The World is at a dangerous crossroads. US-NATO is carrying out a fresh set of military drills in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States involving the deployment of several thousand troops.  These drills follow earlier military deployments in the Baltic States in October.  

According to NATO  General  Hans-Lothar Domrose, Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum:

“Previously, we conducted maneuvers involving 25,000-40,000 soldiers in the western NATO countries alone, and I can imagine that in the future we will also organize a similar event in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States,” (quoted by Die Welt)

These deployments consist of  ”rapid reaction forces numbering 5,000-7,000 troops that can reach the combat area within two to five days.”

The so-called action plan directed against the Russian Federation was decided upon at the September 2014 Wales summit of the Atlantic Alliance.

As part of this broader endeavour, NATO’s Iron Sword 2014 military exercises involving the participation of nine member countries of the Atlantic Alliance were launched in Lithuania on November 2nd.

 ”US tanks rolled in to Lithuania earlier this month is a show of force to Russia that it’s not welcome in the region.”

According to General Hans-Lothar Domrose (in his September 15 statement)  the deployments  were planned to take place in the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He underscored that NATO  would “respect agreements with Russia and the troops will not be there permanently”.

The military exercises are explicitly directed against Russia. According to Moscow, they consist in “increasing operation readiness” as well the transfer of NATO “military infrastructure to the Russian borders”.  According to Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov:

“I believe that NATO expansion is a mistake. To a certain degree, it is certainly a provocation, … It is an irresponsible policy that undermines commitments to build a common security system in Europe, based on equality of rights for all, regardless of alignment or non-alignment with any military-political bloc,” (Statement on margin of UN General Assembly in September, RIA Novosti)

It is worth noting that NATO war games were held in Latvia in October coinciding with country’s national elections. NATO also conducted war games in Turkey in October.

In response to NATO deployments on Russia’s borders,  the Russian Federation also conducted in early November extensive  war games in the sea of Barent.  The Russian drills consisted in testing “its entire nuclear triad consisting of strategic bombers; submarines and the “silo-based Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile  launched from Plesetsk in Arkhangelsk Oblast” on November 1st.

In an open letter to president Obama published by Global Research, Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark points to the dangers of  military confrontation with the Russian Federation

The overwhelming majority of the population of the U.S. is against being dragged into another disastrous war. Nothing is more dangerous than the aggressive U.S./NATO troop movements right on the borders of Russia.

Sending U.S. destroyers into the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea; scheduling threatening U.S./NATO war games and troop movements in East Europe; and imposing sanctions on the Russian Federation is a threat to peace on a world scale. We have seen the cost of past and continuing U.S. wars, which enrich the military corporations while impoverishing the targeted countries as well as poor and working people here in the U.S.

What is disturbing, to say the least, is that the antiwar movement in the US, Canada and the European Union has not taken a firm position with regard to US-NATO deployments in Eastern Europe. While piecemeal antiwar actions are carried out, the protest movements  fail to address the broader issue of global warfare, namely the dangers of a third world war.

War is presented by the media as a humanitarian endeavor. Sections of the antiwar movement in Western countries (supported by corporate foundations) tacitly endorse this perspective and pay lip service to NATO’s  ”Responsibility to Protect” (R2P). While mass demonstrations are conducted in relation to the threat of climate change, public opinion is largely unaware of the fact that the US and its allies are involved in a global military adventure which threatens the future of humanity.

Michel Chossudovsky is the author of  a forthcoming book entitled The Globalization of War. America’s Long War against Humanity, Global Research Publishers, Montreal, 2014

La política imperialista de Estados Unidos en América Latina adoptó distintas modalidades a lo largo del tiempo: entre 1945 y 1990 – pero especialmente durante las décadas de los ’60 y ’70 – se valió de la Doctrina de Seguridad Nacional, mientras que luego de la caída del Muro de Berlín y el final de la guerra fría, en 1989, la estrategia viró hacia tres objetivos principales: (a) mantener su status quo de potencia hegemónica mundial; (b) impedir la conformación de nuevos bloques regionales de poder, capaces de cuestionar o de rivalizar con su poder hegemónico, y (c) asegurar en el mediano plazo el monopolio de las fuentes de abastecimiento de recursos estratégicos, principalmente energéticos. Vale la pena detenerse, a propósito de este último punto, en un artículo recientemente escrito para Russia Today por el sociólogo y analista geopolítico Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: “Águilas del Imperio y terrorismo económico: ¿son los fondos buitre instrumentos de la política de los Estados Unidos?” (1). Allí el autor sugiere que la creciente tensión de los fondos buitres sobre Argentina podría tener relación con los planes de Argentina de explotar sus gigantescas reservas de gas de esquisto (shale gas) con la ayuda de Rusia, ni más ni menos que el principal enemigo de los yanquis en la disputa por el liderazgo energético mundial. Veamos de qué se trata.

En el epígrafe del mencionado artículo el analista señala: “¿Es una coincidencia que los fondos buitres estén poniendo cada vez mayor presión sobre Argentina, que se prepara para desarrollar la segunda –después de China– mayor reserva de gas de esquisto recuperable en el mundo?” No es necesario ser muy sagaz para darse cuenta de que la existencia de grandes reservas de energía podría reavivar el instinto imperial de los Estados Unidos sobre estas latitudes, tal como ha ocurrido con otros países en la historia reciente. Por esta razón, marca el autor, Argentina podría ser el siguiente objetivo de EE.UU.

TENSAS RELACIONES

Es interesante destacar, por otra parte, que el artículo comenta algunos acontecimientos recientes que marcan las cada vez más tensas relaciones entre Argentina y Estados Unidos, entre los que se destacan, por un lado, la crítica a los fondos buitres ante la 69ª Asamblea General y en el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU por parte de la Presidenta argentina, en la que menciona que los fallos del juez de Nueva Cork, Thomas Griesa, “no son un movimiento aislado” sino una estrategia bien calculada de “terrorismo económico” y, por el otro, la advertencia de seguridad para los ciudadanos estadounidenses que quieren viajar a Argentina o que ya están en el país emitida por la Embajada de norteamericana en Buenos Aires. Y si no fuera porque ocurrió después de la publicación del artículo en RT, seguramente el autor hubiera incluido, además, la carta que el 30 de octubre le envió Cristina Fernández a Barack Obama solicitándole que aclare si Nancy Soderberg, presidenta del Public Interest Declassication Board (PIDB), “organismo bajo responsabilidad directa del Gobierno de los Estados Unidos”, es la misma que integra el grupo lobbista de los fondos buitres, American Task Force Argentina, una situación que tensa aún más las relaciones entre ambos países.

La “petro-política”, señala el autor, forma parte de esa ecuación: “No fue un accidente que Cristina Kirchner terminara su discurso en la ONU diciendo que las enormes reservas de hidrocarburos que tiene su país podrían convertirse en una maldición (…) frente al peligro de que Washington se inmiscuya en la Argentina, como lo ha hecho en otros lugares, para el control de sus recursos energéticos”. Días después Argentina y Rusia, a través de la ministra de Industria, Débora Giorgi, y el presidente de Gazprom, Alexéi Miller, debatieron la posibilidad de llevar a cabo proyectos conjuntos, y llegaron a un acuerdo de cooperación para la explotación del gas de yacimientos no convencionales de la Argentina. Mientras que Rusia está dispuesta a ayudar a Argentina a desarrollar su economía, Estados Unidos se esfuerza para seguir presionándola, desestabilizándola para su propio beneficio e impedir que el país salga adelante convirtiéndose en un exportador energético, concluye el analista.

Pensar que los fondos buitres estén siendo utilizados por Estados Unidos para ejercer presión sobre Argentina en su guerra energética con Rusia, tal como lo sugiere Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, no es una paranoia o un razonamiento conspirativo como sostienen algunos voceros del establishment. De un modo u otro, como señala este autor en el último párrafo, los buitres están actuando como las “águilas del imperio”. Y si tienen dudas, que pregunten cuál es la opinión al respecto de kuwaitíes, afganos, iraquíes y libios, entre otros, que algunas experiencias tienen.

(1) Véase http://astroboy-en-multiverso.blogspot.com.ar/ “Las armas del imperio”, 28 de octubre de 2014. Allí también se reproduce el artículo citado de Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya en inglés: “Eagles of Empire and economic terrorism: Are vulture funds instruments of US policy?”

 Ricardo Goñi, Secretaría de Inversión Pública y Desarrollo Territorial/PROSAP, MPIyS, Gobierno de Entre Ríos.

El Diario es uno de los periódicos con más historia de la provincia de Entre Ríos. Editado en la ciudad de Paraná, ciudad capital de la provincia de Entre Ríos, en Argentina, circula por todo el territorio provincial reflejando en sus páginas el acontecer de la región. La redacción de El Diario, en cuanto a estilo y calidad editorial, ha caracterizado a la publicación desde sus comienzos. Han firmado en sus páginas periodistas, escritores y colaboradores destacados de diversos sectores de la comunidad. 

Palestinians collect their belongings from under the rubble of a residential tower, which witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on August 24, 2014. (Photo: UN Photo-Shareef Sarhan/flickr/cc)

Critics say it is “shameful” that a high-ranking U.S. military official suggested the Pentagon can learn lessons from Israel’s 50-day attack on Gaza this summer.

According the Jerusalem Post, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey made statements Thursday praising the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) for taking “extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties” during Operation Protective Edge.

Dempsey told an audience at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs: “We sent a team of senior officers and non-commissioned officers over to work with the IDF to get the lessons from that particular operation in Gaza.” He referred to the group of officers as the “lessons learned team.”

But Ramah Kudaimi of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation said Israel’s tactics should not be replicated.

“It is very disturbing and shameful that U.S. military commanders believe that what Israel did in Gaza is something to be applauded,” Kudaimi told Common Dreams. “Five hundred dead children does not seem to be evidence that Israel was trying to not kill civilians. The seven-year siege on Gaza is not a policy to avoid civilian suffering.”

Israel’s recent seven-week military assault on Gaza killed at least 2,194 Palestinians, at least 75 percent of them civilians and over 500 of them children.

“At least 80 percent of the 100,000 Palestinian homes damaged or destroyed were refugee homes,” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency reports.

The offensive damaged or destroyed over half of Gaza’s hospitals and health centers at a time when more than 11,000 were wounded, a UNRWA and World Health Organizationjoint investigation found.

Israel struck six UN schools sheltering Palestinians, including in cases where exact coordinates of the shelters were formally submitted by UNRWA to the Isreali military. These strikes alone killed at least 47 people and wounded hundreds.

Furthermore, Israel has been accused of potential war crimes by Amnesty International and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“It is very despicable that the U.S. continues to white-wash Israeli crimes while funding them through military aid,” said Kudaimi. “Dempsey’s statements are not shocking. Anyone who follows U.S. military policy, knows they too have problematic definitions of protecting civilians.”

Now that Republicans have taken over Congress, and John McCain is about to hold court in the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, it’s time for the government to ramp up the war propaganda.

On Thursday Reuters reported a terror attack allegedly planned by the fictitious terror group Khorasan was thwarted by the Pentagon.

“We took decisive action to protect our interests and remove their capability to act,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Thursday.

The Khorasan bad guys, according to the government narrative, pose “a more direct and imminent threat to the United States” than the Islamic State and were dispatched to Syria by al-Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri to fight against arch nemesis – of the U.S., the Gulf Emirates and Israel – Bashar al-Assad.

Instead, supposed Khorasan militants “will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.”

Previous attempts attributed to al-Qaeda’s supposed master bomber, Ibrahim al-Asiri, resulted in the fizzle bomb unleashed by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the Nigerian underwear bomber, and the cargo plane bombs allegedly discovered at the last minute by Saudi Arabia’s security boss on October 29, 2010.

For more on the overheated domestic terror threat posed by Khorasan, see our Khorasan: Toothpaste Bombers from Nowhere.

Khorasan, however, like its exaggerated explosives – including undetectable bombs inserted in the rectums of suicide bombers – does not exist.

“You haven’t heard of the Khorasan Group because there isn’t one,” writes  Andrew C. McCarthy. “It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorasan — the Iranian–Afghan border region — had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.”

No one, that is, embedded in the corporate media. Almost from the start the alternative media has called foul on the Khorasan legend.

Many in the establishment media now sheepishly admit Khorasan is a ruse. Dogged Obama partisans, however, in particular Media Matters, follow the government script a bit more closely than their less partisan colleagues.

After denouncing reality – characterized as a conservative conspiracy – Alexandrea Boguhn writes for the New Democrat organization that “the intelligence community has been monitoring the Khorasan group for some time, and Obama himself has publicly acknowledged its ties to al Qaeda.”

It really is astounding how eager so-called New Democrats are to support the neocon war agenda and push propaganda fabrications they denounced when Bush was in office.

US Elections: Obama Leads Democrats to Midterm Massacre

November 7th, 2014 by Mike Whitney

“The Republican victory does not represent a shift by the American population to the right, but demonstrates the bankrupt and reactionary character of the Democratic Party and the mass disillusionment with the Obama administration. In the absence of any progressive alternative to the two right-wing, corporate-controlled parties, the majority of potential voters stayed home. Voter turnout hit another record low, with only 38 percent going to the polls….Voter participation by young people fell particularly sharply. Barely one-third of eligible voters went to the polls in California, the most populous state.” Patrick Martin, Republicans win control of Senate in US congressional elections, World Socialist Web Site

“You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches, and then pull it out six inches, and say you’re making progress.” Malcolm X

The White House has denied claims that the midterm elections were a referendum on Barack Obama, but the polling data shows that they were. According to a CBS News exit poll:

“Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said their opinion of the president influenced their vote… 34 percent said they wanted to make a statement in opposition to Mr. Obama, while 20 percent said they voted in support of him.”

Those differences were more stark among Republican voters “61 percent (of whom) said they cast ballots to take a stand against the current administration. (Only) Thirty-five percent of those who voted for GOP candidates said Mr. Obama didn’t play a role in their decisions at the polling places.” (2014 midterm elections look like a referendum on Obama, CBS News)

There’s no doubt that antipathy towards Obama played a significant role in Tuesday night’s bloodbath. Even so, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insists that, “Most voters are deciding who to vote for based on the name that’s on the ballot, not the name that’s not….It’s up to those individual candidates, those Democratic candidates, to make decisions for themselves about how best the president and his support can be used to their benefit in the elections.”

In other words, the Democratic candidates that went down in flames on Tuesday, can only blame themselves. While that might be a good way to deflect responsibility, it certainly doesn’t square with the facts. Just get a load of these exit poll results from Forbes:

“45% of voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the country. It was the top issue of four listed on the exit poll ballot. Voters were generally pessimistic about it. Only 1% checked the box that said the economy’s condition was “excellent.” 70% said it was not so good or poor. 78% were worried about its direction in the next year. In another question, voters split pretty evenly: around a third of voters said it was getting better, getting worse, and staying about the same.

More voters expected the life for the next generation of Americans to be worse rather than better, 48 to 22%.” (Election Results From A To Z: An Exit Poll Report, Forbes)

What a damning survey. What a damning indictment of Obama. The vast majority of the people think the economy still stinks and that living standards for their kids are going to get a whole lot worse. And you wonder why the Dems got their heads handed to them on Tuesday? It’s because they failed on the number one issue, that’s why.

But the implosion of the Democratic party pales in comparison to the bigger issue, that is, that more and more people are dropping off the radar and out of the system. THAT is significant. Take a look at this from NPR’s All Things Considered on Wednesday:

Robert Siegel: “…as of today, according to numbers from the Associated Press, a bit over 83 million people voted. As a share of the voting-eligible population, that is 36.6 percent … if the national turnout rate doesn’t reach 38.1 percent, it would be the lowest turnout since the midterm elections of 1942. And as Michael McDonald points out, that was in the middle of the Second World War.” (Midterm Elections May Have Had Record Low Turnout NPR All Things Considered)

Now you might think that the bigshots in Washington don’t care if you vote or not, but you’re wrong. They do care. You see, they put together this shiny-new system called “democracy” that conceals their looting operations behind a masque of “public approval”. That approval comes in the form of balloting which they see as a necessary component for keeping the serf-sheeple in line and for shifting ever-larger amounts of the nation’s wealth to their criminal friends on Wall Street. Only now, it looks like the curtain has slipped a bit, and more people are opting out of this Potemkin-charade of “representative government”. Check this out from the World Socialist Web Site:

“Voter turnout was at record lows, with two-thirds of those eligible to vote staying away from the polls. This mass abstention was particularly pronounced among the poorest and most oppressed sections of the working class—those most disillusioned by the empty promises of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

In Michigan, for example, voter turnout in Detroit was only 31 percent, well below the 40 percent level predicted by city officials. This shortfall accounts for the entire margin of defeat for the Democratic candidate for governor, Mark Schauer, running against Republican incumbent Rick Snyder…

Perhaps the most revealing finding in the exit polls was that two-thirds of those who cast ballots Tuesday viewed the US economic system as deeply unfair and rigged in favor of the wealthy. There was evidence in the exit polls that millions are losing faith in the capitalist system altogether, and not merely expressing discontent with the conditions of economic slump that have prevailed since the financial crash of 2008.” (Republicans, Obama prepare post-election escalation of war, social attacks, Patrick Martin, World Socialist Web Site

People are throwing in the towel, they’ve had it up to here with this crummy system that only delivers for the 1 percent. Everyone knows that the country is ruled by an oligarchy of racketeers who don’t give a rip about anything except pumping up the bottom line and stiff-arming working people. Why participate in a system like that?

And don’t give me that hogwash about the “differences between the two parties”.

What a laugh. Did you notice how Obama snuggled up to Mitch McConnell just hours after the Dems took their biggest shellacking in history?

It’s all a show. These guys are all in bed together. They don’t care about you and me. It’s a joke.

Just look at the cynical game the Dems are playing to convince their constituency that they actually have “heartfelt convictions” and that they’re true liberals. They’re always blabbering about same sex marriage and “a woman’s right to choose”. Why do you figure that is?

It’s because their corporate Sugar daddies tell them to steer-clear of any issue that might cost them some of their precious money, like higher wages, better benefits, job security, health care, pensions, unions etc; all the things the Dems say they care about, but never lift a finger to support.

Remember how President Dipstick flew over Wisconsin blowing kisses to the people below while Scott Walker was busy dismantling collective bargaining rights for public workers?

That’s the Dems attitude towards working people in a nutshell. That’s why they’re all about gay rights and abortion. It’s because they threw working people under the bus 30 fu**ing years ago. Abortion is the last thing they can hang their hat on. It’s pathetic. Here’s how Joseph Kishore sums it up over at the WSWS:

“The Democratic strategy of appealing to affluent layers of the middle class on the basis of identity politics while working with the Republicans to step up attacks on workers’ jobs, wages and living standards produced an electoral disaster. In a contradictory way, reflecting a system monopolized by two right-wing parties of big business, the election showed that appeals on the basis of race, gender and sexuality move only a small fraction of the population, while the broad masses of people are driven by more fundamental class issues—issues on which the Democrats have nothing to offer…

Underlying these processes is a profound crisis—not only of the Democratic Party, but of the entire political system. Both parties represent the interests of a tiny layer of the corporate and financial elite in alliance with the military-intelligence apparatus. Beyond the confines of the top 5 or 10 percent of the population, the state confronts a working class that is angry, dissatisfied and increasingly hostile.”
(The Democratic Party implosion, Joseph Kishore, World Socialist Web Site)

The system is in crisis, and the reason should be obvious to anyone willing to pull his head out of the sand long enough to see what’s really going on. It’s because capitalism doesn’t deliver the goods. It’s that simple. Everything is stacked in favor of the moneybags bloodsuckers on top. They don’t even try to hide it anymore. Have you noticed how Maserati sales are threw the roof?

It’s true. America’s a great place if you got dough. And if you don’t, well, then you might want to get yourself a nice, comfy cardboard box and a dry-spot by the river.

Is it any wonder why people under 30 have checked out entirely? They’re not buying this “capitalism is wonderful” horsecrap. They feel the sting of this system every damn day. Do you really think that a college grad with an MBA in engineering who’s living in his parent’s crawlspace, who’s wracked up a heaping $65,000 in student loans, and who has over 200 job rejections stacked a mile-high on his desk, gets up every morning thinking, “God I’m glad I live in America. Isn’t it swell to live in a country where everyone has a chance to get ahead?”

Right. These people have already quit the system and they’re not coming back. Among young voters (aged 18-29) only 13 percent cast ballots on Tuesday. There’s your ringing endorsement of capitalism in one dazzling data-point: 13 freaking percent. That’s a system that has out-lived its shelf-life if you ask me.

One last thing: We should give a hat tip to some of the people who figured out what Obama was all about from the get go, like the editors of Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. Counterpunch has been skewering President Flim Flam for more 8 years now, even when the liberal “thought police” blasted anyone who as much as uttered a cross word about him. (I wonder how many of those die-hard Ombamabots have the stones to admit now that they were wrong? Not many, I’ll bet.)

Anyway, take a look at this Cockburn article I dug up from the CP archives. It pretty well sums up the editorial position of the magazine… And it was written back in November, 2003:

“In these last days I’ve been scraping around, trying to muster a single positive reason to encourage a vote for… Obama-Biden, as opposed to the McCain-Palin ticket?…

In substantive terms Obama’s run has been the negation of almost every decent progressive principle, a negation achieved with scarcely a bleat of protest from the progressives seeking to hold him to account. The Michael Moores stay silent. Abroad, Obama stands for imperial renaissance. He has groveled before the Israel lobby and pandered to the sourest reflexes of the cold war era. At home he has crooked the knee to bankers and Wall Street, to the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear lobby, the big agricultural combines. He is even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain, and has been the most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists. He has been fearless in offending progressives, constant in appeasing the powerful.”…

“Obama invokes change. Yet never has the dead hand of the past had a “reform” candidate so firmly by the windpipe.” (Change You Can See, Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch)

Cockburn knew that Obama was a fake and that the Democratic leadership had no intention of changing anything. The plan was to crank the Bush agenda up to full-throttle; expand the wars, increase the surveillance, eviscerate civil liberties, and shift more of the nation’s wealth to their feral-tycoon bosses on Wall Street. That was the plan and that’s what they did.

Tuesday’s electoral meltdown was just blowback from the many rank and file Dems who were either too mad to vote the party ticket or too distraught to even drag themselves to the polling booths. And therein lies the silver lining to this mess, which is that people are disillusioned, frightened and angry. They hate Wall Street, the media, the do-nothing Congress, and the sell-out-loser Democrats. They want change and they’re willing to move further to the right or left to get it.

That should be fertile ground for even the most fainthearted revolutionary. There’s no reason why the public’s frustration and can’t be channeled into more productive activity, like a general strike, a mass exodus from the two-party duopoly, or a thundering march on the Capital.

Why waste all that rage on whining and handwringing? The system is broken. Deal with it.

Organize. Grab a pitchfork. Do something!

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].

Violent clashes broke out in Belgium as more than 100,000 protesters marched in Brussels against the government’s austerity measures. Police deployed water cannon as dockworkers, metalworkers and students took to the streets.

The violence flared up at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest, with tear gas deployed as some radical demonstrators hurled objects at riot police and launched attacks with the barriers against the officials. Some set off colored smoke flares.

At least 14 people were taken to hospital following the violence, according to national daily HLN.be. The Belgian government which assumed power just a month ago has caused unrest with promises to raise the retirement age, cancel a wage rise in line with inflation and cut health and social security benefits – moves that undermine the country’s welfare state.

People supporting the march have said that the austerity cuts only target workers while unfairly letting businesses off the hook. The government is intending, through the cuts, to save some 11 billion euros ($13.8 billion). “The signal is clear. People are angry, livid. This government’s policies are totally unbalanced,” ACV union chief Marc Leemans told Reuters.

The union estimates around 120,000 have turned up for Thursday march, dockworkers, metalworkers and students among them.

Protesters’ banners included: “Eliminate the causes of the crisis, not the poor,” and “Hands off the pension age.”

A small group set a police motorcycle on fire.

More protests are planned, including weekly regional strikes from November 24 and a national strike for December 15. The mass-action is also seeing a work slowdown which is having a detrimental effect on public institutions such as schools and post offices, as well as the ports of Antrwerp and Zeebrugge.

Workers rights have been cut – not only the wages but the rights and the capacity to continue to know what are the main guidelines of the European societies. Because now I think we don’t know it anymore,” Marisa Matias of the Confederal Group of the European United Left told RT.

“In southern Europe – in Portugal, where I’m from – these measures do nothing but increase social problems.”

Image: Demonstrators confront riot police in central Brussels November 6, 2014.(Reuters / Yves Herman)

Image: Demonstrators confront riot police during clashes in central Brussels November 6, 2014.(Reuters / Francois Lenoi)

Image: Demonstrators confront riot police in central Brussels November 6, 2014. (Reuters / Yves Herman)

Watch video here

Tony Blair Enables Israeli Raids in the West Bank

November 7th, 2014 by David Cronin

Tony Blair, seen here passing through an Israeli checkpoint, is trying to make the occupation a little more subtle. (Najeh Hashlamoun / APA images)

Words can lose their meaning when Tony Blair speaks.

Collecting his “philanthropist of the year” award from GQ magazine, Blair recently saidhe could feel the “pulse of progress beating a little harder.”

Judging by the pronouncements he has made as a Middle East “peace envoy,” Blair’s definition of “progress” appears different from the standard one.

In 2010, Blair hailed a tiny easing of Israel’s siege on Gaza as a “significant change.”

The following year he praised Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator who facilitated that siege, as a “force for good.”

And earlier this month, Blair claimed that John Kerry was “absolutely tireless” in his efforts to promote peace, conveniently forgetting that the US secretary of state had publicly endorsed Israel’s attack on Gaza during the summer.

Lobbying Israel?

Those attempts to pervert language are more brazen than one I found on the website run by Blair’s office in Jerusalem.

A “rule of law program” involving the Blair team aims to help the Palestinian Authority(PA) “expand the scope of its legal and security footprint” in the occupied West Bank. In order to achieve that goal, the team is “lobbying” Israel to “reduce military incursions” into the towns and cities where most Palestinians in the West Bank live.

Collectively known as Area A, these towns and cities are theoretically controlled by the PA from a “security” perspective.

Blair and his team are also pressing Israel to “allow for the expansion of PA legal and security infrastructure” into Area B, which is under Israeli military control. And they want Israel to let the PA use roads — “transportation networks” as they call them — reserved for the exclusive use of Jews in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank that includes Israel’s settlements.

Despite the jargon, there is something instructive about the choice of words here. By pushing for Israel to “reduce military incursions,” Blair’s team appears to be implying that Israel has a legitimate right to undertake some military activities on Palestinian land.

I contacted Blair’s office, seeking clarification. A spokesperson replied that Blair’s team operates “under a technical mandate” stemming from the Oslo accords. Part of the “mandate” covers security coordination, yet “beyond that, we do not comment on the legitimacy of certain actions,” the spokesperson added.

That refusal to comment amounts to acquiescence. Tony Blair and his team accept that Israel may attack the main Palestinian towns and cities. They would just prefer it if Israel did not do so too often.

Bias

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Blair is asking Israel to throw a few crumbs of charity to the Palestinians. If Israel allows a few Palestinian police stations to open and a few Palestinian squad cars to drive on its apartheid roads, then Blair can rest assured that the pulse of progress is beating a little faster.

Blair’s bias can also be detected in the latest annual report from his office. In his preface, Blair notes that “the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and an extensive Israeli army operation in the West Bank” this summer.

The bureaucrats for whom Blair’s summary was intended would have to consult other sources to be reminded of what the “extensive” operation entailed. Blair made no reference to how Israel killed 45 Palestinians — among them nine children — in the West Bank between January and mid-September.

Furthermore, Blair didn’t deem it noteworthy that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government used the murder of the Israeli teenagers as a pretext for a wave of collective punishment against Palestinians. More than 2,350 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank between June and September; hundreds of them were held without charge or trial — administrative detention in Israel’s parlance.

Blair was similarly blasé about the massacres Israel carried out in Gaza in July and August. His report merely referred to a “conflict” that “resulted in widespread fear, destruction and loss of life.”

Make him pay

I find it hard to believe that Blair is “lobbying” Israel in any real sense. That is because Blair has long been part of a lobby that supports Israel, rather than pressing for an end to its criminal behavior.

As a newly-elected member of Parliament in 1983, Blair joined Labour Friends of Israel, a Zionist group within his political party.

He has professed his love for Israel ever since then. Last year, he called Shimon Peres— a fellow war criminal who approved an infamous attack on a UN shelter in Lebanon— one of Israel’s “great thinkers.”

Tony Blair’s office is funded by three main donors. Between 2007 and 2013, the US provided it with $13.5 million. The European Commission was in second place with almost $10 million; Norway third with $3.7 million.

Blair isn’t paid for his job as “peace envoy” — his formal title is “quartet representative” as he belongs to a club comprising of the US, the European Union, the UN and Russia. Yet he does have his meals and accommodation covered.

For much of that period, Blair stayed in the American Colony, a luxurious hotel in occupied East Jerusalem.

Like many others, I find it obscene that a man who helped launch the invasion of Iraqmasquerades as a peace envoy. Even if Blair isn’t drawing a salary for that work, it is unacceptable that he can still dine at the taxpayer’s expense.

I agree fully with the campaign to have Blair sacked as “peace envoy” — indeed, I have gone further and tried to arrest him for war crimes. Once he is sacked, he should be required to reimburse us for every cent that was spent on his food and lodging.

If that happens, then the pulse of progress will genuinely beat a little faster.

US: “Stop ISIS By Attacking Assad’s Oil Pipelines!”

November 7th, 2014 by Brandon Turbeville

As I wrote in my article, “Big Oil, Qataris, Saudis Lick Lips As US ‘Fights ISIS’ By Bombing Syrian Pipelines,” the propaganda narrative regarding the Syrian crisis has now reached the level of total absurdity. It is now being reported by the mainstream media that the United States must bomb Syrian oil pipelines in order to defeat the ISIS threat that NATO itself created.

While logically fallacious, the rationale offered to the American public remains that ISIS is making millions of dollars per day via the sale of the oil taken from the fields in its possession on the black market to a number of different states.

Yet, while the U.S. media does not bother to explain just how ISIS manages to extract, refine, and ship the oil, or how it is able to procure deals, and complete their transactions outside of the knowledge of Western militaries, governments, and intelligence agencies to the tune of $2 million per day, these outlets do provide the solution – bomb the oil pipelines belonging to Bashar al-Assad.

Of course, while it is most likely true that ISIS is using their commandeered oil sites to support themselves on a number of fronts, and even attempting (with some success) to sell that oil, the idea that ISIS is somehow able to evade the most sophisticated monitoring network in the entire world during the process of obtaining, refining, selling, and delivering oil across the region is entirely unbelievable. Indeed, it is about as believable as the claim that ISIS was able to seize such large swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq without the knowledge of the United States and NATO until it was too late.

As Maram Susli writes for New Eastern Outlook,

The trouble with this justification for destroying Syria’s oil pipelines, is that ISIS does not have the capability to use the pipelines to transfer oil. ISIS transports the stolen oil on the back of trucks, and sells it on the black market in Turkey.

This is admitted in the same Independent article that quoted Ms. Noyes. [Julieta Valls Noyes]

The Independent claims:

Isis has sold some of the fuel from seized facilities back to the Damascus regime through local deals, while shipments had been sent into Turkey for the black market, with the Erdogan government accused of turning a blind eye to the illicit transactions.

If the US truly intended to stop ISIS oil profits, they would bomb these oil convoys, which are easily spotted via conventional surveillance flights already allegedly taking place as part of ongoing Western operations. The US agenda behind destroying Syria’s pipelines has very little to do with ISIS oil profits, and far more to do with destroying Syria’s oil infrastructure.

Susli also points out the questionable nature of the claims suggesting that ISIS is making millions of dollars worth of profits in the oil industry when she writes,

In fact, the statistic that ISIS is making 2 million dollars a day from the sale of crude oil is an estimate from a single consulting company (IHS) based in Colorado in the United States. The US administration is choosing to quote this as if it were without a shred of doubt. It’s far more likely that the scale of the profits has been overblown to deflect from the fact that ISIS is receiving funding from state actors such as Turkey, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states, while at the same time providing an excuse to target Syrian infrastructure.

Indeed, it cannot be forgotten that, among the countries listed as hosting ISIS customers by mainstream outlets like CNN, Turkey and Jordan are at the top of the list, both close American allies and one a member of NATO. Even more interesting is the fact that ISIS has also allegedly sold “black market” oil to buyers in a number of EU member states.

Still, this newly-formed ISIS oil company is now claimed to be one of the US’ “primary concerns” by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, Julieta Valls Noyes, during her recent trip to London. As usual, the U.S. response to its “concerns” involves the “possibility of airstrikes.”

Of course, having crossed the boundaries of sanity and logic a long time ago, the United States and its media mouthpieces are now pushing the fantasy that Bashar Al-Assad is one of the buyers of ISIS oil.

In other words, NATO and the U.S. in particular are trying to convince the general public that Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting ISIS and related terror organizations for at least 4 years, is now buying oil from ISIS in order to fight ISIS. Therefore, according to the American government, the U.S. must fight ISIS by blowing up the oil pipelines that rightfully belong to Assad so ISIS does not fund itself by selling oil to Assad.

Of course, this is not merely staggering logic. It is a lie. It is nothing more than a cover to mask the true nature of the funding of ISIS and other takfiri militants operating in Iraq and Syria, namely that the funding is coming from the United States, NATO, and the GCC. Like the ridiculous claims that ISIS was funding itself entirely through secretive private Twitter donations, the “oil sales” argument is one that should be taken with a healthy dose of salt. After all, mainstream outlets are also asserting that ISIS is selling some of this oil to the Syrian government, a lose-win-lose situation for both sides and a rather poor attempt to portray Assad as an ally of ISIS.

In reality, it should always be remembered that ISIS is entirely a creation of the West and that it remains fundamentally under the control of NATO and the GCC.

Another relevant piece of the puzzle that must be kept in mind is the coveted Qatari oil pipeline desired by both Qatar and the United States. This pipeline would run up from Qatar through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey and, from there, on to the rest of Europe. The establishment of this pipeline would have provided for a much-needed backup plan for Europe that is currently dependent on Russia for much of its supply. Remember, it was in 2009 that Assad nixed the plan for the development of this pipeline.

In lieu of the Qatari deal, Assad began negotiating a deal with Iran that would have seen a pipeline built across Iraq and Syria that also would have provided gas to Europe.

As Nafeez Ahmed wrote for The Guardian in 2013,

The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.

With this in mind, one can clearly see the incentive that Western governments would have in the destruction not only of the potential Iran-Iraq-Syria oil/gas pipeline but also of the existing oil and gas pipeline infrastructure that currently exists. A bombing of Syria’s oil pipelines would subsequently allow the Qataris to rebuild the infrastructure that its allies destroyed and, as a result, weaken Russia even further on the geopolitical grand chessboard.

Lastly, it should not be forgotten that the destruction of Syria’s oil and gas infrastructure weakens the Syrian government’s forces. Remember, in instances where the United States has bombed Syrian oil refineries so far, SAA forces were poised to move in to retake control of the oil refineries managed by terrorists funded by Western powers, but the United States initiated airstrikes just in the nick of time to deprive SAA forces of the opportunity to seize some of the oil refinery infrastructure it desperately needs.

It is also important to note that virtually none of the infrastructure being destroyed by the United States airstrikes was built by ISIS. It was built by the Syrian government. The reality of the bombing campaign is that the United States and its allies are destroying important regions of Syria and leaving nothing of real value for the Syrian military to retake after its long-fought battles against ISIS.

Susli, writing for New Eastern Outlook, says as much when she writes that,

Earlier last month the US-led airstrikes on Syria and Iraq supposedly destroyed small oil refineries in Raqqa. No effort was made to prove whether or not ISIS was in fact capable of using Syria’s oil refineries. In fact the same consulting company which the US administration is quoting about ISIS oil profits (IHS), states that ISIS is selling unrefined crude oil. The IHS adds the caveat that this estimate was made before ‘US airstrikes’ eluding to the notion that US airstrikes have had an effect on ISIS oil profits. However, the Britain based pro-insurgency Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which was the West establishment-run media’s most reliable source years into the Syrian crisis, said that the oil refineries were not real targets and were not being used by ISIS.

Reuters would report:

These so-called refineries are not a real target and they do not weaken the Islamic State as they do not have any financial value for them,” Rami Abdel Rahman of the Observatory told Reuters. “They are composed of trucks with equipment to separate diesel and petrol used by civilians.

This was particularly the case in Dayr el Zor, where the SAA had previously launched a major offensive against the death squads causing ISIS fighters to be trapped by aerial bombardment and escape routes cut off by the SAA. In other words, the death squads were trapped in Dayr el Zor, the city was weeks away from being liberated, and the surrounding areas were set to be reconquered by the SAA. This, of course, would have led directly to the retaking of the oil refineries by the Syrian government. Unfortunately, that opportunity has now been lost as a result of the U.S. airstrikes which destroyed the refinery infrastructure.

In the end, the latest claims presenting ISIS as impenetrable in its secrecy and daunting in its war and financial strategy is nothing more than pure propaganda. It is nothing more than a justification designed to goad the American people into continued complacency in the face of further US military intervention in Syria and the open assault on the Syrian government. Unfortunately, this has become a task which is far too easy.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 300 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

Several protesters have been killed and dozens injured and arrested across Egypt in a new wave of anti-government protests.

Two people lost their lives in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams on Friday while two others were killed by security forces in the village of Defeno in Fayoum Province.

Meanwhile, dozens of demonstrators including women have been wounded and arrested during rallies in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, and other provinces.

Following the ouster of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current president and the former head of the Egyptian armed forces, in July 2013, Egyptians have been staging massive anti-government protests across the country.

Sisi is accused of leading the suppression of Muslim Brotherhood supporters as hundreds of them have been killed in clashes with Egyptian security forces over the last year.

Rights groups say the army’s crackdown on anti-government protesters has left over 1,400 people dead and 22,000 arrested, while some 200 people have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

Ending The Cuba Blockade, Normalizing US-Cuba Relations

November 7th, 2014 by Ricardo Alarcón

In my article currently circulating in Nueva Réplica I regretted that the New York Times had not raised the case of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio in its editorial last October in which the paper called for ending the US blockade against Cuba.

When I wrote it, I did not imagine that with that document, the New York paper would start an important debate, which has lasted a month and includes several editorials advocating a substantial change in the relations between the two countries. The latest one, published Sunday, November 2, proposed that the three be released and that in exchange, Cuba for humanitarian reasons would free Alan Gross who was sentenced here for participating in illegal activities to overthrow the revolutionary government. This a fair and reasonable position. The paper is right when it defines the release of three Cuban heroes as a vital step towards civilized coexistence between two countries that are and will always be neighbors.

It should be added to the arguments of the Times that none of the Five were accused of espionage and therefore were not “spies”. As was demonstrated at the trial in Miami, none of them had access to secret information related to the national security of the United States. Neither had been given directions to look for that kind of information. This was acknowledged under oath by Gen. James R. Clapper who was a government witness whose testimony appears on pages 13089-13235 of the trial transcript. It’s the same Clapper who today is the Director of National Intelligence in the Obama Administration.

It is also necessary to remember that the mission of the Five was to try to thwart terrorist plans against Cuba which more than once have caused death and damage also to people living in United States.

But, in any case, this editorial from the New York Times should be hailed as an event of transcendental importance. The wall of silence surrounding the case of the Five has received a devastating blow which hopefully is final.

Ricardo Alarcon Quesada is President of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power

Translation by Walter Lippmann

 

The United States’ bombing of Syria and Iraq since mid-September 2014 and the Israeli onslaught on Gaza in July and August 2014 show once again the extreme weakness of International Law and International Human Rights organisations in deterring, punishing these illegal wars of aggression or in finding mediated solutions. Neither International Courts nor United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict offer any realistic solutions. Moreover, we’ve just learned that the International Criminal Court will not investigate the Israeli attack on the Gaza Flotilla in 2010 that left ten people on the Flotilla dead.

Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan

Since early 2011, Syria has been the victim of a massive invasion by diverse Islamic terrorist organisations, western proxy organisations—“mercenaries” according to Mother Agnès-Mariam de la Croix of Syria—supported and financed by the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Bombing civilian targets, terrorising and murdering civilians—including beheading—has been the order of the day. About 200,000 have died and there are almost 2.5 million refugees in countries surrounding Syria. These crimes committed against the Syrian people should be punished but there is no viable mechanism or political will available.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda has turned a blind eye to the sufferings of Syria and the Syrian people when she could have acted. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey benefit from total legal impunity since they are not bound by the Rome Statute. But all is not lost since the Rome Statute binds Great Britain and France. Their leaders can be charged for aiding and abetting crimes committed in Syria by the Free Syrian Army and the multitude of Jihadists carrying out atrocities. Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, is serving a 75-year sentence imposed by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for aiding crimes committed by insurgents in Sierra Leone. The Prosecutor of the ICC does not even need a formal complaint to begin. The Prosecutor can take the initiative by petitioning the Court for leave to lay charges against François Hollande and David Cameron and/or other political or military leaders. The Prosecutor took this initiative with respect to the purely internal dispute arising as a result of the Kenyan election violence in 2007-2008. The Kenyan violence, a serious internal problem, is of much less gravity than the massive death and displacements in Syria, probably by a factor of about 200 to 1.

The double standard of Fatou Bensouda is also evident from the impunity of Great Britain for the crimes committed in Iraq and the impunity of the United States, France and Canada for crimes committed in Afghanistan, the latter, a signatory to the Rome Statute. Prosecutor Bensouda has a different attitude when crimes are committed by the proxies of United States and Europe in neo-colonialist aggression on Syria compared to internal unrest and serious violence in Kenya. Kenyan politicians and the African Union consider the ICC charges against the Kenyan President and Vice President as “demeaning, condescending, neo-colonial posturing,” to use the words of defense lawyer, Chief Charles Taku[1]. The threat of charges at the International Criminal Court is considered as a means of preventing the commission of war crimes. On the other hand, the consistent failure to act provides tacit guarantees of full impunity.

More recently, since September 2014, the United States has undertaken a bombing campaign on the east and north-east of Syria. This campaign is illegal since Syria is a sovereign country which has not authorized such strikes. There has been no Security Council resolution permitting these attacks. No excuse such as the threat of Isis, can justify such a violation of international law. It has become generally known that the ISIS is a simple mutation of the terrorist groups that the United States and others have been supporting and arming since 2011. The United States benefits from double impunity at the ICC since the United States is not a signatory to the Treaty of Rome and the crime of aggression is not recognized by the Treaty of Rome. It is most likely that the bombing serves to destroy Syrian infrastructures and is a precursor to a campaign to oust President Bashar el-Assad elected on June 3, 2014 with a 62% majority. The United States is unmoved by the fact that this type of regime change is illegal in international law. It is likely that Syria will lose control of some areas of north-eastern Syria to Turkey and NATO if this loss of control has not yet been materialized.

Similarly, the simultaneous bombing of Iraq is very problematic. Only after replacing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by Haider al-Abadi and the formation of a new government in early September was the bombing authorized by Iraq. American military authorities are saying that ground forces will necessary and President Obama has promised a bombing campaign. Canadian troops are on the ground in Iraq. A full land invasion is quite likely. Where is the ICC Prosecutor with this threat of aggressive war and war crimes? Once again, there is no protection offered by International Law and international organisation against this implementation of aggressive war on Syria and Iraq.

Gaza

After the Israeli war on Gaza in July and August 2014, there has been much talk about possible charges against Israeli leaders at the International Criminal Court. The Prosecutor has stated publicly that there can be no charges at least until the Palestinian authority has signed and ratified the Rome Statute. If and when this happens, there will be long time delays before even a preliminary examination can be undertaken. Furthermore, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute. The lack of political will of the Prosecutor does not bode well for the Palestinian victims of summer 2014.

There has been considerable discussion of the so-called United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict (HRC Gaza Commission) voted by the Human Rights Council on 23 July 2014. The naming of one of the Commissioners, William Schabas, has been the subject of considerable controversy since Schabas has been critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres. In response to the allegations if impartiality, he stated to the Canadian Jewish News on 25 August 2014, that “Explain to me what it means to be a foe of Israel, because I have nothing against Israel. I’ve visited it frequently. I love the people there, I love the country. I don’t have any opposition to Israel.”

William Schabas is not a stranger to international commissions and testimony in international cases, in particular known for his support for Rwandan dictator and United States ally, President Paul Kagame. Schabas has testified as a so-called “expert” on behalf of the Government of Rwanda in favour of extradition of four men from Britain to Rwanda. His testimony was to the effect that fair trials could be held in Rwanda so extradition was justified. On 8 April 2009, British High Court Judges Law and Sullivan did not believe him and referred to his testimony as being “unreliable, cavalier in his approach, lacking in neutrality. He was not a dispassionate observer. He was not up to date on Rwanda” and that his changing position “undermines his reliability as a dispassionate expert.”[2]

William Schabas is known since 1993 for his partiality in favour of the United States ally, the Rwandan Patriotic Front. He was a member of another “commission” in 1993, International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda Since October 1, 1990. In February 1993. He was co-author of its final report severely criticised for its biased approach, investigating only the Rwandan Government and ignoring the excesses of the RPF “rebels”.

The HRC Gaza Commission will no doubt limit itself to deciding on the basis of international humanitarian law and add to its likely muted criticism of Israel some unfair criticism of the Palestinian resistance for bombing Israel – of course with its very limited military means. It will not take into account, the right of the Palestinian resistance to use all means including military means to regain the full national rights of Palestine as recognised by paragraph 5 of General Assembly Resolution 3236 adopted on 22 November 1974. It will not and cannot call for the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territory and a complete resolution of the Palestinian issue by a necessary political solution.

Back to Fundamental Principles

Recent international criminal law has virtually eradicated the principle of the sovereign equality of peoples. The fundamental principle of the Nuremberg judgment, namely that the crime against peace is the greatest international crime, has been replaced by superpower intervention by military might under the doctrine of the right to protect (R2P), and by political and judicial intervention. It is necessary to reinforce the United Nations with the fundamental principles on which it was created. When these reforms have been completed and the principles underlying the United Nations have been re-established and adapted to the early twenty-first century, it is possible that a fair International Criminal Court may be born, just as the international community had hoped at the end of the Second World War. There could then be a true deterrent to the wave of aggressive wars which are a plague to the early 21st century.

John Philpot is an international criminal defense lawyer who has defended clients before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, including the Appeal Court in The Hague, and the International Criminal Court. He is co-editor of Justice Belied, The Unbalanced Scales of International Criminal Justice (Baraka Books, 2014)

Notes:

[1] Chief Charles Taku, “The ICC and Kenya: Going beyond the Rhetoric,” in of Justice Belied, The Unbalanced Scales of International Criminal Justice (Baraka Books, 2014)

[2] Neutral Citation Number: [2009] EWHC 770 (Admin) , Case Nos: CO/5521/2008, CO/5686/2008, CO/7806/2008, CO/8429/2008, CO/5861/2008, CO/6247/2008 & CO/8862/2008, IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

DIVISIONAL COURT ON APPEAL FROM THE CITY OF WESTMINSTER MAGISTRATES COURT,(District Judge Evans)(AND IN THE MATTER FOR JUDCIAL REVIEW,Royal Courts of Justice,Strand, London, WC2A 2LL,Date: 08/04/2009,Before :LORD JUSTICE LAWS and LORD JUSTICE SULLIVAN, Between :Vincent Brown aka Vincent Bajinja,Charles Munyaneza , Emmanuel Nteziryayo, Celestin Ugirashebuja, Appellants and The Government of Rwanda And The Secretary of State for the Home Department,Respondents

Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scales of International Criminal Justice (By Sébastien Chartrand & John Philpot, editors)

An aura of respectability hovers over international criminal tribunals. “Undeservedly,” say many practitioners who bring to bear hard facts and penetrating analysis. African jurists, who are rarely consulted, describe the nearly exclusive focus on Africa as “demeaning,” “condescending,” and “neo-colonial posturing.” International criminal law has also been touted as a means to fight impunity and to achieve peace and reconciliation. Yet most practitioners see it as a “monument to impunity,” an impediment to peace and reconciliation or war by other means.

For the first time in a book, defence counsel, investigators, journalists, and academics pool their knowledge and experience to answer the burning questions. What has happened to the fundamental principles of the sovereign equality of nations and the right of self-determination? Why do international criminal tribunals target Africa? How has international criminal justice affected the lives of citizens throughout the world? What about universal jurisdiction? Does foreign policy trump justice?

Price: $29.95

Click here to buy this book

Another Fake Bin Laden Story

November 7th, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

RT, one of my favorite news sources, has fallen for a fake story put out by the Pentagon to support the fantasy story that a SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden, who died a second time in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a decade after his first death from illness and disease.  http://rt.com/usa/202895-navy-seal-shot-binladen/  

This fake story together with the fake movie and the fake book by an alleged SEAL team member is the way the fake story of bin Laden’s murder is perpetrated. Bin Laden’s alleged demise at the hands of a SEAL team was a propaganda orchestration, the purpose of which was to give Obama a hero’s laurels and deep six Democratic talk of challenging his nomination for a second term.

Osama bin Laden died in December 2001 of renal failure and other health problems, having denied in his last recorded video any responsibility for 9/11, instead directing Americans to look inside their own government. The FBI itself has stated that there is no evidence that Osama bin Laden is responsible for 9/11. Bin Laden’s obituary appeared in numerous foreign and Arabic press, and also on Fox News.  No one can survive renal failure for a decade, and no dialysis machine was found in the alleged Abbottabad compound of bin Laden, who allegedly was murdered by SEALs a decade after his obituary notices.

Additionally, no one among the crew of the ship from which the White House reported bin Laden was buried at sea saw any such burial, and the sailors sent messages home to that effect.  Somehow a burial was held onboard a ship on which there are constant watches and crew on alert at all hours, and no one witnessed it.

