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Global Research Editor’s Note

We bring to the attention of our readers the following text of Osama bin Laden’s interview with Ummat, a Pakistani daily, published in Karachi on September 28, 2001. It was translated into English by the BBC World Monitoring Service and made public on September 29, 2001.

The authenticity of this interview remains to be confirmed. It is available in recognized electronic news archives including the BBC. Its authenticity has not been questioned.  

The interview tends to demystify the Osama bin Laden persona.

Osama bin Laden categorically denies his involvement in the 9/11 attacks.  Bin Laden’s statements in this interview are markedly different from those made in the alleged Osama video tapes.

In this interview, Osama bin Laden exhibits an understanding of US foreign policy. He expresses his views regarding the loss of life on 9/11. He focusses on CIA support to the narcotics trade.

He also makes statements as to who, in his opinion, might be the likely perpetrator of  the September 11 attacks.

This is an important text which has not been brought to the attention of Western public opinion.

We have highlighted key sections of this interview.

It is our hope that the text of this interview, published on 28 September 2001 barely a week before the onset of the war on Afghanistan, will contribute to a better understanding of the history of Al Qaeda, the role of Osama bin Laden and the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

This interview is published for informational purposes only. GR does not in any way endorse the statements in this interview.

Michel  Chossudovsky, September 9, 2014


Full text of September 2001 Pakistani paper’s “exclusive” interview with Usamah Bin-Ladin

Ummat (in Urdu)

translated from Urdu

Karachi, 28 September 2001, pp. 1 and 7.

Ummat’s introduction

Kabul: Prominent Arab mojahed holy warrior Usamah Bin-Ladin has said that he or his al-Qa’idah group has nothing to do with the 11 September suicidal attacks in Washington and New York. He said the US government should find the attackers within the country. In an exclusive interview with daily “Ummat”, he said these attacks could be the act of those who are part of the American system and are rebelling against it and working for some other system. Or, Usamah said, this could be the act of those who want to make the current century a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity. Or, the American Jews, who are opposed to President Bush ever since the Florida elections, might be the masterminds of this act. There is also a great possibility of the involvement of US intelligence agencies, which need billions of dollars worth of funds every year. He said there is a government within the government in the United States.

The secret agencies, he said, should be asked as to who are behind the attacks. Usamah said support for attack on Afghanistan was a matter of need for some Muslim countries and compulsion for others. However, he said, he was thankful to the courageous people of Pakistan who erected a bulwark before the wrong forces. He added that the Islamic world was attaching great expectations with Pakistan and, in time of need, “we will protect this bulwark by sacrificing of lives”.

Following is the interview in full detail:

Ummat: You have been accused of involvement in the attacks in New York and Washington. What do you want to say about this? If you are not involved, who might be?

Usamah [Osama bin Laden]: In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful. Praise be to Allah, Who is the creator of the whole universe and Who made the earth as an abode for peace, for the whole mankind. Allah is the Sustainer, who sent Prophet Muhammad for our guidance. I am thankful to the Ummat Group of Publications, which gave me the opportunity to convey my viewpoint to the people, particularly the valiant and Momin true Muslim people of Pakistan who refused to believe in lie of the demon.

I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children, and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children, and other people.

Such a practice is forbidden ever in the course of a battle. It is the United States, which is perpetrating every maltreatment on women, children, and common people of other faiths, particularly the followers of Islam. All that is going on in Palestine for the last 11 months is sufficient to call the wrath of God upon the United States and Israel.

There is also a warning for those Muslim countries, which witnessed all these as a silent spectator. What had earlier been done to the innocent people of Iraq, Chechnya, and Bosnia?

Only one conclusion could be derived from the indifference of the United States and the West to these acts of terror and the patronage of the tyrants by these powers that America is an anti-Islamic power and it is patronizing the anti-Islamic forces. Its friendship with the Muslim countries is just a show, rather deceit. By enticing or intimidating these countries, the United States is forcing them to play a role of its choice. Put a glance all around and you will see that the slaves of the United States are either rulers or enemies of Muslims .

The US has no friends, nor does it want to keep any because the prerequisite of friendship is to come to the level of the friend or consider him at par with you. America does not want to see anyone equal to it. It expects slavery from others. Therefore, other countries are either its slaves or subordinates.

However, our case is different. We have pledged slavery to God Almighty alone and after this pledge there is no possibility to become the slave of someone else. If we do that, it will be disregardful to both our Sustainer and his fellow beings. Most of the world nations upholding their freedom are the religious ones, which are the enemies of United States, or the latter itself considers them as its enemies. Or the countries, which do not agree to become its slaves, such as China, Iran, Libya, Cuba, Syria, and the former Russia as received .

Whoever committed the act of 11 September are not the friends of the American people. I have already said that we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed.

According to my information, the death toll is much higher than what the US government has stated. But the Bush administration does not want the panic to spread. The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself; the people who are a part of the US system, but are dissenting against it. Or those who are working for some other system; persons who want to make the present century as a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity so that their own civilization, nation, country, or ideology could survive. They can be any one, from Russia to Israel and from India to Serbia. In the US itself, there are dozens of well-organized and well-equipped groups, which are capable of causing a large-scale destruction. Then you cannot forget the American Jews, who are annoyed with President Bush ever since the elections in Florida and want to avenge him.

Then there are intelligence agencies in the US, which require billions of dollars worth of funds from the Congress and the government every year. This funding issue was not a big problem till the existence of the former Soviet Union but after that the budget of these agencies has been in danger.

They needed an enemy. So, they first started propaganda against Usamah and Taleban and then this incident happened. You see, the Bush administration approved a budget of 40bn dollars. Where will this huge amount go? It will be provided to the same agencies, which need huge funds and want to exert their importance.

Now they will spend the money for their expansion and for increasing their importance. I will give you an example. Drug smugglers from all over the world are in contact with the US secret agencies. These agencies do not want to eradicate narcotics cultivation and trafficking because their importance will be diminished. The people in the US Drug Enforcement Department are encouraging drug trade so that they could show performance and get millions of dollars worth of budget. General Noriega was made a drug baron by the CIA and, in need, he was made a scapegoat. In the same way, whether it is President Bush or any other US president, they cannot bring Israel to justice for its human rights abuses or to hold it accountable for such crimes. What is this? Is it not that there exists a government within the government in the United Sates? That secret government must be asked as to who made the attacks.

Ummat: A number of world countries have joined the call of the United States for launching an attack on Afghanistan. These also include a number of Muslim countries. Will Al-Qa’idah declare a jihad against these countries as well?

Usamah: I must say that my duty is just to awaken the Muslims; to tell them as to what is good for them and what is not. What does Islam says and what the enemies of Islam want?

Al-Qa’idah was set up to wage a jihad against infidelity, particularly to encounter the onslaught of the infidel countries against the Islamic states. Jihad is the sixth undeclared element of Islam. The first five being the basic holy words of Islam, prayers, fast, pilgrimage to Mecca, and giving alms Every anti-Islamic person is afraid of it. Al-Qa’idah wants to keep this element alive and active and make it part of the daily life of the Muslims. It wants to give it the status of worship. We are not against any Islamic country nor we consider a war against an Islamic country as jihad.

We are in favour of armed jihad only against those infidel countries, which are killing innocent Muslim men, women, and children just because they are Muslims. Supporting the US act is the need of some Muslim countries and the compulsion of others. However, they should think as to what will remain of their religious and moral position if they support the attack of the Christians and the Jews on a Muslim country like Afghanistan. The orders of Islamic shari’ah jurisprudence for such individuals, organizations, and countries are clear and all the scholars of the Muslim brotherhood are unanimous on them. We will do the same, which is being ordered by the Amir ol-Momenin the commander of the faithful Mola Omar and the Islamic scholars. The hearts of the people of Muslim countries are beating with the call of jihad. We are grateful to them.

Ummat: The losses caused in the attacks in New York and Washington have proved that giving an economic blow to the US is not too difficult. US experts admit that a few more such attacks can bring down the American economy. Why is al-Qa’idah not targeting their economic pillars?

Usamah: I have already said that we are not hostile to the United States. We are against the system, which makes other nations slaves of the United States, or forces them to mortgage their political and economic freedom. This system is totally in control of the American Jews, whose first priority is Israel, not the United States. It is simply that the American people are themselves the slaves of the Jews and are forced to live according to the principles and laws laid by them. So, the punishment should reach Israel. In fact, it is Israel, which is giving a blood bath to innocent Muslims and the US is not uttering a single word.

Ummat: Why is harm not caused to the enemies of Islam through other means, apart from the armed struggle? For instance, inciting the Muslims to boycott Western products, banks, shipping lines, and TV channels.

Usamah: The first thing is that Western products could only be boycotted when the Muslim fraternity is fully awakened and organized. Secondly, the Muslim companies should become self-sufficient in producing goods equal to the products of Western companies. Economic boycott of the West is not possible unless economic self-sufficiency is attained and substitute products are brought out. You see that wealth is scattered all across the Muslim world but not a single TV channel has been acquired which can preach Islamic injunctions according to modern requirements and attain an international influence. Muslim traders and philanthropists should make it a point that if the weapon of public opinion is to be used, it is to be kept in the hand. Today’s world is of public opinion and the fates of nations are determined through its pressure. Once the tools for building public opinion are obtained, everything that you asked for can be done.

Ummat: The entire propaganda about your struggle has so far been made by the Western media. But no information is being received from your sources about the network of Al-Qa’idah and its jihadi successes. Would you comment?

Usamah: In fact, the Western media is left with nothing else. It has no other theme to survive for a long time. Then we have many other things to do. The struggle for jihad and the successes are for the sake of Allah and not to annoy His bondsmen. Our silence is our real propaganda. Rejections, explanations, or corrigendum only waste your time and through them, the enemy wants you to engage in things which are not of use to you. These things are pulling you away from your cause.

The Western media is unleashing such a baseless propaganda, which make us surprise but it reflects on what is in their hearts and gradually they themselves become captive of this propaganda. They become afraid of it and begin to cause harm to themselves. Terror is the most dreaded weapon in modern age and the Western media is mercilessly using it against its own people. It can add fear and helplessness in the psyche of the people of Europe and the United States. It means that what the enemies of the United States cannot do, its media is doing that. You can understand as to what will be the performance of the nation in a war, which suffers from fear and helplessness.

Ummat: What will the impact of the freeze of al-Qa’idah accounts by the US?

Usamah: God opens up ways for those who work for Him. Freezing of accounts will not make any difference for Al-Qa’idah or other jihad groups. With the grace of Allah, al-Qa’idah has more than three such alternative financial systems, which are all separate and totally independent from each other. This system is operating under the patronage of those who love jihad. What to say of the United States, even the combined world cannot budge these people from their path.

These people are not in hundreds but in thousands and millions. Al-Qa’idah comprises of such modern educated youths who are aware of the cracks inside the Western financial system as they are aware of the lines in their hands. These are the very flaws of the Western fiscal system, which are becoming a noose for it and this system could not recuperate in spite of the passage of so many days.

Ummat: Are there other safe areas other than Afghanistan, where you can continue jihad?

Usamah: There are areas in all parts of the world where strong jihadi forces are present, from Indonesia to Algeria, from Kabul to Chechnya, from Bosnia to Sudan, and from Burma to Kashmir. Then it is not the problem of my person. I am helpless fellowman of God, constantly in the fear of my accountability before God. It is not the question of Usamah but of Islam and, in Islam too, of jihad. Thanks to God, those waging a jihad can walk today with their heads raised. Jihad was still present when there was no Usamah and it will remain as such even when Usamah is no longer there. Allah opens up ways and creates loves in the hearts of people for those who walk on the path of Allah with their lives, property, and children. Believe it, through jihad, a man gets everything he desires. And the biggest desire of a Muslim is the after life. Martyrdom is the shortest way of attaining an eternal life.

Ummat: What do you say about the Pakistan government policy on Afghanistan attack?

Usamah: We are thankful to the Momin and valiant people of Pakistan who erected a blockade in front of the wrong forces and stood in the first file of battle. Pakistan is a great hope for the Islamic brotherhood. Its people are awakened, organized, and rich in the spirit of faith. They backed Afghanistan in its war against the Soviet Union and extended every help to the mojahedin and the Afghan people. Then these are the same Pakistanis who are standing shoulder by shoulder with the Taleban. If such people emerge in just two countries, the domination of the West will diminish in a matter of days. Our hearts beat with Pakistan and, God forbid, if a difficult time comes we will protect it with our blood. Pakistan is sacred for us like a place of worship. We are the people of jihad and fighting for the defence of Pakistan is the best of all jihads to us. It does not matter for us as to who rules Pakistan. The important thing is that the spirit of jihad is alive and stronger in the hearts of the Pakistani people.

Copyright Ummat in Urdu, BBC translation in English, 2001

Read about Osama Bin Laden in Michel Chossudovsky’s international best-seller

According to Chossudovsky, the  “war on terrorism” is a complete fabrication based on the illusion that one man, Osama bin Laden, outwitted the $40 billion-a-year American intelligence apparatus. The “war on terrorism” is a war of conquest. Globalisation is the final march to the “New World Order”, dominated by Wall Street and the U.S. military-industrial complex.

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Today’s Most Popular Stories

October 15th, 2013 by Global Research News

A deluge of articles have been quickly put into circulation defending France’s military intervention in the African nation of Mali. TIME’s article, “The Crisis in Mali: Will French Intervention Stop the Islamist Advance?” decides that old tricks are the best tricks, and elects the tiresome “War on Terror” narrative.TIME claims the intervention seeks to stop “Islamist” terrorists from overrunning both Africa and all of Europe. Specifically, the article states:

“…there is a (probably well-founded) fear in France that a radical Islamist Mali threatens France most of all, since most of the Islamists are French speakers and many have relatives in France. (Intelligence sources in Paris have told TIME that they’ve identified aspiring jihadis leaving France for northern Mali to train and fight.) Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), one of the three groups that make up the Malian Islamist alliance and which provides much of the leadership, has also designated France — the representative of Western power in the region — as a prime target for attack.”

What TIME elects not to tell readers is that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is closely allied to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG whom France intervened on behalf of during NATO’s 2011 proxy-invasion of Libya – providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya’s government.

As far back as August of 2011, Bruce Riedel out of the corporate-financier funded think-tank, the Brookings Institution, wrote “Algeria will be next to fall,” where he gleefully predicted success in Libya would embolden radical elements in Algeria, in particular AQIM. Between extremist violence and the prospect of French airstrikes, Riedel hoped to see the fall of the Algerian government. Ironically Riedel noted:

Algeria has expressed particular concern that the unrest in Libya could lead to the development of a major safe haven and sanctuary for al-Qaeda and other extremist jihadis.

And thanks to NATO, that is exactly what Libya has become – a Western sponsored sanctuary for Al-Qaeda. AQIM’s headway in northern Mali and now French involvement will see the conflict inevitably spill over into Algeria. It should be noted that Riedel is a co-author of “Which Path to Persia?” which openly conspires to arm yet another US State Department-listed terrorist organization (list as #28), the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to wreak havoc across Iran and help collapse the government there – illustrating a pattern of using clearly terroristic organizations, even those listed as so by the US State Department, to carry out US foreign policy.Geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar noted a more direct connection between LIFG and AQIM in an Asia Times piece titled, “How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli:”

“Crucially, still in 2007, then al-Qaeda’s number two, Zawahiri, officially announced the merger between the LIFG and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM). So, for all practical purposes, since then, LIFG/AQIM have been one and the same – and Belhaj was/is its emir. “

“Belhaj,” referring to Hakim Abdul Belhaj, leader of LIFG in Libya, led with NATO support, arms, funding, and diplomatic recognition, the overthrowing of Muammar Qaddafi and has now plunged the nation into unending racist and tribal, genocidal infighting. This intervention has also seen the rebellion’s epicenter of Benghazi peeling off from Tripoli as a semi-autonomous “Terror-Emirate.” Belhaj’s latest campaign has shifted to Syria where he was admittedly on the Turkish-Syrian border pledging weapons, money, and fighters to the so-called “Free Syrian Army,” again, under the auspices of NATO support.

Image: NATO’s intervention in Libya has resurrected listed-terrorist organization and Al Qaeda affiliate, LIFG. It had previously fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now has fighters, cash and weapons, all courtesy of NATO, spreading as far west as Mali, and as far east as Syria. The feared “global Caliphate” Neo-Cons have been scaring Western children with for a decade is now taking shape via US-Saudi, Israeli, and Qatari machinations, not “Islam.” In fact, real Muslims have paid the highest price in fighting this real “war against Western-funded terrorism.”

….

LIFG, which with French arms, cash, and diplomatic support, is now invading northern Syria on behalf of NATO’s attempted regime change there, officially merged with Al Qaeda in 2007 according to the US Army’s West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). According to the CTC, AQIM and LIFG share not only ideological goals, but strategic and even tactical objectives. The weapons LIFG received most certainly made their way into the hands of AQIM on their way through the porous borders of the Sahara Desert and into northern Mali.

In fact, ABC News reported in their article, “Al Qaeda Terror Group: We ‘Benefit From’ Libyan Weapons,” that:

A leading member of an al Qaeda-affiliated terror group indicated the organization may have acquired some of the thousands of powerful weapons that went missing in the chaos of the Libyan uprising, stoking long-held fears of Western officials.”We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world,” Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a leader of the north Africa-based al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM], told the Mauritanian news agency ANI Wednesday. “As for our benefiting from the [Libyan] weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances.”

It is no coincidence that as the Libyan conflict was drawing to a conclusion, conflict erupted in northern Mali. It is part of a premeditated geopolitical reordering that began with toppling Libya, and since then, using it as a springboard for invading other targeted nations, including Mali, Algeria, and Syria with heavily armed, NATO-funded and aided terrorists.

French involvement may drive AQIM and its affiliates out of northern Mali, but they are almost sure to end up in Algeria, most likely by design.

Algeria was able to balk subversion during the early phases of the US-engineered “Arab Spring” in 2011, but it surely has not escaped the attention of the West who is in the midst of transforming a region stretching from Africa to Beijing and Moscow’s doorsteps – and in a fit of geopolitical schizophrenia – using terrorists both as a casus belli to invade and as an inexhaustible mercenary force to do it.

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Salafism and the CIA: Destabilizing the Russian Federation?

September 14th, 2012 by F. William Engdahl

Part I: Syria comes to the Russian Caucasus

On August 28 Sheikh Said Afandi, acknowledged spiritual leader of the Autonomous Russian Republic of Dagestan, was assassinated. A jihadist female suicide bomber managed to enter his house and detonate an explosive device.

The murder target had been carefully selected. Sheikh Afandi, a seventy-five-year old Sufi Muslim leader, had played the critical role in attempting to bring about reconciliation in Dagestan between jihadist Salafi Sunni Muslims and other factions, many of whom in Dagestan see themselves as followers of Sufi. With no replacement of his moral stature and respect visible, authorities fear possible outbreak of religious war in the tiny Russian autonomous republic.[1]

The police reported that the assassin was an ethnic Russian woman who had converted to Islam and was linked to an Islamic fundamentalist or Salafist insurgency against Russia and regional governments loyal to Moscow in the autonomous republics and across the volatile Muslim-populated North Caucasus region.

Ethnic Muslim populations in this region of Russia and of the former Soviet Union, including Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and into China’s Xinjiang Province, have been the target of various US and NATO intelligence operations since the Cold War era ended in 1990. Washington sees manipulation of Muslim groups as the vehicle to bring uncontrollable chaos to Russia and Central Asia. It’s being carried out by some of the same organizations engaged in creating chaos and destruction inside Syria against the government of Bashar Al-Assad. In a real sense, as Russian security services clearly understand, if they don’t succeed in stopping the Jihadists insurgency in Syria, it will come home to them via the Caucasus.

The latest Salafist murders of Sufi and other moderate Muslim leaders in the Caucasus are apparently part of what is becoming ever clearer as perhaps the most dangerous US intelligence operation ever—playing globally with Muslim fundamentalism.

Previously US and allied intelligence services had played fast and loose with religious organizations or beliefs in one or another country. What makes the present situation particularly dangerous—notably since the decision in Washington to unleash the misnamed Arab Spring upheavals that began in Tunisia late 2010, spreading like a brushfire across the entire Islamic world from Afghanistan across Central Asia to Morocco—is the incalculable wave upon wave of killing, hatreds, destruction of entire cultures that Washington has unleashed in the name of that elusive dream named “democracy.” They do this using alleged Al-Qaeda groups, Saudi Salafists or Wahhabites, or using disciples of Turkey’s Fethullah Gülen Movement to ignite fires of religious hatred within Islam and against other faiths that could take decades to extinguish. It could easily spill over into a new World War.

Fundamentalism comes to Caucasus

Following the dissolution of the USSR, radical Afghanistani Mujahadeen, Islamists from Saudi Arabia, from Turkey, Pakistan and other Islamic countries flooded into the Muslim regions of the former USSR. One of the best-organized of these was the Gülen Movement of Fethullah Gülen, leader of a global network of Islamic schools and reported to be the major policy influence on Turkey’s Erdogan AKP party.

Gülen was quick to establish The International Dagestani-Turkish College in Dagestan. During the chaotic days after the Soviet collapse, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation officially registered and permitted unfettered activity for a variety of Islamic foundations and organizations. These included the League of the Islamic World, the World Muslim Youth Assembly, the reportedly Al-Qaeda friendly Saudi foundation ‘Ibrahim ben Abd al-Aziz al-Ibrahim.’ The blacklist also included Al-Haramein a Saudi foundation reported tied to Al-Qaeda, and IHH, [2] a Turkish organization banned in Germany, that allegedly raised funds for jihadi fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, and was charged by French intelligence of ties to Al Qaeda.[3] Many of these charities were covers for fundamentalist Salafists with their own special agenda.

As many of the foreign Islamists in Chechnya and Dagestan were found involved in fomenting the regional unrest and civil war, Russian authorities withdrew permission of most to run schools and institutions. Throughout the North Caucasus at the time of the Chechyn war in the late 1990’s, there were more than two dozen Islamic institutes, some 200 madrassas and numerous maktabas (Koranic study schools) present at almost all mosques.

The International Dagestani-Turkish College was one that was forced to close its doors in Dagestan. The College was run by the Fethullah Gülen organization.[4]

At the point of the Russian crackdown on the spread of Salafist teaching inside Russia at the end of the 1990’s, there was an exodus of hundreds of young Dagestani and Chechyn Muslim students to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other places in The Middle east, reportedly to receive training with the Gülen movement and various Saudi-financed organizations, including Salafists. [5] It is believed in Russia that the students trained by Gülen supporters or Saudi and other Salafist fundamentalist centers then were sent back to Dagestan and the North Caucasus to spread their radical strain of Islam.

By 2005 the situation in the Caucasus was so influenced by this Salafist intervention that the Chechen Salafist, Doku Umarov, cited by the UN Security Council for links to Al-Qaeda,[6] unilaterally declared creation of what he called the Caucasus Emirate, announcing he planned to establish an Islamic state under Sharia law encompassing the entire North Caucasus region including Dagestan. He modestly proclaimed himself Emir of the Caucasus Emirate. [7]

*  *  *

WWIII Scenario

*  *  *

 

Part II: Salafism at war with Sufi tradition

Salafism, known in Saudi Arabia as Wahhabism, is a fundamentalist strain of Islam which drew world attention and became notorious in March 2001 just weeks before the attacks of September 11. That was when the Salafist Taliban government in Afghanistan willfully dynamited and destroyed the historic gigantic Buddhas of Bamiyan on the ancient Silk Road, religious statues dating from the 6th Century. The Taliban Salafist leaders also banned as “un-islamic” all forms of imagery, music and sports, including television, in accordance with what they considered a strict interpretation of Sharia.

Afghani sources reported that the order to destroy the Buddhas was made by Saudi-born jihadist Wahhabite, Osama bin Laden, who ultimately convinced Mullah Omar, Taliban supreme leader at the time to execute the act.[8]

Before and…After Salafist Taliban …

While Sufis incorporate the worship of saints and theatrical ceremonial prayers into their practice, Salafis condemn as idolatry any non-traditional forms of worship. They also call for the establishment of Islamic political rule and strict Sharia law. Sufism is home to the great spiritual and musical heritage of Islam, said by Islamic scholars to be the inner, mystical, or psycho-spiritual dimension of Islam, going back centuries.

As one Sufi scholar described the core of Sufism, “While all Muslims believe that they are on the pathway to God and will become close to God in Paradise–after death and the ‘Final Judgment’– Sufis believe as well that it is possible to become close to God and to experience this closeness–while one is alive. Furthermore, the attainment of the knowledge that comes with such intimacy with God, Sufis assert, is the very purpose of the creation. Here they mention the hadith qudsi in which God states, ‘I was a hidden treasure and I loved that I be known, so I created the creation in order to be known.’ Hence for the Sufis there is already a momentum, a continuous attraction on their hearts exerted by God, pulling them, in love, towards God.” [9]

The mystical Islamic current of Sufism and its striving to become close to or one with God is in stark contrast to the Jihadist Salafi or Wahhabi current that is armed with deadly weapons, preaches a false doctrine of jihad, and a perverse sense of martyrdom, committing countless acts of violence. Little wonder that the victims of Salafist Jihads are mostly other pacific forms of Islam including most especially Sufis.

The respected seventy-five year old Afandi had publicly denounced Salafist Islamic fundamentalism. His murder followed a July 19 coordinated attack on two high-ranking muftis in the Russian Volga Republic of Tatarstan. Both victims were state-approved religious leaders who had attacked radical Islam. This latest round of murders opens a new front in the Salafist war against Russia, namely attacks on moderate Sufi Muslim leaders.

Whether or not Dagestan now descends into internal religious civil war that then spreads across the geopolitically sensitive Russian Caucasus is not yet certain. What is almost certain is that the same circles who have been feeding violence and terror inside Syria against the regime of Alawite President Bashar al-Assad are behind the killing of Sheikh Afandi as well as sparking related acts of terror or unrest across Russia’s Muslim-populated Caucasus. In a very real sense it represents Russia’s nightmare scenario of “Syria coming to Russia.” It demonstrates dramatically why Putin has made such a determined effort to stop a descent into a murderous hell in Syria.

Salafism and the CIA

The existence of the so-called jihadist Salafi brand of Islam in Dagestan is quite recent. It has also been deliberately imported. Salafism is sometimes also called the name of the older Saudi-centered Wahhabism. Wahhabism is a minority originally-Bedouin form of the faith originating within Islam, dominant in Saudi Arabia since the 1700’s.

Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism give the following description of Saudi conditions under the rigid Wahhabi brand of Islam:

Women living under Saudi rule must wear the abaya, or total body cloak, and niqab, the face veil; they have limited opportunities for schooling and careers; they are prohibited from driving vehicles; are banned from social contact with men not relatives, and all personal activity must be supervised including opening bank accounts, by a male family member or “guardian.” These Wahhabi rules are enforced by a mutawiyin, or morals militia, also known as “the religious police,” officially designated the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) who patrol Saudi cities, armed with leather-covered sticks which they freely used against those they considered wayward. They raid homes looking for alcohol and drugs, and harassed non-Wahhabi Muslims as well as believers in other faiths.” [10]

It’s widely reported that the obscenely opulent and morally-perhaps-not-entirely-of- the-highest-standards Saudi Royal Family made a Faustian deal with Wahhabite leaders. The deal supposedly, was that the Wahhabists are free to export their fanatical brand of Islam around to the Islamic populations of the world in return for agreeing to leave the Saudi Royals alone.[11] There are, however, other dark and dirty spoons stirring the Wahhabite-Salafist Saudi stew.

Little known is the fact that the present form of aggressive Saudi Wahhabism, in reality a kind of fusion between imported jihadi Salafists from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the fundamentalist Saudi Wahhabites. Leading Salafist members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood were introduced into the Saudi Kingdom in the 1950’s by the CIA in a complex series of events, when Nasser cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood following an assassination attempt. By the 1960’s an influx of Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia fleeing Nasserite repression, had filled many of the leading teaching posts in Saudi religious schools. One student there was a young well-to-do Saudi, Osama bin Laden.  [12]

During the Third Reich, Hitler Germany had supported the Muslim Brotherhood as a weapon against the British in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. Marc Erikson describes the Nazi roots of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood thus:

…as Italian and German fascism sought greater stakes in the Middle East in the 1930s and ’40s to counter British and French controlling power, close collaboration between fascist agents and Islamist leaders ensued. During the 1936-39 Arab Revolt, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence, sent agents and money to support the Palestine uprising against the British, as did Muslim Brotherhood founder and “supreme guide” Hassan al-Banna. A key individual in the fascist-Islamist nexus and go-between for the Nazis and al-Banna became the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini.[13]

After the defeat of Germany, British Intelligence moved in to take over control of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ultimately, for financial and other reasons, the British decided to hand their assets within the Muslim Brotherhood over to their CIA colleagues in the 1950s. [14]

According to former US Justice Department Nazi researcher John Loftus,  “during the 1950s, the CIA evacuated the Nazis of the Muslim Brotherhood to Saudi Arabia. Now, when they arrived in Saudi Arabia, some of the leading lights of the Muslim Brotherhood, like Dr Abdullah Azzam, became the teachers in the madrassas, the religious schools. And there they combined the doctrines of Nazism with this weird Islamic cult, Wahhabism.” [15]

“Everyone thinks that Islam is this fanatical religion, but it is not,” Loftus continues. “They think that Islam–the Saudi version of Islam–is typical, but it’s not. The Wahhabi cult has been condemned as a heresy more than 60 times by the Muslim nations. But when the Saudis got wealthy, they bought a lot of silence. This is a very harsh cult. Wahhabism was only practised by the Taliban and in Saudi Arabia–that’s how extreme it is. It really has nothing to do with Islam. Islam is a very peaceful and tolerant religion. It always had good relationships with the Jews for the first thousand years of its existence.” [16]

Loftus identified the significance of what today is emerging from the shadows to take over Egypt under Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi, and the so-called Syrian National Council, dominated in reality by the Muslim Brotherhood and publicly led by the more “politically correct” or presentable likes of Bassma Kodmani. Kodmani, foreign affairs spokesman for the SNC was twice an invited guest at the Bilderberg elite gathering, latest in Chantilly, Virginia earlier this year.[17]

The most bizarre and alarming feature of the US-financed  regime changes set into motion in 2010, which have led to the destruction of the secular Arab regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muhammar Qaddafi in Libya, and the secular regime of President Ben Ali in Tunisia, and which have wreaked savage destruction across the Middle East, especially in the past eighteen months in Syria, is the pattern of emerging power grabs by representatives of the murky Salafist Muslim Brotherhood.

By informed accounts, a Saudi-financed Sunni Islamic Muslim Brotherhood dominates the members of the exile Syrian National Council that is backed by the US State Department’s Secretary Clinton and by Hollande’s France. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is tied, not surprisingly to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood of President Mohammed Morsi who recently in a meeting of the Non-Aligned in Iran called openly for the removal of Syria’s Assad, a logical step if his Muslim Brothers in the present Syrian National Council are to take the reins of power. The Saudis are also rumored to have financed the ascent to power in Tunisia of the governing Islamist Ennahda Party,[18] and are documented to be financing the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian National Council against President Bashar al-Assad. [19]

Part III: Morsi’s Reign of Salafi Terror

Indicative of the true agenda of this Muslim Brotherhood and related jihadists today is the fact that once they have power, they drop the veil of moderation and reconciliation and reveal their violently intolerant roots. This is visible in Egypt today under Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi.

Unreported in mainstream Western media to date are alarming direct reports from Christian missionary organizations in Egypt that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood has already begun to drop the veil of “moderation and conciliation” and show its brutal totalitarian Salafist colors, much as Khomeini’s radical Sharia forces did in Iran after taking control in 1979-81.

In a letter distributed by the Christian Aid Mission (CAM), a Christian Egyptian missionary wrote that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood “announced they would destroy the country if Morsi didn’t win, but they also said they will take revenge from all those who voted for [his opponent Ahmed] Shafiq, especially the Christians as they are sure we did vote for Shafiq. Yesterday they began by killing two believers in el Sharqiya because of this,” the missionary added, speaking on condition of anonymity.[20]

This report came only weeks after Egyptian State TV (under Morsi’s control) showed ghastly video footage of a convert from Islam to Christianity being murdered by Muslims. The footage showed a young man being held down by masked men with a knife to his throat. As one man was heard chanting Muslim prayers in Arabic, mostly condemning Christianity, another man holding the knife to the Christian convert’s throat began to cut, slowly severing the head amid cries of “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is great”), according to transcripts. In the letter, the Egyptian missionary leader added that, “soon after Morsi won, Christians in upper Egypt were forcibly prevented from going to churches.” Many Muslims, the letter claimed, “also began to speak to women in the streets that they had to wear Islamic clothing including the head covering. They act as if they got the country for their own, it’s theirs now.” [21]

Already in 2011 Morsi’s Salafist followers began attacking and destroying Sufi mosques across Egypt. According to the authoritative newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (Today’s Egyptian), 16 historic mosques in Alexandria belonging to Sufi orders have been marked for destruction by so-called ‘Salafis’. Alexandria has 40 mosques associated with Sufis, and is the headquarters for 36 Sufi groups. Half a million Sufis live in the city, out of a municipal total of four million people. Aggression against the Sufis in Egypt has included a raid on Alexandria’s most distinguished mosque, named for, and housing, the tomb of the 13th century Sufi Al-Mursi Abu’l Abbas.[22]

Notably, the so-called “democratically elected” regime in Libya following the toppling of Mohamar Qaddafi by NATO bombs in 2011, has also been zealous in destroying Sufi mosques and places of worhip. In August this year, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova expressed “grave concern” at the destruction by Islamic Jihadists of Sufi sites in Zliten, Misrata and Tripoli and urged perpetrators to “cease the destruction immediately.” [23] Under behind-the-scenes machinations the Libyan government is dominated by Jihadists and by followers of the Muslim Brotherhood, as in Tunisia and Egypt. [24]

The explosive cocktail of violence inherent in allowing the rise to power of Salafist Islamists across the Middle East was clear to see, symbolically enough on the night of September 11,th when a mob of angry supporters of the fanatical Salafist group, Ansar Al-Sharia, murdered the US Ambassador to Libya and three US diplomats, burning the US Consulate in Bengazi to the ground in protest over a YouTube release of a film by an American filmmaker showing the Prophet Mohammed indulging in multiple sex affairs and casting doubt on his role as God’s messenger. Ironically that US Ambassador had played a key role in toppling Qaddafi and opening the door to the Salafist takeover in Libya. At the same time angry mobs of thousands of Salafists surrounded the US Embassy in Cairo in protest to the US film. [25]

Ansar Al-Sharia (“Partisans of Islamic law” in Arabic) reportedly is a spinoff of Al-Qaeda and claims organizations across the Middle East from Yemen to Tunisia to Iraq, Egypt and Libya. Ansar al-Sharia says it is reproducing the model of Sharia or strict Islamic law espoused by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant umbrella group that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq. The core of the group are jihadists who came out of an “Islamic state”, either in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, or among jihadists in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.[26]

The deliberate detonation now of a new round of Salafist fundamentalist Jihad terror inside Muslim regions of the Russian Caucasus is exquisitely timed politically to put maximum pressure at home on the government of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Putin and the Russian Government are the strongest and most essential backer of the current Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, and for Russia as well the maintenance of Russia’s only Mediterranean naval base at Syria’s Tartus port is vital strategically. At the same time, Obama’s sly message to Medvedev to wait until Obama’s re-election to evaluate US intent towards Russia and Putin’s cryptic recent comment that a compromise with a re-elected President Obama might be possible, but not with a President Romney, [27] indicate that the Washington “stick-and-carrot” or hard cop-soft cop tactics with Moscow might tempt Russia to sacrifice major geopolitical alliances, perhaps even that special close and recent geopolitical alliance with China.[28] Were that to happen, the World might witness a “reset” in US-Russian relations with catastrophic consequences for world peace.

F. William Engdahl*  is the author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order

Notes:

[1] Dan Peleschuk, Sheikh Murdered Over Religious Split Say Analysts, RIA Novosti, August 30, 2012, accessed in

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120830/175517955.html.

[2] Mairbek  Vatchagaev, The Kremlin’s War on Islamic Education in the North Caucasus, North Caucasus Analysis Volume: 7 Issue: 34, accessed in http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=3334

[3] Iason Athanasiadis, Targeted by Israeli raid: Who is the IHH?, The Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2010, accessed in http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/0601/Targeted-by-Israeli-raid-Who-is-the-IHH.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mairbek Vatchagaev, op. cit.

[6] UN Security Council, QI.U.290.11. DOKU KHAMATOVICH UMAROV, 10 March 2011, accessed in http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQI29011E.shtml. The UN statement reads: “Doku Khamatovich Umarov was listed on 10 March 2011 pursuant to paragraph 2 of resolution 1904 (2009) as being associated with Al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden or the Taliban for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of”, “recruiting for”, “supplying, selling or transferring arms and related materiel to” and “otherwise supporting acts or activities of” the Islamic Jihad Group (QE.I.119.05), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (QE.I.10.01), Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (RSRSBCM) (QE.R.100.03) and Emarat Kavkaz (QE.E.131.11).”

[7] Tom Jones, Czech NGO rejects Russian reports of link to alleged Islamist terrorists al-Qaeda, May 10, 2011, accessed in http://www.ceskapozice.cz/en/news/society/czech-ngo-rejects-russian-reports-link-alleged-islamist-terrorists-al-qaeda?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=enprofil&utm_campaign=twennews.

[8] The Times of India, Laden ordered Bamyan Buddha destruction, The Times of India, March 28, 2006.

[9] Dr. Alan Godlas, Sufism — Sufis — Sufi Orders:

[10] Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz, Wahhabi Internal Contradictions as Saudi Arabia Seeks Wider Gulf Leadership, Center for Islamic Pluralism, May 21, 2012, accessed in http://www.islamicpluralism.org/2040/wahhabi-internal-contradictions-as-saudi-arabia

[11] Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz, Wahhabi Internal Contradictions as Saudi Arabia Seeks Wider Gulf Leadership, May 21, 2012, accessed in http://www.islamicpluralism.org/2040/wahhabi-internal-contradictions-as-saudi-arabia.

[12] Robert Duncan, Islamic Terrorisms Links to Nazi Fascism, AINA, July 5, 2007, accessed in http://www.aina.org/news/2007070595517.htm.

[13] Marc Erikson, Islamism, fascism and terrorism (Part 2), AsiaTimes.Online, November 8, 2002, accessed in http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/DK08Ak03.html.

[14] Ibid.

[15] John Loftus, The Muslim Brotherhood, Nazis and Al-Qaeda,  Jewish Community News, October 11, 2006, accessed in http://www.canadafreepress.com/2006/loftus101106.htm

[16] Ibid.

[17] Charlie Skelton, The Syrian opposition: who’s doing the talking?: The media have been too passive when it comes to Syrian opposition sources, without scrutinising their backgrounds and their political connections. Time for a closer look …, London Guardian, 12 July 2012, accessed in http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/12/syrian-opposition-doing-the-talking.

[18] Aidan Lewis, Profile: Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, BBC News, 25 October 2011, accessed in http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15442859.

[19] Hassan Hassan, Syrians are torn between a despotic regime and a stagnant opposition: The Muslim Brotherhood’s perceived monopoly over the Syrian National Council has created an opposition stalemate, The Guardian, UK, 23 August, 2012, accessed in http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/23/syrians-torn-despotic-regime-stagnant-opposition.

[20] Stefan J. Bos, Egypt Christians Killed After Election of Morsi, Bosnewslife, June 30, 2012, accessed in http://www.bosnewslife.com/22304-egypt-christians-killed-after-election-morsi.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Irfan Al-Alawi, Egyptian Muslim Fundamentalists Attack Sufis, Guardian Online [London],

April 11, 2011, accessed in http://www.islamicpluralism.org/1770/egyptian-Muslim-fundamentalists-attack-sufis

[23] Yafiah Katherine Randall, UNESCO urges Libya to stop destruction of Sufi sites, August 31, 2012, Sufi News and Sufism World Report, accessed in http://sufinews.blogspot.de/.

[24] Jamie Dettmer, Libya elections: Muslim Brotherhood set to lead government, 5 July, 2012, The Telegraph, London, accessed in http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/9379022/Libya-elections-Muslim-Brotherhood-set-to-lead-government.html.

[25] Luke Harding, Chris Stephen, Chris Stevens, US ambassador to Libya, killed in Benghazi attack: Ambassador and three other American embassy staff killed after Islamist militants fired rockets at their car, say Libyan officials, London Guardian, 12 September 2012, accessed in http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/12/chris-stevens-us-ambassador-libya-killed.

[26] Murad Batal al-Shishani, Profile: Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen, 8 March 2012, accessed in  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17402856.

[27] David M. Herszenhorn, Putin Says Missile Deal Is More Likely With Obama, The New York Times, September 6, 2012, accessed in http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/world/europe/putin-calls-missile-deal-more-likely-if-obama-wins.html. According to an interview Putin gave on Moscow’s state-owned RT TV, Herszenhorn reports, “Mr. Putin said he believed that if Mr. Obama is re-elected in November, a compromise could be reached on the contentious issue of American plans for a missile defense system in Europe, which Russia has strongly opposed. On the other hand, Mr. Putin said, if Mr. Romney becomes president, Moscow’s fears about the missile system — that it is, despite American assurances, actually directed against Russia — would almost certainly prove true.

“Is it possible to find a solution to the problem, if current President Obama is re-elected for a second term? Theoretically, yes,” Mr. Putin said, according to the official transcript posted on the Kremlin’s Web site. “But this isn’t just about President Obama. “For all I know, his desire to work out a solution is quite sincere,” Mr. Putin continued. “I met him recently on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, where we had a chance to talk. And though we talked mostly about Syria, I could still take stock of my counterpart. My feeling is that he is a very honest man, and that he sincerely wants to make many good changes. But can he do it? Will they let him do it?”

[28] M.K. Bhadrakumar, Calling the China-Russia split isn’t heresy, Asia Times,  September 5, 2012, accessed in http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/NI05Ad01.html.

 

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Welcome to the newly redesigned Global Research website!

September 8th, 2012 by Global Research

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Making America Great Again in a New Wild West

January 20th, 2020 by William deBuys

A new Wild West has taken root not far from Tombstone, Arizona, known to many for its faux-historical reenactments of the old West. We’re talking about a long, skinny territory — a geographic gerrymander — that stretches east across New Mexico and down the Texan Rio Grande to the Gulf of Mexico. It also runs west across hundreds of miles of desert to California and the Pacific Ocean. Like the old Wild West, this one is lawless, save for the law of the gun. But that old West was lawless for want of government. This one is lawless because of it.

The Department of Homeland Security, under authority conferred by Congress, has declared more than 50 federal laws inoperable along sections of the U.S. boundary with Mexico, the better to build the border wall that Donald Trump has promised his “base.” Innumerable state laws and local ordinances have also been swept aside. Predictably, the Endangered Species Act is among the fallen. So are the National Historic Preservation Act, the Wilderness Act, laws restricting air and water pollution, and measures protecting wildlife, landscapes, Native American sacred sites, and even caves and fossils.

The new Wild West of the border wall is an authoritarian dreamscape where the boss man faces no limits and no obligations. It’s as though Marshall Wyatt Earp, reborn as an orange-haired easterner with no knowledge of the actual West, were back in charge, deciding who’s in and who’s out, what goes and what stays.

Prominent on the list of suspended laws is the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which, until recently, was the nation’s look-before-you-leap conscience. The environmental analyses and impact statements NEPA requires might not force the government to evaluate whether a palisade of 30-foot-high metal posts — bollards in border wall terminology — were really a better way to control drug smuggling than upgrading inspection facilities at ports of entry, where, by all accounts, the vast majority of illegal substances enter the country. They would, however, require those wall builders to figure out in advance a slew of other gnarly questions like: How will wildlife be affected by a barrier that nothing larger than a kangaroo rat can get through? And how much will pumping scarce local water to make concrete draw down shallow desert aquifers?

The questions get big, fast. One that might look easy but isn’t concerns the flashfloods that stream down desert washes. The uprights of the border wall are to be spaced only four inches apart, which means they’ll catch flood debris the way a colander catches spaghetti.

Let’s get specific. The San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge abuts the border in the far southeastern corner of Arizona. Black Draw, a gulch running through the middle of the refuge, is normally as dry as a hot sidewalk. When thunderstorms burst over the vast San Bernardino Valley, however, the floodwaters can surge more than 20 feet high.  Imagine a wall of chocolate water sweeping up tree trunks, uprooted bushes, the occasional dead cow, and fence posts snarled in wire. Imagine what happens when that torrent meets a barrier built like a strainer. The junk catches and creates a dam. Water backs up, and pressure builds. If the wall were built like the Hoover Dam, it might hold, but it won’t be and it won’t.

In 2014, a flood in Black Draw swept vehicle barriers aside, scattering pieces downstream. Local ranchers have shown me the pictures. You could say the desert was making a point about how wet it could be. In fact, there’s no mystery about what will happen when such a flood hits a top-heavy palisade. If a NEPA document were to evaluate the border wall, the passage discussing this eventuality might require its writer to invent a term for what a wall becomes when it lies flat on the ground.

On the other hand, if you leave gaps for floods to pass through, then smugglers and — for Donald Trump and his base — people of unacceptably dark skin color might come the other way. Not that they necessarily would. As local residents I talked to attest, active patrols, remote sensing, and improved coordination among law enforcement agencies have reduced illegal crossings in the San Bernardino Valley almost to zero, something current government officials don’t point out but a NEPA document would.

With NEPA out of the picture, the responsible parties only have to claim that they’ll figure out a solution later and, when “later” comes, maybe they’ll have conveniently moved on to other jobs.

Pittsburgh on the Border

Meanwhile, there’s another question that won’t have to be dealt with: How much water will the wall’s construction require? The answer matters in an area where water’s scarce. Again, the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge offers a useful vantage point for considering the question.

To get to the refuge, you drive east from the town of Douglas along the Geronimo Trail, an unpaved two-lane country road that earns its name honestly.  Nineteenth-century Apache leader Geronimo surrendered to the U.S. military in the mountains on the horizon just ahead of you. Shortly before you reach the refuge, you top a low rise overlooking what the local assessor initially mistook for a new industrial park.  It was as if a section of Pittsburgh or Youngstown had suddenly sprouted from the desert, with enough mesquite and creosote bush scraped away to accommodate a concrete-batching plant, office trailers, and a massive staging area and machinery yard.

Stacks of steel bollards stand taller than houses, covering the space of a neighborhood. A grid of steel rails for laying out those bollards and welding them into pre-fab wall sections occupies another acre or two, beyond which stacks of completed sections cover yet more acres. In front of those stacks, a few scraps of wall stand vertical but disjointed, like shrines to a metal god — probably practice erections, if you’ll pardon the phrase. Scattered through the site are forklifts, graders, loaders, bulldozers, excavators, pickup trucks, flatbeds, and cranes. Generators and floodlights on wheeled rigs are parked at the margins, ready to illuminate round-the-clock shifts. Close to the batching tower, which may rival the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas as the tallest structure in Cochise County, cement trucks cluster like a litter of puppies.

And more steel keeps arriving. An approaching cloud of dust on the Geronimo Trail signals a line of incoming semis loaded with still more bollards. They pass newly posted signs that say: “Be Aware: Equipment Has the Right of Way” and “Risk Takers Are Accident Makers.”

These details, however, are prelude to the main event. If you look toward Mexico, a half-mile of wall already stands in place, undulating with the hills. Think of it as a dark, linear Steelhenge, a monolith screening the shimmering Sonoran mountains to the south. You can see where the next sections will be raised. Construction has already reached the refuge.

Where the Deer and the Antelope Better Not Play

The surface and subsurface flow of water from nearly the entire San Bernardino Valley converges at the refuge, creating an oasis in the heart of the desert. If this were the Sahara, caravansaries would have stopped by its green pools for thousands of years. As it is, Apaches, Yaquis, Tohono O’odham, and their predecessors have used its waters since time out of mind, as did the Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans who later strove to take the land from them and from each other. The ponds lie half-hidden amid jungles of reeds.

San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge is modest as refuges go — only 2,369 acres — but it was once part of the sprawling, 73,240-acre Slaughter Ranch, two-thirds of which lay in Mexico. Next to the refuge, the ranch headquarters, now a historic site, has its own big pond. From that pond or any of those on the refuge, a major-league slugger could knock a baseball out of the country.

Contractors building the wall have drilled three wells along the border and leased a fourth. Tanker trucks constantly shuttle between the wells and the concrete plant. Nobody is saying how much water wall construction will consume. The foundation for the wall will be — what? A yard wide and seven-feet deep? Ten-feet deep? Sorry, that’s privileged information, not for public consumption.

Anyway, the foundation just in this area will run for scores of miles, farther than you can see, and consume enough concrete to build a small town — and concrete requires water. Lots of it.

How much will the pumping deplete local aquifers? Nobody knows because, absent NEPA, nobody has had to figure it out. There’s been no modeling, no serious testing, no reliable calculations. Still, local ranchers would like to know the answer. They depend on wells and water tanks scattered through the desert scrub where their cattle drink.

Good luck to them. And good luck, as well, to the critters for which the refuge is supposed to provide… well, refuge.

I could print a list of the unusual fish, frogs, snails, snakes, and other living things that are found here and almost nowhere else on Earth, not to mention the rare plants, the itinerant mammals (some also rare), and the hundreds of species of birds that use this place. In the desert, reliable water is a kind of miracle that attracts and creates other miracles.

San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, you might say, is a cluster of miracles. There are too many to list. And a long list of weird names would take up a lot of space and sound pinheaded. I care a lot about those creatures, but I don’t want to sound like that.

To be honest, I’m almost afraid to learn the names of some of the refuge’s creatures because then it would only hurt all the more if they decline to extinction. The wall will certainly nudge, or maybe shove, many of them in that direction. Nevertheless, I have to mention two of them. Their names suggest a kind of taxonomic poetry, a nature music. They aren’t necessarily the rarest, but they sound the best: Yaqui topminnow. Chiricahua leopard frog. The words fall on the ears like melodies, evoking the mystery of tender life in a harsh land. As members of a species, you and I are as common as coal. In the big biological scheme of things, creatures like these are rubies and sapphires.

Forget Policy, Follow the Metaphor

It’s impossible to understand the wall, at least in the San Bernardino Valley, in terms of policy. As one rancher put it to me over coffee at the Gadsden Hotel, “This [wall] may be needed someplace, but it isn’t needed here.”

If Trump’s wall were really about policy, its advantages and disadvantages would be weighed against other strategies requiring different kinds of investment. But this is the new Wild West, where rational judgment, laws, and procedures only get in the way.

The truth of the wall lies in metaphor. If Chiricahua leopard frog conveys a kind of poetic resonance to people like me, then for millions of others chanting “Build the Wall!” is like hitting a big bass drum. Everybody understands wall! Even if the structure doesn’t actually work in physical space, it works in your mind. It stands between you and everything bad you can imagine. The core truth that unites Trump and his supporters is that he hates who we hate — and the border wall stands for keeping out those unwanted people and all they represent.

This is why the wall can’t coexist with NEPA. Impact statements don’t do imagery. If you really want to crack down on drug smuggling, for example, you’d concentrate your efforts at established ports of entry, where billions of dollars of goods and millions of people cross from one country to the other every day. The bulk of the fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and other hard drugs entering the U.S. is reportedly concealed among legitimate imports in railroad cars and trucks of every description. Or they get stashed in secret compartments in buses, vans, cars, and pickup trucks. (The U.S. mail is another major conduit.) Currently, it’s estimated that more than $4 billion in new scanners, inspection lanes, and the people to staff them are needed. Making that investment would have infinitely more impact on drug flow than using the same money to install bollards where they aren’t needed and won’t last. There are better ways to handle people, too, but let’s not get distracted from the real story.

Expenditures on wall construction in Fiscal Year 2019 ran to approximately $10 billion. Only a third of that amount was actually appropriated by Congress for border security structures. Delivering the rest of the money required masterful circumventions of constitutional intent.

Here’s one of them: each year Congress appropriates so-called 2808 funds to the Department of Defense for construction projects on military bases, including schools, clinics, roads, and other infrastructure. Such expenditures are restricted to military property and the international border with Mexico isn’t — or wasn’t — a military base. For the Trumpistas, however, not a problem.

