Estados Unidos.

Uma OTAN que, ressalta Washington, “continuará sendo uma aliança nuclear”. Significativo aqui é que a visita de Obama a Europa tenha começado com o terceiro cimo sobre a segurança nuclear. Uma criação do próprio Obama (não pelo Prêmio Nobel da Paz), mas para “pôr em segurança o material nuclear, e prevenir assim um terrorismo nuclear”. Este objetivo nobre é então perseguido pelos Estados que tem 8.000 ogivas nucleares, dos quais 2.150 prontas para lançamento, as quais se acrescentam ainda as 500 francesas e britânicas, o que leva ao total da OTAN, outras 2.500 prontas para um lançamento, isso sendo então frente as das cerca de1.800 russas. Esse potencial foi agora aumentado pelo fornecimento do Japão aos Estados Unidos de outros 300  kg. de plutônio assim como de uma grande quantidade de urânio enriquecido, adaptado para a fabricação de armas nucleares, ao quais se ajuntam então os 20 kg  por parte da Itália. Israel também participa no cimo da “segurança nuclear” —  Israel, a única potência nuclear no Oriente Médio (não aderente ao Tratado e não-proliferação) — que possui até 300 ogivas nucleares e produzindo tanto urânio que daria para fabricar a cada ano, 10  a 15 bombas daquela do tipo de Nagasaki. O Presidente Obama contribuiu em particular para a  “segurança nuclear” da Europa, ordenando que cerca de 200 bombas B-61 instaladas na Alemanha, Itália, Bélgica, Holanda e Turquia (violando o Tratado de não-proliferação) fossem substituídas por novas bombas nucleares B61-12, com guia de precisão, projetadas particularmente para o caça F-35, incluindo-se aqui então também aquela anti-bunker [casamata- abrigo em betão] para destruir os centros de comando num primeiro ataque nuclear.

A estratégia de Washington tem um objetivo duplo. De um lado redimensionar a Rússia, que relançou a sua política exterior – (v. papél desenvolvido na Síria) -  reaproximando-se da China, criando uma potencial aliança capaz de contrapor-se a superpotência estadunidense. Pelo outro lado o seu objetivo seria o alimentar na Europa um estado de tensão que permitiria aos Estados Unidos de manter, através da OTAN, a sua liderança sobre os aliados, os quais são considerados basicamente em diferentes escalas de valores: com o governo alemão Washington inclina-se a dividir a área de influência, com o italiano (“nosso amigo mais precioso no mundo) ele se limita a dar umas palmadinhas nas costas, sabendo que sempre poderá conseguir o que deseja…

Ao mesmo tempo Obama pressiona seus aliados para que reduzam a importação de gás e petróleo russo. Não é um fácil objetivo. A União Européia depende por cerca de 1/3 do fornecimento energético russo: A Alemanha e a Itália por 30%. A Suécia e a Romênia por 45%, a Finlândia e a República Checa [ex-parte da Checoslováquia] por 75%, a Polônia e a Lituânia por 90%. A administração Obama, escreve o New York Times, segue uma “estratégia agressiva” que tem em mira a redução do fornecimento energético russo à Europa: a administração de Obama prevê então que a Exxon Mobil, e outras companhias estadunidenses, poderiam fornecer uma crescente quantidade de gás a Europa, aproveitando-se aqui das capacidades do Oriente Médio, da África assim como de outras partes, inclusive então dos Estados Unidos, do qual a produção está sendo aumentada o que permitiria aos Estados Unidos exportar gás liquefeito.

Nesse cenário aparece de novo a “guerra dos gasodutos”: o objetivo estadunidense sendo o de bloquear o Nord Stream – a Corrente do Norte, que leva à UE o gás russo, através do Mar Báltico, assim como o de impedir a realização do South Stream- a Corrente do Sul, que portaria esse gás à UE através do Mar Negro. Ambos evitariam a Ucrânia, através da qual passa hoje o grosso do gás russo, realização essa a qual é dirigida pela Gazprom, da qual fazem parte companhias europeias. Paolo Scaroni, número um da ENI, advertiu o governo que se o projeto da Corrente Sul fosse bloqueado, a Itália iria perder um importante e rico contrato, como uma emtrepenagem de 2 bilhões de euros, que a Saipem tem atribuída a si para construir o trecho submarino do mesmo. É necessário aqui entretanto ter em conta também as pressões dos Estados Unidos.

De qualquer maneira o presidente Obama se dedica também a obras de beneficência. Com o Papa Francisco ele falará amanhã “no objetivo comum de combater a pobreza e a crescente desigualdade”. Ele, que durante sua administração fez a frequência da pobreza nos Estados Unidos subir de 12% a 15% (outros 46 milhões de pobres) e a  pobreza infantil subir de 18% ao 22%, enquanto os superricos (o 0.01 % da população) quadrupiclaram o seu rendimento. Obama também “agradecerá ao papa pelo seus apelos a paz”. Ele, presidente de um país que expende, em armamentos e guerra, o equivalente a cerca da metade do expendido mundialmente.

Manlio Dinucci

Tommaso Di Francesco

Editição de quarta-feira 26 de março de 2014 de il manifesto

Artigo original : Il pacco atlantico, il manifesto, de 26 de março de 2014.

Traduzido por Anna Malm para mondialisation.ca

Since 2011, Syria has been the target of an attempted foreign-backed regime change. Riding on the momentum of the US-engineered “Arab Spring,” protesters took to the streets across Syria, serving as cover for armed militants the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia – on record – had been preparing since at least as early as 2007.

It was in Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?” that prophetically stated (emphasis added): 

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

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Syria’s destabilization was ongoing alongside other Arab nations, including Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. In Tunisia and Egypt, the fallout was political, with limited street violence. In Libya, the fallout was absolute – the nation utterly decimated by so-called “freedom fighters” later revealed as Al Qaeda militants of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). 

The West’s blitzkrieg across North Africa and the Middle East took many nations by surprise. Their inability to respond effectively to orchestrated “color revolution” have resulted in 3 years of regional destabilization, regime change, and even war.

In Syria however, the government and the people held on, and then, began fighting back.

It was clear by January 2013 that Syria’s security forces had turned the tide against the foreign-backed militants who had for 2 years been flowing across their border and sowing deadly chaos across the Middle Eastern nation. Irreversible gains were being made everywhere from the north near Syria’s largest city Aleppo, all along the Lebanese border, and particularly in the southern city of Daraa, the so-called “birthplace” of  the “uprising.” 

The Western media continued portraying the situation in Syria as fluid, with the Syrian government teetering and their militant proxies on the verge of making a breakthrough. In reality, desperation had set in across Washington, London, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv. Attempts to provoke a wider war with direct Israeli attacks on Syrian territory were carried out but with no effect, and by August of 2013, the West had grown so desperate to directly intervene to salvage their floundering proxy forces, they even staged a false-flag chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Much to the West’s dismay, the false-flag attack not only failed to provide them with the pretext needed for direct intervention, it severely and perhaps irreparably hobbled their credibility and international standing.

Syria’s Triumph Hidden No More

Recent gains by Syria against the West’s proxy militant invaders could be seen most clearly in Yabroud this month, 80 kilometers northwest of Damascus and a strategic city for militant campaigns carried out against both Syrians and Lebanese across the nearby border. The city of Yabroud was considered firmly in the hands of militants throughout the duration of conflict. With the restoration of order in Yabroud, and with militant factions folding en masse, it appears that large-scale military operations against Syria have largely drawn to a close and are shifting instead toward a low-intensity terrorist campaign.

The West is unable to portray their militant proxies as a viable opposition force, politically, socially, and now strategically. Syrian forces have pushed the militants to the very borders of Syria.

Just today, Turkey resorted to firing on, and claims to have shot down a Syrian warplane as Syrian forces battled militants along the border. In the southern city of Daraa near the Syrian-Jordanian border, the so-called “Southern Front” comprised of allegedly 49 militant factions and claiming to have up to 30,000 fighters in its rank, had doubt cast on it even from Western sources calling the force, “an alliance on paper.”

242341The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provided a disturbing report of continued military support for terrorists flooding into Syria from Jordan, armed and funded by the United States and Saudi Arabia – even as both feigned chastisement recently of Qatar for doing the very same. In its report titled, “Does the “Southern Front” Exist?” it claimed: 

According to several sources, there has still been an uptick in support to rebels in the south since late February, with large amounts of money spent on rebel salaries and Saudi trucks moving cargo toward the Jordan-Syria border. But without a major increase in support and, probably, the addition of qualitative weapons like antiair missiles, it is hard to imagine that the rebels can advance very far—or that they will be able to unite around a single leadership.

It appears to be the last desperate push by a depleted force against a well entrenched and capable Syrian military. While the West is no doubt still trying to fuel unrest in Syria, it appears that gains by the Syrian military have reached a tipping point that no amount of indirect support can turn back. Short of direct large-scale military intervention by Western forces, the proxy war has been effectively lost.

What Syria’s Victory Means for Western Hegemony

The modern pursuit of Western hegemony stems back to the end of the Cold War when Wall Street and London believed it was possible to reorder the planet under their control in the absence of any significant opposing superpower. Color revolutions across Eastern Europe, the plundering of Russia in the 1990′s, the first Iraq War, and the breakup of the Balkans seemed to suggest this reordering was well underway. However, Russia, China, India, and other developing nations sprung back too quickly and the West’s ambitions were slowly put in check.

Today, with the West ousted from Iraq, mired in Afghanistan, its machinations revealed in Libya as marauding aggressors, and confounded in both Syria and Ukraine, not only does it seem Western ambitions are in check, but may in fact be in danger of being reversed altogether.

The failure of the West in Syria sends a message to other targets of Western meddling. There is no need to compromise nor negotiate, nor any need to pander to the conventions the West has put in place to tie the hands of their intended targets. In fact, by doing so, a nation only makes itself more vulnerable as they attempt to adhere to rules the West insists others follow but willfully violates itself.

While the West compounds its growing impotence globally by insisting on the continued pursuit of its failed unipolar model built on achieving global hegemony, nations like Russia and China insist on mutual partnerships with other nations in a multipolar world – neither dictating nor violating the sovereignty of any nation beyond its borders.

The West’s failure in Syria is an indicator that its power and influence is on the decline and provides a modern illustration of the dangers historically faced by empire as it overreaches. Even if the West was able to overturn its failures in Syria, its reputation and legitimacy has been hobbled to such a degree that any geopolitical push beyond Syria would be all but impossible.

The West’s columnists and policy scribes lament over the “retreat” of Western primacy – but it is only in “retreat” because it chooses to be a belligerent in the first place. A nation playing a positive, constructive role internationally can still be influential if it respects those it is interacting with and effects change by setting an appealing example. For the West and its centuries of subjugating others, this concept is not only alien, but apparently less preferable than the collapsing order they are currently presiding over.

Syria’s emerging victory means that while the West may despoil other nations in the near and intermediate future, the vector sum of its power and influence will be perpetual decline.

For Syria and other nations facing the same potential destabilization within their own borders, a costly lesson has been learned about attempting to appease and accommodate Western ambitions. Establishing the moral high-ground early on, and having the means through domestic media targeting international audiences like Iran’s Press TV or Russia’s RT to tell their side of the story to the world, allows a targeted nation the ability to stand its ground, and if necessary, fight back. Attempting to use the very system the West put in place to achieve global primacy – including the UN, its human rights racket, and the international media – is to play the West’s game, by their rules, and entirely on their terms at a clear and immense disadvantage.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”

For the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Atomic bomb was nothing short of cataclysmic.

This article was originally published by Who What Why

But Americans were shown a sanitized version of the devastation, and for many years, photographic evidence of the real damage was locked away. This is the final part of our three part series on the Atomic Cover-up. You can read the first two parts in the series here and here.

Japan Chases Its History

1In the mid-1970s, Japanese activists discovered that few pictures of the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki existed in their country. Many of the images had been seized by the U.S. military and taken out of Japan. The Japanese had as little visual exposure to the true human effects of the bomb as had most Americans. Activists, led by Tsutomu Iwakura, tracked down hundreds of photographs in archives and private collections, published them in a popular book and, in 1979, mounted an exhibit at the United Nations in New York.

There, by chance, Iwakura met Herb Sussan, a former network TV producer, who informed him about the existence of color footage shot by a U.S. military film crew not long after the bombings. Sussan had been with the documentary crew, along with then-Lt. Daniel McGovern, a combat photographer and film director with the U.S. Air Force.

After a little digging, Iwakura found the color footage at the National Archives. About one-fifth of it showed the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs went off. According to a shot list, reel #11010 included, for example: “School, deaf and dumb, blast effect, damaged Commercial school demolished School, engineering, demolished.  School, Shirayama elementary, demolished, blast effect.  Tenements, demolished.” Included were many minutes of stoic survivors sadly, or in anger, displaying their burns and scars.  The rest of the footage was shot in several other cities.

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U.S. National Archives at College Park, Maryland

Actually, the film had been quietly declassified a few years earlier, but the outside world seemed unaware of it. An archivist there later told me,

“If no one knows about the film to ask for it, it’s as closed as when it was classified.”

In short order, Iwakura raised half a million dollars from more than 200,000 Japanese citizens to buy a copy of the color footage. Then he traveled around Japan filming survivors who had posed for the U.S. military cameramen in 1946.

Iwakura completed his compilation film, entitled “Prophecy”, and arranged for the June 1982 New York premiere described in Part 1 of this series.

3A few months later, brief segments of the McGovern/Sussan footage turned up for the first time in an American film, called “Dark Circle”, which was screened at the 1982, New York Film Festival. The film’s co-director, Chris Beaver, told me,

“No wonder the government didn’t want us to see it. I think they didn’t want Americans to see themselves in that picture. It’s one thing to know about that and another thing to see it.”

Still, the historic footage drew little attention until the article on Sussan I edited for Nuclear Times was published. It inspired a flood of inquiries at the National Archives.

McGovern told me,

“The main reason [the footage] was classified was because of the horror, the devastation. The medical effects were pretty gory. The attitude was: do not show any medical effects. Don’t make people sick.”

It’s clear that certain people in the U.S. government worked hard to keep the true effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings from the American public. Who exactly was behind the cover-up?  McGovern told me,

“I always had the sense that people in the AEC were sorry they had dropped the bomb. The Air Force—it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn’t want those images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. But the AEC, they were the ones that stopped it from coming out. They had power of God over everybody. If it had anything to do with nukes, they had to see it. They were the ones who destroyed a lot of film and pictures of the first US nuclear tests after the war.”

“Dark Circle” director Chris Beaver added,

“With the government trying to sell the public on a new civil defense program and Reagan arguing that a nuclear war is survivable, this footage could be awfully bad publicity.”

Sussan was now ill with a form of lymphoma that doctors had found in soldiers exposed to radiation in atomic tests during the 1950s—and among survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts.

To walk in the footsteps of McGovern and Sussan, and meet some of the people they filmed in 1946, I made my own pilgrimage to the atomic cities in the summer of 1984.  (My “Atomic Cover-up“ book and e-book has a lengthy chapter describing what it was like to interview survivors on-site.) By then, the U.S. footage had turned up in several new documentaries. In September 1985, Herb Sussan passed away.

Researching “Hiroshima in America,” a book I would write with Robert Jay Lifton in 1995, I discovered the deeper context for suppression of the US Army film: it was part of a broad effort, starting but hardly ending with the Manhattan Project, to suppress a wide range of material related to the atomic bombings, including photographs, reports on radiation effects, information that might have raised questions about the decision to drop the bomb, even that Hollywood movie The Beginning or the End.

“I couldn’t bear to look…”

A documentary film that drew on footage from” the McGovern/Sussan footage premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2004.  It was called “Original Child Bomb” and won the top Silverdocs award. (I was the chief adviser.)  Later, the film aired on the Sundance cable channel. The film was unflinching and powerful, as its creators intended. It included unforgettable stories of surviving witnesses, such as this one:

“I saw so many corpses drifting in the water…countless bodies came floating… I couldn’t bear to look.  People without heads… people without arms… people with their guts hanging out… without eyes…”

Americans who view the footage today (see video) can now judge why the authorities suppressed it, and what impact these images, if widely seen, might have had on the nuclear arms race—and could still have on the nuclear proliferation that endangers the world today.

Only small parts of the original 90,000 feet of color film have been used, and a relatively small number of Americans have seen any of it. A major documentary on the footage, and its decades-long suppression, has yet to be made.

Without a full understanding of the effects of nuclear warfare, the American public cannot begin to reach judgment on the future of our vast nuclear arsenal.

Nine nations—so far—have the bomb

After building first-strike weapons and detailing scenarios for their use, the temptation for any nuclear power to use them may one day become irresistible. Treaties today bar the use, testing or proliferation of nuclear weapons, but at least nine nations, with the addition of North Korea, now possess The Bomb. And every American president—except Eisenhower—has endorsed their use against Japan to help bring the Second World War to a swift close.

With terrorist organizations around the world itching to get their hands on a nuclear device, it’s hardly comforting to reflect that a line against using nuclear weapons has been drawn—in the sand.

Greg Mitchell is the author of “Atomic Cover-up” and “Hiroshima in America.

- See more at: http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/03/31/death-suffering-living-color/#sthash.rmwwgVua.dpuf

On March 27 the United Nations General Assembly resolution entitled «Territorial integrity of Ukraine» (A/RES/68/262) was adopted with 100 votes in favour, 11 against (1) and 58 abstentions (2) (24 member states were either absent or present and not voting). Council members voted as follows: Russia voted against, Argentina, China and Rwanda abstained, while the remaining Council members voted in favour.

What does the new United Nations General Assembly document state? It affirms the UN commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, underscoring the invalidity of the 16 March referendum held in autonomous Crimea. (3) There are two moments to note here: first, it is forbidden by the United Nations Charter to refer the issues considered by the Security Council within its competence to the UN General Assembly. No matter that, the issue of Ukraine was referred to the United Nations General Assembly. Second, as the Charter states, the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are non-binding. Now, have the states, that supported the resolution, put forward solid arguments? Can these 100 states be considered to be united by taking the same legal and political stance? The answer is no!

A lot of time has passed since the start of anti-Russian campaign related to Crimea; the authors of the resolution have failed to come up with convincing arguments to substantiate their initiative in the form of the resolution A/RES/68/262.

The affirmation that the referendum in Crimea «contravenes international law» has no whatsoever justification at all. The representatives of Moldova, Japan and other states insisted that the referendum is in conflict with international law, but not any of them remembered which exactly article it contravenes. Their poor memory is explainable, they had nothing to say. International law offers no articles which ban referendums. To the contrary,the International Court of Justice has ruled that a unilateral declaration of independence does not contravene international law.

Neither the sponsors of Ukrainian revolution, nor the pro-Western majority at the General Assembly, took great pains to substantiate their arguments. It all boiled down to pure propaganda. They purposefully distort the factual and legal state of things. For instance, they constantly use the term «annexation» while Crimea acceded by its own choice based on free expression of people’ will to leave Ukraine and become part of another state.

Now a few words about the violation of Ukraine’ territorial integrity. As I have mentioned before, the principle of territorial integrity is mentioned in the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law within the context of outside intervention. It does not apply to internal referendums held by people who have a right to self-determination. International law puts it plain that a part of a state has a right to become independent or accede to another state of its choice. For instance, it is stated in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or Between International Organizations, as well as other documents.

What about a large group of states who supported the resolution? First, there are grounds to believe that many of them were subject to pressure or even blackmail. (4) Second, many states are simply not aware of the situation in Ukraine, so their decision to vote was based on distorted information. Quite often those who vote fail to make head or tail of what is happening in the country referred to a UN vote. It’s enough to browse the verbatim transcripts of the United Nations General Assembly’s sessions when regional conflicts or official stances of states are considered by those who geographically happen to be situated at great distances. There were also the ones who had no idea of what was going on in Ukraine but voted for the resolution taking for granted what Washington’s propaganda had to say. For instance, the representative of Nigeria supported the resolution saying he did it solely to protect the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter. He shied away from applying the slightest effort to understand what really happened. Some of those who voted for the resolution made it with strings attached, for instance, Chile said the sanctions against Russia were unacceptable.

There are quite different cases when some states, no matter how small they may be, did apply efforts to see what is what and were able to stand up to blackmail. The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said the draft resolution had other motivation than principles and said he was sorry the Assembly refused to take into consideration the historic facts and the truth about the new regime in Ukraine.

Russia has rejected the UN resolution as «confrontational», Russian UN Ambassador Churkin, said before the vote, adding that the document «undermines the referendum» and the right to self-determination of the Crimean people.

He said that there were «some right things» about the document, however, as it speaks out against unilateral actions and provocative rhetoric. According to him, no UN resolution was needed to achieve those goals, as all sides simply need to start acting in the interests of the Ukrainian people. The initiative of Crimea’s reunification with Russia came from the Crimean people themselves, not from Moscow, Churkin noted. The revocation of the official status of the Russian language and threats to send militants to Crimea by the coup-imposed government in Kiev provided «the critical mass» to push the peninsula to the referendum, added the Ambassador.

Having studied the vote procedure one is led to the following conclusion. The correlation of 100 «yes» versus «no» votes does not reflect the reality. Even if it were 100 versus 69 it would not provide the picture accurate enough. The real balance is 100 to 93. 169 countries took part in the vote (100+11+58) while there are 193 UN members. These votes should be added to the ones who did not support the resolution, certainly not the ones who voted «yes». It means 24 states, who took no part in the vote, should be added to the 58 who abstained.

It can be said the result is an evident testimony to the fact that the Western diplomacy failed. 100 states supported the Ukrainian territorial integrity while 93 did not. 100 states voted against the Crimea’s new status, but 93 did not. This is the major total of the Western demarche in the United Nations.

Notes

(1) Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.  
(2) South Africa abstained – special note by the author, who is writing this article from  South Africa. 
(3) The text of the resolution: UN Document А/68/L.39.
(4) Official Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of  Foreign Affairs  on the UN General Assembly resolutionon territorial integrity of Ukraine

European Sovereignty and Independence: How to Free the EU from the American Trap

March 31st, 2014 by Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin (GEAB)

This crisis is well and truly a test of national leaders’ ability to grasp the tools of independence, power and peace that their fathers (the generations of politicians which ruled right until the end of the 80s basically) have put at their disposal, this united and institutionalized Europe which only remains to be put under political control.…

If the Ukraine, a country with a population of less than 50 million having frontiers with the two monsters of Europe and Russia, really has no other option than to “choose sides” in effect it’s not the same in Europe. And this crisis is well and truly a test of national leaders’ ability to grasp the tools of independence, power and peace that their fathers (the generations of politicians which ruled right until the end of the 80s basically) have put at their disposal, this united and institutionalized Europe which only remains to be put under political control.The difficulty is that the tool which politicians must now grasp isn’t the EU. As we have repeatedly explained, the EU is a stage in European construction which, on the contrary, must now be offloaded. The Ukrainian crisis is, incidentally, the ultimate indicator. The EU framework, born out of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty[1] , and which should have led to the continent’s political and democratic union has been diverted from its objectives. From Maastricht to Lisbon[2] , it’s an all economic Europe (endless enlargement of a free trade zone) which has been put in place, that which the people now justifiably rejects, which only serves the interests of the biggest Brussels lobbies (which are not the Member States, far from it) and of which we will now see to what dramatic ends (war, loss of autonomy) it’s ready to expose the continent.

Here are eight recommendations which, according to our team, are to be implemented urgently to get Europe out of the trap which has been set for it.

1. Return to the intergovernmental method

In this extremely serious situation it’s no good waiting for Brussels (no more than the European Commission or the European Parliament, sadly), quite the contrary. Business must, therefore, imperatively return to the Member States and the so-called “intergovernmental” method.

2. Disable or put the European External Action Service under political control

To do this, it’s imperative to punish the European Commission’s External Action Service political irresponsibility and remind it of its duty to execute the decisions taken by the Member States. The External Action Service is a European diplomatic service that has no legitimacy to speak on Europeans’ behalf, even less to take strategic decisions whose consequences are the destruction of relations with our neighbours, the starting up of civil wars in neighbouring countries and the ground-up creation of risks of war or iron curtains. Both in substance and form there is nothing easier than to remind the EEAS of its duties and to link it to a more democratically legitimate political decision-making body.

3. Express a common position on the crisis

This is where things get tough. In fact, if Baroness Ashton and Mr. O’Sullivan can do anything from their ivory tower, it’s because “Europeans are unable to speak with one voice”. How many times have we read this phrase over the last 25 years? And it suits it to have more than one up its sleeve. But this time Europe doesn’t have a choice: it must reach a common position; otherwise other agendas will continue to control operations remotely. Therefore, the objective is urgent and the question is “how to get there?”

4. Defining a relevant common agenda

First of all, it’s a question of everyone agreeing on the objective of this common position. And given the fact that war and being placed under foreign supervision are the dangers facing Europe today, let’s say that the discussion’s objective is to find a way to keep Europe’s peace and independence. For 60 years we have been sold Europe as a guarantor of peace; it’s the time to show that it does. And throw out the standard questions “how to guarantee the Ukraine’s integrity?” and other nonsense. If Europe isn’t capable of guaranteeing its own, what could it usefully do for the Ukraine? And moreover, in the light of what it’s already done, it’s out of the game for the moment. It should put its own house in order first.

5. Identify the relevant group of Member States

The topic of discussion is now established, it must be asked who the participants should be, the players in this common position. But already, what are the possibilities?The 28? The 28, it’s the EU, first of all…this EU which has always been unable to speak with one voice…and which in the Ukraine’s particular case is more than ever. Too many, with too many divergent interests, the 28 consist of a fringe of small countries, former Soviet Union satellites where it’s difficult, which it’s fairly excusable, to rely on their objectivity in the current circumstances (even if the anti-“Russianism” is actually much weaker than the European Commission is trying to make us believe, with an obviously instrumental goal); and a big country, the US stooge in Europe (even if the EU-UK link has been considerably distended in recent years: loss of effectiveness, distancing of continental philosophies, supervision of the country by financial markets). Getting to a common position on the Ukrainian question is an exercise in acrobatic flying in which it’s better not to go astray.

. The Franco-German motor? Unfortunately its too weak to cope with the violence of the attack which Europe is facing… Illegitimate also: how could the position of two countries impose on 26 others from whom it must at least win passivity? Finally, if the couple have recently begun to work well on the medium-term on less important questions (Europe’s resurrection[3] , EU data protection with the NSA[4] , European defence out to 2025[5] , etc.), it doesn’t seem to be able to produce much when faced with an urgent and very grave matter[6] . Moreover, Germany’s positions (especially a Germany led by an East German) on the issues of relations with Russia are of a coherence which is difficult to decipher: between a very strong interdependence with Russia (energy in particular, but trade as well) and old anti-Soviet reflexes, the straight line doesn’t seem to be the shortest path. Nevertheless, it must be recognized that Merkel is the only one to try to sometimes take a more balanced position on the Ukrainian question and our relationship with the Russians[7]   (which, moreover, earned her a vicious attack by the media and, more hypocritically, by the European institutions). But, from the French side, a country central to the fundamental principle of the continent’s independence, we are being disappointed by surprise. We are desperately trying to guess the subtle diplomacy beyond the intelligence of the average citizen. We managed to see it in the French position as regards Syria; but this time we can only speculate: a diplomatic snub thrown in Russia’s face by François Hollande’s trip to the US[8]  the day of the inauguration of the Sochi Olympics, intransigent martial positions as regards Yanukovych and Putin since[9] … That said, as we have seen media pressure considerably reduces politicians’ room for manoeuvre; but when one has been elected as a political leader one also has the duty to free oneself from traps like this… especially in such grave circumstances. Certainly, the Franco German pair won’t be the motor.

. An ad hoc group of volunteer countries to restore calm on the continent? This would be a tempting track… if it didn’t come back to the first: bring forward a common position from the cacophony of the 28. Forget it!

6. Request a « Convention of the Eurozone heads of state for European peace and independence »

By process of elimination, only one track remains: the Eurozone or Euroland, that again. But, although on the attacks on the Euro it was the obvious and unavoidable interlocutor, it seems less simple on the geopolitical issue that concerns us. And yet!First of all, it is and remains the nascent entity composed of the founding countries’ hard-core; it’s free of Europe’s western and westernized British fringe; and as regards Europe’s Eastern and anti-Eastern (anti-Russian) fringe, it’s shown (which is important) but in a way that won’t weigh too heavily and leaves the more central countries the possibility of sharpening their arguments intended to reassure this group of Europeans on the safety of their border position with the Russian zone of influence (and the arguments are numerous and easy to find); its make-up is representative of the EU’s diversity, therefore it’s competent to generate a ripple effect and win membership (or, as we have already said, at least the passivity) of the others.

Moreover, Euroland was built during the Euro crisis and now has tools, certainly incomplete, but modern and efficient. And more importantly, this new entity’s politicization was already on the agenda, such as manifestoes for the Euro’s political union[10] , proposals for a Eurozone Parliament[11] , and other innovative ideas[12]  have appeared in recent months.

After all, Europe was always built during crises; and the Ukrainian crisis, as dangerous and desperate as it is, is probably also the one that Europe needs to finally overcome this last and so difficult stage of political union.

And one last argument: that Euroland manages to speak with one voice on the current crisis isn’t certain… but it’s only that a faint glimmer of hope is shining; Europe really hasn’t another chance of succeeding in expressing a common position.

It’s therefore a “Convention of the Eurozone heads of state for European peace and independence” that we must have… and quickly! But the last question is, who will call such a Convention? It could be the Franco German pair but we have seen that, for reasons which haven’t been fully made clear, this couple’s leadership skills have been defused as regards the current crisis.