Additionally, the White House story of the alleged murder of bin Laden changed twice within the first 24 hours.  The claim that Obama and his government watched the action transmitted live from cameras on the SEALs’ helmets was quickly abandoned, despite the release of a photo of the Obama regime intently focused on a TV set and alleged to be watching the live action. No video of the deed was ever released.  To date there is no evidence whatsoever in behalf of the Obama regime’s claim. Not one tiny scrap.  Just unsubstantiated self-serving claims.

Additionally, as I have made available on my website, witnesses interviewed by Pakistan TV reported that only one helicopter landed in Abbottabad and that when the occupants of the helicopter returned from the alleged bin Laden compound, the helicopter exploded on takeoff and there were no survivors.  In other words, there was no bin Laden corpse to deliver to the ship that did not witness a burial and no SEAL hero to return who allegedly murdered an unarmed bin Laden. Moreover, the BBC interviewed residents in Abbottabad, including those next door to the alleged “bin Laden compound,” and all say that they knew the person who lived there and it was not bin Laden.

Any SEAL who was so totally stupid as to kill the unarmed “Terror Mastermind” would probably have been courtmartialed for incompetency. Look at the smiling face of the man Who Killed Bin Laden.  He thinks that his claim that he murdered a man makes him a hero, a powerful comment on the moral degeneracy of Americans.

So what is this claim by Rob O’Neill about? He is presented as  a “motivational speaker” in search of clients.  What better ploy among gullible Americans than to claim “I am the one who shot bin Laden.”  Reminds me of the western movie: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  What better way to give Rob O’Neill’s claim validity than for the Pentagon to denounce his revelation for breaking obligation to remain silent. The Pentagon claims that O’Neill by claiming credit has painted a big target sign on our door asking ISIS to come get us.

What unbelievable nonsense.  ISIS and anyone who believed Obama’s claim to have done in bin Laden already knew, if they believed the lie, that the Obama regime claimed responsibility for murdering an unarmed bin Laden.  The reason the SEAL team was prevented from talking is that no member of the team was on the alleged mission.

Just as the ship from which bin Laden was allegedly buried has no witnesses to the deed, the SEAL unit, whose members formed the team that allegedly dispatched an unarmed Terrorist Mastermind rather than to take him into custody for questioning, mysteriously died in a helicopter crash when they were loaded in violation of procedures in an unprotected 1960s vintage helicopter and sent into a combat zone in Afghanistan shortly after the alleged raid on “bin Laden’s compound.”

For awhile there were news reports that the families of these dead SEALS do not believe one word of the government’s account.  Moreover, the families reported receiving messages from the SEALs that suddenly they felt threatened and did not know why.  The SEALs had been asking one another: “Were you on the bin Laden mission?”  Apparently, none were. And to keep this a secret, the SEALs were sent to their deaths.

Anyone who believes anything the US government says is gullible beyond the meaning of the word.

The New York Times editorialized on November 2, 2014 in favour of a prisoner swap with Cuba. It writes that the three remaining prisoners of the group known as the Cuban Five should be released in a swap for the American Alan Gross who is in a Cuban prison. For the swap to take place, according to the NYT, “President Obama would need to commute” the three Cubans’ sentences. This would be similar in practical terms to presidential pardon, according to the U.S. Constitution, as it would free the Cubans. It is a significant step as far as the media in the U.S. is concerned.The full NYT Editorial Board opinion is here.

For further information on presidential pardon based on the U.S. Constitution that President Obama has at his disposal as well as the precedents set by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter, see my letter to President Obama dated February 4, 2013, reproduced below:

February 4, 2013

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC  20500

Dear President Obama,

I am writing today to request that you employ your constitutional presidential power to grant pardons to the Cuban Five and immediately send them back to their country and families. These prisoners are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.[i]

Article 2, Section II of the Constitution provides you with the “Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” This article carries a humanitarian feature and exists in most countries of the world. One can say that it is virtually universal. Let us highlight a few positive examples that bring out the best of the American people. President Abraham Lincoln pardoned 264 of 303 members of the Dakota Indigenous people who defended themselves against settler expansion in the Sioux Uprising of 1862. More recently, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter in his first day of office granted unconditional pardons to hundreds of thousands of men who had evaded the draft during the U.S. war against Vietnam by fleeing the country or by failing to register for military duty.

There are also instances of leaders granting pardon in other countries. In 2010, Cuba released the prisoners tried and convicted of crimes against the security of the Cuban state. Many U.S. commentators suggested that this would result in “a thaw” in U.S.-Cuban relations. Despite this, there has been no gesture from you to date to pardon the five Cuban prisoners.

Furthermore, in December 2011, the Cuban government announced through Raúl Castro that the Council of State, over which he presides, “has agreed to pardon more than 2,900 prisoners. Not included in this pardon, with very few exceptions, are individuals convicted of crimes of espionage [and] terrorism.” One may respond by claiming that Cuba did not pardon most individuals for “crimes of espionage” and thus why should the U.S. free the Cuban Five? Yet, the U.S. government has never actually accused them of espionage, nor has it affirmed that real acts of espionage were carried out, as no classified document was confiscated from the Five. For this reason, they were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder, because actual espionage or murder could not be proven. In law, “conspiracy” facilitates a conviction compared to actual conspiracy; nonetheless, the sentences received were greatly disproportionate to any “conspiracy” conviction.

The Cuban government, compared to the U.S. government, even further “agreed to pardon” among the more than 2,900 prisoners “certain individuals convicted of crimes against the security of the state, who have completed a large portion of their prison terms with good behavior.” The Cuban Five, in contrast, were never convicted of crimes endangering the security of the state, as no proof could be found to this effect. The five Cuban prisoners are also known for their good behaviour in prison. Therefore, President Obama, I urge you to join the tradition of some of your own predecessors, such as Lincoln and Carter. This humanitarian policy is preferable to your most recent statement on this issue. On January 30, 2013 in an interview on Telemundo, you stated that “in order for us to see an actual normalization of the relations between the United States and Cuba that we have to do something about all those political prisoners who are still there.” Clarification would be in order regarding “political prisoners” in Cuba; the facts suggest that the only “political prisoners” left in Cuba are those in Guantanamo prison.

In the U.S. Constitution’s Article 2, Section II, the President is vested with the powers to grant pardon, with the exception of “Cases of Impeachment.” Impeachment refers to people within the U.S. political system itself who have committed wrongdoings that merit accusations of impeachment. This is considered the worst offense and thus only those convicted of impeachment are exempt from any possible presidential pardon. Clearly, this “impeachment” exception does not apply to these five prisoners. Once again, I request that you pardon them.

Amendment 8 of the U.S. Constitution excludes the use of “cruel and unusual punishment.” In the case of Gerardo Hernández, for example, he has been sentenced to two consecutive prison life terms plus fifteen years for crimes he maintains that he did not commit and that the government could not prove. While at the same time, during all this period for over fourteen years since his arrest, the State Department has denied an entry visa to his wife Adriana Pérez to visit him. Is this is not an example of “cruel and unusual punishment”? In a similar manner, Olga Salanueva, the wife of René González, another of the Cuban Five, has also been denied an entry visa to visit her husband in the U.S.

Therefore, I am asking you to enforce the relevant portions of the U.S. Constitution that can be characterized as being humanitarian. I implore you to sit down with the Cuban government and work out a humanitarian solution to this problem of prisoners so that the normalization of relations between the two countries can be established and flourish. A compassionate outlook is a hallmark of democracy. Cuba has already exhibited this twice in the case of prisoners. And let us not forget Alan Gross, held in a Cuban prison, who appears to have been abandoned by your government.

It is time to turn the situation around. The decisions by Lincoln and Carter to pardon may not have been popular with everyone in the U.S. at the time, but these stands have gone down in history as being positive examples.

Thank you in advance for considering my appeal.

Sincerely,

Arnold August, Montreal

[i] Note that since the time of writing, Rene González and Fernando González have served their entire terms and have returned home, thus leaving three of the Cuban Five imprisoned at this time. The three remaining are: Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino.

The Democratic Party is at a crisis of its basic values, of its basic reason for existing; it is at an existential crisis regarding what its ideology is. If it does not figure out soon what its ideology is, other than merely ‘not conservative,’ then it will die and deserves to be replaced, because its opponent, the Republican Party, certainly knows what its ideology is, and they proclaim it with pride, loud and clear: conservatism.

The Democratic Party has become merely Republican-light — not as far to the right as is the Republican Party, but also not progressive, and not even actually liberal — after the NSA scandals, the houndings and constant abuses against whistleblowers, the increasing militarization of the police, the forced-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo, the unanimous support of Israel’s bombings of densely populated civilian areas in Gaza, the bombings in Syria and Iraq (of terrorists that Obama originally supported), Obama’s support for the fascist coup-regime in Honduras (throwing them the lifeline that enabled them to solidify their power), and his instigation of the coup d’etat in Ukraine, which new regime’s ethnic cleansing in Ukraine’s southeast he also endorsed, the ongoing bailouts of Wall Street, and the sufferings on Main Street. If that’s not conservative enough, then what is? The Republican Party, perhaps?

But, above all, the Democratic Party has failed because it supported the President on all of these things: it did not do the only thing that could possibly have prevented the Republican win of the U.S. Senate on November 4th — it did not break away from this very unpopular President, and condemn those far-right actions and introduce against him a bill to impeach this fake ‘Democratic’ President. It has instead kept him as a deadweight to whatever little the Party still stands for; and so it stands for nothing in most voters’ minds. In standing for Obama, the Democratic Party has stood for really nothing at all, certainly nothing that is progressive or even liberal.

And, thus, it fell, because too few voters like or respect Republican-light, enough to go to the polls and vote for it. If they want conservatism, they’ll go for the Party that’s proud to represent it, not the one that claims not to.

And so we shall now have two Republican-controlled houses of Congress passing extremist-right-wing bills into laws which the till-now closeted conservative U.S. President Barack Obama will sign into laws, providing the most-conservative U.S. Government since not only George W. Bush, but perhaps since ever. Deregulation will reign supreme, over our food-safety, our water-safety, our air-safety, our product-safety, our product-labeling laws, our healthcare, the environment, workplace-safety, workers’ rights, and everything else that America’s international corporations want to be deregulated in their international competitive race-to-the-bottom on everything except stockholder-profits and executive compensation. (That’s how our aristocrats can beat their international aristocratic competitors, by winning this race to the bottom, this race against everyone else but our aristocrats themselves, since they don’t bear any of the costs of their war against the public and their competition against each other.) President Obama will continue talking a pretty line of liberal clichés on all of these matters, but the only progressive thing that he will actually fight for is gender-equality, which he really believes in. Other than that, we have an extremely conservative President and an even more extremely conservative Congress; and if any of the Supreme Court’s four Democratic appointees becomes replaced, it will only be with a Democrat who is even more conservative than the ones who are there now, because otherwise the Republican Senate will not confirm the appointee.

So, this country is set for what is likely to be the most extremely right-wing Government that it has ever had. And the Democratic Party failed to do the only thing that it could have done in order to avert this, which was the situation that I’ve been warning about repeatedly, to no effect, for over a year.

Let me make clear here that I am writing as a progressive who has no Pollyannish view of the challenges that progressives face. Political compromises must be made; democracy itself demands this. I strongly supported the anti-global-warming Al Gore in 2000, and I recognized that Ralph Nader was campaigning to place George W. Bush into the White House, and that he succeeded in doing so. If it weren’t for Nader’s having siphoned off enough Gore voters in New Hampshire and Florida, those two states would have gone clearly for Gore, and so the horror of George W. Bush’s Presidency wouldn’t even have reached the five Republican Supreme Court jurists who appointed Bush as President on December 9th and 12th of 2000. That’s just a fact about Nader. And Republican bigs knew it, which is why they had helped finance Nader’s getting onto state ballots throughout the country, so that he could do this. It was clear to anyone with even half a brain that our President was going to become either Bush or Gore and that Nader would only weaken Gore in that contest, which was the real contest. The final outcome was that Nader and Bush won, and Gore lost. That’s the reality, even if Nader doesn’t recognize it, or won’t acknowledge it. And the idea that Gore would have been as bad as Bush is ludicrous. Global warming is just one of the issues that would have gone radically differently; Iraq wouldn’t have been invaded, and probably 9/11 would have been averted. And the banksters might not have been allowed to go hog-wild, either.

Barack Obama, however, unlike Gore, is and has always been a closeted Republican who was hoping to become and serve as President at a time when there would be two Republican houses in Congress, so that he could become the most effective conservative, pro-corporate, pro-aristocracy, anti-public, President ever, the only conservative who would possess clout even with some Democrats in passing and signing into law far-right-wing bills. So, now, he will.

Democratic Party leaders, even ones who claim to be ‘progressive,’ pretend, even after the debacle of this November 4th, that they can continue deceiving their followers without destroying their Party. On November 6th, Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, headlined at The Hill“Route to power for Democrats: Big ideas,” and they — these people who had helped to produce the catastrophe — proposed that Democrats “build a movement around big ideas — like free college education, full employment, Medicare for All, expanded Social Security, and real reform of Wall Street. … Hillary Clinton may be coming around to this strategy.” But, of course, Hillary Clinton is one of the most corrupt Democrats in the country, and she has already been bought by Wall Street and by Big Oil. So, that ‘proposal’ by these ‘progressives’ is itself ludicrous, even if it weren’t a string of clichés and so an insult to the readers of these leaders of “the Progressive Change Campaign Committee,” who are therefore fake leaders of anything that’s progressive — just more elitist ‘progressivism,’ not the real thing, which isn’t at all  elitist. It’s one thing to endorse great leaders, it’s something entirely else to support any aristocracy at all, Clintonian or otherwise. The idea that Hillary Clinton will “come around” to being progressive is just as credulous, just as foolish, just as fatuous, as the idea that David Duke will “come around” to being anti-racist. But Hillary Clinton is a politician, and so she will say anything in order to win, just as Barack Obama did (though not so effectively).

Unfortunately, at the very top, at the Presidential, level of the Democratic Party, despite the liberal rhetoric, it’s already a Wall Street and fossil-fuels Party, which means that it’s owned lock, stock, and barrel, by America’s international aristocracy; so, it’s pro-oligarchic, which is the reason why it joined with the Republicans to bail out the mega-banks instead of to bail out their small-fry investors and mortgagees, which would have jump-started and restored the economy from the bottom-up, instead of jump-started and restored the stock market and executive-compensation packages from the top-down. Everybody knows that the Bush-Obama Wall Street bailouts ended the ‘recession’ for only the richest 1%, and that when economists say that “the recession ended and the economy recovered,’ they are gaming the meaning of “recession” and of “recovery” to refer to only the richest 1%, which is to say that they are lying through their rotten, propagandistic, bought-out, teeth.

The United States is now already so far to the right that Hitler and Mussolini would think that they had posthumously won World War II, because fascism is now triumphant; and even nazism, or racist-fascism, is official U.S. foreign policy — but only when and where it serves the interests of America’s oligarchs, which, however, is the way that racist fascism functions in any country where racist fascism is being practiced.

The Democratic Party had its chance to renounce Obama and to relieve itself of this closeted-conservative deadweight upon the backs of every Democratic Party congressional candidate; but it failed to do so; and, therefore, we now truly are in a similar type of political situation as the country was in 1854 when the principled progressive Republican Party that existed from 1854 to 1865 grew up to replace the equivocating Whig Party and so to go all the way for a progressive solution to the over-riding moral issue of that time, which was ending slavery.

The over-riding moral issue of our time is to end aristocracy, to end oligarchic control of our Government, to avert the thoroughgoing fascism into which this nation is now heading. If we don’t do that, then there won’t be any way that we’ll be able to overcome Big Oil and Wall Street and so to avert climate-catastrophe.

The Democratic Party needs to be replaced by a new national party that’s not, like the Green Party or other pretenders, competing against the Democratic Party, but that is instead a replacement of the existing rotten and corrupt, bought-off, Presidential level of the Democratic Party, in the same sense that Lincoln replaced the Presidential level of the Whig Party in 1860. Unfortunately, Lincoln was shot and the aristocrats immediately took over the Party that he had led; this might happen again, if an honest reformer comes forth and condemns the Democratic Party’s top leadership, but Democrats aren’t even starting to oust the existing oligarchs who control the top level of their Party; so, the authentic reform movement is yet to start on the progressive side today, if it ever will.

One thing is for certain: The Clintons and Obama are not part of the solution for the Democratic Party, nor for the country. They are, instead, the very embodiments of the problem, for both.

No progressive party will or can choose corrupt people to lead them. By definition, that’s anti-progressive; it is conservative.

The Democratic Party needs to be replaced at the top, which is where it is utterly corrupt. Because its failings are at the very top, the entire institutional top, including the Democratic Leadership Council, the lobbyists, the Permanent Government, which is virtually the same in both the Democratic and the Republican Parties, needs to be rejected and condemned, so that a real choice and democracy become available. once again in America. At the very top in both Parties, they all get along together just fine, while the nation rots under their corruption. This is the way the nation was during the decade before Lincoln became President, and it is today.

The Republican Party after 1865, has always been little else than corruption, but that’s the way it is for any conservative party, which is what the Republicans became. They became it because conservatism is simply institutionalized corruption, and corruption took over the Party after Lincoln’s death. However, if the top of the Democratic Party is corrupt, this can only mean that the top of the Democratic Party must be replaced, ousted, because, then, it too is conservative — no real alternative to Republicans.

If the Democratic Party cannot do this, then it has no reason for its existence, other than to make fools of everyone who votes for it, and to exploit  progressives’ hopes, instead of to serve  progressives’ hopes. This is what Obama and the Clintons have done, and no decent party should accept them, any more than it should accept Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes. Republican-light will not wash.

The Republican Party is conservative, and so it can thrive as being corrupt. What is needed as an opposition Party is a Democratic Party that exposes its own corrupt, instead of being led by them; otherwise, the Democratic Party must end, as did the Whigs. Because corruption works only for conservative parties. It’s what makes a party conservative. It is the essence of conservatism. It is anathema to anything that would oppose conservatism. The Democratic Party needs to renounce it and its practitioners.

By the time of 2012, there was already plenty of progressive reason to impeach Barack Obama, but instead the Democratic Party continued, even at the end of his first term, to accept him as if he were a real Democrat, thereby giving millions of voters a bad image of what being a Democrat means, so that even a creepy and incompetent elitist Republican nominee like Romney was able to win 47% of the popular vote against him. Immediately afterwards, Obama turned even farther right, but Democrats accepted even that insult. Democrats running for Congress in 2014 paid the price for their unprincipled ongoing acceptance of this man; and, as a result, Obama will now have a Congress that he’ll be able, and secretly happy, to do business with, at last. It’s a crisis for the Democratic Party, and it was brought on by congressional Democrats, who played right into the hands of the Republicans, even when it was already clear that doing so would be politically suicidal for them. And it was.

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

The ECB has just launched – effective 4 November 2014 – a new watchdog to control and regulate the European banking system. It is called the Single Supervisory Mechanism – SSM. It is supposed to monitor and reign in European banks that do not ‘behave’ in terms of overstretching their investment and risk lending as compared to their capital base.

In fact, the SSM is one pillar of the three pillar ‘security’ system put in place by the ECB and the European Commission – EC.

The Single Resolution Mechanism – SRM – is ECB’s strong arm to save or liquidate ‘troubled’ banks. In other words, it will administer ‘bail-ins’ to ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks in distress; meaning – over-indebted banks will rescue themselves from depositors’ money, or from shareholders. This practice was tested in Cyprus in 2013. As reported by Reuters on 30 July 2013 – According to Cyprus’s central bank, “47.5 percent of deposits exceeding 100,000 euros in Bank of Cyprus would be converted into equity to recapitalize the troubled lender as part of an international financial bailout for the island”.

This confiscating or stealing of depositors’ funds, also called the ‘haircut’ in the denigrating jargon of the Occident, is better known as a ‘bail-in’ – since it avoids the taxpayer, those who have been bearing the brunt in previous US and European ‘bail-outs’.

This atrocious predatory and outright criminal imposition by the infamous troika (ECB, EC, IMF), with no legal backing whatsoever, went largely without protests in the rest of Europe, it was shortly thereafter accepted by the EC as the new ‘norm’.

In one of his last proud statements before handing his job as European Commissioner to Jean-Claude Juncker, Manuel Barroso exclaimed – “The European Union intends to break the vicious link between sovereigns and their banks. In the future bankers’ losses should no longer become the people’s debt, putting into doubt the financial stability of whole countries.”

There it is. The ratification of the new ‘bail-in’ rule. It is surprising that there is no run of the European banks, as many of them are less stable than they were in 2008, at the onset of the man-made ‘crisis’. Bail-ins might be imminent.

The third pillar will be the Single Resolution Fund – SRF – a stabilization and rescue mechanism for banks facing bankruptcy. It is planned to become effective on 1 January 2016 – if – and that is a big IF – the necessary funding will be put in place by the member countries.

Pillars one and two are compulsory for the Eurozone countries and banks, some 6000 – which is a lot to supervise. The ECB has quickly declared that it – i.e. SSM – will directly monitor the 150 most important ones. The others will continue to be controlled by national mechanisms, whatever these are. They will be given strict regulations to follow by SSM with sanctions or fines if the rules are not followed – to make sure they will not stray.

Membership for non-Eurozone countries is voluntary. Remarkably, the UK has not (yet) volunteered for membership.

This is the biggest boost in ECB’s power since its creation some 16 years ago. ECB now sets all banking standards throughout Europe, according to which a bank may fall or rise. This is a clear infringement on the Eurozone countries sovereignty – one of the key principles to be maintained according to the Lisbon Treaty. There is no covenant in ECB’s regulations that would give it this power leverage. It is all self-serving – and the neoliberal leaders of the Eurozone countries go along with it –to the detriment of their constituency.

And let’s not forget, ECB is intimately linked to Wall Street, the FED and the IMF – Mario Draghi, the ECB President, is a former Goldman Sachs executive.

The SSM is a flagrant conflict of interest – and it looks like the financial czars of this western greed economy are getting away with it. For now.

An independent audit of all European banks, especially those 100 or 150 considered “too big to fail” – and including the ECB itself – would indeed be in order. – Independent means – the auditors would report to a special council of Eurozone countries – but independent of the European Commission. The special council would include representation from member countries parliaments, the banking, industry and service sectors, as well as civil society.

Of course – this is unlikely to happen, equally unlikely as an independent audit of the FED. That would mean transferring power to the people, to those whose money is at play, those who are really interested in a well-functioning banking system – not a predatory one as we know it today.

According to The Guardian, a recent stress test carried out by the ECB on some 100 of the largest European banks, 24, or one of five, failed (including 9 Italian and 3 Greek banks), leaving a hole of 25 billion euros in banking capital – which eventually may need to be bailed-in — if there are no bail-outs and the SRF is not yet functional.

Implementation of the SSM will be a point of no return for European banks, including for individual countries sovereign central banks. Until now, they were nominally free to print their own money. For example, Greece could have rescued them-selves by printing its own euros, instead of submitting to the draconian, literally killer conditions, imposed by the troika. But it didn’t, since the ruling elite in Greece was and is part of the scheme. As of now, there is no ECB rule that forbids a local central bank to print its own money – which in the Eurozone is the euro.

Europeans will be at the mercy of the ECB and through it, of Wall Street and the FED – the defunct greedy dollar based monetary system.

And why do the people not react? – Because they are on purpose misinformed, kept in the dark by the media. The new SSM is presented as a system that would protect them from future crises – when the contrary is true.

However, at least equally important and highly suspicious, is the timing of this new delegation of power for the ECB. The abrogation of Eurozone countries and their banks sovereignty is not coincidental. It comes at a time when a new west-east conflict, a new Cold War with Russia is being instigated by Washington and its European vassals.

ECB’s new strong arm, the Single Supervisory Mechanism, with its transboundary powers and disregard for national sovereignty is intent to hold the Euro system and its countries hostage against Russia, or the new Russia-China alliance. The new watchdog watches that none of them will stray – perhaps into the eastern camp of honest trading, into a new realm of economic prosperity and equality, where banking may serve the peoples development, instead of the accumulation of wealth for a few.

Remember, Mr. Xi Jinping, President of China, visited Germany in March 2014, to offer Madame Merkel participation in the New Silk Road – a new trading alliance from Germany, the western most borders, all the way to Shanghai, covering Russia, the former Soviet Republics, north-western and central China. An incredible potential for trade and development that can hardly be ignored. If Germany accepts, the strongest nation of the Eurozone, the rest of Europe will follow – follow a path of more security and independence than the current alliance with threats and sanctions from a warmongering White House will offer.

Washington is aware of this. They will hold no barrels to sow unrest and destabilize Europe to eventually justify a US intervention, more NATO, more CIA surveillance, more profit-yielding armament – and moving ever a step closer to Moscow. The new banking control mechanism is just an additional – but extremely powerful tool in this direction.

An alternative monetary system, detached from the predatory dollar scheme, will be a welcome means to peacefully counter this latest financial aggression.

Peter Koenig is an economist and former World Bank staff. He worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, the Voice of Russia, now Ria Novosti, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.

Lame-Duck Obama’s Brave New World

November 7th, 2014 by Pepe Escobar

Fresh out of his latest Congressional election shellacking delivered by the minority who bothered to vote in the United States, the formerly most powerful leader in the world, US President Barack Obama, will star in a thriller this weekend, appearing in the same room with China’s Xi Jinping, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and – fasten your seat belts – Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

What a drag – the Bomber-In-Chief must be musing. The global economy is mostly a disaster. China, even growing at “only” 7% a year, keeps eroding his “indispensable nation” aura. Japan has decided to copy the Federal Reserve and embark on its own kamikaze version of quantitative easing. Numerous Southeast Asian nations keep freaking out about a few rocks in the South China Sea.

And last but not least, Obama’s nemesis, pesky Vlad “the Hammer” Putin, has just been crowned Most Powerful Leader in the world – even if for the most stupid reasons (“unpredictable” head of a “rogue state”) [1] – while he, the Nobel Peace Prize leader of the exceptionalist, indispensable nation, is now nothing but a pitiful lame duck.

The get-together, extended to Monday and Tuesday, will be the highlight of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing – actually, outside of Beijing, so presumably unpolluted blue skies may also have a chance at the photo op. This is APEC’s 25th birthday. And the 20th birthday of the Indonesian summit in Bogor – I happened to be there – which, under Bill Clinton’s flowery charm, set the 21-member APEC nations a goal of “free” and open trade and investment by 2020. “Free” as in US corporations dictating the rules, of course.

What the whole planet really wants to know about APEC is whether The Lame Duck will meet The Bear face to face, one on one. The White House remains mum. The Kremlin did not rule it out. Well, there’s always Plan B: the Group of 20 summit on November 15-16 in Brisbane, Australia.

What the whole planet already knows is that the new slimy show premiering on Capitol Hill on January 2015 has a top priority: the Republicans will do everything in their power to make the lame duck cry for mercy over and over again. So what will this mean in terms of Obama’s self-styled “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine, which that 2016 juggernaut known as “The Hillarator” has already derided as a “non-organizational principle”? Just extra layers of cosmic stupidity, or something more substantial?

That old axis of evil

Let’s start with The Caliph, aka Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Obama already said, after his shellacking, he is going to seek Congressional authorization for his coalition of the cowards bombing IS – aka Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh, the jiahdi outfit’s Arabic acronym.

Now that’s not a dumb move. If Republican-ruled Congress says “yes”, they will be responsible for the fiasco (and it’s already a fiasco). If they say “no”, the fiasco can be attributed to their irresponsibility.

Republicans are immersed in their own internal split – the boots-on-the-ground favored by the establishment against the non-interventionist Tea Party. So in the end, the lame duck may profit from it after all.

Iran is a much dicier proposition. It all depends on a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) being reached in a little over two weeks, on November 24. That’s a taller-than-the-Himalayas order, although feasible. The Obama administration is desperate for a deal – as the leak of a “secret letter” from Obama to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei attests. But a deal under Washington’s terms, which for Tehran is unacceptable. [2]

The new US Senate only takes over in January. Obama has already stressed he won’t ask the Senate to ratify the deal. Once again, the problem is what deal? Obama’s idea of a grand design in the Middle East is to use a “responsible” – according to US standards – Tehran to balance the Sunni-Shi’ite divide and get rid of the current proxy wars, the whole thing arbitrated by Washington. This is a pipe dream. But it’s what the lame duck wants.

Needless to say, Republicans – for whom Tehran never left the “axis of evil” – will try to bomb the dream, pipelines and all, for instance by passing legislation preventing the lifting of key sanctions. Sparks will fly. Tehran won’t accept a nuclear deal where Washington just says “take my word for it, we will lift sanctions”; this has to be in the letter of the agreement. After all they have vast experience of dealing with gun-crazy Republicans in power.

Nothing will change on Russia – even as the Obama administration needs Moscow to get a deal with Tehran. The relentless demonization of Putin and the resurgence of the same old Cold War meme, “The Russians are Coming”, are guaranteed to keep propelling stupidity 24/7 to intergalactic spheres.

Capitol Hill will go on overdrive. After all, Russia demonization is a bipartisan sport in Washington. The only “solution” would be regime change. Not only is Putin not going anywhere, but he’s ratcheting up his defiance of the Empire of Chaos. This implies increased problems with Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps appeasing the Americans while German businesses want increased trade with Russia and Eurasia as a whole.

Another China win-win? 
On trade, here’s where APEC collides with the two-pronged US version of an economic NATO: the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Asia.

What the Obama administration is fighting for is nothing less than a totally unregulated global marketplace. Imagine the “free” market – as Bill “Bubba” Clinton was already parading in Indonesia two decades ago – setting all sorts of standards on everything from working conditions to the environment. In theory, that’s exactly what Republicans love. So here Obama would be right in their alley, which implies an easy Senate ratification.

It’s actually way more complicated. Republicans simply cannot stomach an Obama victory. That means this upcoming Senate won’t give him the fast track he needs to clinch the TPP deal.

That happens to be exactly what China wants. Beijing will use APEC to promote the road map for its own, anti-TPP trade deal, the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). TPP involves 12 APEC members – but not China. And even inside TPP there’s a monster revolt; Tokyo is battling the US because they Japan is sure its auto industry and agriculture may be devoured by US corporations.

So we’re right into a titanic Transformer-style Battle of the Deals. In fact any deal is problematic, as China, Japan and South Korea may want, in principle, broader economic cooperation. But on trade, in so many levels, they are fiercely competing against each other – as in the auto industry and agriculture, for instance – not to mention that heavy historical baggage between Japan and China and Japan and South Korea.

The Chinese charm offensive at APEC in Beijing is all about “innovative development”, “building infrastructure investment” and “comprehensive connectivity”. It’s all a mirror image of the extremely ambitious New Silk Roads proposed by President Xi to connect Eurasia.

Beijing is proposing a new “connectivity framework” into three key areas – “physical connectivity, institutional connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity”. But still no one knows how this will work out in practice towards Asia integration. Washington doesn’t care; it just wants a “free” unregulated mega-market for US corporations.

Beijing sees Asian economic integration as APEC facilitating an FTAAP by 2025. Needless to say, the US and a few vassals aboard the TPP have been adamant that no regional deal jeopardizes TPP. Washington was betting on TPP being signed before APEC. It didn’t happen. So Plan B is to boycott FTAAP until TPP is signed. And that Beijing won’t allow. The lame duck will have to duck a lot on his one-on-one with Xi in Beijing.

Finally, what about the Obama-Capitol Hill battle on the climate-change field? For the absolute majority of Republicans, climate change and global warming are nothing but an evil conspiracy. End of story.

The lame duck and Capitol Hill at least may agree on – what else – the Global War on Terror. Pentagon supremo Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently said the US should get ready for endless wars, as “tyranny”, “terrorism”, national security challenges and – surprise! – climate change pose a substantial “threat”.

Since 2002, the Pentagon has been saying to anyone who was bothered to listen that Endless War is the only deal in town – or the universe, for that matter. The lame duck might even fraternize about it with his Republican nemeses over the odd round of golf. What a wonderful (lame duck) world this would be.

Notes:
1. Putin Vs. Obama: The World’s Most Powerful People 2014, Forbes, November 5, 2014.
2. Obama Wrote Secret Letter to Iran’s Khamenei About Fighting Islamic State, Wall Street Journal Online (subscription). 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  He may be reached at [email protected].

 

A torrent of leaked documents and e-mails have exposed the already questionable “Occupy Central” leadership as engaged in unethical, opaque funding. Millions of Hong Kong dollars have been shifted around secretly without “Occupy Central” supporters’ knowledge, concealing the source of the funding and the true nature of “Occupy Central’s” agenda.

For weeks, Beijing, the local Hong Kong government, and analysts around the world have suggested that “Occupy Central” was far from the “spontaneous” “grassroots” movement it claimed to be and that special interests both within Hong Kong and beyond China’s shores were guiding the movement. Leaked e-mails and documents, now confirmed by “Occupy Central” leaders and supporters to be authentic, have proven many of these accusations to be true.

Dirty Money, Dirtier Leaders  

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) has revealed these leaked documents and emails in an ongoing series of articles. This includes their article, “Apple Daily head Jimmy Lai donated millions to pan-democrats, leaked files show,” which states:

Hundreds of records detailing millions of dollars in donations to pan-democrats by the Apple Daily’s founder have been leaked to the media, a move the camp slammed as a “smear campaign”.

According to the 900 leaked files, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has donated more than HK$10 million to pan-democratic parties and politicians since last year. The donations included HK$5 million to the Democratic Party and HK$3 million to the Civic Party.

Other donations detailed in the files include amounts totalling HK$900,000 to the Hong Kong Civic Education Foundation and Hong Kong Democratic Development Network, both co-founded by Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, an organiser of the Occupy Central civil-disobedience movement.

Some media reports suggested the total donations since April 2012 could have been as much as HK$40 million.

Of course, “Occupy Central” co-organizer Martin Lee, is in fact a founding chairman of the Democratic Party, linking Jimmy Lai to yet other organizers of the unrest.

Image: Jimmy Lai (foreground, left) and Martin Lee (foreground, right) have both attempted to distance themselves from “Occupy Central’s” leadership – however, it is clear they are both organizers and leading participants in the unrest themselves. Not only that, it appears that Lai and Lee are both connected financially, with the former handing over large donations to the political party Lee himself helped found. 

While some may be tempted to question the authenticity of the leaks, Jimmy Lai has already verified the claims. Another SCMP article titled, “Jimmy Lai Chee-ying says he ‘hasn’t given one cent’ to Occupy Central organisers,”claims:

Lai has been the subject of earlier leaked documents showing he donated millions of dollars to the city’s pan-democrats. He has confirmed that he did so.

The same article would also report:

Lai said that while he had donated large sums of money to politicians in the pro-democracy camp, he had not given a cent to the co-founders of Occupy Central. His newspaper, though, had given the movement discounts for advertisements.

“Democracy” For the Benefit of Whom, the People or the Party?  

And while Lai claims he hasn’t given “one cent” to “Occupy Central’s” organizers, it is clear that the movement itself is not designed for “democracy” for democracy’s sake alone, but simply as a means of putting the pro-Western politicians Lai has admittedly given large donations to, into power.

Image: Benny Tai, the so-called leader of “Occupy Central,” is embroiled in
an expanding scandal involving millions of Hong Kong dollars, multiple
conflicts of interest, and growing scrutiny over ties to dubious special
interests both within Hong Kong, and beyond China’s shores. 

Lai was also found to be providing vast sums of money for “Occupy Central’s” so-called “referendum” conducted earlier this year by the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP). It should be noted that “Occupy Central” leader Benny Tai is an employee of the University of Hong Kong and has been a chairman of the university’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL), a confirmed recipient of US State Department funding via the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its National Democratic Institute (NDI) subsidiary.

SMCP would report in an article titled, “Media mogul Jimmy Lai ‘spent HK$3.5m on Occupy Central vote’, leaked emails show,” that:

Media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying spent millions helping Occupy Central to hold its unofficial referendum in June, leaked emails show.

Lai’s Next Media group also offered extensive advice – including propaganda material – to the Occupy Central organisers – whom Lai dismissed in private as “idealist scholars” who “couldn’t make the cut without help”.

The emails were leaked by the same person who sent documents detailing the Next Media chairman’s political donations to various pan-democrats two weeks ago. It is not clear how the documents were obtained.

One of the exchanges between Lai and his top aide Mark Simon shows that Lai spent some HK$3 million to HK$3.5 million to help the plebiscite. The email did not detail how the money was spent, only mentioning that the costs included “advertisements and billboards”.

Lai has clearly tangled himself in a growing web of his own lies. With the incremental nature of the leaks affording Lai time to make further denials only to be exposed as a liar with the next series of leaks, he is taking the credibility of “Occupy Central” down with him. And Lai isn’t the only individual involved with “Occupy Central’s” backtracking as the truth is wrung from the the movement’s dubious leadership.

“Occupy Central’s” head organizer Benny Tai himself, has now been implicated in moving funds around secretly. SCMP’s article, “Occupy leaders refuse to reveal who donated HK$1.3m that co-founder passed to HKU,” would report that:

Occupy Central last night declined to reveal the source of HK$1.3 million in donations that movement co-founder Reverend Chu Yiu-ming passed on to fellow organiser Benny Tai Yiu-ting.

At Chu’s request, Tai gave all the money to the university where he works, to cover some of the expenses it incurred on Occupy’s “civil referendum” and other activities, the movement said.

While “Occupy Central” is portrayed as a people’s movement, or a students’ movement, it is clear it is a politicians’ movement merely dressed up as the latter. Revealed is a dubiously funded leadership trying to claw its way into greater power, all while abusing and exploiting the genuine concerns and good intentions of the many followers who’ve come out into the streets.

Hypocrisy and Semantics 

Occupy Central’s refusal to reveal the source of their funding is beyond dubious and betrays the very nature of what the movement allegedly stands for. Corrupt, opaque cabals of elitists using people toward their own end while wallowing in vast sums of money sounds strikingly familiar – in fact – these are the very claims the “Occupy Central” movement have leveled against the government in Beijing. Yet clearly, “Occupy Central’s” own leadership differs very little beneath the cheap, peeling veneer of a progressive, democratic, movement.

The same SCMP article would also report:

The emails said Professor Chow Shew-ping, HKU’s pro-vice-chancellor, was notified and met Tai on May 29 last year. A director of the university’s development and alumni affairs office said Tai told her about the donor’s identity in July and the “case [was] closed”, said another email. 

According to other leaked emails, the third Occupy co-founder – Dr Chan Kin-man – had been in contact with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US Congress-funded non-profit organisation that promotes democracy. Chan met a “Louisa” from the NED in January last year, while Tai met the vice-president of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in June last year. The latter non-profit organisation, created by the US government, promotes democracy worldwide. 

Chan said Occupy had never received any donation from foreign countries.

Unfortunately for Chan, however, this simply isn’t true. Nearly every “Occupy Central” leader, including Benny Tai himself, belong to organizations or institutions that have received direct funding from NED and its subsidiaries. Unless Chan, like Jimmy Lai and Benny Tai, is attempting to use semantics to dishonestly disclaim foreign funding, such a statement is merely yet another lie from yet another now discredited “Occupy Central” leader.

It is likely that further revelations will be made public. Those taking to the streets, following this dubious collection of liars and frauds, must ask themselves what exactly they are protesting when those leading them appear no different than those they are allegedly protesting against. And while revelations that “Occupy Central’s” leadership are liars and frauds do not in any way justify such behavior within Hong Kong’s current government or in Beijing, it should give “Occupy Central” supporters pause for thought regarding their tactics, strategy, cause, and objectives.

To improve the life of ordinary people, ordinary people must not only formulate solutions themselves, they must be the ones who carry them out. The notion that simply nominating someone else to do it on the public’s behalf leads to the very hypocrisy now on display amid “Occupy Central’s” growing leadership crisis. Instead of blocking up one’s own city streets, pragmatic solutions should be explored and implemented - solutions that are within the reach of local communities and do not require the dirty money of “Occupy Central’s” political leaders, or the even dirtier leaders themselves.

Because just as “Occupy Central’s” leaders are now playing games of semantics to disclaim dubious funding and affiliations, they are likewise merely using semantics to portray their version of dictatorship and elitism as “different” to the one they claim exists in Beijing.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

The globalist controlled Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) have called on the U.S. to work more closely with Canada and Mexico to build a new North American partnership for the future. The pivot to North America would focus on greater trilateral cooperation in areas such as energy, economic competitiveness, border management, law enforcement and continental perimeter security. Throughout the years, the incremental steps towards a North American Union have been used to further chip away at the sovereignty of all three NAFTA countries.

The CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on North America, co-chaired by retired General David Petraeus and former president of the World Bank Robert Zoellick, recently released their report, North America: Time for a New Focus. The Task Force maintained that, “Now is the moment for the United States to break free from old foreign policy biases to recognize that a stronger, more dynamic, resilient continental base will increase U.S. power globally.” They explained that, “If the three North American countries deepen their integration and cooperation, they have the potential to again shape world affairs for generations to come.” The Task Force also described how, “Recent developments have created opportunities for the North American countries to build on past work and to advance their partnership to a new stage.” The move by Mexico to open up its energy sector to private investment, along with increased oil and natural gas production in Canada and the U.S. are some of the driving forces behind the renewed push for deeper North American integration.

The Task Force report highlighted the need to expand the North American energy relationship. This includes developing a regional energy strategy and strengthening continental energy infrastructure. The approval of Keystone XL pipeline, which would link Canada’s oil sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries was also at the top of Task Force to-do list. They acknowledged that, “delays have damaged U.S.-Canada relations and have the potential to slow, at the very least, greater North American energy integration.” As part of efforts to move beyond the dispute, both countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Cooperation in areas such as research, regulation and trade. In an example of the importance that energy issues could play in the upcoming 2016 election, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination gave a speech in September, where he detailed North America’s Energy Opportunity. Not surprisingly, the majority of his policy ideas were in sync with the CFR’s Task Force recommendations.

The 2014 North American Leaders Summit also identified energy as a trilateral priority. In a joint statement, the leaders announced that the energy ministers from all three countries will meet later this year, “to discuss opportunities to promote common strategies on energy efficiency, infrastructure, innovation, renewable energy, unconventional energy sources, energy trade, and responsible resource development, including the development of relevant technical studies.” To help build on the trilateral energy meetings, the Task Force suggested, “the creation of a North American Energy Council to provide advice to federal policymakers and highlight issues that the three independent legislative branches could address.” The council’s responsibilities would include, “identifying improvements to the safety and security of cross-border energy infrastructure; areas for cooperation on environmental and safety standards; energy-efficient technologies and practices; and barriers to collaboration.” Although it has since been disbanded, the North American Energy Working Group has already laid some of the groundwork with regards to trilateral energy integration.

In order to further establish an overall continental agenda, the Task Force argued for the restructuring of the U.S. federal government by, “creating new North American offices within the National Security Council staff and U.S. State Department.” This includes, “designating a senior U.S. official as the North American ‘champion’ who will press for consistent policies across agencies and topics.” The Task Force also encouraged, “greater U.S. congressional engagement with the Mexican congress and Canadian parliament.” In addition, they proposed that, “the U.S. government support interactions and possible cooperation among governors, premiers, mayors, legislators, and other officials.” Throughout the report, the Task Force emphasized that, “The goal should be trilateral where possible, bilateral where necessary.” While they praised the progress that separate U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico initiatives have made, they also pointed out that the continued reliance on some of these bilateral efforts has in many ways, “inhibited the development of a broader vision of North America.”

When it comes to North American regulatory issues, they are currently being managed through two separate bilateral bodies, the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Council(HLRCC) and the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). As part of efforts to foster trilateral regulatory alignment, the Task Force recommended that, “each council identify particular regulatory topics that are candidates for mutual recognition or harmonization. The councils could also explore continental cooperation in creating new regulations. Canadian and Mexican observers should be able to attend the meetings of the other country and the United States.” In August, the U.S. and Canada released the RCC Joint Forward Plan, which builds on the initial 2011 Joint Action Plan. Not only does it deepen cooperation in new areas, but it sets the stage for regulatory departments and agencies in both countries to essentially become permanent bedfellows. The new regulatory plan also noted that, “As part of the 2014 North American Leaders Summit commitments, representatives from the Mexican Government will be invited to observe the government-to-government and stakeholder sessions.” This also applies to Canadian officials being able sit in on the HLRCC meetings. The NAFTA partners are taking steps to promote trilateral regulatory convergence.

As far as border security goes, North America operates within the confines of two bilateral frameworks, the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border agreement, as well as the U.S.-Mexico Twenty-First Century Border Management initiative. The Task Force stressed that, “Bilateral security efforts can often make it easier to solve problems and develop border management models. However, by emphasizing the differences between the U.S.-Canadian and the U.S.-Mexican security relationships, rather than the commonalities, the United States forgoes advantages of a continental approach.” Instead, the Task Force favored, “working toward a long-term goal of a unified security strategy for North America. This process could begin by expanding bilateral security programs to include Mexico. U.S.-Canadian programs could be incorporated into the U.S.-Mexico Twenty-First Century Border Management initiative.” At the Third Annual Beyond the Border Executive Steering Committee, “An observer from the Mexican Foreign Ministry was present in line with the commitment of the North American Leaders’ Summit to have observers attend the respective meetings of the Mexico-U.S. 21st Century Border Meeting and the BTB Executive Steering Committee.” This is part of efforts to link the two bilateral border arrangements and to see if lessons can be applied from one initiative to the other.

With goal of better protecting North America from outside threats, the Task Force has called on the U.S. to, “shift from border-centric security toward a strategy of combining perimeter protection with security in depth through the use of intelligence, risk assessment, shared capabilities, and joint actions throughout the region.” The report went on to say, “To gain the full benefits of continental integration, the North American partners need to face common threats together. Terrorists, criminal and narcotics organizations, cyberattacks, and disease pose dangers to all three.” Some of these security issues are being addressed through the Meeting of North American Defense Ministers, but the Task Force is pushing for more bilateral security initiatives to be expanded trilaterally. To advance shared continental perimeter security, they proposed that Mexico also be included, “in the U.S.-Canada Shiprider program, which permits joint cross-border law enforcement operations in the maritime environment, and the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs), which are U.S. and Canadian multiagency law enforcement groups that focus on cross-border criminal activity.” Many of the Task Force recommendations would further lay the foundation for a fully integrated North American security perimeter.

In a letter following the recent attacks in Canada, the co-chairs of the CFR Task Force, David Petraeus and Robert Zoellick offered their sympathy and support. They referred to themselves as North Americans and stated how, “The tragic events in Canada further underscore the importance of the partnership between our three countries.” During his visit to Canada, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also expressed his condolences and pledged to further strengthen both countries security relationship in the fight against terrorism. At a joint press conference with Foreign Minister John Baird, Secretary Kerry pointed out that the U.S. and Canada would, “continue to intensify our law enforcement, border security and intelligence sharing.” Now might be the perfect opportunity for both countries to finally unveil the Next Generation pilot project, which was scheduled to be launched back in 2012. The joint policing initiative is a component of the Beyond the Border Action Plan and would allow teams of cross-designated officers to operate on both sides of the border in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations. According to an RCMP memo, it has been delayed due to a U.S. request that its agents be exempt from Canadian law, which has raised serious concerns regarding sovereignty and police accountability. The bilateral program is part of the process of further acclimating joint law enforcement operations in North America.

The Conservative government is using the recent attacks in Canada to further erode democratic freedoms. They have introduced new draconian anti-terrorism laws that would expand police surveillance powers. The door has also been opened for even deeper North American integration in the areas of border security, counter-terrorism and law enforcement, which could require further merging security and intelligence sharing practices with the Department of Homeland Security. An increased continental approach to security could serve to bind North America into a single foreign policy entity.

Climate change and the GOP are different creatures. This is not necessarily due to the fact that the denialists rule the roost with iron hands, though there are some prominent ones.  Some claim it is happening – they just aren’t that bothered by it. It is the great shirking response to the nature of living.  What does not affect us now is of no consequence. If the past is a foreign country, so is the future.

No one typifies this response more than Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who waved a chair at a hotel ballroom in Anchorage, Alaska and shouted that she was “the chairmaaaaaan!”  The predicted Republican storming of the Hill on Tuesday night has landed Murkowski with that rather mismatched position: that of chairing the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

In what can only be seen as the black irony of politics, Murkowski’s chair waving bravura was taking place at the same venue a climate change conference was being held at.  The difference between contempt and ignorance is not always easy to pick.

The intriguing paradox of GOP philosophy lies in what it deems apocalyptic and cataclysmic.  For the pious, the association is one with the afterlife and the Holy land, a sort of religious fruitiness best reflected in the antics of Glenn Beck. Punishments accrue when impurities start setting in, be there in policy or in the conduct of office. (This evangelical touch conflicts heavily with the more libertarian, secular bunch who see little reason to bring God into the messiness of life.)

But on the issue of climate change, which is the equivalent of bringing collapse and calamity upon earth, many of the Republicans are fairly indifferent, and, in some cases, even optimistic. Bucks are to be made.  Natural resources are to be used.  The earth is there as both object and subject. It would be a sin not to reap its bounty.

Part of this tactic of approaching climate change is a grand measure of mathematical fantasy, one that necessarily repels the journals, the monographs, and the reports of the scientific community. The rhetorical trick there is to simply suggest that not all scientists agree, which is tantamount to saying that a disagreeing congregation is bound to refute the existence of God.

Murkowski herself has no head for numbers, or anything remotely resembling data.  It is questionable whether she even knows where Iceland is, given that she names it as having a naughty volcano that did, at some point in history, emit fumes with effusive fury.  “The emissions that are being put in the air by that volcano are a thousand years’ worth of emissions that would come from all of the vehicles, all of the manufacturing in Europe.”[1]

The figure, as pointed out by climate change specialist Michael Oppenheimer, is baffling. The Senator is evidently reversing the figures, with annual emissions of all volcanoes put together actually ten times less than those coming from European manufacturing.

What she does have a head for, and certainly hands, it would seem, is prosaic pragmatism. If there are problems – and yes, some change in climate is admitted to be taking pace, the best way of dealing with them, however earth shattering or melting they might be, is dig in and deny.  “I mean, there is no way of getting around the pragmatic fact that we depend on fossil fuels for the majority of our state budget.  We also experience the highest energy prices anywhere in the country.”  Poor burdened Alaska, saddled by that need of being acutely pragmatic.