In 1907, President Teddy Roosevelt reserved a 60-foot easement from the public domain along the southern border to keep it “free from obstruction as a protection against the smuggling of goods between the United States and Mexico.” Since then, the “Roosevelt easement” has been administered by the Bureau of Land Management, but last year the Trump administration transferred the easement to the Department of Defense, which obligingly assigned it as a real-estate asset to Fort Bliss, Texas.

Voilà! Now, the Roosevelt Easement is part of a military base and a tendril of Fort Bliss officially extends into Arizona, New Mexico, and California — but not Texas. (The Lone Star State reserved its public land for itself when it entered the union, so no Roosevelt Easement there.) Technically, border wall construction within the easement now constitutes an improvement to Fort Bliss, enhancing military preparedness, yadda, yadda, yadda. There’s more to it than that, including the president’s formal declaration of a national emergency last February, which enabled certain other steps, but you get the idea. Where there’s a will, there’s an imperial way.

As it happens, however, the Pentagon’s money for funding wall construction across the foot of the San Bernardino refuge itself comes from a different pot: “284” funds, intended for counter-narcotics work. Diverting $2.5 billion of these monies to the border wall was, to say the least, a stretch, so a coalition of humanitarian and environmental groups sued. A district court found in their favor and issued an injunction, halting the use of the funds for construction. A rapid series of appeals went to the Supreme Court and the Supremes said, Hmmm, interesting question, which will take time for the lower courts to resolve; meanwhile, the injunction is lifted. And so funding again flowed like a flash flood. If the courts ultimately decide that the transfer of funds is really not okay, the wall may already have been built. Thank you, Supremes.

Dollars and Nonsense

I forgot to mention something: in addition to suspending more than 50 laws protecting lands, wildlife, and the public interest, the government has also waived many procurement laws and also buried a lot of contract information. This means you and I will have a hard time learning what anything actually costs, even though our tax dollars are paying for it.

Example: the barrier to be built along the edge of the San Bernardino refuge, cutting off its terrestrial wildlife from the Mexican half of its world and quite possibly draining the ponds where some of the planet’s rarest creatures survive, is part of a contract for 63 miles of border wall awarded to Southwest Valley Constructors (SWVC), a subsidiary of Kiewit, a Fortune 500 company with $9 billion in annual sales.

The original May 2019 contract awarded $646 million to SWVC, putting the cost of the refuge wall at $10.25 million per mile, a veritable steal. But you would need to know someone who can log into the relevant government database to discover that the fifth modification of the original contract, signed on August 29th, added another $653 million to the kitty. Now, those 63 miles are going to cost $1.3 billion, or almost $21 million per mile.

And by the way, did I mention that construction will include a power line and floodlights on 60-foot masts to illuminate the wall all night long, every night of the year? I have friends in the San Bernardino Valley who just about weep — and they aren’t weepy people — when they think about the lights on that wall blazing away in what used to be the immense, holy darkness of their formerly unblemished land.

I can get pretty choked up about it myself, but you can be sure that smugglers won’t. Here’s where things get truly weird: believe it or not, darkness is an ally of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Its people have night vision goggles and its drones and other sensors have infrared detectors. They don’t need light. Flood the border with light and, counter-intuitively, the CBP is blinded, losing an advantage. Whose idea was this? Nobody’s saying, but it seems to have come from, ahem, the highest level. Good thing NEPA doesn’t apply.

Let’s turn up the weirdness a little bit further: out in western Arizona, close to the California line, you come to the Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR). Here, young Air Force and Marine pilots learn to strafe and bomb. Migrants have been known to cross the international border at the BMGR but, according to court filings, over the past five years migrants have gotten in the way of only 195 of 255,732 air sorties – less than 0.1%.

An already existing pedestrian barrier along much of the range’s border possibly contributes to this low level of trespass — and the bombs and bullets may help, too. But the decisive factor is undoubtedly the range’s spectacular heat and aridity and the mortally long distances a migrant would have to walk to reach any possible pick-up or rendezvous spot. Nevertheless a second wall, backing up the first, is now slated for construction at BMGR, with a road sandwiched between the two walls, down which CBP patrols will race like hamsters on a flattened wheel.

Let’s just agree, as former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford, Jr., did in a memorandum to then-acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, that double-walling the BMGR makes no sense in terms of policy. In terms of metaphor, however, double-walling a border where essentially nobody goes is perfectly logical. If the goal is to build miles of wall, costs and benefits be damned, you might as well build them where there’s nobody to get in the way. Build the wall!

And so it is indeed being built, at the cost of violating not just the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, but Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe National Monument, the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the historic town center of Roma, Texas, and other sublime and exceptional places. One might ask why so much uniqueness and rarity lies along our southern border. The short answer is that the borderlands are the meeting place of biological communities as well as cultures. As Chicano performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña puts it, “The border is the juncture, not the edge.”

But an edge is exactly what President Trump’s wall would make it. Wall construction was and remains his foremost campaign pledge: 500 miles of wall by November of 2020, or 450 miles, or whatever the number du jourhappens to be. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Washington Post, and others have tried to deflate the president’s boasts by asserting that he’s actually built no new wall and his promises are empty.

In their calculations, substituting a 30-foot-tall wall for vehicle barriers is only “replacement” and therefore doesn’t constitute “new” construction. That’s like arguing that mooring an aircraft carrier where a rowboat used to be changes nothing because there’s still just one vessel in the harbor. Such semantic jousting only camouflages the pervasive damage already being done both to people and to the land on the border — and there’s no end in sight. The congressional budget agreement hammered out in December 2019 appropriates another $1.375 billion for wall construction for fiscal year 2020, while removing obstacles to yet more transfers of Pentagon funds. And Trump is not being shy about those transfers.  He evidently plans to divert $7.2 billion more from legitimate Pentagon projects to wall building this year.

The international drug cartels should be thanking us. The wall will not curb their principal business of smuggling and the Trump administration’s new immigration policies have turned what was formerly a minor sideline — kidnapping people for ransom — into a growth industry. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers to whom the U.S. has refused entry are now huddled in cardboard slums in Mexico’s border towns, vulnerable to human predators. Their relatives in the United States — the people they were trying to reach — will beg, borrow, or steal to pay the ransoms that the increasingly busy (and brutal) kidnappers in Mexico demand.

That, however, is just collateral damage in the land of the free. Of course, we treat asylum seekers as though they were an inferior variety of human being. They talk funny. They aren’t like us. And we treat the borderlands and its creatures with the same loyalty we showed the Kurds. After all, we are America. Behind our wall, we are great again.

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William deBuys, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of nine books, including The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures and A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest.

Featured image: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during a visit to President Trump’s border wall in the El Centro Sector in Calexico, California. © Reuters / Earnie Grafton

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How Perception Management Has Wrecked Reality

January 20th, 2020 by Greg Guma

In The Secret Man, Bob Woodward’s book about his Watergate source Deep Throat, he notes, “Washington politics and secrets are an entire world of doubt.” And that was before Trump and cyberwar.

Even though Woodward knew the identity of his source — W. Mark Felt, then associate director of the FBI — what he could not be sure about was why Felt decided to gradually reveal the details of the Nixon administration’s illegal activities. Decades later, it is immeasurably more difficult to be sure about what motivates many sources of information, on and off the record, or to trust that what we hear and see via the media will turn out to be true.

In July 2005, Jeff Ruch, director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, issued a relevant but discouraging warning to the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs of the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform. “The federal government is suffering from a severe disinformation syndrome,” he said. It’s been mostly downhill from there, especially in the years since Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party turned national politics into surrealistic satire.

Weaponizing the term “fake news,” he and his accomplices have also effectively used it in a stream of misleading counter-attacks on critical press outlets. Hard as it is to believe, the targets have been mainly what used to be called mainstream media.

Fifteen years ago, Ruch’s reference to a “disinformation syndrome” referred specifically to surveys by his organization and the Union of Concerned Scientists revealing that federal scientists were routinely pressured to amend their findings. One in five scientists contacted said they were directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information, Ruch testified, and more than half reported cases where “commercial interests” forced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions.

But even then government agencies weren’t alone in confusing public understanding of crucial issues. Media outlets also contributed. One poignant example was Newsweek magazine’s Aug. 1, 2005 cover story on Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts, which aggressively dismissed reports that Roberts was a conservative partisan. Two primary examples cited were the nominee’s role on Bush’s legal team in the court fight after the 2000 election, described by Newsweek as “minimal,” and his membership in the conservative Federalist Society, which was pronounced an irrelevant distortion.

Roberts “is not the hard-line ideologue that true believers on both sides had hoped for,” the publication concluded, and “seems destined to be confirmed.” That general description has pretty much stuck.

The facts suggested a different appraisal, however. According to the Miami Herald, Roberts was a significant “legal consultant, lawsuit editor and prep coach” for Bush’s arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2000, and, as the Washington Post revealed, he was not just a Federalist Society member, but on the Washington chapter’s steering committee in the late 1990s.

More to the point, his roots in the conservative vanguard dated back to his days with the Reagan administration, when he provided legal justifications for recasting the way government and the courts approached civil rights, defended attempts to narrow the reach of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, challenged arguments in favor of busing and affirmative action, and even argued that Congress should strip the Supreme Court of its ability to hear broad classes of civil-rights cases. Nevertheless, most press reports on Roberts before his elevation — and since — echoed Newsweek’s excitement about his “intellectual rigor and honesty.”

Whether that early coverage qualifies as disinformation remains debatable. We may soon find out, as Roberts presides over the impeachment of a Republican president. However that turns out, his early press nevertheless serves as a relevant example of how journalists can assist political leaders, albeit unwittingly at times, in framing public awareness. As a practice, this is known in both government and public relations circles as “perception management.”

An evolving tactic

In 1987, the Department of Defense developed a propaganda and psychological warfare glossary that included an official definition of the term. Perception management incorporates tactics that either convey or deny information to influence “emotions, motives, and objective reasoning,” explained the DoD. For the military, the main targets are supposedly foreign audiences, and the goal is to promote “actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.”

The Reagan administration preferred a different term, “public diplomacy,” while the Bush administration called it “strategic influence,” but both referred to the same thing. In The Art of the Deal, Trump called it “truthful hyperbole,” a misleading euphemism for making things up.

Organized federal efforts to manipulate public perceptions date back at least to the 1950s, when people at more than 800 news and public information organizations carried out assignments for the CIA, according to The New York Times. By the mid-1980s, CIA Director Bill Casey had taken the practice to the next level: a systematic, covert “public diplomacy” apparatus designed to sell a “new product” — counter-insurgency in Central America — while reinforcing fear of communism, Nicaragua’s Sandinistas, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, and other designated enemies. Sometimes this involved “white propaganda,” stories and editorials secretly financed by the government, much like the videos and commentators later funded by the Bush administration. But other operations went “black;” that is, they pushed obviously false story lines.

During the first Bush administration, domestic disinformation was handled through the CIA’s Public Affairs Office. This operation was charged with turning intelligence failures into successes by persuading reporters to postpone, change, hold, or even scrap stories that could adversely affect purported national security interests. The Clinton administration’s version, outlined in Directive 68, was known as the International Public Information System (IPI). Again, no distinction was made between what could be done abroad and at home. To defeat enemies and influence minds, information for U.S. audiences was “deconflicted” through the IPI’s work.

One strategy was to insert psyops (psychological operations) specialists into newsrooms. In February 2000, a Dutch journalist revealed that CNN and the U.S. Army had agreed to do precisely that. The military was proud enough of this “expanded cooperation” with mainstream media to publicly acknowledge the effort.

As the Iraq War began, word leaked out that a new Pentagon Office of Strategic Influence was gearing up to sway leaders and public sentiment by disseminating sometimes-false stories. Facing censure, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly denounced and supposedly disbanded it. But a few months later, he quietly funded a private consultant to develop another version. The apparent goal was to go beyond traditional information warfare with a new perception management campaign designed to “win the war of ideas.”

How does perception management work? One important tactic is to influence opinion by presenting theories as if they are facts. For example, “Bad as things are in Iraq,” began an Associated Press story in April 2004, “a quick U.S. departure would make them worse; encourage terrorists, set the stage for civil war, send oil prices spiraling, and ruin U.S. credibility throughout the Middle East.” Only two sources, both obscure Middle East scholars, were directly quoted in the story, plus unnamed “regional experts.”

Another approach is to “massage” the information, thus promoting the preferred spin. For example, stories that asserted the Iraq insurgency was losing momentum stressed the number of incidents during a specific period, but ignored data such as the number of wounded, civilian contractor deaths, and Iraqi military casualties.

Sometimes, though, the only approach that works is to fabricate the news.

Selling a war

The jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller for refusing to reveal how she learned the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, who was outed by columnist Robert Novak with White House assistance, sparked widespread condemnation from the press. Many journalists expressed deep concerns that their future ability to gain the trust of confidential sources would be undermined. Miller was, after all, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and the author of best-selling books; in short, an eminently reputable journalist who didn’t deserve punishment for protecting sources.

However, Miller’s real importance in the world of unnamed sources leads in a different direction. It illustrates how perception management techniques were applied during the Iraq War — something to keep in mind as Iran becomes a convenient election-year target. On April 21, 2003, the front page of the Times carried a story by Miller titled, “Aftereffects: Prohibited Weapons; Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, An Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert.” In the lead paragraph, Miller claimed that she had discovered the proof of weapons of mass destruction, a central Bush Administration argument for the war.

Based upon what members of Mobile Exploitation Team (MET) Alpha related to Miller, she reported that a mysterious, unnamed scientist had led them to a site where he had buried evidence of an illicit weapons program. Her story included the scientist’s charges that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had transferred illegal weapons to Syria, and was cooperating with al-Qaeda. The revelation supported White House accusations that Iraq was developing such weapons, and had lied about it to the United Nations.

The catch was that Miller’s story came entirely from secondary sources and had no independent confirmation. She never met the scientist and her copy was submitted to military officials before it was released. Yet, when Miller appeared on PBS’ NewsHour the same day, she said, “Well, I think they found something more than a smoking gun,” and turned her one unnamed scientist into several. Other news outlets quickly jumped on her article and statements to argue that the war was justified after all. By the next day, headlines across the country proclaimed “Illegal Material Spotted.”

As it turned out, the evidence wasn’t there, and a day later Miller was reporting that there had been a “paradigm shift.” Now she said MET Alpha was looking for “building blocks” and “precursors” to those weapons, another effort that ultimately proved fruitless. Next, her unnamed source informed her that the focus had changed to a search for scientists who could prove there had once been a WMD program.

This was only one of many stories produced by Miller that backed up administration arguments, only to be proven wrong or obsolete later. In many cases, she subsequently “clarified” or backed away from an initial characterization. But just as important as the content, disseminated widely through her appearances on programs like Oprah and Larry King Live, were her associations and actual sources of information.

By her own admission, the majority of stories she wrote about weapons of mass destruction came from Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled leader of the U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress who hoped to replace Saddam Hussein. “I’ve been covering Chalabi for about 10 years,” Miller told Baghdad Bureau Chief John Burns, another New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner who became angry with her over an article on Chalabi. “He has provided most of the front page exclusives on WMD to our paper.” Furthermore, MET Alpha used “Chalabi’s intel and document network for its own WMD work,” she admitted.

Equally relevant was Miller’s association with the Middle East Forum, which promoted her as a speaker on “militant Islam” and “biological warfare.” Founded by Daniel Pipes, the forum was in the forefront of the push for an invasion of Iraq before the war. Pipes in turn maintained close relationships with Douglas Feith, an undersecretary at the Department of Defense, and leading neoconservative Richard Perle.

In Bob Woodward’s book on the Iraq War, Plan of Attack, Secretary of State Colin Powell described Feith as running a “Gestapo office” determined to find a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. In A Pretext for War, a book on the abuse of U.S. intelligence agencies before and after 9/11, James Bamford described how Feith and Perle developed a blueprint for the Iraq operation while working for pro-Israeli think tanks. Their plan, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” centered on taking out Saddam and replacing him with a friendly leader. “Whoever inherits Iraq,” they wrote, “dominates the entire Levant strategically.” The subsequent steps they recommended included invading Syria and Lebanon.

After joining the Bush administration, Feith created the Office of Strategic Influence. Senior officials have called it a disinformation factory. He later launched the Office of Special Plans (OSP). Officially, its job was to conduct pre-war planning. But its actual target was the media, policymakers, and public opinion. According to London’s Guardian newspaper, the OSP provided key people in the administration with “alarmist reports on Saddam’s Iraq.” To do that, it circulated cooked intelligence from its own unit and a similar Israeli group. There was also a close relationship with Vice President Cheney’s office.

According to Bamford, OSP’s intelligence unit cherry-picked the most damning items from the streams of U.S. and Israeli reports and briefed senior administration officials. “These officials would then use the OSP’s false and exaggerated intelligence as ammunition when attempting to hard-sell the need for war to their reluctant colleagues, such as Colin Powell, and even to allies like British Prime Minister Tony Blair,” he reports. Senior White House officials received the same briefings.

The final step was to get Powell to make the case to the UN. This was handled by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a secret office established to sell the war. WHIG provided Powell with a “script” for his speech, using information developed by Feith’s group. Much of it was unsourced material fed to reporters like Miller by the OSP. Such techniques continued to prove useful after the invasion.

Shaping the environment

Like other forms of perception management, the manipulation and misuse of reporters isn’t new. In the 1960s, the FBI used large dailies like the San Francisco Chronicle to place unfavorable stories and leak false information. In Chicago, such “friendly media” assisted with smears of black nationalist groups on the radio and in print. Sometimes reporters were unwittingly exploited, but often they knew what they were doing: writing dubious stories that made FBI speculation and falsehoods sound true. When challenged, they too vigorously protected their sources.

Vermont’s media saw perception management at work in 1978, when a young woman named Kristina Berster was caught crossing the border illegally from Canada into Vermont. The FBI knew only that she was a West German citizen and was wanted for something called “criminal association,” a crime that didn’t exist in the United States. But FBI Director William Webster realized that her arrest could help buttress his claims that urban terrorism was increasing. He was in the process of lobbying for more agents and expanded authority to investigate those who were “reasonably believed” to be involved in “potential” terrorist activities.

Within a few days, Webster had organized a press conference to announce that a foreign terrorist had been caught in a conspiracy with U.S. citizens. FBI agents quickly contacted their favorite reporters as off-the-record sources, and U.S. newspapers, including those in Vermont, spread the news in bold headlines: “Terrorist held after attempt to enter U.S.”

Initially, journalists presented the government’s version without asking many questions. After all, why else the high bail, 24-hour guard for the judge, metal detectors, and armed officers on the courthouse roof? As the trial proceeded in U.S. District Court in Burlington, new information about potential “threats” was distributed to the press, reinforcing the idea that foreign terrorism loomed over the Green Mountains.

However, once local reporters had time to observe the defendant, a small, fair-haired woman with a mild demeanor and open smile, the huge security team began to look like overkill. And as the media coverage shifted, the general public also gave the case a second look and the story gradually unraveled.

The verdict, delivered on Oct. 27, 1978 after more than five days of deliberations, was a felony and misdemeanor conviction for lying to a customs official, but acquittal on the crucial conspiracy charge. The government had lost its main case. Afterward, several jurors said that they found Berster’s situation compelling and expressed hope that the guilty verdict on minor charges wouldn’t prevent her from winning asylum.

But beyond this small New England state, the smear campaign rolled on. In New York City, a banner headline in the New York Post the day after Berster’s conviction trumpeted, “No Asylum for Terrorist.”

This story has a happy ending at least: When Berster returned home to Germany, the old charges against her were dropped. Still, it demonstrates how perception management works. Manipulating the press and exploiting fear are powerful tools, too often used to justify bigger budgets or intrusive security measures.

Today, controlling public opinion involves more than what was once simply labeled propaganda. Over the years, both business interests and governments have developed a creative toolbox of tactics to promote the stories they want to see and prevent others from being aired or published. In some cases, this involves what has become known as spin, or “white propaganda,” arguments that tend to move opinion in a specific direction.

For journalists, the pitfalls include institutional constraints, commercial imperatives, relationships with sources that have hidden agendas, the temptation to focus on easy targets, and a tendency toward self-censorship. There is also an increasing likelihood, exacerbated by the Internet and social media, that rumors or speculation will be confused with reality.

In other words, perception management is about more than censoring or pushing an individual story. Rather, it involves the creation of an environment that promotes false narratives, the uncritical acceptance of questionable assumptions, and media willing to exploit them.

As Noam Chomsky put it, “The point is not that the journalists or commentators are dishonest; rather, unless they happen to conform to the institutional requirements, they will find no place in the corporate media.” The fact that the interests of owners shape what is defined as news is one of the main structural “filters” underlying newsgathering, he notes.

When confronted with such a critique, many journalists reject it as “conspiracy” thinking. Translation: it’s paranoid, extreme, and therefore irrelevant. Especially now, when most reporters and unnamed sources are assumed to be part of the Trump “resistance.” Unlike any other employees, most journalists insist that they are free of direct supervisory control, outside influences, or serious bias, and thus free to pursue any story, wherever it leads.

But as anyone who has worked in a real news organization knows, every story involves a series of decisions and judgments about what is important, relevant, permissible and appropriate. And almost every source, from a disgruntled bureaucrat to Deep Throat, brings an agenda of his or her own. It may all add up to news, but that doesn’t make it true.

At the time he was developing this analysis, Greg Guma was co-editor of Vermont Guardian, a statewide weekly. An earlier version appeared in the August 12, 2005 issue. The ideas were more fully explored in Censored 2008 as Chapter 14, Perception Management: Media & Mass Consciousness in an Age of Misinformation.

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Greg Guma writes on his blog, For Preservation & Change, where this article was originally published. 

All images in this article are from the author

Trump’s Legal Team Responds to Dems Impeachment Scam

January 20th, 2020 by Stephen Lendman

There’s overwhelming just cause to impeach and remove Trump from office for legitimate high crimes.  

The same is true for most of his predecessors, along with most current and former congressional members.

The Constitution’s Article II, Section 4 states “(t)he President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Evidence supporting the removal of Trump from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, rising to the level of impeachable offenses as constitutionally defined, is lacking — charges against him by undemocratic Dems politicized.

Unrelated to removing him from office by Senate trial, they’re all about wanting him delegitimized and weakened ahead of November 2020 elections.

Ahead of proceedings to begin on Tuesday, Trump’s legal team formally slammed what’s going on as a “brazen and unlawful attempt” to overturn results of the 2016 presidential election. More on this below.

How would Abraham Lincoln fare today. He illegally suspended the Constitution and habeas rights, forcefully closed courts, arbitrarily ordered arrests, conscripted US citizens without congressional consent, closed newspapers opposing his policies, and ordered generals to commit war crimes.

Under his command, General William Sherman’s march to the sea involved rape, pillaging and mass murder.

His Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave. He wanted them deported at war’s end to maintain America as a white supremacist society.

Glorifying him as one of the nation’s greatest presidents ignores his dark side.

History taught Americans in secondary school, college, graduate school and in doctoral studies conceals the US dark side.

Slave owners Washington, Jefferson, and other US presidents diminished their moral and ethical standing, clearly not believing that all Americans are created equal.

Despite his lofty rhetoric and intellectual pursuits, Jefferson knew slavery was wrong, but owned them anyway, never freeing them like Washington.

He had a slave as mistress and lied about it. He or Washington could have set an example by freeing the nation’s slaves, neither figure having the courage to do the right thing.

Samuel Johnson asked: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?”

According to historian Stephen Ambrose, “(o)f all the contradictions in Jefferson’s contradictory life, none is greater,” adding:

“Of all the contradictions in America’s history, none surpasses its toleration first of slavery and then of segregation.”

Ambrose omitted endless US wars throughout most of the nation’s history — from exterminating Native Americans to ongoing war on humanity.

Washington reviled the nation’s native people, calling them “wolves” and “beasts of prey.”

He dispatched General John Sullivan to attack noncombatant Onondaga people in 1779, ordering him to destroy their villages, homes, fields, food supplies, cattle herds and orchards, wanting as many as possible killed. He stole Indian land.

Dem Woodrow Wilson’s tenure was defined by US involvement in WW I — after pledging to keep America out of Europe’s war.

It was also disgraced by signing the 1913 Federal Reserve Act into law, giving Wall Street control of the nation’s money, the supreme power above all others.

Policies under Franklin Roosevelt pressured imperial Japan to attack the US, giving FDR the war he wanted.

US history isn’t pretty, Trump the latest in a long line of presidents whose policies supported wealth, power and privilege exclusively over peace, equity and justice, notions considered un-American — based on policies pursued by its ruling class throughout US history.

The Clinton co-presidency was anti-New Deal, anti-Great Society, pro-war, pro-business, anti-populist, anti-labor, anti-public welfare.

Bush/Cheney waged US war OF terror, not on it in Afghanistan, Iraq, and against Muslims in America, numerous police state laws enacted on their watch.

Obama bragged about terror-bombing seven countries in eight years.

He institutionalized indefinite detention, authorizing the military to indefinitely detain anyone anywhere without charge, including US citizens, based on suspicions or spurious allegations.

His disposition matrix kill list ordered the elimination of alleged enemies of the state.

Trump exceeded the worst of his predecessors’ domestic and geopolitical policies — filling the swamp he pledged to drain with neocon hardliners, militarists, and super-wealthy individuals like himself.

He broke virtually everyone positive promise made, operating in bad faith, never to be trusted, while waging war on humanity at home and abroad.

Yet none of his legitimate wrongdoing is included in impeachment charges against him.

On Saturday, his legal team led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and personal attorney Jay Sekulow submitted a six-page response to impeachment charges against him — ahead of Senate trial proceedings to begin this week.

Rejecting charges by Dems, it said “articles of impeachment (they) submitted are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president,” adding:

“This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election — now just months away.”

“Nothing in these Articles could permit even beginning to consider removing a duly elected President or warrant nullifying an election and subverting the will of the American people. They must be rejected.”

Rejection is virtually certain in the GOP-controlled Senate, trial proceedings likely to conclude in two or three weeks.

No president in US history was removed from office by impeachment, Trump highly unlikely to be the first.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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The Roots of American Demonization of Shi’a Islam

January 20th, 2020 by Pepe Escobar

The US targeted assassination, via drone strike, of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, apart from a torrent of crucial geopolitical ramifications, once again propels to center stage a quite inconvenient truth: the congenital incapacity of so-called US elites to even attempt to understand Shi’ism – thus 24/7 demonization, demeaning not only Shi’as by also Shi’a-led governments.

Washington had been deploying a Long War even before the concept was popularized by the Pentagon in 2001, immediately after 9/11: it’s a Long War against Iran. It started via the coup against the democratically elected government of Mosaddegh in 1953, replaced by the Shah’s dictatorship. The whole process was turbo-charged over 40 years ago when the Islamic Revolution smashed those good old Cold War days when the Shah reigned as the privileged American “gendarme of the (Persian) Gulf”.

Yet this extends far beyond geopolitics. There is absolutely no way whatsoever for anyone to be capable of grasping the complexities and popular appeal of Shi’ism without some serious academic research, complemented with visits to selected sacred sites across Southwest Asia: Najaf, Karbala, Mashhad, Qom and the Sayyida Zeinab shrine near Damascus. Personally, I have traveled this road of knowledge since the late 1990s – and I still remain just a humble student.

In the spirit of a first approach – to start an informed East-West debate on a crucial cultural issue totally sidelined in the West or drowned by tsunamis of propaganda, I initially asked three outstanding scholars for their first impressions.

They are: Prof. Mohammad Marandi, of the University of Tehran, expert on Orientalism; Arash Najaf-Zadeh, who writes under the nom de guerre Blake Archer Williams and who is an expert on Shi’a theology; and the extraordinary Princess Vittoria Alliata from Sicily, top Italian Islamologist and author, among others, of books such as the mesmerizing Harem – which details her travels across Arab lands.

Two weeks ago, I was a guest of Princess Vittoria at Villa Valguarnera in Sicily. We were immersed in a long, engrossing geopolitical discussion – of which one of the key themes was US-Iran – only a few hours before a drone strike at Baghdad airport killed the two foremost Shi’a fighters in the real war on terror against ISIS/Daesh and al-Qaeda/al-Nusra: Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi second-in-command Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Martyrdom vs. cultural relativism

Prof. Marandi offers a synthetic explanation: “The American irrational hatred of Shi’ism stems from its strong sense of resisting injustice – the story of Karbala and Imam Hussein and the Shi’a stress on protecting the oppressed, defending the oppressed and standing up against the oppressor. That is something that the United States and the hegemonic Western powers simply cannot tolerate.”

Blake Archer Williams sent me a reply that has now been published as a stand-alonepiece. This passage, extending on the power of the sacred, clearly underlines the abyss separating the Shi’a notion of martyrdom from Western cultural relativism:

“There is nothing more glorious for a Moslem than attaining to martyrdom while fighting in the Way of God. General Qāsem Soleymānī fought for many years for the objective of waking the Iraqi people up to the point where they would want to take the helm of the destiny of their own country in their own hands. The vote of the Iraqi parliament showed that his objective has been achieved. His body was taken away from us, but his spirit was amplified a thousand fold, and his martyrdom has ensured that shards of its blessed light will be embedded in the hearts and minds of every Moslem man, woman, and child, inoculating them all from the zombie-cancer of the Satanic Novus Ordo Seclorum cultural relativists.”

[a point of contention: Novus Ordo Seclorum, or Saeculorum, means “new order of the ages”, and derives from a famous poem by Virgil which, in the Middle Ages, was regarded by Christians as a prophecy of the coming of Christ. To this point, Williams responded that “while that etymological sense of the phrase is true and still stands, the phrase was hijacked by one George Bush The Younger as representative of the New Worldly Order globalist cabal, and it is in this sense that is currently predominant.”]

Enslaved by Wahhabism

Princess Vittoria would rather frame the debate around the unquestioning American attitude towards Wahhabism:

“I do not think all this has anything to do with hating Shi’ism or ignoring it. After all the Aga Khan is super embedded in US security, a sort of Dalai Lama of the Islamic world. I believe the satanic influence is from Wahhabism, and the Saudi family, who are much more heretic than the Shi’a to all Sunnis of the world, but have been the only contact to Islam for the US rulers. The Saudis have paid for most of the murders and wars by the Islamic Brothers first, then by the other forms of Salafism, all of them invented on a Wahhabi base.”

So, for Princess Vittoria,

“I would not try so much to explain Shi’ism, but to explain Wahhabism and its devastating consequences: it has given birth to all extremisms as well as to revisionism, atheism, destruction of shrines and Sufi leaders all over the Islamic world. And of course Wahhabism is so close to Zionism. There are even researchers who have come up with documents which seem to prove that the House of Saud is a Dunmeh tribe of converted Jews expelled from Medina by the Prophet after they tried to murder him despite having signed a peace treaty.”

Princess Vittoria also emphasizes the fact that

“ the Iranian revolution and Shi’a groups in the Middle East are today the only successful force of resistance to the US, and that causes them to be hated more than others. But only after all other Sunni opponents had been disposed of, killed, terrified (just think of Algeria, but there are dozens of other examples) or corrupted. This is of course not only my position, but that of most Islamologists today.”

The profane against the sacred

Knowing of Williams’ immense knowledge of Shi’a theology, and his expertise in Western philosophy, I prodded him to, literally, “go for the jugular”. And he delivered:

“The question as to why American politicians are incapable of understanding Shi’a Islam (or Islam in general for that matter) is a simple one: unrestrained neoliberal capitalism engenders oligarchy, and the oligarchs “select” candidates that represent their interests before they are “elected” by the ignorant masses. Populist exceptions such as Trump occasionally slip through (or don’t, as in the case of Ross Perot, who pulled out under duress), but even Trump is then controlled by the oligarchs through threats of impeachment, etc. So the role of the politician in democracies seems not to be to try to understand anything but simply carry out the agenda of the elites who own them.”

Williams’ “go for the jugular” response is a long, complex essay that I’d like to publish in full only when our debate gets deeper – along with possible refutations. To summarize it, he outlines and discusses the two main tendencies in Western philosophy: dogmatists vs. skeptics; details how “the holy trinity of the ancient world were in fact the second wave of the dogmatists, trying to save the Greek city states and the Greek world more generally from the decadence of the Sophists”; delves into the “the third wave of skepticism”, which started with the Renaissance and peaked in the 17th century with Montaigne and Descartes; and then draws connections “to Shi’a Islam and the failure of the West to understand it.”

And that leads him to “the heart of the matter”:

“A third option, and a third intellectual stream over and above the dogmatists and the skeptics, and that is the tradition of the traditional (as opposed to the philosophical) Shī’a scholars of religion.”

Now compare it with the last push of the skeptics,

“as Descartes himself admits, by the ‘daemon’ which came to him in his dreams and which resulted in his writing his Discourse on the Method (1637) and Meditations on First Philosophy (1641). The West is still reeling from the blow, and it would seem has decided to put away its stilts of reason and the senses (which Kant tried in vain to reconcile, making things a thousand times worse and more convoluted and discombobulated), and just wallow in the self-congratulatory form of irrationalism known as post-modernism, which should rightly be called ultra-modernism or hyper-modernism as it is no less rooted in the Cartesian ‘Subjective Turn’ and the Kantian ‘Copernican Revolution’ than are the early moderns and the moderns proper.”

To summarize a quite complex juxtaposition,

“what all this means is that the two civilizations have two utterly different views of what the world order should be. Iran believes that the order of the world should be what it has always been and actually is in reality, whether we like it or not, or whether we even believe in reality or not (as some in the West are wont not to do). And the secularized West believes in a new worldly (as opposed to other-worldly or divine) order. And so it is not so much a clash of civilizations as it is a clash of the profane against the sacred, with profane elements in both civilizations arrayed against the sacred forces in both civilizations. It is the clash of the sacred order of justice versus the profane order of the exploitation of man at the hands of his fellow man; of the profaning of God’s justice for the (short-term or this-worldly) benefit of the rebels against God’s justice.”

Dorian Gray revisited

Williams does provide a concrete example to illustrate these abstract concepts:

“The problem is that while everyone knows that the 19th and 20th century exploitation of the third world by Western powers was unjust and immoral, this same exploitation continues today. The continuation of this outrageous injustice is the ultimate basis for the differences that exist between Iran and the United States, which will ineluctably continue as long as the US insists on its exploitative practices and as long as it continues to protect its protectorate governments, who only survive against the overwhelming will of the people they rule because of the bullying presence of the US forces that are propping them up in order for them to continue to serve their interests rather than the interests of their peoples. It is a spiritual war for the establishment of justice and autonomy in the third world. The West can continue to look good in its own eyes because it controls the reality studio (of world discourse), but its real image is plain for all to see, even though the West continues to see itself as Dorian Gray did in Oscar Wilde’s only novel, as a young and handsome person whose sins were only reflected in his portrait. Thus the portrait reflects the reality which the third world sees every day, whereas the Western Dorian Gray sees himself as he is portrayed by the CNN’s and the BBC’s and the New York Times’s of the world.”

“Western imperialism in Western Asia is usually symbolized by Napoleon Bonaparte’s war against the Ottomans in Egypt and Syria (1798–1801). Ever since the beginning of the 19th century, the West has been sucking on the jugular vein of the Moslem body politic like a veritable vampire whose thirst for Moslem blood is never sated and who refused to let go. Since 1979, Iran, which has always played the role of the intellectual leader of the Islamic world, has risen up to put a stop to this outrage against God’s law and will, and against all decency. So it is a process of revisioning a false and distorted vision of reality back to what reality actually is and should be: a just order. But this revisioning is hampered both by the fact that the vampires control the reality studio, and the ineptitude of Moslem intellectuals and their failure to understand even the rudiments of the history of Western thought, be this in its ancient, medieval, or modern period.”

Is there a chance to smash the reality studio? Possibly:

“What needs to happen is for world consciousness to shift from the paradigm wherein people believe a maniac like Pompeo and a buffoon like Trump represent the paragon of normality, to a paradigm where people believe that Pompeo and Trump are just a couple of gangsters who go about doing whatever they please, no matter how disgusting and depraved, with almost complete and utter impunity. And that is a process of revisioning, and a process of awakening to a new and higher state of political consciousness. It is a process of rejecting the discourse of the dominant paradigm and of joining the Axis of Resistance, whose military leader was the martyr General Qāsem Soleymānī. Not least, it involves a rejection of the absurdity of the relativity of truth (and the relativity of time and space, for that matter; sorry, Einstein); and the abandonment of the absurd and nihilistic philosophy of humanism, and the awakening to the reality that there is a Creator, and that He is actually in charge. But of course, all this is too much for the oh-so-enlightened modern mentality, who knows better.”

There you go. And this is just the beginning. Input and refutations welcomed. Calling all informed souls: the debate is on.

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This article was originally published on The Unz Review.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research. 

Featured image is from The Unz Review

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Ike Was Right

January 20th, 2020 by Eric Margolis

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.” — General Dwight D Eisenhower, Farewell address 1961

Congress just passed a near trillion dollar military budget at a time when the United States faces no evident state threats at home or abroad. Ike was right.

Illustrating Ike’s prescient warning, Brown University’s respected Watson Institute just released a major study which found that the so-called ‘wars on terror’ in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan have cost US taxpayers $6.4 trillion since they began in 2001.

The extensive study found that over 800,000 people have died as a result of these military operations, a third of them civilians. An additional 21 million civilians have been displaced by US military operations. According to the Pentagon, these US wars have so far cost each American taxpayer $7,623 – and that’s a very conservative estimate.

Most of this money has been quietly added to the US national debt of over $23 trillion. Wars on credit hide the true cost and pain from the public.

As General Eisenhower warned, military spending has engulfed the nation. A trillion annual military budget represents just about half the world’s military expenditures. The Pentagon, which I’ve visited numerous times, is bustling with activity as if the nation was on a permanent war footing.

The combined US intelligence budget of some $80 billion is larger than Russia’s total military budget of $63 billion. US troops, warplanes and naval vessels are stationed around the globe, including, most lately, across Africa. And yet every day the media trumpets new ‘threats’ to the US. Trump is sending more troops to the Mideast while claiming he wants to reduce America’s powerful military footprint there. Our military is always in search of new missions. These operations generate promotions and pay raises, new equipment and a reason for being.

Back in the day, the Republican Party of General Eisenhower was a centrist conservative’s party with a broad world view, dedicated to lower taxes and somewhat smaller government. It was led by the Rockefellers and educated Easterners with a broad world view and respect for tradition.

Today’s Republican Party is a collection of rural interests from flyover country, handmaidens of the military industrial complex and, most important, militant evangelical Christians who see the world through the spectrum of the Old Testament. Israel’s far right has come to dominate American evangelists by selling them a bill of goods about the End of Days and the Messiah’s return. Many of these rubes see Trump as a quasi-religious figure.

Mix the religious cultists – about 25% of the US population – with the farm and Israel lobbies and the mighty military industrial complex and no wonder the United States has veered off into the deep waters of irrationality and crusading ardor. The US can still afford such bizarre behavior thanks to its riches, magic green dollar, endless supply of credit and a poorly educated, apathetic public too besotted by sports and TV sitcoms to understand what’s going on abroad.

All the war party needs is a steady supply of foreign villains (preferably Muslims) who can be occasionally bombed back to the early Islamic age. Americans have largely forgotten George W. Bush’s lurid claims that Iraqi drones of death were poised to shower poisons on the sleeping nation. Even the Soviets never ventured so deep into the sea of absurdity.

The military industrial complex does not care to endanger its gold-plated F-35 stealth aircraft and $13 billion apiece aircraft carriers in a real war against real powers. Instead, the war party likes little wars against weak opponents who can barely shoot back. State-run TV networks thrill to such minor scraps with fancy headlines and martial music. Think of the glorious little wars against Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya. Iran looks next.

The more I listen to his words, the more I like Ike.

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The Truth About the Trump Economy

January 20th, 2020 by Joseph E. Stiglitz

It is becoming conventional wisdom that US President Donald Trump will be tough to beat in November, because, whatever reservations about him voters may have, he has been good for the American economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As the world’s business elites trek to Davos for their annual gathering, people should be asking a simple question: Have they overcome their infatuation with US President Donald Trump?

Two years ago, a few rare corporate leaders were concerned about climate change, or upset at Trump’s misogyny and bigotry. Most, however, were celebrating the president’s tax cuts for billionaires and corporations and looking forward to his efforts to deregulate the economy. That would allow businesses to pollute the air more, get more Americans hooked on opioids, entice more children to eat their diabetes-inducing foods, and engage in the sort of financial shenanigans that brought on the 2008 crisis.

Today, many corporate bosses are still talking about the continued GDP growth and record stock prices. But neither GDP nor the Dow is a good measure of economic performance. Neither tells us what’s happening to ordinary citizens’ living standards or anything about sustainability. In fact, US economic performance over the past four years is Exhibit A in the indictment against relying on these indicators.

To get a good reading on a country’s economic health, start by looking at the health of its citizens. If they are happy and prosperous, they will be healthy and live longer. Among developed countries, America sits at the bottom in this regard. US life expectancy, already relatively low, fell in each of the first two years of Trump’s presidency, and in 2017, midlife mortality reached its highest rate since World War II. This is not a surprise, because no president has worked harder to make sure that more Americans lack health insurance. Millions have lost their coverage, and the uninsured rate has risen, in just two years, from 10.9% to 13.7%.

One reason for declining life expectancy in America is what Anne Case and Nobel laureate economist Angus Deaton call deaths of despair, caused by alcohol, drug overdoses, and suicide. In 2017 (the most recent year for which good data are available), such deaths stood at almost four times their 1999 level.

The only time I have seen anything like these declines in health – outside of war or epidemics – was when I was chief economist of the World Bank and found out that mortality and morbidity data confirmed what our economic indicators suggested about the dismal state of the post-Soviet Russian economy.

Trump may be a good president for the top 1% – and especially for the top 0.1% – but he has not been good for everyone else. If fully implemented, the 2017 tax cut will result in tax increases for most households in the second, third, and fourth income quintiles.

Given tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the ultrarich and corporations, it should come as no surprise that there was no significant change in the median US household’s disposable income between 2017 and 2018 (again, the most recent year with good data). The lion’s share of the increase in GDP is also going to those at the top. Real median weekly earnings are just 2.6% above their level when Trump took office. And these increases have not offset long periods of wage stagnation. For example, the median wage of a full-time male worker (and those with full-time jobs are the lucky ones) is still more than 3% below what it was 40 years ago. Nor has there been much progress on reducing racial disparities: in the third quarter of 2019, median weekly earnings for black men working full-time were less than three-quarters the level for white men.

Making matters worse, the growth that has occurred is not environmentally sustainable – and even less so thanks to the Trump administration’s gutting of regulations that have passed stringent cost-benefit analyses. The air will be less breathable, the water less drinkable, and the planet more subject to climate change. In fact, losses related to climate change have already reached new highs in the US, which has suffered more property damage than any other country – reaching some 1.5% of GDP in 2017. 

The tax cuts were supposed to spur a new wave of investment. Instead, they triggered an all-time record binge of share buybacks – some $800 billion in 2018 – by some of America’s most profitable companies, and led to record peacetime deficits (almost $1 trillion in fiscal 2019) in a country supposedly near full employment. And even with weak investment, the US had to borrow massively abroad: the most recent data show foreign borrowing at nearly $500 billion a year, with an increase of more than 10% in America’s net indebtedness position in one year alone.

Likewise, Trump’s trade wars, for all their sound and fury, have not reduced the US trade deficit, which was one-quarter higher in 2018 than it was in 2016. The 2018 goods deficit was the largest on record. Even the deficit in trade with China was up almost a quarter from 2016. The US did get a new North American trade agreement, without the investment agreement provisions that the Business Roundtable wanted, without the provisions raising drug prices that the pharmaceutical companies wanted, and with better labor and environmental provisions. Trump, a self-proclaimed master deal maker, lost on almost every front in his negotiations with congressional Democrats, resulting in a slightly improved trade arrangement.

And despite Trump’s vaunted promises to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, the increase in manufacturing employment is still lower than it was under his predecessor, Barack Obama, once the post-2008 recovery set in, and is still markedly below its pre-crisis level. Even the unemployment rate, at a 50-year low, masks economic fragility. The employment rate for working-age males and females, while rising, has increased less than during the Obama recovery, and is still significantly below that of other developed countries. The pace of job creation is also markedly slower than it was under Obama.

Again, the low employment rate is not a surprise, not least because unhealthy people can’t work. Moreover, those on disability benefits, in prison – the US incarceration rate has increased more than sixfold since 1970, with some two million people currently behind bars – or so discouraged that they are not actively seeking jobs are not counted as “unemployed.” But, of course, they are not employed. Nor is it a surprise that a country that doesn’t provide affordable childcare or guarantee family leave would have lower female employment – adjusted for population, more than ten percentage points lower – than other developed countries.

Even judging by GDP, the Trump economy falls short. Last quarter’s growth was just 2.1%, far less than the 4%, 5%, or even 6% Trump promised to deliver, and even less than the 2.4% average of Obama’s second term. That is a remarkably poor performance considering the stimulus provided by the $1 trillion deficit and ultra-low interest rates. This is not an accident, or just a matter of bad luck: Trump’s brand is uncertainty, volatility, and prevarication, whereas trust, stability, and confidence are essential for growth. So is equality, according to the International Monetary Fund.

So, Trump deserves failing grades not just on essential tasks like upholding democracy and preserving our planet. He should not get a pass on the economy, either.

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Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University and Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute. His most recent book is People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent.

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Pompeo Claims to Know Nothing, but Can We Believe Him?

January 20th, 2020 by Steven Sahiounie

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated in a Friday radio interview that he had not been previously aware that former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had been under surveillance in Ukraine. “Until this story broke, the best of my recollection, I’d never heard of this at all,” said Pompeo. During the interview, Pompeo failed to defend Yovanovitch or to express concern about the alleged stalking of a US diplomat. 

Lev Parnas, a US citizen of Ukrainian birth, worked closely with Giuliani in searching for political dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine. Messages Parnas provided to the House Intelligence Committee make for sensational reading between the lines. Some texts are between Parnas and Robert F. Hyde, a Connecticut landscape contractor running for Congress, which details the stalking of Yovanovitch.  Other texts were between Parnas and Giuliani, and several include Jay Sekulow, President Trump’s personal White House lawyer.

Hyde claims the texts were innocent banter, and without substance, while Parnas claims he didn’t take it seriously. The FBI visited the Connecticut home and office of Hyde on Thursday after the messages were made public. Hyde is also involved in stalking case against him, in which he violated the restraining order against him filed last summer by a woman who works in DC, and fears for her safety.  Hyde had posted disparaging remarks about Yovanovitch on his Twitter account, and the text messages to Parnas were suspicious. The FBI may find the truth, and Hyde and Parnas might be cleared of any allegations of stalking; however, regardless of whether those 2 were involved, the US State Department and senior Ukrainian officials were aware that Yovanovitch’s personal safety was endangered, and they informed her in the past.

According to State Department records, Pompeo and Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, spoke at least twice in late March, at which time Giuliani reported to Pompeo the details of his Ukraine research into digging up dirt on former VP Joe Biden, now running for President in 2020. This was precisely the time that Pompeo was being urged to get rid of Yovanovitch, at the behest of Trump and Giuliani.  The next month Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine.

Carol Z. Perez is a career diplomat and was appointed by Trump to be Director-General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (HR) at the Department of State on January 30, 2019. Her job description used to be referred to in business circles as the ‘personnel department manager’.  Employees would have likely thought of that position as the ‘hire-fire’ person, who would be tasked with filling work schedules, vacations, work-related complaints, and more.  Getting a phone call from the head of HR usually means your shift is changing or you’re getting laid off, or perhaps even fired. Perez manages a workforce of 25,000 domestic and overseas American employees and nearly 14,000 Foreign Service employees.

Yovanovich was asleep in her home in Kyiv on April 25 when the phone rang about 1 am.  It was Perez, and her instructions were simple: get to the airport, get to Washington, DC. as soon as possible. Yovanovitch asked the reason why, and Perez said, “I don’t know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately. You need to come home on the next plane.”

On the flight home, Yovanovitch was probably thinking back to all the advice she had received from various Ukrainian officials that had warned her that Giuliani and other allies of Trump were planning to “do things, including to me” and were “looking to hurt” her.  In her sworn testimony to Congress, she recalled that a senior Ukrainian official told her that “I really needed to watch my back.”  Yovanovitch she said was told by Ukrainian officials in November or December 2019 that Giuliani was in touch with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, “and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me.” She said she was told Lutsenko “was looking to hurt me in the U.S.”

Yovanovitch realized that Giuliani, Parnas and Igor Fruman were the trio who were trying to get her removed from the Embassy. The trio, working on behalf of Trump, was promoting personal business in Ukraine and saw her as an obstacle to their plans. They needed an ambassador who would ‘play ball’, but she was not willing to play along.

Once back in DC., she met with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who told Yovanovitch that she had done nothing wrong as ambassador, but that Trump had lost confidence in her, and she was removed from her position in May.

After reading the transcript of the July phone called between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, Yovanovitch was shocked to see that Trump had disparaged her in the call, with remarks such as “bad news” and that she was “going to go through some things”, which caused her to feel threatened by the President.

Michael McKinley, a 37-year veteran career diplomat, testified that he decided to resign from his post as a senior adviser to Pompeo after his repeated efforts to get the State Department to issue a statement of support for Yovanovitch after the transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy phone call was released. “To see the impugning of somebody I know to be a serious, committed colleague in the manner that it was done raised alarm bells for me,” he said.

The US government does not run by itself. There is a chain of command, much like the military, or any organization.  Carol Perez works for Mike Pompeo, and he works for President Donald Trump. Perez would never have called Yovanovitch without an order to do so.  Perez, a professional of the highest order, would have received instructions from her boss, Mike Pompeo. The threat to Yovanovitch was real, and it was personal, as evidenced by the late-night call.

Yovanovitch and the FBI should call Perez and ask her to name the person who instructed her to call.  Undoubtedly, that person is a senior official at the State Department, and that may prove Pompeo lied when he said he knew nothing.  Recalling a US Ambassador from abroad, in the middle of the night, is not done lightly, and could never be executed by anything other than an order by the Secretary of State.

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This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Steven Sahiounie is a political commentator. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from High North News

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On Dr. Martin Luther King’s day (January 20, 2020), we remember a global icon that has been an inspiration to men and women across the globe struggling for human rights for all. Despite all the serious human rights and civil rights challenges that are increasing nationally and internationally, we still believe that Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision continues to inspire around the around.

King’s dream continues to inspire all peace and justice loving people in America and across the world to continue the struggle to transform the dream to reality.

We in the human rights community cherish Dr. King’s legacy as one human rights hero and legend who left a lasting mark in America and the world. His dream is the dream of all the victims of racism, discrimination, hate, injustice and inequality.  Dr. King’s dream, just like America’s ideals, is universal and appeals to all who are committed to equality and justice regardless of their background.

What is remarkable and most relevant for us today as a nation is the civility of Dr. King. He did not demonize his adversaries. He called them brothers and sisters in humanity. It is civility that we miss most today. We have grown up politicians demonizing and mocking those they disagree with.

This year’s M. L King’s Day let us remember that despite massive indignities and hate, Dr. King and his friends and supporters, those who believed in his leadership, remained honorable and dignified.

In the spirit of this year’s M.L. King Day that we hope that our politicians, from both parties, as well as fellow citizens, restore civility to our national conversation. All are urged to rise above divisions and live up to the legacy of civility as lived by Dr. King. Let’s join hands and stand shoulder to shoulder building bridges of respect and understanding.

Dr. King’s struggle for equality and justice through peaceful means has universal appeal. It is as relevant and important today as it was when he started his struggle.

On this special day, let’s affirm our unwavering commitment to protecting and advancing human rights and helping create a culture of respect for human rights, human dignity and human respect for all.

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Imad Hamad is AHRC Executive Director.

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“Our problem is civil obedience,” said the people’s historian Howard Zinn.

I kept thinking of this issue of obedience and disobedience as I was watching the musical play Matilda, based on the book by the impish writer Roald Dahl, at the University of Massachusetts. I kept thinking of how easily people are induced to obey authority figures, legitimate or illegitimate, and how servile and boot-licking many people are even when such passivity humiliates them and renders them accomplices in their own servitude.  Even when they have a small moment here and there where they stand up to authority figures – usually in insignificant matters – the tendency is to retreat quickly back into the social cocoon of insouciant subservience. Fear seems to dominate so many people’s lives, fear of those they have elevated to be their social masters.