7. If the states can’t do it by themselves, constitute a citizens’ pressure group calling this Convention

In reality, we are on test here again, that of the vitality of the European style principle: it probably belongs to the citizens, through the creation of a qualitatively representative group of European civil society’s organizations, to call for this Convention to be held, or even call it itself.But the game is far from won. The European political and democratic machinery has been considerably weakened. Coups d’état have taken place that no longer bother anyone (Renzi in Italy[13] ), countries can live without a government without it causing a problem (Belgium[14]), and young 29 year olds have been appointed as Ministers of Foreign Affairs[15] without anyone seeing anything wrong (Austria)… Moreover, governments are derailing the rule of law (Spain[16] , the United Kingdom[17] , Hungary[18] …).Some countries give the impression that national politics still count because they have a seat at international bodies (the United Kingdom, France, Germany); in reality, instead of serving these countries’ independence and supra-national groups which they should represent, these seats buy their subjection to the strongest… The disconnect between politics (national) and the instruments of power (European), have been weakening our governments for more than two decades which, immediately elected, lose all popular support in the absence of being able to achieve the political and social changes demanded by the expressed majority but blocked by ultra-active minorities (France of course[19] , but not the only one).

Finally, the last crisis has further weakened national governments and at the European level politically.

In short, it’s time to end European countries’ political division whose governments, separately, serve little or no purpose. It’s only by completing the initial objective of all the European construction work to which we committed post-war Europe’s major political visionaries, namely by organizing their union, that European citizens can take control of their collective destiny.

8. Block any process of Eurozone enlargement until its political union

And we must act quickly, because we are not the only ones to identify this relevant base for political union supplied by Euroland. Washington’s system strategies[20] have also realized this Eurozone’s potential for transition which they themselves, despite them, helped to strengthen as we said earlier, through their attack on the Euro. Renzi’s coup d’état puts at the head of Italy, a big part of the Eurozone, a pro-American non-democratic government[21] the Estonian Commissioner,  Siim Kallas, a friend of the pro-American Barroso who, contrary to all legal precedent, was allowed to campaign for the Prime Minister’s post in his country[22] , will be a servile leader to Washington’s cause fed on this EU’s bottle of which almost nothing European remains[23] ; recently France seems to have been the object of enormous pressure from Washington that is already bearing fruit… In short, the Eurozone is beginning to lose any ability to build.

A final recommendation is, therefore, required: block any Eurozone enlargement until political union has taken place. EU enlargement has served the cause of the European project’s de politicization; let’s not knowingly repeat the mistakes!

A new US float[24] or an independent continent? Europe’s future will play out in the coming weeks. A bipolar world, the West-rest of the world, locked behind an iron wall, or a multi-polar world where an independent Europe and a regenerated US will take their rightful places alongside the Chinese, Brazilian, African, Indian and Russian powers? It’s today that we must fight for the better of these two futures. All options are still on the table, in this case Europe’s, but in a few months one or other of these scenarios will get a foothold.

Ukraine’s Inconvenient Neo-Nazis

March 31st, 2014 by Robert Parry

Far-right militia members demonstrating outside Ukrainian parliament in Kiev. (Screen shot from YouTube video from RT.)

When Ukrainian neo-Nazis – infuriated over the killing of an ultranationalist leader – surrounded the Parliament in Kiev, the incident presented a problem for the U.S. news media which has been trying to airbrush the neo-Nazis out of the Ukraine narrative.

The U.S. media’s take on the Ukraine crisis is that a “democratic revolution” ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, followed by a “legitimate” change of government. So, to mention the key role played neo-Nazi militias in the putsch or to note that Yanukovych was democratically elected – and then illegally deposed – gets you dismissed as a “Russian propagandist.”

But Ukraine’s neo-Nazis are not some urban legend. Their presence is real, as they swagger in their paramilitary garb through the streets of Kiev, displaying Nazi insignias, honoring SS collaborators from World War II, and hoisting racist banners, including the white-power symbol of the Confederate battle flag.

Over the past few days, the neo-Nazis have surged to the front of Ukraine’s unrest again by furiously protesting the killing of one of their leaders, Oleksandr Muzychko, known as Sashko Bily. The Interior Ministry reported that Muzychko died in a Monday night shoot-out with police in Rivne in western Ukraine.

But the right-wing paramilitaries claim that Muzychko was murdered in a cold-blooded contract hit, and these modern-day storm troopers have threatened to storm the parliament building if the interim Interior Minister is not fired.

This renewed disorder has complicated the storytelling of the major U.S. news media by challenging the sweetness-and-light narrative preferred by U.S. policymakers. The New York Times, the Washington Post and other leading news outlets have worked hard to airbrush the well-established fact that neo-Nazi militants spearheaded the coup on Feb. 22.

To dismiss that inconvenient fact, the major U.S. media has stressed that the extreme rightists made up a minority of the demonstrators, which – while true – is largely irrelevant since it was the paramilitary Right Sektor that provided the armed force that removed Yanukovych and then dominated the “transition” period by patrolling key government buildings. As a reward, far-right parties were given control of four ministries.

Some U.S. outlets also have picked up on the unsubstantiated U.S. government theme that Russia is dispatching unidentified “provocateurs” to destabilize the coup regime in Kiev, though it doesn’t seem like Moscow would have to do much besides stand aside and watch the interim government’s unruly supporters turn on each other.

But reality has stopped playing much of a role in the U.S. news media’s Ukraine reporting as the U.S. press continues to adjust the reality to fit with the desired narrative. For instance, the New York Times, in its boilerplate account of the uprising, has removed the fact that more than a dozen police were among the 80 or so people killed. The Times now simply reports that police fired on and killed about 80 demonstrators.

Fitting with its bowdlerized account, the Times also ignores evidence that snipers who apparently fired on both police and protesters before the coup may have been working for the opposition, not Yanukovych’s government. An intercepted phone call by two European leaders discussed those suspicions as well as the curious decision of the post-coup government not to investigate who the snipers really were.

Surrounding the Parliament

But most significantly, the U.S. mainstream media has struggled to downplay the neo-Nazi angle as was apparent in the Times’ report on President Vladimir Putin’s call on Friday to President Barack Obama to discuss possible steps to defuse the crisis. Putin noted that neo-Nazis had surrounded the parliament.

“In citing extremist action, Mr. Putin sought to capitalize on a tense internal showdown in Kiev,” the Times wrote. “The presence of masked, armed demonstrators threatening to storm the Parliament building offered the Russian government an opportunity to bolster its contention that the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a Moscow ally, after pro-European street protests last month was an illegal coup carried out by right-wing extremists with Western encouragement.”

But the Times couldn’t simply let those facts speak for themselves, though they were all true: right-wing extremists did provide the key manpower and organization to overrun government buildings on Feb. 22 and there is no doubt that these right-wing elements were getting Western encouragement, including a shoulder-to-shoulder appearance by Sen. John McCain.

The Times felt compelled to interject an argumentative counterpoint, saying: “In fact, the nationalist groups, largely based in western Ukraine, had formed just one segment of a broad coalition of demonstrators who occupied the streets of Kiev for months demanding Mr. Yanukovych’s ouster.”

And, that has been a consistent pattern for the supposedly objective U.S. news media. If the Russians say something, even if it is clearly true, the point must be contradicted. However, when a U.S. official states something about the Ukraine crisis, the claim goes unchallenged no matter how absurd.

For example, when Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Putin’s intervention in Crimea by declaring, “you just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext,” mainstream U.S. news outlets simply let the statement stand without noting that Kerry himself had voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

You might think that Kerry’s breathtaking hypocrisy would be newsworthy or at least a relevant fact that should be pointed out to readers, but no. The Times also has routinely distorted Crimea’s secession from Ukraine. The Black Sea peninsula, a longtime Russian province that was only attached to Ukraine for administrative purposes during Soviet days, asserted its independence after the coup ousting Yanukovych, who had won Crimea overwhelmingly.

No one seriously doubts that the vast majority of Crimean citizens wanted to escape the disorder and hardship enveloping Ukraine – and to return to Russia with its higher per capita income and functioning national government – but the Obama administration and the dutiful U.S. news media have pretended otherwise.

In New York Times speak, Crimea’s popular vote to secede from Ukraine and to join Russia was simply Putin’s “seizure” of Crimea. The Times and other mainstream news outlets dismissed Crimea’s March 16 referendum as somehow rigged – citing the 96 percent tally for secession as presumptive evidence of fraud – although there was no actual evidence of election rigging. Exit polls confirmed the overwhelming majority favoring secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia.

IMF’s ‘Reforms’

And, really, who could blame the people of Crimea? As Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has said, Ukraine “is on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy” and the International Monetary Fund agreed to throw a financial lifeline only if Ukraine imposes “reforms” that Yatsenyuk has admitted are “very unpopular, very difficult, very tough.”

They will be toughest on average Ukrainians who will face severe public sector budget cuts, slashed pensions, soaring heating costs and rapid inflation due to changes in the exchange rate. The cumulative impact of these IMF “reforms” is expected to result in a 3 percent contraction of Ukraine’s already depressed economy.

Yet, much of the mainstream U.S. media ignores the understandable desire of the Crimean people to bail out on the failed Ukrainian state. Instead, the MSM pretends that Russia simply invaded Crimea and now is threatening to do the same in eastern Ukraine, or as the Times put it, Putin has engaged in “provocative moves punctuated by a menacing buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border.”

The bottom line is that the U.S. government and media have constructed a substantially false narrative for the American people, all the better to manufacture consent behind a $1 billion U.S. aid package for Ukraine and the launch of a new Cold War with the expectation of many more exciting confrontations to come – in places like Syria and Iran – all justifying fatter military budgets.

A more objective and less alarmist narrative on the Ukraine crisis would describe Putin’s actions as primarily defensive and reactive. He was distracted by the Winter Olympics in Sochi and was caught off-guard by the violent putsch that removed Yanukovych.

In light of Yanukovych’s democratic election victory in 2010 and his agreement on Feb. 21 to speed up new elections (a deal that was negated within hours by the U.S./EU-supported coup), Russia has a legitimate argument that the coup regime in Kiev is illegitimate.

The removal of Yanukovych not only was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias but subsequent parliamentary actions to “impeach” him did not follow Ukraine’s constitutional rules. The putsch essentially disenfranchised the large ethnic-Russian populations in the east and south, where Yanukovych had his political base.

Then, the rump parliament in Kiev – reflecting the intense Ukrainian nationalism in the western section – passed punitive laws targeting these Russian speakers, including elimination of Russian as an official language. For Putin to be troubled by this crisis on his border — and to take action — was neither surprising nor particularly provocative.

If the New York Times and other leading U.S. outlets did their journalism in a professional way, the American people would have had a more nuanced understanding of what happened in Ukraine and why. Instead, the Times and the rest of the MSM resumed their roles as U.S. propagandists, much as they did in Iraq in 2002-03 with their usual preference for a simplistic “good-guy/bad-guy” dichotomy.

In the case of Ukraine, that happy dichotomy has been challenged again by the reemergence of those inconvenient neo-Nazis.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Danger of False Narrative.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon andbarnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

The deadline for signing up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is midnight tonight. Under the legislation popularly known as Obamacare, people uninsured through their employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid must obtain insurance from private companies by March 31, 2014 or pay a tax penalty in 2015.

The White House and media are gauging the initial success of the program by the number of people who sign up by the March 31 deadline, with estimates placing that figure at around 6 million. Those visiting the insurance “marketplaces” have been shocked to find that the most affordable “bronze” plans carry deductibles of more than $5,000 and other high out-of-pocket costs that will lead to self-rationing and the foregoing of health services by many working families.

Perhaps the most insidious component of the legislation is its impact on health care delivery in the not-so-distant future. In his new book, Reinventing American Health Care, Ezekiel J. Emanuel outlines how the ACA lays the groundwork for the virtual elimination of employer-sponsored health insurance in America over the next decade.

Emanuel is a close ally of President Barack Obama, having served from January 2009 to January 2011 as a special adviser on health care reform to the White House. As we wrote in 2009, “An examination of Emanuel’s vision of health care restructuring reveals that Obama’s proposals have been informed by many of its guiding principles. Key among them are the defense of a health system based on private profit and the delivery of class-based, rationed medical care for the majority of Americans.”

In a section near the end of his book, titled “The End of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance,” Emanuel explains that before Obamacare, some 150 million people—close to half of the US population—received their health insurance through their employer or a relative’s employer. This was despite the fact that no “employer mandate” existed requiring businesses to do so.

“The ACA changes all of that,” Emanuel writes approvingly. He states categorically: “By 2025 few private-sector employers will still be providing health insurance.” He predicts that traditional employer-sponsored coverage will be replaced by a combination of defined contributions to employees to purchase coverage on private exchanges, basically vouchers, or the elimination of insurance coverage altogether.

What is posed is a sea change in the way Americans receive health insurance, with devastating implications for working people.

In contrast to Western Europe, Canada, Australia and other industrialized capitalist countries, where health insurance is sponsored by the state, employer-sponsored insurance became the norm in post-World War II America.

The absence of universal government-sponsored health insurance was the result of the reactionary politics of the US trade union bureaucracy, which blocked the development of an independent political movement of the American working class during and after the explosive industrial battles of the 1930s and 1940s that established the mass industrial unions. Instead, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which in 1955 merged to form the AFL-CIO, subordinated the labor movement to big business at home and American imperialism abroad, primarily by tying it to the Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, the working class was able, on the basis of militant struggles and industry-wide strikes, to wrench from the corporations the system of company-sponsored health insurance that provided decent medical coverage at little or no cost to workers. This became the model for businesses across the country, including many nonunion firms.

This ad hoc system, never institutionalized as a matter of law, was taken by tens of millions of working people as a social right, even though millions more were left without any health coverage. Over the past several decades, however, as part of the ruling class offensive against workers’ living standards, and with the complicity of the unions, workers have been forced to absorb an ever-greater share of the cost of employer-provided health insurance.

In the aftermath of the financial crash of 2008, the ruling class is determined to shed its share of the cost of health care for workers by ripping up the postwar system and forcing workers to buy insurance on the private market on an individual basis, leaving them completely at the mercy of the giant insurance firms.

Enter the Obama administration and its so-called health care “reform.” Emanuel explains how Obamacare creates the framework for this massive shift.

One of the biggest incentives for employers to drop insurance is the “Cadillac tax” imposed under the ACA, which will kick in after 2018. Under this tax, companies will be taxed at a 40 percent rate for benefits paid to individuals in excess of $10,200, and for families above a threshold of $27,500. Emanuel writes that this tax will make it undesirable for employers to continue to offerlavish health insurance ” (emphasis added).

Emanuel also points to the toothless $2,000 penalty per employee to be imposed on businesses for failure to provide insurance: “For a company with 1,000 employees, their health insurance bill is probably between $7 [million] and $10 million depending on how many families they cover. With the ACA, if they drop insurance, their penalty payments will be $2 million.” In other words, dropping employee-sponsored coverage makes good financial sense for big employers.

He notes as well that given the fact there is no mandate for businesses with fewer than 50 employees to provide insurance, “why small businesses will continue to provide health insurance is hard to fathom.” He writes that “in the end, exit they will” from employer-sponsored coverage.

Beginning “sometime before 2020—probably 2016 or 2017,” Emanuel predicts, “a few big, blue-chip companies will announce their intention to stop providing health insurance.” Management consultant Accenture agrees with this assessment, forecasting that by 2017, 18 percent of the US population will be buying insurance on a private insurance exchange.

Emanuel claims that out of the goodness of their hearts, and in order to continue to attract quality employees, companies will shift whatever they have saved through cutting health insurance costs to “significantly higher salaries” for workers. This is a fantasy, as Emanuel likely knows. American business today is hoarding trillions of dollars in cash reserves, obtained largely as a result of downsizing and wage-cutting, and using its bonanza to drive up stock prices and the pay and fortunes of top executives, even as it continues to ruthlessly slash wages and pensions and impose speedup.

Emanuel’s book is a confirmation, “from the horse’s mouth,” of the analysis of Obamacare developed since the program’s origins by the World Socialist Web Site. As the WSWS wrote last year: “The essential aim of the ACA is rapidly emerging. Behind the talk of providing coverage for the uninsured, Obamacare was devised from the outset as a means of dismantling the employer-based system of health insurance that for decades guaranteed a basic level of health care for tens of millions of workers in the US.”

From the start, Obamacare was based on cutting costs for the government and employers while boosting the profits of the health care industry, first and foremost, the insurance conglomerates. The concerted attack on health care in the US demonstrates the incompatibility of the basic needs of working people, on the one hand, and private ownership of the health care infrastructure and its subordination to corporate profit, on the other.

A true reform of health care requires the reorganization of the entire health care industry on socialist foundations, placing the private insurers, pharmaceutical corporations and health care chains under public ownership and the democratic control of the working class.

NATO Steps Up Military Pressure on Russia

March 31st, 2014 by Stefan Steinberg

NATO continued its military build-up on the Russian border even as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Paris Sunday evening to discuss the conflict over Ukraine. The meeting, involving four hours of “frank” talks, ended with no breakthrough and separate news conferences.

The two men met after Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated his readiness to make certain concessions. Last Friday he phoned US President Barack Obama in Saudi Arabia to discuss a “diplomatic resolution to the crisis.” On Sunday, Kerry dismissed Lavrov’s proposal for a Federal Ukraine that was not part of NATO, cynically declaring that was “up to the Ukrainians”—that is, the fascist-led regime in Kiev backed by Washington.

Kerry again rejected Russia’s annexation of the Crimea as “illegal and illegitimate” and accused Russia of massing troops on its border with Ukraine. Western governments are using the alleged Russian troop movements to justify the steady boosting of their military presence in the Baltic states. The former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were admitted into NATO in 2004, but the military alliance did not previously deploy troops there in order not to provoke Russia. The three states have tiny armies, numbering between 5,000 and 12,000 each, and without any tanks or fighter jets.

This is now being changed. The US has already sent six F-15C combat planes to Lithuania. Britain has promised to send four jets. Other NATO members, including Germany, have also been asked to provide aircraft, including AWACS spy planes that can look deep into Ukraine and Russia.

Simultaneously, NATO has decided to hold Navy exercises in the Baltic Sea, with Norway or Germany providing the command vessel.

Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine, is also the scene of a military build-up. The US has already sent 300 military personnel and 12 warplanes to the country.

NATO foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday in Brussels are expected to decide on further measures. A NATO spokesman announced that they will halt practical collaboration with Russia in the Russia–NATO Council and “extensively” increase military collaboration with Ukraine.

Outgoing NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the German press that the alliance was considering options “to revise military plans, hold military maneuvers and increase troops in an appropriate way.” He said the extension of NATO to Eastern Europe over the last 15 years had been a huge success and proposed that new countries be admitted to the alliance, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Georgia and Montenegro. He did not mention Ukraine, but said NATO’s partnership with the country had grown “ever closer.”

These developments confirm that the crisis in Ukraine, which was instigated by the United States, Germany and their European allies, is being used to encircle and intimidate Russia in order to subordinate it to the dictates of Western imperialism.

Within Ukraine, a tug-of-war is developing over the presidential election to be held May 25. Vitali Klitschko, one of the spokesmen of the Maidan protests and leader of the UDAR party, withdrew his candidacy and announced he would support the billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko. Klitschko will instead run for another influential post, mayor of Kiev, to be elected the same day.

With a fortune of $1.8 billion, Poroshenko is ranked seventh on the Forbeslist of Ukrainian oligarchs. He made his fortune in candies and chocolate, shipbuilding and the armaments industry. He also owns the influential television station Channel 5.

Poroshenko began his political career in the late 1990s and repeatedly changed sides. Initially, he was a supporter of President Leonid Kuchma. Then, together with the recently deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, he founded the Party of Regions. Soon after, he joined up with Yanukovych’s rival Viktor Yushchenko and supported the so-called “Orange Revolution.” After Yushchenko was elected president, Poroshenko became foreign minister. When Yanukovych returned to power, Poroshenko briefly assumed leadership of the country’s Economics Ministry.

Poroshenko apparently decided to support the Maidan protests after Russia, in an attempt to pressure the Yanukovych government, banned the import of his brand of chocolate, costing him millions in profits. His Channel 5 TV was continuously present on Maidan Square, pumping out propaganda in support of the protests.

Poroshenko has the support of Germany and other European governments. Together with Klitschko, who has been heavily backed by Berlin, he was invited to the Munich Security Conference in February. Poroshenko and Klitschko have in recent weeks met with both British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande.

According to Ukrainian opinion polls, Poroshenko has the support of 25 percent of voters, far more than any other candidate. He is considered to be a more conciliatory figure than his main rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, whose rabid Ukrainian nationalism threatens to divide the country and plunge it into civil war.

Kyryl Savin of the Green Party-affiliated Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kiev toldDeutsche Welle: “I don’t think he is going to play the radical nationalist card. On the contrary, he’ll try to keep the country together somehow.”

Evidently, European governments have concluded that Tymoshenko is too much of a loose cannon and they need a safer pair of hands in Kiev to ensure their interests. They also see billionaire businessman Poroshenko as the ideal candidate to implement the draconian austerity measures and mass sackings demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

The fact that one of the richest oligarchs is now promoted by leaders of the Maidan and the Western powers to be Ukraine’s next president explodes the claim that the protests in Kiev represented a struggle for democracy and against corruption. The new government was installed as a result of a fascist-led coup whose purpose was to bring to power a pro-Western government, deepen the subordination of the country to the dictates of the Ukrainian oligarchs and international finance capital, and provide a staging ground for Western imperialist efforts to weaken and isolate Russia.

Eleven years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the war has largely disappeared from the corporate media, and President Obama recently took the widely-criticized step of defending the invasion and claiming the Iraqi people now have “sovereignty.” Yet, on Wednesday night, Iraqi civil society organizers and U.S. military veterans gathered at a “People’s Hearing” in Washington, DC to tell a different story: of a war that is not over, that is still taking life, spreading trauma, and poisoning Iraq.

In two hours of emotionally-charged testimony — curated by the Right to Heal campaign, a joint effort of Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Federation of Workers Councils and Unions of Iraq, and Iraq Veterans Against the War — the hearing traced the ongoing impacts of the U.S.-led war and occupation. This legacy includes environmental poisoning, Iraqi government repression, sectarian conflict, poverty, trauma, displacement, and death.

Yanar Mohammed, president and co-founder of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, testifies on toxic legacy of U.S. war on Iraq Wednesday, March 27. (Photo: Cassidy Regan)

Throughout the event, which was moderated by journalist Phil Donahue and followed an earlier briefing in the House featuring the testimony of witnesses, an overwhelming call emerged. The U.S. must give reparations to the Iraqi people, clean up its toxic legacy, and stop waging wars and occupations around the world.

“Relations based on militarism need to be changed,” said Yanar Mohammed, president and co-founder of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. “The change can come from places like this.”

Toxic Legacy

Speakers described a country poisoned for decades by the U.S. military — from depleted uranium used in the 1991 Gulf War and recent Iraq War, chemical weapon white phosphorousused in the 2004 U.S. attack on Fallujah, and burn pits — which are run by the U.S. military and private contractors and burn munitions, chemicals, rubbers, plastics, and a host of other substances often within close proximity of Iraqi civilians. The toxic legacy in Iraq was repeatedly compared to the U.S. nuclear legacy in Japan and Agent Orange attacks in Vietnam.

Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (Photo: Cara Solomon)

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist, testified that U.S. burn pits in Iraq are exposing the Iraqi public to a litany of dangerous compounds, including lead and mercury. Research teams sent to Iraqi hospitals in Basra and Falluja found abnormally high rates of cancer, birth defects, and heart defects, she stated.

Kristi Casteel, mother of IVAW member Joshua Casteel, explained that her son passed away August 25, 2012 due to what she believes were complications from cancer caused by exposure to burn pits in Abu Ghraib during his Army service. “Had we known he was at risk from toxins in Iraq, he might have been saved,” said Kristi, adding that the military was “allowing more harm to our soldiers than our supposed enemies were inflicting.” Joshua became a conscientious objector, writer, and anti-war activist. According to his mother, his dying wish was that burn pits be eradicated and those exposed to these pits, especially Iraqis, receive care.

Mohammed, who fled Iraq during the first Gulf war but then returned after 2003 to “help people,” described epidemics of birth defects in cities and towns across Iraq. “There are some mothers who have three or four children who don’t have limbs that work, who are totally paralyzed, their fingers fused to each other. These children have mental disabilities,” she said. “There needs to be reparations for families facing birth defect and areas that have been contaminated. There needs to be cleanup.”

U.S.-Backed Repression

Speakers testified that the U.S. has also left behind another poison — the Nouri al-Maliki regime that is stoking sectarian conflict and repressing protesters and organizers fighting for their rights — against the backdrop of health problems, trauma, and a climbing refugee crisis.

“We will not surrender to sadness. We will not surrender to subjugation. We will have our say.” —Yanar Mohammed, Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq

According to Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, the Iraqi government has carried forward old laws from Saddam Hussein that repress and punish workers for organizing in their workplaces. “The new government is busy with how to re-divide the wealthy and seize the resources of society,” he said. “They are supported directly by the U.S. government. They want to issue new labor laws to control the workers and restrain them from stating their demands.”

Mohammed slammed the “corrupt” U.S.-backed and armed Iraqi government and scoffed at Obama’s claims about Iraqi sovereignty. “The U.S. occupation taught us how to hate each other based on sectarian divides,” she said. “The U.S. occupation has alienated the women of Iraq and the ethnicities of Iraq.”

The Traumas That Spread

“The truth is that war is a devastating thing,” said Savabieasfahani. “And if we unleash it on innocent populations, it will harm us all.”

One by one, Iraq veterans took to the podium to testify to the wounds they still carry and the U.S. military’s refusal to account for the harm done. IVAW member Rebekah Lampman described the harrowing experience of being raped by a fellow soldier and being denied recourse for winning justice and accountability. In fact, she was blamed for her own assault, she stated. Reflecting on her own healing process following her military discharge, she said, “I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor.”

Former marine and IVAW member Ramon Mejia (Photo: Cassidy Regan)

Former marine and IVAW member Ramon Mejia, who said he joined the military out of the “economic necessity” of providing for his family, explained that he was taught to dehumanize Iraqi people. When he made the decision, while deployed, to start “really seeing” Iraqi people after an experience hearing the call to prayer, he says everything shifted. “My war had changed: I went from going through the motions to questioning,” he said.

After his discharge, Ramon faced seizures and mental health problems, and at one point had suicidal ideations. He declared, “I wish I could express to you how sorry I am for what happened in Iraq, and I’m dedicating my life to making things right.”

Savabieasfahani pointed out that “very little work has been done on the mental effects of this war” on the Iraqi population. “Imagine the kinds of mental, emotional, physical pressure on the population of Iraq,” she stated.

Said Mohammed, “You get devastated out of fear. You have no hope.”

Justice and Reparations

Speaker after speaker repeated the call for reparations and accountability for a war that,according to some estimates, has killed over one million Iraqi people. Reparations include research into the toxic legacy of the U.S. war in Iraq, and a “clean-up” of these sites. While the Iraqi government is corrupt, there is a civil society that can oversee reparations and move it to the right places, urged Mohammed. Veterans repeated the “Right to Heal” call for true care for returning veterans, and Savabieasfahani also spoke about the need to combat U.S. racism against Arabs and people of color more broadly.

Yet, speakers urged that the real solution is ending the U.S.-led wars responsible for creating the trauma and devastation in the first place.

“The war brings us here today,” said Pam Spees, senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, in an address delivered in Arabic for the Iraqi audience — including those remotely watching a live-stream of the event. “There is nothing that can compensate for the damage that this war has caused, but we are committing ourselves to seeking justice.”

“We are looking for solutions and answers for how not to let it happen again,” said Mohammed. “We will not surrender to sadness. We will not surrender to subjugation. We will have our say.”

The full hearing is featured in the video below.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Animal Rights and Britain’s Badger Cull

March 31st, 2014 by Lesley Docksey

Why are we waiting?

 The UK Secretary for the Environment Owen Paterson, called by some the “worst Environment Secretary ever” because of his support for so many ecologically damaging initiatives, disappeared in February.  Having been responsible for an expensive and highly unpopular badger cull, he became embroiled in the crisis that brought a lot of southern England to its knees – catastrophic flooding.

 Arriving far too late on the scene down in Somerset it was then announced that he had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina – and he totally vanished.  He did come back very quietly, but was unavailable to all those seeking answers about badger culling.

But on 27 March Paterson finally came out of his badger sett and appeared before MPs to answer just a few questions about bovine TB and the badger cull.  Pity it was the first business of the day so there was not a full house to welcome him back.

His appearance had been flagged up by the Sunday Times which said that “Defra was expected to make an announcement this week, alongside the publication of a scientific assessment of last year’s cull.”

According to the Times: “The government’s badger culls are to be restarted this summer with a third killing zone, in Dorset, added to the two existing ones, in Somerset and Gloucestershire, say Whitehall sources.”

But did Paterson have anything definite to say about continuing the culls?  No.  Any mention of the publication of the “scientific assessment” (the report from the Independent Expert Panel, some details of which had been leaked in February)?  Er – no.

Following the chaotic disaster of the two pilot culls, most reasonable people would be making changes to the way ahead.  Thus Angela Smith, a staunch anti-cull MP asked what changes he plans to make to his policy on bovine TB.

He replied that the draft strategy to combat bovine TB had been published in July 2013 and that the final version, outlining Defra’s comprehensive plan, “will be published shortly.”

  More “shortly”, one presumes, than that long-awaited report.  Angela Smith said that, considering the leaked information from the report had shown the culls to be inhumane, “would he not think it vital to reconsider the policy and to abandon absolutely any plans for rolling out culling later in the year?”

Paterson was still not giving anything away: “I received the panel’s report only recently. I am considering it, and I will come back to the House in due course, when it has been fully considered.”

 How much longer is he going to sit on the time bomb of an unpublished report that most people expect to be damning in its judgement on the pilot culls?  How long is “due course?”  How long is a piece of Paterson string?

