Why is Henry Kissinger Walking Around Free?

March 12th, 2015 by Andy Piascik

On September 11, 2013, hundreds of thousands of Chileans solemnly marked the 40th anniversary of their nation’s 9/11 terrorist event. It was on that date in 1973 that the Chilean military, armed with a generous supply of funds and weapons from the United States, and assisted by the CIA and other operatives, overthrew the democratically-elected government of the moderate socialist Salvador Allende. Sixteen years of repression, torture and death followed under the fascist Augusto Pinochet, while the flow of hefty profits to US multinationals – IT&T, Anaconda Copper and the like – resumed. Profits, along with concern that people in other nations might get ideas about independence, were the very reason for the coup and even the partial moves toward nationalization instituted by Allende could not be tolerated by the US business class.

Henry Kissinger was national security advisor and one of the principal architects – perhaps the principal architect – of the coup in Chile. US-instigated coups were nothing new in 1973, certainly not in Latin America, and Kissinger and his boss Richard Nixon were carrying on a violent tradition that spanned the breadth of the 20th century and continues in the 21st – see, for example, Venezuela in 2002 (failed) and Honduras in 2009 (successful). Where possible, such as in Guatemala in 1954 and Brazil in 1964, coups were the preferred method for dealing with popular insurgencies. In other instances, direct invasion by US forces such as happened on numerous occasions in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and many other places, was the fallback option.

The coup in Santiago occurred as US aggression in Indochina was finally winding down after more than a decade. From 1969 through 1973, it was Kissinger again, along with Nixon, who oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It is impossible to know with precision how many were killed during those four years; all the victims were considered enemies, including the vast majority who were non-combatants, and the US has never been much interested in calculating the deaths of enemies. Estimates of Indochinese killed by the US for the war as a whole start at four million and are likely more, perhaps far more. It can thus be reasonably extrapolated that probably more than a million, and certainly hundreds of thousands, were killed while Kissinger and Nixon were in power.

In addition, countless thousands of Indochinese have died in the years since from the affects of the massive doses of Agent Orange and other Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction unleashed by the US. Many of us here know (or, sadly, knew) soldiers who suffered from exposure to such chemicals; multiply their numbers by 1,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 – again, it’s impossible to know with accuracy – and we can begin to understand the impact on those who live in and on the land that was so thoroughly poisoned as a matter of US policy.

Studies by a variety of organizations including the United Nations also indicate that at least 25,000 people have died in Indochina since war’s end from unexploded US bombs that pocket the countryside, with an equivalent number maimed. As with Agent Orange, deaths and ruined lives from such explosions continue to this day. So 40 years on, the war quite literally goes on for the people of Indochina, and it is likely it will go on for decades more.

Near the end of his time in office, Kissinger and his new boss Gerald Ford pre-approved the Indonesian dictator Suharto’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, an illegal act of aggression again carried out with weapons made in and furnished by the US. Suharto had a long history as a bagman for US business interests; he ascended to power in a 1965 coup, also with decisive support and weapons from Washington, and undertook a year-long reign of terror in which security forces and the army killed more than a million people (Amnesty International, which rarely has much to say about the crimes of US imperialism, put the number at 1.5 million).

In addition to providing the essential on-the-ground support, Kissinger and Ford blocked efforts by the global community to stop the bloodshed when the terrible scale of Indonesian violence became known, something UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan openly bragged about. Again, the guiding principle of empire, one that Kissinger and his kind accept as naturally as breathing, is that independence cannot be allowed. That’s true even in a country as small as East Timor where investment opportunities are slight, for independence is contagious and can spread to places where far more is at stake, like resource-rich Indonesia. By the time the Indonesian occupation finally ended in 1999, 200,000 Timorese – 30 percent of the population – had been wiped out. Such is Kissinger’s legacy and it is a legacy well understood by residents of the global South no matter the denial, ignorance or obfuscation of the intelligentsia here.

If the United States is ever to become a democratic society, and if we are ever to enter the international community as a responsible party willing to wage peace instead of war, to foster cooperation and mutual aid rather than domination, we will have to account for the crimes of those who claim to act in our names like Kissinger. Our outrage at the crimes of murderous thugs who are official enemies like Pol Pot is not enough. A cabal of American mis-leaders from Kennedy on caused for far more Indochinese deaths than the Khmer Rouge, after all, and those responsible should be judged and treated accordingly.

The urgency of the task is underscored as US aggression proliferates at an alarming rate. Millions of people around the world, most notably in an invigorated Latin America, are working to end the “might makes right” ethos the US has lived by since its inception. The 99 percent of us here who have no vested interest in empire would do well to join them.

There are recent encouraging signs along those lines, with the successful prevention of a US attack on Syria particularly noteworthy. In addition, individuals from various levels of empire have had their lives disrupted to varying degrees. David Petraeus, for example, has been hounded by demonstrators since being hired by CUNY earlier this year to teach an honors course; in 2010, Dick Cheney had to cancel a planned trip to Canada because the clamor for his arrest had grown quite loud; long after his reign ended, Pinochet was arrested by order of a Spanish magistrate for human right violations and held in England for 18 months before being released because of health problems; and earlier this year, Efrain Rios Montt, one of Washington’s past henchmen in Guatemala, was convicted of genocide, though accomplices of his still in power have since intervened on his behalf to obstruct justice. And Condoleeza Rice was forced to cancel her commencement appearance at Rutgers this past spring because of student outrage over her involvement in war crimes.

More pressure is needed, and allies of the US engaged in war crimes like Paul Kagame should be dealt with as Pinochet was. More important perhaps for those of in the US is that we hound Rumsfeld, both Clintons, Rice, Albright and Powell, to name a few, for their crimes against humanity every time they show themselves in public just as Petraeus has been. That holds especially for our two most recent War-Criminals-in-Chief, Barack Bush and George W. Obama.

Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning author who writes for Z, Counterpunch and many other publications and websites. He can be reached at [email protected]

My attention has just been drawn to a note put out by a very well respected analyst and China follower which postulates that China could actually be holding as much as 30,000 tonnes of gold in various government accounts and that within the next three years the nation will link the yuan to gold. The nation’s official holding is only 1,054.6 tonnes as reported to the IMF, but there is widespread belief that it has been accumulating additional gold over the past several years, perhaps to the tune of around 5,000 tonnes while holding this in separate non-reportable (as China considers them) accounts.

But, of course, this does not include previously high volumes of gold which may also have been bought, and stored, in the past, and again never reported as official holdings.

So what are China’s real gold holdings? The 30,000 tonne figure has come from Simon Hunt of Simon Hunt Strategic Services (Hunt was the Hunt in Brook Hunt, one of the world’s top metals analytical teams now absorbed into Wood Mackenzie) in his latest ‘Thought for the Day’ letter to his clients in which he comments that

“China has much more gold than it is allowing the world to see. As Alasdair Macleod, probably the world’s number one analyst of the gold market, wrote that between 1983 and 2002 China probably accumulated 25,000 tons of gold. Thus, its current gold holdings are probably north of 30,000 tons in contrast to the USA which has either sold or leased most of its gold.”

Now this statement coming from one of the usual gold megabulls might be ignorable, but Hunt does not fall into this category and has a good track record of insights into China’s strategic initiatives as far as metals and minerals are concerned.

Here is a link to Macleod’s original article on this matter – China’s gold strategy – showing how he arrives at his conclusions – and then another link to a subsequent article from Bill Holter, who can admittedly be sometimes a bit ‘off the wall’ in his comments and analyses, supporting Macleod’s assessment and adding further theory as to how and why this might have been achieved.  See: China’s Massive Holdings of Gold Bullion. Is the West Financially Bankrupt?

There is also some anecdotal evidence to support some massive gold storage vaults in China containing unreported gold, but then a vault visitor presented with a store of gold bars would have little or no idea of how much is really there.

Hunt notes the following summary points, among others in his ‘Thought for the day’:

  • China will take strong action in the second half of this year to restructure its financial system, its heavy industry, manufacturing and real estate sectors.  It will be what we call a period of ‘’controlled crisis’’ that will not only shock most foreigners but will have global reverberations.
  • China does not want its currency to be the global reserve currency but to be an accepted unit for the settlement of trade and for central banks and others to retain in their portfolios.
  • China does not trust Washington’s ability to manage the sole reserve currency unit in the interests of the rest of the world, only in its own interests. Historically, America has used the inflation route to reduce its debts to the rest of the world. In contrast, China is likely to link the Yuan to gold within three years.  Before then government must have its economy seen to have been restructured and stable even though the process will be painful.

There has been much talk in the media of ‘currency wars’ and Hunt reckons that China’s strategising recognises this and feels that a stable yuan (linked to gold) is key to any future global power plays to dominate the global financial order – although as Hunt also comments it doesn’t feel the need to set the yuan up specifically as a global reserve currency. Indeed it may well work in conjunction with Russia, which has recently been raising its own gold holdings, and perhaps some of the other BRICS, to offer a gold backed alternative to the dollar as others have suggested.

Some yuan internationalisation is already in hand with, so far, swap agreements having been set up with around 28 countries and the establishment of a yuan trading centre in Zurich through which yuan payments may be facilitated.

If China does have 30,000 tonnes of gold then gold backing for its currency is certainly within the bounds of credibility, but even if not, the amount of gold known to be flowing in to the country – and its likely accumulation of unreported gold reserves by the Central Bank – would place it in a strong position in any future world financial realignment anyway. But 30,000 tonnes is a huge amount to have bought in – although given its massive trade surpluses, and a need to diversify its holdings away from the dollar, is not impossible. The suggestion that the nation holds this amount of gold has to be considered highly speculative, but over the years one should have learnt that China plans strategically very far ahead – one of the benefits of a controlled economy – and plays its cards very close to its chest, so one can’t just laugh the idea off as fantasy.

The following is a lightly edited version of a speech I gave on March 1 st in Washington during the anti-AIPAC and Netanyahu visit demonstrations.

Two days later Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, whom I cite below, was sitting in the House VIP visitors’ gallery beaming as he listened to Netanyahu’s love fest with Congress. It might have been the first time a clandestine agent for a foreign country who spied on the United States was so honored but I would observe that the event was doubly significant in that the speaker Prime Minister Netanyahu was also involved in the same theft of American nuclear technology.

Here is the video of the event, just received:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYXOsBMktWI&feature=youtu.be .

Miko Peled is well worth hearing and many of the questions are very interesting, revealing the depth of revulsion for AIPAC and all its works.

I would like to concentrate on two issues. First is the nature of the special relationship between Israel and the United States and second is the role of the Israel Lobby and most particularly AIPAC in shaping that relationship. I was a foreign policy adviser for Ron Paul in 2008 and consider myself politically conservative. I respect the fact that nations must be responsive to their interests, but because of my personal experience of living and working overseas for many years I have come to recognize that the United States is an anomaly in that it persists in going around the world doing things that just do not make any sense. This has been particularly true during the past fourteen years, with invasions, interventions and targeted assassinations having become the preferred form of international discourse for Washington.

Many would agree with what I have just observed, but few recognize the role of the special relationship with Israel in shaping what the United States has become. Quite frankly, the relationship is both lopsided in terms of favoring perceived Israeli interests as well as being terrible for the long suffering Palestinians, very bad for the United States as it damages the American brand worldwide and even bad for Israel as it enables its governments to act in ways that are ill advised and ultimately self-defeating.

I would first like to address the often repeated mantra that Israel is America’s best friend or closest ally as it is a bedrock issue that is frequently trotted out to excuse behavior that would otherwise be incomprehensible. Apart from being a recipient of more than $3 billion per year from the US taxpayer, Israel is no ally and never has been. There is no alliance of any kind with Israel, in part because Israel has a border that has been moving eastward for the past fifty years as it continues to absorb Palestinian land. Without an internationally recognized border it is impossible to define a relationship between two nations. Israel also has no strategic value to the United States, so to speak of an alliance, which posits reciprocity is ridiculous.

But that is not to say that Israel does not interact with Washington. Indeed, some might say that it is possesses a disproportionate voice relating to some foreign and domestic policies. The penchant to use force as a first option in international interactions is perhaps itself due to Washington imitating Tel Aviv or vice versa as neither the United States nor Israel seems any longer interested in diplomacy.

American protection of Israel in international bodies like the United Nations is a disgrace, making the United States de facto complicit in Israeli violations of international law, to include its settlement expansion, as well as its war crimes. Under Bill Clinton the United States more or less adopted the Israeli model in dealing with terrorism, which consists of overwhelming armed response and no negotiations ever. Washington’s uncritical support for Israel politically and militarily was a major factor in motivating the perpetrators of the 9/11 terror attack.

Deferring to Israel often results in U.S. policies that are absurd and highly damaging to other interests. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Israel’s devastation of Lebanon in 2006 in which nearly 1,000 civilians were killed and more than $2 billion in infrastructure was destroyed as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East” Rice, who also spoke of fear of a nuclear mushroom cloud rising above Washington to justify invading Iraq, far from being discredited due to her lack of discernment, is currently a professor at Stanford University and is now being spoken of as a possible Senator from California or, alternatively, as the next Commissioner of the National Football League. So much for accountability in the United States.

One might well conclude that Israel is not only not an ally but also not much of a friend. It has run massive spying operations inside the United States to include hundreds of Art Students and celebrations by the employees of an Israeli moving firm located in New Jersey when the twin towers were going down. Israel is regularly named by the FBI as the most active friendly country in terms of running espionage operations against the U.S. but nothing ever happens. Israeli spies are sent home quietly and Americans who spy for Israel are rarely prosecuted. Last year we witnessed Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen Arnon Milchan receiving an Oscar even as stories were circulating about his criminal collusion to obtain restricted American technology to enable Israel to build nuclear weapons. The Justice Department has not seen fit to do anything about him.

Israel also has a hand in what is going on domestically in the United States. Many states now have their own departments of homeland security and many of the companies that obtain contracts to provide security services are Israeli. Airport security is a virtual Israeli monopoly. Increasingly militarized American police officers now use federal government grants to travel to Israel for training based on the Israeli experience with the Palestinians. Israelis have advised CIA and Pentagon torturers and Israeli advisers were also present at Abu Ghraib.

Israel’s influence over Washington policies frequently means war. American officials extremely close to the Israeli government were behind the rush to war with Iraq. If the Washington goes to war with Iran in the near future it will not be because Tehran actually threatens America, it will be because Israel and its powerful lobby in the U.S. have succeeded in creating an essentially false case to mandate such action. Congress is obligingly advancing legislation that would commit the United States to intervene militarily in support of a unilateral Israeli attack, meaning that Israel could easily be empowered to make the decision on whether or not the U.S. goes to war.

Israel interferes in American elections, in 2012 on behalf of Mitt Romney, and also this week by aligning itself with the Republicans against the President of the United States to harden existing policy against Iran. Looking ahead to elections in 2016, two Jewish billionaires have already stated clearly that they will spend whatever they have to to elect the candidate that is best for Israel. As Sheldon Adelson is a Republican and Haim Saban is a Democrat both major parties are covered and I would warn “Watch out for Hillary,” Saban’s candidate of choice.

Israel has corrupted our congress which we will witness again on Tuesday. Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rebukes and belittles our own head of state, its government ministers insult and ridicule John Kerry, and its intelligence officers have free access to Capitol Hill where they provide alarmist and inaccurate private briefings for American legislators. In short, Israel has no reluctance to use its enormous political and media clout in the US to pressure successive administrations to conform to its own foreign and security policy views.

Beyond the corruption of our political process, I believe many in this room would agree that the depiction and treatment of the Palestinians has been disgraceful. Israel has engaged in land and water theft and is doing its best to make Palestinian life so miserable that they will all decide to leave. Some would describe that as ethnic cleansing. Just last week there were reports of how Israeli authorities cut off water and electricity to parts of the West bank and also won a bogus court case in New York City that will bankrupt the Palestinian authority.

Netanyahu’s policy is to punish the Palestinians incessantly no matter what they do. The United States has certainly embraced a lot of unpleasant policies over the past fourteen years, but I honestly think that most Americans would be appalled if they knew how Palestinians really have been treated. Unfortunately the Israel propaganda machine has been able to maintain a tight grip on the narrative promoted in the mainstream media. Arabs are depicted as terrorists while Israelis are seen as folks just like us.

How does all this happen? Because of money which enables the Israel firsters to control the media and buy the politicians, but unfortunately no one is allowed to say that lest Abe Foxman of the Anti Defamation League accuse one of propagating a stereotype that is an “anti-Semitic myth.” American media corporations and national politics are in fact totally corrupted by money and the control that it buys and not just on behalf of Israel. One would have to be blind not to recognize that fact.

This is where groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee better known as AIPAC come in. AIPAC is only one part of the octopus like Israel Lobby but it might well be regarded as the most effective component. AIPAC has an annual budget of $70 million and 200 full time employees. It has thousands of volunteers and tens of thousands of contributors and supporters, many of whom are in Washington right now. On Tuesday they will descend on Congressional offices to pressure congressmen to agree to conform to AIPAC talking points.

AIPAC, which is an IRS 501(c)4 lobbying organization, is able to keep its donor list secret. It characteristically operates in the shadows. It prepares position papers that are then distributed in congress and many congressmen, largely ignorant of the issues, parrot what AIPAC gives them. AIPAC operative Steve Rosen once boasted that he could have the signatures of seventy Senators on a napkin in twenty-four hours.

Congressmen know that crossing the Israeli Lobby is career damaging. Senators William Fulbright and Chuck Percy were among the first to feel its wrath when they were confronted by well-funded challengers backed by effective media campaigns who defeated them in spite of their own outstanding records as legislators. The founder of my own organization the Council for the National Interest Congressman Paul Findley also suffered the same fate when he fell afoul of the Lobby. Within the government the purge has also been widespread with the traditional Arabists at State Department forced out to be replaced by friends of Israel, many of whom have been political appointees rather than career diplomats.

There is no easy solution to what I have been telling you. Certainly a more honest media would produce American voters who are better informed, but even though AIPAC has long been defending the indefensible the corruption in Congress runs deep and it is difficult to find a constituency anywhere in the United States where it is possible to vote for a candidate who is not openly and enthusiastically supportive of the Israel relationship. In Virginia last year there were several important congressional elections. All the candidates were vetted for their views on Israel well before the voting took place.

But to return to AIPAC there should be demands that it and other similar Israel-advocacy organizations register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. That would require them to have complete transparency in terms of their funding and it would also tell the American people that the organizations themselves are not necessarily benign and acting on behalf of U.S. interests, which is the subterfuge that they currently engage in. It is certainly past time to push back against an organization that is brazenly promoting the interests of a foreign government at the expense of the American people. Thank you.

VIDEO: America Will Collapse By 2016

March 12th, 2015 by Global Research News

The US Patriot Act removes many of our liberties.

Nobody made a sound when we lost habeas corpus. 

No action on the part of the media. 

Now we have a totalitarian government.

We are totally policed.  

This is contrary to everything in our Constitution.

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A Jason A Video Production 

 

News 24 (SAPA), Mar 10, 2015: A total of 1232 deaths in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture over the past year were linked to the nuclear accident four years ago, up 18% from a year earlier, a news report said on Tuesday. A death is considered nuclear-related if is not directly resulting from a nuclear accident but is due from an illness caused by prolonged exposure. Namie town, close to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, had the largest number of deaths at 359, followed by 291 in Tomioka town, which is also near the complex, the Tokyo Shimbun reported.

ABC (Australia), Mar 11, 2014 (emphasis added): Radiation levels posing cancer risks… Before the disaster, there was just one to two cases of thyroid cancers in a million Japanese children but now Fukushima has more than 100 confirmed or suspected cases, having tested about 300,000 children… It is expected that thyroid cancers could turn up about four to five years after a nuclear disaster… [Megumi] Muto said her daughter and son, like many other children, had not been the same since experiencing the Fukushima fallout. “They had rashes on their bodies then nose bleeds. My son’s white cells have decreased and they both have incredible fatigue… both have multiple nodules around their thyroids. I’m really worried.”… Muto wanted to move her family out of Fukushima city but she said she could not afford to.

ABC (Australia) video transcript, Mar 11, 2014:

  • Headline: Fukushima residents have taken cancer and radiation testing into their own hands, saying authorities are lying to them about the safety of their community.
  • Matthew Carney, ABC correspondent: It’s a heartbreaking time for Megumi Muto. Her daughter is being tested to see if the lumps in her thyroid gland have grown… Megumi is convinced exposure to high radiation levels after the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns is the cause.
  • Megumi Muto, Fukushima mother (translated): I feel angry. I think the authorities hide the real dangers, and now many more children are being diagnosed.
  • Carney: Many residents in Fukushima don’t trust the government or TEPCO.
  • MutoSince the disaster my kids have been sick with nosebleeds, rashes and lethargy. Fukushima used to be a safe… area, but not now.

ABC (Australia) audio transcript, Mar 11, 2014:

  • Michael Brissenden, ABC: the issue of long term health implications like cancer are causing the greatest concern and controversy in Japan…
  • Matthew Carney, ABC correspondent: [Fukushima residents say the local and central] governments failed to protect the children. And they do not trust what the government or TEPCO… are telling them about radiation levels and safety. They’re conducting their own radiation tests and near this school in Fukushima City, the monitor reads 3 mircosieverts an hour. That’s about 100 times the rate of Tokyo.
  • Sumio Kunno, nuclear plant engineer: I have to investigate and inform the public of the facts… They’re still not decontaminating areas where children live or play.

TV broadcast here | Radio broadcast here

How The Guardian Told Me to Steer Clear of Palestine

March 12th, 2015 by David Cronin

Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian’s opinion editor, is an apologist for ethnic cleansing. (Chatham House/Flickr)

When I started out as a journalist in the 1980s, I asked an experienced Irish reporter for advice. “Read The Guardian,” he told me.

The message that there was no better newspaper had a lasting effect. For years, I wanted to write for The Guardian. Eventually, this desire was realized after I emailed the late Georgina Henry, then editor of its Comment is Free section, in 2007. Henry was immediately receptive to my idea of tackling the European Union from a critical, left-wing perspective.

I very much enjoyed contributing to The Guardian. Having previously worked for quite a stuffy publication, it felt liberating to be able to express opinions.

There was one issue, however, on which I felt my freedom curtailed: Palestine. AlthoughThe Guardian did publish a few of my articles denouncing Israeli atrocities, I began to encounter obstacles in 2009.

Sensitive

Early that year, I submitted an exposé of how the pro-Israel lobby operates in Brussels. While waiting to find out if the piece would be used, I phoned Matt Seaton, who had taken over as comment editor. We had a pleasant conversation but Seaton stressed that he regarded the subject as sensitive.

I, then, modified the piece to make its tone less polemical. Still, it was not published. (Seaton has subsequently moved to The New York Times.)

A few months later, I paid a visit to Gaza. From there, I contacted The Guardian to say that I had interviewed Sayed Abu Musameh, a founding member of Hamas.

Abu Musameh had expressed an interest in visiting Belfast to study how the Irish peace process worked. He had already held discussions with Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féinleader who had persuaded the Irish Republican Army to call a ceasefire.

Abu Musameh, I felt, was saying something that jarred with the official view of Hamas presented by Israel and its Western supporters. Far from being addicted to violence, he was eager to learn about what policy wonks call “conflict resolution.”

The Guardian was not keen to have me writing from Gaza. Brian Whitaker, a commissioning editor at the time, told me that its comment section received more submissions about Palestine than any other subject. Whitaker, ironically a Middle East specialist, effectively recommended that I stick to writing about the EU. (The recommendation was bizarre both because Palestine is a key issue for the EU and because I am one of the few journalists to examine the Union’s complicity in Israel’s crimes).

Frustration

I have decided to make my frustrating encounters with The Guardian public after reading the diatribe it published last week by Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to the UK. Taub uses a quote attributed to Golda Meir, Israel’s prime minister from 1969 to 1974, to hit back at aid agencies who accuse Israel of impeding Gaza’s reconstruction: “We will only have peace when our enemies love their children more than they hate ours.”

The inference that Palestinians hate Israelis more than they love their children is a racist caricature brilliantly demolished by Rafeef Ziadah in her poem “We teach life, Sir.” Yet, according to Taub, Meir’s words represent a “bitter truism.”

The Comment is Free section of The Guardian, where Taub’s nasty rant appears, is nowoverseen by Jonathan Freedland, a liberal Zionist. I contacted Freedland to enquire if he approved Taub’s article for publication.

Freedland referred my message to the paper’s “media enquiries” unit. A spokesperson, who did not give his or her name, replied by email that Comment is Free “hosts hundreds of discussions every month on a wide range of topics across the entire political and ideological spectrum.”

“We receive a huge amount of submissions for articles and aim to publish a plurality of voices from all over the world,” the spokesperson added. “Naturally, not all of these voices reflect The Guardian’s own editorial position.”

Apologist for ethnic cleansing

I am not in the least reassured by that response. Taub’s article was the second one published by The Guardian in as many months from a senior Israeli political or diplomatic figure. In February, the paper gave Yair Lapid, until recently Israel’s finance minister, a platform to describe calls for a cultural boycott of Israel as “shallow and lacking in coherence.”

Lapid’s view chimes with The Guardian’s “own editorial position,” to quote its anonymous spokesperson. While Israel was bombing Gaza last August, it ran a leaderaccusing London’s Tricycle Theatre of making a “bad error of judgment” in refusing to host a film festival sponsored by Israel.

As Ben White demonstrated in a trenchant 2014 analysis for Middle East Monitor, Jonathan Freedland is an apologist for ethnic cleansing. Freedland has tried to justify how “400 [Palestinian] villages” were “emptied” by Zionist forces in 1948 on the grounds that “the creation of a Jewish state was a moral necessity.”

If Freedland is prepared to defend Zionist war crimes, I guess it is not surprising that he is reserving space for naked Israeli propaganda in The Guardian’s comment section. While it is difficult to imagine that this bastion of liberalism would welcome openly racist submissions from far-right organizations like the British National Party or English Defence League, it is somehow acceptable for an Israeli diplomat to peddle bigotry against Palestinians.

Freedland has been tipped as a contender for The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, a post that is soon to be vacant.

In a perverse way, it might be a good thing if he gets the job. With Freedland at the helm, it would be easier to show how a supposedly progressive newspaper is in thrall to the toxic ideology of Zionism.

We have watched, even marveled at how the U.S. dollar has strengthened since last September.  All sorts of theories have been put forth as to “why”.  Some have proffered the dollar is the cleanest dirty shirt of the bunch.  Others believe the interest rate differential is kicking in where dollars at least have a positive interest rate versus negative rates elsewhere. 

Another theory and one which I have written about in the past and believe to be the main reason for dollar strength is the “margin call” aspect.  In other words, the “carry trade” which was used to leverage all sorts of trades is unwinding and dollars are needed to pay back the loans.  A synthetic dollar short being covered in other words.

 Looking back to my writing yesterday regarding the impossibility in my mind of the Fed actually raising rates, the strong dollar also supports this argument.  If the Fed were to raise rates, wouldn’t this exacerbate an already immense currency cross problem with (for) the rest of the world?  Wouldn’t higher U.S. rates explode the dollar higher (short term) versus foreign currencies?  The answer of course is yes, but with a stronger dollar comes other obvious problems.

The two biggest problems are

A.  we still have a trade deficit of close to $500 billion per year, a stronger dollar will only exacerbate this AND destroy what little manufacturing we have left.

B.  the very problems we just saw with a soaring Swiss franc will be seen in many multiples throughout the dollar lending market.

I might add, as the dollar moves higher and foreign currencies drop, more and much stronger inflation gets exported to foreign soil.  High and rising inflation and its effects on living standards and the human psyche will create massive unrest across Europe and elsewhere.

  This last point is an important one, foreigners who have borrowed in dollars have already seen their “loan balance” expand because the dollars cost more to pay back.  Higher U.S. interest rates will only make matters worse.  The strong dollar has had the effect of slowing the global economy as companies (and individuals) are cutting back (employment and consumption) to make ends meet.

The above is only half of the equation, the other half is described by Alan Greenspan himself.  I personally watched Mr. Greenspan speak in New Orleans last October.  He used the word “tinder” http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-09/alan-greenspan-warns-explosive-inflation-tinderbox-looking-spark  for a coming inflation several times and spoke of the money supply and reserves of dollars that have been created and parked away on bank balance sheets.  I could only think back to the Texas wildfire as he spoke of “tinder”.  The amount of dollars created is like some nutcase piling dry leaves, branches and dead trees in a huge pile, then pouring gasoline on it …and thinking to himself, “this will keep me warm in winter”.  In other words, the “fuel” is there and has already been created for a bonfire of inflation and the financial system blowing up on itself.  But don’t worry, it will never catch fire?

  Tying these two phenomena together, not enough dollars, yet too many, here is the likely scenario I can see unfolding.

The stronger dollar is putting pressure on the financial system all over the world, something (someone), somewhere is going to “fail”.  Our financial system is so interconnected and over levered, it will only take one strategic institution’s failure to break the derivatives daisy chain.

Let’s call this the “spark”.  This spark causes further failures which I am convinced will circle the globe in less than two days.  The forest (economy and financial system) is very dry (weak, fragile), any spark (failure) will create an out of control forest fire which will not be put out until all the fuel is burned and blackened.

 Please remember this, the dollar (and Treasuries) are now “backed” by the full faith and credit of the United States.  This was not the case back in the 1930′s, dollars were backed by gold.  The Treasury did not have enough gold to back all of the dollars but for a very large percentage of those outstanding.  This is not even close to the case today.  It remains to be seen if there is any gold at all left but, assuming the gold is left untouched, gold would need to be priced at $100,000+ per ounce to cover our debt and money supply.  I bring this up because ”gold will still be gold” no matter what happens financially.   Hold this thought, it ties in with the final logic.

The stronger dollar is beginning to cause stress both financially and economically.  It is not “official” yet but even with bogus reporting, the West is already in  recession while the East is markedly slowing down.  This brings up a few questions.  With a slowing or declining economy, will the Treasury have the tax revenues to pay total interest and support all of the other largesse?

Of course not, we will just borrow whatever is necessary to keep going on down the road.

 What about higher interest rates, will this exacerbate the problem?

Of course.  Tax revenues will drop, “benefits” or spending will rise as will the deficit…and now the federal debt is almost double what it was last time around in 2008.  Do you see where this leads?  Is the “issuer” of dollars stronger, or weaker than it was in 2008?  It’s OK, you can admit it.  Weaker.  In this scenario where a higher dollar (the spark) puts so much pressure on financial counterparties who are short the dollar, what will be the Feds reaction to derivatives or other sovereign currency crises?  Does the Fed have to quintuple their balance sheet again?  Or the federal debt double again?  Or will another secret $16 trillion or a multiple thereof be lent out all over the world by necessity?

 Looking at this in the real world, there have already been many markets thrown into upheaval.  The two most important being the FOREX crosses and the oil market.  Oil without a doubt is the largest and most all encompassing market on the planet with the exception of dollars themselves.  Oil has crashed well over 50% in less than 6 months, dollars have risen 25% over this time frame.

Do you think that these percentages when applied to $10′s of trillions might add up to a tad more than a tidy sum?  Remember, derivatives is a zero sum game so anything “won” is also “lost”.  I believe the spark has already created a fire behind the scenes and some have already been consumed and are dead, but hidden.  Can I know this for sure?  No, but common sense and the amounts involved tell me this is 100% dead on! And there you have it folks, there are too may dollars outstanding …which were created by too much borrowing of dollars …  This pushed asset values higher until the world reached debt saturation and led to assets being sold to pay back the debt, asset prices dropped which is causing a global margin call…this synthetic short has created dollar demand to pay these dollars back.  In essence creating a dollar shortage.  Are you still with me after that long and horrible string of sentences?

If you are, then here we are …facing the global margin call which can ONLY be met by central banks printing more dollars, euros, yen etc. because liquidity is again drying up.  The alternative of course is to let the margin call run its course and take all banks, brokers and insurance companies down.  Oh yes, don’t forget the sovereign treasuries and central banks themselves.  It is the solvency of these institution that will ultimately be challenged.

And no, I didn’t forget I told you to “hold that thought” for the end.   What I have described to you is the world running around and fetching as much wood and pouring as much gasoline on the pile as possible.  The thought is this, without a spark this is harmless right?   Without going into static electricity, spontaneous combustion, a “gun” or even a BIC lighter for that matter, is it even sane?  Gold and silver do not and will not burn.

Whether it be a wildfire, a derivatives core meltdown, or even a central bank (like the Fed) or a sovereign treasury going upside down, gold will remain money and remain the benchmark against which currencies are measured.  Fiat currencies by definition are “terminal” at their inception.  The “deflation/inflation” debate is a moot point unless argued in terms of real money.

La «saggia leadership» di Petro

March 12th, 2015 by Manlio Dinucci

A Kiev il premier Renzi ha lodato la «leadership saggia»  del presidente Poroshenko, da lui confidenzialmente chiamato Petro. E l’amico Petro gli ha assicurato che gli imprenditori italiani potranno partecipare agli ulteriori processi di privatizzazione in Ucraina (delocalizzando così altre attività produttive a scapito dell’occupazione in Italia). Di privatizzazioni Poroshenko se ne intende: negli anni Novanta, con lo smantellamento dell’economia socialista, ottiene a prezzi stracciati o gratis la proprietà di diverse industrie dolciarie già statali, divenendo il «re del cioccolato». Estende quindi il suo impero all’industria automobilistica, alla cantieristica e ai media (è proprietario dell’influente Canale 5). Dopo essere stato il principale sostenitore della «rivoluzione arancione» del 2004, ministro degli esteri con la Tymoshenko e del commercio con Yanukovic, sostiene e finanzia il movimento EuroMaidan, nato nel novembre 2013 come protesta al rifiuto del presidente Yanukovic di firmare gli accordi di associazione con l’Unione europea, e trasformatosi in un vero e proprio putsch che rovescia il presidente nel febbraio 2014. Usando quale forza d’assalto, sotto regia Usa/Nato, militanti neonazisti appositamente armati e addestrati, come prova tra l’altro una documentazione fotografica di giovani di Uno-Unso addestrati nel 2006 in Estonia da istruttori Nato. Subito dopo, nel marzo 2014, le formazioni neonaziste vengono incorporate nella Guardia nazionale. Su questa scia diviene presidente della repubblica, nel maggio 2014, l’oligarca Poroshenko appoggiato da Washington e Bruxelles  («saggia scelta», commenta Obama). Sotto la sua presidenza, i battaglioni neonazisti – come l’Azov, l’Aidar, il Dnepr – che costituiscono la forza d’urto della Guardia nazionale, compiono atrocità, ampiamente documentate da video e testimonianze, contro i civili di nazionalità russa nell’Ucraina orientale. Gli stessi battaglioni vengono oggi addestrati da centinaia di istruttori Usa della 173a divisione aviotrasportata, trasferiti da Vicenza in Ucraina dove resteranno almeno sei mesi, affiancati da britannici e altri della Nato. Ben sapendo, a Washington e Bruxelles, che questi battaglioni hanno una chiara ideologia nazista. L’emblema del battaglione Azov, che opera sotto l’egida del ministero dell’interno ucraino, è lo stesso (rappresentato in modo speculare) della divisione delle SS Das Reich della Germania nazista. Mentre in tuta mimetica passa in rassegna i battaglioni che si ispirano  all’ideologia nazista, il presidente Poroshenko si muove per mettere fuorilegge l’ideologia comunista.  Dal Canale 5 di Poroshenko, il ministro della giustizia Pavel Petrenko ha annunciato il 3 marzo la presentazione di un progetto di legge che proibisce l’ideologia comunista, in linea con leggi analoghe in vigore in Polonia e nella Repubblica Ceca. La legge, che prevede il divieto di qualsiasi simbolo e propaganda comunista, metterebbe automaticamente fuorilegge il Partito comunista di Ucraina.  Per la sua messa al bando è già stato avviato un procedimento giudiziario, inceppatosi quando lo scorso febbraio è stato bloccato dai giudici di una corte di Kiev. Nel frattempo, però, è stato imposto lo scioglimento del gruppo comunista in parlamento e oltre 300 membri del partito sono stati incriminati, mentre molti altri vengono sottoposti a violenze e intimidazioni. Sotto la presidenza di Petro, che l’amico Matteo ha invitato a Roma. Dove c’è un giornale, il manifesto, che se fosse a Kiev rischierebbe di sparire non per ragioni economiche, ma perché si definisce  «quotidiano comunista».

Manlio Dinucci

 

Is ‘Sustainable Beef’ an Oxymoron?

March 12th, 2015 by Lorraine Chow

Walmart, Cargill, Tyson, McDonald’s and other beef industry stakeholders joined a sustainable beef roundtable, but is it all for show? Photo credit: Shutterstock

In the face sagging beef sales, a slew of U.S. beef industry stakeholders have formed the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) to figure out how to source beef that’s, well, more “sustainable.”

And although the USRSB’s intentions might be good, Americans can’t have their steak and eat it, too. That’s because the vast amount of resources it takes to produce enough beef for the country on a commercial scale will never be truly be sustainable.

A total of 43 participants make up the roundtable, including McDonald’s, Walmart, Cargill and Tyson Foods Inc., environmental groups World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy, as well as producers, processors, foodservice operators, packers and allied industry in the U.S. beef value chain. According to an announcement made last week, the roundtable’s mission is to “advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in U.S. beef sustainability through leadership, innovation, multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration.”

Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, vice president of Cargill Value Added Meats and interim chair of USRSB acknowledged, “Research tells us American consumers are increasingly interested in the social, economic and environmental impacts of the beef they purchase.” The diverse groups are coming together to “establish metrics and criteria that will be used to benchmark the present and help measure improvements in the sustainability of American beef going forward,” she added.

The organizations have yet to hammer out concrete policies, but is the USRSB just trying to make Americans (who eat more beef than any other country) feel less guilty about buying Big Macs or supermarket steaks? The USRSB’s release clearly states that the group will follow the same vague definition for “sustainable beef” as set by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), a similar multinational beef industry stakeholder group.

Here’s why that’s a little eyebrow raising. Last November, the GRSB organized a sustainable beef summit in San Paolo and released a large report called the Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef that put forth their sustainability goals for the global beef chain.

Although it was a step in the right direction, the report was deemed as “greenwashing” in ascathing letter signed by nearly two dozen leading NGOs, including Friends of the Earth,Animal Welfare ApprovedFood & Water Watch and more. These organizations (and many others) slammed the GRSB primarily for failing to “address misuse of antibiotics or establish meaningful standards for workers’ rights, animal welfare or environmental performance.” A different letter from the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy called the GRSB report as “nothing more than an attempt to pass off ‘business as usual’ farming as ‘sustainable.’”

At the moment, it looks like the USRSB is headed down a similar path as its global counterpart. Their press release states in lofty language, “the USRSB will develop sustainability indicators relevant to the various beef systems in the United States, as well as a means to verify sustainable progress in a transparent manner that can be shared.” But, it also noted, “similar to GRSB, the USRSB will not mandate standards or verify the performance of individual beef value chain participants.” Although the USRSB is still in its early stages, mandating production standards and verification of its members is critical to sustainable beef production.

It goes without saying that major regulations are needed to reign in commercial beef. The meat is, by far, the worst meat for the environment. We’ve mentioned before that agriculture accounts for about 6 percent of total U.S. global warming emissions, and beef production alone accounts for 2.2 percent of the total, roughly equivalent to the emissions from 33 average-sized coal-fired power plants. Additionally, beef cattle and stored cattle manure also are responsible for 18 percent of U.S. methane emissions, which have nearly 25 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Alongside the health concerns of red meat (including coronary heart disease and breast, colon and prostate cancer), particularly alarming is the practice of feeding antibiotics to prevent disease in healthy animals. In fact, roughly 80 percent of antibiotics purchased in the U.S. are fed to livestock, spawning a superbug crisis, which can spread in the environment, contaminate food supplies and undermine the effectiveness of antibiotics. In fact, superbugs have been linked to 23,000 human deaths and 2 million illnesses annually in the U.S., costing the American health care system $20 billion in direct costs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week, McDonald’s (which already pledged to buy sustainable beef by 2016 before joining the USRSB) announced that they were no longer using human antibiotics in chickens out of superbug fears. However, many critics noticed that the fast food chain did not rule out using the drugs in beef or pork. Perhaps, as Reuters pointed out, the reasoning is that ethically raised or antibiotic-free beef is already in short supply and can be difficult to obtain. Chipotle and CKE Restaurants have to go as far as Australia to find their antibiotic-free beef. Brad Haley, CKE’s chief marketing officer, told the news organization, “I don’t think there’s enough for sizeable chains to move over in the immediate future.” He added, “there simply isn’t enough all-natural beef.”

Besides skimming over environmental and health concerns, the USRSB’s announcement made no indication that they will be examining the cruel and unsustainable methods of factory farming. Unless they are grass-fed and raised on pastures, much of the beef that ends up on our plates come from feedlot cattle that spend their brief lives in crammed into feedlots eating genetically modified corn and soybeans.

This multi-stakeholder roundtable will have input from many of its members, including environmental organizations that will hopefully put the pressure on Big Beef. “By 2050, more than 9 billion people will consume twice as much food as we do today,” said WWF senior program officer Nancy Labbe in the release. “We are excited to be part of this important step toward balancing social, economic and environmental demands to feed a growing world while conserving natural resources, reducing waste and preserving biodiversity.”

Other environmental advocates are eager to see what policies the USRSB will come up with. “First off, it’s great that all these players are coming together and talking about solutions,” Jonathan Gelbard, sustainable livestock specialist with the National Resource Defense Council, told GreenBiz. “But if what they do is not credible and does not effectively address what the science clearly identifies, people are going to be watching.”

Several major international agreements are under negotiation which would greatly empower multinational corporations and the World Economic Forum is promoting a new model of global governance that creates a hybrid government-corporate structure. Humankind is proceeding on a path to global corporate rule where transnational corporations would not just influence public policy, they would write the policies and vote on them. The power of nation-states and people to determine their futures would be weakened in a system of corporate rule. 

The Obama administration has been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) over the past five years is currently pushing Congress to pass trade promotion authority (known as fast track) which would allow him to sign these agreements before they go to Congress. Then Congress would have a limited time to read thousands of pages of technical legal language, debate the contents and be banned from making amendments.

Fast track would drive us down a dangerous path. The TPP and TTIP have been negotiated with unprecedented secrecy. For the first time texts of international agreements have been classified so that members of Congress have had very limited access and are not able to discuss what they’ve read. These are more than trade agreements. The portions that have been leaked show that they will affect everything that we care about from the food we eat to the jobs we have to the health of the planet. The fast track legislation could last seven years, meaning that more agreements could be rushed through Congress without open consideration of their potential impacts, cementing corporate rule.

Given the harm that has already been done to economies, human rights and the environment by neo-liberal economic systems required by the World Trade Organization and ‘free’ trade agreements such as NAFTA; this is not the time to be rushing into new agreements or to cede our power to write the future of the planet.

We are in the midst of a critical political conflict over the future of global governance. Do we want to be ruled by corporations or ruled democratically? This not the time to fast track , it is the time to step back and re-think how to conduct global trade and manage the global economy to prevent further exploitation and harm.

Twenty Years of Experience: Lost Jobs, Trade Deficits and Increased Inequality

Globalization was initiated in its current form by President Bill Clinton when he signed NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO). NAFTA came into force on January 1, 1994 and the WTO became law on January 1, 1995. Modern trade agreements have had serious negative effects on the US economy. Reuters reports:

“Since the pacts were implemented, U.S. trade deficits, which drag down economic growth, have soared more than 430 percent with our free-trade partners. In the same period, they’ve declined 11 percent with countries that are not free-trade partners. Since fast-track trade authority was used to pass NAFTA and the U.S. entrance into the World Trade Organization, the overall annual U.S. trade deficit in goods has more than quadrupled, from $218 billion to $912 billion.”

Trade agreements have also undermined jobs in the United States. Reuters continues: “Nearly 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs — one in four — have been lost since NAFTA and the various post-NAFTA expansion deals were enacted through fast track.” And, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports: 3 out of 5 displaced workers who found a job are earning less money and one-third took a pay cut of 20% or more.

These are just two examples of many of the negative economic impacts. The impacts in other countries are also negative. The only beneficiaries are trans-national mega corporations which desire to move capital and businesses across borders without restrictions. Trade agreements consistently expand the wealth divide and increase income inequality as transnational corporations seek lower wages and costs in order to increase profits.

The current global economic system is unstable because of the connections between global trade and global financial markets. Interconnectedness and a lack of regulation of finance created a cascading worldwide impact during the 2008 financial crisis. Around the world, this has led to tremendous economic dislocation and revolts against the unfair economy and the financial institutions and governments that are responsible.

With this record it is not time to fast track more of the same rigged corporate agreements through Congress; it is time to stop and ask: How can global trade be made to work for everyone?

At a Crossroads in Global Governance

The economic crash raised doubts about whether international governmental institutions can handle the globalized economy. It resulted in calls for transformation of the government and economy from both grass roots revolts protesting lost jobs, lower incomes, austerity, corruption and an unfair economy as well as from corporate elites.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) began a Global Redesign Initiative (GRI) as a result of the 2008 economic crash (GRI is bankrolled mainly by Qatar).  WEF participants saw globalization threatened because there has been a loss of legitimacy and ineffectiveness of global governance: Too many countries, organizations and people were openly critical of globalization and multinational banking.  The WEF blames nation-states, the United Nations and groups like the G-8 for failing to respond appropriately to the economic crisis. In an analysis of the GRI, the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Boston writes:

“WEF is concerned that such widespread public skepticism can lead to widespread doubt about the underlying principles of the global system. They recognize that when corporate leaders are seen as lacking morals, it does not take much for the institutions of globalization to be seen as immoral. In this situation, it would become harder and harder for the G20, for the IMF, or for individual corporate spokespersons to command respect and effective leadership on global matters of concern to the Davos community. They know that it would be increasingly problematic if important messages from the world’s elite leaders were ignored by large communities of people around the world.”

To save globalization the WEF believes governance must be redesigned. David Sogge describes their view in “Davos Man”: “When it comes to tackling global problems, nation-states and their public politics are not up to the job. Their old, run-down institutions should be re-fitted …” The WEF solution is a greater role for multi-national corporations in decision making and the weakening of nation-states. They want the UN remade into a hybrid corporate-government entity, where corporations are part of decision-making. The goal is to end nation-centric decision making and include corporations as decision makers.

The WEF points to how trade rules have stalled in the WTO as an example of the failure of nation-state governance. They believe by making corporations partners in decision making the ‘can do’ attitude of business will push these rules forward where the ‘failure mentality’ of the state-centric system stalls trade rules.  From the perspective of people’s movements, this is an example of why we do not want corporations to replace nations as decision makers.

The WTO has been stalled because their rules are opposed by people around the globe. There have been massive protests at their negotiations because, for example, international trade agreements (misnamed “free” trade, really rigged trade for transnational corporations) have had a devastating impact on agriculture by destroying traditional farming, forcing farmers into cities and creating a downward depression of wages. Social movements oppose policies that promote private profit over public necessities.  A growing worldwide movement led by communities most affected by globalization seeks another direction.

In light of the failure of the WTO, the elite’s push toward global corporate rule is now being codified into law through international agreements like the TPP and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Under these agreements corporate sovereignty will increase while the sovereignty of governments shrinks and people lose their ability to influence public policy. These corporate trade agreements will create a series of laws designed to aid corporate profits over the health, safety, income and well-being of most people and further undermine the already at-risk ecology of the planet.

National and local laws will be required to be rewritten to be consistent with trade agreements negotiated in secret. This “harmonization” will require a new bureaucracy to review all laws and regulations for consistency.

The profits of transnational corporations will become so important that governments can be sued if their laws to protect public health, safety or the planet interfere with expected profits. The cases will be heard in special trade tribunals, staffed mainly by corporate lawyers on leave from their corporate jobs. Their decisions cannot be appealed to any other courts. This makes the public interest secondary to the market interests of big business.

The WEF sees itself as the model for future governance writing “The time has come for a new stakeholder paradigm of international governance analogous to that embodied in the stakeholder theory of corporate governance on which the World Economic Forum itself was founded.” The Center for Governance and Sustainability describes this in the context of the UN:

“This integration of global executives with UN diplomats and civil servants was seen as a way to rejuvenate the acceptance of globalization. The thinking is that, if globalization leaders were more involved in the policy development and program implementation of the UN, then organizations and peoples throughout the world may well look more favorably on the legitimacy of their combined efforts.”

People will react in horror to the dystopian idea of the UN becoming a corporate-government hybrid. People already see corporations wielding too much influence at the UN and within nations. The WEF approach will inflate corporate power, creating a corporate neo-feudalism that will kill democracy and the body politic.

How did the WEF arrive at this proposal that so narrowly focuses on building the power of corporations, while weakening national sovereignty? The Center for Global Governance and Sustainability describes the process:

“A key constraint for the broad acceptability of WEF’s new system is the narrow band of experts they convened to develop their proposals. WEF did not call openly for proposals. It did not invite a number of key international constituencies to participate in the process. And it did not even establish a website for public comments. WEF selected its friends to work on its Global Redesign Initiative. Over 50% of WEF’s experts were working in the US while advising World Economic Forum on this project, hardly an indication of a geographically well balanced team. Even though GRI’s finances came heavily from non-OECD countries, only 2% of its experts were working in developing countries at the time. Of WEF’s friends, only 17% were women. This narrow base has serious consequences. It undermines the WEF claims that it truly understands a multi-polar world and that it has the ability to pick the global leaders of today and tomorrow.”

This process is exactly what must be avoided in the debate on global trade and why we mustn’t allow new agreements to be fast tracked through Congress. The current system has already been too dominated by the interests of multi-national corporations and has excluded the voices of those who are harmed by its impacts.

We need a broader debate on how globalization should be handled. What is the role of transnational corporations? How can transnational corporations with larger wealth than some nations be regulated? How do we ensure the planet’s ecology is protected at this critical time of the climate change tipping point, mass species die-off, oceans under severe stress, depleting aquifers, floods and increasing desertification? How do we shrink the wealth divide that is impacting almost every country, creating widespread poverty and strife?

Twenty years into modern corporate globalization, we need to stop, think, discuss and debate, not blindly fast track more of the same failed system. Fast track would permit presidents to approve secretly negotiated trade agreements and rush them through Congress without transparency, public participation or real congressional review for the next seven years. This is the opposite of is needed.

Similar Rhetoric, Different Visions for the Future

There is a shared frustration in the global community with the inability of governments and international organizations to respond to the global financial crisis. The United Nations has shortcomings. As the Center got Global Governance and Sustainability puts it:

“Some are frustrated with the international system because urgent state functions in the international arena are not solved by the UN system. There are wars and the UN cannot stop them. There are major ecological catastrophes and the international system cannot get relief supplies into the affected areas fast enough. There are starving people in Africa and the IGOs do not prevent their unnecessary deaths.”

The WEF uses language very similar to what social movements use. For example, the WEF claims it seeks “bottom-up” decision-making, but does not define what that would look like. For social movements, this means less hierarchy, public participation, transparency, democracy and governments listening to the people at the bottom, rather than taking their cue from the elites at the top.

The WEF promotes a philosophy couched in the concept of “multi-stakeholderism,” another idea consistent with the view of social movements that the world is not unipolar, it has many actors.  The WEF uses this concept to give transnational corporations, undemocratic non-state actors, decision-making power, while social movements see big business already having too much influence.

Multi-national corporations wield great influence over the global economy. They decide the distribution of vital necessities, e.g. the prices and quantities of food and medicine, how much workers will be paid as well as the distribution of wealth and the selection of products to be manufactured and where. Control of international markets is more in the decision-making power of transnational corporations than of governments. WEF sees this as a reason to formalize the decision making power of transnational corporations, making them part of government, while people’s movements see a need to expand public participation in government to act in the public interest rather than the private interest for commercial profit.

Which Path Forward? What You Can Do

David Sogge writes in the “State of Davos” that “By custom and by law, the formal management of international affairs is a matter for sovereign nations and their representatives.” He points out “the UN Charter begins with ‘We the peoples’ and affirms the ‘equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.’”

As globalization begins its third decade, the question before us is, do we want corporate rule or people’s rule? Is the wealth of a few more important than human rights?  What can be done to empower people? Should the nation-state become a thing of the past and corporate sovereignty reign, or is there another path? This is a debate that cannot be fast tracked; it must be brought into the open before trade agreements cement corporate rule for decades to come.

We urge people to put their effort into stopping fast track legislation in Congress. This will not be easy because it is high on the president’s agenda, many pro-business legislators and entities like the Chamber of Congress. It can only be stopped if people work together persistently to oppose it. Get involved here.

We expect that as fast track legislation moves through Congress, the White House and corporate lobbyists will inundate members of Congress with promises in exchange for votes. In the past, votes were held open past the legal time limit as members of Congress were picked off one by one until there were enough votes to pass.

We need to maintain persistent pressure on Congress to oppose fast track. When we stop fast track, there should be a broad discussion of our vision for a globalized world structured to support universal human rights and protection of the planet.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers co-direct Popular Resistance and have been working to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the fast tracking of trade agreements in a three year campaign.

Common wisdom has China as the future model for the Globalist economy. Also, conventional thinking has the Western financial debt created money system as the backbone of the New World Order. The big question is, are both components of the same intentional plan? When China Has Announced Plans For A ‘World Currency’, the world is put on notice that a fundamental shift is about to take place.

What you are about to see is rather startling, but it shouldn’t be a surprise.  When it comes to economics and finance, the Chinese have always been playing chess while the western world has been playing checkers.  Sadly, we have gotten to the point where checkmate is on the horizon.

The following comes from CNBC …

The tightly controlled Chinese yuan will eventually supersede the dollar as the top international reserve currency, according to a new poll of institutional investors.

The survey of 200 institutional investors – 100 headquartered in mainland China and 100 outside of it – published by State Street and the Economist Intelligence Unit on Thursday found 53 percent of investors think the renminbi will surpass the U.S. dollar as the world’s major reserve currency.