Astronomer Phil Pait, contributing writer to Slate (Nov 4), was gloomy at the prospect of having GOP climate change deniers in Congress.  Having Republicans seize the Environment and Public Works Committee is tantamount to leaving a loved pet with an overly enthusiastic taxidermist.  Expect the Environmental Protection Agency to be defanged, most probably by the blunt tools of Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe.

The senator certainly did get what he wanted after the Tuesday wash up.  “Congratulations, Voters,” stormed the New Republic.  “You just made this climate denier the most powerful senator on Environment.”[2]  And Inhofe has stunning form, the sort of unintentionally bad comic act who finds himself actually making policy from the vestiges of the dark asylum. “It’s also important to question whether global warming is even a problem for human existence,” he claimed in 2003. “Thus far no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists.”[3]

Proof, it seems, lies in a very different pudding, and when it is found, it’s bound to be a “Soviet-style” product suggesting “ideological purity” – the terms he used to dismiss such bodies as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  For the senator, the whole climate change business is the “greatest hoax”.[4]  And how odd it seems that such critics see hoaxes as having the colour of politburo red.

In any tangible sense, this ineffective Congress will take its side in history as being one of the United States’ most obstructionist and least constructive.  The GOP victory, premised on the idea that Washington does not work, was largely based on the notion that Washington was made unworkable.  You break a system in order to seek a vote to fix it.  Consensus as a term was scrapped from the operating manual of political debate.

The machine of Washington politics is poorly greased as it is, and it is unlikely to move even with these mid-term results.  As for climate change, the environment will simply go one way, while the GOP will go another.  At no point are these two destined to meet, except in a mutual meeting of calamity.

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington. (Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

With this year’s election now over and lawmakers relieved of the pressure that coincides with daily interaction with constituents, President Obama on Wednesday announced that he would finally ask Congress to give him the approval he needs to continue, and possibly expand, his new multi-front war against the militant group known as ISIS.

Military operations that began over three months ago in Iraq and the expanded to Syria in September have so far been conducted by authorities the Obama administration claims are contained in a pair of congressional military authorizations (AUMFs) signed during the Bush years that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001. Legal experts say those claims are dubious and others have pointed out that because the War Powers Act only allows the president to conduct overseas military operations without Congressional approval for 60 days, Obama is in violation of those restrictions.

“The idea is to right-size and update whatever authorization Congress provides to suit the current fight rather than previous fights,” the president said Wednesday. “We now have a different type of enemy; the strategy is different.”

And continued, “It makes sense for us to make sure that the authorization . . . reflects what we perceive to be not just our strategy over the next two or three months, but our strategy going forward.”

On Wednesday, however, in a press conference at the White House following Tuesday’s midterm elections, Obama said he was now prepared to seek the blessing of Congress for ongoing military action in Iraq and Syria, operations he has previously indicated could “long-term“—lasting many months or years into the future.

To Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com, the political timing of the president’s announcement seemed plain enough. He writes:

Most of the major party leaders on both sides of the aisle were pretty straightforward about their opposition to voting on the ISIS war before the Tuesday election. President Obama was fine with it at the time, insisting he didn’t need authorization.

Now that the election’s over, President Obama is changing his tune, and pushing for the lame duck Congress to quickly rubber stamp the conflict before the new one takes office.

However:

With the incoming Congress far more hawkish and doubtless to push a far more aggressive scope of the war, the president seems hopeful he can get the formality of a Congressional vote out of the way without them.

Legally, such a vote should’ve happened long ago, with the War Powers Act allowing the president only a 60 day window to seek authorization from Congress. If it had been held before the vote, the unpopularity of the conflict might’ve scared some off of backing it.

Now, with Congress outgoing and those returning to session years from having to face reelection, there’s likely to be much more stomach for pushing through a quick vote, and less serious debate.

In his comments on Wednesday, Obama indicated he wants to start the conversation with the current Congress but hinted that an agreement or vote may not happen until 2015, after the new Republican-controlled Congress was sworn in.

“It’ll be a process of listening to members of Congress, as well as us presenting what we think needs to be the set of authorities,” Obama said. “It may just be a process of us getting it started now. It may carry over into the next Congress.”

The Mavi Marmara. (Photo: Free Gaza Movement/flickr/cc)

The International Criminal Court is being accused of “defying justice” following Thursday’s announcement that prosecutors will not further investigate or press charges against Israel for its 2010 deadly assault on a Gaza-bound flotilla bearing humanitarian aid from Turkey.

The ruling came despite the court’s acknowledgement that Israel likely committed war crimes.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated Thursday that “there is a reasonable basis to believe” that Israel committed “war crimes” in its attack on the Mavi Marmara vessel, echoing the findings of a 61-page report by ICC prosecutors. But Bensouda went on to state that the potential case or cases arising from such an investigation “would not be of ‘sufficient gravity’ to justify further action by the ICC.”

“In the final analysis, I have, therefore, concluded that the legal requirements under the Rome Statute to open an investigation have not been met and I am announcing that the preliminary examination has been closed,” Besouda decided.

The Center for Constitutional Rights blasted the court’s decision: “It is outrageous that the ICC is refusing to prosecute Israeli officials despite acknowledging that there’s a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed. For the court to say the case ‘would not be of sufficient gravity’ to justify further action when the Israeli Defense Force attacked international vessels in international waters, killed nine people and seriously injured many more, defies any reasonable understanding of justice and international law.”

“Calling it a war crime is encouraging, but there is a factor of disappointment that they will not take this investigation further,” Ehab Lotayef of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition toldCommon Dreams. “Israel commits war crimes against unarmed civilians in many incidents, whether inside occupied territories in Gaza or the West Bank, whether against internationals or locals.”

Turkish lawyer Ramazan Ariturk, who is representing Comoros in the case, pledged that he will continue to pursue the case. “This is a moral struggle that we’re pursuing by ourselves. It’s a legal struggle, a struggle in the name of humanity. This struggle isn’t over,” he toldreporters in Istanbul. “We will object to a higher court at the International Criminal Court and we believe without a doubt that we will prevail.”

The ICC’s ruling is the result of a preliminary investigation launched by Bensouda last year after the African state of Comoros, an ICC member, filed a complaint to the court. Israel and Turkey are not members of the court, and Turkey is separately pursuing legal action against Israeli military officers behind the attack.

Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara on the May 31, 2010, immediately killing nine people and wounding over 50, with one person later dying from the wounds sustained. Eighteen-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Doğan was filming the raid when he was shot several times, including in the face at point-blank range, resulting in his death.

In the aftermath of the attack, Israel faced international criticism and protest, including demands from the Turkish government for a formal apology, which Israel has repeatedly refused.

The Mavi Marmara was one of six ships in 2010, organized by an international coalition of campaigners for Palestinian rights, blocked and raided by Israel while attempting to break the siege of Gaza. For the past six years, solidarity ships have sought to sail to Gaza from around the world, but since 2008, none have reached their destination. Following Isreal’s latest seven-week attack on Gaza, civil society groups from around the world announced in August they will sail another “freedom flotilla” to break the siege, but did not publicly disclose a location or date.

A commitment issued yesterday by European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi that the bank’s governing council is prepared to inject up to €1 trillion into the monetary system through asset purchases has nothing to do with providing a boost to the real economy.

Rather it is a pledge to the banks and financial speculators, both in Europe and internationally, that the ECB stands ready to assist them in conditions of falling inflation.

As expected, the ECB made no change to its main refinancing interest rate of 0.05 percent, which it set in September. Consequently all attention focused on Draghi’s press conference amid reports there was dissatisfaction over his leadership style, reflected in a tendency to make off-the-cuff remarks that were not approved by the governing council.

Two months ago, Draghi indicated that the goal was to purchase financial assets to bring the ECB’s holdings back to levels last seen in 2012, implying an expansion of about €1 trillion. Following these remarks there were claims the proposal did not enjoy unanimous support and divisions had emerged in the ECB’s governing body.

The main opposition to quantitative easing measures has come from Germany, with some backing from other northern European countries.

The ECB president sought to assure financial markets that he had the full support of the bank’s decision makers. He insisted that the governing council was unanimous in its commitment to use unconventional measures, including asset purchases, “to further address risks of too prolonged a period of low inflation.”

The concern over low inflation and the threat of deflation arises from the fact that lower price levels increase the real debt burden on banks and other financial institutions.

Often faced with accusations from financial markets that it acts too slowly, Draghi said the governing council had tasked ECB staff “with ensuring the timely preparation of further measures to be implemented if needed.”

At present eurozone inflation is running at just 0.4 percent, compared with the central bank’s target of 2 percent, with Draghi acknowledging that “risks are on the downside.”

Following the press conference, the euro fell by 0.6 percent against the dollar to its lowest level since 2012 and stock markets rose, with the FTSE Eurofirst 300 up by 0.6 percent.

Draghi sought to play down reports of divisions, saying there was a “very rich and interesting discussion” at a dinner on the evening before the council meeting. He added that concerns over his leadership style “were not raised so far as I know.”

While there is general agreement in financial markets that Draghi has prevailed in the short term, the longer-run divisions persist. Richard Barwell of the Royal Bank of Scotland told the Financial Times that Draghi won the battle of the balance sheet target but whether he won the war remained to be seen. “I doubt the hawks offered an unconditional surrender on sovereign purchases,” he said.

The term “sovereign purchases” refers to the buying of government bonds by the central bank. These purchases were at the centre of the quantitative easing program of the US Federal Reserve, which ended last month, and the stepped-up asset purchasing program of the Japanese central bank, announced last Friday. The ECB has not carried out such measures because of opposition from Germany, which insists they go beyond the ECB mandate.

Pressure on the central bank to take action has grown following last week’s shock decision by the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to intensify its program of quantitative easing. The BoJ will now undertake purchases of government bonds at a rate equivalent to 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) per year. This will push down the yen’s value and increase the relative value of other major countries’ currencies.

In the four days after the BoJ decision, the yen’s value fell by 4 percent against the euro, underscoring one of the main consequences of the Japanese decision—to increase deflationary pressures in other countries.

The ECB meeting was held amid a series of reports showing that the deflationary grip over the European economy is tightening.

Earlier this week the European Commission cut its growth forecasts for the euro area. It said GDP in the 18-nation region would rise by only 0.8 percent this year and 1.1 percent next year, down from its previous projections of 1.2 percent and 1.7 percent respectively.

Marco Buti, the head of the commission’s economics department, said: “The legacy of the global financial crisis lingers on. Slack in the EU economy remains large and is weighing on inflation, which is also being dragged down by tumbling energy and food process.”

The commission’s own report indicated that the downturn is not simply a case of “lingering” effects of the financial crisis but is more deeply rooted. “With confidence indicators declining since mid-year and now back to where they were at the end of 2013, and hard data pointing to very weak activity for the rest of the year, it is becoming harder to see the dent in the recovery as the result of temporary factors only,” it stated.

One of the report’s most significant features was lower growth projections for Germany, the largest European economy. Almost no growth is expected for the second half of this year and the commission forecast growth of 1.1 percent for 2015, compared to its prediction in May of 2 percent.

Italy, the third largest economy in the euro area, is in its third recession in six years and its economy is expected to contract by 0.4 percent this year. The commission cut its projected growth for Italy to 0.6 percent, half what it predicted in May.

Despite the injections of money into the European economy by the ECB, small and medium sized enterprises, whose expansion is vital for economic growth, face continuing difficulties obtaining credit because banks are weighed down by bad debt.

The ECB moves on monetary policy are not about providing a stimulus to the real economy and promoting increased employment. The principal result of an increased flow of money is to boost the position of the banks and financial speculators. So far as the mass of the population is concerned, the program of the ECB and all the other institutions of the European Union is directed to imposing austerity and worsening living standards.

This was underscored on the eve of the ECB meeting. The Irish Times published a November 2010 letter from the bank’s then president, Jean-Claude Trichet, to the Irish finance minister. Trichet warned that the ECB would cut off emergency funds unless the Irish government agreed to spending cutbacks and a restructuring of the financial sector. Two days later, Ireland applied for a bailout on those terms.

The austerity agenda being imposed by the ECB, national governments and other European authorities under the name of “structural reforms” is ongoing.

Shortly after the ECB meeting concluded in Brussels, a clash took place in the centre of the city between police and several hundred workers following a 100,000 strong march earlier in the day to protest against cost-cutting measures being introduced by the newly installed Belgian government.

The government, which only came to power a month ago, has committed itself to lifting the retirement age, cancelling an inflation-linked wage increase next year and initiating cuts in the health and social security budgets.

Monetary stimulus provided by the ECB will not boost the European economy. Rather it will be accompanied by demands for further such “structural reforms.”

A mass protest march of more than 100,000 students, teachers, education workers and ordinary citizens took place in Mexico City on Wednesday, November 5, in solidarity with the 43 missing teaching students, normalistas, of the Ayotzinapa Normal School, who have been missing for over 40 days.

This was the third mass demonstration and by far the largest and angriest. Many of the participants directed their anger at President Enrique Peña Nieto, demanding that he resign. One protest sign denounced him “for corruption, betraying the nation, ineptitude,” calling him a “repressor and assassin.”

Others carried signs that said, “It was the State.” Leading the march were students from Mexico City’s National Autonomous Metropolitan University (UNAM), the Polytechnic Institute, rural teaching colleges, and Iberian-American University, who all had joined a massive nationwide 72-hour student strike.

At Mexico City’s Constitution Square (the Zócalo), many thousands greeted the protesters as they arrived after the two-and-a-half-hour march from the president’s mansion (Los Pinos). At the mass rally, family members of the 43 disappeared students spoke to the demonstrators. None of the major political parties (the governing PRI, the PAN, the PRD, the Greens) were involved in the protest.

Image:  A demonstration against the murder of the student teachers [Photo: Gatifoto]

The day before the demonstration, a special police detachment arrested the mayor of Iguala (Jose Luis Abarca) and his wife (Maria Pineda), reportedly the intellectual authors of the September 26 massacre of the Ayotzinapa normalistas (6 were killed, 25 were wounded, 43 were kidnapped by the police and turned over to the Guerreros Unidos narcotics gang). The couple had been holed up in Iztapalapa, a crowded Mexico City neighborhood of auto parts businesses, body shops, and small factories. Iztapalapa itself is a PRD stronghold, governed by Jesus Valencia, who is close to former Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard. According to the Mexico City newsweekly Proceso, they had a suitcase full of money with them. There is as yet no sign of Iguala police chief Felipe Flores, who had also fled with Abarca. Proceso also placed a question mark on the role of PRD leader Jesús Zambrano in the affair. Abarca had met in Mexico City with Zambrano three days after the massacre, as it was already making national headlines. Abarca had been involved in the deaths of leaders of striking miners in 2013 and had been accused of assassinating PRD rivals in Guerrero. It is not credible that Zambrano did not know this. Zambrano claims that at the meeting he asked Abarca to turn himself in.

Also on Tuesday, UNAM students, no doubt in reaction to these developments, expelled PRD leader Jesús Zambrano from the Law Department of that University, calling him an “assassin, traitor,” and demanding that the PRD take responsibility for the Ayotzinapa massacre.

The arrest of the couple did nothing to soothe the anger of the marchers, who are demanding an end to Mexico’s system of crony capitalism, in which corruption, impunity, bribery have been institutionalized.

In the coastal city of Acapulco (Guerrero’s largest city) and in Chilpancingo (Guerrero’s capital), normalistas and teachers, members of the dissident teachers union CETEG, have occupied federal and state court buildings. Also in Chilpancingo, thousands of students blocked the main connecting highway into Acapulco.

The case of the missing normalistas has become an issue of international significance. On Wednesday, scores of demonstrators marched in front of the Mexican Consulate in New York City with their hands painted blood red. Other demonstrations took place in Argentina, Chile, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and France. At the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in Río Piedras, students and professors rallied in solidarity with Mexico City’s day of protest.

The Peña Nieto administration is faced with a severe social and political crisis. The president himself was slow to respond to the September 26 massacre and more concerned with the neo-liberal pro-business reforms that he and his partners in the “Mexico Pact”—his own ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) and the PRD—have been pushing through. Taken by surprise by the uprising of students and education workers, the president is now proposing a second “pact” within the political establishment, supposedly to attend to the security needs of the country.

This so called “security pact,” promoted by Peña Nieto, had been proposed by CEOs Claudio Gonzalez, of Kimberley Clark Mexico and Sergio Argüelles of papermaker FINSA Mexico, as well as others at the 12th annual Mexico Business Summit last month in Querétaro, Mexico. According to Gonzalez, the fallout from the Guerrero massacre has to be seen as “a great opportunity” to confront “decisively” the problem of corruption and impunity. At the same time, the Kimberly Clark executive cautioned that whatever is done will take a long time, since this problem (corruption impunity) derives from the sale and consumption of drugs.

That the purpose of the new pact is to give greater powers to the federal police and military was made explicit by the governor of Aguascalientes State, who called for a centralized command and an efficient justice system.

Wednesday’s march in México City was dominated by both outrage over the vicious attack on the normalistas and demands of protesters for a transformation of Mexican society. “Another country is possible and we are here to build it!” said one banner; many other signs denounced the “state.” This struggle can find a way forward only through a turn to the working class on the basis of a socialist program.

A Hollywood source has told Infowars that makers of the upcoming movie Courier X, a drama about the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, were visited on set by two men who threatened the producer that it would be in his best interests to stop filming.

TWA 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on July 17, 1996 just 12 minutes after taking off from JFK International Airport.

Although a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation concluded that the plane crashed as a result of a fuel tank explosion caused by a short circuit, conspiracy theories about the incident have raged for years, with some blaming a terrorist attack or a U.S. Navy missile launch gone awry for the downing of the airliner.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the plot of Courier X, which stars Transformers actor James C. Burns, “links the CIA to the crash.”

Infowars was contacted by a source who has been involved with numerous Hollywood projects and although he wishes to remain anonymous, we subsequently confirmed that he worked as a key grip throughout the production of the movie.

“I can tell you the producer and writer were on edge during filmmaking,” he writes. “I was there when they once got visited by two men dressed in plain clothes, that arrived in an unmarked car with license plates that I’ve never seen before. They refused to identify themselves but told the producer ‘that it would be in his best interests to stop filming’. I immediately walked away when I heard that. Appears the filmmakers obtained more concrete material on the White House and CIA being directly involved with shooting down TWA 800, along with how and why.”

The source went on to describe how the entire production of the movie was shrouded in secrecy and that the crew “never knew where we were filming from one day to they next.”

“We met in a common area each morning and then were driven to secret filming locations. We didn’t even know who the actors were, until they showed up on set. Normally we have a full cast list and a full script to prepare. Very unusual production,” he adds.

The source also said that he and other crew members were “scared” and “nervous” about their involvement with the movie.

Last year, a group called the TWA Project filed a petition with the NTSB demanding the probe into the crash be re-opened, asserting that a “high-velocity, right-moving explosion” consistent with a missile was responsible for bringing down the airliner. The NTSB refused to resume the investigation.

Last month, the 1st Circuit Court ruled that the CIA did not have to release radar analysis pertaining to the crash or names of eyewitnesses who described a streak of light rising up to the plane just before it exploded. The case was brought by physicist Thomas Stalcup.

Obama: Dictatorship Is Democracy

November 7th, 2014 by Kit Daniels

President Obama threatened to write his own laws through executive orders while claiming “that’s how democracy works.”

Responding to the Republican takeover of Congress yesterday, Obama said he will use executive orders if Congress doesn’t pass bills he wants to sign into law.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions that some in Congress will not like,” he said.  “That’s natural.”

“That’s how our democracy works.”

Obama singled out amnesty for illegals in particular, stating that if Congress passes an immigration bill which allows millions of illegal aliens to stay in the U.S., his executive actions will disappear.

“You send me a bill that I can sign, and those executive actions go away,” he said.

Obama is equating dictatorship with democracy.

“The president’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) wrote in an op/ed in January. “The great 18th-century political philosopher Montesquieu observed: ‘There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates.’”

“America’s Founding Fathers took this warning to heart, and we should too.”

The father of the Constitution, James Madison, spoke about the dangers of an executive holding legislative power in the Federalist Papers No. 47.

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny,” he wrote.

Even if Obama wasn’t equating a dictatorship with democracy, he still believes that the U.S. was founded as a democracy, which is false; it was founded as a republic.

“Democracy is the ‘direct’ rule of the people and has been repeatedly tried without success,” states a U.S. Army training manual from 1928. “Our Constitutional fathers, familiar with the strength and weakness of both autocracy and democracy, with fixed principles definitely in mind, defined a representative republican form of government.”

“They made a very marked distinction between a republic and a democracy and said repeatedly and emphatically that they had founded a republic.”

In other words, the Founding Fathers feared a democracy in which the birth rights of the minority could be voted away by the majority, so they founded a republic meant to protect the rights of all.

But Obama has surpassed their greatest fears by turning the presidency into an autocracy which can whittle away the republic – and the birth rights of all – through executive orders.

In the parallel universe inhabited by the New York Times, “Democrats largely abandoned the more centrist, line-blurring approach of Bill Clinton to motivate an ascendant bloc of liberal voters.” (photo: Pete Souza/White House)

With the Democrats suffering substantial losses in the 2014 midterm elections, it is likely that the advice from pundits and political journalists will be the same as it always is: Move to the right.

This has been the counsel almost any time that Democrats lose at the polls (Extra!9/921/951/11), rooted in the assumption that when the party veers too far leftward, the public reacts.

The advice is already coming in; USA Today (11/4/14), for instance, used an interview with a former adviser to Ronald Reagan to recommend that Barack Obama deliver a “mea culpa” speech along the lines of Reagan’s 1987 Iran/Contra address. There’s still time, the paper notes, for Obama to “score progress on big issues” if he “launches a concerted effort to build bridges with congressional Republicans.”

More outreach to the GOP is in order, say the pundits–but it’s more than that. The news site Business Insider (11/5/14) quoted a “Democratic insider” as saying that “the president has 60 days to clean house, regrow his spine, and lay out an aggressive, centrist agenda. If he fails at any of those, he might as well just start writing his memoir.”

Where to find a model for this kind of “aggressive, centrist agenda”? Many accounts are offering the Clinton years as a recipe for success. As theNew York Times (11/5/14) reported:

The Obama years have in effect represented a political trade-off: Democrats largely abandoned the more centrist, line-blurring approach of Bill Clinton to motivate an ascendant bloc of liberal voters. That strategy twice secured the presidency, but in the two midterm races it meant sacrificing the culturally conservative districts and states that had ensured Democratic congressional majorities.

While it’s dubious to say that the Obama-era Democratic Party ever really abandoned Clinton-style “centrism” (FAIR Media Advisory, 1/27/11), this conventional wisdom about the Clinton presidency misses some crucial facts. As FAIR founder Jeff Cohen observed (L.A. Times, 4/9/00), Clinton’s ideological positioning didn’t do much to help the party:

When Clinton entered the White House, his party dominated the U.S. Senate, 57-43; the US House, 258-176; the country’s governorships, 30-18, and a large majority of state legislatures. Today, Republicans control the Senate, 55-45; the House, 222-211; governorships, 30-18, and almost half of state legislatures.

One of the more intriguing findings from the 2014 exit polls is that voters overwhelmingly think the economic system favors the wealthy; 63 percent of respondents said so, up from 56 in 2012. This would suggest that a more vigorous brand of economic populism–often derided as divisive or polarizing–would resonate with voters. Instead, though, various reports suggest the White House seek common ground with Republicans on trade policies–presumably corporate-friendly deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Newt Gingrich: USA Today wants you to think of him when you think “bipartisan cooperation.” (cc photo: Gage Skidmore) As USA Today‘s Susan Page (11/5/14) observed:

To be sure, turbulent midterm elections sometimes have set the stage for more bipartisan cooperation. When Democrats lost control of the House and Senate in 1994, President Clinton recalibrated his strategy, reached out to an energized Republican majority and a new House speaker, Newt Gingrich, and succeeded in balancing the budget and passing a welfare overhaul.

You may remember that post-1994 era of “bipartisan cooperation” as the time when the Gingrich-led GOP forced two government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. And it’s telling that bipartisanship is illustrated in policy terms by the overhaul of welfare. The idea that bipartisanship is exemplified by making life harder for the poor speaks volumes about the attitude of the corporate press corps. When they talk about politicians finally overcoming Washington “gridlock,” these are the policy outcomes they cite as successes. Who better to pick up the centrist mantle of the Clinton era than Hillary Clinton herself? The Washington Post‘s Anne Gearan (11/5/14) contrasted Clinton favorably with Obama, giving a taste of the narrative corporate media is hoping to sell over the next two years:

Clinton has gone public with her disagreement with Obama over his first-term reluctance to arm the Syrian rebels, and is expected to air other criticisms if she becomes a candidate. That sets up a potential candidacy very much in the centrist Democratic mode that Clinton naturally inhabits, several strategists said: family checkbook issues, job and worker security, women’s pay and healthcare equality, plus a muscular projection of American strength abroad.

The New York Times‘ image of apparent non-extremist Joni Ernst (Eric Thayer/NYT) Meanwhile, Republicans are getting credit from corporate media for achieving their big win through centrism. Under the headline “Republicans’ First Step Was to Handle Extremists in Party,” theNew York Times‘ Jeremy Peters and Carl Hulse (11/5/14) wrote of the GOP’s “dogged campaign to purge the party of extremists and regain power in the Senate.” Next to this article in the print edition of the Times was a picture of Iowa’s Republican Senator-elect Joni Ernst, who believes, among other things, that the UN is engaged in a conspiracy to round up Iowa farmers and force them to live in cities (FAIR Blog11/4/14). Yet she doesn’t appear in the Times article about extremist candidates–perhaps she’d been purged.

“…Congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community was relatively stringent and aggressive and defined by a bipartisan understanding that Congress played a key part in ensuring the intelligence agencies remained competent and acted within the law.”   “Congressional Oversight of Intelligence is Broken”  Center for American Progress, 2006

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Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Review of CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI)

Now that the 2014 Congressional mid term election has ceded Senate control to the Republicans, President Barack Obama may assume that any further investigation into the CIA’s rendition, detention and “enhanced interrogation” (RDI) program and its efforts to block release of the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report will be stifled – unless that rare individual of conscience steps forward.

What has received modest media attention and remains under the radar for most Americans is a profoundly significant yet escalating constitutional crisis between the President, the CIA and the Senate committee.   At issue are monumental statutory questions of whether the CIA has the right to spy on Congress (albeit all Americans), to sabotage a Congressional investigation into  agency  activities and to deny a Congressional committee its Constitutional oversight obligations.  The Los Angeles Times referred to the clash as the ‘constitutional equivalent of the Watergate breakin.”

In March, 2009,  SSCI Chair Diane Feinstein (D-Cal) and Minority Chair Kit Bond (R-Mo)  announced, as the Senate committee with CIA jurisdiction, an oversight review of the agency’s RDI program.

The extended conflict now centers on whether the President will allow the release of the 500 page executive summary (the full 6000 page report completed in December, 2012 will not be released to the public) without Administration redactions that would significantly alter the report’s important revelations and conclusions.  Feinstein told the LA Times that the proposed redactions “eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusion.”

In March, 2014, Senator Feinstein took to the Senate floor and provided the public with a thorough timeline of events including how the 2009 SSCI investigation was initiated and specifically spelling out how the CIA had improperly accessed committee computers, seized committee files and violated the constitutional separation of powers.  Feinstein described the report as ‘meticulous’ and that it provided a ‘definitive review of the program’ despite White House refusal to relinquish 9,400 documents citing ‘executive branch confidentiality interests.”

CIA Destroys Interrogation Videotapes

After withholding the existence of ‘enhanced interrogation’ (torture) videos of two al Qaeda operatives from federal courts and a formal 9-11 Commission request, the American public became aware in December, 2007 that the CIA had destroyed over 90 videotapes of that interrogation recorded in 2005 in a secret black site in Thailand.

In her March Senate speech, Sen. Feinstein explained that the destruction of the tapes in 2005,  done over the objections of President Bush’s White House Counsel and the Director of National Intelligence, provided the impetus for SSCI investigators to formally review the operational cable evidence that remained of those interrogations.  Their results were ‘chilling’ and confirmed that interrogation and confinement had been considerably more harsh than previously described to Congress.   It was those results that led to the SSCI to launch a comprehensive review of the agency’s RDI program in 2009.

A criminal investigation of the destroyed videos conducted by the Obama Department of Justice decided in 2010 to not file criminal charges against Jose Rodriquez, former head of clandestine services and other CIA officials after allegations that the perpetrators acted with legally sanctioned approvals provided by the agency.  Rodriquez was quoted as suggesting that release of the tapes “would make us look terrible” and would be ‘devastating to us’ (CIA).  Further shielding CIA officials, the Obama Administration allowed the five year statute of limitations for prosecutions to expire.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Review of CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) 

As described by Sen. Feinstein, at the outset and as the result of a negotiated agreement between the CIA and the committee, the CIA agreed to provide a stand alone computer with its own network drives segregated from the CIA’s  RDINet network in order to protect the integrity of the SSCI investigation.  This computer system would be accessed only by CIA IT personnel.

In addition, according to Feinstein’s description of an “exceedingly tedious process” with outside contractors, the agency insisted on a review of every one of the millions of pages prior to providing those documents to committee investigators; thus ensuring that the agency would not mistakenly provide any inadvertent “classified’ documents.

Once that review process was completed, the agency was not about to make the job easy as committee staffers were inundated with a ‘document dump’ of 6.2 million pages of unindexed, unorganized helter-skelter material to be reviewed by Senate investigators.

By May, 2010, SSCI investigators, by now familiar with the bulk of CIA-provided documents, discovered certain pages no longer accessible.  The CIA at first denied any knowledge of the missing documents and then blamed the White House having ordered removal of the sensitive documents.  The White House denied any knowledge of the vanished pages.

Ultimately, it became apparent that the CIA had hacked into the Committee’s secure computers and by February, 2010 ‘electronically removed’ 870 pertinent documents previously provided with another 50 documents discovered missing by mid-May 2010.   Upon recognizing the agency’s interference in a Congressional investigation, White House General Counsel was contacted and the CIA agreed to no further access of the committee’s network or any future removal of documents.

Of special interest was a document entitled ‘Internal Panetta Review’ (named after then-CIA Director Leon Panetta) which allegedly confirmed ‘significant CIA wrongdoing” that committee investigators had already begun to compile.   As Feinstein described it, no one could be sure if the Panetta review had been inadvertently included in the ‘dump’ to the committee (even after the agency’s extensive review to prevent exactly such an occurrence) or whether a whistleblower had intentionally slipped the document into the trove to be found by Senate investigators.

Having immediately recognized the value of the Panetta Review as it corroborated SSCI analysis of significant CIA misdeeds, Senate investigators had already copied the document for safe-keeping by the time it went missing.  It became apparent that the CIA had hacked into the Committee’s computers to retrieve whatever bits and pieces of the Panetta document could be found.  By early 2013, John Brennan, a 24 year CIA veteran and former presidential counterterrorism advisor, had taken Panetta’s place as CIA Director.

Upon the investigation’s conclusion, the report was then sent to the Executive Branch for comment with the Administration and CIA responding with voluminous suggested redactions.

Senate Sergeant at Arms Investigation

In March, 2014, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid requested that the Senate’s chief law enforcement officer, its Sergeant at Arms, conduct a forensic investigation of allegations that the CIA had improperly searched the SSCI computer.

Reid sent letters to CIA Director Brennan and Attorney General Erik Holder informing them of his “deep concerns” citing ‘grave and unprecedented concerns regarding the constitutional separation of powers.”.    Ultimately, the Sergeant at Arms concluded that since it was unable to examine erased computer records (including audit logs), it could not reach a definitive conclusion  but did find the SSCI staff not culpable.  In addition, it was discovered that CIA personnel had impersonated Senate investigators to gain computer access as they combed through staff files (including personal emails) that could have supported the staff contention that it had observed appropriate protocols in handling all CIA documents.

Subsequently, the CIA accused Committee staff of pilfering classified documents from its possession and the agency requested that the Department of Justice pursue criminal charges against committee investigators which the DOJ declined to do.  Senate Committee staffers assert they acted within proper oversight authority.

CIA Inspector General Investigation

On January, 2014, the CIA Inspector General (IG) began an investigation into allegations that CIA personnel had improperly accessed committee files and records on the agency’s RDINet computers.  As mentioned earlier, the RDINet allowed agency staff to review documents prior to forwarding them to Committee investigators and “following review of relevant documents by the RDI team, responsive documents were made available to committee staff members.”

In July, 2014, the IG completed its investigation and issued a classified report to the CIA Director.  Its Summary of Report confirmed that five CIA personnel (two attorneys and 3 IT specialists) had improperly accessed majority staff files on the RDINet shared drive.  In addition, the IG said that the “three IT staff members demonstrated a lack of candor about their activities during interviews by the OIG.”  Further the IG found that there was no factual basis to support the Agency’s crime report filed with the DOJ alleging that Senate investigators “may have improperly accessed Agency information” on the RDI Net.

“To my knowledge, the CIA has produced no evidence to support its claims that Senate committee staff who have no technical training somehow hacked into the CIA’s highly secure classified networks,” said Majority Leader Reid.

Brennan was forced to apologize although, in response to Sen. Feinstein’s later written request and in blatant defiance of Congressional authority, refused to identify agency personnel responsible and provide the CIA’s legal justification for its actions.   Senator Mark Udall (D- Co) repeated an earlier call for Brennan’s resignation.

The CIA’s IG then referred the matter to the Department of Justice which declined in July, 2014 to open a criminal investigation.

Special Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies

Initially meant to function along a comparable path with the SSCI investigation, a Special Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies was established in January, 2009 by Presidential Executive Order 13491.  The Executive Order directed closure ‘as expeditiously as possible’ of any CIA operated “detention facilities” and to allow Red Cross access to any detainee held in a US owned or operated facility and specifically referred to Army Field Manual 2.22.3 as the authorizing document for guidance in the use of interrogation technique and treatment.

By August, 2009, the Task Force, chaired by Attorney General Holder, issued its recommendations to the President to “conduct interrogations in a manner that will strengthen national security” and to improve its ability to interrogate the most dangerous terrorists by forming a specialized interrogation group and establish a ‘high value detainee interrogation group (HIG) guided by the Intelligence Science Board.

Intelligence Science Board

The ISB was formed in 2002, with oversight of the Board conducted by the National Security Council, ‘to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its custody and control” as well as to provide independent advice to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) on the psychology of interrogation techniques.  The Intelligence Science Board released a 372-page report in 2006 that noted there was no data supporting the claim that torture produces reliable results and summed its report with the following:

“The scientific community has never established that coercive interrogation methods are an effective means of obtaining reliable intelligence information.  In essence, there seems to be an unsubstantiated assumption that ‘compliance’ carries the same connotation as ‘meaningful cooperation.’ ”

The Intelligence Science Board was disbanded in October, 2010 by National Intelligence Director James Clapper who, in January 2014, perjured himself before Congress regarding the extent of domestic surveillance on citizens.  Amid Congressional calls for Clapper’s resignation, the president stated that “Jim Clapper…should have been more careful about how he responded.”   

Independent Accountability Board

As a result of the CIA’s IG report, and as if immune to the paradox of having a controversial agency like the CIA investigate itself as if the public can be hoodwinked with another gratuitous gesture, the President established an Independent Accountability Board within the CIA to consider whether the agency impeded a Senate investigation and to identify which CIA officials were culpable.  Former Sen. Even Bayh (D-Ind) was appointed Chair.

Army Field Manual 2.22.3

In April, 2007, CIA Director Michael Hayden described, in top secret testimony before the SSCI, why Section 2.22.3 of the Army Field Manual is an ineffective guideline for interrogation positing the conundrum of a democratic society acting more like a police state.  Hayden, in effect, disputed why the non-coercive techniques, such as those contained in the Army Field Manual since 1956, are insufficient justification for torture-at-will as his comments became an argument in favor of loosely-worded legal analyses used to validate the application of retention, detention and ‘enhanced interrogation’.

Meant to provide legal guidelines for interrogators, the 2006 manual revision omitted the previously banned use of sleep deprivation and certain stress positions such as prolonged periods of standing,   Despite Presidential Executive Order 13491 (“Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”) that any individual held by the US government “shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach…not authorized by and listed in AFM 2.22.3,”  Appendix M focuses primarily on psychological techniques of torture such as ‘extreme isolation’ from other detainees, solitary confinement and sleep and sensory deprivation practices.

Hayden’s comments:

“The Army Field Manual (FM 2.22.3) governs the interrogation of large numbers of detainees held by the US military, who are captured in the course of traditional military hostilities. It is used by military personnel to help them collect tactical military intelligence from military detainees. Should the CIA be limited only to the interrogation techniques contained in the Army Field Manual, [REDACTED] would not be sufficient to justify continuing a covert CIA detention and interrogation program. The CIA program (enhanced interrogation) has proven to be effective after [REDACTED].”

Hayden made the point that since FM 2.22.3 clearly states the manual is approved for public release,

“Consequently, we must assume that AQ (al Qaeda) and other organizations have or can easily obtain a copy and train their people to resist these techniques and their methodology. Hence, we have not only laid out our game plan for the taking but have included the entire playbook as well. As a result, should our interrogations of AQ suspects be limited to the techniques in the field manual, we are left with very little offense and relegated to rely primarily on defense.”

“Without approval of EITs [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques] to compliment the techniques in FM 2.22.3, we have severely restricted our attempts to save lives and disrupt operations. Limiting our interrogation tools to those detailed in the field manual will increase the probability that a determined, resilient HVD [high-value detainee] will be able to withhold critical, time-sensitive, actionable intelligence that could prevent an imminent, catastrophic attack. In essence, we would be back to a pre-9/11 posture.”

UN Committee Against Torture

According to the findings of the 1999 Initial Report of the United States submitted by the US Department of State to the U.N. Committee against Torture,

“Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority.  No official of the (US) government is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to     commit torture.”

However, the updated Review of the United States submitted to the United Nations Committee on Torture released September 29, 2014 concludes that:

“Since the United States last reported to the Committee Against Torture in 2006,  even more evidence has emerged confirming that civilian and military officials at         The highest level created, designed, authorized and implemented a sophisticated, international criminal program of torture.”

The 2014 report was prepared by Advocates for US Torture Prosecution and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

Noble Peace Prize Winners Petition President

On October 26, 2014, twelve Noble Peace Prize winners  petitioned President Obama to release the unredacted version of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee report in the interests of restoring the US to its ‘special place, as a giant among nations.”

The Laureates cited the specific use of RDI without due process and that ‘when a nation’s leaders condone torture, that nation has lost its way.’   Commenting that the US is at a “crossroads’ as “American leaders have eroded the very freedom and rights..” and need to  “recover the standards on which the country was founded, and once again adhere to international conventions.”

One of the signers, Archbishop Desmond Tutu suggested the letter was inspired by the ‘disturbing’ news that the Obama Administration was considering a pass for the CIA and expressed his “grave sense of sadness and of being let down” by the president.

White House Lobbies for Redactions

In June, 2006, Denis McDonough, current White House Chief of Staff, was the lead author of the introductory quote at the top of this article (“Congressional Oversight on Intelligence is Broken,”  Center for American Progress, 2006).  That document stated that Congress must ensure ‘that intelligence operations are conducted consistent with the law and Constitution –  Alas, Congress has been negligent ” and warns of the consequences of bad intel with several examples including

“Decisions leading to the detention, interrogation, and abusive treatment (including rendition) of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere in the war against terrorists resulted in an outpouring of anger directed at America.”

More recently, McDonough, who reportedly has a ‘cozy’ relationship with CIA Chief John Brennan, has been personally ‘negotiating’ redaction of the 500 page Summary for the last six month while urging Senators to not pursue, presumably forestalling an indictment, Brennan in the expected aftermath of public reaction to the Summary ‘s release.   The White House has sought to stall demands for Brennan’s resignation and has expressed ‘full confidence’ in the CIA Chief.

Now in a position of influence to adopt his earlier advocacy for increased Congressional oversight, the president’s Chief of Staff is reportedly hustling Senators to protect the Executive Branch and the CIA’s insistence to redact significant portions of the Summary.

“The McDonough of 2006 has a message for the Senate Intelligence Committee of today: Don’t give up, don’t abdicate — fight for what you believe to be right. That’s the only way to fulfill your responsibilities,” said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a member of the SSCI, said that “We’ve been at this for months and months, and we’ve gone through ludicrous redactions.  What this is really all about is trying to bury as many key facts as possible in order to prevent the real accounting.”

Individuals familiar with the SSCI efforts suggest that the Executive Summary is totally focused on CIA malfeasance and does not assess any responsibility or place any criminal liability on former President George W. Bush – or any of the higher echelon or legal staff within the Bush Administration for their contribution to creating the network that allowed the CIA RDI program to operate with legal impunity outside international law.

In former CIA Director Leon Panetta’s recent memoir, “Weighty Fights: A Memoir of Leaders in War and Peace,”  he reported that “I was summoned down to a meeting in the Situation Room, where I was told I would have to ‘explain’ this deal to Rahm… It did not take long to get ugly.” 

“’The president wants to know who the f**k authorized this release to the committees,’” Rahm said, slamming his hand down on the table. ‘I have a president with his hair on fire, and I want to know what the f**k you did to f**k this up so bad!’”

Dennis Blair, then Director of National Intelligence, defended Panetta, saying the real cause for concern should be the individual who instigated Obama’s response in the first place.   “’If the president’s hair is on fire,’ he retorted, ‘I want to know who the f**k set his hair on fire,’” Panetta recalled Blair saying.

Both Blair and Panetta left the Administration in 2010 with Blair reportedly fired over conflicts with White House staff.

According to Sen. Feinstein “I have concluded the redactions eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions. Until these redactions are addressed to the committee’s satisfaction, the report will not be made public.”

As Tuesday’s election results are indicative of a ‘no confidence’ vote in the President and the Democratic Party, there was nary a mention of constitutional issues and specifically, the Administration’s stonewall of the SSCI report on the campaign trail.

Will the President, who campaigned as a constitutional scholar in 2008 and promised his attorney general would ‘immediately review’ evidence of criminality as ‘no one is above the law,’ allow the redactions to further erode his much-cherished legacy?

Will the fate of the SSCI report further demonstrate that neither Republicans nor Democrats can be trusted to protect the Constitution – or will an as-yet unknown individual of conscience be required to release the full 6,000 page document that should have been released in 2012 when the SSCI completed its work?

Originally published on Who What Why.

You know something is going on when the cautious Boston Globe publishes not one, but two, pieces dealing with the “double government.”

This cryptic phrase encapsulates a serious claim about the American body politic: That a permanent and largely unaccountable bureaucracy keeps on doing what it wants to do, no matter who the voters elect to the White House.

Both of the Globe articles refer to “National Security and Double Government,” a book by Michael J. Glennon, professor of international law at Tufts University. From the descriptions of its contents (we haven’t read the book yet, but we will—and perhaps excerpt), the author is talking, with due academic caution, about an out-of-control security/military apparatus.

The fact that the Globe thinks this book is important enough to warrant not one but two analytical pieces is significant, because Boston was the scene of the mysterious Boston Marathon Bombing.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, the national security apparatus and its allies in the media, academia and corporate America (including, significantly, the Globe itself) rushed to discourage us from looking deeper at what happened—while at the same time the nat-sec folks used the event to further expand their influence at the expense of civil liberties.

The Secret Government

One of the Globe’s pieces was a highly favorable review of Dr. Glennon’s book by former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards. Edwards, a co-founder of the staunchly conservative Heritage Foundation, has over the years become more and more of a maverick—and more outspokenly alarmed by the path America has taken.

The other piece, which appeared in the Globe the same day,was a Q&A with Glennon. The astonishing headline was:

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

The sub-headline wasn’t much tamer:

The people we elect aren’t the ones calling the shots, says Tufts University’s Michael Glennon

The genesis of the book was a question that confounded Glennon about President Obama: How did a man who won election pledging to change the national security policies of his predecessor effect so little of that? Here’s what Edwards wrote in his review:

The answer Glennon places before us is not reassuring: “a bifurcated system — a structure of double government—in which even the President now exercises little substantive control over the overall direction of U.S. national security policy.” The result, he writes, is a system of dual institutions that have evolved “toward greater centralization, less accountability, and emergent autocracy.”

The paradox, Glennon says, is that this barely accountable government machinery actually arose from President Harry S. Truman’s attempts to reduce the military’s growing and unchecked power. The unforeseen outcome was the growth of an unaccountable civilian power center.

No Secret Conspiracy (Or Theory)

Glennon’s was hardly the first well-reviewed book to deal with this topic. In 2009 Janine Wedel, an anthropology professor at George Mason University, published Shadow Elite, which received lavish praise from Arianna Huffington and the endorsement of her “book club,” despite the fact that the Huffington Post itself has a strong aversion  to  publishing “conspiracy” stories.

Perhaps Wedel avoided being tarred with the hackneyed “conspiracy theorist” because she argues that the shadowy networks she describes are not necessarily criminal or in cahoots with multinational corporations, but merely the outgrowth of powerful and self-replenishing (if often incompetent) elites.

Glennon will likely avoid the damaging label as well, with extensive research and more than 800 footnotes in his book to back up his thesis. The author “is hardly the sort to engage in such fantasies,” Edwards wrote:

This is no secret conspiracy nor a plot to deprive Americans of their civil liberties. It is the unintended consequence of a thoughtful attempt to head off the very threats that those attempts have inadvertently created. But if Glennon’s book is enlightening it is also scary. And it’s not fiction.

Glennon turns to a familiar explanation—that every nation gets the government it deserves—to bolster his argument as to why the double government has been able to flourish:

“The ultimate problem is the pervasive political ignorance on the part of the American people. And indifference to the threat that is emerging from these concealed institutions,” he told the Globe.

***

Of course, the notion that the American political process and a largely compliant and docile media keep focusing attention on the wrong people and institutions is one of WhoWhatWhy’s central themes. This heretical insight is typically pooh-poohed in the corporate media and even in the so-called alternative media. Any attempt to raise the lid on what’s been called Deep Politics is routinely disparaged and condemned as the droolings of the deranged.

Well, everyone has his or her own comfort level with uncomfortable material. Some may need a credentialed professor or two to start the conversation, and a major newspaper to weigh in favorably, before they dare open their minds.

We won’t complain. We’re just glad to know that we were sane all along.

Next (though we aren’t holding our breath for this) we hope to see the Boston Globe publish an in-depth investigation of that sub rosa “Double Government” and its peculiar handling of the Boston Marathon Bombing—which to our eyes has, at best, the hallmarks of a security-fail cover-up. And an incident that considerably expanded the rationale for, and power of, the same NatSec establishment that has belatedly so alarmed the Globe.

Saudi Arabia is funding the French government’s military apparatus for a future conflict involving the Lebanese government and the terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Nusra. Reuters reported that “France will start delivering military equipment to the Lebanese army in the first quarter of 2015 as part of a $3 billion contract to help the force fight jihadis from neighboring Syria, a French defense ministry source said on Wednesday.” No surprise that the Saudi Monarchy would fund France’s own Military-Industrial Complex because they claim that they are concerned with both the “Sunni and Shi’ite threat” of these organizations. What is more relevant to this development is what Reuters reported concerning the Saudi Monarchy:

The contract has been funded by Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia which is keen to beef up Lebanon’s ability to counter what it sees as threats to the region from both hardline Sunni groups and Lebanon’s own Shi’ite Muslim movement Hezbollah.

Is Hezbollah, a threat to the region? A Shi’ite movement that has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against Western backed rebels”? Reuters reported what France will send beginning in 2015:

The deal will involve about 20 French companies and cover a mix of land, sea and air equipment, including armored vehicles, heavy artillery, anti-tank missiles, mortars and assault weapons, the source said. “We are aiming to start delivery from the first quarter of 2015, then every six months, until the delivery of helicopters,” over a total period of 36 months, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Intelligence and surveillance material, including drones, would also be sent and Paris would provide lightly-armed armed patrol boats as well as combat and transport helicopters, the source told Reuters.

It is important to note that the report did not state how long French military advisors will stay in Lebanon. It also means that France is on board with the U.S. and Israel’s long term strategy of destabilizing Syria:

Beyond the technical training for the equipment, France also agreed to provide operational training which will mean that the contract won’t end after the final delivery and will last 10 years,” the source added, declining to say how many French military advisers would stay on.

What Lebanon’s government officials are saying is that they fear these terrorists groups will eventually “open up new supply routes between Syria and Lebanon as winter unfolds” according to Reuters. What the Saudi’s and the French are preparing for is war against Hezbollah as I wrote back in 2013 in an article called ‘Israel in Preparation for another War with Hezbollah.’ It stated what the U.S. and its allies have been planning for some time:

The Anti-Assad rebels recently have been also targeting Hezbollah territories with rockets fired from Syria and in Lebanon. The United States and its allies have been using the “divide and conquer” strategy to ignite tensions between Sunnis and Shiites with the purpose of creating chaos in the volatile area between Israel and Syria.

The Saudi’s are hoping that France could assist the U.S. and Israel in defeating Hezbollah. That is the real reason behind the Saudi-French deal. According to Reuter’s source, “Riyadh had been concerned that some of the weapons could fall into Hezbollah’s hands” and that “We’ll be there for 10 years. I don’t see how Hezbollah is going to drive away with a Caesar tank if we are around,” the source said. “The fact we’ll be on the ground is a sort of insurance for our client and partners.” Yes, insurance for Western Imperialism to rule over the natural resource rich Middle East. That is the bottom line.

Al Jazeera reported back in 2010 that Wikileaks exposed Saudi Arabia’s intentions, “Saudi Arabia has proposed setting up an Arab force to fight Hezbollah group in Lebanon with the help of the United States, UN and Nato, a leaked US diplomatic cable claims” which means that Saudi Arabia has been in talks with the West for a plan to defeat Hezbollah for some time. “The cable, which was revealed by WikiLeaks on Tuesday, quotes Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, as saying in a meeting with US ambassador to Iraq David Satterfield in May 2008 that a “security response” was needed to the “military challenge” posed to Beirut by the Iran-backed group” the report said. The Middle East is now a powder keg ready to explode. Keep in mind that U.S. midterm elections produced a Republican controlled U.S. Senate with warmonger John McCain, who is expected to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee in January 2015.