When asked to consider all the other strategies for ridding England of TB he did mention “… a strict cattle movement regime, which has been a key to success in other countries.”  A slight change there from his mantra that “There is no example anywhere in the world of a country that has successfully tackled TB without also tackling the reservoir of disease in the wildlife population.”

Prompted by Ian Paisley, who has been endlessly and loudly lobbying for Northern Ireland to have badger culling, Paterson again came out with the nonsense that the horrific long-term killing of badgers in Ireland had resulted in dramatically lowering the incidence of TB in Irish cattle.  Neither he nor Paisley will ever accept that Northern Ireland has done better in tackling the disease than the south, without killing any badgers.

Another MP asked for an update on cattle vaccine, only to be told that “we are doing this and we are doing that that but I’m afraid it will be at least 10 years before everything’s in place.”

 But it was going to take 10 years last year, and the year before that and 10 years ago too.  If ever there was a moving goalpost in this sorry saga, it is the 10-year one.

 The Shadow Farming Minister Huw Irranca-Davies delighted the anti-cull MPs with the news that during the debate on the cull earlier this month, Mr Paterson had been visiting a chocolate factory.  Well – you have to hide somewhere while you’re considering reports!

 He then demanded that any decision to continue the culls should have a proper Parliamentary vote.

 No, said Mr Paterson.  He went on to say that: “The last vote on a substantive motion showed considerable support, with a majority of 61, for our strategy.”  He mentioned the figure of a 61 majority twice, just to emphasise it.

Someone should remind Mr Paterson that that was back in June 2013, and the majority was 49 votes, not 61.  MPs have become considerably better informed since then and many of them, having viewed the chaotic mess of the two pilot culls, have wisely changed their minds.

 And they will soon break out into a rousing chorus of “Why are we waiting…?”

 

Human Rights in North Korea

March 31st, 2014 by Christine Hong

This essay offers a historicized overview of the consolidation of contemporary human rights as the dominant lingua franca for social justice projects today and applies it to the debate over human rights in North Korea. Highlighting what the rights framework renders legible as well as what it consigns to unintelligibility, it examines the antinomies of contemporary human rights as an ethico-political discourse that strives to reassert the dominance of the global North over the global South.

Relentlessly presentist in its assignment of blame and politically harnessed to a regime-change agenda, the human rights framing of North Korea has enabled human rights advocates, typically “beneficiaries of past injustice,” to assume a moralizing, implicitly violent posture toward a “regime” commonsensically understood to be “evil.” Cordoning off North Korea’s alleged crimes for discrete consideration while turning a willfully blind eye to the violence of sanctions, “humanitarian” intervention, and the withholding of humanitarian and developmental aid, the North Korean human rights project has allowed a spectrum of political actors—U.S. soft-power institutions, thinly renovated Cold War defense organizations, hawks of both neoconservative and liberal varieties, conservative evangelicals, anticommunist Koreans in South Korea and the diaspora, and North Korean defectors—to join together in common cause.

This thematic issue, by contrast, enables a range of critical perspectives—from U.S.– and South Korea–based scholars, policy analysts, and social justice advocates—to attend to what has hovered outside or been marginalized within the dominant human rights framing of North Korea as a narrowly inculpatory, normative structure. This article is adapted and revised from the introduction to a two-part thematic issue of Critical Asian Studies on “Reframing North Korean Human Rights” (December 2013 and March 2014).

I. Victors’ Justice?

In February 2014, upon completing a several-month investigation into “human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK, or North Korea]”—an investigation initiated in the sixtieth anniversary year of the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement that halted combat but did not end the war—the three-member Commission of Inquiry (COI) established by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) concluded that North Korea had committed crimes against humanity. Such “unspeakable atrocities,” in the framing account of Commission chair Michael Kirby, “reveal a totalitarian State [without] parallel in the contemporary world.”1 Analogies to the “dark abyss” of North Korea, the Australian jurist maintained, could be found only in the brutality of the Third Reich, South African apartheid, and the Khmer Rouge regime.2 Reproduced in news reports around the world, Kirby’s markedly ahistorical examples may have succeeded in inflaming global public opinion yet they failed to contextualize the issue of North Korean human rights in a way that might generate peaceful structural resolution. Indeed, insofar as the 372-page COI report singularly identified the North Korea government as the problem—both as “a remaining and shameful scourge that afflicts the world today,” in Kirby’s jingoistic phrase, and as the primary obstacle to peace in Korea—the Commission gave new life to the vision of regime change that has animated post-9/11 North Korean human rights campaigns. By recommending that North Korea and its high officials be brought up before the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), it continued the hostilities of the unresolved Korean War “by means purporting to be judicial.”3 The urgent question of a long-deferred peace relative to the Korean peninsula, which the Commission incoherently addressed, bedeviled its conclusions, rendering its findings partial, its recommendations in some instances uneasily one-sided, and its premise of impartiality suspect.4 Moreover, that the COI proceedings and report aligned the United Nations with the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Great Britain while singling out North Korea and, to a far lesser degree, China, for blame performed an unsettling restaging of the Korean War on the agonistic terrain of human rights, suggesting an encrypted “victor’s justice” with regard to an unending war that up to now has had no clear winners.5

By overlooking the roots of North Korean militarism and underdevelopment in the unending Korean War, by failing to offer a “systematic and widespread” account of “crimes against humanity” that critically assessed the impact of unresolved war on the entire peninsula and in the greater region, and by assuming the neutrality of the United Nations, the United States, South Korea, Great Britain, and Japan relative to North Korea, the Commission thereby offered an inculpatory account of North Korean human rights that obscured rather than illuminated the complex consequences of unresolved interventionist war.6 Indeed, the footnote status accorded to the Korean War’s historical and ongoing violence within today’s dominant international human rights framework speaks to the limitations of available “post-Cold War” structures of recognition when it comes to the unsettled, in many cases active, legacies of the asymmetrical wars waged by the United States and its allies throughout the Cold War. Justice, with regard to the ongoing Korean War, as Kim Dong-choon, a former standing commissioner of South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRCK), has maintained, cannot be had in the present. Instead, as he has soberingly argued, “dignity for all” and meaningful peace are conceivable “only after the unification of North and South Korea.”7 Implicit in this future prospect for broad structural reckoning is precisely what the TRCK (2005-2010), constrained in its mandate by the U.S.-ROK “security” alliance, could not compel, and what the ICC, for reasons of Realpolitik, is similarly not empowered to address: namely, U.S. accountability.8

In this regard, the Commission’s principal recommendation that North Korea be referred to the ICC for its perpetration of “crimes against humanity” should be critically evaluated against the attenuation, in our historical moment, of “crimes of aggression,” or “crimes against peace.” Crucial, here, is not only the legal limbo of the unresolved Korean War, but also, the repeated efforts by North Korea as well as scholars and activists in South Korea and the United States to emphasize the right to peace as the foremost priority on the Korean peninsula and to render the war’s consequences visible within a human rights framework. To the extent that North Korea’s grievances with regard to the unending Korean War are referenced at all in the COI report, they are framed as baseless propaganda wielded by the North Korean state to justify its human rights violations against the North Korean people.

Riven by contestatory claims, unsettled truths about “North Korean human rights,” as we thus can begin to see, are invariably entangled with competing truths about the Korean War. More to the point, justification for “international” intervention under UN auspices on the Korean peninsula at mid-century functions as a necessary premise for today’s interventionist human rights posture toward North Korea. Indeed, in its conclusions, the COI report incomprehensibly identifies the “responsibility” of the “international community” in delivering “an effective response” to North Korea’s human rights violations “because of the unresolved legacy of the Korean War.”9

It bears recalling: if the stated rationale for U.S. and UN intervention in Korea was that North Korea, on June 25, 1950, aggressed the “border” of the 38th parallel—a demarcation line, to be clear, rather than an international boundary drafted by the United States in 1945 with zero Korean input—this studiously reactive account of the war’s origins fails to account for the indiscriminate aggression that followed. The brutal U.S. occupation of the North and its massive aerial bombing campaigns, perpetrated under the cover of the United Nations Command, would generate a swath of ruin impossible to justify as self-defense on the part of the United States. When all was said and done, North Korea’s major cities and towns would be reduced to rubble, its civilian infrastructure smashed, and an estimated twelve to fifteen percent of its population killed. As historian Bruce Cumings has pointed out: “Why is it aggression when Koreans cross the 38th parallel, but imaginary when Americans do the same thing?”10

As Cumings’s critique begins to intimate, the persistent legal illegibility of aggressive war, a crime “predominately committed by the political and military authorities of the major powers,” point less to a breakdown in a global system of rule of law than they do to the workings of an imperial model of global governance that rescripts geopolitical terrain through superior military force and makes recourse to legitimation from “reactive, politically unaccountable institutions (such as courts of law).”11 By definition legibus solutus, or beyond the law, imperial sovereignty, to some degree, could be said to throw the system of international law into “legal incoherence.”12 As jurist Danilo Zolo has pointed out, “[i]mperial power is incompatible both with the general character of law and with the formal equality of subjects in the international legal order.”13 It is revealing, along these lines, that crimes against peace, which were prioritized as “the supreme international crime,” indeed placed, in seriousness, above crimes against humanity and war crimes at the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals and enshrined as crimes of aggression in the Rome Statute of the ICC, are functionally little more than a dead letter in international law.14

We might also think of what Walter Benjamin referred to as the “lawmaking character of violence.”15 Effectively immune to prosecution for crimes of aggression, the United States has wielded the lesser category of crimes against humanity, a legal classification dormant for the duration of the Cold War, against the sovereignty of small postcolonial states. Since the fall of the socialist bloc, we have been repeatedly witness to the unfurling of a spectacular dramaturgy staged around the vanquished that takes the sequence of U.S. interventionist war followed by criminal proceedings under a highly selective interpretation of jus in bello, namely, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide. In this era, the international criminal tribunal, with its fractured and uneven system of justice, has served as a vital mechanism for the consolidation of what Neda Atanasoski refers to as a “postsocialist imperialist” world order in which international legal mechanisms have been monopolized by the United States and its allies and harnessed to a dubious “global ethic of humanitarianism,” which is itself inextricably linked to a regime of U.S. perpetual warfare.16

As an intended prelude to a juridical process, whether via the ICC (doubtful given the likelihood of China’s and possibly Russia’s veto) or the establishment of an international criminal tribunal along the lines of those set up for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the COI proceedings and report on North Korean human rights thus must be understood within the context of “a dual-standard system of international criminal justice…in which a justice ‘made to measure’ for the major world powers and their victorious leaders operates alongside a separate justice for the defeated and the downtrodden.”17 Indeed, prior to recommending that North Korea be referred to the ICC for its alleged commission of crimes against humanity, the Commission, in late 2013, held a series of carefully orchestrated hearings in four sites: namely, Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington, DC. Again, the unsettled past (and present) of the Korean War served as prologue. That South Korea, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States not only equipped and financed the COI proceedings but also were allied parties or participants in the Korean War hovered as illegible context for the work and mandate of the Commission, even as this unresolved structure of enmity everywhere informed and, one could argue, contaminated the Commission’s informational base, procedures, and findings.18 Occasionally referenced but nowhere analyzed in the COI report for its profound structural impact on human security both north and south of the DMZ, the irresolution of the Korean War was, for the most part, topically confined to a short perfunctory section in the report dedicated to historical and political context. This glaring failure to wrestle with the human costs of the unending Korean War and to prioritize the right to peace on the Korean peninsula haunted the Commission’s one-sided findings with regard to chronic North Korean hunger, separated families, and war abductees. Far from tackling the consequences of unresolved war head-on, the report displaced and minimized its significance.

Insofar as the COI human rights report rehearsed a narrative familiar in its details to “those who know North Korea well,” as historian Charles Armstrong stated to Vice News, it thereby reified, rather than challenged, a structure of enmity whose consequences must be understood as grave human rights matters meriting critical scrutiny in their own right.19 Although the report, in its synopsis of Korean history, offered a cursory overview of the Korean War that cited the research of “Bruce Cummings [sic]” and gestured toward “wounds inflicted by the Korean War [which] were deep and are still felt…on both sides of the border [sic],” it nonetheless doggedly restricted its investigation of state criminality to North Korea, and in a few instances, to China—a narrow nation-based investigation inadequate to the task of examining the structural consequences and human costs of unending war as itself a crime against humanity and, even more seriously, a crime against peace.20 When discussion of the war’s consequences surfaced, the latter were unintelligibly framed as human rights violations on the part of North Korea alone. In its final recommendations, for instance, the COI report singularly calls on North Korea to “[a]llow separated families to unite,” without addressing the root causes of their separation, much less the UN role in fomenting the state of division, peacelessness, and human tragedy that prevails on the Korean peninsula.21

With its focus on “widespread and systematic attack directed against any civilian population,” the COI report conceivably could and arguably should have offered some structural reckoning with the profound human costs of unabated war that extended across the DMZ and outward to the larger Asia-Pacific region, including the system of U.S. and UN sanctions reaching back over six decades; the ongoing U.S. military presence south of the DMZ (against the 1953 Armistice recommendation); massive U.S. joint and trilateral military exercises with South Korea and Japan, some that simulate nuclear strikes against North Korea and practice the takeover and occupation of North Korea; regional nuclear proliferation and ambitions; South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) cyber-warfare against “North Korea” that tilted domestic election results; the National Security Law and redbaiting in South Korea; the undemocratic militarization of Jeju, Okinawa, Guam, and Hawai‘i under the resurgent sign of a U.S. military pivot to Asia and the Pacific in response to a “North Korean threat”; and so forth.

Incongruously, the Commission closes its 372-page report with a recommendation impossible to square with its reiteration of near-singular North Korean culpability: “the United Nations and the states that were parties to the Korean War should take steps to convene a high-level political conference…and, if agreed, ratify a final peaceful settlement of the war that commits all parties to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”22 If recalling the 1953 Armistice Agreement’s recommendation that a “political conference of a higher level of both sides [the United States and North Korea/China] be held by representatives appointed respectively to settle through negotiation the questions of the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Korea [and] the peaceful settlement of the Korean question,” the COI report, in all other respects, failed to locate the issue of North Korean human rights within a structure of persistent enmity that has adversely impacted the human rights of the peoples of not only North Korea but also South Korea and the larger Asia-Pacific region.23

Instead, the COI report identified North Korea’s “instrumental” use of the “fear of invasion and infiltration”—what the Commission held to be North Korea’s cynical orchestration of a “state of emergency” (apparently not to be conflated with the indisputable fact that the war is far from over)—to explain how the North Korean state has justified and carried out its “harsh governmental rule and its accompanying human rights violations.”24 Although the report elsewhere makes brief mention of the fact that the United States has tied food aid to nuclear concessions, it described food shortages in North Korea as being irrationally “blamed on a hostile outside world” by North Korean authorities.25 Here, we would do well to take stock of analysis of the root causes of North Korea’s persistent food insecurity by David Austin, head of Mercy Corps’ humanitarian aid program to North Korea—a perspective, one would hope, not facilely dismissible as the propagandistic construction of the North Korean government:

The food security situation is a symptom of the greater problem,…which is technically that the U.S. is still at war with North Korea. And so there are sanctions on North Korea. They are not allowed to get fuel; there’s no fertilizer. And so the greater political situation has a tremendous effect on the lives of the ordinary people who are not privileged to be a part of that broader solution. They’re ordinary farmers, and they’re suffering the consequences of the non-solution to the political questions. …[U]ntil there is engagement, there’s not going to be greater solutions.26

On the conspicuous narrowness of COI’s data culture, particularly with regard to the complexity of North Korea’s food security issues, Hazel Smith observes: “[w]hat is most striking about the [UNHRC] reporting on the DPRK is the almost complete absence of reference to relevant data from other UN agencies, donor governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), to the extent that the…reporting seems unaware of the existence of reports on the DPRK from within the UN system itself.”27 Instead, the Commission appears to have relied heavily on an extremely dated account from Médecins Sans Frontières from 1998 and the testimony of former USAID administrator and current co-chairman of the conservative U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Andrew Natsios, despite the wealth of much more discerning, rigorous scholarship and firsthand knowledge of North Korea’s food situation that has emerged in the past decade. In this regard, the Commission’s ascription of blame to the DPRK for food violations, as Smith further argues, “demonstrates a securitization of evidence and analysis through a heavy reliance on assumptions [about North Korean state-level culpability for food-related human rights violations] and a filtering of information through those assumptions,” even as “the weight of [other] UN agency reporting contradicts” those very premises.28

The COI report, it should be noted, concedes the political bias of the data culture on which it based its findings and recommendations: “The Commission is conscious of the fact that most victims and witnesses cooperating with the Commission had an overall unfavourable opinion of the DPRK’s authorities.”29 This was uncomfortably apparent in a peculiar exchange between Commission chair Kirby and a North Korean defector residing in the United States. During the October 30, 2013 public hearing in Washington, DC, Kirby repeatedly pressed Jo Jin-hye to comment upon North Korea’s hostile stance toward the COI investigation: “Now are you aware that the government of North Korea says that the type of testimony that you have given to the Commission of Inquiry today is false and that you are a defector and a person who should not be believed because you are defaming North Korea?”30 The leading nature of this question notwithstanding, Jo offered up a response that symptomatically attested to the structure of enmity and the geopolitics of unresolved war underpinning—and to no small degree compromising—the proceedings: “I am well aware. I know who my enemy and my friend are.”31

Although the Commission conducted roughly 240 confidential interviews and held four sets of public hearings, the solicited testimony of seasoned political actors long at the helm of a well-funded, transnational “North Korean human rights” industry aimed at North Korean regime-change or regime-collapse loomed large within the 372-page COI report. In particular, the report relied heavily for its framing on testimony from prominent North Korean defectors like Kang Chol-hwan, Ahn Myong-chol, Shin Dong-hyuk, Kim Hyuk, and Kim Young-soon, and the “expertise” of unabashedly right-wing South Korean, American, and Japanese “North Korean human rights” advocates like Kim Young-hwan, Andrew Natsios, Victor Cha, and Ishimaru Jiro. The insight of this cadre of “witnesses and experts” into North Korea appears frequently in the COI report, furnishing its narrative contours. In other words, despite the Commission’s assertion that all testimonies were carefully vetted for reliability and Kirby’s strained assurances that such testimonies represent “authentic voices,” the 372-page COI report troublingly allocates outsized representational value to the words and views of ultimately only a handful of institutionalized actors whose relationship to U.S. and South Korean intelligence, U.S. soft-power institutions, thinly renovated Cold War defense organizations, hawks of neoconservative and liberal varieties, conservative evangelicals, and anticommunist Koreans in South Korea and the diaspora goes completely unquestioned.32 It treats their testimony, moreover, as primary data, ascribing a false positivism to sources that “divulge their secrets at some distance in time and space from the ongoing developments inside the target they are reporting on.”33

Although the COI report offers a perfunctory account of its own methodological underpinnings, we should remark what goes unsaid: namely, the interoperability of the technologies of North Korean human rights, namely defector testimony and satellite imagery, and the technologies of war. Indeed, North Korean human rights testimony is morphologically indistinguishable from what the CIA and military intelligence agencies call “human intelligence” (Humint). As former CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz points out: “Where it has no physical presence, the [CIA] has historically relied for humint primarily on defectors, detainees, legal travelers, opposition groups and foreign government liaison services.” That the COI report gives extensive space to defector testimony without weighing the perils of an over-reliance on this sort of informational base raises the question of the empirical nature of the North Korean human rights project. Donald MacIntyre, former Seoul bureau chief for Time magazine, observes:

North Koreans who have left their country have provided some of the best information that we have. But you can’t go to North Korea and check what they tell you. An example arose in 2004 when the BBC ran a documentary alleging that North Korea was using political prisoners as guinea pigs in chemical weapons tests. The issue is now part of the human rights agenda on North Korea. …The problem has become worse…as a result of the Japanese and Korean media’s practice of paying defectors for interviews. Paying for interviews creates an incentive to pad, or create, stories that will boost your own market value. …Bad news about evil North Korea sells.34

In his memoir The Aquariums of Pyongyang (2001), co-authored with the French anti-communist Pierre Rigoulot, Kang Chol-hwan, a major COI witness, states that Japanese and South Korean media paid him so handsomely “for opening [his] mouth” about North Korea that he “occasionally felt [he] was trading [his] experience for a story…no longer entirely [his] own.”35

Yet the question today goes beyond whether “authentic voices” like Kang’s represent the truth of North Korea. Rather, in light of the fact that approximately 26,000 North Koreans resettled in South Korea both during and after the 1990s’ North Korean famine, we might more pointedly ask whether the testimony of North Korean defectors and migrants featured in the COI report bears a sufficiently representative relationship to the diversity of views and experiences of this significant minority population. On this point, in a South Korean civil society organizational response to the COI findings, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) highlights one of the report’s major shortcomings: “North Korean human rights issues should not be limited to the situation inside the DPRK [but should] cover human rights concerns of all North Korean people, their separated families, and relatives,” including “DPRK defectors living in the ROK.”36 It is, above all, the complexity of allegiance and nuance of perspective within this demographic that merit careful regard. Not only does this post-famine wave of migrants constitute a critical new phase in the separated-family phenomenon, with phone calls and remittances flowing, often in circuitous ways, across the DMZ, but also, the South Korean state’s past instrumentalization of North Korean defectors toward anti-communist Cold War ends, plausible when they were few and far between, is no longer a broadly applicable strategy. Moreover, that North Korean migrants face crippling labor and educational discrimination, social stigma, and diminished life chances in South Korea complicates a human rights narrative that assigns all blame to North Korea—indeed calls for other interpretive approaches which possess more explanatory power.37

Ultimately, little in the COI findings departs from a well-honed human rights narrative about North Korea, an account of neo-Orientalist sadism, depravity, and inhumanity that took shape after the collapse of the socialist bloc but crystallized in the wake of George W. Bush’s infamous designation of North Korea as part of an “axis of evil.” Even as the COI report, in its details, offers information that lends itself to multiple interpretations, the Commission’s findings, in keeping with a familiar “demonization script” toward North Korea, rehearse the standard postulates of North Korean human rights campaigns.38 These are worth restating insofar as they form the contours of a globally dominant narrative about North Korea: to wit, North Korea is unsurpassingly “evil.” The defector is the voice and representative of the North Korean people. Satellite images reveal the truth about North Korea.

“North Korean human rights” singularly denotes those abuses, violations, and crimes perpetrated by the North Korean state (and in a few instances, China). It does not compass those abuses, violations, and crimes committed by other states or organizations against the North Korean people. Relative to North Korea, human rights and humanitarianism are, by and large, separate, non-intersecting tracks.39 The politicized withholding of food aid by donor nations, even if it adversely impacts, to the point of death, the North Korean people, is not itself a human rights violation.40 Six decades of U.S. and UN sanctions and of unending war are simply business as usual and not themselves human rights violations; any argument to the contrary is the stuff of North Korean propaganda. The violation of the right to peace and the commission of the crime of aggression are the least consequential of human rights in the international human rights regime. The Korean War is a mere footnote.

II. Shadow Archive of North Korean Human Rights

In December 1951, the Civil Rights Congress presented a petition titled We Charge Genocide to the United Nations. Submitted as the Korean War was raging, this document, as with other black radical human rights petitions addressed to the United Nations during the Cold War, tested the interpretive limits of the legal instruments of the emergent international human rights regime. Specifically, the petition insisted that the U.S. “record of mass slayings on the basis of race, of lives deliberately warped and distorted by the willful creation of conditions making for premature death, poverty and disease” be recognized as a violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention—a convention that had entered into force earlier that year but that the United States would ratify only in 1988, long after its brutal hot war counterinsurgencies in Asia had cooled.41

Principally aimed at making Jim Crow legible as a crime within the supranational framework of human rights, this petition posited the two-front nature of U.S. genocidal violence—violence instrumentally motivated at home and abroad by a desire for “economic profit and political control.”42 Linking mass violence perpetrated with impunity in the imperial center to that furiously unleashed on millions in the periphery—here implying a homology between police brutality in the United States and the U.S. “police action” in Korea—We Charge Genocide maintained that the roots of the devastating U.S. war in Korea could be found in the racist logic of American capitalism. Salvaged from history’s dustbin, this account of U.S. aggression in Korea has a place within a shadow archive of North Korean human rights—an archive whose unredressed grievances lurk uneasily below the smooth surface of dominant North Korean human rights narratives today.43

Attempting to indict U.S. criminality on the world stage, the Civil Rights Congress petition sought to place both Jim Crow and the U.S. war in Korea squarely under the innovative legal rubric of genocide and in so doing to indict racist and imperialist violence within the framework of universal human rights law:

We, Negro petitioners whose communities have been laid waste, whose homes have been burned and looted, whose children have been killed, whose women have been raped, have noted with peculiar horror that the genocidal doctrines and actions of the American white supremacists have already been exported to the colored people of Asia. We solemnly warn that a nation which practices genocide against its own nationals may not be long deterred, if it has the power, from genocide elsewhere.44

Paul Robeson and members of the Civil Rights Congress submitting We Charge Genocide to the United Nations Secretariat, New York, December 17, 1951, Daily Worker/Daily World Photographs Collection, Tamiment Library, New York University. 

 

In highlighting the devaluation of nonwhite life—life subjected to collateralization under U.S. sovereignty—this 1951 petition offered analysis along critical human rights lines that neither peddled in a politics of pity and rescue nor reinscribed the inequality of the world system. Instead, it gestured toward a humanism that had yet to assert its fullest political possibility—what Aimé Césaire would in 1955 call “a humanism made to the measure of the world.”45 During a juncture in which the United States was waging an “appallingly dirty” war in Korea that would leave roughly 4 million dead, this petition strove to expose the inhumanity of U.S. capitalist democracy.46 Arguing that “[w]hite supremacy at home makes for colored massacres abroad” insofar as both evince “contempt for human life in a colored skin,” We Charge Genocide contested the immunity enjoyed by the lyncher and the bomber. “Jellied gasoline in Korea and the lynchers’ faggot at home,” the petition stated, “are connected in more ways than that both result in death by fire. The lyncher…cannot murder unpunished and unrebuked without so encouraging the [bomber] that the peace of the world and the lives of millions are endangered.”47 That the Civil Rights Congress, which openly opposed the U.S. war against North Korea, would be labeled subversive by the U.S. federal government, hounded by the House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), audited by the IRS, infiltrated by the FBI, and mercilessly red-baited until its remaining members voted to disband in the mid 1950s only partly suffices to explain why its charge of two-front genocide was, and continues to be, unintelligible as a human rights claim.48 Rather, detectable in its struggle to make the charge of genocide stick to the greatest military power in the global community—and to criminalize U.S. wars of aggression and its asymmetrical wars in a consequential way—was a hint of the “something rotten” at the heart of the emergent international human rights regime.

Pyongyang, North Korea, in the aftermath of an air raid by U.S. planes in fall 1950. A total of 420,000 bombs eventually would be dropped on a city that then boasted approximately 400,000 residents.

As Césaire would trenchantly comment in Discours sur le colonialisme (1955), “capitalist society…is incapable of establishing a concept of the rights of all men”—and further noted that it degrades humans by subjecting them to “thingification.”49 Césaire’s critique begins to alert us to a “major deficiency in the doctrinal analysis of international law,” namely, “that no systematic undertaking is…offered of the influence of colonialism in the development of the basic conceptual framework of the subject.”50 Indeed, the very “edifice of international law embed[s] relations of imperialist domination.”51 It is thus no coincidence that the various human rights vernaculars—anticolonial, race radical, communitarian, Third World—that flashed up during the Cold War with visions of “a humanism made to the measure of the world,” have today been relegated to the status of “rebellious specters” in the dominant paradigm of international human rights.52 That the liberal model of rights has prevailed in this era of advanced global capitalism “as the privileged ideological frame through which excessive cruelty [is] conceived and interpreted” has meant the neutralization, as Randall Williams has argued, of “other epistemic forms and political practices.”53

On the institutional consolidation of the human rights movement in the late Cold War period, historian Samuel Moyn observes that its emergence as a “new, moralized” policy regime was catalyzed by “the reception of Soviet and later East European dissidents by politicians, journalists, and intellectuals” in the West, giving rise to a narrow notion of internationalism based on individual rights.54 Human rights are thus central to a U.S. triumphalist narrative of global socialist declension. For neoconservatives, human rights, “understood as anticommunism by another name,” energized a U.S. foreign policy that systematically aimed to quash any vestige of socialism around the world and to erode Third World self-determination, despite the fact that “the master principle of collective self-determination” rhetorically inflamed the imagination of the nascent human rights regime at mid century.55

This is to point out that human rights critique, brandished as an incriminating tool, may have been wielded by capitalist and socialist states alike in a mutual tu quoque calling-out of abuses throughout the Cold War. As that era waned, however, the international human rights regime tilted fatally and collusively toward U.S. unilateralism.

How we think of human rights today, in other words, is conditioned by the “ascendance of the US over the past two decades to the position of global hegemon, secured by its relative monopoly over the capacity for mass destruction.”56 Nowhere is this more apparent than in the demotion, in our era, of Third World self-determination, with its “basis in collectivity and sovereignty,” from its former status “as the first and most important threshold right.”57 In the contemporary moment, the liberal human rights frame appears as the “consensual real,” a self-evident vehicle for social justice concerns.58 Yet with their near-exclusive focus on pain and suffering in the present and exculpatory stance toward their own violence—violence now branded as “emancipatory”—human rights as an “moral discourse” supposedly divorced from politics has functioned to evacuate historical and geopolitical contexts, and indeed to imply the obscenity of explanatory frames other than the most immediate.59 Legacies of past U.S. interventions, superficially acknowledged as “anti-Americanism,” might occasion cursory regard from U.S.–based human rights activists who otherwise decry and assiduously catalog the rights violations of long-standing enemies of the United States. Mobilized in this way as a jargon of power deployed across uneven geopolitical terrain, today’s discourse of universal human rights renders illegible or “rogue” rights-based interpretations of the structural violence perpetrated by imperial nations.