Optimism was higher within China, where 62 percent said they saw a redback world on the horizon, compared with 43 percent outside China.”

Before the celebration begins that the game is up for the Federal Reserve mastery from the days of the Bretton Woods Conference, look a little closer. While gold and its fixed price were instrumental to that monitory standard, the freeing from fixed rates has generated the madness of floating currency speculation that now dominates the financial markets.

The cunning and patient Chinese built their export economy on cheap priced goods into their importing customer economies. Saving is a noble objective in the East, while going into debt is the hallmark of Western practices. The Chinese have applied their huge balance of trade surpluses to buying up commodities. Most notable is gold.

The article, Could China actually have 30,000 tonnes of gold in reserves? Makes the strongest argument that China is poised to become the new superior currency is based upon the potential of establishing a convertible relationship between the renminbi and bullion.

“China has much more gold than it is allowing the world to see. As Alasdair Macleod, probably the world’s number one analyst of the gold market, wrote that between 1983 and 2002 China probably accumulated 25,000 tons of gold. Thus, its current gold holdings are probably north of 30,000 tons in contrast to the USA which has either sold or leased most of its gold.”  Now this statement coming from one of the usual gold megabulls might be ignorable, but Hunt does not fall into this category and has a good track record of insights into China’s strategic initiatives as far as metals and minerals are concerned.”

Before the rush to the door to dump your U.S. Dollars for whatever store of wealth one believes will maintain its purchasing value, consider what the voice of the global financial establishment, the IMF says. Stating the outlook from the central Bankster’s perspective in, Will the Renminbi Rule?, the message is that paper money, burdened by debt, is still firmly in place.

“Given China’s size and growth prospects, it is widely seen as inevitable that the renminbi will eventually become a reserve currency. To gauge the likelihood and timing, it is necessary to consider the typical attributes of a reserve currency and evaluate China’s progress in each of these dimensions. The factors that generally affect a currency’s reserve status includes:

• Economic size

• Macroeconomic policies

• Flexible exchange rate

• Open capital account

• Financial market development

The IMF concludes:

“The renminbi is unlikely to become a prominent reserve currency—let alone challenge the dollar’s dominance—unless it can be freely converted and China adopts an open capital account.”

Now for anyone even remotely schooled in the manners and maturations of the financial elites, turning the other cheek to a pretender, is not in the lesson book.

Investment manager, Richard Harris offers in a report, Time to create new Chinese-Hong Kong dollar, an interesting possibility.

“The HK dollar itself is a dead unit having been pegged first to the pound and later to the US dollar, with the current rate fixed in 1983. The prevailing view about depegging is that it would be too dangerous. The unit only floated for a relatively short period from 1974-1983 and, I recall, without much confidence in its success.

The obvious answer is to combine the dead HK dollar with the embryonic CNH. This would be a completely independent, floating currency. The CNY would be used for current account transactions such as exports and imports, whilst the new “Chinese Dollar” (HKD/CNH combined) would cater for capital account financial transactions.”

Keeping paper money in place as the international medium of exchange is fundamental to the New World Order. While China may never implement an actual redemption of gold for their renminbi, there is a real possibility that some gold weighted backing for Chinese paper instruments could be introduced.

The U.S. Dollar maintains illusionary worth, only because the central bankers are all in with their dollar dominated derivatives. Moreover, the Chinese are very much dependent upon their exports to keep their economy going. Settlement in Federal Reserve notes is crucial for the American system to keep buying from overseas.

Just the mere threat of payment in the renminbi for all the Chinese goods that Walmart imports     could be devastating. Allowing for a gradual transition into a semi-reserve renminbi status keeps the Bankster’s game going.

The prudent analysis suggests that the NWO created China’s emergence into an economic power through off-shoring domestic industries in their subject countries. Nonetheless, the international cabal is not about to starve their interest paying indebted nations by letting the Chinese accumulate even greater cash reserves.

Expect a downturn in China’s prospects, as soon as any ascendency for their currency begins gaining a reserve acceptance.

James Hall – March 11, 2015

 

Loving the Lens: ‘American Sniper’ as Movie and Event

March 12th, 2015 by Hosam Aboul-Ela

American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood. USA, 2014.

There is a lull at the moment in the clamor around Clint Eastwood’s controversial film American Sniper, as award season ends and the movie’s powerful box office stamina pushes the DVD release into the summer. This moment perhaps offers an opportunity to consider what—if anything—might or should be said about it as a piece of cinema.

Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper in the title role, has to have been the most written about movie in the United States over the winter months, scoring the hat-trick with its critical success, box office wallop (the first American film about the invasion of Iraq to achieve such success), and political controversy. There is an obvious and important feature of it as a film, however, that no writer has chosen to dwell upon to date: American Sniper may be the most scopophilic feature film ever produced.

“Scopophilia” is a term borrowed from Freud and applied to golden age cinema in a groundbreaking essay written by Laura Mulvey in 1975. Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” is famous as the essay that first introduced that now widely recognized analytical category of the “male gaze.” But the essay also explains how scopophilia, or pleasure in looking, takes on a special significance in classical Hollywood aesthetics. The camera’s ability to create from the composite parts of the female body an object that the viewer can vicariously master is a foundation stone of this cinema’s appeal. Through this process, commercial cinema reinforces woman’s position as “bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.”[1] Mulvey’s examples include films by Hitchcock and other important directors from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, but American Sniper is a contemporary work that seems to go far beyond these older examples in its open willingness to fetishize the gaze. For over two hours, the camera repeatedly switches from shots of Cooper looking through a scope, to shots of what he sees through that lens. Usually what he sees are working and middle class Iraqis who—for the purposes of the film—have no voice and no existence outside his crosshairs.

In the film’s opening scene, Cooper is looking through a scope on his weapon from a rooftop in Iraq. He has detected a woman and her young son walking out of a residence showing evidence of readiness to carry out a suicide mission against American soldiers. The child is carrying an explosive, but only the American sniper has noticed. Soon, we will learn that in this moment of crisis, the sniper acts decisively, killing not only the boy, but also the mother, just before their clandestine weapon explodes. But the climax of this scene comes only later in the film. At the beginning, the scene cuts to a flashback of a young Chris Kyle hunting with his father in west Texas. This flashback includes a direct quotation of the first important and broadly successful American film about the Vietnam war: Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978). Like so many of the important movies about American involvement in Vietnam, American Sniper subsequently makes the home front and the American point of view—the American lens, if you will—its foundation for treating the material. The narrative cuts back and forth repeatedly from life at home in the US with its big screen televisions, cases of Lone Star, romances, and family environments, to the dusty, bullet-ridden streets of Iraqi cities, ruled masterfully by a masculine tribe of American military comrades in arms.

Within the frame of these two incommensurable settings, the plot that evolves is Kyle’s odyssey, from a directionless rodeo cowboy to a legendary war hero, a transformation that he only makes through a series of steps toward his own growth. First, he commits to a military life after watching live television footage of the Nairobi and 9/11 bombings, then makes a challenging love affair with a beautiful, good-hearted woman work as a military marriage, and finally finds meaning in life through devoting time to supporting fellow veterans when not in country.

The scenes in Iraq also manage to generate their own story lines. There is the competition between Iraqi insurgents and American forces to see who can kill the other group’s most prized combatant. Kyle comes to learn there is an Iraqi bounty on his head, even as he throws himself into more and more dogged pursuit of his Arab counterpart, a sniper named Mustafa, who is said to have medaled at the Olympics in sharp shooting. Finally, there is one other through line that the plot traces: the smoldering that unsettles the American sniper as he wracks up more and more kills. Although he doggedly refuses to voice any second thoughts about his actions, ultraverbal cues plant in the viewer the idea of a psychological cost to this lethal profession.

On this final point, reviewers have praised Bradley Cooper’s intensity in his role as Kyle, marveling at the way he manages to suggest both internal complexity and outward certainty. The lens plays a crucial role here, as the viewer is allowed to look at him in every scene and see what he sees over and over again—a strategy that centers the drama and allows meaning to be created almost exclusively through this one individual. Cooper’s performance is certainly in contrast to the almost goofy exuberance of his star turns in the recent films Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.

An answer to the question of how this particular film about the US invasion managed to attract viewers where no others have might be found in the way it keeps it simple and stupid. Rather than innovating or attempting auteur touches, the film falls back on classic, commercial aesthetic strategies. Not only does it borrow from some of the more successful Vietnam films, it also creates a hero who belongs in the middle of a Hollywood golden era piece. In other words, the lead performance is as much Gary Cooper as Bradley Cooper. Bradley here has transformed himself by channeling the storied American male hero tradition. The guy who says little, expressing emotion through a cocked eyebrow or a smirk, but acts decisively. In the golden age, this was Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, and Alan Ladd (who also blows away a rival gunman wearing a black hat at the end of 1951′s Shane). Clint Eastwood, the film’s director, channeled this masculinist Hollywood tradition in his youth to create the man with no name in the Sergio Leone westerns—and that other ballistically righteous enforcer, Dirty Harry. To drive home the connection between this lineage of hero types, Bradley Cooper has said in interviews that he used Eastwood as a model for his character, since he only met Kyle once before the latter was killed as filming started.

Of course, it is difficult to sustain an entire essay about American Sniper, the film, and never mention the phenomenon that was the film’s reception. The film both drew at the box office and polarized critics and commentators. By the end of this frenzy, the most common article about American Sniper was neither a patriotic celebration, nor a challenging critique. Increasingly, the consensus of the award season comments and reviews boiled down to a third response that could be summarized as: “I was against the war, but liked the movie,” a superior stance voiced repeatedly in US liberal elite media, including National Public Radio and the New York Times. Part of what makes this disturbing and arrogant position possible is the film’s scopophilia.

To illustrate, in a late scene that tries to capture Kyle’s evolution, he finds himself yet again looking through his lens at a young Iraqi boy who has picked up a rocket propelled grenade launcher left in the street by a fallen insurgent. As with the opening, the American sniper again finds himself having to weigh the morality of blowing away a young Arab boy carrying a weapon. But this time, he does not pull the trigger, and the boy drops the weapon and runs off, neither firing the shot, nor realizing how close he has come to being executed by Kyle. The moment leaves Kyle breathless, and not long afterwards, he retires from the military.

Such instances telescope all other realities associated with the invasion: there are no trumped up accusations of WMDs and al-Qaeda connections, no diverse communities within Iraq, no disastrous aftermath of the war. There is only a taciturn and heroic American on a rooftop struggling with himself. Still, in this moment, the scope’s frame can barely contain its narrative structure, with the result that some viewers will surely wonder what sorts of indignities and hopelessness this young boy has been through that might make him feel the urge to randomly lift and aim an abandoned weapon he finds in the street. One might think of the Haditha incident or the scopophilically documented torture of Iraqi prisoners by American guards at Abu Ghraib prison. More broadly, the American invasion ushered in power outages, lawlessness, kidnappings, outbreaks of illness, and sectarianism. An Iraqi boy might not have had the perspective to see all of these developments, but could have easily felt himself in a changed society the moment non-Arabic speaking foreigners with guns entered his hometown.

In Sniper, however, the lens is complicit with the filmmaker in blocking out such considerations—at least for many viewers. In fact, even a simple narrative of marriage, family, and child rearing is denied to those Iraqis who pass across the lens. The specific question of what experiences the boy has endured outside the frame is blocked completely, or at least relegated to the category of the speculation. To answer it might be complicating, and so it is pushed outside of the frame in just the way such complicating factors were pushed to the side in the run up to the actual invasion, even by some of the most discriminating of establishment opinion makers. The phenomenon of the film instills the fear that something like the Iraq invasion could happen again as long as opinion makers are willing to stay tightly squeezed inside the scope.

NOTES

[1] Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985): 804.

Obama Administration Seeks Wider War Powers

March 12th, 2015 by Patrick Martin

The three top US national security officials appeared together before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday to press the case for a broadly worded resolution authorizing the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made brief statements and answered questions from Republican and Democratic senators during a three-hour hearing.

The session focused on a proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to approve the military operations launched by President Obama last August in Iraq and the following month in Syria. More than 3,000 US troops have been deployed to the region to train Iraqi Army and Syrian “rebel” forces, and US warplanes have killed thousands in a nonstop bombing campaign against ISIS targets in the two countries.

The Obama administration submitted a proposed three-page text for the AUMF only last month, more than six months after the air strikes and troop deployment began. The delay is unprecedented and underscores the increasingly open contempt of the military-intelligence apparatus for the formal trappings of democratic governance, including the constitutional prerogative of the legislature to declare war.

The White House initially refused to draft language for a resolution to approve the war against ISIS, claiming Obama had ample authority under two earlier resolutions: the AUMF of 2001, which was the basis of the war in Afghanistan and the subsequent “war on terror,” and the AUMF adopted in October 2002, which gave approval for the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in March of 2003.

This claim is entirely specious. The 2001 AUMF gave the president authority to wage war against those who carried out the 9/11 attacks or harbored the perpetrators. ISIS did not even exist until a decade later, and it is actually at war with the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front. Even more cynical is the claim that the 2002 AUMF for war against Iraq provides a legal basis for a war in which Iraq serves as a puppet and ally of Washington.

The new AUMF drafted by the White House would repeal the 2002 Iraq war resolution but leave the 2001 war resolution unaltered. At Wednesday’s hearing, Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Defense Carter reiterated the administration’s contention that the war against ISIS is legal under the 2001 AUMF and that a new resolution is desirable but not essential.

In his opening statement, which was twice interrupted by antiwar protesters who were ejected from the hearing by Capitol Hill police, Kerry asserted, “The president already has statutory authority to act against ISIL, but a clear and formal expression of this Congress’s backing at this moment in time would dispel doubt that might exist anywhere that Americans are united in this effort.”

The main purpose of the resolution, he said, was to make a political demonstration of bipartisan unity behind the US war plan. “Your unity would also send an unmistakable message to the leaders [of ISIS],” he told the committee. “They have to understand they cannot divide us…and they have no hope of defeating us.”

The new resolution would also reassure US allies in the bombing campaign in Syria, including nearly all the repressive monarchies and sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf, he said, but as far as US military actions went, it would have a purely symbolic significance. Asked directly about this later in the hearing, General Dempsey affirmed that the new AUMF would not change anything in the operations being conducted by US forces in Iraq and Syria.

These declarations, which went largely unchallenged by the Senate panel, gave the entire hearing the character of a farce. In effect, the representatives of the executive branch told the legislature that their concerns and questions, let alone the sentiments of the American people, were irrelevant. Congress could choose to rubber-stamp the new US war in Iraq and Syria or refuse to do so, but congressional action would have no effect on the actual course of events.

Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, admitted before the hearing, “I think we all know, at present, whether we pass an AUMF or don’t pass an AUMF has zero effect on what is happening on the ground, none, zero.”

This marks a further stage in the decomposition of what passes for democracy in the United States. Even the Bush administration felt compelled to obtain congressional authorization for war, albeit on the basis of lies about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” and ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda (who were actually bitter enemies).

Under Obama, the national security apparatus has gone a step further, waging war without a shred of constitutional or legal legitimacy, counting on the acquiescence or active support of both capitalist parties in Congress, as well as the corporate-controlled media.

Much of Wednesday’s hearing was taken up with wrangling between Republican senators opposing any limits on the war—for example, the three-year time limit stipulated in the administration’s draft AUMF, after which Congress would have to reauthorize the war—and Democrats expressing reservations about a new US ground war in the Middle East.

Defense Secretary Carter repeatedly explained that the three-year time limit was not an estimate of the duration of the war, but simply an acknowledgement that by 2017 there will be a new US president facing a different world security environment.

Secretary of State Kerry emphasized the administration’s opposition to any limitation on the geographic scope of the war. “What a mistake it would be,” he declared, “to send a message to [ISIS] that there are safe havens, that there is somehow just a two-country limitation…”

There was tedious parsing of the resolution’s ban on “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” which General Dempsey conceded had no precise legal meaning or military significance. One senator suggested that a conflict on the scale of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War would be permissible under that language, since the deployment of nearly 700,000 American troops lasted only seven months (hence, not “enduring”) and was ostensibly in defense of Kuwait (hence, not “offensive”).

None of these limitations would have the slightest practical or even legal effect, according to the Obama administration, if the 2001 war resolution also remains in effect. Any action forbidden by the 2015 AUMF could be undertaken anyway under the 2001 AUMF. That is why the White House is flatly opposed to suggestions that the 2001 AUMF should be repealed.

Two further issues emerged toward the end of the hearing. Under questioning from committee chairman Corker, General Dempsey said that the Pentagon views as a “positive thing” the support given by Iran to the Iraqi offensive against Tikrit in northern Iraq. Iran has armed and directed Shiite militias that are the spearhead of that offensive, which could result in sectarian massacres of the predominately Sunni local population.

Corker pressed the administration witnesses on whether the war resolution would permit US forces to act in defense of their Syrian “rebel” clients if they came under attack by Syrian military units loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. General Dempsey replied, “The answer to that is ‘no.’ The administration has not added a Syrian regime or an Assad component to the AUMF.”

The senator indicated he favored adding anti-Assad language to the resolution, and none of the administration officials objected. Corker also asked why the administration had not given its support to a Turkish proposal to establish a “no-fly zone” in Syria, a move that would pave the way for a direct US military intervention against the Assad regime. Dempsey replied that the US was considering that option.

These exchanges point to the ultimate purpose of the US intervention against ISIS, which is the overthrow of Assad and the establishment of a US puppet regime in Damascus.

The senior Democrat on the panel, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a war hawk of the first order in relation to Iran and Cuba, nonetheless sought to pose as an opponent of a new Middle East war on the scale of Iraq or Afghanistan. “What I don’t think Democrats are willing to do, is give the president an open authorization for war or a blank check,” he said.

The thrust of the resolution, however, is to authorize virtually open-ended warfare by the US military in any country targeted by Obama or his successor. Several senators suggested during the hearing that the AUMF would constitute a green light for US military action in Nigeria against Boko Haram, an Islamist guerrilla group that this week publicly pledged allegiance to ISIS, and to renewed US military operations in Libya, where Islamist militias claiming ISIS affiliation carried out beheadings of Coptic Christians.

None of the administration witnesses rejected these examples as possible venues for war, merely observing that the president would have to determine that targeted groups were both affiliated to ISIS and actively threatening to attack the United States or its allies. Given Kerry’s boast that “62 nations” were engaged in the US-led coalition against ISIS, the number of “allies” where US troops might be deployed under the new AUMF has grown exponentially.

No senator in either party is opposed to another imperialist war. The issues in dispute revolve around tactics—air power versus ground troops—and concerns that another massive US military deployment on the scale of Iraq and Afghanistan could ignite popular opposition both in the Middle East and at home.

There are also those—including the three top officials who testified Wednesday—who see looming conflicts with Russia over Ukraine and with China throughout the Asia-Pacific region as more important from the standpoint of the world position of American imperialism. In this view, the war with ISIS is significant but distinctly subordinate.

The Paramilitary Occupation of America

March 12th, 2015 by Joseph Kishore

It is necessary to call things by their right names. The obscene regularity of police murders in the United States has reached the point where it is appropriate to speak of the police as an occupying army, whose daily violence and brutality can best be described as a war against the country’s poor and working people.

Practically every day brings a new outrage. The death toll mounts relentlessly, against the backdrop of harassment and beatings that are daily facts of life in much of the country. The government does not publish figures on police killings; however, according to statistics compiled from media reports, some 1,000 people lose their lives as a result of police violence every year in the United States. That averages out to almost three fatalities a day.

The list of victims reported just over the past three weeks includes:

  • Anthony Hill, 27, Atlanta, Georgia. Unarmed, naked, suffering from mental illness, reportedly seen hanging from his balcony and crawling on the ground. Shot dead by a police officer on March 9.
  • Anthony Robinson, Jr., 19, Madison, Wisconsin. Unarmed. Shot dead by a police officer who forced his way into the victim’s apartment building on March 6.
  • Naeschylus Vinzant, 37, Aurora, Colorado. Unarmed, wanted on an arrest warrant. Shot and killed by a heavily armed paramilitary SWAT team on March 6.
  • Derek Cruice, 26, Volusia County, Florida. Unarmed, killed in his home. Victim in a “no-knock” SWAT raid that turned up a few ounces of marijuana. Fatally shot in the face on March 4.
  • Ernest Javier Vanepa Diaz, 28, Santa Ana, California. Unarmed, killed in his car. Father of four, working two jobs. Shot dead on February 27 after, in the words of the local police chief, he “did not cooperate.”
  • Ruben Garcia Villapando, 31, Euless, Texas. Unarmed, killed in his car. Shot dead on February 20 after he allegedly disobeyed an officer’s commands during a traffic stop.
  • Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, Pasco, Washington. Unarmed. Accused of throwing rocks at police. Shot dead as his hands were raised on February 10.

These names must be added to a list that includes Akai Gurley and Eric Garner in New York; twelve-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and many others.

The mind-boggling level of police violence in the United States far exceeds that of any other major industrialized country. In Germany, there were eight police killings in 2013 and 2014 combined. In Canada, about a dozen people are killed by police each year.

In the past year, more people were killed by the police in Pasco, Washington (population of 68,000) than in all of Great Britain (population of 64,000,000) over the past three years.

Some of these killings are captured on videotape and become national news. Many more are barely reported or go unmentioned.

One web site that compiles local media reports, “Killed by Police,” documented 212 police killings in the first 70 days of this year, including at least seven on Wednesday alone. One brief media account is indicative: “A suspect has been fatally wounded after a brief police pursuit… The sheriff’s deputy discharged his weapon at the car after it finally stopped. The suspect was pronounced dead…”

The above incident could have happened in Iraq or Afghanistan. Such atrocities against civilians are commonplace in the countries occupied by the American military. There have been countless reports over the past 14 years of cars shot up by US military patrols because their drivers did not follow orders; of homes raided by American troops, their occupants beaten, arrested or shot.

Like the military, the police are trained to see the population as a hostile force. They demand that anyone they encounter act with complete submissiveness. Failure to obey is punishable by a beating, a jolt of electricity, arrest or summary execution.

The local police have intimate ties with the uniformed military and Pentagon. The latter has transferred billions of dollars in heavy weapons and military-grade equipment—including armored vehicles, helicopters and automatic weapons left over from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—to police departments across the country, in a program fully endorsed by President Obama.

Aurora, Colorado, for example, where Naeschylus Vinzant was killed last week, has received $500,000 in military equipment since 2006, including a Mine Resistant (MRAP) vehicle, shields, and dozens of automatic rifles.

Volusia County, where Derek Cruice was shot, has received $1,251,000 in military equipment, mainly in the form of automatic rifles, a $250,000 personnel carrier, and a MRAP valued at nearly $700,000.

To account for the militarization of domestic policing over the past half-century, one must examine the far-reaching changes in the structure of American society that have occurred. While police violence—overwhelmingly directed against the working class and its struggles—has long been a basic feature of American life, the systematic militarization of the police has developed alongside the transformations that have taken place since the 1960s.

Heavily armed SWAT teams first made their appearance in the latter years of that decade, in response to the urban uprisings and social upheavals of the period. By the end of the decade, the ruling class was repudiating the policy of social reform it had followed since the New Deal of the 1930s.

At the end of the 1970s, the political establishment launched an offensive against the jobs, wages and living standards of the working class that has continued ever since. “Law and order” politics became the political cover for a rapid buildup of the police powers of the state, including a vast expansion of the prison system and the transformation of the police into a paramilitary force.

These processes were intensified after 9/11 under the banner of the “war on terror.” The police were integrated more directly into the massive military-intelligence apparatus—the FBI, CIA, NSA and Pentagon. The local police today are tied by a million threads to the national system of repression and control.

This is what underlies the Obama administration’s insistent interventions in defense of the police, including Obama’s statement supporting the exoneration of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who killed Michael Brown, and his declaration last week that “the overwhelming number of law enforcement officers” do their job “fairly, and they do it heroically.”

The political establishment views the whitewash of Wilson not as a local question, but as a national necessity. In defending the police, in ensuring that there is no accountability for their crimes, Obama is upholding a critical part of the apparatus of repression.

The police carry out “heroic” work not in the service of the people, but in defense of the capitalist system and the ruling corporate-financial oligarchy. As social struggles develop, the police are called on to ever more directly use the violent methods honed by the military abroad against the working class at home.

Police violence is not fundamentally a question of racism, as claimed by the various organizations that orbit the Democratic Party. Whatever role racism may play in any given act of brutality, police violence is embedded in the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the capitalist class and those of its opposite—the working class. This basic class division of society has grown all the more explosive with the colossal growth of social inequality.

This is why the fight against police violence must be rooted in the unification and mobilization of the working class, and the working class must see the fight against police violence as central to its own interests.

In drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson included among the “long train of abuses and usurpations” of the British King the following: “Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us” and “protecting them, by mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they commit.” Then it was a question of overthrowing the British monarchy. Today it is a question of overthrowing the capitalist system.

U.S. “would be better served by keeping the terrorist organization afloat…”

The Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington DC think tank with large influence over U.S. foreign policy, is once again calling on the Obama administration to support Al Qaeda terrorists under the guise of defeating the Islamic State.

In an article entitled, Accepting Al Qaeda: The Enemy of the United States’ Enemy, Foreign Affairs writer Barak Mendelsohn argues that the United States must reconsider its current policy towards the terrorist organization and its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

“The instability in the Middle East following the Arab revolutions and the meteoric rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) require that Washington rethink its policy toward al Qaeda, particularly its targeting of Zawahiri,” Mendelsohn writes. “Destabilizing al Qaeda at this time may in fact work against U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS.”

Mendelsohn claims that by targeting both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda for airstrikes in Syria, the United States “reinforced the jihadist narrative that Washington is hostile to Sunni Muslims and ready to bargain with the murderous Alawite regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

“In order for U.S. President Barack Obama to fulfill his promise to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ ISIS, he must weaken ISIS’ control of Mosul, Raqqa, and other large population centers, as well as stop its expansion,” writes Mendelsohn. “Inadvertently, the administration’s cautious approach to military intervention makes al Qaeda—which views ISIS as a renegade offshoot—an important player in curtailing ISIS’ growth.”

Mendelsohn’s logic falls down when one considers the fact that jihadist groups supported by the U.S. in the past have gone on to join ISIS anyway, such as those who the west helped topple Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. The leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abdelhakim Belhadj, who once met with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, recently became the leader of ISIS in Libya.

Numerous so-called “moderate” rebel factions in Syria have also gone on to join ISIS despite receiving U.S. support.

The article goes on to assert that the death of Zawahiri would thrust Al Qaeda jihadists into the arms of the Islamic State and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s current leader.

“But if and when Washington succeeds in killing Zawahiri, the leaders of al Qaeda’s branches would have the opportunity to reassess whether to remain with al Qaeda or join Baghdadi’s caliphate. It is possible that Zawahiri’s successor will be able to hold al Qaeda together, particularly if it is Nasir al-Wuhayshi, al Qaeda’s so-called general manager and the head of its Yemeni branch,” Mendelsohn states. “But it is more likely that in Zawahiri’s absence, al Qaeda would drift into ISIS’ camp, offering it manpower, resources, and access to arenas such as Algeria and Yemen where al Qaeda’s dominance has so far hindered ISIS’ expansion.”

“It is certainly ironic that at this point, when the United States is the closest it has ever been to destroying al Qaeda, its interests would be better served by keeping the terrorist organization afloat and Zawahiri alive.”

Mendelsohn’s claims regarding the Arab revolutions and the eventual growth of the Islamic State not only leave out the fact that both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State fight under the same flag, but ignore the United States’ admitted destabilization campaign to reorganize the region via proxy war.

During an interview in 2007, former NATO commander and four star General Wesley Clark admitted the Pentagon’s 2001-era plan to take down multiple countries including Libya and Syria, revealing current claims regarding the so-called grassroots spread of democracy in the Middle East to be a contrived narrative.

The Obama administration and its allies have armedfunded and trained foreign jihadist proxy armies with admitted ties to the Islamic State, all while labeling such fighters as “moderate” rebels in order to facilitate regime change in Syria.

With thousands of so-called rebels openly defecting to and fighting with the Islamic State, Mendelsohn’s tactic is nothing more than an attempt to further blur the line between enemy and ally, illustrating again how CFR elitists are happy to throw their weight behind bloodthirsty jihadists in the name of eliminating Assad’s secular regime, which has been fighting against ISIS.

President Obama left no doubt as to his intentions in late 2013 when he repealed sections of U.S. law that banned the arming of known terrorist groups in order to keep jihadists well oiled in their fight against Assad.

The Council on Foreign Relations made similar statements in January 2014 and August 2012 regarding Al Qaeda and the United States’ need for further supporting the group – the very group used as justification for dismantling the rights of every American in the wake of 9/11.

In January last year, the CFR’s Michael Doran, William McCants, and Clint Watts argued that supporting Ahrar al-Sham, a terrorist group in Syria which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and whose leader helped plan the 9/11 attacks, would help the United States “contain Iran and Syria” as part of Obama’s “larger strategy.”

In August 2012, Council on Foreign Relations fellow Ed Husain also hailed the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria at a time when the media was still treating their existence as a conspiracy theory. Husain even lauded the “deadly results” that Al-Qaeda militants had been able to achieve in the form of terrorist bombings.

The Council on Foreign Relations is considered to be America’s “most influential foreign-policy think tank” and has deep connections with the U.S. State Department. In 2009, Hillary Clinton welcomed the fact that the CFR had set up an outpost down the street from the State Department in Washington DC, because it meant “I won’t have as far to go to be told what we should be doing.”

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An Azov Battalion sergeant has confessed to USA Today of praising Nazi ideology. He also pledged a march on the Ukrainian capital after the war. A spokesman for the pro-Kiev brigade insists this is a ‘personal choice’ of no more than a fifth of the unit.

USA Today visited the Azov Battalion stationed in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol and spoke to a number of servicemen of the unit, which is sponsored by Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoysky.

Azov battalion soldiers take an oath of allegiance to Ukraine in Kiev's Sophia Square before being sent to the Donbass region (RIA Novosti / Alexandr Maksimenko)

Azov battalion soldiers take an oath of allegiance to Ukraine in Kiev’s Sophia Square before being sent to the Donbass region (RIA Novosti / Alexandr Maksimenko)

READ MOREWolfsangel in E. Ukraine: Foreign Policy talks to deputy leader of ‘pro-govt’ Azov Battalion

A drill sergeant who identified himself as Alex told the newspaper that he supports Nazi-style strong leadership for Ukraine but does not share Nazis’ genocide agenda against Jews, as long as minorities “don’t demand special privileges.”

Alex insisted that once the war is over, he and others from the Azov Battalion will go back to Kiev to oust the corrupt government and nationalize the property of wealthy oligarchs.

Officers of higher ranks in the battalion denied the presence of a large number of neo-Nazis among servicemen.

READ MORERight Sector refuses to obey Ukraine’s Defense Ministry – presidential aid

I know Alex is a Nazi, but it’s his personal ideology. It has nothing to do with the official ideology of the Azov,” said Andrey Dyachenko, a spokesman for the Azov Battalion. However, he did state that “only 10 percent to 20 percent of the group’s members are Nazis.”

 

Students of the Azov battalion are dispatched to the conflict zone in southeastern Ukraine (RIA Novosti / Alexandr Maksimenko)
Students of the Azov battalion are dispatched to the conflict zone in southeastern Ukraine (RIA Novosti / Alexandr Maksimenko)

The Azov Battalion’s deputy commander, Oleg Odnorozhenko, insisted that the drill sergeant does not speak for the group. “If he has his own sympathies, it’s his own matter,” Odnorozhenko said, adding that Alex “will be dealt with severely for his lack of discipline.”

Ideas like going to Kiev to change the government in an illegal way should be nipped in the bud,” Odnorozhenko said, adding that Alex is a “good drill sergeant and a good instructor for tactics and weapons skills,” so his future in the unit is probably as bright as it gets.

 

Image from voicesevas.ruImage from voicesevas.ru

 

A member of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Kiev, Col. Oleksy Nozdrachov, defended the Azov fighters as patriots. “They are volunteers who decided to sacrifice their lives to the country,” he said.

They are tough and fierce in battle who stand and fight and won’t give up soil.”

Kiev-controlled volunteer battalions and the Ukrainian Security Service are involved in an increasing number of human rights violations, including torture and forced disappearances of those suspected of “separatism,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a December 2014 report.

READ MOREUN rights watchdog accuses Kiev forces of torture, inhumane treatment of civilians

The report – which covered a period of just one month, from November 1-30 – said the Office of the Military Prosecutor had not taken any actions to investigate the “considerable” number of allegations of human rights violations, “including looting, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment by members of certain voluntary battalions such as Aidar, Azov, Slobozhanshchina and Shakhtarsk.”

In September last year, another international report confirmed that war crimes – including abductions, executions, and extortion – were committed by the Ukrainian Aidar volunteer battalion in the Lugansk region in eastern Ukraine.

READ MORECrimes of Ukrainian Aidar battalion confirmed in Amnesty Int’l report – Russia

The recent interview is not the first time that Ukraine battalion volunteers have openly supported Nazi ideology. Last year, troops from the Ukrainian Azov and Donbass battalions were reportedly noticed wearing swastikas and SS badges.

According to a video on German TV station ZDF, Ukrainian soldiers were shown wearing swastikas and the “SS runes” of Adolph Hitler’s elite corps. The footage was shot by a camera team from Norwegian broadcaster TV2.

 

 

A year ago, BBC Newsnight journalist Gabriel Gatehouse visited Kiev to investigate the links between the new Ukrainian government and Neo-nazis. Having reported “groups of armed men strut through the [Maidan] square with dubious iconography” – including German symbols used by SS divisions during WWII – the British journalistic investigation found that “the most organized and perhaps the most effective were a small number of far right groups,” adding that “when it came to confrontation with the police, it was often the nationalists who were the loudest and the most violent.”

READ MOREUkraine ultranationalist leader rejects Minsk peace deal, vows ‘to continue war’

National Socialist themes are popular amongst some of us…I like the idea of one nation. A clean nation…Not like under Hitler, but in our own way, a little bit like that,” a member of Ukraine’s Right Sector told the BBC reporter, who concluded that “the influence of the far right in Ukraine is growing.”

In February, Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh said the party’s paramilitary units in eastern Ukraine will continue “active fighting” despite the ceasefire, as the radical movement did not recognize the Minsk peace deal agreed upon by Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia after 16 hours of talks.

47 US Republican senators who signed a letter to the Iranian government are being accused of violating the Logan Act that was passed in 1799. The law was named after Dr George Logan of Pennsylvania, who acted as a private citizen and who negotiated with a foreign state without presidential approval. The Act was intended to prevent private citizens from communicating with foreign governments in order to manipulate American foreign policy.

The law states:

 ”Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

The Iranian Foreign Minister was dismissive in his disdain as he explains international law to the authors:

“I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.”

This serious political miscalculation by 47 of the Israel-lobby-supported GOP senators could conceivably affect Netanyahu’s own bid for re-election as his sophisticated Israeli electorate probably prefer professionals rather than amateurs to determine US-Israel foreign policy.

What Kind of World, What Kind of Future? The New World Order “Grand Design”

March 12th, 2015 by Perdana Global Peace Foundation

What kind of world would one choose to live in? If you have the choice, you could decide on a host of ideal situations, environment, income and quality of life. That is provided there is free choice. But what happens if there is no such freedom where every aspect of life is controlled and predetermined by an all powerful albeit unknown group?

That is perhaps what could happen in the New World Order (NWO). As part of their Grand Design, these powerful political and economic leaders  could determine even the number of people on Earth, who lives or who dies! That is a thought that instills fear.

This was the subject of an International Conference hosted by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) with the theme The New World Order – A Recipe For War or Peace, at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre on 9th March 2015.

Both the President of PGPF, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Chairman of PGPF Tan Sri Norian Mai took pains to provide explanations – that NWO could be an attempt by a rich and very powerful group of people bent on total domination of the world. That a group with vested interest and with links to the rich and powerful and perhaps even a Royal Family, are seeking to exert total domination over all aspects of life on this Earth.

It was indeed an impressive panel of academics, thinkers and social activists who were assembled to provide a captive audience at the PICC with their understanding of what the NWO is or what it could be, and why certain events have taken place.

In his Keynote address, Tun Dr Mahathir termed the NWO as nothing but an Old Order, as this attempt at world domination has been around for more than a century. He reminded the audience that the all powerful group wanted to reduce the total population to just about 1.5billion, at a time when the world population stood at 3 billion. This reduction could be carried out by starvation or even by the mere killing of those who do not conform to their strict code of conduct. Today the world population stands at 7 billion.

The former Prime Minister of Malaysia also termed the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as a “New World Order” (NWO) ploy that would lead to the world’s most powerful countries dominating the global economy.

Dr Mahathir claimed that the TPPA, like many other free trade agreements, is a way for the NWO to establish a “one world government” through globalisation, as no other approach appears to be viable any longer.

“It’s not a partnership. All the countries which participate will be subjected to more rules than they ever had before. The TPPA is not about free trade, it’s about trade subjected to all kinds of laws and regulations, exposing countries to be sued by the international courts.”

The founder of PGPF also claimed that the countries that remain “recalcitrant” or refuse to conform to the trade agreement will be threatened by economic sanctions under this NWO. Among others, Dr Mahathir listed down Iran and Russia as examples.

The TPPA is a free trade agreement that has been negotiated by the US, Malaysia and nine other nations as part of the larger Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership since 2010.

In a very slick and attention grabbing presentation Dr Thomas PM Barnett claimed that the world today is a much safer place, there have been no epidemics like the Spanish Flu that took more than 60 million lives, that even AIDS and Ebola have not decimated populations. In the first 35 years after the nuclear bomb was developed there were 7 countries that acquired the weapon and became members of the Nuclear Club. But in the next 35 years, only 2 new members qualified to join that club. While many other countries have nuclear capability, no nuclear war has been fought and no bomb has been dropped on any target since 1945. While the Cuban Crisis heightened tensions between the two superpowers, namely the US and the then USSR, nothing untoward happened, except that the dangers were highlighted.

While Dr Barnett acknowledged the many failures in US policy in many parts of the world, he claimed that the US has put in place measures that seem to penalise itself more than other economies.

“Globalisation comes with rules. US pioneered the creation of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the general agreement on trade and tariffs that became the WTO,” Barnett said, referring to the World Trade Organisation.

“Well, the country most sued, since the WTO court was created, was the US. The country that has lost more suits than anybody else in the world in the WTO court, has been the US,” he added.

Barnett, who is an author and public speaker [former Pentagon official and professor at the US Navy War College], further claimed that the US has even allowed the emergence of rival trading blocs such as the BRICs — comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China – and MINT – made up of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey, instead of stifling them.

However the presentation by the US security adviser came in for some heavy criticism from many others. Almost all speakers insisted that jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State were funded by the US and its allies, which included the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel.

“They say Muslims are terrorists, but it just so happens that terrorists are Made in America. They’re not the product of Muslim society, and that should be abundantly clear to everyone on this floor,” said Dr Michel Chossudovsky, the University of Ottawa’s Emeritus Professor of Economics.

“The global war on terrorism is a fabrication, a big lie and a crime against humanity,” added the  founder of the Centre for Research on Globalisation. He added that the global war on terrorism was then used as justification for Islamophobia and to enact anti-terrorism laws that he claimed inadvertently demonised Muslims in the Western world through methods such as racial profiling.

Prof Chossudovsky asserted that NATO and the Turkish High Command were also responsible for recruiting members of IS and al-Qaeda’s affiliate the Al Nusra Front, while Israel is funding “global jihad elements inside Syria”.

In a rather moderate tone and providing the perspective from an Islamic viewpoint was Dr Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of Muhammadiyah in Indonesia, an organization that has 29 million members. A staunch supporter of the Inter-Faith movement, he reminded the audience of what the Holy Koran reveals about faith, hope and belief. He stressed there was a need for tolerance, for understanding and goodwill in the fight against terrorism.

Malaysian scholar and social activist, Dr Chandra Muzaffar provided the strongest arguments to debunk Dr Barnett’s theory that the world is in a much better shape now than ever before when he made reference to the many flaws in US policy that had far reaching consequences, such as the overthrow of the legitimate Salvador Allende government in Chile, the establishment of the rule of Shah Reza Pahlawi in Iran in 1953 and several others, all engineered by the US. All these had disastrous consequences.

Total US support for Israel and its actions allows that country to label anyone not agreeing with their occupation of Palestine as “terrorists”.

Dr Chandra also pointed out Muslims are being manipulated by the US to create a state of fear and turmoil. Liberation movements in may troubled spots have support in terms of armaments and funding. He asked if anyone had truly looked at the situation in Ukraine and at the historical perspective with regard Crimea. He stressed that it was the Palestinians who faced the greatest challenges.

Providing the Lebanese viewpoint was a former general and currently a professor of geopolitics at the American University of Beirut was Elias Hanna, who described the current situation in his country as most stable and peaceful. Once the hotbed of insurgency, political unrest, and sectarian conflict, the country is recovering from the earlier turmoil and playing an active role in Middle East affairs. Whilst Southern Lebanon was once the soft belly of the nation and needed Syrian support, Lebanon now provides a buffer zone for Syria in the Golan Heights.

Long time investigative journalist and a former editor of Japan Times, Yoichi Shimatsu provided shocking evidence of Israeli involvement in many of the calamities of recent times. Initial information, even before the start of an official inquiry into MH17, raise serious questions of whether Israeli intelligence tampered with the flight controls and radar identification(transponder) system of the Malaysian-operated Boeing-777.

Security at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam is operated by ICTS, an Israeli-owned airport security company based in The Netherlands founded by former officers of the Shin Beit intelligence agency. Its subsidiaries are also involved in key security functions there.

In concluding remarks, PGPF adviser and former minister Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim also blamed the Western world for tarnishing Islam by calling the militant group Islamic State, claiming that the rest of the world had unquestioningly followed suit.

The so-called Islamic State or IS militant group should be referred to as a terrorist or extremist group, instead of what it is called now. He said the ‘Islamic State’ was a crucial term and it gave a sinful connotation to an Islamic state itself.

“One cannot accept IS as referring to Islamic State just like that. It (IS militant group) is evil. An Islamic state is not evil. An Islamic state is dictated by syariah law.”

The term Islamic State was widely used because the United States used it.

“Because the United States uses that word, we use that word as well,” he added.

At a news conference later, PGPF president Tun Dr Mahathir said the IS militant group was not an Islamic state but a bunch of terrorists.

“We were introduced to the term, Islamic State, by the United States and we accept it. This is not an Islamic state but a terrorist group. They might have been trained and supplied with weapons and money by those who call them IS.

“Therefore, we need to think over why the IS comprises Muslims who kill fellow Muslims,” he said.

 

 

 

The New World Order is a big threat to sovereign states, speakers at an international conference say.

The anti-war initiative, Perdana Global Peace Foundation, has a single goal of putting an end to war.

Founded by Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Foundation encourages dialogues between different nations, people and organisations to foster and energise global peace.

Its sister foundation, the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War aims to undertake all necessary measures to criminalise war and energise peace. It also found former US President George Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others, guilty of war crimes.

The recent activity by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation was a one-day international conference titled the New World Order, Recipe for War or Peace.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr Mahathir who warned that Malaysia might lose its independence if the government falls prey to the ploys of the US to increase its global hegemony through economic means.

 

Dr. Mahathir pointed out that the Transpacific Partnership or TPPA is a New World Order strategy by a powerful pact of people led by the US to dominate the world economy.

Dr Mahathir said globalisation and borderless trade are being used to establish a “one world government”.

Referring to the Free Trade Agreement as a regulated trade deal, he said countries that sign on the deal would be subjected to more rules and regulations than ever before.

Dr Mahathir also pointed out that disputes arising from these trade deals mean corporations could sue sovereign states at investor arbitration tribunals, in secrecy.

The New World Order refers to the emergence of a totalitarian world government.

Other prominent speakers at the conference also said that a secretive power elite led by the United States wants to replace sovereign nation states through regime change.

Prominent academic and author Dr Michel Chossudovsky warned that the so-called war on terrrorism is a front to propagate America’s global hegemony and create a New World Order.

Dr Chossudovsky said terrorism is made in the US and that terrorists are not the product of the Muslim world.

According to him, the US global war on terrorism was used to enact anti-terrorism laws that demonised Muslims in the Western world and created Islamophobia.

Elaborating on his argument, Dr Chossudovsky said that NATO was responsible for recruiting members of the Islamic state while Israel is funding “global jihad elements inside Syria.

Dr Chossudovsky, who is also the founder of the Centre for Research and Globalisation, further emphasised that the global war on terrorism is a fabrication, a big lie and a crime against humanity.

Echoing Dr Chussodovsky’s arguments, Malaysia’s prominent political scientist, Islamic reformist and activist Dr Chandra Muzaffar said that the US has always manipulated religion to further its global hegemony on sovereign states.

For example, he said the Arab spring was brought about by Colonel Muammar Muhammad Gaddafi’s resistance to US dominance.

But Dr Thomas Barnett who has worked in the US national security services since the end of the Cold War refuted the arguments put forth by the conference speakers as mere allegations and that people prefer to believe in conspiracy theories.

Touching on the subject of economic hegemony through free trade agreements, Dr Barnett said that it’s only normal that countries that sign on to international trade deals are subjected to some international treaties and business protocols that they must follow.

He also says that trade partners with the US have accrued many benefits and that the US has gone out of its way over the last 40 years to encourage peaceful development.

Barnett also pointed out that for the first time in Asian history there is an increasingly prosperous and powerful China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.

Brushing aside Barnett’s argument, Dr Mahathir in his speech warned governments to be cautious, saying that those who refuse to conform are subjected to economic sanctions.

He also said that the one world government wants to undermine all other governments and would not hesitate to invade and occupy sovereign states to achieve its agenda.

The story goes like this: India is an economic miracle, a powerhouse of growth. It is a nation that increasingly embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship. And the proof? Until recently, India had year on year 9% GDP growth (or thereabouts).

Such logic, statements and figures are the stuff of headlines that pay homage to the supposed wonders of neoliberalism which the corporate media trots out time and again in the belief that if something is repeated often enough then it must be true.

Visit Delhi or Mumbai and you can witness the trappings of this ‘success’. Newly built towns on the outskirts with gleaming apartment blocks and sterile shopping malls. What more could a person want? All well and good for those who have benefited from neoliberal economic reforms that began in 1991 – because indeed it seems that is all they do want.

But these beneficiaries of neoliberalism comprise a minority. They constitute but a section of the urban population, which in turn constitutes a minority within the country. They are the ones the ideologue-economists and corporate-controlled media in the West focus on when celebrating capitalism and its global ‘success’. But what about the bulk of the population, the two thirds that live in villages and rural India?

According to Sudhansu R Das, the Indian village was once enshrined in a performing eco-system and a healthy social life (see this). In fact, the village was the centre of a rural economy, an economic powerhouse of agricultural innovation, artisanship and entrepreneurialism. However, the British Raj almost dismantled this system by introducing mono crop activities and mill-made products. Post-independent India failed to repair the economic fabric and is now actually accelerating the dismantling. As a result, rural India is too often depicted as a ‘basket case’, a drain on the nation’s subsidies and resources.

It is not, however, agriculture that is the subsidy-sucking failure it is so often portrayed as in the mainstream media. The spotlight should instead focus on corporate-industrial India, the supposed saviour of the nation, which has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the massive hand outs and tax exemptions given to it (see this and this).  As subsidy-sucking failures go, it has much to answer for.

Of course, corporate-industrial India is engaged in a huge con-trick, which forms part of the neoliberal agenda worldwide: subsidies to the public sector or to the poor are portrayed as a drain on the economy, while the genuinely massive drain of taxpayer-funded corporate dole, tax breaks, bail outs, sops, tax avoidance and evasion are afforded scant attention. If anything, through slick doublespeak, all of this becomes redefined as being necessary to create jobs or fuel ‘growth’.

But what does the taxpaying public get in return for subsidising the private sector in this way and for paying for its fraudulent practices? What do ordinary people get for being forced to ‘stand on their own two feet’ while subsidising a system of ‘free’ enterprise that is anything but free? Jobs…  ’growth’?

No, they see record profits and levels of inequality and experience austerity, the outsourcing of jobs, low pay, the destruction of rights, deregulation, mass unemployment and the erosion pensions and social security (see this  and this).

The machinery of state is pressed into the service of private capital for the benefit of private capital under the guise of ‘growth’ or the ‘national interest’ and that is the price the rest of us pay.

This is exemplified by the following quote:

“We don’t think how our farmers on whose toil we feed manage to sustain themselves; we fail to see how the millions of the poor survive. We look at the state-of-the-art airports, IITs, highways and bridges, the inevitable necessities for the corporate world to spread its tentacles everywhere and thrive, depriving the ordinary people of even the basic necessities of life and believe it is development.” – Sukumaran CV

What Sukumaran CV describes above is in India underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers, the trampling of democratic rights, cronyism, cartels and the manipulation of markets, which to all purposes is what economic ‘neo-liberalism’ has entailed in India over the last two decades. Corporations have run roughshod over ordinary people in their quest for profit.

In the process, there have been untold opportunities for well-placed officials and individuals to make a fast buck from various infrastructure projects and sell offs of public assets, such as airports, seeds, ports and other infrastructure built up with public money or toil.

This neoliberal agenda is based on state-corporate extremism, which has across the world resulted in national states submitting to the tenets of the Wall Street-backed pro-privatisation policies, deregulation, free capital flows, rigged markets and unaccountable cartels. It is the type of extremism that is depicted as being anything but by the corporate-controlled media.

Powerful corporations are shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India and the full military backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to hand it to mineral extracting and processing industries, real estate interests and industry.

Moreover, the deal that allows the Monsanto/Syngenta/Walmart-driven Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture in return for the US sanctioning and backing the opening up of India’s nuclear sector to foreign interests has shown who is setting the agenda for agriculture, food and energy.

Almost 300,000 farmers have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to (GM) cash crops and economic ‘liberalisation’ (see this). And yet the corporate-controlled type of agriculture being imposed and/or envisaged only leads to bad food, bad soil, bad or no waterbad health, poor or falling yields and an impending agrarian crisis.

It’s not difficult to see where policy makers’ priorities lie. In a recent TV interview (watch here), food policy analyst Devinder Sharma highlighted such priorities:

“Agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. And they are doing deliberately because the World Bank and big business have given the message that this is the only way to grow economically… Sixty percent of the population lives in the villages or in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture, and less than two percent of the annual budget goes to agriculture… When you are not investing in agriculture, you think it is economically backwards, not performing. You are not wanting it to perform. You are ensuring that the price they get today under the MSP (Minimum Support Price) has also being withdrawn. Leave it to the vagaries or the tyranny of the markets… Twenty-five crore people in this country are agricultural landless workers. If we give these people land, these people are also start-ups, these people are also entrepreneurs… But you are only giving these conditions to industry… agriculture has disappeared from the economic radar screen of the country… 70 percent of the population is being completely ignored…”

Farmers have been imbued with the spirit of entrepreneurship for hundreds of years. They have been “scientists, innovators, natural resource stewards, seed savers and hybridisation experts” who have increasingly been reduced to becoming “recipients of technical fixes and consumers of poisonous products of a growing agricultural inputs industry” (see here).

In his interview, Devinder Sharma went on to state that despite the tax breaks and the raft of policies that favour industry over agriculture, industry has failed to deliver; and yet despite the gross under-investment in agriculture, it still manages to deliver bumper harvests year after year. Furthermore, when farmers are prioritised, politicians are accused of populism and playing to a vote bank. Yet when industry receives subsidies, hand outs and tax breaks, it is called ‘reform’and portrayed as contributing to ‘growth’:

“When we talk about budgets, it’s going to be populism or reforms. What is reforms? … if you don’t give anything to industry, they call it ‘policy paralysis’. But if you give them all kinds of dole then they think it is growth, they think it is a dream budget. In the last 10 years, we had 36 lakh crore going to the corporates by way of tax exemptions. Where are the jobs? They just created 1.5 crore jobs in the last ten years. Where are the exports? … The only sector that has performed very well in this country is agriculture. Year after year we are having a bumper harvest. Why can’t we strengthen that sector and stop the population shift from the villages… Why do you want to move the population just because Western economists told us we should follow them. Why? Why can’t India have its own thinking? Why do we have to go with Harvard or Oxford economists who tell us this?”

With GDP growth slowing and automation replacing human labour the world over in order to decrease labour costs and boost profit, where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of former agricultural workers or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise industries that currently employ tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions)?

Are they to become what Arundhati Roy calls the “ghosts of capitalism,” the invisible, shoved-aside victims of neoliberalism who are deemed surplus to requirements?

India’s development is being hijacked by the country’s wealthy ruling class and the multinational vultures who long ago stopped circling and are now swooping. Meanwhile, the genuine wealth creators, the entrepreneurs who work the fields and have been custodians of the land and seeds for centuries, are being sold out to corporate interests whose only concern is to how best loot the economy.

As they do so, they churn out in unison with their politician puppets the mantra of it all being in the ‘national interest’ and constituting some kind of ‘economic miracle’.

On the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula, the Korea Policy Institute, in collaboration with The Asia-Pacific Journal, is pleased to publish a special series, “The 70th Anniversary of the U.S. Division of the Korean Peninsula: A People’s History.”  Multi-sited in geographic range, this series calls attention to the far-reaching repercussions and ongoing legacies of the fateful 1945 American decision, in the immediate wake of U.S. atomic bombings of Japan and with no Korean consultation, to divide Korea in two.  Through scholarly essays, policy articles, interviews, journalistic investigation, survivor testimony, and creative performance, this series explores the human costs and ground-level realities of the division of Korea. In Part 1 of the series Hyun Lee interviews Shin Eun-mi on The Erosion of Democracy in South Korea.

The truths of No Gun Ri have taken root in the heart of South Korea. A memorial tower, museum and garden of mournful sculptures have risen from the soil of the central valley where the 1950 refugee massacre took place. In the United States, however, home of the agents of those killings, much of the truth remains buried, by official intent and unofficial indifference.