On November 4, Denton, Texas, became the first city in the state to ban the process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) when 59 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the initiative. It did so in the heart of the Barnett Shale basin, where George Mitchell — the “father of fracking” — drilled the first sample wells for his company Mitchell Energy.

As promised by the oil and gas industry and by Texas Railroad Commission commissioner David Porter, the vote was met with immediate legal backlash. Both theTexas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) filed lawsuits in Texas courts within roughly 12 hours of the vote taking place, the latest actions in the aggressive months-long campaign by the industry and theTexas state government to fend off the ban.

The Land Office and TXOGA lawsuits, besides making similar legal arguments about state law preempting local law under the Texas Constitution, share something else in common: ties to former President George W. Bush and the Bush family at large.

In the Land Office legal case, though current land commissioner Jerry Pattersonsigned off on the lawsuit, he will soon depart from office. And George Prescott Bush — son of former Florida Governor and prospective 2016 Republican Party presidential nominee Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush — will take his place.

George P. Bush won his land commissioner race in a landslide, gaining 61 percent of the vote. Given the cumbersome and lengthy nature of litigation in the U.S., it appears the Land Office case will have only just begun by the time Bush assumes the office.

The TXOGA legal complaint was filed by a powerful team of attorneys working at the firm Baker Botts, the international law firm named after the familial descendants of James A. Baker III, a partner at the firm.

Baker III served as chief-of-staff under both President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush and as a close advisor to President George W. Bush on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He gave George P. Bush a $10,000 donation for his campaign for his race for land commissioner.

James A. Baker III Campaign Contribution George P. Bush

Photo Credit: Texas Land Commission

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempts the oil and gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act for fracking, is seen by critics as the legacy of ashes left behind by the George W. Bush Administration.

Yet almost a decade later, the two lawsuits filed against Denton show the Bush oil and gas legacy clearly lives on and stretches from the state where the fracking industry was born all the way to Iraq and back again.

Jeb and George Prescott Bush: Fracking Investors

Besides sharing blood as father and son, Jeb Bush and George P. Bush also operate inside the world of fracking finance.

Jeb works at the firm Britton Hill Holdings LLC, while George Prescott works at St. Augustine Capital Partners and served a short-lived stint on the board of directors of the Midland, Texas-based fracking exploration and production company, Arbella Exploration from February through September.

“Its first investments have been tied to the exploitation of shale oil and gas in the U.S.,” explained an article in Bloomberg. “Britton Hill raised more than $40 million for its first fund in May 2013, according to a private placement notice filed with the SEC at the time.”

Jeb Bush; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Britton Hill has investments in a company fracking in the Marcellus Shale basinand another that owns a fleet of gas carriers seeking to export U.S. propane to Asia. Mitch Jones, common resources director for Food and Water Watch, wrote a blog post critical of Jeb Bush and Britton Hill the day the Bloomberg article came out.

“These relationships, where politicians move between Washington and Wall Street, between government and finance and resource exploitation, is another reason why we need to get money out of politics,” wrote Jones. “It’s these sorts of relationships that corrupt our system and provide the permanent political-business elite with their hold on our government.”

The critique promulgated by Jones about Jeb Bush could just as easily apply to his son, who recently said his father is “more than likely” to run for president in 2016.

According to multiple press accounts and an independent DeSmogBlog review of Texas campaign finance data, George P. Bush took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry in his land commissioner electoral race. He also received the endorsement of the Texas Oil and Gas Association’s political action committee, the plaintiff for the other lawsuit.

“George P. Bush fully appreciates the role a strong domestic energy industry plays in ensuring our state and our nation’s prosperity and security,” Robert L. Looney, president of the Texas Oil and Gas PAC stated in endorsing him. “Mr. Bush is committed to advancing public policy that ensures Texas oil and gas producers can power our state forward and create good-paying jobs.”

Photo Credit: George P. Bush for Texas

Like Britton Hill Holdings, St. Augustine Capital Partners also invests in fracking,according to its website.

“St. Augustine has participated in partnerships with seasoned operators to develop drilling programs in the Marcellus and Permian Basins, in addition to offering financial advisory services for those opportunities,” St. Augustine explains.

“St. Augustine provides business development for dynamic middle-market service companies ranging from liquid storage construction to logistical operations,” the firm further details. “Additionally, St. Augustine has participated as a general partner for numerous oil and gas exploration and production related projects in a variety of geological formations.”

The firm also “has worked closely with” the Texas Railroad Commission, according to its website.

Commissioner David Porter; Photo Credit: Texas Railroad Commission

In the months leading up to the Denton vote, the Railroad Commission situated itself as the industry’s go-to spin machine in the attempt to discredit activists fighting for a fracking ban. Railroad commissioner David Porter, who formerly worked as an oil and gas industry accountant, was also one of the first entities out of the block to say an affirmative ban vote in Denton would receive ruthless contestation by the Texas government.

Serving as land commissioner in Texas is often a resume padder before running for governor, an article about George P. Bush published in GreenWire explained.

“[The] Texas land commissioner [is] a powerful post that controls the state’s oil and gas contracts,” the article explains. “Every land commissioner in the past three decades has gone on to run for lieutenant governor or governor.”

Baker Botts: From Texas to Iraq and Back

One of the co-counsel for Baker Botts in its lawsuit against the City of Denton isEvan Young, part of a powerful legal cadre that includes former Texas Supreme Court Justice Thomas Phillips. Phillips testified in front of the Denton City Council in July in opposition to the Denton fracking ban proposal on behalf of TXOGA (see video below, starting at 6:25).

Phillips also concurrently works on the legal defense team for former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry — 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee and former chair of the powerful Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission — who faces state-level felony charges in Travis County for abuse of power.

According to his Baker Botts biography, Young formerly clerked for the conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and worked as legal counsel in the Office of the Attorney General under Attorneys General Alberto R. Gonzales and Michael B. Mukasey from 2006 through the end of the presidency of George W. Bush.

“While on the Attorney General’s staff, he accepted a detail to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq,” explains his Baker Botts biographical sketch, “where he was the Deputy Rule of Law Coordinator. In that position he worked to assist the Iraqi government in its efforts to strengthen its legal regime.”

Among the legal regimes Baker Botts helped create while Young was still working for the U.S. Department of Justice was one helping oil flow out of the ground in occupied Iraq and into the U.S. As of 2012, the U.S. is one of the world’s biggest importers of Iraqi crude, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA).

Table Credit: U.S. Energy Information Agency

An article published by American Lawyer in 2007 explains that Baker Botts helped cut a controversial legal deal between Hunt Oil and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

That deal gave Hunt the right to explore oil in Kurdistan, the first U.S. company given the green light to do so. The Iraqi Constitution that the U.S. helped writesays making such a move is illegal.

“Not only was the deal made in a war zone, but Iraq is still working on oil resources legislation,” wrote American Lawyer. “Under the October 2005 Iraqi Constitution, local oil is owned by ‘the Iraqi people.’ “

Ray Hunt, CEO of Hunt Oil Company, gave George P. Bush $25,000 for his campaign according to Texas campaign finance data. And the Baker Botts Amicus Fund gave him $2,000 worth of donations, with Young and Phillips each donating $500 to get George P. Bush elected.

Ray Hunt Hunt Oil Campaign Contribution George P. Bush

Image Credit: Texas Ethics Commission 

In late July, Iraq’s Oil Ministry launched a lawsuit against the Kurdish Regional Government in a U.S. District Court in Houston for what it says is a million barrels of illegally stolen oil exported out of Kurdistan — which is still sitting on a tanker called the United Kalyvryta 60 miles off the coast of Texas in Galveston Bay.

The Oil Ministry pointed to the Iraqi Constitution in its lawsuit as the legal precedent.

In March 2014, just months before the Iraqi government brought the lawsuit, Baker Botts published a legal memo on the legal and geopolitical ramifications of Kurdish oil exports.

Image Credit: VesselFinder

Constitutional, “Big Government” Double Standards?

Though Baker Botts cited the Texas Constitution in its lawsuit against the City of Denton, the Iraqi Constitution was disposable for the firm and its client Hunt Oil when it came to procuring oil exploration and exportation rights in Kurdistan.

Baker Botts’ counsel also seems to have brushed aside concerns by both the U.S.and Iraqi government that the extra legal maneuvering for oil exploration and production rights in the area would create regional instability, the blowback of which is now visible in the form of the ascendant and lethal Islamic State.

Further, Sharon Wilson, an organizer for Earthworks — an environmental group that campaigned for the fracking ban in Denton — pointed to a quote from George P. Bush back in October. “Enough…big government solutions to our problems,” George P. Bush said at an October event his father Jeb Bush also spoke at.

“Denton residents, not politicians, directly spoke in overwhelming numbers that they don’t want fracking in their city,” Wilson told DeSmogBlog. “Overturning the will of the people by government fiat is the very definition of big government. George P. is going to have to put his money where his mouth is or decide if his mouth is where his money comes from.”

Originally published in December 2013

The current Chairman and former CEO of Nestlé, the largest producer of food products in the world, believes that the answer to global water issues is privatization. This statement is on record from the wonderful company that has peddled junk food in the Amazon, has invested money to thwart the labeling of GMO-filled products, has a disturbing health and ethics record for its infant formula, and has deployed a cyber army to monitor Internet criticism and shape discussions in social media.

This is apparently the company we should trust to manage our water, despite the record of large bottling companies like Nestlé having a track record of creating shortages:

Large multinational beverage companies are usually given water-well privileges (and even tax breaks) over citizens because they create jobs, which is apparently more important to the local governments than water rights to other taxpaying citizens. These companies such as Coca Cola and Nestlé (which bottles suburban Michigan well-water and calls it Poland Spring) suck up millions of gallons of water, leaving the public to suffer with any shortages. (source)

But Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, believes that “access to water is not a public right.” Nor is it a human right. So if privatization is the answer, is this the company in which the public should place its trust?

Here is just one example, among many, of his company’s concern for the public thus far:

In the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, a former village councilor says children are being sickened by filthy water. Who’s to blame? He says it’s bottled water-maker Nestlé, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water. “The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says. (source)

Why? Because if the community had fresh water piped in, it would deprive Nestlé of its lucrative market in water bottled under the Pure Life brand.

In the subtitled video below, from several years back, Brabeck discusses his views on water, as well as some interesting comments concerning his view of Nature — that it is “pitiless” — and, of course, the obligatory statement that organic food is bad and GM is great. In fact, according to Brabeck, you are essentially an extremist to hold views opposite to his own. His statements are important to review as we continue to see the world around us become reshaped into a more mechanized environment in order to stave off that pitiless Nature to which he refers.

The conclusion to this segment is perhaps the most revealing about Brabeck’s worldview, as he highlights a clip of one of his factory operations. Evidently, the savior-like role of the Nestlé Group in ensuring the health of the global population should be graciously welcomed. Are you convinced?

Naftali Bennett has insisted that the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli control. (The Israel Project)

A group of Syrian activists from the occupied Golan Heights has issued a statement condemning the “suspicious visits” to the region recently by rightwing Israeli political leaders.

Along with Palestinian and Egyptian lands, the Golan Heights was occupied by the Israeli military during the 1967 war. Most of its inhabitants were ethnically cleansed and dozens of villages were razed, but an estimated 20,000 indigenous Syrian Druze continue to live in the six villages still standing.

In violation of international law, dozens of Jewish-only colonies have been built across the territory and provide residence to some 21,000 Israeli settlers.

Jointly written by a group of seven activists known as Loading Consription (a reference to Israel’s militarization of the region), the letter points to the “racism” and “barbaric hatred” of Israeli political leaders such as Ayelet Shaked, who “called for the annihilation of all the Palestinian people” in a Facebook post in July.

According to Shaked’s Facebook page, she visited a family in Majdal Shams, the largest Syrian village in the Golan, on 5 October.

Shaked is a lawmaker in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and a member of the Jewish Home (Habeyit Hayehudi) party, part of the ruling coalition. She designated “the entire Palestinian people” as “the enemy,” including “its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

As The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah reported at the time, that post received thousands of Facebook “likes” and “shares” from supporters.

“Ayelet Shaked is known for clearly racist statements and anti-Arab rhetoric, especially during the last war on Gaza,” Aamer Ibrahim, one of the letter’s authors, told The Electronic Intifada by telephone. “It’s clear that she — and Israel in general — is looking for opportunities to colonize the Golan even more.”

Why welcome the occupier?

The statement goes on to decry visits by several other Israeli political leaders known for their virulently anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab incitement, and derided the local Syrians who received them.

When Harel Locker, director-general for the office of Israel’s prime minister, visited the Golan in June 2013, local Syrian websites and Facebook pages “played a central role” by “attempting to strip [the visit] of its political dimensions.”

“Local beneficiaries,” the letter continues, welcomed and congratulated Locker’s visit “as if the Golan was a barbaric village that no human being has set foot on before and these political figures are going to open our eyes to the world.”

It goes on point out that Israeli occupation authorities have systemically denied the indigenous Syrian population the treatment and standard of living they should be afforded as an occupied people according to international law.

The letter calls on local Syrians not to “treat our rights as if they are generously given to us by the occupying state.”

Shortly after, in February 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Golan. A local council for Syrian residents hosted Netanyahu, taking him to a welcoming gathering on the bank of al-Ram pond, a Syrian water source, from which the occupation constantly steals water in violation of international law.

Pointing out that local protesters expelled Shimon Peres when the prominent politician visited in the 1980s, the letter says “it became a reality that we host and celebrate the arrival of our occupier and oppressor into our homes and villages.”

“Numbing a society”

With visits by at least seven Israeli politicians thus far in 2014, the activists took particular offense at a trip made Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister. After his visit on 25 March, he declared on his offical Facebook page: “A message to the Druze of the Golan: the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli control forever, and now you will join us.”

Bennett is known for advocating the annexation of large swaths of the occupied West Bank and expelling most of their Palestinian inhabitants. He also sparked outrage in July 2013 when he bragged in an Israeli cabinet meeting, “I killed a lot of Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that.”

“This phenomenon of normalization promotes and markets the occupation as if it were natural,” the letter states.

Calling on locals to reject Israeli political visits, it concludes:

We believe that the repercussions of these public visits are by all means disastrous. This is not only because they promote the idea of the occupation and the logic of surrendering to it, but also because they lead to numbing an entire society and robbing it of what it has left of the concept of freedom and liberation. These [visits] make the society devoted to the concept of servitude and submission to the occupier.

Increased colonization

With world attention focused on the ongoing violence in Syria, Israel has expedited its theft and appropriation of local resources at the expense of the indigenous Syrian population. A government-funded Zionist organization deceptively attempted to recruit Syrians into a civil service program, as The Electronic Intifada exposed in August.

Earlier in the summer, an Israeli academic college in Katzrin, an illegal Israeli settlement in the Golan, announced extensive scholarships to encourage Israeli students to enroll. In addition to the scholarships, the program will “encourage local tourism through 19 million shekels [around $5.5 million] worth of financial investments in museums and parks,” as well as several Jewish religious centers.

In December 2013, Israel’s ministry for energy and water granted the American-Israeli company Genie Energy “exclusive license to explore for oil and gas in a 153-square-mile radius in the southern part of the Golan,” according the local human rights group Al-Marsad. Former US Vice-President Dick Cheney, one of the architechts of the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, was appointed to serve as an adviser to the exploration project.

“It’s certainly no coincidence that these politicians have been visiting more frequently at the same time that Israel is trying to take more natural resources and increase the number of settlers in the Golan,” activist Aamer Ibrahim said. “The occupation and colonization are nothing new here, but the [politicians’] overt discourse and the process of colonization have become much more public in the last two years.”

With thanks to Hanan Darawsha for translation. 

53 Real Reasons We Cannot Support Monsanto and GMOs

November 6th, 2014 by Christina Sarich

Would you ever support Monsanto’s GMOs?

A man named Brett Wilcox and his son have taken to country roads, running over 3000 miles, 20 miles at a time, in order to bring attention to the GMO monopoly that has taken over our country. They started from Huntington Beach, California on January 18, 2014, and arriving in Ocean City, New Jersey on July 19, 2014. The race has helped generate awareness over GMOs, and it also led to Wilcox bringing up a great point — could Monsanto ever ‘get their act together’ enough to convince the public to eat their GMOs?

According to Wilcox, there are around 53 reasons we simply cannot support GMOs that would need to individually be met before we could even consider doing so:

53 Reasons We Cannot Support Monsanto & GMOs

1. I’d need to believe that pesticide companies have a right to contaminate our biological & cultural heritage with GMOs. Petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides are absolutely raping US farmlands. Corporate farming just doesn’t work.

2. I’d need to believe that as government and industry leaders have concluded, U.S. consumers are too stupid to understand GMO food labels. We’re smarter than they think. And getting angrier all the time.

3. I’d need to agree with the U.S. Supreme Court that organic & conventional farmers have no legal recourse or protection from genetic contamination. Since when did we decide to give corporations more rights than people?

4. I’d need to believe that GMOs really are needed to feed a hungry world. Many countries have already proven that you don’t need GMOs to feed the world. Small-scale, organic farms are the way to go.

5. I’d need to believe that GMOs really are substantially equivalent to their natural counterparts. Which means, of course, I’d need to believe they no more merit patent protection than their natural counterparts.

6. I’d need to believe that GMOs should be pushed & promoted onto world markets before long term environmental, animal & human feeding studies have been conducted. In other words, I’dneed to believe that the Precautionary Principle is poppycock. If you want to know more about this concept, Nassim Nicholas Talib does a great job of explaining it and also why he calls the EU chief scientist a ‘dangerous imbecile’ for telling us we should all ignore the Precautionary Principle.

7. I’d need to believe that super weeds and superbugs are beneficial byproducts of GMO-based agriculture.

8. I’d need to believe that horizontal gene transfer is no different than traditional crossbreeding & hybridization processes. Farmers and gardeners have NOT been cross-breeding seeds like this for thousands of years, as they will claim within many a comment-section on anti-GMO articles. You can learn more about the difference between cross-breeding and GMO hybridization, here.

9. I’d need to believe that small-scale agro ecological family farms and their communities are best relegated to the history books.

10. I’d need to believe that Roundup is safe. Or if not safe, I’d need to believe that drinking and breathing Roundup, and feeding Roundup-contaminated breast milk to babies is more beneficial than not doing so. The stuff is 125 times more toxic than regulators admit. Enough said.

11. I’d need to believe that agrichemical poisons cease to be poisonous when we eat them. This one is one of the reasons I love Wilcox. In what world do the things we eat not affect us? From MSG to high fructose corn syrup, leafy greens to Vitamin C, everything has an effect on our biochemistry. Agrichemicals are no different.

12. I’d need to believe that good science includes bullying, shaming, belittling, intimidating, and silencing scientists and others who oppose GMOs.

13. I’d need to believe that good GMO related science includes sham research methods that produce sham research results.

14. I’d need to believe that pesticide companies have the right to control the editorial boards of scientific journals.

15. I’d need to believe that industry-influenced scientific journals have the right

16. I’d need to believe that killing super weeds and superbugs with ever more toxic chemicals makes moral, environmental, and fiscal sense.

17. I’d need to believe that GMOs really do have identifiable consumer benefits.

18. I’d need to believe that GMOs have never and will never contaminate their natural counterparts.

19. I’d need to believe that genetic contamination of native and natural plant and animal varieties benefits farmers, the environment, and human health.

20. I’d need to believe that chemical giants have no moral, ethical, or legal liability to the farmers’ whose crops and livelihoods are destroyed by GMO contamination.

21. I’d need to believe that turning plants into EPA-registered pesticide-producing factories provides lasting benefits to farmers, consumers, animals, and the environment.

22. I’d need to believe that privatizing seed through patents is ethical, responsible, and in the best interest of farmers, consumers, and the environment.

23. I’d need to believe that farmers have no right or business saving and replanting seeds.

24. I’d need to believe that Roundup resistant GMO crops really are safe for the environment, animals, and human health.

25. I’d need to believe that plant and animal biodiversity is of little value or importance.

26. I’d need to believe that agricultural imperialism that results from GMO patents benefits poor servant farmers more than it benefits chemical company masters.

27. I’d need to believe that turning GMO corn into ethanol is ethical and provides sound fiscal and environmental policy.

28. I’d need to believe that farmers should continue to grow GMOs in spite of the overwhelming consumer rejection of GMOs.

29. I’d need to believe that it makes sense for the government to burden organic farmers with fees, rules, and bureaucratic nonsense while subsidizing GMO farmers and the chemical companies that own the GMOs with U.S. taxpayer dollars for products that U.S. taxpayers neither need nor want.

30. I’d need to believe that pollinators are dispensable members of the web of life.

31. I’d need to believe that monocultures benefit the environment and reduce global warming.

32. I’d need to believe that doing business with and/or purchasing products containing GMOs is morally defensible.

33. I’d need to believe that Monsanto and the other chemical giants’ place the public good over their bottom line.

34. I’d need to believe that industry executives and scientists are wiser than Mother Nature and/or God.

35. I’d need to believe that the Earth’s seven billion inhabitants should trust Monsanto and gang.

36. I’d need to believe that agrochemical companies have the right to control political figures and processes through bribes, donations, and lawsuits.

37. I’d need to believe that regulation of the GMO industry is best performed directly by the GMO industry or only slightly less directly through the industry/government revolving door.

38. I’d need to believe that chemical companies have the right to control the GMO story spun by the mainstream media.

39. I’d need to believe that agrochemical companies have the right to fashion international trade agreements such as the TPP and TAFTA, agreements that are favorable to the GMO industry, agreements that supersede member nations’ rights to govern the industry.

40. I’d need to believe that parents who choose to feed their kids organic, non-GMO foodsare fear-based and irrational, and it’s good that the mainstream media exposes them to public ridicule, name calling, and shame.

41. I’d need to believe that pesticide industry executives routinely feed GMOs and associated poisons to their own children.I’d need to believe that a proper function of the U.S. State department includes the promotion of GMOs around the world.

42. I’d need to believe that the U.S. government and the World Bank have the right to provide aid to developing countries only when those countries agree to accept and promote GMOs.

43. I’d need to believe that labeling GMOs must be avoided at all costs, even if that means subverting the American democratic process as the industry has done in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, and indeed the entire nation. Why? Because GMOs are a skull and crossbones to the GMO industry. And if the market shrinks and dies, then millions of people will also die because GMOs are necessary to feed a growing world.

44. I’d need to believe that it’s good that Monsanto—the same company that produced andprofited from PCBs, DDT, and Agent Orange—has seized control of much of our food supply.

45. I’d need to believe that agrochemical companies and/or farmers have no moral or legal obligation to disclose what, when, and where they spray Roundup and other toxins.

46.  I’d need to believe that agrochemical companies and/or farmers have no moral or legal obligation to disclose where their GMO crops are planted.

47. I’d need to believe that the animals that refuse to eat GMOs don’t know what’s good for them.

48. I’d need to believe that killing the soil with repeated applications of Roundup and other poisons is the foundation of sound modern agricultural practices.

49. I’d need to believe that agrochemical companies have the right to enter public schools to indoctrinate our children regarding GMOs.

50. I’d need to believe the U.S. government has the right to destabilize foreign countries such as Ukraine in order to expand the U.S. corporate empire including the Biotechnology Industry with its patented, chemically dependent, genetically modified seeds.

51. I’d need to believe that the U.S. government has the right to use war and foreign occupation to force foreign farmers to use GMOs as it did in Iraq through Paul Bremer’s infamous Order 81.

52. I’d need to believe that we’re better off without the birds, fish, and other animals impacted by GMO-based agriculture.

53. I’d need to believe we can’t live without GMO.

Brett Wilcox has also written a book exposing many of Monsanto’s lies, but his 53 requirements for (never) supporting GMOs are rock solid enough for me.

The FBI: America’s Secret Police

November 6th, 2014 by John W. Whitehead

We want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.—President Harry S. Truman

Secret police. Secret courts. Secret government agencies. Surveillance. Intimidation tactics. Harassment. Torture. Brutality. Widespread corruption. Entrapment schemes.

These are the hallmarks of every authoritarian regime from the Roman Empire to modern-day America, yet it’s the secret police—tasked with silencing dissidents, ensuring compliance, and maintaining a climate of fear—who sound the death knell for freedom in every age.

Every regime has its own name for its secret police: Mussolini’s OVRA carried out phone surveillance on government officials. Stalin’s NKVD carried out large-scale purges, terror and depopulation. Hitler’s Gestapo went door to door ferreting out dissidents and other political “enemies” of the state. And in the U.S., it’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation that does the dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo.

Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues and mosques; issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records; using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government, or persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work.

Indeed, a far cry from the glamorized G-men depicted in Hollywood film noirs and spy thrillers, the government’s henchmen have become the embodiment of how power, once acquired, can be so easily corrupted and abused.

Case in point: the FBI is being sued after its agents, lacking sufficient evidence to acquire a search warrant, disabled a hotel’s internet and then impersonated Internet repair technicians in order to gain access to a hotel suite and record the activities of the room’s occupants. Justifying the warrantless search as part of a sting on internet gambling, FBI officials insisted that citizens should not expect the same right to privacy in the common room of a hotel suite as they would at home in their bedroom.

Far from being tough on crime, FBI agents are also among the nation’s most notorious lawbreakers. In fact, in addition to creating certain crimes in order to then “solve” them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law, “including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies,” in exchange for their cooperation on other fronts. USA Today estimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day. Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums: one particularly unsavory fellow, later arrested for attempting to run over a police officer, was actually paid $85,000 for his help laying the trap for an entrapment scheme.

In a stunning development reported by The Washington Post, a probe into misconduct by an FBI agent has resulted in the release of at least a dozen convicted drug dealers from prison. Several suspects awaiting trial have also been freed, and more could be released as the unnamed agent’s caseload comes under scrutiny. As the Post reports: “The scope and type of alleged misconduct by the agent have not been revealed, but defense lawyers involved in the cases described the mass freeing of felons as virtually unprecedented—and an indication that convictions could be in jeopardy. Prosecutors are periodically faced with having to drop cases over police misconduct, but it is unusual to free those who have been found guilty.”

In addition to procedural misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, the FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, and harassment.

For example, the Associated Press recently lodged a complaint with the Dept. of Justice after learning that FBI agents created a fake AP news story and emailed it, along with a clickable link, to a bomb threat suspect in order to implant tracking technology onto his computer and identify his location. Lambasting the agency, AP attorney Karen Kaiser railed, “The FBI may have intended this false story as a trap for only one person. However, the individual could easily have reposted this story to social networks, distributing to thousands of people, under our name, what was essentially a piece of government disinformation.”

Then again, to those familiar with COINTELPRO, an FBI program created to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize” groups and individuals the government considers politically objectionable, it should come as no surprise that the agency has mastered the art of government disinformation.

The FBI has been particularly criticized in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks for targeting vulnerable individuals and not only luring them into fake terror plots but actually equipping them with the organization, money, weapons and motivation to carry out the plots—entrapment—and then jailing them for their so-called terrorist plotting. This is what the FBI characterizes as “forward leaning—preventative—prosecutions.”

Another fallout from 9/11, National Security Letters, one of the many illicit powers authorized by the USA Patriot Act, allows the FBI to secretly demand that banks, phone companies, and other businesses provide them with customer information and not disclose the demands. An internal audit of the agency found that the FBI practice of issuing tens of thousands of NSLs every year for sensitive information such as phone and financial records, often in non-emergency cases, is riddled with widespread violations.

The FBI’s surveillance capabilities, on a par with the National Security Agency, boast a nasty collection of spy tools ranging from Stingray devices that can track the location of cell phones to Triggerfish devices which allow agents to eavesdrop on phone calls.  In one case, the FBI actually managed to remotely reprogram a “suspect’s” wireless internet card so that it would send “real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI.”

Now the FBI is seeking to expand its already invasive hacking powers to allow agents to hack into any computer, anywhere in the world. As journalist Brett Wilkins warns:

If the proposed rule change is approved, the FBI would have the power to unleash “network investigative techniques” against computers anywhere in the world, allowing the agency to secretly install malware and spyware on any computer, effectively allowing it to control that computer and all its stored information. The FBI could download all the computer’s digital contents, switch its camera or microphone on or off and even control other computers in its network.

And then there’s James Comey, current director of the FBI, who knows enough to say all the right things about the need to abide by the Constitution, all the while his agency routinely discards it. Comey has this idea that the government’s powers shouldn’t be limited, especially when it comes to carrying out surveillance on American citizens. Responding to reports that Apple and Google are creating smart phones that will be more difficult to hack into, Comey has been lobbying Congress and the White House to force technology companies to keep providing the government with backdoor access to Americans’ cell phones.

It’s not all Comey’s fault, though. This transformation of the FBI into a secret police force can be traced back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover. As author Anthony S. Summers points out, it was Hoover who “built the first federal fingerprint bank, and his Identification Division would eventually offer instant access to the prints of 159 million people. His Crime Laboratory became the most advanced in the world.”

Eighty years after Hoover instituted the FBI’s first fingerprint “database”—catalogued on index cards, no less—the agency’s biometric database has grown to massive proportions, the largest in the world, encompassing everything from fingerprints, palm, face and iris scans to DNA, and is being increasingly shared between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to target potential criminals long before they ever commit a crime. This is what’s known as pre-crime.

If it were just about fighting the “bad guys,” that would be one thing. But as countless documents make clear, the FBI has a long track record of abusing its extensive powers in order to blackmail politicians, spy on celebrities and high-ranking government officials, and intimidate dissidents of all stripes. It’s an old tactic, used effectively by former authoritarian regimes.

In fact, as historian Robert Gellately documents, the Nazi police state was repeatedly touted as a model for other nations to follow, so much so that Hoover actually sent one of his right-hand men, Edmund Patrick Coffey, to Berlin in January 1938 at the invitation of Germany’s secret police. As Gellately noted, “[A]fter five years of Hitler’s dictatorship, the Nazi police had won the FBI’s seal of approval.”

Indeed, so impressed was the FBI with the Nazi order that, as the New York Times recently revealed, in the decades after World War II, the FBI, along with other government agencies, aggressively recruited at least a thousand Nazis, including some of Hitler’s highest henchmen, brought them to America, hired them on as spies and informants, and then carried out a massive cover-up campaign to ensure that their true identities and ties to Hitler’s holocaust machine would remain unknown. Moreover, anyone who dared to blow the whistle on the FBI’s illicit Nazi ties found himself spied upon, intimidated, harassed and labeled a threat to national security.

So not only have American taxpayers have been paying to keep ex-Nazis on the government payroll for decades but we’ve been subjected to the very same tactics used by the Third Reich: surveillance, militarized police, overcriminalization, and a government mindset that views itself as operating outside the bounds of the law.

Yet as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, it’s no coincidence that the similarities between the American police state and past totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany grow more pronounced with each passing day. This is how freedom falls, and tyrants come to power.

Suffice it to say that when and if a true history of the FBI is ever written, it will not only track the rise of the American police state but it will also chart the decline of freedom in America: how a nation that once abided by the rule of law and held the government accountable for its actions has steadily devolved into a police state where justice is one-sided, a corporate elite runs the show, representative government is a mockery, police are extensions of the military, surveillance is rampant, privacy is extinct, and the law is little more than a tool for the government to browbeat the people into compliance.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead [send him mail] is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He is the author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State and The Change Manifesto (Sourcebooks).

“I just want back my mother.  I want back my land, too.  Clean.” Dr. Archie Barton, member of the Tjarutja people, Maralinga, to Australian Prime Minister John Howard, The Age, May 11, 2003

The ghoulish and the ghastly always find form in the tourist venture.  Human beings do get rather off on the issue of cruelty, despite prohibiting its extreme forms in legal codes and conventions.  If something as horrifying as the Holocaust or Berlin Wall border guards can be the subject of necessary, museum experience, then it should come as no surprise that nuclear tourism should be equally be relevant.

Maralinga, a site located in south-western South Australia, presents a very different opportunity.  There are no onsite uniforms – as yet; but there are slabs and structures.  It was at Maralinga that residents were affected by Britain’s nuclear program conducted in the 1950s and 1960s.  In terms of its politics and secrecy, it was dirtier and more ruthless than most. In 2009, the village and surrounding sites in Maralinga were handed back to the Maralinga-Tjarutja people.  But access had been restricted.  Much of this was overlooked in the ceremony leading to formalised opening to Site 400.

Maralinga-Tjarutja general Manager Richard Preece saw prospects.  “We’re going to set up bus tours so people can be taken around by Robin (local caretaker), who is a walking encyclopaedia of Maralinga.”[1]  Well, there was still some contamination, but some of the structures “are still there and there’s a huge airstrip.”

In August 1954, the Australian Cabinet came to the conclusion that the British could establish a permanent testing ground at Maralinga.  This was less colonial chin wagging than good old dictation by mother and nurse.  Mother Britannia was in trouble, given her slipping down the world atomic rankings before the US and Soviet Union.

The United Kingdom, having captured the atomic and hydrogen bug, was determined to pursue a program of experimentation across the Pacific and Australia.  British testing staff, and residents in the area, became recipients of that benignly termed product called “fall out”, stemming from such operations as Operation Buffalo (1956) and Operation Antler (1957).

Almost 600 minor trials – a kind of window into the potential “tactical” use of nuclear weapons – were conducted for the purpose of gathering effect and yield, resulting in the contamination of the area by some 830 tons of debris filled with 24,400 grams of plutonium.  The area still boasts pits filled with cobalt-60 and plutonium.  All in all, some twelve atomic weapons were exploded on Australian soil, at Maralinga, Emu Field and Monte Bello Islands.

According to some participants involved in the site testing, personnel were ordered to engage the dust at ground zero soon after the blasts.  The rationale, according to the British line, was testing the effect of radiation on clothing.  All of this pointed to a thesis that has come to form the basis of various works, including Frank Walker’s Maralinga (2014).  Some 16,000 Australian personnel were exposed.  Pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force were given orders to fly into the climbing radioactive clouds.  Australians and British subjects had become lab rats for Queen and country.

The entire conduct of the Maralinga programs has fallen foul of various standards.  On the issue of health, they rank appallingly. On the issue of law, they rank poorly – a 600 page report by J.K. Symonds, formerly of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, suggested that the Australian government knew that British experiments in the early 1960s, and the late 1950s contravened a moratorium on nuclear tests made on October 31, 1958 at Geneva.  Britain’s official historian on the subject, Lorna Arnold, cites instructions that were sent to Maralinga that “all firings involving radioactive materials must cease by midnight on October 31.”[2]

What happened was a neat, if fiendish experiment in bureaucratic cosmetics.  Chief scientist Sir William Penney was pleased to inform the British Foreign Office of the plan.  “We are changing the name in order to prevent the possible interpretation that they are very small nuclear explosions.”  Miraculously, the experiments became “assessment tests”.  By 1959, they had morphed into “the Maralinga Experimental Program”. Vicious Frankenstein had become innocuous and benevolent.

There were stages of resistance, notably to the so called Vixen B program between 1960 and 1963 which countenanced the explosion of a total nuclear weapon.  The point, however, was fundamentally paternalistic: Australia, the handmaiden to British wishes, was being kept out of the loop even as it was being used as a laboratory.  In Symonds’ words, “There were curt exchanges between the UK and the Australian Governments and their authorities on whether Australia would accept that certain types of trials would take place at Maralinga” (Canberra Times, 24 Jul, 1985).

Material to the Australian on the ground proved scanty.  The briefings were insufficient.  In Symonds’ own words, Australian officials were “being kept too much at a distance from the real nature of the proposed tests.”  Protests noted by such individuals as Professor Ernest Titterton of the Australian Weapons Tests Safety Committee were quashed.  A conservative Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies had absolutely no desire on derailing the British experiment.  In 1993, Ian Anderson would claim in the Scientific American that, “Britain knew in the 1960s that radioactivity at its former nuclear test site in Australia was worse than first thought.  But it did not tell the Australians.”[3]

In the 1980s, the Royal Commission into British nuclear tests into Australia, commonly termed the McClelland Royal Commission, found various instances cultural and administrative blindness on the part of participants in the projects.[4]  These tended to display the ignorance of children at a neglectful parent: why did you know tell me about the birds and the bees till it was too late?

The Commission records instances of barefooted Aboriginals walking on contaminated ground and some camping in radioactive craters; instances of drifting radioactive cloud cited by alarmed officials; and the persistent presence of radioactive fragments.  It also notes the bare views of such individuals as Air Task Force Commander Air Vice-Marshal “Paddy” Menaul.  Monitoring the movements of Aboriginal residents in the area was deemed unnecessary.  “They sleep most afternoons.”  For officialdom, Australian aboriginals remained legal, and physical, absentees.  Questioners of this narrative were whipped into line.

Such blindness would continue to the British courts, with the UK Supreme Court ruling that a class action involving 1,000 British veterans could not succeed on the basis that their claims, filed 60 years after the events, could not be linked with clear certainty to their illness.[5]

Efforts to instigate a clean-up have been deemed clumsy and ineffective.  One doesn’t remove plutonium with an air brush and cheery optimism.  All in all, there have been four attempts, with 100 square kilometres still deemed contaminated “above the clean-up criteria” (ABC, Nov 5).  The bad habits continue. Even Preece could suggest, without even lapsing into conscious gallows humour, that tourists could still be “escorted” and receive the genuine Maralinga flavour.  A truly different form of tourism, if ever there was one.

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

Notes

William Binney, former Technical Director for Intelligence at the U.S. National Security Agency, talks in this interview with German financial journalist Lars Schall about, inter alia: NSA’s digital surveillance as the STASI on super steroids; the relationship between NSA and BND; the fear-mongering of terrorism; and what went wrong when it came to uncover the 9/11 plot.

William Binney, who grew up in the US state of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University in 1970, was a 36-year career official at the NSA. Having expertise in intelligence analysis, traffic analysis, systems analysis, knowledge management, and mathematics (including set theory, number theory, and probability), Binney has been described as one of the best analysts in NSA’s history. He resigned in October 2001 as Technical Director for Intelligence at NSA. Since then, he expressed massive criticism of the monitoring programs of the NSA and the related violations of the US constitution. Moreover, he founded Entity Mapping, LLC, a private intelligence agency together with fellow NSA whistleblower J. Kirk Wiebe to market their analysis program to government agencies.

Lars Schall: Bill, you were invited this year as a witness by the NSA commission of the German parliament, the Bundestag. How has it been to speak there and what did you try to get across?

William Binney: I was there for about six hours testifying with a half hour break in the middle. So it was quite intense. There were so many questions. Some of them I didn’t have answers for because I didn’t have knowledge about it, and I tried to make those clear and tried to give them information about things I knew personally, so I didn’t want to extrapolate beyond that. Initially, they were asking questions about my background which was, I guess, setting the stage for the follow on questions, but in the long run they were interested in the relationships with the BND and the NSA, and I think part of the break in the middle had to do with something that happened there and that was a BND person was implicated in spying on the commission when it was investigating the relationship, and they were also passing that information to NSA, at least that was alleged at that time, I don’t know if that’s true or not.

Anyway, it was quite lengthy and very thorough, and my whole point was to try to get across to them that what NSA and the intelligence community in the Five Eyes at least and probably in some of the other countries, I don’t know exactly which ones and I’ve made this clear, but I think they’re not doing alone, and it’s the idea of collecting massive amounts of data is just like the STASI – except this time I kind of tried to get across to them that it’s like the STASI on super steroids. As Wolfgang Schmidt, the former lieutenant colonel of East German STASI, commented about NSA’s surveillance program: For us, this would have been a dream come true. Well, that’s the whole point of it, it’s so invasive, it’s digital surveillance on a massive scale, and I tried to get that across to them. Because this is basically a fundamental threat to our democracy and every democracy around the world, you know I call it over here in the United States the greatest threat to our democracy since our Civil War.

LS: Were there some questions that you would have expected that were not asked?

WB: No, I think they pretty much asked all the relevant questions, some of which I dealt with in close session, especially in dealing with the relationship between BND and NSA that I knew, I addressed those in close session.

LS: What’s your view on how Germany is treating Edward Snowden?

WB: I think for the most part he got a lot of popular support in Germany. I think the government there is a little bit sensitive to it simply because of the close and enduring relationship between the United States government and the German government. So I think they’re trying to balance an act there between support from the general populace and also support for the US government from the existing agreements and cooperation with the German government. They have to balance that.

LS: What’s your overall view on how the German government behaves in the NSA scandal?

WB: My personal believe is that they only now are starting to get into it and only know they are beginning to realize, just as over here Congress is beginning to realize, how much they cannot trust our own intelligence agencies, and this is evident for example from last year when two representatives attempted to get a bill passed in the House of Representatives to un-fund the NSA activity. Basically, they just found out through the Snowden releases that a lot of the information they were been fed by the intelligence agencies and the administration was not true. And so they finally began to realize what was going on and tried to get an initiative to stop it, and that’s when the president and the director at the time of NSA, Keith Alexander, lobbied the House of Representatives very heavily to defeat that bill, which they did, but the bill only lost by twelve votes in the House of Representatives – so that’s not a bad deal, it was a fairly close vote, and still the issues are still going on over here and politically people are still talking trying to resolve it and we are trying to help them with that by publishing articles and things that we send over to Germany as well as the things that need to be done to ensure that these intelligence agencies are kept inline by their governments respecting the rights of their citizens.

LS: A few months ago it was revealed that the NSA could have had access via the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) to data at the DE-CIX internet hub in Frankfurt. If this was the case – the DE-CIX Management GmbH Frankfurt denies that this took place (1) –, the BND would have violated German law. Can you tell us, please, how such arrangements between NSA and BND come about that are including breaches of law?

WB: The agencies like NSA and BND would set up a separate international agreement between the two agencies that would have to be passed and approved by at least some portion of the government, that is your government would need to agree to it and so would ours, and that’s starts with the agencies agreeing on what to cooperate on and how to cooperate and what the ground rules are for that cooperation, and that’s then passed to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees or very restricted numbers of people in administration would also be able to see that kind of agreement, and the same would be true I assume on the BND side and the German government, there should be some small subset of the German government that’s aware of these agreements and is monitoring them, though I don’t know what the conditions are there within the BND and how they do it, within the United States it’s the House and Senate intelligence committees and the FISA court that is supposed to oversee that these things don’t violate US law, but in fact, what they have been doing over here is advocating violation of US law. They are enabling that – it’s not the question of them doing oversight, they aren’t doing it, they are enabling it.

And of course they are all doing it on the basis of fear-mongering of terrorism. They try to get everybody afraid so they will do whatever they want, that’s the kind of leverage that they are trying to use not just against the public, but also against Congress. It’s just all based on fear-mongering. The whole point is to get more money and build a bigger empire which they have done. Over here, we’ve spend for all the 16 agencies close to a trillion dollars since 9/11. That’s really been a money-making proposition for them, this fear-mongering. Now they are doing it with cyber security. It’s how you control your population, how you manipulate them and how you let them pay for things you want done.

LS: Is the BND merely a subsidiary or branch of the US intelligence apparatus?

WB: I wouldn’t call them a branch, but they are certainly a cooperating partner. Again, it’s all written out in agreements as to what the efforts are that they jointly share and work together on, that’s all written out in agreements and approved again by their agency’s heads and then it goes to certain parts of the governments for approval also. That’s all laid out and defined in those agreements. I wouldn’t say that they’re working totally for them, they have their own agenda and own priorities. The cooperation occurs where there’s common interest and common concern about given activities, like terrorism or maybe dope smuggling and things like that.

LS: Is the NSA engaged in economic espionage related to Germany? And if this was the case, wouldn’t it be the task for the BND to prevent this from happening?

WB: You would think so. I can only assume from what it’s been printed that this is happening, but the question really becomes whether or not it is shared with US companies to give them advantage in competition. I am sure that all governments around the world do this to some degree, depending on their capabilities and resources primarily. The question becomes whether or not it’s shared outside of the government channels to industry for example to gain advantage. You would expect that government people are keeping it within, but the problem here is in NSA: a good many of the people who are managing all the data that would contain that kind of information are in fact contractors working for other industrial partners in the United States. Some of them like Boeing have many interests and so does Lockheed Martin and so on, these are corporations where people are running that data and managing that data for NSA. So they have access to it. What they are doing to it, is another question, but it’s a very risky situation in terms of industrial espionage.

LS: Your own career at NSA culminated as Technical Director for Intelligence in 2001. The very same year you retired. Why so?

WB: What happened after they wanted us to stop doing the ThinThread program, which was the one that solved the massive data problem related to the internet communications, and so it was a cheap solution and they had to get rid of us, so that’s what they did, and as part of that process they had to remove me from that rather high position I had and put me into a smaller position which was out of sight basically. They didn’t want Congress or anybody else be aware of what I was doing or have access to me. That’s generally what they do when they don’t want people doing things, they move them out of their way.

LS: What did NSA wrong when it came to uncover the 9/11 plot? Edward Snowden “suggested that the United States had the proper intelligence ahead of 9/11 but failed to act.” (2)

WB: Yes, that came out of Tom Drake’s use of ThinThread to go through the entire data base at NSA, he went through the data and analyzed it after the fact in early 2002, I believe, and he used the ThinThread program. He found out that NSA had in fact in its data base prior to 9/11 all the information necessary to find out who was involved, where they were – you know, to put the whole thing together and be able to stop it.

See, the problem with industry so involved in this and so inculcated inside of NSA – I mean, they are inseparable, they work in the same spaces, and when you do that they have a vested interest in continuing to get the next contracts so that they can keep getting more and more money. So what happens is, they try to keep the problem going instead of solving it. So they only do incrementally improvements over time, that keeps them in the primary position to get the follow on contracts to keep working on it. That’s basically how they’ve been doing it, and they’ve been doing it for decades, by the way, it’s standard practice that they use.

LS: Do you think the expansion of various NSA programs in reaction to 9/11 is justified?

WB: Absolutely not! That’s what I opposed right away. They should have stopped it by using automation against a focused target set for acquisition of information. In other words, they knew the basic targets and people connected to them or those that were in close relationship with them, and they could define that and pull that data out and focus their analytic effort on that and solve that problem, but they didn’t. Instead they decided to build a bigger agency and that they wanted a much larger budget and a much larger set of contractors and contracting agents. That was the path they took. I called that sacrificing the security of the people of the United States and of the people of the free world for money.

LS: NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake stated also in an interview with me that the nexus 9/11 – War on Terror is used as an excuse to expand programs that were existing pre-9/11. One example, I think, would be Echelon. Could you tell us about the development of Echelon, please?

WB: I don’t know too much about what happened with Echelon, because that didn’t really deal with the fiber optic lines, and that’s really where the explosion occurred. The explosion in communications was occurring with the fiber optic lines. There are three types of attacks on it: Either they get corporate cooperation with the telecom companies or the companies running the fiber lines, and if they have that with or without the government’s knowledge, local government if it’s foreign, they may or may not let them know, in that case they can go directly to the company to get an agreement, and if they do that, then they can tap the lines there and do the acquisition there. On the other hand, if they don’t have a company doing that, then they can go to their counterpart in the government to try to get an agreement like in Frankfurt to try to get taps on that line or in other places, and if that’s agreed, then there’s a governmental approval to do that, at least in part by the agency involved, if not by the government itself too, I don’t know that – I mean, that would be the part that would have to be investigated. And the other possibility, if they can’t get a governmental cooperation or corporate cooperation, then they can unilaterally do it – that means they have ways and means to get access to the fiber lines without the cooperation of the government or of the company involved. That’s like the taps that they put on the lines between Google and all the major internet service providers when they are transferring data from their major storage centers back and forth, they put taps on those lines without the knowledge of the companies. That’s the kind of thing that they would do with anybody else that wouldn’t cooperate. In other words, if you want to find out if your lines are tapped, you would need to trace the line all the way through.

LS: On August 17, 1975 Senator Frank Church stated on NBC’s “Meet the Press”:

“In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

How do those words sound today?

WB: They were right on the money. Frank Church captured it right away. The point is that they are in the process of perfecting this whole operation, and the point is that now that everybody has a greater capacity to communicate the invasion of privacy or the intrusion into what people’s lives is all about is even worse then what Frank Church could have known. Back then he was only thinking about and looking at the landline telephone calls, where now it’s not only that but also mobile phones, satellite phones, the internet, the computers, the tablets, and so on. All the networks people are carrying around. There are at least over three and a half billion phones in the world, and something very similar in terms of computers. The explosion has been tremendous both in terms of volume and in terms of numbers. Frank Church couldn’t have dreamt about that in his time; he was just talking about a smaller segment of what was available that time. And now the intrusion is even greater.

And I would also point out that those were part of the fundamental grounds for the impeachment of Richard Nixon. They were preparing to throw him out of office, when he resigned. But at that time under the programs MINARETTE at NSA and COINTELPRO at FBI and CHAOS at CIA, Nixon was only spying on a few thousands of people. Now they are doing hundreds of millions in the US, there are almost 300 million US citizens, not counting the billion plus in the rest of the world. If you’re just talking about the US, they’re now doing virtually everybody. If you use a phone or a computer or any kind of bank card or if you’re writing a check or do any kind of that thing, you’re being spied on. So the intrusion is so much greater and so much more encompassing today.

But we are not even thinking about impeaching people. We should have impeached George W. Bush and Richard Cheney for doing this to begin with, but we didn’t. And that’s why they kept it all in secret, by the way – they knew that they were violating the US constitution and they knew they were also violating the laws. That’s also why they had to give the telephone companies retroactive immunity, because they gave them access to the telephone lines and to the fiber optic lines that carried not only the telephone but also the internet. And they also gave them all the records of their customers, which all were violations of the laws and violations of constitutional rights of US citizens in the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment, at a minimum.

LS: Bill, hearing that I have to ask: Are you disappointed from the reaction of your countrymen related to those NSA revelations?

WB: Yes, but I think that most of them still don’t understand what that really means. I do have some hope here from some of the initial feedback to “CITIZENFOUR”, the movie by Laura Poitras on Edward Snowden and some of the whistleblowing that we did. That’s been very positive, and I think it’s helping to educate the population here as to what that really means. I think once they really understand what’s going on and what their government is doing to them, that they do will in fact react to that and react in a positive way and force the government to change, which they should.