As a ruling idea that obscures the brutality of the imperial past and disavows the violence of the imperial present, human rights enact a temporal claim on modernity. Of human rights as decontextualizing ideology, Costas Douzinas states: “[t]he specific political situation that led to the abuses, the colonial history and the conflicts that matured into civil war, the economics that allowed the famine to develop, all these are irrelevant from the perspective of the moralist.”60 In other words, despite their profound structural effects, the seismic deformations wrought by colonialism, the world-altering predations of capitalism, the unresolved Cold War counterinsurgencies, and the militarized asymmetry of the post–Cold War world are pushed to the background—if they factor in at all—of the “universal” human rights framework. When marshaled against the states in the global South, human rights critique amnestically wipes the slate of colonialism clean, adopting a conveniently presentist perspective. As John Feffer states, “In determining causality, this framework has proven unhelpful.”61 Fixated on spectacles of pain and suffering in the now, crises in some instances of their own making, human rights campaigns thus accord mere footnote status to unsettled histories of colonial violence. This is no oversight. In the contemporary human rights frame, which assumes the centrifugality of a rights-based tradition cultivated in imperial centers, Frantz Fanon’s decolonizing insight, “it will take centuries to humanize this world which the imperialist forces have reduced to the animal level,” is unrecognizable not only as a human rights critique but also as an urgent, unfinished project of the present.62

Identified in the human rights frame as “one of the worst examples of a failed experiment in social engineering in the twentieth-century”—a pariah without parallel—North Korea is regarded as lacking a meaningful rights paradigm of its own.63 Rarely does the human rights framing of North Korea expand to acknowledge the country’s realization of economic and social rights during its “Golden Age,” an era from the 1960s to early 1970s—according to Stephen Linton of the Eugene Bell Foundation—characterized by “a public distribution system that provided citizens with a food and clothing ration, housing, education, and medical care free of charge.”64

Nor does today’s dominant human rights frame recognize that North Korea’s leadership seriously endeavored “to fix the systematic problems that accelerated the food crisis in the early 1990s,” much less concede that “anecdotal evidence” over the past fifteen years, even according to some longtime Korea watchers, appears to point to “a lessening of repression.”65 Instead, as an inculpatory discourse, human rights critiques of North Korea have served hegemonic interests, cordoning off the North Korean state’s alleged crimes for discrete consideration, while turning a willfully blind eye to the violence of human rights as well as the brutality of the world economic system. Rights-based approaches to North Korea, in other words, have promoted violence in the name of human rights—justifying war, occupation, sanctions, the withholding of humanitarian and developmental aid, and neoliberal marketization—while indicting what is singularly presented as North Korea’s repellant violence.66

This unilateral framing of North Korea has enabled the United States, in its position as global rescuer, to attempt to extend its imperium over North Korea while exempting its past and present exercise of “sovereignty as terror” toward the North Korean people from the very standards it applies to the North Korean state.67 Rife with troubling implications, the twenty-first-century U.S. adoption of a rights frame toward North Korea has not signaled simply a shift in conceptual categories—with what would once have been regarded as “domestic problems” now construed as “actionable offenses in the international arena.”68 Rather, it has placed soft and hard interventionist options, with their predictably devastating consequences, firmly on the table.

This antinomy between the ends of the North Korean human rights project, or regime change in the service of the individual rights of the North Korean people, and the violent means of human rights, which bears the potential to harm, if not to kill, the imperiled subjects that rights campaigns purportedly wish to save, bespeaks a discomfiting political truth about human rights as a tool of unilateral U.S. power. This project’s ideological trappings are nowhere more evident than in the stark dissonance between human rights and human security approaches to North Korea. Both profess concern for the North Korean people yet only the human rights camp has consistently argued against food aid while advocating for fortified sanctions, military intervention, and even advance plans for refugee camps to house fleeing North Koreans after an externally triggered regime collapse. Arguing that “humanitarian concern” toward North Korea inadvertently “undermin[es] our national security,” U.S. Congressman Ed Royce, a major author of human rights legislation aimed at North Korea, referenced Kim Duk Hong, a defector who declared that extending food aid to North Korea “is the same as providing funding for North Korea’s nuclear program.” During the George W. Bush administration, Kim Duk Hong tellingly advocated: “If we really want to destroy Kim Jong Il, we should be brave. We shouldn’t be afraid of war.”

It bears reflecting on what the dominant rights-based approach to North Korea has epistemically foreclosed.69 As a geopolitical construct that has naturalized contemporary perceptions of North Korea, facilitating the appearance of global consensus, the human rights frame may have assumed institutional form in the wake of world-altering calamities confronting North Korea at the Cold War’s end: the collapse of the socialist bloc, the devastating 1990s’ famine, and the surge of thousands of North Koreans across the border into China and eventually South Korea. Yet these crises alone cannot account for the character of the North Korean human rights project. Rather, in its embrace of transnational interventionist politics, the North Korean human rights agenda tellingly located itself “against, rather than within, an engagement framework” during an optimistic juncture of thawed inter-Korean relations.70 In doing so, it revealed the prospect of U.S. intervention to be its animating spirit.

III. Jargon of North Korean Human Rights

If presented by its advocates as “an unqualified good,” human rights in our era have in fact frequently functioned as a hegemonic interpretive lens and discursive framework of power—keyed to the prospect of unilateral military violence—whereby the “evils” of North Korea and other “rogue nations” and “outposts of tyranny” can be marked for elimination.71 In 2000, Hazel Smith critically observed that “the dominant approach [to North Korea] remains heavily coloured by a security perspective which is…curiously old-fashioned in its reliance upon the use and potential of military force.”72 After 9/11, with North Korea demonized as part of the axis of evil, the proclivity to securitize human rights relative to North Korea has in no way abated. Human rights were transformed during the George W. Bush era into a defining U.S. policy instrument toward North Korea. This era would moreover spawn a coalitional spectrum of anticommunist, neoconservative, evangelical, and defector-based NGOs in both the United States and South Korea.73

Indeed, the past decade has been witness to the consolidation of a U.S.–funded transnational advocacy, propaganda, and intelligence network under the elastic banner of North Korean human rights. Tellingly, the two primary ways ofknowing North Korea within today’s implicitly militarized human rights frame are through forms of intelligence whose reliability is far from assured—specifically, defector testimony and satellite imagery, referred to as human intelligence (Humint) and imagery intelligence (Imint), respectively, in intelligence circles. Both forms of “evidence,” we might be reminded, were central to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s supposedly airtight case for U.S. intervention in Iraq, which he delivered before the UN Security Council in 2003.

Colin Powell, at the United Nations on February 5, 2003, making the case for U.S. war in Iraq 

Capturing the Bush imprint on North Korean human rights as a politics and critique aimed at North Korea’s collapse, the phrase “axis of evil” is worth scrutinizing for what it reveals about the jargon of North Korean human rights as a unilateral discourse and vocabulary of imperial domination. Coined by Bush speechwriter David Frum to justify preemptive U.S. attack against longstanding U.S. foes, the original phrase “axis of hatred” was altered to “axis of evil” to reflect Bush’s just-folks variety of “theological” rhetoric.74 The evangelical cast to this idiom of power cannot be facilely dismissed. As a moralizing take on North Korea, the phrase made no pretense as to evidentiary basis. Rather, it performatively sought to elicit belief. In a 2009 presentation before the Senate, in which he referred to North Korea as “Holocaust Now,” Sam Brownback, the leading Congressional hawk on U.S. North Korea policy, conceded the epistemological indeterminacy of the North Korean human rights enterprise. “[P]erhaps all of the evils of Camp 22 and these other camps are fictions,” he startlingly admitted before calling on the United States to give North Korea’s leadership “a stark choice: transparency or extinction.”75 Echoing South Korean intelligence assessments of defector testimony, which have held that “absence of proof does not mean the absence of reality,” Brownback’s dogmatic belief in evil also speaks volumes about the preemptive militarized logic of the North Korean human rights project—in essence, a willingness to extract “transparency” from North Korea at the barrel of a gun. His either/or logic, moreover, excludes the possibility of a third term—a complex middle ground unaccounted for in his default equation of North Korea with evil.76

Satellite imagery that Colin Powell furnished as evidence of Iraq’s possession of WMDs at the United Nations on February 5, 2003

Indeed, axiomatic to North Korean human rights campaigns is what today more generally passes as common sense: North Korea’s association with an inhumanity and atrociousness so total and thoroughgoing, so totalitarian, that these attributes defy evidentiary analysis. Absence of evidence confirms what therefore must be sinisterly true about North Korea—that it is “the most repressive regime extant, scoring at the absolute bottom on all standard measures with respect to regime type, political and civil liberties, and human rights,” that “[i]t is a living hell on earth where citizens have no rights”; that it is “the worst human rights situation in the world today”; that it is the “world’s worst persecutor.”77 In the vivid yet empty jargon of North Korean human rights, these superlative claims, which solicit our belief, serve as the murky epistemological basis of the interventionist rights-based agenda toward North Korea. They are expressed in the range of analogies deployed by campaigns mounted to rescue the people of North Korea from evil. Alluding to “what we all know to be true” about North Korea, the language of North Korean human rights enacts a relational stance—a Manichean posture between us as the universal benchmark for the human and the North Korean “regime” as the global standard of inhumanity. Its pariah status implied in the metaphors in which it is routinely cast, North Korea figures in rights campaigns as a negative space, in effect a terra nullius, impossible to comprehend in autochthonous terms. If illegible or impenetrable, it invites the imposition of phantasmic meanings: carceral (prison, gulag, concentration camp), apocalyptic (hell on earth, place of darkness), Christian irredentist (Jerusalem of the East, land of the gospel), historical (antebellum slavery, the Third Reich, Khmer Rouge), and quasi-scientific (black hole). The violence-to-come suggested by these teleological and eschatological terms, oriented toward North Korea’s “liberation” or “salvation,” raises the question of whether recognition of humanity in these human rights frameworks holds out “the promise…of liberating the flesh [and] redeeming one’s suffering” or rather of “intensifying it.”78 Yet the implicit violence of affect that darkens the fiat lux imperative of North Korean human rights campaigners—today’s “emissar[ies] of light” and “gang of virtue”—might give us some pause.79

As a condensed figuration of the evil, danger, and wanton disregard for life human rights activists ascribe to North Korea, the “hidden” yet paradoxically hyper-visible gulag—captured in what they claim are unassailable satellite images —facilitates the rescripting of imperialist narratives of the past along securitized lines, authorizing intervention in the name of a safer world. Not simply, in these accounts, a state like any other with its own carceral system, North Korea is deemed to be the “world’s largest prison camp” or, in the words of Mark Palmer, cofounder of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the “larger gulag which is North Korea.”80North Korea, in the demagogic assessment of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) cofounder Adrian Hong, is a “staggering system entirely built and mastered for the express purpose of propagating human suffering.”81

Not simply, this is to say, a neutral analytic or mimetic representational technology by way of which the violence of North Korea can be recognized, censured, and archived, human rights mystify the structural violence that produces and conditions the “geopolitical divide between first and third worlds.”82 They affirm the prerogatives of the global North, leaving its neoconservative, neoimperial, and neoliberal underpinnings, not to mention legacies of violence, unexamined. Perversely identifying with figures they regard as victims rather than with those they condemn as “perpetrators of social injustice,” today’s global human rights advocates are themselves typically “beneficiaries of past injustice.”83 Insofar as the injustice in question—slavery, settler colonialism, native genocide, Jim Crow, imperial wars, CIA-engineered coups, political purges—is “now regarded as past,” even if its benefits continue to accrue, human rights activists of brutally enriched imperial and sub-imperial nations have not seen fit to “disgorge their unjust gains” in any systematic way.84

Unsettling today’s dominant framework of North Korean human rights is the violence of the unresolved Korean War. If limited and “forgotten” from the perspective of Americans, the Korean War was total and searingly unforgettable from the perspective of Koreans who directly bore its consequences. As early as 1952, journalist I.F. Stone observed that the Korean War rehabilitated a U.S. economy geared, as a result of World War II, toward total war. Seized as opportunity, this devastating war permitted “the Truman Administration to get authorization from a fiscally conservative Congress to solve the world liquidity crisis.”85 On top of tripling U.S. defense spending, it furnished a rationale for the bilateral linking of “client states in Asia to the US.”86 Indeed, General James Van Fleet, commanding officer of U.S. and UN forces in Korea, described the war as “a blessing” and remarked, “There had to be a Korea either here or some place in the world.”87

“Central to [the] ideological enterprise” of human rights, however, “is the scripting of Washington as an outsider to [the] horrors [of human rights], an exterior power watching from afar” rather than an actor in any way central to the catastrophe.88 Self-fashioned not as a beneficiary or perpetrator of violence but rather as an innocent observer ab extra, the human rights advocate “presume[s] to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, even define[s] the interests of those [she or he] speak[s] for (as if people are unable to do this for themselves).”89 Staged across geopolitical lines—colonial periphery/global South and imperial center/global North—the human rights narrative strips historical context away, offering a notably partial account, in both senses of the word. Yet, in this regard, the human rights narrative of North Korea draws on earlier modes of colonial narration that feature encounters between unequal forms of humanity. Here, we might recall Wayne Booth’s theory of unreliable narration, which he elaborates in a study of the rhetoric of fiction, for what it reveals about the perspectival limitations of geopolitical modes of narration that privilege imperial perspectives toward violence in the colonial periphery: “the reflector, in becoming inconscient about his own motives and about the reality about him, becomes a vicious agent in the story.”90 It is precisely “his viciousness and his unconscious distortions” that render the account mediated by this narrator unreliable.91 Complicit in the spectacle of suffering before him, the narrator who at first appears to be a dispassionate observer “becomes involved in the action so deeply” that he risks “producing…catastrophe.”92 In this way understood as a perceptual problematic, U.S.–based human rights politics toward North Korea not only must disavow the counterrevolutionary nature of prior U.S. intervention in the Korean War, “a civil and revolutionary war, a people’s war,” but also, invert the militarized legacies and illiberal consequences of U.S. involvement in the Korean peninsula as cause for potential further interventionist action.93

In Songhwan (2003)—a documentary that follows South Korean grassroots solidarity efforts for the repatriation of long-term unconverted communist prisoners, who had been incarcerated and tortured in South Korea for their alleged spying activities, to North Korea—South Korean filmmaker Kim Dong-won records his journalist colleague Ishimaru Jiro’s rightward political transformation into a budding activist focused on North Korea human rights. Conceding that he himself “couldn’t survive where [he couldn’t] make films freely,” Kim remarks that Ishimaru nonetheless “downplay[s] the fact that North Korea has been at war with America for the past 50 years” and that “[w]ars limit the human rights of North Koreans, and aggravate…the food shortage.”94 In Kim’s structural account, which refuses the seductive immediacy of the human rights narrative frame, the political incarceration of prisoners who withstood decades-long efforts to brutalize them into renouncing North Korea is akin to the isolation imposed on North Korea as a result of over half a century of aggressive U.S. policy. As Kim puts it: “By refusing to sign a nonaggression pact, the US must also share the blame. The US’s economic sanctions and threats of war against the North remind me of the conversion scheme against the prisoners. Just as the scheme failed to break the prisoners, American threats will fail to break the North.”

IV. Parlous Refuge

Human rights campaigns of the global North are structured by a geopolitical imaginary that reproduces and naturalizes a divided-world system: “Danger there, safety here. Victims there, saviors here. Tyranny there, freedom here.”95 Specific to the discourse of North Korean human rights, this list might be extended. WMDs, nuclear proliferation, over-the-top defense spending? There. Domestic surveillance, class stratification, labor exploitation, political imprisonment, militarized borders, sexual trafficking, religious intolerance, hunger and immiseration? There. Geared therefore toward regime change—a supersession, by whatever means, of the vile “there” with a kinder, gentler “here”—human rights campaigns against North Korea have colluded in a remarkably homogeneous, neoliberal vision of its future. In human rights schema, not only are North Korea’s liberation and salvation synonymous with free-market principles, but also those advocating for its freedom verge upon asserting a proprietary right, if not a shareholder’s stake, in its post-collapse future. In this regard, advocates figure, in the framework of North Korean human rights, as beneficiaries of future violence.

In a speech delivered to U.S. and South Korean business leaders in 2003, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hailed the prospect of a future in which “freedom will come to the people [of North Korea] and light up that oppressed land with hope and promise.”96 The fact that Rumsfeld had also notoriously insisted on the viability of a hypothetical two-front U.S. military campaign against Iraq and North Korea suggests that he envisioned “hope and promise” to be the liberal fruits of an illiberal war.97 In serial calls for regime change in North Korea, LiNK cofounder Adrian Hong has also glibly pitched the vast growth potential of a post-collapse North Korea brightened by capitalism and annexed to U.S. financial interests: “With the right inputs, a North Korea free of the Kim regime would bring about…opportunities for economic development, investment, and trade.”98 That neoliberal designs for North Korean reconstruction animate calls for regime change should alert us to the risk-based nature of the human rights project aimed at North Korea. In her appearance in the now-classic North Korean human rights documentary Seoul Train (2004), Suzanne Scholte—president of the hard-right Defense Forum Foundation, an organization that brings North Korean defectors to Washington, D.C.— critiqued South Korea’s pro-engagement policy toward North Korea: “[The] South Korean government is afraid of a regime collapse but that’s wrong to fear that. They should be welcoming it and they should be planning for it.”99 Recognizing that engineered regime collapse would have grave humanitarian consequences on average North Koreans, the very people deemed to be “the most suffering…on earth” by U.S.–based human rights advocates, South Korean scholars have cautioned against the hubris of the interventionist human rights vision.100 It is nonetheless revealing that within the political economy of North Korean human rights, the human dimension factors as an oversight.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld points to a satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night in a 2005 Pentagon press briefing

If utopian in its stated aims to save North Korean humanity, the North Korean human rights project reveals its darker, dystopian side in the apocalyptic scenarios it envisions as a means toward that emancipatory goal. North Korean human rights advocacy is strikingly riddled with the neoliberal rhetoric of financialization, interest, and speculation—so much so that when weighing in on the post-regime collapse scenario, the human rights advocate, gripped by market-fever, is scarcely distinguishable from a speculator. As Naomi Klein has pointed out, destruction, in the form of “countries smashed to rubble, whether by so-called Acts of God or by Acts of Bush,” represents glistening possibility—a paradise—to the disaster capitalist: “where there is destruction there is reconstruction, a chance to grab hold of ‘the terrible barrenness,’…and fill it with the most perfect, beautiful plans.”101

In sounding a death knell for socialism, the hegemonic human rights project is “as much a brief for capitalism as human rights.”102 It scarcely acknowledges the fact that “even as capitalism has declared victory, it has grossly failed in its destructive effects on a vast number of the world’s people.”103 Running as a continuous thread in North Korean human rights discourse is the teleological presumption that the Korean peninsula must be unified “under a peaceful, politically free, market-oriented system.”104The North Korean Freedom Act of 2003 explicitly stipulated funding for “entities that promote market economies.”105Signed by Bush into law, the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, the successor to the 2003 bill, retained this highly political provision, authorizing the U.S. president “to provide grants to private, non-profit organizations that promote…the development of a market economy in North Korea.”106Declaring North Korea to be “the most closed society on Earth,” Brownback, a driving force behind both major human rights bills, asserted in ringing tones that “a brighter, fuller, free, and open Korean Peninsula is in our ultimate national interest.”107 The irony is inescapable: the most voluble condemnation of the North Korean government’s supposed resistance to marketization comes from the very human rights camp that has agitated for a fortified sanctions regime against the country, thereby restricting its access to capital. This not only stands to harm the “ordinary” North Koreans whom such measures purport to help but also effectively announces to the international community that North Korea is closed for business.108 It is hard to avoid the conclusion that subtending the push for “human rights” in North Korea is less concern for the actual people of North Korea than an external desire to open it, in lieu of the North Korean government, for investment.

The neoliberal euphoria of North Korean human rights is most troublingly evident in the degraded place of the human within the vision of post-collapse reconstruction conjured by advocates. The rehabilitated “human” of the North Korean human rights project may have been rescued from a “space of darkness,” extracted from the familiar web of social relations that structured her or his life in North Korea. Once deracinated, however, this subject is precariously situated in the neoliberal economic order.109 Poorly served in such a setting by abstract assurances of universal humanity, the “liberated” subject of North Korean human rights campaigns must navigate a perilous landscape whose operative logic is “possessive individualism, property rights, market economies, and financial deregulation.”110 In this regard, as David Harvey contends, the project of human rights may champion its “concern for the individual” yet it does so at the expense of “any social democratic concern for equality, democracy, and social solidarities.”111 In its “insistence upon the individual as the foundational element in political-economic life,” North Korean human rights offer the dubious freedom of the market as a foil to the unfreedom of the North Korean state.112

As an anticipatory account of North Korea’s “inevitable” absorption by the South, the North Korean defector memoir—a geopolitical genre heavily subsidized by both U.S. and South Korean governments—frames the trajectory from North Korea to South Korea, via China and other third-party countries, as an emancipatory journey from “hell” to “loud, luminous paradise.”113 Central to the redemptive arc of such memoirs is the conversion of the benighted North Korean to “liberal personhood.”114 Yet the resettlement of thousands of North Koreans in South Korea in the wake of North Korea’s devastating 1990s famine—with roughly 26,000 now below the DMZ—has challenged the monopoly that subsidized anticommunist defector accounts have had on representing North Korea.115 Promoted by the U.S. Congress–funded NED as a “second,” implicitly more legitimate “North Korean” culture—and thus as a counter to official North Korean self-representations—defector narratives are structured as progressive narratives of emancipation.116 Yet challenging the developmental narrative arc that would posit North Korea as a space of inhumanity and South Korea as a liberating sanctuary is the inequality, discrimination, and alienation confronting resettled North Koreans, as degraded human capital, in the South. As South Korean activist and scholar Lee Daehoon has pointed out, South Korean prejudice against resettled North Koreans challenges “the myth of ethnic homogeneity” and is, moreover, of a continuum with racism against labor migrants from Southeast and South Asian countries who “represent what the South Korean nation does not want to be: nonwhite, poor, non-Christian, [and] out of place.”117 We might inquire: is market freedom, with its production of historically specific forms of humanity—namely, at-risk subjectivities subordinated to the market as an ostensible “ethic…for all human action”—the vision of liberation particular to the North Korean human rights project?118 “We risked our lives to come here,” states a North Korean defector in the 2011 South Korean independent film The Journals of Musan (Musanilgi), only to be “work[ed] to death, making just five dollars an hour.”119 At the end of Dance Town (2010), another recent South Korean independent film, North Korean defector Ri Jeong-Rim stands on the northern banks of Seoul’s Han River facing southward toward the Gangnam district as she sobs with grief and loneliness. Depicted as having fled to South Korea out of fear of prosecution for having watched smuggled porn, this character makes faltering steps toward assimilation including dating a South Korean police officer who rapes her in an alley. Albeit described in human rights discourse as “heaven,” South Korea in these films, which highlight the anomie of capitalist dystopian spaces, appears as a “parlous refuge” at best.120


Ri Jeong-Rim (Rha Mi-ran) in Dance Town (2010).

Human rights discourse “exhorts us, always, to identify with victims whose suffering it graphically depicts,” yet the typical victim is rarely the detritus of neoliberal capitalism and the empathy of human rights is no substitute for political solidarity across a divided-world system.121 Pointing out that “[a]t no point in human history has there been a greater gap between the North and the South, between the poor and the rich in the developed world,” Douzinas argues that charity, so central to the humanitarian and human rights campaigns of advanced capitalist societies, is “part of a risk-aversion strategy,” an “insurance policy” against restitutory claims from the global South.122 Such campaigns rarely, if ever, address the “simple and undoubted fact” that the states in which they are based are often “the main cause, through colonialism, imperialism and exported neoliberal capitalism, of the huge disparities between the North and the South.”123 Yet risk also inheres in the human rights project. Even as human rights campaigns might “save” select individuals, transporting the war orphan, the dissident, the informant, the trafficked woman, and the refugee to what are in theory safer shores, with their implicit emphasis on “free market individualism,” these initiatives seldom account for, much less strive to mitigate, the perils of neoliberalism that await the uprooted subjects of human rights “rescue.”124

Offering critical reflection on the dominant discursive frame of North Korean human rights as a modality of asymmetrical power, “Reframing North Korean Human Rights,” a two-part thematic issue of Critical Asian Studies, attends to what has hovered as disavowed, marginalized, seemingly obsolete, or epiphenomenal in the shadows of the North Korean human rights project, not the least of which is the right to peace. Furnishing a multifaceted account of North Korean human rights from U.S.–, U.K.–, and South Korea–based scholars, policy analysts, and social justice advocates, this issue illuminates the strictures of North Korean human rights—as an amnestic posture toward imperial violence; a lethal politicized agenda gussied up as a moral mission; a geopolitical language and structure of post–9/11 U.S. unilateralism; and an ideological mode of perception, conversion, subject-formation, and historiography. Working beyond these limitations, a number of the essays in this issue inquire into modes of understanding and engaging North Korea in addition to human rights practices that have been sidelined by the dominant, regime-change–oriented North Korean human rights project.

Christine Hong is an assistant professor of literature at UC Santa Cruz and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She is co-editor with Hazel Smith of the Critical Asian Studies double issue on “Reframing North Korean Human Rights” (45:4 (2013) and 46:1 (2014)).

Recommended Citation: Christine Hong, “War by Other Means: The Violence of North Korean Human Rights”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 13, No. 2, March 31, 2014.

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Notes

1 Kirby 2014.

2 Ibid.

3 Zolo 2009, 28.

4 We should be reminded, here, that the United Nations played a vital role in fomenting the Korean War and crystallizing the structure of division that has prevailed on the Korean peninsula since the United Nations “legitimat[ed] an election in the South of Korea in May 1948 which was boycotted by many Koreans and from which all North Koreans and many South Koreans were excluded” and sanctioned U.S. military command in South Korea by permitting it to “wear the hat,” which it still dons today, of the “United Nations Command.” See Hauben 2013.

5 In remarks before an audience of American veterans on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, President Obama declared: “[The Korean] war was no tie. Korea was a victory. When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom—a vibrant democracy, one of the world’s most dynamic economies, in stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North—that’s a victory; that’s your legacy.” See Obama 2013.

6 An account that “blam[es] the government of the DPRK as the only perpetrator of human rights violations…is a narrow approach” the South Korean NGO People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) cautioned in a public response to the COI report endorsed by numerous South Korean civil society and human rights organizations, and it “raises concerns on politicising public discourses on North Korean human rights.” See People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy statement 2014.

7 Em and Hong, n.d.

8 On the “unique position of the crime of aggression within the Rome Statute,” the NGO, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, writes: “In a compromise reached during the negotiation of the Rome Statute in 1998, Article 5 of the Rome Statute lists the crime of aggression as one of the core crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction. However, in contrast to the other three crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes), the Court remained unable to exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as the Statute did not define the crime or set out jurisdictional conditions.” See The crime of aggression, n.d.

9 Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 366, emphasis added.

10 Cumings 2010, 23.

11 Mattei and Nader 143, 2008; Zolo 2009, 31.

12 Ibid., 41.

13 Zolo 2009, 123.

14 Charter of the United Nations 1945.

15 Benjamin 1986, 283.

16 Atanasoski 2013, 27.

17 Zolo 2009, 30.

18 The COI report states: “The authorities of the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America provided operational and substantive support for the conduct of the public hearings, including by facilitating the identification and hiring of a venue, assisting in the provision of the services of professional interpreters and providing video-recording and transcripts of the proceedings.” See Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 10.

19 Becker 2014.

20 Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 27.

21 Ibid., 368.

22 Kirby 2014; Commission of Inquiry 2014, 372, emphasis added.

23 Korean War Armistice Agreement 1953.

24 Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 26.

25 Ibid.

26 Hong 2011.

27 Smith 2014, 135.

28 Ibid., 134.

29 It bears remarking the obvious—namely, that a more balanced perspective might have been had not only were North Korea to have agreed to participate in the proceedings but also had the Commission sought out a broader spectrum of views. Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 15.

30 Ibid., 35.

31 Ibid., 38.

32 Kirby 2014.

33 Hitz 2007, 127.

34 MacIntyre 2006, 406. This rumor about the “gruesome medical testing of chemical and biological weapons…on persons with disabilities” appears as the most extreme allegation of mistreatment of people with disabilities in the COI report. Yet, here, it is worth pointing out the incoherence of the report, which elsewhere notes that, despite the “widespread prejudice against people with disabilities,” North Korea has taken legal measures to ensure their human rights, including passing a domestic law “promising free medical care and special education for persons with disabilities” in 2003 and signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013, as well as establishing the Korean Federation for the Protection of Disabled People in 1998 and sending a North Korean athlete to the 2012 Paralympics. The report further makes nodding mention of North Korea’s construction of “11 special boarding schools for hearing-impaired children and vision-impaired children” as early as 1959, during the period of North Korean reconstruction. See Commission of Inquiry Report 2014, 93, 91, 92.

35 Kang and Rigoulot 2001, 224.

36 People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy 2014.

37 At moments, atypical views on the part of defectors momentarily surface in the transcriptions for the COI hearings, though they do not translate into Commission’s findings; for example, at the same October 30, 2013 hearing in Washington, DC, “Mrs. X,” a North Korean defector living in the United States, inadvertently commented on the limitations of the COI’s reliance on defector testimony: “Well, people can say many different things about North Korea depending on what they saw there. Some people might say, ‘I saw cell phones in North Korea’ or some people [might] say, ‘They seem to be doing okay there’ depending on what they saw…. Even in the United States, there are homeless people but you don’t call the United States the country of the homeless.” Commission of Inquiry Public Hearing 2013, 73.