Built by the South Korean government at a cost of $17 million, the new No Gun Ri Peace Park, covering 33 acres in Yongdong County, 100 miles southeast of Seoul, offers a straightforward account of what happened over four July days early in the Korean War:

As the North Korean army advanced into South Korea, residents of two Yongdong County villages were ordered from their homes by American troops, to be evacuated southward. Resting on railroad tracks near No Gun Ri, they were suddenly attacked by U.S. warplanes and many were killed. Over the next three days, U.S. troops killed many more as they huddled, trapped, under the No Gun Ri railroad bridge. An estimated 250 to 300 died.1

The No Gun Ri Peace Park, with its memorial tower on the left, museum in the center and education (conference) building at the upper right. The railroad bridge massacre site is out of the frame on the lower left. (Photo: Charles J. Hanley)

In the 15 years since the world first learned of this mass killing, it has become increasingly clear that the U.S. Army’s 1999-2001 investigation of No Gun Ri suppressed vital documents and testimony, as it strove to exonerate itself of culpability and liability, and to declare – with an inexplicable choice of words – that the four-day bloodbath was “not deliberate.”2

But these suppressed archival documents, showing U.S. commanders ordering troops to fire on civilians out of fear of enemy infiltrators, are now on display at the peace park’s museum, illustrating a growing divide in how No Gun Ri will be remembered – or not – on two sides of the Pacific.

The official U.S. version “has framed the No Gun Ri story as an anecdotal war tragedy that can be allowed to fall into the domain of forgetfulness,” Suhi Choi writes in Embattled Memories, her newly published study of how the Korean War is memorialized.3

This article will describe some of the glaring irregularities of the official U.S. version, and show how the No Gun Ri park may prove a final bastion for securing the truth against that “domain of forgetfulness.”

The Deadly Orders of 1950

In the early weeks after North Korea’s invasion of the south on June 25, 1950, the fear that North Korean infiltrators lurked among southern refugees was fed by a few plausible reports and a torrent of rumors. Research at the U.S. National Archives by the Associated Press team that confirmed the No Gun Ri Massacre, both before and after their September 29, 1999 investigative report, found at least 16 documents in which high-ranking U.S. officers ordered or authorized the shooting of refugees in the war’s early months. Such communications, showing a command readiness to kill civilians indiscriminately, pointed to a high likelihood that the No Gun Ri killings, carried out by the 7th Cavalry Regiment, were ordered or authorized by a chain of command. A half-century later, lest that case be made, Army investigators excluded 14 of those documents from their report and misrepresented two others.4

In addition, the unit document that would have contained orders dealing with the No Gun Ri refugees, the 7th Cavalry journal for July 1950, is missing without explanation from the National Archives. The Army inquiry’s 2001 report concealed this fact, while claiming its investigators had reviewed all relevant documents and that no orders to shoot were issued at No Gun Ri.5

Here is how the Army report of 2001 dealt with three important pieces of evidence, among many documents suppressed or distorted:6

The Rogers Memo

Classified “Secret” and dated July 25, 1950, the day before the No Gun Ri killings began, the below memo was written by the U.S. Air Force’s operations chief in Korea, Colonel Turner C. Rogers, and sent to its acting commander, General Edward Timberlake. It got immediately to the point in its heading: “Subject: Policy on Strafing Civilian Refugees.”

Excerpt from the “Rogers memo,” in which an operations chief reported the U.S. Air Force was strafing South Korean refugees (paragraphs 3-4). The Pentagon’s 2001 No Gun Ri report omitted that fact from its description of the document. (Source: U.S. National Archives.)

Rogers wrote that “the Army has requested that we strafe all civilian refugee parties that are noted approaching our positions. To date, we have complied with the Army request in this respect.” He took note of reports that enemy soldiers were infiltrating behind U.S. lines via refugee columns, but said the strafings “may cause embarrassment to the U.S. Air Force and to the U.S. government.” He wondered why the Army was not checking refugees “or shooting them as they come through if they desire such action.” Rogers recommended that Air Force planes stop attacking refugees. Nothing has been found in the record indicating the memo had any effect, and the No Gun Ri slaughter the next day began with just such an air attack.

Pentagon investigators a half-century later couldn’t suppress this document, as they did many others, because it had been reported by the news media in June 2000, having been leaked to CBS News, possibly by Air Force researchers. Instead, the Army team, which did not reproduce the document in its report, chose to ignore the memo’s most important element, by not divulging that Rogers said the Air Force was, indeed, strafing refugees, in compliance with an Army request. Eliding that telltale paragraph No. 4, the Army investigators declared, “The Rogers memorandum actually recommends that civilians not be attacked unless they are definitely known to be North Korean soldiers.” For the sake of consistency in this particular deception, the investigative report went on to say that Rogers argued that the refugees were an Army problem and so the Army should be screening them, but it omitted Rogers’ clause, “or shooting them … if they desire such action.”7

In this way, the report that stands as the official U.S. record of a supposedly legitimate investigation disposed of one highly incriminating document.

General Kean’s Order

Major General William B. Kean, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, which held the front line to the right of the 1st Cavalry Division, the division responsible for No Gun Ri, issued an order to all his units dated July 27, 1950, saying civilians were to have been evacuated from the war zone and therefore “all civilians seen in this area are to be considered as enemy and action taken accordingly.”

Again, the Army investigators of 2001 had to grapple with this explosive document, since it had been reported in the original AP story on No Gun Ri. And so they simply chose to write of this order, “There is nothing to suggest any summary measures were considered against refugees.”8 They suggested that when Kean said civilians should be treated as enemy, he meant front-line combat troops should “arrest” this supposed enemy, not shoot him—an implausible scenario in the midst of a shooting war.

Maj. Gen. Kean’s order to treat South Korean civilians as enemy was relayed by his staff to mean they should be shot. The Pentagon’s 2001 report suppressed those instructions. (Source: U.S. National Archives)

To posit this unreal notion, the Army investigators had to conceal another division

headquarters document that said flatly that Kean’s order meant “civilians moving around in combat zone will be considered as unfriendly and shot.”9Other, similar communications were relayed across the division area, including one in which Kean “repeated” instructions that civilians were considered enemy and “drastic action” should be taken to prevent their movement.10 These, too, were suppressed by the Army investigators of 2001.

The Muccio Letter

Perhaps the most important document excluded from the U.S. Army’s 300-page No Gun Ri Review was a U.S. Embassy communication with Washington that sat unnoticed for decades at the National Archives. In 2005, American historian Sahr Conway-Lanz reported his discovery of this document, a letter from the U.S. ambassador to South Korea in 1950, John J. Muccio, to Dean Rusk, then-assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs, dated July 26, 1950, the day the killings began at No Gun Ri.11 In it, Muccio reported to Rusk on a meeting that took place the previous evening among American and South Korean officials, military and civilian, to formulate a plan for handling refugees.

He wrote that the South Korean refugee problem “has developed aspects of a serious and even critical military nature.” Disguised North Korean soldiers had been infiltrating American lines via refugee columns, he said, and “naturally, the Army is determined to end this threat.” At the meeting, he wrote, “the following decisions were made: 1. Leaflet drops will be made north of U.S. lines warning the people not to proceed south, that they risk being fired upon if they do so. If refugees do appear from north of U.S. lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot.” The ambassador said he was writing Rusk “in view of the possibility of repercussions in the United States” from such deadly U.S. tactics.

U.S. Ambassador John J. Muccio’s letter to the State Department’s Dean Rusk, dated July 26, 1950, said the U.S. Army would shoot approaching South Korean refugee groups. Army investigators deliberately omitted this document from their 2001 report on the No Gun Ri refugee massacre, which began that very day. (Source: U.S. National Archives)

The letter stands as a clear statement of a theater-wide U.S. policy to open fire on approaching refugees. It also shows this policy was known to upper ranks of the U.S. government in Washington.

In 2006, under pressure for an explanation from the South Korean government, the Army acknowledged that its investigators of 1999-2001 had seen the Muccio letter, but it claimed they dismissed it as unimportant because it “outlined a proposed policy,” not an approved one – an argument that defied the plain English of the letter, which said the policy of shooting approaching refugees was among “decisions made.”12 In his book Collateral Damage (2006), Conway-Lanz attests to the letter’s crucial importance, writing that “with this additional piece of evidence, the Pentagon report’s interpretation (of No Gun Ri) becomes difficult to sustain” – that is, its conclusion that the refugee killings were “not deliberate” became ever more untenable.13

Washington’s sensitivity on the Muccio letter is seen in a 2006 cable sent by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, found in the Wikileaks dump of State Department cables. Rice suggested the South Koreans would not get an explanation in writing of the handling of the Muccio letter, as requested.14 Presumably that would enable further obfuscation as necessary.

In Embattled Memories, Choi notes that the Muccio letter “proved that the U.S. military had a policy of shooting approaching refugees during the Korean War. Nonetheless, this counter-voice did not last long in the U.S. media. The evidence of the No Gun Ri story quickly melted into the amnesia that is the American collective memory of the Korean War.”15

The Army’s conscious “amnesia” extended to more than a dozen other archival documents from the Korean War’s first months in which commanders, for example, ordered troops to “shoot all refugees coming across river,” ordered “all refugees to be fired on,” and declared refugees to be “fair game.”16 The Army researchers who found them highlighted such incriminating passages, but they were excluded from the Army report. The report also suppressed damning testimony from veterans of the mid-1950 warfront, who confirmed civilians were being killed indiscriminately. “It had been passed around that if you saw any Korean civilians in an area you were to shoot first and ask questions later,” one testified.17 “In that war we shoot [sic] everybody that wore white,” said another, white being the everyday garb of rural Koreans.18 “The word I heard was ‘Kill everybody from 6 to 60,’” testified a third.19

The suppressed documents were later found in the Army investigation’s own processed files at the National Archives; the ex-soldiers’ transcripts were obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests.

In Defense of the Truth

Although the truth of mid-1950 South Korea and No Gun Ri was whitewashed and distorted at every turn in 2001 in Washington, DC, it has now found a home in the two-story, 20,365-square-foot memorial museum and its surrounding three-year-old No Gun Ri Peace Park, a gently landscaped place of arched bridges and flowered walkways, stretching from the bullet-pocked railroad underpasses of 1950, through a garden of powerfully evocative sculptures bearing such titles as “Ordeal” and “Searching for Hope,” to the bottom of a path leading to a hilltop cemetery and the graves of No Gun Ri victims, marked “1950-7-26.”

The No Gun Ri railroad bridge, site of the 1950 refugee massacre. (Photo: Charles J. Hanley)

Visitors (an estimated 120,000 came in 2014) will find the warning words of Ambassador Muccio and Colonel Rogers behind the museum’s glass display cases, along with numerous “shoot refugees” orders. A diorama depicts the unfolding events of late July 1950. One wall bears the names of No Gun Ri’s dead. The truths of No Gun Ri can be found as well in nearby towns and villages, home of survivors who have testified to what happened, of a man whose face was shredded by bullets as a boy at No Gun Ri, a woman whose eye was blown out, others living with the legacy of livid scars, dents in their flesh and in their psyches. Elsewhere in South Korea, others have also worked to embed No Gun Ri in the national memory, producing a major studio’s feature film, a superbly drawn, two-volume graphic narrative, and an award-winning three-part television documentary.20

The park should become “a place where everyone can feel and learn the lessons of history,” South Korea’s security minister, Jeong Jong-seop, told a gathering last September of international peace museum directors at the park’s conference

building. Park director Chung Koo-do told the same gathering that No Gun Ri is “a historical issue that both Korean and American citizens should remember.”21

 No Gun Ri Peace Park memorial tower (Photo: Charles J. Hanley)

But the memory divide—East and West—can only grow. In the United States, the Korean feature film, A Small Pond, found no distributor. The graphic narrative, though translated into French and Italian, has not been published in English. Kill ‘Em All, a hard-hitting BBC documentary on No Gun Ri, aired in Britain in prime time yet was shunned in America.22 Two years after the Army’s deceitful report, a Pentagon-affiliated publisher issued an Army apologist’s polemic on No Gun Ri, an often-incoherent book packed with disinformation.23 In the English-language Wikipedia, the “No Gun Ri Massacre” article became a Wikipedic free-for-all between jingoistic denialists and the truth. Finally, ironically around the time the Korean park was opened in 2011, the U.S. Defense Department purged from its website the Army’s investigative report, further pushing No Gun Ri toward official oblivion. 

Refugee tableau at the No Gun Ri Peace Park (Photo: Charles J. Hanley)

That 2001 report, with its self-evident gaps and often clumsy deceptions, will remain on display at the No Gun Ri museum, as the memorial park grows into its role as final defender of the grim and unchallengeable realities of No Gun Ri. The realities extend beyond No Gun Ri: In 2005-2010, in good part because of the No Gun Ri revelations, South Koreans filed reports with their government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on more than 200 other alleged mass killings by the U.S. military in 1950-51, most said to be indiscriminate air attacks.24 The U.S. government has shown no interest in investigating those allegations.25

Charles J. Hanley is a retired Associated Press correspondent who was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporting team that confirmed the No Gun Ri Massacre in 1999. He is co-author of The Bridge at No Gun Ri (Henry Holt and Company, 2001).

The original 1999 Associated Press interactive Web package on No Gun Ri

Three 2008 Associated Press articles on the work of South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

On mass executions

On the U.S. role in mass executions

On the U.S. military’s indiscriminate killing of civilians

Recommended citation: Charles Hanley, “In the Face of American Amnesia, The Grim Truths of No Gun Ri Find a Home”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 9, No. 3, March 9, 2015.

Notes

1 Information about the No Gun Ri Peace Park was obtained during a visit by author in September 2014.

2 Charles Hanley, “No Gun Ri: Official Narrative and Inconvenient Truths.” Critical Asian Studies 42:4 (2010): 589–622; also in Truth and Reconciliation in South Korea: Between the Present and the Future of the Korean Wars, ed. Jae-Jung Suh (London and New York: Routledge 2013),68–94.

3 Suhi Choi, Embattled Memories: Contested Meanings in Korean War Memorials (Reno: University of Nevada 2014), 17.

4 See Charles J. Hanley, Sang-Hun Choe, Martha Mendoza, The Bridge at No Gun Ri (New York: Henry Holt.2001), 286. See also Hanley, Critical Asian Studies, 609.

5 See Hanley, “No Gun Ri: Official Narrative and Inconvenient Truths,” 607.

6 The U.S. Army investigation’s handling of these three documents is detailed in Hanley, Critical Asian Studies, 599-609.

7 Office of the Inspector General, Department of the Army, No Gun Ri Review (Washington, D.C. January 2001), xi, 98.

8 Office of the Inspector General, Department of the Army, No Gun Ri Review, xiii.

9 Hanley, “No Gun Ri: Official Narrative and Inconvenient Truths,” 609.

10 Ibid.

11 Sahr Conway-Lanz, “Beyond No Gun Ri: Refugees and the United States Military in the Korean War”. Diplomatic History 29:1 (2005): 49-81.

12 “US Still Says South Korea Killings ‘Accident’ Despite Declassified Letter,” Yonhap News Agency, 30 Oct. 2006; Hanley and Mendoza, “1950 ‘Shoot Refugees’ Letter Was Known to No Gun Ri Inquiry, but Went Undisclosed,” The Associated Press, 14 April 2007.

13 Conway-Lanz, Collateral Damage: Americans, Noncombatant Immunity, and Atrocity after World War II (New York: Routledge 2006), 99.

14 U.S. State Department cable. 31 August 2006. “Response to Demarche: Muccio Letter and Nogun-ri.” From Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to U.S. Embassy, Seoul.

15 See Choi 11.

16 Hanley, “No Gun Ri: Official Narrative and Inconvenient Truths,” 609-610.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Namely, writer-director Lee Saang-woo’s film A Little Pond; the graphic narrative No Gun Ri Story, by Park Kun-woong and Chung Eun-yong; Munwha Broadcasting Corp.’s series “No Gun Ri Still Lives On.”

21 “Welcome Address,” “Tragic Memories of the No Gun Ri Victims’ Community,” Report of the 8th International Conference of Museums for Peace, Sept. 19-22, 2014, The No Gun Ri International Peace Foundation.

22 British Broadcasting Corp., Kill ‘em AllTimewatch, 1 Feb. 2002.

23 Robert L. Bateman, No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002)

24 John Tirman, The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars (New York: Oxford.2011).

25 Hanley and Hyung-Jin Kim, “Korea Bloodbath Probe Ends; US Escapes Much Blame.” The Associated Press (Seoul), 11 July 2010.

Fukushima: A Journey through an Ongoing Disaster

March 12th, 2015 by William Johnston

“A Body in Fukushima” is an ongoing project that consists of still photographs shot by William Johnston of Eiko Otake performing in the area surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Reactor and of video interpretations of those still photographs made by Eiko.

Representative images and videos are embedded in the text below.

A Body in Fukushima Winter 2014, excerpt. Full video here.

 

One day in November of 2013 I answered the phone to hear the voice of Eiko Otake saying excitedly, “Bill! What do you think of going to Fukushima to shoot photos of me performing in the stations along the Jōban Line?” For several years Eiko, better known as half of the performance duo Eiko and Koma, and I had collaborated in the classroom and by then knew each other well. We had co‑taught two different courses, Japan and the Atomic Bomb and Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in which we integrated movement exercises with historical and environmental studies. We both have long-standing interests in those and related topics, and had spoken at length about the triple disaster of 3.11 in Japan. Soon after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, we had talked about our concern for the people of Tōhoku and exchanged feelings of dread at the unfolding nuclear disaster in Fukushima. And I knew that she had visited Fukushima with a friend only five months after 3.11. But this new proposal took me by surprise.

Earlier that year Harry Philbrick, the Director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, had invited Eiko and Koma to perform in that city’s renowned 30th Street Station. Koma was suffering from an ankle injury however, so Eiko decided to create a solo work, the first of her career.

The grandeur of the Philadelphia Station led Eiko to think afresh about the deserted train stations she had seen along the Jōban Line near Fukushima.

She remembered thinking at the time how some of those stations would never be used again in the foreseeable future. Not long before, they had been busy with schoolchildren, commuters, shoppers, tourists, and travelers. As she watched the businessmen and women in suits and travelers with their suitcases waiting for trains in the halls of the 30th Street Station she thought, “what if I dig a hole into this marble floor as if digging a well for water and that hole goes and reaches to Fukushima: then it is like a hole that is the passage to another world in Alice’s Wonderland.” By dancing in the stations of Fukushima before performing in Philadelphia it seemed possible, as she put it, “to make that distance between two places malleable.” As Eiko later recalled, “I thought about taking some photos of the stations in Fukushima and of dancing in both Fukushima and Philadelphia. In that way, my body would carry a piece of Fukushima for the people in Philadelphia.” The journey had started in what Eiko conceived as a series called “A Body in Stations.”

We met in Tokyo on January 14, 2014, and took the train from Ueno to Iwaki, in Fukushima. There, we rented a car and drove first to Hirono, at that time the furthest north one could travel on the Jōban Line, and from there started to explore the stations that had been closed as a result of the 3.11 disasters.

It was late in the afternoon but we decided to explore Kido Station, the first where Eiko was contemplating performing. The station was boarded up, the streets eerily deserted. No damage from the earthquake was immediately visible and the tsunami had not reached that far inland. A cat scampered across in front of a house; a police car drove by us but the officers said nothing. Personal mail, books, and manga fell out of a broken garbage bag on the sidewalk. Kido was close to J-Village, which had been the training ground for Japanese soccer players in 2002 when Japan had co-sponsored the World Cup, and soccer motifs decorated the streetlamps of the deserted streets. In front of the station stood a dosimeter reminding us of the invisible disaster that had spread across Kido and many other towns to the north and west.

The next morning we drove around the area closer to the coast east of Kido station. Huge black vinyl bags lined the road on both sides in places, and on the fields further away they were stacked two or three high and sometimes more. We later learned that they were one-ton bags filled with radioactive soil and debris. A half devastated house stood close to the road and I parked the car in its driveway. We got out and walked around the neighborhood. Houses that had been damaged by the earthquake and tsunami stood untouched for nearly three years because of the invisible blanket of radioactive dust that covered them. One house, modest in size, had its front sliding glass doors smashed apart by the tsunami so that the entire front of the house was open to the elements, which was true for almost all of the houses in this neighborhood. From stairwell to the second floor a computerized voice announced the time. I wondered whether batteries could last that long. The only other sounds were of the wind blowing the faded curtains. A stuffed toy duck, now nothing but a bit of radioactive debris, lay on shards of broken glass.

Another house had roof damage from the earthquake but suffered little damage from the tsunami. White tarpaulins had been weighted down with sandbags to keep the roof from leaking until it could be repaired.

We walked back to the car and explored the house next to the driveway in which we had parked. It was large and built traditionally, with huge, naturally formed beams holding up an intact roof that stood above an interior that looked as though a miniature tornado had swept through it. Household belongings were strewn in complete disarray. Dolls and other objects still sat upon the shelves in front of an upright piano that lay on its back, pinned down by a fallen pillar. In what must have been the living room, two chairs had been placed so that one could sit there and look out at what once must have been a lovely garden. The owners must have returned and sat down for a time; I could only imagine the range of emotions they might have felt.

The neighboring house across the street had been nearly as large and elegant. Its front also had been hit by the tsunami. A corner pillar was washed away leaving the roof intact, cantilevered by its large beams. A photo lay among the rubble, its glass shattered. But it was possible to make out the image: an aerial view of the neighborhood in better times, perhaps in the 1970s or 1980s, showing a large number of houses clustered together. After returning, I discovered that it had been called Yaburemachi (破町), quite literally “torn town,” perhaps the legacy of tsunamis past.

We looked at each other and we both knew that I needed to make some images of Eiko performing there. A broken house was outside the original idea of “A Body in Stations” but the place somehow demanded our attention. It became a turning point for the entire project. While we kept the Jōban Line stations as definite destinations we also watched for other locations that called for attention. There were many. We spent the rest of that day, January 15, 2014, traveling from Kido to Tatsuta and further north to Tomioka. We ended the day with a look at Yonomori Station. Everyplace else we visited allowed short-term visitors, but Yonomori was just across the line of permitted entry. We thought that it was for a good reason and kept our stay short.

The following day we drove far inland and around the entire zone of radioactivity so that we could visit stations north of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown site. In the afternoon, we reached Momouchi, the station just north of Namie, which was inside the evacuation zone, or as it is euphemistically called in Japanese, the “zone of difficult return” (帰還困難区域).. It had been only slightly damaged by the earthquake but was well away from the tsunami. By then we had established a rhythm to our work. I suggested places where she might perform. Eiko would reflect on it or suggest another, and after some consideration choose her costumes. When we exhausted the possibilities for one site or when we ourselves got exhausted, we moved to the next. The afternoon light of the short winter days was fading before we finished.

Our last day was January 17, which was clear and cold. Our first destination was the station at Shinchi. We followed the road to its location on the GPS. I thought there must be a problem with the GPS system, since there was nothing at that site that resembled a station. But it was indeed the right place. Shinchi station had been devastated by the tsunami and since it was well outside the zone affected by radiation it had been completely dismantled. Had it been inside the evacuation zone it would have been left standing, as was Tomioka station. From there we went to the next station to the north, which was Sakamoto. It also had been damaged beyond repair and dismantled, leaving the asphalt covered concrete platform standing above the surrounding fields. In front of the platform a small memorial marked the spot where the station’s front entrance had been. Despite the chilly wind, Eiko performed for an extended period there.

Our last station was Komagamine, It was still cold if not so windy and Eiko performed for the camera until it was nearly dark.

As we drove between locations we often were silent. I was deeply moved by the knowledge that many of the people who had lived in the deserted houses and traveled through the now empty railway stations might never return. Even now, four years later, many of those evacuated are living in “temporary” shelters. Some have given up completely on the possibility of return and moved to other parts of the country. Former residents could visit their houses for only a few hours at a time, but because of the radioactivity could not reclaim even undamaged belongings. Outside the evacuation zone much of Tōhoku is on its way to rebuilding. But the nuclear meltdown was a manmade disaster and one that the proponents of nuclear energy promised could never happen. After the fact it was, they claimed, literally beyond conception (sōteigai); a better translation might be that it exceeded their assumptions. But that claim rang hollow. It seemed safe to say that the engineers and corporate executives who designed and ran the nuclear reactors had willfully decided to assume that this kind of disaster was impossible. To plan for it would have dug deeply into corporate profits. Government regulators, by approving the plans for the reactor’s design, accepted that assumption.

In this respect the Fukushima meltdown reflected a larger trend. Where anger and ignorance, expressed through aggressiveness and arrogance, had dominated the first half of the twentieth century, greed and ignorance had come to dominate the second half of the century and continues today. The First and Second World Wars were stirred, in no small part, by real and imagined injustices. Nearly entire populations committed themselves to war efforts, accepting as somehow inevitable the consequences of death and destruction for their own nations but particularly for their victims. Since 1945, while myriad and brutal Asian wars continued, in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear war has been averted over seven decades. At the same time people came to ignore the insanity of unlimited economic growth and ever-greater wealth. Nuclear energy seems to promise as much electrical power as any economy might need. Its proponents swore to its safety and continue to do so today, despite the many accidents, large and small, that have occurred in nuclear power generation facilities worldwide. Japan’s first major accident occurred in 1978 when Fukushima Daiichi’s No. 3 Reactor was allowed to run out of control for over seven hours. It was successfully brought back under control but the accident was kept secret until 2007. There are many today who support nuclear plants saying that it can cut carbon emissions. Perhaps that is true but nuclear power will never be one-hundred-percent safe especially in a country with frequent earthquakes. Explosions and accidents can produce environmental and human disasters as well illustrated by Fukushima. And there is no avoiding the fact that ignorance of nuclear danger has been cultivated by those who want that danger hidden—recall the cute figure of Plutonium Boy that was created in the 1990s to put the Japanese people at ease with nuclear power.

We left Fukushima on January 18, and from there we went directly to visit Hayashi Kyoko, the writer and survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. Eiko and I both were nervous about how she would see the images we had created. Upon seeing a selection of ten images, Ms. Hayashi said, “Because you are in these pictures, I look at each scene much longer. I see more detail. I see each photograph wondering why Eiko is here, how she decided to be here, how she placed herself here.“

When Harry Philbrick saw the images he immediately wanted to exhibit them at PAFA. Eiko showed them to other curators, and soon we had three exhibitions planned for the fall of 2014 and winter of 2015, at the Galleries of Contemporary Art in Colorado Springs and at Wesleyan University.

Not long after Eiko had returned to the United States while I stayed in Japan to research my next project, she contacted me asking if I would like to return to Fukushima in the summer. Despite the scheduling difficulties I knew it was something we had to do.

We returned to many of the same locations we visited in January over the course of five days in late July. Some things had changed but it was all too clear that parts of Fukushima were fated to become nuclear wastelands for the foreseeable future. We worked all day and then assessed the day’s images in the evening. Where we shot fewer than 2,000 images in the winter we shot over twice that number in the summer.

-

A Body in Fukushima Summer 2014, excerpt. Full video here.

 

In pursuing this project it has been my desire to bring attention to the suffering that nuclear power had imposed on the people of Fukushima in particular, but beyond Fukushima, too. Through witnessing itself we can reflect on and help bring about change to what is being witnessed. For me, Eiko’s performances make visible the anguish of the people and other living beings who have suffered from the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns and allow us to bear witness with a kind of intimacy that otherwise remains on the margins. Many have forgotten, or want to forget the fact that the disaster is ongoing and will be for a long time to come. Corporate interests and their governmental supporters are invested in making us forget at a time when the Abe administration is committing to putting Japan’s nuclear plants back online. Which makes this a continuing journey. I hope that Eiko and I will be able to go and bear witness again to the true price of nuclear energy.

William Johnston is Professor of History, East Asian Studies, and Science in Society at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut but for the 2015-16 is Edwin O. Reischauer Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Harvard. His books include Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan. New York, Columbia University Press, 2005 and The Modern Epidemic: A History of Tuberculosis in Japan. Cambridge, Council on East Asian Studies Publications, Harvard University, 1995. He is also the author of “Hōken ryōmin kara rettō no hitobito e: Amino Yoshihiko no rekishi jujutsu no tabiji” (From Feudal Fishing Villagers to an Archipelago’s Peoples: The Historiographical Journey of Amino Yoshihiko), Gendai shisō(revue de la pensé d’aujourd’hui), vol. 41, no. 19, 2014, pp. 232-249.

He is working on a book about the history of cholera in nineteenth-century Japan. His photographic work has been exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Galleries of Contemporary Art at Colorado State University, Colorado Springs, and at Wesleyan University, and has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times.

Born and raised in Japan, and based in New York since 1976, Eiko Otake is a movement-based multidisciplinary performing artist. For over forty years, she has worked as Eiko & Koma performing worldwide. For the 50 plus works they have co-created, both Eiko and Koma handcrafted sets, costumes, sound, and media. Eiko is currently presenting a solo project, A Body in Places, which opened with A Body in a Station, a twelve hour performance at Philadelphia’s Amtrak station in October 2014. Photo exhibition A Body in Fukushima, a collaboration with photographer William Johnston, tours with the project. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award, the Dance Magazine Award, and an inaugural USA Fellowship and the Duke Performing Artist Award, Eiko regularly teaches at Wesleyan University and Colorado College.

Recommended citation: William Johnston with Eiko Otake, “The Making of ‘A Body in Fukushima’: A Journey through an Ongoing Disaster,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 9, No. 4, March 9, 2015.

China’s Gold Strategy

March 12th, 2015 by Alasdair Macleod

China first delegated the management of gold policy to the People’s Bank by regulations in 1983.

This development was central to China’s emergence as a free-market economy following the post-Mao reforms in 1979/82. At that time the west was doing its best to suppress gold to enhance confidence in paper currencies, releasing large quantities of bullion for others to buy. This is why the timing is important: it was an opportunity for China, a one-billion population country in the throes of rapid economic modernisation, to diversify growing trade surpluses from the dollar.

To my knowledge this subject has not been properly addressed by any private-sector analysts, which might explain why it is commonly thought that China’s gold policy is a more recent development, and why even industry specialists show so little understanding of the true position. But in the thirty-one years since China’s gold regulations were enacted, global mine production has increased above-ground stocks from an estimated 92,000 tonnes to 163,000 tonnes today, or 71,000 tonnes* ; and while the west was also reducing its stocks in a prolonged bear market all that gold was hoarded somewhere.

The period I shall focus on is between 1983 and 2002, when gold ownership in China was finally liberated and the Shanghai Gold Exchange was formed. The fact that the Chinese authorities permitted private ownership of gold suggests that they had by then acquired sufficient gold for monetary and strategic purposes, and were content to add to them from domestic mine production and Chinese scrap thereafter rather than through market purchases. This raises the question as to how much gold China might have secretly accumulated by the end of 2002 for this to be the case.

China’s 1983 gold regulations coincided with the start of a western bear market in gold, when Swiss private bankers managing the largest western depositories reduced their clients’ holdings over the following fifteen years ultimately to very low levels. In the mid-eighties the London bullion market developed to enable future mine and scrap supplies to be secured and sold for immediate delivery. The bullion delivered was leased or swapped from central banks to be replaced at later dates. A respected American analyst, Frank Veneroso, in a 2002 speech in Lima estimated total central bank leases and swaps to be between 10,000 and 16,000 tonnes at that time. This amount has to be subtracted from official reserves and added to the enormous increase in mine supply, along with western portfolio liquidation. No one actually knows how much gold was supplied through the markets, but this must not stop us making reasonable estimates.

Between 1983 and 2002, mine production, scrap supplies, portfolio sales and central bank leasing absorbed by new Asian and Middle Eastern buyers probably exceeded 75,000 tonnes. It is easy to be blasé about such large amounts, but at today’s prices this is the equivalent of $3 trillion. The Arabs had surplus dollars and Asia was rapidly industrialising. Both camps were not much influenced by western central bank propaganda aimed at side-lining gold in the new era of floating exchange rates, though Arab enthusiasm will have been diminished somewhat by the severe bear market as the 1980s progressed. The table below summarises the likely distribution of this gold.

Gold Supply 31102014.jpg

Today, many believe that India is the largest private sector market, but in the 12 years following the repeal of the Gold Control Act in 1990, an estimated 5,426 tonnes only were imported (Source: Indian Gold Book 2002), and between 1983 and 1990 perhaps a further 1,500 tonnes were smuggled into India, giving total Indian purchases of about 7,000 tonnes between 1983 and 2002. That leaves the rest of Asia including the Middle East, China, Turkey and South-East Asia. Of the latter two, Turkey probably took in about 4,000 tonnes, and we can pencil in 5,000 tonnes for South-East Asia, bearing in mind the tiger economies’ boom-and-bust in the 1990s. This leaves approximately 55,000 tonnes split between the Middle East and China, assuming 4,850 tonnes satisfied other unclassified demand.

The Middle East began to accumulate gold in the mid-1970s, storing much of it in the vaults of the Swiss private banks. Income from oil continued to rise, so despite the severe bear market in gold from 1980 onwards, Middle-Eastern investors continued to buy. In the 1990s, a new generation of Swiss portfolio managers less committed to gold was advising clients, including those in the Middle East, to sell. At the same time, discouraged by gold’s bear market, a western-educated generation of Arabs started to diversify into equities, infrastructure spending and other investment media. Gold stocks owned by Arab investors remain a well-kept secret to this day, but probably still represents the largest quantity of vaulted gold, given the scale of petro-dollar surpluses in the 1980s. However, because of the change in the Arabs’ financial culture, from the 1990s onwards the pace of their acquisition waned.

By elimination this leaves China as the only other significant buyer during that era. Given that Arab enthusiasm for gold diminished for over half the 1983-2002 period, the Chinese government being price-insensitive to a western-generated bear market could have easily accumulated in excess of 20,000 tonnes by the end of 2002.

China’s reasons for accumulating gold

We now know that China had the resources from its trade surpluses as well as the opportunity to buy bullion. Heap-leaching techniques boosted mine output and western investors sold down their bullion, so there was ample supply available; but what was China’s motive?

Initially China probably sought to diversify from US dollars, which was the only trade currency it received in the days before the euro. Furthermore, it would have seemed nonsensical to export goods in return for someone else’s paper specifically inflated to pay them, which is how it must have appeared to China at the time. It became obvious from European and American attitudes to China’s emergence as an economic power that these export markets could not be wholly relied upon in the long term. So following Russia’s recovery from its 1998 financial crisis, China set about developing an Asian trading bloc in partnership with Russia as an eventual replacement for western export markets, and in 2001 the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was born. In the following year, her gold policy also changed radically, when Chinese citizens were allowed for the first time to buy gold and the Shanghai Gold Exchange was set up to satisfy anticipated demand.

The fact that China permitted its citizens to buy physical gold suggests that it had already acquired a satisfactory holding. Since 2002, it will have continued to add to gold through mine and scrap supplies, which is confirmed by the apparent absence of Chinese-refined 1 kilo bars in the global vaulting system. Furthermore China takes in gold doré from Asian and African mines, which it also refines and probably adds to government stockpiles.

Since 2002, the Chinese state has almost certainly acquired by these means a further 5,000 tonnes or more. Allowing the public to buy gold, as well as satisfying the public’s desire for owning it, also reduces the need for currency intervention to stop the renminbi rising. Therefore the Chinese state has probably accumulated between 20,000 and 30,000 tonnes since 1983, and has no need to acquire any more through market purchases given her own refineries are supplying over 500 tonnes per annum.

All other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation** are gold-friendly or have increased their gold reserves. So the west having ditched gold for its own paper will now find that gold has a new role as Asia’s ultimate money for over 3 billion people, or over 4 billion if you include the South-East Asian and Pacific Rim countries for which the SCO will be the dominant trading partner.

*See GoldMoney’s estimates of the aboveground gold stock by James Turk and Juan Castaneda. 
**Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Mongolia. Turkey and Afghanistan are to join in due course.

Copyright Gold Money, 2015

Libya, ISIS and the Unaffordable Luxury of Hindsight

March 12th, 2015 by Ahmad Barqawi

Who are you?” the late Muammar Gaddafi once rhetorically asked in a famous speech of his towards the end of his reign; (rightly) questioning the legitimacy of those seeking to over-throw his government at the time, calling them extremists, foreign agents, rats and drug-addicts. He was laughed at, unfairly caricatured, ridiculed and incessantly demonized; a distasteful parody video poking fun at the late Libyan leader even went viral on social media; evidently the maker of the video, an Israeli, thought the Libyan colloquial Arabic word “Zenga” (which means an Alleyway) sounded funny enough that he extracted it from one of Gaddafi’s speeches, looped it on top of a hip-hop backing track and voila… he got himself a hit video which was widely (and shamefully) circulated with a “revolutionary” zeal in the Arab world. We shared, we laughed, he died.

But the bloody joke is on all of us; Gaddafi knew what he was talking about; right from the get-go, he accused the so-called Libyan rebels of being influenced by Al-Qaeda ideology and Ben Laden’s school of thought; no one had taken his word for it of course, not even a little bit. I mean why should we have? After all, wasn’t he a vile, sex-centric dictator hell-bent on massacring half of the Libyan population while subjecting the other half to manic raping sprees with the aid of his trusted army of Viagra-gobbling, sub-Saharan mercenaries? At least that’s what we got from the visual cancer that is Al Jazeera channel and its even more acrid Saudi counterpart Al-Arabiya in their heavily skewed coverage of NATO’s vicious conquest of Libya. Plus Gaddafi did dress funny; why would anyone trust a haggard, weird-looking despot dressed in colorful rags when you have well-groomed Zionists like Bernard Henry Levy, John McCain and Hillary Clinton at your side, smiling and flashing the victory sign in group photo-ops, right?

Gaddafi called them drug-addicted, Islamic fundamentalists; we know them as ISIS… it doesn’t seem much of a joke now, does it? And ISIS is what had been in store for us all along; the “revolutionary” lynching and sodomization of Muammar Gaddafi amid manic chants of “Allahu Akbar”, lauded by many at the time as some sort of a warped triumph of the good of popular will (read: NATO-sponsored mob rule) over the evil of dictatorship (sovereign state), was nothing but a gory precursor for the future of the country and the region; mass lynching of entire populations in Libya, Syria and Iraq and the breakup of key Arab states into feuding mini-statelets. The gruesome video of Colonel Gaddafi’s murder, which puts to shame the majority of ISIS videos in terms of unhinged brutality and gore, did not invoke the merest of condemnations back then, on the contrary; everyone seemed perfectly fine with the grotesque end of the Libyan “tyrant”… except that it was only the beginning of a new and unprecedented reign of terror courtesy of NATO’s foot-soldiers and GCC-backed Islamic insurgents.

The rapid proliferation of trigger-happy terrorist groups and Jihadi factions drenched in petrodollars in Libya was not some sort of an intelligence failure on the part of western governments or a mere by-product of the power vacuum left by a slain Gaddafi; it was a deliberate, calculated policy sought after and implemented by NATO and its allies in the Gulf under the cringe-inducing moniker “Friends of Libya” (currently known as the International Coalition against ISIS) to turn the north-African country into the world’s largest ungovernable dumpster of weapons, al-Qaida militants and illegal oil trading.

So it is safe to say that UNSC resolution 1973, which practically gave free rein for NATO to bomb Libya into smithereens, has finally borne fruit… and it’s rotten to its nucleus, you can call the latest gruesome murder of 21 Egyptian fishermen and workers by the Libyan branch of the Islamic State exhibit “A”, not to mention of course the myriad of daily killings, bombings and mini-civil wars that are now dotting the entire country which, ever since the West engineered its coup-d’etat against the Gaddafi government, have become synonymous with the bleak landscape of lawlessness and death that is “Libya” today. And the gift of NATO liberation is sure to keep on giving for years of instability and chaos to come.

In an interview with the western media misinformation collective that is the BBC, ABC and the Sunday Times in February 2011; the late Muammar Gaddafi told his condescending interviewers; “have you seen the Al Qaeda operatives? Have you heard all these Jihadi broadcasts? It is Al Qaeda that is controlling the cities of Al Baida and Darnah, former Guantanamo inmates and extremists unleashed by America to terrorize the Libyan people…”. Darnah is now the main stronghold for ISIS in Libya.

In a bizarre coincidence (or some sort of cosmic irony); the date on which ISIS chose to release its video of the beheading of Egyptian captives, thereby officially declaring its presence in the war-torn country with three oil fields under its control, (appropriately) marked the 4th anniversary of the start of the so-called Libyan revolution on February 15th, 2011; a more apt “tribute” to commemorate the Western instigated regime-change debacle in Libya could not have been made.

But even long before ISIS became the buzzword, the acrid nature of a “revolutionary” Libya showed in full, sickening splendor almost instantly right after the old regime fell, everything the late Gaddafi was falsely accused of doing was literally perfected to a chilling degree by the so-called rebels; massacres, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, car-bombings, mass arrests, torture, theft of oil and national resources… the whole lot. In 2013; two British pro-Palestine activists, on their way to Gaza with an aid convoy, got to experience first-hand the rotten fruits of the Libyan chapter of the so-called Arab Spring when they were abducted by a motely crew of Libyan revolutionaries-turned-warlords in the city of Benghazi and gang raped in front of their father.

Proponents of Humanitarian Interventions must be patting themselves on the back these days; now that Libya has completed its democratic makeover from a country with the highest standard of living in Africa under Gaddafi’s rule into a textbook definition of a failed state; a godless wasteland of religious fanaticism, internal bloodletting and wholesale head-chopping, in fact Libya became so “democratic” that there are now two parliaments and two (warring) governments; each with its own (criminal) army and supported with money and caches of weapons from competing foreign powers, not to mention the myriad of secessionist movements and militias which the illegal coup against Gaddafi has spawned all over the country while free health care, education and electricity, which the Libyans took for granted under Gaddafi’s regime, are all now but relics of the past; that’s the “Odyssey Dawn” the Libyans were promised; a sanitized version of Iraq sans the public outrage, neatly re-packaged in a “responsibility to protect” caveat and delivered via aerial bombing campaigns where even the West’s overzealous Gulf Co-conspirators Club (GCC), driven by nothing beyond petty personal vendettas against Gaddafi, got to test the lethality of its rusted, American-made military aircrafts alongside NATO on the people of Tripoli and Sirte.

This is what Gaddafi had predicted right from the get-go and then some; the ephemeral euphoria of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions was just too potent and too exhilarating for us to read the fine print; was it a conspiracy or a true revolutionary spirit gone awry? It doesn’t really matter now that ISIS has become the true legacy of Tahrir Square; “they will turn Libya into another Afghanistan, another Somalia, another Iraq… your women won’t be allowed out, they will transform Libya into an Islamic Emirate and America will bomb the country under the pretext of fighting terrorism”, the late Libyan leader had said in a televised speech on February 22nd, 2011, and more prophetic words were never spoken.

America’s “clean war” Libyan prototype proved to be such a success that it was replicated with a wanton abandon in Syria; Paul Bremer’s “Blackwater” death squads of old, which reigned terror all over Iraq, are back… with an Islamic twist; bearded, clad in black and explosives from head to toe and mounting convoys of Toyota Land Cruiser trucks with an ever-expanding, seemingly borderless Islamic Caliphate (that somehow leaves the Zionist regime unencumbered in its occupation of Palestine) set in their sights.

Everyday the Arab World is awakened to a new-videotaped atrocity; steeped in gore and maniacal terror courtesy of ISIS (or IS or ISIL), and countless of other “youtubeless”, albeit more heinous crimes courtesy of America’s very own ever-grinding, one-sided drone warfare; the entire region seesaws between machete beheadings and hellfire missile incinerations. Death from above… as well as below; the War on Terror rears its ugly head once again; to bring in line those nasty terrorists that the West itself funded and sponsored in the name of democracy to destabilize “unsavory” regimes; an unrelenting Groundhog Day that starts with the Responsibility to Protect and ends with the War on Terror, with thousands of innocent lives, typically chalked up to collateral damage, crushed in the process.

This is exactly what Gaddafi foresaw; a Libya mired in utter chaos, civil conflict and western diktats; a breeding ground for Jihadi fundamentalism and extremists… too bad we just laughed his warnings off to an Israeli-made parody tune.

Ahmad Barqawi, freelance columnist and writer.

“They’re [the Republicans] contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war.  It’s a damn bad mistake.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968

War is addictive. It is also sweet to those who do not know it. There is always someone else who fights it on their behalves.  The GOP is better at that than most – their desperation to keep seats in Congress and win others has propelled them to lunatic belligerence.  Middle Eastern states have been removable furniture for some time – at least when it comes to their regimes – and the GOP strategists seem to think that a pulverising strike on Iran might not be the worst option available.

None of the recent cantankerousness towards Iran seems fortuitous.  The Boehner invitation to Israel’s prime minister without White House approval, a mote in the eye of Obama; the Netanyahu pageantry of proposed violence and illegal war regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions; and now, Tom Cotton’s letter signed by 47 Senate Republicans suggesting that the war trumpets are being readied with constitutional flyers. “Senate Republicans have moved from mere opposition to Obama’s foreign policy to outright sabotage”.[1]

The letter to Tehran, dated March 9, reads like a childish exclamation, an impetuous feeling that its authors are being left out in the cold of history.[2]  “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.”  (Cotton, the callow Arkansas freshman behind the note, evidently repays such ignorance by not knowing the Iranian constitutional system.)

With school teacher dourness, the note goes on to defang and denude any agreement that might arise between the Obama administration and that of Ayatollah Khamenei and his colleagues.  “Congress,” it reminds the readers, “plays the significant role of ratifying [international agreements]”.

The signatories, bursting with pride, suggest the limiting nature of the president’s office – the occupant in the White House can only ever be there a maximum of two four-year terms, “whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.” The sense of staleness would be hard to avoid, and the readers in Tehran will be justified in thinking that the occupants in the great thieving house that is Congress have lost their marbles.  “We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.”  The prelude to any attack usually comes in the form of a lecture.

The opportunity to convert this absurd event into a partisan spectacle was hard to resist.  Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan suggested that she “never would have sent a letter to Saddam Hussein.” Senator Dick Burin of Illinois could only heave a sigh of resignation. “It’s just, I could not think of a more overt effort to jeopardize peace negotiations” (Politico, Mar 9).

There is even a suggestion that the Republicans might have been flirting with the sirens of treason, though the Democrats have hardly been immune from the business of seeking war when some vague sense of patriotic debauchery demanded it.  Hillary Clinton, seeing a golden opportunity, suggested that, “Either the senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander-in-chief.”[3]  The Clintons have never been averse to resorting to the gun in international non-diplomacy, and Clinton’s reptilian manoeuvres should come as no surprise.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was merely cool in reaction.  “In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.  It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”[4]

Not quite.  America’s political nest of intrigue and damnation has had a few twists and turns that demand caution in using the term “unprecedented”.  The prolonging of the Vietnam War in 1968 had every bit to do with the machinations of presidential contender Richard Milhous Nixon even as a struggling Lyndon Baines Johnson was trying to cut some peace measure with his North Vietnamese counterparts.

There was one vital obstacle to any settlement: the South Vietnamese.  On October 29, 1968, the Johnson administration got a sense that Nixon was seeking to block any peace settlement, hoping to prolong the war.  In what reads like a seedy backroom conspiracy, Johnson’s Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Eugene Rostow, received word from Wall Street financier Alexander Sachs that collusion was taking place between financiers and bankers over frustrating any peace deal.  Money was to be made, and peace was not going to help.

Eugene passed the material on to his brother, the national security advisor Walt Rostow.  “The speaker,” explained Eugene, “said he thought the prospects for a bombing halt or a cease-fire were dim, because Nixon was playing the problem… to block… They would incite Saigon to be difficult, and Hanoi to wait.”[5]  The content of FBI wiretaps on GOP behaviour incensed Johnson, who did use the “treason” word.

The derailment of the Paris talks by the Nixon-Kissinger union was the stellar performance of an empire running out of ideas, largely because it was readying itself for the imperial and ultimately decaying rule of the Nixon administration.  Sabotage, political attainment, survival – these are the ghoulish synonyms of party ambitions.

In the GOP’s case, dabbling with disruptive verve in the diplomacy of the incumbent administration may have worked in the past, but it comes with its risks.  Various Republican senators refused to pen their name to the letter, not through any act of virtue, so much as strategy.  Cotton and his colleagues were being foolish in their zeal.  “I knew,” claimed Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, “it was going to be only Republicans on [the letter].  I just don’t view that as where I need to be today.”[6]

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

Remember when the infamous Goldman Sachs delivered a thinly-veiled threat to the Greek Parliament in December, warning them to elect a pro-austerity prime minister or risk having central bank liquidity cut off to their banks? (See January 6th post here.) It seems the European Central Bank (headed by Mario Draghi, former managing director of Goldman Sachs International) has now made good on the threat.

The week after the leftwing Syriza candidate Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister, the ECB announced that it would no longer accept Greek government bonds and government-guaranteed debts as collateral for central bank loans to Greek banks. The banks were reduced to getting their central bank liquidity through “Emergency Liquidity Assistance” (ELA), which is at high interest rates and can also be terminated by the ECB at will.

In an interview reported in the German magazine Der Spiegel on March 6thAlexis Tsipras said that the ECB was “holding a noose around Greece’s neck.” If the ECB continued its hardball tactics, he warned, “it will be back to the thriller we saw before February” (referring to the market turmoil accompanying negotiations before a four-month bailout extension was finally agreed to).

The noose around Greece’s neck is this: the ECB will not accept Greek bonds as collateral for the central bank liquidity all banks need, until the new Syriza government accepts the very stringent austerity program imposed by the troika (the EU Commission, ECB and IMF). That means selling off public assets (including ports, airports, electric and petroleum companies), slashing salaries and pensions, drastically increasing taxes and dismantling social services, while creating special funds to save the banking system.

These are the mafia-like extortion tactics by which entire economies are yoked into paying off debts to foreign banks – debts that must be paid with the labor, assets and patrimony of people who had nothing to do with incurring them.

Playing Chicken with the People’s Money

Greece is not the first to feel the noose tightening on its neck. As The Economist notes, in 2013 the ECB announced that it would cut off Emergency Lending Assistance to Cypriot banks within days, unless the government agreed to its bailout terms. Similar threats were used to get agreement from the Irish government in 2010.

Likewise, says The Economist, the “Greek banks’ growing dependence on ELA leaves the government at the ECB’s mercy as it tries to renegotiate the bailout.”

Mark Weisbrot commented in the Huffington Post:

We should be clear about what this means. The ECB’s move was completely unnecessary . … It looks very much like a deliberate attempt to undermine the new government.

. . . The ECB could . . . stabilize Greek bond yields at low levels, but instead it chose . . . to go to the opposite extreme — and I mean extreme — to promote a run on bank deposits, tank the Greek stock market, and drive up Greek borrowing costs.

Weisbrot observed that the troika had plunged the Eurozone into at least two additional years of unnecessary recession beginning in 2011, because “they were playing a similar game of chicken. . . . [T]he ECB deliberately allowed these market actors to create an existential crisis for the euro, in order to force concessions from the governments of Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland.”

The Tourniquet of Central Bank Liquidity

Not just Greek banks but all banks are reliant on central bank liquidity, because they are all technically insolvent. They all lend money they don’t have. They rely on being able to borrow from other banks, the money market, or the central bank as needed to balance their books. The central bank (which has the power to print money) is the ultimate backstop in this sleight of hand. If that source of liquidity dries up, the banks go down.

In the Eurozone, the national central banks of member countries have relinquished this critical credit power to the European Central Bank. And the ECB, like the US Federal Reserve, marches to the drums of large international banks rather than to the democratic will of the people.

Lest there be any doubt, let’s review Goldman’s December memo to the Greek Parliament, reprinted on Zerohedge. Titled “From GRecovery to GRelapse,” it warned:

[H]erein lies the main risk for Greece. The economy needs the only lender of last resort to the banking system to maintain ample provision of liquidity. And this is not just because banks may require resources to help reduce future refinancing risks for the sovereign. But also because banks are already reliant on government issued or government guaranteed securities to maintain the current levels of liquidity constant.

In the event of a severe Greek government clash with international lenders, interruption of liquidity provision to Greek banks by the ECB could potentially even lead to a Cyprus-style prolonged “bank holiday”. And market fears for potential Euro-exit risks could rise at that point. [Emphasis added.]

Why would the ECB have to “interrupt liquidity provision” just because of a “clash with international lenders”? As Mark Weisbrot observed, the move was completely unnecessary. The central bank can flick the credit switch on or off at its whim. Any country that resists going along with the troika’s austerity program may find that its banks have been cut off from this critical liquidity, because the government and the banks are no longer considered “good credit risks.” And that damning judgment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as is happening in Greece.

“The Icing on the Cake”

Adding insult to injury, the ballooning Greek debt was incurred to save the very international banks to which it is now largely owed. Worse, those banks bought the debt with cheap loans from the ECB! Pepe Escobar writes:

The troika sold Greece an economic racket ….  Essentially, Greece’s public debt went from private to public hands when the ECB and the IMF ‘rescued’ private (German, French, Spanish) banks. The debt, of course, ballooned. The troika intervened, not to save Greece, but to save private banking.

The ECB bought public debt from private banks for a fortune, because the ECB could not buy public debt directly from the Greek state. The icing on this layer cake is that private banks had found the cash to buy Greece’s public debt exactly from…the ECB, profiting from ultra-friendly interest rates. This is outright theft. And it’s the thieves that have been setting the rules of the game all along.

That brings us back to the role of Goldman Sachs (dubbed by Matt Taibbi the “Vampire Squid”), which “helped” Greece get into the Eurozone through a highly questionable derivative scheme involving a currency swap that used artificially high exchange rates to conceal Greek debt.

Goldman then turned around and hedged its bets by shorting Greek debt.