It takes an inner core of spiritual sustenance to maintain a rebel’s stance throughout one’s life, as did MLK. Dostoevsky said it this way:

But the foolish children will have to learn some day that, rebels though they be and riotous from nature, they are too weak to maintain the spirit of mutiny for any length of time.

But there are exceptions.

Naturally I couldn’t help thinking of Dr. Martin Luther King since my play-watching was occurring on the weekend when his birthday is celebrated with a national holiday, while his death day disappears down the memory hole.  Across the country – in response to the King Holiday and Service Act passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 – people will beencouraged to make the day one of service (from Latin, servus = slave).  Etymological irony aside, such service does not include King’s commitment to protesting a decadent system of racial and economic injustice or non-violently resisting the warfare state that is the United States.  Government sponsored service is cultural neo-liberalism at its finest.

This is lost on too many people who buy into the illusion created by the very government that killed MLK.

Didn’t Dr. King say that ‘Nothing is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

For these are the enemies that the young girl Matilda, the play’s central character, must fight – a battle that resonates very powerfully from the Bowker Auditorium stage with this inspiring production.  It is hard to believe that it is produced by an amateur theater company, so fantastic is the staging, the sets, the choreography, and the performances. One comes out of this production mesmerized, head swirling, a swing in one’s step as one realizes that Matilda is right:

If you sit around and let them get on top of you

You might as well be saying it’s okay

And that’s not right

So rebel against injustice.

Sometimes a musical can entertain and simultaneously send a powerful social message far more effectively than a thousand political tracts or the repeated admonitions of a teacher.  Oscar Hammerstein’s countless lyrics come to mind. Enchanted by Richard Rodgers’ music, the listener is instructed by Hammerstein’s words: “You’ve got to be taught to be afraid/Of people whose eyes are oddly made/ And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade/You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Matilda is filled with such captivating lyrical moments.

“We’re told we have to do what we’re told, but surely sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty,” sings Matilda, as she leads her schoolmates in an uprising against the abusive headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, a sadistic monster who hates children.  Matilda’s parents are equally horrible morons who hate books and watch the “telly” constantly for their “reality,” as they mock Matilda’s interest in reading and deep thinking.  They wish she were never born and refuse to recognize that she is a girl, not a boy, because of her brilliance and love of learning. She fights them also, knowing that “nobody else is gonna put it right for me.”

She is sick of them all. She is thoughtful, introspective, philosophical, and an avid reader.  She has gumption, is fearless, and stands up to illegitimate authority figures.  She is an exemplary heroine for our historical moment when ignorance and functional illiteracy have become the norm and American society has devolved into a cacophony of stupidities flashing across electronic screens as cruelty and violence dominate the news.

Watching this play I felt I was taking a redemptive bath. As I left the theater, I felt cleansed and hopeful, filled with joy that revolt against ignorance and cruelty is possible and children can teach us this.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” said Dr. King, “only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

To say I loved this performance is an understatement.  It blew me away.

The entire large cast put on a rousing performance that is lively, funny, disturbing, sad, and deeply moving by turns. Love and rebellion filled the theater.

As in life itself, there are characters that are menacing and demented, dishonest and repulsive, sexist and shallow, timid but good, sparkling and spunky, fearful and brave.

But as so often in life, their bravery is evoked by that of a leader who rouses them to defiance, in this case the child Matilda, who leads them in revolt against Miss Trunchbull and her horrific parents, the latter an especially hard task for a child. Sometimes one’s enemies reside at home, the place where servility often is born.

At the heart of this production is the play’s star, the 11-year-old Sophie Michel, who gives an incandescent performance as Matilda, one that brought a lump to my throat.  The voice, the acting, the stage presence by Ms. Michel sent me out of the theater flying on a cloud.  She gives a luminous and dazzling performance, and whenever she takes center stage, I was transfixed.  She is spectacular.

And that she is my granddaughter fills me with gratitude and hope.

In these dark times, here is a beautiful production of a play that entertains, instructs, and sends the message that we need: Be naughty and revolt.

Or else, as Matilda reminds us:

You might as well be saying that you think it’s okay

And that’s not right

I think MLK would applaud.

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Distinguished author and sociologist Edward Curtin is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. Visit the author’s website here.

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On the heels of new research showing that the world’s oceans are rapidly warming, scientists revealed Wednesday that a huge patch of hot water in the northeast Pacific Ocean dubbed “the blob” was to blame for killing about one million seabirds.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by a team of researchers at federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and universities. They tied the mass die-off to “the blob,” a marine heatwave that began forming in 2013 and grew more intense in 2015 because of the weather phenomenon known as El Niño.

“About 62,000 dead or dying common murres (Uria aalge), the trophically dominant fish-eating seabird of the North Pacific, washed ashore between summer 2015 and spring 2016 on beaches from California to Alaska,” the study says. “Most birds were severely emaciated and, so far, no evidence for anything other than starvation was found to explain this mass mortality. Three-quarters of murres were found in the Gulf of Alaska and the remainder along the West Coast.”

Given that previous studies have shown “that only a fraction of birds that die at sea typically wash ashore,” the researchers put the death toll closer to a million.

“The magnitude and scale of this failure has no precedent,” lead author John Piatt, a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington, said in a statement. “It was astonishing and alarming, and a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem.”

Piatt and study co-author and University of Washington professor Julia Parrish explained that the team believes the blob—which spanned hundreds of miles—limited food supply in the region, leading the birds to starve.

“Think of it as a run on the grocery stores at the same time that the delivery trucks to the stores stopped coming so often,” Parrish said. “We believe that the smoking gun for common murres—beyond the marine heatwave itself—was an ecosystem squeeze: fewer forage fish and smaller prey in general, at the same time that competition from big fish predators like walleye, pollock, and Pacific cod greatly increased.”

Piatt added that

“food demands of large commercial groundfish like cod, pollock, halibut, and hake were predicted to increase dramatically with the level of warming observed with the blob, and since they eat many of the same prey as murres, this competition likely compounded the food supply problem for murres, leading to mass mortality events from starvation.”

According to CNN, which reported on the study Thursday:

 The blob devastated the murres’ population. With insufficient food, breeding colonies across the entire region had reproductive difficulties for years afterward, the study said. Not only did the population decline dramatically, but the murres couldn’t replenish those numbers.

During the 2015 breeding season, three colonies didn’t produce a single chick. That number went up to 12 colonies in the 2016 season—and in reality it could be even higher, since researchers only monitor a quarter of all colonies.

Thomas Frölicher, a climate scientist at the University of Bern in Switzerland who was not involved in the new study, discussed the blob’s connection to the human-caused planetary emergency with InsideClimate News.

“It was the biggest marine heatwave so far on record,” said Frölicher, who noted that such events have doubled in frequency over the past few decades. “Usually, we are used to heatwaves over land. They are much smaller in size, and they do not last as long. In the ocean, this heatwave lasted two or three years.”

Frölicher warned that “if we follow a high-greenhouse-gas-emissions scenario, these heatwaves will become 50 times more frequent than preindustrial times” by 2100. He said that even if the international community achieves a low-emissions scenario in line with the Paris climate agreement, marine heatwaves would still be 20 times more frequent.

“What that means is that in some regions, they will become permanent heatwaves,” he added. “This gives us some insight into the future.”

The study—which its authors expect to inform research on other mortality events related to marine heatwaves—was published just weeks after University of Washington scientists found what some have called “the blob 2.0” forming in the Pacific. That discovery came as “quite a surprise” to those researchers.

University climatologist Nick Bond told local media that “the original blob was so unusual, and stood above the usually kind of variations in the climate and ocean temperatures, that we thought ‘wow, this is going to be something we won’t see for quite a while.'”

From Common Dreams: Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

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Featured image: Dead common murres were found on the beach in Cochrane Bay, Prince William Sound on Jan 10, 2016. These birds were part of the large die-off of common murres across the Gulf of Alaska in 2015-2016. (Photo: Sarah Schoen/USGS Alaska Science Center)

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The Court of Appeal of Turin confirms in a full judgment published on 13 January 2020 (904/2019 of 3.12.2019 , Romeo v. INAIL) the decision of the Tribunal of Ivrea of 2017. Judge Fadda considers that the worker’s acoustic neuroma (benign tumour of the head) was indeed caused by the use of the mobile phone.

According to the Court:

“there is protective scientific jurisprudence that supports the assertion of causation based on criteria of “more likely than not”. P.33.”

And to add:

“Epidemiological data, the results of experiments on animals (not contradicted, at present, by other experiments of the same type), the duration and intensity of exposure … which are particularly important in view of the dose-response relationship established – at the scientific level – between exposure to mobile phone radiofrequencies and the risk of acoustic neuroma, as well as the absence of any other factor which could have caused the disease”.

The scientific analysis by independent experts appointed by the Court confirms the causal link

All the scientific elements of the case were re-examined and re-analysed by two new experts appointed by the Court of Turin (Carolina Marino, Angelo D’Errico). The Court of Appeal fully accepted their conclusions and rejected INAIL’s* appeal, stating that CTU had provided:

“strong evidence to assert a causal role between the complainant’s occupational exposure, his exposure to radiation from mobile phones and the disease that occurred”.

This is the second Italian appeal judgment in favour of a worker after the Brescia judgment in 2010, which concluded with the confirmation of the Supreme Court in 2012, case of Marcolini v. INAIL. In this case, the Court of Bergamo had rejected the application in first instance.

A landmark judgment that will have international repercussions

The Romeo v. INAIL case is therefore historic. It is the first in world judicial history to have had two consecutive judgments in favour of the plaintiff. It is also historic because of the principles underlying this decision and particularly because it is written about the conflicts of interest of certain experts close to the mobile phone industry.

Conflicts of interest and the role of the ICNIRP pinpointed by the Tribunal

Indeed, the Tribunal recognizes that telephone industry-funded scientists, or members of the ICNIRP, are less reliable than independent scientists:

“Much of the scientific literature that excludes carcinogenicity from RF exposure, or at least argues that research to the contrary cannot be considered conclusive… is in a position of conflict of interest, which is not always asserted: see, in particular, on page 94 of the report, the Applicant’s defence (not contested by the other party) that the authors of the studies indicated by INAIL, who are mentioned by name, are members of ICNIRP and/or SCENIHR, which have received, directly or indirectly, funding from industry. P. 33.”

The Turin CTU states:

“It is considered that less weight should be given to studies published by authors who have not declared the existence of conflicts of interest. In this case, conflict of interest situations may arise in relation to the assessment of the effect of radio frequencies on health, for example :
1. cases where the author of the study advised the telephone industry or received funding for studies from the telephone industry
2. if the author himself is a member of the ICNIRP.”

For Dr. Marc Arazi, President of Phonegate Alert:

“Attorney Stefano Bertone’s determined fight to defend the victims of overexposure to our mobile phone waves and the consequences for their health is exemplary. He was one of the first lawyers to take the measure of the revelations linked to the Phonegate scandal. A year ago, together with his law firm and the Italian association APPEL, he and his firm condemned the Italian government to launch major information campaigns on the risks associated with the use of mobile phones. This new decision is all the more important and confirm the need for a moratorium on the deployment of 5G”.

Read the document here.

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Public opinion has its eyes riveted on USMCA, which is tagged as NAFTA 2.0. It is important at this stage to focus on the murky history of NAFTA 1.0  as well as the transition to NAFTA 2.0.

USMCA modifies the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by President  George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari in December 1992, which was ratified  by the US Congress,  Canada’s Parliament and Mexico’s National assembly in 1993. NAFTA was then launched on January 1, 1994 during the Clinton administration.

Was NAFTA 1.0 a legal agreement?

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NAFTA: “A Hot Political Football.” 

There is evidence that one of the signatories of NAFTA 1.0 had  links to organized crime. The Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortiari had pervasive family ties to the Mexican Drug Cartel. In turn, the President of the United States had a long standing personal relationship to the Salinas family.

While this was known and documented prior to the signing of the agreement in 1992, the information was withheld. It was not an object of legislative debate nor was it revealed to the broader public until AFTER the official launching of NAFTA on January 1st 1994.

There was a coverup. Both the George H. W. Bush Senior administration as well as the incoming Clinton administration were fully aware of the links of the Salinas presidency to organized crime. This information was deliberately withheld. Public opinion in the US and Canada was never informed so as not to jeopardize the signing of NAFTA 1.0:

“Other former officials say they were pressured to keep mum because Washington was obsessed with approving NAFTA”.

“The intelligence on corruption, especially by drug traffickers, has always been there,” said Phil Jordan, who headed DEA’s Dallas office from 1984 to 1994. But “we were under instructions not to say anything negative about Mexico. It was a no-no since NAFTA was a hot political football.” (Dallas Morning News, 26 February 1997)

In a bitter irony, it was only after this historical event, that Carlos Salinas’ family links to the drug trade through his brother Raul Salinas de Gortiari and his father were revealed.

In other words, at the time the NAFTA Agreement was signed, both Bush Senior and Mulroney were aware that one of the signatories of NAFTA, namely president Salinas de Gortiari  had links to the Mexican Drug Cartel.

Moreover, the personal relationship between the Bush and Salinas families was a matter of public record. Former President George Bush — when he worked in the oil business in Texas in the 1970s– had developed close personal ties with Carlos Salinas and his father, Raul Salinas Lozano who was a leading figure in narcotics dealings.

According to Andres Openheimer writing in the Miami Herald (February 17 1997):

“witnesses say former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortiari, his imprisoned brother Raul and other members of the country’s ruling elite met with drug lord Juan Garcia Abrego at a Salinas family ranch; Jeb Bush admits he met with Raul Salinas several times but has never done any business with him.”

According to a report published in The Dallas Morning News, Raul Salinas Lozano, the family patriarch and father of Carlos and Raul Junior was behind the scam.  The former private secretary of Raul Salinas Lozano:

“told [US] authorities [in testimony] that Mr. Salinas Lozano was a leading figure in narcotics dealings that also involved his son, Raul Salinas deGortiari, his son-in-law, Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, the No. 2 official in the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and other leading politicians, according to the documents. Mr. Ruiz Massieu was assassinated in 1994.” (Dallas Morning News, 26 February 1997).

According to former DEA Michael Levine, the Mexican Drug Cartel was a “family affair”. Both Carlos and Raul were prominent members of the Cartel. And this was known to then US Attorney General Edward Meese in 1987 one year prior to Carlos Salinas’ inauguration as the country’s president.

It is worth recalling that in the 1960s, the Minister of Commerce in charge of trade negotiations was held by Raul Salinas Lozano.

When Carlos Salinas was inaugurated as President, the entire Mexican State apparatus become criminalised with key government positions occupied by members of the Cartel.

And it is precisely during this period that the Salinas government launched a sweeping privatisation program under advice from the IMF.

The privatisation program became a multibillion dollar money laundering operation. Narco-dollars were channelled towards the acquisition of State property and public utilities.

Richard Barnet of the Institute for Policy Studies, testified to the US Congress (April 14, 1994) that

“billions of dollars in state assets have gone to supporters and cronies” (Dallas Morning News, 11 August 1994).

These included the sale of Telefonos de Mexico, valued at $ 3.9 billion and purchased by a Salinas crony for $ 400 million.(Ibid).

Raul Salinas was behind the privatisation programme. He was known as ”Mr. 10 Percent” “for the slice of bid money he allegedly demanded in exchange for helping acquaintances acquire companies, concessions and contracts [under the IMF sponsored privatisation program” (The News, InfoLatina, .Mexico, October 10, 1997).

In 1995 in the wake of the scandal and the arrest of his brother Raul for murder, Carlos Salinas left Mexico to take up residence in Dublin. His alleged links to the Drug Cartel did not prevent him from being appointed to the Board of the Dow Jones Company on Wall Street, a position which he held until 1997:

Salinas, who left Mexico in March 1995 after his brother, Raul, was charged with masterminding the murder of a political opponent, has served on the company’s board for two years. He was questioned last year in Dublin by a Mexican prosecutor investigating the murder in March 1994 of Luis Donaldo Colosio, who wanted to succeed Salinas as president. A Dow Jones spokesman last week denied that Salinas had been forced out of an election for the new board, which will take place at the company’s annual meeting on April 16… Salinas, who negotiated Mexico’s entry into the free trade agreement with the United States and Canada, was appointed to the board because of his international experience. He was unavailable for comment at his Dublin home last week.” (Sunday Times, London, 30 March 1997).

Washington had consistently denied Carlos Salinas’ involvement. “It was his brother Raul”, Carlos Salinas “did not know”, the American media continued to uphold Salinas as a model statesman, architect of free trade in the Americas and a friend of the Bush family.

In October 1998, The Swiss government confirmed that the brother of the former Mexican president had deposited some 100 million dollars in drug money in Swiss banks:

“They [Swiss authorities] are confiscating the money, which they believe was part of a much larger amount paid to Raul Salinas for helping Mexican and Colombian drugs cartels during his brother’s six-year term ending in 1994. Mr Salinas’ lawyers have maintained he was legally heading an investment fund for Mexican businessmen but the Swiss federal prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, described Salinas’ business dealings as unsound, incomprehensible and contrary to customary business usage. (BBC Report)

“After [Carlos] Salinas left office in 1994, the Salinas family fell from grace in a swirl of drug-related corruption and crime scandals. Raúl was jailed and convicted on charges of money laundering and of masterminding the assassination of his brother-in-law; after spending 10 years in jail, Raúl was acquitted of both crimes.  …

With the scandal unraveling, Jeb’s friendship with Raúl did not go unnoticed. Jeb has never denied his friendship with Raúl, who [now] keeps a low profile in Mexico.

Kristy Campbell, spokesperson for Bush, did not respond to a request for comment. The Salinas family’s demise caught the Bushes by surprise. “I have been very disappointed by the allegations about him and his family. I never had the slightest hint of information that President Salinas was anything but totally honest,” Bush senior  told me in the 1997 interview. (Dolia Estevez, Jeb Bush’s Mexican Connections, Forbes, April 7, 2015, emphasis added)

“The Salinas family’s demise caught the Bushes by surprise”? (Forbes, April 2015) The Bushes knew who they were all along.

Former DEA official Michael Levine confirmed that Carlos Salinas’ role in the Mexican drug cartel was known to US officials. US President George H. W. Bush was  regularly briefed by officials from the Department of Justice, the CIA and the DEA.

In the Wake of NAFTA 1.0

US authorities waited until after Carlos Salinas finished his presidential term to arrest Mexican drug lord Juan Garcia Abrego, who was a close collaborator of the president’s brother Raul. In turn, Raul Salinas was an “intimo amigo” of Jeb Bush :

Juan Garcia Abrego, a fugitive on the FBI’s most-wanted list, was flown to Houston late Monday, following his arrest by Mexican police …  Garcia Abrego, the reputed head of Mexico’s second most powerful drug cartel, had eluded authorities on both sides of the border for years. His arrest is an enormous victory for the U.S. and Mexican governments. CNN, January 16, 2015

But there is more than meets the eye: while the Bushes and the Salinas had longstanding ties, Wall Street was also involved in the laundering of drug money:

A U.S. official said the Justice Department has made significant advances in its money-laundering investigation against Raul Salinas de Gortari and has identified several people who can testify that the former first brother received protection money from a major narcotics cartel.

If the U.S. were to indict Mr. Salinas, it could have implications for a Justice Department investigation into possible money laundering by Citibank, where Mr. Salinas had some of his accounts. Citibank, a unit of Citicorp , has denied wrongdoing. (WSJ, April 23, 2015)

The involvement of Citbank in the money laundering operation is documented by a Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs Report (US General Accounting Office  “Private Banking: Raul Salinas, Citibank, and Alleged Money Laundering” Washington, 1998).
The 1992 “Free Trade” Agreement (NAFTA) was signed by a head of State with links to organized crime.

Does that make it an illegal agreement?

The legitimacy of NAFTA has so far not been the object of a legal procedure or judicial inquiry. Nor was it an object for debate in the US Congress and Canada’s parliament.

Déjà Vu. The Legality of NAFTA 2.0

On November 30, 2018,  US President Donald Trump, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto signed USMCA or NAFTA 2.0.

Both NAFTA 1.0 and NAFTA 2.0 (USMCA) were signed under questionable circumstances.

“The Salinas NAFTA 1.0 Saga” was Repeated in November 2018

The Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto (signatory of NAFTA 2.0) also had links to Mexico’s Drug Cartel. But that information which was known to US  officials and the Western media was withheld until after the signing of the November 30, 2018 USMCA agreement.

Barely two months later in January 2019, the Western media reported that former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had allegedly received a $100 million bribe from drug cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán (according to  witness at Guzman’s trial in New York)

Continuity. “Copy and Paste”

1. Both NAFTA 1.0 and NAFTA 2.0 were signed by a head of state with links to organized crime.  Both Salinas de Gortiari and Peña Nieto had extensive links to the Mexican Drug Cartel.

2. In a bitter irony, both Enrique Peña Nieto and Salinas de Gortiari had been rewarded 100 million dollars.

3. In both cases, the media failed to address the issue prior to the signing of these two historical agreements. They “spilled the beans” (immediately) following the end of  Salinas de Gortiari and Peña Nieto’s terms of office (respectively) as Mexico’s head of state.

The USMCA (NAFTA 2.0) agreement was signed in Buenos Aires on November 30th 2018, on the sidelines of the G-20 meetings. It was Enrique Peña Nieto’s last day in office.

The NAFTA 2.0 agreement was signed in haste ONE DAY PRIOR to President Lopez Obrador’s inauguration on December 1, 2018.

The timing of this agreement was intended to exclude President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador from the process of negotiation and ratification of USMCA.

Moreover, it was understood that the new president (who had no links to organized crime) would not be allowed to question the legitimacy of the agreement signed by his predecessor Enrique Peña Nieto, despite his links to the Mexican Drug Cartel. 

 

BBC, 15 January 2019

In the words of award winning journalist Anabel Hernandez (2014 PRI interview): 

I believe that Enrique Peña Nieto is [2014] trying to make an old-style pact with drug traffickers. The issue is that he won’t be able to because organized crime is so pulverized and there are so many loose criminal cells that don’t take orders from anybody. What I can say is that the Sinaloa cartel is achieving under this administration [Peña Nieto] what it didn’t achieve in its best years under [former presidents] Fox and Calderon.

What do you hope to achieve with your investigations? What should Mexico do, put former presidents in prison?

What I have learned in nine years of investigation into drug trafficking is that a general, a public security secretary or a governor is more dangerous than Chapo Guzman himself. They are the ones that betray the country, that sell the state to organized crime and they should face exemplary punishments. … If there are no exemplary punishments against the Mexican political and business class who permit people like Chapo Guzman to exist, then nothing is going to change and we are just going to be repeating this story of death, sometimes with more violence, sometimes with less, but always with the Mexican state under control of drug traffickers. We have to break this cycle. (emphasis added)

 

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Trump Threatens to Kill Iran’s Spiritual Leader

January 19th, 2020 by Kurt Nimmo

Trump murdered Qassem Soleimani for “saying bad things” about the USG, according to The Hill. The president, gathered Friday at Mar-a-Lago with donors and supporters, also threatened Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. 

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In other words, if the leader of Iran criticizes the USG for wrecking Iran’s economy and forcing hardship on the people through sanctions, he might find himself targeted by a Hellfire missile.

For Trump, however, criticizing the USG for its endless war crimes comes in second to personally insulting the stable genius. On the day Trump made this threat, Khamenei characterized Trump as a clown, and this prompted the president to basically say he will kill the leader of a foreign nation for saying bad things about him. 

It should be noted Khamenei is not stranger to assassination attempts. In 1981, Mujahedin-e Khalq tried to kill him with an exploding tape recorder, which seriously injured Khamenei, who was Iranian president at the time. His right arm was paralyzed by the attack.  

MEK was delisted as a terrorist organization by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. The murderous organization, guilty of killing American citizens, is lauded on both sides of  the artificial political divide. For instance, the former Marxist terror cult has shared friendly relationships with the likes of Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Ed Rendell, R. James Woolsey, Porter Goss, Louis Freeh, Michael Mukasey, James L. Jones, Tom Ridge, and Howard Dean. 

Imagine the result if Trump was injured by an exploding tape recorder and the culprit was Iran. The exceptional nation, with its neocons running foreign policy, would waste no time bombing the hell out of Iran, killing thousands, and this would be cheered on by the American people, so easily hoodwinked and ready to believe lies. 

This is precisely why Iran has yet to seriously confront the USG despite its four decades of economic warfare and absurd propaganda pegging it as the world’s top international terrorist nation. However, if we step outside of Bizarro World for a moment and confront reality, we will discover that the USG is the number one terror organization in the world. 

Iran has to go because it is a symbol of resistance to bankster neoliberalism. Donald Trump is the current Mafia don for the financial elite. He is threatening to kill the top leader of Iran—its spiritual as well as political leader—and if he manages to do that, there will be serious blowback, not only against the USG military bases scattered around the Middle East, but quite possibly in the American heartland as well, including the targeting of neocons and others pushing for a war that would benefit Israel and further deplete America’s treasure (or rather, require more debt piled on future generations) and spill an incalculable amount of blood.

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Kurt Nimmo writes on his blog, Another Day in the Empire, where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

In this expose, the WHO vaccine experts admit that:

  • Vaccines can be fatal.
  • The design of safety studies makes it difficult to spot problems.
  • Safety monitoring is inadequate.
  • Vaccine adjuvants increase risk.

“The FDA receives 45% of its annual budget from the pharmaceutical industry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) gets roughly half its budget from private sources, including Pharma and its allied foundations.

And the CDC, frankly, is a vaccine company; it owns 56 vaccine patents and buys and distributes $4.6 billion in vaccines annually through the Vaccines for Children program, which is over 40% of its total budget.” — Robert F. Kennedy, Jr 

1) An admission that adjuvants can multiply the toxicity of vaccines:

“Adjuvants multiply the immunogenicity of the antigens that they are added to, and that is their intention.  It seems to me they multiply the reactogenicity in many instances, and therefore it seems to me that it is not unexpected if they multiply the incidence of adverse reactions that are associated with the antigen, but may not have been detected through lack of statistical power in the original studies.”Stephen Evans, BA, MSc, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) 

2) Warnings about long-term systemic toxicity from vaccine adjuvants:

“You are correct. As we add adjuvants, especially some of the more recent adjuvants, such as the ASO1, saponin-derived adjuvants, we do see increased local reactogenicity. The primary concern, though, usually is systemic adverse events rather than local adverse events. And we tend to get in the Phase II and the Phase III studies quite good data on the local reactogenicity. Those of us in this room that are beyond the age of 50 who have had the pleasure of having the recent shingles vaccine, will know that this does have quite significant local reactogenicity. If you got the vaccine, you know that you got the vaccine. But this is not the major health concern. The major health concern which we are seeing are accusations of long term, long term effects. So, to come back to this, I’m going to once again point to the regulators. It comes down to ensuring that we conduct Phase II and the Phase III studies with adequate size and with the appropriate measurement.”Martin Howell Friede, PhD (Biochemistry) – WHO coordinator for the Initiative for Vaccine Research

3) An admission that the WHO and Big Pharma are panicking because some doctors and cover-up of vaccine injuries:

“There’s a lot of safety science that’s needed, and without the good science, we can’t have good communication. Although I’m talking about all these other contextual issues and communication issues it absolutely needs the science as the backbone. You can’t repurpose the same old science to make it sound better if you don’t have the science that’s relevant to the new problem. So, we need much more investment in safety science…The other thing that’s a trend and an issue is not just confidence in patients but confidence of health care providers. We have a very wobbly health professional front line that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines. When the front-line professionals are starting to question (the safety of vaccines) or they don’t feel like they have enough confidence about the safety to stand up to it to the person asking them the questions.  I mean, most medical school curriculums, even nursing curriculums, I mean in medical school you’re lucky if you have a half-day on vaccines. Never mind keeping up to date with all this.”Heidi Larson, PhD (in Anthropology – and therefore likely to be vaccinology-illiterate!) and Director of the Big Pharma-funded Vaccine Confidence Project

4) An admission that vaccine clinical safety trials are flawed and that vaccines damage children far more than they damage adults:

“One of the additional issues that complicates safety evaluation is that if you look at, and you struggle with the length of follow-up that should be adequate in a, let’s say a pre-licensure or even post-marketing study if that’s even possible. And again, as you mentioned pre-licensure clinical trials may not be powered enough. It’s also the subject population that you administer the adjuvant to because we’ve seen data presented to us where an adjuvant, a particular adjuvant added to a vaccine antigen did really nothing when administered to a certain population and usually the elderly, you know, compared to administering the same formulation to younger age strata.  So, these are things which need to be considered as well and further complicate safety and effectiveness evaluation of adjuvants combined with vaccine antigens.”  Marion Gruber, PhD – Director, FDA Office of Vaccines Research and Review (OVRR) and the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER)

5) A warning about the lack of vaccine safety monitoring systems:

“I think we cannot over-emphasize the fact that we really don’t have very good safety monitoring systems in many countries, and this adds to the miscommunication and the misapprehensions because we’re not able to give clear-cut answers when people ask questions about the deaths that have occurred due to a particular vaccine, and this always gets blown up in the media. One should be able to give a very factual account of what exactly has happened and what the causes of the deaths are, but in most cases there is some obfuscation at that level and therefore, there’s less and less trust then in the system.” Soumya Swaminathan, MD, WHO Chief Scientist and non-practicing Pediatrician (involved in academics and research ever since her medical training)

6) An admission that viral fragments don’t work and that adjuvants are responsible for the toxic inflammatory responses to vaccines.

“Every time that there is an association, be it temporal or not temporal, the first accusation is it is the adjuvant. And yet, without adjuvants, we are not going to have the next generation of vaccines.  And many of the vaccines that we do have, ranging from tetanus through to HPV require adjuvants in order for them to work.  So, the challenge that we have in front of us is:  How do we build confidence in this? And the confidence first of all comes from the regulatory agencies (I look to Marion). When we add an adjuvant it’s because it is essential.  We do not add adjuvants to vaccines because we want to do so.  But when we add them, it adds to the complexity. I give courses every year on “How do you develop vaccines?”, “How do you make vaccines?” And the first lesson is, while you’re making your vaccine, if you can avoid using an adjuvant, please do so.  Lesson two is, if you’re going to use an adjuvant, use one that has a history of safety. And lesson three is, if you’re not going to do that, think very carefully.” Martin Howell Friede, WHO Coordinator for the Initiative for Vaccine Research and member of the Strategic Advisory Committee for Hilleman Labs – a vaccine research company co-owned by US drug maker Merck  and Britain’s Wellcome Trust.

7) An admission that vaccine safety tracking systems don’t exist.

“Now the only way to tease that out is if you have a large population database like the vaccine safety datalink as well as some of the other national databases that are coming to being worthy. Actual vaccine exposure is trapped down to that level of specificity of who is the manufacturer? What is the lot number? Etc, etc. And there’s an initiative to try to make the vaccine label information bar-coded so that it includes that level of information. So that in the future when we do these type of studies, we are able to tease that out. And in order to be – each time you subdivide them, the sample size gets becoming more and more challenging and that’s what I said earlier today about that we’re really only in the beginning of the era of large data sets where hopefully you could start to kind of harmonize the databases for multiple studies. And there’s actually an initiative underway… Marion (Gruber) may want to comment on it to try to get more national vaccine safety database linked together so we could start to answer these types of questions that you just raised.”Robert Chen, MD – Scientific Director, Brighton Collaboration The motto of the Brighton  Collaboration was “We build trust in the safety of vaccines through rigorous science”

8) An admission that the WHO doesn’t understand the mechanisms of vaccine toxicity.

“So in our clinical trials, we are actually using relatively small sample sizes, and when we do that we’re at risk of tyranny of small numbers, which is, you just need a single case of Wegener’s Granulomatosis, and your vaccine has to, solve Walt’s, How do you prove a Null Hypothesis? …And it takes years and years to try to figure that out. It’s a real conundrum, right? Getting the right size, dealing with the tyranny of small numbers, making sure that you can really do it. And so I think one of the things that we really need to invest in are kind of better biomarkers, better mechanistic understanding of how these things work so we can better understand adverse events as they come up.” David Kaslow, MD, VP of Essential Medicines, Drug Development program PATH Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access (CVIA) Dr Kaslow has been a non-clinical researcher for decades with past relationships with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Merck.

9) A naïve question directed to WHO experts (and not answered by them) that points out the reality that Big Vaccine corporations have NEVER done studies on the synergistic damage vaccine toxicities that happen when more than two vaccines are injected at the same office visit.

“I cast back my mind to our situation in Nigeria where at six weeks, ten weeks, fourteen weeks, a child is being given different antigens from different companies, and these vaccines have different adjuvants and different preservatives and so on. Something crosses my mind… is there possibility of these adjuvants, preservatives, cross-reacting amongst themselves? Have there ever been a study on the possibility of cross-reactions on from the past that you can share the experience with us?”Bassey Okposen – Program Manager, National Emergency Routine Immunization Coordination Centre (NERICC). Abuja, Nigeria

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Dr Kohls practiced holistic mental health care in Duluth for the last decade of his family practice career prior to his retirement in 2008, primarily helping patients who had become addicted to cocktails of psychiatric drugs to safely go through the complex withdrawal process. His column often deals with various unappreciated health issues, including those caused by Big Pharma’s over-drugging, Big Vaccine’s over-vaccinating, Big Medicine’s over-screening, over-diagnosing and over-treating agendas and Big Food’s malnourishing food industry. Those four sociopathic entities can combine to even more adversely affect the physical, mental, spiritual and economic health of the recipients of the vaccines, drugs, medical treatments and the eaters of the tasty and ubiquitous “Franken Foods” – particularly when they are consumed in combinations, doses and potencies that have never been tested for safety or long-term effectiveness.

Dr Kohls’ Duty to Warn columns are archived at: http://duluthreader.com/search?search_term=Duty+to+Warn&p=2;

http://www.globalresearch.ca/author/gary-g-kohls;

http://freepress.org/geographic-scope/national; https://www.lewrockwell.com/author/gary-g-kohls/; and 

https://www.transcend.org/tms/search/?q=gary+kohls+articles

Featured image is from Wikimedia Commons

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“It just seems like people have really lost their way, severed ties with reality completely, where we’re listening to some pied piper online instead of really questioning authority. questioning the power structures like we should be all along!” – Abby Martin (from this week’s interview.)

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass [1]

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The year 2019 saw the unfolding of a number of dramatic events.

At the beginning of the year, the Venezuelan opposition orchestrated a coup, with dozens of countries including a number of South American countries recognizing opposition figure Juan Guaidó as president. This attempt appears to have failed miserably as the military and the bulk of the Venezuelan population appear to oppose an undemocratic  regime change.

In March, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would release a report detailing the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli Defense Forces in the wake of the great March of Return protests at the Gaza-Israel perimeter fence would approach 200, with 29,000 injured.

In April, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was forcefully removed from the Ecuadorean Embassy in the United Kingdom where he had sought sanctuary from a wrongful and unjust prosecution at the hands of the U.S.

In June, U.S.- Iran tensions would escalate with attacks on oil tankers in Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz culminating in the drone killing in early January of high ranking Iranian military figure Qasem Soleimani.

Popular uprisings around the globe were unquestionably a feature of the year. The Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement endured throughout the entirety of the year with weekly demonstrations against the Macron government’s neoliberal reforms. Likewise, the uprisings in Hong Kong grabbed much of the media spotlight, And later in the year, the world would see popular eruptions in Ecuador, Chile, and other Latin American centres, in Haiti, in Sudan and in Lebanon.

On the climate change front, while Greta Thunberg and the youth climate activists took centre stage in unprecedented numbers, infernos light up the Amazon, California and Australia, scientists highlight the threat to global food supply from climate change, the world’s oceans are being depleted of oxygen, the melting of glacial and polar ice accelerates, and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization reports that the concentration of climate-heating greenhouse gases has hit another all-time high with “no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline.”

And of course, the impeachment drama in Washington continues to transfix many Americans while poverty has increased in 30 percent of U.S counties, and while a bi-partisan consensus on Capitol Hill approved last August military spending exceeding what was spent at the height of the Cold War, even adjusting for inflation.

For independent media outlets like the Global Research News Hour, news stories are curated according to how they impact the broader population, not according to their service to the corporate and State interests that underwrite most press outlets. Through that lens, the show takes an overdue opportunity to evaluate some of the more important stories and developments of the past year.

Our first guest, Andy Lee Roth of Project Censored, discusses some of the Top 25 most censored stories of 2018-2019, and other themes from the publication Censored 2020. These include think tank partnerships which turn Facebook into a tool of U.S. Foreign Policy (2), high rates of unemployment among formerly incarcerated Americans (17), and a more equitable model for providing meals for schoolchildren in the U.S. (23).

In the final half hour, we present a wide-ranging conversation on the news stories and trends of 2019 featuring independent media icons Abby and Robbie Martin (Media Roots radio) along with Global Research News Hour co-hosts Michael Welch and Scott Price. Themes range from the marginalization of dissident viewpoints and analysis under the guise of controlling ‘fake news’ to the co-opting of ‘Deep State’ analysis and ‘conspiracy culture’ into a kind of partisan cudgel, to the growth of the U.S. empire under Trump, to the corporate and ecological elements missing from coverage of the fires raging around the planet.

Andy Lee Roth, is the Associate Director of Project Censored, a media research program which fosters student development of media literacy and critical thinking skills as applied to news media censorship in the United States.

Abby Martin is an investigative journalist and co-producer of Telesur’s the Empire Files. She also wrote and directed the 2019 documentary film Gaza Fights for Freedom. She co-hosts the Media Roots Radio podcast along with her brother Robbie Martin.

Robbie Martin is a writer, musician and film maker. He produced the three part documentary film series A Very Heavy Agenda, about the rise and persistent role of the neocons within the Washington establishment.

(Global Research News Hour episode 283)

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The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM out of the University of Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca .

The Global Research News Hour now airs Fridays at 6pm PST, 8pm CST and 9pm EST on Alternative Current Radio (alternativecurrentradio.com)

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

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It is also available on 93.9 FM cable in the communities of SFU, Burnaby, New Westminister, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and Delta, in British Columbia, Canada. – Tune in  at its new time – Wednesdays at 4pm PT.

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Caper Radio CJBU 107.3FM in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia airs the Global Research News Hour starting Wednesday Morning from 8:00 to 9:00am. Find more details at www.caperradio.ca

RIOT RADIO, the visual radio station based out of Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario has begun airing the Global Research News Hour on an occasional basis. Tune in at dcstudentsinc.ca/services/riot-radio/

Radio Fanshawe: Fanshawe’s 106.9 The X (CIXX-FM) out of London, Ontario airs the Global Research News Hour Sundays at 6am with an encore at 3pm.

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Notes:

  1. Lewis Carroll (1871), Through the Looking Glass, published by Macmillan

Trump Is the Third President to Lie About Afghan War Success

January 19th, 2020 by Prof. Marjorie Cohn

The Bush, Obama and Trump administrations all routinely lied to the American people about the success of the 18-year war in Afghanistan. They exaggerated progress and inflated statistics to create an illusion that that the war was winnable. But after the deaths of 157,000 people at a cost of $2 trillion, corruption is rampant and the carnage continues.

“There’s an odor of mendacity throughout the Afghanistan issue … mendacity and hubris,” John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told the House Foreign Affairs Committeeduring his January 15 testimony. In the last few years, Sopko said, the Trump administration has been “lying by omissions,” classifying “everything that is bad news,” including Afghan troop casualties and calculation of Taliban strength.

Sopko was called to testify before the committee to explain The Washington Post’s explosive December 2019 series known as “The Afghanistan Papers.” Based on hundreds of interviews with leading U.S. officials, Sopko published “Lessons Learned,” seven reports about the secret history of the war. The reports omitted the names of more than 90 percent of the interviewees.

“The American People Have Constantly Been Lied To”

“Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public,” the Post reported. “They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.” U.S. military officials took a page from the Vietnam War playbook, “manipulating public opinion.” As Sopko told the Post, “the American people have constantly been lied to.”

In September 2008, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser declared in a news briefing, “Are we losing this war? Absolutely no way. Can the enemy win it? Absolutely no way.”

Meanwhile, U.S. troops didn’t know whether the enemy was al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Pakistan, Islamic State, foreign jihadists or warlords on the CIA payroll.

Indeed, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in a 2003 memo, “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.”

Lost Blood and Treasure: For What?

Since Bush illegally invaded Afghanistan in 2001, about 157,000 people have been killed, including 2,300 U.S. military personnel and 43,074 Afghan civilians. In 2018 alone, 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed, the highest yearly number since the United Nations began calculating casualties 10 years ago.

The cost of the United States’ longest war is over $2 trillion. That figure includes $1.5 trillion to wage war, $87 billion to train Afghan military and police, $10 billion for counter-narcotics, $24 billion for economic development, $30 billion for other reconstruction programs and $500 billion for interest.

Moreover, U.S. policies have exacerbated corruption in Afghanistan. “A toxic mix of U.S. government policies, under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, directly contributed to Afghanistan’s descent into one of the world’s most corrupt countries,” the Post reported.

The massive amount of money Congress appropriated was distributed “with little oversight or recordkeeping,” according to the Post. “The ensuing greed and corruption undermined the legitimacy of the nascent government and helped make the ground more fertile for the Taliban’s resurgence.”

For example, a forensic accountant analyzed 3,000 Defense Department contracts from 2010 to 2012, totaling $106 billion. Approximately 40 percent of that money went to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan officials, criminal syndicates or insurgents.

A senior U.S. official reported, “[W]e were the most corrupt here, so had no credibility on the corruption issue.” One government contractor said he distributed $3 million per day for projects in an Afghan district the size of a county in the United States.

The Carnage Continues

On January 8, reportedly over 60 Afghan civilians and “dozens of militants” were killed in a U.S. drone attack in Herat Province. TOLO News, Afghanistan’s main 24/7 television news channel, cited local government officials and members of the Herat provincial council, who said “at least 60 civilians including women and children” were killed in the drone strikes.

Abdul Hakim told Stars & Stripes that U.S. bombers carried out a “double tap” in Herat, in which the drone or warplane bombs the people trying to rescue those hit by the first strike.

Two U.S. service members died on January 11, when their vehicle collided with an improvised explosive device. In 2019, 23 service members were killed during operations, the highest number in five years.

Withdraw All U.S. Forces From Afghanistan

The U.S. government has been negotiating with the Taliban. On January 16, the Taliban offered a brief period of reduction in the violence but it is not clear whether the U.S. has agreed. The two sides were on the brink of a peace agreement when Trump thwarted the negotiations in September 2019.

During the last Democratic debate, none of the candidates promised to pull all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Elizabeth Warren said she wants to bring combat troops home. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have also said they would withdraw combat troops. But, as Phyllis Bennis noted, “[C]ombat troops are not the ones who have been killing people probably since about 2011. The killing of civilians, in particular, is being carried out by Special Forces, by bombing, by drones.”

Both the progressive Veterans for Peace (VFP) and the conservative Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) support withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. CVA has mounted a multimillion-dollar advertising operation, funded by the Koch family, in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump’s unfulfilled 2016 campaign promise to end the United States’ “endless wars” was favorably received in those three swing states.

Veterans for Peace said in a statement, “The U.S. military has destroyed countless villages and continues to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred with covert drone operations that kill thousands of innocent people.” VFP called for immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops, immediate release of all 300 names of those quoted in the Afghanistan Papers, a congressional tribunal at which Afghanistan veterans could testify, repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and reparations to all Afghan families who have lost a family member.

A majority of U.S. veterans thinks the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not worth fighting, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. This mirrors the sentiment of the public at large.

After 18 years, it is long past time we contact our congressional representatives and Democratic presidential candidates, cite the Afghanistan Papers, and demand total withdrawal of all U.S. forces — including intelligence and Special Forces — from Afghanistan. It will save lives and money.

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Copyright © Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.


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The Globalization of War: America’s “Long War” against Humanity

Michel Chossudovsky

The “globalization of war” is a hegemonic project. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The U.S. military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.

ISBN Number: 978-0-9737147-6-0
Year: 2015
Pages: 240 Pages

List Price: $22.95

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Remarks on the US/China “Trade Deal”

January 19th, 2020 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The first thing to understand is that it is not a trade deal.  It is Trump backing off his tariffs when he discovered that the tarrifs fall on US goods and American consumers, not on China.  Trump is covering his retraction by calling it a trade deal.  China’s part of the deal is to agree to purchase the US goods that it already intended to purchase.

The purpose of tariffs is to protect domestic producers from foreign competition by raising the price of imported goods.  What Trump, his administration, and the financial press did not understand is that at least half of the US trade deficit with China is the offshored goods produced in China by such corporations as Apple, Nike, and Levi.  The offshored production of US global corporations counts as imports when they are brought into the US to be sold to Americans.  Thus, the cost of the tariffs were falling on US corporations and US consumers.

Tariffs are not an effective way to bring offshored US manufacturing home.  If Trump or any US government wants to bring US manufacturing back to the US from its offshored locations, the way to achieve this result is to change the way the US taxes corporations.  The rule would be: If a US corporation produces in the US with US labor for US markets, the firm’s profits are taxed at a low rate.  If the corporation produces products for the US market abroad with foreign labor, the tax rate will be high enough to more than wipe out the labor cost savings.

As I have emphasized for years, the offshoring of US manufacturing has inflicted massive external costs on the United States. Middle class jobs have been lost, careers ended, living standards of former US manufacturing workers and families have dropped. The tax base of cities and states has shrunk, causing cutbacks in public services and undermining municipal and state pension funds.  You can add to this list.  These costs are the true cost of the increased profits from the lower foreign labor and compliance costs.  A relatively few executives and shareholders benefitted at the expense of a vast number of Americans.

This is the problem that needs to be addressed and corrected.

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Dr. Paul Craig Roberts writes on his blog, Paul Craig Roberts Institute for Political Economy, where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

America’s “shadow president”, Mike Pompeo, has acknowledged that the assassination of Iran’s highest-ranking military general, Qassem Soleimani, was part of a broader strategy to restore “real deterrence” by eliminating presumed enemies of the United States. Pompeo’s comments at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute on January 13, put to rest earlier claims that the Iranian general had been killed to prevent “imminent attacks on U.S. targets.” Those claims have since been discredited by independent journalists and mainstream publications that have shown that the assassination was prepared months in advance. In truth, Soleimani was killed to roll back Iran’s influence in Iraq and to reverse the effects Washington’s catastrophic counterinsurgency operation that removed the mainly Sunni-Baathist party from power creating a vacuum that was filled by Iranian-backed militias. The Solemani assassination was just the latest transgression in a conflict that dates back 17 years.

Pompeo’s hand in the assassination is not really in doubt. As the New York Times noted in an article two weeks ago: “Pompeo was the loudest voice in the administration pushing President Trump to kill Iran’s most important general”. The Times also credits the blustery Pompeo as the “chief architect of the rising tensions between the United States and Iran”…”he is in the unusual role of shaping national security policy.” (“Pompeo Upended Middle East by Pushing Trump to Kill Iranian General”, New York Times)

Pompeo is the “chief architect” of the administration’s failed Iran policy. It was Pompeo who pushed Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and Pompeo who promoted the economic blockade that has strangled the Iranian economy. Pompeo has also been the biggest proponent of Trump’s extrajudicial assassination policy whose first notable trophy was Iran’s most decorated and revered general, Solemani. The incident has set the Middle East ablaze. Even so, Pompeo has never shown the slightest sign of remorse nor has he offered his condolences to the millions of people across the Middle East who poured out into the streets to mourn the passing of their beloved hero. Their anguish means nothing to Pompeo who believes he is carrying out “God’s work” by eliminating anyone who stands in the way US ambitions in the region.

At the Stanford confab, Pompeo announced that he intends to move ahead with his plan to reestablish “deterrence” to discourage Tehran’s “malign activity.” Regrettably, Pompeo’s grasp of deterrence bears no resemblance to the original political and military doctrine. Traditionally, deterrence is a strategy “under which one power uses the threat of reprisal effectively to preclude an attack from an adversary power.” In practice this means that Country A will build up its nuclear arsenal with the intention of “deterring” Country B from launching an attack. The strategy is aimed at preserving the peace and avoiding unnecessary bloodshed. Pompeo’s interpretation of deterrence is aimed at liquidating the enemy not deterring him. It is a form of aggression that bears no resemblance to the original military doctrine. Here’s more from Reuters:.

“President Trump and those of us in his national security team are re-establishing deterrence – real deterrence ‒ against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said. “Your adversary must understand not only that you have the capacity to impose cost but that you’re in fact willing to do so,” Pompeo added.” (“Pompeo says Soleimani killing part of new strategy to deter U.S. foes”, Reuters)

Once again, Pompeo is twisting words to confuse his audience. Sure, it’s true that “Your adversary must understand not only that you have the capacity to impose cost but that you’re in fact willing to do so.” But it’s also true that the goal of deterrence is to deter the enemy from engaging in hostilities to begin with. That is the polar-opposite of killing the enemy. Pompeo appears to be stuck on this point.

In any event, a gangland-style hit –that is illegal under US statutes and international law– is not an example of deterrence. It’s barbarism masquerading as foreign policy doctrine. Pompeo knows that, just like he knows that targeted assassinations are powerful provocations that lead to over-reaction, tit-for-tat retaliation, and eventually a full-blown regionwide conflagration. Which seems to be the point. Pompeo wants to confront Iran in the one area in which the US excels, war. Why else would he kill Iran’s most admired leader?

Here’s more from Pompeo’s speech:

“We saw, not just in Iran, but in other places, too, where American deterrence was weak. We watched Russia’s 2014 occupation of the Crimea and support for aggression against Ukraine because deterrence had been undermined. We have resumed lethal support to the Ukrainian military.

China’s island building, too, in the South China Sea, and its brazen attempts to coerce American allies undermined deterrence. The Trump administration has ramped up naval exercises in the South China Sea, alongside our allies and friends and partners throughout the region.” (“The Restoration of Deterrence: The Iranian Example”, US Embassy and Consulates)

Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. This isn’t about Soleimani at all. It’s about the long list of foreign policy challenges the US now faces as new centers of power emerge (primarily Russia and China) putting more pressure on the post-WW2 “liberal” world order and hastening the decline of an aging hegemon who is fast losing its grip on global power. That is why Pompeo is invoking a new and more vicious foreign policy. Washington powerbrokers seem to believe that they need to take more reckless and violent measures to reverse present trends that are steadily eroding US power clearing the way for an emerging multi-polar world order. Taking these things into account, the Soleimani assassination can be seen for what it really is, a desperate attempt to turn back the clock to the early 1990’s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union when America ruled supreme and think-tank pundits proudly boasted of the “end of history” and the beginning of a glorious “American Century”, none of which has worked out according to plan.

“The importance of deterrence isn’t confined to Iran,” Pompeo said. “In all cases, we must deter foes to defend freedom. That’s the whole point of President Trump’s work to make our military the strongest it’s ever been.” (Reuters)

Pompeo wants a stronger and most costly military. He wants to use all the tools at his disposal to maintain Washington’s dominant position in the world, especially the instruments of coercion that can used to force rivals to comply with Washington’s diktats. And, he has invoked a new doctrine, The Pompeo Doctrine, to provide ideological cover for the anticipated bloody assault on foreign leaders and dignitaries. So far, no one has challenged Pompeo’s alarming policy-shift. There appears to be consensus among elites that the only way to arrest America’s relentless decline is by escalating the hostilities, intensifying the violence and widening the wars.

Pompeo’s announcement puts the country on a path to bigger and bloodier confrontations but, as yet, no one has lifted their voice in opposition.

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Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Why, after so many assurances to the contrary, have the three European Iran’s Nuclear Deal Partner’s – Germany, France, the UK – decided to go after Iran, to follow the US dictate again?

The short answer is because the cowards. They have zero backbone to stand up against the US hegemony, because they are afraid to be sanctioned – as Trump indicated if they were to honor the” Nuclear Deal”. Iran is absolutely in their right to progressively increase uranium enrichment, especially since the US dropped out unilaterally, without any specific reasons, other than on Netanyahu’s orders – of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called Iran’s Nuclear Deal.

Just a few days ago Ms. Angela Merkel met with President Putin in Moscow, and BOTH pledged in front of a huge press crowd that the Nuclear Deal must stay, must be maintained and validated.