38 On the “demonization script” toward North Korea, see MacIntyre 2006, 407.

39 Of the “human rights/humanitarian divide” relative to North Korea, Erich Weingartner writes: “For human rights activists, the main problem in North Korea lies with a dictatorial government ruled by the Kim family dynasty, which has imposed its iron will on a disenfranchised population.” Ultimately, for human rights activists, the “human rights deficit is considered to be so extreme in North Korea that the only solution is regime change [which] is unlikely to evolve through internal reform.” See Weingartner 2013.

40 As Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland have pointed out: “Like genocide, food aid requires alacrity; waiting for evidence of starvation means you are already too late.” See Haggard and Noland, The logic and illogic of food aid 2011.

41 Civil Rights Congress 1951, xi.

42 Ibid., 7.

43 The formal name for North Korea is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—hereafter, in this introduction, “North Korea.”

44 Civil Rights Congress 1951, 7.

45 Césaire 2000, 73.

46 Cumings 2010, xviii.

47 Civil Rights Congress 1951, 7.

48 In its framing of U.S. involvement in the Korean War as illegal violence against “the people of Asia,” the Civil Rights Congress would not be alone. On the obliterating U.S. air campaign against North Korea, historian Bruce Cumings, among others, has pointed out that the Genocide Convention “was approved in 1948 and entered into force in 1951—just as the USAF [U.S. Air Force] was inflicting genocide, under this definition and under the aegis of the United Nations Command, on the citizens of North Korea.” See Cumings 2010, 161, emphasis added

49 Césaire 2000, 37, 42. In a similar vein, jurist Joseph Hornung states, “International law exists only for the powerful. Up to now they have shown no consideration for the weak. The other peoples, who make up three-quarters of humanity, have no recourse against injustice.” As quoted in Lindqvist 2001, 19.

50 Miéville 2006, 225, emphasis added. As scholars have increasingly noted, colonialism as a historical pattern of destruction is the reference for Raphael Lemkin’s conceptualization of genocide. Lemkin theorized the Holocaust not in exclusive or exceptional terms but as a form of colonialism internal to Europe. As A. Dirk Moses writes, “Genocide for Lemkin…was a special form of foreign conquest, occupation, and often warfare. It was necessarily imperial and colonial in nature.” Yet “cultural genocide”—what Lemkin had in earlier scholarship identified as “vandalism”—was stripped from the final draft of the 1948 Convention in no small part for fear of its utility in prosecuting the brutality of colonialism. See Moses 2010, 26. Highlighting Amnesty International’s disqualification of Nelson Mandela from its “prisoner of conscience” category, Randall Williams offers an illuminating discussion of the fateful cleavage between Amnesty International and decolonization struggles in the 1960s. See Williams 2010, 1–23.

51 Miéville 2006, 271.

52 Williams 2010, xvii. I borrow the term “race radical” from Jodi Melamed’s definition of the term: “race radicalism…refers to points of resistance to official anti-racisms” of the U.S. state, and it “originated in the forceful anticolonial and leftist antiracist movements of the 1930s and 1940s.” See Melamed 2011, xvii, emphasis in original.

53 Williams 2010, xvii.

54 Moyn 2010, 8.

55 Ibid., 157, 86.

56 Williams 2011, 9.

57 Moyn 2010, 107, 98.

58 Melamed 2011, xiv.

59 Brown 2004, 453. Wendy Brown observes that human rights activism might “generally present…itself as something of an antipolitics—a pure defense of the innocent and the powerless against power, a pure defense of the individual against immense and potentially cruel or despotic machineries of culture, state, war, ethnic conflict, tribalism, patriarchy, and other mobilizations or instantiations of collective power against individuals.” See Brown 2004, 453.

 

 

 

63 Armstrong 2003, 3.

64 Prepared statement of Stephen Linton, Chairman of the Eugene Bell foundation, S. Hrg. 2003 (Life), 37. The Eugene Bell Foundation is a humanitarian organization that has worked in rural North Korea since 1995. John Feffer similarly notes that “For several decades, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) prided itself on meeting the food needs of its population, although it has little arable land. Like many socialist countries, North Korea emphasized this success—along with high literacy rates, an equitable health care system, and guaranteed jobs for all—as proof that it upheld human rights, that its record in fact exceeded that of Western countries.” See Feffer 2006, 1.

65 Feffer 2006, 16; Lankov 2013. The response of Greg Scarlatiou, executive director of the U.S. Committee on Human Rights in North Korea, to Andrei Lankov’s article is instructive. Whereas Lankov reads intelligence reports of a decrease in overall prison population in North Korea as a sign of progress, Scarlatiou interprets the same reports as a likely “staggeringly high rate of death in detention.” See Lankov 2013 and Scarlatiou 2013.

66 Encapsulated in the “twenty-first-century doctrine of humanitarian intervention—the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P)—…proposes a new nomos of the Earth that would repudiate past violence (which always appears as something cyclical and uncontained) by endorsing exceptional violence—that of rescue and occupation.” See Meister 2011, ix.

67 Martti Koskenniemi quoted in Miéville 2006, 255. As Gavan McCormack has observed: “Unlike the US, North Korea has not committed aggressive war (at least in the past half century), overthrown any democratically elected government, threatened any neighbor with nuclear weapons, or attempted to justify the practices of torture and assassination.” Though North Korea “plainly runs roughshod over the rights of its citizens,” according to McCormack, the “major, ongoing, and unapologized [for]” crimes of the United States merit at the very least commensurate critical scrutiny. See McCormack 2006.

68 Feffer 2006, 7. As John Feffer has remarked, by subscribing to a narrative of deliberate malice on the part of the North Korean government, “the human rights framework did little to help us understand the sources of the famine” that North Korea experienced in the mid-to-late 1990s. See Feffer 2006, 23.

69 Drawing, in part, on South Korean intelligence reports based on North Korean defector testimony, the mid to late 1980s’ country reports put out by international human rights organizations offered slender, at times openly speculative accounts of the North Korean human rights landscape, with North Korea’s imprisonment of the Spanish-language translator Ali Lameda looming large. These reports notwithstanding, North Korean human rights emerged as an institutionalized transnational force to be reckoned with in the wake of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech. See Amnesty International concerns in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 1985, and Minnesota Lawyers International Human Rights Committee and Asia Watch 1988.

70 Feffer 2004, 37.

71 Mutua 2002, 1.

72 Smith 2000, 593.

73 Describing the Values Action Team (VAT) as a “cell” of leaders from the religious right that helped to drive the North Korean human rights agenda during the Bush era, Jeff Sharlet, in his portrait of Sam Brownback for Rolling Stone, states: “One victory for the group [VAT] was Brownback’s North Korea Human Rights Act, which establishes a confrontational stance toward the dictatorial regime and shifts funds for humanitarian aid from the United Nations to Christian organizations.” Sean Woo—Brownback’s former general counsel and now the chief of staff of the Helsinki Commission—calls this a process of “privatizing democracy.” See Sharlet 2006, 56.

74 Frum 2003, 236.

75 Brownback 2008, emphasis added. We might note the same logic at play in David Hawk’s assertion during a 2003 Senate hearing on North Korean human rights: “Until such time as onsite verifications are allowed, the refugee testimonies, as are presented in the report, retain their credence and authority.” See S. Hrg. 2003 (Life).

76 Kim 1995, 9.

77 Haggard and Noland 2011, Witness to transformation, 101; Scholte 2009; Moon (Ruth) 2008.

78 Hartman 1997, 5.

79 Conrad 2006, 24, 36.

80 Seoul Train 2004; S. Hrg. 2003 (Hidden). The Economist, commenting on the U.S. prison population, observes: “The land of the Free has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. See America’s overcrowded prisons 2013.

81 Hong 2011, emphasis added.

82 Williams 2010, 29.

83 Meister 2011, viii, 24.

84 Ibid.

85 Palat 2004, 13.

86 Ibid., 17.

87 As quoted in Stone 1952, 348.

88 Williams 2010, 66.

89 Harvey 2005, 177.

90 Booth 1961, 347, emphasis in original.

91 Ibid.

92 Booth 1961, 344.

93 Cumings 1990, 772.

94 Repatriation 2003.

95 Williams 2010, 29.

96 Quoted in N Korea calls Rumsfeld “psychopath” 2003.

97 As Lindqvist succinctly contends, “No state of emergency could exist that would give someone the right to destroy entire countries and their inhabitants,” and here he cites the Indian jurist Nagendra Singh: “It would indeed be arrogant for any single nation to argue that to save humanity from bondage it was thought necessary to destroy humanity itself.” See Lindqvist 2001, 144.

98 Hong 2011.

99 Seoul Train 2004. See Chung Byung-ho’s countervailing commentary in the same film.

100 Scholte 2011.

101 Klein 2005. The “reconstruction business” that attends externally engineered regime collapse, according to Ugo Mattei and Laura Nader, “often hir[es] more or less gullible human rights activists” to furnish “a rhetorical argument for more ‘intervention,’ which sometimes is the province of justice-motivated individuals attempting to restore peace, order, and the rule of law.” See Mattei and Nader 2008, 127.

102 Brown 2004, 456

103 Lin 2006, 13.

104 S. 1903 2003.

105 Ibid.

106 H.R. 4011 2004.

107 S. Hrg. 2003 (Life), 1, 3.

108 On the destabilizing intention behind sanctions against North Korea, Ruediger Frank points out that “[f]rom the outset, it is clear that the sender of sanctions deliberately inflicts damage on the innocent, hoping that their pain will translate into resistance against their leaders.” He also observes the deleterious impact sanctions have on foreign investment in North Korea: “As many foreign businesspeople have complained, the sanctions [against North Korea] have damaged their businesses.” Frank also remarks, “North Korea needs hard currency” for the most basic of provisions, including food for the people. See Frank 2006, 15, 30.

109 See Frank 2006, 41.

110 Melamed 2011, xvii.

111 Harvey 2005, 176.

112 Ibid. On the market as a foil for the state, see Puar 2007, 26.

113 Kang and Rigoulot 2001, 199.

114 Atanasoski 2013, 5.

115 As John Feffer writes, “With the increase in the flow of people out of the country, news of what was going on in North Korea was no longer restricted to a handful of defectors vetted by the South Korean government.” See Feffer 2004, 33.

116 As Chong-ae Yu documents in her account of the transnational political interests behind the North Korean Freedom Act of 2003 and the instrumental role of U.S. state funding of these interests, NED not only has supported the “two most active South Korean NGOs involved in North Korean human rights issues, Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights…and the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights,” but also, through its sponsorship of South Korean organizations and individuals on the issue of North Korean human rights abuses, was instrumental in internationalizing the North Korean human rights movement. See Yu 2004.

117 Lee 2012.

118 Harvey 2005, 165.

119 Park 2011.

120 Ibid., 171.

121 Meister 2011, 34.

122 Douzinas 2007, 71, 73.

123 Ibid., 75.

124 Meister 2011, 236.

The war of words between Russia and the United States is soaring these days over the sovereignty of the Crimean peninsula, and the White House officials are constantly directing accusations and excruciating verbal attacks against Kremlin in what seems to be the most serious dispute between Moscow and the West in the recent years.

 The United States has pulled out all the stops to defeat and isolate Russia diplomatically, and has even gone so far as to impose economic sanctions against the Russian individuals and companies, and excluding Russia from the G8 group of the industrialized nations. The 40th G8 summit was slated to be held in Sochi, Russia on June 4-5, but following the suspension of Russia’s membership in the G8, the summit relocated to Brussels, Belgium, and it would be the first time that a G8 leaders’ convention is going to take place in a non-member state country. Some of the Western media outlets have even started to refer to G8 as G7, implying that Russia does not have any position in this influential group of the affluent, developed nations.

But as always, when it comes to flexing the muscles and showing political prowess, the United States and its partners are behaving in an intolerant, duplicitous and hypocritical manner. In a statement, the newly-termed G7 leaders reaffirmed that Russia’s “occupation of the Crimea” was against the principles of the G7 and contravened the United Nations Charter.

It’s interesting that the innumerable violations of the international law, the UN Charter and Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War by the United States in the recent years have never caught the attention of the G8 leaders and never compelled them to at least consider warning the United States to behave more responsibly and respect the internationally recognized conventions and regulations or refraining from destroying and annihilating other nations through its “humanitarian” missions!

If Russia should be punished for sending troops to Crimea, while it’s legally entitled to do so, and if its military intervention in Crimea represents a violation of the UN Charter in the eyes of the Western leaders, then it will be taken for granted that all violations of the international law and the United Nations Charter should be reprimanded and responded appropriately and the wrongdoers should be penalized in a fair manner. If Russia has occupied a sovereign entity – which is of course not the case, and should bear the burden of sanctions and diplomatic isolation, it’s ok, but why shouldn’t the United States be castigated and prosecuted for the same reason? What makes the military intervention of Russia different from the wars the U.S. offhandedly wages across the world?

 For those of us who willfully ignore the historical facts, it’s noteworthy that the Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet signed between Russia and Ukraine on May 28, 1997, permits Russia to lawfully maintain up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored vehicles and 22 military planes on the Crimean peninsula. This agreement will be effective until 2017, and so it can be the most convincing logical justification for Russia’s military action in Crimea.

So, what has happened is not an “occupation” as the U.S. leaders claim, but that Russia has exercised its legal right for sending troops to a geographical area where the majority of inhabitants are ethnic Russians and don’t want to remain under the Ukraine autonomy and are overwhelmingly inclined to join Russia.

 What every neutral and unbiased observer of the international political developments can easily note is that it’s the United States which is renowned for its hegemonic policies and its imperialistic modus operandi, not Russia. Russia’s intervention in Crimea took place after it felt that its national interests are being seriously endangered on its borders, where 58% of the population is consisted of indigenous Russians who prefer to be reunited with Russia, rather than being seen as an asset and prize for the United States under the leadership of a new government in Ukraine which has neo-fascist backgrounds.

The prominent American syndicated columnist and journalist Ted Rall has recently written on his website that there are traces of neo-fascism and neo-Nazism in the government of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who has just come to power: “There’s no doubt that a Ukrainian nationalist strain runs deep in the new regime. It has been estimated that roughly 1/3 or more of the supporters of the new government come out of xenophobic, anti-Semitic, neo-fascist movements that draw much of their ideological heritage from the Nazi puppet regime that governed Ukraine under German occupation during World War II.”

So, on March 16, the Crimean parliament and the local government of Sevastopol held a public referendum in Crimea to give the citizens two choices for the future of their territory; either to remain associated with Ukraine or reunite with Russia. With a high turnout of 83.1% of the eligible voters, 96.77% of the participants in the plebiscite voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation. The United States and its allies didn’t hesitate to call the referendum as rigged and invalid, as they usually does with the elections in countries with which they are at odds. Washington even drafted a resolution in the United Nations Security Council to call the referendum null and void, but Russia used its veto power, while China abstained, and the United States simply pushed the General Assembly member states to pass a non-binding resolution, declaring the referendum invalid, which doesn’t seem to have any certain impact on the future of Crimea.

 The policy of de-Russanization was long underway in the Crimean peninsula, and many other former Soviet Union republics, as Ted Rall elaborately details. Perhaps the fact that the Ukrainian Parliament Verkhovna Rada voted on February 23 to repeal the 2012 language law that had declared Russian an official language in Ukraine and allowed it to be used in the schools, media and official correspondence, was a driving force for the Crimean people to rise up and call for independence from Ukraine that they believed didn’t respect their cultural and lingual background.

 The future of Crimea and the prospects of the marred relations between Russia and the West remain blurred and unknown, but the United States’ accusations that Russia is “occupying” Crimea and exerting military aggression and so should be punished with economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation sound gravely outrageous and entirely hypocritical. The United States has the biggest war machinery in the world, has been directly or indirectly involved in more than 50 wars and military strikes on other countries without the approval of the UN Security Council, and has incontestably perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity.

As the prominent American lawyer and legal expert Marjorie Cohn has noted in a recent article, the United States is the largest user of unconventional and forbidden chemical weapons in the illegal wars it has waged across the globe. “The U.S. militarily occupied over 75% of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for 60 years, during which time the Navy routinely practiced with, and used, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, napalm and other toxic chemicals and metals such as TNT and mercury. This occurred within a couple of miles of a civilian population that included thousands of U.S. citizens,” wrote Prof. Cohn.

 “The use of any type of chemical weapon by any party would constitute a war crime. Chemical weapons that kill and maim people are illegal and their use violates the laws of war,” she added.

 She also goes on to explain the use of chemical weapons by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria and also underlines that the majority of wars in which the United States has taken part were not ever approved by the Security Council. Aren’t these crimes a contravention of the UN Charter? Why don’t the G7 leaders and European Council and European Commission officials ever react to these violations? Does the United States have the prerogative to attack other countries and maim their people without any legal or moral justification and then get away with its crimes?

The United States is imparting a clear message by adopting this insincere and hypocritical approach toward Russia, which is also a message to other countries: We can invade your countries, we can kill your citizens, we can rule you tyrannically, we can behave in any way we desire, but if you do something which doesn’t please us, we will impose sanctions on you, we will banish you from international organizations, and we will come down on you like a ton of bricks. This is how the American hypocrisy works…

The Russians Aren’t Coming

March 31st, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

It’s back to the future. It’s reminiscent of Cold War fearmongering. It claimed the Russians are coming.

Norman Jewison’s 1966 film titled “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” portrayed a Soviet threat, albeit satirically.

Today, outrageous headlines irresponsibly suggest Russian hordes threaten Ukraine. Truth is polar opposite. It doesn’t matter.

On March 28, Ukraine’s propaganda news service Ukrinform headlined “Russia continues to redeploy troops to Ukrainian border.”

It quoted Kiev’s Military and Political Studies Center head Dmytro Tymchuk saying:

“According to live data of the Information Resistance group, redeployment of Russian troops to the border of Russia with Ukraine has continued over the past day.”

In Rostov region, he claimed columns of technology were “fixed.” They’re “heading to the state border.”

Included are 150 armored personnel carriers and 400 units of motor vehicles near the town of Millerovo, Tarasovsky settlement and the town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, he said.

Overnight at Rostov-Tovarny’s railway station, he claimed “eight MLRS (multiple rocket launchers) Uragan arrived (on) 12 freight cars.”

So did “four BTR-80, about a dozen units of automotive vehicles (including fuel trucks),” he added.

“In Belgorod region…the column of vehicles was fixed, moving in the direction of the state border (30-40 km from the border): about 30 units of automotive vehicles, about 10 units of tracked engineering equipment.”

BBC aired fake footage alleging Russian tanks heading for Ukraine’s border.

CNN hyped the bogus threat headlining ” ‘The hordes are coming:’ Ukrainians fear Russian invasion in northeast.”

CBS News headlined ”Putin reaches out to Obama as Russian troops continue to mass on Ukraine border.”

USA Today headlined ”Ukrainians fear Russian invasion near.”

Foreign Policy (FP) magazine is a neocon Washington Post publication.

It headlined “The Russians Are Coming – 10 very good reasons not to believe Vladimir Putin when he says he’s totally not going to invade eastern Ukraine.”

Ten lies followed straightaway claiming:

(1) Up to 50,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border; other putschist reports claimed 100,000;

(2) “Putin enjoys embarrassing the United States…;”

(3) “The IMF bailout;” FP portrayed grand theft loan-sharking as responsible lending;

(4) Legitimate Crimean reunification is illegal;

(5) What will Western nations do about threatened Russian invasion;

(6) Russian comments are anti-Western;

(7) “Russia’s military and arms trade relies on Ukraine;”

(8) “The Kremlin lies shamefully and farcically;”

Daily malicious media Big Lies are ignored.

(9) Russian “Kombinatsiya” (disinformation) “is very much in evidence now;” and

(10) “Modernizatsiya (modernization)” plans “the largest and most ambitious re-armament and modernization program” of Russia’s military since the Soviet Union’s dissolution.

Doing so wrongfully suggests a threat. Russian military spending is minuscule compared to America’s bloated defense budget.

Washington Post neocons headlined ”Donetsk fearful of Russian military might on Ukraine’s border.” They ludicrously claimed residents keep their cars “gassed up in case their families need to flee advancing tanks.”

Murdoch’s The Sunday Times headlined ”The Russians are coming. We’re ready. As Moscow’s forces mass on the eastern border, volunteers are flocking to bolster Ukraine’s poorly equipped national guard.”

FP’s article hyped a nonexistent planned Russian Ukrainian invasion. Other Western mainstream media echo the same Big Lie.

It repeats with disturbing regularity. It does so despite no evidence whatever suggesting it.

Russian expert Dmitry Vostok said “(b)efore casting aspersions upon Russia, (Western leaders) should (consider) their own interventions.”

Their collective memories are short. They ignore or mischaracterize numerous imperial interventions. They blame victims for their crimes.

They claim holier than thou reasons for lawless aggression. They threaten more. They justify the unjustifiable.

They defend the indefensible. They claim ravaging and destroying one nation after another to save them is OK.

They lack moral authority. Their agenda is world domination. They threaten world peace. They risk humanity’s survival.

They turn truth on its head. Big Lies repeat. Mainstream media echo them. They call self-defense terrorism. They call Putin’s all-out conflict resolution initiatives aggression.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is a consummate diplomat. He does his nation proud.

He endures plenty dealing with Western leaders. He outshines them all. He deserves Nobel Peace Prize recognition. Recipients include a rogue’s gallery of war criminals. Obama is Exhibit A.

Lavrov was clear and unequivocal. He said Moscow has no intention of invading Ukraine. Claims otherwise are spurious.

“We have absolutely no intention of and interest in crossing Ukraine’s borders,” he stressed.

“The only thing we really want is that the work should be collective and the lawlessness that some Western countries are trying to sweep under the rug and paint the situation in bright colors should be stopped, so that they realize their responsibility.”

Russia “had no other choice than to accept Crimea,” he added. “We didn’t bother reflecting about what the reaction would be.”

“We had no other choice. The choice we eventually made came from our history, international law, Russian statehood and our responsibility for the lives of those ethnic Russians who found themselves stranded abroad in a single day.”

Reunification is entirely legal. International law principles affirm everyone’s right to self-determination. Crimeans overwhelmingly chose to join Russia.

Moscow was obligated to oblige. Western nations plotted for years to split Ukraine from Russia, said Lavrov.

“It feels as though our Western colleagues…have long been working to ‘tear’ Ukraine away from Russia.”

“Once they realized they had been wrong and it had been a mistake to act in violation of all post-Soviet agreements, they couldn’t own up to it.”

“A false idea of pride stood in their way. And all the sanctions we are seeing now are a knee-jerk reflex that makes them want to find a reasonable way to remedy their hurt feelings.”

The same “you are either with us or against us” notion” exists. “We have long since given that up but unfortunately this kind of mentality is still there in the minds of politicians who today define the West’s stance,” Lavrov added.

He criticized Western nations for bullying 50 countries to vote against Crimean reunification legitimacy.

Threats were made. Nation were told they’d “face consequences.” Moscow’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said:

“Many (nations) complained that they were experiencing enormous pressure from Western powers to make them vote” against reunification legitimacy.

“(T)he pressure produced a certain effect. Some countries voted (the wrong way) grudgingly, shall I say, and complained to us about the strong pressure they had experienced.”

Washington and rogue Western partners ousted legitimate Ukrainian governance. They elevated a rogue’s gallery of societal misfits to power.

They’re miscreants. They’re dangerous. They’re fascist extremists. They’re illegitimate. They represent mob rule.

On March 30, RT International headlined ”Ukrainian nationalists attack anti-coup motor rally with hammers and bats,” saying:

Southeastern Ukrainians “are facing increasingly violent intimidation.” Western media suppress what’s happening. Putschists are portrayed as democrats.

Euromaidan thugs attacked cars displaying Russian, regional and Ukrainian flags. They came from Melitopol. They headed for a Zaporozhye anti-government rally last week.

Eye witness Artyom Tymchenko told RT:

“When the motor rally was about to enter Zaporozhye, it became clear that an ambush was being organized by the Maidan criminals.”

“Near the railway station the column was stopped by the Maidan bandits, who started beating people, taking their property, smashing cars.”

Motorists said Right Sector thugs attacked them.

“The police, who are supposed to sort out the situation, are not going about their job with any enthusiasm, and although the attackers didn’t hide their faces, no one has been arrested so far.”

“Which simply leads to the conclusion that they acted under the protection of the criminals currently in power.”

Vladimir Balagura heads an anti-putschist initiative called “Our Town.”

“It is very scary to witness when people are running at you with weapons, shovels, and batons, with chains, metal rods,” he said.

RT said Dnepropetrovsk residents are threatened. “Ukrainian vigilantes” are targeting people they call “pro-Russian thugs.”

Right Sector neo-Nazis established their own political party. Their January 2014 manifesto states:

“(A)ll those those who at this point would try to tame the revolutionary energy of the masses should be proclaimed traitors and punished in the most severe way.”

“Death to the regime of internal occupation! Freedom or death! Glory to Ukraine!”

On May 25, sham presidential elections are scheduled. A previous article said aspirants look more like a police lineup.

Democracy is strictly verboten. Various candidates registered to participate. Others submitted bids. It’s unclear how many will stay in the race.

Former heavyweight boxing champion turned politician Vitaly Klitschko dropped out. He’ll participate in Kiev’s mayoral race instead.

A mid-March poll showed billionaire chocolate magnate Pyotr Poroshenko had 36.2% support. He hasn’t officially registered to participate. He’s expected to do so.

Klitschko had 12.9% support. He endorsed Poroshenko’s candidacy. Convicted/imprisoned/now illegally freed mega-crook Yulia Tymoshenko’s approval was 12%.

Ousted Party of Regions’ Sergey Tigipko scored 10%. Other candidates have single-digit support or practically none at all.

In early March, Right Sector neo-Nazi leader Dmytro Yarosh announced his candidacy. Russia’s Investigative Committee (IC) said he’s wanted for involvement in killing Russian soldiers in Chechnya.

If apprehended, he’ll be prosecuted. IC representative Vladimir Markin said there’s enough evidence against him to put him on a “wanted list.”

He openly boasts about “…fighting Jews and Russians till I die.”

He calls Russia Ukraine’s “eternal enemy.” He said war between both countries is inevitable.

He openly supports Chechen militants. He backed Georgia’s 2008 aggression against South Ossetia.

Yarosh and likeminded Right Sector extremists are the worst of a bad lot of rogues running Ukraine.

They’re gun-toting, radicalized terrorists. Imagine them and likeminded extremists holding influential portfolios in Ukraine’s government.

They’re cold-blooded killers. They believe in barrel-of-a-gun rule. State terrorism defines their agenda. Anyone opposing them is targeted for elimination.

Yarosh has delusions of grandeur. He enjoys too little support to become president. Unless he intends seizing it by force. His extremism suggests anything is possible.

He and other Right Sector leaders have thousands of supporters. They’re militants. They’re capable of anything. They threaten everyone opposing their agenda.

Their extremism risks civil war. So do Svoboda neo-Nazis. Their leader Oleh Tyahnybok is a presidential aspirant. It remains to be seen what follows May elections.

On Sunday, John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov met in Paris. Crisis conditions in Ukraine was discussed. Nothing was resolved. Washington remains hardline. Ahead of talks Lavrov said:

“We have no common plan yet. We view the situation differently. Right now we are exchanging views, but we cannot say that we have found a single approach to the problem.”

“To find a solution that would suit both of us we need regular consultations.”

On March 30, Itar Tass headlined “An Action in support of bank Rossiya to take place in Moscow.”

Russia’s national currency will replace dollar transactions. Putin wants an independent payment system. Itar Tass quoted action organizers saying:

“Russia, at its present stage of development, should not be dependent on foreign currencies; its internal resources will make its own economy invulnerable to political wheeler dealers.”

“In order to protect the bank’s customers from dishonest actions by foreign financial institutions AB Rossiya has decided to operate only in the domestic market and exclusively with the national currency of the Russian Federation – the rouble.”

“The bank has already notified some U.S. banks that it is closing its correspondence accounts. Similar notifications have been sent to other foreign financial institutions.”

VTB bank president Andrei Kostin said Rossiya’s decision to delink from foreign currencies is a step forward to work exclusively with the ruble.

“We have been moving towards wider use of the Russian rouble as the currency of settlement for a long time. The rouble became fully convertible quite a long time ago,” he added.

Kostin urges Russian products sold abroad and foreign good bought transacted solely in rubles.

“Only then are we going to use (its) advantages of…being a foreign currency in full measure,” he added.

Sanctions cut both ways. Moscow signaled earlier about responding to Western measures.

It remains to be seen what follows. East/West tensions remain heightened. Washington bears full responsibility.

Targeting Russia is longstanding US policy. Doing so risks belligerence replacing diplomacy.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.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. 

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Illinois statement of support for Iymen Chehade, a professor at Chicago’s Columbia College, marks the latest, and most significant, step forward in the fight against pervasive attempts to control discourse on Occupied Palestine, via stifling academic freedom on college and university campuses.

Chehade, employed by Columbia since 2007, has taught three different courses on the Middle East, but by far most popular has been his Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, a course he designed in 2010.

“The class is popular on campus. Students hear about it from other students and try consistently enroll in it,” says Chehade. “Its one of those history classes that is not history, it’s actually present, its also future. As we are speaking, history is being made.”

Considerable student demand for the course led to Chehade’s teaching three sections of it at one point. As of fall 2013, Columbia offered Chehade two sections to his Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

As part of his course content in fall 2013, Chehade showed his students the award-winning documentary 5 Broken Cameras.

“The film itself is about the occupation of the village of Bil’in, the occupation of Palestine. My objective in showing the film was to humanize the issue,” says Chehade. “Student reaction was very positive.”

In spite of student demand for the course and student interest in the documentary, not long after showing it in his class, one of Chehade’s two spring 2014 sections was canceled.

“I received an email from the Chair’s office saying that they wanted to speak to me about an issue. Before going his office, I checked my mailbox and saw I’d been assigned two sections of the course for spring 2014.”