LS: I would also like to discuss some questions related to PROMIS, a software for data mining, that was developed by Bill Hamilton’s software firm INSLAW and stolen by the US Justice Department / US intelligence agencies. Dr. Norman Bailey was the Reagan National Security Council staff person in 1981 responsible for the new Signal Intelligence mission for NSA known as “Follow the Money.” According to my information, Dr. Bailey told INSLAW that NSA briefed him on the fact that it had obtained the PROMIS software from the U.S. Department of Justice and used it as the principal software installed on computers of wire transfer clearing houses, commercial banks, investment banks, credit card companies, and international financial institutions for real-time surveillance of electronic fund transfers through the banking sector. Dr. Bailey also confirmed the use of PROMIS as “the principal software element” of “Follow the Money” later on publically in 2008. (3) Were you aware, while an employee at NSA, of the use of PROMIS by NSA for its “Follow the Money” bank surveillance mission?

WB: I was not personally aware of the program PROMIS or how NSA used it. I did know that there was an effort to look at money transfers, I mean, it was a matter of following that for terrorism, for dope smuggling, just international crime. But I wasn’t aware of the PROMIS program.

LS: In retrospective, what would you like to say about PROMIS? I mean, the whole case still isn’t settled although it began in the 1980’s and there’s no doubt about it that the software was stolen by US intelligence agencies like CIA and NSA…

WB: I’m not surprised of that. I believe they tried to steal some of the intellectual capital we had after we had retired. The way they did it was to send the FBI at us to raid us ultimately. I had expected them to actively attack our computers and try to find the information there, we knew these people and so we never documented anything in a computer file anywhere, nothing was documented in the sense that it would be usable for them, either on paper or electronically – so we were walking around with all this knowledge in our heads and not putting it down so that anybody could have it.

There was a large intelligence company in the United States, they tried a kind of forced takeover of us, but what they didn’t realized was that all the intellectual capital was in our brains and they could not take that over from us. There was nothing they could do to get the information from us. So they failed. And also the government failed when they were trying to get it from us.

PROMIS was a different story. They went into an agreement and my understanding is that they broke the agreement with Bill Hamilton. I think this is a court issue that should have been resolved in the courts a long time ago.

LS: So PROMIS has never been a topic among your colleagues at NSA?

WB: No, we never talked about it, and I’ve never heard about the program PROMIS at all while I was working at NSA.

LS: Is Wall Street a major player of the Deep State in the US?

WB: I certainly think it is politically anyway, because they do contribute a lot of money to the political campaigns. And of course they have their own lobbyists and all that. I can’t imagine them not having some input in the process somewhere. It only seems reasonable.

LS: Well, the CIA for example was formed and launched by investment bankers and lawyers from Wall Street.

WB: Yes, and they of course got billions from us. And if you take the case of Elliot Spitzer for example, he was in New York and going after the bankers for all the defrauding of people. He was going after them in a criminal way, and of course they get rid of him. They had the FBI look through all the data, I allege, because I don’t know where else they get it, the FBI had direct access through the PRISM program, they go into the name data bases at NSA, all the emails, phone calls and financial transactions in those data bases, and the FBI had access to that and could look at the data and find all the finance, phone calls and what have you for Elliot and find some evidence against him that they could use to leverage to get rid of him, which they did.

My question to begin with was what was their probable cause to do that in the beginning? I never really heard our government say anything about that, because they don’t like the Fourth Amendment, because it constrains what they can and can’t do. They want to have a free hand to get rid of anybody they want.

Like in my case, in the case of Kirk Wiebe, or also in Tom Drake’s case, they tried to get rid of us by falsifying evidence and drawing up an indictment against us. Well, you know, that was falsifying evidence to submit to a court to put people away for decades, that’s what they were trying to do to us. I caught them at it, okay, so they finally dropped all that. But I mean, that’s our Department of Justice; that’s not justice, that’s criminal. So, the people down there what they’re doing, the House and Senate intelligence committees, the FISA court, the Department of Justice and the White House, they are trying to cover up any exposure of this, and that’s why they were really after Snowden, and that’s why they wanted to stop all those leaks, because it’s exposing them for the crimes they were committing against the people of United States and against the people of the world.

LS: Two other questions: Who are the largest private contractors who manage IT and telecommunication systems for the NSA, and what is their access and potential use of the data to serve their private interests?

WB: Well, you see, that’s what I was talking about earlier: those who are managing the data for NSA are contractors and those are contracting organizations or companies that have many interests, not just in intelligence. They do have access there, and that’s a real danger of whether or not they would use that for industrial espionage to give them leverage and advantage in a competitive bidding for contracts internationally. That’s always a threat. I don’t know how they are monitoring that, and I don’t know what they are doing to ensure that that doesn’t happen.

Also, I would point out that these kinds of data acquisitions are not just limited to NSA and BND, there are other countries involved that have also sharing agreements and have the ability, like through XKeyscore, to see these data sets. That just opens up an immense array of potential abuses. I don’t know if they have agreements to monitor or prevent it or to stop it if they find it. I don’t know what they’re doing. (laughs.) They haven’t made it clear. I mean, they are doing all of this in secret anyway.

LS: And it’s quite a problem given the fact that roughly 70 per cent of the US intelligence budget is outsourced to corporate contractors. (4) — One more question, and I know it’s hard to answer, but I think it’s crucial: Are NSA systems used to manage the financial markets, for example related to the NY Fed, the operative arm of the Federal Reserve System?

WB: I do not know that the Treasury or any part of the Federal Reserve System is using those programs. They probably get the benefit of it from indirectly, but I don’t know they are using them directly. They are part of the government, too, you know, they share knowledge across the government, how much of that I’m not sure. But again, whatever agreements were made, would be made within the US government as to what kind of sharing would go on and the level to get access to it, that would be defined in those agreements.

LS: How would you think the indirect use of those systems looks like?

WB: Here is what I think they would do: I would think that they would have the Treasury and all the banks report transfers of money in and out of the country. Also, I would think they would take cooperatively under the business records transfer all kinds of financial transactions, including not just credit cards, but also bank transfers of money back and forth between banks around the world. Also, all personal check-writing and transfers of money from individuals inside the country as well as anywhere else they can get it. Those are the kinds of transfers they would be looking for. They are looking for patterns of money transferring that would be indicative of payoff for dope or payoff for money laundering operations or things like that. I would think they are doing that.

LS: And as you know the Treasury Department has this Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence as a Counterterrorism Finance Unit. Do you think the NSA works with them?

WB: I assume they do. The level of cooperation would be laid out in agreements again.

LS: Thank you very much for taking your time for this interview, Bill!

Notes:

(1) See the press release by the DE-CIX Management GmbH Frankfurt (in German) here:

http://presse.de-cix.net/press-releases/pressemitteilung/article/statement-zu-den-medienberichten-ueber-den-de-cix-vom-25-juni-2014/

(2) See “Read Snowden’s comments on 9/11 that NBC didn’t broadcast”, Russia Today, May 30, 2014, here: http://rt.com/usa/162576-nbc-snowden-september-attack/

(3) See Tim Shorrock: “Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power”, Salon, July 23, 2008, here:
http://www.salon.com/2008/07/23/new_churchcomm/. For more information on NSA’s “Follow the Money” SIGINT mission and PROMIS see Lars Schall: “Follow the Money: The NSA’s real-time electronic surveillance of bank transactions”, LarsSchall.com, February 2, 2014, here:

http://www.larsschall.com/2014/02/02/follow-the-money-the-nsas-real-time-electronic-surveillance-of-bank-transactions/

(4) See Tim Shorrock: “Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing”, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2008, p. 6.

By now even the New York Times is openly talking about the secret Obama Administration strategy of trying to bankrupt Russia by using its oil-bloated Bedouin bosom buddy, Saudi Arabia, to collapse the world price of oil. However, it’s beginning to look like the neo-conservative Russia-haters and Cold war wanna-be hawks around Barack Obama may have just shot themselves in their oily foot. As I referred to it in an earlier article, their oil price strategy is basically stupid. Stupid, as all consequences have not been taken into account. Take now the impact on US oil production as prices plummet.

The collapse in US oil prices since September may very soon collapse the US shale oil bubble and tear away the illusion that the United States will surpass Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer. That illusion, fostered by faked resource estimates issued by the US Department of Energy, has been a lynchpin of Obama geopolitical strategy.

Now the financial Ponzi scheme behind the increase of US domestic oil output the past several years is about to evaporate in a cloud of fictitious smoke. The basic economics of shale oil production are being ravaged by the 23% oil price drop since John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah had their secret meeting near the Red Sea in early September to agree on the Saudi oil price war against Russia.

Wall Street bank analysts at Goldman Sachs just issued a 2015 forecast that US oil prices, measured by a benchmark called WTI (West Texas Intermediate) will fall to $70 a barrel. In September 2013, WTI was more than $106 a barrel. That translates into a sharp 34% price collapse in just a few months. Why is that critical to the US shale production? Because, unlike conventional crude oil deposits, shale oil or tight oil as industry calls it, depleted dramatically faster.

A comprehensive new analysis just issued by David Hughes, a Canadian oil geo-scientist with thirty years’ experience with the Geological Survey of Canada, using data from existing US shale oil production that has now become public for the first time (the shale oil story is very recent), shows dramatic rates of oil volume decline from US shale oil wells:

The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale oil basins measured for the report range from an astounding 60-percent to 91-percent. That means over those three years, the amount of oil coming out of the wells decreases by that percentage. This translates to 43-percent to 64-percent of their estimated ultimate recovery dug out during the first three years of the well’s existence. Four of the seven shale gas basins are already in terminal decline in terms of their well productivity: the Haynesville Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Woodford Shale and Barnett Shale.

A decrease in oil daily of between 60% and 91% for these best possible shale oil regions means the oil companies must drill deeper to even stay still with oil production, let alone increase total oil volume. That means the drillers must spend more money to drill deeper, a lot more. According to Hughes, the Obama administration Department of Energy has uncritically taken rosy forecast numbers given them by the companies that boost the US shale oil myth. His calculations show future US shale oil output only 10% that estimated for 2040 by the Energy Department.

Hughes describes the current deadly dilemma of the shale oil companies as a “drilling treadmill.” They must drill more and more wells just to keep production levels flat. The oil companies have already gone after the most promising shale oil areas, so-called “sweet spots,” to maximize their production. Now as production begins to decline terminally, they must start drilling in spaces with less rich oil and gas returns. He adds, “if the future of U.S. oil and natural gas production depends on resources in the country’s deep shale deposits…we are in for a big disappointment.”

Oil price collapse

What Hughes describes was the state of shale oil before the start of the Kerry-Abdullah Saudi oil price war. Now US WTI oil prices have dropped a catastrophic 25% in six weeks, and still falling. Other large oil producers like Russia and Iran are in turn flooding the world market with their oil to increase revenue for their state budgets, adding to a global oil supply glut. That in turn pressures prices more.

The shale oil and gas bonanza of the past five years in the USA has been built on a foundation of zero Federal Reserve interest rates and huge speculative investment by hungry Wall Street firms and funds. Because of the ultra-rapid oil well depletion, when market oil prices collapse, the entire economics of lending to the shale oil drillers collapses as well. Money suddenly vanishes and debt-strapped oil companies begin real problems.

According to Philip Verleger, former head of President Carter’s Office of Energy Policy and now an energy consultant, in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, one of the most important new shale oil regions, oil at $70 a barrel could cut production 28 percent to 800,000 barrels a day by February from 1.1 million barrels a day in July. “The cash flow will go down as the prices go down, the amount of money advanced to these people to continue the drilling will dry up entirely, so you’ll see a marked slowdown in drilling,” said Verleger.

Myths, Lies and Oil Wars

The end of the shale oil bubble would deal a devastating blow to the US oil geopolitics. Today an estimated 55% of US oil production and all the production increase of the past several years comes from fracking for shale oil. With financing cut off because of economic risk amid falling oil prices, shale oil drillers will be forced to halt new drilling that is needed merely to maintain a steady oil output.

The aggressive US foreign policy in the Middle East—its war against Syria’s al-Assad regime, its hardball oil sanctions against Iran, its sanctions against Russian oil projects, its cynical toleration of ISIS in Iraqi oil regions, its refusal to intervene to stabilize the Libyan oil economy but instead to tolerate dis-order are all premised on a cocky view in Washington that the USA is once again the King of Oil in the world and can afford to play high-risk oil geopolitics. The official government agency responsible for advising the CIA, Department of Defense, State Department and White House on energy, the US Department of Energy, has issued projections of US shale oil growth based on myths and lies. That has led the Obama White House to launch oil wars based on those same myths and lies about the rosy prospects of shale oil.

This oily arrogance was epitomized in a speech by then Obama National Security Adviser Tom Donilon. In an April 2013 speech at Columbia University, Donilon, then Obama’s national security adviser, publicly expressed this: “America’s new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength. Increasing US energy supplies acts as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price shocks. It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

The next three or so months in the US shale oil domain will be strategic.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”

There are many fabrications and false assumptions underlying the Colombia peace negotiations between the Santos regime and FARC – EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army).  The first and most egregious is that Colombia is a democracy.  The second is that the Santos regime pursues policies which enhance non-violent social and political activity conducive to integrating the armed insurgency into the political system.

There is sufficient evidence to call into question both assumptions.  Over the past two decades and a half nearly three thousand trade union leaders and activists have been murdered; over 4.5 million peasants have been dispossessed and displaced by the military and paramilitary forces; and over nine thousand political prisoners are being held indefinitely for engaging in non-violent socio-political activity.  In addition scores of human rights lawyers, activists and advocates have been assassinated.

The vast majority of the victims are a result of regime directed military and police repression or paramilitary death squads allied with the military and leading pro-government politicians.

 The scale and scope of regime violence against social opposition precludes any notion that Colombia is a democracy:  elections conducted under widespread terror and whose perpetrators are allied with the state and act with impunity, have no legitimacy.

The re-election of President Santos and the convocation of peace negotiations with the  FARC     to end Latin America’s longest civil war is certainly a welcome step toward ending the bloodshed and providing the basis for a transition to democracy.

While the Santos regime has put a stop to the massive state terror regime of his predecessor, the US backed Alvaro Uribe regime, political assassinations still occur and the perpetrators continue to act with impunity.

For any peace process to culminate with success, the peace accords, agreed to by both parties, must be effectively implemented.  Previous agreements ended in state massacres of demobilized guerrillas turned civil society activists and elected political representatives.

The peace negotiations have proceeded for two years and major accords have been reached on a series of vital areas of mutual concern.  In particular both sides have signed off on 3 of 5 points on the peace agenda:  rural developments, guerrilla participation in politics, policy on drug trafficking.  Current negotiations focus on the contentious “transitional justice” for victims of the conflict.  Most human rights groups and experts agree that the vast majority of victims are a result of military and paramilitary repression.  However, the Santos regime and its backers in the media claim otherwise – blaming the FARC.

Is There a “Peace Process”?

The Santos regime has thrice rejected cease fire offers by the FARC who have gone ahead and unilaterally implemented them .  The regime has chosen to continue the war in Colombia while negotiating in Havana.  The two year time span of the peace negotiations provides deep insights into the viability of the peace accords signed in Havana.  International and Colombian human rights groups and social movements provide timely reports on the scope and depth of ongoing violations of political and human rights in Colombia during the peace negotiations.

Based on data compiled by human rights attorneys and experts affiliated with the Marcha Patriotica (Patriotic March), an alliance of scores of neighborhood, peasant, trade union and human rights organizations, between April 2012 and January 2014, it is clear that the reign of state and paramilitary terror continues parallel to the peace negotiations.

During this 21 month period, twenty-nine Patriotic March (PM) activists were killed and three others were “disappeared” – and presumed murdered.  Scores of others have received death threats.

The class background of the victims points to the vulnerability of the peace agreement.  Twenty-three of the murdered members of the PM were peasant leaders and activists promoting agrarian reform, the repossession of land under the regime’s Land Restitution Law or engaged in other peaceful civil society activity.  Four of the victims were active in social movements supporting a “peace with social justice” agenda; two were human rights lawyers; two were community and neighborhood organizers and one was a leader of a local youth movement.

None of the assailants were arrested. Military and police officials, who had previous notice of death threats, took no precautions. Nor were any investigations undertaken, even when family and neighbors were privy to relevant evidence.

In the face of the Santos’ government’s unwillingness to curtail military, police and death squad complicity in the murder of peasant activists during the peace negotiations, can the regime be trusted to implement the accord on “rural development”?  Can the government guarantee the security of disarmed guerrillas as they enter the political system when over one hundred human rights activists received death threats in September 2014?

According to Amnesty International, during 2013, seventy human rights defenders were killed, including indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders and twenty-seven members of trade unions. At least forty-eight homicides were committed by military units.  Military commanders engaged in “false positives”, meaning murdered civilians were falsely labelled by the military as “armed insurgents”.  Extra judicial killings by the military continue under the Santos regime.

Equally ominous, Santos has failed to disband the paramilitary death squads.  As a result, the regime fails to protect land claimants.  Dispossessed peasants and farmers attempting to resettle their land under Santos’ “Land Restitution Law” have been threatened or murdered by paramilitary gangs.  As a result the Law has virtually no impact on resettling peasants because of landlord retaliations.

In fact the number of dispossessed has increased according to the United Nations: 55,157, mostly rural, Colombians fled their homes between January and October 2013, because warfare between and among drug and paramilitary gangs.

Presidential Santos War on Civil Society

The pervasive insecurity that rules the countryside, the murders, disappearances and jailing of social activists, accompanying the peace negotiations, call into question the “accords” thus far reached between the FARC and the Santos regime.  Supporters of the regime argue that the number of state murders has declined over the past three years.  Critics counter that relative fewer assassination have the same effect in generating fear, undermining citizen participation and the transition to a democratic political system.

The entire conception of a successful peace process rests on the assumption that the accords will result in constitutional guarantees of free and democratic citizen participation.  Yet throughout the two year period, the regime has not demonstrated a clear and consequential commitment to elementary rights.  If that is the case during the negotiations with the popular insurgency, still active and armed, how much worse will conditions become once the military, police and paramilitary are free of any retaliation, when they will have a free hand to intimidate and strike down disarmed political dissidents attempting to compete in local or national elections?

The Santos regime appears to have adopted a two prong strategy: combining violent repression of the social movements in Colombia while adopting the language of peace, justice and reconciliation at the peace table in Havana.

The Santos regime can promise to accept many democratic changes but its practice over the past two years speaks to an authoritarian, lawless regime, content with maintaining the status quo.

The Santos regime has three strategic goals:  to disarm the popular insurgency; to regain control over the territory under insurgent control;and to weaken and undermine the popular social movements and human rights groups which are likely to form political alliances with the insurgents when and if they become part of the political system.

It is doubtful that the FARC will surrender their arms in a political climate in which paramilitary killers operate with impunity; military commanders still engage in ‘false positives’; and rural development projects are inoperative because of landowners’ terror tactics.

Unless the peace accords are accompanied by fundamental changes in the military; unless the paramilitary forces are effectively demobilized; unless the government recognizes the legitimacy of the demands of the mass social movements and human rights group for a freely elected constituent assembly is accepted, the peace process will end in failure.

Conclusion:  Four Hypothesis on Santos Strategy for War and Peace

There are several hypotheses regarding why the Santos regime negotiates a peace accord while gross violations of human rights continue on a daily basis.

(1)    The Santos regime is divided, with one sector in favor of peace and another opposed.  This hypothesis lacks any credible basis as these are no visible signs of internal conflict and the regime acts with a unified command.  While some state violence may be a result of local military commanders, at no point have national leaders reprimanded the “local” transgressors.

(2)   The Santos regime actively pursues violent acts against the social movements to strengthen its bargaining position in the peace negotiations  to secure a more favorable settlement – in other words to make the minimum of social concessions in order to placate oligarchs critical of any negotiations.  This hypothesis explains the ‘dual strategy’ approach advocated by the regime with regard to the FARC,talking peace in Havana and rejecting a cease fire in Colombia; continuing the war while negotiating peace.  But it also undermines the regime’s claim that Santos seeks to incorporate combatant groups into the political system.

(3)   The regime is in a tacit pact with former death squad – President Alvaro Uribe. As a result the government’s military apparatus is still tied to paramilitary gangs, working with landowners, drug traffickers and businesspeople.  There is no doubt that Santos has long-standing ties to Uribe – he was his Defense Minister.  Moreover, after Santos defeated Uribe’s candidate for the Presidency by a narrow margin he has sought a political accommodation with Uribe’s Congressional and business supporters.  On the other had Santos recognizes that his economic strategy, especially his focus on promoting trade with Latin America and especially Venezuela, and his big push to exploit the energy and mining sector depends on reaching a peace agreement with the FARC, which controls substantial mineral rich regions.  Hence Santos signs “paper agreements’ with the FARC, while applying a ‘hard fist’ (‘mano duro’) policy to the social movements.

(4)   The upsurge of the mass social movements, including the Marcha Patriotica, demanding the effective implementation of the ‘rural development’ reforms and repossession of land to 3.5 million displaced families and the increasing role of the human rights groups in monitoring the ongoing violations of human rights, means that the Santos regime cannot secure ‘peace’ solely through an agreement with the FARC in Havana.  If the Santos regime’s goal in the peace negotiations is to disarm the guerrillas and incorporate them into the electoral system, without dealing with the root socio-economic structural reforms, it must weaken the civil society popular movements.

This is the most plausible hypothesis.  President Santos is capable of promising the FARC any sort of ‘democratic reforms’ and is willing to sign off on anti-drug agreements and even ‘agrarian development’.   But what he is unwilling to accept is the emergence of mass peasant movements actively engaged in changing land tenure, repossessing their farms and reclaiming millions of acres of land granted to big foreign owned mining consortiums.

Santos will not ‘demobilize’ the paramilitary gangs because they are instruments of the big landowners and protect the state grants to the big mining companies.  But he will try to limit deathsquad targets to specific activists and organizations in contentious regions.

Santos has not even curtailed the cross border attacks by Colombian paramilitary groups.  Assassinations continue, the latest, the assassination of a Venezuelan Congressional leader.  He has expanded military ties with the US by pursuing agreements to collaborate with NATO – offering combat units for the Middle East wars.

What is abundantly clear is that the Santos regime has not complied with the most elementary conditions necessary to implement any of the five point reform agenda set forth in Havana. Military impunity, rampaging death squads, scores of daily death threats to human rights activists, over nine thousand political prisoners and dozens of unsolved killings of peasant leaders is not compatible with a transition to a democratic peace.  They are compatible with the continuity of an authoritarian oligarchical regime.  A democratic transition and a peace agreement requires a fundamental change in the political culture and institutions of the Colombian state.

Discovering Iran. Women’s Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

November 6th, 2014 by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Iran Trip:  September – October 2014

Marcel Proust said: “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”  During the past two decades, I visited Iran on numerous occasions staying 10-14 days at a time.  This time around, I stayed for 2 months and heeding Proust, I carried with me a fresh pair of eyes.    I discarded both my Western lenses as well as my Iranian lenses and observed with objective eyes.  It was a formidable journey that left me breathless.  

Part I – Women of the Islamic Republic of Iran

It is hard to know where to start a travel log and how to describe a newfound world in a few pages.  However, given the obsession with the status of women, it is perhaps appropriate to start with the women in Iran as I perceived them.

Western media with help from feminists and Iranians living outside of Iran portray Iranian women as being “oppressed” — foremost because women in Iran have to abide by an Islamic dress code – hijab.   Yes, hijab is mandatory and women choose to either wear either a chador or to wear a scarf.   But what is crucial to understand is the role chador played in pre 1979 versus the post Revolution era.

Prior to the 1979 Revolution, the chador was indicative of a thinly veiled caste system. While a few distinguished women of high socio-economical background chose to wear the chador, the rest, the majority of Iranian women, were simply born into the habit.  In short, the socio-economically disadvantaged wore the pre 1979 chador.  In those days, the chador was a hindrance to a woman’s progress; she was looked down at and frowned upon.   She could not move forward or up.   She was oppressed.   But Western feminists were blind to this oppression.  After all, the Shah was modern and America’s friendly dictator.

The Revolution changed the status quo and chipped away at the caste system.   A revolution, by definition, is a complete change in the way people live and work.  And so it is with the Iranian Revolution.  The post 1979 chador is no longer an impediment to a woman’s future.  Today’s Iranian woman, the same (formerly) less privileged class, has found freedom in her chador.  She has been unshackled and she marches on alongside her (formerly) more privileged colleague. This emancipation is what the Western/Westernized feminists see as oppression.

I myself come from yesterday’s tiny minority of  “privileged” women, far too comfortable in my “Western” skin to want to promote hijab, but I will not allow my personal preferences to diminish the value of the progress made because of hijab. The bleeding hearts from without should simply change their tainted lenses instead of trying to change the lives of others for Iranian women do not need to be rescued, they do not follow – they lead.

On two separate occasions I had the opportunity to sit and talk with a group of PhD students at Tehran University’s Global Studies Department.   Frankly, these young women charmed me.   Their inquisitive and sharp minds, their keen intellect, their vast knowledge, their fluent English, and their utter confidence dazzled me.  Western feminists would consider them “oppressed”.   Seems to me that feminism needs rescuing, not Iranian women.

The inordinate success of women goes vastly beyond education; they participate in every aspect of society: motherhood, arts and sciences, high tech, film and cinema, research, business, administration, politics, sports, armed forces, bus and taxi drivers, fire-fighters, etc.  Women’s active role in society is undeniable.  What I found tantalizing was their role as cultural gatekeepers.

Women – The Cultural Warriors

Cultural imperialism is part and parcel of neocolonialism.   The eradication of an indigenous culture and replacing it with a hegemonic one enables the hegemon to exert influence on the subject nation – to own it.   And women are the nuclei.  They hold the family together and pass on traditions.  To this end, in every colonial adventure, regardless of geography, women have been the primary targets (i.e. victims of rescue).  Iran has been no different.  While some have indeed abandoned their culture in order to embrace that of another, the vast majority have resisted and fought back with authentic Iranian tradition.

One group of these cultural warriors left a deep impact on me.  I attended a dance ensemble at the famous Roudaki Hall (Talar Roudaki).  Girls aged 6 to 18 sent the packed hall into a thunderous applause when they danced to various traditional songs from around the country.   Their dance was not MTV stuff.  It reflected the beauty and purity of an ancient culture. Their movements and gestures were not intended to be seductive, they were graceful and poetic ushering in the ancient past and bonding it with the present, strengthening it.   These were the women of Iran who would guard Iran’s precious culture and traditions against modern, Western culture deemed central to ‘civilization’ and ‘freedom’ by Western feminists.

It is not my intention to give the false impression that every woman in Iran is happy, successful, and valued.  Like any other society, Iran has its share of unhappy, depressed girls and women.  It has its share of women who have been abused and betrayed.   It has its share of girls and women who turn to drugs, prostitution, or both.    I came across these as well.  I also noted that laws in Iran do not favor women, be it divorce, child custody, or inheritance.  Yet women have leapt forward.

Part II – Esprit de Corps

Washington Just Doesn’t Get It

Numerous visitors have travelled to Iran and brought back reports describing the landscape, the food, the friendliness of the people, the impact of the sanctions, and so forth.   For the most part, these reports have been accurate — albeit incomplete.  I do not want to tire the reader with my observations on these same topics; rather, I invite the reader to share my journey into the soul of the country – the spirit of the Iranian nation.

Washington’s missteps are, in part, due to the simple fact that Washington receives flawed intelligence on Iran and Iranians.  This has been a long-standing pattern with Washington. Prior to the 1979 Revolution, a plethora of US personnel lived in Iran. Thousands of CIA agents were stationed there.  Their task went beyond teaching torture techniques to the Shah’s secret police; they were, after all, spies.  In addition to the military personnel that came in tow with the military equipment sold to the Shah by the U.S., there were official US personnel who worked at the American Embassy in Tehran.   None got it.

They all failed miserably in their assessment of Iranians.  These personnel were simply too busy enjoying a lavish lifestyle in Iran. As the aforementioned travellers have all repeated, Iran is beautiful, the food scrumptious, the people hospitable.   These personnel attended parties thrown by those close to the Shah (or other affluent Iranians) and lived the kind of life they could not have dreamt of elsewhere.   American ambassadors doled out visas to the lazy kids of these same families who would not have otherwise been able to make it to the US under normal student visa requirements.

These same Iranians, the privileged elite, provided Americans in Iran with intelligence – inaccurate, flawed information that was passed onto Washington.   Washington was content.   After all, why doubt your friends, and how could possibly the secret police trained by CIA not get the facts right? To this end, Washington believed Iran would remain a client state for the unforeseen future.   The success of the revolution was a slap in the face, but Washington did not alter course.

For the past several decades, Washington has continued to act on flawed intelligence.  Today, it relies on the “expertise” of some in the Iranian Diaspora who have not visited Iran once since the revolution.  In addition to the “Iran experts”, Washington has found itself other sources of ‘intelligence’, foremost; the Mojahedeen Khalg (MEK) terrorist cult.  This group feeds Washington information provided them by Israel.   Previous to this assignment, the cult was busy fighting alongside Saddam Hossein killing Iranians and Kurds.  Is it any surprise that Washington is clueless on  Iran.

What Washington can’t fathom is the source of Iran’s strength, its formidable resilience.  Thanks to its ‘experts’, and the personal experience of some visitors, Washington continues to believe that the Iranian people love America and that they are waiting for Washington to ‘rescue’ them from their government.   No doubt Iranians are generous, hospitable, and charming.  They welcome visitors as guest regardless of their country of origin.   This is part and parcel of their culture.  They also believe a guest is a ‘blessing from God’ –  mehmoon barekate khodastKarime khodast.  But this is where it ends.

While the Iranian people love people of all nationalities, including Americans, they see Washington for what it is.  Over the past decades, Washington and its policies have adversely affected virtually every single family in Iran. These include those whose dreams and hopes were shattered by the CIA orchestrated coup against their nascent democracy and its popular leader, Mossadegh.  Later, lives were turned upside down the Shah’s CIA/Mossad trained secret police arrested, brutally tortured, killed or simply made disappear anyone who dared venture into politics. Thanks to America’s staunch support, these stories never found their way to the papers.  And then there are the millions of war widows and orphans, the maimed soldiers, the victims of chemical weapons supplied to Saddam Hossein by America to use against Iranians while the UN closed its eyes in an 8-year war.  Not to forget the victims of American sponsored terrorism, and sanctions.  Millions of Iranians have first hand experience of all that has been plagued upon them by Washington.

It is these victims, their families and acquaintances that fight for Iran’s sovereignty, that are the guardians of this proud nation.  They are the source of Iran’s strength. Victor Hugo once said: “No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.”  There simply is no army on earth which can occupy, by proxy or otherwise, the land the people have come to believe belongs to them not by virtue of birth, but because they have fought for it, died for it, kept it from harm.

I met many such families; one in particular was more memorable.  During the Shah’s regime, this family worked on my father’s farm.  The father and his sons worked the farm and the mother helped around the house.   In those days, this family and future generations would have simply continued to work on the farm, remain ‘peasants’ with no prospects for the future.  But the revolution rescued them.

Shortly after the revolution, the war started. The boys in the family all went to war.   One uncle lost his life to chemical warfare.   The rest survived – and thrived.   They got themselves free education provided by the same government America wants to dislodge.   One of these boys, the man I met after some 35 years, Kazem, once condemned to be a ‘peasant’, had become a successful businessman.   I spent hours talking to the family and to Kazem in particular.   What impressed me was not just his affluence and his success in business, but the wisdom that only comes with age, and yet he had acquired it in youth.   He had intellect and dignity.  A gentleman, I found his knowledge of global affairs to be superior to most one would meet at a college in the US.  He had experienced war and witnessed death.    Iran belonged to him.  He would fight for it over and over without hesitating to die for it.

This is the Iran the Diaspora has left behind, the Iran that is unknown to them.  This is a far superior country than the one I left behind as a child and visited throughout the years.  Iran’s guardians, its keepers, are all Kazems. It has been said that the strength of an army is the support of the people behind it.   The whole country is that army.  As Khalil Gibran rightly observed: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”   With every wrong policy, America adds to the scars, strengthens the character and spirit of this unbreakable nation.   This is what Washington is not able to grasp.

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups in influencing US foreign policy.

November 11th in the United States is marked and marred by a holiday that relatively recently had its name changed to “Veterans Day” and its purpose converted and perverted into celebrating war.

This year a Upload/Insert ”Concert for Valor” will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

In the box below is a blurb from the concert website. “Thank you for your service” and “Support the troops” are phrases used to get people to support wars without thinking about whether they should be supporting wars. Notice that you’re supposed to thank veterans first and ask them which war they were in and what they did in it afterwards. What if you oppose war? Or what if you oppose some wars and some tactics?

Here’s the disgusted response to the Concert for Valor from a veteran who’s sick of being thanked for his so-called service:

“There is no question that we should honor people who fight for justice and liberty. Many veterans enlisted in the military thinking that they were indeed serving a noble cause, and it’s no lie to say that they fought with valor for their brothers and sisters to their left and right. Unfortunately, good intentions at this stage are no substitute for good politics. The war on terror is going into its 14th year.  If you really want to talk about “awareness raising,” it’s years past the time when anyone here should be able to pretend that our 18-year-olds are going off to kill and die for good reason. How about a couple of concerts to make that point?”

I’m going to repeat here something I said in War Is A Lie:

Random House defines a hero as follows (and defines heroine the same way, substituting “woman” for “man”):

“1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

“2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child. . . .

“4. Classical Mythology.

“a. a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.”

Courage or ability. Brave deeds and noble qualities. There is something more here than merely courage and bravery, merely facing up to fear and danger. But what? A hero is regarded as a model or ideal. Clearly someone who bravely jumped out a 20-story window would not meet that definition, even if their bravery was as brave as brave could be. Clearly heroism must require bravery of a sort that people regard as a model for themselves and others. It must include prowess and beneficence. That is, the bravery can’t just be bravery; it must also be good and kind. Jumping out a window does not qualify. The question, then, is whether killing and dying in wars should qualify as good and kind. Nobody doubts that it’s courageous and brave. But is it as good a model as that of the man arrested this week for the crime of giving food to the hungry?

If you look up “bravery” in the dictionary, by the way, you’ll find “courage” and “valor.” Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary defines “valor” as

“a soldierly compound of vanity, duty, and the gambler’s hope.

‘Why have you halted?’ roared the commander of a division at Chickamauga, who had ordered a charge: ‘move forward, sir, at once.’

‘General,’ said the commander of the delinquent brigade, ‘I am persuaded that any further display of valor by my troops will bring them into collision with the enemy.’”

But would such valor be good and kind or destructive and foolhardy? Bierce had himself been a Union soldier at Chickamauga and had come away disgusted. Many years later, when it had become possible to publish stories about the Civil War that didn’t glow with the holy glory of militarism, Bierce published a story called “Chickamauga” in 1889 in the San Francisco Examiner that makes participating in such a battle appear the most grotesquely evil and horrifying deed one could ever do. Many soldiers have since told similar tales.

It’s curious that war, something consistently recounted as ugly and horrible, should qualify its participants for glory. Of course, the glory doesn’t last. Mentally disturbed veterans are kicked aside in our society. In fact, in dozens of cases documented between 2007 and 2010, soldiers who had been deemed physically and psychologically fit and welcomed into the military, performed “honorably,” and had no recorded history of psychological problems. Then, upon being wounded, the same formerly healthy soldiers were diagnosed with a pre-existing personality disorder, discharged, and denied treatment for their wounds. One soldier was locked in a closet until he agreed to sign a statement that he had a pre-existing disorder — a procedure the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called “torture.”

Active duty troops, the real ones, are not treated by the military or society with particular reverence or respect. But the mythical, generic “troop” is a secular saint purely because of his or her willingness to rush off and die in the very same sort of mindless murderous orgy that ants regularly engage in. Yes, ants. Those teeny little pests with brains the size of . . . well, the size of something smaller than an ant: they wage war. And they’re better at it than we are.

Ants wage long and complex wars with extensive organization and unmatched determination, or what we might call “valor.” They are absolutely loyal to the cause in a way that no patriotic humans can match: “It’d be like having an American flag tattooed to you at birth,” ecologist and photojournalist Mark Moffett told Wired magazine. Ants will kill other ants without flinching. Ants will make the “ultimate sacrifice” with no hesitation. Ants will proceed with their mission rather than stop to help a wounded warrior.

The ants who go to the front, where they kill and die first, are the smallest and weakest ones. They are sacrificed as part of a winning strategy. “In some ant armies, there can be millions of expendable troops sweeping forward in a dense swarm that’s up to 100 feet wide.” In one of Moffett’s photos, which shows “the marauder ant in Malaysia, several of the weak ants are being sliced in half by a larger enemy termite with black, scissor-like jaws.” What would Pericles say at their funeral?

“According to Moffett, we might actually learn a thing or two from how ants wage war. For one, ant armies operate with precise organization despite a lack of central command.” And no wars would be complete without some lying: “Like humans, ants can try to outwit foes with cheats and lies.” In another photo, “two ants face off in an effort to prove their superiority — which, in this ant species, is designated by physical height. But the wily ant on the right is standing on a pebble to gain a solid inch over his nemesis.”  Would honest Abe approve?

In fact, ants are such dedicated warriors that they can even fight civil wars that make that little skirmish between the North and South look like touch football. A parasitic wasp, Ichneumon eumerus, can dose an ant nest with a chemical secretion that causes the ants to fight a civil war, half the nest against the other half.  Imagine if we had such a drug for humans, a sort of a prescription-strength Fox News. If we dosed the nation, would all the resulting warriors be heroes or just half of them? Are the ants heroes? And if they are not, is it because of what they are doing or purely because of what they are thinking about what they are doing? And what if the drug makes them think they are risking their lives for the benefit of future life on earth or to keep the anthill safe for democracy?

Here ends the War Is A Lie excerpt. Are ants too hard to relate to? What about children. What if a teacher persuaded a bunch of 8 years olds, rather than 18 year olds to fight and kill and risk dying for a supposedly great and noble cause? Wouldn’t the teacher be a criminal guilty of mass-murder? And what about everyone else complicit in a process of preparing the children for war — including perhaps uniformed and be-medalled officers coming into Kindergartens, as in fact happens in reality? Isn’t the difference with 18 year olds that we have a tendency to hold them responsible, at least in part, as well as whoever instigates the killing spree? Whether we should or not need not be decided, for us to decide to treat veterans with humanity while utterly rejecting any celebration of what they’ve done.

Here’s CODEPINK planning a protest of the Concert for Valor. I urge you to join in.

I also encourage you to keep in mind and spread understanding of the history of November 11th. Again, I’m going to repeat, and modify, something I’ve said in a previous November:

Ninety-six years ago on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the “war to end all wars.” The war brought a new scale of death, the flu, prohibition, the Espionage Act, the foundations of World War II, the crushing of progressive political movements, the institution of flag worship, the beginning of pledges of allegiance in schools and the national anthem at sporting events. It brought everything but peace.

Thirty million soldiers had been killed or wounded and another seven million had been taken captive during World War I.  Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter, with tens of thousands falling in a day to machine guns and poison gas.  After the war, more and more truth began to overtake the lies, but whether people still believed or now resented the pro-war propaganda, virtually every person in the United States wanted to see no more of war ever again.  Posters of Jesus shooting at Germans were left behind as the churches along with everyone else now said that war was wrong.  Al Jolson wrote in 1920 to President Harding:

“The weary world is waiting for
Peace forevermore
So take away the gun
From every mother’s son
And put an end to war.”

Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution calling for “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding … inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.” Later, Congress added that November 11th was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

While the ending of warfare was celebrated every November 11th, veterans were treated no better than they are today.  When 17,000 veterans plus their families and friends marched on Washington in 1932 to demand their bonuses, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, and other heroes of the next big war to come attacked the veterans, including by engaging in that greatest of evils with which Saddam Hussein would be endlessly charged: “using chemical weapons on their own people.”  The weapons they used, just like Hussein’s, originated in the U.S. of A.

It was only after another war, an even worse war, a war that has in many ways never ended to this day, that Congress, following still another now forgotten war — this one on Korea — changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day on June 1, 1954.  And it was six-and-a-half years later that Eisenhower warned us that the military industrial complex would completely corrupt our society.

Veterans Day is no longer, for most people, a day to cheer the elimination of war or even to aspire to its abolition.  Veterans Day is not even a day on which to mourn or to question why suicide is the top killer of U.S. troops or why so many veterans have no houses at all in a nation in which one high-tech robber baron monopolist is hoarding $66 billion, and 400 of his closest friends have more money than half the country.  It’s not even a day to honestly, if sadistically, celebrate the fact that virtually all the victims of U.S. wars are non-Americans, that our so-called wars have become one-sided slaughters.  Instead, it is a day on which to believe that war is beautiful and good.  Towns and cities and corporations and sports leagues call it “military appreciation day” or “troop appreciation week” or “genocide glorification month.”  OK, I made up that last one.  Just checking if you’re paying attention.

Veterans For Peace has created a new tradition in recent years of returning to the celebration of Armistice Day. They even offer a tool kit so you can do the same.

In the UK, Veterans For Peace are marking what is still called Remembrance Day, and Remembrance Sunday on November 9th, with white poppies and peace banners in opposition to the British government’s pro-war slant on remembering World War I.

In North Carolina, a veteran has come up with his own way of making every day Remembrance Day. But it’s the celebrators of war that seem to be guiding the cultural trends. Here’s the frequency of use of the word “valor” according to Google:

Bruce Springsteen will be performing at the Concert for Valor. He once wrote this lyric: “Two faces have I.” Here’s one that I’m willing to bet won’t be on display: “Blind faith in your leaders or in anything will get you killed,” Springsteen warns in the video below before declaring war good for absolutely nothing.

You’ll need lots of information, Springsteen advises potential draftees or recruits. If you don’t find lots of information at the Concert for Valor, you might try this teach in that evening at the Washington Peace Center.

One thing that I’ve learned from my four-plus decades in journalism is that many people only like reporting that reinforces what they already believe. Facts that go off in a different direction can make them angry – and they are usually not hesitant to express their anger.

For instance, in the 1980s, when I was covering the Nicaraguan Contra rebels for the Associated Press, many readers of AP copy, including some of my editors, shared Ronald Reagan’s enthusiasm for these “freedom fighters” whom Reagan likened to America’s Founding Fathers.

So, when I discovered the Contras engaging in a variety of criminal activity, from extrajudicial killings, rapes, torture and drug trafficking, my reporting was unwelcome both inside and outside the AP (and later I encountered the same hostility at Newsweek). The usual response was to challenge my journalism and to pretend that the ugly reality wasn’t the reality.

You might say that that’s just the life of a journalist. Get over it. And you’d have a point. But the larger problem is that this trend toward what you might call “selective narrative” appears to be accelerating. Ideologues and partisans don’t just make arguments for their causes, they create overarching narratives to validate their causes.

And the more money and the more media that a group has the more effective it is in imposing its narrative on the broader unsuspecting (and often ill-informed) public.

In the Contra example, many Americans believed in President Reagan and thus were open to the pro-Contra narrative that Reagan’s team skillfully deployed. Information that ran counter to the propaganda of “white hat” Contras fighting “black hat” Sandinistas was seen as discordant and needed to be stamped out – along with anyone associated with it.

In 1996, when San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb called to ask me about my Contra-cocaine experience (before he published his “Dark Alliance” series), it was this hostility toward any criticism of the Contras that I warned him about as he contemplated reviving the scandal.

Tragically, my concerns – based on my own experience – were well-founded. Not only the CIA and government spokesmen went after Webb’s story but virtually all the major news organizations (which had ignored or disparaged the scandal in the 1980s). These events are recounted in the new movie, “Kill the Messenger.” [Also, see Consortiumnews.com’s “WPost’s Slimy Attack on Gary Webb.”]

But a similar pattern holds true in other cases of presenting facts that conflict with what some people choose to believe. I have seen this both in challenging mainstream “conventional wisdom” and out-on-the-fringe “conspiracy theories.” Many people only want their preconceptions reinforced; they don’t want to rethink them.

False Founding Narrative

Most recently, I have encountered this phenomenon in pointing out fallacies in the right-wing (and sometimes left-wing) Founding Narrative, which presents the Framers of the Constitution in anti-historical ways – in order to validate policies being promoted for the present, i.e., to make it appear that some modern position was shared by the Framers.

So, on the radical Left and Libertarian/Tea Party Right, you might get the depiction of the Framers as government-hating revolutionaries who wanted a heavily armed population prepared to kill representatives of an oppressive political system. It has also become an article of faith in some circles that the authors of the Constitution favored strong states’ rights and hated the notion of a strong central government.

Yet, that is simply not the history. The principal Framers of the Constitution were a group known as the Federalists. Led by General George Washington and his able acolytes James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, the Federalists despised the system of states’ rights contained in the Articles of Confederation and they assembled in Philadelphia in 1787, in part, out of alarm over the Shays Rebellion in western Massachusetts, which some of Washington’s former Revolutionary War commanders had just put down.

The Federalists devised as strong a central government as they could possibly get through to ratification. Madison even favored greater federal dominance by giving the U.S. Congress veto power over all state laws, a proposal that was watered down although federal law was still made supreme.

In other words, the Constitution’s Framers wanted to stabilize the young country, protect its fragile independence and rely on a strong central government to build its future. That is the history, albeit an inconvenient history for many folks these days who are selling the American people on a false Founding Narrative.

So, when I point out these facts, there is an angry backlash. I’m accused of being a “statist” or “just a journalist,” not a historian – whatever’s necessary to protect the false narrative. Instead of simply arguing their case – for a smaller government or a heavily armed population or whatever – on the merits, these people get angry because their historical references have been debunked.

Perhaps it’s naïve to think that ideologues and partisans will ever surrender what is a useful argument, no matter how false it is. But there should be some honesty in political debate – and some respect for the actual facts and the real history.

Robert Parry is a longtime investigative reporter who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He founded Consortiumnews.com in 1995 to create an outlet for well-reported journalism that was being squeezed out of an increasingly trivialized U.S. news media.

The Justice Department is looking to remove restrictions on the FBI’s ability to hack into and monitor computer systems everywhere by easing the requirements necessary for it to obtain a search warrant.

Currently, law enforcement agencies can only receive warrants authorizing computer searches if the physical location of the computer in question falls within the corresponding jurisdiction of the judge they are appealing to. If the computer is outside of the judge’s jurisdiction, a warrant is not usually granted.

Now, however, the Justice Department wants to change this limitation, which is called Rule 41. It has asked a judicial advisory committee to allow judges to grant search warrants and permit electronic surveillance regardless of where a computer is located – within or outside of the United States,

Here’s why, according to the National Journal, which reported on the story:

“Law-enforcement investigators are seeking the additional powers to better track and investigate criminals who use technology to conceal their identity and location, a practice that has become more common and sophisticated in recent years. Intelligence analysts, when given a warrant, can infiltrate computer networks and covertly install malicious software, or malware, that gives them the ability to control the targeted device and download its contents.”

Image: The Justice Department in Washington (Reuters / Gary Cameron)

The proposal has unsurprisingly upset many civil liberties advocates, who claim changing Rule 41 in this manner would potentially violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizures by the government.

The panel, known as the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules, held a hearing on the issue on Wednesday, where opponents of the rule change expressed their views. Asked what other methods would be preferable for hunting down increasingly sophisticated cyber criminals, Amie Stepanovich of the digital freedom group Access said the Justice Department should go through Congress.

“I empathize that it is very hard to get a legislative change,” she said. “However, when you have us resorting to Congress to get increased privacy protections, we would also like to see the government turn to Congress to get increased surveillance authority.”

That sentiment was echoed by the American Civil Liberties Union the day before, and the group was also present at Wednesday’s hearing.

“If the proposed amendment is adopted, it will throw the doors wide open to an industry peddling tools to undermine computer security, and make the U.S. government an even bigger player in the surveillance software industry,” ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Wessler wrote on Tuesday.

In its report, the ACLU noted that changing the rule could also promote the use of “zero-day” exploits, which are completely unknown to software manufacturers yet used by governments to get around security systems and enable surveillance.

“Governments pay big bucks – reportedly into the hundreds of thousands of dollars – to acquire [zero-day exploits], resulting in a largely unregulated market for these tools,” Wessler wrote. “Since the use of a given zero-day exploit depends on the continued existence of the vulnerability it’s exploiting, governments withhold their existence from the manufacturer.”

This isn’t the first time law enforcement has expressed a desire to retain its surveillance capabilities. Following decisions by Apple and Google to enable data encryption on their new devices, FBI Director James Comey criticizedthe moves, saying they will ultimately impede police ability to track and capture criminals.

“There will come a day — well it comes every day in this business — when it will matter a great, great deal to the lives of people of all kinds that we be able to with judicial authorization gain access to a kidnapper’s or a terrorist or a criminal’s device,” Comey said in September. “I just want to make sure we have a good conversation in this country before that day comes.”

Eventually the tired game will exhaust itself.  Beneath the billions of dollars U.S. elections are lifeless events. The predictable flopping from Democrat to Republican and back again, with voters given no real choice but to punish the party in power — by electing the party that was punished previously. This endless, irrational dynamic is the foundation of the U.S. electoral system.

The motor force pushing this logic is money, billions worth per cycle. The richest 1% threw nearly $4 billion to influence voters and to prepay for political favors from the winning candidates.

U.S. Elections have become corporate PR campaigns, with corporations doling money out equally to both parties. This bi-partisan vote buying guarantees that, aside from a couple of fervently debated social issues, a consistent, core economic agenda is firmly in place that favors the 1%.

This is why voters always punish the party in power. The ruling party earns the hatred of working-class voters by proving their love for the corporations and billionaires. The economy — and specifically jobs — has always been a priority for voters, but the economy is used by politicians to enrich the already-rich, who under Obama have received 95 percent of wealth created since he began as president.  Such brazen inequality doesn’t happen by accident, but by policy, and no politicians are complaining about it.

During the “heated” debates of the midterm election, there was virtually no discussion of the economy. The two parties have nothing to debate about on this issue; they’re in total agreement. The same is true about foreign policy and the $700 billion dollars annually spent on the military.