And now, because of Trump’s Barbarian threats, trade threats on Europe – an increase of up to 25% import taxes on European cars – and wanting a new deal with Iran, whatever that means, they, the Europeans – the three Nuclear Deal partners, back down. Why not call Trump’s bluff? As China did. This Barbarian Kingpin is lashing around his deathbed with tariffs and sanctions, it is only a sign of weakness, a sign of slowly but surely disappearing in the – hopefully – bottomless abyss.

This threesome is a bunch of shameless and hopeless cowards. They have not realized yet that the west, starting with the US empire, is passé. It’s a sinking ship. It’s high time for Iran to orient herself towards the east. Iran is already a Middle-Eastern key hub for the Chinese Belt and Road initiative (BRI), or the New Silk road. Iran can do without Europe; and the US needs Europe more than vice-versa. But the ‘chickens’ haven’t noticed that yet.

On the behest of Washington, the Trump clown, they, Germany, France and the UK, want to start an official dispute process, bringing Iran back to where it was before the Nuclear Deal, and reinstating all the UN sanctions of before the signature of the deal in July 2015. And this despite the fact that Iran has adhered to their part of the deal by 100%, as several times attested to by the Atomic Energy Commission in Vienna. Can you imagine what these abhorrent Europeans are about to do?
This reminds of how Europe pilfered, robbed and raped Africa and the rest of the now called developing world, for hundreds of years. No ethics, no qualms, just sheer egocentricity and cowardice. The European Barbarians and those on the other side of the Atlantic deserve each other. And they deserve disappearing in the same bottomless pit.

Iran may consider three ideas:

1) Call the European bluff. Let them start the dispute process – and let them drive it all the way to the UN Security Council. Their spineless British Brother in Crime, BoJo, also called the British Prime-Minister, Boris Johnson, will do the job for them, bringing the case “Iran Nuclear Deal – and Sanctions” to the UN Security Council – where it will fail, because Russia and China will not approve the motion.

2) Much more important, Dear Friends in Iran – DO NOT TRUST THE EUROPEANS FOR NOT EVEN ONE SECOND! – They have proven time and again that they are not trustworthy. They buckle under every time Trump is breaking wind – and

3) Dedollarize your economy even faster – move as far as possible away from the west – join the Eastern economy, that controls at least one third of the world’s GDP. You are doing already a lot in this direction – but faster. Join the SCO – the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, comprising half of Mother Earth’s population; ditch the dollar and the SWIFT payment system, join instead the Chinese Interbank Payment System (CIPS) – and be free of the sanction-prone western monetary fraud. Eastern monetary transactions are blocking out western dollar-based sanctions. Already your hydrocarbon trades with China, Russia, India and others are not carried out in US dollars, but in local currencies, Chinese yuans, Russian rubles and Indian rupees.

True – Iran will have to confront Iran-internally the western (NATO) and CIA trained, funded and bought Atlantists, the Fifth Columnists. They are the ones that create constant virulently violent unrest in the cities of Iran; they are trained – and paid for – to bring about Regime Change. That’s what Russia and China and Venezuela and Cuba are also confronted with. They, the Fifth Columnists have to be eradicated. It’s a challenge, but it should be doable.

Follow the Ayatollah’s route. He is on the right track – looking East.

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Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; Greanville Post; Defend Democracy Press, TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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It came as the biggest shock of the day on Wednesday. The Russian government resigned. The day before President Vladimir Putin gave his State of the Nation address and outlined a slate of constitutional changes.

That speech prompted an overhaul of Russia’s government.

Putin’s plan is to devolve some of the President’s overwhelming power to the legislature and the State Council, while beefing up the Constitutional Court’s ability to provide checks on legislation.

From TASS:

In Wednesday’s State of the Nation Address, Putin put forward a number of initiatives changing the framework of power structures at all levels, from municipal authorities to the president. The initiatives particularly stipulate that the powers of the legislative and judicial branches, including the Constitutional Court, will be expanded. The president also proposed to expand the role of the Russian State Council. Putin suggested giving the State Duma (the lower house of parliament) the right to approve the appointment of the country’s prime minister, deputy prime ministers and ministers.

The bigger shock was that in response to this Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev dissolved the current government willingly and resigned as Prime Minister.

Within hours Putin recommended Federal Tax Service chief, Mikhail Mishustin as Prime Minister. The State Duma approved Putin’s recommendation and Mishustin was sworn in by Putin all within a day.

While this came on suddenly it also shouldn’t be a surprise. These changes have been discussed for months leading up to Putin’s speech. And it’s been clear for the past few years that Putin has been engaged in the second phase of his long-term plan to first rebuild and then remake Russia during his time in office.

The first phase was rescuing Russia from economic, societal and demographic collapse. It was in serious danger of this when Putin took over from Boris Yeltsin.

It meant regaining control over strategic state resources, rebuilding Russia’s economy and defense, stabilizing its population, getting some semblance of political control within the Kremlin and bringing hope back to a country in desperate need of it.

Hostile analysts, both domestic and foreign, criticized Putin constantly for his tactics. Russia’s reliance on its base commodities sectors to revive its economy was seen as a structural weakness. But, an honest assessment of the situation begs the question, “How else was Putin going to back Russia away from the edge of that abyss?”

These same experts never seem to have an answer.

And when those critics were able to answer, since they were people connected to monied interests in the West who Putin stymied from continuing to loot Russia’s natural wealth, their answer was usually to keep doing that.

Don’t kid yourself, most of the so-called Russia experts out there are deeply tied back to Wall St. through one William Browder and his partner Mikhail Khordokovsky.

Nearly all of them in the U.S. Senate are severely compromised or just garden variety neocons still hell-bent on subjugating Russia to their hegemonic plans.

Their voices should be discounted heavily since they are the same criminals actively destroying U.S. and European politics today.

In the West these events were spun to suggest Putin is consolidating power. The initial reports were that he would remove the restraint on Presidential service of two consecutive terms. And that this would pave the way to his staying in office after his current term expires in 2024.

That, as always when regarding Russia, is the opposite of the truth. Putin’s recommendation is to remove the word “consecutive” from the Constitution making it clear that a President can only ever serve two terms. Moreover, that president will have had to have lived in Russia for the previous 25 years.

No one will be allowed to rule Russia like he has after he departs the office. Because Putin understands that the Russian presidency under the current constitution is far too powerful and leaves the country vulnerable to a man who isn’t a patriot being corrupted by that power.

There are a number of issues that most commentators and analysts in the West do not understand about Putin. Their insistence on presenting Putin only in the worst possible terms is tired and nonsensical to anyone who spends even a cursory amount of time studying him.

These events of the past couple of days in Russia are the end result of years of work on Putin’s part to purge the Russian government and the Kremlin of what The Saker calls The Atlanticist Fifth Column.

And they have been dug in like ticks in a corrupt bureaucracy that has taken Putin the better part of twenty years to tame.

It’s been a long and difficult road that even I only understand the surface details of. But it’s clear that beginning in 2012 or so, Putin began making the shift towards the next phase of Russia’s strategic comeback.

And that second phase is about taking a stable Russia and elevating its institutions to a more sustainable model.

Once birth rates improved and demographic collapse averted the next thing to do was to reform an economy rightly criticized for being too heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues.

And that is a much tougher task. It meant getting control over the Russian central bank and the financial sector. Putin was given that opportunity during the downturn in oil prices in 2014.

Using the crisis as an opportunity Putin began the decoupling of Russia’s economy from the West. During the early boom years of his Presidency oil revenue strengthened both the Russian state coffers and the so-called oligarchs who Putin was actively fighting for control.

He warned the CEO’s of Gazprom, Rosneft and Sberbank that they were too heavily exposed to the U.S. dollar this way in the years leading up to the crash in oil prices in 2014-16.

And when the U.S. sanctioned Russia in 2014 over the reunification with Crimea these firms all had to come to Putin for a bailout. Their dollar-denominated debt was swapped out for euro and ruble debt through the Bank of Russia and he instructed the central bank to allow the ruble to fall, to stop defending it.

Taking the inflationary hit was dangerous but necessary if Russia was to become a truly independent economic force.

Since then it’s been a tug of war with the IMF-trained bureaucracy within the Bank of Russia to set monetary policy in accordance with Russia’s needs not what the international community demanded.

That strong Presidency was a huge boon. But, now that the job is mostly done, it can be an albatross.

Putin understands that a Russia flush with too much oil money is a Russia ruled by that money and becomes lazy because of that money. Contrary to popular opinion, Putin doesn’t want to see oil prices back near $100 per barrel.

Because Russia’s comparative advantage in oil and gas is so high relative to everyone else on the world stage and to other domestic industries that money retards innovation and investment in new technologies and a broadening of the Russian domestic economy.

And this has been Putin’s focus for a while now. Oil and gas are geostrategic assets used to shore up Russia’s position as a regional power, building connections with its new partners while opening up new markets for Russian businesses.

But it isn’t the end of the Russian story of the future, rather the beginning.

And the slow privatization of those industries is happening, with companies like Gazprom and Rosneft selling off excess treasury shares to raise capital and put a larger share of them into public hands.

Again, this is all part of the next stage of Russia’s development and democratizing some of the President’s power has to happen if Russia is going to survive him leaving the stage.

Because it is one thing to have a man of uncommon ability and patriotism wielding that power responsibly. It’s another to believe Russia can get another man like Putin to take his place.

So, Putin is again showing his foresight and prudence in pushing for these changes now. It shows that he feels comfortable that this new structure will insulate Russia from external threats while strengthening the domestic political scene.

Gilbert Doctorow has an excellent early reaction to this dramatic turn by Putin which I encourage everyone to read in full. The subtle point he makes is:

To understand what comes next, you have to take into account a vitally important statement which Putin made a few moments before he set out his proposed constitutional reforms. He told his audience that his experience meeting with the leaders of the various Duma parties at regular intervals every few weeks showed that all were deeply patriotic and working for the good of the country. Accordingly, he said that all Duma parties should participate in the formation of the cabinet.

And so, we are likely to see in the coming days that candidates for a number of federal ministries in the new, post-Medvedev cabinet will be drawn precisely from parties other than United Russia. In effect, without introducing the word “coalition” into his vocabulary, Vladimir Putin has set the stage for the creation of a grand coalition to succeed the rule of one party, United Russia, over which Dimitri Medvedev was the nominal chairman.

The end result of this move to devolve the cabinet appointments to the whole of the Duma is to ensure that a strong President which Putin believes is best for Russia is tempered by a cabinet drawn from the whole of the electorate, including the Prime Minister.

That neither opens the door to dysfunctional European parliamentary systems nor closes it from a strong President leading Russia during crisis periods.

Once the amendments to the constitution are finalized Putin will put the whole package to a public vote.

This is the early stage of this much-needed overhaul of Russia’s constitutional order and the neocons in the West are likely stunned into silence knowing that they can no longer just wait Putin out and sink their hooks into his most likely successor.

Sometimes the most important changes occur right under our noses, right out in the open. Contrast that with the skullduggery and open hostility of the political circus in D.C. and you can which direction the two countries are headed.

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France’s Popular Uprising: Revolution or Frozen Conflict?

January 19th, 2020 by Diana Johnstone

The people are angry with their government.  Where? Just about everywhere. So what makes ongoing strikes in France so special?  Nothing, perhaps, except a certain expectation based on history that French uprisings can produce important changes – or if not, can at least help clarify the issues in contemporary social conflicts.

The current ongoing social unrest in France appears to pit a majority of working people against President Emmanuel Macron.  But since Macron is merely a technocratic tool ofglobal financial governance, the conflict is essentially an uprising against policies that put the avaricious demands of financial markets ahead of the needs of the people.  This basic conflict is at the root of the weekly demonstrations of Yellow Vest protesters who have been demonstrating every Saturday for well over a year, despite brutal police repression.  Now trade unionists, public sector workers and Yellow Vests demonstrate together, as partial work stoppages continue to perturb public transportation.

In the latest developments, teachers in Paris schools are joining the revolt. Even the prestigious prep school, the Lycée Louis le Grand, went on strike.  This is significant because even a government that shows no qualms in smashing the heads of working class malcontents can hesitate before bashing the brains of the future elite.

However general the discontent, the direct cause for what has become the longest period of unrest in memory is a single issue: the government’s determination to overhaul the national social security pension system. This is just one aspect of Macron’s anti-social program, but no other aspect touches just about everybody’s lives as much as this one.

French retirement is financed in the same way as U.S. Social Security. Employees and employers pay a proportion of wages into a fund that pays current pensions, in the expectation that tomorrow’s workers will pay for the pensions of those working today.

The existing system is complex, with particular regimes for 42 different professions, but it works well enough. As things are, despite the growing gap between the ultra-rich and those of modest means, there is less dire poverty among the elderly in France than, for example, in Germany.

The Macron plan to unify and simplify the system by a universal point system claims to improve “equality”, but it is a downward, not an upward leveling. The general thrust of the reform is clearly to make people work longer for smaller pensions. Bit by bit, the input and output of the social security system are being squeezed. This would further reduce the percentage of GDP going into wages and pensions.

The calculated result: as people fear the prospect of a penniless old age, they will feel obliged to put their savings into private pension schemes.

International Solidarity

In a rare display of old-fashioned working-class international solidarity, Belgian trade unions have spoken out in strong support of French unions’ opposition to Macron’s reforms, even offering to contribute to a strike fund for French workers.  Support by workers of one country for the struggle of workers in another country is what international solidarity used to mean.  It is largely forgotten by the contemporary left, which tends to see it in terms of opening national borders.  This perfectly reflects the aspirations of global capitalism.

The international solidarity of financial capital is structural.

Macron is an investment banker, whose campaign was financed and promoted by investment bankers, including foreign investors.  These are the people who helped inspire his policies, which are all designed to strengthen the power of international finance and weaken the role of the State.

Their goal is to induce the State to surrender decision-making to the impersonal power of “the markets”, whose mechanical criterion is profit rather than subjective political considerations of social welfare.  This has been the trend throughout the West since the 1980s and is simply intensifying under the rule of Macron.

The European Union has become the principal watch dog of this transformation.  Totally under the influence of unelected experts, every two years the EU Commission lays out “Broad Economic Policy Guidelines” – in French GOPÉ (Grandes Orientations des Politiques Économiques), to be followed by Member States. The May 2018 GOPÉ for France “recommended” (this is an order!) a set of “reforms”, including “uniformization” of retirement schemes, ostensibly to improve “transparency”, “equity”, labor mobility and – last but definitely not least – “better control of public expenditures”.  In short, government budget cuts.

The Macron economic reform policy was essentially defined in Brussels.

But Wall Street is interested too.  The team of experts assigned by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to devise the administration’s economic reforms includes Jean-François Cirelli, head of the French branch of Black Rock, the seven trillion-dollar New York-based investment manager. About two thirds of Black Rock’s capital comes from pension funds all over the world.

Larry Fink, the American CEO of this monstrous heap of money, was a welcome visitor at the Elysée Palace in June 2017, shortly after Macron’s election. Two weeks later, economics minister Bruno Le Maire was in New York consulting with Larry Fink. Then, in October 2017, Fink led a Wall Street delegation to Paris for a confidential meeting (leaked to Le Canard Enchaîné) with Macron and five top cabinet ministers to discuss how to make France especially attractive to foreign investment.

Larry Fink has an obvious interest in Macron’s reforms. By gradually impoverishing social security, the new system is designed to spur a boom in private pension schemes, a field dominated by Black Rock.  These schemes lack the guarantee of government social security. Private pensions depend on stock market performance, and if there is a crash, there goes your retirement. Meanwhile, the money managers play with your savings, taking their cut whatever happens.

There is nothing conspiratorial about this.  It is simply international finance at work. Macron and his cabinet ministers are eager to have Black Rock invest in France.  For them, this is the way the world works.

The most cynical pretext for Macron’s pension reform is that combining all the various professional regimes into a universal point system favors “equality” – even as it increases the growing gap between salaried people and the super-rich, who don’t need pensions.

But professions are different. At Christmas, striking ballet dancers illustrated this fact by performing a portion of Swan Lake on the cold stones of the entrance to the Opera Garnier in Paris. They were calling public attention to the fact that they cannot be expected to keep working into their sixties, nor can other professions requiring extreme physical effort.

The variations in the current French pension system perform a social function.  Some professions, such as teaching and nursing, are essential to society, but wages tend to be lower than in the private sector.  These professions are able to renew themselves by ensuring job stability and the promise of comfortable retirement.  Take away their “privileges” and recruiting competent teachers and nurses will be even harder than it is already.  At present, medical personnel are threatening to resign en masse, because conditions in hospitals are becoming unbearable as a result of drastic cuts in budgets and personnel.

Is There an Alternative?

The real issue is a choice of systems: to be precise, economic globalization versus national sovereignty.

For historic reasons, most French people do not share the ardent faith of British and Americans in the benevolence of the invisible hand of the market.  There is a national leaning toward a mixed economy, where the State plays a strong determining role.  The French do not easily believe that privatization is better, least of all when they can see it doing worse.

Macron is an ardent devotee of the invisible hand. He seems to expect that by draining French savings into an international investment giant such as Black Rock, Black Rock will reciprocate by pumping investment into French technological and industrial progress.

Nothing could be less certain.  In the West these days, there is lots of low interest credit, lots of debt, but investment is rarely creative.  Money is used largely to buy what is already there – existing companies, mergers, stock trading (massive in the U.S.) and, for individuals, housing. Most foreign investment in France buys up things like vineyards or goes into safe infrastructure such as ports, airports and autoroutes.  When General Electric bought out Alstom, it soon broke its promise to preserve jobs and began cutting back. It also is depriving France of control of an essential aspect of its national independence, its nuclear energy.

In short, foreign investment may weaken the nation in terms in crucial ways. In a mixed economy, profit-making assets such as autoroutes can increase the government’s capacity to make up for periodic deficits in social security, among other things. With privatization, foreign shareholders must get their returns.

The United States, for all its ideological devotion to the invisible hand, actually has a strongly State-supported military industrial sector, dependent on Congressional appropriations, Pentagon contracts, favorable legislation and pressure on “allies” to buy U.S.-made weaponry.  This is indeed a form of planned economy, one that fails utterly to meet social needs.

The rules of the European Union prohibit a Member State such as France from developing its own civil-oriented industrial policy, since everything must be open to unhindered international competition.  Utilities, services and infrastructure must all be open to foreign owners.  Foreign investors may feel no inhibition about taking their profits while allowing these public services to deteriorate.

The ongoing disruption of daily life seems to be forcing Macron’s government to make minor concessions. But nothing can change the basic aims of this presidency.

At the same time, the arrogance and brutal repression of the Macron regime increase demands for radical political change.  The Yellow Vest movement has largely adopted the demand developed by Etienne Chouard for a new Constitution empowering citizen-initiated referendums – in short, a peaceful democratic revolution.

But how to get there? Overthrowing a monarch is one thing, but overthrowing the power of international finance is another, especially in a nation bound by EU and NATO treaties. Personal animosity toward Macron tends to shelter the European Union from sharp criticism of its major responsibility.

A peaceful electoral revolution calls for popular leaders with a clear program. François Asselineau continues to spread his radical critique of the EU among the intelligentsia without his party, the Union Populaire Républicaine, gaining any significant electoral strength.  Leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has the oratorical punch to lead a revolution, but his popularity seems to have suffered from attacks even harsher than those unleashed against Corbyn in Britain or Sanders in the USA. With Mélenchon weakened and no other strong personalities in sight, Marine Le Pen has established herself as Macron’s main challenger in the 2022 presidential election, which risks presenting voters with the same choice they had in 2017.

Asselineau’s analysis, Yellow Vest strategic mass, Mélenchon’s oratory, Chouard’s institutional reforms – these are elements that could theoretically combine (with others yet unknown) to produce a peaceful revolution. But combining political elements is hard chemistry, especially in individualistic France.  Without some big surprises, France appears headed not for revolution but for a long frozen combat.

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Diana Johnstone is author of Circle in the Darkness: Memoirs of a World Watcher, Clarity Press, January 2020.

Video: Turkish Invasion of Libya? Erdogan Sends Troops

January 18th, 2020 by South Front

In early 2020, Libya became one of the main hot points in the Greater Middle East with stakes raised by Turkey’s decision to launch a military operation there.

On January 5, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey had sent troops to Libya to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). No Turkish soldiers will reportedly participate in direct fighting. Instead, they will create an operation center and coordinate operations. Erdogan pointed that “right now”, there will be “different units serving as a combatant force.” He didn’t say who exactly these troops would be, but it is apparent that these are members of Turkish-backed Syrian militant groups and Turkey-linked private military contractors.

Ankara started an active deployment of members of pro-Turkish Syrian militant groups in Libya in December 2019. So far, over 600 Turkish-backed Syrian fighters have arrived. According to media reports, the officially dispatched Turkish troops included military advisers, technicians, electronic warfare and air defense specialists. Their total number is estimated at around 40-60 personnel.

A day after the Erdogan announcement, on January 6, the defense of the GNA collapsed in Sirte and the GNA’s rival, the Libyan National Army (LNA), took control of the town. Several pro-GNA units from Sirte publicly defected to the LNA with weapons and military equipment, including at least 6 armoured vehicles. With the loss of Sirte, only two large cities – Tripoli and Misrata – formally remained in the hands of the GNA. Misrata and its Brigades in fact remain a semi-independent actor operating under the GNA banner.

From January 7 to January 12, when the sides agreed on a temporary ceasefire proposed in a joint statement of the Turkish and Russian presidents, the LNA continued offensive operations against GNA forces near Tripoli and west of Sirte capturing several positions there. The GNA once again demonstrated that it is unable to take an upper hand in the battle against forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The GNA formally requested “air, ground and sea” military support from Turkey on December 26th, 2019, in the framework of the military cooperation deal signed by the sides in November. On January 2, 2020, the Turkish Parliament approved the bill allowing troop deployment in Libya. This move did not change the situation strategically. Even before the formal approval, Ankara already was engaged in the conflict. It sent large quantities of weapons and military equipment, including “BMC Kirpi” armoured vehicles, deployed Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles at airfields near Tripoli and Misrata, and sent operators and trainers in order to assist GNA forces.

Turkey could increase military supplies, deploy additional private military contractors, military advisers and special forces units, but it has no safe place to deploy own air group to provide the GNA with a direct air support like Russia did for pro-Assad forces in Syria. Approximately 90% of Libya is under the LNA control. Tripoli and Misrata airports are in a strike distance for the LNA. Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan refuse to play any direct role in the conflict, while the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is still too far away. Egypt, alongside with the UAE and Russia, is a supporter of the LNA. Therefore, deployment there is out of question.

Turkey operates no aircraft carriers. Its TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship can be configured as a light aircraft carrier, but the warship isn’t in service yet. It is unclear how Ankara will be able to provide the GNA with an extensive air support without endangering its own aircraft by deploying them close to the combat zone.

Turkey could deploy a naval task force to support the GNA. Nonetheless, this move is risky, if one takes into account the hostile political environment, with Egypt, Cyprus, the UAE and Greece are strictly against any such actions. Additionally, this deployment will go against the interests of other NATO member states such as France and Italy that see the expansion of the Turkish influence as a direct threat to their vital economic interests, especially in the oil business. Warships near the Libyan coast will be put in jeopardy from modern anti-ship measures. Yemen’s Houthis repeatedly proved that missiles could be quite an effective tool to combat a technologically advanced enemy. In the worst-case scenario, the Turkish Navy can suffer notable losses, and the risk of this is too real to tangible to overlook.

Another unlikely option is a large-scale ground operation that will require an amphibious landing. Turkey has several landing ships, the biggest of which are the two Bayraktar-class amphibious warfare ships (displacement – 7,254 tons). There are also the Osman Gazi-class landing ship (3,700 tons), two Sarucabey-class landing ships (2,600 tons). Other landing ships, albeit active, are outdated. With 5 modern landing ships, any landing operation will endanger Turkish forces involved, keeping in mind the complex diplomatic environment and the LNA that will use all means and measures that it has to prevent such a scenario.

In these conditions, the most likely scenario of Turkey’s military operation was the following:

  • Deployment of a limited number of specialists;
  • Public employment of private military contractors’
  • Redeployment of members of pro-Turkish proxy groups from Syria to Libya;
  • Diplomatic and media campaign to secure Ankara’s vital interests and find a political solution that would prevent the LNA’s final push to capture Tripoli. Turkey sees the Libyan foothold and the memorandum on maritime boundaries signed with the GNA as the core factors needed to secure own national interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

This is exactly what Ankara did. On January 8, Turkish and Russian Presidents released a joint statement in which they called for reaching cease-fire in Libya by midnight of January 12. The joint statement emphasized the worsening situation in Libya and its negative impact on “the security and stability of Libya’s wider neighborhood, the entire Mediterranean region, as well as the African continent, triggering irregular migration, further spread of weapons, terrorism and other criminal activities including illicit trafficking,” and called for the resumption of a political dialogue to settle the conflict. The LNA initially rejected the ceasefire initiative, but then accepted it. This signals that key LNA supporters agreed on the format proposed by the Turkish and Russian leaders. On January 13, the delegations of the GNA, the LNA, and Turkey arrived in Moscow for talks on a wider ceasefire deal. The deal was not reached and clashes near Tripoli resumed on January 14.

Russian and Turkish interests are deeply implicated. Some experts speculated the contradictions within the Libyan conflict could become a stone that will destroy the glass friendship between Ankara and Moscow. However, the joint Russian-Turkish diplomatic efforts demonstrate that the sides found a kind of understanding and possibly agreed on the division of spheres of influence. If the Moscow negotiations format allows de-escalating the situation and putting an end to the terrorism threat and violence in Libya, it will become another success of the practical approach employed by the both powers in their cooperation regarding the Middle East questions.

The 2011 NATO intervention led by France, Italy and the United States destroyed the Libyan statehood in order to get control of the country’s energy resources. Now, Egypt, the UAE, Russia and Turkey are driving France, Italy and the US out of Libya in order to put an end to the created chaos and secure own interests.

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Post-WW II, Washington transformed Western European countries into virtual US colonies — their presence status.

Judge them by their actions. Time and again, they subordinate their sovereign rights to US interests, even when harming their own.

It shows by imposing unlawful sanctions on Russia and other nations on the US target list for regime change, harming their economies from reduced trade, along with violating international law.

Since the Trump regime’s illegal May 2018 withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear deal, European countries followed the US lead by breaching their mandated obligations.

Britain, France, Germany, and Brussels falsely blamed Iran for rolling back its voluntary commitments as permitted under JCPOA Articles 26 and 36 — bowing to Trump regime pressure, going along with its hostile anti-Iran agenda instead of forthrightly denouncing it.

According to the Washington Post on Wednesday, days before E3 countries Britain, France and Germany triggered the JCPOA dispute resolution mechanism — falsely accusing Iran of breaching the deal — the Trump regime threatened 25% tariffs on EU auto exports to the US if it failed to take this step.

Citing unnamed EU officials “familiar with the conversations…within days the (E3) countries…formally accuse(d) Iran of violating the deal…”

Triggering the dispute mechanism is step one toward unravelling the JCPOA altogether, the Trump regime’s aim.

Europe rhetorically supports the agreement, its actions aiming to undermine it because Trump regime hardliners demand it.

One unnamed EU official called US pressure “extortion,” WaPo saying what’s going on “underscore(s) the extraordinary tumult in the transatlantic relationship.”

What it really shows is EU subservience to US demands, the landmark JCPOA hanging in the balance.

If E3 countries follow dispute mechanism steps to conclusion, the agreement will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Unacceptable Security Council sanctions will be reimposed on Iran, tensions more greatly heightening, the envelope pushed toward greater regional confrontation and instability than already.

WaPo quoted European Council on Foreign Relations research director Jeremy Shapiro, saying the Trump regime’s “tariff threat is a mafia-like tactic, and it’s not how relations between allies typically work.”

An unnamed EU official was quoted, saying: “We didn’t want to look weak, so we agreed to keep the existence of the threat a secret.”

The claim by E3 countries that they’re not part of the Trump regime’s “maximum pressure” against Iran is belied by their actions since DJT unlawfully withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018.

Separately on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif slammed the E3, tweeting:

“Europe, EU, is the largest global economy. So why do you allow the United States to bully you around?”

“Appeasement confirmed.”

“E3 sold out remnants of #JCPOA to avoid new Trump tariffs.”

“It won’t work…You only whet his appetite. Remember your high school bully?”

“If you want to sell your integrity, go ahead. But DO NOT assume high moral/legal ground.”

“YOU DON’T HAVE IT.”

“E3 think they’re living in the 19th Century, when they dictated to countries, lied, & got away with it.”

“IRAN is NOT the one emptying the accord of its substance—the E3 is. Forget about compensating for US: fulfill your own obligations. EVEN JUST ONE.”

“Here’s what E3 HAS been busy w/since the US left JCPOA:”

“✔️Reality Check 2:”

“Issued empty statements. Violated its own laws by bowing to US extraterritorial sanctions. Ignored Iran’s 3 notifications of DRM activation.”

“Set up INSTEX w/o single transaction. Enough is enough.”

Russia slammed the E3’s action, its Foreign Ministry saying activation of the dispute mechanism makes returning to JCPOA implementation “impossible.”

Spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang said the E3 move “will not help solve (outstanding) issues or ease current tensions.”

Triggering the JCPOA dispute mechanism by E3 countries Britain, France, and Germany was a hostile anti-Iran action.

If pursued to resolution as seems likely, their action will drive the final nail in the JCPOA.

What took years to agree on and be unanimously adopted by Security Council members in July 2015 will be undone in a matter of weeks — to please anti-Iran Trump regime hardliners, at the expense of Middle East peace, stability and security.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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Take My Benefits – Please! Medicare System in Crisis

January 18th, 2020 by Mark Dudzic

At the June 2019 House Ways and Means Committee Hearing on Medicare for All, Texas Republican Kevin Murphy lamented, “That great health care plan that your union negotiated for you? It’s gone. Banned under Medicare for All.”

A right-wing congressman with a 7 percent lifetime voting score from the AFL-CIO crying crocodile tears for great union health care plans can be easily dismissed as just another absurdity of the increasingly dysfunctional American political system. But when Joe “the workingman’s friend” Biden repeats the charge almost word for word and when AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka insists—on Fox News no less!—that “if there isn’t some way to have our plans integrated into the system, then we would not support [Medicare for All],” something is certainly happening out there. Talking points, after all, don’t just come out of thin air. They are carefully crafted and disseminated by a coterie of lobbyists and publicists often working on behalf of shadowy corporate and political interests.

Trumka was shortly joined by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who just six months earlier had delivered a full-throated endorsement of the Medicare for All Act at a rally celebrating its introduction. In her September 23, 2019, Politico article, Weingarten walked back that support in favor of a fictitious system in which “employer-based insurance would be allowed to exist to the extent that plans met or exceeded the standards set by the Medicare plan.” Such a system “would allow people who like their current employer-based plan—which seven in ten Americans claim to (although it’s likely they like their doctor, not the plan itself)—to keep it, allow for a gradual transition from one plan to another when necessary, and effectively improve on the model originally created by the Affordable Care Act.”

The spectacle of national labor leaders defending a system that is the biggest cause of strikes, lockouts, and concession bargaining is mind-boggling. For an entire generation now, unions in the United States have traded wages and other benefits for shrinking coverage by employer-provided health insurance (or for the ever-increasing employer contributions required to maintain similarly shrinking benefits from union-sponsored health and welfare funds).

An Accident of History

The U.S. health care system’s linkage to employment is unique among industrialized countries. It emerged as an accident of history in the years just following World War II when Roosevelt’s promise to enact a “Second Bill of Rights” in the postwar period was stopped dead in its tracks by resurgent capital. In 1946, the American Medical Association led the fight to defeat the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill that would have created a publicly funded national health insurance program. The following year saw the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which, combined with an orgy of anti-communism and race baiting, set the powerful postwar labor movement into a long retreat.

Unable to expand the social wage by treating public goods such as health care as a basic right available to all, labor helped craft a “second-best solution” of making access to health care a benefit linked to employment. Corporate America piled on and offered elaborate benefits to recruit and retain employees and to keep unions out. This system was flawed from the beginning. It created tiers of coverage that reinforced employment-based racial and gender disparities and massive amounts of “churn” that disrupted continuity of care for even the best insured. Particularly after the expansion of for-profit health insurance and health care providers beginning in the 1970s, more and more administrative inefficiency was built into the system to facilitate profit taking, until, by the early twenty-first century, the U.S. health care system was twice as expensive as the OECD average.

Nonetheless, in the post-World War II period of high union density and employment stability, many unions were able to negotiate a robust “private welfare state” that provided health care security for tens of millions of working-class Americans. These benefits were almost never handed to workers. Unions had to wage long and unremitting fights to expand and defend employer-based health care. By the 1980s, almost every contract negotiation was faced with employer demands for reductions in coverage and transfer of costs from the employer to the worker. Nonunion workers fared even worse as they were forced to accept whatever the employer offered. And, unlike attempts to cut social insurance benefits like Social Security or Medicare that almost always fail due to massive popular opposition, cuts to employment-based health care benefits take place company by company under cover of night and arouse little or no popular opposition. Today, even those few union members who have been able to preserve good benefits find themselves as islands in a sea of inadequate and precarious health care coverage.

A System in Crisis

Like it or not, employment-based health care is simply unsustainable. The Milliman Medical Index reports that the 2018 total health care costs for a family of four with decent employment-based coverage exceed $28,000 per year. That is $14 per hour worked for a full-time employee—almost twice the federal minimum wage. The employer pays $15,000 of that, and $13,000 is paid by the worker through co-insurance, out-of-pocket charges, co-pays, deductibles, and all of the other myriad ways that the medical industrial complex extracts money from our pockets. These amounts already exceed the average hourly wage in food services and retail occupations and are increasing two times faster than the rate of wage increases for all workers, putting them on track to exceed average wages in manufacturing and other core industries within the next decade. The percentage of total health care costs paid by the worker has gone up nearly every year since it was first tracked in the 1990s. Employment-based health care is coming up upon the limits of Stein’s Law, formulated by economist Herbert Stein in 1985: “If something can’t go on forever, it will stop.”

Employment-based health care is also a major driver of wage stagnation. Every worker trades wages for health care. A recent Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans would be willing to trade 10 percent of future wage increases for a guarantee that their health care costs would not go up for five years. This puts workers and their unions at a huge bargaining disadvantage and goes a long way toward explaining why wages continue to stagnate at a time of low unemployment and growing corporate profits.

And even the best employment-based health care is not there when we need it the most: when we lose our jobs, change jobs, go on strike, or struggle with long-term illness.

What was once a source of pride in the “union advantage” has become an anchor around the necks of the U.S. working class. No union leader in their right mind can conjure a scenario where the system of employment-based health care could be stabilized in ways that could provide sustainable health care security for workers and their families. That is why unions representing a majority of organized workers now support HR 1384 – The Medicare for All Act of 2019 and why the AFL-CIO at its 2017 convention unanimously voted to support policies to “move expeditiously to a single-payer Medicare for All system.”

The Medicare for All Solution

Medicare for All would take health care off the bargaining table and increase union bargaining leverage in nearly every negotiation. It would allow union-sponsored health and welfare funds the opportunity to reallocate revenues currently sunk into the world’s most expensive and inefficient health care system. Savings could be applied to new “union advantage” programs such as enhanced disability benefits, supplemental unemployment benefits, tuition and training programs, legal services, child- and eldercare, and others. Some revenues could also potentially be reallocated to shore up endangered pension plans.

Medicare for All would also provide better coverage than any employment-based plan in existence today. Opponents of Medicare for All often conflate the constricted benefits offered under today’s Medicare program after more than 50 years of underfunding and privatization attempts with the greatly expanded and improved benefits proposed under Medicare for All. HR 1384—Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for All Bill with 119 cosponsors—proposes to cover the following benefits without a single co-pay, deductible, or other out-of-pocket cost:

Hospital services, including inpatient and outpatient hospital care, including 24-hour-a-day emergency services and inpatient prescription drugs. (2) Ambulatory patient services. (3) Primary and preventive services, including chronic disease management. (4) Prescription drugs and medical devices, including outpatient prescription drugs, medical devices, and biological products. (5) Mental health and substance abuse treatment services, including inpatient care. (6) Laboratory and diagnostic services. (7) Comprehensive reproductive, maternity, and newborn care. (8) Pediatrics. (9) Oral health, audiology, and vision services. (10) Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices. (11) Emergency services and transportation. (12) Early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services, as described in sections 1902(a)(10)(A), 1902(a)(43), 1905(a)(4)(B), and 1905(r) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(10)(A); 1396a(a)(43); 1396d(a)(4)(B); 1396d(r)). (13) Necessary transportation to receive health care services for persons with disabilities or low-income individuals (as determined by the Secretary). (14) Long-term care services and support (as described in section 204).

By comparison, the highly touted federal employees’ health benefit plan merely offers the choice of a number of fairly comprehensive private insurance products with the typical array of co-pays, deductibles, and narrow networks. For all of this, federal employees must kick in 28 percent of the weighted average premium for all plans.

Arguably, union employees working for the City of New York might have some of the best coverage of any working-class American. They can get fully employer-paid coverage in the default Emblem Health/HIP plan which has almost no co-pays or deductibles (workers may also choose other private insurance plans that do require employee contributions). They also receive generous dental, optical, and prescription coverage. But even here, workers must use a narrow provider network or face substantial co-pays, and the plan falls far short of HR 1384 in its coverage of long-term care, disability services, and community and home-based care. Moreover, every contract negotiation is held hostage to the imperative to hold on to these extraordinary benefits at almost any cost. I challenge any advocate of employment-based coverage to show me a plan that matches the level of comprehensive services, freedom of choice, and absence of out-of-pocket costs proposed by HR 1384. 

Like global warming, the case for replacing our dysfunctional, multipayer, for-profit health care system with a publicly funded, universal system with a single standard of care for all is so compelling that it has reached the level of scientific fact. Nonetheless, too many national labor leaders continue to sing the praises of employment-based health care benefits, while too many others give merely rhetorical support for Medicare for All—passing resolutions at conferences and conventions to please union activists while continuing to devote the bulk of their union’s mobilizing and legislative efforts to support for incremental and defensive policy fixes. Only a few national unions have begun to commit the kind of resources and organizing capacity that will be needed to defeat the concentrated political and economic power of the medical-industrial complex.

Union Backpedaling

As momentum for Medicare for All builds, we are witnessing more backpedaling within the labor movement. And not all of it is confined to national labor leaders (though it certainly is more pronounced at that level). In New York, a single-payer-style state bill—NY Health—has twice passed the State Assembly and is edging toward passage in the State Senate backed by a growing popular movement. While the bill does have considerable labor support, including from the state’s powerful hospital workers and nurses unions, a significant section of the labor movement has gone into open opposition. In June of 2018, James Cahill, the president of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council, joined the CEO of the Business Council pf New York State in co-authoring an op-ed in Crain’s New York Business opposing the bill and “government-run health care.”

Taken by itself, this expression might be dismissed as another sign of the class collaborationism and conservatism than infects significant sections of the building trades. But they were joined by a number of other unions, including the 380,000-member Municipal Labor Council—whose affiliates include a number of “progressive unions”—which told Politico that they “dread the impact of the single-payer proposal in Albany.” It is true that, unlike national proposals, state-level single-payer-style plans are notoriously complex to design and difficult to fund. But this hostility goes beyond having legitimate questions about implementation. The fact that major sectors of the labor movement refuse to engage in an effort to make health care a birthright in a state with near-Canadian levels of union density is profoundly unsettling for those of us who believe that, in order to succeed, labor must be in the forefront of the fight to win Medicare for All.

So what is driving this opposition? Perversely, in New York some of it derives from precisely these high levels of union density. Unions still think they have a seat at the table and may sincerely believe that they can bargain better and more secure benefits that would not be subject to the precariousness of annual state budget debates. This parochial perspective ignores the reality that New York unions are only one election or economic downturn away from catastrophe. They only need to look across the Hudson to see what anti-union Governor Chris Christie did to New Jersey public sector workers’ ability to bargain for health care during his administration (aided and abetted, I would add, by Democratic political elements associated with some of the most politically influential building trades locals).

Putting aside the idiosyncrasies of New York labor politics, many union leaders may also believe that “the members aren’t ready” to support Medicare for All. Loss aversion plays a central part in shaping that belief. Behavioral scientists have observed that people are much more likely to be motivated by the fear of losing something they have than by the prospect of gaining something they want. Fear of loss of health insurance is a major driver of working-class insecurity in the United States. It is no surprise, then, that the lobbyists and publicists working on behalf of the medical-industrial complex would focus on this theme in their effort to scare the American people away from a just health care system. Some of that fear has infected union members. The failure to confront such fears, of course, is a classic mistake that anyone who’s ever been through an organizing campaign would know to avoid. The real problem here is union leaders who fail to articulate a vision of working-class politics that will inspire and unify union members.

These concerns are compounded in the wake of the Janus decision, which has made public sector union membership completely voluntary. Many public sector union leaders are convinced that the best way to persuade workers to maintain their union membership is to show how the union adds value in their workplace. Negotiating health insurance benefits that are much better than those enjoyed by most other working-class Americans is one way to do that without necessarily having to engage in risky internal organizing and mobilizing activities that may end up undermining existing union leadership.

Some unions have raised the specter of job loss as a reason to oppose Medicare for All. This is a legitimate concern. Studies have shown that close to two million workers will be displaced due to the administrative efficiencies of Medicare for All. While both the House and Senate bills provide funding for transition benefits for these workers, decades of working-class experience with bearing the cost of environmental-, trade-, and automation-related job losses have made workers rightly skeptical of any promises of economic security. The Labor Campaign for Single Payer has called for centering these worker concerns in the political and legislative battles to come and has warned that a failure to do so will give our opponents the opportunity to divide workers against each other.

Unions have also expressed concern that employers would reap the benefit of all of the sunken wages that unions have agreed to divert to maintain decent private insurance coverage. This would assume that, in the transition to Medicare for All, unions would be so weak and/or incompetent that they would be unable to recapture those already bargained monies. Even assuming a worst-case scenario, this objection is tantamount to someone opposing student loan forgiveness because they’ve already paid off a chunk of their loan.

There are also a number of institutional factors that can work to discourage union support for Medicare for All. Union health and welfare funds often have substantial brick-and-mortar investments in union facilities and provide a range of member services that often strengthen members’ union identification. A vast web of relationships also exists between union officials and health care vendors, brokers, intermediaries, attorneys, and various hangers on. Some are outright corrupt. Others are more benign, such as the insurance company that subsidizes their stewards training or the broker that they can call to get a member rapid placement in a substance abuse treatment program. Nonetheless, all of these relationships are ultimately corrupting because of the entailments of obligation that they engender with players who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

However, the biggest factor by far that drives union opposition to Medicare for All is many union leaders’ fear of disrupting their political relationships. Unions are multi-issue organizations, and many of their bargaining and organizing goals are impacted by local and national political concerns. The ascendancy of a right-wing, anti-labor political regime is an existential threat to the institutional labor movement as well as to a wide range of working-class concerns. Unions routinely pull their punches in the interest of maintaining these relationships. For example, with a few notable exceptions, unions were nowhere to be seen in the 2016 Democratic Party platform fight around Medicare for All and other issues of central concern to the working class led by Bernie Sanders supporters. Enmeshed in the two-party system and with diminishing leverage, unions often see no alternative. Every election cycle is the most important one in the history of the nation, and, whatever the outcome, unions nearly always emerge weaker from each round.

This political practice engenders cynicism and apathy among union members and provides the space for right-wing populism to take root within some sections of the working class. The past decade has seen the reemergence of a refreshing political independence in some of the most dynamic sections of the labor movement. By challenging the status quo, they have inspired their members to take risks and have forced important concessions from the political establishment. Medicare for All, because it seeks to reclaim a public good on behalf of the entire working class, can be an important wedge issue in building out an independent working-class politics.

The Path Forward 

Our experience in the Labor Campaign for Single Payer has shown that support for our cause is greatest at the front lines of the labor movement, where leaders and staffers have to deal on a daily basis with the consequences of private, for-profit health care. Our goal has been to work with those activists as they find ways to constructively engage with national labor leadership. After AFL-CIO President Trumka’s Labor Day appearance on Fox News, for example, we asked unionists to write him to remind him that support for Medicare for All is the official policy of America’s largest labor federation. Over 2,500 people answered the call. These are the leaders who will drive change in our movement and ultimately bring the formidable political and mobilization resources of institutional labor into the battle to make health care a right for everyone in America. When that happens, we will win.

As Washington State Labor Council President Larry Brown stated, “Unions do not serve their members well by trying to circle the wagons around an unsustainable model of employment-based health care.” Our labor movement will thrive when we express the aspirations of all workers and speak on behalf of the entire working class.

Union members should be justly proud of the long battle that unions have waged to protect their right to access affordable, quality health care, and the Labor Campaign for Single Payer stands in solidarity with all workers everywhere who fight to protect these hard-won gains. But our movement is at an historic juncture. Now is not the time to muddy the waters or bargain against ourselves. We need labor to lead as we work to make this a key issue in the 2020 elections and to hold politicians accountable in 2021 and beyond. And we have the right to expect that the union leaders who represent us and the politicians that we support will do more than just parrot the talking points crafted by health care industry lobbyists.

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Sources

  1. Committee on Ways and Means, “Pathways to Universal Coverage,” June 12, 2019,
  2. Ronn Blitzer, “AFL-CIO Head ‘Would Have a Hard Time Supporting’ ‘Medicare-For-All’ that Eliminates Union Plans,Fox News, Sept. 1, 2019,
  3. Labor Campaign for Single Payer, “AFT President Randi Weingarten Explains Why Teachers and Healthcare Workers Won’t Stop Organizing,”
  4. Randi Weingarten, “The False Choice over ‘Medicare for All,’” Politico, Sept. 23, 2019,
  5. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, “OECD Data,”
  6. Milliman, Inc., “2018 Milliman Medical Index.”
  7. Gallup, Inc., “The U.S. Healthcare Cost Crisis.”
  8. Labor Campaign for Single Payer, “Medicare for All: Is Your Union on Board?
  9. Labor Campaign for Single Payer, “AFLCIO 2017 Endorses Medicare for All,” Dec. 13, 2017.
  10. Labor Campaign for Single Payer, “Multiemployer Plans, Taft-Hartley Funds & Single-payer Healthcare,
  11. U.S. Congress, “H.R. 1384 – Medicare for All Act of 2019.
  12. EmblemHealth, “The HIP HMO Preferred Plan for City of New York Employees,”
  13. Heather C. Briccetti and James Cahill, “New Yorkers Don’t Want to Pay for Single-payer,Crain’s New York Business, June 5, 2018.
  14. Sally Goldenberg, “City Unions Say They Dread Impact of Single-payer in Albany,Politico, Nov. 29, 2018.
  15. Robert Pollin, James Heintz, Peter Arno, Jeannette Wicks-Lam, and Michael Ash, Economic Analysis of Medicare for All, Political Economy Research Institute, 108-12.
  16. 16. Larry Brown, “Let’s Take Health Care off the Bargaining Table,” The Stand,March 5, 2019.

Featured image is from New Politics

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When the US places financial sanctions on one country, it de facto sanctions many other countries as well — including many of its allies.

This is because not all countries and firms are interested in participating in the US sanctions-based foreign policy. Sanctions, after all, have become a favorite go-to strategy for American policymakers who seek to isolate or punish foreign states that don’t cooperate with US international policy goals.

In recent years, the US has been most active in imposing new sanctions on Russia and Iran, with many consequences for US allies who are still open to doing business with both of those countries.

The US can retaliate against organizations that violate US sanctions in a variety of ways. In the past, the US has sued firms such as the Netherlands’s ING Groep and Switzerland’s Credit Suisse. Both firms have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines in the past. The US has been known to go after individuals.

US bureaucrats like to remind firms that penalties await them should they not buckle under the US sanctions plan. In November 2018, for example, US secretary of state Michael Pompeo announced:

I promise you that doing business in Iran in defiance of our sanctions will ultimately be a much more painful business decision than pulling out of Iran.

Fear of sanctions has caused some firms to stop work mid-project, such as when Swiss pipe-laying company Allseas Group abandoned a $10 billion pipeline that was nearing completion.

Not surprisingly, these firms — who employ people, pay taxes, and contribute to economic growth — have put pressure on their governments to protest the mounting interference from the US in private trade.

As a result, some European politicians are increasingly looking for ways to get around US sanctions. In a tweet last week, Germany’s deputy foreign minister Niels Annen wrote

Europe needs new instruments to be able to defend itself from licentious extraterritorial sanctions.

Another “senior German government official” concluded,

Washington is treating the EU as an adversary. It is dealing the same way with Mexico, Canada, and with allies in Asia. This policy will provoke counter-reactions across the world.

But how is the US so easily able to sanction so much of the world, including companies in huge and influential countries like Germany?

The answer lies in the fact that the US dollar and the US economy remain at the center of the international trade system.

SWIFT: How the US Sanctions the World

By the waning days of the Cold War, the US dollar had become the dominant currency in the noncommunist world, thanks to the Bretton Woods agreement, the petrodollar, and the sheer size of the US economy.

Once the Communist Bloc collapsed, the dollar was poised to grow even more in importance, and the world’s financial institutions searched for a way to make global trade and investing even faster and easier.

Henry Farrell at the National Interest describes what came next:

Financial institutions wanted to communicate with other financial institutions so that they could send and receive money. This led them to abandon inefficient institution-to-institution communications and to converge on a common solution: the financial messaging system maintained by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) consortium, based in Belgium. Similarly, banks wanted to make transactions in the globally dominant currency, the U.S. dollar.…In practice, the physical infrastructure, for a variety of efficiency reasons, tended to channel global flows through a small number of central data cables and switch points.

At the time, Europe was still years away from creating the euro, and it only seemed natural that a centralized dollar-transfer system be developed for all the world.

SWIFT personnel have always maintained that their organization is apolitical, neutral, and only interested in providing a service. But geopolitical realities have long intervened. Farrell continues:

The centralizing tendencies meant that the new infrastructure of global networks was asymmetric: some nodes and connections were far more important than others.…What this meant was that a few states—most prominently the United States—had the latent ability to transform the global economic infrastructures…into an architecture of global power and information gathering.

By 2001, the power of this centralized system had become apparent, and in the wake of 9/11, the US used the “war on terror” as an opportunity to turn SWIFT into an enormous international tool for surveillance and financial power.

In his book Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare Juan Zarate shows how the US Treasury officials pressured SWIFT and its personnel to provide the US government with the means to use this international financial “plumbing” to deprive the US’s enemies of access to markets.

This started out slow, and SWIFT officials were concerned it would become widely known that SWIFT was becoming politicized and largely a tool of the US and US allies. Nevertheless, the American regime pressed its advantage, and by 2012 “for the first time ever, SWIFT unplugged designated Iranian banks from its system, in accordance with a European directive and under the threat of possible US legislation.”

This only strengthened worries among both world regimes and the world’s financial institutions that the basic technical infrastructure of the international financial system was really a political tool.

The World Searches for Alternatives

Naturally, Russia and China have been highly motivated to find alternatives to SWIFT. But even perennial US allies have grown far more wary of leaving the financial system in a place where it can be so easily dominated by the US regime. If Iranian banks can be “unplugged” so easily from the global system, what’s to stop the US from taking similar steps against German banks, French banks, or Italian banks?

This, of course, is an implied threat behind US demands that European companies not try to work around US sanctions or face “punishment.” From the US perspective, if Germans refuse to kowtow to US policy, then there’s an easy solution: simply cut the Germans off from the international banking system.

Consequently, German foreign minister Heiko Maas announced in 2008,

We must increase Europe’s autonomy and sovereignty in trade, economic and financial policies.…It will not be easy, but we have already begun to do it.

By late 2019, the UK, France, and Germany had put together a workaround called INSTEX, designed to facilitate continued trade with Iran without using the dollar and the SWIFT system built upon it. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden have joined the system as well.