At Chair Steven Corey’s office, Chehade was told a student had complained of “bias” in his class. The student’s identity was not revealed, nor was Chehade able to discuss the allegation with the student. Corey instructed Chehade to be “more balanced” in his class, and asked him to produce his teaching qualifications, a request Chehade says is not in itself unusual. “But in the context of the situation, that makes it alarming.”

The week following the meeting with Corey, Chehade’s two sections were posted for Columbia’s spring 2014 offerings. Yet, within a couple of hours, one section of the course was eliminated, in violation of his contract with Columbia.

Chehade took the matter to the union, who brought the cancellation up with administration. “So they gave me another class,” says Chehade. “The class was The Middle East Up To Mohammad, which is 1400 years ago, 1300 hundred years removed from when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began.”

According to Academic Vice President and Provost Louise Love, the college supported Chehade’s showing of the film, which she lauded as “widely acclaimed” and noted provided “an important perspective.” However, in her statement, she went on to note that the elimination of sections “reflect a multitude of factors such as overall student enrollment, targets for average class size.”

“If their objective was to reduce classes, and increase class sizes, why did they give me a different class?” asks Chehade. “Whether they like the film or not is not the issue. Eliminating the opportunity for a professor to teach his perspective is the issue here. That’s exactly what they did.”

Since the sudden cancellation of his section, support has grown rapidly for the professor and for the larger issue of academic freedom. Chehade and the AAUP Illinois Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure maintain that the cancellation was an act of academic stifling.

“We have over 6000 signatures on our petition for academic freedom,” says Chehade. Signatories include supporters from around the world, as well as Columbia faculty, current and former students, and academics nation-wide. “Many people have volunteered their time on this campaign. Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace at Columbia College have been very active in bringing this issue to light.”

Regarding the cancellation, one former student, Alex Quiroz, notes: “I took this class knowing absolutely nothing about the conflict. Professor Chehade explained everything in a balanced and honest way. It would not be fair to other students who want to take this class.”

Noting the impact of pro-Israeli lobby efforts on college and university campuses nation-wide, Jewish-American Peter Cohen, signs “I find it unacceptable that a small, extremist and highly moneyed lobby that claims to represent my interests be allowed stifle legitimate voices and opinions in academia.”

Love, herself, has been at the heart of prior incidents repressing academics. Notably, in 2006, as the associate provost at Roosevelt university, Love supported Susan Weininger (then Chair of the Department of History, Art History, and Philosophy) in her firing of World Religions professor Douglas Giles.

“Weininger was upset with him over for allowing his students to have this open forum,” says Chedhade, noting that  it has been publically documented thatWeininger said to Giles, “What disturbs me is that you act like Palestinians have a side in this. They don’t have a side…they are animals…they are not civilized.”

Love in turn defended Weininger as “passionately defending” her position, Chehade notes.

“Imagine if she said that about an African-American or if she said that about a Jew? She would be fired. She should not be let within 1000 feet of an academic institution. Racism is racism. What type of message us Columbia College sending when you have this supporter of racism as one of the main heads of this institution?”

For Chehade, a Palestinian-American, Weininger’s comment and Love’s defense of her position is extremely insulting.

“I was sitting in front of this woman who I was grieving my issue to, knowing that she supported someone who said this about Palestinians. Columbia College should not have hired her. ”

In its letter to Louise Love, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Illinois first cites the Columbia College Collective Bargaining Agreement, which includes prohibiting “explicit or implicit threat of termination or discipline for the purpose of constraining a faculty member in the exercise of his or her rights under such principles of Academic Freedom. [CBA art. V (1), (2).”

Highlighting the standard norm of dealing with student complaints, the AAUP statement notes that the alleged complaint against Chehade “trespassed on the academic freedom of a professor and should have been referred back to the instructor for resolution.” Critically, the statement notes that “neither Dr. Steven Corey, the chairperson of the Department of Humanities, History and  Social Science nor School of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Deborah Holdstein directed the student to take the complaint to the instructor,” calling their actions “a violation of widely accepted norms of academic due process.”

According to the AAUP, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is “not easy pedagogy because of the passions it arouses among disparate groups in the United States….It is beyond dispute that the film 5 Broken Cameras was directly related to the course topic.”

In response to Chair Corey’s admonition to Chehade that he be “balanced,” and Provost Love’s questioning Chehade whether he presented his material in a “balanced” manner, the AAUP notes that the issue of “balance is “frequently used to reign in a professor from critical thinking…towards a consensus approach that is more acceptable to elite or mainstream opinion.”

Similarly, for Chehade, the term “balance” is a loaded term. “When it is applied to the academic context, and specifically to the context of teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is extremely problematic. This is an issue that lacks balance. It’s an asymmetrical issue: there are a people that are occupied,millions who have no civil rights.  As a professor in a college, how do you present that as “balanced”? It would be like presenting the African-American struggle for liberation from the Jim Crow laws in the South as a“balanced” issue, where you have African Americans who are trying to gain rights, and you have white, southern oppressors who have institutionalized and systemized laws that violate their rights. How do you present that as “balanced”?  If somebody asked that from an African American professor, who presents the African-American struggle for liberation, it would be ludicrous.”

In the detailed account of the cancellation of one of Chehade’s sections, the AAUP Illinois finishes its statement by noting that the six days between Chehade’s meeting with Corey, and the subsequent removal of the second section are “linked events.”  Notably, the AAUP reiterates “we conclude that Professor Chehade’s academic freedom was violated as a result.”

In line with Chehade’s own expectations, the AAUP asks that Columbia College reinstate both sections of Chehade’s popular Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in fall 2014. They also emphasize the need for a “strategic reassessment” of Columbia’s policy of handling student complaints, noting that at present the system for doing so is “clearly broken and conducive to academic freedom violations.”

Chehade, who wants to ensure that other professors who speak about Palestine in a fact-based manner are not stifled, applauds the AAUP statement.

“I would like to thank the AAUP for their conclusion. Discussing the Occupation of Palestine is not an exception to the rule of Academic Freedom at Columbia College or any college campus in the United States.”

On the 11th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (launched in March 2003), it is important to emphasize the true motives for this attack and occupation and its horrendously destructive impact that continues today. Both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars stem from the needs of U.S. and Western capitalism for resources and markets.

 Capitalism has inflicted war on most of humanity for centuries to acquire the world’s resources and markets. The establishment of capitalism as a global economic system by European imperialists has killed more than a billion people, most of them in the Global South. 

Since 1945, the United States has presided over the killing of more than 46 million people in the Global South through wars and neocolonialism in order to maintain Western economic dominance. This strategy has failed. In spite of the genocide, the U.S. has declined as an economic power, which has only made it more war-like as it tries to substitute military force for economic prowess  Washington’s European partner countries are now following its descent into economic stagnation.

The U.S.-led coalition has been unable to compete economically with China and India, the rapidly rising Asian capitalist powers, which are acquiring more and more global resources and markets. The Iraq and Afghanistan invasions are wars of Western capitalist and imperial decline. The Western capitalist answer to the Asian challenge has been to launch these two wars, both of which have been aimed at the forcible acquisition of crucial oil and gas deposits, markets, and military bases, in an attempt to impose Western domination on China and India. Similar motives are behind the direct and proxy Western attacks on Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. This attempt at domination has clearly failed, as China and India continue to become increasingly powerful.   

 The major reason for the U.S. invasion in March 2003 was to get control of Iraq’s oil. A related factor was the intention of the ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, to sell Iraq’s oil in Euros rather than U.S. dollars, which would have encouraged other oil producers to do the same, thereby endangering the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency, which is crucial to the U.S.’s economic viability. The genocidal invasion and preceding sanctions killed three million Iraqis, including half a million children, and totally destroyed a relatively advanced developing country whose people were largely prosperous. 

Close to five million Iraqis were displaced by the invasion out of a population of 31 million, and five million Iraqi children became orphans. Women suffered the greatest losses in education, professions, child care, nutrition, and safety. More than one-fourth of Iraq’s population died, became disabled, or fled the country as refugees.

  Yanar Mohammed is president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, headquartered in Baghdad, which is aimed at protecting and empowering Iraqi women to resist the capitalist élite created by the U.S. invasion. According to her, “The U.S. military’s intent was to kill at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and that mission was accomplished. Millions of Iraqi men, women, children, and babies were killed, and 30 million people were terrorized. 

“I feel that somebody needs to be held accountable for making us lose our welfare, accountable for the millions of Iraqis who have been killed, and also for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost to illnesses and by the radiation from depleted uranium.  George W. Bush needs to go to court as a war criminal, along with all the American presidents who have served during the war on Iraq because what has happened to us in Iraq is no less than a holocaust.”

Successful Iraqi resistance compelled the U.S. to withdraw most of its forces from the country in 2011, exposing the military failure of the invasion. However, the U.S. still has not withdrawn all its forces from Iraq. Washington claims that the Iraq war has ended, but this is untrue. The insurgency in Iraq continues, with an average of 95 people being killed every week. A major bombing or shooting happens there about twice a week. Nine thousand U.S. mercenaries and hundreds of U.S. troops remain in Iraq, which also has the largest American embassy in the world staffed with 11,000 personnel. So, militarily, the U.S. is still highly involved in Iraq, training its repressive security forces and still not ruling out the re-deployment of more American troops there.

  Washington has also waged an economic war against Iraq by creating a capitalist élite to rule the country, represented by the puppet government it has installed which is led by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Maliki is a corrupt and brutal dictator and head of an Islamic fundamentalist party. Under U.S. dictates, much of the Iraqi economy has been privatized, which ensures that Iraqis do not benefit from their resources, especially oil, money from which now goes to U.S. and other Western multinational corporations and to the Maliki regime. 

According to Yanar Mohammed, “It is an economic war directed against millions of people in the working class, through the economies of impoverishment and of starving the people, giving them salaries that are not enough to put proper meals on the table. The U.S. has written the laws and has created the Iraqi capitalist ruling class to be their partners. 

 “This ruling class safeguards U.S. interests and makes sure that the Iraqi people will not get any of their oil. The profits go into the pockets of the Iraqi officials and British Petroleum and Halliburton, and other companies.”  

Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. This highly valuable resource has been handed over mainly to the U.S. companies ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum, to British Petroleum from England, and to Royal Dutch Shell from Holland and England. Iraq’s oil has not yet been formally privatized due to massive public opposition, but a de facto privatization has taken place.

Says oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz, “ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell were among the oil companies that played the most aggressive roles in lobbying their governments to ensure that the invasion would result in an Iraq open to foreign oil companies.  They succeeded. They are all back in [Iraq].” Juhasz, author of The Tyranny of Oil and The Bush Agenda, adds that U.S. and other Western oil companies have landed “production contracts for some of the world’s largest remaining oil fields under some of the world’s most lucrative terms.”

 Iraq’s Oil Law, which enforces formal privatization, has not been passed by its Parliament due to massive public opposition, so instead the government has signed contracts with companies that benefit the latter immensely at a huge loss to the country.  Explains Juhasz, “The contracts are enacting a form of privatization without public discourse and essentially at the butt of a gun. These contracts have all been awarded during a foreign military occupation, with the largest contracts going to companies from the foreign occupiers’ countries.

 “It seems that democracy and equity are the two largest losers in this oil battle… The majority of Iraqis want their oil and its operations to remain in Iraqi hands. It has required a massive foreign military invasion and occupation to give the foreign oil companies the access they have achieved so far.” However, as Greg Muttitt, author of Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, puts it: “In fact, any oil company victory in Iraq is likely to prove as temporary as George W. Bush’s [military] triumph in 2003.”

According to Muttitt, the economic gains secured by the invasion for Western oil companies are not likely to last, either.  As he points out, “In 2009, the Maliki government… began awarding contracts without an oil law in place. As a result, the victory of Big Oil is likely to be a temporary one. The present contracts are illegal, and so they will last only as long as there’s a government in Baghdad that supports them.”

 Muttitt emphasizes the shaky nature of the Maliki government which, according to him, “has little control over anything.”  Under Maliki, Iraq has been ripped apart by a civil war involving both sectarian violence and nationalist resistance. In recent months, insurgents have taken control of sections of Fallujah and Ramadi, two major Iraqi cities. 

As Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, explains:

The U.S.-backed Iraqi regime is dominated by sectarian Shia Muslim parties which have discriminated against the Sunni Muslim minority [about 60% of Iraqis are Shias and 40% are Sunnis — the two major sects of Islam]. The combination of government repression and armed insurgency resulted in the deaths of nearly 8,000 civilians last year alone.

“Until the U.S. invasion, Iraq had maintained a long-standing history of secularism and a strong national identity among its Arab population, despite sectarian differences.” Sectarianism has been deliberately fostered by the U.S. in Iraq as part of its divide-and-rule strategy through which it has attempted to dominate the country.

Zunes adds that, before the U.S. invasion, even some of the war’s “intellectual architects” acknowledged that it would unleash major sectarianism: “In a December 1996 paper, prior to becoming major figures in the Bush foreign policy team, David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith predicted that a post-Saddam Iraq would likely be ‘ripped apart’ by sectarianism and other cleavages, but called on the United States to ‘expedite’ such a collapse anyway.”

Zunes makes clear that the Iraqi resistance to the Maliki government is largely nationalist-inspired and not sectarian: “Sunni opposition to Shia dominance does not stem from resentment at losing a privileged position in Iraqi political life under Saddam. Indeed, Saddam suppressed his fellow Sunni Arabs along with Shia Arabs. However, most of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, regardless of its feelings about Saddam’s regime, has long identified with Arab nationalism. Most of the armed resistance that emerged following Saddam’s removal by U.S. forces largely came from the Sunni Arab community. The insurgency has also targeted the Shia-dominated Iraqi government, which came to power as a result of the U.S. invasion and which many see as being puppets of the U.S.”

Before the invasion, Iraq’s oil had been nationalized for 40 years, and with it Iraq had created a welfare state for its people, providing them with free education, medical care, subsidies, and a relatively high standard of living. All these crucial gains have now been wiped out. Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq hanged by the U.S., was a brutal dictator, but he ensured that Iraq’s oil benefited its people. Maliki is a dictator, too, brought to power by the U.S, invasion, but he doesn’t provide any economic benefits to the Iraqi people and instead is involved in looting the country’s oil wealth along with multinational corporations.

As Yanar Mohammed puts it, “Under Saddam, there was a state that was taking care of the education of the people, of the health of the people, and there was a socialist economy in which the people had some ability to enjoy a prosperous life — and at this point all of that is being lost. We are learning what free enterprise is. All we see is poverty, and the government has enacted laws which prevent the organizing of workers and of unions so as to claim their rights.”

The U.S. has long considered Middle Eastern oil a vital economic and military interest, especially since it imports more than half its oil requirements. State-owned oil companies control 90% of the world’s oil reserves, while corporate oil companies control only 4%. With these reserves declining and being subject to competition from the large energy consumers China and India, an economically weakening U.S. has to turn increasingly to military options to ensure its access to oil. 

The oil factor is not just about access, but also about controlling other countries, economically and militarily.As Professor Michael T. Klare, author of Resource Wars, explains, one of the main objectives of the Bush administration in invading Iraq stems from the analysis made by Vice-President Dick Cheney in 1990, when he made clear that “Whoever controls the flow of Persian Gulf oil has a stranglehold not only on our economy. but also on that of most of the other nations of the world.” 

So, by being the major imperialist country in the Middle East, the U.S. can attempt to maintain a stranglehold over the economies of other nations. Klare adds that control over Persian Gulf oil is also consistent with the Bush administration’s declared goal of attaining permanent military superiority over all other nations.

Bush administration officials and U.S. military leaders have admitted that the invasion of Iraq was done to take the country’s oil. These men include Paul Wolfowitz, the U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary; General John Abizaid, head of the Pentagon’s Central Command which is focused on the Middle East; Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve; and Paul O’Neill, Bush’s first Treasury Secretary.  

The decision to invade Iraq was made only one month after Bush took office in February 2001, according to Ron Suskind, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the author of a book on Paul O’Neill. O’Neill revealed that, just days after Bush’s inauguration in January 2001, his advisors planned how to invade Iraq and divide up its oil wealth. According to O’Neill, Bush’s first National Security Council meeting included a discussion of invading Iraq, and Bush wanted to find a way to do this. There was even a map for Iraq’s post-war occupation, showing how the country’s oil fields would be carved up. 

U.S. and other Western oil companies had been shut out of Iraq before the invasion. In 2001, oil company executives encouraged the Bush administration to invade Iraq by warning it in a report that, as long as Saddam Hussein was in power, the U.S. would remain “a prisoner of its energy dilemma… suffering on a recurring basis from the negative consequences of sporadic energy shortages. These consequences can include recession, social dislocation of the poorest Americans, and, at the extremes, a need for military intervention.”

The report called Iraq a destabilizing influence to the flow of oil to international markets. The document was compiled by David O’Reilly, chief executive of ChevronTexaco, Luis Giusti, a director of Shell Corporation, and John Manzoni, regional president of British Petroleum.

Also benefiting from the Iraq War have been the corporations Lockheed Martin (military) and Bechtel (construction). As John Gibson, co-founder of Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) and a Lockheed Martin executive, said in 2003: “We hope Iraq will be the first domino, and that Libya and Iran will follow. We don’t like being kept out of markets because it gives our competitors an unfair advantage.” CLI was founded in 2002, also by Robert Jackson, another Lockheed Martin executive who wrote the Republican Party foreign policy platform in 2000 when George W. Bush was fraudulently “elected” President.

Jackson formed the CLI while at Lockheed, and advocated aggressively for Saddam Hussein’s overthrow. The chairman of CLI was George Schultz, former U.S. Secretary of State and a Bechtel executive. In a 2002 Washington Post article, Schultz urged the U.S. to “act now. The danger is immediate. Saddam must be removed.” The article called for an immediate attack on Iraq, stating that, “If there is a rattlesnake in the yard, you don’t wait for it to strike before you take action in self-defense.”  After the invasion, Lockheed Martin got more than an $11 billion increase in sales and contracts worth $5.6 million with the U.S. Air Force in Iraq. Bechtel was given about $3 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts.

 The website Business Pundit identifies “The 25 Most Vicious Iraq War Profiteers” as being (in this order):

Halliburton (military/oil—Dick Cheney was its Chairman),

Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp (military/finance),

Washington Group International (military/oil),

Environmental Chemical (military), Aegis (military),

International American Products (electricity),

Erinys (oil/military), Fluor (water/sewage),

Perini (environmental cleanup), URS (military/environmental),

Parsons (military/construction),

First Kuwaiti General (construction),

Armor Holdings (military),

L3 Communications (military),

AM General (military),

HSBC Bank (third largest financial institution globally),

Cummins (electricity),

MerchantBridge (financial),

GlobalRisk Strategies (financial/military),

ControlRisks (military), CACI (military),

Bechtel, Custer Battles (military),

Nour USA (oil), and

General Dynamics (military).

 While these companies have collectively made billions of dollars out of the Iraq War, the country’s people have yet to obtain basic electricity and water services 11 years after the invasion. Just one of these corporations illustrates the incredible incompetence and corruption which characterized the U.S. occupation and its aftermath: “Parsons reportedly mismanaged the construction of a police academy so poorly that human waste dripped from its ceilings. Far from being an isolated incident, reports from [U.S.] federal government auditors revealed lackluster work on 13 of the 14 Iraq projects [of] Parsons. That hasn’t stopped the firm from making off with $540 million in U.S. government funds for the poorly executed reconstruction projects at Iraq’s health care centres and fire stations.

“This is the lens through which Iraqis will now see America,” remarked U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (Democrat-California). “Incompetence. Profiteering. Arrogance. And human waste oozing out of ceilings as a result.”

Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent and has written extensively on U.S. imperialism in the Middle East. His latest radio documentary is “Capitalism is the Crisis” which has been aired on 42 radio stations in Canada, the U.S. and Europe reaching an audience of 33 million people. For his publications visit www.asadismi.ws.

America, NATO and the Sino-Russian Backlash

March 30th, 2014 by Felicity Arbuthnot

“One of the delightful things about America is that they have absolutely no historical memory.” (Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, 1898-1976.)

More verbiage, Russia has taken a “dark path”; Vice President Joe Biden said in Poland last week that those who rely on “aggression and fear” are bound to fail. Indeed, think Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran, the gradual current slinking from Afghanistan after approaching a thirteen year reign of terror; creeping from Iraq in the dead of night after eight years of murder, decimation, torture and infanticide, followed by enjoining the destruction of Libya and, as Iraq, murder of the country’s leader.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said obediently that Russia was: “in flagrant breach of international law (sending) a chilling message across the continent of Europe.”

Quite how a “flagrant breach …” is a nearly 97% Crimean vote to cede to Russia in a referendum, against an arguably illegitimate government in Ukraine deciding to pretty well cede to Europe, with no referendum, in a deal which will cost every household in Ukraine, in living standards and disposable income – the majority already woefully stretched – in crippling IMF stringency measures on a loan now believed to be eventually $27 Billion, is hard to fathom.

Meanwhile, President Obama arrived in Europe on the fifteenth anniversary of the onslaught on former Yugoslavia for a G7 meeting and Nuclear Security Summit, to scuttle, with John Kerry, from The Hague, to Brussels, Rome, to Riyadh, to curb “Russian aggression” as “new NATO training and exercises (are to) take place in Poland … the U.S. …  has sent some 300 air troops and a dozen F-16 fighters to Poland for joint training in a show of military support (and) the U.S. is considering rotating American forces to the Baltic region to conduct ground and naval exercises …” (News, websites.)

Yet Russia is the “aggressor”, having stated and restated that the nation has no intention to move further in to Ukraine, and whose troops in Crimea are still well below the contingency allowed in a mutual, legal agreement, whilst the US crosses the Atlantic to rattle sabers (and F-16s.)

President Obama also had a private meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, reportedly to attempt to enlist him in the “clear message” brigade.

President Xi was perhaps remembering the “clear message” of the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade (15th May 1999) when it was hit by five JDAM bombs, directed by the CIA. China had been against the attack on Yugoslavia and its diplomatic mission had determinedly stayed, unlike the US and UK, whose diplomats unfailingly flee ahead of bombs – near invariably theirs.

The attack caused outrage in China:

“Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Beijing surrounded the US Embassy, hurled rocks through its windows, threw paint bombs, and set fire to it, apparently without any attempt on the part of the Chinese authorities to stop them.”

The Embassy bombing resulted in China’s former President, Jiang Zemin, meeting Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin to agree: “a stronger strategic alliance between the two countries to counter United States dominance in world affairs.”(1) Perhaps White House staff have forgotten, or do not brief too well on modern history – has President Obama read any?

Moreover, in seeking the support of President Xi, Obama had another stumbling block: the National Security Agency’s espionage tactics. The meeting took place: “just days after news broke that the U.S. spy agency had tapped into Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei’s computer system”(2) and as Michelle Obama, was visiting China and lecturing her host country on transparency and openness in cyberspace.

As President Obama arm twisted and threatened – sorry, mobilized: “ all our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international correlation that sends a clear message” – on his route to a major confrontation with Russia, prepared, if necessary for a “show of strength”, and as many a murderous President before him, to fight to the last drop of blood of the sons and daughters of others, he laughably arrived (at a cost of ten million Euros to Belgium for his twenty four hour stay) with: “a nine hundred strong entourage, including forty five vehicles and three cargo ‘planes.”(3)

Additionally, Belgium mobilized: “ three hundred and fifty police and military on motorbikes to secure the President’s routes to EU and NATO summits … while a convoy of nine US helicopters (took) Obama to an American First World War cemetery”, to tour a battlefield and lay a wreath – as he seemingly is prepared to plunge the planet in to another global confrontation, if leaders are lemming enough to follow.

But if he is prepared as feckless with others’ finances, as blood, there may be a few stumbling blocks.

Belgium, population 11,161,642 (2012) has had trading links with Russia since the early 18th century. Peter the Great visited what is now Belgium in 1717 and donated funds for a portico to a spa town, some sixty years before the birth of the United States of America. Last year’s exports to Russia were worth some four billion Euros.

In all, according to Eurostat, the twenty seven EU countries exported 108 Billion Euros-worth of goods to Russia in 2012 and imported 163 Billion Euros in trade from Russia: “with energy accounting for more than three quarters of imports.”(4, pdf.)

In blindly backing the US in another certifiably insane provocation, Britain has much to lose. According to UK Trade and Investment: “Russia remains an important trading partner … Between 2009 and 2012, exports of goods and services to Russia have grown by over 75% from £4.3 billion to £7.6 billion.”

Last September, David Cameron made a “landmark visit “ to Moscow with a “strong commercial focus.“ With him were the Foreign Secretary, the Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green and a delegation of twenty four business leaders representing a range of sectors. The visit aimed to “cement relations.” Beware British politicians bearing gifts.

In November, Business Secretary Vince Cable led a trade visit to Russia: “with more than thirty British companies to boost the fast growing economic links between the two countries …British exports to Russia have almost tripled in the last ten years, with around six hundred UK companies currently operating in the country. The opportunities are huge for British business – that’s why we’re also investing in a $50 million fund to help British small businesses export to Russia.”

The not so small businesses who accompanied the Business Secretary were bosses from Britain’s biggest companies, including Rolls-Royce, British Airways, Rio Tinto and Diageo in a bid to: “strengthen ties and promote trade.”. Other companies that have recently moved in to the Russian market include Cadbury, AstraZeneca, Kingfisher, Marks & Spencer and Monsoon.

Trevor Barton, Executive Director of the Russian British Chamber of Commerce said that British exports to Russia have been continuing to grow at 20-30% per annum, with Russian imports in mainly raw materials, oil and gas slightly exceeding exports. However, the market is: ”pretty substantial (the UK’s) fastest growing export market of anywhere in the world”, which the UK government had actively “encouraged.”

Russia was a: “ very close trading partner and the possibilities have not gone away”, said Barton for whom, it seems, the country is not alone a business opportunity, but for which he cares and relates. But these were “challenging times” in “spending time talking to companies and persuading” explaining possibilities, when frequently potential investors currently simply unquestioningly take at face value the insane biased media hype. (Mr Barton was scrupulous in not commenting on politics, the latter lines are entirely the writer’s interpretation.)

Germany’s foreign trade group BGA, has warned that Germany would suffer more than other European country if sanctions escalated: “With about 6,200 German companies invested in Russia, and bilateral trade worth 76 billion Euros ($105 billion) last year. A trade conflict would be painful for the German economy …” warned BGA President Anton Börner, adding that Germany could not do without Russia since both economies were “highly complementary.” (Agencies.)

By late 2010, French companies in Russia had increased six-fold with trade between the two countries worth $22.6 billion. Fifty percent of Russia’s fruit and berries are imported from Holland, Portugal and Poland. Meat deal with Brazil (pork and beef especially) also have the potential to diminish or trash European trade.

From Ireland in the west of Europe to Italy in the south (the latter Europe’s fourth largest trader with Russia) to Greece in the east, focus has been on developing trading ties with Russia and the EU can certainly do with no financial set backs, it is already, in the eyes of many, a fiscal train wreck waiting to happen.

Across the Atlantic, in Houston, Texas alone, four hundred companies trade with Russia. Sanctions could lead to some of America’s biggest companies being impacted. PepsiCo “had nearly $5 billion in net revenue from Russia in 2012.” Coca-Cola has a “large presence” and Exxon Mobil has signed a deal with Russian state oil company Rosneft to drill in the Arctic, beginning this year: “the lucrative crude up there could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Both General Motors and Ford have a market share in Russia and have invested in production facilities, with Ford negotiating a partnership with Russian Sollis, the all worth several $billion. “Russia is an emerging market with growing incomes, and U.S. companies have been actively looking to increase their investment there in recent years.”(5)

And from the US Moscow Embassy:

“President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (NEI) http://www.export.gov two years ago, with the goal of doubling exports by 2014. U.S. embassies are committed to supporting U.S. companies to start exporting or grow their exports to Russia. In this section, you’ll find a quick description of Russia’s export market and some suggestions for getting started.”

“This is no time for bluster” blustered President Obama in a speech in Europe last week. Indeed, he seems to have missed that not only is he determined to potentially bankrupt swathes of Europe and the US, President Putin holds all the cards. For thirteen years closer ties have been developing in trade and policies with the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – representing 42% of world population and about a quarter of the world’s economy.

They have already: “created their own Stock Alliance and are creating their own development bank to finance large infrastructure projects, there are also: dynamic trade and multiple projects in different areas … in total, there are more than 20 formats of cooperation within the BRICS intensively developing.” In February they agreed on possibly eleven directions of scientific and technical cooperation, from aeronautics to bio and nanotechnology.” They also plan to  “modernize the global economic system” so dominated by the EU and US.

This year: “Russia and China have a full agenda for bilateral cooperation, which includes not only trade but also such spheres as energy, aircraft building, mechanical engineering, military and science cooperation, tourism” and more. Cultural ties are also strengthening with 2014-2015 a year of youth exchange.

Russia and China are additionally planning joint events to mark the seventieth anniversary of the victory over German fascism in WW11 next year.(6) Really bad timing for Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland to delight over America’s $ five billion spent on installing a fascist government in Kiev.

And suppose Russia switched from accepting US dollars, Euros and the UK pound, to other currencies, as observers have commented.could be being considered.

Further, as Europe’s energy is highly dependent on Russia, perhaps, like Crimea, the twenty seven EU countries could be granted some democracy and vote as to whether they want the radiators to go cold and to paraphrase Churchill: “the lights go off all over Europe.”

Notes

1. http://www.justiceyugoslavia.org/world_alarm.htm

2. http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-obama-nsa-spying-chinese-president-20140324,0,3780214.story#ixzz2wyHzgaoU

3. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/24/barack-obama-visit- brussels-cost-belgium-10m?CMP=fb_gu

4. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/6-03062013-AP/EN/6-03062013-AP-EN.PDF

5. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116853/economic-sanctions-would-hurt-american-companies-russia

6. http://rt.com/op-edge/russia-switches-to-brics-sanctions-357/

We Can Still Prosecute …

Many argue that the statute of limitations on Bush and Cheney’s crimes of lying us into the Iraq war and torture have all run … so it is too late to prosecute them.