Predictably, these derivative bets went very wrong for the less sophisticated of the two players. A €2.8 billion loan to Greece in 2001 became a €5.1 billion debt by 2005.

Despite this debt burden, in 2006 Greece remained within the ECB’s 3% budget deficit guidelines. It got into serious trouble only after the 2008 banking crisis. In late 2009, Goldman joined in bearish bets on Greek debt launched by heavyweight hedge funds to put selling pressure on the euro, forcing Greece into the bailout and austerity measures that have since destroyed its economy.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote in the UK Telegraph on March 2nd:

Syriza has long argued that [its post-2009] debt is illegitimate, alleging that the ECB bought Greek bonds in 2010 in order to save the European banking system and prevent contagion at a time when the eurozone did not have a financial firewall, not to help Greece.

Mr. Varoufakis [the newly-appointed Greek finance minister] said the result was to head off a Greek default to private creditors that would have led to a large haircut for foreign banks if events had been allowed to run their normal course, reducing Greece’s debt burden to manageable levels. Instead, the EU authorities took a series of steps to avert this cathartic moment, ultimately foisting €245bn of loan packages onto the Greek taxpayer and pushing public debt to 182pc of GDP.

The Toxic Central Banking System

Pepe Escobar concludes:

Beware of Masters of the Universe dispensing smiles. Draghi and the … ECB goons may dispense all the smiles in the world, but what they are graphically demonstrating once again is how toxic central banking is now enshrined as a mortal enemy of democracy.

National central banks are no longer tools of governments for the benefit of the people. Governments have become tools of a global central banking system serving the interests of giant international financial institutions. These “too big to fail” behemoths must be saved at the expense of local banks, their depositors, and local economies generally.

How to escape the tentacles of this toxic squid-like banking hierarchy?

For countries with a bit more room to maneuver than Greece has, one option is to withdraw public and private deposits and put them in publicly-owned banks. The megabanks are deemed too big to fail only because the people’s money is tied up in them. They could be allowed to fail if public funds were not at risk.

The German SBFIC (Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation) has proposed a pilot project on the Sparkassen model for Greece. Other provocative options have also been proposed, to be the subject of another article.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her nearly-300 blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. Listen to “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN here.

Civil forfeiture is a major issue that’s recently gotten into the news, notably due to Attorney General Eric Holder’s change to the controversial police action of seizing people’s property. Unfortunately, Holder’s actions, while laudable, won’t stop the massive damage that has already been done – and may very well continue the problem. Because although the media has finally begun to talk about the issue, we still haven’t been presented with a full scope of civil forfeiture: what it is and what it means.

To understand forfeiture, one must go back to colonial America. The idea of civil forfeiture comes directly from the British; early forfeiture law “refers to the power of a court over an item of real or personal property.” This could include land, in which the court would decide who owned a piece of land, or marriage, where the courts would have the authority to terminate a marriage.

Originally, in rem jurisdiction was “incorporated into American customs and admiralty laws governing the seizure of ships for crimes of piracy, treason and smuggling in the early days of the Republic, and during the American Civil War.” It was later formalized in 1966 “in the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims which apply to our civil forfeiture cases.” So the United States has always had some type of civil forfeiture law.

The situation changed, however, when President Nixon announced the War on Drugs and began to use civil forfeiture as an instrument of law enforcement. Author Montgomery Sibley notes that, as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, Congress strengthened civil forfeiture as a means of confiscating illegal substances and the means by which they are manufactured and distributed. In 1978, Congress amended the law to authorize the seizure and forfeiture of the proceeds of illegal drug transactions as well.

Under Nixon, the Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute was also enacted, targeting repeat offenders of lucrative drug trafficking. Meanwhile, an important side effect of the Control Act was that it not only allowed police to seize private property being used in a crime – it also made clear that the owner of said property had to prove the property in question was not being used as part of a crime.

In other words, when it comes to proving that someone’s property isn’t being used for criminal purposes, the burden of proof is on the owner, not the police. This creates a situation where the police can essentially confiscate someone’s belongings, allege that the items are being used to further a crime, and the owner must somehow prove that the allegation is false – something that can be extremely difficult to do.

In 1984, under President Ronald Reagan, further changes were made under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act with regards to funds attained from civil forfeiture. Two new forfeiture funds were federally created, “one at the U.S. Department of Justice, which gets revenue from forfeitures done by agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and another now run by the U.S. Treasury, which gets revenue from agencies like Customs and the Coast Guard.”

As PBS reported, “these funds could now be used for forfeiture-related expenses, payments to informants, prison building, equipment purchase, and other general law enforcement purposes.”

However, there was a major change in that local law enforcement this time would also get to have their share of the pie. “Within the 1984 Act was a provision for so-called ‘equitable sharing,’ which allows local law enforcement agencies to receive a portion of the net proceeds of forfeitures they help make under federal law.”

As soon as this occurred, America saw a massive increase in the amount of civil forfeitures carried out by federal agents between 1989 and 1999, when the value of civil forfeiture recoveries nearly doubled from $285,000,039 to $535,767,852 – a 187% increase in only 10 years. And the numbers only grew as time went on.

In 2012, $4.6 billion was acquired via civil forfeiture, compared to a decade earlier, in 2002, when the amount seized was just $322,246,408. The increase of over 1,400% reveals a major cash cow for law enforcement.

There was an attempt to reform civil forfeiture through the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000. This included several changes most notably in regards to poor or impoverished defendants, where the new law ordered courts to issue the defendant a lawyer “when the property in question is a primary residence,” as well as to pay the lawyer regardless of the outcome of the case, whereas before, defendants had to essentially defend themselves.

In addition, the issue of burden of proof changed as the government now had to “establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property [was] subject to forfeiture,” where previously the government could seize property solely on probable cause. Put simply, in order to seize property, the government now had not just to present evidence, but to present evidence “based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence.”

With that reform, it was no longer enough to say there was a possibility that the evidence could have been used in a crime. However, the law didn’t deal with the problem that the burden of proof was on the property owner, nor did it deal with the conflict of interest in which the government could seize property and sell it – using the money to fund its own operations. Because the pressing question still remains: how exactly do police use the funds they’ve gained from civil forfeitures?

In 2013, Vice reported that a district attorney in Georgia used the funds to “to buy football tickets and home furnishings,” whereas “officers in Bal Harbor, Florida, took trips to LA and Vegas and rented luxury cars, and other DAs and police chiefs have bought everything from tanning salons to booze for parties.”

The Washington Post also reported that police are using the funds to militarize themselves, buying an array of items such as “Humvees, automatic weapons, gas grenades, night-vision scopes and sniper gear. Many departments acquired electronic surveillance equipment, including automated license-plate readers and systems that track cellphones.” And this spending is on top of the military surplus gear police receive from the Pentagon.

While there is a federal force to ensure that funds are used appropriately, it’s wildly understaffed; the Justice Department has about 15 employees assigned to oversee compliance, with some five employees responsible for reviewing thousands of annual reports. Essentially, then, police are free to spend the money they gain from civil forfeitures on anything they want, without fear of punishment.

Besides the previously noted conflict of interest and burden of proof issues, there are also other major problems with civil forfeiture – notably, the disproportionate racial impact and harm it causes to innocent people.

In 2012, Vanita Gupta, the ACLU deputy legal director, was involved in a settlement of several civil forfeiture cases in Texas in which mainly black and Latino drivers were pulled over, many times without justification, and had their assets seized by police. Gupta noted that civil forfeiture laws “invite racial profiling” and “incentivize police agencies to engage in unconstitutional behavior in order to fund themselves off the backs of low-income motorists, most of whom lack the means to fight back, without any hard evidence of criminal activity. It is no way to run our justice system.”

Furthermore, in 2014, the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute reported reported that civil forfeiture laws “routinely amount to de facto racial discrimination, as law enforcement officials routinely target low-income people of color, seizing their assets.” It quoted the ACLU as saying that “asset forfeiture practices often go hand-in-hand with racial profiling and disproportionally impact low-income African-American or Hispanic people who the police decide look suspicious and for whom the arcane process of trying to get one’s property back is an expensive challenge.” Thus, like many aspects of the criminal justice system, civil forfeiture disproportionately impacts minorities.

Great harm is also committed against innocent people who are not actually engaging in any crime.Gothamist reported that in March of 2012, the NYPD confiscated $4,800 belonging to Gerald Bryan, and took Bryan “into custody on suspected felony drug distribution, as the police continued their warrantless search.” Bryan’s case was later dropped, but when he went to reclaim his money “he was told it was too late: the money had been deposited into the NYPD’s pension fund.”

The NYPD’s civil forfeiture was declared unconstitutional twice. However, the process still continues, reflecting a failure to protect the basic rights of citizens – and a breakdown in the rule of law. The very people who are supposed to enforce the law are the ones who profit from ignoring it – something that was proven in a recent study by the Institute for Justice, which found that “civil forfeiture encourages choices by law enforcement officers that leave the public worse off.”

“Under civil forfeiture,” said the report, “when participants could gain financially by taking property from others, that is overwhelmingly what they did.”

While many might argue that the civil forfeiture game has changed due to recent actions taken by AG Holder, unfortunately very little actually has. As Vox reported in January: “Holder’s order only curtails ‘adoptions’ that are requested through the federal program by a local or state police department working on its own. It still allows local and state police to seize and keep assets when working with federal authorities on an investigation, and when the property is linked to public safety concerns — such as illegal firearms, ammunition, and explosives.”

Thus, civil forfeitures continue unabated for the most part. This data analysis revealed that “only about a quarter—25.6 percent—of properties seized under equitable sharing were federal ‘adoptions’ of properties seized by state or local law enforcement, the kind of seizures the new policy targets” and that “of the nearly $6.8 billion in cash and property seized under equitable sharing from 2008 to 2013, adoptions accounted for just 8.7 percent.” Put simply: local and state law enforcement can still engage in civil forfeiture and make large amounts of money off it.

To make things worse, incoming Attorney General Loretta Lynch appears undisturbed by the current state of civil forfeiture, since she “has used civil asset forfeiture in more than 120 cases, raking in some $113 million for federal and local coffers,” and even calling it a “wonderful tool.”

There have been attempts at reform. But both of them – the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2014, and the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, which “would protect the rights of citizens and restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in seizing property without due process of law,” died in Congress. In the meantime, it seems that cops and the government will continue to cash in on the property of U.S. citizens.

This article was originally published on Occupy.com The author can be reached at devondb[at]mail[dot]com.

Syriza’s Only Choice: A Radical Step Forward

March 12th, 2015 by Spyros Lapatsioras

“One must know how to employ the kairos [right or opportune moment] of one’s forces at the right moment. It is easy to only lose a little, if one always keeps foremost in the mind the idea that unity is never the trick, but the game.” — Guy Gebord, “Notes on poker.”

1. Introduction

The transitional “bridge Agreement” of the 20th of February is a truce intended by the Greek government and welcomed by the other side (the European “institutions”). Within the truce period (the next four months), the conditions for negotiating the next agreement will be shaped. This could mean that everything is still open. However, that is not true for two reasons. First, the very transitional agreement changes the balance of power. Second, the “hostilities” will continue in the course of the next four months (i.e. the review of the commitments and the re-interpretation of the terms by each party).

2. The Agreement of February 20: A First Step on Slippery Ground…

2.1 Negotiation targets

In the first substantive phase of negotiations at the Eurogroup of the 12th February, the Greek government sought an agreement on a new “bridge program” stating that it would be impossible to extend the existing program on the grounds that it has been rejected by the Greek people:

  1. The “bridge program” would not involve conditions, reviews and so on, but should be an official manifestation of the willingness of all parties to negotiate without pressure and blackmail and without any unilateral action.
  2. In the above context, Greece would forgo the remaining installments of the previous program, with the exception of the return of the €1.9-billion that the ECB and the rest of Eurozone’s national central banks gained from the holding of Greek bonds (programs SMP and ANFA). Greek authorities could issue treasury bills beyond the limit of €15-billion to cover any liquidity emergencies.
  3. At the end of this transitional period: (a) Greece would submit its final proposals, which according to the program of the government would include a new fiscal framework for the next 3-4 years and a new national plan for reforms; (b) the issue of a sovereign debt restructuring-reduction would come to the negotiating table.

The German government and the “institutions” (EU, ECB, IMF) came to the negotiations with the position that Greece had to request a six-month “technical extension” of the existing program – renamed as the “existing arrangement” – to enable its successful completion.

2.2 The outcome of the negotiation

The agreement of the 20th of February includes a four-month extension of the “Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement (MFFA), which is underpinned by a set of commitments.” The extension of the Agreement (“which is underpinned by a set of commitments”) means: (a) evaluations by the three “institutions,” (b) commitments and conditions, (c) scheduled installments as they appear in the previous Program, subject to a positive evaluation, (d) return of the profits from holding Greek bonds by the ECB and national CBs, but subject to a positive evaluation by the “institutions” (even given the “independence” of the ECB).

In short there is a rejection-withdrawal of the Greek government’s negotiation targets (1) and (2). In addition, there is no explicit reference to how the government will cover its short term financing needs (e.g. issuing treasury bills to cover bond redemptions, interest payments and other possible emergencies) until the completion of the assessment. In this regard, the reference to the independence of the ECB may imply its “discretion” in assessing the extent to which the Greek government responds positively to the “commitments” that accompany the extension of the agreement (something which undoubtedly will complicate any “interpretative” attempts in relation to the agreement on the part of Greek government).

At the same time, the February 20 Agreement includes the statement: “The Greek authorities have also committed to ensure the appropriate primary fiscal surpluses or financing proceeds required to guarantee debt sustainability in line with the November 2012 Eurogroup statement.” This means that the Greek government refrains from the target of debt restructuring-reduction and adopts the sustainability plan based on debt repayment mostly through primary surpluses. This implies the rollback from point (3b) of its initial negotiating package.

What the Greek government has won (aside from the mere change in terminology, about which there was intense debate) is:

  1. Part (a) of section (3) of its initial suggestions, namely the right to propose reforms to the “institutions” for approval with regard to fiscal consolidation and growth. The policy measures agreed by the previous government (reduction of pensions and increase of VAT in the islands) were thus taken out. Both sides agreed to give particular emphasis to the “overdue” fight against corruption and tax evasion, public sector efficiency, improving the tax system, etc.[1]
  2. Further negotiations on the size of the primary surplus for 2015. Instead of the previously agreed 3% of GDP, the new agreement leaves open the issue of a lower primary surplus for 2015: “The institutions will, for the 2015 primary surplus target, take the economic circumstances in 2015 into account.”

It is clear that the new agreement is a truce, but truce is by no means a tie. The agreement is a first step on slippery ground. The Greek government may have gained time, but the political landscape seems quite tough, having minor similarities with the initial minimum negotiation targets set by the Greek side on February 12th.

3. Is There Still Room to Challenge Neoliberalism?

3.1 The supervision as balance between “political risk” and “moral hazard”

The political strategy of Syriza and the European Left is to overthrow neoliberalism, that is the economic and social regime that seeks to subordinate all social practices (from education and social security to the public finances) to the jurisdiction and regulatory role of markets. The European Left thus seeks to leave to governments the freedom to curtail the power of markets, thereby bringing to the fore the priority of social needs.

Neoliberalism constantly promotes the interests of capital against the interests of the workers, professionals, pensioners, young people and other vulnerable groups. The extreme version of neoliberalism, as expressed, for example, by [German Finance Minister Wolfgang] Schäuble, is not devoid of rational objectives and strategy. It attempts to resolve, and so far it does, two fundamental issues:

First, the social legitimacy of a model of labour without rights and social protection, with low and flexible wages and the absence of any meaningful bargaining power. Such a development is to be pursued in order to create favorable conditions for profitability and capital accumulation.

Second, the organization of the Eurozone (the coordination of fiscal policies, banking union, rescue packages, etc.) on the basis that member states should not succumb to “moral hazard” with the support of social (and other) expenditures that rely on public borrowing. Member States are faced with the dilemma: austerity-cuts-privatizations or the risk of default. By and large, these are commensurate choices. Even in the latter scenario, member states would accept a rescue package, the content of which is again austerity-cuts-privatizations.

This conservative perspective favors debt repayment by way of privatizations and primary surpluses, while it is not opposed to reforms such as those proposed by the Greek government (and possibly needed by Greek society) – such as more efficient organization of tax collections, modernization of the public administration,[2] and the fight against corruption. They may even welcome a new political personnel, as they realize that the traditional political staff is in decline, having lost its social legitimacy. A political scene dominated by the traditional political personnel, which has been discredited in the eyes of the social majority, is clearly considered by the neoliberal establishment as a “political risk” since it can easily trigger uncontrolled social outbreaks.

At the same time, neoliberalism recognizes as “moral hazard” any policy that supports the interests of the working-class, expands the public space, supports the welfare state, and organizes the reproduction of society beyond and outside the scope of markets.

In other words, the strategic question for neoliberalism is to define the level of austerity that targets an “optimal” balance between “political risk” and “moral hazard.”

Generally speaking, these two risks, the “moral” and the “political” one, move in opposite directions due to their consequences in the current political conjuncture. When moral hazard increases, political risk declines and vice versa. Therefore, the tension (when they encounter each other) results in an appropriate balance between them. The “independent authorities,” being immunized against any democratic control, especially on issues related to the economy (the main example here is the “independence” of the ECB), create a mechanism for detecting the balance between these two “risks.” Nevertheless, this mechanism remains incomplete.

In the European Union the key role to austerity has now been undertaken by the “evaluation of the agreements.” If we closely inspect the agreement of the 20th of February, we will see that it is not entirely closed to demands that increase “moral hazard,” i.e. to promoting arrangements to the benefit of the welfare state and labour interests. However, the key point of the agreement is that “institutions” will assess, supervise and indicate which particular reforms do not create problems to public finances and do not jeopardize future economic growth and the stability and smooth functioning of the financial system.[3] This assessment-surveillance sets a serious impediment to the implementation of the political program and the social transformations sought by Syriza in the first place.

While the question of how the government will be able to meet its financing needs remains open, statements by the ECB and the IMF are eloquent proofs of the continuous assessment stemming from the nature of the agreement: new pledged reforms are interpreted as substitutes for the commitments of the previous agreement. In particular the IMF does not accept any rollback from the completion of reforms mentioned in the previous “Program” with regard to market flexibility, privatizations, and social security reforms. It is worth noting that the non-quantification of objectives, the non-specified deficit, the absence of any explicit estimation of the fiscal gap, leaves widely open the interpretation of the actions with regard to the new agreement as equivalent to those contained in the previous one.[4]

3.2 How did we get there: On the tactics and strategy of the negotiation

The main question about the importance of the agreement of the 20th of February is what room it leaves to the government to implement its program. To answer this question we need first to analyze the “difficulties” that led the government to the compromise of the 20th of February.

The agreement was apparently determined by external factors – the given and known neoliberal context of the “institutions” – and internal factors, which played finally the most important role.

It was only of secondary importance the weak preparation of the government, along with the contradictory tactics of the Ministry of Finance:

  • The absence of any reliable plan based on numbers and analysis. The superficial level is obvious in the technical Annex of the “non-paper” prepared by the Greek government for the Eurogroup meeting of February 16. More importantly, in the same Annex the crucial assumption is made that debt sustainability can be associated with long-term primary surpluses. This argument is an important strategic retreat.
  • The release of some general principles of the proposal for debt reduction from London. This was a tactical mistake: Without any prior meeting with the ECB, a proposal is announced from a non Eurozone country that involves a swap of bonds held by the ECB. This proposal requires a change in the ECB rules and invokes, without any second thought, a negative response by the ECB. The negative response by the ECB is related not only to its policy and the existing delicate balance on the board, but also to the criticisms it received for rules violation after the recent decision to embark on quantitative easing. It is also obvious that the ECB does not need to be directly involved in such an agreement. The same result could be reached by alternative ways that are not incompatible with current political balances. The other part of the proposal concerning the loans of the EFSF linked to growth rates is too abstract and vague and definitely concerns the next round of the negotiations.
  • It seemed that the government gave too much emphasis to communications management of the negotiation as opposed to other important aspects of it. This was a negative signal, both domestically and abroad. For instance, the incident with [Eurozone finance chief Jeroen] Dijsselbloem apparently stimulated “national sentiment,” but also took away considerable bargaining power: the Greek government spent the whole weekend calming down the markets before Monday’s critical opening. This fact widely signaled that the Greek government might not not have any stable negotiation strategy.

We can easily see that this weakly planned negotiation by the Greek side, despite the time spent by the protagonists, was practically a blind jump. Several mishandlings and shifts showed the partners that the Greek side is susceptible to manipulation.

Nevertheless, what finally determined the outcome of the negotiation was neither the tactical moves nor the “external” front, but the front within the Greek society. What determined the retreat of the Greek side was the strategic decision to represent on the political level the social strata which perceive as unthinkable any disruption of market stability – even though everyone was aware of the actual historical stake of the confrontation. The much discussed scenario of a bank-run should be defined and examined (despite the technical mechanisms available to prevent it) always within the context of the social relations of power. At the same time, it is a fatal mistake to adopt the argument that a Grexit necessarily follows from a supposed “collapse” of banks. This is a zero-probability scenario, which simply was the argument used by the previous conservative Papandreou-Papademos-Samaras governments to present memoranda as the only choice to the Greek society. This argument always remains a “weapon” of extreme neoliberals like Schäuble.[5]

3.3 The challenge: Nothing can change or another world is possible?

The above analysis leads us to the conclusion that we have an agreement which significantly restricts freedom of action on public finances but also in other areas. Therefore, the economic landscape, which sets the ground not only for the final assessment of the new program in June but also for the new round of negotiations, is slippery.

The fact that the Greek government chooses to present the apparent retreat and forced change of its program as a “victory” is a bad sign for the future. It shows that the government is more interested in communication than in substance. This attitude could gradually become the political ground for a real defeat, especially as long as the message transmitted and received by the society reinforces the belief: “Do not believe the politicians in what they say, their only intention is to stay in the government.”

“The question … is whether the government will insist on superficially presenting the result of the negotiation as a ‘victory,’ disregarding all the critical issues that emerged, or will it attempt to analyze in depth the conditions and the consequences of the retreat?”

Let us consider the following simple fact: The Minister of Finance publicly accepted that 70% of the existing Memorandum is good for the Greek society. Nevertheless, this government did not come to power supporting the 70% of the Memorandum – if Syriza had pledged so, it would probably not be included in the parliamentary map today, playing the key role. The attempt to redefine the mandate so as to encompass the 70% of the Memorandum is practically an attempt to change the social alliances which has supported so far the historical experiment of a left government. Obviously 70% in itself is just an arbitrary number (why not 68% or 72%?; is it based on pages, sub-chapters, or measures?). Its adoption invokes a new political symbolism and paves the way for new social alliances. The question, which remains open even for the government, is whether the government will insist on superficially presenting the result of the negotiation as a “victory,” disregarding all the critical issues that emerged, or will it attempt to analyze in depth the conditions and the consequences of the retreat as long as there is still time (very little, indeed, since the next round of negotiations will soon start)?

In fact the agreement of February 20th leaves the government and Syriza with only one way out of the impasse of neoliberal European corset: storming forward!

  • Storming forward with truth as vehicle: to start from the assumption of a retreat in order to seek out ways to avoid any long term damage. The government should instead bring back on the agenda our programmatic commitments to redistribute income and power in favor of labour, to re-found the welfare state, democracy and participation in decision making.
  • Storming forward with the vehicle of radical reform of the tax system (so that capital and the wealthy strata of the society finally bear their appropriate burden) and the fight against corruption of part of the Greek economic elites.

A new wave of radical domestic institutional changes is urgently needed in order to build on a new basis the social alliances with the subordinate classes. Metaphorically, what is missing and seems to disappear after the agreement of the 20th of February is any domestic “memorandum against the wealth” which will improve the living conditions of the working people. The goal that “capital should pay for the crisis” has never been more to the point.

In a society where the loss of 25% of GDP and the impoverishment of large part of the population is just the visible aspect of the rapid intensification of social inequalities, in a society where mass unemployment is the numerical complement of a severe deterioration in working conditions, in a society of multiple contradictions and high expectations, the popularity of the government will not be maintained at 80 per cent for a long time.

The policy of the government can only remain hegemonic if it supports the interests of the working majority in a struggle against neoliberal strategy. There is no room for “ethnarch” policy generally and loosely defending everything “Greek” or “European”: such an approach never has, and never will represent the perspective of the Left.

Spyros Lapatsioras is Assistant Professor of Political Economy, University of Crete, Member of the Central Committee of Syriza.

John Milios is Professor of Political Economy, National Technical University of Athens, Member of the Central Committee of Syriza.

Dimitris P. Sotiropoulos is Senior Lecturer at the Open University Business School in the UK and member of Syriza.

Notes:

1. Of course, every decision still requires approval by the “institutions”: “The Greek authorities commit to refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms that would negatively impact fiscal targets, economic recovery or financial stability, as assessed by the institutions.” [“Eurogroup statement on Greece” Feb. 20, 2015.]

2. The devil always hides in the details, in the form that this modernization will take.

3. For instance, we should not forget that economic growth in the current program relies on exports and that every wage increase is automatically considered as being against competitiveness and the target increase in exports. No matter how empirically erroneous is this perspective, it still reflects the viewpoint of the “institutions.” Another example is the solution to the non-performing loans because it affects the financial systems and thus every policy proposal should secure the OK by the “institutions.”

4. In his official letter to Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Feb. 24, 2015, Mario Draghi says: “We note that the commitments outlined by the authorities differ from existing programme commitments in a number of areas. In such cases, we will have to assess during the review whether measures which are not accepted by the authorities are replaced with measures of equal or better quality in terms of achieving the objectives of the programme.”

5. James Galbraith also refers to “grexit” as an adequate reason to seek an immediate compromise: “No agreement would have meant capital controls, or else bank failures, debt default, and early exit from the Euro.” [“Reading The Greek Deal Correctly” Feb. 23, 2015.]

Putting its hypocritical and biased nature on full display once again, the alleged human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, was recently caught in an attempt to fabricate “evidence” of Assad’s use of barrel bombs in civilian areas for the purposes of further demonizing the secular Syrian government.

On February 25, HRW posted a photo of a devastated civilian area in Syria with the tagline “Syria dropped barrel bombs despite ban.” The “ban” HRW is referring to is the ban on bombing civilian areas that applies to both sides in Aleppo after the United Nations stepped in to save the Western-backed terroristsfrom annihilation. Assad’s forces had surrounded the city and had cut off a major supply route for the death squads from Turkey thus making the ultimate elimination of the jihadist forces a virtual inevitability.

As Somini Sengupta wrote for the New York Times on February 24,

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that the Syrian government had dropped so-called barrel bombs on hundreds of sites in rebel-held towns and cities in the past year, flouting a United Nations Security Council measure.

In a report released Tuesday, the group said it relied on satellite images, photos, videos and witness statements to conclude that the Syrian government had bombarded at least 450 sites in and around the southern town of Daraa and at least 1,000 sites in Aleppo in the north.

The report focused on the period since Feb. 22, 2014, when the Security Council specifically condemned the use of barrel bombs, which are large containers filled with explosives and projectiles that can indiscriminately hurt civilians and are prohibited under international law.

There was only one problem with HRW’s tweet – the photograph the organization provided was not Aleppo.

In fact, the damage that had been wrought upon the civilian area in the photograph was not committed by the Syrian military but by the United States.

The photo was actually a picture of Kobane (Ayn al-Arab), the city which has been the site of heavy US aerial bombardment over the last several months as the US engages in its program of death squad herding and geographical reformation of sovereign Syrian and Iraqi territory.

But, while HRW was content to use the destruction of the city as a reason to condemn the Assad government and continue to promote the cause for US military action in Syria, the “human rights organization” was apparently much less interested in the exact same destruction wrought by US forces.

In other words, if Assad’s forces bomb a civilian area into the stone age, it is an atrocity, a war crime, and justification for international military involvement. If the United States bombs a civilian area into the stone age, it’s no biggie.

Partially funded by George Soros, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly shilled for NATO and America’s imperialist aims, particularly in Syria.

For instance, when Western media propaganda had reached a crescendo regarding the outright lie that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people, HRW stood right beside Barack Obama and John Kerry in their effort to prove Assad’s guilt. HRW even went so far as to repeat the lie that the UN report suggested that Assad was the offending party, driving the final nail into the coffin of any credibility HRW may have had.

When a last-minute chemical weapons deal was secured by Russia in an effort to avoid yet another US/NATO invasion of Syria, HRW did not rejoice for the opportunity of peaceful destruction of chemical weapons and a chance to avoid war, it attacked the deal by claiming that it “failed to ensure justice.” Of course, the deal did fail to ensure justice. There were no provisions demanding punishment of the death squads who actually used the weapons or the US/NATO apparatus that initiated and controlled the jihadist invasion to begin with.

Regardless, when Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross released her report that refuted what the US/NATO was asserting in regards to chemical weapons in Syria, HRW embarked upon acampaign of attack against her and her work.

Even as far back as 2009, however, HRW was showing its true colors when it apparently signed off on and supported renditions – the process of kidnapping individuals off the street without any due process and “rendering” them to jails and prisons in other countries where they are often tortured – in secret talks with the Obama administration.

If HRW ever had any credibility in terms of the question of actual human rights, then all of that credibility has assuredly been lost. HRW is nothing more than a pro-US, pro-NATO NGO that acts as a smokescreen for the continuation of the violation of human rights across the world – that is, unless those violations are committed by America’s enemies.

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 500 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. 

The ISIS-US Empire – Their Unholy Alliance Fully Exposed

March 12th, 2015 by Joachim Hagopian

Let’s be perfectly clear. The United States is not actually at war with ISIS. As Global Research director, economist and author Michel Chossudovsky plainly points out recently, Obama is simply waging “a fake war” against the Islamic State forces, putting on another propaganda show for mainstream media to keep his flock of American sheeple asleep in echo-chambered darkness. With a mere cursory review of recent historical events, one can readily realize that virtually everything Big Government tells us is happening in the world, you can bet is a boldface lie.

For over three and a half decades the US has been funding mostly Saudi stooges to do its dirty bidding in proxy wars around the world, beginning in Afghanistan in the 1980’s to fight the Soviets with the mujahedeen-turned al Qaeda that later would mutate into ISIS. Reagan and Bush senior gave Osama bin Laden his first terrorist gig. Our mercenary “Islamic extremists” for-hire were then on the CIA payroll employed in the Balkans during the 1990’s to kill fellow Moslem Serbs in Kosovo and Bosnia. For a long time now Washington’s been relying on the royal Saudi family as its chief headhunters supplying the United States with as needed terrorists on demand in order to wage its geopolitics chessboard game of global hegemony, otherwise known by the central banking cabal as global “Theft-R-Us.”

The Bush crime family were in bed with the bin Ladens long before 9/11 when that very morning George H W Bush on behalf of his Carlyle Group was wining and dining together with Osama’s brother at the posh DC Ritz Carlton while 19 box cutting Saudi stooges were acting as the neocon’s hired guns allegedly committing the greatest atrocity ever perpetrated on US soil in the history of this nation. And in the 9/11 immediate aftermath while only birds were flying the not-so-friendly skies above America, there was but one exception and that was the Air Force escort given the bin Ladens flying safely back home to their “Terrorists-R-Us” mecca called Saudi Arabia. On 9/11 the Zionist Israeli Mossad, Saudi intelligence and the Bush-Cheney neocons were busily pulling the trigger murdering near 3000 Americans in cold blood as the most deadly, most heinous crime in US history. If you’re awake enough to recognize this ugly truth as cold hard fact, then it’s certainly not a stretch to see the truth behind this latest US created hoax called ISIS.

Renowned investigative journalist and author Seymour Hersh astutely saw the writing on the wall way back in 2006 (emphasis added):

 To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

The US Empire along with its international partner-in-crime Israel has allowed and encouraged Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to be the primary financiers of al Qaeda turned ISIS. Even Vice President Joe Biden last year said the same. If Empire wanted to truly destroy the entire Islamic extremist movement in the Middle East it could have applied its global superpower pressure on its allied Gulf State nations to stop funding the ISIS jihadists. But that has never happened for the simple reason that Israel, those same Arab allies and the United States want a convenient “bad guy” enemy in the Middle East and North Africa, hiding the fact that al Qaeda-ISIS for decades has been its mercenary ally on the ground in more recent years in the Golan Heights, Libya, Iraq and Syria.

As recently as a month ago it was reported that an Islamic State operative claimed that funding for ISIS had been funneled through the US. Of course another “staunch” US-NATO ally Turkey has historically allowed its territory to be a safe staging ground as well as a training area for ISIS. It additionally allows jihadist leaders to move freely in and out of Syria through Turkey. Along with Israel and all of US Empire’s Moslem nation states as our strategic friends in the Middle East, together they have been arming, financing and training al Qaeda/ISIS to do its double bidding, fighting enemies like Gaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria while also posing as global terrorist boogie men threatening the security of the entire world. Again, Washington cannot continue to double speak its lies from both sides of its mouth and then expect to continue having it both ways and expect the world to still be buying it.

A breaking story that’s creating an even larger crack in the wall of the US false narrative is the revelation that Iraqi counterterrorism forces just arrested four US-Israeli military advisors assisting (i.e., aiding and abetting) the ISIS enemy, three of whom hold duel citizenships from both Israel and America. This latest piece of evidence arrives on the heels of a Sputnik article from a couple weeks ago quoting American historian Webster Tarpley saying that “the United States created the Islamic State and uses jihadists as its secret army to destabilize the Middle East.” The historian also supported claims that the ISIS has in large part been financed by the Saudi royal family. Interviewed on Press TV the critic of US foreign policy asked why NATO ally Turkey bordering both Iraq and Syria where the Islamic State jihadists continue to terrorize, why can’t Turkey simply use its larger, vastly superior army to go in and defeat the much smaller ISIS, especially if the US and NATO were serious about destroying their alleged enemy. Again, if ISIS is the enemy, why did the US recently launch an air strike on Assad’s forces that were in process of defeating ISIS? The reason is all too obvious, the bombing was meant to afflict damage to stop Assad’s forces from beating back ISIS that the US is clearly protecting.

Finally, Tarpley reaffirmed what many others have been saying that chicken hawk Senator John McCain is actual buddies with ISIS kingpin Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Of course photos abound of his frequent “secret” meetings with ISIS leadership illegally conducted inside Syria. This confirmed fact provides yet one more obvious link between the high powered criminal operative posing as US senator and the so called enemy of the “free world” ISIS.

Recall that iconic photo from June last year of American supplied trucks traveling unimpeded in the ISIS convoy kicking up dust in the Iraqi desert fresh from the Syrian battlefields heading south towards Baghdad. It was no accident that they were equipped with an enormous fleet of brand new Toyota trucks and armed with rockets, artillery and Stinger missiles all furnished by US Empire. Nor was it an accident that the Iraqi Army simply did an about face and ran, with orders undoubtedly coming from somewhere high above in the American Empire. The Islamic State forces were allowed to seize possession of 2500 armored troop carriers, over 1000 Humvees and several dozen US battlefield tanks all paid for by US tax dollars. This entire spectacle was permitted as ISIS without any resistance then took control of Mosul the second largest city in Iraq including a half billion dollars robbing a bank. Throughout this process, it was definitely no accident that the United States allowed the Islamic State forces to invade Iraq as with advanced US airpower it could have within a couple hours easily carpet bombed and totally eliminated ISIS since the Islamic State possessed no anti-aircraft weapons. And even now with the hi-tech wizardry of satellites, lasers, nanotechnology and advanced cyber-warfare, the US and allied intelligence has the means of accurately locating and with far superior firepower totally eradicating ISIS if the will to do so actually existed. But the fact is there is no desire to kill the phantom enemy when in fact it’s the friend of the traitors in charge of the US government who drive the Empire’s global war policy.

Washington’s objective last year was to purposely unleash on already ravaged Iraq the latest US-made, al Qaeda morphed into the Islamic monster-on-steroids to further destabilize the Middle Eastseek a regime change to replace the weak, corrupt, Sunni persecuting Maliki government in Baghdad and ‘balkanize” Iraq into three separate, powerless, divisive sections in similar vein of how the West tore apart and dissected Yugoslavia into thirteen ineffectual pieces. The globalist pattern of bank cabal loans drowning nations into quicksand debt and transnationals and US Empire posts predatorily moving in as permanent fixtures always replace what was previously a far better off sovereign nation wherever King Midas-in-reverse targets to spreads its Empire disease of failed-state cancer. After Yugoslavia came Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine. It goes on and on all over the globe. The all too familiar divide and conquer strategy never fails as the US Empire/NWO agenda. But the biggest reason ISIS was permitted to enter and begin wreaking havoc in Iraq last June was for the Empire to re-establish its permanent military bases in the country that Maliki had refused Washington after its December 2011 pullout.

With 2300 current US troops (and rising up to 3000 per Obama’s authorization) once again deployed back on the ground in Iraq acting as so called advisors, Iraq is now the centerpiece of US military presence in the Middle East region. Before a doubting House Armed Services Committee last Tuesday, CENTCOM Commander General Lloyd Austin defended Obama’s policyinsisting that ISIS can be defeated without use of heavy ground forces, feebly claiming that they’re on the run because his commander-in-chief’s air strike campaign is actually working. How many times before have we heard generals’ glowing reports to Congress turn out to be lies?

As far as PR goes, it appears the lies and propaganda are once again working. With help from the steady stream of another beheading-of-the week posted like clockwork on Youtube for all the world to shockingly see, not unlike when traffic slows down to look for bloodied car victims mangled on the highway. Apparently this thinly veiled strategy is proving successful again on the worked over, dumbed down, short attention-spanned American population. According to a poll released just a few days ago, 62% of Americans want more GI boots on the ground in Iraq to fight the latest made-by-America enemy for Iraq War III. Incredibly only 39% believe that more troops on the ground would risk another long, protracted war. Again, short attention spans are doomed to keep repeating history as in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

This polling propaganda disinformation ploy fits perfectly with prior statements made a few months ago by America’s top commander General Martin Dempsey that the US military presence in both Iraq and Syria must be a long term commitment as the necessary American sacrifice required to effectively take out ISIS. With US leaders laying the PR groundwork for more Empire occupations worldwide, of course it’s no accident that it conveniently fits in with the Empire’s agenda to wage its war of terror on a forever basis. Efforts by Washington to “prep” Americans for these “inevitable,” open-ended wars around the globe are designed to condition them into passive acceptance of lower intensity, “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” conflicts specifically to minimize and silence citizens from ever actively opposing yet more human slaughter caused by more US state sponsored terrorism in the form of unending imperialistic wars.

Every one of these “current events” have been carefully planned, coordinated, timed and staged for mass public consumption, none more so than those beheadings of US and British journalists, aid workers and Middle Eastern Christians along with the desecration of ancient Iraqi history with dozens of destroyed museums, churches and shrines. Obama and the Empire want us all to be thoroughly horrified and disgusted so we fear and hate the latest designated Islamic enemy. Hating your enemy to the point of viewing them as the lowest of the lowest, sub-human animal is an old psyops brainwashing trick successfully employed in every single war from the dawn of violent man. It effectively dehumanizes the enemy while desensitizing the killing soldier. For over a year now we’ve seen this same MSM game being relentlessly waged to falsely demonize Putin. The sinister, warped minds of the divide and conquer strategists from the ruling class elite don’t mind the resultant hating of Moslems around the world either. That’s all by diabolical design too.

If only six organizations control the entire planet’s mass media outlet that feeds the masses their daily lies like their daily bread, another winning bet would be that in a heartbeat they could also effectively shut down the internet pipeline that showcases ISIS horror show theatrics on the global stage. But by design, they are willingly, cunningly disseminated for worldwide mass consumption.

In fact the only consistent group that’s even been able to militarily hold their own and actually challenge ISIS, the Kurds, are watching UK ship heavy arms to the same losing team the Iraqi army that ran away from defending Mosul. The last time the West gave them weapons and supplies, they handed them right over to ISIS.

In a recent Guardian article, a Kurdish captain said that the Kurds offered to even buy the second hand weapons from the British used in Afghanistan. But because the West is afraid the heavy arms might empower Kurdish nationalism into demanding their own sovereign nation for the first time in history, the US wants to ensure that Iraq stays as one nation after implanting its latest Baghdad puppet regime. The fiercely independent Kurds are feared if they were granted autonomy that they might refuse to allow their homeland to be raped and plundered by the US unlike the corrupt current Iraqi government. The Kurdish fighters could sorely use the bigger guns as they plan to launch an offensive in April or May to take back Mosul from ISIS. But when permitting an ancient ethnic group its proper due by granting political autonomy risks interfering with the Empire’s rabid exploitation of another oil-rich nation, all bets are off in doing the right thing.

The mounting evidence is stacking up daily to unequivocally prove beyond any question of a doubt that ISIS is in fact a US mercenary ally and not the treasonous feds’ enemy at all. From mid-August 2014 to mid-January 2015 using the most sophisticated fighter jets known to man, the US Air Force and its 19 coalition allies have flown more than 16,000 air strikes over Iraq and Syria ostensibly to “root out” ISIS once and for all. Yet all this Empire aggression has nothing to show for its wasted phony efforts as far as inflicting any real damage on the so called ISIS enemy. Labeled a “soft counterterrorism operation,” a prominent Council on Foreign Relations member recently characterized Obama’s scheme as too weak and ineffectual, and like a true CFR chicken hawk, he strongly advocates more bombs, more advisers and special operations forces deployed on the ground.

But the records show that all those air strikes are purposely not hitting ISIS forces because they are not the actual target. Many air strike missions from both the US Air Force as well as Israeli jets have been designed to destroy extensive infrastructure inside Syria that hurts the Syrian people, causing many innocent civilian casualties, while not harming ISIS at all. This in turn ensures more ISIS recruits for America’s forever war on terror. Repeatedly oil refineries, pipelines and grain storage silos have also been prime targets damaged and destroyed by the West. Because in 2013 Obama’s false flag claim that Assad’s army was responsible for the chemical weapons attack was thwarted by strong worldwide opposition and Putin’s success brokering the deal that had Assad turning over his chemical weapons, a mere year later ISIS conveniently provided Obama’s deceitful excuse to move forward with his air offensive on Syria after all.

Finally, on numerous occasions the US was caught red-handed flying arms and supply drops to the Islamic jihadists on the ground. According to Iraqi intelligence sources, US planes have engaged regularly in air drops of food and weapons to ISIS. These sighting began to be observed after one load was “accidentally” dropped last October into so called enemy hands supposedly meant to go to the Kurdish fighters. Realizing the US has betrayed them, as of late Iraqi security forces have been shooting down US and British aircraft engaged in providing supplies and arms to their ISIS enemy. This is perhaps the most incriminating evidence yet in exposing the truth that ISIS is being supported, supplied and protected by the US Empire more than even the Iraqi government forces the US claims to be assisting in this phony war against the militant Islamic jihadists.

Clearly the unfolding daily events and developments in both Iraq and Syria overwhelmingly indict the United States as even more of “the bad guy” than the supposed ISIS terrorists. Recently the US was caught financing ISIS and has all along supported Arab allies that knowingly fund Islamic extremism. During the six months since Obama vowed to go after them and “root them out,” countless times the US and allies have maintained the so called enemy’s supply line with regularly scheduled air drops. Meanwhile, in both Syria and Iraq after a half year of alleged bombing, ISIS forces are reported to be stronger than ever. The air strikes have not been hitting jihadist targets because the American and coalition forces’ actual targets in Syria have been vital infrastructure and civilians that are clearly attacks on Assad. All of this irrefutable evidence piling up is backfiring on the American Empire. The world is now learning just how devious, diabolical and desperate the warmongering, pro-Zionist powerbrokers who are the war criminals controlling the US rogue government really are. Their evil lies are unraveling their demonic agenda as the truth cannot be stopped.

Joachim Hagopian is a West Point graduate and former US Army officer. He has written a manuscript based on his unique military experience entitled “Don’t Let The Bastards Getcha Down.” It examines and focuses on US international relations, leadership and national security issues. After the military, Joachim earned a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and worked as a licensed therapist in the mental health field for more than a quarter century. He now concentrates on his writing and has a blog site at http://empireexposed. blogspot. com/.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday”—The Beatles 1965

In the 1970s, I had a staunch conservative colleague, a political science professor, who was the only professor I ever met who openly used his classroom as a bully pulpit for his political views. Once, in a seminar he and I participated in, I asked him to tell the audience what conservatives conserve since they obviously are not conservationists. He was caught off guard by the question but eventually stated two platitudes: our values and our way of life. I tried to show him that both were meaningless expressions. To be meaningful, the pronoun “our” needs a specific antecedent. Without one, it could refer to any group—the wise or the stupid, the good or the bad, the ugly or the beautiful. Likewise the phrase “way of life” and the word “values” also must have some specific content to be meaningful. Some people value fairness and honesty, others cheating and lying. Some ways of life involve robbery and assault and others, serving people. Sentences that lack specific content are rarely meaningful. But I doubt that I convinced my colleague. Someone who doesn’t want his mind changed is difficult to convince! So have some fun and ask your favorite conservative what conservatives conserve and judge her/his reply. Does it make any sense? is the question.

Yet, the word “conservative” has always had a specific and precise meaning. It was coined by François-René de Chateaubriand in 1818. He used the word as the title of a magazine whose object was to restore the Bourbon monarchy by undoing the policies instituted during the French Revolution. Chateaubriand and others sought to return France to the time of the Ancien Régime (old order).Since that time, conservatives have tried to preserve the status quo or, better still, to return to “the way things were” at sometime in the past. In different times and at different places, of course, there are different old orders, so there is no single group of ideas that are conservative. Conservatives from different parts of the world often disagree among themselves. But the unifying attitude is always a yearning for the past.

In Europe in the nineteenth century, the yearning was for a return to the time before the French Revolution, before 1789. In America, some conservatives yearn for a return to the 1920s, others the 1850s, and still others to the 1600s. In Germany, some still yearn for a return to the 1930s. in Israel, some yearn for a time before the Christian era. And in the Arab world, some yearn for a time before the death of Muhammad. These yearnings are deeply felt. So the question is, Is human society regressing?

Look at the evidence. In America, the rights of wage-earners to organize and collectively bargain has been largely eliminated. The Supreme Court has torn the heart out of the Voting Rights Act and governors throughout the nation have begun to limit the right to vote of many citizens. The elimination of regulations used to promote the fairness of business is constantly sought. And racism has become rife. In Europe anti-Semitism is again becoming common. Israel, whose founders were staunchly progressive socialists, has now become a banal reactionary state. The voices of reaction are loud and heard everywhere while the voices of progress are hardly heard at all. Active progressive movements exist nowhere. The voices of progress have fallen silent. Conservatives everywhere are measuring progress by walking backwards!

Conflict within and between societies was once manifested as conflict between reactionaries and progressives. But today things are different. Reactionaries and progressives engage in mere skirmishes while the real conflict is taking place between two large conservative societies—the Western and the Arabian. Skirmishes can often be resolved by compromise, but conflict between two diametrically opposed cultures can not. What can either side give up that would mollify the other? Their forms of government? Their economic practices? Their cultural values? I suspect not! America promises to “degrade and destroy” ISIL. There is no space for compromise.

But Islamic conservatism is not comprised of a group of individuals. It does not consist of an organization. It is an ideology. It cannot be shot with a gun. It cannot be stabbed with a knife. It cannot be poisoned. It cannot be blown to bits with a missile. As any American should know, just as the ideology of racism has not been annihilated after numerous generations, the ideology that holds ISIL together cannot be destroyed either. The killing of people who hold that ideology will have no effect on its existence. It has already become a Lernean Hydra. Each lopped off head grows two more.

On September 11, 2001, the United States set out to punish those responsible for crashing airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon even though the perpetrators died in the crashes. America would extract its “pound of flesh” along with millions of gallons of blood. Although ostensibly done to protect Americans, some of the flesh and blood extracted was and continues to be American. But no one can convincingly argue that Americans are safer today than they were on September 10th. Butchering the flesh and spilling the blood has achieved nothing. Now the American government wants more. But the degree of safety Americans enjoy is inversely related to the number of jihadists killed. The more killed, the less safe Americans are.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. How many Americans will die trying to kill even one percent of them? Even if one percent is killed, how many of the others will become jihadists? How many years of killing will this take? The human race can very easily annihilate itself in this mad attempt to “degrade and destroy.”

That human society is regressing is obvious if the proliferation of cyberware being developed is discounted. Cyber trinkets will not solve human problems. So the question to be answered is not is human society in regress but how far back it will go—the 1920s, the eighteenth century, the Middle Ages, the seventh century, or perhaps the Stone Age. What will the denouement of the human race be?

John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

dollareuro

Core Inflation in the US Would Be Just As Low As in the Eurozone if Measured on the Same BasisWashington’s Blog, March 11, 2015

Despite Stronger U.S. Growth Anyone with a pulse knows that Europe is stuck in a downturn worse than the Great Depression. Most think that the U.S. has fared better … but that is debatable. Mega-bank Société Générale’s strategist Albert Edwards…

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Terrorism is “Made in the USA”. The Global War on Terrorism is a Fabrication, A Big Lie Prof Michel Chossudovsky, March 11, 2015

Prominent academic and author Dr Michel Chossudovsky warned that the so-called war on terrorism is a front to propagate America’s global hegemony and create a New World Order. Dr Chossudovsky said terrorism is made in the US and that terrorists…

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A New World Order: A Threat to Sovereign States, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, March 11, 2015

New World Order a big threat to sovereign states, speakers at an international conference say. The anti-war initiative, Perdana Global Peace Foundation, has a single goal of putting an end to war. Founded by Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir…

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Suppressing Key Facts, How the American Public Is Deceived by the “News”, Eric Zuesse, March 11, 2015

If the public is systematically lied-to by the Government and by a virtually uniformly cooperative press suppressing key facts in order to pump that lie, such as was the case during 2002 and 2003 in the lead-up to America’s invasion…

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Boris Nemtsov Assassination: Confession of Former Russian Officer could Prompt “Mole-Hunt”, Dr. Christof Lehmann, March 11, 2015

The Moscow Basmanny Court, on Sunday, sanctioned the detention of three additional suspects in the case of the murder of Russian politician Boris Nemtsov. Meanwhile, Daur Dadayev , a former Chechen officer pleaded guilty for his involvement. The developments prompt…

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Impending Threat to Canadian Democracy: Harper Government’s “Anti-Terrorism Act” isn’t about Terrorism, it’s a Torture Act, Michael Keefer, March 11, 2015

The Harper government’s Bill C-51, or Anti-Terrorism Act, subverts basic principles of constitutional law, assaults rights of free speech and free assembly, and is viciously anti-democratic.

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Fukushima Coverup: Sick US Navy Sailors’ Class Action Law Suit, US Government, Doctors Bury Truth about Fukushima RadiationBy David Gutierrez, March 10, 2015

Image: Navy Lieutenant Steve Simmons U.S. Navy sailors exposed to radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been falling ill, even as the Defense Department insists that they were not exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Many of the…

That’s according to a count by the Syrian Network for Human Rights. They also claim that Kaya Mueller, a U.S. NGO worker who was being held by ISIS, was killed in a U.S. airstrike. As here:

‘In this report we will document the civilian casualties from December 14th, 2014 until February 17th, 2015. These incidents have caused the deaths of no less than 63 civilians, including 3 children and 5 women, for an overall death toll of 103 individuals including 11 women, once of which is a confirmed American woman as well as 11 children. This information has been documented by the SNHR by name, picture, date, and time’.

And this tally is almost certainly incomplete, because the Network say that they have been unable to:

‘ . . . record or document the deaths toll caused behind ISIS lines, and no one can claim that, except within the media propaganda, and that is because ISIS has never published the names, photos or any videos or any information about them, and there is no information source or reporters behind ISIS lines to deliver such news, photos, and account for the number of victims’.

This is pure supposition, but given that U.S. led airstrikes will have been concentrated ‘behind ISIS lines’, then it’s possible that a substantial number of civilian deaths may have been caused, but gone undocumented, by them.

Will our intrepid free media, so passionately concerned about the suffering of civilians in Syria, be following up on this report?

I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Here are excerpts from the most recent articles published on Stop NATO.

East And South: NATO Chief, Commanders Expand Rapid Strike Forces

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
March 11, 2015

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discussed security challenges with NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip Breedlove, and participated in a conference of senior military commanders during a visit to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe on Wednesday (11 March 2015). The Secretary General thanked the commanders for the remarkable work of Allied forces in the face of a highly complex and uncertain security environment…

The Secretary General warned that Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine have undermined the post-Cold War security order in Europe

JenPsak: U.S. To Report On Sending Lethal Weapons To Ukraine

Ukrinform
March 11, 2015

Psaki says when U.S. government reports on providing weapons to Ukraine

KYIV: The United States plans to submit a report to Congress on possible providing defense lethal assistance to Ukraine, envisaged by the requirements of Ukraine Freedom Support Act “as soon as possible”.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said this during a daily press briefing on Tuesday, an Ukrinform correspondent reported.

“The reports are currently undergoing an interagency review. We’re committed to delivering these reports to Congress as soon as possible,” she said.

According Psaki, the delay in submitting the report is due to the “extremely volatile” situation in Ukraine, which is discussed on a daily basis. “We want to ensure that Congress has the most complete and up-to-date information,” she assured.

The Speaker added that the U.S. President delegated to the State Department certain reporting requirements in the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, but there are several agencies who weigh in on the content.

As reported, one of the sections of Ukraine Freedom Support Act, adopted in mid-December, provides reporting by the President of the United States on possible deliveries of defensive weapons to Ukraine, conducting exercises and training of military personnel. The deadline set by this law passed on February 15.

Polish Prime Minister On Ukraine War: For First Time Blood Being Shed For European Union

Interfax-Ukraine
March 11, 2015

Kopacz: Europe faces greatest security crisis since Cold War

Eastern Partnership: The West’s Final Assault On the Former Soviet Union

The Prime Minister of Poland Ewa Kopacz has said that the Ukrainian conflict has triggered an unprecedented security crisis in Europe.