Neither party complains that U.S. taxpayers have spent, according to a reputable study, $4-6 trillion dollars on the ongoing wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. Bi-partisan consensus prevented the topic from reaching the campaign trail, while guaranteeing that the insane and completely futile war policy continues.

Most Americans understand that U.S. politics equals legalized corruption.  And consequently voter turnout sank to a new historic low of 38 percent. But even this number is highly misleading. One need only imagine if national congressional elections were voted on separately, instead of sharing the ballot with state elections and local ballot initiatives that voters actually care about. If this happened voter turnout would plummet to the teens, or lower, and could not be mislabeled “democracy.” The popularity of the U.S. Congress hovers around 10 percent, which means that 90 percent of the population consistently views this body as an alien entity, serving the interests of the parasitic super-rich.

The money that has stolen U.S. elections still provokes quite the fight between the Democrats and Republicans, who have their individual self-interests to protect. This is because the election winners get to reward their party campaigners with government positions and their donors with for-profit legislation. And after “following through” with passing legislation, the politician is rewarded yet again.

For example, when the politician inevitably becomes hated by everyone except the rich, the big money injects millions into the politician’s re-election campaign. And if the politician ends up losing he is rewarded for being loyal and is hired and paid millions as a “consultant” for the corporation, in effect a glamorized lobbyist.

What can we expect from the new Republican-controlled Congress? Many people will likely be surprised at the high level of cooperation between Obama and the Republicans, who have much in common. Most likely, a quick bi-partisan consensus will be reached on continuing and expanding the wars in the Middle East, with the ultimate and insane goal of toppling the Syrian and Iranian governments.

A new consensus will be reached regarding the U.S. economy, as both parties will “work together” to lower the U.S. corporate tax rate and give other “incentives” to the corporations and rich investors to actually invest their money in something productive other than their Wall Street gambling.

Obama and the Republicans will continue to work on their bi-partisan public school agenda, which aims to privatize the public schools through charters schools, an idea first proposed by the Reagan administration.

And while Republicans moan about Obamacare, they agree with its central feature, that “the market” should determine who gets health care and of what quality, based on what you can afford. The Republicans will loudly crow about this or that aspect of Obamacare they want eliminated, but the central logic is bi-partisan.

Ironically, as Obama continues to act in favor of the very wealthy, the Republican-controlled congress will give the president a chance to regain his lost popularity among Democrats. The Republicans are likely to use their control of the House and Senate to put forward legislation to appease their Christian fundamentalist base, targeting either abortions, immigrants, homosexuals, etc.

Obama will then get a chance to act as a “progressive” by using his veto power. After doing nothing for working people during his six years as president, Obama can become a “hero” again over a couple of social issues, just in time to re-energize Democratic voters for the 2016 election, which will falsely be labeled “the most important election of our lifetime.”

The veins of the U.S. body politic are too clogged with cash to be cleansed. Many progressive activists are demanding the repeal of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United, which opened the floodgate to corporate cash into elections. But in reality this floodgate already existed, Citizens United merely legalized what was happening on a hundred different levels. Massive accumulation of money will find its way into politics, one way or another.

Labor unions have an unfortunate role in propping up this two party dynamic of corporate cancer, since unions give undeserved legitimacy to this process by funding Democrats and telling their millions of union members to campaign and vote for a party that has participated along with the Republicans in attacking unionized and non-unionized working people for the last 30 years.

Third parties don’t spring out of the air. They are built by organizations with pre-existing resources and large memberships, like labor unions and other large community organizations. The various failed attempts at creating third parties in the U.S. can be blamed on the lack of any large national working class organization investing in them.

A workers’ party financed and co-organized by the unions has that ability to smash the two-party system. Such a party can’t compete with the Wall Street cash, but it can use its resources and membership to rally the broader country around a progressive platform of green job creation to fight climate change, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and taxing the rich and big corporations to pay for better schools and other vital social programs. Such demands would reverberate across the country in a political landscape where working people’s aspirations are complete ignored.

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

 

 

Very big news on the banking front, the Federal Reserve is now apparently allowing Chinese banks to take stakes in U.S. banks.  North of our border, Canada is contemplating becoming one of the many, recent, “renminbi hubs”. 

Why would this be happening?  Why would it be happening now?

First, why is China setting up shop all over the world?

This is an easy one, for business, for trade, for relations.  China knows exactly where the U.S. and the dollar stand, they also know fairly well where and how the U.S. and her dollar will fall.  China is merely preparing the groundwork to trade with Western entities in either local currency or the yuan.  In the case of Canada, China sees a very large energy source along with the mining of many necessary resources they will need in the future.

The thing is, China doing a deal with Canada like this hits very close to home.  Actually, Canada doing a deal like this is almost a slap in the face of the U.S..  Don’t get me wrong, Canada doing a deal with China is good for Canada for all of the right reasons but this is certainly an action of distancing themselves from the U.S..  Should the monetary hub deal be consummated, trade will be facilitated in a win/win fashion for both Canada and China.  I believe this can be viewed as another straw on the U.S. camel’s back and a preparation by Canada for what is about to come.  You must look beneath the surface here, not only will their trade volumes increase, they will actually get paid in a currency issued by an industrial powerhouse where there is no question as to whether or not there is any gold in the vault.  If this deal goes to fruition, it will be clear proof that Canada is attempting to break the leash and no longer being a U.S. lap dog.

As for China’s banks now being allowed to purchase stakes in U.S. banks, this is VERY interesting from both sides of the coin.  Why would China want to do this and why would the U.S. allow it?  The other and even bigger question is “why now”?  Why not five or 10 years ago?  Why not in a “few years”?  I have my opinions on this which is all they are, opinions and not fact but this is a topic that needs to be thought about because it is very curious indeed!

Why would China want to do this if she thinks the U.S. is a bankrupt entity which she surely must?  Could this only be a “toe hold” or an avenue to picking up the pieces later and profiting while doing so?  Yes, probably.  Is this a way to be able to look inside our banks to see how bad it really is?  Again, probably.  Remember, with any “percentage” stake comes the ability to be represented on the board of directors.  Is this a way to put a “spy” on the inside, in plain sight and legally?  I think yes.  Also remember, the way to “control” the masses throughout time has been to control the currency and the banks.  Owning large swaths of the U.S. banking industry in the future can only lead to knowledge, eventual profits and at least some control on our home turf.

On the other hand, why would the Federal Reserve allow China into our banking system?  Off the top of my head, maybe because the banks need the capital?  Or worse, maybe China has told the Federal Reserve to “do it or else”?  The “or else” part could be anything at this point.  If China still owns all of the Treasury debt claimed by the Fed as custodian, maybe they are threatening to dump?  Maybe they are threatening to upset the gold, silver or any multitude of commodity markets?  …which of course would knock the legs out from under the dollar itself.  If you recall, it was about 10 years ago when China wanted to buy out Unocal and were rebuffed for “national security” reasons, why would the Fed agree to this…now?

As I mentioned, one of the reasons may be because “we” collectively need the capital.  I say “collectively” because even though we are told our economy is growing, it is not growing in real terms, only nominal terms because of inflation.  The economy is not generating enough income (savings) for future growth.  We are and have been eating our seed corn rather than saving.  The Fed has “printed” money to sustain and “prolong” the economy but this is not real capital.  It is liquidity only rather than real hard capital (unencumbered) for future use, let me explain just a little.  You see, when the Fed injects dollars into the system it boosts the amount of dollars outstanding …but, eventually those dollars must be paid off.  It is like borrowing money from your credit card to start a business that only breaks even …the day will eventually come when the credit card must be paid off but the asset (your business) never really grew and really wasn’t worth enough to pay off the debt.

This is the American situation and why I believe we are at this point in time allowing China into our banks, we need some real outside capital to shore up our balance sheets.  Of course we are forgetting one other possibility as long as we are talking about balance sheets.

Maybe the Fed’s own balance sheet which is levered at nearly 80-1 needs some help?  Maybe they realize their “assets” are not worth nearly what they originally paid and their “true” leverage ratio is who knows, 200-1?  You see, the Fed took all of the crappy assets on to their books from the banks so the market participants would never see “trade prices” of .40 cents on the dollar… .20 cents on the dollar or even worse.  Maybe the Fed threw Bernanke’s 1, 2, 3 punch (QE’s) and we didn’t get the hoped for reflation?  Maybe this is only the Fed screaming “help”?

Moscow Accuses Kiev of Breaching Peace Deal

November 6th, 2014 by Press TV

Russia has accused the Ukrainian government of breaching a peace accord aimed at putting an end to heavy clashes in Ukraine’s eastern parts.

“It is obvious today that these agreements have been crudely violated by the Ukrainian side,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Thursday.

Kiev and pro-Russia forces inked a truce agreement proposed by Moscow in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on September 5 in a move to put an end to heavy clashes in Ukraine’s eastern provinces. Fighting, however, continues in these regions despite the ceasefire deal.

Ukrainian authorities have intensified their military campaign against pro-Moscow activists instead of trying to deescalate tensions in the country’s restive areas, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement added.

It went on to note that the growing hostilities, in which heavy equipment is used, have led to “thousands of casualties and large-scale destruction” in Ukraine’s eastern parts.

Tensions have been running high since November 2, when leadership and local parliamentary elections were held in Donetsk and Lugansk regions, despite condemnation from Kiev and the West that such a move would undermine peace efforts in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking areas in the east have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Moscow forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations to silence pro-Russians in mid-April.

Violence intensified in May after Donetsk and Lugansk regions held local referendums, in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine.

Watch video here

The Spanish political crisis is advancing slowly but inexorably. In the last five or six months we have witnessed a series of events that have exacerbated the process of decomposition: the turbulence produced by the European elections, the succession to the throne, the most serious corruption scandals to surface for generations, and the conflict between the central government and Catalonia. The right-wing government of [Prime Minister] Mariano Rajoy has sought relief in macroeceonomic data, but the optimism expressed is groundless: no figures are available to show a solid recovery, with the exception of the fall in unemployment, which is explicable on the basis of a seasonally favourable situation in the services sector. The period to come will be very difficult for the government, even decisive in different areas of conflict.

Regarding the burning question of the moment, the Catalan independence referendum, in January 2013 the Catalan parliament had approved a declaration of sovereignty. The government in Madrid appealed against this and the act was suspended by the Constitutional Court, the supreme judicial authority in the country. Then, this past September, the Catalan government of Artur Mas passed a so-called “consultation decree” that was meant to be the legal basis of the referendum on the relationship between Catalonia and the rest of the Spanish state.

The very day on which he signed the decree for the holding of the referendum, Catalonia President Artur Mas went on Catalan public television to assert that he felt dutybound to respect the Spanish and Catalan legal framework, but that he was certain Madrid would oppose the move; he pleaded for the faith of the people, with assurances that, with a bit of ingenuity, the Catalan people would be able to vote on its destiny. In a matter of hours, the Spanish council of ministers appealed for the quashing of the decree. The next day the Constitutional Court suspended the decree.

State of Disarray

Artur Mas caved in and decided to comply with the decision of the Court. The pro-independence political bloc fell into a state of disarray for several days. Pessimism got hold of the partisans of independence, who had earlier placed their faith in the unity of the parties so as to overcome the decision of the court. This was testimony to the extent of improvization in the strategy of the nationalist parties. The pro-independence left called for disobedience, demanding that the referendum be held as stipulated earlier. But the resolve did not last longer than several days.

After a few days of deliberation, an agreement was reached. Mas announced that a “process of citizens’ participation” would be put in place, with the same question being asked as before. This “audacious” act reduced the level of involvement of the official institutions of Catalonia, with the civil servants taking part in the preparations only in the guise of volunteers, no official decree forthcoming, and the electoral roll not being used. The aim was to avoid a new decision of suspension being handed down by the court. Mas explained that although he believed sufficient democratic guarantees were in place, this new measure would produce its full impact only with the holding of subsequent elections, which, if they resulted in the victory of pro-independence parties, could be considered to be in the nature of a plebiscite on secession.

Dissatisfaction with this decision gripped the majority of the movement, which, nonetheless, ultimately deferred to Mas’ choice. The moment of breaking with the legal framework of the Spanish state had been postponed. A veritable referendum for self-determination being ruled out, even a non-binding vote being foregone, November 9th came to be regarded as no more than a preliminary step in the direction of a unilateral declaration of independence that would be proclaimed by a future Catalan parliament with a pro-independence majority.

Despite all the precautions taken by Mas, the government of Rajoy has once again appealed for suspension. Everything indicates that the Constitutional Court will find the appeal admissible and will reach a decision of suspension as a precautionary measure.

Right to Self-Determination

Whatever the decision of the court, Sunday November 9th should be turned into a day to defend the right to self-determination. The pro-independence left has linked its support for independence to the slogan “para que todo cambie” (so as to change everything). To be coherent, it needs to kick off an autonomous campaign that mobilizes workers and the youth around an anti-capitalist program.

CiU (Convergence and Unity, Mas’ party) has implemented the same measures as the Partido Popular, the right-wing party that controls the central government in Madrid. Mas has not only made “cuts” (reductions in taxation that restrict public spending in the areas of education, health and social services). He has privatized. He has repressed protest movements. He has kept silent on cases of corruption in the ranks of his party. The left will find itself disarmed if it does not grasp the true nature of the political situation and the correct policy to pursue. The problems do not occur because “Espanya ens roba” (Spain robs us), as some sectors of the nationalist movement would have us believe.

A consistent anti-capitalist politics cannot restrict itself to following in the footsteps of Mas. It needs to approach the challenges of the present moment in class terms if it is not to lose from sight the character of the forces that lead the process unfolding. The left needs to organize in working-class neighborhoods, within immigrant communities, in the ranks of the fighting youth, among workers who do not feel they belong to the nationalist tendency and are exposed to the influence of reactionary parties opposed to self-determination. The left needs to put forth a project of its own that breaks with the monarchic state and the European Union and reclaims an anti-capitalist way out of the crisis. It has to establish links to the other peoples that live within the Spanish state, the only way to reach victory.

In the rest of the Spanish state, one observes a certain scepticism and a shameful passiveness. The fact that the Catalan right now finds itself at the head of the process serves as an excuse for the inaction. Making declarations, inside or outside parliament, about the right of Catalans to vote will not do. More focused on selecting candidates for the coming local and regional elections, the left has refrained from taking steps to build a movement that supports the unconditional right of Catalans to self-determination and that stands for the constitution of a Catalan Republic that decides freely what kind of relation it wishes to entertain with the other peoples of the Spanish State, a movement that links national freedom to the struggle against the Monarchy, against the reimbursement of the debt, wielding a program that attends to the basic needs of the working-class and the popular strata that have been struck by the economic crisis. The urgent need is to bring workers together around this program.

The left should shake off its lethargy and build a unitary movement on this basis. An authentic process of self-determination requires the raising by the working-class movement, the youth and the Spanish left of a banner that proclaims class independence and the free union of republics.

Pedro Marlez is an independent writer living in Barcelona. He is a former union representative and activist in the unemployed movement.

The following report reconstructs U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, on the basis of what I have deemed to be reliable news accounts of his Administration’s actions, not of its mere words.

This reconstruction is grounded in the linked-to news-sources, all of which I have investigated and verified — and some of which I wrote. The ones that I wrote are themselves sourced to the links within those reports, all of which I have, likewise, personally checked and verified. Consequently, the chain of verifications back to this reconstruction’s primary sources is available to any online reader, and every reader is encouraged to track back to its ultimate source any allegation that might appear to be at all questionable to him or her in the present article.

Not only will this exercise be helpful to the reader concerning that given point at question, but it will open that person to an associated world of deeper discovery, which I hope that this news-report and analysis will do for many readers, and which is the reason I wrote it: so as to share with others what I and other careful and cautious researchers have discovered, though it might be, in some instances, starkly at variance with what our Government, and most of the press, have been more commonly presenting as ‘truth’ about these matters. At least, this exercise will provide an alternative frame of reference regarding these issues, an alternative possibility to consider, and which I have verified, from every root to every branch, in this tree of historical reconstruction of the events.

INTRODUCTION:

Why is the Ukrainian Government, which the U.S. supports, bombing the pro-Russian residents who live in Ukraine’s own southeast?

Why is the American Government, which aims to oust Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad, bombing his main enemy, ISIS?

I find that both bombings are different parts of the same Obama-initiated business-operation, in which the American aristocracy, Saudi aristocracy, and Qatari aristocracy, work together, to grab dominance over supplying energy to the world’s biggest energy-market, Europe, away from Russia, which currently is by far Europe’s largest energy-supplier.

Here are the actual percentage-figures on that: Russia supplies 38%, #2 Norway (the only European nation among the top 15) supplies 18%, and all other countries collectively supply a grand total of 44%. That’s it; that’s all — in the world’s largest energy-market. Russia is the lone giant. But U.S. President Obama’s team want to change that. (Unfortunately, the residents in southeastern Ukraine are being bombed and driven out to become refugees in Russia, as an essential part of this operation to choke off Russia’s gas-supply to Europe.)

Obama has initiated, and is leading, this international aristocratic team, consisting of the U.S. aristocracy and Sunni Moslem aristocracies — the Saudi and the Qatari royal families — to choke off Russia’s economic lifeblood from those European energy sales, and to transfer lots of this business, via new oil and gas pipeline contracts and new international trade-deals, over to the royal families of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Those royals, in turn, are assisting Obama in the overthrow of the key Russia-allied leader of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, who has performed an indispensable role in blocking any such massive expansion of Saudi and Qatari energy-traffic into Europe, and who has thus been a vital protector of Russia’s dominance in the European energy-market.

America’s aristocracy would be benefited in many ways from this changeover to Europe’s increasing dependence upon those Sunni Moslem nations, which have long been allied with U.S. oil companies, and away from the Shiite Moslem nation of Iran, and from its key backer, Russia.

The most important way that America’s aristocrats would benefit would be the continuance, for the indefinite future, of the U.S. dollar’s role as the international reserve currency, in which energy and energy-futures are traded. The Sunni nations are committed to continued dominance of the dollar, and Wall Street depends on that continuance. It’s also one of the reasons the U.S. Treasury’s sales of U.S. Federal debt around the world have been as successful as they are. This also provides essential support to the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Furthermore, Obama’s effort to force the European Union to weaken their anti-global-warming standards so as to allow European imports of oil from the exceptionally carbon-gas-generating Athabasca Canada tar sands — which are approximately 40% owned by America’s Koch brothers, the rest owned by other U.S. and allied oil companies — would likewise reduce Europe’s current dependency upon Russian energy sources, at the same time as it would directly benefit U.S. energy-producers. Obama has been working hard for those oil companies to become enabled to sell such oil into Europe.

And, finally, the extension of U.S. fracking technology into Ukraine, and perhaps ultimately even into some EU nations, where it has been strongly resisted, might likewise reduce the enormous flow of European cash into Russian Government coffers to pay for Russian gas (which doesn’t even require fracking).

In other words, the wars in both Syria and Ukraine are being fought basically in order to grab the European energy market, away from Russia, somewhat in the same way (though far more violently) as Iran’s share of that market was previously grabbed away by means of the U.S.-led sanctions against that country. The current bombing campaigns in both Syria and Ukraine are directed specifically against Iran’s chief ally, Russia.

First, will be discussed here the bombing-campaign against Iran’s and Russia’s ally Assad in Syria; then against the residents of the ethnic-Russian areas of Ukraine.

SYRIA:

As the articles that are headlined below document, there has been proposed, in order to promote  Russian gas flowing into Europe, an eastbound Iran-Iraq-Syria-Turkey-Europe gas pipeline (but sanctions stopped that); and there was also proposed, in order to undercut  Russian gas flowing into Europe, a northbound Qatar-Saudi-Jordan-Syria-Turkey-Europe gas pipeline — those being two different and competing ways of supplying gas into Europe.

Russia’s ally Syria is crucial to both  proposed pipelines, which means that Assad has needed to be overthrown in order for the northbound pipeline from Qatar to be constructed and so to compete against Russia’s gas-supplies to Europe.

There have also been some differences between the Saudi and Qatari royal families as regards their motives for removing the Shiite Assad from leading Syria. Qatar’s royals (and also Turkey’s aristocrats) want him to be replaced by an anti-Iranian, Sunni Moslem Brotherhood leader (the type of person that Obama euphemistically calls by such terms as ‘moderate Moslems’ though they were hardly that in Egypt once they gained power there). Qatar’s royals have protected themselves from being overthrown by fundamentalist Moslems; they’ve done it especially by supporting the Moslem Brotherhood as a means of displaying their own loyalty to Moslem clerics. (The public trusts the clerics, but doesn’t trust the aristocrats; and, like everywhere, aristocrats obtain their perceived ‘legitimacy’ from the local clergy, whom aristocrats buy-off with special favors.) The Moslem Brotherhood want to control Syria, and would love to approve a gas pipeline from Qatar through Syria to Europe, to reward their chief benefactor, Qatar’s royals. As for the Saudi royals, they want Assad to be replaced by an anti-Iranian, Sunni ISIS leader, who will represent the Sauds’ Wahhabist sect in Islam, which provides Saudi royals their  ‘legitimacy.’ (Saudi royals say they don’t like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but that’s said mainly for public consumption in the West.) Right now, Saudi Arabia supplies less than 5% of Europe’s energy, which is a mere one-eighth of what Russia does. So: each of these two royal families relies primarily upon a different category of Islamists. Obama prefers the ‘moderate’ Muslim Brotherhood to the extremist ISIS, but Saudi royals accept his having that preference, because any way to weaken Iran and its backer Russia is fine with them, especially since it would open wide the enormous European market for their oil.

Other internal conflicts also exist within Obama’s team. For example, an expert on these matters, Felix Imonti, explained to me in a personal communication, that, “Qatar … abandoned the [pipeline] plan in 2010 for a very simple reason. Saudi Arabia will not permit a pipeline to be constructed across its territory. Qatar is interested along with Turkey in installing a MB government in Syria. … The Saudi objective is to drive out the Iranians from Syria.” The Saudis’ “objective was to establish a Wahhabi based [fundamentalist Moslem] state that would include western Iraq with Syria,” which, of course, is what ISIS is all about. Imonti also says: “Egypt [except for the brief time when it was controlled by the MB] is a bought puppet of Saudi Arabia. The Egyptians are bombing Qatari groups in Libya.” That Egyptian action is indirectly a Saudi attack against the Qatari royals’ own support-base. These issues between the two royal families are like squabbles within a family: more is shared in common than splits them apart. Obama’s decisions are often determinative on such matters.

So, America’s aristocracy supports both the Saudi and the Qatari aristocracies, despite their disagreements, in order to defeat the aristocracies in Russia, China, and the other “BRIC” countries.

Or, as President Obama’s speech at West Point, on 28 May 2014, propagandized for this view on the part of America’s aristocracy: “Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us.” So, Obama made clear to the graduating cadets that the BRIC countries are the enemy, from the standpoint of America’s aristocracy. Ours want to crush the aristocrats in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Though it’s alright for those other countries to produce more, that’s true only if American aristocrats control the local ones, like in any other international empire – not  if the local aristocrats there do. Similarly, for example, the British Empire didn’t wish for local aristocrats in India to be in control, but only for those client aristocrats to be of use. Obama added, placing a nationalistic coloration on his promotion of America’s empire: “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.” He promised to keep it that way: “That has been true for the century passed [sp.: past [[somebody at the White House didn’t know the difference between ‘past’ and ‘passed’]] and it will be true for the century to come.”

An important asset of the American aristocracy happens to be shale-gas-fracking technology, which is overwhelmingly owned by America’s aristocrats. Though Qatar is a major gas-producer, it has no need for fracking, and so is merely a gas-competitor in that regard, but they do share America’s pro-Sunni, anti-Assad goal, and also America’s anti-Russian goal. Although Qatar ships most of its gas into Asia, they’d like to have some way to pipe it more nearby, into Europe, to undercut Russia’s Gazprom. And that’s why the U.S. is working with Qatar to bump Assad from Syria.

The Saudis are actually doing the most of all to defeat Russia, by driving oil prices down so low as to upset Russia’s economic plans, which have been based upon minimum $100/barrel projections. We’re already around 10% below that. As Imonti writes, “The Saudis can sustain these lower prices for seven or eight years while drawing on their foreign reserves to cover the deficits. They could very well be trying to break the fracking business in the U.S. that has high production costs. [Of course, America’s gas aristocrats won’t like that, but Obama has to balance multiple sub-constituencies, including Qatar’s royals.] They might also be directing the target towards Russia that supports Assad and Iran. They could be doing all of the above with one action.” If the Sauds keep this up “for seven or eight years,” then Russia will be hit a lot harder than Russia is being hit, or is likely to be hit, by any economic sanctions.

Qatar has been the main funder of the overthrow-Assad movement, for the Moslem Brotherhood; and Saudi Arabia has been the main funder of the overthrow-Assad movement, for ISIS. Both are Sunni organizations. However, Qatar has also funded ISIS. Obama, when he decided to bomb ISIS, was acting on behalf of America’s aristocrats, but Saudi and Qatari aristocrats might have felt differently about it. He possessed the freedom to do this, which those aristocrats don’t have, because everyone in the Islamic world knows that Obama is no Moslem; everyone understands that America is in a permanent state of war against fundamentalist Islam of all sorts. Only Moslem aristocrats need the approval of Islamic fundamentalists. In America, aristocrats don’t even need the approval of Christian fundamentalists, the type of fundamentalists that might be able to threaten their authority in the West (since the West is predominantly Christian, not Moslem). And the same is true regarding Jewish aristocrats in Israel: aristocrats fear only their local majority clergy. That’s basic survival-knowledge for aristocrats, anywhere, in order to be able to get the public to accept the rightfulness of the aristocracy itself there.

So, ISIS gets money from the aristocracies of Saud, and of Qatar (and also, more recently, of Kuwait) – whatever is needed, in order for those aristocrats to retain the loyalty of their local clerics, and thus their public. It’s like aristocrats do in every country, getting “God’s approval” of their wealth, by throwing a few coins to the preacher, the local mouthpiece for “God,” thus relying upon the public’s trust in clergy. Even Mafia aristocrats do it. That has been the way of conservatism for millennia; it’s the way conservatism works. In more-recent centuries, a modified version of that trick has grown up, as liberalism, in which the aristocrats’ validation comes instead from scholars, and so aristocrats throw a few coins to them, instead of to clerics. But it’s no different — it’s authoritarianism, equally in either case. It’s purchased authority. Aristocrats don’t really fear the clergy, nor the scholars: they actually fear the public, such as what happened during the French Revolution, and during the Russian Revolution. But that’s another story altogether, going back millennia, actually.

The recent bombings in Syria, and in Ukraine, are a business-operation being carried out as a war (and also very profitable for U.S. armaments-makers, who likewise are controlled by America’s aristocrats and so this is a double-whammy for America’s aristocracy — and U.S. arms-makers have consequently been soaring on the stock market). It’s basically a grab by U.S. and Sunni aristocrats, from Russian and Shiite aristocrats, of the market to supply oil and gas into Europe. And it provides other advantages, too, for U.S. aristocrats.

Natural gas, especially of the non-fracked variety, is generally regarded as the bridge-fuel to get our planet to being able to survive long-term while fusion and renewable forms of energy come online as cost-competitive. Fracking is, as has been mentioned, an American technology, but it’s widely resisted even within American-allied nations. The U.S. Government can impose it upon the American people, because they are trusting in ‘free enterprise,’ but other governments are having a hard time trying to impose it on theirs. That public resistance in Europe is giving protection to the gas-import markets there; and this has benefited Russia, their major existing gas-supplier.

Russia has the world’s largest proven reserves of natural gas, and that’s without their even needing to use fracking-techniques in order to get at it. #2 Iran has 69% as much gas, and is allied with Russia, and it also doesn’t frack. But sanctions close them out of Europe. Then #3 Qatar, at 47%, is allied with U.S. oil companies, but has no need to frack. Then #4 Turkmenistan, 37%, is allied with Russia, and also doesn’t frack. Then #5 U.S., 20%, is allied with U.S. oil companies, and only fracks. Then #6 Saudi Arabia, 17%, is also allied with U.S. oil companies, and doesn’t need to frack.

The European Union bans fracking, because they have environmentally-concerned publics. But U.S. and other Western corporate-owned oil companies want to frack gas in Europe, just as they do in America; and the new Ukrainian Government is desperate enough to want their land to be fracked.

UKRAINE:

The main shale-gas (fracking) field in Ukraine is Yuzivska, right in the middle of the Donbass region, where the residents don’t want fracking and don’t want U.S. rule (which includes fracking). Furthermore, the people there reject the legitimacy of the Obama coup in Ukraine this year in February, and of its subsequent rulers of Ukraine, who have been bombing them, because 90% of the voters in that region had voted for the pro-Russian President whom Obama had overthrown, and because the new, anti-Russian, regime doesn’t want those people to stay (or at least to stay alive) in Ukraine, because otherwise that post-coup regime would become ousted if any nationwide election would ever again be held throughout Ukraine. This tactic of killing unwanted voters is a variant of what the Republican Party does in the U.S., simply trimming the voter-rolls in order to create a more-favorable “voting public.” Except that it’s being done in Ukraine by bombs and bullets, rather than by limiting or restricting ballots.

“The West,” or the allies of Sunni aristocrats, are now bombing intensively, both in Ukraine and in Syria; and, in both instances, the argument for the bombings is to spread “democracy” there. It’s giving a bad name to ‘democracy,’ to anyone who misbelieves that this is it.

BACK AGAIN TO SYRIA:

Below are the main sources that describe the Middle Eastern part of this Obama-Putin power-struggle, that is the part in Syria instead of in Ukraine. This is how international business is actually carried out – it’s a perfect libertarian world, since there is no international government; this market is unregulated to so extreme an extent that even ethnic cleansings and mass-murders go unpunished — it’s a pure free market, which operates on an international scale (the only scale where libertarianism exists in even nearly this pure a form); this libertarianism is an exemplar of the conservative ideal: pure liberty for aristocrats, total lack of accountability. If anything, Barack Obama might be even more of a conservative than was George W. Bush: under Obama, the IRS specifically allows blatantly illegal tax-evasion by the mega-rich to go uninvestigated and unpunished, and concentrates virtually all its resources on pursuing two-bit tax-cheats. That’s what ‘democracy’ has come to in America. In America’s client-states, such as in the Middle East and (since February) in Ukraine, it’s even worse.

The first of these articles explains why the price of oil has been plunging, and who has been behind that:

http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2014/10/24/the-secret-stupid-saudi-us-deal-on-syria/

“The Secret Stupid Saudi-US Deal on Syria”

F William Engdahl October 24 20143 COMMENTS

The Kerry-Abdullah Secret Deal & An Oil-Gas Pipeline War

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-10-10/why-oil-plunging-other-part-secret-deal-between-us-and-saudi-arabia

“Why Oil Is Plunging: The Other Part Of The ”Secret Deal” Between The US And Saudi Arabia”

Tyler Durden on 10/11/2014 18:19 -0400

… [Excerpt:] Today’s Brent closing price: $90. Russia’s oil price budget for the period 2015-2017? $100. Which means much more “forced Brent liquidation” is in the cards in the coming weeks as America’s suddenly once again very strategic ally, Saudi Arabia, does everything in its power to break Putin. [Note: The Russian Government’s fiscal projections were based on $100/barrel, but the Saudi-forced-down price was now $89/barrel. How long would Saudis and Qataris keep this up? And how long would Assad hold off ISIS? Big bets are being made on both.]

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-09-25/look-inside-secret-deal-saudi-arabia-unleashed-syrian-bombing

“A Look Inside The Secret Deal With Saudi Arabia That Unleashed The Syrian Bombing”

Tyler Durden on 09/25/2014 10:17 -0400

… [Excerpt:] Said otherwise, the pound of flesh demanded by Saudi Arabia to “bless” US airstrikes and make them appear as an act of some coalition, is the removal of the Assad regime. Why? So that, as we also explained last year, the holdings of the great Qatar natural gas fields can finally make their way onward to Europe, which incidentally is also America’s desire — what better way to punish Putin for his recent actions than by crushing the main leverage the Kremlin has over Europe?

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-08-27/meet-saudi-arabias-bandar-bin-sultan-puppetmaster-behind-syrian-war

Meet Saudi Arabia’s Bandar bin Sultan: The Puppetmaster Behind The Syrian War”

Tyler Durden on 08/27/2013 15:21 -0400

… [Excerpt:] Of course, there is Syria:

Regarding the Syrian issue, the Russian president responded to Bandar, saying, 

“Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters. During the Geneva I Conference, we agreed with the Americans on a package of understandings, and they agreed that the Syrian regime will be part of any settlement. Later on, they decided to renege on Geneva I. In all meetings of Russian and American experts, we reiterated our position. In his upcoming meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will stress the importance of making every possible effort to rapidly reach a political settlement to the Syrian crisis so as to prevent further bloodshed.”

Alas, that has failed.

So what are some of the stunning disclosures by the Saudis?

Bandar told Putin,

“There are many common values and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. … As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-08-08/putin-laughs-saudi-offer-betray-syria-exchange-huge-arms-deal

“Putin Laughs At Saudi Offer To Betray Syria In Exchange For ‘Huge’ Arms Deal”

Tyler Durden on 08/08/2013 11:20 -0400

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-16/mystery-sponsor-weapons-and-money-syrian-rebels-revealed

“Mystery Sponsor Of Weapons And Money To Syrian Mercenary ‘Rebels’ Revealed”

Tyler Durden on 05/16/2013 19:12 -0400

… [Excerpt:] So there you have it: Qatar doing everything it can to promote bloodshed, death and destruction by using not Syrian rebels, but mercenaries: professional citizens who are paid handsomely to fight and kill members of the elected regime (unpopular as it may be), for what? So that the unimaginably rich emirs of Qatar can get even richer. Although it is not as if Russia is blameless: all it wants is to preserve its own strategic leverage over Europe by being the biggest external provider of natgas to the continent through its own pipelines. Should Nabucco come into existence, Gazpromia would be very, very angry and make far less money!

The final source will be posted here in full, because it goes closest to the reason for our bombing Syria:

http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Qatar-Rich-and-Dangerous.html

“Qatar: Rich and Dangerous”

17 September 2012, by Felix Imonti

The first concern of the Emir of Qatar is the prosperity and security of the tiny kingdom. To achieve that, he knows no limits.

Stuck between Iran and Saudi Arabia is Qatar with the third largest natural gas deposit in the world. The gas gives the nearly quarter of a million Qatari citizens the highest per capita income on the planet and provides 70 percent of government revenue.

How does an extremely wealthy midget with two potentially dangerous neighbors keep them from making an unwelcomed visit? Naturally, you have someone bigger and tougher to protect you.

Of course, nothing is free. The price has been to allow the United States to have two military bases in a strategic location.  According to Wikileaks diplomatic cables, the Qataris are even paying sixty percent of the costs.

Having tanks and bunker busting bombs nearby will discourage military aggression, but it does nothing to curb the social tumult that has been bubbling for decades in the Middle Eastern societies. Eighty-four years ago, the Moslem Brotherhood arose in Egypt because of the presence of foreign domination by Great Britain and the discontent of millions of the teaming masses yearning to be free. Eighty-four years later, the teaming masses are still yearning.

Sixty-five percent of the people in the Middle East are under twenty-nine years of age. It is this desperate angry group that presents a danger that armies cannot stop. The cry for their dignity, “I am a man,” is the sound that sends terror through governments. It is this overwhelming force that the Emir of Qatar has been able to deflect.

A year after he deposed his father in 1995, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani established the Al-Jazeera television satellite news network. He invited some of the radical Salafi preachers that had been given sanctuary in Qatar to address the one and a half billion Moslems around the world. They had their electronic soapbox and the card to an ATM, but there was a price.

The price was silence. They could speak to the world and arouse the fury in Egypt or Libya, but they would have to leave their revolution outside of Qatar or the microphone would be switched off and the ATM would stop dispensing the good life.

The Moslem Brotherhood, that is a major force across the region, dissolved itself in Qatar in 1999. Jasim Sultan, a member of the former organization, explained that the kingdom was in compliance with Islamic law. He heads the state funded Awaken Project that publishes moderate political and philosophical literature.

How Qatar has benefited from networking with the Salafis is illustrated by the connections with Tunisia where Qatar is making a large investment in telecommunications. Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafiq Abdulsalaam was head of the Research and Studies Division in the Al Jazeera Centre in Doha. His father-in-law Al Ghanouchi is the head of the Tunisian Moslem Brotherhood party.

Over much of the time since he seized power, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has followed the policy of personal networking, being proactive in business and neutral on the international stage. The Emir is generous with the grateful, the Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund bargains hard in the board room and the kingdom makes available Qatar’s Good Offices to resolve disputes.

Qatar’s foreign policy made an abrupt shift when the kingdom entered the war against Qaddafi. The kingdom sent aircraft to join NATO forces. On the ground, Qatari special forces armed, trained, and led Libyans against Qaddafi’s troops.

The head of the National Transition Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil attributed much of the success of the revolution to the efforts of Qatar that he said had spent two billion dollars. He commented, “Nobody traveled to Qatar without being given a sum of money by the government.”

Qatar had ten billion dollars in investments in Libya to protect. The Barwa Real Estate Company alone had two billion committed to the construction of a beach resort near Tripoli.

While the bullets were still flying, Qatar signed eight billion dollars in agreements with the NTC. Just in case things with the NTC didn’t work out, they financed rivals Abdel Hakim Belhaj, leader of the February 17 Martyr’s Brigade, and Sheik Ali Salabi, a radical cleric who had been exiled in Doha.

If Qatar’s investments of ten billion dollars seem substantial, the future has far more to offer. Reconstruction costs are estimated at seven hundred billion dollars. The Chinese and Russians had left behind between them thirty billion in incomplete contracts and investments and all of it is there for the taking for those who aided the revolution.

No sooner had Qaddafi been caught and shot, Qatar approached Bashar Al-Assad to establish a transitional government with the Moslem Brotherhood. As you would expect, relinquishing power to the Brotherhood was an offer that he could refuse. It didn’t take long before he heard his sentence pronounced in January 2012 on the CBS television program, 60 Minutes by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

The Emir declared that foreign troops should be sent into Syria.  At the Friends of Syria conference in February, Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said, “We should do whatever necessary to help [the Syrian opposition], including giving them weapons to defend themselves.”

Why would Qatar want to become involved in Syria where they have little invested? A map reveals that the kingdom is a geographic prisoner in a small enclave on the Persian Gulf coast.

It relies upon the export of LNG, because it is restricted by Saudi Arabia from building pipelines to distant markets.  In 2009, the proposal of a pipeline to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the Nabucco pipeline was considered, but Saudi Arabia that is angered by its smaller and much louder brother has blocked any overland expansion.

Already the largest LNG producer, Qatar will not increase the production of LNG. The market is becoming glutted with eight new facilities in Australia coming online between 2014 and 2020.

A saturated North American gas market and a far more competitive Asian market leaves only Europe. The discovery in 2009 of a new gas field near Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Syria opened new possibilities to bypass the Saudi Barrier and to secure a new source of income. Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas. Only Al-Assad is in the way.

Qatar along with the Turks would like to remove Al-Assad and install the Syrian chapter of the Moslem Brotherhood. It is the best organized political movement in the chaotic society and can block Saudi Arabia’s efforts to install a more fanatical Wahhabi based regime. Once the Brotherhood is in power, the Emir’s broad connections with Brotherhood groups throughout the region should make it easy for him to find a friendly ear and an open hand in Damascus.

A control centre has been established in the Turkish city of Adana near the Syrian border to direct the rebels against Al-Assad. Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud asked to have the Turks establish a joint Turkish, Saudi, Qatari operations center. “The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations” a source in the Gulf told Reuters.

The fighting is likely to continue for many more months, but Qatar is in for the long term. At the end, there will be contracts for the massive reconstruction and there will be the development of the gas fields. In any case, Al-Assad must go. There is nothing personal; it is strictly business to preserve the future tranquility and well-being of Qatar.

I wish to express my appreciation to Mr. Imonti for his allowing me to publish here the entirety of that article.

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.

West Re-Arms Al-Nusra – Mainstream Media Continues Coverup

November 6th, 2014 by Brandon Turbeville

On a number of occasions, I have documented in relative detail how ISIS, ISIL, Al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, and the FSA are not only small divisions of the same fighting force but also how they are entirely controlled by NATO and Western intelligence agencies. Indeed, the documentation of these relationships is so plentiful as to preclude any attempt to collect even a substantial portion of it in one place. Yet, only in the bits of dribble provided by mainstream media outlets is there the pretense that the above-listed terrorist organizations are anything but NATO’s and the CIA’s Arab legion.

The mainstream coverup artists known as the media in the Western world have thus done their part to obfuscate the Western arming, training, and directing of the death squads currently assaulting the Syrian people. Carefully crafted narratives, half truths, and outright lies have been provided in order to prevent the American people from coming to the realization that it is their own government that is arming the very terrorists it claims Americans must sacrifice their rights to be protected against.

One such narrative is that of the battles currently taking place between different factions of NATO’s terrorists – the so-called moderate rebels vs the extremists – that has resulted in the re-arming and reinforcement of ISIS, Nusra, and other al-Qaeda terrorists.

This is the narrative that was presented by the Washington Post in its article “U.S.-backed Syria rebels routed by fighters linked to al-Qaeda,” where the news agency attempts to paint a picture of embattled “moderates” fighting both a brutal dictator and heavily armed fanatics. According to the Washington Post, these embattled “moderates,” who have been openly armed by the West, were simply overwhelmed by the forces of Al-Nusra, who not only defeated the hapless “rebels,” but made off with a fresh new stash of weaponry.

The Washington Post reports,

The Obama administration’s Syria strategy suffered a major setback Sunday after fighters linked to al-Qaeda routed U.S.-backed rebels from their main northern strongholds, capturing significant quantities of weaponry, triggering widespread defections and ending hopes that Washington will readily find Syrian partners in its war against the Islamic State.

Moderate rebels who had been armed and trained by the United States either surrendered or defected to the extremists as the Jabhat al-Nusra group, affiliated with al-Qaeda, swept through the towns and villages the moderates controlled in the northern province of Idlib, in what appeared to be a concerted push to vanquish the moderate Free Syrian Army, according to rebel commanders, activists and analysts.

Other moderate fighters were on the run, headed for the Turkish border as the extremists closed in, heralding a significant defeat for the rebel forces Washington had been counting on as a bulwark against the Islamic State.

Of course, some points must be made in regards to the presentation provided by the Washington Post. As I have demonstrated on a number of occasions, there is no such thing as a moderate opposition in Syria. Even other more astute members of the mainstream media such as Ben Hubbard of the New York Times stated as much in his own article in April, 2013 when he stated,

In Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with Al Qaeda control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law. Elsewhere, they have seized government oil fields, put employees back to work and now profit from the crude they produce.

Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government.

Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.[emphasis added]

In reality, the so-called “opposition” in Syria is anything but moderate. As Tony Cartalucci wrote in his article, “In Syria, There Are No Moderates,”

… there were never, nor are there any “moderates” operating in Syria. The West has intentionally armed and funded Al Qaeda and other sectarian extremists since as early as 2007 in preparation for an engineered sectarian bloodbath serving US-Saudi-Israeli interests. This latest bid to portray the terrorists operating along and within Syria’s borders as “divided” along extremists/moderate lines is a ploy to justify the continued flow of Western cash and arms into Syria to perpetuate the conflict, as well as create conditions along Syria’s borders with which Western partners, Israel, Jordan, and Turkey, can justify direct military intervention.

Even one of the FSA commanders, Bassel Idriss, recently admitted to openly collaborating with ISIS and al-Nusra, revealing yet another example of the fact that the “moderate rebels” are not moderate at all.

In an interview with the Daily Star of Lebanon, Idriss stated “We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in . . . Qalamoun . . . . Let’s face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now in Qalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values.”

Idriss also admitted that many FSA fighters had pledged allegiance to ISIS. He said, “[ISIS] wanted to enhance its presence in the Western Qalamoun area. After the fall of Yabroud and the FSA’s retreat into the hills [around Arsal], many units pledged allegiance [to ISIS]”.

Abu Fidaa, a retired Syrian Army Colonel who is now a part of the Revolutionary Council in the Qalamoun, corroborated Idrisss’ statements by saying that “A very large number of FSA members [in Arsal] have joined ISIS and Nusra. In the end, people want to eat, they want to live, and the Islamic State has everything.”

Not only the FSA, but also the Syrian Revolutionary Front has also openly admitted to working with Nusra and al-Qaeda. The leader of the SRF, Jamaal Maarouf admitted that his brigades coordinate with Nusra and al-Qaeda regularly.

It should be remembered that the FSA is nothing more than an umbrella organization for a number of fundamentalist brigades fighting against the secular government of Bashar al-Assad which the West would like to present as moderate freedom fighters.

The FSA is, without a doubt, nothing resembling moderate. As Daniel Wagner wrote for the Huffington Post in December, 2012,

In the outskirts of Aleppo, the FSA has implemented a Sharia law enforcement police force that is a replica of the Wahhabi police in Saudi Arabia — forcing ordinary citizens to abide by the Sharia code. This is being done in a secular country which has never known Sharia Law. This type of action is currently also being implemented in northern Mali, where the West has officially declared its opposition to the al-Qaeda government that took control earlier this year. If what is happening near Aleppo is representative of what may happen if the FSA assumes control of Syria, the country may become an Islamic state. Is that really what the U.S. and other Western countries are intending to tacitly support?

[...]

Indeed, the FSA has also been targeting the infrastructure of the country. One of the main power plants in Damascus was knocked out for three days last week, impacting 40 percent of the city’s residents. Do ‘freedom fighters’ typically attack critical infrastructure that impacts ordinary citizens on a mass scale? The FSA long ago stopped targeting solely government and military targets.

The FSA is no stranger to atrocities. The FSA is the “moderate opposition” that was filmed forcing a young child to behead a Syrian soldier. It is also the “moderate opposition” that maintained “burial brigades,” a system of mass murder and mass executions against soldiers and those who support the Syrian government. The burial brigades were only one small part of a much wider campaign of terror and executions implemented by the Free Syrian Army.

Of course, the Free Syrian Army is merely the umbrella group of death squads carefully crafted to present a “moderate” face on what is, in reality, nothing more than savage terrorists. Thus, the FSA encompasses(d) a number of smaller “brigades” of al-Qaeda terrorists in order to cover up the true nature of its own ranks.

One such brigade was the Farouq brigade, to which Abu Sakkar was a member. Sakkar, also seen in photographs with John McCain, was the famous rebel videotaped cutting the heart out of a Syrian soldier and biting into it.

With this in mind, later passages of the Washington Post article detailing how the Nusra Front fighters were able to capture the weapons and absorb the fighters of the phantom moderate rebels are particularly relevant. The Washington Post reports that,

Among the groups whose bases were overrun in the assault was Harakat Hazm, the biggest recipient of U.S. assistance offered under a small-scale, covert CIA program launched this year, including the first deliveries of U.S.-made TOW antitank missiles. The group’s headquarters outside the village of Khan Subbul was seized by Jabhat al-Nusra overnight Saturday, after rebel fighters there surrendered their weapons and fled without a fight, according to residents in the area.

[...]

Harakat Hazm, whose name means “Steadfastness Movement,” had also received small arms and ammunition alongside non-lethal aid in the form of vehicles, food and uniforms from the United States and its European and Persian Gulf Arab allies grouped as the Friends of Syria alliance. Scores of its fighters had received U.S. training in Qatar under the covert program, but it was also not possible to confirm whether any of those fighters had defected to the al-Qaeda affiliate. [emphasis added]

While it is certainly true that, because of the mentally deranged nature of the fundamentalist terrorists belonging to these various groups, there are a number of violent conflicts that take place between them as they vie for power or quibble over disagreements in religious minutia, it is also true that the implied apocalyptic battle between Nusra and Harakat Hazm presented by mainstream outlets like the Washington Post never actually took place.

As one can read from the passages quoted above, the so-called moderates who just happened (another convenient coincidence) to be the same so-called moderates who were the “biggest recipients of U.S. assistance” were allegedly confronted by Nusra and “surrendered their weapons and fled without a fight.” In other words, the U.S. provided these groups with a massive amount of assistance that was subsequently given to al-Nusra. While the mainstream media will present this as the result of a complicated battle situation, the truth is that it was nothing more than a conduit to provide arms to terrorist organizations whose public relations skills may not be as developed as the US State Department would hope.

Lastly, it must be pointed out that Harakat Hazm should not be considered the “biggest recipient” of U.S. aid, since Harakat Hazm is simply one division of the whole that has been receiving billions of dollars of U.S. aid and equipment as well as other relevant assistance since at least 2010.

In the end, the alleged al-Nusra/Harakat Hazm battle, when correctly understood in its proper context, should be viewed as nothing more than a carefully constructed cover story for the re-arming of Al-Nusra and other relevant Western-backed death squad forces.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 300 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

How do you fix a superpower with exploding levels of debt, that has a rapidly aging population, that consumes far more wealth than it produces, and that has scores of zombie banks that could collapse at any moment.  You might think that I am talking about the United States, but I am actually talking about Europe.  You see, the truth is that the European Union has a larger population than the United States does, it has a larger economy than the United States does, and it has a much larger banking system than the United States does. 

Most of the time I write about the horrible economic problems that the U.S. is facing, but without a doubt economic conditions in Europe are even worse at the moment.  In fact, there are many (including the Washington Post) that are calling what is happening in Europe a full-blown “depression”.  Sadly, this is probably only just the beginning.  In the months to come things in Europe are likely to get much worse.