However, the United States War Crimes Act of 1996, a federal statute set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 2441, makes it a federal crime for any U.S. national, whether military or civilian, to violate the Geneva Convention by engaging in murder, torture, or inhuman treatment.

The statute applies not only to those who carry out the acts, but also to those who ORDER IT, know about it, or fail to take steps to stop it. The statute applies to everyone, no matter how high and mighty.

18 U.S.C. § 2441 has no statute of limitations, which means that a war crimes complaint can be filed at any time.

The penalty may be life imprisonment or — if a single prisoner dies due to torture — death. Given that there are numerous, documented cases of prisoners being tortured to death by U.S. soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan, that means that the death penalty would be appropriate for anyone found guilty of carrying out, ordering, or sanctioning such conduct.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 limited the applicability of the War Crimes Act, but still made the following unlawful:  torture, cruel or inhumane treatment, murder, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily harm, rape, sexual assault or abuse.

War Crimes By the Bush Administration

Here’s an overview of war crimes by the Bush administration:

  • The use of depleted uranium, which can cause cancer and birth defects for decades (see thisthisthis,thisthis and this)

We’ll go into more detail on torture below.

Yes, It Was Torture

Yes, Waterboarding IS Torture

  • Everyone claiming waterboarding is not torture has changed their tune as soon as they were exposed to even a small dose of it themselves. See thisthis and this

Not Just Waterboarding

Children, Too

People Died While Being Tortured

The ACLU wrote in 2005:

The American Civil Liberties Union today made public an analysis of new and previously released autopsy and death reports of detainees held in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom died while being interrogated.  The documents show that detainees were hooded, gagged, strangled, beaten with blunt objects, subjected to sleep deprivation and to hot and cold environmental conditions.

“”There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths,”” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU.  “”High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable.

***

The documents released today include 44 autopsies and death reports as well as a summary of autopsy reports of individuals apprehended in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The documents show that detainees died during or after interrogations by Navy Seals, Military Intelligence and “”OGA”” (Other Governmental Agency) — a term, according to the ACLU, that is commonly used to refer to the CIA.

According to the documents, 21 of the 44 deaths were homicides.   Eight of the homicides appear to have resulted from abusive techniques used on detainees, in some instances, by the CIA, Navy Seals and Military Intelligence personnel.  The autopsy reports list deaths by “”strangulation,”” “”asphyxiation”” and “”blunt force injuries.””  An overwhelming majority of the so-called “”natural deaths”” were attributed to “”Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease.””

While newspapers have recently reported deaths of detainees in CIA custody, today’s documents show that the problem is pervasive, involving Navy Seals and Military Intelligence too.

Spiegel reported in 2009:

At least two men died during imprisonment. One of them, a 22-year-old taxi driver named Dilawar, was suspended by his hands from the ceiling for four days, during which US military personnel repeatedly beat his legs. Dilawar died on Dec. 10, 2002. In the autopsy report, a military doctor wrote that the tissue on his legs had basically been “pulpified.” As it happens, his interrogators had already known — and later testified — that there was no evidence against Dilawar …

And see this.

Should We Prosecute?

But should we prosecute?  Yes:

U.S. Officials Launched a Systematic Program of Torture Using Specialized Techniques Which Produce False Confessions … to Justify the Iraq War

Let’s dig in a little deeper on the question of torture …

Not only did Bush, Cheney and other top government officials lie about us into the Iraq war by making a false linkage between Iraq and 9/11, but they carried out a systematic program of torture in order tointentionally create false evidence of that allegation.

Indeed, the entire purpose behind the U.S. torture program was to obtain false confessions.

And the torture techniques used were Communist techniques specifically designed to produce falseconfessions.

Senator Levin, in commenting on a Senate Armed Services Committee report on torture in 2009,dropped the following bombshell:

With last week’s release of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions, it is now widely known that Bush administration officials distorted Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape “SERE” training – a legitimate program used by the military to train our troops to resist abusive enemy interrogations – by authorizing abusive techniques from SERE for use in detainee interrogations. Those decisions conveyed the message that abusive treatment was appropriate for detainees in U.S. custody. They were also an affront to the values articulated by General Petraeus.

In SERE training, U.S. troops are briefly exposed, in a highly controlled setting, to abusive interrogation techniques used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions. The techniques are based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting false confessions for propaganda purposes. Techniques used in SERE training include stripping trainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, subjecting them to face and body slaps, depriving them of sleep, throwing them up against a wall, confining them in a small box, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures. Until recently, the Navy SERE school also used waterboarding. The purpose of the SERE program is to provide U.S. troops who might be captured a taste of the treatment they might face so that they might have a better chance of surviving captivity and resisting abusive and coercive interrogations.

Senator Levin then documents that SERE techniques were deployed as part of an official policy on detainees, and that SERE instructors helped to implement the interrogation programs. He noted:

The senior Army SERE psychologist warned in 2002 against using SERE training techniques during interrogations in an email to personnel at Guantanamo Bay, because:

[T]he use of physical pressures brings with it a large number of potential negative side effects… When individuals are gradually exposed to increasing levels of discomfort, it is more common for them to resist harder… If individuals are put under enough discomfort, i.e. pain, they will eventually do whatever it takes to stop the pain. This will increase the amount of information they tell the interrogator, but it does not mean the information is accurate. In fact, it usually decreases the reliability of the information because the person will say whatever he believes will stop the pain… Bottom line: the likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the delivery of accurate information from a detainee is very low. The likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the level of resistance in a detainee is very high… (p. 53).

McClatchy filled in some of the details:

Former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration…

For most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document…

When people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.”Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam . . .

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under “pressure” to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

“I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq),” [Senator] Levin said in a conference call with reporters. “They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Levin recalled Cheney’s assertions that a senior Iraqi intelligence officer had met Mohammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, in the Czech Republic capital of Prague just months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The FBI and CIA found that no such meeting occurred.

In other words, top Bush administration officials not only knowingly lied about a non-existent connection between Al Qaida and Iraq, but they pushed and insisted that interrogators use special torture methods aimed at extracting false confessions to attempt to create such a false linkage.

The Washington Post reported the same year:

Despite what you’ve seen on TV, torture is really only good at one thing: eliciting false confessions. Indeed, Bush-era torture techniques, we now know, were cold-bloodedly modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War.

So as shocking as the latest revelation in a new Senate Armed Services Committee report may be, it actually makes sense — in a nauseating way. The White House started pushing the use of torture not when faced with a “ticking time bomb” scenario from terrorists, but when officials in 2002 were desperately casting about for ways to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks — in order to strengthen their public case for invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 at all.

***

Gordon Trowbridge writes for the Detroit News: “Senior Bush administration officials pushed for the use of abusive interrogations of terrorism detainees in part to seek evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq, according to newly declassified information discovered in a congressional probe.

Indeed, one of the two senior instructors from the Air Force team which taught U.S. servicemen how to resist torture by foreign governments when used to extract false confessions has blown the whistle on the true purpose behind the U.S. torture program.

As Truth Out reported:

Jessen’s notes were provided to Truthout by retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a “master” SERE instructor and decorated veteran who has previously held high-ranking positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff and Department of Defense (DoD).

Kearns and his boss, Roger Aldrich, the head of the Air Force Intelligence’s Special Survial Training Program (SSTP), based out of Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, hired Jessen in May 1989. Kearns, who was head of operations at SSTP and trained thousands of service members, said Jessen was brought into the program due to an increase in the number of new SERE courses being taught and “the fact that it required psychological expertise on hand in a full-time basis.”

Jessen, then the chief of Psychology Service at the US Air Force Survival School, immediately started to work directly with Kearns on “a new course for special mission units (SMUs), which had as its goal individual resistance to terrorist exploitation.”

The course, known as SV-91, was developed for the Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) branch of the US Air Force Intelligence Agency, which acted as the Executive Agent Action Office for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jessen’s notes formed the basis for one part of SV-91, “Psychological Aspects of Detention.”

***

Kearns was one of only two officers within DoD qualified to teach all three SERE-related courses within SSTP on a worldwide basis, according to a copy of a 1989 letter written Aldrich, who nominated him officer of the year.

***

The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered – not just ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar,” he said. “What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen’s instruction. It is exploitation, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to ‘reverse-engineer’ a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.”

***

Jessen wrote that cooperation is the “end goal” of the detainer, who wants the detainee “to see that [the detainer] has ‘total’ control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.).”

***

Kearns said, based on what he has read in declassified government documents and news reports about the role SERE played in the Bush administration’s torture program, Jessen clearly “reverse-engineered” his lesson plan and used resistance methods to abuse “war on terror” detainees.

So we have the two main Air Force insiders concerning the genesis of the torture program confirming – with original notes – that the whole purpose of the torture program was to extract false confessions.

Indeed, the top interrogation experts from U.S. military and intelligence services say that all torture is lousy at producing actionable intelligence, the only things it is good for are (1) producing false confessions, (2) creating more terrorists, and (3) itself acting as a form of terrorism.

And false confessions were, in fact, extracted.

For example:

(Indeed, the 9/11 Commission Report was largely based on a third-hand account of what tortured detainees said, with two of the three parties in the communication being government employees. And the government went to great lengths to obstruct justice and hide unflattering facts from the Commission.)

But Are They Guilty of War Crimes?

The Nuremberg Tribunal which convicted and sentenced Nazis leaders to death conceived of wars of aggression – i.e. wars not launched in self-defense – defined the following as “crimes against peace”, or war crimes:

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i)

The Tribunal considered wars of aggression to be the ultimate war crime, which encompassed all other crimes:

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

Judgment of October 1, 1946, International Military Tribunal Judgment and Sentence, 22 IMTTRIALS, supra note 7, at 498, reprinted in 41 AM. J. INT’LL. 172, 186 (1947).

Given that Iraq had no connection with 9/11 and possessed no weapons of mass destruction, the Iraq war was a crime of aggression and – under the standards by which Nazi leaders were convicted by the Nuremberg Tribunal – the American leaders who lied us into that war are guilty of war crimes.

Benjamin Ferencz, a former chief prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials, declared:

A prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity — that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.

See thisthis, and this.

The Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court – Luis Moreno-Ocampo – told the Sunday Telegraph in 2007:

That he would be willing to launch an inquiry and could envisage a scenario in which the Prime Minister and American President George W Bush could one day face charges at The Hague. Luis Moreno-Ocampo urged Arab countries, particularly Iraq, to sign up to the court to enable allegations against the West to be pursued.

As a Japan Times Op/Ed noted in 2009:

In January 2003, a group of American law professors warned President George W. Bush that he and senior officials of his government could be prosecuted for war crimes if their military tactics violated international humanitarian law.

Eminent legal scholars such as former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clarke and Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law and a professor of law Lawrence Velvel have since stated that high-level Bush administration officials did commit war crimes in relation to the Iraq war.

Torture is – of course – a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which make it illegal to inflict mental or physical torture or inhuman treatment. It is clearly-established that waterboarding is tortureThe torture was, in fact, systematic, and included widespread sexual humiliation, murder and otherunambiguous forms of torture.

Velvel and many other legal experts say that the torture which was carried out after 9/11 is a war crime.

Colin Powell’s former chief of staff stated that Dick Cheney is guilty of war crimes for overseeing torture policies.

Matthew Alexander – a former top Air Force interrogator who led the team that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – notes that government officials knew they are vulnerable for war crime prosecution:

They have, from the beginning, been trying to prevent an investigation into war crimes.

A Malaysian war crimes commission also found Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and five administration attorneys guilty of war crimes (although but the commission has no power to enforce its judgment).

War Crimes By the Obama Administration

The Obama administration has ordered numerous indiscriminate drone strikes.  They are war crimes(more here and here).  (They also create more terrorists.)

Torture is also apparently continuing under Obama. See this and this.

Note:  We’re writing less on Obama than Bush solely because the statute of limitations for Obama’s crimes are not an issue at this point.

Debunking Western Propaganda

March 30th, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

It’s malicious. It’s unrelenting. Big Lies repeat one after another. Official sources announce them.
Mainstream media regurgitate them as gospel. It’s standard practice. Agitprop substitutes for accurate reporting.

Ukraine crisis misinformation proliferates. Responsible Russian replies get short shrift. Often they’re ignored. Sometimes they’re twisted irresponsibly.

On March 28, Vladimir Putin said professional Russian action saved Crimean bloodshed. He thanked “the command and service members of the Black Sea Fleet, other units and formations based in Crimea, for their stamina and personal courage.”

He praised their “clear and professional actions.” They “avoid(ed) provocations and prevent(ed) bloodshed and ensure(d) conditions for a peaceful and free referendum.”

One observing UN Charter principles. One entirely legal. One contradicting Western lies claiming otherwise.

“Serious work must be done to modernize the military structure in Crimea,” he added.

“We need to complete the formation of police, emergency and penitentiary, as well as security, investigative and drug-control agencies in the new constituent regions of the Federation.”

Most Ukrainian forces reject Kiev putschists. They remain in Crimea. They do so freely. Reports otherwise are false.

Those wishing to remain on active duty are being integrated into Russia’s military.

Their services are valued. “They will retain their military ranks and service record and have their school diplomas recognized,” said Putin.

“The(ir) pay and social status will be brought in line with the Russian legislation.” Moscow’s military pay is “about four times that of Ukraine.”

“Over the next few days the Russian government will make relevant decisions on all the matters concerning military pensions, allowances and salary payouts.”

“We respect the choice of those Ukrainian service members and other law enforcement officers who are returning to Ukraine.”

“Attitudes towards them and their families must be extremely correct, as required by the traditions of military honor.”

All Ukrainian military personnel in Crimea wishing to return home either left or plan to. Around 2,000 of Kiev’s 18,000 contingent chose to do so. Moscow provided them help to return home.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said “the organized withdrawal of the units of the Ukrainian army which have expressed a wish to continue serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been completed.”

“The state symbols have been replaced on all ships and in all units that have taken the side of the Russian army.”

“No acts of desecration and disrespectful treatment of Ukrainian state symbols have taken place.”

Spurious Western reports lied about Russian troops massing on Ukraine’s border. Invasion perhaps is imminent, they suggested. Saying so is malicious propaganda.

Throughout Ukrainian/Crimean crisis conditions, Putin acted responsibly. International laws were observed. They still are. He’s geopolitically opposite Obama.

Reprehensible Western reports claim otherwise. Lies substitute for truth. On March 28, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich responded responsibly.

He debunked false charges. The Russians aren’t coming. Aggression isn’t planned. No evidence suggests an imminent attack.

Inspectors from Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lativa, Switzerland and Ukraine were in direct contact with Russian military unit chiefs on the ground.

They photographed deployed sites and military equipment freely. They accompanied Russian forces on maneuvers.

They know no threat exists. They informed their superiors. Falsified reports claim otherwise. They stoke fear.

They bash Russia maliciously. They do it daily. It bears repeating. Big Lies drown out truth. Mainstream media echo them like gospel.

Lukashevich issued a detailed statement. It’s repeated below in its entirety, saying.

“In the light of claims on an allegedly threatening deployment of units of the Russian Armed Forces on the border with Ukraine, which are fanned by mass media at the instigation by certain politicians in the U.S and some other NATO countries, we find it necessary to make the following remarks.”

“The practice of collaboration among member-states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – and all of NATO’s member-states also have membership of the OSCE – boasts a number of well-adjusted and fairly reliable methods of ‘getting analgesia’ in the form of ground-based and aerial inspections under the 2011 Vienna Document, as well as surveillance flights under the Treaty on Open Skies.”

“An opportunity to hold these inspections was offered to everyone who wished to get familiarized with the actual state of affairs in the areas (of Russia – Itar-Tass) adjoining the Ukrainian border. The results of the inspectors’ work were reflected in the official reports distributed to all the member-states of the OSCE.

“The unbiased information contained in them should have become, in our opinion, a subject of scrupulous analysis and the groundwork for further conclusions. And did the inspectors establish any signs of a military threat to Ukraine on the part of Russia?”

“Nothing of this kind. A total of four international inspections held on the Russian territory under the 2011 Vienna document on trust-building and security measures involved representatives of Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, Belgium, France, and Ukraine, who did not track down any aggressive preparations and did not see any military activity apart from the one, on which Russian had sent notifications earlier.”

“Even a Ukrainian inspection group that visited the Belgorod region from March 18 to March 20 agreed that the Russian Armed Forces were not conducting any major military activity there.”

“The three battalions of Airborne Troops it had found outside the zone of permanent stationing – that is, in the process of a military exercise – could scarcely be viewed as signs of a “menacing buildup of military muscle.”

“Apart from inspections under the Vienna document, US and German inspectors made surveillance flights under the Treaty on Open Skies in March.”

“Although their officials conclusions will be known somewhat later after the processing of photo materials is over, one can assume that had our partners registered some aerial signs of large concentrations of Armed Forces, they would not have procrastinated with presenting “hardboiled evidence.”

“But they did not, and this means such evidence simply does not exist. In connection with the aforesaid, a few questions arise.”

“What is the sense of verifications in the military and defense policy sphere if their results do not influence political practices, including the formation of US and NATO approaches to the situation around Ukraine?”

“Is it linked to the fact the unbiased information gathered by military inspectors does not reach political leadership?”

“Or are these very same leaders so susceptible to emotions that they might ignore facts in favor of own political tastes and preferences?”

“In any case, our Western counterparts give grounds for calling the efficiency of the International Security Treaty mechanism from the angle of consolidating trust and security.”

“We will take account of this in our work on further improvement of the Vienna document and in the process of scrutiny of supplementary initiatives in the format of the OSCE forum on security cooperation.”

On Friday, Putin called Obama. He did so to discuss Ukraine. Itar Tass said he stressed ongoing violence by extremists. They’re “committing acts of intimidation against civilians,” he said.

They act with impunity. Putin urged international efforts to stabilize things. John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov will meet to discuss joint US/Russian efforts to do so.

Putin acted responsibly. An irresponsible White House press release lied saying otherwise.

“President Obama reiterated that the United States has strongly opposed the actions that Russia has already taken to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.

Obama ludicrously claimed  ”the the Ukrainian government continues to take a restrained and de-escalatory approach to the crisis and is moving ahead with constitutional reform and democratic elections.”

He urged Putin to support what demands rejection. He lied claiming Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border. Avoid “further provocations,” he said.

He twists facts repeatedly to fit policy. He threatens world peace. He threatens humanity’s survival.

Putin isn’t naive. He knows what he’s up against. He knows Washington’s imperial ambitions. He’s been outspoken about them many times.

He knows how great conflicts begin. So does Paul Craig Roberts. “We are again on the road to World War,” he fears. “(T)he drive to war is blatantly obvious.”

Washington bears full responsibility. Rogue Western nations and supportive media share it.

“(T)he world (is) again being led down the garden path by lies and propaganda…(T)his time (it’s) (on) behalf of (unchallenged) American world hegemony,” Roberts stresses.

Putin understands the threat. He’s going all-out to defuse it. He has no willing partner in Washington. Advancing America’s imperium matters most.

Obama reflects the worst of rogue leadership. He’s duplicitous. He’s a serial liar. He represents corrupted monied interests. He’s a war criminal multiple times over.

He’s waging war on humanity. He’s doing it at home and abroad. He blames victims for his crimes. Millions of corpses attest to his barbarity. His belligerence risks World War III.

On Friday, Security Council members met in closed-door session. They did so to discuss Ukraine. UN envoy Vitaly Churkin explained Moscow’s position publicly.

“Someone must seriously think through what they are doing and the consequences of certain actions they are advocating,” he said.

“Our international partners insist that the only way out is to have this presidential election on May 25.”

“In a situation of political chaos in the country? What will be the effect of those elections if some of the regions do not participate or turnout is very low in the course of those elections?”

Ukraine needs legitimate governance. It needs constitutional reform. It needs them in place before elections are held, Russia stresses.

“There is no political leader in sight who might be able to unite the country,” said Churkin.

“All the politicians one can hear about are extremely divisive for the Ukrainian society.”

“The other thing that is going to come up in the next couple of months is most likely dramatic decline of the living standards of people, because of IMF package which now has been proposed to them” and accepted.

Western nations urge Russia to engage in dialogue. At the same time, they turn a deaf ear to what it’s saying.

“If you want dialogue, please respond to what we’ve been saying,” said Churkin. “They are responding, sometimes, but the response is that: ‘Well, but you know, the Ukrainians…’ ”

“We understand the importance of constitution, but how can they do it now? Can they do this constitutional assembly? There is no one to organize the constitutional assembly!”

“Well, if there is nobody to organize, maybe this is exactly the role of the international community? This Compact support group we have been proposing to help them organize those things if there is nobody currently in Ukraine who can take this responsibility.”

“Our position is very clear. (It’s) disappointing that those things which are obvious to us do not seem to sink in in the minds of our international interlocutors and our Ukrainian colleagues.”

Ukrainian conditions remain chaotic. Stability is nowhere in sight. Fascist putschists run things. Responsible governance is absent.

Sham May elections aim to legitimize illegitimate rule. Democracy is strictly verboten. Russia in under no illusion.

Western supported rogue Ukrainian governance threatens its security. Potential civil war looms. Igniting it risks cross-border spillover. Doing so risks global war.

Russia is going all-out to defuse things. Its best efforts may not be enough.

Separately, Lukashevich said irresponsible Western sanctions “cannot go without reaction.” Moscow intends “a responsive measure, which we are mirroring to a large extent.”

Hungary opposes Western sanctions. Germany has mixed feelings. Angela Merkel wants “de-escalation.”

She’s against economic sanctions. She hopes to avoid them. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. After China, it’s Berlin’s largest trading partner. Volume approaches $100 billion annually.

Thousands of German companies are involved. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake. Safeguarding them is vital to Germany’s economy. Merkel is responsible for doing so.

Russian parliamentarians are considering imposing sanctions on US companies. Reports suggest setting limits to offices considered legal entities.

Duma Deputy Vadim Dengin said:

“If the US cares little about losing business contacts with Russia through imposing its sanctions, then Russia should have long since started supporting Russian producers in full.”

US companies want business as usual to continue. Bottom line priorities matter most. Political disagreements hurt them. How much they’re able to curb further action remains to be seen.

It bears repeating what previous articles stressed. Today is the most perilous time in world history.

Paul Craig Roberts is justifiably worried. People don’t “learn from history,” he says. Obama bears full responsibility.

He justifies US aggression irresponsibly. He’s heading down “the road to World War.”

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.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.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

UN Report Details US Human Rights Abuses

March 30th, 2014 by Thomas Gaist

A UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) report delivered in mid-March harshly criticized the United States, citing a laundry list of human rights violations both on American soil and in countries around the world.

The report, compiled from the testimony of 18 independent experts, detailed rampant violations by the US government of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The report condemned the US for failing to punish high-ranking military officers and private contractors for crimes, including torture and targeted killings, saying that only a “meager number” of criminal charges had been pressed, and against low-ranking personnel at that.

“The Committee notes with concern that all reported investigations into enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that had been committed in the context of the CIA secret rendition, interrogation and detention programmes were closed in 2012 leading only to a meager number of criminal charges brought against low-level operatives,” the HRC concluded.

Testimony to the HRC highlighted the use of drones by the US to carry out targeted killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. Since Obama took office, US drones have killed more than 2,600 people in at least 400 strikes, according to documents submitted to the HRC by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

US imperialism has created a worldwide system of illegal prison camps, where US and foreign personnel carry out torture against supposed terrorists and other enemies of the American state. Evidence submitted to the hearing showed that the US is currently continuing to hold 154 detainees who have been cleared at its prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that an additional 45 are being held on an indefinite basis without charges or trial.

The report found that the US applies “broad doctrines of legal privilege and immunity” to prevent torture victims from seeking compensation against their torturers.

As reaffirmed by US representatives during the course of the hearing, the US government invoked the principle of “extraterritoriality” to exempt itself from compliance with the ICCPR on foreign soil (the only other country to explicitly exempt itself in this way is Israel). The Obama administration’s position is that the ICCPR does not impose any “human rights obligations on American military and intelligence when they operate abroad.”

“The United States continues to believe that its interpretation—that the covenant applies only to individuals both within its territory and within its jurisdiction—is the most consistent with the covenant’s language and negotiating history,” said Mary McLeod, legal representative from the State Department, during the committee hearing.

“The U.S. insists it has no international legal obligations to respect the privacy rights of foreigners outside its borders,” said Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch.

The reports submitted to the HRC listed massive violations of the ICCPR also taking place within the US itself. Domestic violations cited during the reports included:

• Inhuman treatment of migrants, including use of lethal force on the US-Mexico border

• Dragnet surveillance

• Labor trafficking

• Widespread use of solitary confinement

• Trials of juveniles as adults, the use of life sentences against juveniles, incarceration of juveniles in adult institutions

• Criminalization of homelessness

• Racial profiling

• Stop-and-frisk policies

• Use of Special Administrative Measures (SAM), including monitoring of prison-attorney communications

• Widespread use of nonconsensual administration of psychiatric medication, electroshock, and other “coercive health practices”

The HRC gathered testimony from nongovernmental human rights groups on the American military operations. A “shadow report” submitted by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to the HRC, entitled “US Veterans and Iraqi Organizations Seek Accountability for Human Rights Crisis Resulting from a Decade of US-Led War,” noted “the lack of any recognition whatsoever by the US government of the disastrous and tragic consequences” caused by the war against Iraq.

The report pointed to extensive use of toxic weapons against the population, writing, “Iraq is now in the midst of a public health crisis, the full magnitude of which is still unknown, as cancer rates and birth defects have skyrocketed since the US invasion—widely believed to be the result of the US’s use of weapons made of depleted uranium as well as the unregulated use of other munitions and burn pits used to dispose of toxic waste.”

“In addition to the use of weapons containing depleted uranium, US officials and allies have admitted to using napalm-class munitions and white phosphorous, an incendiary agent that can burn to the bone, in Fallujah, Iraq and elsewhere. These weapons were reported to have been used in operations in populated areas and resulted in grave harm to civilians, including children. Similarly, the use of cluster munitions, which spread over a wide area and often fail to explode on impact, have resulted in the indiscriminate killing of civilians,” the CCR wrote.

“Despite having waged an illegal war based on false justifications, no civilian or military official has been investigated or held accountable for their role in fabricating the justification to go to war in Iraq. In fact, the current administration recently argued in a legal case brought by victims of the Iraq war that officials responsible for planning and waging the war in violation of international law should be afforded immunity and shielded from suit,” the report found.

According to the CCR’s shadow report, “conservative estimates” show that the US war against Iraq caused the direct deaths of 330,000 people, with indirect deaths resulting from unexploded weapons, malnutrition, the collapse of Iraq’s health infrastructure and the environmental fallout from the war totaling more than 1 million. Some additional 4.5 million Iraqis were turned into refugees by the war, and at least 4 million Iraqi children lost one or both parents.

Under the mantle of promoting human rights and democracy, US imperialism has been invading countries and overthrowing governments around the world for decades. As the latest UN report makes clear, Washington’s human rights pose is a fraud. The US government itself is the leading human rights violator on the planet, using whatever means necessary, including mass terror against civilian areas, to maintain the supremacy of American capitalism.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been among the shrillest in the chorus of western leaders denouncing and threatening Russia.

He issued a series of inflammatory denunciations of Russian “aggression” during a European tour this past week that began with a trip to Ukraine. During his six hours in Kiev, Harper lauded the government installed by last month’s fascist-spearheaded, US-German organized coup and conferred with its leaders, who include a half-dozen ministers from the fascist Svoboda Party.

If Harper’s aides and the press are to be believed, Canada’s Conservative Prime Minster has led the campaign for the western powers to take provocative measures against Russia. These include the increased deployment of NATO forces on Russia’s borders, sanctions against Bank Rossiya, Russia’s exclusion from the G-8, and the threat of more punishing economic sanctions if Russia does not “completely reverse” its annexation of Crimea.

Both privately and in public, Harper has hectored European leaders to intensify the western drive to bully and isolate Russia, blithely stoking a conflict that could easily spin into a global military conflagration.

Speaking Thursday at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Harper took issue with Merkel’s contention that the crisis over the Ukraine could soon be defused. Canada’s prime minister said he doubted Russia under President Vladimir Putin would ever be allowed to rejoin the G-8 and urged the western powers to prepare for a long confrontation with Russia.

“The reality we have to come to terms with,” claimed Harper, is that Putin has “not desired to be a partner.” He has created “a rivalry instead of a partnership.”

This is a lie. It is the US, Canada and their European allies that have moved aggressively against Russia, which emerged from the restoration of capitalism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union economically and geopolitically hobbled. In the past two decades, NATO—the US-led military bloc whoseraison d’etre was to counter and, if need be, militarily conquer the Soviet Union—has incorporated all of the states of Eastern European formerly allied with the USSR, as well as the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which were part of the USSR till 1991. As a result, NATO forces are now deployed on Russia’s borders.

Moreover, the detaching of Ukraine from Russia and its subjugation to western domination has long been a key objective of US geopolitical strategy.

To achieve this predatory objective, the US and Germany precipitated the current crisis by intervening in Ukraine and fomenting the fascist-led overthrow of the country’s elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, after he balked at signing a pact with the European Union. That pact, since resurrected by the government born of the coup, both barred the Ukraine from entering into a customs union with Russia and subjected Ukraine to a brutal IMF restructuring program that would result in the shutdown of much of the country’s industry.

Canada has been an important player in the western drive to geo-politically and economically annex Ukraine, a country rich in agricultural and other resources. Although total trade between the two counties is barley $300 million per year, Canada has designated Ukraine one of twenty foreign policy priority countries. Like Washington, Ottawa has invested large sums since the 1990s to support pro-western “civil society” organizations and parties and played an active role in the 2004-5 Orange Revolution—the first concerted US-led drive to mount a regime change operation in Kyiv. In this, Canada has leveraged a network of right-wing Ukrainian-Canadian businessmen and Ukrainian-Canadian ethnic organizations, especially the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), whose president, Paul Grod, accompanied Harper on his March 22 visit to Kyiv.