”We have the greatest security crisis in Europe since the Cold War,” she said in an interview with Polish media, adding that it would be irresponsible to disregard this threat.

According to Kopacz, for the first time “blood is actually being shed for the European Union, or for an attempt at integration into the European Union.”

”We need to protect our own interests, but at the same time fight for something that Ukraine is fighting for today,” she said, adding that Europe should condemn those who don’t respect Ukraine’s desire for European integration.

On March 11, Warsaw will host the annual conference of Poland’s military leadership. The main topics will include the conflict in Ukraine and preparations for the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw.

Last night, Polish National Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said that the conference will undoubtedly will be guided by the events in eastern Ukraine…

Former Co-Triumvir: U.S. Blatantly Insults Georgian Sovereignty Over Saakashvili

March 10, 2015

Tbilisi: Nino Burjanadze, ex-parliament speaker and leader of Democratic Movement–United Georgia opposition party, accused the United States of “blatant insult of Georgia’s sovereignty” and criticized the Georgian authorities for not reacting on appearance of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, wanted by Tbilisi, at a hearing in the U.S. Senate’s foreign relations committee.

“This is an insult of our state; this is a continuation of the insulting policy, which was also demonstrated by inviting wanted ex-president as a main guest at [the European Parliament] during ratification of [the Association] Agreement,” she said on March 10.

In his capacity as Ukrainian president’s adviser and chairman of Ukraine’s International Advisory Council on Reforms, Saakashvili testified before Senate foreign relations committee’s subcommittee on Europe and regional security cooperation on March 4, when it held a hearing on “Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.”

“What do declarations by the western states, including by the United States, mean about respecting Georgia’s sovereignty? Respecting Georgia’s sovereignty first and foremost mean that one has to respect the authorities of this country and its decisions and one should not be receiving wanted person,” Burjanadze said…

NATO Land Forces Prepare For New Article 5 Collective War

Stars and Stripes
March 10, 2015

NATO country leaders meet to hone response to future threats
ByJennifer H. Svan

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany: High-level NATO leaders met this week at Ramstein to consider the future of the alliance’s ground forces in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine and events in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization-LANDCOM Corps Commanders’ Conference drew more than 140 participants from nearly every country in the 28-member alliance, including NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove.

He and Army Lt. Gen. John Nicholson Jr., the commander of NATO Allied Land Command, spoke of the broader security environment facing NATO post-Afghanistan and the challenges ground forces, in particular, must address to hone and ready a land component that could respond to an international crisis at a moment’s notice.

“We are adapting to some of the most significant changes to the security environment here in Europe since the Cold War,” Breedlove said, “and I am pleased to say that NATO is adapting as rapidly as its 21st Century challenges are also evolving.”

Breedlove said NATO’s land forces headquarters — established in 2012 at Izmir, Turkey, to ensure the interoperability of NATO ground forces — “is focused on matching our readiness to the environment” and working with nations on contingency planning “in support of NATO’s readiness action force,” as outlined at the pivotal NATO Wales Summit last fall. Interoperability has been a constant, if elusive, goal for the alliance since the early 1950s…

U.S. Military Moves To Russian Borders For First Time Ever

United States European Command
March 10, 2015

3rd Infantry Division arrives to support Operation Atlantic Resolve
By Media Operations Division
United States European Command

RIGA, Latvia: Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division offload an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank from the transportation vessel “Liberty Promise” March 9 at the Riga Universal Terminal docks. More than 100 pieces of equipment, including the tanks, M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and assorted military cargo, will move on to sites in other areas of Latvia as well as Estonia and Lithuania in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Approximately 750 U.S. Army and military vehicles and equipment, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces and helicopters from the 3rd Infantry Division arrived in Riga, Latvia, on Monday by ship to support Operation Atlantic Resolve and planned Army-Europe multinational training exercises in that region. This equipment will be used for training of NATO allies in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania…

Serbia: NATO Victim In 1999, NATO Military Colony In 2015

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Military Liaison Office Belgrade

March 9, 2015

Admiral Ferguson said that NATO and Serbia are successfully cooperating through various Partnership of Peace mechanisms, and noted that the recently adopted IPAP agreement provides space for deepening relations and practical cooperation. The Serbian officials noted that Serbia appreciates NATO’s assistance in improving capacities for participation of its soldiers in EU and UN peacekeeping missions, and added that the Serbian Armed Force’s cooperation with KFOR is excellent on all levels.

Admiral Ferguson also met with Chief of NATO MLO Belgrade, Brig. Gen. Lucio Batta, to discuss the most recent developments in NATO-Serbia relations and the role of the office in supporting Serbiaćs defense sector reform and future IPAP-related initiatives.

This was Admiral Ferguson’s first visit to Serbia since assuming command of JFC Naples in July 2014. In addition to his NATO responsibilities, Admiral Ferguson is also Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa…

Need EU Army To Aid NATO In Confronting Russia: Official

March 10, 2015

Juncker: NATO is not enough, EU needs an army

The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats, as well as to restore the bloc’s standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper yesterday (8 March).

Arguing that NATO was not enough because not all members of the transatlantic defence alliance are in the EU, Juncker said a common EU army would send important signals to the world.

“A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries,” Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “Such an army would also help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world.”

Juncker said a common EU army could serve as a deterrent and would have been useful during the Ukraine crisis.

“With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighbouring state,” he said…

U.S. Deploys 3,000 Troops, 750 Military Vehicles To Baltic

Stars and Stripes
March 9, 2015

Troops and hardware from 3rd Infantry Division heading to Eastern Europe
By Jon Harper

WASHINGTON: Thousands of troops and major hardware from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division are heading to the Baltic region to reassure NATO allies…according to the Pentagon.

Approximately 3,000 soldiers from the division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team are bringing approximately 750 vehicles and pieces of heavy equipment with them, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces and helicopters. The gear arrived Monday via ship in Riga, Latvia, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters.

The troops and equipment will participate in multinational training exercises with Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which will kick off in May. The exercises are part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S.-Army led mission which began last year…

Germany: United States Army NATO Soldiers In European War Games

March 5, 2015

USANATO-1GNC Soldiers Conduct Deployment Exercise in Muenster, Germany

MUENSTER, Germany: United States Army NATO Soldiers assigned to NATO’s 1st German-Netherlands Corps conducted a deployment readiness and alert exercise Mar. 4, as part of a series of exercises making up NATO Exercise Trident Juncture 15, the alliance’s larges exercise this year.

The Soldiers, along with their Dutch, Germany, Romanian and Turkish partners practiced alert and deployment procedures for a would be short-notice deployment, culminating with the air-loading of Soldiers and equipment onto a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.

1st GNC, headquartered in Muenster, Germany, is one of several NATO headquarters responsible for rapidly deploying to provide command and control to NATO forces during operational deployments. The deployment and alert excercise provided 1st GNC leaders an assessment of how well their organization can do that…

NATO’s Top Political Body Meets With Jordanian King At NATO Headquarters

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
March 9, 2015

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underscored the importance of the Alliance’s partnership with Jordan in talks with His Majesty King Abdullah II at NATO headquarters on Monday (9 March 2015). After meeting the Secretary General, the King discussed regional security challenges with Allied ambassadors at a session of the North Atlantic Council.

Mr. Stoltenberg underlined that NATO Allies and Jordan face the same security challenges and threats, including terrorism and extremism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the consequences of failing states.

The Secretary General expressed his sympathy to the people of Jordan for the recent barbaric killing of a Jordanian pilot by ISIL, and stressed that the terrible acts conducted by extremists underlined the need for us to work even closer together.

Mr. Stoltenberg welcomed Jordan’s key role in promoting regional security, calling the country a force for moderation and a special partner for NATO. Jordan has participated in NATO-led missions in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Libya. Jordan is the first Mediterranean Dialogue country to join the NATO Response Force. NATO is also working with Jordan to build its defence capacity and support training for other partners in the region…

U.S. Adds Black Hawks To NATO’s Anti-Russian Operation 

Stars and Stripes
March 6, 2015

Operation Atlantic Resolve expands with Black Hawks
By Michael S. Darnell

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany: An additional 450 soldiers and 25 Black Hawk helicopters will join the expanding roster of units converging on eastern Europe in March as part of a longer-term effort to reassure allies worried about Russia’s intentions.

Pilots, flight and ground crews from the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade out of Hunter Army Air Field, Ga., will be deploying to Illesheim, Germany, later this month.

From the staging ground there, they will then deploy in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a multinational training mission to reassure Poland and the Baltic countries of NATO’s commitment in the face of Russia’s aggressive moves in Ukraine.

The unit will remain deployed for about nine months, U.S. Army Europe said in a March 3 news release…

CIA To Restructure To “Cover Entire Universe”: Director

Xinhua News Agency
March 7, 2015

CIA to be restructured to “cover entire universe”: Director

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is planning to create new units in a series of reorganizations, aiming to “cover the entire universe” amid modern threats and crises, CIA Director John Brennan said Friday.

Announcing the restructuring to the 67-years-old agency Friday, Brennan said the move comes after nine outside experts spent three months analyzing the agency’s management structure, including what CIA deputy director David Cohen called “pain points”, organizational areas where the CIA’s bureaucracy does not work efficiently.

Briefing reporters at CIA headquarters earlier this week, Brennan said officers will be reassigned to 10 newly created ” mission centers,” a move to concentrate the agency’s focus on specific challenges or geographic areas, such as weapons proliferation or Africa…

Poland: U.S. To Deploy Interceptor Missiles For NATO War Games 

Trend News Agency
March 7, 2015

A battery of US Patriot missile systems will arrive in Poland at the end of March to take part in NATO military exercises, Polish Ministry of National Defense said Friday.

“This time the deployment of a Patriot battery [in Poland] will be a part of operation Atlantic Resolve aimed at increasing military presence at NATO’s Eastern flank,” the Ministry spokesman Janusz Walczak said.

According to Walczak, the military exercises with participation of about 100 US troops and some 30 vehicles will last for several days. The battery to be deployed in Poland belongs to the US military contingent stationed in Germany.

US Patriot batteries participate in military exercises in Poland under the 2008 bilateral missile defense agreement…

Britain, U.S. Make Military “Gifts” To Ukrainian Belligerent

Ukrinform
March 7, 2015

London plans to ship consignment of non-lethal weapons to Kyiv

KYIV: The UK intends to ship a consignment of non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine.

Deutsche Welle German news agency reported the news citing the UK Minister of Defense Michael Fallon.

“Non-lethal equipment that is to be shipped as a gift is meant to prevent further Ukrainian losses and improve its spatial awareness,” the German news agency quoted the head of the British Ministry of Defense as saying.

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Ukrinform
March 7, 2015

PM Yatseniuk discusses American technical assistance with US Deputy State Secretary

KYIV: Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatseniuk discussed with US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who is visiting Kyiv, the issue of a security situation in eastern Ukraine on Friday, March 6.

The news was reported on Ukraine’s Government portal website.

“The Prime Minister of Ukraine discussed with the US official the issue of security situation in eastern Ukraine, focusing on the need for a common decisive opposition by the international community to the aggressive policy conducted by the Russian Federation,” said the statement.

It is noted that an important element of these efforts is to stabilize the economic situation in Ukraine through the government’s efforts to implement systemic reforms with the support provided by its international partners.

Moreover, Yatseniuk and Blinken discussed priority areas for obtaining the expert and technical assistance from the United States, including, in particular, to enhance Ukraine’s defense capabilities, reform of law enforcement agencies, and assistance in the financial sector.

On September 2012, gunmen killed Oriel Jean, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s former security chief from 2001 to 2003, in Port-au-Prince. After misleading media reports and rumors, he was falsely accused of selling out Aristide when jailed in the U.S. for 30 months on charges of money laundering. After returning to Haiti in September 2013, he led a low-profile life running a construction company.

In 2001, as the George W. Bush administration began targeting Aristide officials like Oriel, a few dozen heavily armed paramilitary “rebels,” led by former army officer and police chief Guy Philippe and former death-squad leader Jodel Chamblain, began launching military raids from the Dominican Republic on the Police Academy on Jul. 28, 2001 and the National Palace on Dec. 17, 2001, both of which the Special Unit for Guarding the National Palace (USGPN), under Oriel’s direction, repulsed.

In 2002, using one of its usual political pressure tactics, the U.S. issued a list of Haitian government officials, including Oriel, to whom it would deny visas due to their alleged ties to Haitian drug traffickers. On Jun. 27, 2003, conservative Radio Métropole reported that Oriel had been “spotted” two days earlier leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport “incognito… with his entire family” for Canada, insinuating that he was fleeing the country and might be arrested by Canadian authorities. Oriel rebutted the report the same day in a telephone interview with Radio Kiskeya, saying he’d traveled to Montreal for no more than two weeks to seek medical attention for a bad knee, while his family had joined him for a vacation and to see relatives.

“Before you spread rumors, you should try to confirm the information,” Oriel complained to Kiskeya and the media in general. “There are simple calls you could make. My God, if I am going to leave for a few days, do I have to hold a press conference?”

Despite the interview, Oriel hastily flew back to Port-au-Prince on Jul. 1, 2003. But, with the U.S. tightening the political screws, it was decided he should resign as USGPN chief a few days later, just as Nesly Lucien had been forced to resign as police chief in March 2003.

Oriel continued to play a central but background role in Aristide’s security until the coup d’état of Feb. 29, 2004. Eight days later, armed with a visa and having received assurances from an official in the Canadian Embassy that he was welcome, Oriel flew from Punto Cana, Dominican Republic to Toronto, but he was arrested on arrival there. Canadian authorities told him they had cancelled his visa.

“My lawyer and I asked them how they could revoke someone’s visa without telling them,” Oriel told Haïti Liberté in a 2007 interview. “If someone has no right to enter Canada, you have to tell them that beforehand, not after they’ve taken a flight and arrived there… If they don’t want me to enter, return me to the Dominican Republic or Haiti. I even asked them to return me to Haiti.”According to Oriel, he and his lawyer had won this argument when the proceedings were interrupted, and the judge was presented with an extradition request from Washington. “My lawyer told me that I could fight the extradition request, but given the close relationship between Canada and the U.S., I had very slim chances of winning,” Oriel said. “The legal fight, the judicial process, in Canada might take two or three years during which time I’d be detained, and if I did lose, the clock would start at zero again when I was extradited to the U.S.. So despite some opposition from my family and supporters in Canada, I decided not to fight the extradition request and to face my accusers in the U.S..”

Oriel was extradited to the U.S. on Mar. 19, 2004. Prosecutors accused him of helping to offload drugs and demanding a cut of drug profits, charges Oriel vigorously denied. He insisted that he had taken part in no illegal activities or drug-trafficking whatsoever. “But my lawyer said to me: ‘Listen son, you’re not in Haiti anymore. Here in the U.S. they have this charge called conspiracy. Even if you personally weren’t involved in anything, if you were at all associated with someone who is charged with a crime, and you even accepted five cents from him, there are ways to accuse you. Going to a trial is very risky given the demonization of [the] Lavalas [government]. I advise you to clear yourself, tell them what is true, what is not true, and make a deal.’”

Oriel followed the advice and admitted to knowing Haiti’s three principal drug traffickers and having even accepted gifts from them. “Knowing they were drug traffickers, I should have kept my distance from them,” he said. “I admitted my error and agreed to pay the price.”

“As I did my job, I thought I was just dealing (en affaire avec) with the Haitian government,” he added. “I didn’t realize I was dealing with the U.S. government.”

He made a deal to plead guilty to the charge of “Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering” and to testify against drug trafficker Serge Edouard, who was convicted for life in 2005.
“There are some who say I betrayed Aristide and said things about him and gave up other people, and that was why I got so little time,” he said in his 2007 interview. “People can say anything. The truth is that I simply told them what I knew about the drug traffickers.”

Released from prison in September 2006, with one year probation, Oriel went to work as a parking lot attendant at Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood Airport, working the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shift. The U.S. State Department granted him an S visa, given to “alien witnesses and informants,” which had to be renewed every year following an interview.

Some years, U.S. officials would delay the renewal. One of those years was 2011. Following Aristide’s Mar. 18, 2011 return to Haiti from a seven-year exile, Oriel told Haïti Liberté that the Justice Department had sent a team of three investigators to ask him questions about Aristide. He said he provided them with no answers and sent a hand-delivered message to Aristide about the visit. In the same note, he gave Aristide some advice and warnings about people in his security team.

Finally, Oriel decided to leave Florida and return to Haiti in September 2012. Under the terms of his S visa, he would not be allowed back into the U.S., so he knew it was a one-way trip. “He didn’t want to stay in the U.S. any longer,” his wife Bettina told Haïti Liberté. “He was tired of working nights at the parking lot. He felt a lot of stress in the States from work, financial problems, and his immigration status and thought he could contribute more in Haiti. He was like a fish out of water.”

Back in Haiti, he went to work as Operations Director for Claudy Construction, owned by Claude Guillaume, who also owns Claudy Center Borlette, a popular private lottery in Haiti. “The Martelly government offered him a job, but he refused it,” said Oriel’s childhood friend Alix Sainphor. “He didn’t want to be involved in politics, and he didn’t want anything to do with Martelly.”

He maintained a low profile, but trouble came looking for him. Investigating Judge Ivickel Dabrézil subpoenaed Oriel, along with many others, including Aristide, to provide him with any information they had concerning the Apr. 3, 2000 murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique and his radio’s guardian Jean-Claude Louissaint.

Oriel said that he told Dabrézil what he knew about the matter, testimony that might implicate former Lavalas Family Senator and Aristide Foundation director Mirlande Libérus – now living in Florida – in the double killing.

“You have to understand that I have no power, no money, no team of lawyers to avoid talking to Dabrézil when he subpoenaed me,” Oriel told Haïti Liberté in 2013. “He is taking testimony from many people. I told him exactly what was said to me, what I did, and what I know. First, I don’t want to get in trouble by hiding something or telling a lie, and second, I think we should get to the truth in the Jean Dominique case. It’s gone too long unsolved.”

“Some people say I accused Aristide, which is not true,” he continued. “I was dealing with Mirlande. I don’t know where it went from there. She will have to give her testimony. But don’t blame me for just telling what I experienced.”

With this tension between certain former Lavalas Family leaders and Oriel, the stage was set for tragedy.

“He had received numerous death threats, particularly in February 2014,” said Sainphor. “At that time, he chose to leave Haiti and stay in the Dominican Republic for a month and a half. When he felt the danger had passed, he returned. But shortly before he was killed, he had received more threats.”

Some Haitian analysts question whether the hidden hand of the “laboratory,” as the U.S. military/intelligence complex is called in Haiti, might be involved. “It could be that the laboratory killed two birds with one stone,” said Henriot Dorcent of the party Dessalines Coordination (KOD). “They eliminate a very connected and experienced guy who was once a militant in and apparently remained sympathetic to the Haitian people’s struggle for justice, democracy, and sovereignty. And at the same time, they lay the crime at Aristide’s doorstep, thereby undermining the people’s mobilization against the regime of President Michel Martelly, their puppet.”

This hypothesis is given credence by the reaction of Martelly’s former spokesman Guyler C. Delva, secretary general of SOS Journalists, who put out a Mar. 3 statement saying that Oriel had “constantly been the subject of death threats from individuals close to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide whom he had accused of ordering the murder of Jean Dominique.” In truth, even in a long interview with the former security chief which Delva made public on Mar. 10 on Radio Caraïbes, Oriel stopped short of directly accusing anybody of the crime but simply lays out a version of events and circumstances that are very suggestive. As Alix Sainphor said: “Guy Delva is lying, twisting and framing Oriel’s words to further his own agenda.”

Other pro-Martelly politicians, like Sauveur Pierre-Etienne of the Struggling People’s Organization (OPL), have also charged that Aristide is behind Oriel’s killing.

“Aristide had asked Mirlande and others to ‘neutralize’ Jean Dominique, whom he saw as a strong challenger for the presidency coming from Préval’s party Kozepèp,” Oriel told Haïti Liberté in 2013. “Did he mean for them to physically eliminate him? Frankly, I don’t think so.”

Oriel Jean’s funeral is scheduled to be held on Mar. 11 at the Parc de Souvenir cemetery in Port-au-Prince, where he will be buried. He is survived by his wife, Bettina, his father, Odiyel, two sisters, Mamoune and Gladys, and four children, two boys and two girls, ranging in ages from 27 to 12.

It is perhaps fitting to close with Oriel’s own words from his 2007 interview with Haïti Liberté: “The U.S. government and media has tried to paint me as a corrupt criminal, like Jean-Claude or François Duvalier, Ti Bobo, Bòs Pent, Luc Désir, etc. Those who know my trajectory, who know where I come from in the struggle since 1986, know that’s not me. Those who have worked alongside me know that I’m a militant and an upright citizen (sitwayen de bien). However, I recognize that I’m not perfect, I made errors as everyone does, and I’ve paid for my errors and started anew. I have made my self-criticism (otokritik). But I have never been a trafficker, a drug dealer, a criminal. I cannot spend my whole life fighting against dictatorial power – people who kill others, who beat others – to become one of them today. My relationship with someone I should not have been friendly with, which got me into trouble, I don’t deny that. I accept that. But to make me into something I’m not is not good. I’m very critical because I was in a key post, and I saw how the government finished badly, and I’m critical of many people. I’m critical of Aristide, I’m critical of myself, I’m critical of many people who were in power because I saw what happened in front of me and how in the end it was the people who were the victim. As I always say, I am a child of the people, I was raised among the people, and I will die among the people.”

Image: Scene from 12 Years a Slave.

“The uncompensated crime and tragedy of racial oppression in before and after slavery continues to accumulate its blood and financial cost to this very day.”

I am never more than slightly encouraged about white America’s capacity for breaking from the United States’ deeply embedded racism when I hear one of my fellow US Caucasians report that they’ve viewed the Black British director Steve McQueen’s powerful movie Twelve Years a Slave and were “moved” (sometimes to tears) by it. It’s good that some US whites have retained enough inner humanity to recognize and recoil from the revolting racist cruelty and abominable torment that lay at the heart of the Southern US slave system depicted in Twelve Years a Slave. Sadly and sickeningly enough, untold millions of white Americans have been induced to think of the slave South as some kind of quaint, benign, and paternalistic time and place when benevolent white masters cared for the black chattel they viewed as inferior “family members.”

Twelve Years a Slave burst that childish white historical bubble with a relentlessly true-to-life and death portrayal of 1840s and 1850s slave traders, slave-owners, and slave-drivers as ferocious and perverse sociopaths, exploiters, torturers, sadists, and rapists. Based on the published 1853 narrative of Solomon Northrup, a free Black Northerner who was kidnapped and sold into Georgia cotton slavery, the film rightly portrays the slave system as a living Hell for its Black victims.

Good for McQueen and good, I suppose, for whites and others who have left the movie with a new or newly intensified sense of repugnance at the massive crime that was North American Black slavery. Any other feeling taken from the movie would be a strong indication that one is less than human.

A Bigger White Block: What the United States Owes Black America

Still, we shouldn’t exaggerate the anti-racist moral victory here. White America’s major block when it comes to acknowledging what the United States did and owes to Black Americans through and because of chattel slavery is not a failure to acknowledge that system’s immorality and cruelty. For every white American who idiotically believes that the “old time” South was a happy time and place for slavers and their masters alike, you can count two or three more with the elementary decency to recognize that slavery was a nightmare of misery and suffering for slaves. A much bigger and more important block in the white American mind comes around the question of what the United States is obliged to pay Black Americans because of the crime of slavery, committed over two and half centuries stretching from the nation’s colonial origins through the American Revolution (itself largely fought largely to guarantee North American slavery’s survival and expansion) and the Civil War. The answer for most whites on this score is of course “absolutely nothing.”

Here we are talking, or should be talking, about compensation – reparations (yes, the “R word”) – for more than the astonishing loss, trauma, anguish and unpaid labor imposed on and extracted from Black Americans. A brilliant historical literature now shows that, in the words historian Edward Baptist, “the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich” decades before the Civil War. By 1836, Baptist reasonably calculates, nearly half the nation’s economy activity derived directly and indirectly from the roughly 1 million Black slaves (just 6 percent of the national population) who toiled on the nation’ southern cotton frontier. Capitalist cotton slavery was how United States seized control of the lucrative the world market for cotton, the critical raw material for the Industrial Revolution, emerging thereby as a rich and influential nation in the world capitalist system by the second third of the 19th century. As Baptist explains in his recent widely read book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014):

“From 1783, at the end of the American Revolution to 1861, the number of slaves in the United States increased five times over, and all this expansion produced a powerful nation…white enslavers were able to force enslaved African American migrants to pick cotton faster and more efficiently than free people. Their practices transformed the southern states into the dominant force in the global cotton market, and cotton was the world’s most widely traded commodity at the time, as it was the key material during the first century of the industrial revolution. The returns from cotton monopoly powered the modernization of the rest of the American economy, and by the time of the Civil War, the United States had become the second nation to undergo large-scale industrialization” (p. xxi).

“Slavery was an especially brutal form of capitalism, driven by ruthless yet economically “rational” torture along with a dehumanizing ideology of racism.”

This is what Baptist calls “the half” that “has never been told”: the dynamic and profitable contribution of cotton slavery to the development of the US capitalist system. Contrary to what many US abolitionists thought before the Civil War, Baptist shows that the systematic terror perpetrated against slaves in the South was about much more than sadism and psychopathy on the part of slave traders, owners, and drivers. Slavery, Baptist demonstrates was a highly cost-efficient method for extracting surplus value from human beings, far superior in that regard to “free” (wage) labor in the onerous work of planting and harvesting cotton. It was an especially brutal form of capitalism, driven by ruthless yet economically “rational” torture along with a dehumanizing ideology of racism – and one that proved the key driving force behind the rise of a powerful national capitalism and great mercantile, banking, and manufacturing fortunes in the “free labor” North and across the entire US before the Civil War.

Consistent with Baptist’s findings, Twelve Years shows slaves being whipped and otherwise abused in accord with their precisely measured productivity in cotton fields. On the whole, however, the greater impression left by the movie is one of highly sexualized and mentally disturbed psychopathy on the part of the masters, something that tends to distract from slavery’s underlying “rational” centrality to US capitalist development. I am afraid that many of the movie’s viewers have been encouraged to continue the abolitionist mistake of separating the sociopathic brutalization of the slaves from the profit imperatives of capital within and beyond the South.

The “Freed” in 1863/65 Narrative: Another Half Left All Too Untold

Another and related great block to white Americans’ proper understanding of what the US owes to Black America goes beyond what people could ever get from Twelve Years a Slave, which ends with Northrop’s return to free life in upstate New York in 1853 (thanks to the intervention of a benevolent white anti-slavery carpenter played by Brad Pitt). I am referring to the widespread narrative that the US set its Black slaves “free” during and after the Civil War.

Okay, Go Compete

This “freed during and after the Civil War” story line is highly problematic on at least three levels. First, there is the absurdity of expecting four million people (the US slave population on the eve of the Civil War) who had been horrifically and systematically disfigured, tortured, traumatized, pulverized, stripped of wealth and income and otherwise savagely abused over centuries by the multiple and unfathomable torments of slavery to be in any kind of condition to suddenly and magically compete on a free and equal basis for jobs, land, education, and businesses with a free white population spared the incredible ordeal of racist total commodification – this in a nation that remained viciously racist in North and West as well as South after the Civil War. Success in the capitalist so-called free market depends largely on what one brings to the market and slavery took everything, or close to it, from those who survived it.

A Poker Chip Analogy

Second, there is the related absurdity – repeated again and again in US history from 1865 through the present day of thinking – that Blacks could ever be granted “equal opportunity” to succeed in the white capitalist US without a massive prior redistribution to Black America of wealth and other advantages stolen from it over centuries since the onset of North American Black slavery in the 17th century. Racial (and class and other) inequalities are cumulative and because they accumulate over time, the distinction that defenders of the current racial status quo make between “past and present racism” is inadequate and deceptive. The ongoing need for historical acknowledgement and correction, commonly called reparations, was expressed with a useful metaphor by the Black political scientist Roy L. Brooks nearly two decades ago:

“Two persons – one white and the other black – are playing a game of poker. The game has been in progress for some 300 years. One player – the white one – has been cheating during much of this time, but now announces: ‘from this day forward, there will be a new game with new players and no more cheating.’ Hopeful but suspicious, the black player responds, ‘that’s great. I’ve been waiting to hear you say that for 300 years. Let me ask you, what are you going to do with all those poker chips that you have stacked up on your side of the table all these years?’ ‘Well,’ said the white player, somewhat bewildered by the question, ‘they are going to stay right here, of course.’ ‘That’s unfair,’ snaps the black player. ‘The new white player will benefit from your past cheating. Where’s the equality in that?’ ‘But you can’t realistically expect me to redistribute the poker chips along racial lines when we are trying to move away from considerations of race and when the future offers no guarantees to anyone,’ insists the white player. ‘And surely,’ he continues, ‘redistributing the poker chips would punish individuals for something they did not do. Punish me, not the innocents!’ Emotionally exhausted, the black player answers, ‘but the innocents will reap a racial windfall.’”

Roy Brooks’ surplus “chips” are not quaint but irrelevant hangovers from “days gone by.” Besides having been accumulated largely through blood-soaked expropriation from Black Americans, they are weapons of racial oppression in the present and future. Given what is well known about the relationship between historically accumulated resources and current and future success, the very distinction between past and present racism ought perhaps to be considered part of the ideological superstructure of contemporary white supremacy functioning as an ongoing barrier to black advancement and equality.

Savage Racial Oppression Since the Civil War

Third and last but not least, there is the harsh historical reality that the racist US South was basically permitted to undertake the “reconstruction of Black servitude” (in the words of the anti-racist scholar Stephen Steinberg) to keep Black Americans essentially chained to cotton production in the wake of the Civil War and the aborted effort at anti-racist Reconstruction in the South. Millions of Black Americans journeyed into a type of freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) only to fall back under the shadow of involuntary servitude – slavery by another name – shortly thereafter. Reparations are due Black America not only for two plus centuries of chattel slavery but also for the hyper-exploitative system of cotton sharecropping and debt peonage that followed pure slavery’s demise, the Black Pass Codes and ubiquitous racial terror and violence that enforced the restored servitude, and for the political re-disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow segregation that were imposed across the South by extra-judicial terror and law in the final decades of the 19th century (and which lasted through the seventh decade of the 20th century), Reparations are due also for the brutal, commonly violence-enforced system of de facto racial segregation and inequality maintained in the North through the last century and into the present; for the forced, often murderous expulsion of “free” Blacks from thousands of Midwestern and border state “sundown towns” during the late 19th and early 20th centuries; for the present so-called New Jim of “racially disparate” (racist) mass incarceration and felony-marking, not to mention the ongoing shoot-down of hundreds of Black Americans (young Black males especially) by white US police each year.

The savage oppression of Black Americans after the Civil War and slavery’s formal demise should also be considered part of “the half” that “has never been told” – or is at least badly under-told and widely ignored in white majority America – about the US Black historical experience.

The Savage Irony of the Civil War

I’m not sure the post-1865 history isn’t even worse in a way than the long nightmare of slavery. Between 1861 and 1865, more than 700,000 Americans, including 40,000 Black Union soldiers, died in the US Civil War. That epic conflict led to the formal abolition of slavery and was fought essentially over the issue of slavery’s death or survival after January of 1863. “If God wills that [the war] continue,” US President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed in his Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865), “until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’”

To what end did the 40,000 Black Union anti-slavery warriors meet their early demise? For less than a decade, between 1866 and the early 1870s. Baptist notes, “Reconstruction in the South seemed like it might produce a radically transformed society. White resistance was brutal and widespread but the national commitment to emancipation kept federal troops stationed in the South.” But the commitment was not that strong and did not last very long in the new Age of Capital:

“…after 1873, when the industrial economy fell into a deep depression, white America’s conscience wavered. Consumed by labor disputes in the North, Republican leaders were increasingly unlikely to see the free [Black] laborers of the South as people with whom they shared interests….Across the South, night riders went out – hooded in white, burning, raping, beating, and killing. They stole one state’s elections after another. They torched the homes of black folks bold enough to buy land…They rode to Washington to make deals. To resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876, northern Republicans made a corrupt bargain with the South’s Democratic rulers to let the later have ‘home rule.’ The ‘Redeemers’…changed the laws to roll back as much of Reconstruction as they could. By 1900, they had taken away the vote from most Black men, and many of the less reliable white men as well. They also lowered the book of segregation – ‘Jim Crow,’ as people would come to call it – an array of petty and brutal rules [that]….forbade Americans…from enjoying the civil rights to move in public space as equals or have access to the same education and economic opportunities as white.”

Then the Jim Crow South added supreme historical insult to injury. Dixie “built monuments to the defeated generals of their war for slavery, memorialized the old days of the plantation, and wrote histories that insisted that the purpose of the war had been to defend their political rights against an oppressive state,” Baptist notes. “They were so successful at the last goal that they eventually convinced a majority of white Americans, including most historians, that slavery had been benign and that ‘states’ rights’ had been the cause of the Civil War.”

Solomon Northrup at least got to return to a type of freedom (a highly qualified Antebellum Northern version of it) in 1853. For millions of Southern Black ex-slaves, neither the Civil War nor Reconstruction did the trick. The uncompensated crime and tragedy of racial oppression in before and after slavery continues to accumulate its blood and financial cost to this very day, when median white household wealth is 22 times higher than median Black household wealth in the US, when fully 39% of Black American children, compared to just 14% of white US children, live below the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level, and when Black Americans comprise more than 40% of the nation’s giant (2.4 million) prison population. “Long ago” history lives on in ugly racist shame while untold masses of US Caucasians preposterously believe that Black Americans have been given every opportunity to advance and succeed (“the president is Black, isn’t he?”) in a nation that “set them free” in 1863.

Paul Street is the author of Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (Routledge, 2005) and Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (Rowman & Littlefied, 2007).

Image from action in Oakland, California highlighting injustice in the prison industrial complex in April 2012. (Photo: Daniel Arauz/flickr/cc)

A United Nations human rights expert strongly condemned the U.S. on Tuesday for being the “only State in the world that still sentences children to life imprisonment without the opportunity for parole,” thereby imposing cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.

Juan Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture, made the comments in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva—building from his previous censure of cruel incarceration practices in a nation that locks up more people than any other country in the world.

Méndez noted that the U.S. practice of imposing life sentences on children in cases of homicide violates international law on numerous fronts, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Life sentences or sentences of an extreme length have a disproportionate impact on children and cause physical and psychological harm that amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment,” he wrote.

Such prison sentences are widespread.

Approximately 2,500 people in the U.S. are currently serving life sentences without parole for crimes allegedly committed as juveniles, the Sentencing Project finds (pdf).

These sentences reflect—and reinforce—racial disparities in U.S. society. “White juvenile offenders with African-American victims are only about half as likely (3.6%) to receive a [juvenile life without parole] sentence as their proportion of arrests for killing an African-American (6.4%),” the Sentencing Project notes.

However, the injustices do not stop there.

Méndez blasted another policy that is rampant in U.S. jails and prisons: holding people under the age of 18 in solitary confinement.

“In accordance with views of the Committee against Torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the Committee on the Rights of the Child,” wrote Méndez, “the Special Rapporteur is of the view that the imposition of solitary confinement, of any duration, on children constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or even torture.”

Méndez’s statements follow his previous call for a ban of all long-term solitary confinement—of any person, at any age—which he has described as torture. Méndez has repeatedly expressed concern about the rampant imposition of long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, particularly in California, which has seen repeated prisoner hunger strikes over this and other abusive practices.

Mohamed Shehk, communications director for Critical Resistance, told Common Dreamsthat the Special Rapporteur’s latest report highlights “just one aspect of a system that continues to lock up people and destroy communities.”

“Of course life without parole for children should be abolished,” said Shehk. “Life without parole for anyone should be abolished. This is a system that throws people away in prisons and jails and completely ignores any kind of global call to end that practice, even though it completely contradicts international law—which the U.S. claims to hold so dearly.”

Official Washington’s Delusions on Delusions

March 11th, 2015 by Robert Parry

The chasm between reality and the U.S. political/media elite continues to widen with Official Washington’s actions toward Iran and Russia making “the world’s sole remaining superpower” look either like a Banana Republic (on Iran) or an Orwellian Dystopia (regarding Russia).

On Iran and the international negotiations to rein in its nuclear program, the American people witnessed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu striding into the U.S. Congress – like some imperial proconsul – to deliver a faux State of the Union address that undermined the sitting U.S. president. Then, 47 Republican senators furthered Netanyahu’s intent to denigrate President Barack Obama by sending an open letter to Iranian leaders designed to prevent a deal.

Yes, I know many Republicans and their overwhelmingly white “base” don’t consider the African-American Obama the legitimate President despite his two election victories. But never in American history has a major political party as brazenly challenged the constitutional authority of a sitting president to conduct foreign policy.

The letter to the Iranian leaders warned that once Obama is out of office in 2017, “the next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” In other words, the Republicans were telling Iran’s leaders that whatever they plan to sign with Obama and five other world leaders isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on.

This stunning congressional intervention into U.S. diplomacy was signed not just by a few backbenchers but by the Senate’s Republican leadership and several prospective GOP presidential candidates, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who had been viewed by some on the Left as well as the Right as a person who would not toe the Israeli line on Middle East issues.

This double whammy of Netanyahu’s extreme rhetoric on Iran and the Republicans’ extraordinary subversion of the Iranian nuclear talks left people around the world wondering whether the U.S. government had completely lost its bearings. Meanwhile, the U.S. news media continued veering off into its own Bermuda Triangle.

What is particularly striking about this current moment is how the madness that permeates the U.S. government equally pervades the mainstream U.S. media, which is now incapable of covering major international events except through the lens of State Department propaganda, a situation that has reached extreme levels in the reporting on the Ukraine crisis.

The only filter that the MSM can place on the events in Ukraine is one endlessly vilifying Russian President Vladimir Putin. Though this technique of personalizing foreign policy disputes has become standard operating procedure for the U.S. press corps – think of Daniel Ortega, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Viktor Yanukovych, etc. – the U.S. media’s “group think” on Russia may even surpass those earlier examples.

Plus, nothing from the Ukraine crisis can ever be blamed on the U.S. government, even though Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland helped orchestrate the violent coup that overthrew Ukraine’s elected government in February 2014 and threw the nation of 45 million people into a bloody civil war.

Everything must be blamed on Putin and any alternative analysis, recognizing another side to the story, must be dismissed as “Russian propaganda.” [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.“]

‘Russian Propaganda’

On Monday, the Washington Post delivered what could become a textbook case of journalistic self-delusion – noting that the Russian people have developed an intensely negative view of the United States but only because the Russian media portrays the U.S. government in a hostile way.

The Post article by Michael Birnbaum blamed the collapse of U.S. popularity on “furious rhetoric [that] has been pumped across Russian airwaves … a passionate, conspiracy-laden fascination with the methods that Washington is supposedly using to foment unrest in Ukraine and Russia.”

Citing recent polling, the article noted that more than 80 percent of the Russian people hold negative views of the United States. But that couldn’t be because of American behavior! No, it’s impossible that anyone looking at the U.S. today could possibly find anything to criticize! It had to be Putin’s fault, spreading spurious criticism of the U.S. via Russian media. Or as the Post put it:

“Fed by the powerful antagonism on Russian federal television channels, the main source of news for more than 90 percent of Russians, ordinary people started to feel more and more disillusioned [about the U.S.]. The anger seems different from the fast-receding jolts of the past, observers say, having spread faster and wider.”

The article quoted Lev Gudkov, director of the polling firm Levada Center, explaining: “This anti-Western propaganda radically changed the atmosphere in the society. … It has become militarist.”

Another voice cited by the Post was Maria Lipman, described as “an independent Moscow-based political analyst,” saying: “What the government knew was that it was very easy to cultivate anti-Western sentiments, and it was easy to consolidate Russian society around this propaganda.”

In other words, it wasn’t what the U.S. government has done around the world that has provoked this antipathy – from the endless boasting about America’s “indispensable” and “exceptional” qualities to its destructive behavior, including spreading bloody havoc via “regime change” schemes in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.

And, it’s not that the U.S. government looks clownish when the majority party in Congress expresses doubts about global warming and other scientific judgments. Nor is it the continued examples of racism and the police shootings of unarmed blacks. Nor the global spying by the National Security Agency. Nor the national self-degradation when members of Congress behave like trained seals jumping up and down to applaud Israel’s Netanyahu.

No, the only reason that the Russian people look askance at the United States is that they are being deceived by the lying “propaganda” dictated by the evil Vladimir Putin. By contrast, the American people always get the straight story from their mainstream U.S. news media, the gold standard for the world!

Official Washington and the mainstream U.S. media have taken on the characteristics of a male stalker who can’t understand why his female target finds him repulsive. It must be because someone is poisoning her mind with negative comments about his sterling personality. We now live in a system of delusions built upon delusions.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Bangladeshi Tribals Evicted for Tea Plantation Expansion

March 11th, 2015 by Pratap Chatterjee

Sreemangal tea workers. Photo: Magalie L’Abbé. Used under Creative Commons license.

Syed Tea and Land, a Bangladeshi company, has been accused of using armed men to evict ethnic minority communities in order to expand a tea plantation in Sreemangal in northeastern Bangladesh. The expansion will impact Kandas, Khasis and Tantis who have lived in the area for a century.

“For four generations, we have lived on this land but never before faced such a threat to survival,” Atit Kanda, a local tribal farmer, told Union of Catholic Asian (UCA) News earlier this month. “The armed mobs have destroyed about 4,000 to 5,000 of my pineapples worth 90,000 taka (US$1,150). I don’t know if I will be able to overcome this loss.”

Some 160 tea plantations dot northeastern Bangladesh. The companies that own them mostly market their products to the domestic market and are not as well known as their counterparts in India and Sri Lanka who export to every corner of the world. But the estates in all three countries depend on poorly paid workers who have lived inside the plantations for generations under conditions that date from colonial times when the British first introduced the beverage. (See “World Bank Agrees to Investigate Labor Conditions at Indian Tea Company” about conditions in the neigboring state of Assam.)

In Sreemangal, many of the tea workers are settlers from neighboring India, who moved to the area as far back as the 1850s when they signed work contracts. Many are Hindu, some are Christian, and most are tribals, unlike the owners who are generally Bengali and Muslim. Some of the settlers have cultivated fruit like lemons, guavas and pineapples on the land that they live which they sell in the local markets.

However, none of the tribal settlers have title to the land, which the government has gradually turned over to the tea companies. Syed Tea and Land, for example, says it now has the right to clear the area and that the villagers have attacked their workers.

“We have generously allowed tribals to reside and cultivate the land, but it is frustrating that they claim it as their own,” Syeda Gulshanara, owner of Syed Tea and Land, told UCA News. “Our men didn’t destroy their homes and crops, but some damage was done while they tried to clean up the area for the estate expansion.”

Other Sreemangal tea plantations have also been accused of trying to evict the tribals. One year ago, Pijush Bhattacharya, the manager of Nahar Tea Garden, was accused of leading a mob of people to seize the land of a village called Nahar Punjee-1, where Khasis have lived for over 100 years. The conflict led to a series of protests by local human rights activists, according to the Kapaeeng Foundation, a Bangladeshi organization that supports indigenous communities.

Nor is the situation of the tribal people on the two tea plantations unique, say the activists.

“Unfortunately they remain socially excluded, low-paid, overwhelmingly illiterate, deprived and disconnected,” wrote Philip Gain, director of the Society for Environment and Human Development in the Daily Star newspaper. “The reality is that many of them have never stepped out of the tea gardens. Social and economic exclusion, dispossession and the treatment they get from their management and Bengali neighbors have rendered them captive laborers.”

The Marist Brothers, an international Catholic organization, that is building a high school for the local children, comes to the same conclusion about the living conditions of the tribals. “Neglected, exploited and alienated, most of the workers of the tea plantations live an inhuman life,” the organization writes.

But the tea estate owners say that the tribals are better off than most other Bangladeshis.

“Compare us to the standard of living of the average villager, who’s a landless peasant. Or the garment factory girl who lives in a slum, gets her minimum wage and leaves after a solid shift of eight hours. Whether she lives or dies, or is raped on the way home, is nobody’s bloody headache,” Ardashir Kabir, owner of the Sathgao Tea Estate, told the Baltimore Post-Examiner. “But not in our case. Our managers are more like their fathers and mothers. We protect them from outsiders. Our workers live on the estate and consider that their eternal home.”

Despite Stronger U.S. Growth

Anyone with a pulse knows that Europe is stuck in a downturn worse than the Great Depression.

Most think that the U.S. has fared better … but that is debatable.

Mega-bank Société Générale’s strategist Albert Edwards notes:

“Core Inflation in the US would be just as low as in the eurozone if measured on the same basis, despite the US having enjoyed much stronger growth!”

By way of background, the U.S. government has long ignored energy and food prices when reporting on inflation.   As former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and Assistant Editor for the Wall Street Journal, Paul Craig Roberts explains:

The inflation rate, especially “core inflation,” is another fiction.  “Core inflation” does not include food and energy, two of Americans’ biggest budget items.

And – in contrast to the U.S. – the European method of calculation  attempts to incorporate rural consumers into the sample (while the US maintains a survey strictly based on the urban population) and excludes owner-occupied housing from its scope (while the US calculates “rental-equivalent” costs for owner-occupied housing).

In any event, if calculated the same way, America’s crash in core inflation would be as obvious as Europe’s.

Hillary Clinton, the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, held a press conference at the United Nations Tuesday to address the media uproar over her exclusive use of a private email account while serving as US secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

The press conference followed a long-scheduled address by Clinton to a UN meeting on the status of women. Clinton made a brief statement on that subject and criticized the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran aimed at scuttling a negotiated agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before taking a series of press questions on the email controversy.

The media uproar—all five Sunday television interview programs devoted the bulk of their time to the subject—seems timed to impact Clinton’s announcement of her presidential candidacy, which has been widely predicted for early April.

Republican congressmen and sections of the media, spearheaded by Fox News, aim to use the email issue to revive their campaign against Clinton over the events of September 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, when Islamic fundamentalists attacked a US diplomatic facility and CIA annex, killing US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Clinton’s use of a private account for all of her electronic correspondence was known since last summer to members of the bipartisan House committee investigating the Benghazi attack, but the fact did not become public until March 4, when the New York Times published a front-page report on the issue.

According to reports by the Times and the Associated Press, Clinton transitioned a private server that handled both personal and political email during her 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, using it throughout her four years at the State Department to communicate with other members of the Obama administration, foreign governments, members of Congress, the public at large, and family and friends.

The private account was not secret. Those receiving email from Clinton would have seen a URL ending in @clintonemail.com rather than @state.gov. The main revelation in the Times account was not that Clinton used the @clintonemail.com address for her correspondence, but that she used only that address. The AP added the fact that the email account was hosted on a server physically located at the Clinton family home in Chappaqua, New York, rather than in a US government facility.

Media pundits and Democratic and Republican politicians have criticized Clinton for a lack of “transparency.” Clinton’s efforts to conceal her official actions from the American people are, in fact, part of a pervasive regime of state secrecy that encompasses every institution of government and both political parties.

Those who seek to puncture the veil of secrecy and expose to the public the conspiracies, crimes and lies of the government, such as Julian Assange, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden, are denounced as traitors and spies by all factions of the political and media establishment and either imprisoned or forced into exile.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Clinton said that, in hindsight, her use of the same account for both private and official email had been a mistake, while claiming that she had done so purely for the convenience of carrying only one electronic device. Until 2011, cell phones provided federal officials were permitted to use only one email account, so two accounts would have required two phones.

Clinton declared that the Secret Service guarded the Chappaqua home and that she never used email to send classified materials, in an effort to refute suggestions that the private email server could have exposed US government secrets.

Last fall, in response to a routine State Department request to former secretaries of state to supply old records for archival purposes, Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails. The State Department is currently reviewing these to determine which will be made public.

Questioning at the press conference focused on which emails Clinton had turned over and which she held back, and what happened to those withheld. Clinton’s answers were both vague and carefully hedged.

She said that there were a total of 60,000 emails on her private server, of which about half were related to official business and about half wholly private. The number of emails cannot be directly compared to the pages of emails turned over, so it is not clear what proportion of the emails have been divulged or if any remain.

Clinton was asked three times during the press conference why she alone should determine which emails are turned over to the State Department and which are withheld as private and apparently deleted. In each case she gave a variation of the same response, saying at one point, “For any government employee, it is that government employee’s responsibility to determine what’s personal and what’s work-related.”

This is transparently evasive, since Clinton, the former first lady, US senator and presidential candidate before becoming secretary of state, was anything but a typical federal employee. Most federal employees must comply, as a condition of employment, with regulations requiring that all official communications pass through government-controlled accounts and servers.

High-ranking officials, by contrast, have regularly used private email accounts in the two decades since this form of communication became commonplace. Bush White House officials conducted official business on a private gw43.com domain, as well as on a server run by the Republican National Committee—for which, of course, they were roundly denounced by Democrats, including Clinton herself as a senator and 2008 presidential candidate.

Prospective Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush used a private server for all his email during his eight years as governor of Florida. Early this year he made public a large portion of it, following the same procedure as Hillary Clinton. Bush and his aides, without any outside or independent review, made the selection of what email to divulge.

In both Republican and Democratic administrations, top officials conducted their email with an eye to maintaining control over the records, while insisting that lower-ranking government workers use the federal email system exclusively. In 2012, for example, the State Department issued several orders to its staff to that effect, while Clinton did as she pleased.

Only in 2013, amid mounting concerns over cyberattacks and leaks of classified information—particularly the exposure by Snowden of massive NSA international and domestic spying—did the Obama administration push through a new law that required all public officials, including cabinet members, to use the government email system exclusively for official business. This law took effect in 2014, more than a year after Clinton left the State Department.

That timeline did not stop Republican congressmen from hinting that Clinton might be guilty of a “crime” for using a private email server, or for maintaining control of her email records after leaving government. Given the actual crimes for which Clinton shared responsibility during her four years in the Obama administration—illegal wars, drone missile assassinations, mass illegal surveillance, conspiracies for regime-change in Ukraine, Australia and a dozen other countries—the charge of special privilege in email is small potatoes.

The email furor must be understood as a manifestation of the bitter struggle between factions of the US ruling elite that are seeking to manipulate the 2016 election campaign and shape the policies of the next US administration. Clinton is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, with the backing of the entire Democratic Party establishment. Jeb Bush leads a large field of Republican hopefuls, in large measure due to his ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from Wall Street interests and tap his family’s connections in the military-intelligence apparatus.

There are more than 300 million people in the United States, a complex, diverse and deeply class-divided society, but all political life is channeled through two right-wing parties controlled by the financial aristocracy. The prospect that the presidential campaign will be reduced to a conflict between two families—the sixth presidential campaign by a Bush vs. the fourth by a Clinton—testifies to the narrow and oligarchical character of 21st century America.

The exact contours of the divisions within the US ruling elite remain murky, and may not coincide with partisan conflicts between Democrats and Republicans, but erupt within the parties themselves. It is evident, for example, that the Obama White House was reluctant to come to Clinton’s defense.

White House spokesmen repeatedly deferred questions to their State Department counterparts. President Obama told CBS News Saturday that he had learned of Clinton’s use of a private email system only from news reports. White House spokesman Josh Earnest later modified this claim, saying that Obama knew Clinton’s email address, but was not aware of the private server in Chappaqua.

Seventeen people have been killed by police in the week since the Obama Justice Department announced that it would not bring federal charges against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri cop who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August.

On Monday afternoon, a Georgia police officer shot and killed 27-year-old Anthony Hill at the apartment complex where he lived in Chamblee, a suburb of Atlanta. Hill was naked and unarmed at the time, and was apparently suffering from mental illness.

That shooting followed the killing of Naeschylus Vinzant, 37, another unarmed African American man, on Friday in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. On Monday, police said that Vinzant was shot dead by a heavily-armed SWAT team called out to serve him with an arrest warrant. None of those involved in the arrest were hurt.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 204 people have been killed by police, following the more than one thousand police killings last year, according to killedbypolice.net. This includes the shooting of unarmed 19 year-old Anthony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin on Friday.

The killing of Hill produced outrage among neighbors in Georgia. Hill was an Air Force veteran who was friendly with local children and an aspiring musician.

Pedro Castillo, a forty-three-year-old maintenance worker at Anthony Hill’s apartment complex, told the New York Times that Hill had his hands up at the time he was killed.

The Times also quoted Julio Hernandez, a groundkeeper at the complex: “He was a calm, friendly person. To me, this was police abuse, because what can a naked person do?”

Eyewitness Oscar Perez told a local NBC affiliate that he saw Hill acting strangely and witnessed the subsequent shooting. “The man, he was like drugged, but he was naked, and he was crawling,” Perez said. “I think the police officer thought he was going to attack, so he shot him.”

All eyewitnesses report that there was no struggle between Hill and the police officer before the latter shot to kill.

Police officials claimed that Hill charged at the officer who then opened fire, hitting him twice in the torso. Hill, who died at the scene, was African American while the as yet unidentified officer, a seven-year veteran, is white. The officer has been placed on administrative leave until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation makes a determination of whether the shooting was justified.

DeKalb County, Georgia Police Chief Cedric Alexander sought to defend the police offer in a press conference Monday. “When the male [Hill] saw the officer, he charged, running at the officer,” Alexander said. “The officer called to him to stop, while stepping backward. He then drew his weapon and fired two shots.”

The police chief confirmed that the officer had been armed with less lethal equipment that could have been used to subdue Hill. “Yes, he was equipped with all the appropriately issued police equipment, including taser,” he said, adding that the officer was also armed with pepper spray.

The ongoing wave of police killings takes place as protests against police violence in Madison, Wisconsin continue following Friday’s killing of Robinson. Police shot Robinson after charging into his apartment.