First of all, let’s take a look at unemployment.  If the U.S. was using honest numbers, the official unemployment rate would probably be somewhere close to 10 percent.  But in many nations in Europe, the official unemployment rate is already above the ten percent mark…

France: 10.2%

Poland: 11.5%

Italy: 12.6%

Portugal: 13.1%

Spain: 23.6%

Greece: 26.4%

The official unemployment rate for the eurozone as a whole is currently 11.5 percent.  The lack of good jobs is causing the middle class to shrink all over Europe, and more people than ever are becoming dependent on government assistance.  European nations are well known for their generous welfare programs, but all of this spending is causing  debt to GDP ratios to absolutely explode…

Spain: 92.1%

France: 92.2%

Belgium: 101.5%

Portugal: 129.0%

Italy: 132.6%

Greece: 174.9%

At the same time, the value of the euro has been steadily declining over the last six months.  This is significantly reducing the purchasing power that European families have…

Many believe that the euro will ultimately go much lower than this.  Nations such as Greece and Spain are already experiencing deflation, and the inflation rates in Germany and France are both currently below one percent.  If the European Central Bank starts injecting lots of fresh euros into the system to combat this perceived problem, that will lift the level of inflation but it will also further erode the value of the euro.

In the long run, it would not be a surprise to see the U.S. dollar at parity with the euro.

When it happens, remember where you heard it.

The Europeans are scared to death of a deflationary depression, but that is precisely where the long-term economic trends are taking them right now.  The following is from a recent Forbes article

Market consensus believes that the eurozone is edging toward that moment when the scourge of deflation actually becomes a crippling reality. Eurozone data is constantly reminding investors that the region’s economy is barely limping along, as companies slash selling prices in a vain attempt to improve sales in the face of a weakening economy and evaporating new orders. Corporate deflationary reactions like this only hurt a company’s bottom line by squeezing profit margins even further. The obvious knock-on effect will limit resources for hiring and investing, which in turn only dampens any chances of an economic rebound, again putting the region into a bigger hole.

In a desperate attempt to avoid widespread deflation in Europe, the ECB will inevitably take action at some point.

It may not happen immediately, but when it does it will be yet another salvo in the emerging global currency war.

Speaking of currencies, it is being reported that Russia is actually considering legislation that will ban the circulation of the U.S. dollar in that nation.  The following is from an article that was posted on Infowars

Russia may ban the circulation of the United States dollar.

The State Duma has already been submitted a relevant bill banning and terminating the circulation of USD in Russia, APA’s Moscow correspondent reports.

If the bill is approved, Russian citizens will have to close their dollar accounts in Russian banks within a year and exchange their dollars in cash to Russian ruble or other countries’ currencies.

Otherwise their accounts will be frozen and cash dollars levied by police, customs, tax, border, and migration services confiscated.

That is not good news for the U.S. dollar at all.

Expect wild shifts in the foreign exchange markets in the months and years to come.  Turbulent times are ahead for the dollar, the euro and the yen.

Getting back to Europe, let us hope that things stabilize over there – at least for a while.

But that might not happen.  In fact, things could take a turn for the worse at any moment.

Most people don’t realize this, but European banks are even shakier than U.S. banks, and that is saying a lot.

For example, the largest bank in the strongest economy in Europe is Deutsche Bank.  At this point, Deutsche Bank has approximately 75 trillion dollars worth of exposure to derivatives.  That amount of money is about 20 times the size of German GDP, and it is more exposure than any U.S. bank has.

And Deutsche Bank is far from alone.  All over Europe there are zombie banks that are essentially insolvent.  Many of them are being propped up by their governments.  Those governments know that if those banks failed that it would make their economic problems even worse.

Just like in the United States, most economic activity in Europe is fueled by debt.  So those banks are needed to provide mortgages, loans and credit cards to average citizens and businesses.  Unfortunately, bad debt levels and business failures continue to shoot up all over Europe.

The system is breaking down, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.

So keep an eye on Europe.  In particular, keep an eye on Italy.  I have a feeling that big economic news is about to start coming out of Italy, and it won’t be good.

In 2014, we have been experiencing “the calm before the storm”.

But 2015 is right around the corner, and it promises to be extremely “interesting”.

We bring to the attention of our readers the complete report of the Russian Union of Engineers (RUE) pertaining to the downing of Malaysian airlines MH17. The report was coordinated by the First Vice-President of the Russian Union of Engineers Ivan A. Andrievskii 

This detailed study with corroborating evidence invalidates Western mainstream media interpretations as well the accusations of the Obama administration directed against Russia.  

The RUE report in pdf can be consulted here

1. The event

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 (Amsterdam —Kuala-Lumpur) departed from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at 10:14 UTC (14:14 Moscow Time) and was scheduled to arrive at its destination at 18:10 local time (22:10 UTC/2:10 Moscow time).

Echelon 330, including the 10 kilometers altitude that the crashed Boeing was flying at, was open for international transit flights over the territory of Ukraine. According to the data provided by the airline, contact with the airplane was lost at 14:15 GMT, approximately 50km away from the Russian-Ukrainian border. However, according to internet portal Flightradar24, the airplane stopped transmission of ADS-B over Snezhnoe (the last reported coordinates — 48.0403° northern latitude 38.7728° east longitude (G) (O)) after 13:21:28 UTC (17:21:28 Moscow time, 16:21:28 local time) at an echelon of 33 thousand feet (a bit over 10 kilometers).

Later on, the wreckage of the airplane was found burning on the ground on the territory of Ukraine. The plane crashed in the area of village Hrabove (not far from Torez). No one from the passengers and aircrew members survived.

2. Investigated questions

Under what circumstances did the airplane crash?

Who could be responsible for the crash?

3. Analyst group

A group of experts from the Russian Union of Engineers was gathered to analyze the situation. The expert group included retired AA officers, who had combat experience with surface-to-air missile systems, as well as pilots experienced in using air-to-air weapons. The problem was also discussed at the meeting of the Academy of Geopolitical Affairs, where many different versions were tested and discussed once again. In the course of the analysis, the experts used materials received from open sources published in mass media. The situation was also analyzed with the help of the Su-25 aircraft flight simulator.

Concluding the conducted research work, the following analytical materials are presented.

4. General source data for the purposes of analysis

4.1. Overall aerial situation in the area around Donetsk.

The overall aerial situation in the area around Donetsk was presented at a Special briefing of the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense regarding the crash of MH-17 in the airspace of Ukraine, on 21.07.2014.

The objective control data, registered from 17.10 pm to 17.30 pm Moscow time, were presented at the briefing, during the speech of head of the Main Operations Directorate, deputy of the Russian Air Force Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General Andrey Kartapolov.

During the time period in question, there were three civil airplanes in the sky, all of which were on their scheduled flights:

• Flight from Copenhagen to Singapore at 17:17;
• Flight from Paris to Taipei at 17:24;
• Flight from Amsterdam to Kuala-Lumpur Apart from these, Russian civil airspace control facilities recorded an altitude gain by a Ukrainian Air Force aircraft, supposedly Su-25, towards the Malaysian Boeing-777. The distance between the Su-25 and the Boeing-777 was 3-5 km.

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The aerial situation in the area of the crash of Boeing 777 (according to the data of the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense)

4.2. Meteorological conditions in the area of the crash of the Boeing 777

Record of weather conditions in Topez, Donetsk Oblast, Thursday, 17 July, 2014.

Time Weather conditions Air temperature Wind speed m/s Atmospheric pressure Relative humidity %
15:00 Overcast sky +31°C 4.0 730 29
15:00 Overcast sky +31°C 4.0 730 29

4.3. Source data from the Boeing 777 crash site

A more complete picture of the reasons for the crash of Boeing 777 can be achieved through the analysis of its wreckage. Examining the pictures of the fragments, published on the Internet, one can notice various damage on its fuselage – disruptions and breaks, holes with edges from the internal and external sides of the fuselage, which speak of a powerful external pressure against the airplane.

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A fragment from the wing of the Boeing 777
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A fragment from the fuselage of the Boeing 777
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A wing fragment from the aircraft
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A wing fragment from the aircraft
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A fuselage fragment from the aircraft
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A cabin fragment from the aircraft

Holes with inward edges catch the eye. These are round-shaped holes, which are normally grouped. Such holes could only have round shapes in the case of being cut with metallic elements, possibly with bars or aviation cannon projectiles. This brings up the question: by whom and how could such elements be delivered to the airplane and what could these elements actually be?

4.4. Characterization of the Boeing 777 aircraft as an air target

The source data for the analysis of the given situation are technical specifications of the Boeing 777 aircraft; its flight path; the altitude and speed of the flight; heading alteration compared to the initial flight plan; site of the crash; photo and video materials of the plane wreckage; description of the range and the nature of wreckage dispersion.

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Boeing 777

The most significant parameters of Boeing 777 serving for the purposes of the current analysis

Wing span, m 60.93
Length of the airplane, m 63.73
Height of the airplane, m 18.52
Wing area, m2 427.80
Maximum airspeed, km/h 965
Cruise airspeed, km/h 905
Operational range, km 8910
Service ceiling, m 13100

The Boeing 777 aircraft is not considered to be a difficult aerial target for AA systems. It is a high altitude aerial target (4000—12000 m) with a very large RCS (Radar Cross Section) – no less than 10m (the RCS for an airplane of the Su-25 type is 0.5—0.6m), it has limited maneuverability, and it has no capacity for anti-AA counteraction (active and passive jammers, false targets, etc). It can be effectively targeted both by military aircraft (interceptors or other types of aircraft acting in the same altitude and speed range) as well as by AA systems of object (S-200, S-300 type) or tactical (BUK-M1) types.

5. Technical aspects of the problem

In the present day practice of using anti-air systems engagement of aerial targets is classified according to the following types:

A. type – termination of controlled flight
B. type – restricted continuation of controlled flight without possibility of landing
C. type – restricted continuation of controlled flight with possibility of landing and a subsequent repair of the aircraft

In this case, according to the available data, there is enough ground to claim that we deal with (A) type target engagement – termination of controlled flight.

We examined all major versions which had already been published by experts from different countries. Turning to the technical aspect of the problem, it can be claimed that the Boeing 777 was destroyed by anti-air defense systems – either by using a surface-to-air missile, launched from the ground, or by another aircraft employing its missile or aircraft cannon.

Applying engineering methods and technical analysis, the experts of the Russian Union of Engineers discussed both of these versions, which represent almost the unanimous spectrum of opinions by experts and specialists.

6. Version I. Boeing 777 was shot down as a result of using a surface-to-air missile, for example BUK-М1

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AA missile 9K37M1 BUK-М1

Technical characteristics of the AA missile 9K37M1 BUK-М1

The start of mass-production 1983
Targeting range, km
—F-15 airplane types 3..32—35
Targeting altitude, km
—F-15 airplane types 0,015..22
Number of simultaneously engaged targets 18
Single shot kill probability SAM
• Of a fighter 0,8..0,95
• Of a helicopter 0,3..0,6
• Of a cruiser 0,4..0,6
Maximum velocity of engaged targets, m/s 800

6.1. Evidence supporting the first version

6.1.1. The probability for the effective shooting down of an aerial target of the Boeing 777 type by an AA missile 9K37M1 BUK-М1 is high, as the plane was moving at a 10100 echelon, at the speed of 900 km/h. Such parameters could make it an aerial target for BUK-M1. The probability for successfully hitting such a target by a BUK-M1 AA system is 0.8-0.95, as a consequence, it is technically possible to hit an air target of this type.

 

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A group of Ukrainian AA missile systems

The Ukrainian troops group around the site of the crash site included 3—4 systems of the BUK-M1 type. This information was published by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Head of the main Operation Directorate of General Stuff, Lieutenant General Andrey Kartapolov, emphasized the fact that the Russian military possesses photos of separate Ukrainian troop locations, made from space, including photos of Ukrainian army divisions in the southeast of Ukraine, particularly, BUK systems 8 km from Lugansk. In the morning following the crash of the Malaysian airliner, Russian control facilities discovered a BUK-M1 AA missile system around the Zaroshenskoe village. On that same day that system was redeployed towards the Donetsk area – towards the area where the militia troops were positioned. We consider these data to be objective and reliable.

6.1.2. Also, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense stated that Russian military officers recorded the operation of a radar of a Ukrainian BUK-M1 AA missile system on the day of the crash of the Malaysian liner Boeing 777. The target location and guidance system Kupol 9С18 is a three-axis coherent-impulse target locator performing the transmission of information about the aerial environment to the command observation post of the 9С470 AA missile system 9K37 BUK. The 9С18 radar is capable of detecting and identifying aerial targets at a distance of 110-160km, with an identification range for low-altitude targets (under 30m) of up to 45km. Such a radar could be used for the detection and tracking of a Boeing 777.

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Radar 9С18М1 «Kupol»

Radar 9С18М1 Kupol

Coverage area:
In azimuth, degrees 360
In elevation angle, degree 0-40
Instrumented range, km 10-160
Resolving power: In range, м 400
In azimuth, degrees 3-4,5
In elevation angle, degrees 3-4,5
Continuous operation time, h 48
The set up and clotting time, min. 5

Maximum velocity, km /h 65

6.1.3. However, experts of the Russian Union of Engineers find it important to note that the launch of a BUK-M1 missile is accompanied by the following significant audio-visual factors:

• Significant noise effect, both at missile launch time and during its flight, especially at altitudes between 100 and 3000m.
• A powerful flash at the launch site (Photo 10).
• A condensation trail, formed by the missile as a result of missile fuel burning on its flight trajectory (Photo 11).
• A flash and a characteristic picture in midair at the point of convergence of the missile with the target. (Photo 12).

6.1.4. The version that a BUK-M1 AA missile was used in this incident, according to the experts, has a number of vulnerable aspects, making it questionable:

а) Up to now no one has provided reliable evidence of the a “surface-to-air” missile launch, which is known to be accompanied by significant noise and visual effects. Its condensation trail goes into the clouds and stays in the air for up to 10 minutes. The sound wave produced during the launch of the missile can be heard within a radius of 7-10 km around the launch site.

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Launch of a BUK-M1 AA missile

b) The flight of a surface-to-air missile is accompanied by a very loud noise. Its flight can be visually traced due to the trail formed as a result of the missile fuel burning (condensation trail).

In this case, there is no record of a trail in the form of a dense white condensation from the burning of fuel, as well as of a vapor path, which appears and stays for a few minutes after the launch and is well visible within a radius of no less than 10km from the launch site.

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BUK-M1 AA missile during flight

c) The detonation of the warhead has a characteristic configuration, which can be seen from the ground under clear weather conditions.

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Air target shot down by a BUK-M1 AA missile

The surface-to-air missile 9М38 is equipped with a dual-mode solid-fuel engine (general operation time about 15 seconds).

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AA missile 9М38 BUK-M1

Surface-to-air missile 9М38

Missile length 5,5 m
Diameter 400 mm
Flaps width 860 mm
Missile weight 685 kg
Warhead weight 70 kg

The surface-to-air missile, with 40-70kg of warhead payload, explodes not inside of the target, but in its proximity, at a distance of 50-100 meters.

The warhead detonation causes an aerial shockwave, which results in a high-speed fragment distribution. The fragments are capable of breaking an airplane fuselage, but taking into account the dimensions of a Boeing 777 (63.7m length, with a large wingspan of over 60 m), they still cannot destroy the airplane, causing its fragmentation into several smaller parts, as is the case with aircraft that are 7-10 times smaller in size. When hitting a Boeing 777 such fragments may cause disruptions of fuel flow and lead to the leakage of fuel over the fuselage and wings and its subsequent ignition leading to a fire.

d) Similarly, in the case that the hydraulic system had been damaged, the Boeing-777 would have lost control, or control would have become extremely difficult (shooting down type «В»). If an aircraft as big as the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 had been hit by a surface-to-air missile, the crew might have been able to warn flight services of the situation created onboard the aircraft. However, according to the information presented by mass media, nothing of the kind has been registered in the decoded data of the aircraft recorders.

e) The crash of the airplane took place during daytime, in a highly populated area, where there were not only numerous military observers monitoring the air environment, but also many reporters equipped with video cameras, as well as local residents, having digital cameras and cellphones with cameras. It is also worth noting that the launch of a BUK-M1 surface-to-air missile requires the participation of at least a combat crew, which makes a stealthy launch rather difficult.

It would be logical to assume that pictures and video recordings depicting the situation from various angles and displaying several stages of the flight of the missile, would have instantly appeared on the internet (the numerous amateur video recordings of the meteor impact near Chelyabinsk are a good example of that). However, local residents recorded only the fact of an explosion in the air and the falling of body fragments near their houses.

f) During the crash of the Boeing-777 airplane, an American satellite was overflying the territory of Ukraine. Because of this, Russian military officers believe that the American side should publish satellite images made at the moment of its crash, if Washington possesses any such images.

Conclusions from the first version:

The data and considerations above pose very significant challenges to the version according to which the Malaysian Boeing 777 airliner was shot down by a BUK-M1 surface-to-air missile system.

7. Version II. Boeing 777 was shot down as a result of another aircraft (one or multiple) using its missile and/or aircraft cannon equipment.

7.1. Evidence in favor of this version:

7.1.1. In the airspace around the area where the Boeing has crashed, numerous witnesses claim to have seen a military aircraft (some people say there were two), supposedly an air superiority fighter, as they derived from its characteristic features and speed (the flight altitude of an air superiority fighter is 5000-7000m, and the velocity is around 950km/h or more).

They also heard the sound of an airplane in the clouds. Presumably, these could have been airplanes of MiG-29 or Su-25 type.

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MiG-29

MiG-29

Maximum velocity –high altitude \on the deck 2450 km/h (М=2,3)\1300 km/h
Maximum rate of climb, m/s 330
Acceleration time from 600 to 1100 km/h, from1100 to1300 km/h, s 13,5\8,7
Takeoff airspeed, km/h 220
Service ceiling, m 18000
Operational range (without a drop tank\with one drop tank tank\with 3 drop tanks), km 1500\2100\2900
Maximum turning rate, °/s 23,5
Operational acceleration, g units +9

MiG-29 armament includes a single-barrel cannon GSh-301 (30 mm, 150 rounds of ammunition, firing rate of 1500 shots/minute) in the left wing root extension. For engaging air targets 6 short range R-60М or short range R-73 guided missiles with IR Seekers can be installed on the 6 below-wing stations of the MiG-29; 4 medium range guided missiles R-27RE with radar location or with R-27TE IR navigation system Р-77.

Also, according to the data of the Ministry of Defense, on 17 July, Russian air control means registered altitude gain by an airplane of Ukrainian Air Forces, presumably, a Su-25, moving towards the Malaysian Boeing 777. The distance between the two airplanes did not exceed 3-4 km.

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Su-25

Armament: One 30-mm 2-barrelled autocannon GSh-30-2 in the lower forebody with 250 rounds of ammunition. GM: air-to-air R-3 (АА-2) or R-60 (АА-8)air-to-surface Kh-25ML, Kh-29L or S-25L.Containers SPPU-22 with a 2-barrel 23-mm utocannon GSh-23L with 260 ammunition rounds.

Su-25

Wing span, m 14.36
Weight, kg
Maximum takeoff weight 17600
Maximum airspeed, km/h
At cruise altitude 975
High altitude М=0.82
Operation range, km 1850
Mission radius, km
High altitude 1250
At cruise altitude 750
Service ceiling, m 7000—10000

It should be noted that Su-25 specifications allow it to gain an altitude of 10.000m and above for a short period of time. Its standard armament includes air-to-air missiles R-60, which are capable of engaging and hitting targets at a distance of 10km, of which 8km is a guaranteed range. Moreover, it does not even need to come close to the target, but only to reduce the distance down to the required engagement range.

7.1.2. The Russian Federation Ministry of Defense stated that Russian military officers fixed the operation of a Kupol radar, belonging to an Ukrainian AA missile BUK-M1 battery, on the day of the crash of the Malaysian liner Boeing 777.

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Statistics of Ukrainian radar activity in the area of the Malaysian Boeing 777 crash

Operation of this radar can indirectly point to a military deployment of aircraft, as radars are regularly used for airspace reconnaissance and for transferring information to aircraft direction centers, i.e. they provide source data for flight officers’ work in the course of an interceptor’s or and interceptor group flight during “combat air patrol” missions or during ambush activities. Usually, attacks are performed according to target guidance from the ground, both head-on and in pursuit.

7.1.3. On radars, the Su-25 is displayed in the same way as the MiG-29, as their radar cross sections are similar. The operational service ceiling of the MiG-29 is 18013m, so the altitude at which the Malaysian airliner was moving, 10100m, could easily be reached by a MiG-29. The MiG-29 has two high thrust engines, allowing it to attain a speed of 2000km/h.

7.1.4. The data on meteorological conditions can also count in favor of the version that the Boeing 777 was attacked by another aircraft. Meteorological conditions from 15:00 to 18:00, 17.07.2014 in and around the city of Donetsk, were marked by rain and an overcast sky. Flight paths of passenger airplanes lie above the lower border of high-echelon clouds. At this altitude, only cirrus cloud can form. Those are separate white-colored fibrous clouds, which are thin and transparent, and rarely contain dense or flaky formations. They are arranged in the form of bundles and stripes, passing all along the sky and meeting at the horizon. They show perfectly well through the sky. The average height of the lower border is 7-10km, while the width can be from hundred meters up to several kilometers.

An attack by a fighter aircraft with a rapid ascent, from below the cloud layer could be quite unexpected for the crew of the Boeing 777. Such an attack could not have been discovered visually from the earth either due to the dense layer of clouds in the medium and lower cloud echelons.

Thus, it can be claimed with a certain degree of certainty, that the Boeing 777, conducting a horizontal flight at the altitude of 10000m, could actually be in the lethal range of aircraft cannon or missile armament of a fighter aircraft, be it MiG-29 or Su-25.

7.1.5. Thus the logical question arises: which particular weapon was the cause of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777?

Missile armament

In terms of missile armament, MiG-29 as well as Su-25 can carry short range guided missiles R-60M

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R-60M missiles on the external sling of the airplane

Р-60М

Length, m 2,14
Diameter, m 0,12
Wingspan, m 0,39
Weight, kg 45
Warhead weight, kg 3,5
Speed 2,5M
Target kill altitude range 0,03…20
Maximum launch range, Front/Rear hemisphere 10/8 km
Minimal launch range Rear hemisphere, km 0,3 – 0,25

MiG-29 is equipped with a 30mm GSh-301 cannon, with a fire rate of 1500 rounds per minute. The cannon is armed with 150 rounds, which contain a tungsten alloy. The effective range of firing at air targets is 200-800m, and 1200-1800m for ground targets. Such type of rounds exit cleanly, leaving holes of a perfectly circular shape. They do not explode inside the cabin, are not incendiary-based, but are able to kill the crew and cause the destruction of the cabin, which is typical for the entrance and exit holes configuration: entry holes – with edges bent inwards, exit holes – on the opposite wall – with edges bent outwards.

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Aircraft Cannon GSh-301

The Su-25 is equipped with a GSh-2-30 aircraft cannon.

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Aircraft cannon GSh-2-30

GSh-2-30 (GSH-2-30K)

Delivery vehicles Су-25, Су-39, (Ми-24П)
Weight
Shot weight 390 г
Ammunition weight 832 г
Cannon weight 105 (126) кг
Specifications
Caliber 30 мм
Number of barrels 2
Allotment of rounds 250 (750) патронов
Rate of fire (300—2600) выст/мин
Effective range for air targets 200—800 м.

Apart from that, the Su-25 can carry SPPU-22 containers with the 2-barrelled 23-mm cannon GSh-23L.

During combat usage, both types of cannon ammunition can cause fuselage damage similar to that visible on the wreckage of the Boeing 777.

Conclusions for the second version:Thus, based on the opinion of the analysts of the Russian Union of Engineers, a complex shooting down of the Boeing 777 airplane has taken place, both by a short-range air-to-air guided missile and a 30-mm aircraft cannon or a SPPU-22 container with the 2-barreled Gsh23-L cannon. Furthermore, a laser rangefinder or a laser aiming device could have been used when firing the target, which allowed to significantly increase the shooting accuracy. This conclusion can be made from the nature of damage and the fragment distribution: there are both circular holes, which are usually caused by cannon fire, and explosive damage, which indicates a missile with arrow-type submunition.

8. Wreckage analysis

If we examine the first version of the crash, the location of holes in the wreckage surfaces and the fuselage clearly shows that there is no typical picture of a plane being affected by the missile system BUK-M1 submunition, which would otherwise leave highly remarkable and typical evidence of damage. In this case we see that there is no such evidence on the wreckage fragments.

According to experts, in the case of a BUK-M1 AA missile system hit, there should have been traces of numerous specific holes caused by the submunition elements from the missile warhead. However, there is no such evidence present in the photos taken at the crash site.

As to the possibility of such damage being inflicted by the usage of short range “air-to-air” missiles, it should be noted that the R-60 (Su-27) and R-73 (MiG-29) missiles are short range low-duty missiles with infrared homing. Their lethal range only 3-5m, with a guaranteed kill only in case of a direct hit. The warhead of the prior weighs 3.5kg, while the latter carries a 5kg warhead. They have thinly chopped tungsten wire in their warheads. These are rather low-power missiles, meant exclusively for small-sized targets. Such missiles follow thermal wake and are mainly meant to destroy the engine of the targeted aircraft.

It would be more logical to assume that the damage presented in Photo 19 is more indicative for an aircraft cannon round of GSh or SPPU type.

Boeing777 wing damage is not indicative for submunition elements of a BUK-M1 AA missile system.

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Boeing 777 wing surface damage
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Boeing 777 cabin damage

The picture of entry and exit holes in the cockpit area (control cabin) of the Boeing 777 fully corresponds to the assumption that it was caused by being shot through by approximately 20-30mm rounds from a fighter cannon. This supports the second version of the crash. The same can be said about the nature of fragment distribution over the fuselage of the plane. From the left side the edges of fragments of the control cabin fuselage are rolled up from inside to outside, which points at significant damage inside the cabin as a result of dynamic pressure of missiles over its right side.

There are characteristic entrance holes and several exit holes visible on the fuselage. The edges of the holes are bent inwards, they are much smaller and are round-shaped. Exit holes are less precisely shaped, and their edges are bent outwards. Additionally, it is visible that the exit holes pierced the aluminum covering twice and bent it outwards. I.e., the striking elements (judging by the impact type, aircraft missile rounds) broke through the cockpit. Open rivets were also bent outwards.

Boeing 777 fragment Fuselage damage is clearly visible – break through holes, caused by a 20- to 30-mm cannon.

Distinctive inward bends of the fuselage indicate a cannon round impact.

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Boeing 777 cover damage nature
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Boeing 777 fuselage damage nature

Boeing777 fragment.

Rivets blown out.

Destruction of the fuselage with edges bent outwards due to an internal dynamic impact, either caused by an explosion inside the plane, or a sudden and rapid change of internal pressure at high altitude.

The general typology of the holes and their location lead us to the conclusion that, most probably, the Boeing 777 was attacked by an aircraft cannon GSh-2-30, or an SPPU-22 container with a two-barreled 23mm cannon GSh-23L. The target zone was the control cabin, and the rounds, breaking through the cockpit, affected the wing surface as well. (see Photo. 20).

Both types of cannon rounds during combat usage cause damage to aerial targets similar to that which can be seen on the fragments of the Boeing 777.

The nature of the holes on the fragments of the plane fuselage, present in the currently available information sources, allows claiming that the airplane was shot down by aircraft cannon and missile armament of a combat aircraft.

9. Re-enactment of the event

Based on the considerations stated above, the following conclusions can be made:

9.1. Regarding to the circumstances of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crash.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was conducting the flight Amsterdam-Kuala-Lumpur, on 17.07.2014, according to the tunnel set by the air traffic controllers. It is most probable that manual steering was offline and the airplane was flying in autopilot mode, performing horizontal flight following the route which was laid out on the ground and adjusted by Ukrainian air traffic controllers.

At 17.17–17.20 the Boeing 777 was in Ukrainian airspace, in Donetsk area, at the altitude of 10100m. An unidentified fighter aircraft (presumably Su-25 or MiG-29), which was previously at a lower echelon, on a head-on course in a layer of clouds, ascended rapidly, unexpectedly emerging in front of the passenger plane out of the clouds and opened fire at the control cabin (cockpit), using 30mm or smaller cannon armament. The targeting could have been performed not only by the pilot of a fighter aircraft in “free hunt” conditions (using the aircraft radar), but also by a navigation officer on the ground, using the airspace data received from ground-based radars.

The cockpit of the airliner was damaged in the result of numerous rounds hitting the aircraft fuselage. The control cabin was depressurized, which caused the instant death of the crew, due to mechanical influences and decompression. The attack was quite unexpected and lasted only a fraction of a second. Due to the surprise situation, the crew was unable to give any alarm signals intended for such situations, as the flight was following its scheduled route and the attack was unexpected for everyone.

As neither the engines, nor the hydraulic system, nor other devices crucial to the continuation of the flight, were set out of operation, the Boeing 777 continued its horizontal flight in autopilot mode (which is a standard situation), perhaps gradually losing altitude.

After that, the pilot of the unidentified fighter aircraft maneuvered and repositioned himself into the rear hemisphere of the Boeing 777. He entered an engagement course, performed the targeting using onboard target tracking equipment, and launched a R-60 or R-73 air-to-air missile (one or multiple).

As a result of the missile impact, the entire cabin was depressurized, the flight control system was incapacitated, the autopilot was switched off, the plane ceased its horizontal flight and went into a tail-spin. The created g-forces caused a mechanical disruption of the airframe at high altitude.

As indicated by the available flight recorder data, the plane fell apart in the air, but this is possible mainly in the case of vertical falling from a 10000m altitude, which can typically happen only in a case of exceeding the maximum allowed g-force. As a rule, such a tail-spin can be explained by the inability of the crew to control the airplane as a result of some emergency case in the cabin and subsequent instant depressurization of the cockpit and passenger compartment. The destruction of the airplane took place at a high altitude, which explains the fact that the wreckage of the plane was dissimilated over a territory over 15 km².

9.2. Regarding the party responsible for the death of 283 passengers and 15 crew members.

On 17.07.2014 the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic possessed neither appropriate fighter aircraft capable of engaging an air target similar to the Boeing 777, nor an airfield network, nor radar detection devices, targeting and guidance equipment.

Fighter aircraft of the Russian Federation Armed Forces did not violate the airspace of Ukraine, which is confirmed by both the Ukrainian side and by third parties performing space-based reconnaissance over the territory of Ukraine and its airspace.

To ascertain the truth, it is required to objectively and impartially investigate all the circumstances of the Malaysian Boeing 777 crash, to question thousands of residents in the area who might have seen anything. Naturally, the surveys must be conducted by highly experienced specialists. Asking relevant questions is both a strict science and a sophisticated art of coming close to the truth. Crucial information is hidden in the wreckage and fragments of the crashed airplane, but this very information can easily be eliminated, distorted and concealed. It should not be forgotten that there are always people involved who seek to conceal each and every real fact. An indirect confirmation of this is the fact that on August 8th Ukraine, The Netherlands, Belgium and Australia signed an agreement allowing the disclosure of information regarding the investigation of the crash only at the consent of all parties involved.

“The investigation proceeds with inspections and other investigatory activities – declared the Speaker of Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office, Yuri Boychenko, – their results will be announced upon the end of the investigation and at the consent of all the parties, who have signed the relevant agreement”.

Delays and deviation from carrying out a comprehensive objective investigation with the participation of reputable international organizations, raise doubts that the involved parties will actually present the real circumstances of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crash.

Maui voters made history late in the evening as the polls reported a slight advantage in favor of the Maui County ballot initiative, reporting 23,082 to 22,005 in support of the voter initiative to prohibit the growth, testing or cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in Maui until an environmental and public health study can show that they are safe. The opposition, almost exclusively backed by Monsanto and Dow Chemical, rasied $7,970,686.12 on the race, $362.22 per vote earned, or $174.43 per total vote cast.

“Our victory today sends a strong message to the agrochemical industry in Hawai’i. Community members will not sit idly by and watch these companies threaten the health and safety of our people and our planet,” said Ashley Lukens, program director at Hawai`i Center for Food Safety. “Voters saw past the misleading claims of pesticide companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical and demanded accountability to the community.”

Presently, Hawai`i is used as an outdoor laboratory for companies like Monsanto to test genetically engineered crops and their related pesticides. In2013 alone there were 1124 field test sites; California only hosted 184 sites. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways. The initiative passed today suspends all GE operations in the county pending a safety impact review.

“The moratorium will impact only 1 percent of the county’s agricultural operations, but Monsanto and Dow Chemical spent millions trying to keep residents from understanding the impacts their activities have on the community,” said Lukens.

Citizen’s Against the Maui County Farming Ban – the corporate funded campaign to defeat the initiative – reported raising nearly $8 million to oppose the initiative. Dubbed the most expensive local initiative in the country byCenter for Public Integrity, this amounts to more than $290 for every “yes” vote, according to the third round of results.

“This is not a farming ban. This is a demand for assurance of safety in our daily lives,” said Lukens. “Maui is not the private laboratory of Monsanto. We will not sacrifice our health and safety to protect the profits of mainland corporations.”

Debt on Wheels: Subprime Loans and Auto Sales

November 6th, 2014 by Mike Whitney

“It’s not the underlying economics that’s driving things, it’s central bank liquidity.”

— Matt King,  Citigroup

Soaring auto sales are not so much a sign of a strong economy as they are an indication of financial hanky-panky. We saw this same type of fakery play out in housing between 2004 – 2006, when prices went through the roof due to a mortgage-lending scam (“subprime”) that crashed the stock market and sent the economy reeling. Now the bigtime money guys are at it again, writing up auto loans for anyone who can sit upright in a chair and scribble an “X” on the dotted line. As a result, car sales have surged to over 16 million for the last 6 months. (A full 7 million more than the low point in January, 2009.)   And it’s not hard to see why either. The finance gurus are packaging these sketchy subprimes into bonds, offloading them on eager investors, and recycling the profits into more crappy loans. It’s a perfect circle and it won’t end until the loans start blowing up, jittery investors head for the exits,  and Uncle Sugar rides to the rescue with more bailouts.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  First take a look at these charts by House of Debt which shows the disparity between auto spending and other types of spending since the end of the slump in 2009.

House of Debt:  “New auto purchases have driven the consumer spending recovery to a large degree. The chart below shows the spending recovery for new auto sales and for all other retail spending….

From 2009 to 2013, spending on new autos increased by 40% in nominal terms. All other spending increased by only 20%. Further, excluding autos, 2013 saw lower growth in nominal retail spending than 2012…..

The concern is that a lot of auto purchases are being fueled with debt, given a strong recovery in the auto loan market. Below is the net flow of auto loans from 2002 to 2013. It is a net flow because it includes pay downs in addition to new originations. As it shows, auto lending in 2012 and 2013 tops any other year during the previous expansion from 2002 to 2007 (although it is still below the amount of new auto loans in 2000 and 2001).

(“Another Debt-Fueled Spending Spree?” House of Debt) 

How about that? So there’s a bigger debt bubble in auto loans today than there was before the bust. But why? Is it because demand is strong,  jobs are plentiful, wages are rising, the economy is growing, and people are optimistic about the future?

Heck, no. It’s because rates are low, credit is easy, and dealers are ready to put anyone with a license and a heartbeat into a brand-spanking new car no questions asked.  Here are the details from an article in the New York Times titled “In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates” by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery:


”Auto loans to people with tarnished credit have risen more than 130 percent in the five years since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, with roughly one in four new auto loans last year going to borrowers considered subprime — people with credit scores at or below 640.

The explosive growth is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in subprime mortgages. A wave of money is pouring into subprime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors. Just as Wall Street stoked the boom in mortgages, some of the nation’s biggest banks and private equity firms are feeding the growth in subprime auto loans by investing in lenders and making money available for loans.

And, like subprime mortgages before the financial crisis, many subprime auto loans are bundled into complex bonds and sold as securities by banks to insurance companies, mutual funds and public pension funds — a process that creates ever-greater demand for loans.

The New York Times examined more than 100 bankruptcy court cases, dozens of civil lawsuits against lenders and hundreds of loan documents and found that subprime auto loans can come with interest rates that can exceed 23 percent. The loans were typically at least twice the size of the value of the used cars purchased, including dozens of battered vehicles with mechanical defects hidden from borrowers. Such loans can thrust already vulnerable borrowers further into debt, even propelling some into bankruptcy, according to the court records, as well as interviews with borrowers and lawyers in 19 states.

In another echo of the mortgage boom, The Times investigation also found dozens of loans that included incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment, leading people who had lost their jobs, were in bankruptcy or were living on Social Security to qualify for loans that they could never afford.” (“In a Subprime Bubble for Used Cars, Borrowers Pay Sky-High Rates”, New York Times)

Can you believe that this kind of chicanery is going on in broad daylight without the regulators stepping in? Think about it for a minute: If the NYT’s journalists can find “dozens of loans that included incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment”, then why can’t the government regulators? It’s ridiculous. What we’re talking about here is a new version of “liar’s loans” where dealers are helping people who don’t have the means to repay the debt, to fudge the details on their loan application so they can drive off in a shiny new Impala.

Haven’t we seen this movie before?

Here’s more from USA Today: “In the first quarter of 2014, 24.9% of all new-car loans were 73 to 84 months long. Four years ago, less than 10% of loans were that long. In fact, such lengthy terms have pulled the average new-car loan to 66 months. That’s an all-time record.”

7 years to pay off a car?  You got to be kidding me? It’s like a second mortgage. And there’s more, too. The average monthly payment and average amount financed hit record highs in the first quarter too. This is from Auto News:

“The average monthly new-vehicle payment was $474 in the first quarter, up 3.3 percent from a year ago. The average monthly used-vehicle payment was $352, up 1.1 percent, Experian Automotive said.

Also in the first quarter, the average amount financed on a new-vehicle loan was $27,612, an increase of $964, or 3.6 percent. For used vehicles, the average amount financed was $17,927, up $395 or 2.3 percent.”

(“Auto loan terms, monthly payments hit high in Q1, Experian says“, Auto News)

So Americans are not just loading on more debt, they’re also assuming that they’re financial situation is going to be stable enough to make these large payments well into the future.  Good luck with that.

It’s also worth noting that, in many transactions, dealers are actually lending more than the value of the vehicle. According to Reuters David Henry,

“The average loan-to-value on new cars rose to 110.6 percent… On used cars it rose to 133.2 percent…


Auto lenders often provide loans that exceed the value of cars they are financing because borrowers want cash to pay sales taxes and fees.”

(“U.S. car buyers borrow more as rates fall and standards loosen“, David Henry, Reuters)

Let me see if I got this straight: You walk onto a car lot without a dime in your pocket, and drive off in a brand new car with everything paid for upfront? Such a deal! Can you see why we think that the sales numbers are a big fake?  This isn’t the sign of a strong economy. It’s the sign of another gigantic credit bubble rip-off. 


But what do the dealers get out of this thing? Is it really worth their while to botch the underwriting when they know that eventually they’ll have to repossess the vehicle? 


Sure, it is, because there’s big money in stuffing people into loans they can’t afford.

Here’s how the Times explains it: 


”Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with credit scores at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years. The jump has been driven in large part by the demand among investors for securities backed by the loans, which offer high returns at a time of low interest rates. Roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year were subprime, and the volume of subprime auto loans reached more than $145 billion in the first three months of this year.”

Bingo. So not only do they make dough on the high interest rates they charge their subprime borrowers, (Sometimes 23 percent or more.) they also make it by selling the loan to investors who are eager to buy any manner of crappy bond provided it offers a better return than US Treasuries. This is the mess Bernanke created by fixing interest rates at zero for nearly 6 years.  Zirp (zero interest rate policy) unavoidably leads to excessive risk taking by yield-crazed speculators.    The voracious appetite for subprime securities (ABS–Asset-Backed Securities) has even surprised the bond issuers who are constantly beating the bushes looking for sketchier products.  This is from the same article by the NY Times:

“Investors, seeking a higher return when interest rates are low, recently flocked to buy a bond issue from Prestige Financial Services of Utah. Orders to invest in the $390 million debt deal were four times greater than the amount of available securities.

What is backing many of these securities? Auto loans made to people who have been in bankruptcy.

An affiliate of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, Prestige specializes in making the loans to people in bankruptcy, packaging them into securities and then selling them to investors.

“It’s been a hot space,” Richard L. Hyde, the firm’s chief operating officer, said during an interview in March. Investors are betting on risky borrowers. The average interest rate on loans bundled into Prestige’s latest offering, for example, is 18.6 percent, up slightly from a similar offering rolled out a year earlier…. To meet that rising demand, Wall Street snatches up more and more loans to package into the complex investments.” (NYT)

HA! Now there’s a good way to feather the old retirement fund; load up on bonds made up of loans to people who’ve gone bust.

This is the impact that zero rates have on investor behavior. The abundance of cheap and plentiful liquidity invariably leads to trouble. And there are victims in this Central Bank-authored gold rush too, namely the unsophisticated borrowers who pay prohibitively high rates on beater vehicles that are typically worth less-than-half the value of the loan. (Check the NYT article for examples.)

The Times also notes that the ratings agencies have been playing along with the finance companies just as they did during the subprime mortgage fiasco. Here’s more from the Times:

“Rating agencies, which assess the quality of the bonds, are helping fuel the boom. They are giving many of these securities top ratings, which clears the way for major investors, from pension funds to employee retirement accounts, to buy the bonds. In March, for example, Standard & Poor’s blessed most of Prestige’s bond with a triple-A rating. Slices of a similar bond that Prestige sold last year also fetched the highest rating from S.&P. A large slice of that bond is held in mutual funds managed by BlackRock, one of the world’s largest money managers.” (NYT)

Ask yourself this, dear reader: How are the ratings agencies able to give “many of these securities top ratings”, when the investigators from the Times found “dozens of loans that included incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment, leading people who had lost their jobs, were in bankruptcy or were living on Social Security to qualify for loans that they could never afford”?

Let’s face it: The regulatory changes in Dodd-Frank haven’t done a damn thing to protect the victims of these dodgy subprime schemes. Borrowers and investors are both getting gouged by a system that only protects the interests of the perpetrators. The sad fact is that nothing has changed. The system is just as corrupt as it was when Lehman went down.

So, how long can this go on before the market implodes?

According to the Times:

“financial firms are beginning to see signs of strain. In the first three months of this year, banks had to write off as entirely uncollectable an average of $8,541 of each delinquent auto loan, up about 15 percent from a year earlier, according to Experian….

In another sign of trouble ahead, repossessions, while still relatively low, increased nearly 78 percent to an estimated 388,000 cars in the first three months of the year from the same period a year earlier, according to the latest data provided by Experian. The number of borrowers who are more than 60 days late on their car payments also jumped in 22 states during that period….” (NYT)

(According to Amber Nelson at loan.com: “In the second quarter, the value of all auto loans late by 60 days or more was more than $4 billion, up 27 percent from the prior year, according to Experian.”)

So, yeah, the trouble is mounting, but that doesn’t mean that this madness won’t continue for some time to come. It probably will. It’ll probably drag-on until the economy turns south and more borrowers start falling behind on their payments. That will lead to more defaults, heavier losses on auto bonds, and a hasty race to the exits by investors. Isn’t that how the subprime mortgage scam played out?

Indeed. But at least there are signs of hope on the regulatory front. Check out this clip from an article at CNBC:

“In August, both Santander Consumer and General Motors Financial Co. acknowledged receiving Justice Department subpoenas in connection with a probe over possible violations of civil-fraud laws. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission have both stepped up their scrutiny of the auto-loan market.” (“New debt crisis fear: Subprime auto loans“, CNBC)

So the SEC, the DOJ, and the CFPB are actually investigating the underwriting practices of these behemoth finance companies to see if they violated “civil fraud laws”?

Will wonders never cease?

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for convictions.

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].

Jugurtha looked back at Rome and said, A city for sale, if it can find a purchaser! - Sallust

On the side of the Lodge Freeway, a few blocks from Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison neighborhood, stand, row upon row, acre upon acre, hundreds of city maintenance vehicles—backhoes, snow plows, and lighting and utility trucks—all newly-painted and cleaned.

It looks as though these vehicles have been lined up for some great task; perhaps, at any moment, thousands of workers will arrive at the lot, man the cabins, and stream into America’s poorest large city to repair its thousands of broken street and traffic lights, fill the potholes that mar nearly every street, prepare its antiquated drainage system for the harsh Michigan winter, and remove the trash piled up in neighborhoods and parks.

But these vehicles have been assembled to a different end. As part of the largest municipal bankruptcy in history, the city has turned over nearly 500 vehicles and other pieces of city infrastructure, the vast majority of them in completely functional condition, for auction to the highest bidder.

Over 130 public lighting vehicles, 120 garbage trucks, more than 70 busses, and 24 lift buckets are parked in the vacant lot of the Herman Kiefer Health Complex, which was shuttered earlier this year and is itself being auctioned off.

The city sold the vehicles to Hilco Industrial and Miedema Auctioneering and Appraisals, who are conducting the auction, for $5 million. The garbage trucks alone, new, cost more than three times that amount.

“Historic” was the word that Isidor Strom, the co-owner of a small used truck parts business who was browsing the vehicles Wednesday, used to describe the sale. “Earth shattering. The biggest auction I have ever seen.”

Asked why the city was selling off the vehicles, Isidor did not mince words. “To f**k the workers in the city of Detroit.” He made his attitude clear: “I’m not happy about it; I don’t like it.”

The sell-off of city assets is being coordinated with the city’s bankruptcy, which is expected to receive final approval from Judge Stephen W. Rhodes on Friday. As part of the bankruptcy, the city’s public lighting services have been contracted out to DTE Energy, the former employer of Detroit Ex-Mayor David Bing, and the city’s garbage collection has been privatized. The city’s water and sewerage department was spun off to a regional authority, which relies heavily on contract work.

The city’s charter would have prohibited these privatizations without a popular vote, but city officials have used the bankruptcy to steamroll over legal protections, with millions being made by well-connected private individuals as a result.

The entire process is being coordinated with a handful of billionaires who have bought up key portions of the city’s assets for pennies on the dollar. Major municipal trade unions, whose officials are getting a cut of the proceeds in the form of control over a retiree health care trust fund, have signed off on the bankruptcy, despite the fact that city workers and retirees will have their pensions and benefits slashed.

“The whole thing is an elaborately choreographed farce,” Isador concluded. “We don’t have a choice!” He intoned, mocking the official narrative peddled by city officials. “We can’t sell our bonds! It’s an emergency! We have to rob our workers!”

Everything necessary to maintain a major city was for sale: salt spreaders, generators, light towers, sewage trucks, cable reels of every sort, digging vehicles, and construction trucks. The city, the majority of whose streets remained unplowed during last year’s harsh winter, is selling off 40 truck-mounted snowplows, as well as the trucks that mounted them.

Auction buyers, mostly small business people looking to stock up on low-cost equipment, or small resellers like Isador, were amazed at the quality of the vehicles put up for sale. “This stuff is like new,” prospective buyers could be heard saying on their cell phones. Only about five to ten percent of the equipment being sold was not in working order, buyers said.

Bidding began at 10AM on Wednesday. Nearly 200 auction attendees sat in the Coleman Young auditorium in the County City Building in downtown Detroit, many wearing worn jeans and work boots. The auctioneer rattled off bids and prices in rapid-fire auction jargon.

“Who’ll give me five hundred dollars?

five hundred dollar bid, now six,

now six, will ya give me six?”

“I know the values of everything here,” Isador said. “It’s what I do for a living.” Some of the sewer trucks here cost $300,000 new, and some of the boom trucks cost $90,000 or more.” He estimated that the city was paid about $10,000 per vehicle by the auction companies.

Side-loading garbage trucks, originally bought by the city for $170,000 or more, sold for a tenth of that amount, with some going for as low as $3,000. “Private garbage companies will buy rear-loading garbage trucks, but automated side-loaders like the city uses don’t sell well,” said Isador. “It’s just a waste.”

In addition to privatizing garbage collection and street lighting, the city has spun off its water and sewerage department to a regional authority, which has increasingly replaced city workers with contractors.

“Assets are being sold off below market value, and the city is losing money” said one retired Water Department employee. He added, “They say the reason they are using contractors is to save money, but the contractors are constantly doing work incorrectly, and it has to be fixed by the city workers. It ends up costing the city more than just paying city workers.”

Eli Thomas, a retired Water department worker of thirty years, added, “We are being taken advantage of, being steamrolled.”

“It’s a tragedy,” said another retired city worker who was employed by the city for 30 years. “The privatization shuts down years of civil service work people have dedicated their lives to.”

He concluded, “The government is going on a business venture to enrich their friends. And we’re getting robbed.”

Canada Launches First Air Strikes in Iraq

November 6th, 2014 by Roger Jordan

Canadian CF-18 fighter jets carried out their first bombing mission in Iraq last Sunday, dropping 500-pound, laser-guided bombs on an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) position near Fallujah.

According to Canadian government and military sources, the bombs targeted construction equipment that ISIS was using to divert water from the Euphrates River to assist its military operations. Official spokesmen refused to say if any ISIS fighters were killed in the bombing raid, but claimed that there had been no civilian casualties.

Canada has deployed a fleet of nine Royal Canadian Air Force planes—six CF-18 fighters, two Aurora surveillance planes, and a refuel aircraft—and 600 military personnel—pilots and other flight crew, maintenance workers and support staff—to Kuwait to join the new US-led Middle East war. Dozens of Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) Special Forces have also been deployed to northern Iraq to advise and train Kurdish Peshmerga militia.

Canada’s Conservative government, like the Obama administration, has seized on ISIS atrocities to portray the US military intervention in Iraq and Syria as “anti-terrorist” and “humanitarian mission.”

Speaking Monday, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson accused ISIS of creating a “humanitarian crisis in Iraq,” then vowed that, “Canada is resolved to work with our allies to tackle this terrorist threat and stand against (ISIS) atrocities.”

These are lies. The war Washington has unleashed and that Canada has now joined is a continuation and an outgrowth of the US’s illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, the NATO “regime-change” war in Libya, and the insurgency the US and its allies, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Gulf absolutist regimes, have fomented in Syria. In both Libya and Syria, the US used Islamacist forces, including many now to be found in the ranks of ISIS, as its proxies in seeking to install governments more subservient to Western imperialist interests.

The war’s overarching goal is to shore up and expand US hegemony over the Middle East, the world’s most important oil-exporting region. While ISIS is the first target, and the casus belli, the war’s ultimate aim, as is openly proclaimed by Saudi Arabia and many other of the US’s regional allies, is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, a close ally of Iran and Russia.