As of January 2020, the cumbersome system remains unused. However, we remain in the very early stages of European efforts to get a divorce from the dollar-dominated financial system. The INSTEX system has been devised, for now, for a limited purpose. But there is no reason that it cannot be expanded in the future. The short-term prospects for a functional system are low. Longer term, however, things are different. The motivation for a long-term workaround is growing. The Trump administration has embraced showmanship that looks good in a short-term news cycle, but which encourages US allies to pull away. Farrell continues:

Unlike Obama, Donald Trump did not use careful diplomacy to build international support for [new sanctions] against Iran. Instead, he imposed them by fiat, to the consternation of European allies, who remained committed to the [Iran agreement put in place under Obama]. The United States now threatened to impose draconian penalties on its allies’ firms if they continued to work inside the terms of an international agreement that the United States itself had negotiated. The EU invoked a blocking statute, which effectively made it illegal for European firms to comply with U.S. sanctions, but without any significant consequences. SWIFT, for example, avoided the statute by never formally stating that it was complying with U.S. sanctions; instead explaining that it was regrettably suspending relations with Iranian banks “in the interest of the stability and integrity of the wider global financial system.”

All of this is viewed with alarm by not only Europe, but China and Russia as well. The near-constant stream of threats by the US administration to impose ever harsher limits and sanctions on both China and Europe has pushed the rest of the world to accelerate plans to get around US sanctions. After all, as of mid-2019, the US had nearly eight thousand sanctions in place against various states and organizations and individuals. The term now being used in reference to American sanctions is “overuse.” It was one thing when the US imposed sanctions in some extreme cases. But now the US appears increasingly fond of using and threatening sanctions regularly, without consulting allies.

This makes continued US dominance in this regard less likely as allies the world over pour more and more resources into ending the US-SWIFT control of the system. In a 2018 report, “Towards a Stronger International Role of the Euro,” the European Commission described US sanctions as a “wake-up call regarding Europe’s economic and monetary sovereignty.”

The effort still has a long way to go, but perhaps not as far as many think.

dollar

Source.

The dollar remains far ahead of the euro in terms of the dollar’s use as a reserve currency, but the dollar and the euro are more evenly matched when it comes to international payment transactions.

If the rest of the world remains sufficiently motivated, more can certainly be done to rein in dollar-based sanctions. Indeed, in 2019, former US Treasury secretary Jacob Lew admitted,

the plumbing is being built and tested to work around the United States. Over time as those tools are perfected, if the United States stays on a path where it is seen as going it alone…there will increasingly be alternatives that will chip away at the centrality of the United States.

If the US finds itself no longer at the center of the global financial system, this will bring significant disadvantages for the US regime and US residents. A decline in demand for the dollar would also lead to less demand for US debt.  This would put upward pressure on interest rates and thus bring higher debt-payment obligations for the US regime. This would constrain defense spending and the ability of the US to project its power to every corner of the globe. At the same time, central bank efforts to drive interest rates back down would bring a greater need to monetize the debt.  The resulting price inflation in either consumer goods or assets would be significant.

The fact none of this will become obvious next week or next month doesn’t mean it will never happen. But the US’s enthusiasm for sanctions means the world is already learning the price of doing business with the United States and with the dollar.

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Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for Mises Wire and The Austrian, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

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On September 19, 2019, a panel of three professional judges in the Tokyo District Court acquitted three former executives of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The defendants were former chairman Katsumata Tsunehisa (79), and former vice presidents Takekuro Ichiro (73) and Muto Sakae (69), who shared responsibility for the company’s nuclear energy sector. They had been charged with criminal negligence1 for failing to prevent the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was precipitated by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, which killed more than 18,000 people and forced 400,000 to evacuate their homes in order to escape the nuclear fallout (Hasegawa, 2013).2

The 3/11 earthquake was the most powerful ever recorded in Japan, and it was the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record keeping started in 1900. The tsunami it precipitated reached heights up to 40 meters (130 feet), and in some places the colossal swell traveled at 700 kmh (435 mph) and surged 10 kilometers (6 miles) inland. The only nuclear accident as serious as the meltdowns at the Fukushima plant was the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine. But while the Fukushima triple-disaster was severe, it was not precipitated by a low-probability event. The 3/11 earthquake was a “high-probability event,” for massive earthquakes and tsunamis have been assaulting the northeastern coast of Japan for centuries – in 869, 1611, 1793, 1896, and 1933 (Ramseyer, 2012). The size of the tsunami in 2011 was almost the same as the one in 1933.

There have been many legal and political reactions to the meltdowns in Fukushima (Samuels, 2013; Aldrich, 2019). Japan stopped using nuclear power for much of 2011 and 2012, and its usage has remained low since then, though the administration of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo seems determined to restart many of the country’s reactors. More broadly, several countries, including Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Taiwan, suspended or ended their use of nuclear power, and China suspended its plan to expand its use of nuclear power for half a year.

New nuclear safety laws were also established in Japan, China, and South Korea, though in most of East Asia, major changes in the field of nuclear power seem unlikely because of “nuclear power’s sunk-cost structure and embeddedness in national energy plans” (Fraser and Aldrich, 2019, p.58). As for administrative law, Japan’s lax regulatory system (Kingston, 2012) was reformed after 3/11, with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) replaced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). Government supervision of the nuclear industry was also transferred from the ministry responsible for promoting it (the Ministry of Economy, Trade, & Industry, or METI) to the Ministry of Environment (MOE), which might result in more emphasis on safety and less on profit and the production of power (time will tell). In civil law, about 30 collective actions have been filed against TEPCO and government officials, in addition to some 400 individual lawsuits filed nationwide by the victims of the Fukushima meltdown (Jobin, 2019, p.74). As of September 2019, eight of the collective actions had resulted in judgments – and all found TEPCO liable (Dooley, Yamamitsu, and Inoue, 2019).3

And then there is the legal process through which criminal sanctions can be imposed. Significant efforts were made to respond to the anti-social behavior of TEPCO executives and government officials by imposing punishment on those believed guilty of violating Japanese criminal law. The central question in this essay is this: what was the criminal process good for in the TEPCO case?

We argue that, despite the acquittal of the TEPCO defendants, Japan’s criminal process did some good in this case, and that when it failed it did so in ways that are common in other systems of criminal justice. The latter claim will be no consolation to the victims and survivors of 3/11, but it does reflect how hard it is to hold corporations and their executives criminally accountable for the harms that they cause, not only in Japan but in all countries. While we focus on the limits of criminal law and criminal procedure in a case that may be the biggest crime in postwar Japanese history, our point applies more broadly, for in many societies white-collar crime is “the greatest crime problem of our age” (Coleman, 2002, p. xi).4

Our essay proceeds in three parts. Part one describes the complicated process of criminal prosecution through which charges were filed against the three TEPCO executives. This part of our story involves a uniquely Japanese institution called the Prosecution Review Commission (kensatsu shinsakai), which was reformed in 2009 to enable panels of 11 citizens to override the non-charge decisions of professional prosecutors. Part two analyzes the reasoning of the Tokyo District Court and describes some of the reactions to its decision to acquit the executives. Many Japanese were harshly critical of that decision, but Japanese prosecutors essentially said “we told you so” after the Court concluded there was insufficient evidence to convict. In our view, the verdicts in this case are troubling but unsurprising, for impunity is common both in white-collar crime cases and in cases of “mandatory prosecution” (kyosei kiso) initiated by Japan’s PRCs. Part three of this article concludes by suggesting some lessons to learn from the TEPCO trial. Foremost among them is how difficult it is for criminal law and the institutions of criminal justice to control the conduct of corporations and their agents.

Important Study, incisive and carefully documented analysis:  To Read the Complete Article on Asia Pacific Journal Japan in Focus, click Here

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David T. Johnson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawaii. His most recent books are Amerikajin no Mita Nihon no Shikei [An American Perspective on Capital Punishment in Japan] (Iwanami Shinsho, 2019), and The Culture of Capital Punishment in Japan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), available through Open Access.

Hiroshi Fukurai is Professor of Legal Studies and Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and President of the Asian Law and Society Association (ALSA). He has published seven books and more than 100 articles on citizen participation in justice systems, race and inequality, Asian law and politics, and indigenous approaches to international law.

Mari Hirayama is Professor of Criminal Procedure and Criminal Justice at Hakuoh University in Oyama, Japan. She does research on lay participation in Japanese criminal justice, focusing on sex crime cases and the lay judge system. With David T. Johnson she recently wrote “Japan’s Reformed Prosecution Review Commission: Changes, Challenges, and Lessons,” which was published in Asian Journal of Criminology in 2019.

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A common claim is that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are essential to agriculture if we are to feed an ever-growing global population. Supporters of genetically engineered (GE) crops argue that by increasing productivity and yields, this technology will also help boost farmers’ incomes and lift many out of poverty. Although in this article it will be argued that the performance of GE crops to date has been questionable, the main contention is that the pro-GMO lobby, both outside of India and within, has wasted no time in wrenching the issues of hunger and poverty from their political contexts to use notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynchpins of its promotional strategy. There exists a ‘haughty imperialism’ within the pro-GMO scientific lobby that aggressively pushes for a GMO ‘solution’ which is a distraction from the root causes of poverty, hunger and malnutrition and genuine solutions based on food justice and food sovereignty.

Last year, in the journal Current Science, Dr Deepak Pental, developer of genetically engineered (GE) mustard at Delhi University, responded to a previous paper in the same journal by eminent scientists PC Kesavan and MS Swaminathan which questioned the efficacy of and the need for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. Pental argued that the two authors had aligned themselves with environmentalists and ideologues who have mindlessly attacked the use of genetic engineering (GE) technology to improve crops required for meeting the food and nutritional needs of a global population that is predicted to peak at 11.2 billion. Pental added that aspects of the two authors’ analysis are a reflection of their ideological proclivities.

The use of the word ‘mindlessly’ is telling and betrays Pental’s own ideological disposition. His words reflect tired industry-inspired rhetoric that says criticisms of GE technology are driven by ideology not fact.

If hunger and malnutrition are to be tackled effectively, the pro-GMO lobby must put aside this type of rhetoric, which is designed to close down debate. It should accept valid concerns about the GMO paradigm and be willing to consider why the world already produces enough to feed 10 billion people but over two billion are experiencing micronutrient deficiencies (of which 821 million were classed as chronically undernourished in 2018). 

Critics: valid concerns or ideologues?

The performance of GE crops has been a hotly contested issue and, as highlighted in Kevasan and Swaminathan’s piece and by others, there is already sufficient evidence to question their efficacy, especially that of herbicide-tolerant crops (which by 2007 already accounted for approximately 80% of biotech-derived crops grown globally) and the devastating impacts on the environment, human health and food security, not least in places like Latin America.  

We should not accept the premise that only GE can solve problems in agriculture. In their paper, Kesavan and Swaminathan argue that GE technology is supplementary and must be need based. In more than 99% of cases, they say that time-honoured conventional breeding is sufficient. In this respect, conventional options and innovations that outperform GE must not be overlooked or sidelined in a rush by powerful interests like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to facilitate the introduction of GE crops into global agriculture; crops which are highly financially lucrative for the corporations behind them.  

In Europe, robust regulatory mechanisms are in place for GMOs because it is recognised that GE food/crops are not substantially equivalent to their non-GE counterparts. Numerous studies have highlighted the flawed premise of ‘substantial equivalence’. Furthermore, from the outset of the GMO project, the sidelining of serious concerns about the technology has occurred and despite industry claims to the contrary, there is no scientific consensus on the health impacts of GE crops as noted by Hilbeck et al (Environmental Sciences Europe, 2015). Adopting a precautionary principle where GE is concerned is therefore a valid approach.

As Hilbeck et al note, both the Cartagena Protocol and Codex share a precautionary approach to GE crops and foods, in that they agree that GE differs from conventional breeding and that safety assessments should be required before GMOs are used in food or released into the environment. There is sufficient reason to hold back on commercialising GE crops and to subject each GMO to independent, transparent environmental, social, economic and health impact evaluations.

Critics’ concerns cannot therefore be brushed aside by claims that ‘the science’ is decided and the ‘facts’ about GE are indisputable. Such claims are merely political posturing and part of a strategy to tip the policy agenda in favour of GE.

In India, various high-level reports have advised against the adoption of GE crops. Appointed by the Supreme Court, the ‘Technical Expert Committee (TEC) Final Report’ (2013) was scathing about India’s prevailing regulatory system and highlighted its inadequacies and serious inherent conflicts of interest. The TEC recommended a 10-year moratorium on the commercial release of all GE crops.

As we have seen with the push to get GE mustard commercialised, the problems described by the TEC persist. Through her numerous submissions to the Supreme Court, Aruna Rodrigues has argued that GE mustard is being pushed through based on outright regulatory delinquency. It must also be noted that this crop is herbicide tolerant, which, as stated by the TEC, is wholly inappropriate for India with its small biodiverse, multi-cropping farms.

While the above discussion has only scratched the surface, it is fair to say that criticisms of GE technology and various restrictions and moratoriums have not been driven by ‘mindless’ proclivities.

Can GE crops ‘feed the world’? 

The ‘gene revolution’ is sometimes regarded as Green Revolution 2.0. The Green Revolution too was sold under the guise of ‘feeding the world’. However, emerging research indicates that in India it merely led to more wheat in the diet, while food productivity per capita showed no increase or actually decreased.  

Globally, the Green Revolution dovetailed with the consolidation of an emerging global food regime based on agro-export mono-cropping (often with non-food commodities taking up prime agricultural land) and (unfair) liberalised trade, linked to sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF structural adjustment-privatisation directives. The outcomes have included a displacement of a food-producing peasantry, the consolidation of Western agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries from food self-sufficiency into food deficit areas. And yet, the corporations behind this system of dependency and their lobbyists waste no time in spreading the message that this is the route to achieving food security. Their interests lie in ‘business as usual’.

Today, we hear terms like ‘foreign direct investment’ and making India ‘business friendly’, but behind the rhetoric lies the hard-nosed approach of globalised capitalism. The intention is for India’s displaced cultivators to be retrained to work as cheap labour in the West’s offshored plants. India is to be a fully incorporated subsidiary of global capitalism, with its agri-food sector restructured for the needs of global supply chains and a reserve army of labour that effectively serves to beat workers and unions in the West into submission.     

Global food insecurity and malnutrition are not the result of a lack of productivity. As long as these dynamics persist and food injustice remains an inbuilt feature of the global food regime, the rhetoric of GE being necessary for feeding the world will be seen for what it is: bombast.

Although India fares poorly in world hunger assessments, the country has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured there is enough food (in terms of calories) available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables, fruit and cotton.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Food security for many Indians remains a distant dream. Large sections of India’s population do not have enough food available to remain healthy nor do they have sufficiently diverse diets that provide adequate levels of micronutrients. The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 is the first-ever nationally representative nutrition survey of children and adolescents in India. It found that 35 per cent of children under five were stunted, 22 per cent of school-age children were stunted while 24 per cent of adolescents were thin for their age.

People are not hungry in India because its farmers do not produce enough food. Hunger and malnutrition result from various factors, including inadequate food distribution, (gender) inequality and poverty; in fact, the country continues to export food while millions remain hungry. It’s a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance.

Where farmers’ livelihoods are concerned, the pro-GMO lobby says GE will boost productivity and help secure cultivators a better income. Again, this is misleading: it ignores crucial political and economic contexts. Even with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress. 

India’s farmers are not experiencing financial hardship due to low productivity. They are reeling from the effects of neoliberal policies, years of neglect and a deliberate strategy to displace smallholder agriculture at the behest of the World Bank and predatory global agri-food corporations . Little wonder then that the calorie and essential nutrient intake of the rural poor has drastically fallen.

However, aside from putting a positive spin on the questionable performance of GMO agriculture, the pro-GMO lobby, both outside of India and within, has wasted no time in wrenching these issues from their political contexts to use the notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynchpins of its promotional strategy.

GE was never intended to feed the world

Many of the traditional practices of India’s small farmers are now recognised as sophisticated and appropriate for high-productive, sustainable agriculture. It is no surprise therefore that a recent FAO high-level report has called for agroecology and smallholder farmers to be prioritised and invested in to achieve global sustainable food security. It argues that scaling up agroecology offers potential solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems, whether, for instance, climate change and carbon storage, soil degradation, water shortages, unemployment or food security.  

Agroecological principles represent a shift away from the reductionist yield-output industrial paradigm, which results in among other things enormous pressures on soil and water resources, to a more integrated low-input systems approach to food and agriculture that prioritises local food security, local calorific production, cropping patterns and diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability, climate resilience, good soil structure and the ability to cope with evolving pests and disease pressures. Such a system would be underpinned by a concept of food sovereignty,  based on optimal self-sufficiency, the right to culturally appropriate food and local ownership and stewardship of common resources, such as land, water, soil and seeds.  

Traditional production systems rely on the knowledge and expertise of farmers in contrast to imported ‘solutions’. Yet, if we take cotton cultivation in India as an example, farmers continue to be nudged away from traditional methods of farming and are being pushed towards (illegal) GE herbicide-tolerant cotton seeds. Researchers Glenn Stone and Andrew Flachs note the results of this shift from traditional practices to date does not appear to have benefited farmers. This isn’t about giving farmers ‘choice’ where GE seeds and associated chemicals are concerned. It is more about GE seed companies and weedicide manufactures seeking to leverage a highly lucrative market.  

The potential for herbicide market growth in India is enormous and industry looked for sales to reach USD 800 million by 2019. The objective involves opening India to GE seeds with herbicide tolerance traits, the biotechnology industry’s biggest money maker by far (86 per cent of the world’s GE crop acres in 2015 contain plants resistant to glyphosate or glufosinate and there is a new generation of crops resistant to 2,4-D coming through).

The aim is to break farmers’ traditional pathways and move them onto corporate biotech/chemical treadmills for the benefit of industry. 

Calls for agroecology and highlighting the benefits of traditional, small-scale agriculture are not based on a romantic yearning for the past or ‘the peasantry’. Available evidence suggests that (non-GMO) smallholder farming using low-input methods is more productive in total output than large-scale industrial farms and can be more profitable and resilient to climate change. It is for good reason that the FAO high-level report referred to earlier as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver, call for investment in this type of agriculture, which is centred on small farms. Despite the pressures, including the fact that globally industrial agriculture grabs 80 per cent of subsidies and 90 per cent of research funds, smallholder agriculture plays a major role in feeding the world.

That’s a massive quantity of subsidies and funds to support a system that is only made profitable as a result of these financial injections and because agri-food oligopolies externalize the massive health, social and environmental costs of their operations. 

But policy makers tend to accept that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be owners and custodians of natural assets (the ‘commons’). These corporations, their lobbyists and their political representatives have succeeded in cementing a ‘thick legitimacy’ among policy makers for their vision of agriculture.

From World Bank ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ directives to the World Trade Organization ‘agreement on agriculture’ and trade related intellectual property agreements, international bodies have enshrined the interests of corporations that seek to monopolise seeds, land, water, biodiversity and other natural assets that belong to us all. These corporations, the promoters of GMO agriculture, are not offering a ‘solution’ for farmers’ impoverishment or hunger; GE seeds are little more than a value capture mechanism.

To evaluate the pro-GMO lobby’s rhetoric that GE is needed to ‘feed the world’, we first need to understand the dynamics of a globalised food system that fuels hunger and malnutrition against a backdrop of (subsidised) food overproduction. We must acknowledge the destructive, predatory dynamics of capitalism and the need for agri-food giants to maintain profits by seeking out new (foreign) markets and displacing existing systems of production with ones that serve their bottom line.  And we need to reject a deceptive ‘haughty imperialism’ within the pro-GMO scientific lobby which aggressively pushes for a GMO ‘solution’.

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Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.

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Canada Opposed Iranian Democracy

January 17th, 2020 by Yves Engler

To understand where you are, it is necessary to know where you have been. To understand current Canadian policy towards the 18th most populous country in the world, it is necessary to look at the history of Ottawa’s relations with Iran.

For the first 75 years after Confederation Canada’s foreign policy was largely shaped by the British Empire. For London during this period Persia was mostly a strategic geopolitical ally. Then came oil.

The first company to exploit Iranian oil resources was the Anglo Persian Oil Company. From that time on the Empire’s policy towards Iran was dominated by geopolitics (the new Soviet Union bordered Persia) and hydrocarbons.

In 1953 the US and Britain overthrew Iran’s first popularly elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh and Ottawa played a small part in this destruction of Iranian democracy.

Mossadegh wanted Iran to benefit from its huge oil reserves. Following the British lead, Canada’s external minister criticized the Iranians move to nationalize its oil. In May 1951 external minister Lester Pearson told the House of Commons the “problem can be settled” only if the Iranians keep in mind the “legitimate interests of other people who have ministered to the well-being of Iran in administering the oil industry of that country which they have been instrumental in developing.” Later that year Pearson complained about the Iranians’ “emotional” response to the English. He added: “In their anxiety to gain full control of their affairs by the elimination of foreign influence, they are exposing themselves to the menace of communist penetration and absorption — absorption into the Soviet sphere.”

In response to the nationalization, the British organized an embargo of Iranian oil, which Ottawa followed. The embargo weakened Mossadegh’s government, enabling the CIA’s subsequent drive to topple the nationalist prime minister.

Thirteen months before the coup Canada’s ambassador in Washington cabled Ottawa: “The situation in Iran could hardly look worse than it does at present. Mossadegh has been returned to power with increased influence and prestige and will almost certainly prove even more unreasonable and intractable than in the past, so that a settlement of the oil dispute will be harder than ever to arrange.”

Pearson did not protest the overthrow of Iran’s first elected prime minister. Privately, External Affairs celebrated. Four months after the coup, Canada’s ambassador in Washington cabled Ottawa about “encouraging reports from their [US] embassy in Tehran on the growing strength of the present [coup] government.”

Establishing diplomatic relations with Iran in 1955, Canada followed the lead of the UK and US in doing business with the brutal dictatorship of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi, which ruled for 26 years.

Throughout the Shah’s reign Canadian politicians visited regularly. Ontario Premier William Davis, for instance, went to meet the Shah in September 1978.

During the 1970s the Canadian government’s Defence Programs Bureau had a representative in Tehran and Canada sold about $60 million ($250 million today) worth of arms to Iran during the decade. This was during a time when Amnesty International reported “no country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran.” The Shah’s brutal SAVAK intelligence forces killed tens of thousands, which prompted little condemnation from Ottawa. In fact, in the early 1970s, $250,000 ($1 million today) worth of Canadian aid went to the University of Montréal’s International Center for Comparative Criminology (ICCC) whose advisors in Iran (as well as the Ivory Coast and Brazil), according to ICCC director Dennis Szabo, “trained police forces in the use of the most modern methods to suppress protest demonstrations and the causes of criminality.”

Canada did significant business with the Shah’s Iran. In 1978 Canadian exports to Iran reached nearly $600 million ($2.4 billion today). An October 1978 Globe and Mail article headlined “Canadians in Iran” described a massive Export Development Canada (EDC)-financed forestry project along with numerous other Canadian ventures in that country: “Acres International Ltd. of Toronto has been hired for $100-million worth of engineering on an irrigation-power project. Ircan of Montréal has won a $37-million contract to supply mobile training centres and 800 hours of videotaped vocational teaching. Two Canadian drilling companies help Iran explore for oil. A four firm consortium is bidding for a $1.2-billion thermal power plant. Keith Sjogren, the Bank of Commerce’s man in Tehran, actually lends money to the Shah’s government companies.”

By the time the Shah was overthrown in late 1979, there were 850 Canadians in Iran (along with thousands of Americans), most working for foreign owned oilrigs, power projects, etc. At the time of the revolution EDC had more than $100 million ($400 million today) in outstanding export insurance and Canadian banks held billions of dollars worth of loans to Iran’s Shah, which were put into doubt (the loans were eventually honoured). Not Long after the Shah’s departure, Canada closed its embassy in Tehran, which wouldn’t reopen for eight years.

Clearly, during the period from 1950-1985, Canadian policy towards Iran was motivated by the interests of British then American empire and profit-making opportunities for Canadian business. Equally as evident, Ottawa exhibited little concern for Iranian human rights or democracy.

As we shall see in part two, Canadian policy in recent years has sought to undermine Iran.

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The individuals who seized power after the military coup in Bolivia don’t constitute a so-called “interim government” because the radical policy changes that they’ve implemented since then go far and beyond simply presiding over the state until new elections are held later this year in May.

The Hybrid War on Bolivia that overthrew democratically re-elected and legitimate President Evo Morales in a military coup captivated the world for a few weeks but then receded into the background after every Great Power “pragmatically” accepted the outcome in order to protect their own interests in the country. This took the form of describing the individuals who seized power as being part of a so-called “interim government”, but that label is factually incorrect because the radical policy changes that they’ve implemented since then go far and beyond simply presiding over the state until new elections are held later this year in May.

An objective assessment of their actions reveals that they really constitute the consequences of a US-backed coup which intends to completely reverse all of the reforms that were carried out under President Morales. No one should expect any of the Great Powers to officially make too much noise about this unless their interests are threatened, fearing that doing so will provoke the exact same outcome that their “pragmatic” stance aims to avoid. Some of them might “play to the crowd” by having their publicly financed international media outlets continue to run increasingly less frequent but nevertheless still critical articles, but that changes nothing.

It’s become a hobby — and even an obsession! — for some to try to “read the tea leaves” in attempting to interpret what any given state might secretly be plotting based on the coverage of their publicly financed international media outlets, but without any overt policy in support of the same criticisms that they’re promoting, then the whole act becomes nothing more than a case study in perception management. What follows are some of the most important policy changes undertaken since the coup which prove that describing those forces responsible as an “interim government” is factually incorrect and self-serving:

  • President Morales Is Barred From Running In The Next Elections:

Despite being elected four times already with a convincing majority (even if the last one was supposedly “controversial” because it only narrowly surpassed 50% of the total vote), President Morales isn’t allowed to run in the next elections, which deprives the Bolivian people of the right to decide his political future.

  • The “Interim Government” Accused Him Of “Terrorism” And Issued An Interpol Notice Against Him:

Not only is President Morales barred from running in the next elections, but he’s even regarded as a “terrorist” by the so-called “interim government” for his passion in remaining politically active even while in exile, which they believe is threatening enough to their hold on power that they demanded that Interpol capture him.

  • The Movement for Socialism (MAS) Party Might Also Be Barred From Running:

President Morales is more than just a man, he symbolizes an entire political movement, and that’s why the “interim government” is contemplating whether or not to bar his Movement for Socialism (MAS) from running in the next elections since they’re afraid that the party’s possible victory would nullify the result of the coup.

  • The “Interim Government” Established An “Israeli”-Backed “Anti-Terrorist” Squad To Suppress Dissent:

Having initially been caught off guard by the massive grassroots opposition to the coup, the “interim government” swiftly moved to establish an “Israeli”-backed “anti-terrorist” squad that will likely follow in the footsteps of the hemisphere’s notorious death squads in order to suppress future dissent.

  • Ties With Cuba & Venezuela Have Been Cut And Bolivia Withdrew From ALBA & UNASAUR:

On the foreign policy front, the “interim government” cut ties with Cuba and Venezuela after accusing them of organizing anti-coup protests, and then it announced that Bolivia is no longer a member of the ALBA and UNASUR multipolar blocs.

  • Bolivia Joined The Lima Group:

The “interim government” joined the Lima Group of US-backed regional states which are opposed to the democratically elected and legitimate government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which is a predictable step for it to take after cutting ties with the country.

  • The First Bolivian Ambassador To The US In 11 Years Was Just Appointed:

Continuing with post-coup Bolivia’s unipolar pivot, the “interim government’ just appointed the first Bolivian Ambassador to the US in 11 years, which proves that the country’s foreign policy reorientation is decisively pro-American and will only intensify if MAS doesn’t win the upcoming elections or has its victory stolen from it.

  • Post-Coup Bolivia Is Restoring Relations With “Israel”:

The decision to restore relations with “Israel” preceded the earlier-mentioned one about seeking its support for assembling an “anti-terrorist” squad that will predictably be used to suppress dissent, which makes sense since the self-professed “Jewish State” has the ignoble distinction of being one of the world leaders in this respect.

  • A New Era Of Privatization Is About To Begin:

Every single one of the aforementioned policy changes is about protecting the new era of privatization that the “interim government” is planning to implement in order to profitably reward its foreign backers (as well as buy off other countries’ silence) and deal a death blow to President Morales’ socialist reforms.

As can be indisputably seen from the above-mentioned nine examples, the radical policy changes undertaken by the so-called “interim government” go far and beyond simply presiding over the state until new elections can be held later this year in May. They’re objectively the actions of foreign-backed coup conspirators who are being ordered to reverse all of the policies undertaken by President Morales’ government on both the foreign and domestic fronts, with the “main prize” being the privatization of this mineral-rich country’s state enterprises. No Great Power wants to recognize this because they also hope to receive a piece of the pie.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Jeanine Anez receiving the presidential sash from a representative of the Bolivian military (Photo: EFE).

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Washington Continues War Buildup Against Iran

January 17th, 2020 by Bill Van Auken

With a series of new US military deployments, Washington is escalating its preparations for a full-scale war with Iran. The buildup is continuing despite what has been universally described in the media as an easing of tensions following the January 3 US drone missile assassination of Iran’s Gen. Qassem Suleimani and a largely symbolic Iranian retaliation in the form of a casualty-free missile strike against two US-occupied bases in Iraq.

The Pentagon has dispatched a squadron of F15-E fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, the newspaper Stars & Stripes, which covers the US military, reported Thursday. Deployed at the Prince Sultan Air Base, the warplanes are in easy striking distance of ground targets inside Iran. Their deployment follows that of another F15-E squadron to the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates last October. The US Air Force last month issued a statement announcing that its 378th Expeditionary Air Wing had resurrected what had been a major US air base in Saudi Arabia 15 years ago and that it “grows daily.” The head of the unit’s operations group, Col. Robert Raymond, said, “We turned what was just a patch in the desert to a full-up operating location.”

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said on Wednesday that the Pentagon is preparing to ship new missile defense systems and other assets to the Middle East in preparation for a confrontation with Iran. “They’re a very capable enemy,” McCarthy said. “They have capabilities that can strike and kill Americans.”

He added, “It could be a variety of enablers, like missile defense and others, so we’re looking at that.”

Meanwhile, the Norwegian military has revealed that Washington has pulled some 3,000 troops out of war games dubbed “Cold Response” that are scheduled from March 2 to March 18, citing the need to shift forces toward the conflict with Iran. The biannual exercise, which includes Norwegian forces as well as soldiers from the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Latvia, Finland and Sweden, is aimed at preparing for war against Russia.

The Pentagon has already sent 4,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division into the region as well as deploying to the Persian Gulf 2,000 Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan. This has been joined by the repositioning of a bomber strike force consisting of six B-52 heavy bombers to the US military base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, a British colonial possession that is within striking distance of Iran but beyond the range of Iran’s longest-range missiles.

President Donald Trump said that the January 8 Iranian missile strike, which hit the Ain al-Asad Air Base in Iraq’s Anbar province and a second base at the Erbil airport in Iraqi Kurdistan without killing or wounding a single American, was a sign that Tehran was “standing down.” He responded by announcing a new round of draconian economic sanctions and demanding that Washington’s NATO allies become more involved in the campaign against Iran.

On the one hand, this approach was designed to intensify US imperialism’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, an effective economic blockade tantamount to war, and to enlist Washington’s erstwhile allies in Europe to ratchet up pressure on Tehran.

The governments of the UK, France and Germany—spurred on by fears of US military action as well as economic blackmail in the form of a threatened 25 percent tariff on automobile exports—fell into line this week, threatening to reimpose United Nations sanctions against Iran that were ostensibly lifted as part of Tehran’s 2015 agreement with the major powers to accept limits on its civil nuclear program in exchange for normalization of economic relations. In the face of the three European powers’ failure to counter the sanctions regime imposed by Washington after Trump unilaterally abrogated the nuclear accord in May of 2018, Tehran has progressively reduced its commitments under the accord. President Hassan Rouhani stated on Thursday that Iran is now enriching more uranium than before signing the 2015 agreement.

US imperialism seeks to exploit this gang-up against Iran to compel the country’s Shia cleric-led bourgeois nationalist government to capitulate and accept a new “Trump deal.” This would entail not only effectively ending Iran’s nuclear program, but also disarming the country by scrapping its ballistic missiles and rolling back its influence throughout the Middle East. Washington and its allies are calculating that they can manipulate divisions within Iran’s ruling establishment and, above all, the Iranian bourgeoisie’s fears of a social revolt from below, to force Tehran to capitulate.

At the same time, however, the Pentagon is actively preparing for the escalation of a war that has already been initiated with the murder of Suleimani together with nine other Iranians and Iraqis at Baghdad’s international airport, a killing spree that constituted both an act of war and a war crime.

It has since been revealed that the killing of Suleimani had been adopted as US policy last June, following the Iranian downing of an American spy drone over the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Trump’s order to execute this policy following the storming of the US embassy in Baghdad by Iraqi protesters, however, caught the US military unprepared for an uncontrolled spiral of retaliations and counter-retaliations. The latest deployments indicate that preparations for all-out conflict are now well underway.

Whether achieved through “maximum pressure” or all-out war, US imperialism’s aims are the same: the imposition of a pliant puppet regime in a geostrategically critical country that links Europe and Asia, commands the crucial “choke point” of the Strait of Hormuz through which 20 percent of the world’s traded oil flows, and possesses the world’s fourth-largest proven reserves of oil and second-largest of natural gas. The conquest of Iran is viewed by Washington as an indispensable strategic preparation for direct conflict with its “great power” rivals, China and Russia.

The extent to which US imperialism is prepared to go to achieve this aim was indicated in a chilling article by longtime military analyst William Arkin published this week by Newsweek titled “With New Weapon in Donald Trump’s Hands, the Iran Crisis Risks Going Nuclear.”

Arkin cites previously classified information that in 2016, before Trump’s inauguration, the US military carried out an exercise dubbed “Global Thunder 17” that simulated a US nuclear response against Iran in retaliation for the sinking of an American aircraft carrier and the use of chemical weapons against US troops. He cites a government contractor who helped write the war scenario as saying that it was chosen because it “allowed the greatest integration of nuclear weapons, conventional military, missile defense, cyber, and space into what nuclear strategists call ‘21st Century deterrence.’”

Since those war games, Arkin writes, the Pentagon “has deployed a new nuclear weapon which increases the prospects for nuclear war. The new nuclear weapon, called the W76–2, is a ‘low yield’ missile warhead intended for exactly the type of Iran scenario that played out in the last days of the Obama administration.”

These weapons, deliverable by Trident II missiles fired from submarines, are considered a more “credible deterrent” because they are more “usable” than larger warheads.

“As the current nuclear war plans are written,” Arkin warns, “the use of such a weapon could also be justified almost Hiroshima-like, as a shocking thunderclap to forestall a wider and theoretically more destructive all-out war.”

Arkin’s article cites four unnamed senior military officers as expressing concern over a “Donald Trump” factor, i.e., “that there is something about this president and the new weapons that makes contemplating crossing the nuclear threshold a unique danger.”

The reality is that the doctrine providing for a “preemptive” nuclear strike against Iran was inherited by the Trump administration from the Democratic administration of Obama. The criminality of US imperialism, expressed in the Suleimani assassination and on a far wider scale in the threat of a “preemptive” nuclear strike against Iran, is a measure of the crisis of US imperialism, which is driven to offset the decline of its global hegemony by a resort to devastating military force.

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Featured image is from Jared Rodriguez/Truthout

Last week, Trump called for a new Iran nuclear deal, claiming:

“(W)e must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place (sic).”

That’s precisely the JCPOA’s aim — even though the world community knows Iran’s nuclear program has no military component, never did, abhors nukes, wants them eliminated everywhere, and banned their development internally.

It’s well know that the Islamic Republic never attacked another country, threatening none except in self-defense if attacked, its legitimate right under international law.

The way to “make the world a safer and more peaceful place” is for the US to end its forever wars on one country after another.

Trump’s abandonment of the JCPOA jeopardizes regional peace, stability and security — including pressure on Britain, France, Germany, and the EU to breach their mandated obligations under the deal, effectively killing it.

Trump’s agenda toward Iran is all about wanting its sovereign independence replaced by pro-Western puppet rule, along with gaining control over its vast hydrocarbon resources and eliminating Israel’s main regional rival.

His notion of a new nuclear deal is something along the lines of unacceptable demands by Pompeo in May 2018.

His chief “diplomat” falsely called the JCPOA beset with “fatal flaws,” falsely accused Iran of “l(ying) for years about having had a nuclear weapons program,” falsely said “Iran entered into the JCPOA in bad faith (and) continues to lie” about its nuclear program (sic).

Calling “mechanisms for inspecting and verifying Iran’s compliance with the deal…not strong enough,” he falsely accused the IAEA of failing to do its job.

Iran’s nuclear program is the world’s most intensively monitored. It’s fully compliant with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treat (NPT) and JCPOA obligations.

Israel prohibits inspections of its nuclear bomb development and production facilities. Nor does the US permit monitoring of its nuclear operations.

Pompeo lied claiming Iran’s “ballistic and cruise missiles (can) deliver nuclear warheads.” They’re not designed to carry them. No evidence suggests otherwise.

Iranian missile development, testing, and production comply fully with Security Council Res. 2231. They’re designed to carry conventional warheads exclusively.

Neither Security Council 2231 or any other SC resolutions prohibit Tehran’s legitimate ballistic missile development, testing and production.

Trump regime hardliners claiming otherwise want Iran’s defense capabilities weakened.

Its strength gives Pentagon and IDF commanders pause about attacking a nation able to hit back hard against an aggressor.

Pompeo falsely accused Iran of “spending its resources fueling proxy wars across the Middle East…perpetuat(ing) a conflict that has displaced more than 6 million Syrians” internally and millions more “outside its borders” — falsely blaming Iran for US aggression in Syria, using jihadists as imperial proxies, supported by Pentagon terror-bombing.

Iranian military advisors are involved in Syria and Iraq in combatting US-supported terrorism, not fostering it anywhere.

No “Iranian aggression” exists against any other country — a US, NATO, Israeli specialty.

Pompeo demanded Iran cease all uranium enrichment and pledge no plutonium processing ever. The JCPOA permits enough of the former for energy use and research.

Pompeo: Tehran must allow “unqualified access to all sites throughout the country,” including off-limits military ones under the JCPOA.

Its “government must cease its regional military activities.” Its advisors are solely involved in combating US supported terrorists in Syria on request of its government, aiding Iraq the same way.

Pompeo demanded Tehran cease  supporting legitimate entities Washington illegally declared terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Yemeni Houthis.

US citizens held by Iran must be released, no matter what offenses they’re accused of committing.

The Islamic Republic “must cease being a threat to Israel.” It never was and isn’t now, the Jewish state a major threat to regional and global security.

It “must end its…ballistic missiles…launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems” – the latter something it doesn’t have or want, the former it has every right to develop.

It “must…permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias” in Iraq. Tehran supports what Washington rejects – Iraqi sovereignty and right to self-defense.

Iran must “cease harboring senior al-Qaida leaders” – a US specialty, the Islamic Republic strongly opposed to the scourge they represent.

“Iran…must end the IRGC Quds Force’s support for terrorists and militant partners around the world.” What Iran abhors, Washington supports.

Pompeo called for a Senate-ratified treaty replacing the JCPOA. He and the Trump regime want Iran transformed into a defenseless US vassal state, its sovereign independence eliminated.

They want what no responsible leadership would agree to anywhere.

Iranian officials rejected Pompeo’s unacceptable demands.

They refuse to deal with the Trump regime, especially in the wake of General Soleimani’s assassination by DJT OK’d terror-bombing.

His unlawful withdrawal from the JCPOA, abandonment of the INF Treaty, and unacceptable demands against Iran and other sovereign independent states is further evidence that the US can never be trusted.

Time and again breaching international treaties, Security Council resolutions, the UN Charter, and other international laws shows diplomacy with the US accomplishes nothing.

Whatever one US regime agrees to, a successor may abandon.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

In the two weeks since Washington violated Iraq’s sovereignty to assassinate Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) General Qassem Suleimani, major Canadian corporate media outlets and leading figures within the political establishment have voiced their support for such acts of state terrorism. To the extent that any criticisms have been made, they have revolved around the question of whether Suleimani’s killing was a tactical error that could undermine US imperialism’s position in the Middle East.

Providing implicit support for the US drone strike, Canada’s Foreign Ministry responded just hours after the illegal January 3 killing by issuing a statement denouncing Iranian “aggression” and calling for “de-escalation.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau avoided media appearances for several days thereafter, then remarked that he would have preferred that Canada had been informed in advance of the strike, given the large number of Canadian troops working alongside the US military in Iraq.

When on January 8 a reporter again solicited his government’s view of the assassination, which was illegal under both US and international law, Trudeau went even further in extending his government’s support. “Canada has long been aware of the threat posed by the IRGC on regional and global safety and security,” said Trudeau. “The Americans made a decision based on their threat assessment. It was a threat assessment the US was tasked with making and made.”

The Trudeau Liberal government has also welcomed Tuesday’s move by the major European imperialist powers—Germany, France, and Britain—to file a complaint charging Iranian noncompliance with the 2015 nuclear accord. This step puts the European powers on a 60-day fast track to joining the US in imposing and policing crippling economic sanctions on Iran, although Tehran, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and all the other signatories to the accord, fully adhered to its terms until Washington withdrew with the avowed intention of destroying it.

“Canada strongly supports the diplomatic engagement of France, Germany and the United Kingdom in pressing Iran to respect its commitments under the agreement, including through activating the Dispute Resolution Mechanism,” declared Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne in a statement.

Major media outlets have chimed in with full-throated endorsements of Trump’s targeted killing. In an op-ed piece bluntly titled “Donald Trump is right on Iran,” Globe and Mail columnist Konrad Yakabuski wrote of Suleimani, “At some point, he had to be stopped. The real question is why it hadn’t happened sooner.”

Turning to the justification Trump gave for the drone strike, Yakabuski all but argued that Washington should have a blank cheque to eliminate any military or political figure that gets in the way of its interests. “Even setting aside the threat of an imminent attack on U.S. targets being planned by Gen. Suleimani evoked by the Trump administration to justify the timing of last week’s strike,” he wrote, “there is no doubt that Iran’s top military strategist had plenty of American blood on his hands… He stoked a civil war in Yemen, propped up Bashar al-Assad’s butchering regime in Syria, funded and armed a Shia militia in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon, … Eventually, someone in Washington had to stop Gen. Suleimani and put the theocrats in charge in Tehran on notice. It should have been done years ago.”

The breathtaking cynicism of such comments, reflected above all in their deliberate silence on the horrendous crimes of US imperialism and its allies in the Middle East over the past quarter century, can only be understood if one appreciates Canada’s deep involvement in Washington’s drive to establish unbridled domination over the world’s most important oil-exporting region.

Yakabuski portrays Suleimani as the evil genius responsible for pulling the strings behind the scenes in every major crisis in the Middle East over the past two decades to cover up the reality that American imperialism, with able assistance from its Canadian ally, bears responsibility for millions of deaths and the destruction of entire societies, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Yakabuski also stated his approval of Trump’s provocative May 2018 unilateral abrogation of the Iran nuclear accord. Parroting the lies of Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and willfully ignoring Washington’s war threats against Iran and arming of its regional allies like the Saudis and Israel to the teeth, Yakabuski claimed, “Instead of encouraging Iran to abandon its terrorist activities across the Middle East, the sectarian regime in Tehran used the windfall it pocketed from the removal of sanctions to sow even greater chaos.”

The Globe, long considered the mouthpiece of the most powerful sections of Canada’s Bay Street financial elite, also published a comment endorsing the Suleimani assassination by Hugh Segal. A former chief of staff to Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and an influential figure within policymaking circles, Segal denounced Suleimani as the “most powerful and malevolent supreme commander of Iran’s terrorist and proxy forces.” He then proceeded to urge the Canadian government to step up preparations for war with Iran by organizing a NATO ministerial meeting to declare that the military alliance would interpret any Iranian attack on US military personnel as a violation of NATO’s Article 5, which requires all 28 member states to support military operations by a member if it comes under attack.

“[A] broader ministerial meeting to underline the reality of Article 5 would be broadly constructive,” stated Segal. “After all, it would be a serious path to restraint to make it perfectly clear that NATO would view a clear attack on the United States, its people, forces or homeland—be it kinetic, cyber or via terrorist proxy—as an act of aggression against all NATO members.”

Segal’s comments make clear that the Canadian ruling class is preparing to join the United States in a military assault on Iran should Washington’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran provoke all-out war. Such a conflict would rapidly engulf the entire Mideast and risks drawing in the other great powers.

The Trudeau government is already in the midst of a massive rearmament program, buying new fleets of warships and warplanes and implementing plans to hike military spending by more than 70 percent by 2026.

The Canadian ruling elite’s collective silence on the illegality of the Trump administration’s assassination of a foreign leader in a third country—an act that was manifestly both an act of war and a war crime—underscores that in pursuit of its global predatory imperialist ambitions, it will not allow legal niceties, let alone moral qualms, get in the way.

Despite Canada’s carefully choreographed image as a “peacekeeping nation” committed to international law and diplomacy, the ruling elite’s disdain for legal principles when it comes to enforcing its aggressive foreign policy interests is nothing new. In 2003, when the United States, in open defiance of the UN and international law, invaded Iraq on bogus claims of “weapons of mass destruction,” Prime Minister Jean Chretien brushed aside questions about the legality of Washington’s actions by declaring that such matters would be a matter for future historians to debate. While Chretien did not deploy Canadian troops to join the invasion, Canada played a supporting role behind the scenes, and bore an increased share of the military burden in Afghanistan to facilitate the deployment of more American troops to Iraq.

The cautious criticism issued from some quarters of the US assassination of Suleimani has nothing to do with opposition to war or concern about the legal and political implications of the most powerful imperialist country in the world adopting state terrorism as official government policy. Rather, these misgivings reflect, much like the comments made by leading Democrats in the US, the fears of a section of the ruling elite that Trump acted too hastily and does not have a broader strategy for the consolidation of US hegemony over the energy-rich and geostrategically critical Middle East.

The right-wing National Post summed this up in an editorial entitled “Suleimani deserved what he got, but we’ll see what comes next.” “The question at the heart of the attack on Iran’s Gen. Qassem Suleimani isn’t one of legality or justification,” asserted the Post. “The world is unquestionably better off without him. Whether it is safer is the key question. We’ve been in this situation before, and the outcome doesn’t bode well: In 2003 the administration of George W. Bush set out to make the world ‘safer’ by overthrowing Saddam Hussein.”

The Post ’s standpoint is clear. Trump’s lack of foresight and recklessness risks further destabilizing a region that is central to the geopolitical and economic interests of American and Canadian imperialism. What they want is a more considered, comprehensive diplomatic, economic and military strategy to push back Iranian influence and strengthen US imperialist control over the Middle East vis-a-vis its main strategic rivals, Russia and China.

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Featured image is from South Front

The Market in this New Decade

January 17th, 2020 by Bryant Brown

On January first of this new decade, 2020 the Dow Jones was at a record high; $28,634. What does that mean?

Since the great depression of 1929 there have been 13 severe downturns revealing time and again that the market is not stable.

Our most recent big down turn was in 2007-8 in what is now referred to as the Financial Crisis which then precipitated the Great Recession of 2009-2010. The Dow Jones dropped over 50% from an Oct. 2007 high of $14,164 to $6,594 in March 2009. Housing prices fell 33%, more than in the depression.

In November 2008 as the crisis was unfolding, the Queen was at the London School of Economics possibly for two reasons; first because of her duty as Queen and possibly because of her personal wealth which is estimated to be over $500 million. She asked a simple question about the crash; “Why did nobody notice it (coming)?”

The Queens question was valid. Prof Garicano of the London School said:

“She was asking me if these things were so large, how come everyone missed it.” He told the Queen: “At every stage, someone was relying on somebody else and everyone thought they were doing the right thing.” What nonsense!

However his answer does clarify the fact that economics is not a science. Not a science despite the fact that universities around the world offer economics courses as if it is. Every year they graduate people with economic degrees and many find work as economists, and although numbers vary, that is thought to be at least 50,000 people, possibly as high as over 100,000 worldwide. No matter what number is right, it’s a lot of people and almost all of them missed our last huge market crash.

But not everyone! Those in mainstream economics did… but I’ve found about a dozen people who didn’t and those are the people we need to learn from.

One is the economist Ann Pettifor (born 1947), she studied politics and economics in her native South Africa and now lives in Britain. In 2003 she predicted the 2007 crash in an article in The New Statesman magazine which she followed up in her 2006 book The Coming First World Debt Crisis. She has spent a lifetime campaigning to end the unjust debts we’ve imposed on poor nations and poor people.  Her most recent books are on how to create a green new deal and how to break the power of the bankers.

Another who predicted the melt down was Peter Schiff, a stock broker and advisor who has a degree in finance and accounting from UC Berkeley. He appeared in debates on Fox News in 2006 and was ridiculed by his fellow commentators for his bearish views. In August 2006, he declared that  “The United States is like the Titanic and I am here with the lifeboat trying to get people to leave the ship … I see a real financial crisis coming for the United States.” In later debates, he predicted crashing real estate prices in 2007 and a looming “credit crunch”.

The title of Schiff’s 2007 book, Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse, makes it clear that he too predicted the financial crisis. He described the US as a “house of cards: impressive on the outside, but a disaster waiting to happen beneath the surface”.

The 2007 financial crisis began because of the foolish practice of giving mortgages to unqualified borrowers… we’ve heard of them but not directly. We heard of subprime mortgages. The term was a smoke screen for the corrupt bank practice of lending to unqualified buyers. Subprime were the borrowers, not the mortgages.

In September 2007 the British bank Northern Rock was the first to go because they could not sell their mortgages. Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest investment bank in the United States with a 158 year history was next. It folded on September 15, 2008 because it couldn’t sell its sub prime mortgages. Then the Federal Reserve Bank stepped in and began what they called quantitative easing to save the banks and pass on the costs of doing that to the people.

But back to the story. Where should the Dow Jones be?

Below is a long term chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Not the clearest chart but it goes from 1928 to 2019. In about the year 1975, the market starts to deviate from its slow steady decades long growth and begin to soar and the soaring has not stopped. Two questions come up: why did it soar and is the increase real and sustainable.

Whatever changed, it was not in the real economy, that’s the world where people make things, grow things and distribute things. That ‘real‘ economy would have a projected value of about $5,000 today (take a ruler and extend the historic growth line to check for yourself.) Nothing phenomenal has happened in the real world to suggest otherwise.

So what happened in the seventies? The United States went off the gold standard, in 1971. In 1974 the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision came into being which, along with the Bank for International Settlements controls global money and both operate in secret. Both of these were huge changes.

What also began to change was the finance industry. In the 1940’s the finance ‘industry’ amounted to about 2% of United States Gross Domestic Product.  By 2005 it had reached 8.3%. An additional 6.3% doesn’t sound like much but 6.3% of $17 trillion dollars does: that’s $1,070,000,000,000! What extra value did we get from the added expense? In my view, none.

And by 2016 the Washington post reported that it had grown further to 20% of GDP which fits in with what we hear about the financialization of the economy. The problem is, that the extra billions don’t go go for making things or feeding or caring for people. They go to the rich and they falsely inflate the value of the stock market moving us into new territory mythically away from the real world. Do the people get any benefit from the extra 18% of GDP that has moved out of their grasp?

And to make matters worse, the FED continued and continues to pump money into the market with continued quantitative easy long after the crisis had ended.

So where will the markets go from here? When will the bubble burst again? No one knows.

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This article was originally published on An Insider’s Memoir.

Trump’s Feeble Phase 1 China-US Trade Deal

January 17th, 2020 by Dr. Jack Rasmus

With the announcement today, January 16, 2020 of the signing of the US-China Phase 1 ‘mini’ trade deal, and the US Senate’s simultaneous ratification of the USMCA ‘NAFTA 2.0’ trade agreement, Trump’s so-called ‘trade wars’ are at an end.  In election year 2020 nothing of additional significance will be achieved by Trump with regard to restructure US and global trade relations. While Trump himself will make further threats and claims, likely aimed at the Europeans, no country will agree to any changes this year when the possibility exists of Trump leaving the presidency next November 2020.  To repeat once again, the Trump trade wars are over. As the comedian once said: ‘what you see is what you get, baby’.

And what do we see in the much-hyped and grossly exaggerated Phase 1 US-China trade deal?