On Monday, thousands of high school and college students walked out of class and converged on the state capitol and city hall to protest the killing. Up to two hundred people participated in a demonstration Wednesday at the Madison city county building, and up to several thousand are expected at a demonstration today.

On Tuesday, Buzzfeed News reported that Anthony and Javier Limon, Robinson’s friends who lived in the same apartment, were questioned for up to five hours by police without attorneys present. Video posted online showed attorneys and family members for the two boys attempting to speak to them, and being prevented from doing so by police officers.

The ongoing nationwide epidemic of police murder and abuse gives the lie to the claims by the Obama administration that conditions documented in the Justice Department’s report on Ferguson, Missouri are not “endemic” throughout the United States. The report showed that Ferguson police showed a “pattern” of illegally detaining and beating residents.

In reality, a police badge is effectively a license to kill in the US. In working-class communities throughout the country, the police effectively function as judge, jury, and executioner, brutalizing, arresting and killing workers and young people with impunity.

The growth of police violence, which according to government statistics has hit the highest levels in decades, parallels the dramatic expansion of social inequality in the US. The de facto legal immunity granted to killer cops is similar to the effective immunity from prosecution granted to the Wall Street bankers who helped trigger the financial crisis, and to CIA torturers.

The daily murder and violence meted out against workers and young people every day takes place with the sanction of the Obama administration, which has done everything in its power to shield killer cops from prosecution, ensuring that the police are allowed to continue their reign of violence and terror.

The Obama administration’s decision not to bring federal charges against Wilson was effectively a green light for police murder.

Las mujeres palestinas, famosas por su resistencia, su apego a su patria, su determinación, su paciencia y por la educación de una generación determinada, celebran este 8 de marzo en un contexto particular marcado sobre todo por la continuación de la ocupación y la ausencia de perspectivas en los territorios ocupados.

Estén donde estén, en Cisjordania, en Gaza, en los territorios ocupados en 1948 o en el exilio, la determinación de las mujeres palestinas es mayor que nunca y como toda la población esperan un mañana mejor, un mañana de libertad y paz.

Desde este año la Autoridad Nacional palestina ha decidido considerar festivo el 8 de marzo en los territorios palestinos, una iniciativa bien recibida por toda la población para rendir homenaje a las mujeres, aunque siga siendo largo el camino hasta que la obtención de todos sus derechos.

Los y las palestinas celebran este día mundial de la mujer pensando particularmente en las mujeres presas en las cárceles israelíes, en las cisjordanas que desafían la ocupación y la colonización, y en las gazatíes que sufren, como el resto de la población civil, este bloqueo inhumano impuesto desde hace más de ocho años por las fuerzas de ocupación.

Las mujeres palestinas celebran el 8 de marzo entre lágrimas y dolor. Piensan en las personas mártires, en las personas heridas, en las personas presas y en la población civil de Gaza que el verano pasado sufrió esta nueva agresión que causó más de 2.200 muertos, entre ellos 300 mujeres, sin olvidar a las 2.000 personas heridas.

En la primera línea del conflicto, las mujeres palestinas están muy comprometidas. Desempeñan un papel importante en nuestra sociedad, siguen sacrificándose para que sus hijos y las futuras generaciones tengan un futuro mejor. Ellas son quienes dan a Palestina sus héroes y heroínas. Ellas padecen todo el sufrimiento de su patria.

La mujer palestina que lucha sin descanso con dignidad tiene un valor excepcional, es a la vez madre del mártir, mujer del preso y abuela de los jóvenes desesperados. Siempre está presente para apoyar a su marido, para ayudar a sus hijos, para dar esperanza y para participar en el desarrollo de una sociedad en crisis.

Está fuertemente implicada en la vida social y económica, desempeña un papel fundamental en la vida de las familias, de los pueblos, ciudades y organizaciones. De hecho, es un elemento fundamental de cohesión en la sociedad palestina.

El 75% de las personas que frecuentan las universidades en Palestina son mujeres y la tasa de escolarización entre las mujeres palestinas es superior al 87%.

Cuando la mujer palestina pierde a su marido, mártir por Palestina, sacrifica su vida por sus hijos e hijas, no piensa en su vida privada, se ocupa de ellos y los educa en el respeto y apego a su tierra.

En la muy difícil situación económica que prevalece en Palestina muchas de estas mujeres trabajan para ayudar a su marido y a su familia, crean cooperativas, venden productos artesanales y llevan a cabo pequeños proyectos para poder vivir dignamente.

Están siempre presentes en todos los sectores: en el trabajo, en los partidos políticos, en las asociaciones, en las manifestaciones, en los mercados. Participan y defienden sus derechos y los derechos de sus hijos e hijas. Con su valor y determinación los animan a ir a la escuela a pesar de las barreras y de los checkpoints israelíes, suelen ir a recoger la aceituna con sus maridos a pesar de las amenazas de los colonos y de los soldados, llevan a cabo una resistencia ejemplar contra la ocupación y sus medidas, luchan por un lugar primordial en la sociedad.

En este 8 de marzo pensamos en las mujeres palestinas muertas por una Palestina libre, en las mujeres presas, en las mujeres que dieron a luz en un checkpoint israelí, en las mujeres que detrás del Muro del Apartheid se levantan a las 3 de la mañana para preparar la cartera de sus hijos e hijas y acompañarles al colegio, en las mujeres que desafían a los soldados y a los colonos en el campo y en las manifestaciones populares. Pensamos en las mujeres de Gaza que siguen soportando este inhumano bloque israelí y animando a una sociedad a esperar. ¡Qué valor! ¡Y qué determinación!

Este extraordinario valor de las mujeres palestinas que antes de pensar en sí mismas piensan en los demás, en sus hijos e hijas, en sus maridos, en su familia, este extraordinario valor es una inspiración y un ejemplo para nosotros, los hombres.

Rendimos también homenaje a todas las mujeres del mundo solidarias con nuestra justa causa, por su valor, por su movilización y por sus diferentes acciones de apoyo a los y las palestinas en su lucha por la libertad.

Las mujeres de Palestina merecen todo nuestro respeto, merecen leyes que mejoren su estatus en nuestro país y no solo esta fiesta de un día, merecen toda nuestra admiración.

Un gran homenaje a la mujer palestina: origen de nuestra sabiduría, canto de nuestra esperanza, remedio para nuestras heridas, riqueza de nuestra tierra, luz de nuestra memora, ángel de nuestra historia, símbolo de nuestra paz, sentido de nuestra identidad, tierra de nuestros antepasados. Ella es el futuro de nuestra gran Palestina de paz y de justicia.

Ziad Medoukh

 

Fuente: http://www.mondialisation.ca/les-femmes-palestiniennes-resistance-lutte-et-courage/5435410

Traducido del francés para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos.

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=196293

Prominent academic and author Dr Michel Chossudovsky warned that the so-called war on terrorism is a front to propagate America’s global hegemony and create a New World Order.

Dr Chossudovsky said terrorism is made in the US and that terrorists are not the product of the Muslim world.

According to him, the US global war on terrorism was used to enact anti-terrorism laws that demonised Muslims in the Western world and created Islamophobia.

Elaborating on his argument, Dr Chossudovsky said that NATO was responsible for recruiting members of the Islamic state while Israel is funding “global jihad elements inside Syria”.

Dr Chossudovsky, who is also the founder of the Centre for Research and Globalisation, further emphasised that the global war on terrorism is a fabrication, a big lie and a crime against humanity.

Echoing Dr Chossudovsky’s arguments, Malaysia’s prominent political scientist, Islamic reformist and activist Dr Chandra Muzaffar said that the US has always manipulated religion to further its global hegemony on sovereign states.

A New World Order: A Threat to Sovereign States

March 11th, 2015 by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

New World Order a big threat to sovereign states, speakers at an international conference say.

The anti-war initiative, Perdana Global Peace Foundation, has a single goal of putting an end to war.

Founded by Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Foundation encourages dialogues between different nations, people and organisations to foster and energise global peace.

Its sister foundation, the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War aims to undertake all necessary measures to criminalise war and energise peace. It also found former US President George Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others, guilty of war crimes.

The recent activity by the Perdana Global Peace Foundation was a one-day international conference titled the New World Order, Recipe for War or Peace.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr Mahathir who warned that Malaysia might lose its independence if the government falls prey to the ploys of the US to increase its global hegemony through economic means.

He pointed out that the Transpacific Partnership or TPPA is a New World Order strategy by a powerful pact of people led by the US to dominate the world economy.

Dr Mahathir said globalisation and borderless trade are being used to establish a “one world government”.

Referring to the Free Trade Agreement as a regulated trade deal, he said countries that sign on the deal would be subjected to more rules and regulations than ever before.

Dr Mahathir also pointed out that disputes arising from these trade deals mean corporations could sue sovereign states at investor arbitration tribunals, in secrecy.

The New World Order refers to the emergence of a totalitarian world government.

Other prominent speakers at the conference also said that a secretive power elite led by the United States wants to replace sovereign nation states through regime change.

Prominent academic and author Dr Michel Chossudovsky warned that the so-called war on terrrorism is a front to propagate America’s global hegemony and create a New World Order.

Dr Chossudovsky said terrorism is made in the US and that terrorists are not the product of the Muslim world.

According to him, the US global war on terrorism was used to enact anti-terrorism laws that demonised Muslims in the Western world and created Islamophobia.

Elaborating on his argument, Dr Chossudovsky said that NATO was responsible for recruiting members of the Islamic state while Israel is funding “global jihad elements inside Syria.

Dr Chossudovsky, who is also the founder of the Centre for Research and Globalisation, further emphasised that the global war on terrorism is a fabrication, a big lie and a crime against humanity.

Echoing Dr Chossudovsky’s arguments, Malaysia’s prominent political scientist, Islamic reformist and activist Dr Chandra Muzaffar said that the US has always manipulated religion to further its global hegemony on sovereign states.

For example, he said the Arab spring was brought about by Colonel Muammar Muhammad Gaddafi’s resistance to US dominance.

But Dr Thomas Barnett who has worked in the US national security services since the end of the Cold War refuted the arguments put forth by the conference speakers as mere allegations and that people prefer to believe in conspiracy theories.

Touching on the subject of economic hegemony through free trade agreements, Dr Barnett said that it’s only normal that countries that sign on to international trade deals are subjected to some international treaties and business protocols that they must follow.

He also says that trade partners with the US have accrued many benefits and that the US has gone out of its way over the last 40 years to encourage peaceful development.

Barnett also pointed out that for the first time in Asian history there is an increasingly prosperous and powerful China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.

Brushing aside Barnett’s argument, Dr Mahathir in his speech warned governments to be cautious, saying that those who refuse to conform are subjected to economic sanctions.

He also said that the one world government wants to undermine all other governments and would not hesitate to invade and occupy sovereign states to achieve its agenda.

If the public is systematically lied-to by the Government and by a virtually uniformly cooperative press suppressing key facts in order to pump that lie, such as was the case during 2002 and 2003 in the lead-up to America’s invasion of Iraq, then there can’t possibly be an authentic democracy, because democracy is founded upon a truthfully informed public, and so any ‘news’ institution that violates its solemn public trust of reporting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is traitorous to democracy itself. 

That’s why the press has been called “the fourth estate” of government. The first three “estates” are the aristocracy, the clergy, and the public. If the press represent not the public, but instead one of the two other classes — the aristocracy and/or the clergy — then what exists is a dictatorship by that actually ruling class against the public, not a democracy by the public. The public cannot rule in such a country. They instead are manipulated in it.

They may be manipulated to believe that they rule, but it’s only a manipulated illusion then; it’s not real; it’s a fraud, of the most massive type. Such a country cannot possibly be a real democracy; it’s a fraudulent ‘democracy.’

Evidence will be presented here that democracy no longer exists in the United States. Part of this evidence is personal, something that I always prefer to avoid, but which happens to be integral to this particular news-report and analysis. So: it’s necessary, in this case.

Already, a scientific analysis of a massive database has found that the United States is not a democracy but only a fake-democracy, actually an “oligarchy,” more-traditionally called an “aristocracy” (as I shall be calling it in this article); and the personal story narrated here will help to explain how and why this is the way our country actually functions.

Here is the broader framework in the United States, as it operates today: The aristocracy know that the way to control the public is via the ‘news’ media; and they create, buy, and build, all of the ‘news’ media that are of any substantial size or influence. It’s the cheapest way for the aristocracy to control the government; and, besides, any aristocrat who owns a controlling interest in one ‘news’ medium can then sell to his fellow-aristocrats favorable ‘news’ coverage of his own companies and/or of the governmental policies that they seek.

For example, if, say, The New York Times slants a report in favor of a certain change in the law, which will help one of its advertisers, then that advertiser won’t merely be buying with his ad-dollars increased sales of his own products and services; he’ll also be buying increased public support for that change in the law, favoring his company in a way that will increase his profit-margin, even if sales do not increase. Consequently, control over the ‘news’ media is basically an “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” business among aristocrats: it’s not really about journalism; it is instead about selling — and, what it is mainly selling is influence. That’s influence over government, and not only influence over the sale of private products and services.

This is the way that the system actually works. Any reader who refuses to consider the possibility that this is so, should stop reading here, because what I’ll be documenting from my own experience fits into that framework, and definitely does not fit into the framework, which I have found to be mythological, of the influential ‘news’ media being authentic journalistic institutions — truth-driven, instead ofpublic-manipulation-driven.

That, for example, is the reason why not only all of America’s major ‘news’ media, but even all of its major ‘alternative news’ media, refuse to report that the U.S. Government carried out a very bloody coup d’etat in Kiev Ukraine in February 2014 under the cover of ‘democracy demonstrations,’ and that our Government has ever since that time been carrying out (via its imposed new rabidly anti-Russian Ukrainian regime) an ethnic-cleansing campaign, which they call an ‘Anti Terrorist Operation’ or ‘ATO,’ in order to exterminate and/or terrorize to expell from Ukraine the residents in the particular area of Ukraine that had voted 90% for the man whom Obama overthrew, Viktor Yanukovych. The people slaughtered there are not ‘terrorists’ but victims of a government by terror. This government routinely uses firebombs in order to slaughter the residents there. The extermination is the goal, not an unfortunate side-effect of policy.

This has, in fact, been the first time in American history when the U.S. Government has actually installed a racist-fascist, or nazi, government (one the likes of which we actually fought against in World War II), and has (along with the cooperating aristocracies in Europe) imposed an ethnic-cleansing campaign, a war to exterminate the residents in a region. And we’re doing it in Europe, in Ukraine, on Russia’s border. The U.S. aristocracy are so heavily invested, for such a long time, in overthrowing Russia’s Government, so that Ukraine is now being used by them as the proxy-state to do it. Killing, or driving into Russia, those strongly pro-Russian residents, is necessary in order for future national elections in Ukraine to retain in power the new, rabidly anti-Russian, Government, a Government that wants to join NATO and to place nuclear missiles against Russia, at Russia’s border, a veritable nuclear checkmate, more devastating for Russia even than the dozen currently existing formerly Russia-allied nations that now belong to the anti-Russian U.S. military alliance, NATO. Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has every reason to consider the United States now to be a deadly hostile nation, because America’s aristocrats are deadly serious in this genocidal anti-Russian gambit, which is a preliminary step to destroy Russians.

I have been writing articles about this matter for about a year, and all of them can be seen at the following two sites, besides a few other sites that have run some of them; so, these articles, listed at the following two links, fill in the details on this:

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/author/eric-zuesse-2

http://rinf.com/alt-news/author/eric-zuesse/

With that as background, then, here is the narrative I experienced:

I had sent the following news-report to virtually all of the U.S. and UK national news-media:

“The Entire Case for Sanctions Against Russia Is Pure Lies.”

That report is news because no one has ever reported it before, and because it is fact, not mere opinion. A lie is a lie; it is not an ‘error,’ and it is not a ‘truth’; and the allegations on which those sanctions are based are not only false but are known to be false by our Government, which alleges them. To state that a lie is a lie is either true or false. That news-report provides its own documentation, through links to its sources. The reader can judge its accuracy at least as well as when a journalist cites some ‘expert’ (or government-source) as an ‘authority’ on what is true and what is false. Often, propagandistic ‘journalists’ pre-select ‘experts’ whose opinions just happen to agree with the ‘facts’ that the given journalist’s employer wants to sell as ‘reality.’

This news-article I was submitting to virtually all national U.S. news-media, is different from such propaganda, which is widely published; it’s a news-story, and it is an important one. The very title of the news-report asserts a startling allegation; if it is true, then the consequences are enormous. Whether it is well-written and well-documented, is only for each individual reader to judge. I would hope that each reader would judge it on the basis of the quality of the evidence that it cites and links to. However, the executives at news organizations are gate-keepers; they filter what news-reports you see, and which ones you don’t. And, like all of my news-reports on Ukraine, this one was published only by very few.

It was, in fact, published only by the following

rinf.com

countercurrents.org

washingtonsblog.com

prisonplanet.com

smirkingchimp.com

globalresearch.ca

All others (all the rest of the national ‘news’ media) declined to publish it.

The news-story reported there is important because massive economic harm is being done both to Russia and to Europe by these sanctions — and by the lies that are the basis for these economic sanctions; and also because any such lies by the United States Government against Russia might end up producing a disastrous nuclear war. This is why the public should be informed that they arelies — totally untrue (as you can see documented there). Furthermore, economic sanctions are a prelude to military war.

If the public do not know that these economic sanctions are being done on the basis of pure lies, then how can the American people vote intelligently in the 2016 Presidential election? Foreign policy is a quintessentially national and Presidential thing. There can be no democracy on that type of basis, the basis of the public’s ignorance about such a crucial interntional-affairs matter — only dictatorship by liars. Only forced Government, in which the force that is being used against the public is mental force, deception, instead of physical force, violence.

So: almost all ‘news’ media turned out to be not real news-media, in this particular and very important instance. That should be major news, in itself.

Selections regarding what to publish, and how favorably to position a given news-headline, determine what the public comes to know, and what they don’t come to know. The news-media are, in fact, the gateway to democracy. If the gateway is closed-off at all of the major ‘news’ media, then how can the given nation possibly be democratic? It can’t — not really. It’s then a manipulated public, and the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” aristocracy, with its servants rotating from government to mega-corporations and then back to government, back-and-forth, is actually manipulating the public, rather than serving the public, because the aristocracy is being served instead.

With the exception of about ten news-media, all news-media in the U.S. and UK have rejected all of my many news reports about different aspects of America’s rape of Ukraine, a rape that has been done specifically to use Ukraine as a proxy-battlefield to draw Russia into war, so that the American aristocracy can take over Russia. This rape has been supported by most European leaders. The Ukrainian people are being used.

One ‘news’-medium that has rejected all of these Ukraine reports is alternet, which had published a number of my previous news-reports, just none that deal with the rape of Ukraine, a rape that has been done by the Obama Administration, and especially none of my reports about the U.S. coup which had brought about the current racist-fascist (or nazi), anti-Russian Government there, and none about the new regime’s ethnic-cleansing to get rid of the residents in the area of Ukraine that had voted 90% for the man Obama overthrew. All of that is suppressed by them.

Ever since the 2 May 2014 Odessa massacre of pro-Russian demonstrators by Government thugs (largely financed by a friend of the Obama White House whom they appointed to become a key governor in Ukraine), I have been writing mainly about Ukraine, because I am attracted to those topics that are the most-suppressed news-beats in my country, the U.S., which is supposedly a democracy. Ukraine turns out to be the most-suppressed topic of all. The ‘news’ on it today is like the ‘news’ about Iraq was in 2002 and 2003: it’s stenographic ‘reporting’ from U.S.-Government-approved sources. Lies. And the harms that can result from the matter in Ukraine are vastly worse even than in Iraq.

On 31 July 2014, I emailed to Don Hazen, the founder and controlling person at alternet (and he was also the former publisher of Mother Jones — a magazine that likewise publishes nothing about the U.S. coup and ethnic cleansing in Ukraine) asking him:

“Nothing [of mine] has been posted since May 30th. Is something wrong?” This was right after my latest article, written after my looking at the polls, had concluded that the only thing that could possibly block a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate and a solid-Republican Congress in Obama’s final two years as President would be a congressional Democrat introducing a bill of impeachment of Obama that would cite progressive reasons why he should be impeached. Doing this — that declaration of independence against a then-very-unpopular pro-aristocratic President — would remove the stain that Obama brings to the Democratic label, a stain that was holding down the electoral support for Democratic congressional candidates during this election year. Removing that authoritarian stain (especially when he was the most unpopular of all recent Presidents after the length of time he had spent in the White House) would be the only way that congressional Democrats could run for re-election without the Obama stain — the stain that “if you vote for Senator X, you are voting for Obama.” He turned the article down, like he turned down all of my Ukraine articles.

People such as Hazen were hiding the truth about Obama from liberals, in order to continue the myth that we have a real two-party system — not a government of the public by the nation’s aristocracy, a one-party system at the deeper level. Hazen replied:

 sorry, but I don’t follow this, or buy into it as a scenario.  the GOP is not going to impeach Obama… 

at least not now., it would hurt them in the elections in November. [I had dealt with that in my article, as you see there, but he ignored it.] Or probably never… Presidents do 

lots of ugly things… but they don’t get impeached. .. unless they are crooks or get blow jobs in the white house. 

  I wouldn’t have favored Bush being impeached either. Still,  it will never happen because it is only the right-wing base that has any taste for impeachment. 

You are imagining a scenario without a constituency. You seem far afield of how American politics works.

Why would any Democrat try to impeach Obama.. it would be for most, an act of political suicide. [His entire comment was ignoring, not responding to, what I said, and the polling-data, in the submitted article.]

You do, in my mind, seem blinded by your intense feelings about Obama… He does not have the passion

you imagine.  And the end of the Obama administration is going to be mostly stalemated.. not a gleeful right-wing march as

you describe. [I had described no such thing.]

The real issue here was that Hazen simply didn’t care about Obama’s bringing nazis into control of Ukraine right next-door to Russia — something that presents an existential threat against our fellow-nuclear-power, Russia, the threat of building a NATO missile base in Ukraine a mere ten-minute flight-time to Moscow — a threat like the dictator Khrushchev had presented in 1962 against the United States and which our President JFK treated, correctly, as an existential threat to us. Why should Putin not treat this Obama-gambit in Ukraine the same way JFK did when the shoe was on the other foot, in Cuba? Hazen evidently feels that a racist-fascist, rabidly anti-Russian but nominally ‘Democratic’ President, who reigns for America’s aristocracy, should simply be accepted by Democrats as representing what we consider to be Democratic. But then, the Party means nothing at all.

I cannot wear that Party label any more — nor any party’s label. No congressional Democrat came forward with a bill of impeachment against Obama, a bill that many Republicans would have had tosign onto in order to keep the ‘Tea Party’ with them, and that could have passed Congress, but that in any case would have freed Democratic candidates from the Obama-nazi stain (the stain of not just elitism, as before, but now also nazism), and enabled them to prove that the 2014 congressional elections were about each one of these individual Democrats in Congress, and not at all about this unpopular President. Each Democrat in Congress would then have been able to go public with his view about this President, and thus maybe enough of them could have won for the Party to retain control in the Senate. My submitted article had proposed what I argued there was the only way that was even possible for the Demcratic Party not to lose the Senate. (All polls for months had shown that, barring some fundamental change in the political dynamics such as what I was here proposing, the Democrats would lose the Senate, so that Obama’s final two years would be spent signing and occasionally vetoing only Republican-written legislation. Hazen’s email entirely ignored my analysis, argument, and data.)

For me, it was bad enough that Obama (with his Wall Street bailouts etc.) is the first President in U.S. history to increase instead of decrease the inequality of income after an economic crash. Obama’s having gone nazi in Ukraine was simply too much.

On February 27th, after my having submitted to alternet a news-story titled “The Entire Case for Sanctions Against Russia Is Pure Lies” (a report that you also can see and evaluate for yourself at that other site), I received back from “article submissions” at alternet, the brief note, “Feel free to stop sending us your submissions.” I asked Hazen whether he was behind that; he never answered.

Well, now, alternet virtually admits that they don’t even consider my article-submissions, after I had started criticizing Obama for his nazism and ethnic cleansing in Ukraine.

If anyone wonders why the polls show that Americans’ fear of Russia is soaring, after the U.S. has turned the tables on the Cuban Missile Crisis and become itself the dictatorship now, it’s this country’s controlled press (like Hazen). The aristocracy creates and builds all of the large ‘news’ media in this country; they block out the truth regarding the most important issues (such as Ukraine), the ones that voters most need to know about, in order to vote intelligently.

If readers wonder why Mother Jones, Progressive, Nation, Atlantic, Harpers, NBC, CNN, NYT, WSJ, Salon, Slate, Alternet, etc., don’t even report the Obama-stooge-regime’s bombings to exterminate or expell the residents (Obama’s people call them all ’terrorists’) in the area of Ukraine that had voted 90% for the man whom Obama overthrew in February 2014 — if anyone wonders how the U.S. could in silence become the sponsor of such a vicious and ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign — it’s because of ’news’ executives such as Don Hazen. They don’t want the public to know certain things; and both ‘right’ and ‘left’ sides of the aristocracy are censoring-out this type of reality.

Readers should treasure news-sites like this one, the one you’re now reading, that refuse to bow to the aristocracy. Readers here should tell their friends about this site. They should spread the word about it, and about the corruptness of the ‘news’ media in general, in our fading ‘democracy.’

How can democracy exist if the news-media are controlled by the aristocracy? It can’t. What exists then is an aristocratic government. Not a democratic government.

Any country whose major political parties (meaning the ones that seriously contend to win leadership) are all controlled by the aristocracy, is no democracy at all. That’s what we now have. Ukraine is an aristocratic operation, which could blow up the world, and which already has caused over a million refugees, where there had previously been peace. Yet, only about ten (all rather small-audience) sites (such as this), are reporting the reality — all others are hiding the reality — about historically so very important a matter, which could end up producing a nuclear war.

News-sites like this one are therefore the only hope for restoring democracy, where democracy formerly had existed. And maybe we’re not yet too late to prevent a nuclear war.

Each reader can check a news-site’s honesty, by googling its name and the word “Ukraine” and seeing whether the realities that I have linked to here are reflected there. If the answer is no, then I would not call it a news-site, but merely a propaganda-site — because these realities are precisely that: they are real. And they are important.

That’s the best way I know of, to test the honesty of any given national-news site.

 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 Moscow Basmanny Court, on Sunday, sanctioned the detention of three additional suspects in the case of the murder of Russian politician Boris Nemtsov. Meanwhile, Daur Dadayev , a former Chechen officer pleaded guilty for his involvement. The developments prompt the President of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, to launch a probe into the republics security services and a probe to identify what may have motivated Dadayev, whom he knew as a loyal officer, to get involved in the crime.

The three additional suspects whose arrest was sanctioned by Moscow’s Basmanny Court are Khamzad Bakhayev, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov and Shagid Gubashev, reported the Russian Tass news agency.

Zaur Dadayev arraingned to the Court. Photo, courtesy of Mikhail Pochvev, Tass.

Zaur Dadayev arraingned to the Court. Photo, courtesy of Mikhail Pochvev, Tass.

The Court stated that it reached the conclusion to support the investigators’ request after having reviewed the materials presented to the court. Gubachev was arrested on March 7 while Eskerkhanov and Bakhayev were arrested on March 8.

The three were charged under Articles 105 and 222 of the Russian Federation’s Criminal Code, involving the murder committed by a group of persons, in collusion, and for reasons of money, as well as with robbery, extortion and banditry and the illegal possession or transfer of weapons.

The Court justifies their detention on the grounds that the suspects could flee and possibly attempt to destroy evidence.

Bakhayev and Gubachev are nationals of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Ingushetia while Eskerkhanov is a native of the Republic of Chechnya. All three had a registered address in Moscow. The Court also sanctioned the detention of the Chechen nationals Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Cubachev who had been arraigned to the Court.

President of the Russian Federation's Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, challenged al-Baghdadi to admit that he is a CIA asset.

Dadayev’s Confession prompts Response by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (left).

Judge Natalya Mushnikova was quoted by Tass as saying that “Zaur Dadayev’s involvement has been confirmed by his confession”. The Court would not provide details about Dadayev’s alleged or confessed role in the murder of RPR-Psarnas party Co-Chair Boris Nemtsov during the night from February 27 to 28.

Dadayev’s arrest and confession prompted the President of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, to order an investigation into the Dadayev’s past. President Kadyrov stressed that he remembered Dadayev as a true Russian patriot. The Tass news agency quoted the Chechen Republic’s President as stating:

“I have known Zaur as a true patriot of Russia. … Zaur was one of the bravest men in the regiment. … He displayed particular courage in an operation against a large group of terrorists near Benoi. He was awarded the Order of Courage, and medals For Bravery and For Services to the Chechen Republic. I am certain that he was sincerely dedicated to Russia and prepared to give his life for the Motherland. The real reasons and motives behind Dadayev’s dismissal from the Russian Interior Ministry troops are unclear to me. … I have instructed Chechnya’s Security Council Secretary Vakhit Usmayev to conduct a thorough investigation of Zaur Dadayev’s resignation and to scrutinize his behavior and morale on the eve of leaving the service. … In any case, if Dadayev’s guilt is established in court, it will have to be admitted that by taking a human life he committed a grave crime. But I must say once again that he would have never taken a single step against Russia, for the sake of which he had risked his own life for many years. Beslan Shavanov, the man killed during an attempt to detain him, was a brave soldier, too. We hope that a thorough investigation will follow to show if Dadayev is really guilty, and if yes, what was the real reason behind his actions.”

Questions about Federal and Chechen Security Forces. The alleged and confessed involvement of a former Chechen officer is bound to raise concerns about federal security. The reasons for Dadayev’s dismissal are, as Ramzan Kadyrov noted, still unknown to him. Dadayev and his four co-defendants must be presumed innocent until they, eventually, have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

A probe into the reasons for the dismissal of Dadayev from the Interior Ministry forces and a probe into Chechen security forces could eventually shed light on severe threats to the national security of the Republic of Chechnya and the Russian Federation as a whole.

BandarWestern and Arab Support of Terrorists could justify a Mole-Hunt in the Russian Federation’s Security Services. Chechen and Ingushetian Islamist terrorist organizations are known for their close ties to foreign intelligence services. In 2013 the then Chief of Saudi Arabia’s Intelligence, Prince Bandar admitted that Saudi Arabia uses and controls Chechen and other Caucasian terrorists promising President Putin “a safe Winter Olympic Games in Sochi” in exchange for Russian willingness to have a Saudi-friendly regime installed in Syria.

The released minutes of the meeting between Putin and Bandar quote Bandar as saying:

“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 direction of the Syrian territory without coordinating with us. These groups don´t 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”.

McCain_ISIS_FSA_voltairenet.org_Tarpley_USA_Syria_Iraq

Image: U.S. Senator John McCain meeting illegally in a rebel safe house with the heads of the “Free Syrian Army” in Idlib, Syria in April, 2013. In the left foreground, top al Qaeda terrorist leader Ibrahim al-Badri (aka Al-Baghdadi of ISIS, aka Caliph Ibrahim of the recently founded Islamic Empire) with whom the Senator is talking. Behind Badri is visible Brigadier General Salim Idris (with glasses), the former military chief of the FSA, who has since fled to the Gulf states after the collapse of any semblance of the FSA. (Courtesy VoltaireNet.org)

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, for his part, has previously accused U.S. intelligence officials, including David Petraeus, for involvement in “flipping” detainees at Camp Bucca and at black CIA sites, including Caliph Ibrahim of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS / ISIL) Al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Al-Badri or Caliph Ibrahim.

In Helsinki, the capital of Finland the Kavkaz Center is maintaining a “pro-Caucasus Emirate” website. The Center provided PR support to the now deceased terrorist leaderDoku Umarov and his terrorist network.

Umarov would threaten to disrupt the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games before he was killed in an explosion.

U.S. Civil Society organizations as well as CIA and JSOCfronts like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are known for their support of “Caucasian Rebels or Freedom Fighters”.

A shortlist of the civil society organizations which have been implicated in supporting Russian terrorist organizations includes the Jamestown Foundation, the United States-Chechen Republic Alliance Inc., the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus (ACPC), Freedom House, the Open Society Foundation, among many others.Zbigniew_Brzezinski_gru2010

The former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniev Brzezinski is generally known as one of the main enablers and sponsors of the “Chechen Representation in the United States” led by Alisher Usmanov. Brzezinsky, for his part, is strongly supported by Rockefeller Foundation money.

Brzezinski is according to several analysts pathologically obsessed with dividing Russia into at least six separate States” to reign in Moscow under the umbrella of a U.S. hegemony.

It is noteworthy that Boris Nemtsov and the RPR-Psarnas party had close ties to the National Endowment of Democracy (NED).

In 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin would state that“he knows as a meter of fact” that especially foreign-backed organizations, over the last ten years, have used the strategy to sacrifice one of their own to create a martyr”. (see video)

The alleged involvement of Chechen and Ingushetian nationals in the murder of Boris Nemtsov and the confession of the former Interior Ministry officer Dadayev is not unlikely to prompt in-depth “mole-hunt” operations in the federal and national Russian, Chechen, Ingushetian and other security forces as well as mole-hunts in foreign-backed NGO’s.

Translator’s Introduction

Richard Sams

March 10 is the 70th anniversary of the Great Tokyo Air Raid. Although Tokyo was bombed more than 100 times from November 1944 to the end of the war, the firebombing centered on the Shitamachi district in the early hours of March 10, 1945, was by far the most devastating air raid on the capital. In less than three hours from just after midnight, 279 B-29 bombers dropped a total of 1,665 tons of incendiaries.1 By dawn, more than 100,000 people were dead, one million were homeless, and 16 square miles of Tokyo had been burned to the ground.

More people were killed in the indiscriminate firebombing of March 10 than in the immediate aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. After the war, while Hiroshima and Nagasaki became symbols of Japan’s suffering and the peace movement, the Great Tokyo Air Raid was virtually excluded from public discourse. Hardly anyone wrote about the air raids that reduced the capital and most of Japan’s other cities to ashes, and the few articles that did appear in newspapers attracted little interest. For a quarter of a century after the war, while memorial services were held every year on August 6 and 9 for the victims of the atomic bombings and covered widely in newspapers and on television, the devastating firebombing campaign over Tokyo and much of urban Japan was quietly forgotten. While school textbooks, novels, poetry and films memorialized the atomic bombing and its victims, silence reigned with respect to the firebombing raids.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Japan’s high-speed growth transformed the Tokyo cityscape until all the remaining signs of devastation lay buried underground, out of sight and mind. Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 1964 served as a symbol of Japan’s post-war reconstruction. In the same year, the government awarded General Curtis LeMay – the architect of the firebombing campaign – one of its highest honors, the First Class Order of the Rising Sun, for his work in establishing Japan’s postwar Air Self-Defense Force.

On occasion, however, Tokyo’s rapid urban development brought back memories of the devastation of the Shitamachi district from below ground. On June 13, 1967, the shocking discovery of human skeletons in a buried air-raid shelter unearthed during construction at a subway station in the Fukagawa district was reported in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. Among those who read the article was Saotome Katsumoto, a writer who had experienced the March 10 air raid as a boy of twelve. Saotome’s experiences during the war had imbued him with a deep pacifism that informed his life and career. He had already published six novels, the first of which had been nominated for the prestigious Naoki Prize. While he had drawn from his experience of the air raid in these novels and described it in various articles, he had never fully come to terms with it. As Saotome recounts below, the newspaper article had a galvanizing effect on him.

Saotome Katsumoto Photograph by Cary Karaca

A few days after he saw this article, Saotome received a visit from the journalist and critic Matsuura Sozo, who had begun to research the question of public amnesia regarding the Tokyo air raids. Matsuura was interviewing various people for an article about the raids for the monthly magazine Bungei Shunju.2 Although the two discussed the possibility of collaborating on a large project, it was not until 1970 that they pursued it in earnest. Saotome would later recall that 1970 was a critical turning point in public awareness of the firebombing of Tokyo. It was not only the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the war but also the year when the Anpo protests once again challenged the renewal of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. In addition, many survivors of the firebombing of Japan were feeling kinship with the victims of the napalm carpet-bombing of North Vietnam. Saotome saw it as the “last chance to denounce the Tokyo air raids.”3 On March 10, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper featured a letter by Saotome in its “Voices” (readers’ letters) section. After describing his harrowing experience of escaping from the inferno as the incendiary bombs rained down around him, he closed with an appeal: “Should not those of us who experienced the raids, at least on this day, just for one day, speak of what war is really like? And shouldn’t we also think about the bombs indiscriminately falling on Vietnam?”4

In response to Saotome’s plea, personal accounts of the air raids poured into the newspaper’s offices. To accommodate these responses, the Tokyo edition of the newspaper featured a special daily column Tokyo Hibaku Ki (Chronicle of Tokyo’s Bombings) featuring the recollections of victims of the bombings, particularly the March 10 raid. These victims’ testimonies were featured in the newspaper every day for forty days.

Seizing on the momentum generated by this public discussion, Saotome and Matsuura brought together sixteen intellectuals and air raid survivors to form the Society for Recording the Tokyo Air Raids, officially established on August 5, 1970.5 The Society’s central project was to publish the Tokyo Air Raid Damage Records (planned as five 1,000-page volumes) from the viewpoint of the main protagonists: the citizens of Tokyo. Funding was granted for this massive publishing project by the Governor of Tokyo, Minobe Ryokichi, a self-proclaimed “utopian socialist” who had himself experienced the firebombing of Hachioji in western Tokyo just two weeks before the end of the war. It was the first time that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government had made a commitment to support an extensive recording of the history of the air raids.

Representatives of the Society for Recording the Tokyo Air Raids meeting with Governor Minobe, August 5, 1970Second Left to right: Saotome Katsumoto, Matsuura Sozo, Minobe Ryokichi, Ienaga Saburo, Source: Tokyo Air Raid Resource Center

In the meantime, Saotome started visiting victims of the March 10 Shitamachi air raid to gather material for his own book. When he visited Fukagawa Library in July, both the chief librarian and one of the library staff, Hashimoto Yoshiko, recounted how they had survived the inferno that swept through Fukagawa and Honjo wards. Saotome featured Hashimoto’s incredible story of survival in his book. She later became a member of the editorial committee of the Society for Recording the Tokyo Air Raids and was active in raising public awareness.

The Great Tokyo Air Raid was published by Iwanami Shoten in January 1971. On March 10 nearly all of the media broadcast programs or published articles on the Tokyo air raids, focusing on the firebombing of the Shitamachi district. By the end of March, 221 victims of that air raid had submitted accounts of their experiences for inclusion in the first volume of the Tokyo Air Raid Damage Records. Amid this surge in public interest, Saotome’s book became a bestseller. In the first year following publication, about 200,000 copies were sold – an extraordinary number for a non-fiction book about the war. From 1971 until its publication was discontinued in 2007 it went through 49 editions. The fact that a total of about 500,000 copies were sold over 36 years testifies to the extraordinary interest generated by the media during the year of its publication.6 In the early 1970s, successive books and articles about the Tokyo air raids were published, including the five volumes of the Tokyo Air Raid Damage Records (1973-74). By the mid-1970s, however, the fickle interest of the media and general public had faded once again. This was hardly surprising, since it had risen through a particular combination of circumstances – the 25th anniversary of the end of the war, the controversies surrounding the renewal of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the Vietnam War, and the influence of the first socialist Governor of Tokyo. Even so, without the determined activities of a small group of intellectuals and air raid survivors led by Saotome Katsumoto and Matsuura Sozo, it might never have happened at all.

The Great Tokyo Air Raid is an ambitious book. Although Saotome’s main focus was on the experiences of the victims, he also attempted to weave these accounts into a linear narrative of the air raid as a whole, while explaining the low-altitude firebombing strategy adopted by the US Army Air Force. However, as the author himself observed, the fact that only a few US documents had been translated into Japanese made the task very difficult. In 1979 Saotome himself wrote another book on the March 10 air raid, Tokyo ga Moeta Hi (The Day Tokyo Burned), in which he incorporated information from the US Army Air Force Tactical Mission Report that had become available after his first book was published. Nevertheless, the victims’ testimonies that form the core of The Great Tokyo Raid remain as powerful and heartrending today as they were when they were first told to the author forty-five years ago.

Seventy years after the Great Tokyo Air Raid, this is the first time for these survivors’ voices to be heard in the English language.

Richard Sams is a professional translator living in Tokyo. Since translating The Great Tokyo Air Raid a year ago, he has been researching the Tokyo air raids. His article on US bombing strategy for appeared in the Japanese journal Kushu Tsushin (Air Raid Report). He is currently editing a book (“Voices from the Ashes”) with Cary Karacas on the firebombing of Tokyo from the viewpoint of the victims. He has an M.A. in history from Cambridge University.

Author’s Introduction by Saotome Katsumoto (1971)

At about two in the morning on June 11, 1967, on a construction site on the Tozai subway line at Monzen-nakacho in the Fukagawa district of Koto Ward in Tokyo, workmen digging up the ground to repair damage to the track discovered something very strange. Below the pavement, at a depth of 15 meters, they found what appeared to be the remains of an air raid shelter. Inside it were six human skeletons huddled close together. Two of them were children and the other four adults. Their gender could not be determined. The positions of the bones suggested they had been cowering in terror, and one of the adult skeletons was cradling two Buddhist memorial tablets in its arms. There were signs that the shelter had been engulfed in flames. Burn marks were visible on one set of bones, and a rusted steel helmet and decayed water bucket lay close by. For the local residents who came to witness it, this discovery brought back memories of the massive air raid over the Shitamachi, the low-lying eastern district of Tokyo, in the early hours of March 10, 1945.

What were these remains discovered 22 years after the war? Who were the six victims and where were they from? The incident was reported in theMainichi Shimbun newspaper on June 13. A clue to the identity of the six bodies was provided by the inscriptions on the memorial tablets. The next day, the newspaper reported that Tsuzuki Shizuo7, a company president living in Kamiogi, Suginami Ward, had claimed that the remains were those of his relatives and expressed his wish to collect them.

A friend of Shizuo’s had seen the article on June 13 and told him about it. According to Shizuo, at the time of the air raid just after midnight on March 10, 1945, he was at his wife’s parents’ home together with his wife and their four year-old daughter. When the raid started, seven family members – Shizuo, his wife and daughter, and his wife’s mother with her two other daughters and grandchild – had set out to evacuate to a nearby elementary school. On the way, his mother-in-law noticed that she had forgotten something important and Shizuo went back to get it. When he returned, the others were nowhere to be found. He never saw them again.

Thus Tsuzuki Shizuo came to confront the remains of his wife and child twenty-two years later.

When I read that newspaper article, I immediately wanted to hear Tsuzuki Shizuo’s account of that terrible night and pray for the souls of the victims, but I could not muster the courage to meet him. After all, I was a mere writer and had my own vivid memories of the Great Tokyo Air Raid in which Shizuo lost his wife, child, and other relatives. I was one of those who ran this way and that in frantic efforts to escape the inferno and barely survived. Since then I have considered it my duty to faithfully record the horrific events of that night and convey the reality of war. If I possibly could, I wanted to leave an accurate historical record for future generations.

Considering that at least 80,0008 people died and over a million lost their homes and suffered immeasurable hardships, there are incredibly few written records of the Great Tokyo Air Raid. This was particularly true of the eight years prior to the publication of the Tokyo Metropolitan War Damage Recordscompiled by the Tokyo Metropolis in 1953 and Photographs of the Great Tokyo Air Raid published in the same year. Since then no records of similar scale have been compiled and only two or three books by individual authors have been published. The only comprehensive document, the Tokyo Metropolitan War Damage Records, is not readily accessible, nor are its statistical sections easy for general readers to understand. Furthermore, its descriptions deliberately omit accounts of the emotional suffering of the victims. Such documents as these cannot convey the terrible reality or an overall picture of the tragedy of the Great Tokyo Air Raid.

It is easy enough to state that more than 80,000 people lost their lives, but sometimes I imagine how it would look if all these victims, in their final death throes, were gathered together in the same place. However much I try to banish this vision from my mind, I am left staring helplessly at it. My decision in the summer of 1970, a quarter of a century after the end of the war, to visit victims of the Great Tokyo Air Raid and record their hitherto silent voices was not simply due to my sense of duty as a fellow survivor. To grasp my own pacifist ideology, I needed to ascertain the truth of the war twenty-five years earlier and to think in my own way about the fates of the 80,000 victims on that terrible night.

However, my approach to Tsuzuki Shizuo met with an unexpectedly firm refusal. I telephoned him to ask if we could meet to talk about his experience but he told me he could not bear to relive it. It is hard for us to reopen past wounds, and the feelings of a man who had to confront the skeletal remains of his wife and child after they had been buried underground for twenty-two years are impossible to imagine. What would be the point of talking about such things to an unknown writer? The emotional scars left on the people of Tokyo, particularly ordinary working people, are not something they can easily talk about. I understand that only too well, for I was a boy of twelve who experienced the trauma of staring death in the face.

In the summer of 1970, twenty-five years after the end of the war, I walked around Tokyo every day with a notebook and pen, visiting families of the victims to interview them about their experiences of the air raids, particularly the Great Tokyo Air Raid of March 10, 1945. I recorded the testimonies of over twenty people either directly or at second hand. I was turned away at the door many times, and not one of those who agreed to be interviewed was calm or composed. As if on cue, they all broke down during their accounts and, sitting there with my pen in hand, I was unable to look up at them. The scars are still deep. These wounds will never heal as long as they live. For them the “postwar” period will never end.

Understanding this state of mind made me all the more determined to get the victims to open up, revisit deeply buried memories, and describe their experiences. I had to reveal clearly the reality of the Great Tokyo Air Raid, a reality that was much worse than tragic. However painful it might be, confronting people’s actual experience of war will surely help to build a firm foothold for peace.

In this book, in addition to the author and Metropolitan Police Department photographer Koyo Ishikawa, eight citizens of the Shitamachi district of Tokyo describe their experiences in the Great Tokyo Air Raid9. Through the living testimonies of these ordinary people I have strived to present a clear picture of that night of indiscriminate firebombing. The recounting of these experiences was painful for both the speakers and the listener, but for the sake of those who bore this pain and for all those who lost their lives, I have attempted to faithfully record the events of March 10, 1945.

Saotome Katsumoto is the author of The Great Tokyo Air Raid (Iwanami Shoten, 1971) and a key figure in memorializing the Tokyo firebombing raids. He is currently Director of the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damages. At the age of 83, he is still active as a writer and speaker.

The following links are to victims’ testimonies from The Great Tokyo Air Raid (the ages given are at the time of the air raid):10

Saotome Katsumoto, mobilized student, 12

Kikujima Koji, technical school student, 13

Ishikawa Koyo, police photographer, 40

Hashimoto Yoshiko, housewife, 24

Kokubo Takako, member of volunteer corps, 19

I would like to thank Cary Karacas for sharing his expert knowledge and allowing me to reproduce images from his website, Japan Air Raids.org.

Notes

1 Figures from Tactical Mission Report, Mission No. 40

2 This article, titled Kakarezaru Tokyo Daikushu (“The Great Tokyo Air Raid Nobody Writes About”), was eventually published in the March 1968 edition of Bungei Shunju.

3 Saotome Katsumoto, Heiwa o Ikiru (Living in Peace), Sodo Bunka, 1982, p. 55 (my translation).

4 Asahi Shimbun, 10 March 1970.

5 The founding members included the historian Ienaga Saburo, photographer Ishikawa Koyo, writer Arima Yorichiku, and voice actor Tokugawa Musei.

6 These approximate sales figures were conveyed to me directly by the author.

7 In Saotome’s introduction, the name is rendered simply as T-san. I have taken the name from the above-mentioned article by Matsuura Sozo in the March 1968 edition of Bungei Shunju.

8 This figure was based on the materials available to the author at the time. In his 1979 book, Tokyo ga Moeta Hi (The Day Tokyo Burned), Saotome estimated the number of death at about 100,000 based on the latest research. In the special 50th edition of The Great Tokyo Air Raid published in January 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Saotome states that “at least100,000 is an accurate estimate.”

9 Three of these citizens’ testimonies are featured below.

10 These testimonies are not presented as they appear in the book, but as complete accounts from the beginning of the air raid to the end.


The Ticking Clocks

Testimony of Saotome Katsumoto

“Katsumoto! Get up!”

At the sound of my father’s voice, I jumped out of bed. The same instant, a ray of light that made my eyes swim streaked across the south window, followed by an eerie roar that seemed to pierce the earth. I remember the shock of that moment as if it happened last night. Grabbing the first-aid and emergency bags by my pillow, my air-raid hood, and my only treasure, a cloth pouch containing old coins, I rushed down the stairs shouting “I’m coming, I’m coming!”

There was a reason for my quick response. It was March 10, Army Day. It had been rumored that the enemy was planning a huge air raid to coincide with this special day. As if to confirm those fears, a fierce northwesterly wind had been blowing since the previous evening. The flames reflected in the glass of the window and the deafening roars and explosions were enough for even a child to realize it was serious.

I went outside to look. In every direction – east, west, south and north – the dark sky was scorched with crimson flames. The steady roar of the B-29s’ engines overhead was punctuated by piercing screeches followed by cascading sounds like sudden showers. With each explosion, a flash of light darted behind my eyelids. The ground shook. Flames appeared one after another. As our neighbors looked outside their air raid shelters defiantly holding their bamboo fire brooms, they cursed when they saw how fiercely the fires were burning. They were helpless against the raging flames. Fire trucks, sirens wailing, were already speeding toward the fires, but what could they do in this gusting wind and intensive bombardment? Even in the eyes of a child, the situation seemed hopeless.

“Katsumoto, don’t dawdle!” cried my mother. She was standing in front of the air raid shelter, looking around in confusion. I’ll never forget the expression on her face. “Whichever way you look, there isn’t a single dark place, not one. We should’ve eaten those extra rations this evening. It would’ve been better to die on a full stomach.” “Don’t be silly,” said my father, his eyes darting about beneath his steel helmet.

“This time it’s different from usual. Katsumoto, get your things together quickly.”

“Alright.”

“Where’s Shizuko?”

“She’s still sleeping.”

Even now, my easygoing sister was lazing in bed.

“I’ll go wake her,” I said.

I went back into the house and rushed up the stairs beside the kitchen. I clearly recall being able to read the characters on the wall calendar even though all the lights were out.

In the crimson sky, black smoke was gathering in a dense fog and sparks were swirling about. It was a blizzard of sparks. Circling serenely above the pillar of flames, the B-29 bombers continued to pour down their incendiaries. First a bright blue flash shone in the sky, then countless trails of light fell and were absorbed in the black rooftops, from which new flames rose up. “My, how beautiful!” exclaimed my sister. Strangely I still remember that incongruous remark. At that moment, as if to suppress my sister’s admiration, a metallic explosion rang out. Suddenly I saw the huge form of a B-29 flying very low above the rooftops. Its belly opened wide and several black objects fell screeching to the ground. I instinctively covered my face. When I looked up again flames were rising all over the neighborhood. Then I heard my father’s voice from below: “Katsumoto, what are you doing?” Bring down the futons from upstairs and put them on the cart!”

This was how I first encountered the Great Tokyo Air Raid of March 10. At that time, a 12 year-old boy such as myself should not have been in Tokyo. Most schoolchildren in the capital city had been evacuated to the countryside. But because I was born in the first three months of the year, I had been moved up to the senior class after graduating from national elementary school and became what is now called a junior high school student. As a result I avoided evacuation and was placed in the youngest class of mobilized students. Together with most of my friends, I was busy working every day making hand grenades to be thrown by Japanese soldiers in their suicide attacks. But what use could a runny-nosed schoolboy be at a military ironworks? War is so cruel.

For a poor working family like mine, residing in Mukojima ward in the Shitamachi district, there was nowhere to escape to and no time to get away when the air raid struck. All we could do was cower in a corner of this low-lying region of the imperial capital. It was my fate to directly experience the horrors of the Great Tokyo Air Raid.

As is well known, the first US air raid on Tokyo in the Pacific War was the surprise attack by a squadron of 16 B-25 bombers led by Colonel James Doolittle on April 18, 1942. However, US air raids did not begin in earnest until the completion in October 1944 of a base for launching B-29 “Superfortress” heavy bomber raids from Saipan in the Mariana Islands. The first mission by a B-29 from the Saipan base was on November 1, 1944.

I vividly remember that day. At the time we still had classes at school, but the raid took place while we were doing military training. Covered in sweat, we were practicing marathon running on a country road. Suddenly we heard the intermittent wailing of an air raid siren and saw a civil defense corpsman, his face ashen white, screaming, “Enemy rocket! Enemy rocket!” We looked up and saw a metal object glittering like a diamond with streams of white smoke streaking behind it as it moved in stately fashion across the deep blue sky. Successive barrages of fire went up from anti-aircraft guns, but they were completely off target and obviously firing too low. At that time, Japan’s fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns were helpless against aircraft flying at a height of more than 10,000 meters. The anti-aircraft artillery for the defense of Tokyo consisted of seven- and eight-inch guns with a range of 5,000 to 6,000 meters, while most of Japan’s fighter planes could only fly to an altitude of about 8,500 meters.

It was not an enemy rocket. I found out much later that those streams of white smoke were vapor trails and that this B-29 was on a reconnaissance mission. They undoubtedly took some very detailed aerial photographs of Tokyo that day.

Most of us already knew the war was going badly. Japanese troops had been decimated in suicide attacks on Attu Island, the southern island of Guadalcanal had fallen, and the Mariana Islands of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian had all become US frontline bases by the end of 1944. The US armed forces were relentlessly closing in on the Japanese mainland. On the day of the US army landing on the southern coast of Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, the Japanese defenders were bombarded with as many as 8,000 shells in one day and driven to the north of the island. If Iwo Jima fell and the Americans reached Okinawa, an invasion of the Japanese mainland would be imminent. To camouflage the retreats, the Imperial Headquarters used the expression “change in course”, while the slogan “fight to the death” was replaced by “let them cut your flesh so that you can sever their bones.” For the B-29s, it was now a 1,500-mile flight to Tokyo from the air base in Saipan. They arrived in waves, their bellies filled with explosive and incendiary bombs.