The UCC functioned as a virtual arm of the Canadian state during the Cold War. It includes organizations that openly celebrate the heroes of the Svoboda Party and other contemporary Ukrainian fascists—the World War II Ukrainian nationalist Nazi collaborators who carried out the mass slaughter of Jews and Poles. Some UCC constituents, such as “the Society of Veterans of Ukrainian Insurgent Army” and the “Brotherhood of Veterans 1st Division UNA,” were themselves founded by participants in Stepan Bandera’s Nazi-allied Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

While Harper respected diplomatic norms in disagreeing with Merkel, he publicly dressed down the head of Holland’s largest employer lobby group last Monday when he raised fears that the escalating confrontation between Russia and the West could hurt Europe economically. Interrupting Bernard Wientjes, Harper declared, “None of us like seeing disruption to investment or to markets or to trade, but the fact of the matter is … when you have something like a military occupation of a country by another country, this is not something that we can subordinate to economic interests.”

Harper’s claim that economic interests are not motivating the western powers—Canada among them—in the Ukraine crisis is yet another lie.

The aggressive drive of the imperialist powers, above all the US, to assert their global hegemony is rooted in a systemic crisis of world capitalism. Through war and threats of war, Washington is seeking to offset the relative decline in the US’s economic might and lay claim to resources, markets and strategic territories.

German imperialism, which twice tried to conquer Ukraine in the world wars of the last century so as to annex it to its financial-industrial empire, is eager to realize that objective today. It aims to use Ukraine to supply German industry with cheap-labor and resources.

Canadian imperialism also hopes to directly profit from the confrontation between Russia and the western powers, seeing it as a golden opportunity for Canada to displace Russian oil exports to Europe and overcome opposition within the US to the building of the Keystone XL pipeline (which would transport Alberta tar sands bitumen to heavy oil refineries on the US Gulf Coast). Following last Monday’s meeting of the G-7 government leaders, Harper excitedly announced that they had decided to convene a meeting of their energy ministers to discuss how they could collaborate in the possible future imposition of sanctions targeting Russia’s energy sector. Such action would potentially open lucrative opportunities for Canadian energy companies.

Harper’s belligerence, lies, and hypocrisy may be news to an international audience, but they will come as no surprise to Canadians.

A neo-conservative—who cuts his political teeth railing against “socialist” Canada (i.e., the existence of Medicare and other social programs) and enthusiastically endorsed the US’s 2003 invasion of Iraq on trumped up claims of weapons of mass destruction—Harper and his government exemplify the Canadian ruling class’ turn to reaction and authoritarian forms of rule.

While Harper declaims about Russia’s reputed violation of the UN Charter in its annexation of Crimea, he and the Canadian elite have supported and participated in the US’s systematic trashing of international law: its arrogation of the right to shower drone missiles or invade and occupy any country it chooses (e.g., Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya); its use of torture and illegal detention centers like Guantanamo Bay; and its operation of a global spying network that targets the planet’s entire population.

Harper’s government is infamous for its attacks on democratic rights, including effectively abolishing the right to strike, sanctioning state spying on Canadians’ electronic communications, and its illegal shutdown of parliament in Dec. 2008 to prevent the opposition parties exercising their constitutional right to defeat his government.

In the run-up to Quebec’s April 7 election, Canada’s elite has again brandished the threat that should Quebec ever secede from the Canadian federal state it could be partitioned—a scarcely veiled threat of ethnic civil war. Harper, it need be recalled, has boasted that, as the policy director for the rightwing populist, anglo-chauvinist Reform Party, he was one of the originators of the partition threat—which was subsequently incorporated in the Chretien Liberal government’s Clarity Act.

The opposition parties have all accommodated to and participated in the Canadian ruling class’ lurch to the right, be it the dismantling of public services or Canada’s participation in US-led imperialist wars. If anything, the Liberals and trade union-supported New Democratic Party have attacked Harper from the right over his attitude toward the Ukraine crisis, saying he hasn’t been sufficiently supportive of the pro-western forces (i.e., the ultra-nationalists and fascists) and should take even stronger actions against Moscow.

Responding to Moscow’s imposition earlier this week of retaliatory sanctions (effectively a travel ban) on a dozen Canadian government official and politicians and the head of the UCC, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair declared, “If that’s the price to pay to start sending a message to Putin, so be it.” He then called on “the world community” to “come together and start imposing far more consequential sanctions” if Russia does not forthwith submit to US, German and Canadian demands regarding the Crimea and Ukraine.

Russia will respond if the European Union issues Schengen visas to Crimean residents only on Ukrainian passports

Russia has some information about Ukrainian far-right movement Right Sector involved in the shooting of snipers in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Sunday Time programme anchored by Irada Zeinalova on Channel One on Sunday. Pettiness of foreign sponsors of new authorities in Kiev is astonishing, he added.

“We have some information about it. We shared our concerns and suspicions. I cannot affirm with absolute determination, but there is a good deal of facts that point to this. Certainly, it is needed to recheck them. I hope that an investigation which current Ukrainian leaders announced will be finalised and will not be swept under carpet,” Lavrov noted.

Russia will respond if the European Union issues Schengen visas to Crimean residents only on Ukrainian passports,  Lavrov said.

“People who live in Crimea and who chose Russian citizenship are not related to geopolitics. They want to live in a country which meets their cultural and language request, their so-called “gene pool”,” Lavrov noted.

“If the European Union takes such steps, I am convinced that we will reply to this so that the EU will understand that blatant violation of human rights is unacceptable,” the Russian foreign minister added.

Russian language in Ukraine

Kiev authorities find Ukraine’s federalisation and the Russian language status as the second state language unacceptable, Lavrov said.

“Andrey Deshchitsa [interim Ukrainian foreign minister] stated that our proposal was unacceptable, because federalisation contradicts fundamental principles of state system in Ukraine,” Lavrov said. “This is unclear why it is so. I am not aware of such principles,” he added.

“Secondly, the idea to make Russian language the second state language is also unacceptable for him,” the Russian top diplomat went on to say in comments on results of talks with Deshchitsa in the Hague. “This was stated amid well-known statements by Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and other officials of current Ukrainian authorities that Russians and Russian language are not system-forming factors of Ukrainian state in terms of ethnogenesis,” Lavrov added.

Russian troops in the Crimea

No one cancelled the right for moving armed forces in the homeland, Russian Foreign Minister said,

“Russian military forces are based on the territory of our country. From time to time they hold scheduled, unscheduled and surprise military exercises, as any countries respecting themselves do, because the latter are concerned so that their armed forces will be in combat order,” Lavrov noted.

The recent war games “were transparent and met fully criteria in effect in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).” “All required information about it was sent. In reply to requests made to us we have permitted foreign inspectors including the Americans and Ukrainians to monitor it,” the minister noted.

“Within the Treaty of Open Skies under which flights are made over the territories of signatory nations for air surveillance, such flights were made just a couple of weeks ago at Ukraine’s request,” Lavrov added. “In reports of foreign observers delivered upon results of these inspections we did not find any affirmations that Russia was involved in any dangerous activity during these military manoeuvres,” the Russian top diplomat said.

“We do not have any evil intent and are still open for honest talks. However, no one cancelled the right to move armed forces on your own territory,” the Russian foreign minister added.

Russia, US, EU dialogue

Russia, the United States and the European Union should urge Kiev authorities to launch a dialogue in all Ukraine, Sergey Lavrov said.

“We meet regularly with John Kerry [U.S. Secretary of State]. It is surprising for me that the Europeans gave a free hand to Washington to deal with Ukrainian issues regarding relations with Russia,” Lavrov noted. “Ideas of forming a contact group [on Ukrainian crisis] are being worked out, we have already said about this many times. A contact group is contemplated as a structure in which Europe and the U.S. will “supervise” how we and Ukrainians start to come to terms on something,” the Russian top diplomat said.

“This is unacceptable, because the problem is not in our relations with Ukraine, but in the fact that Ukrainian society is in a deep crisis of statehood,” he added.

Therefore, Russia proposed another approach. “If our Western partners are prepared Russia, the U.S. and the EU will be able to set up a group of support to Ukraine and to formulate general appeals to those who rule in Ukraine now so that they will put forward an initiative of a dialogue in the whole country and will invite all political forces without exception [naturally not armed radicals] and regions to enter in equitable talks,” the minister noted. “Their outcome will become a new Ukrainian constitution that will ensure a federal system of government that confirms and stipulates an off-bloc position of the country and will guarantee the rights of those who live in Ukraine, primarily, Russian-speaking population is surely important for us, but also the rights of Czechs, Hungarians, Germans and other nationalities living there,” the foreign minister added.

“If our partners are prepared for this, we are open for broadest co-operation,” Lavrov said. “But current Ukrainian authorities should make a first step to extend a friendly hand to all Ukrainian citizens, all regions, offer them enter in equitable, open dialogue on the future of their homeland. We will be completely prepared to co-operate closely on this path,” the Russian foreign minister added.

 

The action is designed to voice support for the bank, which is creating a precedent in world economy

An action in support of bank Rossiya which has decided to work exclusively with the national currency will take place in Moscow on Sunday.

The Golden Symbol of Russian Rouble installation in front of the bank’s office in Perevedensky pereulok in Moscow will symbolize the rouble’s stability and its backing by the country’s gold reserves, the action’s organizers explained to Itar-Tass.

The action is designed to voice support for the Rossiya bank, which is creating a precedent and can make those who have initiated penalties against Russia to feel sorry about their decision.

The bank’s transition to using exclusively the rouble may prove the Russian currency’s viability and independence in world economy.

“Russia, at its present stage of development, should not be dependent on foreign currencies; its internal resources will make its own economy invulnerable to political wheeler dealers,” the action’s organizers said.

The Russian joint-stock bank, AB Rossiya, decided on Friday that it would work only with the national currency to protect its customers from dishonest actions by foreign financial institutions.

“In order to protect the bank’s customers from dishonest actions by foreign financial institutions AB Rossiya has decided to operate only in the domestic market and exclusively with the national currency of the Russian Federation – the rouble,” AB Rossiya said in a statement released on Friday.

“The bank has already notified some U.S. banks that it is closing its correspondence accounts. Similar notifications have been sent to other foreign financial institutions,” the bank said in its statement.

Despite changes in its work, AB Rossiya will continue meeting its commitments to clients and partners.

“The bank will fulfill its commitments on time and in full volume. The bank does not need financial support for its current operations, including from the state regulator,” AB Rossiya said. The Visa and MasterCard international payment systems stopped servicing the plastic cards of four Russian banks, including AB Rossiya, on March 21 because of their links to sanctioned Russian businessmen included in the United States black list.

The bank Rossiya’s decision to give up foreign currency and start working exclusively with the Russian rouble is a step forward towards converting the Russian economy and banking sector to national currency, Andrei Kostin, the VTB bank president, said in an interview with the Russia 24 TV news channel commenting the decision of bank Rossiya to operate only in the domestic market and exclusively with the Russian rouble.

“We have been moving towards wider use of the Russian rouble as the currency of settlement for a long time. The rouble became fully convertible quite a long time ago. Unfortunately, we have seen predominantly negative consequences of this step so far revealed in the outpour of capital from this country. The influx of foreign investments into Russia has been speculative and considerably destabilizing to our stock markets,” Kostin went on to say.

The VTB chief said that Russia should sell domestic products – from weapons to gas and oil – abroad for roubles and buy foreign goods also for roubles.

“Only then are we going to use the advantages of the rouble being a foreign currency in full measure,” Kostin said, adding that AB Rossiya would form a vital part of the Russian banking system and would closely cooperate with other Russian banks, which would also expand the rouble’s use in settlements.

“A new imperative motive has appeared for that now,” the VTB chief stressed.

“I believe that other credit institutions, enterprises and citizens will be interested in working with bank Rossiya,” Kostin said in conclusion.

Russia “forced” by the sanctions to create a currency system which is independent from the US dollar.  

Russia announces that it will sell (and buy) products and commodities – including oil – in rubles rather than in dollars. The move is towards the development of bilateral.

Putin has been preparing this move — the creation of a payment system in rubles completely independent and protected from the Dollar and the “killer speculations” (e.g. short-selling) of the big Western financial institutions — for a long time.

After sanctioning several Russian banks to punish Russia for Crimea, the Washington politicians were told by the financial power-to-be to step back because obviously, the Wall Street vampires understand that putting Russian banks outside the reach of their blood sucking teeth is never a good idea.

For Wall Street and the city’s financial services, countries like Russia should always have an open financial door through which their real economy can be periodically looted. So Washington announced that it was a mistake to enforce sanctions on all Russian banks; only one, the Rossiya bank shall be hit by sanctions, just for propaganda reasons and to make an example out of it.

It is what Putin needed. Since at least 2007, he was trying to launch an independent Ruble System, a financial system that would be based on Russia’s real economy and resources and guaranteed by its gold reserves. No  tolerance for looting and financial speculation: A peaceful move, but at the same time a declaration of independence that Wall Street will consider as a “declaration of war”.

According to the Judo strategy, the sanction attack created the ideal situation for a “defensive” move that would redirect the brute force of the adversary against him.  And now it’s happening. Bank Rossiya will be the first Russian bank to use exclusively the Russian ruble.

The move has not been done in secret. On the contrary. A huge golden ruble symbol will be set up in front of bank Rossiya headquarters in Perevedensky Pereulok in Moscow “to symbolize the ruble’s stability and its backing by the country’s gold reserves,” the official agency Itar-Tass explains quoting the bank officials.  

In fact, the officials  are very clear on their intention to punish the western speculators that have been looting their country for a long time: 

“Russia, at its present stage of development, should not be dependent on foreign currencies; its internal resources will make its own economy invulnerable to political wheeler dealers.”

This is only the first step, declared Andrei Kostin, the president of VTB, another bank previously sanctioned: 

“We have been moving towards wider use of the Russian rouble as the currency of settlement for a long time. The ruble became fully convertible quite a long time ago. Unfortunately, we have seen predominantly negative consequences of this step so far revealed in the outflow of capital from this country. The influx of foreign investments into Russia has been speculative and considerably destabilizing to our stock markets.”

According to Itar-Tass, Kostin was very precise and concrete:

“Russia should sell domestic products – from weapons to gas and oil – abroad for roubles and buy foreign goods also for rubles….Only then are we going to use the advantages of the rouble being a foreign currency in full measure.”

Putin himself lobbied for the new siystem in meetings with members of the Upper House of the Duma, the parliament, on March 28, overcoming the last doubts and indecisions: “

“Why do we not do this? This definitely should be done, we need to protect our interests, and we will do it. These systems work, and work very successfully in such countries as Japan and China. They originally started as exclusively national [systems] confined to their own market and territory and their own population, but have gradually become more and more popular…”

Alea Iacta Est!

see: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/putin-calls-for-creation-of-banking-payment-system-20140327-00598#ixzz2xQIi0AgY

see: http://en.itar-tass.com/economy/725832)

The Turkish opponents of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his beleaguered government have claimed that a distressed Erdogan may try to start a conflict with Syria and even invade Syrian territory. The Republic People’s Party (CHP) and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP, have even warned the Turkish military not to attack Syria. According to the CHP and Erdogan’s other opponents, the aim of a Turkish invasion of Syria by Erdogan is to invoke patriotic sentiments domestically. The aim of a conflict with Syria is to manipulate the Turkish population for electoral reasons, they have warned…

Turkey is slated to hold municipal elections on March 30, 2014. Prime Minister Erdogan’s declining Justice and Development Party (AKP) is nervous about the Turkish municipal elections. The AK Party is afraid that it will perform badly.

A series of events have taken place which have given credence to the arguments and accusations against the AKP leadership. The first starts with Ankara’s claims that it was concerned about a historic relic inside Syrian territory known as the Tomb of Suleiman Shah. As a result of the purported and questionable threats by the Syrian anti-government forces against the Tomb of Suleiman Shah, Turkey authorized its troops on March 16, 2014 to enter Syrian territory to protect the historic site.

The historic figure’s crypt is located inside Syrian territory. On the basis of an agreement signed by France and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1921, before Syria became an independent republic (and the Ottoman Empire was officially dissolved), Suleiman Shah’s grave is considered Turkish territory. Turkish troops have been stationed there as guards since that time to protect the historic site.

Following Ankara’s proclamation that it would defend the Tomb of Suleiman Shah, Turkey downed a Syrian military jet on March 23, 2014. The downing of the Syrian jet signaled the escalation of tension between the AKP government and the Syrian government. That, however, was interrupted by a shattering political scandal tied to YouTube.

The conversations of Turkish officials discussing how to manufacture a pretext to invade Syria were leaked through YouTube on March 27, 2014. The YouTube videos are analogous to the Ukraine regime change leak of the US State Department’s Assistant-Secretary Victoria Nuland. The Turkish leaked conversations also fit into the patterns of an internal struggle inside Turkey under which the conversations of Erdogan and Turkish officials had been leaked earlier.

The Downing of a Syrian Aircraft by Turkey

If the claims of Erdogan’s Turkish opponents are factual, what do they disclose about the shooting of a Syrian military jet by the Turkish military in late-March 2014? Ankara originally claimed that the Syrian aircraft had violated its airspace alongside another Syrian warplane that reversed course after Turkish jets were scrambled. The Turkish government also alleged that it gave four warnings to the Syrian military jet before shooting it down, but the Syrian government responded by saying that Ankara was categorically lying and that the Syrian jet was on a combat mission inside Syrian airspace over the Latakia District.

The General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces released a statement about the incident near the Syrian-Turkish border. The Turkish military statement is an omission of guilt that supports what the Syrians have said. Putting a shadow of doubt on Ankara’s claims that its airspace was violated, the Turkish military affirmed that the Syrian warplane crashed 1.2 kilometres inside Syrian territory. The statement of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces says that the Syrian aircraft went down at «1,200 meters to the south of the border on the Syrian territory in Kasab region.»

The geography of Kasab is important. It is a predominately-Armenian northern town near the Turkish border that is situated in the Governate of Latakia and its constituent Latakia District. Although Latakia Governate is mostly known for being the Syrian province with a high concentration of Alawites, it has a diverse population and its northern part is inhabited by many Christian Armenians. Towns like Esguran and Karadash are populated by ethnic Armenian. Kasab is also a name to remember; it will be mentioned again by other sources. The reports around the Syrian town paint the picture of some type of Turkish operation in the area and new push to open a new front in Syria or to reinforce the northern front.

It is also worth noting what the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said about the downing of the Syrian jet by Turkey. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is no friend of the Syrian government. It has supported regime change in Syria and has been caught fabricating vast amounts of information about the Syrian conflict just to promote the anti-government militias and ideas promoting regime change in Damascus. Despite its anti-government position, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also contradicts the AKP government’s claims about downing the Syrian jet for violating Turkish airspace. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has stated that the Turkish military «targeted a Syrian fighter bomber as it struck areas of the northern province of Latakia» while the Syrian military plane was engaged in an attack on the anti-government insurgents.

Regardless of the facts, Prime Minister Erdogan and his government have gone out of their way, in their characteristic wind-baggery, to threaten a «heavy response» against the Syrians. Days after the Syrian aircraft was shot down by the Turkish military, Ankara also started a rhetorical campaign to portray a picture of itself as a victim that was only reacting to provocation. The AKP government claimed that (1) Turkish warplanes were scrambled previously to prevent a Syrian aircraft from violating Turkish airspace and (2) that the Syrian military had been continuously harassing Turkish military jets patrolling their own Turkish airspace by intimidation, through putting  a radar lock on the Turks for targeting or firing purposes. Two points should be clarified about the latter Turkish grievance about the radar lock: it has no legal bearing nor does it signal any aggression against Turkey by the Syrians. Unlike frequency jamming, locking onto a target with a radar tracking system is not an act of aggression or a violation of sovereignty.

Ankara’s grievance was purely rhetorical and contrary to the facts about defensive military procedures. The units that are the target of any radar lock may become aware they are being monitored by a defensive tracking system that could fire on them, but this is not an offensive move. The radar locking is clearly a defensive stance on the part of Damascus which the Syrians and any other country have the right to do.

What Syrian units were doing with the Turkish jets is a clear indicator that Syria does not trust the Turkish government whatsoever. The Syrian military monitors Turkish warplanes inside Turkish airspace as a security precaution. The reasons for this are that the Syrians believe that Turkish warplanes could violate Syrian airspace or conduct some type of mission against Syria at any given moment.

A Turkish Offensive in the Governate of Latakia?

Focus must turn to the Tomb of Suleiman Shah now. Away from Latakia Governate and the Mediterranean coast, this mausoleum is located in the northern part of the Aleppo Governate of Syria. Before the downing of the Syrian military jet, Prime Minister’ Erdogan’s AKP government had repeatedly said that it was worried about the safety of the historic crypt.

Suleiman Shah was a Central Asian tribal chieftain from Merv, which is located in modern-day Turkmenistan. What makes him significant is that he was the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. This is why Suleiman’s tomb has historical importance to Turkish history and to Turks.

Despite the three years of fighting, the Turkish-guarded historic site was never threatened by either the government or insurgent camps inside Syria. Ankara, however, begun claimed that it was afraid that its own insurgent allies in Syria would attack the historic site. Thus an alarm was sounded by the AKP about the safety of the mausoleum. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu even held a conference from Van to address his government’s concerns about the relic’s safety.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu, however, went beyond the airing of concerns from Turkish authorities. Davutoglu vowed that Turkey would retaliate without the slightest hesitation to any attack on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah. He also clarified that Turkey had made preparations to intervene if the site or the Turkish guard unit stationed there should come under any form of attack. Vatan, a Turkish newspaper, quickly outlined that what Davutoglu meant was that Turkey was preparing to send troops across the Syrian border into Aleppo.

Threats in the form of a video against the historic site in Aleppo Governate were uploaded on YouTube days later. In the uploaded video the anti-government insurgents fighting in Syria warned the Turkish government that Ankara had a few days to surrender the historic site or that they would alternatively destroy it. The AKP used this to support its newest pretext for intervention into Syria. The video was uploaded on March 21, 2014.

In the same timeframe as the downing of the Syrian military jet, it was also reported by Turkish sources with varying degrees of emphasis that the Turkish Armed Forces had sent military ground units into the Syrian town of Kasab and its environs. Some sources said that the Turkish units were illegally escorting anti-government insurgents into Syrian territory, that wounded insurgents were also being taken back to Turkish military field hospitals (similar to the ones that Tel Aviv has setup in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the insurgents), and that the Turkish military was getting involved in expanding the combat zone in Syria.

Erdogan and the Turkish government were clearly planning something alongside the entire Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey has militarily helped the insurgents in their armed offensive on Kasab and Latakia District against the Syrian military. The downing of the Syrian aircraft was part of the Turkish support for this operation against Syria. The anti-government forces inside Syria would claim that they captured and secured government-controlled town of Kasab during this time period too.

In the United States, the Armenian Bar Association would send a letter of distress to the US government on March 25, 2014. The group would demand that the Obama Administration condemn the Turkish military incursion into Kasab. Members of the Armenian community would blast Turkey as being legally responsible for the violence in Syria and for the hardships and deaths of ethnic Armenians in Kasab and the Governate of Latakia.

Leak Wars: Erdogan, Davutoglu Caught Red Handed like Nuland, Catherine Ashton?

Bombshell revelations were made shortly after. Leaked conversations between Turkish officials about their plans in Syria were released. The leaks were made through two YouTube videos that were uploaded on March 27, 2014. One video was a little over seven minutes long, while the other was about nine minutes long.

Before this, Prime Minister Erdogan had been facing a steady stream of leaks exposing his government’s backdoor dealings and activities. Erdogan and AKP officials have blamed the Gulenists, an influential international movement run by a US-based Turkish preacher, for the previous leaks. Although the latest leaks could possibly be part of the internal conflict between Erdogan and the Gulenists inside Turkey, they could also be the work of a foreign intelligence agency.

Leaks of US and European Union officials have proven the increasing efficiency that divulging the secret conversations of governments has on exposing the underlying agendas of Washington and its cohorts. The leak of US Assistant-Secretary Victoria Nuland and US diplomat Geoffrey Pyatt illustrated how the goal of Washington in Ukraine had been regime change in Kiev and installing Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the prime minister of Ukraine. A later leak involving Catherine Ashton being told by Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet that the head doctor for the Euromaidan protesters expressed views that Yatsenyuk and lead opposition politicians could have been involved with the killing of civilians also put into serious question the narrative being peddled by the US, Canada, and the European Union about the protests in Kiev.

The Turkish leaks illustrate that Turkish authorities have been planning on manufacturing an incident with Syria. The basis for this could have and could be political motivations aimed at securing an AKP victory in the Turkish municipal elections being held at the end of March. The leaks revealed that, during a conversation, Foreign Minister Davutoglu tells Hakan Fidan, the chief of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), that an attack could help them.

Ahmet Davutoglu says, the «Prime Minister said that in the current conjuncture of time, this attack [on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah] must be seen as an opportunity for us.» Davutoglu is positing the use of an incident at the historical mausoleum as a pretext for a Turkish incursion into Syria. It remains to be seen if he was talking about the upcoming municipal elections strictly or if he could have been talking about the insurgent’s military offensive in northern Syria or even something else.

Hakan Fidan’s response, however, goes further. The MIT boss responds to Davutoglu with the following proposal: «I will send four men from inside Syria, if that is what it will take. I will make up a reason for war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey. We can also prepare a direct attack on the Tomb of Suleiman Shah if necessary.»

Suleiman Shah’s Tomb: Where Ottoman History’s Start is Where Neo-Ottomanism Ends

The reaction of the Turkish government to the leaks was quick. AKP authorities have said that the leaks are manipulated to paint the dialogue in a malicious way to undermine their government and Turkey. The AKP has called the leaks a serious threat to Turkish national security. As a result the Turkish government quickly blocked all YouTube use and access inside Turkey. This was done so that the Turkish population could not get access to the leaked conversations.

Several things needed to be analyzed and reflected on. The timing of the leaks, released only days before the March municipal elections in Turkey, is worth reflecting on. So are the assertions by the AKP that there is a conspiracy to topple the Turkish government.

Regardless, the unraveling events bring new life to the «neo-Ottoman» failures of Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu. Their visions of Turkey as an imperialist power have crumbled and the final nails are being hammered into its coffin. Some would argue that their neo-Ottomanism was really «pseudo-Ottomanism» the whole time. The two and the AKP have been slowly digging their own political graves through their Syria policy.

In a case of historical irony, Turkish history may in conceptual terms start at the Tomb of Suleiman Shah whereas Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s seems like it may start its ending there. There is a lot of grumbling in the lower ranks of the AKP about Erdogan. He has lost a lot of popularity, even among AKP loyalists. The municipal and regional elections are a litmus test for Prime Minister Erdogan and his AK Party. If the AKP does badly, Erdogan and his close associates will face an internal revolt in the AKP. This is why the March 2014 elections are so important for them and why it is not  unfathomable that they would create a new crisis with Syria for the sake of protecting their political careers.

A Response to the Events in Ukraine?

This entire scandal is more than a Turkish-style case of «Wag the Dog.» The consequences are unpredictable and could lead to escalation. They also come at a time where there is a US and NATO buildup on the western borders of Russia and Belarus in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea.

The Eurasian chessboard is in motion. The events in Syria and Turkey should not be viewed in a vacuum from other events in the broader world as if they are unrelated to one another. The pieces are moving on the geopolitical chessboard. Some type of confrontation between Turkey and Syria could very well be an answer to the events in Ukraine and Crimean reunification with Russia. In other words, a Turkish conflict with Syria may not merely be a ploy to help the AK Party during the March 2014 elections alone.

Additionally, the leaks further expose the involvement of the Turkish government in supporting the insurgency in Syria. Whatever remaining doubts that members of the AKP grassroots had that the AKP leadership is not corrupt, should go flying out the door. AKP leaders are not the pious Muslims they portray themselves as, they are conniving businessmen and liars that hide behind faith.

Deputy Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Yasar Guler is also part of the leaked conversation between Davutoglu and Hakan Fidan. Lieutenant-General Guler describes that what was being discussed between the Turkish officials was the ignition of a war between Turkey and Syria. In context of what was being discussed, he recommends during the conversation that Turkey increase its combat support for the insurgents inside Syria by making additional deliveries of weapon ammunition to their fighters.

Before these leaks, in January 2014, a scandal was caused when Turkish law enforcement personnel stopped an undercover MIT truck heading to Syria secretly. The MIT truck was filled with weapons for the insurgent fighters killing civilians and trying to topple the Syrian government. An embarrassed AKP claimed that “supplies” were merely being delivered to Syrian Turkmen and then refused to say anything more citing national security for the secrecy.

As a result of the increasing global public cognizance about the nefarious role of the Turkish government in destabilizing Syria, Turkey’s own collaborators and allies have been publicly distancing themselves from Prime Minister Erdogan and the AKP slowly — at least in part. Ankara should take note: there are now reports with unnamed officials from places allied to Turkey that are washing their hands clean of the actions of Turkey — making it sound like Turkey has been a maverick supporting Al-Qaeda with no US or NATO involvement.  These same people will not hesitate to abandon Turkey after it does their dirty work in the Black Sea or Middle East for them.

The original version of this article was published by the Moscow-based Strategic Culture Foundation (SCF).

Obama’s Speech on Ukraine: Vocal Juggler at Work

March 29th, 2014 by Oriental Review

International media chime on Wednesday’s speech of the US President Barack Obama in Brussels made us download and scroll down the transcriptThe overall impression: too many controversial statements and logical faults to take it seriously.

Examples:

- He started nicely with “…each of us has the right to live as we choose, the belief that power is derived from the consent of the governed and that laws and institutions should be established to protect that understanding.” – The undes