China Phase 1 Deal: A Feeble Deal on Trade

Behind the  typical Trump bombast, hyperbole, and outright lies, the China Phase 1 deal was perhaps best summed up in the front page of the Wall St. Journal on January 13, 2020, by the Ben Steil, Director for International Economics for the Council on Foreign Relations (i.e. the major think tank for the US capitalist class): “China is set to do little more than restore agriculture purchases and offer some nice words on financial services and intellectual property…Trump could have had that two years ago without the tariff damage”.

What’s really in the Phase 1 deal? What has Trump actually achieved through nearly two years of negotiations, tariffs, and threats and intimidation in the nearly two year long China trade negotiations?  And what have been the consequent negative impacts on US households, businesses, farmers, and the US and global economy?

(51% Majority Ownership)

First, in Phase 1 there’s the claim that US business, especially US bankers, now have more access to China markets. They can have 51% ownership control of their operations in China. Trump claims he achieved that.  But it’s just another Trump lie. The fact is China began implementing the 51% financial ownership rule back in 2018.  European banks have already set up full ownership operations there. So has Goldman-Sachs, the premier US investment (shadow) bank. Trump didn’t get anything there China already offered and gave to others.

(Currency Manipulation)

Trump says the deal means China has agreed to no longer ‘manipulate’ its currency. Trump this past week then officially removed the US declaration that China was a currency manipulator. The importance of currency manipulation is that Trump wants to block China’s potential to devalue its currency, the Yuan, which would offset any US tariffs easily.  But China has not been a currency manipulator at all. In fact, it has been entering global money markets to buy and sell its currency to ensure that it remains within a stable range of exchange to the US dollar no greater than 7.1 to the $. If anything China has committed significant resources to ensure the Yuan does not devalue. That’s the opposite of a currency manipulation to devalue and offset US tariffs. China could have easily done so throughout the last 22 months of trade negotiations with the US, but it didn’t. The claim of China as currency manipulator has been a lie from the beginning, used by Trump (and others before) to try to label China as the problem with the American media and public.  It’s worth noting as well that while China has spent billions to ensure its currency does not devalue or rise, the US dollar has been allowed to rise significantly the past two years. That has caused other global currencies, especially those of emerging market economies like Latin America, to devalue dramatically and plunge those economies into recession. The US has been the great currency manipulator and destabilizer—not China.

(IP and Tech Transfer)

Trump also claims the China Phase 1 deal means new limits on China forcing technology transfer of US companies doing business in China and on intellectual property. (Protecting intellectual property mostly means for the US that US pharma companies will enjoy better patent protection—i.e. prevent competition).

But whether IP or tech transfer, there have been no details released by the Trump administration as to how this is so. In fact, as if January 15, 2020 the text of the Phase 1 deal is still not available in either English or Chinese, according to the New York Times.

All we’ve got in the Phase 1 deal, according to those who have had access to date, is China’s promise to punish China firms that obtain sensitive tech information via acquisitions; or stop requiring that foreign companies turn over technology to China as a condition of doing business in joint ventures in China. 

But certainly in any joint venture tech information can be obtained by means other than formally turning it over to China government officials. And doesn’t a company that acquires another have legal right to all its product information? According to a Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute, in the Phase 1 deal the Chinese “have committed to continue doing the same thing they have always been doing”. What China refused to agree to is to refrain from engaging in cybertheft of companies—since of course the US refused to agree to the same.

So forget about any big breakthrough in the Phase 1 deal associated with IP and/or tech transfer as well.

($100B in US Farm Goods Purchases?)

Trump’s big claim about Phase 1 is that China has agreed to buy $200b more in goods over the next two years, $100b a year roughly divided between $50b for farm and $50b nonfarm goods and services.  But was this a new gain from negotiations and tariff intimidation? And will it be actually realized over the next two years? And is it really $50b a year more in farm purchases?

First, China had already offered in 2018 to increase its purchases of US goods and services by $1 trillion over the next five years. So it already put that number, $200b a year, on the negotiating table. But that was two years ago.

But most economists today doubt that China will buy anything near $50b a year in additional farm products from the US. According to the January 15, 2020 New York Times, those who have actually seen the agreement indicate China has actually agreed to buy only $16b more a year over two years. The $50b claim by Trump thus quickly lowered to $40B. Furthermore, the $40B was not new additional purchases.

That $40b is comprised of $24B/yr in farm goods bought by China in 2017, plus the $16B more commitment per yr. for 2020 and 2021.  Farm purchases fell in 2018 and 2019. So the $32B just mostly makes up for the shortfall the last two years. At one point in spring 2019 China farm purchases were as low as $7B a year.

So the $16B more per yr. represents a restoration of what China was buying in 2017, adjusted to make for the declines while the trade war was underway, and it all expires after just two years.  So Trump’s boast of $100B in farm goods reduces to $32B in fact, which mostly makes up for reduced purchases the past two years, and returns to the pre-trade war 2017 level of $24B! Nearly two years of trade war to return to the status quo ante of 2017!

Moreover, trade experts are also saying that even the $16b more in farm good purchases will be difficult to achieve. During the last two years China has diverted its purchases of soybeans and other farm goods to Brazil and other countries. And China has said the Phase 1 will not mean any change in its prior contracts with other countries. It won’t cancel Brazil in order to fulfill US commitments under Phase 1.  So where’s the big surge in China purchases of US farm goods? It’s more like a restoration, with no commitment to increase after two years. And it leaves US farmers with a lot of uncertainty as to future sales plus not enough time, and thus greater risk, to invest in expanded production to meet China’s purchases.

Furthermore, China sees even Phase 1 farm purchases as a goal, not a firm absolute commitment. Its chief trade negotiator, Liu He, has been quoted as saying purchases will occur “according to the needs of the (Chinese) consumer and as market conditions determine”.  Think of the latter phrase “as market conditions determine” as a code word that means China may purchase more depending on whether Trump reduces US tariffs more in tandem.

(Trump $370B Tariffs Remain)

Trump has declared he won’t reduce tariffs on China any further. It now stands as 7.5% on $120B and another 25% on $250B. Trump says he needs to retain the tariffs in order to ensure China abides by the other terms of the agreement. But he can’t have his cake and eat it—i.e. China purchases $100B more a year but Trump keeps $370B. China has made it clear, more purchases are linked to lower tariffs.

So long as Trump’s $370B tariffs remain, it will become increasingly clear that China intends to purchase far less than the $100B a year. It just won’t happen regardless what Phase 1 says. Farm purchases in particular won’t come anything near to even the $32B more ($16B/yr), reported January 15 in the New York Times, let alone to Trump’s inflated claim of $40-$50B.

Trump may believe he needs the continued tariffs to enforce the agreement’s terms by China. But China’s quid pro quo enforcement ‘tool’ is to simply slow or delay its official purchases “as consumer demand and market conditions” dictate.  Its tariffs vs. not fulfilling purchase commitments due to ‘market conditions’.

(Manufacturing & Services)

In addition to the $32B more in farm purchases, reportedly Phase 1 calls for another $78B in manufacturing and $38B services purchases over next two years as part of the Phase 1 deal as well. But that too might not be realized. Most of China’s manufacturing purchases is for Boeing planes, now plagued with shipment cancellations worldwide due to the 737max; and the $38B in services purchases involve mostly Chinese purchase of US education services and tourism, both of which are being sharply cut back by Trump as the US policy now is to discourage Chinese students and research academics coming to the US, and as China tourism to the US slows as relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate.

US auto exports to China will not be affected much either. There’s a major slump in China auto sales, China is committed to rapidly building up its own auto industry, and US companies are racing to move production to China anyway, all of which would reduce the need for China to import autos from the US over the next two years.

Finally, there’s the commitment of China to buy $27B a year more in US energy products, oil and natural gas. The US benefits having an outlet for its rising glut of natural gas and oil, which it is betting on exporting in order to keep supply and prices high in the US market. But should a global recession occur in 2020 or after, China ‘market needs’ and demand for US oil and gas will certainly decline and the commitment to buy in this area will likely fall far short of the annual $27B as well.

(Nextgen Tech War)

Behind the trade was with China has always been the more important tech war between the two countries. The tech war is not be confused with IP or even with tech transfer by US companies in China. It’s much bigger. It’s about next generation technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, and 5G wireless. These are the technologies of the industries of the next decade. They are also the military technologies of the future.  Which country dominates these technologies achieves military hegemony by 2030. Both China and the US know it. And the ‘war’ between them has been occurring behind the cover of tariffs and trade war.

But with the Phase 1 trade deal it is clear that the tech war has been now decoupled from the trade war. It will be (and has continued to be) conducted by other means than tariffs. The US will continue to go after its allies with sanctions should they adopt China tech in these areas. The offensive against the giant China telecom company, Huawei, now the world leader in 5G, is the harbinger of a much greater, wider, and longer conflict between the US and China over nextgen tech.

The China-US tariff/trade war may be over, but the China-US tech war has just begun and will now accelerate.

Trump believes he can engage China over tech in Phase 2 negotiations. But Phase 2 is a fiction. It will not happen. Even if the two countries’ representatives meet it will be a fruitless discussion. Neither will ever come to an agreement. China will never trade next gen technology for tariff reduction. It won’t trade tech for anything the US can offer.

Artificially Intelligence and 5G are key to the development and functioning of next generation hypersonic missiles and hyper-smart torpedoes; for future military drone technology and targeting; and for future battlefield communication and coordination between machine and human. So far the US is ahead in AI but behind in 5G. It has no latter product of its own. Globally, its Huawei and Europe’s Ericsson that are leaders in the product development. The US once premier tech company, AT&T, is now preoccupied with investing in entertainment software and content, driven by its shadow bankers demanding more profits sooner than later. The US is thus forced to try to stop Huawei instead of out-competing it in tech development of 5G.

(Subsidizing State Owned Enterprises)

Not in the Phase 1 deal is the Trump-US complaint that China continues to subsidize its government owned enterprises by enabling low priced costs and inputs to production paid for by China government.  But the US engages in massive subsidization of US companies worldwide as well. It does so by other means. Consider the massive $5.5 trillion tax cut of 2018 for corporations, businesses and investors. The US subsidizes and aids US corporate competitiveness worldwide by tax relief. It also subsidizes the cost of financing exports with the US Export-Import bank. It provides business virtually free R&D from US taxpayer financed technology developed by DARPA, the NSA, National Institutes of Health, and many other means. So it’s really a joke for the US to charge China is engaging in uncompetitive subsidization of its government owned companies.

The Cost of China-US Trade War

Any proper assessment of the Phase 1 deal requires consideration not only of what has been gained (or not gained) but also what has been the cost of the 22 month trade war to the US economy.

Has the trade war actually reduced the US trade deficit—with China and with the rest of the world? Not really.

The deficit in goods with China was just under $350b when Trump assumed office, according to the US Census Bureau. It surged to about $410B by end of 2018. It has since come down to about $350B again. So Trump has merely reduced the trade deficit with China equal to the amount of the deficit increase he oversaw in 2017-18!  With the Phase 1 deal the deficit will almost certainly begin to rise once again.  

On a global scale, as the deficit with China  ballooned and then leveled off at pre-Trump levels, under Trump the US goods trade deficit with the rest of the world continued to accelerate rapidly under Trump and still continues to do so. From roughly $375B when Trump entered office in January 2017, the US deficit has surged beyond $500B by end of 2019. So much for Trump’s trade wars apart from China!

What was the cost of reducing the surge in the China trade deficit he created?

The US National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that Trump’s China tariffs were fully passed on to US companies in all industries except steel, where half were passed on. It cost US businesses $42 billion. And they passed most of it on to consumers and US households.

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (authors Weinstein and Redding), “found that approximately 100 percent of import taxes fell on American buyers” (New York Times, January 7, 2020, p. B4).

US farmers took a big hit. Trump provided $28B to the farm sector in new subsidies, the cost of which added to the US budget deficit (now more than $1 trillion) and rising national debt (now more than $23 trillion). Most of the subsidy went to large farmers and agribusiness, however. Farm income contracted throughout 2018-19. Farm loan delinquency rates have now risen to a six year high, per the FDIC, and Chapter 12 farm bankruptcy filings are highest since 2012.

The trade war devastated US business confidence with the result that business investment in the US contracted throughout 2019.

US consumer households experienced a reduction of $806 dollars in real income spending due to the tariffs.

And estimates are that Trump’s trade wars have reduced global investment and GDP by as much as $700 billion.

Concluding Remarks

Trump administration spokespersons—Larry Kudlow Trump’s Economic Advisor and Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary—are, per latest report, peddling the prediction that the US economy will grow by up to 0.75% more in GDP terms in 2020 as a result of the Phase 1 China deal. But that is based on the absurd assumption that China will buy $100B-$150B more in US imports in 2020—a misrepresentation which, as was explained above, is as ridiculous as it is false.

No doubt the media will continue to spin the exaggerations, although nearly all economists’ estimates of the Phase 1 deal conclude ‘there’s no there there’, at best.

As minimal are the gains from the Phase 1 agreement with China, Trump’s ‘other’ trade wars and deals, including the also much heralded USMCA (NAFTA 2.0), produce even less in net terms. Whether the US-South Korea free trade agreement, the Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum worldwide, Trump’s recent tariffs on European wine and spirits, or his verbal understandings with Japan on trade—all represent even less achieved than the minimal recent agreement with China.

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Dr. Rasmus is author of the just published book, ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump’, Clarity Press, January 2020, where chapter 8 addresses the origins and evolution of Trump’s trade wars in further detail. The book is now available at jackrasmus.com, Clarity Press, Amazon, and other locations. Dr. Rasmus hosts the Alternative Visions radio show on the Progressive Radio Network, blogs at jackrasmus.com, and tweets at @drjackrasmus. His website is http://kyklosproductions.com

Iran attacked US forces stationed at two bases in Iraq with 15 missiles on January 8th, but it does not appear missile defense systems were used to counter them. Eric Gomez, a missile defense policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said the next day, “And from the reporting I’ve seen about last night, it doesn’t appear that the US had a Patriot battery actually stationed at either of these bases.” The bases hit are Iraqi bases that house US troops, who have now been asked to leave Iraq by a parliament resolution.  Iraqi officials are deeply concerned about the lack of air defenses in Iraq, in the wake of a proxy-war between Iran and the US, being waged while they sit sandwiched in the middle. 

The Iraqi ambassador to Iran, Saad Jawad Qandil, said that buying the Russian anti-aircraft and anti-missile system:

“is on the table of discussions between Russia and Iraq, and it is possible for Iraq to buy this system. Iraqi-Russian relations are very good in light of Baghdad’s keenness on good relations with all neighboring countries. Iraq is keen to diversify arms sources, and we have armament contracts with Russia.”

Iraqi parliamentary security and defense committee chair Mohammad Reza announced the resumption of Baghdad’s efforts to buy the Russian air defense system of long and intermediate-range.

Alexander Sherin, the first deputy chairman of Russia’s parliament, said “They, apparently, just realized there that they are an occupied country, which does not have the right to any independent actions,” and he added, “The attack on a high-ranking military leader on their own territory without any prior notice was a clear blow to their international authority.” He was referring to the recent assassination Trump ordered of the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad airport.

In 2018 Iraq was reported in discussions with Moscow concerning buying the S-400 system.  Iraqi MP Hakim Al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, had said “Iraq has the right to own cutting-edge weapons to defend its territory and air space from air attacks. Terrorism targets our country abundant in places sacred for every Iraqi. There are signs and warnings that extremists might use aircraft for attacks on those shrines, which cause lots of worries and anxiety in the country, as it was after an attack on Samarra’s holy places. So Iraq intends to possess such a system as S-400 to defend the land, shrines and air space. We are serious about that.”

The S-400 was developed to destroy drones, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and fighter jets.  Russian media claims it is superior to French or American made alternatives, and UK military expert Richard Connolly at Birmingham University seems to agree, “The Russians and before them, the Soviet Union were always leading in missile technology. The reason for that was that the Americans and the West produced better aircraft.”

The American refusals

Even though Iraq has repeatedly asked to buy updated air defenses and weaponry from the US, they have been refused.  The US has also refused to leave Iraq.  Both refusals support the US position: never leave Iraq.  The US will not allow Iraq to be strong and independent. To support the US position to remain, Iraq must be kept in a weak military position, so that the US is justified in remaining an occupying force.  The Trumpstrategy is to keep Iran in check, regardless of the suffering of the Iraqi people who endure a proxy-war on their soil.

Lessons learned

Saddam Hussein was a US ally at one time. He bought US weapons and defenses. He had thought he was safe in invading Kuwait, as he thought he had the green-light from the US Ambassador, but was surprised to find he was under attack by the US in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.  The US military had no trouble defeating him because they had all the codes to the equipment he had bought from them.  The US ‘turned him off’.

Turkey insisted on buying the S-400 from Russia, even though they are a US ally and NATO member, but they wanted a non-American system of air defense.  President Erdogan of Turkey is convinced that the US was instigated and participated in the July 2016 attempted coup in Turkey that left more than 250 dead and 2,000 injured and resulted in significant property damage. Erdogan’s plane was chased by an F-16 US jet.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told his American counterpart Mark Esper in July 2019, that buying the S-400 was “not a choice but a necessity.”

Iraq has learned from the experience of others that the US cannot be trusted.  Besides Turkey, China and India have bought the S-400 system.

Thank you, now go home!

Iranian Major General Esmail Qaani, General Soleimani’s successor, has pledged his support for regional militias to be used to confront the US, which is seen as an occupying force in Iraq as well as in neighboring Syria.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said Wednesday it was up to the government to fulfill parliament’s decision to expel the US troops. “I request that the president, parliament and political parties nominate a new prime minister, a new government that has full authority because these difficult, complicated circumstances, especially with pulling of the troops … that needs a government with full authority so it can go forward,” he said.  Abdul Mahdi asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to work out a timetable for US troop withdrawal, but Pompeo refused to acknowledge the parliament resolution or the formal request from the Iraqi Prime Minister.

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This article was originally published on Mideast Discourse.

Steven Sahiounie is a political commentator.

Featured image is from Mideast Discourse

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Battle of the Ages to Stop Eurasian Integration

January 17th, 2020 by Pepe Escobar

The Raging Twenties started with a bang with the targeted assassination of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani.

Yet a bigger bang awaits us throughout the decade: the myriad declinations of the New Great Game in Eurasia, which pits the US against Russia, China and Iran, the three major nodes of Eurasia integration.

Every game-changing act in geopolitics and geoeconomics in the coming decade will have to be analyzed in connection to this epic clash.

The Deep State and crucial sectors of the US ruling class are absolutely terrified that China is already outpacing the “indispensable nation” economically and that Russia has outpaced it militarily. The Pentagon officially designates the three Eurasian nodes as “threats.”

Hybrid War techniques – carrying inbuilt 24/7 demonization – will proliferate with the aim of containing China’s “threat,” Russian “aggression” and Iran’s “sponsorship of terrorism.” The myth of the “free market” will continue to drown under the imposition of a barrage of illegal sanctions, euphemistically defined as new trade “rules.”

Yet that will be hardly enough to derail the Russia-China strategic partnership. To unlock the deeper meaning of this partnership, we need to understand that Beijing defines it as rolling towards a “new era.” That implies strategic long-term planning – with the key date being 2049, the centennial of New China.

The horizon for the multiple projects of the Belt and Road Initiative – as in the China-driven New Silk Roads – is indeed the 2040s, when Beijing expects to have fully woven a new, multipolar paradigm of sovereign nations/partners across Eurasia and beyond, all connected by an interlocking maze of belts and roads.

The Russian project – Greater Eurasiasomewhat mirrors Belt & Road and will be integrated with it. Belt & Road, the Eurasia Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank are all converging towards the same vision.

Realpolitik

So this “new era”, as defined by the Chinese, relies heavily on close Russia-China coordination, in every sector. Made in China 2025 is encompassing a series of techno/scientific breakthroughs. At the same time, Russia has established itself as an unparalleled technological resource for weapons and systems that the Chinese still cannot match.

At the latest BRICS summit in Brasilia, President Xi Jinping told Vladimir Putin that “the current international situation with rising instability and uncertainty urge China and Russia to establish closer strategic coordination.” Putin’s response: “Under the current situation, the two sides should continue to maintain close strategic communication.”

Russia is showing China how the West respects realpolitik power in any form, and Beijing is finally starting to use theirs. The result is that after five centuries of Western domination – which, incidentally, led to the decline of the Ancient Silk Roads – the Heartland is back, with a bang, asserting its preeminence.

On a personal note, my travels these past two years, from West Asia to Central Asia, and my conversations these past two months with analysts in Nur-Sultan, Moscow and Italy, have allowed me to get deeper into the intricacies of what sharp minds define as the Double Helix. We are all aware of the immense challenges ahead – while barely managing to track the stunning re-emergence of the Heartland in real-time.

In soft power terms, the sterling role of Russian diplomacy will become even more paramount – backed up by a Ministry of Defense led by Sergei Shoigu, a Tuvan from Siberia, and an intel arm that is capable of constructive dialogue with everybody: India/Pakistan, North/South Korea, Iran/Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan.

This apparatus does smooth (complex) geopolitical issues over in a manner that still eludes Beijing.

In parallel, virtually the whole Asia-Pacific – from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean – now takes into full consideration Russia-China as a counter-force to US naval and financial overreach.

Stakes in Southwest Asia

The targeted assassination of Soleimani, for all its long-term fallout, is just one move in the Southwest Asia chessboard. What’s ultimately at stake is a macro geoeconomic prize: a land bridge from the Persian Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Last summer, an Iran-Iraq-Syria trilateral established that “the goal of negotiations is to activate the Iranian-Iraqi-Syria load and transport corridor as part of a wider plan for reviving the Silk Road.”

There could not be a more strategic connectivity corridor, capable of simultaneously interlinking with the International North-South Transportation Corridor; the Iran-Central Asia-China connection all the way to the Pacific; and projecting Latakia towards the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

What’s on the horizon is, in fact, a sub-sect of Belt & Road in Southwest Asia. Iran is a key node of Belt & Road; China will be heavily involved in the rebuilding of Syria; and Beijing-Baghdad signed multiple deals and set up an Iraqi-Chinese Reconstruction Fund (income from 300,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for Chinese credit for Chinese companies rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure).

A quick look at the map reveals the “secret” of the US refusing to pack up and leave Iraq, as demanded by the Iraqi Parliament and Prime Minister: to prevent the emergence of this corridor by any means necessary. Especially when we see that all the roads that China is building across Central Asia – I navigated many of them in November and December – ultimately link China with Iran.

The final objective: to unite Shanghai to the Eastern Mediterranean – overland, across the Heartland.

As much as Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea is an essential node of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and part of China’s multi-pronged “escape from Malacca” strategy, India also courted Iran to match Gwadar via the port of Chabahar in the Gulf of Oman.

So as much as Beijing wants to connect the Arabian Sea with Xinjiang, via the economic corridor, India wants to connect with Afghanistan and Central Asia via Iran.

Yet India’s investments in Chabahar may come to nothing, with New Delhi still mulling whether to become an active part of the US “Indo-Pacific” strategy, which would imply dropping Tehran.

The Russia-China-Iran joint naval exercise in late December, starting exactly from Chabahar, was a timely wake-up for New Delhi. India simply cannot afford to ignore Iran and end up losing its key connectivity node, Chabahar.

The immutable fact: everyone needs and wants Iran connectivity. For obvious reasons, since the Persian empire, this is the privileged hub for all Central Asian trade routes.

On top of it, Iran for China is a matter of national security. China is heavily invested in Iran’s energy industry. All bilateral trade will be settled in yuan or in a basket of currencies bypassing the US dollar.

US neocons, meanwhile, still dream of what the Cheney regime was aiming at in the past decade: regime change in Iran leading to the US dominating the Caspian Sea as a springboard to Central Asia, only one step away from Xinjiang and weaponization of anti-China sentiment. It could be seen as a New Silk Road in reverse to disrupt the Chinese vision.

Battle of the Ages

A new book, The Impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, by Jeremy Garlick of the University of Economics in Prague, carries the merit of admitting that, “making sense” of Belt & Road “is extremely difficult.”

This is an extremely serious attempt to theorize Belt & Road’s immense complexity – especially considering China’s flexible, syncretic approach to policymaking, quite bewildering for Westerners. To reach his goal, Garlick gets into Tang Shiping’s social evolution paradigm, delves into neo-Gramscian hegemony, and dissects the concept of “offensive mercantilism” – all that as part of an effort in “complex eclecticism.”

The contrast with the pedestrian Belt & Road demonization narrative emanating from US “analysts” is glaring. The book tackles in detail the multifaceted nature of Belt & Road’s trans-regionalism as an evolving, organic process.

Imperial policymakers won’t bother to understand how and why Belt & Road is setting a new global paradigm. The NATO summit in London last month offered a few pointers. NATO uncritically adopted three US priorities: even more aggressive policy towards Russia; containment of China (including military surveillance); and militarization of space – a spin-off from the 2002 Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine.

So NATO will be drawn into the “Indo-Pacific” strategy – which means containment of China. And as NATO is the EU’s weaponized arm, that implies the US interfering on how Europe does business with China – at every level.

Retired US Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff from 2001 to 2005, cuts to the chase: “America exists today to make war. How else do we interpret 19 straight years of war and no end in sight? It’s part of who we are. It’s part of what the American Empire is. We are going to lie, cheat and steal, as Pompeo is doing right now, as Trump is doing right now, as Esper is doing right now … and a host of other members of my political party, the Republicans, are doing right now. We are going to lie, cheat and steal to do whatever it is we have to do to continue this war complex. That’s the truth of it. And that’s the agony of it.”

Moscow, Beijing and Tehran are fully aware of the stakes. Diplomats and analysts are working on the trend, for the trio, to evolve a concerted effort to protect one another from all forms of hybrid war – sanctions included – launched against each of them.

For the US, this is indeed an existential battle – against the whole Eurasia integration process, the New Silk Roads, the Russia-China strategic partnership, those Russian hypersonic weapons mixed with supple diplomacy, the profound disgust and revolt against US policies all across the Global South, the nearly inevitable collapse of the US dollar. What’s certain is that the Empire won’t go quietly into the night. We should all be ready for the battle of the ages.

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Iranian seamen salute the Russian Navy frigate Yaroslav Mudry while moored at Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman during Iran-Russia-China joint naval drills. The photo was provided by the Iranian Army office on December 27, 2019. Photo: AFP / HO / Iranian Army office

NATO terrorists continued their slaughter of Syrian civilians. Courtesy of mostly the US taxpayer, another residential neighborhood in Aleppo was bombed. Five persons were murdered. Fifteen persons were injured. Homes and other buildings were damaged.

The wounded were rushed to al Jame’a and al Razi hospitals, real Syrian hospitals, not the imaginary ones for which al Qaeda NGO’s and UN rabid hyena tripartite aggressors and their House Servant underlings wail imaginary tears.

Today’s carnage was inflicted on the al Sukari neighborhood of Aleppo city. The coordinated rocket fire came from three areas of western and northwestern regions of Aleppo countryside. Dozens of civilians have been murdered and injured in the past week’s frenzied blood-thirst by NATO terrorists, while NATO stenographer-journalists engage in fake oblivion to the horrors, atrocities which would receive 24/7 media coverage, were westerners forced to endure them.

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Back in 2003, an alternative media site based in Belgium – Indy Media, published a rather clever article titled “Why America Needs War” written by  renowned historian and political scientist, Dr. Jacques R. Pauwels.

Due to the fact that this article has recently been republished by a well-known and respected alternative media site Global Research, a lot of attention has been drawn to the topic of Washington’s never-ending wars. In the above-mentioned article it was stated that wars are a terrible waste of lives and resources, and for that reason most people are in principle opposed to wars.

However, with the US being locked in a state of perpetual conflict with other international players, it’s only natural to wonder what is wrong with American politicians? Are they all suffering from some mental disease?

The reason the events we’re observing on the global stage are actually taking place is the fact that the US has been relying on the thing that Dr. Pauwels describes as the “warfare economy” that the US has been relying on for over a century now. This economy allows wealthy individuals and corporations to profit from violence and bloodshed, which makes them prone to advocating wars instead of peaceful conflict resolution. Yet, the article states that without warm or cold wars, however, this system can no longer produce the expected result in the form of the ever-higher profits the moneyed and powerful of America consider as their birthright. It’s clear that the US couldn’t escape the cold grip of the Great Depression without entering WWII, however, as it’s been stated in the above-mentioned article:

During the Second World War, the wealthy owners and top managers of the big corporations learned a very important lesson: during a war there is money to be made, lots of money. In other words, the arduous task of maximizing profits — the key activity within the capitalist American economy — can be absolved much more efficiently through war than through peace; however, the benevolent cooperation of the state is required.

Yet, the people of the United States didn’t notice this change as they were mesmerized by the rapidly growing wages and booming corporations that needed an ever increasing number of new employees. That’s why there’s been no real opposition to America’s warmongering inside the US, which means that Washington will be looking for new enemies even when it has none. This results in the states like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, that were willing at one point or another to discuss their differences with the US, being antagonized and getting designated as a threat to the US and its national security.

That’s why the military expenditures in the US keep going through the roof, with research and development programs for the US military getting unprecedented funding. However, what is being presented as a race towards greater security represents a shameless siphoning of the money paid by American taxpayer into the pockets of the major defence contractors. It would be only logical if the US legal system, instead of investigating dubious reports of Russia’s alleged meddling in the US election, would take a closer look at the way blood money is shaping the world of US politics.

Let us recall that the US military budget for 2020 has for the first time reached the mind-numbing sum of 750 billion dollars! Over the past few decades, the United States has invested some 30 billion dollars in various weapons programs, all of which have to one degree or another failed, according to The National Interest.

There’s no shortage of media reports showing the complete failure of modern American weapons, which, in spite of the massive sums wasted on their development, cannot protect either the United States or its allies.

For instance, The National Interest has recently taken the effort to draw a comparison between the Russian Su-35 jet-fighter and a total of four American competitors: F-15s, F-16s, F-22s, and F-35s. The publication came to a disappointing conclusion that in spite of the massive advertisement campaign that accompanied the development of F-35, it cannot stand its ground against its Russian counterpart.

The ill-fated F-35 has recently been included in the list of the worst weapons ever produced by the US Army due to its unbelievably high cost and reliability issues, says the Business Insider. Therefore, it is not surprising that on top of Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan announcing his intention of buying Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighters instead of siding with the US, Germany has also made it clear that it has no intentions of acquiring this overpriced winged catastrophe from the United States. To add insult to injury, the American portal We Are The Mighty has recently listed a total of three Russian fighters in the Top 5 list of the fastest jets in the history of military aviation.

At sea, the situation is no better. In the event of a hypothetical military conflict between the United States and Russia, even in the Black Sea, American aircraft carrier groups would get obliterated rather quickly by Russian diesel submarines, land mobile missile systems and small but dangerous missile boats. That’s even before land-based aviation units armed with hypersonic anti-ship missiles dubbed the Dagger would have something to say about it, says The National Interest. Another publication emphasizes that Russian missile corvettes, that go at a price of 30 million dollars a pop have four times the missile range of the latest US destroyers and cruisers that come with a price tag of 2 billion dollars.

But it was the American missile defense systems, especially the Patriot, that have recently covered themselves with scandalous shame. A year ago, US President Donald Trump announced that among the new priorities of the Pentagon the sale of US missile defense systems to its allies ranked really high. To achieve this goal, Washington tried to force those states that chose a far more effective solutions – Russia’s S-300 and S-400 to rethink their decision. These attempts resulted in Washington introducing sanctions against some of its closest allies, such as Turkey, India and Morocco.

Meanwhile, The National Interest admits that the new Russian S-500 is by far the most effective air defense system in existence, while The Hill acknowledges that Russia’s hypersonic weapons have rendered such US missile defense systems as Patriot and THAAD meaningless.

A year ago, the United States announced that a network of ground and surface missile interceptors, radars and communications lines at a price tag of 180 billion dollars could protect the country from a limited attack launched by the DPRK or Iran. However, shortly after this statement was made, US-produced air defense systems failed to repel a surprise drone attack on Saudi oil refineries, thus demonstrating their low efficiency. At the same time, it will not be out of place to recall that a grand total of 88 Patriot launchers cover the northern border of Saudi Arabia, with three more US NAVY destroyers armed with the Aegis system being stationed off shore in the same area. None of these systems responded to the attack.

Yet again, during a retaliatory strike launched by Iran, American air defense systems were powerless to shoot down a single missile launched against two US bases in Iraq.

That is why a number of Western military clients have recently taken steps to acquire Russian alternatives. This was the result of serious flaws in US-produced air defense systems, such as the Patriot, the repeated failures of which have recently become apparent in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The last of these clients was South Korea, which has long shown strong interest in Russian military jets and air defense systems, but was unable to acquire them due to the pressure being applied on it from Washington.

Those facts show that the military vehicles and aircraft advertised by Western media are only good as scrap metal. Actually, this became clear to everyone, when Washington decided to show its rusty armored vehicles on the parade assembled in celebration of last year’s Independence Day.

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Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

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Russia’s repeated rejection of the US’ ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept that Foreign Minister Lavrov claims is a ruse for “containing China” highlights just how urgently it is that a more inclusive and non-hostile trans-regional integration alternative emerges, which can be embodied by the Afro-Eurasia proposal that brings together the Belt & Road Initiative, CPEC+, and the Greater Eurasian Partnership in a Community of Common Destiny.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov harshly condemned the US’ “Indo-Pacific” concept as a ruse for “containing China” while speaking at India’s Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, following up on comments that he made a year prior which were analyzed by the author at that time in his piece about how “Russia Regards The ‘Indo-Pacific Region’ As An ‘Artificially Imposed’ Pro-US Concept“. According to Sputnik, the Eurasian Great Power’s top diplomat said the following at the high-profile event on Wednesday:

“Our Western friends’ aim in using the term Indo-Pacific instead of Asia-Pacific in matters of cooperation is to contain China and Indian friends are smart enough to understand that. It’s not even hidden…We are not against terminology, but it should be understandable. When people say we want to develop cooperation in Asia-Pacific as Indo-Pacific strategy, we asked how it is different; we were told it is more democratic. We don’t think so. It is rather tricky. We have to be careful about the terminology which looks benign but is not. Terminology should be unifying, not divisive. Neither Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) nor BRICS is exclusionary.”

It’s clear from his words that the time has come to propose a more inclusive and non-hostile trans-regional integration alternative to replace the “Indo-Pacific”, and therein lies the relevance of the author’s proposal for the Afro-Eurasia. This not only refers to the integration of the two primary landmasses of the Eastern Hemisphere, but also carries with it dual connotations of both mainland and maritime cooperation, unlike the “Indo-Pacific’s” implied focus on mostly maritime connectivity.

The inclusion of Africa isn’t just for historic justice by simply not forgetting that it exists (as is regrettably the case whenever many discuss the future of International Relations), but also has more practical relevance as well which incorporates the continent’s growing role in world affairs by virtue of its geostrategic location, demographic trends, and expected economic growth. The “Indo-Pacific” by default excludes Africa and over-emphasizes the role of India, which is located at the northern-central part of its eponymous ocean.

The very presumption that the aforementioned body of water should even be described as “Indian” is a fallacy for several reasons, not least of which is that the country’s modern-day name refers to the Indus River that’s currently located mostly in Pakistan and is called Sindhu by the locals. That misnomer can be traced to the Persians but was continued by the British and went along with by the post-independence authorities, but regardless of their domestic political choice, it’s still inaccurate to call their southern ocean “Indian”.

The African continent has a longer coastline along that body of water than the Indian subcontinent does so a more accurate reconceptualization of it could be the “Afro-Asian Ocean” seeing as how that ocean lies between both of them. Building upon that, the Afro-Asian Ocean can then be broadened to become the Afro-Pacific instead of the “Indo-Pacific”, thereby giving Africa joint ownership over it and calling to attention that continent’s growing role in this trans-regional space.

Accepting that this century therefore won’t just be an Asian one but an Afro-Asian one given Africa’s predicted growth across the proceeding eight decades, though also not forgetting the lingering role that Europe is expected to continue playing during this time as well for a variety of reasons, one can therefore begin to speak of the Afro-Eurasian Century. As Lavrov said, “terminology should be unifying, not divisive”, and speaking about an “Asian Century” or the “Indo-Pacific” doesn’t pay credit to either Africa or Europe’s contributions.

Simply speaking about Afro-Eurasia won’t make it a strategic reality, however, which is why it’s important to point out the three main initiatives that are poised to unify the Eastern Hemisphere. First and foremost among them is China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) that’s linking together both continents through large-scale infrastructure projects funded by low-interest loans. Its flagship is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the expansion of which along the northern, western, and southern vectors is referred to is CPEC+.

CPEC+ is strategically located in the central part of the Eastern Hemisphere and includes both mainland (N-CPEC+ to Russia via Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics, and W-CPEC+ to the EU through Iran and Turkey) and maritime (S-CPEC+ to Africa) portions , thus making it the most crucial connectivity superstructure in BRI. As for Eurasia itself, Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) aims to bring together the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), BRI, the SCO, ASEAN, and eventually the EU and even the Mideast.

Altogether, BRI, CPEC+, and GEP form the three complementary parts of China’s envisaged Community of Common Destiny, which Beijing believes will restore equality among nations, improve their socio-economic development, and reduce conflict by creating a hemispheric (and possibly eventually global) system of complex interdependence that deters all parties from unilaterally undermining the security of others. The end result would be the institutionalization of the emerging Multipolar World Order.

In pursuit of this, it’s incumbent on the three countries associated with each respective component (China’s BRI, Pakistan’s CPEC+, and Russia’s GEP) to jointly take the lead in conducting more research into the Afro-Eurasia proposal for replacing the US’ “Indo-Pacific” and exploring more effective modalities for cooperation among them such as the creation of a trilateral organization framework that could be abbreviated as CPR (China-Pakistan-Russia).

That would also be symbolic since CPR is given to breathe life into people during emergency situations the same as this variation of that concept would be breathing much-needed life into International Relations during the current emergency situation of widespread global uncertainty. Without a clear sense of vision that articulates an alternative future for global affairs, the three countries most negatively affected by the US’ “Indo-Pacific” concept will have difficulty countering it, potentially making that project a fait accompli.

Such a future would be detrimental to their individual and collective interests, hence the urgency with which they should pool their efforts to cooperate on bringing about Afro-Eurasia instead. The author is aware that his proposal is very ambitious and fraught with both organizational and other challenges but is confident that the three leading countries tasked with implementing it will be successful so long as they have the political will. The first step is to officially introduce the concept of Afro-Eurasia, after which everything else will follow.

By that, what’s meant is either one, some, or all three of those governments talking about this alternative in some capacity or another, whether through formal statements or via their academic-policymaking communities. Then, concerted research should be commenced upon all parties expressing interest in this concept, after which concrete policies can be proposed that make the best of their respective integration advantages.

The sooner that this process starts, the better, since time is of the essence after the US and its allies already had at least several years to work on the “Indo-Pacific” whereas Afro-Eurasia is only now just being introduced as a viable alternative. The CPR states must urgently prioritize this trans-regional integration replacement strategy in order for it to stand a credible chance of succeeding, but given their excellent relations with one another bilaterally and their growing multilateral strategic convergence, this game-changing goal is certainly attainable.

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This article was originally published on OneWorld

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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The Cannabis Industry’s Dirty Energy Secret

January 16th, 2020 by James Burgess

Your average marijuana plant is a rather unimposing, forest green weed that blends well with nature. The dirty truth, however, is that the business of growing cannabis is anything but green. In fact, the growing of pot is so power-intensive that its ecological footprint is quickly becoming an environmental nightmare.

The $344 billion cannabis industry is one of the country’s most energy-intensive in the world, frequently demanding an array of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, fans and 24-hour indoor lighting rigs at multiple growing sites.

Just how much electricity does the entire US marijuana industry consume?

The numbers are mind-boggling.

They’re also the bane of the cannabis industry, according to Joseph Maskell, founder and president of AAXLL, one cannabis company aiming to be a major disrupter of the short-lived status quo.

“The key in this emerging industry is to be asset-light,” says Maskell.

“With billions spent just on electricity in the US cannabis-growing industry, the companies that will survive the next culling, which is already in process, will be those with low capital outlays, no warehouses, no buildings, no machinery.”

Back in 2016, after the state of Oregon legalized recreational marijuana, Pacific Power in Portland recorded seven blackouts that the company traced to marijuana production.

Meanwhile, a good 45% of Denver’s increase in energy demand or “load growth” was directly linked to electricity that went to power marijuana growth.

In other words, investors are going to have to unplug unless they want to see their profits go up in smoke.

Appetite for Energy

The electricity consumption of marijuana grow houses is staggering when you compare it to consumption by the average business or residential unit.

In 2014, the NPCC worked out that it takes 4,000 to 6,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy to produce a single kilogram of marijuana product. Electricity costs can represent 20% of the total cost of cannabis production.

Back in 2015, it was estimated that a 5,000-square-foot indoor facility in Boulder County consumed ~41,808 kilowatt-hours per month–or nearly 66x the average consumption by a household in the county. More than two percent of the city’s electricity usage went to marijuana production.

More recent estimates are not very encouraging either, even as more energy professionals enter the marketplace.

Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says that production of legal marijuana in the US consumes 1% of total electricity, or 41.71 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, at a cost of $6 billion per year.

That’s enough energy to power 3.8 million homes or the entire State of Georgia. Generating that much electricity spews out 15m tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2), or about what three million average cars would produce in a year.

The actual figures could be much higher, says AAXLL’s Maskell.

A 2017 study by New Frontier Data revealed that only 25% of marijuana is produced legally, which is hardly surprising considering that recreational weed is legal in only 11 states and Washington DC. In effect, this means that growing marijuana could be consuming as much as 3-4% of the country’s electricity.

Obviously, such insane levels of electricity consumption is putting a major strain on public utilities as evidenced by the Pacific Power blackouts. As Steven Corson, a Portland General Electric (PGE) spokesman, has lamented:

“We don’t track the numbers specifically related to cannabis producers, but some have created dangerous situations by overloading existing equipment.”

Lack of Standards

The huge energy appetite by the cannabis industry can be pinned on how grow houses operate.

Ron Flax, the chief building official in Boulder County, says the basic issue is the lighting intensity inside the grow facilities which is much higher than for any other plant. For instance, Solstice, a Washington based marijuana producer, uses 1,000W high intensity discharge lamps (HID), for the vegetative phase of growth.

Colorado, one of the leading cannabis states where most of the electricity is coal-powered, has devised schemes to discourage excessive power use by growers. The state requires commercial growers to either pay a 2c charge per kW or offset their electricity use with renewable energy (average electricity rate in Denver is 11.05 cents per kWh).

The accrued funds go to the Energy Impact Offset Fund where they are used to finance sustainable cannabis cultivation and also educate growers. Meanwhile, Seattle City Light is incentivizing growers to shift to more efficient lighting technologies. The public utility has promised six-figure rebates to growers who switch to LED lights instead of power-guzzling HIDs.

The big problem here is that the marijuana industry is still infantile and lacks clear standards. Even in states where weed is legal, production still tends to be done in underground operations with everyone doing what works for them.

It’s tough to be profitable right now in an industry that’s so energy-intensive. Cannabis 2.0, says Maskell, will be an entirely different beast. That’s why AAXLL isn’t focused on capital burying marijuana growing; rather, it’s focused on a revenue-generating end product that spends on marketing brilliance, like their Balance CBD line, not machinery.

Eventually, the market might dictate that growers use cheaper greenhouses and take production outdoors where costs are bound to be much lower. In the meantime, it’s going to be a steep learning curve for the burgeoning industry.

Companies to watch as the cannabis industry and the energy industry collide:

Canopy Growth Corporation (NYSE:CGC) (TSX:WEED)

After securing a major $4 billion investment from beverage giant Constellation Brands, it seemed like Canopy Growth was on the top of the world. The same day, shares in the company surged by 30 percent.

Though things have cooled down a bit since then after a downgrade from analysts of the Constellation Brands stock, Canopy has not stopped making moves in the market, most recently swallowing up renowned vaporizer producer Stor & Bickel Gmbh & Co., the creator of the iconic Volcano® Medic and the Mighty® Medic devices

The €145 million all-cash deal makes it one of the largest in the marijuana sector this year, and Canopy Growth is not likely to stop there.

Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) (TSX:ACB)

Aurora Cannabis is one of the biggest names in the burgeoning marijuana sector. With a market cap over $1.9 billion, Aurora has carved out its position as a leader in the industry. And the company is still making moves.

Recently, Aurora sealed a supply deal with Mexico’s Farmacias Magistrales SA, the country’s first and, for now, at least, only federally licensed importer of raw materials containing THC.

In an announcement from Aurora, the company stated that the deal “firmly establishes Aurora’s first-mover advantage in one of the world’s most populous countries, where more than 130 million people will have federally legal access to a range of Aurora’s non-flower medical cannabis products containing THC.”

Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP) (TSX: TPX-A)

Molson Coors is an iconic multi-national beer company, with brands that are recognizable across the United States and Canada. Besides just its Molson and Coors lines, the company has also ventured into more niche beverages to take advantage of the growing craft beer market, buying up brands like Leinenkugel’s and Blue Moon.

Not to be left behind in the marijuana boom, Molson Coors is also developing a line of non-alcoholic cannabis-based beverages with its partner, the Hydropothecary Corporation.

Molson Coors Canada president and CEO Frederic Landtmeters noted, “While we remain a beer business at our core, we are excited to create a separate new venture with a trusted partner that will be a market leader in offering Canadian consumers new experiences with quality, reliable and consistent non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages.”

Exxon (NYSE:XOM) Despite Exxon’s late entry to the shale game, the company is still light years ahead of its competition in terms of profits.

Not only is Exxon held a key role in bringing the oil and gas industry into the modern era, the company is also a world leader in the development of biofuels and fuel cells.

Spending approximately $1-billion per year on the research and development in new energy technologies, Exxon is sure to continue on its path of innovation for years to come. Investors can rest assured; this research will pay off for them.

Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) is one of the largest oilfield services companies in the world. The company has secured its place in the oil and gas industry. But it didn’t happen overnight.

The oilfield services sector is highly competitive and ripe with innovation. In order to stay ahead, companies must be on the absolute cutting edge of technology. And that’s exactly what Halliburton has done.

And recently, Halliburton increased the heat for its competition. Partnering with Microsoft, Halliburton is securing its position as a leader in the industry.

This partnership is significant. Microsoft, a leader in the tech world, is looking to bring machine learning, augmented reality, and the Industrial Internet of Things to the oil and gas industry.

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Ahead of this year’s Munich Security Conference, due to begin on February 14th, its chairman Wolfgang Ischinger praised what he called President Putin’s “method” concerning security-issues in the Middle East. Talking to the ZDF television channel on January 13th, Ischinger said that managing ME-security required “political power of persuasion, clever diplomacy and military support if necessary….This is the method that Putin is using to ensure his influence in Syria, Libya and certainly in the situation around Iran.”

Such remarks feature a highly practiced, polished level of banality. They are quite intentionally devoid of detail. In that regard, of course, they are not supposed to be read as analytical remarks, but as diplomatic signals.

Primarily, the most loud and clear signal contained above is a dig at President Trump.

This quickly follows Angela Merkel’s highly fruitful meeting with President Putin on January 11th, after which both leaders confirmed that the Nord Stream 2 project would press ahead in spite of US sanctions. Chancellor Merkel also said that she hoped Russian-Turkish attempts to broker peace-talks would be successful, and announced that Libyan ceasefire talks would soon take place in Berlin. She also said that it was an “important step” that the Iranian government had admitted that the January 8th crash of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 had been the result of an “unintentional human error” on the part of Iranian military personnel.

2 more clear signals, delivered like knives to Dim Donnie’s heart.

With the fallout from the Soleimani-assassination not yet settled, the temptation for European political and diplomatic figures to signal disdain for Trump by love-bombing Putin seems irresistible at the moment. It’s like watching a few 16 year-old kids setting jealousy-traps for each other in your garden-variety teenage love-triangle. It’s quite amusing.

“I think that Brandon’s new smartphone is cooler than Jimmy’s,” says Ashley….

Of course, we know it’ll all be different next week, but middle-aged dads still find the silliness of it all comedic.

It is almost impossible to overstate the seriousness of Trump’s miscalculation concerning the Soleimani assassination, and the manner that his stance toward Iran has unfolded since then. Even Benjamin Netanyahu took pains to publicly distance himself from that decision, stating that Israeli politicians should stay out of the discussion. Given that the United Kingdom is the United States’ most uncritically subservient ally, Boris Johnson’s public criticism of Trump’s threat to bomb Iranian historical and cultural sites was also noteworthy.

Was this another signal?

Not exclusively. While Johnson would not be in the least bit concerned about the prospect of a military skirmish around Hormuz resulting in fatalities, apart from its economic consequences, he is still proud of being a trained classicist – the prospect of bombing an ancient archaeological site probably offends his basic sense of human decency even more than the prospect of war itself.

Nonetheless, everyone is perfectly well aware that war with Iran could very well trigger a global economic depression, and that is the factor which principally determines the reactions of US-allies’ to Trump’s hair-brained belligerence toward Iran.

And, regardless of the highly publicized personal antagonisms which have characterized Merkel’s relationships with Putin in the past, Nord Stream 2 is still a no-brainer, with or without US sanctions. Liquefied natural gas exported from the US to the EU is 30% more expensive than Russian gas. It’s just not competitive. It’s that simple. The fact that the German government has decided to abandon nuclear energy, which currently accounts for 34% of German domestic electricity-production, makes this point even more crucial. In the long term, personal antagonisms are trivial – the bottom line will ultimately determine long-term policy.

In my younger days, I used to play chess in tournaments. Most ordinary, club-level, tournament chess-players will insist on the wisdom of the maxim that you should play the board, not the opponent. It doesn’t matter who your opponent is, or what kind of personality they have. Chess is mathematics, not psychology. Play the board-position on its strategic merits, and forget about absolutely everything else. Play the board!

The Ukrainian crisis was deliberately engineered, among very many other factors, in order to disrupt gas-transit through Ukraine. Nord Stream 2 circumvents that point of rupture, so the US tries to shut it down with sanctions. That doesn’t work either. The 30% price-differential is simply too wide for sanctions to disincentivize it.

Under the Obama administration, the US effectively lost geo-strategic control over Turkey and the Philippines. Those losses of territory were made possible only by massive blunders. Under the Trump administration, the US is in the process of gradually losing geo-strategic control over Germany, having already decisively alienated France, which will make it increasingly difficult to maintain any meaningful geo-strategic foothold in western Eurasia.

Who’s left? Poland? Banderastan?

But then again, until 2016, liberal universalism was the ideological glue which held the western alliance together. Trump’s election meant that it was always on borrowed time.

With these factors considered, we might ask how much difference the assassination of General Soleimani really made to US-EU relations. Yes, it was jaw-droppingly reckless and strategically pointless. Yes, it severely alienated many US-allies. However, from the perspective of the United States’ continental European allies, we have to ask, was it merely an incidental moment of realization? We have to expect that the macro-economic fundamentals would have forced an epiphany sooner or later. The Soleimani assassination, as fundamentally reckless as it was, essentially did nothing to change the positions of any on the pieces on the geo-strategic chessboard. It merely acted as an incidental cognitive trigger, whereupon some of the players woke up to the board-position a little sooner.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Padraig McGrath is a political analyst.

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Following the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Shiite Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport,  the Iraqi PM, the Iraqi Parliament Speaker and the Iraqi Parliament have demanded that the US Alliance forces leave Iraq. The US, UK, Australia, Canada and Germany have rejected the Iraqi Parliament’s Quit Iraq demand,  with the US threatening to instantly collapse  the Iraqi economy by a banking freeze if Iraq  insists on US Alliance withdrawal from its territory.

(1) US Alliance violates Iraqi sovereignty and rejects the Iraqi Parliament’s Quit Iraq demand.

Iraqis were outraged by the criminal murder by drone missile attack of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani (Iranian hero, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps), Shiite Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (deputy commander of the Shiite Popular Mobilisation Forces, PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi), and 8 other people by the Americans at Iraq’s Baghdad International Airport on 3 January 2020.   These blatantly criminal assassinations  were followed by international outrage  and massive demonstrations  by Iraqis  and Iranians. The Iranians launched missile attacks on 2 American air bases in Iraq  that were carefully designed as a retaliatory “slap on the face” without any American casualties that would have brought massively deadly and disproportionate  retribution from nuclear terrorist America – and indeed fortunately  nobody was killed.