Up to March 10, the B-29s bombing Tokyo had flown at a height of at least 10,000 meters and, although they had dropped large quantities of explosive and incendiary bombs, these had been aimed primarily at military targets in the city. The Great Tokyo Air Raid in the low-lying Shitamachi district was the first time the US air force moved from targeting the main industrial districts that were the basis of Japan’s military capability to low-altitude indiscriminate incendiary bombing that targeted civilians.

Tragically, there was also a very strong wind that day. From around noon on March 9, a northwesterly wind blew under overcast skies, becoming even fiercer from the evening into the night. Snow that had fallen two or three days earlier still remained on the ground in places, and the sudden gusts of wind in the streets cut through you like a knife.

I rose reluctantly from my warm bed and went outside. There was a duty I had to perform as a “young imperial citizen.” The north wind was so fierce that I could hardly stand up. The telegraph wires swayed and lids of garbage boxes flew up into the air. As a precaution against an air raid, I took a fire axe and broke the ice on the surface of the water in the tanks with all my strength. Then I took the shattered pieces of ice one by one and threw them out into the road. It was unpleasant work, but if I hadn’t done it, the water would have immediately frozen again. They said it was the coldest early March in fifty years.

When I had finished this chore, I went back inside the house, blowing on my numb fingers to warm them. The only light in the darkened room came from the radio, which provided us with the latest information. The Daily Record of Air-raid Warnings later published by the Roppongi Civil Defense Corps provides a detailed account of the information announced on the radio that night in the zone under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Army. At 10.30 p.m. on March 9, an air-raid standby alert was issued:

(1) Several presumed enemy targets approaching mainland from off the southern coast.

(2) Unidentified enemy targets flying north towards Boso Peninsula.

(3) First enemy targets entering home island airspace from Boso Peninsula.

(4) First enemy targets keeping close to coast of Boso Peninsula.

(5) First enemy targets changing course from south coast of Boso Peninsula and moving southward out to sea.

According to this information from the Eastern Army-controlled zone, B-29s circling the Boso Peninsula had entered the air space of Tokyo from the south of the peninsula and, without incurring any damage, had changed direction and were now flying far out over the ocean. As the radio announcer repeated the message, I breathed a sigh of relief.

A moment later, my father, dressed in his black uniform, suddenly came in and muttered, “It’s over.”

“Isn’t it Army Day tomorrow, dad?” I asked.

“Yes, but I don’t think they’ll be doing anything special,” replied my father. As he said this, I vaguely remember him putting down his bamboo water gun and heavy-looking steel helmet next to his pillow. It might seem strange for a grown man to have a water gun, but this type was one meter long with a diameter of ten centimeters and was issued only to the heads of firefighter groups. It had the imperial chrysanthemum crest branded on it at the end of the barrel. My father took his water gun with him on firefighting drills. When all the participants had gathered, they would hang a red cloth from the roof of a two-story house to represent the fire. Then they aimed the water gun, shouted out in unison, and shot a jet of water at the cloth. It was all right when they hit the target but when they missed, the cloth just hung there limply and they had to try again until they got it right. Until the night of March 10, everyone had been led to believe that they could defy incendiary bomb attacks with water guns, bucket relays, and fighting spirit.

Feeling relieved that it was a false alarm, my parents, two older sisters and I had gone to bed. During that brief respite, the massive indiscriminate firebombing raid scheduled for Army Day began.

We loaded our most important belongings onto a handcart and made our way down the Mito-kaido road, then turned left and headed south. We were running downwind, pushed along by the northwest wind behind us. To the south of Mukojima, the conflagration was already spreading throughout Honjo and Fukugawa wards. It is hard to explain why we headed towards the fires, but it seems that people lose the capacity to make cool judgments in such situations. The area to the north of our home was already engulfed in flames and sparks were raining down over our heads, so we felt we had to run in the opposite direction. The road was overflowing with people escaping with their various belongings, all of them heading south. We would have needed great conviction to go toward the wind in the opposite direction from that advancing wave of people. There were raging fires in the Asakusa district to the north and we could see fires burning in every direction. The only place that still seemed relatively dark was the Azuma-cho area in the southeast. My father held the handles at the front of the cart, my mother and I pushed it from behind, and my two sisters ran at the sides as we made for that dark place.


With an air-raid hood completely covering my head, I was wearing my khaki civilian wartime uniform with the red eagle insignia of the Great Japan Youth Organization on the breast pocket and an identification tag indicating my name, address, school and blood group sewn into it. Over that I wore my elder brother’s embroidered judo robe, which crinkled when I touched it. It looked just like the jackets worn by the firemen, except that it was white (though it was completely black by the following morning).

The Mukojima Area in Flames Painting by Katsumi Hidesaburo, who was sixteen at the time of the air raid Source: Sumida Local Culture Resource Center

Hanging from my belt underneath the loose-fitting judo robe, I had my first-aid and emergency bags, gaiters to protect my legs, my pouch of old coins, and a rubber trumpet. I didn’t plan to blow the trumpet to call for help; I’d borrowed it from a friend and felt obliged to return it. The coins made a jingling sound as I walked. Looking back on it now, I wasn’t so much afraid as in a daze. I realized that our home might burn down but it didn’t yet occur to me that my life was in danger. If the house was consumed by the flames, I vaguely wondered what would become of Tomi, the tortoise-shell pet cat we had left behind. But where on earth could we escape to? While we were heading for the only dark place, the enemy circling in the sky above would surely drop incendiaries there before we could reach it. The only safe haven was inside those B-29s flying above us. The bastards! To hell with those devils MacArthur and Nimitz!

“This heat is terrible. It’s as if the air is on fire,” said my mother to me, grimacing as she ran. The tone of her voice was despairing. Countless sparks were flying high and low in the wind like swallows. My father advanced while brushing them off his clothes and could only raise his head occasionally in the blizzard. “The fires are everywhere. What on earth are we going to do?” said my mother. In the beginning my mother made numerous remarks like this. Thinking back on it, I guess she couldn’t bear that blind scramble for safety in silence. I still remember the flickering red flames reflected in the lenses of her glasses.

At last we crossed the Hikifunegawa canal. The name, meaning “pull-boat river,” comes from the Edo period when horses pulled boats up and down the canal. After we had crossed the canal and the railway crossing of the Keisei line on the other side, my mother startled us by suddenly announcing she had to go back because she’d forgotten the photograph of my elder brother who had gone off to war. “Don’t be a fool! This is no time to be thinking of someone who isn’t here,” shouted my father, turning round but not stopping. She didn’t utter another word after that. It must have been unbearable to think of her son’s photograph enveloped in flames in our empty house. I understood that, but I also knew that going back would be a journey to hell.

On the way we ran into Mrs. Torii from our neighborhood and her only son Iwao. Mr. Torii, our local watchmaker, had been conscripted in spring of the year before and Iwao was in the same grade as me at school. “What on earth happened to you?” asked my mother in surprise. It was a natural question, because Mrs. Torii looked very strange indeed. It seems that folks completely lose their heads in such situations. While escaping we had seen people carrying tatami mats on their backs, with stone weights used for radish pickling loaded on their bicycles, or with blankets draped over their shoulders like the comic book superhero Golden Bat. But Mrs. Torii and her son were even more unforgettable. She had a futon wrapped around her, fastened with thick straw rope, and several pairs of wooden clogs tied to her waist with silk. Her son was wearing an adult’s steel helmet with two floor cushions tied around his waist at the front and back and wooden clogs hanging from the silk thread. I looked at him in open-mouthed amazement, but he said without laughing, “Let’s all go together.” “Did you bring the clocks with you too?” I joked. “No, we don’t need them. What you need is clogs for walking back over the debris from the fires.” Now I understood. I remembered that they’d warned on the radio that rubber-soled shoes would be dangerous in incendiary air raids, so we should wear shoes with leather or wooden soles. But even if you had wooden clogs, what good was it if you’d lost your home? I’ve completely forgotten what we said after that, but we escaped together with Mrs. Torii and Iwao for another four or five minutes.

We rushed on, forcing our handcart through the crowds and the swirling sparks until we reached the second railway crossing on the Tobu Kameido line from Hikifune to Kameido. But in the middle of the crossing, the handcart bounced on the rail and the lid of a cooking pot on top of our luggage came off and fell clanging to the ground. It rolled along and disappeared round a corner into a back alley. Tutting in annoyance, I went off alone into the alley to fetch it. At a time when we were running for our lives a pot lid was of no importance, but it seemed a shame to throw it away. At that moment, I saw a single B-29 emerge from the reddish purple flames and come straight towards us, flying so low I thought it might collide with the telegraph poles. Reflected in the flames, its wings gleamed bright red like dripping blood. “They’re coming down!” screamed a man just in front of me, looking up at the sky. An ear-splitting explosion shook the ground. I closed my eyes in terror and a golden streak of light flashed behind them. An incendiary pierced the neck of the man who had just cried out, bursting into flames. Then it grazed the shoulder of a woman who had run up beside him and embedded itself in a telegraph pole. In an instant the whole area around me was a picture of hell. An arm and a head had been torn off and bodies were sprawled about. A little girl of four or five stood bolt upright among them, splattered with blood but miraculously spared. I just stood there in shock, holding the lid of the pot with both hands.

“Katsumoto, are you alright?” Emerging from the wall of fire, my father’s face looked like just eyes and a mouth.

After that we lost sight of Mrs. Torii and Iwao as we ran this way and that in the alleys around Azuma-cho. There was no longer any refuge from the fierce wind. The wind fanned the fires and the fires fed the wind. Countless sparks and embers bore down on us, humming like a swarm of bees.

According to the Tokyo Fire Department, the fires in Mukojima broke out a little later than those in Honjo and Asakusa wards. Starting in western Azuma and spreading to parts of Terajima, they merged as they were fanned by the north-west wind and joined forces with the conflagration sweeping through Joto and Honjo wards, surrounding the whole of Mukojima. Like insects drawn to the flame, we found ourselves being dragged into the conflagration. Because we had first seen stronger fires burning in the direction of Asakusa, we panicked and ran south, only to have our escape route blocked by the B-29s arriving ahead of us. We carried on running as the bombs fell from all directions, dodging sputtering incendiaries lodged in the ground and jumping over dead bodies on the road as if we were running an obstacle race.

One incendiary bomb skimmed past the shoulder of a woman near me, lodged itself in a telegraph pole, scattered sparks, and turned into a pillar of fire. Roofs of houses spewed flames, wooden fences and telegraph poles burned, and even the brick-and-mortar warehouses of factories were engulfed in the inferno. Located between the Nakagawa and Kitajukken canals, Azuma-cho contained many factories. It seemed that these were being targeted because all around us pillars of flame were shooting up into the dark sky. Desperately trying to escape the smoke and flames, we ran through the maze of back alleys, only to emerge in the same place we had started. “Damn it!” cried my father. “We’re surrounded by fires.” At that moment the roof of a house collapsed in front of us with a tremendous rumbling sound and a hot wind roared over us as if blown by bellows. Carried by the north wind, black smoke and flames swept over the road devouring everything in their path.

I knew then that we were in the direst straits. There was nothing to do but pray to the gods. Perhaps I thought a kamikaze (“divine wind”) might blow and change the direction of the wind. At that time we young Imperial citizens had been told umpteen times by our schoolteachers that Japan was the “land of the gods” ruled by an unbroken line of emperors and that a kamikaze would blow if worse came to worst. But instead of that divine wind, it was my sister who saved us by discovering the only dark place in the sea of fire. This was the Tobu railway line between Hikifune and Kameido.

“Right, we’ll break through there!,” shouted my father. He scooped water from a water tank into his steel helmet and emptied it over my head. I don’t remember how that felt, but I’ll never forget the sight of the flames like red carp reflected on the surface of the water. We poured water over each other in preparation for our final dash down the railway tracks. Before we started running down that only remaining path to survival, my mother suddenly said she needed to urinate. Saying “It’s not easy running with a full bladder,” she pulled down her trousers and squatted over a garbage box. Before we escaped, my mother had said we should have eaten our extra rations of rice if we were going to die anyway. Now, as we were about to run for our lives, she had to take a piss because she didn’t want to feel uncomfortable! Her comical behavior helped us regain a little composure.

We all took a deep breath, bent down low, and ran for all we were worth down the railway track against the fierce north wind. That wind must have been blowing at 30 meters a second. It blew clumps of fire into the air and they came swirling towards us. With a rushing sound, the flames skimmed past my cheeks and the smoke seemed to penetrate my lungs. Incendiary bombs were still falling all around us, and one of them burst on the track with a loud boom.

“Is everyone all right?” yelled my father as we ran. “We’re okay!” I shouted back, sweeping away the smoke in front of me with my cotton work gloves. My judo robe, which I had soaked with water just a few moments earlier, was already bone dry. I was fighting for breath, could only see about five meters ahead, and no longer knew who was running where. Then, just in front of me, I saw flames flickering. Someone’s back was on fire. “Mum, your backpack!” I screamed. Without replying, my mother threw her burning backpack down on the ground. It turned into a ball of fire and was sucked downwind.

After we had run under several signals along the railway track and over an iron bridge across a drainage channel, we saw that the fires around us were dying down. Many people were sitting or lying exhausted on the tracks. The flames had not yet reached that area and I could see the shining black roofs of the nearby houses. Finally realizing that we had somehow escaped death, my strength suddenly ebbed away and I felt like I was being sucked into the ground. My father said we were still in danger, so we went down Meiji Street past the Terajima Crossroads, making straight for the Sumida River. Like everyone else, we instinctively headed for water. Countless people perished in rivers and canals that night.

Making our way through burning buildings that looked like they might collapse at any moment, we eventually reached a small park near Shirahige Bridge. By now we had no strength left, but then we noticed that the night sky was turning white and dawn was breaking. Our faces were black with soot. The fingers of my gloves were burned off and only the cloth on the backs of my hands remained. The handcart my father had been pulling and our luggage had vanished. Gone too was the pouch of old coins I had tied to my belt. Shocked that I had lost my only treasure, I wanted to retrace my steps to look for it but my father stopped me. As he took a long piss against a tree, I noticed his bamboo water gun was still on his back. Exhausted and bewildered, my mother and sisters just gazed at the sun as it rose in the eastern sky.

The fires started to die down at about five o’clock in the morning. Dawn broke at six. The fierce wind had finally abated a few hours earlier. Like a clot of blood the sun rose unsteadily in the east, yet the sky remained strangely dark.

My parents, sisters and I had managed to escape to a corner of a park near Shirahige Bridge. After my mother treated the burns on my hands with the ointment from my emergency bag, I went on my own to the foot of the bridge just a couple of minutes away. The Kubota Ironworks, where I had been working just the day before, was near the bridge facing the Sumida River. What had become of the factory and my classmates and teachers who worked there?

In just one night the ironworks had been reduced to skin and bones. The skin was tin plate and the bones were iron frames. The cranes were bent like sticks and foul-smelling black smoke was billowing up from the hollowed-out blast furnace. It was deathly quiet, except for the sound of a sheet of paper attached to the gate fluttering in the breeze. I read the handwritten message.

To All Factory Staff

Don’t be discouraged by a little thing like this!

Let’s rebuild our factory right away.

Keep fighting! The enemy is desperate too!

Child though I was, I felt a kind of emptiness as I gazed at those words. Was the enemy really as desperate as we were? I continued walking to the bridge. From the river I heard men’s voices shouting “One, two, three, heave!” When I got to the quay of the Sumida River, I could only stare in horror. On the stone wall of the smoldering quay were several civil defense corpsmen in khaki uniforms with cloths wrapped over their heads and tied under their chins. From a gap where the wall had collapsed they made their way backward and forward over the logs on the water’s surface. Shouting instructions to each other, they were pulling dead bodies out of the water. Looking down, I saw that the river was full of burned and drowned corpses. The men were reeling in the bodies with hooked poles. They bound the stiff corpses with ropes, hauled them up onto the quay, and laid them down in rows like tuna at a fish market. Then I noticed that my father was standing behind me. ‘Take a good look, Katsumoto,’ he said. “Look and never forget. This is what war is.” I clearly remember the way he spoke, muttering the words under his breath. Exhausted by his struggles and privations, he died shortly after the war ended. The frightful scene we witnessed in the Sumida River and my father’s despairing voice have always stayed with me.

My father and I walked back together through the smoldering ruins. An indescribable stench filled the air. Sheets of burned tin plate were scattered over the road and tangled telephone lines drooped limply from scorched telegraph poles, swaying over our heads in the wind and blocking our way like barbed wire. From the iron-barred windows of warehouses, melted glass hung down like icicles. On the road were countless six-sided holes where incendiary bombs had fallen and pierced the ground, and amid the smoldering debris water spurted up from a broken pipe. For some reason, the bright white of the toilet bowl lying near it was particularly striking.

Bodies being pulled out of the canal near Kikukawa Bridge Photograph by Ishikawa Koyo Source: U.S. National Archives

The whole area was pervaded by such a sickening stench that we had to open our mouths and breathe in gasps. The ruins were crowded with victims like us. With scorched faces and bloodshot eyes, many of them could hardly see. There was an endless stream of refugees from the fires – people using their leggings as bandages, people with burned cheeks, split lips and mouths hanging open, people with handcarts and bicycle carts carrying burned futons and clothes soaked in water. We too were part of this procession of ghosts. “Make way, make way!” shouted a group of men in steel helmets coming from in front of us, roughly pushing people aside. They were carrying a stretcher made of iron pipes and tin sheet. On it was a half-naked corpse covered with glistening grease. One arm was stretched out diagonally, grasping at nothing. I shuddered and covered my mouth. My mother turned her head away. Everything we saw that morning was grotesque.

We turned into a side street and walked through Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens. This was a scenic spot well known in Tokyo for its flowers blooming all year round, but now the branches of the trees were all burned black and covered with futons and clothes. When we reached the Terajima crossroads, we saw something quite unexpected. Only the buildings at the corner where we lived were still standing. What a stroke of luck! The schools, factories, cinema, and fire station were all gone. All around us were burned out ruins and reddish brown scorched earth. Just one row of buildings including our house had been left untouched. “Look, there’s our house!” cried my mother, and we all ran towards it. When we opened the front door, we heard the feeble meowing of Tomi, our tortoise-shell cat, who ran up to us and snuggled against our legs.

But our neighbors Mrs. Torii and her son would never return. We had encountered them during our escape with futons wrapped around them and wooden clogs hanging from their waists, looking rather like the comic book character Tank Tankuro. What had become of them? The watchmaker’s store where they lived had also been undamaged by the fires. From outside we could hear the ticking of the wall clock and cuckoo clock, keeping the time like living beings. Thinking they might have returned, I peered into the store. At the sight of the pendulums swinging back and forth, I suddenly felt afraid and returned to our house. Although they had the foresight to take all those clogs with them so that they could walk back over the scorched ground, Mrs. Torii and her son Iwao had perished in the inferno.

Photographing the Dead

Testimony of Ishikawa Koyo

The only person to photograph the damage in the immediate aftermath of the Great Tokyo Air Raid was the Metropolitan Police Department photographer, Ishikawa Koyo.1 In order to make a photographic record, Ishikawa was instructed by Chief of Police Saka Nobuyoshi to go to all the districts under the Department’s jurisdiction and take photographs just after the air raid started.

From the roof of the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, Ishikawa saw the night sky in the east turn bright red as the whole Shitamachi was engulfed in a sea of fire. He ran down the stairs to the air defense headquarters in the basement and gazed at the large map of the Metropolitan district on the wall. On its surface countless red and blue miniature lamps were lit, enabling him to see at a glance that vast numbers of incendiary bombs had been dropped in Honjo, Fukagawa and Asakusa wards. Gulping involuntarily as he realized that tonight’s work would put him in danger of his life, he steeled himself and reported to Chief Superintendent Hara that he was going directly to the stricken area. Ishikawa loaded his beloved Leica camera with Kodak film and started the engine of his Chevrolet, which had threaded its way through the burning city several times before. It is ironic that the photographer of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department drove a Chevrolet and used a Leica camera with Kodak film. Ishikawa laughs as he recalls that he didn’t have any Japanese-made equipment. In the private diary he scrupulously kept throughout the war, he recorded what he saw that night.

“As I was driving at full speed along Showa Road, fire trucks and police security patrol vehicles overtook me, their sirens wailing. When I got to the Asakusabashi crossroads, I was confronted with a gruesome spectacle – a conflagration of raging flames swirling in the wind. \At Ryogoku Bridge, I saw an endless stream of escaping people coming towards me over the bridge from the other side. The congestion and confusion defy description. A policeman was shouting in a shrill voice as he tried to guide the crowds, women were screaming, and civil defense corpsmen were barking instructions. A pedestrian could hardly make any headway, let alone a car. I eventually managed to get the car to the side of the police box at the bottom of the bridge and asked a policeman to take care of it. Hanging my camera on my shoulder, I crossed Ryogoku Bridge, slowly forcing my way through the surging mass of people coming from the opposite direction. I was relieved when I finally made it to the bottom of the stairway at the entrance of Ryogoku Police Station, but the area was surrounded by a wall of raging fires. The hot wind was blowing so relentlessly that I couldn’t open my eyes. Looking up at the sky, I saw the crimson flames reflected on the huge silver fuselages of the enemy B-29s above as they cruised at low altitude. As if that wasn’t enough, they were still dropping countless bundles of incendiary bombs.

“In the police chief’s office, a messenger was reporting the current situation. The lights in the police station had gone out but it was still bright in the light of the swirling flames outside. The messenger reporting to the chief had clearly had a rough time getting there. His uniform was in tatters, his face was scorched black, and his eyes were bloodshot. Their faces reflected in the flames, the policemen looked like red demons as they ran about in utter confusion. The police chief looked at me and said, ‘There’s nothing more you can do here. Get away as fast as you can.’ I told him to take care and left the building, but the raging fires and fierce wind bore down on me. I was too preoccupied with getting out of there alive to think about taking photographs.

“Whichever way I looked it was a sea of fire. I found a place a little less exposed to the wind, crouched down and crawled along the road. As the conflagration burned ever more fiercely it whipped up strong winds which stoked the flames, burning people alive as they frantically tried to escape. I saw several people fall and die helplessly in front of me, but there was nothing I could do for them. Their bodies rolled along the road like sacks of potatoes in the stream of fire, passing by with a strange howling sound. Countless futons and other belongings turned into balls of flame as they were swept along in the torrent of fire. I saw the raging flames gutting a building, leaving just the roof intact. As the blizzard of sparks and embers blew down over me, I wondered how long I could last. I was already prepared for death.

“But to die there like that without a struggle was just intolerable. I could have just closed my eyes and accepted my fate, but I told myself I must not die. In that deadly whirlwind of flames, my police colleagues were still making desperate efforts to save as many people as they could under this fierce attack by the barbaric enemy. If they were determined to beat the odds, I too must fight to survive rather than just sitting here waiting for death. Boiling with rage, I got up and found shelter behind a collapsed stone wall from the smoke and blasts of hot air that were scorching my face and burning my eyes.

“In the sky above, as if they were mocking us, the B-29s were still flying serenely through the black smoke at such low altitude that it seemed you could hold out your hand and touch them. As they descended to drop their bombs again and again, the fires on the ground were reflected on their bodies. With the bright-red flames flickering on their huge fuselages and four engines, they looked like winged demons from hell. In my fury at being unable to grab them and throw them to the ground, I yelled ‘You bastards!’ but no sound came from my mouth.

“I don’t remember where or how far I crawled after that. The fires were still burning furiously and the sky was crimson when I noticed that the enemy planes had gone. Through the smoke, I saw that the sky was suffused with a pale light. At that moment I knew at last that I was in the land of the living. There were several other survivors around me. I couldn’t help weeping at the sight of them. I was not sad but overjoyed that they had managed to live through the inferno. Their faces were scorched black, their hair and eyebrows burned, their eyes inflamed by the smoke and ashes, and their wrists swollen dark red by burns. Their clothes were in shreds and covered with holes made by the sparks. I was in the same state. My throat was parched and I did not even have the energy to speak, but I pulled myself together and made my way to the scorching hot road where fires were still burning furiously.

“All along the tramway, the overhead wires were hanging down like spiders’ webs, and the iron frames of burned-out trams looked like huge birdcages. The road was covered with abandoned household goods, bicycles, and carts, all burned and scattered about. The charred bodies of the dead – it was impossible to tell whether they were men or women – lay scattered everywhere. In a corner that people apparently thought offered shelter from the flames, the victims had fallen on top of one another to form a mountain of corpses.

“A hand pump used by the neighborhood association lay burned on the ground, its nozzle still pointing towards the fires – a poignant testimony to citizens’ gallant but hopeless firefighting efforts. Dragging my heavy legs, I staggered through Kikukawa, Morishita-cho and Komagata, forcing my blinded eyes open to witness the devastation around me. I took photographs of the charred bodies on the roads, bodies of women and children, and bodies piled up in heaps. As I pointed my mud-covered Leica at the corpses of all those people who had died in deep resentment, I imagined I heard an invisible voice rebuking me from above. My hands trembled and I could only press the shutter button weakly. But as long as I was alive, I had to keep taking those photographs to fulfill my mission, and to do that I had to be hard-hearted. When I had finished my work, I put my hands together in prayer for the victims and went on my way.”


 Bodies in Ishihara-cho, Honjo ward Photograph by Ishikawa Koyo Source: U.S. National Archives 

 After his narrow escape from the conflagration near Ryogoku Police Station, Ishikawa Koyo returned on foot to the Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters at around noon. His beloved Chevrolet had been gutted in the inferno. That same afternoon he took his camera and accompanied the security squad chief on an inspection of the Honjo district. They arrived at Suzaki Police Station at about 3.00pm. According to Ishikawa, the body of Police Chief Tanisue, a close acquaintance who often looked in at the police headquarters photograph room, was found “in a mummified state,” sitting in his chair in his office holding his child in his arms. Only the iron frames of the chair remained. The official history of the Metropolitan Police Department provides a record of his heroic last moments: “The police chief first ordered his staff to release all persons in custody and to remove important documents, then continued to give various instructions. At just past two in the morning, they attempted to extinguish the fires, but the entire building became engulfed in flames and they were all trapped inside. After the conflagration died down, the bodies of the staff including Police Chief Tanisue were found in the ruins of the police station.”

1 At the time of writing, only Ishikawa’s photographs were known to the author. Photographs taken by three other photographers – Kikuchi Shunkichi, Hayashi Shigeo, and Fukao Kozo – were later discovered. All of these photographs are included in a 520-page collection Tokyo Kushu Shashinshu(Photographs of the Tokyo Air Raids) published in January 2015.

Ring of Fire

Testimony of Hashimoto Yoshiko

Among those who were in the Shitamachi district of Tokyo on the night of March 9 was Hashimoto Yoshiko, a young twenty-four year-old mother. Yoshiko was at home in Kamezawa, Honjo ward, relaxing with her feet under the kotatsu, a low wooden table covered with a futon and heated from underneath. She gazed fondly at the face of her baby son Hiroshi as he slept peacefully beside her. He had been born on January 3, 1944, and was now 13 months old. Although it was a time when milk and food were in short supply, Hiroshi had graduated from crawling and could now stand and walk. Had it not been for the war, this would have been the proudest and happiest time for a mother.

When Yoshiko married, her husband Bunsaku was “adopted” by the family and took the family name, a common practice back then in families without male heirs. Bunsaku had run the family knitwear store, but the business had been combined into a trust during the war and now he worked at a factory. But he could never be at home when he was really needed. Apart from his work, he was often summoned to conduct civil defense duties such as demolishing the houses of citizens who had been forced to evacuate to make space for firebreaks. When the air raid alert siren sounded, Bunsaku had to leave the house to guard the air-raid defense post at Yanagishima Elementary School.

On March 9, Bunsaku went out immediately when the siren rang, leaving behind Yoshiko with her parents and three younger sisters. Carrying the burden of being the eldest daughter and heir, Yoshiko often felt suffocated by the love of her mother Yasuko, but it was probably just her youth that made it hard for her to get along with her mother. Now she regrets this deeply.

On that night of March 9 when the family spent their last moments together, Yoshiko recalls that for some unknown reason the lights in the house suddenly went out. Under the blackout regulations during the war, the lights were all naked bulbs covered by black cloth so that they could not be seen outside. Yoshiko has no way of knowing now whether the power failure was just in her house or the whole neighborhood. But she remembers she felt a strange foreboding and got up from the kotatsu.

“What happened?” said her sister Chieko, who had managed to find a candle and light it with a match.

“I don’t know. Maybe a bomb dropped somewhere,” replied Yoshiko.

“But they said the enemy planes had gone away.”

“Yes, it’s strange.”

In the light of the candle, they all had gloomy expressions on their faces that were quite different from how they had looked under the electric lights. Even now Yoshiko cannot forget the lonely and anxious look on her mother’s face. Shortly afterwards, the incendiary bombs started raining down on Tokyo.

The Hashimoto family Top, left to right: Chieko, mother, Yoshiko Bottom, left to right: Father, Hisae, Etsuko Courtesy of Hashimoto Yoshiko

 “When the air raid started, we all went down into the family air raid shelter. We had already experienced many air raids and had always waited them out in the shelter, huddled together and holding our breath. We never thought about escaping. There were seven of us in the shelter – my parents, my baby and I, and my three younger sisters.

“The roar of the B-29s’ engines was deafening and now and again we heard the dull thuds of bombs falling all around us. This time it was much worse than usual. I cowered in a corner of the shelter, holding my baby son Hiroshi tight and praying that it would soon be over. ‘We have to get out of here!’ shouted my father, who had gone to look outside. I didn’t have time to look at my watch, but I think it was still before one in the morning. ‘We can’t stay here any longer. If we don’t escape, we’ve had it!’ When I heard my father say that, I knew the moment we’d all dreaded had come at last. And the timing couldn’t have been worse with that fierce north wind blowing so strong it might even blow away a small child. Outside the shelter, it was just as my father said. The B-29s were flying freely overhead and to the north of our house was so bright it looked like broad daylight. It wasn’t just to the north. The conflagration had spread over a wide area all around us, scorching the sky bright red. The swirling sparks made it hard for us to keep our eyes open. Raining down across the sky, the sparks and embers fell sputtering onto roofs and wooden balconies.

“I hurriedly strapped Hiroshi to my back and covered him with two short coats. If one was burned off, I hoped that the other would protect him. Then the seven of us headed south. My father pulled the handcart loaded with our most precious possessions, while my sister Etsuko carried a cooking pot containing rice and my mother a kettle filled with water. My father knew from his experience of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that the things we would miss most were water and food, so we made a point of taking them with us.

“Chased by the fires, we ran first to the road under the tracks of the Sobu Line. The area on both sides of the overhead railway had been cleared after compulsory evacuation to create a firebreak. There were several large water tanks set up by the neighborhood volunteer labor corps and they were all filled to the brim with water. We all felt relieved to get there, but that didn’t last long. The flames were bearing down on us, rolling along the road and leaping up into the air. Seeing this, the crowd that had gathered near the water tanks started to scatter in panic. At that moment, we disagreed about what to do next. ‘It’s no good staying here. The B-29s are certain to target the railway. We’ve got to escape to the canal,’ said my father. Chieko thought we should stay where we were: ‘There’s water here, and we can always get into a water tank if it gets really bad.’ But my father was insistent: ‘While we’re arguing about that the incendiary bombs will come raining down on us. If we’re going to escape, we’ve got to do it now.’ Deferring to my father’s opinion, we abandoned the cart and our belongings and headed for the Tatekawa canal. We thought that being near to water would be safer than the railway, and that was the nearest waterway. However much Chieko insisted on staying there, we assumed she would follow us.

“Although it was only about five hundred meters from there to the Tatekawa canal, by that time fires were raging all around us and the houses facing the road were engulfed in flames. With all the smoke and hot air as the fires spread, it felt as if my body was floating. Tile roofs flew up and shafts of flames shot up from under them. When we got to Mitsume Street, we noticed that we’d not just become separated from Chieko but from Etsuko as well. In the middle of the escaping crowds and pursued by flying sparks, my parents and I were doing our utmost to avoid losing sight of each other. If we’d fallen, we would have been trampled to death by the people running behind us. As we were running beside the canal, the strap on one of my wooden clogs broke. My father was also in great pain from the gangrene in his legs, so we immediately turned right and got onto Sanno Bridge.

“On the other side of the canal, Tatekawa-cho was also in flames, so we had no choice but to crouch down on top of the bridge. This place, where the matchmaking deity Gentoku was said to reside, was full of childhood memories. There were rows of night stalls along both sides of the canal and we children would excitedly explore them in the light of the carbide lamps. At first the only purpose of the canal was to drain the land, but later it was used as a waterway connecting the Sumida and Naka rivers. Sanno (“third”) Bridge was one of several bridges over the Tatekawa canal starting with Ichino (“first”) Bridge. On festival days, as well as the various stalls, boats lit by red lanterns would float along the canal. It was once a place filled with the traditional Shitamachi atmosphere, but now fires were raging on both banks and people’s belongings floating on the water were lit by flames.

“Whipped up by the fierce wind, sparks and embers from the raging fires over the canal and in the houses on the banks blew over the bridge and attached themselves to people’s shoulders and backs, setting their clothes on fire. At first we watched out for each other and smothered the sparks, but soon we too were catching fire, putting them out, and catching fire again. People were turning into balls of flame and rolling around on the ground. The ones whose hair caught fire screamed and thrashed about wildly. I heard my baby Hiroshi let out a strange cry, so I hurriedly unstrapped him from my back and held him up to see what was the matter. His mouth was glowing red, but it wasn’t blood. While he was crying sparks had flown into his mouth and were burning in his throat. In a panic, I pried them out with my finger. Then my mother covered my little sister Hisae and me with two coats and lay on top of us, but the coats quickly caught fire and she threw them into the canal below. My eyelashes melted off and my hair burned with a sizzling noise. It didn’t feel hot but it was quite painful. My mother got on top of us and my father lay on top of her. We were all curled up like a snail, desperately trying to protect each other. At that moment I thought, ‘So this is how I’m going to die – here on this bridge with my baby who’s only just started to walk.’ I closed my eyes and saw the flickering red flames behind my eyelids. ‘Yoshiko, jump into the canal!’ screamed my father as if he’d suddenly gone crazy. Holding my shoulders and pulling me to my feet, my mother shouted, ‘Yoshiko, take this!’ She took off her air-raid hood and put it on my head. As the eldest daughter I had always sulked and defied my mother, and now she was giving me her own hood to wear. As long as I live, I’ll never forget the sight of my mother’s face with all those flames behind her.

“Feeling that I had become a burden to my parents, I climbed over the railing of the bridge and jumped into the canal holding my baby close to me. The freezing water pierced through me like a knife. At first I sank deep into the water, but I was a strong swimmer. Kicking the water, I quickly rose to the surface together with Hiroshi. The current was strong but luckily a raft floated up to me and I grabbed it, put my baby on top of it and held onto it as we were carried downstream. Perhaps because of the shock, Hiroshi’s eyes were wide open. As the raft floated along I looked up at Sanno Bridge. The flames were leaping like living creatures among the terrified crowds with a tremendous roaring sound. But I couldn’t see my mother or father up there. Later I wondered whether they had heart failure when they entered the freezing water, or perhaps people had jumped in the canal on top of them and they had been unable to rise to the surface. In the water underneath the bridge, people huddled together under a sheet of burned tinplate were frantically chanting sutras.

“On the other side of the canal the fires were raging and crackling as they devoured the buildings on the bank. Sparks from the fires fell over the raft and water sprayed up from the surface here and there. I had run out of strength and thought I’d had it, but when I saw the face of my baby on the raft I forced myself to keep going. After the raft had floated a little further downstream, a small boat with two men in it approached us. ‘Help! Help! Please at least save my baby!’ I shouted. One of the men picked up Hiroshi and put him in the boat and then pulled me out of the water.

“The next bridge was Kikuhana Bridge. Now it’s an iron bridge but back then it was made of wood. The arched bridge was engulfed in bright red flames from end to end and this was reflected as a ring of fire on the surface of the water. As I was looking at this in horror, a dark figure leapt from the bridge into the canal and spray rose up. When we passed through that ring of fire, I thought it really was the end. If the bridge had fallen on top of us, it would have been. Hugging Hiroshi tightly, I curled up at the bottom of the boat and prayed. Then I noticed that the ring of fire was behind us and the boats and rafts had stopped moving. The direction of the wind must have changed. All around us I could hear people in the water groaning in pain. I put my hand out to help them, but they didn’t even have the strength to cling to it. If they had got hold of my hand, they might have pulled me down into the water. The margin between life and death was that slim.

“Eventually a dim light appeared through the smoke and though I was still barely able to see or think, I noticed a little girl floating in the water. She must have been about four years old. I weakly held out my hand saying, ‘Hold on to this,’ but when I looked more closely I saw that she was dead with her face down. The red waistband around her monpe trousers was trailing behind her in the water. Instinctively I hugged Hiroshi tight and called out his name, but his lips only quivered slightly.

“It’s very hard for me to talk about this. I always seem to get incoherent at this point. I’m a very stubborn person and I don’t usually cry, but when I talk about the night of March 9 … Could I take a short break here?”

Yoshiko finally saw the sun rise on the bank at the crossing between the Tatekawa and Oyokogawa canals. She gave a start when she heard one of the men on the bank say “How’s the baby on your back? Take a good look!” Looking around her, she saw several mothers with babies on their backs and short coats covering them. They must have escaped on rafts or clung to timber in the canal, but in their desperate efforts to escape from the fires they had no time to look round at their babies. Many of the young mothers had finally reached dry land only to find that their babies were dead, and now they lay exhausted and weeping on the bank. Most had strapped their babies to their backs to free both their hands and had not noticed the sparks burning through the coats covering them. By the time they turned round to look, it was too late.

Yoshiko had miraculously survived while holding her baby to her chest. Somehow she had managed to keep hold of Hiroshi after she leapt into the canal. If she hadn’t needed to protect him, she might have given up the ghost herself. But having survived by the skin of her teeth, Yoshiko had exhausted all her strength and could not even get to her feet. The two men who had pulled them out of the river put Yoshiko and Hiroshi in a cart they found in the ruins. The burned-out cart had no tires. When Yoshiko heard its wheels rattling as they went along, she realized that she was still alive.

 

Bodies of mother and child Photograph by Ishikawa Koyo Source: U.S. National Archives

Yoshiko fell off the cart several times. “Every time I fell, I couldn’t get back up again, so I just lay there on the ground holding onto my baby,” she recalled. “I could no longer move my limbs. But those men were very kind. One of them ran a rice store nearby and the other worked at Honjo Post Office. Every time I fell off the cart, they said ‘Oh dear, missus, there you go again,’ picked me up and put me back in the cart. Only its iron frames were left, so it was quite a rough ride and my bottom hurt, but I held Hiroshi tight with one hand and clung on to the charred iron frame with the other. We were passing through the town where I’d grown up. There were dead bodies all around us, but my vision had become blurred and fortunately I could hardly see anything. Thick smoke hung over us and swirled in the wind. The town seemed strangely small – perhaps a place always looks like that when everything burns down. Above us in the sky, I saw the yellowish sun rising. The sun was rising just as it always did, but my parents and younger sister were gone forever.”

Yoshiko was taken to Doai Hospital where she received first-aid treatment. Her eyesight eventually recovered. Her baby was given a camphor injection and started to get better, but he had forgotten how to walk and excreted jet-black stools. They stayed one night at the hospital so that they could monitor Hiroshi’s condition. Yoshiko had an almost irresistible urge to steal the blanket they gave her at the hospital. She had lost her home and no longer had a futon or even clothes to wear. She really wanted that blanket for the baby, but she realized it would be needed by mothers and babies in even worse condition and left it at the hospital.

The next day Yoshiko’s husband Bunsaku, who had been on air-raid defense duty at Yanagishima Elementary School, came to the hospital. “You’re alive!” he exclaimed in amazement and joy. Her next visitor was her little sister Hisae, her face covered with burns. Chieko had miraculously survived unhurt by the water tanks under the tracks of the Sobu railway line, but both of her parents and sister Etsuko, who had been carrying a cooking pot full of rice, would never return.

In the air raid of March 10, 1945, Hashimoto Yoshiko lost her father Sojiro, mother Yasuko, and younger sister Etsuko.

Horses on Fire

Testimony of Kokubo Takako

On the night of March 9, nineteen year-old Kokubo Takako, who worked at the Fukagawa ration distribution volunteer corps headquarters, was at the home of her friend Koike Yasue. Takako’s home was in Hirai-cho, but that night she was visiting her friend in Toyosumi-cho on the other side of the canal. Because of her husband’s work, Yasue lived in an official residence of the Imperial Household Department’s Bureau of Forestry. Since her husband went to fight in the war, she had been living there alone with her four year-old son Noboru. Yasue complained of feeling lonely and Takako often went over to cheer her up. Yasue had an open-hearted nature and enjoyed certain privileges living in a residence of the Imperial Household Department, including her own bath and relatively generous rations. Living nearby, Takako went to visit her friend whenever she could. Their greatest pleasure was to sit opposite each other and chat under the warm kotatsu. Even when Takako stayed over at Yasue’s place, her mother didn’t seem to mind.

That night, Takako was able to relax for the first time in a while, enjoying a leisurely bath and feeling quite refreshed. As she got out of the bath and hung the towel on the wall, she felt as if it was suddenly peacetime again. She got back under the kotatsu and continued chatting with her friend, but the strong north wind rattling the shutters made her anxious.

“What a wind! Wouldn’t it be awful if they came tonight,” said Takako. Yasue frowned. She reached out and adjusted the coverlet on little Noboru’s futon. “It’s a horrible wind. Now you’ve made me feel chilly all of a sudden,” she said with a shudder.

Takako has no memory of hearing the air raid alert siren while she was in Yasue’s room that night. After the news on the radio that two enemy planes had turned back across the sea away from the Boso Peninsula, she vaguely remembers the announcer saying that the Imperial Army’s morale was rising on all fronts on the eve of Army Day. Less than an hour later, they heard a loud bang that sounded like an oil can exploding. Startled, Yasue and Takako went to look outside and saw that the entire area to the north was ablaze. At that moment, a B-29 roared overhead and flames rose up one after another. The situation suddenly seemed hopeless. Fleeing people pulling hastily loaded handcarts came running down the road in a mad rush to escape. Takako looked at Yasue and said, “We’ve got to get out of here or we’ve had it!” Her face pale, Yasue strapped Noboru to her back and put her first-aid bag on her shoulder. Quickly grabbing a few belongings, she said, “It’s everyone for themselves now.” With that she disappeared.

Astonished by her friend’s quick departure, Takako took the wet towel from the wall and tied it round the waist of her monpe trousers. This was all she would take with her, but it turned out to be a precious item. Then she headed for her home in Hirai-cho on the other side of the canal, battling against the fierce north wind. It was just a short walk away, but to get there she had to cross the Yokojukkengawa canal. It was no use trying to cross via the bridge because it would be crowded with people trying to escape. But Takako knew the neighborhood like the back of her hand and took a shortcut. The surface of the canal was covered with floating logs. A long thin sheet of board had been placed on top of them so that the longshoremen could walk over to the other side. This was the quickest way home. Trying to keep her balance by holding her hands up, Takado started to cross the canal, but a gust of wind nearly blew her into the water. Catching a glimpse of a B-29 flying low overhead and the flames bearing down like a tsunami, she got down on all fours and crawled across the boards. It occurred to her that she must look ridiculous, but there was no time for such thoughts now.

When she got home, Takako found her mother and younger sister gathering belongings in the light of the swirling sparks. “Hurry! Hurry!” she shouted. Following the order that everyone should act together in a crisis, her mother and younger sister Chieko were preparing to head for the neighborhood association’s emergency meeting place. “Mummy, wait!” cried Chieko as she stuffed school supplies into her bag. Takako vividly remembers the sight of them as they disappeared round the corner of the sidestreet.

“I think it was about one in the morning that I ran out of our house trying to catch up with my mother and sister. I couldn’t carry much with me. I took our ancestors’ memorial tablets and a couple of my mother’s cotton kimonos and a sash, that sort of thing. I was in a terrible hurry, so I just chose a few things quickly from the drawers and wrapped them in a kerchief. Then I found the family photograph album, put it in a bag, and dashed out of the house.”

“I heard the B-29s roaring overhead and the screeching of incendiary bombs falling with flashes of light and strange hissing sounds. At the end of the alley, I saw oil from an incendiary bomb spray down and silver flames rise up. With all the fires and smoke, I had no idea what it was like up ahead. Through the howling wind and the mad wailing of sirens, I could hear people shouting and screaming. I knew I had to get out of there quickly, so I gave up trying to find my mother and sister and headed north towards the canal.

“I wasn’t planning to go back to Yasue’s house, but it seemed safe in that direction. I was so frantic that I no longer knew whether I was running along the ground or flying through the air. When you’re running for your life and think a place is safe, you just go for it with all your might until you can’t run any longer. I imagine that’s how so many people ended up dying.

“The canal-side street I was running down was almost deserted. The shadows of the flames flickered red on the ground and surface of the water. Realizing that everyone else had already escaped, I felt even more desperate. I tripped over my own feet and tumbled to the ground, but I didn’t feel any pain. Picking myself up, I continued running through the swirling sparks. Then I heard a tremendous sound of hooves and snorting from up ahead and saw horses galloping in blind panic towards me! Suddenly emerging from the curtain of smoke, they looked like phantoms. The horses were running in twos and threes and the manes of some of them were on fire. Scared out of my wits, I couldn’t breathe and my legs went stiff. It was on a narrow street with the canal on the left and burning houses on the right. There was no place to hide. As I pressed myself close to the side of a garbage box, I thought ‘I’m not even married and I’m about to be trampled to death by wild horses.’ I just cowered there and begged them to spare me.

“Back then there were many shipping agents in Sunamachi that kept horses and oxen for pulling carts, though you don’t see them these days. The horses must have escaped from their stables. When I saw more of them charging towards me from behind as well, I really thought I’d had it. The road was blocked by the fires in front and behind me and the horses were stampeding up and down it. I ran for dear life through a burning two-story house that was about to collapse and managed to break through the wall of fire into Toyo Park.

“My mother and sister? Of course I was worried about them, but they were together with our neighbors so I assumed they’d be safe. At that moment all my thoughts were focused on getting out of there alive. I found my way to the tramway and headed for Sunamachi. The tramway was filled with people hurrying along holding futons over their heads or pulling handcarts. Then I ran into a friend, Saito Chii, who worked with me at the ration distribution headquarters. Chii was a big woman weighing about 80 kilograms and she loved flamboyant clothes. That night too she was wearing brightly-colored monpe trousers with a floral pattern, so I knew instantly it was Chii without even seeing her face.

‘Chii, where are you going?’

‘I’m following my sister. She escaped ahead of us to Hirai-cho.’ ‘That’s no good. There are fires everywhere and horses running wild all over the place. Let’s go together to Sunamachi.’

‘Sunamachi’s no good either. Come with me.’

“I wanted to go with Chii but I couldn’t stand the thought of encountering those phantom horses again, so we parted ways. I could never have imagined I would find Chii’s charred remains on the road the next morning.

“After that I got a ride on a fire truck and escaped in style for a little way, but soon we couldn’t make any headway through the crowds. As I got off the truck, the firebombs started raining down again. An incendiary stick fell on the road, bounced, and hit my left leg. It didn’t hurt much, but oil splattered over my trousers, caught fire, and I only just avoided turning into a ball of flames. The people around me smothered the flames while I beat at them with my cloth bag. Somehow we managed to put them out, but my left foot was in bad shape. Even now it feels painfully stiff in the winter.

“What happened after that? Well, I carried on running until I got to the canal we used to call Denkibori. They dug it using electric power in the late 1920s, but it’s gone now. In front of the bridge over the canal, there was a large crowd of people shouting and screaming. I pushed through them to the front to see what was going on. The girders of the wooden bridge were in flames. There was no hope of crossing and all these people were stranded at the end of the bridge. A tremendous wave of fire was bearing down from behind us and huge cinders were flying over our heads and dancing across the ground. It was now or never. I was young and reckless, so I said a prayer to the memorial tablets in my bag, jumped onto the flaming bridge and dashed across it. Behind me I heard someone shout ‘It’s all right, we can make it across!’ and everyone followed me. When I got to the other side and turned round to look, the bridge was no longer there. It had collapsed and fallen into the canal together with the people on it. The moaning, screaming, and desperate cries of children calling out for their mothers were unbearable. The burning bridge had crumbled and fallen into the water over them with a terrible crackling and hissing. It was like a scene from hell. Red flames were swelling above the water and twisting over it like huge snakes. Trying desperately to find something to cling onto above the surface, people were throwing up their hands and shaking their heads from side to side as they squirmed for dear life.

 

 Umaya Bridge in Flames Painting by Fukushima Yasusuke, age six at the time of the air raid Source: Sumida Local Culture Resource Center

“It might have been better for me to die quickly than to see such a terrible thing. If the people up there in the B-29s were really human beings like us, I’d have liked to drag them out of their planes and make them witness it too.

“But there was nothing I could do for those poor people. I just gave a bow in their direction and walked away. Then I got into a muddy pool behind a factory to escape the flames. Almost at once, the wind and fires blew the factory roof up into the sky and burning pieces of roof started flying towards me like those horses. To dodge them I took a step back in the muddy pool, then again and again until the water was almost up to my neck. At that moment a futon floated up to me from somewhere. ‘Put this over your head, miss.’ A man – I think he was Korean – placed the futon over my head, but it was no use. My energy was ebbing away and I started to fall asleep. The water didn’t feel cold any more. It felt like I was soaking in a hot spring bath and was gradually being sucked down into the earth. ‘You mustn’t go to sleep, miss. If you sleep, you’ll die.’ I opened my eyes but then started to drift off again, and I heard the man repeating his warning. When I came to, it was morning.

“I had survived, only to find out later that the rest of my family were dead. I was alone. But because I survived, I was able to pray for their souls. I suppose that was better than all of us dying. After all, the government never did anything for us.”

After dawn broke Takako returned to the foot of the bridge. The wooden bridge had gone, leaving just the iron beams that supported it. Civil defense corpsmen had placed sheets of wooden board over the beams so that people could cross to the other side. When Takako looked over at the canal, she saw that it was full of dead bodies on top of one another. A foul smell that made her shudder was wafting over the bank and even to the road beyond the bridge. Takako instinctively reached for the towel at her waist, but the fresh towel she had taken from her friend Yasue’s place was now like a used cloth. She walked round the side of Toyo Park heading for whatever might remain of her family’s home. At the side of the road she saw a naked infant lying face downwards. “I guess it must have been about two years old. It was lying next to a heap of dead bodies. At first I thought it was a doll, but then I saw it twitching so I knew it was alive. As I stood there wondering if anything could be done, it raised its backside and then dropped back down again. It did that several times but the movements gradually got weaker. I knew it must be dying, but I was on my last legs too and could barely walk. I couldn’t do anything to help the poor little thing.”

B

A little further down the road, Takako came upon a dead body in monpe trousers. Since its hair had been completely burned off she didn’t think it could be a woman at first, but when she noticed a familiar floral pattern left unburned at the waist, Takako knew it was her colleague Saito Chii who she had run into earlier. Now Chii was just one more charred corpse on the road. Takako reflected that she too might have been put out of her misery if she’d gone together with her colleague. When she finally reached the ruins of her home, she waited and waited, but nobody returned. There was nothing else for it but to go back to her friend Yasue’s place in Toyosumi-cho.

Bodies of firebombing victims in Hanakawado, Asakusa ward Photograph by Ishikawa Koyo. Source: U.S. National Archives

Yasue had spent the night up to her shoulders in a canal together with her four year-old son Noboru. Dripping wet and with bloodshot eyes, she was holding the lifeless toddler over a bonfire in the road, screaming crazily as she tried to revive her unconscious child. When she got closer Takako gave a start. Noboru’s head and legs were hanging down limply as his hair frizzled and the skin on his legs burned in the flames. But Yasue just held him there, unaware of what was happening. “Yasue, what the hell are you doing?” Takako screamed, pulling her friend back from the edge of the fire. The two of them frantically tried to treat Noboru’s wounds, but without medicine or doctors there was little they could do. Having spent a desperate night protecting her son from the fires, Yasue had momentarily lost her reason and inflicted terrible burns on him. Four-year-old Noboru survived the ordeal but his scars never healed completely. “Even so, I wanted my own mother and sisters to be alive too,” remarked Takako bitterly.

In the air raid of March 10, 1945, Kokubo Takako lost her mother Uta, older sister Tokiko, and younger sister Chieko.

Kototoi Bridge

Testimony of Kikujima Koji

13 year-old Kikujima Koji, who lived in Senzoku-cho in Asakusa ward, recalls that his family were all together and had boiled kidney beans for dinner on the night of March 9. Koji’s recollection of his family’s last meal together may seem like the typically innocent impression of a child, but during the war kidney beans were something of a luxury. The memory of the sweet taste of the beans even without sugar, which was strictly rationed, and the warm feeling of the whole family gathered together, naturally stayed with him. The kidney beans somehow symbolized the harmony of a happy family until that night. At the time, Koji was a first-year student at Taiko Technical School.

It was unusual for all six family members – Koji, his parents, and his older sister Yuriko, younger brother Jiro and younger sister Harue – to be at home for dinner. His father Noboru was a civil servant in the Tokyo Metropolitan Public Works Bureau. In addition to his work at the Bureau’s Asakusa office, he often had to serve as a civil defense corpsman at night because of the shortage of available men. As it happened, Noboru had no air defense duties that evening and had returned.