With the support of the entire political elite, including the trade union-supported NDP, Canada played a leading role in the 2011 regime change war in Libya. And it is now assuming a similar frontline combat role in Iraq.

The head of CAF’s military operations, Lieutenant-General Jonathan Vance, said yesterday that since CAF planes entered the war-theater late last week, they have flown 27 missions, with 18 of them involving CF-18 fighter jets. Vance also boasted that Canada is “actively involved in the command-and-control structure” of the coalition bombing-campaign including the choosing of bombing targets.

It is noteworthy that the location of Canada’s first attack was Fallujah, scene of some of the most horrific war crimes committed by US forces during the Iraq War. In 2004, Fallujah was razed to the ground in an assault in which banned munitions including white phosphorous were used.

In addition to massive violence and brutality, the US employed “divide and rule” tactics in pacifying Iraq under a pro-US government. This deliberate fomenting of religious and ethnic divisions helped create the conditions in which ISIS could emerge and win a measure of support from sections of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Even as the CAF initiates combat operations in Iraq, there are ever more clear signals from US and Canadian military and government officials that much more than a bombing campaign will be required even to fulfill the war’s current, publicly proclaimed objective.

Air strikes alone, Vance told his media briefing Tuesday, would not defeat ISIS. “They contribute to a military offensive capacity that, combined with ground manoeuvres, will result in (ISIS) defeat in Iraq.”

Following a meeting of coalition military leaders in Washington last month, the head of Canada’s military, Tom Lawson, said it would take considerably longer than six months—the current authorized length of the CAF combat mission to the Mideast—to rebuild and train the Iraqi army.

In an interview with the CTV’s Question Period on Sunday, US Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said that the US is preparing for a “years’-long effort” against ISIS, adding that Washington is looking forward to cooperation with Canada in this.

The media has also begun preparing public opinion for a protracted war and the deployment of ground troops. A CBC article written by its Middle East correspondent, Sa š a Petricic, stated, “There is no evidence yet that this war against ISIS can be won from the air. Three months of air strikes have not defeated the militants.”

The government motion supporting the CAF deployment says that Canada could participate in bombing raids in Syria, but only if approved by the Syrian government. The opposition parties have roundly denounced this as legitimizing the Assad regime and a “betrayal” of the imperialist-backed insurgents, whom they enthusiastically support. However, it may well be that the Harper government is in fact paving the way for a Canadian intervention in Syria if and when the US and its allies organize and extend diplomatic recognition to an “opposition” government, as they did in Libya with the National Transitional Council.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, a senior commander of the Free Syrian Army praised the Harper government for its opposition to Assad, but urged Ottawa to focus its efforts on providing military training to the rebels in Syria. Brigadier-General Hussam Alawak described the reliance on air strikes as “useless,” and advised Canada to draw on its experience in Afghanistan, where Canadian troops played a leading role in the neo-colonial counter-insurgency war against the Taliban, to train anti-Assad fighters.

The recent killings of two Canadian Armed Forces personnel are being used to whip up public support for the CAF deployment in the Middle East and its expansion. Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Yvan Blondin explicitly linked the attacks to the war in a Twitter post Saturday from the funeral of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. Wrote Blondin: “Dear ISIL, thinking of you. Some of my colleagues are in your area. Hopefully, they’ll have a chance to drop by.”

While a Defence Department spokesman quickly moved to distance the government from Blondin’s remarks, describing them as inappropriate, the truth is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government sought from the outset to exploit the killings to boost support for the government’s militarist policy abroad and attacks on democratic rights at home. Harper has repeatedly referred to the attacks as “terrorist attacks” and suggested Canada is under terrorist assault even though the two killings were carried out by lone individuals with no links to a “homegrown” terrorist organization, let alone one based in the Middle East.

This theme was continued Monday during the visit of French President François Hollande to Ottawa. In an address to parliament, Hollande warned that western nations could not afford to show “weakness” when confronted with domestic terrorism, and had to battle Islamic extremists in Iraq. Defending France’s participation in the conflict, he said it was clear that the challenge posed by ISIS “won’t be resolved with a few bombings.”

Harper echoed Hollande at a joint press conference. “I think,” said Harper, “everybody has recognized that not all of the objectives in terms of defeating ISIL can be accomplished just through an aerial campaign … ultimately (it has to) be pushed back on the ground.”

Aware of the widespread unease and outright opposition to Canada’s participation in yet another US-led imperialist war among working people, both the NDP and Liberals voted against the government’s war motion in a parliamentary vote last month. Their differences with the government, however, are purely tactical and principally motivated by electoral calculations and fears of the growth of an antiwar movement outside of establishment channels.

Almost up until the last minute the Liberals had indicated they would support the deployment of Canadian fighter jets, and no sooner was the vote over than Liberal Defence critic Marc Garneau declared that now the issue was settled, the Liberals stood with the CAF.

The NDP, for its part, says it favors using Canadian army planes to funnel weapons to the US-backed Iraqi government and the Kurdish Peshmerga and has voiced its emphatic support for the US drive for regime change in Syria. Party leader Thomas Mulcair, who spent much of July and August defending Israeli war crimes in Gaza, angrily denounced Harper for lending legitimacy to that “genocidal maniac” Assad, because the government motion said Canadian military intervention in Syria would require the consent of its government.

First published on August 11, 2014, this article reviews the official Kiev government’s position concerning the downing of flight MH17, as confirmed by a statement of Ukraine’s Secret Service (SBU).

According to the official SBU report entitled Terrorists and Militants planned cynical terrorist attack at Aeroflot civil aircraft , the Donetsk militia (with the support of Moscow) was aiming at a Russian Aeroflot passenger plane and shot down the Malaysian MH17 airliner by mistake. That’s the official Ukraine government story which has not been reported by the MSM. 

Following the release of the SBU report, the Western mainstream media went silent. 

The SBU report bordered on ridicule to say to the least, with fabricated evidence.

Media pundits did not want to risk their reputation in supporting Kiev’s official statement.  They chose to remain silent.  “Having built up the crash into a casus belli against Russia, the US media suddenly dropped the matter completely.” (Niles Williamson,. Cover-Up? Why Have the Media and Obama Administration Gone Silent on MH17?  wsws.org, August 18, 2014).

Nobody dared to actually accuse Russia of planning a false flag operation involving the shooting down of its own Aeroflot plane leading to the death of its own citizens, and then blaming it on Kiev.

Moscow’s hidden agenda, according to the head of Ukraine’s intelligence service (SBU) was a “false flag” with a view to providing a justification for invading Ukraine in retribution to Kiev for having ordered the downing of a Russian passenger plane en route to Cyprus. 

As we recall, immediately after the MH17 plane crash on July 17, Secretary of State John Kerry and US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power pointed their finger at Moscow without a shred of evidence. In turn,  the allegations directed against Russia were used to justify the imposition of sweeping economic sanctions  against the Russian Federation.

In the wake of this official and “authoritative” August 7 announcement by the Kiev regime, Obama, Kerry, Samantha Power et al, chose to remain mum.  Nobody is accusing Russia anymore, because the Ukraine Secret Service’ official statement concerning the crash of Malaysian airlines MH17 is so outlandish that it does not even fit within the usual mold of media disinformation.

The last substantive article in the New York Times on the MH17 crash and Russia’s alleged responsibility was on August 7, the day of the release of the report by Ukraine’s head of intelligence (SBU). 

Deafening silence. The Kiev intelligence report was not an object of commentary by the NYT.  Instead the New York Times chose to justify the economic sanctions regime imposed on Russia by the US and the EU by

“…accusing Russia of supplying the missiles that rebels used to shoot down a Malaysian jetliner on July 17, killing all 298 people aboard.” Andrew E. Kramer, and Neil MacFarquhar, “Putin Bans Some Imports as Payback for Sanctions”, August 7, 2014)

Following the release of Ukraine’s official report on the crash of flight MH17, the US media as well as Western politicians chose to remain silent. Acknowledging Kiev’s official statement concerning MH17 would have opened up a diplomatic “can of worms” which would inevitably have backlashed. Not to mention the fact that the justification for the economic sanctions rested in part on Moscow’s alleged role in downing the Malaysian airliner.

Another consideration was that real evidence pertaining to the crash of flight MH17 had emerged to the effect that the plane had most likely been shot down on the orders of the Kiev regime. This evidence came to light following statements by the head of the OSCE team to the effect that the plane’s fuselage was perforated with machine-gun like holes indicating that it could have been shot at by a military aircraft. 

Michael Bociurkiw [head] of the OSCE group of monitors at his daily briefing described part of the plane’s fuselage dotted with “shrapnel-like, almost machine gun-like holes.” He said the damage was inspected by Malaysian aviation-security officials .(Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2014,

OSCE Head of Mission Michael Bociurkiw made the above statement on July 31st, 2014 one week prior to the release (on August 7) of the SBU intelligence report entitled  Terrorists and Militants planned cynical terrorist attack at Aeroflot civil aircraft.

Did the Kiev government fast-track an “authoritative intelligence report” following revelations that the cockpit of the plane had machine gun like entry and exit holes pointing to the fact that the Malaysian plane “was not downed by a missile attack”?  (Revelations of German Pilot: Shocking Analysis of the “Shooting Down” of Malaysian MH17. “Aircraft Was Not Hit by a Missile” Global Research, July 30, 2014)

It is worth noting that the Russian media chose not to comment on the Kiev intelligence report

(For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Support MH17 Truth”: OSCE Monitors Identify “Shrapnel and Machine Gun-Like Holes” indicating Shelling. No Evidence of a Missile Attack. Shot Down by a Military Aircraft?, Global Research, July 31, 2014

Michel Chossudovsky, August 31, 2014


Desperate MH17 “Intelligence” Spin by Ukraine Secret Service: Pro-Russian Rebels had Targeted a Russian Passenger Plane. “But Shot Down Flight MH17 by Mistake”

by Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, August 11, 2014

The official MH17 narrative still prevails: the “pro-Russian rebels” shot down Malaysian airlines MH17 with a Buk missile system provided by Russia.

In a new and rather unusual twist, however,  according to the Kiev regime, the Donetsk militia did not intend to shoot down Malaysian airlines MH17. What the “pro-Russian rebels” were aiming at was a Russian Aeroflot passenger plane.

The MH17 was shot down “by mistake” according to an official statement by the head of Ukraine’s Secret Service, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko (Ukraine News Service, August 7, 2014)

According to SBU Chief Nalyvaichenko:

“Ukraine’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies have established during the investigation into a terrorist attack on the Boeing… that on that day, July 17, and at that time military mercenaries and terrorists from the Russian Federation planned to carry out a terrorist attack against a passenger aircraft of Aeroflot en route from Moscow to Larnaca… as a pretext for the further invasion by Russia,”

“This cynical terrorist attack was planned for the day when the [Malaysia Airlines] plane happened to fly by, planned by war criminals as a pretext for the further military invasion by the Russian Federation, that is, there would be a casus belli,” he added.

Thus, according Nalyvaichenko, the terrorists downed the Malaysian airliner by mistake.” (Ukraine Interfax News, August 8, 2014)

Nalyvaichenko said that the Kiev government reached this conclusion “in the course of its own investigation into the downing of MH17″.

According to Britain’s foremost news tabloid, The Mail on Sunday, quoting the head of Ukraine intelligence, the insidious design of the pro-Russian rebels (supported by Moscow) was to shoot down a Russian commercial airline plane, with a view to blaming the Ukrainian government. The objective of this alleged “false flag” covert op was to create a justifiable and credible pretext for Vladimir Putin to declare war on Ukraine.

In an utterly twisted logic, according to Ukraine’s head of intelligence:

“the [Donesk] rebels were meant to down [the] Aeroflot plane… to justify the invasion [of Ukraine by Russia]“,

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko (right), head of Ukraine intelligence confirms that the pro-Russian rebels were “aiming at a Russian passenger plane “so Putin had reason to invade”.

“the crime was planned as a ground for bringing of Russian troops into Ukraine, that is – CASUS BELLI for the Russian military invasion.” (Official statement of Ukraine Security Service, in annex below)

In a bitter irony, the alleged “false flag” covert op got muddled. The Donesk rebels got it all wrong and hit the MH17 plane by mistake.

That’s the “official line” now emanating from Kiev’s “intelligent” Secret Service (SBU), yet to be corroborated by their Western intelligence counterparts including the CIA and Britain’s MI6 which are actively collaborating with Ukraine’s SBU.

The head of Ukraine’s secret service has claimed rebels intended to down a Russian airliner to give Vladimir Putin a pretext for invasion – but blasted Flight MH17 out of the sky by mistake. (ibid)

In its authoritative report, the British news tabloid fails to beg the important question: why on earth would pro-Russian rebels who are at war with the Kiev regime shoot down a Russian passenger plane AFL-2074 allegedly with a view to harnessing Russia’s support?

What’s more, according to SBU Chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko’s  statement, Moscow was helping the pro-Russian rebels in their alleged false flag op to shoot down Russia’s Aeroflot plane by providing them with a Buk missile system, which had been discretely smuggled across the border to the Donesk region of Eastern Ukraine. The Aeroflot plane was slated to be “shot down over territory controlled by Ukrainian government troops”:

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said that Russian-backed fighters were supposed to take their BUK rocket launcher – which had been transported across the Russian border – to a village called Pervomaiskoe in Ukrainian-held territory west of Donetsk.

 

Got it wrong? Valentyn Nalyvaichenko claims pro-Russian rebels targeted the wrong civilian airliner

Image source: Mail on Sunday, August 10, 2014

But they “screwed up”. The Buk rocket launcher was apparently positioned in the wrong rural location (see image above) and because of that it targeted the MH17 by mistake:

Instead, they mistakenly positioned it in a rebel-controlled village of the same name to the east of the city.

Got it wrong? Valentyn Nalyvaichenko claims pro-Russian rebels targeted the wrong civilian airliner

If they had gone where they had been ordered, he said, they would have hit an Aeroflot flight carrying civilians travelling from Moscow to Larnaca in Cyprus.

Crucially, the crash site would have been in Ukrainian-held territory. (Mail on Sunday)

The pro-Russian rebels had allegedly planned an Operation Northwoods type “false flag” with utmost proficiency. The covert op consisted in downing a Russian passenger plane with Moscow’s support. The alleged objective was for Moscow to place the blame on the government of Ukraine for having ordered the downing of the Aeroflot plane (resulting in the deaths of Russian tourists), thereby creating a “useful wave of indignation” across the Russian Federation.

The  alleged “false flag” slated to be implemented by the Donetsk “terrorists and mercenaries” would then, according to the scenario depicted by Ukraine’s Chief Spy, spearhead public support for a Russian invasion of Ukraine, with patriotic Russian troops coming to the rescue of the “pro-Russian separatists”:

The mass killing of Russian tourists could then have been blamed on the Ukrainian army, giving Moscow a justification for invasion, said Mr Nalyvaichenko, head of the Ukrainian intelligence service, the SBU. (ibid)

The official SBU report states that the:

“Russian side would need a compelling argument for such a step, for example accusation of the Ukrainian government in mass murder of the Russian citizens [on the plane]” (See complete SBU statement in Annex below).

According to the head of Ukraine’s Secret Service: “It is incredibly cynical that the act of terrorism was planned [by the rebels] against peaceful innocent Russian citizens who were on the way to their holidays with children”:

‘This cynical terrorist act was intended to justify an immediate military invasion by the Russian Federation,’ he said.

Aeroflot flight AFL2074 was close to Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it was blown out of the sky on July 17, killing all 298 on board, he said.

… He claimed this was a significant conclusion of Kiev’s probe into MH17’s downing. (Ibid)

A Russian invasion plan had allegedly been scheduled –according to the official SBU report– to take place on July 18, on the day following the planned downing of Aeroflot flight 2074. But when the MH17 flight was downed by mistake, the Russian invasion plan scheduled for July 18, according to the Kiev scenario, was cancelled.

Operation Northwoods

It is worth noting that an earlier GR report pointed to the possibility of an Operation Northwoods type False Flag undertaken not by Russia but by the Kiev regime (in liaison with Washington) with a view to blaming Russia for the downing of flight MH17.

While there is no proof as yet of a Kiev sponsored false flag, the available evidence collected sofar is damning: reports confirm unequivocally the presence of at least one Ukrainian military aircraft in proximity of the flight path of MH17. Moreover, the fuselage of the plane had machine gun like bullet holes.

Mainstream Media Response to Kiev Regime’s Accusations

Normally, the Western media would provide ample coverage and commentary to an official Kiev statement pertaining to MH17 and accusing Russia. It’s part of the MSM routine of “Russia bashing” and demonizing president Vladimir Putin.

With the exception of Ukraine News Service and London’s Mail on Sunday report, however, the official statement of the head of Ukraine’s Secret Service has gone largely unnoticed. Normally, a declaration of this nature would be picked up by the wire services with syndicated reports flooding the front page of the Western news chain.

Was the mainstream media instructed to temporarily “put a hold” on reporting on the “revelations” of  Ukraine’s Secret Service.

The Kiev regime’s allegations are far-fetched to say the least: the Donesk rebels –largely involved in combat operations– have neither the capabilities nor the desire to undertake a complex intelligence operation of this nature. What purpose would it serve? Cui Bono?

Does Russia require a fake humanitarian pretext to intervene when more than 1000 civilians in the Donbass region have been killed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, not to mention the Odessa massacre perpetrated by the Kiev regime’s Neo-Nazi national guard.

Ironically, barely four days after being accused by Kiev of planning to invade Ukraine, Russia’s President Putin agreed with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that Moscow would not only collaborate with the Red Cross on channeling humanitarian aid to Eastern Ukraine through Russian territory, but that the agreement reached with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), had the support of the Kiev government.

Russia bashing in the MSM seems to be “on hold”. In turn, neither the Russian government nor the Russian media have commented on (or responded to) the accusations directed against Moscow contained in Ukraine’s dodgy Secret Service’s MH17 report.

Dodgy Ukraine MH17 Intelligence Report: Kiev’s Western “Allies”

Was Washington consulted before the release of the dodgy SBU False Flag report?

Did Washington give them the “Green Light” to the release of the SBU report as a means of “Framing Russia”? Or did the White House or the State Department decide that the SBU’s “fake intelligence” was visibly flawed and could not effectively be used for propaganda purposes against Russia?

Were the CIA and MI6 consulted? Britain’s Secret Service MI6 has access to the plane’s black box, which was handed over by the Dutch task force to an unnamed partner entity in the UK.

Sofar, neither the White House nor the mainstream media, not to mention the US intelligence community, have commented on the Ukraine’s August 7 SBU statement, which has been officially endorsed by the Kiev government.

It is worth noting that the statement of Ukraine’s intelligence service was made following the release of evidence by the OSCE mission that there were “machine gun like bullet holes” on the fuselage indicating that the MH17 had been brought down by cannon fire from a military aircraft.

Ukraine’s Chief Spy Valentyn Nalyvaichenko confirms that the SBU report on the downing of MH17 –which accuses the Donetsk rebels of  implementing a “false flag” operation– has been submitted to the MH17 investigation task force headed by The Netherlands.


Annex

Official Statement of Ukraine’s Security Service (August 7, 2014)

Terrorists and Militants planned cynical terrorist attack at Aeroflot civil aircraft

[emphasis added]

During the investigation of Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 downing the law enforcement and intelligence bodies established that terrorists and militants have cynically planned the terrorist attack at Aeroflot civil aircraft, AFL-2074 Moscow-Larnaca, which was flying over the territory of Ukraine at that moment. Hereof informed the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine Mr. Valentyn Nalyvaichenko during the briefing today.

He underlined – the crime was planned as a ground for bringing of Russian troops into Ukraine, that is – CASUS BELLI for the Russian military invasion.

According to the official Ukrainian data, June 17, 2014, at the mentioned time two regular international flights were operating over the territory of Ukraine following the filed requests for aircraft clearance – MAS17 plane of the Malaysia Airlines and AFL-2074 one of Aeroflot.

The routes of the mentioned international flights were approaching the sky over Donetsk. At 16:09 in the area of Novomykolaivka town the routes of the mentioned flights crossed. It is worth noting that the flight specifications of the aircrafts were almost identical – the Malaysian aircraft flew at a height of 10,100 m at a speed 909 km/h, while the Russian one – at a height of 10,600 m at a speed 768 km/h.

At 16:20 from the area of ‘Pervomaiske’ village, north-east from Donetsk, near the town of Torez, terrorists shot down the Malaysian jet, which then crashed near Grabove, Donetsk region.

According to the intercepted and published data about the ‘Buk” missile system, the terrorists had received an order to place the system near ‘Pervomaiskoe’ village, V. Nalyvaichenko mentioned. The namesake village is located about 20 km to the north-east from Donetsk.

The terrorists (most of them are not locals, but the Russian mercenaries) misrecognized the namesake villages and moved the other way, the SSU Head said. The odd route of the ‘Buk’ missile system on the territory of Ukraine proves that fact. The system crossed the Russia-Ukraine border in Luhansk region, then was deployed westward to Donetsk and moved back to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk regions afterwards.

By setting up the ‘Buk’ missile system in ‘Pervomaiske’ village located to the west from Donetsk and taking into consideration the military specifications of the weapon, the terrorists could have shot down the Russian civilian jetliner with its further crashing on the Ukrainian territory controlled by the ATO [Ukraine] forces.

In that case Russia would receive an opportunity to accuse the Ukrainian authorities of downing the Russian plane, assaulting the Russian citizens and would use this irresistible proof for its invasion into Ukraine.

Russian side would need a compelling argument for such a step, for example accusation of the Ukrainian government in mass murder of the Russian citizens.

“A peculiar cynicism appears in the fact that the terrorist act was planned just against the peaceful, innocent Russian citizens, who were flying with their children on vacation”, – V. Nalyvaichenko, stressed.

Intelligence data proved that on July 18 the militants have already waited for the introduction of Russian Armed forces into the territory of Ukraine. The Russian side had been giving grounding for such developments for the several previous days. The Russian Mass Media had massively published information about the alleged shelling of the RF territory from the Ukrainian side.

For further details see

http://www.sbu.gov.ua/sbu/control/en/publish/article;jsessionid=73352780A12C97E27DD0BF852482D3C0.app1?art_id=129860&cat_id=35317

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has sounded a stark warning over California’s sustained drought, publishing its latest findings where satellite surveys show a rapidly depleting groundwater supply.

And with California as the United States’ most valuable agricultural state, and thus key to America’s food supply (and much of the world’s as well) that could mean drastic consequences for food commodity prices and potential shortages.

The Nature Climate Change journal carried the report, which Think Progress summarized:

A new Nature Climate Change piece, “The global groundwater crisis,” by James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warns that “most of the major aquifers in the world’s arid and semi-arid zones, that is, in the dry parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater, are experiencing rapid rates of groundwater depletion.”

The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.”

The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the word’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.”

NASA’s satellite map shows the loss of weight height just in the past three years:

NASA-grace-CAdrought

According to NASA:

“California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 km3 of total water per year since 2011 — more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually — over half of which is due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.”

Yes, of course, California is a desert. So, that isn’t helping things. But it was reformed into a thriving economy by controversial and historically corrupt irrigation scheme, and is now vital to U.S. food security.

The result of these dangerous conditions is, not surprisingly, higher commodity prices – including food and water – creating higher profits for the companies that provide these services. Privatized water could drive prices even higher.

There are storm clouds gathering, so to speak, but they aren’t bringing rain.

In July, California’s state government economic report was already warning of losses in the billions for farmers feeling the weight of drought conditions, though it claimed the national food system would be little impacted.

However, time has made that claim ring hollow. In August, Bloomberg reported on the “global reverberations” occurring because of the drought in California:

“It’s a really big deal,” Sumner said. “Some crops simply grow better here than anyplace else, and our location gives us access to markets you don’t have elsewhere.”

[…]

The success of California agriculture was built in large part on advances in irrigation that allowed the state to expand beyond wheat, which flourishes in dry climates. It’s now the U.S.’s top dairy producer and grows half the country’s fruits, vegetables and nuts.

“Water has allowed us to grow more valuable crops,” Sumner said. “Now, we have fruits and vegetables and North Dakota grows our wheat. Without irrigation, we’d be North Dakota.”

[…]

“There will be some definite changes, probably structural changes, to the entire industry” as drought persists, said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “Farmers have made changes. They’ve shifted. This is what farmers do.”

Locals in California are now reporting everything from reduced availability of produce, to higher prices in restaurants and reduced hours and activity at farmer’s markets and local stores.

Most farmers have cutback on what they are growing. In many cases, that means chopping down trees, orchards and not planting as many fields:

“I was just talking to a farmer today who grows olives and almonds. Expect prices of almonds to skyrocket because they’re cutting the trees down because they don’t have enough water to keep them alive,” said Helstrom.

California is by no means the only place facing life threatening shortages. There are similarly alarming trends having all across the globe, particularly in arid and semi-arid places.

Texas ranchers and farmers have been dealing with returning dust bowl conditions in the panhandle and surrounding regions, with very difficult drought conditions and conflicting urban competition for water which strain supply.

drought-map-south-america-480

Elsewhere, too.

The 20 million people in Brazil’s Sao Paulo are facing a stark 5 percent reserves in their municipal water reservoir, with Brazil’s Public Ministry recently acknowledging that the Sao Paulo water supply might last only another 100 days.

Further shortages in rain could easily be the makings of a disaster that could deprive its residents of the basic necessities of life, particularly the swelling poor populations. Already, rationing has crept in, and water used for cooking, bathing and cleaning has been restricted.

“Suffering from its worst drought in over 84 years, the city of Sao Paulo is in the midst of a crisis. For as of this weekend the city’s primary reservoir — the Cantareira — had dropped to just 5 percent capacity putting millions at risk of losing access to water.”

“The fall prompted the city’s governor — Geraldo Alckmin — to again ask for permission to draw emergency water supplies from below flood gates to alleviate catastrophic losses from the Cantareira and ensure water supplies to the region’s 20 million residents. The move would tap a river system that feeds two other states also facing water shortages — Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. But the draw is only a temporary stop gap and, without rain, the Cantareira will continue to fall — bottoming out sometime this November.”

Large swaths of the immense Amazon region are enduring drought, while various hotspots across South America are also drastically below average precipitation levels.

NASA has also tracked serious aquifer depletion in “the North China Plain, Australia’s Canning Basin, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, the Guarani Aquifer in South America … and the aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East,” as Think Progress notes. Parts of Northern China are also seeing their worst drought in 60 years.

NASA-grace-water-storage-declines

That’s pretty harsh news, and the long term impact could be pretty serious, and just one more reason to prepare a reserve food supply and prepare a plan to  deal with anything that may come.

There have been many other warning signs about the food supply and commodities markets – not the least of which include the billions in losses that corn farmers are facing due to market rejection in China and other countries as a result of GMO contamination.

The cause of the shooting-down of the Malaysian passenger plane MH-17 on July 17th (while that plane was flying over the conflict-zone during Ukraine’s civil war) is becoming clearer and clearer, despite the rigorous continuing attempts by Western ‘news’ media to cover it up and to hide from the public the evidence that clearly shows what brought down this airliner.

In the months since I headlined on August 24th the news, “MH-17 ‘Investigation’: Secret August 8th Agreement Seeps Out: Perpetrator of the Downing in Ukraine, of the Malaysian Airliner, Will Stay Hidden,” explaining why the leaders of Western nations want these black-box and other basic data to remain hidden, additional evidence has nonetheless become public, and all of it confirms and adds yet further details to the explanation that was first put forth by the retired German Lufthansa pilot Peter Haisenko, whose independent investigation had concluded that Ukrainian Government fighter-jets intentionally shot down this civilian plane.

Precisely how they did it is gradually becoming clearer, despite this continuation of Western secrecy regarding the contents of the black boxes, and of the U.S. satellite images, and of the Ukrainian air-traffic-control radar recordings, and of other evidence-sources that are held by the West and not made available to their ‘news’ media nor to anyone outside a tight official circle of those Western nations’ intelligence agencies.

Russia has thus been releasing its own investigations regarding MH-17; and, in the process, Russia is not only providing further details as to how the downing actually happened (it wasn’t by mistake, as the West contends it was), but they are also exposing the absurd impossibility of the Ukrainian Government’s ‘explanation’ of this event, which is the ‘explanation’ that is still being parroted unquestioningly and unflinchingly by officials in Washington, Europe, and NATO, and also by Western ‘news’ media. (As my news-report explained, that secret August 8th agreement was signed by the three governments that were handed the black boxes to study — Ukraine, Britain, and Netherlands — and it granted to the Ukrainian Government a veto over anything that the team’s official report would say, which is probably the reason why the subsequent officially released report on those black boxes said essentially nothing. It was a brazen insult to the 298 victims’ families.)

Though Russia doesn’t possess those black boxes, they do possess, and they publicly reveal, evidence that’s conclusive on its own; and it is 100% consistent with Haisenko’s reconstruction of the event. Russian Television issued a 25-minute documentary recently on the event, and it starts with people whom they interviewed in that region, who were describing their having seen at least one and perhaps two planes rising toward the airliner, and then the airliner coming down from the sky. Other witnesses told them that they saw an SU-25 fighter plane take off in that general area just minutes before the airliner came down.

The BBC had previously posted to their website on 23 July 2014, just six days after the event itself, a news report in Russian via their Russian service, about the downing, but they quickly removed it without explanation. Fortunately, however, some Russian-speakers had managed to download it before it was yanked; and one of those downloads is still up at youtube, having been posted there on July 28th, with English subscripts, and with the headline, “UKRAINE Eyewitness Confirm Military Jet Flew Besides MH17 Airliner: BBC Censors Video 25Jul2014”. (Actually, there were several witnesses interviewed there, not just one “Eyewitness.”)

Furthermore, Global Research posted on September 10th a transcript of it, headlining, “Deleted BBC Report. ‘Ukrainian Fighter Jet Shot Down MHI7’, Donetsk Eyewitnesses.” So, this valuable eyewitness-testimony to the event is available despite Western ‘news’ media (or propaganda-media), and the reason for the news-suppression is clear from anyone who views that BBC report, which presents several eyewitnesses, all of whom were interviewed separately as individuals, not as a group, and yet all of whose testimonies report having observed the very same basic narrative, of at least one military jet rising toward the airliner just before it came down. In other words: BBC had yanked this piece because it didn’t confirm the West’s story-line, which says that Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists fired a “Buk” ground-based missile at the airliner, thinking that the civilian plane was a Ukrainian Government war-plane about to bomb them and their families. But, first of all, the Ukrainian Government was virtually admitting there that they were bombing these villagers, which means that they were perpetrating an ethnic cleansing there, which indeed that Government was doing; but, secondly, the Ukrainian Government’s statement also acknowledged that if the event had happened in that way, it would have been unintentional, a tragic accident on the part of the rebels there. So, then, why did “the international community” respond with massive economic sanctions against Russia on account of this downing? The whole Western propaganda position was designed for a public of sheer fools, if not of outright psychopathic ones, who cared not a bit about the plights of the victims of an ethnic-cleansing campaign. The West’s basic storyline doesn’t make sense without recognizing that we are financing ethnic cleansing to clear the land in southeastern Ukraine, and that any support that Russia would be providing to those separatists would be defensive in nature, not offensive. Yet Russia gets the blame when this passenger jet goes down? In any case, that storyline is false, from start to finish.

Here is how outright ludicrous it actually is, and sound reason in itself that anyone in the military had to have known, from the very get-go, that the “Buk” ‘explanation’ was a line of pure malarkey:

The Russian documentary was titled, “MH-17: The Untold Story,” and it presents videos of several “Buk” missiles being fired. Here’s one:

That passage shows the missile, a 9K37 Buk SA-11 Gadfly, which is a bit longer than ten yards (30 feet)  – this large (and certainly not inconspicuous) missile — being launched from its standard launch-base.

The documentary then notes:

And then this:

And then this:

And then this:

So, when even the BBC’s reporter wasn’t able to find anyone in that entire region who recounts having seen anything of the sort, just how likely would the Ukrainian Government’s line on that matter actually be? Obviously, any person with any military knowledge whatsoever had to have recognized virtually immediately that the Ukrainian Government’s story-line on the MH-17 downing was a pile of sheer malarkey, but did anyone in the Western ‘news’ media report that it was — that the Western line there was not just a lie, but an absurd one, one that requires an ignorant public in order for it to be able to be taken seriously at all by the public? One that requires an ignorant public, to remain  ignorant? This is supposed to be the Western ‘news’ media, with a free press, and a democracy, a truthfully informed citizenry, who can vote based upon truths, not on mere lies?

Here is the way that the Russian TV documentary opens:

Several of the locals there told Russian TV’s reporter that they had seen a military jet rise toward the airliner; and not a one of these individuals were any of the same ones who had testified the exact same thing to the BBC’s reporter, whose news-piece had been squelched by her managers.

Now, to the substance of the explanation of how this plane was actually brought down:

Earlier, I summarized the evidence for Peter Haisenko’s reconstruction of the event, but I questioned his having accepted the eyewitness testimony to the effect that the planes that shot down the airliner were SU-25s. In Haisenko’s Russian TV interview, he sticks by his belief that it was probably SU-25s instead of SU-27s or Mig 29s, both of which are also in the Ukrainian Air Force, and all three of which use 30-millimeter machine-guns or “cannons.” But since the fact is that all three of those attack-plane models use machine-guns (“cannons”) with 30-caliber bullets (which is the size that clearly was used, especially on the cockpit), the effect would be identically-sized round 30-caliber entry-holes, no matter what. My last major report on that evidence was “Systematically Reconstructing the Shoot-Down of the Malaysian Airliner: The Guilt Is Clear and Damning.”  That basically fills in (and the links in that report document with pictures and videos) the actual way that this plane was downed and why it was downed. Obama (via the regime that he had installed in a February 2014 coup in Kiev) succeeded there in getting the international sanctions against Russia that he had been wanting. Obama, not Putin, was behind this.

International actions are based upon such fabrications, and ‘evidence’ taken out of its full context, as this from the far-right Forbes  commentator Paul Roderick Gregory, but there are no such fakes, nor out-of-context items of evidence, in the case that has been presented here. That’s the difference between news-reporting and propaganda; but, in the United States today, propaganda passes as if it were ‘news,’ and authentic news that doesn’t fit the regime’s cooked-up narrative is suppressed entirely.

Western governments, and their ‘news’ media, are treating their citizens, their own publics, not really as citizens, but as suckers. They are treating them as subjects, instead of as citizens. This is not authentic democracy. It is neo-feudal; it is, in fact, a sophisticated form of fascism.

The entire “Buk” ‘explanation’ of the downing of the Malaysian airliner is for suckers only; and everyone in official circles, and in the press, who peddles it, is just as fake as the ridiculous story-line that he or she is peddling. To fall for it, after being provided all of the authentic evidence, which has been linked to here, is to be a willing slave to psychopaths.

So, now we know why Western governments have hidden, instead of making available to the public, the black-box data and the other evidence that they still refuse to provide to the public. They are aiming to scam the public, not to inform it. Lying is their game. And they call it ‘patriotism.’ But, of course, they would! Traitors would do that. Traitors to any  country would do it. And, so, they do.

Unfortunately, the people they fool become their tools, and everyone else are purely their victims — helpless to oust the tyrants who make things bad for everyone but themselves and their colleagues.

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.

Originally published by Who What Why

How do Wall Street, oil companies and the shadow government agencies like the CIA and NSA really shape the global political order?

That’s the question author Peter Dale Scott examines in his forthcoming book “The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil and the Attack on U.S. Democracy,” due out on Nov. 12. Scott, a professor emeritus of English at Berkeley and former Canadian diplomat, is considered the father of “deep politics”—the study of hidden permanent institutions and interests whose influence on the political realm transcends the elected.

In the “American Deep State,” Scott takes a compelling look at the facts lurking behind the official histories of events to uncover the real dynamics in play. In this exclusive excerpt—the first of several we will feature on WhoWhatWhy—he looks at the revolving door between Wall Street and the CIA, and what that demonstrates about where power truly resides. 

***

In the last decade it has become more and more obvious that we have in America today what the journalists have called… America’s “deep state.” (1)

This expansion of a two-level or dual state has been paralleled by two other dualities: the increasing resolution of American society into two classes—the “one percent” and the “ninety-nine percent”—and the bifurcation of the U.S. economy into two aspects: the domestic, still subject to some governmental regulation and taxation, and the international, relatively free from governmental controls. (2)

All three developments have affected and intensified each other—particularly since the Reagan Revolution of 1980, which saw American inequality of wealth cease to diminish and begin to increase.(3) Thus for example Wall Street—the incarnation of the “one percent”— played a significant role in creating the CIA after World War II, and three decades later the CIA and big oil played a significant role in realigning American politics for the Reagan Revolution.

There is an ambiguous symbiosis between two aspects of the American deep state:

  1. The Beltway agencies of the shadow government, like the CIA and NSA, which have been instituted by the public state and now overshadow it, and
  2. The much older power of Wall Street, referring to the powerful banks and law firms located there.

Top-level Treasury officials, CIA officers, and Wall Street bankers and lawyers think much alike because of the “revolving door” by which they pass easily from private to public service and back.

But a much larger role for the private sector has come with the increased outsourcing of the government’s intelligence budget. Tim Shorrock revealed in 2007 that “about 70 percent of the estimated $60 billion the government spends every year on . . . intelligence” is now outsourced to private intelligence contractors like Booz, Allen & Hamilton (now Booz Allen Hamilton) and SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation). (4)

The Overworld

I shall argue that in the 1950s, Wall Street was a dominating complex. It included not just banks and law firms but also the oil majors whose cartel arrangements were successfully defended against the U.S. government by the Wall Street law firm Sullivan and Cromwell, home to the Dulles brothers. This larger complex is what I mean by the Wall Street overworld.

There seems to be little difference in Allen Dulles’s influence whether he was a Wall Street lawyer or a CIA director. Although he did not formally join the CIA until November 1950, he was in Berlin before the start of the 1948 Berlin Blockade, “supervising the unleashing of anti-Soviet propaganda across Europe.” (5) In the early summer of 1948, he set up the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), in support of what became, by the early 1950s, “the largest CIA operation in Western Europe.”(6)

The CIA never abandoned its dependency on funds from outside its official budget to conduct its clandestine operations. In Southeast Asia in particular, its proprietary firm Sea Supply Inc. supplied an infrastructure for a drug traffic supporting a CIA-led paramilitary force, PARU. [Two CIA proprietaries, Sea Supply Inc. and Civil Air Transport (CAT) Inc. (later Air America), initially supplied the KMT 93rdDivision in Burma that organized opium mule trains down to Thailand, where opium sales were still legal.

Later, when the USG officially distanced itself from the KMT drug army, the CIA organized an offensive and defensive paramilitary unit, PARU, inside the Thai Border Police (BPP). Like the BPP, PARU financed itself by seizing KMT opium and turning it in to the Thai Government, receiving a bounty payment of 12.5 percent of the retail value.] (7)

***

The CIA appears also to have acted in coordination with slush funds from various U.S. government contracts, ranging from the Howard Hughes organization to the foreign arms sales of U.S. defense corporations like Lockheed and Northrop. (8)

The international lawyers of Wall Street did not hide from each other their shared belief that they understood better than Washington the requirements for running the world.

This mentality exhibited itself in 1952, when Truman’s Justice Department sought to break up the cartel agreements whereby Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon) and four other oil majors controlled global oil distribution. (The other four were Standard Oil Company of New York or Socony [later Mobil], Standard Oil of California [now Chevron], Gulf Oil, and Texaco. Together with Royal Dutch Shell and Anglo-Iranian, they comprised the so-called “Seven Sisters” of the cartel.)

Faced with a government order to hand over relevant documents, Exxon’s lawyer Arthur Dean at Sullivan and Cromwell, where Foster Dulles was senior partner, refused: “If it were not for the question of national security, we would be perfectly willing to face either a criminal or a civil suit. But this is the kind of information the Kremlin would love to get its hands on.” (9)

Overthrowing Iran

At this time the oil cartel was working closely with the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC, later BP) to prevent AIOC’s nationalization by Iran’s Premier Mossadeq [or Mosaddeq], by instituting, in May 1951, a successful boycott of Iranian oil exports. “In May 1951 the AIOC secured the backing of the other oil majorswho had every interest in discouraging nationalisation. . . . None of the large companies would touch Iranian oildespite one or two picturesque episodes, the boycott held.” (10)

Mohammad Mossadeq

But Truman declined, despite a direct personal appeal from Churchill, to have the CIA participate in efforts to overthrow Mossadeq, and instead dispatched Averell Harriman to Tehran in a failed effort to negotiate a peaceful resolution of Mossadeq’s differences with London. (11)

All this changed with the election of Eisenhower in November 1952 (with considerable support from the oil industry), followed by the appointment of the Dulles brothers to be Secretary of State and head of CIA.

In November 1952 CIA officials began planning to involve the CIA in the efforts of MI6 and the oil companies in Iran (12)—although its notorious Operation TP/AJAX to overthrow Mossadeq was not finally approved by Eisenhower until July 22, 1953. (13)

Dr. Mossadeq entering court for his trial.

Dr. Mossadeq entering court for his trial.

Nearly all recent accounts of Mossadeq’s overthrow treat it as a covert intelligence operation, with the oil cartel (when mentioned at all) playing a subservient role. However the chronology, and above all the belated approval from Eisenhower, suggest that it was CIA that came belatedly in 1953 to assist an earlier oil cartel operation, rather than vice versa.

In terms of the deep state, in 1951 the oil cartel or deep state initiated a process that the American public state only authorized two years later. Yet the inevitable bias in academic or archival historiography, working only with those primary sources that are publicly available, is to think of the Mossadeq tragedy as simply a “CIA coup.”

Notes

 1.          Mike Lofgren, “A Shadow Government Controls America,” Reader Supported News, February 22, 2014, http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/22216 -a-shadow-government-controls.

2.           To take a single telling example, six of Sam Walton’s heirs are now reportedly wealthier than the bottom 30 percent of Americans, or 94.5 million people (Tim Worstall, “Six Waltons Have More Wealth Than the Bottom 30% of Americans,” Forbes, December 14, 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/12/14/six -waltons-have-more-wealth-than-the-bottom-30-of-americans/). 

3.           See Kevin Phillips, The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath (New York:     HarperCollins, 1991). 

4.           Tim Shorrock, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 6. 

5.           Gordon Thomas, Secret Wars: One Hundred Years of British Intelligence Inside MI5 and MI6 (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin’s Press, 2009), 98. 

6.           Richard Aldrich, The Hidden Hand: Britain, America, and Cold War Secret Intelligence (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2001), 343. Dulles also chaired the executive committee of the companion National Committee for a Free Europe (behind the Iron Curtain), whose legal affairs were handled by Sullivan and Cromwell (Wilson D. Miscamble, George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947–1950 [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992], 204). 

7.             Scott, American War Machine, 65–67, 87–96.

8.             Norman Mailer, “A Harlot High and Low: Reconnoitering Through the Secret Government,” New York, August 16, 1976 (Hughes); Michael Schaller, Altered States: The United States and Japan Since the Occupation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 294 (Lockheed). 

9.             Ovid Demaris, Dirty Business: The Corporate-Political Money-Power Game (New York: Avon, 1974), 213–14.

10.           J. P. D. Dunbabin, International Relations Since 1945: A History in Two Volumes, 
vol. 2, (London: Longman, 1994), 344. The boycott is denied without argumentation in Exxon’s corporate history (Bennett H. Wall et al., Growth in a Changing Environment: A History of Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), Exxon Corporation, 1950–1975, vol. 4 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988), 476: 

11.           Mostafa Elm, Oil, Power, and Principle: Iran’s Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1992), 198–99 (Churchill); Robert Moskin, American Statecraft: The Story of the U.S. Foreign Service (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2013), 627–28 (Harriman). 

12.           William Roger Louis, “Britain and the Overthrow of Mossadeq,” in Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, eds., Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 168. Cf. William R. Clark, Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2005), 125: “The Dulles brothers had already conceived a plot when Eisenhower became president in January 1953;” Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 83: “[In November 1952] “The CIA was setting out to depose [Mossadeq] without the imprimatur of the White House.”

13.           Scot Macdonald, Rolling the Iron Dice: Historical Analogies and Decisions to Use Military Force in Regional Contingencies (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), 98. Cf. Richard H. Immerman, John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1999), 67. Allen Dulles played a personal role in TP/AJAX, by flying to Italy and persuading the frightened Shah to return to Tehran.

IMAGE: Peter Dale Scott

IMAGE: Dr. Mossadeq Waves

IMAGE: Dr Mossadeq enters Court

Ebola: Understanding The Disease

November 5th, 2014 by Global Research News

 by Aubree Ritter

 

Courtesy of: Infographic World

A definite shift in India’s Look East Policy is underway with added emphasis on Buddha diplomacy under the new dispensation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to market the Buddha card to the countries in the region as India is the place of origin of Dhamma and Sangha. He indicated such a change in emphasis by his first official visit abroad to a neighbouring Buddhist country Asia, Bhutan, and then to Nepal, where Buddha was born. His first official visit outside South Asia was to another Buddhist country, Japan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on his visit to India in September landed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where Prime Minister Modi received him and narrated the importance of the state in the Buddhist era and the visit of the ancient Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) in 7th century AD. The Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Tan Dung, on a visit to India on October 27-28, made offerings at the Bodhgaya temple on his arrival.

The emphasis in the policy is likely to become more evident when the Prime Minister visits Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar for the India-ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit slated in the second week of December. Further edge to the new Look East Policy will be given when he visits Brisbane for the G20 Summit and have bilateral meetings with the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the middle of next month. Thereafter, Mr Modi gets the chance of expressing his Neighbours First Policy at the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu (November 26-27).

People-to-people contact is one of the cornerstones of Mr Modi’s foreign policy. His plans for making this as central to South Asia and then integrating with the South-East Asia makes him deploy the soft power of Buddha diplomacy. As forging integration in South Asia may become difficult due to the belligerent attitude of Pakistan, the Prime Minister may have the option of taking along with him the BIMSTEC group of countries -  Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal – and seek integration with the 10-member ASEAN bloc.

With a vast population of Buddhists in east and south-east Asia plans are afoot to make India a pilgrimage for world Buddhists. The work on phase-I Buddhist Tourist Circuit is gathering pace. This includes Lumbini in Nepal where the Buddha was born, Bodhgaya where he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh where he delivered his first sermon, Rajgir in Bihar where he lived and taught, Nalanda which became the centre of Buddhist learning and teaching, Kushinagar in UP where he departed from the world, Kapilavastu on the India-Nepal border where Buddha spent his early years before embarking on the long journey to enlightenment, Vaishali in Bihar where he delivered his last sermon, Sravasti in UP where he spent 24 rainy seasons at Jetavan monastery and Kausambi where he preached.

A study by the International Finance Corporation has suggested an investment of Rs 500 crore each by the public and private sector over a span of four years. The government has proposed some initial investment in the current budgetary proposals. As the government is bullish in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), Mr Modi is expected take up this issue with leaders of east and south-east Asian countries. As regards the revival of the ancient Buddhist centre of learning, Nalanda University, several countries have already pledged their contributions.

Buddha’s relics are found in many places across India and other parts of the world, interred within hemispherical mounds called stupas. In subsequent phases there are plans to develop ancient Buddhist sites across 17 states in the country, including Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, Karnataka, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh and Odisha.

Believers from several Buddhist countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand have set up monasteries around the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya for their pilgrims. But in modern times there is need to develop accommodations and budget hotels for different classes of tourists. Since the conception of the Buddhist Tourist Circuit in 1986, little has been done and India attracts a mere 0.005% of global Buddhist tourists. Most foreign tourist arrivals are in the winter season as they find summer uncomfortable; they miss out Buddhist sites on major festive occasions like Buddha Jayanti in the month of Vaisakh (April/May). There are other festive occasions celebrated in India like Lasar or the Tibetan New Year, Hemis Fair in Ladakh, Ullambana, Sangha Dayor Magha Puja, Asatha Day and Pavarana Day.

While India is seeking help for revival of Buddhist sites, it is also helping to revive ancient temples and sites in South-East Asia. Hence it seems to be a quid pro quo basis of cooperation. The Archaeological Society of India is engaged in reviving Angkor Vat and Ta Prohm Temples in Siem Reap in Cambodia, Vat Phou Temple in Laos, Ananda Temple in Bagan in Myanmar, Thiruketeeswaram Temple in Mannar in Sri Lanka. It is slated to take up works on the My Son group of temples in Vietnam.

India has the excellent opportunity to rope in Mahayana Buddhists from China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam, Theravada Buddhists from Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Vajrayana Buddhists from Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, western China, Russia and Nepal. Sikkim in India is the home to all sects of Buddhism. Countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, which are now not Buddhist countries, have ancient Buddhist sites of importance to tourism.

Buddha in Indian diplomacy is a soft power that can connect to the people in the east and south-east Asian region. China would have particular interest in the travel route of the ancient Chinese scholars like Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang), Faxian (Fa Hien) and others. Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh host numerous sites of interest to Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhists. China, which is ready to give an alternative route to the Hindu pilgrim site at Mansarovar in Tibet via Nathu La in Sikkim, should be liberal in allowing Tibetan pilgrims to visit India.

After hosting the Olympics in Beijing, China has become assertive in projecting its ancient cultural identity, and will look towards India for its ancient linkages, particularly in matters of the spread of Buddhism and the visit of ancient scholars. Though its claim over Arunachal Pradesh remains a contentious issue between the two countries, many analysts believe that ultimately it has to look towards India in quest for preserving its ancient tradition and culture.

Buddha diplomacy, therefore, can be an effective tool and soft power for India’s engagement with South Asia, South-East Asia, East Asia, China and even Russia, which has a history of interest in Indian mysticism. People-to-people contact and cultural exchanges can go a long way to resolve contentious political issues in the near future. Moving a step ahead, Mr Modi at the UN General Assembly proposed a UN Day for Yoga, which received instant support from Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It appealed to many Buddhist countries also.

An India-Buddhist axis is a well thought of plan in the country’s diplomacy for the entire India-Pacific region. Can the Modi government attract considerable foreign direct investment (FDI) for developing the Buddhist Tourist Circuit and make India a beacon for global Buddhists? Only the future will tell how far India’s Buddha diplomacy would go to bring about bonhomie in the region and resolve contentious issues.