Leading Iraqi Shiite politician and Iraqi PM  Abdul Mahdi stated (3 January 2020): “The assassination of an Iraqi military commander is an aggression on Iraq as a state, government and people” [1]. Iraq’s Speaker of Parliament,  Mohammed al-Halbousi (Iraq’s leading Sunni Arab politician) condemned the US assassinations as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty (4 January 2020): “Put an end to U.S. presence [in Iraq]… Yesterday’s targeting of a military commander in Iraq’s armed forces near Baghdad international airport is a flagrant breach of sovereignty and violation of international agreements. Iraq must avoid becoming a battlefield or a side in any regional or international conflict”[2]. The Iraqi Parliament passed the following resolution (5 January 2020): “The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory. The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason” [3]. The Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi protested continuing violations of Iraqi sovereignty by the Americans in a phone call to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the Iraq PM’s  office stating (9 January 2020): “The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities, and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements” [4].

The racist, anti-Arab anti-Semitic and exceptionalist Americans  rejected the foreign  withdrawal demands by the Iraqi PM, the Iraqi Parliament Speaker, and the Iraqi Parliament. Thus Mafia-style thug and serial war criminal, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, bluntly rejected the Iraqi demands,  indicating that  US troops would remain (9 January 2020): “We are happy to continue the conversation with the Iraqis about what the right structure is. Our mission set there is very clear. We’ve been there to perform a training mission to help the Iraqi security forces be successful and to continue the campaign against ISIS, to continue the counter-Daesh campaign.  We’re going to continue that mission but, as times change and we get to a place where we can deliver upon what I believe and what the president believes is our right structure with fewer resources dedicated to that mission, we will do so” [4].

Gangster Trump has justified  the assassinations on the basis of non-specific and non-disclosed security threats  against Americans, this being reminiscent  of George W. Bush’s (false) assertions (backed by UK PM Tony Blair  and Australia’s PM John Howard) in 2003 about Iraqi possession of (actually non-existent) “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMD). According to the New York Times (11 January 2020): “Mr. Trump issued bellicose threats to destroy Iran if it retaliated, including cultural treasures in violation of international law, touching off international outrage and forcing his own defense secretary to publicly disavow the threat, saying it would be a war crime. Mr. Trump was largely alone on the world stage. No major European power, not even Britain, voiced support for the drone strike, even as leaders agreed that General Suleimani had blood on his hands. As Le Monde, the French newspaper, put it, the rift signaled “a new stage in the trans-Atlantic divorce over the Middle East”” [5]. Predictably serial invader, serial occupier, serial war criminal, anti-Arab anti-Semitic and Islamophobic  Apartheid Israel supported the war criminal US attack on Iraq [5].

Trump was outraged by the Iraqi Parliament’s demand for  US Alliance withdrawals and declared: “[If US forces asked to leave] we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before”[6]. The Americans have always used sanctions, theft and economic blackmail as adjuncts to the routine recipe of subversion, assassinations, coups, bombing, invasion and genocide. The US warned Iraq that it could block Iraqi access  to an  account that Iraq’s central bank holds with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and which   is economically vital for Iraq [6-8]. The Central Bank of Iraq’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank  was set up  in 2003 following the war criminal,  US-led invasion and all Iraqi oil revenues go to that account that presently sits at $35 billion. $1-2 billion is  withdrawn from this Federal Reserve Bank  account each month for Iraqi government and commercial transactions,  and accordingly blocked access would collapse the Iraqi economy [6-8].

While the war criminal US refuses to withdraw its forces from Iraq and serial war criminal and US lackey Australia  likewise refuses to withdraw its circa 300 troops (mainly in the Taji base near Baghdad, as well as some guarding diplomats in the Baghdad Green Zone), Germany has cut down its forces, the UK has relocated some 50  personnel out of the Baghdad Green Zone but still has about 400 troops in Iraq, and Canada has withdrawn “some” of its 500 soldiers in Iraq to Kuwait [9].

The deadly consequences of Donald Trump’s decision to launch (likely Australian-targeted )  missiles from drones at Baghdad International Airport can be summarized thus: 12 killed in the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, at least 56 killed in a stampede at the funeral of General Qassem Soleimani in the southeastern Iranian city of Kerman, and 176 passengers and crew killed (one third Canadians) in the Ukrainian passenger jet shot down in a terrible mistake by an Iranian-fired missile from a very  nervous Iranian defence Surface to Air Missile (SAM) battery defending Teheran in the context of acute and deadly  US threats to Iran [10, 11]. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has quite  rightly expressed indignation and demands for transparency and justice over the plane tragedy [12]. However Zionist-subverted and US lackey Canada does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, has a long record of US- and Zionist-backed antipathy towards Iran, has emplaced sanctions against Iran and is likely to use the passenger jet tragedy and its forces in Iraq to support the US in a continuing, variously hot and cold and 4 decade US War on Iran [13]. Under criminal and deadly US Sanctions, presently an estimated 71,000 Iranians die avoidably from deprivation each year or 195 such deaths per day [14, 15].

Decent people around the world legitimately fear the horrendous consequences of a full-blown US and US Alliance military  attack  on Iran. However 4 million Iranians  have already died from violence, 1 million, or from sanctions-imposed deprivation, 3 million, in a 4-decade US War on Iran. Further, while Iran leads the world in interdiction of opiate drugs from US-occupied Afghanistan, this flood of US-protected opiates has killed 33,000 Iranians and the 5.2 million people who have died worldwide  in a US-imposed  Opiate Holocaust inescapably linked to US restoration of  the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium industry from 6%  of world market share in 2001 to 90% in 2007 [16]. One notes that the WW2 Jewish Holocaust was associated with 5-6 million Jews killed by the German Nazis through violence or imposed deprivation.

(2) Serial war criminal and US lackey Australia refuses to Quit Iraq as demanded by the Iraqi Parliament – Australia’s 7th Iraq War in a century?

As UK lackeys  and thence US lackeys, gung-ho and racist White Australians have invaded 85 countries over the last  2 centuries [17]. By way of comparison, over the last 1,000 years  the British have invaded 193 countries, France 82, the US 72 (52 after WW2), Germany 39, Japan 30, Russia 25, Canada 25,  Apartheid Israel 12, Iraq 2 (both greenlighted by the US),  China 2, North Korea arguably zero (0) , and Iran zero (0) since the time of the Sasanian Empire 1,300 years ago [14, 17-22]. Australia has been involved in 6 Iraq wars, specifically (1) UK invasion of Iraq in WW1 (1914-1918), (2) UK operations in Iraq in WW2 (1939-1945), (3) the deadly Sanctions War against  Iraq (1990-2003), (4) the Gulf War (1990-1991), (5) invasion and occupation of Iraq (2003-2011), and (6) the war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq (2014-). War is the penultimate in racism and genocide is  the ultimate in racism. Australia’s refusal to accede to the Iraqi Parliament’s demand  that the US Alliance forces, including Australian forces,  leave Iraq  may mark the commencement of Australia’s 7th Iraq War since the genocidal British Empire’s invasion of Iraq in 1914.

British interest in Iraq came from discovery of oil in adjacent Iran in the 1900s. Western violation of Iraq commenced with the British invasion in 1914 during WW1.  Assuming excess mortality of Iraqis under British rule or hegemony (1914- 1948) was the same as for Indians under the British (interpolation from available data indicate Indian avoidable death rates in “deaths per 1,000 of population per year” of 37 (1757-1920), 35 (1920-1930), 30 (1930-1940) and 24 (1940-1950) [23]), one can estimate from Iraqi population data [24] that Iraqi avoidable deaths from deprivation under British occupation and hegemony from 1914-1950 totalled about 4 million.  UK lackey Australia was variously involved via its air force and navy in enforcement of British rule over Iraq in this period.

On the occasion of  US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 the Australian ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia’s equivalent of the mendacious UK BBC) reported that “The withdrawal ends a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 American soldiers dead” [25].  In contrast, the expert and eminent US Just Foreign Policy organization estimates, based on the data of expert UK analysts and top US medical epidemiologists, 1.5 million violent deaths in the Iraq War (2003-2011) [26-29] and UN data indicate a further 1.2 million Iraqi avoidable deaths from war-imposed deprivation in this period [14, 15]. Violent deaths and avoidable deaths from violently -imposed deprivation in the Gulf War (1990-1991) and Sanctions period (1990-2003) totalled  0.2 million and 1.2 million, respectively [30].   Accordingly, Iraqi deaths from violence (1.7 million) or war-imposed deprivation (2.9 million) in the period 1990-2011 totalled  4.6 million [31].

The US ostensibly withdrew from devastated Iraq in 2011 but returned with a vengeance in 2012 to help Syria, Iraq and Iran deal with ISIS  in Syria and Iraq that has been associated with about 0.1 million violent Iraqi deaths, most notably in devastated Mosul [32] and  twice US-demolished Fallujah, the City of Mosques [33]. One notes that the ruthless and barbarous ISIS subverted and took over the Sunni insurgency in Iraq against the corrupt, violent, US-installed Al Maliki Government, and similarly ISIS came to dominate the US Alliance-backed Sunni insurgency against the Assad Government in Syria [32, 33].   UN data indicate about 0.3 million avoidable Iraqi  deaths from deprivation in the period 2011-2020.

Thus ignoring Iraqi deaths associated with the US-backed Iraq-Iran War, one can estimate about 9 million Iraqi deaths from UK or US violence or imposed deprivation in the century after the 1914 invasion of Iraq by Britain, this constituting an Iraqi Holocaust and an Iraqi Genocide [31]. These terms are not used lightly. “Holocaust” means the death of a huge number of people. According to Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention: “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” [30, 34-38]. The ruler is responsible for the ruled.  The huge avoidable deaths of Iraqis under the British, Americans and the US Coalition is evidence of gross violation of Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War that state unequivocally that an Occupier must provide its conquered subjects with life-preserving food and medical requisites “to the fullest extent of the means available to it” [39].

(3) Australia’s war criminal refusal to leave Iraq as unequivocally demanded by the Iraqi PM, Parliamentary Speaker and Parliament.

As set out above, the Iraqi PM, Speaker and Parliament have unequivocally demanded that foreign troops leave their devastated land. However the serial war criminal Americans and their serial war criminal lackeys, the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia, refuse to leave. Australian PM Scott Morrison (8 January 2020): “The situation overnight has stabilised… The cessation of those immediate hostilities that we saw yesterday and the nature of the statement also issued [by US President Donald Trump] today, as well as the [US-supplied] intelligence that we have, means that we are in a position to continue to undertake the mission that we have set for ourselves in the Middle East” [40].

The Labor Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese,  would not comment on any withdrawal of Australian forces from Iraq before getting  a [US-provided] security briefing (8 January 2020): “These things should not be done on the run. This is potentially a very serious matter. Indeed, I have said though, that there shouldn’t be a further escalation by any party” [40]. Since the US CIA-backed Coup that removed reformist Labor PM Gough Whitlam from power in 1975 [41], the craven, US lackey  Labor position has been “all the way with the USA” lest it anger the Americans or the king-making, US-owned Murdoch media empire that has captured 70% of Australian daily city newspaper readers.

The Labor Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong (8 January 2020): “Labor notes the worrying reports of events currently unfolding in Iraq. These attacks are deeply concerning and we continue to call on all sides to exercise restraint. Labor will be seeking briefings, including on the safety of our ADF members and diplomatic staff who are operating in the Middle East. Tomorrow, Labor’s Shadow National Security Committee will meet to discuss the situation in the region. Whilst these tensions are ongoing it is essential that the Government takes all steps necessary to maximise the safety and security of all deployed Australian personnel” [42].

Interestingly  the Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, evidently understands basic International Law about war crimes and has begged the Iraqi Government to permit Australian forces to stay (7 January 2020): “We urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue its vital work with Iraq’s security forces in countering the shared threat of Daesh [ISIS]. We understand the resolution passed by Iraq’s Parliament is non-binding, absent formal approval by the government in Baghdad” [43].

The UN Charter is very clear about foreign forces being in another  country – it can only happen (1) through invitation by the country,  (2) in response to invasion of another country by that country, or (3) with the permission of the UN Security Council. In this instance the Iraqi PM, the Parliamentary Speaker and the Iraqi Parliament have unequivocally demanded that the foreign forces should leave.

In Australia’s 6 Iraq Wars  involving Australian and US Alliance forces in Iraq only three (3) met the standard defined by the post-WW2 UN Charter, specifically (1) the disgracefully  UN-approved and genocidal  Sanctions war against Iraq  (1990-2003; 1.7 million Iraqi deaths from imposed deprivation, half them children), (2) the UN-sanctioned Gulf War in response to the US greenlighted Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990-1991; 0.2 million violent Iraqi deaths), and (3) the War on ISIS in Iraq by invitation of the US-installed Al-Maliki Government (2014 onwards; the big cities of Mosul (population 2 million) and Fallujah (population 300,000) demolished by the US Alliance; about 0.1 million and 0.3 million Iraqi deaths from violence and deprivation, respectively [14, 30, 32, 34-38]. One notes that the estimates of 0.3 million Iraqi avoidable deaths from deprivation since 2011 is probably an underestimate since the US-installed Al Maliki Government has an appalling record of understating horrendous medical statistics e.g.  absurdly claiming that Iraqi infant mortality declined as a consequence of sanctions, invasion and devastation [44] and claiming that rates of spontaneous abortion, still births and congenital birth defects in devastated and toxin contaminated areas of post-invasion Iraq were normal, contrary to the shocking findings of expert non-Iraqi Health Ministry researchers [45, 46].

However the Iraqis have withdrawn that invitation and have unequivocally demanded the withdrawal of foreign forces. Yankee go home! US Coalition go home! Aussies go home! If they stay they are violating the most fundamental International law: do not  invade and occupy other counties. Indeed it was for such crimes that German leaders and generals were hung after the post-WW2  Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. One notes that the US lackey Germans and Canadians have responded to the situation by relocating “some” of their forces out of Iraq, notwithstanding the Iraqi Parliament’s demands. In 1945 the conquered Germans adopted what can be described as a CAAAA (C4A) protocol involving Acknowledgement of the crimes, Apology for the crimes, Amends for the crimes and Assertion “Never again” to anyone. Germany and Canada were not directly involved in the 2003 invasion and occupation of  Iraq  but have now evidently decided as US lackeys to join serial war criminal America, UK and Australia  in illegally occupying Iraq. Evidently the post-WW2 de-Nazification of Germany was insufficient.

As a cowardly,  degenerate, serial war criminal and genocidal US lackey, Australia has been involved in all post-1950 US Asian wars, atrocities that have been associated with 40 million Asian deaths from violence or war-imposed deprivation [14]. The Australian Liberal Party-National Party Coalition (that has egregiously mis-ruled Australia since 2013) supported Australian involvement in all of these atrocities  while Labor supported all but the Vietnam War and the 2003-2011 Iraq War.  This degenerate and war criminal collusion between serial war criminal America and serial war criminal Australia is continuing.

(4) Australian, US and UK  respect for parliamentary democracy and law at home but contempt for democracy and International Law abroad.

Australia  is one of the world’s oldest parliamentary democracies and has a splendid, world’s-best  system of compulsory, one-person-one-vote, preferential voting that ensures that a winning candidate must either receive over 50% of the vote, or failing that,  gain over 50% of the “2-party-preferred vote” based on counting the “second preferences” of all the unsuccessful candidates.  In contrast,  in first-past-the -post systems as in the UK and US, depending on how many people bothered to get out of bed and vote, a small proportion of the electorate, say 30%,  could elect  a government that was hated by most of the population. However, as with many things about Australia (and the US and UK), the surface of the rock appears very nice, but look underneath and one can be appalled [47, 48]. Thus Australia has an Upper House or  Senate that can veto decisions of the popularly-elected Lower House, or House of Representatives. However all the 6 States of Australia have the same number of Senators (12) and Tasmania (population 0.5 million) has the same number of Senators (12) as New South Wales (population 7.5 million) or Victoria (population 6.4 million), this prompting outspoken former Labor PM,  Paul Keating, to describe the Senate as “unrepresentative swill”.

Nevertheless there is great respect for parliamentary decencies and conventions. Thus the Australian  Speaker is appointed (usually from the dominant party)  to keep order in the House of Representatives and is prepared  to throw Government or Opposition MPs out of the House if they misbehave by being abusive, disruptive  or noisy. (I remember attending a big party with my dear late wife Zareena (née Zareena Lateef)  in a neighbouring country that was attended by the eminent and charming then Speaker of that country’s parliament – he had to phone for a taxi so we accompanied  him to the roadside to keep him company,  and were surprised and amused when he phoned for  a taxi and simply stated “This is the Speaker”).

However when the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament , the Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) and indeed the Iraqi Parliament as a whole demanded that foreign troops get out of Iraq there was no such respect from Australia and the other Anglosphere or European members of the US Coalition (US, UK, Australia, Canada and Germany) who all simply refused (Canada and Germany only moving “some” forces from Iraq for security reasons).

The Australian Liberal Party-National Party Coalition and now to a significantly lesser extent Labor (collectively  known as the Lib-Labs) fervently support nuclear terrorist, racist Zionist-run, genocidally racist, democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel. Indeed Australia is second only to Trump America  and is just above Zionist-subverted Canada as a supporter of the Apartheid Israeli rogue state. Democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel determines that of its  circa 7 million Indigenous Palestinian subjects (who despite over 70 years of continuous ethnic cleansing and genocide by the Zionists now represent about 50% of Apartheid Israel’s subjects) 74% are prevented from voting for the government ruling them i.e. egregious, criminal  and intolerable Apartheid ) [47-58]. Australia respects one-person-one-vote democracy at home (or at least has done so since 1967 when Indigenous Australians were finally “counted” as citizens and thence able to vote). MPs and political candidates who support Apartheid Israel and hence the obscenity of Apartheid are simply unfit for public life in a one-person-one-vote democracy. This shows US lackey Australia’s utter contempt for democracy abroad as in a similarly fundamental way does Australia’s military involvement in all post-1950 US Asian wars (racist atrocities that  have been associated with 40 million Asian deaths from war-imposed deprivation) [14]. Indeed Australian Intelligence agents helped the US overthrow the democratically elected Chilean Government on 9-11 in 1973 (page 163 [59]).

(5) War is the penultimate in racism and genocide is the ultimate in racism. Why the ongoing US devastation  of Iraq?

War is the penultimate in racism and genocide is the ultimate in racism as illustrated by the ongoing Iraqi Holocaust and Iraqi Genocide (9 million Iraqi deaths from violence or imposed deprivation since the British  invasion in 1914) [30].  Indeed the 21st century Muslim Holocaust and Muslim Genocide [60] has  involved 32 million Muslims killed by violence, 5 million, or through imposed deprivation, 27 million, in 20 countries invaded by the US Alliance since the US Government’s 9-11 false flag atrocity that killed 3,000 people [44, 61]. Decent people may well ask why is it that America and its rich Anglosphere and Western European allies are still making war on Iraq and indeed on a swathe of other countries from West Africa to Pakistan?  Why not, for example, have Iraq invaded and occupied by  Switzerland that is closer to this war-torn region than the US and has a major  interest in these countries as banker to its rulers and establishments? Why not nearly 200 other countries for any number of possible inventive reasons? The US and its allies dress up exceptionalist American war making  in terms of the “war on terror”, “global security”, “bringing freedom and democracy”, and America’s  “onerous burden” as a “global policeman” etc.  The US always needs an excuse for war but the “terror” excuse is wearing thin because the US and the countries of the US Alliance have variously backed jihadi and other non-state terrorists around the world (e.g. death squads throughout Latin America, church-bombing gangs in Ecuador, Gladio in Europe and jihadis in Libya, Yemen, Kosovo, Syria, and Afghanistan. Indeed jihadi non-state terrorists are a great asset for US imperialism because every jihadi atrocity provides an excuse for disproportionately vastly more destructive  US violence against defenceless Muslim populations [62]. Indeed fundamentalist America has trashed secular governance, modernity, democracy, women’s rights and children’s rights in the Muslim World [63].

Why the ongoing US devastation of Iraq? The most succinct answer to the question is simply:  oil. Thus from the Right, Alan Greenspan (leading Republican economist,  chairman of the US Federal Reserve for almost two decades, and servant of  four US presidents): “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil” [64]. And on the Left, Professor Noam Chomsky (eminent linguistics expert  and anti-racist Jewish American human rights activist at 101-Nobel-Laureate Massachusetts Institute  of Technology (MIT) (2009): “There is basically no significant change in the fundamental traditional conception that if we can control Middle East energy resources, then we can control the world” [65].

US lackey Australia is helping the US occupy 2 devastated countries (Iraq and Afghanistan ), blockade Somalia  and bomb 7 countries  (Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) by targeting illegal US drone strikes via  the joint Australia-US electronic spying base at Pine Gap in Central Australia [66]. Indeed it is quite possible that via Pine Gap US lackey Australia was involved in the deadly targeting of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani  and Shiite Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and their 8 associates at Baghdad International Airport that has brought the Middle East  the brink of another genocidal war and has already cost the lives of the 176 passengers and crew of Ukrainian Airways Flight 752.

The serial war criminal US subverts and perverts all countries and to that end has about 700 bases in over 70 countries, including my own country, Australia [67]. President Donald Trump has been impeached and now faces trial in the Senate over allegedly withholding a huge US arms supply to Ukraine in order to get a Ukrainian investigation into the conduct of his likely opponent for the presidency, Democrat  Joe Biden, and Joe Biden’s son.  This alleged “quid pro quo” – allegedly rewarding a foreign power for investigating possible “dirt” on a domestic American political opponent – is utterly trivial compared to the routine deadly bullying by the US of all countries  around the world. It is utterly trivial  in comparison  with the war criminal refusal of the US and its war criminal Anglosphere and European allies to leave devastated Iraq when asked to do so by the Iraqi PM, the Iraqi Parliament Speaker and the Iraqi Parliament , this refusal being accompanied by the US threat to instantly collapse  the Iraqi economy by blocking access to its Federal Reserve banking account if the Iraqi Government keeps on insisting on this withdrawal. What is utterly galling about the Impeachment is how the Americans (the serial war criminal Democrats in this instance) hypocritically cloak themselves with a veneer of “upholding the law”.   America carries a big stick.  Reformist Australian Labor PM  Gough Whitlam excited hatred from the US and its traitorous  Australian allies over the Pine Gap spying base in Central Australia and was rapidly removed in a CIA-backed Coup in 1975 [41, 59, 69].

Just as the world has responded massively to the “How dare you!” expostulation over the worsening Climate Emergency of 16-year old climate activist  Greta Thunberg at the UN, so  one hopes the world  will likewise respond to the words of 13-year old  Iraqi girl, Sarah, whose family were refugees to a Baghdad refugee camp from  the first US demolition of  Fallujah (2004): “What does America want from us? Why did they destroy our homes? This is not their home, this is our home. Why did they come here and force us to live like this? The bombing went all day and all night. They made us homeless, they made us wander from house to house to ask if anyone can help us. Why did they come here? I want them to go” (page 118 [33]).

Final comments

The US and its cowardly and war criminal allies have never been taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the invasion, occupation and genocidal devastation of Iraq that killed 2.7 million Iraqis through violence, 1.5 million, or war-imposed deprivation, 1.2 million [30]. My complaints to the ICC were of course ignored by that racist, holocaust-complicit and genocide-complicit organization (see [30]). However by refusing to leave Iraq the US and its war criminal allies are simply adding to the immense crime of the Iraqi Holocaust and Iraqi Genocide . My  own country, Australia, was intimately involved in the war criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Indeed John Valder, former National President of the conservative Australian Liberal Party (the party of Australia’s present PM Scott “Scomo” Morrison aka Scam-o, Scheme-o, Skim-o or Scum-o)  declared (2004): “Bush, Blair, and Howard, as leaders of the three members of the coalition of the willing, inflicted enormous suffering on the people of Iraq. And, as such, they are criminals. I believe the only deterrent to a repetition of the Iraq situation is punishment in some form as war criminals” [70].

Anti-racist Jewish British writer Harold Pinter in his 2005 Literature Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech stated (2005): “The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading as a last resort all other justifications having failed to justify themselves as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people. We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’. How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice” [71]. 2.9 million? More than enough, I would have thought.

Decent people around the world are fed up with the war criminal exceptionalism of the US and its degenerate, serial war criminal  Allies (Australia, UK, Canada, France, Germany and nuclear terrorist, democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel). Decent people throughout the world and in Australia will act by (a) informing everyone they can, (b) by urging and applying Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against a war criminal US and its war criminal allies, and (c) by declaring :”Yankee go home ” and an end to the presence of US Alliance forces in other nations. Decent Australians will  demand removal of  mother- and child-violating US forces from Australia, utterly reject the serial  war criminal, US lackey  Coalition, vote 1 Green and put the Coalition last.

*

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Dr Gideon Polya taught science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text “Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds” (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ).

Notes

[1].  Spencer Neale, “Iraqi Parliament vows to “put an end to US presence” in country”, Washington Examiner, 3 January 2020: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/iraqi-parliament-vows-to-put-an-end-to-us-presence-in-country .

[2]. “Iraqi Parliament Speaker condemns U.S. air strike: statement”, Reuters, 4 January 2020: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-blast-speaker/iraqi-parliament-speaker-condemns-us-air-strike-statement-idUSKBN1Z21BD .

[3]. Arwha Ibrahim, “Iraqi Parliament calls for expulsion of foreign troops. Vote comes after PM Abdul Mahdi recommended Parliament take urgent measures to expel foreign troops from Iraq”, Al Jazeera,  6 January 2020: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/iraqi-parliament-calls-expulsion-foreign-troops-200105150709628.html .

[4]. “US dismisses Iraq request to work on a troop withdrawal plan”, Hurriyet Daily News, 11 January 2020: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-dismisses-iraq-request-to-work-on-a-troop-withdrawal-plan-150825 .

[5]. Peter Baker et al, “Seven days in January: How Trump pushed U.S. and Iran to the brink of war”, New York Times, 11 January 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/11/us/politics/iran-trump.html .

[6]. “Iraq warns of collapse if Trump blocks oil cash”, Bangkok Post, 13 January 2020:  https://www.bangkokpost.com/world/1834699/iraq-warns-of-collapse-if-trump-blocks-oil-cash .

[7]. “Iraq warned to keep US troops o risk financial blow –WSJ”, Al Jazeera, 12 January 2020: https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/iraq-warned-troops-risk-financial-blow-wsj-200111164246245.html .

[8]. Ian Talley and Isabel Coles, “U.S. warns Iraq it risks losing access to key bank account if troops told to leave. Loss of access to New York Fed account, where international oil sale revenue is kept, risks creating cash crunch in Iraq’s financial system”, Wall Street Journal, 11 January 2011:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-warns-iraq-it-risks-losing-access-to-key-bank-account-if-troops-told-to-leave-11578759629 .

[9]. Patrick Wintour and Dan Sabbagh, “Germany cuts troop numbers in Iraq after Suleimani killing. Decision follows call by Iraqi parliament for withdrawal of US forces”, Guardian, 8 January 2020: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/07/germany-cuts-troop-numbers-in-iraq-after-suleimani-killing .

[10]. “Dozens killed in stampede at Qassem Soleimani’s funeral in Iran”, Al Jazeera, 8 January 2020: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/dozens-killed-stampede-soleimani-funeral-iran-state-tv-200107093406578.html .

[11].Martin Rivers, “The downing of flight 752 in Iran is a tragedy of complacency. Lessons from the 2014 Malaysian Airlines disaster were not heeded. Now 176 more people are dead”, Guardian, 14 January 2020: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/13/downing-flight-752-tragedy-complacency-airlines .

[12]. “Canada-Iran relations”, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada%E2%80%93Iran_relations .

[13]. Gideon Polya, “Apartheid Israel bombing Syria & Iraq – hotting up deadly  4-decade US war on Iran”, Countercurrents, 14 August 2019: https://countercurrents.org/2019/08/apartheid-israel-bombing-syria-iraq-hotting-up-deadly-4-decade-us-war-on-iran .

[14]. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, that includes a succinct history  of every country and is now available for free perusal on the web: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ .

[15]. “UN Population Division. World Population Prospects 2019”: https://population.un.org/wpp/DataQuery/ .

[16]. Gideon Polya, “US-imposed Opiate Holocaust – US protection of Afghan opiates has killed 5.2 million people since 9-11”, Countercurrents, 10 August 2019: https://countercurrents.org/2019/08/us-imposed-opiate-holocaust-us-protection-of-afghan-opiates-has-killed-5-2-million-people-since-9-11  .

[17]. Gideon Polya, “As UK Lackeys Or US Lackeys Australians Have Invaded 85 Countries (British 193, French 80, US 70)”, Countercurrents, 9 February, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya090215.htm .

[18]. Gideon Polya, “The US Has Invaded 70 Nations Since 1776 – Make 4 July Independence From America Day”, Countercurrents, 5 July, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya050713.htm .

[19]. Gideon Polya, “British Have Invaded 193 Countries:  Make  26 January ( Australia Day, Invasion Day) British Invasion Day”, Countercurrents, 23 January, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya230115.htm .

[20].Gideon Polya, “President Hollande And French Invasion Of Privacy Versus French Invasion Of 80 Countries Since 800 AD”, Countercurrents, 15 January, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya150114.htm  .

[21]. “Stop state terrorism”: https://sites.google.com/site/stopstateterrorism/ .

[22]. “State crime and non-state terrorism”: https://sites.google.com/site/statecrimeandnonstateterrorism/  .

[23]. Gideon Polya, “Economist Mahima Khanna wins Cambridge Prize”, MWC News, 20 November 2011: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/14978-economist-mahima-khanna.html .

[24]. “Iraq Population”: http://www.populstat.info/Asia/iraqc.htm  .

[25].  “US military marks end of its Iraq war”, ABC News,  16 December 2011: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-15/us-military-marks-end-of-its-war-in-iraq/3733982  .

[26]. “Just Foreign Policy”: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq .

[27]. ORB (Opinion Research Business), “January 2008 – Update on Iraqi Casualty Data”, January 2008: http://www.opinion.co.uk/Newsroom_details.aspx?NewsId=88 .

[28]. Les Roberts, “Les Roberts: Iraq’s death toll far worse than our leaders admit”, Uruqnet: 14 February 2007: http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=30670&s2=16 .

[29]. G. Burnham, R. Lafta, S. Doocy and L. Roberts, “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey”, The  Lancet 2006 Oct 21;368(9545):1421-8: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17055943 .

[30]. “Iraqi Holocaust Iraqi Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/iraqiholocaustiraqigenocide/ .

[31]. Gideon Polya, “12th Anniversary Of Illegal Iraq Invasion – 2.7 Million Iraqi Dead From Violence Or War-imposed Deprivation”, Countercurrents,  23 March, 2015: https://www.countercurrents.org/polya230315.htm

[32]. Gideon Polya, “Mosul Massacre latest in Iraqi Genocide”, Countercurrents, 24 July 2017: https://countercurrents.org/2017/07/mosul-massacre-latest-in-iraqi-genocide-us-alliance-war-crimes-demand-icc-bds

[33]. Ross Caputi, Richard Hil and Donna Mulhearn, “The Sacking of Fallujah. A people’s history”, University of Massachusetts Press, 2019.

[34]. UN Genocide Convention: http://www.edwebproject.org/sideshow/genocide/convention.html .

[35]. “Genocide in Iraq Volume I . The case against the UN Security Council and member states” by Dr Abdul-Haq Al-Ani and  Tarik Al-Ani (foreword by Professor Joshua Castellino; Clarity Press, Atlanta).

[36]. Gideon Polya ““Genocide in Iraq, The Case Against UN Security Council And Member States”. Book review”,  Countercurrents, 8 February, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya080213.htm .

[37]. Abdul-Haq Al-Ani and Tariq Al-Ani, “Genocide in Iraq Volume II. The Obliteration of a Modern State” (Clarity Press, 2015).

[38]. Gideon Polya, “Review: “Genocide in Iraq Volume II. The obliteration of a modern state” By Abdul-Haq Al-Ani & Tariq Al-Ani”, Countercurrents, 15 March 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya150315.htm .

[39]. Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War: https://www.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO/380 .

[40]. Jack Snape, “Scott Morrison confirms Australian troops will remain in Iraq after Iran’s missile attack on US bases”, ABC News, 9 January 2020: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-09/scott-morrison-australia-military-mission-iraq-iran/11855490 .

[41]. John Pilger, “The British-American Coup that ended Australian independence”, Guardian, 23 October 2014: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/23/gough-whitlam-1975-coup-ended-australian-independence .

[42]. Penny Wong, 8 January 2020: https://www.pennywong.com.au/media-releases/safety-of-our-adf-and-diplomatic-personnel-in-iraq/ .

[43]. Bevan Shields, “”Don’t throw us out”: Australia plans to stay in Iraq but plans for the worst”,  Sydney Morning Herald, 7 January 2010: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/don-t-throw-us-out-australia-pleads-to-stay-in-iraq-but-plans-for-the-worst-20200106-p53pcy.html .

[44]. Gideon Polya, “Paris atrocity context: 27 Million Muslim Avoidable  Deaths From Imposed Deprivation In 20 Countries Violated By US Alliance Since 9-11”, Countercurrents, 22 November, 2015: https://countercurrents.org/polya221115.htm .

[45]. Chapter 6, Aftermath” in  Ross Caputi, Richard Hil and Donna Mulhearn, “The Sacking of Fallujah. A people’s history”, University of Massachusetts Press, 2019.

[46]. Neel Mani (Director of the World Health Organisation’s Iraq programme between 2001-2003 ,  “Iraq: politics and science  in post-conflict health research”, Huffington Post, 15 October 2014: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/neel-mani/iraq-politics-and-science_b_4098231.html.

[47]. John Dugard, “International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the crime of Apartheid”, Audiovisual Library of International Law: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/avl/ha/cspca/cspca.html .

[48]. “Boycott Apartheid  Israel”: https://sites.google.com/site/boycottapartheidisrael/.

[49]. Gideon Polya, “70th anniversary of Apartheid Israel & commencement of large-scale Palestinian Genocide”, Countercurrents, 11 May 2018: https://countercurrents.org/2018/05/11/70th-anniversary-of-apartheid-israel-commencement-of-large-scale-palestinian-genocide/ .

[50]. Gideon Polya, “Democratic One-State Solution (Unitary State, Bi-National State) for post-Apartheid Palestine”, Countercurrents, 22 December 2018: https://countercurrents.org/2018/12/22/democratic-one-state-solution-unitary-state-bi-national-state-for-post-apartheid-palestine/ .

[51] “Palestinian Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ .

[52]. Gideon Polya, “Apartheid Israel’s Palestinian Genocide & Australia’s Aboriginal  Genocide compared”, Countercurrents, 20 February 2018: https://countercurrents.org/2018/02/20/apartheid-israels-palestinian-genocide-australias-aboriginal-genocide-compared/  .

[53]. Gideon Polya, “Israeli-Palestinian & Middle East conflict – from oil to climate genocide”, Countercurrents, 21 August 2017: https://countercurrents.org/2017/08/21/israeli-palestinian-middle-east-conflict-from-oil-to-climate-genocide/ .

[54]. Gideon Polya, “End 50 Years Of Genocidal Occupation & Human Rights Abuse By US-Backed Apartheid Israel”, Countercurrents,  9 June  2017: https://countercurrents.org/2017/06/09/end-50-years-of-genocidal-occupation-human-rights-abuse-by-us-backed-apartheid-israel/ .

[55]. Gideon Polya, “Universal Declaration of Human Rights & Palestinians. Apartheid Israel violates ALL Palestinian Human Rights”, Palestine Genocide Essays, 24 January 2009: https://sites.google.com/site/palestinegenocideessays/universal-declaration-of-human-rights-palestinians .

[56]. United Nations, “Israel’s settlements have no legal validity, constitute flagrant violations of international law, Security Council reaffirms.   14 delegations in favour of Resolution 2334 as United States abstains”, 23 December 2016: https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12657.doc.htm .

[57]. Gideon Polya, “Is UN Security Council Resolution 2334 the beginning of the end for Apartheid Israel?””, Countercurrents, 28 December 2016: http://www.countercurrents.org/2016/12/28/is-un-security-council-resolution-2334-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-apartheid-israel/ .

[58]. Gideon Polya, “Anti-racist Jewish humanitarians oppose Apartheid Israel & support UN Security Council resolution 2334”, Countercurrents, 13 January 2017: http://www.countercurrents.org/2017/01/13/anti-racist-jewish-humanitarians-oppose-apartheid-israel-support-un-security-council-resolution-2334/ .

[59]. Brian Toohey, “Secret. The making of Australia’s security state”, Melbourne University Press, 2019.

[60]. “Muslim Holocaust Muslim Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/muslimholocaustmuslimgenocide/ .

[61]. “Experts: US did 9-11”: https://sites.google.com/site/expertsusdid911/ .

[62]. Gideon Polya, “US Profits From Jihadist Terrorism”, Countercurrents, 19 November, 2004: http://www.countercurrents.org/us-polya191104.htm .

[63]. Gideon Polya, “Fundamentalist America Has Trashed Secular Governance, Modernity, Democracy, Women’s Rights And Children’s Rights In The Muslim World”, Countercurrents,  21 May, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya210515.htm .

[64]. Peter Beaumont and Joanna Walters, “Greenspan admits Iraq was about oil, as deaths put at 1.2m”, The Observer, 16 September 2007: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/sep/16/iraq.iraqtimeline .

[65]. Noam Chomsky quoted in Sherwood Ross, “Chomsky: Iraq invasion “major crime” designed to control Middle East oil”, The Public Record, 3 November 2009:  http://pubrecord.org/nation/5953/chomsky-invasion-major-crime/ .

[66]. Philip Dorling, “Australian intelligence “feeding data” for deadly US drone strikes”, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 May 2014:http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-intelligence-feeding-data-used-for-deadly-us-drone-strikes-20140526-38ywk.html .

[67]. David Vine, “Where in the world is the US military”, Politico, July/August 2015: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/06/us-military-bases-around-the-world-119321 .

[68]. Jules Dufour, “The worldwide network of US military bases”, Global Research, 1 July 2007: https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-worldwide-network-of-us-military-bases-2/5564 .

[69]. William Blum, “Rogue State”.

[70]. “Howard is a war criminal,, says former colleague”, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 2004: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/18/1090089035899.html .

[71]. Harold Pinter, “Art, Truth and Politics”, Countercurrents, 8 December 2005: http://www.countercurrents.org/arts-pinter081205.htm .

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There’s little doubt that Iran’s “deep state” struggle will intensify after a senior IRGC commander from the country’s “principalist” faction took responsibility for his country accidentally shooting down UIA-752 and thus exposing the “reformist” government’s previous efforts to cover up what happened, especially since his press conference revealed that the authorities were made aware of this accident right after it occurred and that the military’s earlier request for a no-fly zone which could have prevented this tragedy was rejected.

The No-Fly Zone That Never Was

A senior IRGC commander from the country’s “principalist” faction took responsibility for his country accidentally shooting down UIA-752, which was a mea culpa moment for Alt-Media which had hitherto largely repeated Tehran’s previously vehement claims that any such accusation of its complicity in this tragedy is “big lie…(a) psychological operation…adding insult to the injury of the bereaved families”.

Commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force Amir Ali Hajizadeh was reported by RT to have “stated that the IRGC notified the authorities that it had likely hit the plane back right after the incident, yet this information was not disclosed to the public while the crash site was being investigated”, which is why he said that “neither IRGC nor the country’s military sought to hide the incident”. The “reformist” government, however, isn’t so innocent since it pushed the now totally debunked narrative that nothing of the sort transpired despite allegedly having been informed from the get-go about this accident. In fact, The Guardian reported on a twitter thread by Reza Khaasteh, a journalist with Iran Front Page news, who translated more of the commander’s comments during his press conference and shockingly revealed that he also said that “we had requested the establishment of a no-fly zone given the war situation. But it was not approved for certain considerations.” All of this deserves to be analyzed more in depth because it seems like the cover-up is much deeper than initially thought.

A Carefully Choreographed Stunt…

If Commander Hajizadeh’s claims are to be believed, and there’s no reason at this point to doubt them, then there’s a serious “deep state” struggle occurring in Iran at the moment which threatens the country’s stability at this very sensitive geopolitical time. In the author’s earlier piece titled “The US vs. Iran: Who Won & Who Lost?“, it was argued that Iran carefully choreographed its promised response to the US’ assassination of Maj. Gen. Soleimani, relying on the Iraqi Prime Minister’s own public acknowledgement that the Iranians informed him of their planned missile strike in advance, after which he in turn tipped off the US so that there wouldn’t be any casualties. Reuters later reported that Denmark, which had troops stationed at one of the attacked bases, was warned of what would happen a full six hours before it occurred, further adding credence to the author’s conclusion that Iran’s response was intended more for “face-saving” purposes at home and went to great lengths to ensure that the US wouldn’t militarily react. Commander Hajizadeh himself basically admitted this when he said that “We didn’t seek to kill. We sought to hit the enemy’s military machine.” Thus, there shouldn’t be any question that the attack itself was just an elaborate soft power stunt for mostly domestic political reasons since both the “reformist” and “principalist” factions didn’t want to risk provoking millions of patriots into the streets for protests had they not done something dramatic after Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s assassination.

…Gone Wrong

That much appears to be clear for the aforementioned reasons, but what’s unknown is why the “reformist” government refused the “principalist” IRGC’s request to impose a no-fly zone which would have made this charade all the more “convincing”. It can’t be known for sure, but it might simply be the case that the “reformists” were so arrogant that the US wouldn’t militarily respond as a result of their tacitly coordinated action that they didn’t see the need to go that far and thus deprive the sanctions-beleaguered and cash-strapped state of valuable revenue from overflight taxes. If that’s the calculation that was made in ultimately deciding not to ground all flights over the country, then it would speak to just how economically desperate the country has become since the onset of the US’ unilateral sanctions regime and its threatened “secondary sanctions” against all violators. That, however, doesn’t explain why the IRGC would be at the ready to defend the country’s airspace per its duty if it was really convinced that no US counter-strike would be forthcoming and which supposedly contributed to its forces overreacting to the misidentification of an ascending civilian airliner as an incoming enemy missile. Considering that many flights were landing and taking off in the hours since Iran’s carefully choreographed stunt, as well as the fact that planes and missiles clearly give off different signatures to relevant military equipment, it’s all the more bewildering how this tragedy transpired.

Blood On Both Hands

Something clearly doesn’t add up. The “principalist” IRGC was obviously in on the “reformist” government’s game of indirectly coordinating a bloodless response to Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s assassination, yet this knowledge was probably kept on a need-to-know basis and therefore only known by the highest echelons of that institution. The lower rank-and-file manning its defense systems likely didn’t know about this and thus sincerely expected an overwhelming US response, so much so that one of their operators anxiously overreacted ten seconds after their equipment mistakenly identified a civilian airliner as a cruise missile and thus shot the plane out of the sky. That could have predictably been avoided by simply imposing the no-fly zone and going along with the charade in order to make it even more “convincing”, which would also have prevented any such accident from occurring. After all, Commander Hajizadeh did indeed claim that a no-fly zone request was submitted but it was ultimately rejected by the government, so the question comes down to why that decision was made and who should be held responsible. That fateful choice led to the deaths of 176 innocent people, eventually exposed the “reformist” government’s cover-up thereof, and resulted in bringing shame to the IRGC, to say nothing of drawing so much attention to the carefully choreographed response that it’s entire purpose has been defeated. Both factions have blood on their hands, but they’ll likely fight among themselves over who is guiltier as part of an opportunistic power play to put an end to their “deep state” struggle once and for all.

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Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Pompeo and the “Mafia Hit Strategy”

January 16th, 2020 by Kurt Nimmo

The USG Mafia hit on Qassem Soleimani is part of a larger murder campaign, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

For the former tank commander, murder—not simply double-tapping the target with a firearm, but blowing him into meaty chunks with a Hellfire missile—is “real deterrence.” 

Pompeo said during a speech at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute “there was ‘a bigger strategy’ behind the killing of Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, Iran’s elite foreign espionage and paramilitary force.

The USG Mafia Hit Strategy on steroids is not confined to threatening Iran, however. Pompeo eluded to Russia and China’s leaders being assassinated. 

Pompeo didn’t come out and say Trump’s government will steer Hellfire missiles specifically at Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, or even Kim Jung-un. The message, however, is inescapable, especially for folks opposed to neoliberal crony capitalist domination of their national economies, industries, public services, and natural resources

Iran wants a nuke to prevent an attack by the USG in collaboration with the Zionist government in Israel. Ditto, North Korea. It remembers when the USG bombed virtually every city, town, and hamlet in the country and killed a third of the population. No doubt the mullahs in Tehran vividly recall Muammar Gaddafi’s fate. They also remember how the CIA colluded with the Brits to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran and installed a monarchial tyrant. 

It is entirely rational to seek the most effective deterrent to foreign invasion and mass murder campaigns waged relentlessly by the crony capitalist neolib USG and its little vicious client, Israel, the racist state where only Jews are considered first-class citizens and Arabs are tortured and killed—or at best maimed (during anti-occupation protests, Israel snipers are instructed to aim for the eyes). 

For neocons, Trumpsters, and Fox News teleprompter readers, “taking out” Soleimani in Mafia hit fashion “was a brilliant move.”

Yes, of course, murdering leaders of recalcitrant nations is considered a “brilliant move” by psychopaths. The Italian-Jewish Mafia killed opponents one-by-one or in small groups while the USG kills opponents in the thousands, even the millions. The Gambino family and Kosher Nostra founded by Arnold Rothstein (who was himself assassinated) would have loved to take out their opponents with Reaper drones and Hellfire missiles, courtesy of witless US taxpayers and debt-serfs. 

USG embassies were not and are not under threat by Iran. In Iraq, the people protesting outside the embassy are Iraqis. They want the USG and its contractors out of their country which is still reeling from Bush the Lesser’s invasion, a follow-up on more than a decade of child-killing (over 500,000) sanctions and a previous invasion by Junior’s father, the former CIA boss who would become president. 

Corporate war propaganda media is pushing the narrative that Trump impulsively decided to slaughter Soleimani, as if it simply came to him out of the blue. 

Hardly. This is simply another anti-Trump gimmick. If you look beyond this one-dimensional pre-election circus, you’ll see Trump’s orthodox Jewish son-in-law, Sheldon Adelson, and a cast of Zionist characters steering the president into war with Israel’s enemies. Indeed, Trump is driven by a pathological need for attention and this has been successfully exploited by neocons in the service of a tiny nation based on racial and religious superiority. 

The neolib USG with its Israel-first neocon faction is the largest and most deadly Mafia organization in the world.

The US government has killed millions since the end of FDR’s war under false pretense and has overthrown countries far and wide. It trains and enables sadistic paramilitaries, has armed crazed Wahhabi jihadists, and is the only country to have used a nuclear weapon against innocent civilians. 

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Tarantino and American Exceptionalism

January 16th, 2020 by Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is a 2019 comedy-drama set in 1969 Los Angeles and features a large ensemblecast led by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. The story centres around veteran actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), star of the 1950s Western television series Bounty Law, and and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton is worried that his career is in decline and is reticent to take advice to travel to Italy to make Spaghetti Westerns. Cliff Booth also struggles to get work in Hollywood due to rumors that he murdered his wife on a boating trip.

In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino re-emphasizes many of the bugbears, cliches and and myths of US elites with his checklist portrayal of misogynist violence against women, negative depictions of Chinese, Mexicans and Europeans, and the negative association of cult-following hippies with youth opposition to the Vietnam war. And all this happens during a period of much political activity and public demonstrations against the Vietnam war which is barely noticeable during the length of this film.

Doppelganger

Dalton gets a big opportunity when he is cast to play the villain in the pilot of Lancer, a new American Western series broadcast from 1968 to 1970. He tries hard to toughen up for his new cowboy role yet fluffs his lines and has a minor breakdown in his trailer. The softer side of Dalton is also still visible when he shows concern for a child actress he has thrown on the floor in a ‘tough’ acting scene. Following in an old cinematic tradition Cliff appears to be Dalton’s doppelganger or alter ego as he represents the tough side of Dalton off screen. Within the film they merge on screen as they play one character when Cliff plays Dalton’s body double. The reality of Dalton is that off screen he is shown to be a sensitive and anxious person, particularly about his declining fame.

Dalton’s new role also shows that the cowboy as a symbol of the tough American individualist undergoes changes from old style hero to gritty realism, while also being caricatured in Spaghetti Westerns.

The fact that Dalton plays a famous hero cowboy role during the 1950s but becomes a tougher character in Lancer in the 1960s mirrors the changing perception and role of the USA, which changes from a simple positive force post WW2, to a more complex position during and after the Vietnam war.

Because many of the veterans and demonstrators against the Vietnam war became hippies and were fundamentally opposed to state warmongering, Cliff dislikes all hippies. Tarantino then portrays the hippies in the film as cultists who blindly follow their violent leaders.

Image on the right: Bruce Lee, portrayed in the film by Mike Moh

Cliff discovers that hippies have taken over the farm where earlier cowboy movies where filmed during Dalton’s heyday, and they seem to do nothing but laze around all day watching TV. This ruination of such an important site of American cowboy symbolism only confirms Cliff’s negative attitude towards them.

Mexicans and Chinese

The negative portrayal of Mexicans and Chinese as somehow ‘lesser’ beings is stoked up in two other scenes from the film. In Hollywood, Cliff gets thrown off a set after a scene when he provokes Bruce Lee into a fight. Lee is depicted making ridiculous cat wailing noises as he enters into a fight with Cliff, reminiscent of the worst Kung Fu movie cliches and turns the scene into a comedic parody of Bruce Lee’s own films. Cliff smashes Lee into the side of a car leaving a huge dent as if it was a superhero movie without superheros, symbolically demonstrating the ‘natural’ strength and power of the Westerner without the tutoring of Eastern martial arts. The unspoken supremacy of the white male is also depicted as Cliff shields Dalton from Mexican workers who might see him crying. The tough male hero cannot be seen to be upset before lesser mortals.

Women and Europeans

The final scenes of absolute brutality and misogyny depict Cliff slamming a can of dog meat into a female hippie’s face, then slams her face into the mantelpiece and then onto the marble floor are only equaled by the scene of Dalton roasting her alive in the swimming pool with a flame thrower from an earlier film set. Clearly Dalton has got his ‘toughness’ back after being ‘impoverished’ by his European wife and sacking his alter ego Cliff.

The effete men of Europe are represented in his depiction of Roman Polanski and the European distortions of the cowboy genre which Dalton eventually agrees to act in. Following the Italian director Sergio Leone’s success, many Spaghetti Westerns were filmed at Cinecittà studios and various locations around southern Italy and Spain between 1964 and 1978.

Like in Inglourious Basterds (where Tarantino has Americans assassinate Nazi Germany’s leadership), Tarantino gives an alternate history of the Manson Family murders when the members decide to instead kill Dalton as a representative of Hollywood which had ‘taught them to murder’ according to the ‘hippie’ logic of one of the Family members, Sadie. This symbolically turns the anti-Vietnam peace-loving hippies into the perpetrators of violence, creating more right-wing prejudice against them.

Classical Hollywood

The greatest irony of Tarantino’s nostalgic view of Classical Hollywood is that Hollywood of the time followed a code of ethics agreed by the filmmakers themselves (which would have rejected Tarantino’s movies outright). During the Classical Hollywood period American toughness was tempered with respect for women, the body, foreign nationals and countries. This code of ethics, called the Motion Picture Production Code, was applied to most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1934 to 1968. It had a quite comprehensive set of guidelines, a selected few of which are described here:

“Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated:

  • The illegal traffic in drugs;
  • Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;[…]

That special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized:

  • International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country’s religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
  • Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
  • Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
  • Third-degree [torture] methods; […].”

Image below: Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name in a publicity image of A Fistful of Dollars, a film by Sergio Leone.

Thus we can see that one of the reasons why the Classical period was so successful is because of its upstanding and humanistic approach to the narratives of the time. People (and their political, cultural and ethnic backgrounds) were treated more respectfully within the films and the audiences were spared the gross bone-breaking, blood spurting violence of many films made since the relaxation of the code. Directors like Tarantino have turned cinema into a modern gladiators’ ring where the audience catharsis of thumbs up or thumbs down prevails.