“If my father had been on duty that night, I wonder what would have happened to him. Perhaps only he would have survived, or maybe we all would have. As it turned out, we followed my father’s instructions. If we hadn’t had someone to lead us, we might have gone to Iriya on the other side of Kototoi Bridge. But it’s too late for regrets now. There’s no point in thinking about that any more, though I can’t help it. Frankly, I still can’t believe they’re dead,” murmured Koji, his deep feelings etched on his lean dark face. The remorse and disbelief at the deaths of four members of his family including both his parents will never leave him.

After eating the boiled kidney beans for dinner, the Kikujima family went to bed at about eight o’clock. It was the best policy to get some sleep if you had nothing in particular to do. People never knew when a nighttime air raid would force them out of bed, and sleep helped to stave off their constant hunger. It also saved on fuel bills and conserved strength for when it was needed most. The Kikujima family home in Senzoku-cho was a small two-story house with 4.5 and 6 tatami mat rooms on both the first and second floors. Koji, Yuriko and Jiro slept on the second floor and his parents and little sister Harue on the first. These days they always slept in their clothes.

When the air raid alert siren sounded at 10.30, Koji jumped out of bed and opened the shutters so that they could escape quickly if need be. But with the news on the radio that the two B-29s first sighted were now flying away over the sea from the Boso Peninsula, he closed the shutters again and went back to bed.

When the air raid started just after midnight, Koji tumbled out of his house in Senzoku-cho, Asakusa Ward, into the narrow sidestreet screaming “Air raid! Air raid!” The local neighborhood association had even fewer young men than usual at the time, so Koji was given the duty of going around the neighborhood calling out the air raid warning.

After that, while Koji and his family lay hidden in the air raid dug-out in front of their house, countless incendiary bombs were falling with meteor-like trails in nearby Shitaya ward and flames were soon scorching the night sky. The next screeching volley of incendiaries fell mainly in the district where Koji lived. In no time at all, a pillar of fire was shooting upwards like a flare from the Kikujima family’s two-floor house. “This is hopeless. We can’t stay down here,” growled Koji’s father Noboru.

“Seeing our two-story house in flames from the dug-out, we knew we were in danger of our lives. The neighborhood association was supposed to act as a team in a crisis, but where were they now? All those air-raid drills and bucket relays had been useless. Anyone could see there was no way we could put out the fires.

“The six of us prepared to escape. The taste of those kidney beans we ate for dinner had gone completely. We borrowed a bicycle cart from our neighbor Mr. Kondo, loaded it with our belongings, and put a couple of futons on top. We couldn’t take much because the house was already burning fiercely and the rack on the cart was small. Mr. Terauchi from next door helped us get our stuff together. We left our burning house in Senzoku-cho and headed towards the Sumida River, my father pulling the bicycle cart from the front and me carrying my emergency cloth bag. ‘Let’s go to Mr. Amamiya’s place first,’ said my father. Mr. Amamiya was an acquaintance who lived near Shoten-cho on the way. That was our first and biggest mistake.

“Most of the people who went west in the opposite direction to the Sumida River in the east – towards Iriya, Negishi, or Ueno – survived that night. East or west was a choice between life or death. As a civil servant in the Public Works Bureau, my father must have been very familiar with the Asakusa district, so why didn’t he head west that night? I guess he instinctively decided to go east because Mr. Amamiya’s house was there, but even now it fills me with regret. I was only thirteen at the time, so I had no choice but to leave that decision to my father.

“I remember that the main road to Shoten-cho was not so crowded, maybe because everyone had already escaped. The fires had not reached there yet, but the B-29s were relentlessly bombing at low altitude and the skies all around us were an ominous red color as if the whole world was on fire. An incendiary bomb roared down and fell quite near us. We lay flat on the ground holding our breath, then got up again and ran for our lives, blown forward by the north wind at our backs. All of us were speechless with terror.

“When we finally reached Mr. Amamiya’s house, we found it was deserted. Only now did we realize how pointless it had been to come to this place, but there was no going back, so we just ploughed ahead. At Shoten-cho there was a park to our left but nobody could enter it because it was being used as an anti-aircraft battery position. Pushed along by the growing swell of people behind us, we made our way down the street beside the park until we found ourselves at Kototoi Bridge. We had become caught up in the waves of people escaping to the bridge.

“I don’t know exactly how long or wide Kototoi Bridge is, but it’s a steel bridge spanning the Sumida River so you can imagine its size. There were somany people were on the bridge that it looked as if it might bend under the weight. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had only been people, but they were carrying a lot of luggage too. They had all kinds of stuff loaded on hand carts, bicycle carts, and bicycles, and they were also carrying things on their shoulders, in their arms, or dragging them along the ground. Kototoi Bridge was full of luggage that would easily catch fire.

“Even now it sends a chill down my spine when I recall the roaring of the B-29s, the sirens of the fire trucks on the opposite bank, the superheated air that seemed to suck in the flames, and the screaming children. The people on both banks of the Sumida River all thought that if they stayed there they would burn to death. Believing that salvation lay on the other side, they rushed onto Kototoi Bridge from both directions. In the middle of this heaving mass of people, pushing and shoving from all sides, we reached the middle of the bridge, or perhaps it was just a little past the middle. By that time it was obvious that it wasn’t safe on the other side either, but there was no longer anything we could do. We were caught between the people pushing us forward from behind and the wave of people and their luggage bearing down on us from the front. Unable to move forward or backward, the six of us became nailed against the railings on the right of the bridge. Two fire trucks had also been brought to a standstill next to us and a fireman was yelling in a hoarse voice. The night sky was scorched red with fire. From the direction of Asakusa, a blizzard of sparks and embers was blowing over the bridge and our heads. In no time people’s belongings caught fire and there was no way of putting them out. The water needed by the fire trucks on the bridge was in the river below. As the fires spread from one piece of luggage to the next, the advancing wave of desperate cries and screams reached us in the middle of the bridge. I thought we’d had it. With the fire sparks and gusting wind, it would not be long before the whole bridge was a white-hot inferno. Even if that didn’t happen, it would certainly make a perfect target for the B-29s flying low overhead. Then we’d have no choice but to jump into the Sumida River. Of course I didn’t have time to think it through at the time. I just knew we had to act fast. ‘I’ll go first!’ I shouted. Taking the hand of my youngest sister, eight year-old Harue, I decided to try to get across the bridge to the opposite bank. Harue wouldn’t stop screaming and my parents seemed frozen on the spot, so I just took it upon myself to save Harue and that seemed to give me the strength to act. I was sure the others would also find a way out. They must have said something at that moment, but I can’t remember what.

Kototoi Bridge in Flames Painting by Kano Teruo. Fourteen at the time of the air raid, Kano lost both his parents and two sisters. Courtesy of the artist

“I took Harue’s hand and charged forward, pushing my way through the mass of people and belongings. It was a gut-wrenching escape. Trampling over people and climbing over luggage, I headed single-mindedly for Mukojima on the opposite bank. On the way, Harue’s shoes and air-raid hood flew off. Without thinking I picked up shoes and a hood someone else had dropped. Somehow we managed to get through to the end of the bridge, where we ran into Mr. Terauchi and his son. He had also become separated from his wife, but assumed she and the other children would follow along later. We made our way with him to Oshiage Station on the Keisei Line, but it was burning fiercely. Gusts of wind blew the flames over the road and in instant they spread to the other side. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it possible. In the intense heat, my clothes quickly became bone dry and my eyes were burning. Drenching ourselves again and again with water from the roadside and crouching low, we crawled forward until we reached Kinshi Park.

“We made our way to a water storage tank in the park. I soaked my gloves in the water and used them to beat off the sparks on our clothes. Brushing off the sparks, warding off smoke, and covering our hands and mouth with the wet gloves, we somehow made it through to the morning. Many of the trees around us were burned, but Harue and I had survived. We looked at each other and breathed a sigh of relief. My school coat was full of holes made by the sparks, my trousers were in shreds, and Harue’s feet were bare. We had narrowly escaped death, but I never saw my father, mother, older brother Jiro and older sister Yuriko again after we parted on Kototoi Bridge. On the night of March 9, we had all sat down together and enjoyed a meal of boiled kidney beans. Where had that happy family gone? Left only with the memory of their smiling faces that night, my sister Harue and I were all alone in the world.”

When morning came, Koji and Harue made their way back to the bridge, helped by their neighbors Mr. Terauchi and his son. As soon as they left the park, they saw dead bodies all over the road. To Koji they looked like “naked mannequins painted with black ink.” He couldn’t even tell if they were men or women. Their clothes, hair, skin and flesh had all turned to ashes. Only the insides of their mouths remained unburned. The row of dead bodies like charred sticks continued uninterrupted for some way along the road. Koji also saw the empty shell of a fire truck. In what remained of the cabin, the driver’s charred body was bent over the steering wheel. Another piece of charcoal in human form was leaning over the edge of a concrete water trough as if he or she was still drinking.

By this time Koji’s mind had gone blank. His capacity for shock and sadness seemed to have reached its limit. But when he reached Kototoi Bridge, where he had become separated from the other four members of his family just a few hours earlier, the scene before him made him shudder in horror:

“I don’t have the words to describe that gruesome sight. Everywhere you looked, the bridge was covered with charred corpses heaped on top of each other. There was even a body hanging by one arm from the overhead telephone line. Apparently someone had already gone down there ahead of us because a narrow path had been cleared through the bodies, winding along to the other end of the bridge. In the middle were a couple of fire trucks that were now just skeletons of iron frames. I remembered that it was around there that I got separated from my parents, brother and sister, but that’s all I thought at the time. I was sure they would still be alive somewhere. Carrying my little sister on his back, Mr. Teruchi went first and I followed him, making my way along the path between the charred corpses. I was almost numb with shock. My shoes were broken and my toes were sticking out at the front, and I’ll never forget the blood and fat stains like a map on top of the bridge.”

Dating from 1928, Kototoi Bridge is 237 meters long and 22 meters wide. Originating from a poem in the Tales of Ise, its name had historical and romantic associations in stark contrast to the dreadful scenes witnessed that morning by 13-year-old Kikujima Koji. After making his way through the dead bodies on the bridge, Koji returned to the family home in Senzoku-cho. The house was no longer there and, without roads or familiar landmarks to guide him, its ruins were hard to find. Eventually he managed to locate the flagstone in front of the house. From there he went to the nearby Kinryu Elementary School and waited for the rest of the family to return.

Kototoi Bridge in the Morning Painting by Kano Teruo Courtesy of the artist

While watching other people from the neighborhood association hugging and slapping each other on the back in joyous reunions after surviving the horrors of the previous night, Koji waited to hear the footsteps of his parents, brother and sister at the entrance of the classroom. But night fell and still none of them returned. His little sister started crying, saying her eyes were hurting. Koji tried to comfort her as they waited and waited. “I’ve had dreams about that night so many times,” he told me and was unable to speak any more. I could no longer look him in the face.

In the air raid of March 10, 1945, Kikujima Koji lost his father Noboru, mother Toyo, older sister Yuriko, and younger brother Jiro.

The Harper government’s Bill C-51, or Anti-Terrorism Act, has been in the public domain for over a month. Long enough for us to know that it subverts basic principles of constitutional law, assaults rights of free speech and free assembly, and is viciously anti-democratic.

An unprecedented torrent of criticism has been directed against this bill as the government rushes it through Parliament. This has included stern or at least sceptical editorials in all the major newspapers; an open letter, signed by four former Prime Ministers and five former Supreme Court judges, denouncing the bill for exposing Canadians to major violations of their rights; and another letter, signed by a hundred Canadian law professors, explaining the dangers it poses to justice and legality.

As its critics have shown, the bill isn’t really about terrorism: it’s about smearing other activities by association—and then suppressing them in ways that would formerly have been flagrantly illegal. The bill targets, among others, people who defend the treaty rights of First Nations, people who oppose tar sands, fracking, and bitumen-carrying pipelines as threats to health and the environment, and people who urge that international law be peacefully applied to ending Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. (Members of this latter group include significant numbers of Canadian Jews.)

But the Anti-Terrorism Act is more mortally dangerous to Canadian democracy than even these indications would suggest. A central section of the act empowers CSIS agents to obtain judicial warrants—on mere suspicion, with no requirement for supporting evidence—that will allow them to supplement other disruptive actions against purported enemies of Harperland with acts that directly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other Canadian laws.

The only constraints placed on this legalized law-breaking are that CSIS agents shall not “(a) cause, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual; (b) wilfully attempt in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; or (c) violate the sexual integrity of an individual.”

The second of these prohibitions—occurring in the midst of a bill that seeks systematically to obstruct citizens in the exercise of their rights, pervert justice, and defeat democracy—might tempt one to believe that there is a satirist at work within the Department of Justice. (Note, however, that CSIS agents can obstruct, pervert and defeat to their hearts’ content, so long as they do so haphazardly, rather than “wilfully.”)

But the first and third clauses amount to an authorization of torture.

On February 16, Matthew Behrens observed that these clauses recall “the bone-chilling justification of torture” in the infamous memos of George W. Bush’s Justice Department. He pertinently asked what the Canadian government knows, if it “actually feels the need to spell out such a prohibition, [...] about illicit CSIS practices behind closed doors….”1 On February 17, two prominent legal experts, Clayton Ruby and Nader R. Hasan, remarked that the “limited exclusions” in these clauses “leave CSIS with incredibly expansive powers, including water boarding, inflicting pain (torture) or causing psychological harm to an individual.”2

Like the Bush torture memos, Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act is attempting to legitimize forbidden practices. Bush’s lawyers argued that interrogation methods producing pain below the level of “organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” were legal—as were methods producing purely mental suffering, unless they resulted in “significant psychological harm [...] lasting for months or even years.”3 Harper’s legislation prohibits acts of the kind that created an international scandal when the torture practices of Abu Graib, Bagram and Guantánamo became public. But as Ruby and Hasan recognize, in so doing it is tacitly declaring acts of torture that fall below that horrifying threshold to be permissible.

Most of the torture methods applied in the black sites of the American gulag during the so-called War on Terror would be permitted to CSIS under Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Among these methods are sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation (both of which induce psychosis, without of course leaving physical marks), stress-position torture and waterboarding (which again leave no marks of “bodily harm”), and techniques of beating and pressure-point torture that produce excruciating pain without leaving visible traces.4

As to what CSIS does behind closed doors, we know enough to be able to say that this agency is already seriously off its leash. CSIS agents were involved in interrogating Afghan prisoners from early 2002 until 2007 or later, a period during which the American and Afghan agencies with which they collaborated were systematically torturing detainees. We know from journalists Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster that one of the Kandahar interrogation sites used by CSIS, “work[ing] alongside the American CIA and in close co-operation with Canada’s secretive, elite JTF-2 commandos,” was a “secluded base”—this seems a polite way of saying ‘secret torture facility’—“known as Graceland.”5

American torturers seem to have enjoyed giving names of this sort to their black sites: the secret facility outside the Guantánamo prison where three prisoners were tortured to death on the night of June 9, 2006 is called “Penny Lane.”6 (Think about the lyrics to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and the Beatles’ “Penny Lane”: you’ll understand that these interrogators are sick puppies indeed.)7

But these are the people that Jack Hooper, Assistant and then Deputy Director of CSIS Operations from 2002 until 2007, wanted his agents to emulate. He told his men, “If you’re going to run with the big dogs, you’d better learn to piss in the high grass.”8

We know already that Stephen Harper doesn’t flinch from covering up high-level Canadian responsibility for torture in Afghanistan. In November 2009, the Toronto Star quoted a former senior NATO public affairs official as saying that flagrantly false denials about Canadian complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees had been scripted by Harper and his PMO, “which was running the public affairs aspect of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan with a 6,000-mile screwdriver.”9 And we’ve not forgotten that a month later Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament in order to shut down a parliamentary committee that was hearing evidence on the subject.

But on October 22 of last year, when a deranged gunman murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and then tried to run amok on Parliament Hill, Mr. Harper was less brave. While some members of his caucus prepared to defend themselves and their parliamentary colleagues with anything that came to hand, he hid in a closet.

It seems that Mr. Harper would now like us all to share the emotion he felt in that closet—if not by quivering at the mention of ISIS jihadis, then, soon enough, by shaking in our boots at the thought of CSIS toughs kicking down doors at midnight.

Canadians need to tell this government, and this prime minister, that we are not intimidated on either count.

We are ashamed by his lies over high-level Canadian complicity in torture in Afghanistan.

We will not tolerate his attempt to institutionalize torture in Canada.

Michael Keefer, who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, a former President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, a member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, and an associate member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Notes:

1 Behrens, “Troubled times ahead with new anti-terror legislation,” Rabble.ca (16 February 2015),http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/02/troubled-times-ahead-new-anti-terror-legislation.

2 Ruby and Hasan, “Bill C-51: A Legal Primer. Overly broad and unnecessary anti-terrorism reforms could criminalize free speech,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (17 February 2015), https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/bill-c-51-legal-primer.

3 Jay S. Bybee, “Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, Re: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A (August 1, 2002),” in David Cole, ed., The Torture Memos (New York: New Press, 2009), p. 41.

4 See Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Owl Books, 2006).

5 Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster, “CSIS reviewing role in Afghan detainee interrogations,” Canadian Press, available in The Toronto Star (2 August 2010), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/843055–csis-reviewing-role-in-afghan-detainee-interrogations. See also Murray Brewster and Jim Bronskill, “CSIS played critical role in Afghan prisoner interrogations: documents, sources,” Canadian Press (8 March 2010), available at http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fhostednews%2Fcanadianpress%2Farticle%2FALeqM5jJLuGfEH6QP3vrNSLPiAGPZNqBcw&date=2010-03-09; and “Le SCRS était au courant de cas de torture,” La Presse Canadienne, available at Radio-Canada.ca (21 January 2011), http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/International/2011/01/21/007-scrs-detenus-afghans-torture.shtml.

6 David Swanson, “We’ve murdered some folks,” Review of Murder at Camp Delta, by Joseph Hickman, Cold Type 94 (March 2015), p. 26, http://coldtype.net/Assets.15/pdfs/ColdType.0315.pdf.

7 Some relevant lines from “Graceland”: “Everybody sees you’re blown apart / Everybody sees the wind blow / In Graceland, in Graceland / I’m going to Graceland / For reasons I cannot explain / There’s some part of me wants to see / Graceland….” And from “Penny Lane”: “In Penny Lane there is a barber selling photographs / Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know / … / Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes….”

8 Quoted by Michelle Shephard, Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr (Mississauga: John Wiley, 2008), p. 57.

9 Mitch Potter, “PMO issued instructions on denying abuse in ’07,” The Toronto Star (22 November 2009), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/afghanmission/article/729157–pmo-issued-instructions-on-denying-abuse-in-07.

What’s an intentional mutation? Nothing more than a fancy technological phrase which describes a new way that biotech is getting around regulatory approval for genetically modified crops.

Scientists have already created ‘designer monkeys’ by orchestrating precise genetic mutations. The same technology used to achieve this feat more than ten years ago is now being used by companies like Scott’s (of famed and failed GMO grass) to create genetically modified food without the oversight of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It isn’t as though these alphabet agencies offer much protection to the average US consumer anyway. Considering that no long-term studies have been conducted on altered DNA and human health, and the fact that the USDA and FDA seem to give their rubber stamp to almost every biotech creation without a second glance, many people have long turned to other ‘experts’ to get their facts on genetically modified foods.

However, taking away the regulatory process makes it that much easier for biotech companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Scott’s, etc. to infiltrate non-GM crops with their altered plants.

Until now, at least the guise of a regulation would stall a biotech company long enough for the public to get wind of their plans, and to at least voice their concern, if not smoldering outrage, at a GM apple that doesn’t brown, or GE salmon that grows ten times the size of non-GM salmon.

Click for large version.

How do companies like Scott’s plan to unleash new GM grass, and other genetically modified crops? By utilizing “genome editing” which wasn’t even heard of when regulations for GMO crops were originally penned.

Plant researchers at the University of California, Davis, have remarked that the regulatory framework has become “obsolete and an obstacle to the development of new agricultural products.”

The system is indeed obsolete, but not for the reasons Big Ag thinks. If companies like Monsanto have their way, genome editing will be used instead of the previous methods for altering living organisms by genetically altering DNA material through artificial manipulation in a laboratory. In this way, they can bypass the FDA and other agencies throughout the world who are trying to ban GMOs.

The genetic manipulation (through gene transfer) process already differs from traditional hybridization where only species that are very similar can be combined to produce a new offspring. For example, in hybridization practiced by gardeners and horticulturalists you would never put a bacteria gene inside a plant gene to create a plant that is essentially a pesticide – and then end up with plants that, when consumed, are cytotoxic to the human organism.

Genome editing is the process of precisely targeting a gene for mutation. Harvard researchers describe the process thusly:

“. . . developing genome-scale editing tools as fast and easy as word processing have rewritten the genome of living cells using the genetic equivalent of search and replace — and combined those rewrites in novel cell strains, strikingly different from their forebears.”

“The payoff doesn’t really come from making a copy of something that already exists,” said George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, “You have to change it — functionally and radically.”

By altering crops in this way, biotech companies are, according to Michael Hansen, senior scientist for Consumers Union:

“…using a technical loophole so that what are clearly genetically engineered crops and organisms are escaping regulation. [Gm grass] can have all sorts of ecological impact and no one is required to look at it.”

Like other biotech techniques, genome editing isn’t fool-proof either. In the pharmaceutical industry this technique has been used to try to cultivate cultures that can be used for drugs. A notable example of this technology going very wrong can be seen with the biotech company Genzyme, where estimates of costs due to viral contamination from genome editingreachupwards of $1 billion. The company has attempted to develop various gene technologies for diseases of the central nervous system, diabetes, and more.

If gene editing isn’t completely predictable for pharmaceutical drugs, how can we be sure that gene editing will result in anything different than other biotech practices that have been used to genetically modify crops to date? Without regulatory oversight, these practices will also likely be carried out without the public’s awareness, and once again we will be eating food that is, in the least, very questionable.

There are multiple methods of gene editing, but this video from MIT explains one of them.

Pics Courtesy of: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/science/gmfoods/

Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.

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Image: Navy Lieutenant Steve Simmons

U.S. Navy sailors exposed to radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been falling ill, even as the Defense Department insists that they were not exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Many of the sailors have now joined in a class action lawsuit against Fukushima operators and builders Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), Toshiba, Hitachi, Ebasco and General Electric.

Even if they wanted to — which many do not — the sailors would be unable to sue the Navy. According to a Supreme Court ruling from the 1950s known as the Feres Doctrine, soldiers cannot sue the government for injuries resulting directly from their military service.

Mocked and attacked

On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. It was the worst nuclear disaster in history, releasing twice as much radioactive material as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

That same day, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was redirected to the coast of Japan to participate in relief work for tsunami survivors. When sailors from the ship later began to fall ill, Congress asked the Defense Department for a report on the issue. The Pentagon report concluded that the sailors had not been exposed to enough radiation or contaminated water to cause health effects.

Yet in the four years since the disaster, at least 500 sailors have fallen ill, and 247 of them have joined the class-action suit. The 100-page legal complaint chronicles their symptoms: an airplane mechanic suffering from unexplained muscle wasting; a woman whose baby was born ill; a sailor told his health problems must be genetic, even though his identical twin is perfectly healthy; and case after case of cancer, internal bleeding, abscesses, thyroid dysfunction and birth defects.

The defendants initially claimed that they could not be sued in a U.S. court, so plaintiffs’ attorney Paul Garner asked the sailors to come to a court hearing in San Diego, to offer moral support.

Nearly all of them refused, for fear of public attack. Initial plaintiff Lindsey Cooper, for example, had already been mocked by atomic energy experts on CNN and by conservative radio hosts. Others were afraid of being perceived as anti-military, or un-American.

Powerful interests at stake

Only one plaintiff was willing to show up: Lieutenant Steve Simmons. Once a triathlon runner, Simmons fell ill a year after returning from Japan, suffering from hair loss, muscle wasting, migraines, bloody discharge and incontinence. His fingers turned yellow or even brown, and his feet have now turned dark red. He suffers from whole-body spasms and must now use a wheelchair.

He has never received a diagnosis for his problems, and sometimes he wonders if his Defense Department doctors are deliberately withholding one, so that the Department need not be held responsible. One doctor, he said, told him it would be better if he didn’t know the cause of his illness.

Disturbingly, Spiegel Online reported:

Early on, [Simmons] was in a military hospital in Washington DC together with three other men who had similar symptoms, he says. They had served on nuclear-powered submarines, but they disappeared from one day to the next, and when he asked what happened to them, everyone acted as though they had never been there in the first place.

Simmons believes that the Navy meant to do good with the mission to Japan, and does not blame USS Ronald Reagan‘s commander, Captain Thom Burke, for what happened to him. But he is troubled by Burke’s silence now, he says. He believes that Burke will not speak out about the case because he hopes to become an admiral.

“Personal, diplomatic and economic interests are all at stake,” Simmons said.

“They’re leaving us alone. They’re closing their eyes, keeping quiet and waiting for it to blow over. There are sick soldiers everywhere, many in the hospital in San Diego, or in the medical center in Hawaii. They are ordinary folks who are poorly insured, with family and kids. Loyal and scattered. Most of them don’t know how to react. Those who raise their voices are denounced in the Internet for being unpatriotic. You have to put up with a lot.”

Sources for this article include: 

http://enenews.com

http://www.spiegel.de

Letters allegedly written by Osama bin Laden are patent fakes designed to defend the CIA’s killer drone program.

CNN reports al-Qaeda documents, including letters to and from Osama bin Laden, are “part of a trove of many thousands that the SEALs recovered at bin Laden’s compound” after he was supposedly assassinated on May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“It’s long past time for the government to release more of these thousands of captured documents — with any necessary redactions for national security purposes — as they help us to understand better what precipitated the decline and fall of the terrorist group that once dominated the attention of the world, just as ISIS does today,” writes Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst. Bergen is also an adjunct professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University where insiders such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and the neocon Eliot Cohen hold court.

According to Bergen, the CIA effort to spy on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and kill its leaders with its covert drone program was so successful it resulted in substantial operational changes by the group.

“A major theme of the documents is how much punishment the CIA drone program was inflicting on al Qaeda,” Bergen writes.

According to the neocon narrative, the fanatical Sunni Wahhabist Bin Laden and al-Qaeda shared a relationship with Shia Iran. Bergen sticks to the script on this, writing that al-Qaeda “mulled opening an office in Iran,” but decided against this “due to financial costs and other considerations.” Bergen omits mention of the deep animosity between the two religious sects and the fact al-Qaeda declared war on Iranian Shiites, who were called Rafidha, a pejorative term for Shia, by Iraq’s al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This crucial fact is of little concern for an audience awash in years of anti-Muslim propaganda and untutored in historical reality.

The Fake Assassination of Osama Bin Laden

The assassination of Osama bin Laden, like many other theatrical presentations associated with the war on terror, is a demonstrable fake.

First and foremost, the government did not provide any convincing evidence that Navy SEALs had killed the former CIA collaborator as widely and bombastically claimed. As noted by Infowars.com and others in May, 2011, the government struggled to cobble together a convincing story. In addition to a shifting, on the fly narrative proffered by the Obama administration, the Pakistanis disagreed with crucial elements of the story.

The most crucial piece of evidence, the body of Bin Laden, was conveniently discarded according to the official narrative. “The alleged body of Bin Laden was hastily dumped in the sea to prevent any proper procedure of identification,” writes Paul Joseph Watson. “The White House claimed this was in accordance with normal Islamic burial rituals, however numerous Muslim scholars all over the globe disputed this claim, pointing out that Muslims can only be buried at sea if they die at sea. While the White House claimed that Bin Laden’s death on May 1st was proven by DNA and facial recognition evidence, such proof was never released for public scrutiny and the Obama administration refused to release photos of Bin Laden’s dead body, suggesting a cover-up.”

Numerous accounts and facts are at odds with the flimsy official narrative — from staged “situation room” photos to neighbors living near the supposed Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad stating they never saw the world-famous terrorist and doubted he lived there.

Staged photo op: the CIA admitted there was a blackout during the supposed assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden Died in 2001

Osama bin Laden died in 2001. This was reported by Fox News and the corporate media three months after the 9/11 attacks.

“A prominent official in the Afghan Taleban movement announced yesterday the death of Osama bin Laden, the chief of al-Qa’da organization, stating that binLaden suffered serious complications in the lungs and died a natural and quiet death,” the Egyptian newspaper al-Ward reported on December 26, 2001.

In January, 2002, Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said he thought bin Laden had likely died of kidney failure. The same year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai concurred. In a November 2, 2007 interview, the late Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, told reporter David Frost Bin Laden died in 2001.

Additionally, Israeli intelligence stated Bin Laden had died in late 2001. “The Israeli sources said Israel and the United States assess that Bin Laden probably died in the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan in December. They said the emergence of new messages by Bin Laden are probably fabrications,” the World Tribune reported in October, 2002.

“You can use this information to evaluate the Obama regime’s unsubstantiated claim that Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in Pakistan a decade later,” writes Paul Craig Roberts.

“Try to identify a single event that the US government has not lied about. Weapons of mass destruction? Iranian nukes? Assad’s chemical attack? Spying on Americans? 9/11? The assassination of President John F. Kennedy? The unemployment rate?”

The same can be said for this latest bit of Osama bin Laden propaganda dutifully reported by the insider Bergen and CNN which, back in the day, served as base for the Army’s Fourth Psychological Operations Group based at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina.

“The war has been provoked to destroy the Russian World, to draw Europe into it, and to surround Russia with hostile countries. Unleashing this world war, America is trying to deal with its own internal problems.”

– Sergei Glazyev, Advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin

The fabrications of NATO’s top commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, have driven a wedge between Germany and the United States that could lead to a collapse of the Atlantic Alliance. According to the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, Breedlove has repeatedly sabotaged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine by spreading “dangerous propaganda” that is misleading the public about Russian “troop advances on the border, (and) the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks.” But while the unusually critical article singles out Breedlove for his hyperbolic exaggerations of so-called Russian aggression, the real purpose of the Spiegel piece is to warn Washington that EU leaders will not support a policy of military confrontation with Moscow.

Before we explain what’s going on, we need to look at an excerpt from the article. According to Spiegel:

“…for months now, many in the Chancellery simply shake their heads each time NATO, under Breedlove’s leadership, goes public with striking announcements about Russian troop or tank movements … it is the tone of Breedlove’s announcements that makes Berlin uneasy. False claims and exaggerated accounts, warned a top German official during a recent meeting on Ukraine, have put NATO — and by extension, the entire West — in danger of losing its credibility.

There are plenty of examples….At the beginning of the crisis, General Breedlove announced that the Russians had assembled 40,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and warned that an invasion could take place at any moment. The situation, he said, was “incredibly concerning.” But intelligence officials from NATO member states had already excluded the possibility of a Russian invasion. They believed that neither the composition nor the equipment of the troops was consistent with an imminent invasion.

The experts contradicted Breedlove’s view in almost every respect. There weren’t 40,000 soldiers on the border, they believed, rather there were much less than 30,000 and perhaps even fewer than 20,000. Furthermore, most of the military equipment had not been brought to the border for a possible invasion, but had already been there prior to the beginning of the conflict. Furthermore, there was no evidence of logistical preparation for an invasion, such as a field headquarters.
Breedlove, though, repeatedly made inexact, contradictory or even flat-out inaccurate statements.”…

On Nov. 12, during a visit to Sofia, Bulgaria, Breedlove reported that “we have seen columns of Russian equipment — primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops — entering into Ukraine.” It was, he noted, “the same thing that OSCE is reporting.” But the OSCE had only observed military convoys within eastern Ukraine. OSCE observers had said nothing about troops marching in from Russia.

Breedlove sees no reason to revise his approach. “I stand by all the public statements I have made during the Ukraine crisis,” he wrote to SPIEGEL in response to a request for a statement accompanied by a list of his controversial claims.”
(Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine, Der Spiegel)

While it’s easy to get swept up in the Spiegel’s narrative of a rabid militarist dragging Europe closer to World War 3, the storyline is intentionally misleading. As anyone who’s been following the Ukraine fiasco for the last year knows, there’s nothing particularly unusual about Breedlove’s distortions. Secretary of State John Kerry has made similar claims numerous times as have many others in the major media. The lies about “Russian aggression” are the rule, not the exception. So why has the Spiegel decided to selectively target Breedlove who is no more deceitful than anyone else? What’s really going on here?

Clearly, the Spiegel is doing Merkel’s work, that is, undermining the credibility of Washington’s chief commander in Europe in order to discourage further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. But while Merkel wants to humiliate Breedlove to show that Germany will not sit on its hands while Washington plunges the region into the abyss; she has also shown considerable restraint in limiting her attack to the General while sparing Kerry and Obama any embarrassment. This is quite an accomplishment given that –as we said earlier–virtually everyone in the political establishment and the media have been lying nonstop about every aspect of the conflict. Merkel doesn’t want to discredit these others just yet, although the Spiegel piece infers that she has the power to do so if the “bad behavior” persists.

The Spiegel article is part of a one-two punch designed to force Washington to change its confrontational approach. The second jab appeared late Sunday afternoon when EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that Europe needed to field its own army. Here’s the story from Reuters:

“The European Union needs its own army to face up to Russia and other threats as well as restore the bloc’s foreign policy standing around the world, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper on Sunday…

“With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighboring state.

“One wouldn’t have a European army to deploy it immediately. But a common European army would convey a clear message to Russia that we are serious about defending our European values.” (Juncker calls for EU army, says would deter Russia, Reuters)

Can you see what’s going on? On the one hand, the Spiegel delivers a hammer-blow to the credibility of NATO’s top officer and on the other, the President of the EU Commission blindsides US powerbrokers by announcing a plan to create an independent EU fighting force that will render NATO redundant. These are big developments that have undoubtedly left the Obama troupe reeling. This is a full-blown assault on NATO’s role as the primary guarantor of EU regional security. Maybe the European people are gullible enough to accept Junker’s absurd claim that an EU army will “send an important message to the world”, but you can be damn sure that no one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue believes that nonsense. The move is clearly designed to send a message to Washington that Europe is fed up with NATO and wants a change. That means it’s “shape up or ship out time” for Breedlove and his ilk.

Ironically, these developments align Merkel with Putin’s view of things as stated in his famous Munich speech in 2007 when he said:

“I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security. And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue … The United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way … And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasize this — no one feels safe.” (Russian President Vladimir Putin, 43rd Munich Security Conference, 2007)

How can the US possibly cast itself as “steward of the global security system”, when its interventions have left a trail of decimated failed states from the southernmost border of Somalia to the northern tip of Ukraine, a chaotic swathe of smoldering ruin and agonizing human suffering that rivals the depredations of the Third Reich.

Europe’s security requirements cannot be met by a belligerent, warmongering US-controlled entity that acts solely in Washington’s interests. At present, NATO gets 75% of its funding from the US, which is why the alliance is less interested in peacemaking and security than it is in internationalizing its imperial war of aggression across the planet. Prior to the crisis in Ukraine, European leaders didn’t see the danger of this idiotic arrangement (even though interventions in Serbia, Libya and Afghanistan should have brought them to their senses) But now that NATO’s recklessness could vaporize Europe in a nuclear firestorm, leaders like Merkel and Hollande are starting to change their tune. Keep in mind, the ideal scenario for the US would be a limited war that levels large parts of the European and Asian continents, thus restoring the US to its post WW2 heyday when the “rubblized” world was Washington’s oyster. That would be just fine for genocidal maniacs and armchair warriors who rule the globe from the safety of their well-stocked DC bunkers. But for Europe, this is definitely not a winning strategy. Europe doesn’t want a war, and it certainly doesn’t want to be used as cannon fodder for the greater glory of the dystopian NWO.

Putin advisor, Sergei Glazyev, figured out what Washington was up to long before Kiev launched its wretched “anti terrorism” campaign against federalist rebels in the East. Here’s how he summed it up:

“The main task the American puppet masters have set for the (Kiev) junta is to draw Russia into a full-scale war with Ukraine. It is for this purpose that all of these heinous crimes are committed – to force Russia to send troops to Ukraine to protect the civilian population…

The bankruptcy of the US financial system, which is unable to service its foreign debt, the lack of investments to finance a breakthrough to a new technological order and to maintain America’s competitiveness, and the potential defeat in the geopolitical competition with China. To resolve these problems, Americans need a new world war.” (Sergei Glazyev)

Bingo. The steadily-declining empire, whose share of global GDP continues to shrivel with every passing year, has wanted a war from the get go. That’s the only way that the US can reverse its precipitous economic slide and preserve its lofty spot as the world’s only superpower. Fortunately, EU leaders are beginning to pull their heads out of the sand long enough to grasp what’s going on and change their behavior accordingly.

It’s worth noting, that no one in the Merkel administration or anyone else for that matter, has publicly challenged the allegations in the Spiegel article. Why is that, do you think?

Doesn’t their silence suggest that they knew all along that all the anti-Putin propaganda hullabaloo was pure bunkum; that “evil” Putin didn’t send tanks and soldiers across the border into Ukraine, that Putin didn’t shoot down Malaysian Airline 17, that Putin didn’t have a political opponent gunned down gangland style just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin? Isn’t that what their silence really says?

Of course, it does. The reason no one in power has spoken out is because –as the Spiegel cynically admits–“A mixture of political argumentation and military propaganda is necessary.”

“Propaganda is necessary”?

Whoa. Now there’s an admission you’re not going to see in the media too often. But it’s the truth, isn’t it? The Euro-leaders have been going along with the lies to keep the public in line. In other words, it’s a healthy dose of perception management for the sheeple, but the unvarnished truth for our revered overlords. Sounds about right. Only now these ame elites have decided to share the facts with the lumpen masses. But, why? Why this sudden willingness to share the truth?

It’s because they no longer support Washington’s policy, that’s why. No one in Europe wants the US to arm and train the Ukrainian army. No one wants them to deploy 600 paratroopers to Kiev and increase US logistical support. No one wants further escalation, because no one wants a war with Russia. It’s that simple.

For the first time, EU leaders, particularly Merkel, understand that the United States’ strategic objectives (the pivot to Asia) do not align with those of the EU, in fact, Washington’s geopolitical ambitions pose a serious threat to Europe’s security. Regrettably, it’s not enough for Merkel to simply understand what is going on. She needs to huddle with her EU colleagues and take positive steps to derail Washington’s plan now, otherwise the US will continue its incitements and false flags until Putin is forced to respond. Once that happens, a broader and, perhaps, catastrophic conflagration will be unavoidable.

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

The Republican Senators Push for World War III

March 10th, 2015 by Global Research News

An Open Letter to the Republic of Iran from a cabal of 47 U.S. senators, written in the interests of the Israel lobby in Washington, on how ‘American democracy’ actually works to satisfy the demands of a foreign state to the detriment of the elected President of the United States and the vitally important current negotiations for peace being held by Iran, Britain, the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany, in Geneva.

The text of the letter is provided below:

United States Senate

Washington DC 20510.

March 9th. 2015

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution–the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices–which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress. 

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement. 

Second, the offices of our Constitution have difference characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then–perhaps decades. 

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time. 

We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress. 

Sincerely

47 Republican Senators

http://go.bloomberg.com/assets/content/uploads/sites/2/150309-Cotton-Open-Letter-to-Iranian-Leaders.pdf

 

On March 3, 2015, The Telegraph and a few other major news sources broke the quite extraordinary story that the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee – the body that decides who is awarded the Prize – former Norwegian PM Thorbjoern Jagland had been demoted; it’s the first time it has ever happened.

It was during his chairmanship the will of Alfred Nobel was ignored most systematically; e.g., by awarding the world’s allegedly most prestigious prize to President Obama, the EU and Chinese human rights (but pro-war) Liu Xiaobo.

It’s about seven years ago that a small group of Scandinavian scholars decided to investigate how this prize is managed.

The basic research can be found in a book by Norwegian lawyer and author, Fredrik S. HeffermehlThe Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted which was the first major result of the group’s work.

It documents how this prize is “prestigious” only for those who either a) have never read Alfred Nobe’s will; b) don’t believe it should be interpreted with respect for his motives and goals and c) have very little knowledge about peace and peace research.

Nobel’s formulation in his will is short and clear – the Peace Prize shall go “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” He calls such people “champions of peace”. More here.

Thus, the Nobel Peace Prize is not a do-good prize, not a human rights or environmental prize and not a pro-war prize.

But it is a reward work for disarmament, anti-militarism and the abolition of warfare and people – be it politicians, scholars, activists – who are pro-peace, champions of peace.

The legal challenges that the Nobel Peace Prize Watch has raised over the years can be found here.

The Nobel Peace Prize Watch

Over the years, the criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s work has increased. Seven years ago, I cannot remember that any journalist who interviewed me about the Prize had read the will. Now about 75% of them seem to have before they call.

Fredrik Heffermehl, Oslo, and Tomas Magnusson, Gothenburg, have now established the Lay Down Your Arms Association which was incorporated and registered in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2014 with a Scandinavian and an International Advisory Board.

The Association’s first project has been to set up the Nobel Peace Prize Watch where you can acquaint yourself with the Prize, its history, background, the criticism over time, etc.

The Nobel Peace Prize Watch has written a detailed letter, dated February 20, 2015, to the Norwegian Parliament, The Nobel Foundation in Stockholm and to the Norwegian Nobel Committee outlining what must be done and why a watch has become necessary.

These initiatives have, with few exceptions, been ignored by the media, media which profess to practise freedom of expression and freedom of the media but seem to hesitate to challenge the political establishment that preserves this prize as an emblem for Norway and its security and foreign policy.

Why? Few seem to be aware that the Nobel Committee, in contrast to other Nobel prize selection bodies, consists of former MPs and not of experts in the broad field of peace.

It is worth also mentioning that Nobel in his will stipulated that the Norwegian Parliament should appoint a qualified committee; he did not say it should consist of its members.

These circumstances place the “prestigious” Prize in danger of being tied to Norwegian political interests.

Whether this danger is big or small can be debated but not the fact that it is peculiar that the Peace Prize is the only one that doesn’t require any particular scientific or other competence – as if peace was not an area of knowledge, research and professionalism.

Breaking the secrecy: The candidates

A global research effort has been made to break the secrecy surrounding the selection process for the Prize and publish a list of known candidates for 2015 with documentation.

Transparency makes it possible for everyone to see for themselves which candidates satisfy Alfred Nobel’s criteria, which candidates are selected by the Committee and whether or not some were available who do satisfy the criteria.

Allegedly there are around 300 for 2015 and here is the result of the research – a list of the so far 25 known, documented candidates.*

You can read about each candidate, see who nominated them and with what motivations. And if you know about nominations not mentioned here, please alert the Nobel Peace Prize Watch.

The Prize must come back to Alfred Nobel’s champions of peace 

The work, begun seven years ago, to create debate about the Nobel Peace Prize has gained momentum.

It is unacceptable that the millions of people around the world who work for peace in the sense Alfred Nobel intended have been deprived of what is truly the most prestigious and noble thing: to be rewarded for their struggle against militarism and for a world with much fewer weapons and wars.

That work will be intensified and continue to develop a critical mass in support of Alfred Nobel’s will. I kindly urge you to spread this message through traditional media, social media and your various communities.

* TFF is immensely proud to see that four of its Associates are among the Candidates for the 2015 Prize: Richard Falk, David Krieger, Evelin Lindner and Jan Oberg.

Jan Oberg is a peace researcher, art photographer, and Director of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) where this article first appeared. Reach him at: [email protected]Read other articles by Jan.

The Obama Administration, which in 2009 provided the crucial assistance that enabled the progressive democratic President of Honduras to be overthrown and a junta of oligarchs to replace him; and which in 2014 perpetrated a bloody coup that replaced the corrupt but democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, replaced by a rabidly anti-Russian equally corrupt Government, and thus sparked Ukraine’s civil war against the area of Ukraine that had voted 90% for Yanukovych; is now again trying to overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected President, Nicolas Maduro. 

Reuters on Monday March 9th headlined “U.S. Declares Venezuela a National Security Threat, Sanctions Top Officials,” and their report gives its closing word to an opposition politician, whom Obama supports and who says: ”It’s not a problem with Venezuela or with Venezuelans; it’s a problem for the corrupt ones” (i.e., Maduro and his Government).

In other words, yet again, the idea Obama is pushing is: we’re just trying to replace a ‘corrupt’ elected head-of-state.

The White House explains its Executive Order on March 9th by saying: “President Obama today issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela. … Specifically, the E.O. targets those determined by the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, to be involved in … actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions.”

The Executive Order itself declares that the existing Government of Venezuela limits rights and is corrupt, which “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”

On 14 February 2015, President Maduro had thwarted a coup-attempt against him by the Governments of Canada and the UK. This followed almost exactly a year after he had already thwarted such an attempt by the U.S. Government. In December 2013, the Maduro Government presented detailed evidence that the U.S. was planning a coup against him.

On 15 January 2015, Maduro met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. The Obama Administration is, of course, especially trying to bring down President Putin.

President Obama is also trying to bring down Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. In 2011, he had bombed away the regime of Libya’s President Muammar Gaddafi. Both Assad and Gaddafi also are/were allies of Russia, as is Iran. The Obama Administration is now assisting ISIS in its war against Assad, even while bombing ISIS.

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 Legacy of Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara

March 10th, 2015 by Abayomi Azikiwe

Martyred Burkinabe revolutionary Pan-Africanist and Marxist leader from 1983-1987, Capt. Thomas Sankara, was assassinated in a coup on October 15, 1987. He was only 37 years old. 

Sankara came to power during a critical period in the transition to a new phase of imperialist exploitation and oppression of the emerging African states. The role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other global financial institutions was generating tremendous social restructuring and consequent political struggle and debate.

Born in 1949, Sankara grew up during the turbulent 1950s and 1960s when independence struggles swept various African states. He joined the Upper Volta military at a young age and was stationed in Madagascar where he witnessed a popular left-leaning uprising that toppled a neo-colonialist regime in 1970.

During the 1970s he rose through the ranks of the military and was made an administrator of a training program for soldiers in the city of Po. In 1972 he went for further military training in France where he was exposed to Marxist ideas advocated by leftist organizations active during the period.

By the 1980s, unrest had reached a boiling point in Upper Volta when trade unions and students engaged in strikes and mass rebellions. A series of military coups took place and Sankara’s uncompromising positions landed him in prison on at least two occasions.

On August 4, 1983, left-wing elements within the military backed by the popular will of the masses liberated Sankara and made him leader of the National Council of the Revolution. The change of power although initiated by the junior army officers drew broad support among the working class, youth and the peasantry.

After coming to power in 1983, Sankara led a movement to change the name of the landlocked West Africa state, a former French colony labelled Upper Volta, to Burkina Faso, the land of the upright people. The program of his government called for the creation of import-substitution industries to curtail the reliance on essential and luxury goods from capitalist countries, the mobilization of youth and women to fight neo-colonialism and the cancellation of the debt owed to financial institutions based in the western imperialist states.

An article published in the Guardian on March 5 says that under Sankara the Burkina Faso government:

“launched nationalization, land redistribution and grand social programs in one of the world’s poorest countries. During his four-year rule, school attendance leaped from 6% to 22%, some 2.5 million children were vaccinated and thousands of health centers opened. Housing, road and railway building projects got under way and 10 million trees were planted.”

In addition, this same article continues,

“Sankara declared war on corruption and embraced personal austerity, paying himself a salary of $450 a month, slashing the wages of his top officials and forbidding the use of chauffeur-driven Mercedes and first class airline tickets by his ministers and senior civil servants. He refused to have his picture displayed in public buildings, still a rare thing in the Africa of 2015, and was staunchly opposed to foreign aid, declaring: ‘He who feeds you, controls you.’”

Also the Sankara government prioritized gender quality, working towards the end of female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy. His influence extended far beyond Burkina Faso leading to close relations with Libya under Gaddafi and Cuba during the leadership of President Fidel Castro.

After a four year experiment in social revolution, Sankara was overthrown in a military coup led by Blaise Compaore, who was his deputy within the government. After Compaore seized power, the government moved rapidly towards the West, honoring international debts and abolishing the anti-imperialist and Pan-Africanist foreign policy of Sankara.

Blaise Campaore emerged from a meeting where Sankara was assassinated as the head-of-state who remained in power until a mass uprising during late October 2014 toppled his pro-Paris and Washington-allied regime. Compaore immediately fled to neighboring Ivory Coast.

An Investigation into the Assassination and Coup Are Required 

The courts in Burkina Faso have recently paved the way for the proper identification of the remains of the martyred leader who was buried in 1987 without an official ceremony or an explanation of the circumstances surrounding his death.

However, the widow of Sankara, Mariam, is demanding a broader inquiry into the assassination of the revolutionary leader which led to his overthrow. Compaore has stated in the past that he had no information on what happened to Sankara.

Yet he was in the meeting where the struggle erupted over the future of the government. Moreover, it was Compaore who emerged as the head-of-state after the murder of Sankara.

Any inquiry would have to look at the role of neighboring Ivory Coast and France in the coup and assassination. The policies of Sankara went radically against the French neo-colonial system so prevalent then and even now in West Africa.

Ivory Coast during the 1980s was still under the leadership of the-then President Felix Houphoet-Boigny, a proponent of the post-colonial system of economic and political integration with Paris. Tensions between Abidjan and Ouagadougou were at an all-time high.

In a promotional article for the documentary film entitled “Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man”, it says that by 1987 “Clandestinely, elements in the Burkinabe leadership forged relationships with Côte d’Ivoire president Félix Houphoet-Boigny, France’s staunchest ally and an outspoken opponent of Sankara’s increasingly influential attacks on neo-colonialism. On October 15th during a staff meeting, a gang of armed soldiers, either led or ordered by Blaise Compaoré, Sankara’s closest friend and most trusted comrade throughout the revolution, assassinated him. His body was dismembered, buried in a make-shift grave and any mention of him was erased from public view.” (October 31, 2014 Facebook posting)

Of course during the uprising that toppled Compaore last October the masses revealed that they had not forgotten Sankara at all. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets demanding the ouster of Compaore, many of these demonstrators were youth and workers wearing t-shirts and holding banners displaying Sankara’s image.

Elections will be held later on this year in Burkina Faso and it will remain to be seen how well the parties committed to the ideals of Sankara fair in the process. Sankara’s views on self-reliance and anti-imperialism are essential during a period of escalating French and United States military interventions in Africa.

Film Review: American Sniper

March 10th, 2015 by Koozma J. Tarasoff

I saw a dangerous pro-war movie, not the anti-war film described by the director and producers.

American Sniper’ is a popular war movie about an actual decorated US sniper, Kyle, who claimed 255 ‘kills’ in Iraq. Kyle is a ‘good guy’ from Texas who failed as a cowboy only to find his true calling as a sniper in the Navy Seals.

The sniper kills from his rooftop perch, including a woman and a young boy who attempt to throw a bomb at the American invaders. He is a cog in a war killing machine.

Killing at times appears to trouble his conscience, but as a macho Navy Seal he is taught to do his job as a loyal patriot of his country.

The real Kyle was killed in the US by a fellow veteran whom Kyle offered to help overcome his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Both were victims of PTSD.

The movie was adapted from the best selling and controversial 2012 book: American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (above), which netted Kyle’s family $3 million.

The film is the highest-grossing war movie ever, netting $0.5 billion. The film won 9 of 30 film awards nominated.

Because American Sniper is beautifully-produced, it appears to me to be a dangerous pro-war propaganda film, supporting an old colonial strategy that might is right. It invites young people to join the military, learn a trade and make money from the killing machine — all in the name of protecting ‘our way of life.’ ‘We must kill’ them with new weapons of mass destruction, because ‘they’ threaten ‘us,’ goes the argument. This is a deadly knee-jerk reaction orchestrated by politicians, military generals, and those seeking opportunities to profit from killing.

In my opinion, director Clint Eastwood’s claim that American Sniper is an anti-war apolitical film lacks context. It depicts the Iraqi people as savages and terrorists who must be destroyed because they threaten the American way of life. Much is missing:

  • This and most military films don’t mention the alternative paradigm of nonkilling peacemaking.
  • The repugnance of militarism and war as an institution with no viable future. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.’ The film continues the notion that war is the way of the future.
  • We are dealing with ‘blood oil,’ cheap oil for North America, taken by violent invasion if necessary, and the failure of the leadership to deal with climate change. The solution is to develop alternative sources of energy in ones own country.
  • We see the failure of the leadership to learn the basic lessons of physics: ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. The remedy: Stop poking your nose into someone else’s business. Bring your troops home.
  • The film lacks humanizing the opponents in the battle. The military model is demonizing in that it pursues ‘us against them’ solution, without any attempt at discovering friends.
  • There is no mention of why the Americans invaded Iraq in the first place. No mention is made of money, oil, and a faulty foreign policy based on ‘exceptionalism.’
  • No mention is made of the money spent on war preparations, on spying, on secrecy and war itself. Just think of how trillions of dollars could be used to solve poverty, housing, healthcare, education, and cultural enrichment in our communities and the wider world?
  • We need to discover that real heroism and real patriotism is not based on killing but on getting rid of weapons. My ancestors, the Spirit Wrestlers / Doukhobors, influenced by world writer and philosopher Lev N. Tolstoy, did this in 1895 when 7,000 of them burnt their guns in three locations of Transcaucasia, Russia.

Once a broad disarmament program gets underway, preferably with support of the United Nations, we need to rapidly develop a design for a viable world order. Presently a nonkilling paradigm is available and efforts are being made to create Departments of Peace at the government’s cabinet level. Future filmmakers ought to take note and develop scenarios with exciting films featuring the role of cooperation, respect for humanity, compassion, and love in our emerging global society.

Other Reviews

  1. Vic Thiessen. ‘The winter’s most dangerous film’. Canadian Mennonite, March 2, 2015: 32.
  2. Richard Falk. ‘Viewing American Sniper’. Transcend Media Service, February 2, 2015.
  3. Cindy Sheehan. ‘Casey vs. Kyle: On Bloodlust, Loss, and Wars of Choice’.Common Dreams, January 21, 2015.
  4. Criticisms and Eastwood’s responsesWikipedia.