Tartantino’s modus operandi is to play up successful features of American culture while at the same time re-writing aspects of American history that ’embarrasses’ the political right or doesn’t fit into its over-embellished image of itself. Also in its negative depictions of other nations, women and ethnic groups (the negative portrayal of Native Americans is implicit in the cowboy genre), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood props up  the ideology of American exceptionalism.

Tarantino has produced and directed a classic of Trumpean cinema in that it reasserts the primacy of the American way of life married to conservative Republican values.

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Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. 

Featured image: 1937 Louisville, Kentucky. Margaret Bourke-White. There’s no way like the American Way

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Peace or War?

January 16th, 2020 by Donald Monaco

The world breathed a sigh of relief when Iran undertook to give the Americans a symbolic ‘slap in the face’ as a response to the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.  Stepping back from the precipice of war, President Trump responded by intensifying economic sanctions rather than choosing military escalation of the conflict.  The ‘slap’ was more than symbolic however.  It was a bold demonstration that Iran could hit any U.S. base in the Middle East where American troops are sitting ducks.  More significantly, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took the historical long view by stating that Iran’s ultimate goal was the ejection of U.S. troops from the entire region.

The first troop ejection may begin in Iraq as the parliament recently voted to remove all U.S. forces from the beleaguered country in light of the grim assassinations of General Soleimani and an Iraqi commander of popular militia forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, that took place on Iraqi soil.

With the potential withdrawal of troops from Iraq, those stationed in Syria would be placed on thin ice and despite the promises of Defense Secretary Esper to maintain their deployment to protect Syrian oil from ISIS, common sense would dictate that those troops should be withdrawn sooner rather than later for their own protection.

A similar logic would indicate that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is also a matter of time due to the tenacious and unceasing guerrilla war waged by the Taliban.  As in Vietnam, a segment of the political leadership in the United States may come to the realization that America’s longest war cannot be won.

But logic, let alone common sense, does not always prevail when vested interests are at stake, especially the material interest coveted by imperialism.  Secretary Esper has already indicated that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq indefinitely to ‘fight ISIS’ and President Trump has threatened Iraq with loss of access to key U.S. Federal Reserve bank accounts and economic sanctions if the troops are ejected.  It should also be noted that Esper’s rationale for keeping troops in Syria to ‘protect Syrian oil from ISIS’ is a transparent lie meant to justify illegal occupation of territory in a sovereign nation for the purpose of stealing its resources.

The American ruling class will never relinquish any portion of the empire unless forced to do so by popular struggle at home and abroad.

Consequently, the removal of U.S. troops from the Middle East becomes a monumental issue facing the American people.  How long will they fuel the empire with their blood and taxes?   Judging from recent presidential elections a significant portion of the population is plainly tired of foreign wars.  Presidential candidates recognize this sentiment and manipulate it to their advantage.

Candidate Bush received enough votes to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore by promising a realistic foreign policy that would restrain the United States from engaging in nation building only to break that promise once elected by launching major conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a ‘war on terror’ that spilled a sea of blood, unleashed an ocean of tears and wasted trillions of dollars.

Candidate Obama skillfully parleyed the anti-war sentiments generated by Bush’s obscene wars to his advantage by successfully giving voters the impression that he was an anti-war candidate only to proceed as president to expand those wars to seven Muslim countries.  Obama was so successful at spinning pacifist illusions, that he actually won a Noble Peace Prize before proceeding to launch a secret program of drone warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

Although he formally ended Bush’s mis-named ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, Obama maintained 5,000 troops in Iraq to ‘fight ISIS’.  At the same time that he was drawing down troop levels in Iraq, Obama  ordered a 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan in 2009.  The Noble Laureate also destroyed Libya with the help of his NATO puppets in 2011 and waged proxy war in Syria beginning in 2012.  Additionally, Obama increased defense spending for the ‘war on terror’ and allocated $1 trillion to modernize America’s nuclear weapons over the next 30 years.  Quite a commitment to militarism for someone who gave the appearance of opposing war.

When attempting to understand the division of labor that exists between America’s Republican and Democratic rulers, it is important to fully appreciate the latter’s role of shock absorber in the homeland of imperialism, an undertaking that is designed to co-opt dissent thereby stabilizing the dominant social relations of class and race inequality.  Obama performed the task superbly as evidenced by the fact that during his entire two terms in office there was not one major anti-war protest in the streets of the United States despite the fact that his administration waged war every single day of his presidency.  That is no small accomplishment in a country that spends on average $1 Trillion a year on the military while allowing its public and industrial infrastructure to deteriorate to levels that are beginning to resemble those found in third world countries.

Exit Obama stage left, enter Trump stage right.  Candidate Trump, recognizing the mass discontent that exists in the land of shrinking opportunities, promised rather explicitly to stop waging unnecessary wars in the Middle East whose cost in lives and treasure has become too costly to ignore.  Social reality has a way of eventually invalidating lies and illusions, even in a country that the persistently irreverent and sorely missed writer Gore Vidal once referred to as the “United States of Amnesia”.  Once elected, President Trump discovered to his dismay, that American presidents are not allowed to make peace with Russia or summarily withdraw troops from Syria or Afghanistan without serious push back from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national security autocracy and even the Democratic party.  Russia-gate, Ukraine-gate and a looming impeachment trial in the U.S. senate stand as prominent examples. Nevertheless, Trump loves the military as evidenced by his advocacy for the third largest sequential increase in defense spending since World War II, Reagan’s being first and Bush Jr.’s being second.

Another question arises with Trump.  How would the United States respond to a lethal attack on its military forces in the Middle East?  Despite sharing many similarities with former President Reagan, not the least of which is the ability to brush off criticism, the current president lacks the pragmatic realism of his predecessor and instead demonstrates a lethal combination of ignorance and arrogance that may, in a time of crisis, override his impulse to avoid war.  It should be recalled that Reagan ordered all U.S. troops out of Lebanon in 1984, several months after a truck bomb attack killed 241 marines in Beirut in October 1983.  Trump’s ego, his tendency to personalize political attacks and massive pressure from the entire military, security and foreign policy establishments, not to mention the militarists in his own party and that of the Democrats, would not allow him to exercise Reagan’s flexibility.  Massive retaliation would be in order.  The stakes are high in a unipolar world where the U.S. hegemon is constrained by asymmetrical warfare.

Turning to those Democrats who currently pose as pacifists, we have presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who, after wandering for months in the never-never-land of media marginalization, sees his campaign beginning to surge after forcefully condemning Trump’s assassination of Soleimani.  For his part, Sanders says the right things by promising to stop war with Iran, bring the troops home from Afghanistan, end the war in Yemen and effect an orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East.

Yet, when the proverbial push comes to shove, he does the opposite by consistently lending support for imperialist war.  As an ‘independent’ senator from Vermont, he voted for the ‘Iran and Libya Sanctions Act’ in 1996, the ‘Iraqi Liberation Act’ in 1998 and the U.S. bombing of Kosovo in 1999.  He voted for the Authorization for Unilateral Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) in 2001 that gave Bush a congressional blank check to wage the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan.  Although he voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution in 2002, he consistently voted for the annual military budgets needed to fight the war.  In 2011 he voted for a Senate resolution condemning human rights violations by Libya and demanded the resignation of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi whom he called a “thug” and a “murderer.”  The Senate resolution also requested the United Nations Security Council to freeze Libya’s assets and establish a no-fly zone over the country to protect civilians.  NATO’s subsequent enforcement of this no-fly zone and its slaughter of Libyan civilians it meant to ‘protect’ is a matter of historical record. In this particular drama, Sanders played the soft cop to Hillary Clinton’s hard cop.  It was Clinton who openly advocated military intervention in Libya to accomplish the same result that Sanders advocated by diplomatic and economic means, namely, regime change.  In the occupied territories of Palestine, Sanders periodically criticizes Israel’s behavior but votes to give military aid to the apartheid state.  Most significantly, he voted for resolutions of support for Israel during its’ wars in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2014.  And so it goes with Sander’s historically.

Candidate Elizabeth Warren made similar noises by criticizing what she called Trump’s “dangerous” and “reckless” action in Iraq by ordering the assassination of General Soleimani so that she could woo progressive voters.  She was of course, careful to identify Soleimani as a “murderer” who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans thereby properly genuflecting before the alter of the national security state.  She made no mention of how those ‘Americans’ were functioning as an army of occupation in Iraq in the same way that Trump made no mention of the fact that the “American citizen” recently killed in Iraq was a military contractor.  Once upon a time in this country, there was recognition of the fact that some of our countrymen were not behaving nicely in foreign lands.  Hence, the concept of the ‘Ugly American’ was recognized and condemned.  No more.

The United States is a militarized warfare state with a permanent war economy as Seymour Melman demonstrated decades ago.  The U.S. military empire protects the U.S. corporate empire and the 51st state of Israel.  The problem is systemic.   In a militarized state, the rhetoric of peace always gives way to the reality of war. Why?  Institutionalized power.  The military industrial complex, the national security autocracy, the Israel lobby and most fundamentally, the American corporate plutocracy all exert powerful influences that determine the use of state power.

One thing is certain.  American troops will be coming home from the Middle East.   The question is whether they will be returning in body bags, with seriously injuries, or with body and mind fully intact.  Will they be brought home as the result of war or will they arrive as the result of a peace initiative?

There is an even more profoundly vexing existential question facing the American people.  Will American troops have a country to come home to?  Given the hysterical Russophobia and demonization of Vladimir Putin that exists in this country, how long will it be before a U.S. provocation, possibly in the Middle East, pushes the world to hypersonic nuclear war?

The monumental questions of peace and war in the United States are not going to be decided by electoral politics. They will ultimately be decided by the revolutionary politics of anti-imperialism.  The game of American politics, namely, the use of populist rhetoric to conceal plutocratic governance underscores the urgency of resurrecting a militant anti-war movement that will confront an American imperialist system that fights perpetual wars for perpetual profits.

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Donald Monaco is a political analyst who lives in Brooklyn, New York.  He received his Master’s Degree in Education from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1979 and was radicalized by the Vietnam War.  He writes from an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist perspective.  His recent book is titled, The Politics ofTerrorism, and is available at amazon.com

Featured image is from Massoud Nayeri

Europe could have saved the Iran nuclear agreement. Instead, it abused the rule of law by inappropriately triggering its dispute mechanism, all but ensuring the agreement’s demise.

Disingenuous diplomacy

On January 5, 2020, Tehran announced that it would no longer comply with its obligations under the Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA). Iran’s actions are in response to the withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA, and the re-imposition of economic sanctions by the US which had been lifted when the deal came into force.

In response to the Iranian actions, the governments of France, Germany, and the UK – all parties to the deal, along with the European Union (EU) – invoked provisions within the JCPOA, known as the Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM), in an effort to bring Iran back into compliance.

The triggering of the DRM by the European countries, however, is a disingenuous move designed to provide diplomatic cover for the EU’s own failures when it comes to JCPOA implementation.

Moreover, given the likely outcome of this process, a convening of the UN Security Council where economic sanctions will be re-imposed on Iran by default, the Europeans have all but assured the demise of the JCPOA, with their so-called diplomacy serving as little more than a facilitator of a larger crisis between Iran and the US that, given the heightened tensions between these two nations in the aftermath of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, precipitously increases the prospects for war.

Big powers always had an easy way out of deal

When the JCPOA was finalized in July 2015, the world was given hope that the crisis over Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability, which had been threatening to boil over into war, had been resolved, and diplomacy had prevailed over armed conflict.

The JCPOA codified a number of restrictions on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, including the numbers and types of centrifuges that could be used, where enrichment could take place, what level of enrichment could occur, and how large of a stockpile of enriched nuclear material Iran was allowed to maintain, and an intrusive comprehensive inspection regime designed to verify Iran’s compliance.

These restrictions were designed to ease over time through a series of so-called “sunset clauses,” until all that remained was an enhanced inspection process. In short, the JCPOA legitimized Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes while simultaneously recognizing the concerns of some within the international community regarding the potential for Iran to abuse this enrichment capability for military purposes.

The JCPOA was, in effect, a comprehensive confidence building mechanism intended to build trust between Iran and the international community over time, consistent with the agreement’s preamble, which declared “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.”

Prior to the implementation of the JCPOA, Iran had been subjected to stringent economic sanctions levied under the authority of the UN Security Council. In exchange for entering into the agreement, these sanctions were lifted.

However, the deal recognized that disputes could emerge regarding the implementation of the agreement, and put in place a dispute resolution mechanism which, if no satisfactory solution was found to an identified problem, would result in these sanctions being automatically re-imposed.

A key aspect of this mechanism was that if any party to the agreement used its veto in the UN Security Council to block a vote related to nonperformance on the part of any party to the agreement, then the economic sanctions would automatically be reinstated.

Washington sabotages JCPOA 

For the first two-plus years of the deal’s existence, from July 2015 through to May 2018, Iran was found to be in full compliance with its commitments.

In May 2018, however, the US precipitously withdrew from the agreement, claiming that the eventual expiration of the “sunset clauses” paved the way for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon, and as such the JCPOA was little more than a facilitator of Iranian nuclear malign intent.

The US began re-imposing economic sanctions on Iran, all of which included so-called secondary sanctions which applied to any nation that violated the US sanctions. Iran rightfully viewed the re-imposition of sanctions by the US as a violation of the deal.

Furthermore, when EU companies began balking on their willingness to do business with Iran out of fear of US secondary sanctions, Iran rightfully found the EU to be in violation of the JCPOA as well.

Iran gave the remaining parties to the JCPOA six months following the US withdrawal to develop the necessary mechanisms needed to sidestep the impact of the US economic sanctions.

By November 2018, however, no such mechanisms had been implemented, and when the US targeted Iran’s economic lifeblood by sanctioning oil sales, Iran responded by invoking its rights under Article 26 and Article 36 of the JCPOA, which allows Iran to “cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA, in whole or in part”, for either the re-imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, or “significant nonperformance” of obligations under the JCPOA, or in this case, both.

Since that time, Iran has been gradually stepping away from the restrictions imposed on it, noting each time that its measures were immediately reversible should the underlying issues be resolved in a manner that complied with the letter and intent of the JCPOA.

Europe’s cowardice

In short, Iran demanded that the EU live up to its obligations to stand up to the US economic sanctions. The EU has consistently failed to do so, resulting in Iran’s gradual backing away from its obligations, leading to the current state of affairs where all of the restrictions imposed by the JCPOA, not including international inspections, which continue unabated, have ceased to be in operation.

When it comes to levying fault for the current state of affairs, there is no “chicken or egg” causality up for debate. Blame lies squarely on both the US for withdrawing from the deal, and the EU for failing to live up to its obligations under the JCPOA regarding economic engagement with Iran.

Iran has long warned the governments of France, Germany, and the UK not to invoke the DRM, noting that the JCPOA does not permit such a move if, as is the case today, Iran is exercising its legal right in response to the illegal and unilateral actions of the US.

There is no realistic expectation that Iran will change its position in this regard. Russia and China have already indicated that Iran is fully within its rights within the JCPOA to back off its obligations regarding restrictions imposed on its nuclear program, citing US and EU non-performance.

By invoking the DRM, the Europeans have, knowingly and wittingly, initiated a process that can only have one outcome, the termination of the JCPOA. In doing so, the EU has breathed life into unfounded US allegations of Iranian nuclear weapons intent, setting up an inevitable clash between the Washington and Tehran that has the real potential of dragging the whole world down with it.

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Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.

Featured image is from storiesflow.com

With tensions mounting between Iran and the United States after the latter assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, Baghdad has now been pushing to free itself from American domination by calling for foreign troops to leave the country and announcing its intensions in buying the Russian S-400 missile defense system. The complete destruction of the U.S. military base in Anbar province earlier this month demonstrated to Iraqi leaders that it certainly needs to strengthen its air defences since not even American air defense systems could protect their base from the barrage of Iranian missiles. The Iraqi government’s intention to buy the S-400 air defense systems from Russia has been talked about since May last year, when the country’s ambassador to Moscow said Baghdad had decided to buy the systems. However, no roadmap to purchase the systems have been made yet.  

Karim Elaiwi, an Iraqi member of parliament who sits on the security and defense committee, said last week that

“We are talking to Russia about the S-400 missiles but no contracts have been signed yet. We need to get these missiles, especially after Americans have disappointed us many times by not helping us in getting proper weapons.”

It appears the Iraqis will no longer tolerate U.S. occupation and demands in its country, with parliamentarian and security and defense committee member Abdul Khaleq Al Azzawi, defiantly saying

“We authorized the prime minister to get air defense weapons from any country he wants and we authorized him to spend the money for it, from any country. From Russia or anyone.”

This comes as hostilities between Iraq and the U.S. increase, with U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to cut Baghdad’s access to its key account at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York if they follow through with the Iraqi Parliament’s decision to expel the U.S. military from their country. Not only has there been a threat to cut Iraq from its own money based in the U.S., but there are now threats of $250 million in military aid to Iraq being cut.

Although these are tactics to force Baghdad into maintaining ‘permission’ for the U.S. military to remain in Iraq, the clearest sign that this is an American occupation of the West Asian country was with White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien comments last week that the U.S. will leave Iraq on its “own terms.” The U.S. are not even trying to hide the fact that they are occupying Iraq and rebelling against the government.

Despite the clear occupation, Iraq continues to defy the U.S., and the willingness to purchase the S-400 system is a clear indication of this. It is for this reason that Joey Hood, the U.S. State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, said on Tuesday in an appearance at the Middle East Institute, an extremely influential Washington think tank, that “A purchase [of the S-400] would probably trigger sanctions, so we advise our partners not to make such purchases.”

This was an expected response considering the continued threats of sanctions the U.S. has put against Turkey for its own acquisition of the S-400. Iraq wants to strengthen its air defense and the S-400 systems are considered the best in the world. It must also be remembered that Iraq is already buying modern weapons from Russia, such as the Mi-28 fighter helicopters and T-90 tanks. However, it is likely that Washington considers the purchase of the S-400 from Russia as an indication that the U.S. is losing political and military support in the country – but this was already consolidated by the assassination of Soleimani, an extremely popular figure in Iraq.

Baghdad is already in negotiations for the S-300, the older generation of the S-400. However, it is the S-400, the newest model available for foreign markets, that will provoke resistance in Washington, especially as the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense system has proven to be a failure by not being able to defend U.S. bases in Iraq or Saudi oil facilities, if we remember the Houthi-led Ansarullah Movement’s attack on the ARAMCO site in September last year.

The question then becomes how will Iraq will pay for Russian weapons if their accounts in the U.S. are frozen. Delivery is not so much of an issue despite the U.S. occupation, it is more a matter of how payments will be made. Although Iraqi parliamentarians are boldly declaring their intentions for the S-400 to be purchased, there are significant problems that Baghdad must first be able to overcome, including the extremely strong pressure being applied by the U.S. against Iraq not to buy them. If Baghdad did successfully defy Washington and purchase the systems, it will certainly weaken the U.S.’ image in the region, something the North American country will unlikely want to risk.

Will Iraq boldly defy the U.S.? This remains to be seen now.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

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Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance commits all members to participate in the defense of any single member that is attacked. An attack on one is an attack on all. Forged in the early stages of the cold war, the alliance originally included most of the leading non-communist states in Western Europe, as well as Turkey. It was intended to deter any attacks orchestrated by the Soviet Union and was defensive in nature.

Currently NATO is an anachronism as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but the desire to continue to play soldier on an international stage has granted it a measure of life support. Indeed, the alliance is regularly auditioning for new members. Its latest addition is Montenegro, which has a military consisting of 2,000 men and women, roughly one brigade. If Montenegro should be attacked, the United States is obligated to come to its assistance.

It would all be something like comic opera featuring the Duke of Plaza Toro but for the fact that there are certain things that NATO does that are not really defensive in nature but are rather destabilizing. Having expanded NATO right up to the border with Russia, which the U.S. promised to do and then reneged, military exercises staged by the alliance currently occur right next to Russian airspace and coastal waters. To support the incursions, the myth that Moscow is expansionistic (while also seeking to destroy what passes for democracy in the West) is constantly cited. According to the current version, Russian President Vladimir Putin is just waiting to resume control over Ukraine, Georgia, Poland and the Baltic States in an effort to reconstitute the old Soviet Union. This has led to demands from the usual suspects in the U.S. Congress that Georgia and Ukraine be admitted into the alliance, which would really create an existential threat for Russia that it would have to respond to. There have also been some suggestions that Israel might join NATO. A war that no one wants either in the Middle East or in Europe could be the result if the expansion plans bear fruit.

Having nothing to do beyond aggravating the Russians, the alliance has gone along with some of the transnational abominations initially created by virtue of the Global War on Terror initiated by the loosely wrapped American president George W. Bush. The NATO alliance currently has 8,000 service members participating in a training mission in Afghanistan and its key member states have also been parts of the various coalitions that Washington has bribed or coerced into being. NATO was also actively involved in the fiasco that turned Libya into a gangster state. It had previously been the most developed nation in Africa. Currently French and British soldiers are part of the Operation Inherent Resolve (don’t you love the names!) in Syria and NATO itself is part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

NATO will now be doing its part to help defend the United States against terrorist attack. Last Wednesday the alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke with President Donald Trump on the phone in the wake of the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad International Airport. The killing was apparently carried out using missiles fired by a U.S. Reaper drone and was justified by the U.S. by claiming that Soleimani was a terrorist due to his affiliation with the listed terrorist Quds Force. It was also asserted that Soleimani was planning an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and would have killed “hundreds” of Americans. Evidence supporting the claims was so flimsy that even some Republicans balked at approving the chain of events.

Nine Iraqis also died in the attack, including the Iraqi General who headed the Kata’Ib Hezbollah Militia, which had been incorporated into the Iraqi Army to fight against the terrorist group ISIS. During the week preceding the execution of Soleimani, the U.S. had staged an air attack that killed 25 Iraqi members of Kata’Ib, the incident that then sparked the rioting at the American Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Bearing in mind that the alleged thwarted terrorist attacks took place seven thousand miles away from the United States, it is hard to make the case that the U.S. was directly threatened requiring a response from NATO under Article 5. No doubt the Mike Pompeo State Department will claim that its Embassy is sovereign territory and therefor part of the United States. It is a bullshit argument, but it will no doubt be made. The White House has already made a similar sovereignty claim vis-à-vis the two U.S. bases in Iraq that were hit by a barrage of a dozen Iranian missiles a day after the killing of Soleimani. Unlike the case of Soleimani and his party, no one was killed by the Iranian attacks, quite possibly a deliberate mis-targeting to avoid an escalation in the conflict.

In spite of the fact that there was no actual threat and no factual basis for a call to arms, last Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke by phone with President Donald Trump “on developments in the Middle East.” A NATO press release stated that the two men discussed “the situation in the region and NATO’s role.”

According to the press release “The President asked the Secretary General for NATO to become more involved in the Middle East. They agreed that NATO could contribute more to regional stability and the fight against international terrorism.” A tweet by White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere later confirmed that Trump had “emphasized the value of NATO increasing its role in preventing conflict and preserving peace in the Middle East.” Prior to the phone call, Trump had announced that he would ask NATO “to become much more involved in the Middle East process.”

As the Trumpean concept of a peace process is total surrender on the part of the targeted parties, be they Palestinians or Iranians, it will be interesting to see just how the new arrangement works. Sending soldiers into unstable places to do unnecessary things as part of a non-existent strategy will not sit well with many Europeans. It should not sit well with Americans either.

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Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from InfoBrics

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In emulating the American economic raison d’etre, China has attempted to develop its unique capitalist model while ignoring that it too will soon suffer the same fate for the same reason: Unsustainable debt.  When examining the recent realities of Chinese banking and finance over the past year it seems the steam that president Xi Jinping touts as powering the engine of his purported economic miracle of a master-planned economy is only a mirage, now almost completely evaporated before his eyes.

Like the many other similarly foolish western nations, China seeks only one path out of this fiscal death spiral, one that will likely spell doom and/or revolution in many countries soon: More debt.

China is becoming increasingly unable to continue to pay into the base of the world’s largest pyramid scheme of an economy and the cracks in the bubble are showing. This past year, saw three of the 4,279 Chinese lenders almost fail, if not for the massive intervention by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) of immediate liquidity via more debt. The Chinese economic miracle is built on unsustainable debt-based infrastructure projects over the past two decades that have provided China with a face of prosperity to show the world, but this is only a mask to hide the limited countrywide success of the Chinese miracle into the rural areas. The injection of $Trillions in capital has seen China distribute these sums across the base of its economy creating a GDP that hit a high of 14.2 % in 2007 then averaged nearly 9% for the next decade before dropping yearly to 6.1% in 2018. All this growth had produced a personal affluence to a sub-set of Chinese society that has stoked this appearance of a flourishing economy.

This Chinese economic Keynesian trick of interjection of liquidity into national infrastructure is somewhat similar to the TVA and national works projects funded under Roosevelt’s depression-era New Deal. In this approach employment and therefore a growing tax base accelerated year after year as workers and corporations received the short-lived benefits of this massive windfall of available liquidity.

China’s method of stimulus is of course distinguished from today’s American model that merely shovels the injection of its own manufactured $Trillions by using multiple fiscal tricks to by-pass the citizenry and instead shovel the cash straight into the wallets of the already super-wealthy. Meanwhile, the US peasant once again pines in the “Hope”of yet another election.

The Metrics of a Failing Economy

Many analysts have for nearly a decade opined that China’s belief in national fixed-asset investment, the biggest engine of China’s economy, has long been the fundamental contributor to Chinese GDP growth, which was directly proportional to an ongoing increase in public and private debt. “China has relied on export and debt-financed fixed asset investment for growth for over two decades,” said Ho-Fung Hung, Professor in political economy at the Johns Hopkins University.

But as the world economy slows while the metrics show a recession looming China’s economy is already cooling rapidly. “And as the central government and banking system keeps producing new loans to absorb the debt, it leads to the continuous debt buildup,” Maximilian Kärnfelt, an analyst with the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies, told news service DW, adding that infrastructure investment still largely drives China’s economic growth since fixed investment contributed to 45 per cent of China’s GDP in 2016.

In a sign of the disaster to come, the first Bank to almost fail was Baoshang Bank Co. in May 2019. In this instance, for the first time in twenty years, the government took over control and seized the bank. This progression next took form when Chinese regulators took a different approach by ordering three state-owned financial institutions to buy significant stakes in Bank of Jinzhou Co. When, Shandong-based Heng Feng Bank, which had failed to disclose its financial statements for two straight years, required a bail-out, the bank sold new shares for about $14 billion to a group of investors including a unit of China’s public sovereign wealth fund and a local government-backed asset management firm.

Although these were some of the smaller rural banks, as shown this past month in Chinese reports, their economy is following the world in a quantified slowdown that has seen GDP slip yearly since 2012. Making the matter worse a similar world slow-down in purchasing is already affecting China’s manufacturing-based economy. The three bank failures were only the tip of a huge iceberg.

China’s $40 Trillion banking system dwarfs the American system at double the size, with over 4,000 small, medium and massive, state-owned banks. The world’s four largest banks, including behemoth ICBC ($4TN), are all Chinese.

The failure of just three banks was important enough that Chinese regulators submitted Chinese banks to a stress test and the results were shocking. China’s central bank admitted that China’s banking sector is “showing signs of strain.” The stress tests had revealed that over 13% of China’s 4,379 lenders were designated “high risk” by the central bank’s report. With this amounting to over 570 banks, and thus multiplied by the three existing examples of bank bail-out funding, with the Chinese economy following the world into recession, the financial numbers and likelihood of any future series of bail-outs are truly biblical. If not, fiscally impossible.

Separately, the PBOC also stress-tested 30 medium- and large-sized banks in the first half of 2019. In the base-case scenario, assuming GDP growth dropped to 5.3% – or well above where China’s real GDP is now – nine out of 30 major banks failed and saw their capital adequacy ratio drop to 13.47% from 14.43%. In the worst-case scenario, assuming GDP growth of 4.15%, or just 2% below the latest official Chinese GDP reportseventeen out of the thirty of these major banks failed the test. Separately, a liquidity stress test at 1,171 banks, representing nearly three-quarters of China’s banking sector by total assets, showed that ninety failed in the base-case and 159 in the worst-case scenario. The metrics of any collective bail-out indicates that  China has upwards of an insurmountable $20 trillion problem rapidly approaching.

In reaction to these first three bank failures, the stress tests and poorer economic news China did what centrally planned economies do: Chinesepolicymakers focused on strengthening oversight and regulation by the PBoC and gave it authority to write new rules for much of the financial sector. The China Banking Regulatory Commission and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission will now be merged as part of an overhaul aimed at resolving existing problems such as unclear responsibilities and cross-regulation as well as closing regulatory loopholes and curbing risk in the $40-43 trillion (€34.78 trillion) banking and insurance industries.

With the metrics of China’s banking system already pause for considerable concern to the tune of $20 Trillion, this huge obligation is as much a mirage as the economy since it fails to add to the account the very large and un-tabulated Shadow Banking loans which would add $Trillions in debt to China’s already highly leveraged systemic banking risk.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which provides- despite its predatory legacy- some excellent yearly analysis of worldwide economic developments has warned China’s problems could lead to “financial distress” in the world’s second-biggest economy. China is seen as one of the economies most vulnerable to a banking crisis, although Beijing has repeatedly assured that the risks are under control. In response to the PBoC reports, Chinese Finance Minister Xiao Jie echoed that the situation “was under control.”

China’s Economic Tricks of Sustainability

As the world economic body politic runs out of any remaining gas to keep a pilot light under the rapidly cooling metrics that show their long forestalled recession is near and certain, China is also contracting.

The national debt of China, which is the total amount of money owed by the Chinese government and all organizations and branches stands at nearly CNY 38 Trillion ( $5.4 TN) and 54.44% of GDP.

Chinese debt has been accumulating ever more rapidly. The Institute for International Finance (IIF) reported that year-on-year, in Q1 of 2019 China’s corporate, household and government debt increased 6% more from 297% of GDP to an incredible 303%. However, this is also more than a 100% increase since 2008 and amounts to 15% of all global debt.

These figures do not include the off-the-books “Shadow Banking loans that some estimates predict would triple that debt percentage to much closer to $16 Trillion. The problems are most serious in China’s rural banking sector where an ever nervous public has reacted with two late-2019 bank runsat China’s Henan Yichuan Rural Commercial Bank and then at Yingkou Coastal Bank.

At the end of 2018, the budget deficit of the Chinese government was close to five per cent. However, if the off-balance-sheet (“shadow”) financing of local governments is taken into consideration, the budget deficit rises to over 11 per cent. However, at the end of 2014, the official government deficit stood at  less than one per cent, but an accounting which includes local “shadow” funding was around five per cent.

China’s shadow banking system is so-called since this myriad of endemic lending trickery is believed to be massive in total and kept off the books. These risky, undisclosed loans entered China’s financial system in 2009 throwing open the doors to debt for a Chinese population hungry for investment in order to pay for all those Chinese and internationally made western goods.

The main kind of shadow deposit is generally offered as a wealth management product (WMPs). Chinese banks offer these via aggressive marketing of high-interest-rate accounts as their alternative to savings accounts which are regulated to a maximum return of 3 %. Since these sanctioned shadow loans advertise a return of as much as 8% or more, normal banking customers have been throwing their miraculously large paychecks into these funds by the billions.

One reason WMPs offer higher rates is that they are based on much riskier bank loans, much like the precursor to the late ’80s, early ’90’s American savings and loan meltdown. Incredibly, banks don’t hold these loans on their balance sheets or set aside capital against their potential defaults. Instead, they typically extend this debt via intermediaries called trust companies—firms that are not allowed to accept deposits or formally loan out money but are allowed to manage it. The trust companies create investment products like WMPs, which banks market for them in return for a commission.

With some smaller Chinese banks having already found themselves either getting bailed out or the subject of a bank run, one reason is that, like America, China’s interbank/repo rates have surged amid growing counterparty concerns of the many banks seeking depleting available liquidity. This has forced many banks to rely almost entirely on new deposits to fund themselves, forcing them to hike their deposit rates to keep their funding levels stable. Like any Ponzi trick in banking, new cash is required to sustain these thousands of lending pyramids. With the economy in decline, this need has lead to some desperate regional banks offering incentives for depositor’s cash that would make the long-ago American “free toaster”seem ordinary.

China has a massive pork famine that has seen disease wipe out 40% per cent of its pig population in 2019. With China being the world leader in pork consumption these bank’s desperations have created some interesting incentives to attract depositors. The SCMP reports that new clients who deposited 10,000 yuan (US$1,430) or more in a three-month time deposit at the Linhai Rural Commercial Bank in Duqiao in Zhejiang province were then eligible to enter a lottery to win a portion of pork ranging from 500 grams (18 ounces) to several kilograms.Other rural commercial banks in northern China’s Hebei province and western China’s Guizhou province have also launched similar pork rewards programs. Dushan Rural Commercial Bank, located in the remote mountainous county in Guizhou, offered a coupon for 10 yuan (US$1.4) worth of pork for every 10,000 yuan of new deposits.

This solution has been touted as uniquely beneficial to these banks since,instead of offering higher rates which only accelerate the bank’s insolvency due to requiring higher payouts on deposits, the bank is instead making a one-time payment, and the unusual incentive is enough to garner substantial new deposits.

PBoC cuts in its key lending rates in August ’19 designed to stimulate a slowing economy have only exacerbated net interest margin pressures on these banks. With less income from returns on their loans and without the many funding options available to China’s much larger banks, these increasingly high-interest rates that China’s smaller banks have to offer in order to attract new cash deposits could further lead to their insolvency.

It’s been over four years since the last official Chinese benchmark rate cut. With America leading the way across the globe with rate cuts aplenty and China still having a base rate of far higher than the US rate of < 1.5%, it was only a matter of time for China to also drop rates.

With the new authority given to the PBoC, this key Loan Prime Rate (LPR) has become the new Benchmark Reference Rate to be used by banks for lending. This, like most recent decisions are designed to interject further liquidity in the form of debt once again into a still failing economy by lowering borrowing costs for small businesses. This rate will be now set monthly (20th of every month) and will be linked to the Medium-term Lending Facility rate. The current 1 year LPR stands at 4.15% after its latest cut on Nov 30 versus the Benchmark Rate of 4.35%. This number is sure to continue to shrink and can be considered a key indicator of Chinese frustration at retaining needed annual GDP growth since the result of this one move lowered the costs of the roughly 152 trillion yuan ($21.7 trillion) in yuan-denominated outstanding loans held by financial institutions (that are actually on the books) in a further hopeful attempt to again boost economic growth.

Just mere days after the 20 bps cut the PBoC further highlighted its desperate need for capital, announcing that it will be lowering the required reserve ratio (RRR) – or the amount of money banks are required to have on hand – by 50bps for commercial lenders. Currently, the required reserve ratio is 13% for large banks and 11% for small banks. The cut, which is the first since September, will bring the blended reserve ratio for Chinese banks to the lowest level since October 2007.  In doing so PBoC effectively released about 800 billion yuan ($115 billion) in instant liquidity from out of the already cash-strapped financial system.

All these adjustments by China and the PBoC do little to control or pay-off increasing debt and are designed to maintain the Chinese miracle of TVA style infrastructural improvements that has been the employment engine of its economic growth. China’s new development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), although a masterstroke in Eurasian commerce, also serves to continue the illusion.

As traditional monetary policy becomes ineffective to boost the economy, Chinese President Xi has installed twelve former executives at the state-run financial institutions across the country who will support the communist government’s ability to combat banking and debt difficulties, reported Taipei Times.

These appointments are in response to growth collapsing to a three-decade low in 2019. New manufacturing orders did increase but this was in large- and medium-sized enterprises. Small enterprises continued deeper into contraction and new non-manufacturing orders slowed, pushing employment further into quantified contraction.

An easier to understand recessionary metric, passenger car vehicle sales, fell yet again in December, plunging 3.6% to 2.17 million units, according to the China Passenger Car Association. This marks the 18th drop in the past 19 months for the country.Sales fell 7.5% in 2019 and 6% in 2018. GM said that its sales were down 15% in China and said that pressure into 2020 would likely continue.

Meanwhile, local Chinese manufacturers’ numbers are also down. BYD Co. posted an 11% drop in 2019 sales and SAIC Motor reported a “similar decline”.

Worse, exports to the United States were down 23% from the prior year.

Running from the Piper’s Call

But, it seems that China has no choice but to carry on with the façade of financed infrastructure projects as the only path to survival.  Said Victor Shih, an associate professor of political economy at the University of California in San Diego:

“Because it [infrastructure investment] already is a large contributor to growth, the slowing investment will substantially reduce growth rates. This is not what the leadership wants.”

Shih’s assertion seemed confirmed when last year, President Xi said Chinese banks would lend 380 billion yuan ($55.09 billion) to support Belt and Road cooperation, and Beijing would also inject 100 billion yuan into a Silk Road Fund. Some observers view the project as an instrument designed to help the Chinese economy, with state-owned companies in specific sectors expected to profit massively from its implementation.

But they still need funding and Chinese banks on their own volition may be reluctant to get involved when already having troubles of their own. Andrew Collier, managing director at Orient Capital Research, says

“The banks [may] remain leery of these projects because they doubt they will be profitable and they will be stuck with bad loan. In the end, we are going to see increasing defaults among smaller institutions, the collapse of private loans via wealth management products, and growing layoffs in areas of the country with less political power.”

Making matter worse, a study conducted by the Center for Global Development estimates that the initiative could increase debt sustainability-related banking problems in eight countries also involved in the BRI.

 “I still think that if growth falls below a certain level, the top leadership will order a stimulus, which involves acceleration in debt growth,” said Victor Shih. “That is the only viable tool in China’s arsenal if the economy slows too much.”

As noted in a recent article by University of Helsinki economics professor Tuomas Malinen,  China has stimulated its economy aggressively in Q1 and Q3 2019 but interestingly has not continued its past emphasis on infrastructure investments as in 2015/2016. Q3 of 2019 saw record-breaking stimulus programs, however, China concentrated instead on providing loose credit to enterprises through both conventional and “shadow” banks.

As Malinen forewarns:

“What is notable is that even with this record stimulus, China has kept its economy growing barely above the ‘official rate’. This tells us that the Chinese economy has reached or is very close to reaching the point of debt saturation, where households and corporations simply cannot absorb any more debt, and any new debt-issuance fails to stimulate the economy.”

Though a massive infrastructure-spending program could revive growth, the ability of China to issue fiscal stimulus is starting to be seriously limited. This effectively means that China is fiscally unable to underwrite massive infrastructure projects and so any new world-economy-saving stimulus from China, as in 2015/2016, will be practically impossible. New infrastructure initiatives- if recessionary metrics continue to deteriorate- could only be realized if those costs are directly monetized by the PBoC. This would be the weapon of last resort for China but , when considering a declining economy, may soon be inevitable.

As Goes China…?

China is just one more working example of the failure of the many globalist economies worldwide that are already similarly suffering in the grip of massive unsustainable- if not orchestrated- debt. Which country becomes the first to trigger the almost certainly pending domino effect of global economic collapse, is merely a rhetorical question at this point. As goes China…?

This week in an interview, former Reagan OMB director David Stockman highlighted the global economic link to China, saying,

The world economy would be not nearly as good as it looks had the Chinese not been borrowing like there’s no tomorrow and building regardless of whether its efficient or profitable.”

Stockman added, in summation,

“The whole global economy is really dependent on China piling even more debt onto the $40 trillion pile they already have.”

China economically continues to play the financial role of Kenneth Lay to its American mentor’s Bernie Madoff. But in the last few months China has shown, like so many other so-called first world economies, that it too is now all-in at the casino and using only borrowed money in a desperate effort to stay at the table…or starve.

Worldwide, many countries already burn in political turmoil of their own debt-ridden making as their own  primal forces of nature squeeze their populations with the resultant new mantra of ever increasing austerity while the IMF and World Bank waits in the wings, salivating to gobble-up the carcass.

Alas, when it comes to unsustainable national endemic debt one primal truth is now being heard clearly in China, as in other Central bank boardrooms across the globe, and the empty dinner plates of their public…

When the time comes to pay the piper, that debt willbe paid, no matter…but the Piper will take, in lieu of payment, pork, flesh, blood, or… dreams!

(Special thanks to Tracy Turner for providing additional research for this article.)

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Brett Redmayne-Titley has published over 180 in-depth articles over the past ten years for news agencies worldwide. Many have been translated and republished. On-scene reporting from important current events has led to his many multi-part exposes on such topics as the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, NATO summit, Keystone XL Pipeline, Porter Ranch Methane blow-out, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Erdogan’s Turkey and many more. He can be reached at: live-on-scene ((at)) gmx.com. Prior articles can be viewed at his archive: www.watchingromeburn.uk

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Consider some of what the Reverend MLK proclaimed about American militarism:

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

“A few years ago there was a shining moment in the struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”

The assassination of Qassem Soleimani and seven others including a top Iraqi commander was “mad on war.” Soleimani was both an Iranian general and an Iranian diplomat at the highest level, a hero throughout the mid-east for defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Literally millions of Iranians demonstrated in four different Iranian cities in mourning and in solidarity against the U.S.

Soleimani did not pose an “imminent danger,” the only possible way to justify the murders under international law. Just another bold-faced lie to justify American aggression. On Jan. 13, NBC News reported that Trump authorized the killing seven months ago.

The drone attack on Soleimani happened at Baghdad Airport – without notice to, much less permission from the Iraqi government. Two days later, the Iraqi Prime Minister addressed the Iraqi Parliament stating that Soleimani was in Baghdad to meet with him at Trump’s request so as to discuss a Saudi proposal to de-escalate the volatile situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran; in other words, Trump lured Soleimani to Baghdad on a mission of peace.

The Iraqi Parliament thereupon voted to expel all American troops from Iraq. Sec. of State Pompeo’s response? We’re staying anyway. So much for the cause of freedom and democracy.

This illegal, self-defeating, counter-productive, barbaric attack put us right back on the brink of a tit-for-tat escalation with no end in sight.

Pompeo, former CIA director, “the loudest voice pushing Trump to kill Soleimani” (NY Times, 1/7/20), identifies himself as an “evangelical Christian.” Pompeo has stated that the Bible “informs everything I do” and that Trump just might be selected by God to “save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace, just like Queen Esther [in the Bible].” Evangelicals believe in the prophecy that the gathering of Jews in Israel will be followed by apocalyptic “end times” and the “rapture,” which is the ascent of true Christians into the kingdom of God.

Also, see “Mike Pompeo Is the Most Dangerous Man in the World Right Now” (Adam Weinstein, New Republic, 1/6/20):

“For more than a year now, [Pompeo] has systematically led Trump and the Pentagon onto a war footing with Iran with shocking, unprecedented moves. These include designating a foreign government arm as a terrorist group; taking trips without his Pentagon counterpart to consult with America’s Mideast combatant commanders; defying Congress to arm the Saudis and other Iranian antagonists in the region; and publicly blaming regional attacks on Tehran with little evidence but heavily edited, ambiguous videos.”

More MLK:

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation … Before it is too late, we must narrow the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which precipitate and perpetuate war … There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

The problem is not just Trump. The problem is systemic. Both parties cater to the military-industrial complex. MLK was protesting a Democratic administration. Three days after Soleimani’s murder, Jesse Jackson issued a statement in which he acknowledged that “Obama added to the mess, seeking regime change in Syria and in Libya, spreading the chaos.”

Most telling is the consistent support of both parties in Congress for funding preposterous Pentagon budgets, half of which now enrich profiteering contractors, what MLK referred to as a “demonic destructive suction tube.

” The Pentagon eats up more of the federal government’s discretionary budget … than all other discretionary spending combined … At the same time, the Pentagon is unable to pass an audit …  The result is that we are wasting hundreds of billions of dollars, fueling endless war and diverting money from other vital needs.” (Robert Weissman, Pres. of Public Citizen, 1/11/20)

“Some 140 million Americans are living in poverty or on the brink, while more than a third of us report not getting health care because it costs too much. Our infrastructure, with $2 trillion in unfunded needs, gets a D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers. A poll last fall found that three-quarters of Americans — Democrats and Republicans alike — don’t want a war with Iran.” (Lindsay Koshgarian, Institute for Policy Studies, 1/10/20)

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Barry Kissin is a retired attorney, dedicated peace activist and columnist who resides in Frederick, Maryland, home of Fort Detrick, headquarters of the American biodefense/bioweapons program. He is regularly published in his local newspaper, The Frederick News-Post, as well as in alternative media, including Global Research, Consortium News, Op-ed News and International Clearing House.

Featured image is from Mr. Fish/Truthdig

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The phase one deal leaves major bilateral differences unresolved. Further talks could continue intermittently for years without resolution.

The US aims to weaken China economically, financially, industrially, technologically and militarily, part of its Indo/Pacific strategy to dominate the region.

China’s President Xi Jinping was noticeably absent from Wednesday’s signing ceremony, declining Trump’s invitation, Vice Premier Liu He representing Beijing in the White House East Room.

Beijing long ago agreed to much of what’s included in the phase one deal. Negotiations could have been concluded in 2018 if the Trump regime accepted then what’s agreed on now.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), details of the deal weren’t available in China for over eight hours after Wednesday’s signing ceremony.

According to the official People’s Daily broadsheet, the phase one deal “came 22 months after trade tensions flared between the world’s top two economies in March 2018,” adding:

Wednesday’s signing ceremony temporarily “reduce(s) uncertainties that have dampened business investment moods in both countries and beyond.”

Resolving the toughest issues lies ahead. China clearly won’t bend to US interests at the expense of its longterm development goals.

Under terms of the deal,

“China will increase imports of US agricultural products, and the US will gradually eliminate its tariffs on Chinese goods,” the People’s Daily explained, adding:

“The deal covers intellectual property rights, technology transfers, food and agricultural products, financial services, exchange rates and transparency.”

According to China Center for International Economic Exchanges vice president Wei Jianguo, both countries will likely “step on each other’s feet” ahead, but further dialogue will follow the agreement reached.

The official Xinhua news agency said the phase one deal is only “a good start” in a dispute that’s “longterm, complicated and arduous.”

Wednesday’s signing ceremony came at a time when the Trump regime is preparing new restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s access to US technology, along with pressuring Britain, Germany, and other European countries to distance themselves from the company.

According to academic Wang Heng, phase two negotiations “may involve more difficult domestic regulatory issues such as subsidies, state-owned enterprises, and internet supervision,” adding:

“Due to the complexity of the negotiations, it remains to be seen whether the two parties can reach a second-stage agreement.”

“If market competition rules such as subsidies are not agreed upon, economic and trade frictions may continue and affect the two countries and the international economy.”

Economist Shen Jianguang stressed that considerable obstacles lie ahead, future disputes likely, adding:

“Since the trade war started, the strategic mutual trust between China and the United States has retrogressed.”

“Frictions and disputes in other areas have also occurred frequently. We need to prepare comprehensively for the complexity of Sino-US relations and long-term battle.”

What both countries agreed to and what unfolds ahead may diverge greatly, depending on how major bilateral differences between both countries are handled and global economic conditions.

According to the US released phase one text, China agreed to buy increased amounts of US soybeans, oilseeds, beef, pork, grains, cotton, other agricultural products, as well as billions of dollars worth of US oil, gas, coal, nuclear power equipment, other manufactured goods, and services.

Under terms of the phase one deal, China will buy $32.9 billion worth of US manufactured goods this year and $44.8 billion in 2021; $12.5 billion in US agricultural goods this year and $19.5 billion in 2021; $18.5 billion in US energy products this year and $33.9 billion in 2021; and $12.8 billion in US services this year and $25.1 billion in 2021.

The total amount of Chinese purchases are to be at least $200 billion more from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021 than the amount of US goods bought in 2017.

Beijing earlier said its imports will depend on internal needs. Its ruling authorities also have commitments with other trading partner nations they likely wish to maintain.

The US and China recognized the importance of establishing a legal system to protect intellectual property.

Both countries agreed not to engage in competitive currency devaluation.

US-based Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch is skeptical about how Sino/US trade will play out ahead, tweeting:

“Trump believes his phase one #China deal will yield great benefits for US farmers, producers and other exporters. But his deal may not amount to more than a hill of soybeans.”

What’s officially called “fully enforceable” may not turn out as expected.

The US and China are rivals, not partners. Growing prominence of other nations on the world stage conflicts with US geopolitical aims.

Its rage to dominate other nations, fueling distrust in Beijing and elsewhere, may be the greatest obstacle in the way of resolving major differences ahead.

Despite agreement on a phase one deal, major irreconcilable differences between both countries may remain unresolvable no matter how many more rounds of talks are held.

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

In groundbreaking news President Putin announced today, 15 January, in his annual address to the Nation, major changes in his government. First, he announced that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his entire cabinet resigned and will eventually be replaced by a new PM and a new cabinet. A timeline was not given. In the meantime, they would carry on with their functions as ‘normal’. Well, how normal can this be for a group of “lame ducks”?

A second important point of Mr. Putin’s speech focused on shifting power away from the Presidency to the Duma, or Parliament. The Duma shall have more power in a better balancing act between the Presidency and the voice of the people, i.e. the Parliament. A move towards more ‘democracy’. Some interpret this as a reaction to western criticism of Russia being a dictatorial state and this move should alleviate Russia from this accusation. I don’t think so. Western accusations are random, when it suits them, never based on facts.

For example, the change in government power foresees some changes in the Russian Constitution, but not a rewrite at all, as Mr. Putin stressed. The term-limitation of the Presidency should also not change, no more than two. It appears the “no more than two “in a row” – should be amended, and the “in a row” deleted. That would mean, that President Putin would have to leave the Presidency definitely in 2024, when his current term is up. This may be one of those Constitutional areas to be confirmed by the Duma – or not.

But could Mr. Putin become PM and still run Russia from behind the scene? As he did from 2008 – 2012, under then President Dmitry Medvedev. This was not discussed.

When PM Medvedev explained his resignation, he referred to Article 117 of the Russian Constitution, which states that the government can offer its resignation to the president, who, in turn, can either accept or reject it. Mr. Putin, of course, accepted it, thanking PM Medvedev and his Ministers for their good work and service to Russia. Although there was no visible hostility between Putin and Medvedev, this move has most likely been discussed and negotiated months ago.

Mr. Medvedev was offered to post of deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, a job that first had to be created, according to Mr. Putin. This is clearly a few steps down from Prime-Minister. PM Medvedev and President Putin are both members of the United Russia Party, but Medvedev had the reputation of being an Atlantist, meaning, leaning strongly towards the west, western political philosophy. The Russian financial sector is still infiltrated with Atlantists, some may call them Fifth Columnists.

All the while seeking to improve relations with Europe – a logical step – President Putin is adamant to detach from the US-dollar dominated “sanction-prone” economy. And rightly so. Might this explain the departure of PM Medvedev? – As of this morning, there was no mention of a favored replacement as PM. This may take a while. Seemingly no problem, as all the key activities are still covered by the “caretaker” government. The entire change of government was presented as “relaxed”, “no big deal”, a natural process for improving the functioning of the Russian government. Yet, this has never happened in “modern” Russia, in the last 20 years, under Mr. Putin’s leadership.

Duma members interviewed saw it generally as positive move. They will now have more power, and more responsibility. They will have a say in key appointments, including of the Prime-Minister and his cabinet, while the final decision rests still with the President.

What is important to notice, is that the present “democratization” of the Russian government comes at a time when Mr. Putin’s public approval is still around 70%, a slight drop since his reelection in 2018 with 77%.

The Duma with its new powers, will be asked to look at some aspects of the Constitution (as of yet no details are officially defined) with a view of possibly modifying them. Given Mr. Putin’s high popularity and Russia’s economic and political stability – despite the constant western interference, or attempted interferences – preserving that stability and continuous economic prosperity is important, i.e. continuity in the Presidency and the Government is crucial. Thus, wouldn’t it be conceivable that the Duma might lift the term-limit for the Presidency altogether?

Although, at this stage much of this is speculative. But assuming that some of the strategy behind this change – the “power equalizing move” – goes in this direction, then the timing is perfect. A new Decade, a new Era. And Putin remains the key player – the one who has made of Russia what she is today – a proud, independent, autonomous nation, that has despite all sanctions and western demonization – not only prevailed, but come out on top brilliantly as a sovereign world super power. – Why would the Russian people want to risk giving up this hard-deserved privilege?

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Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; Greanville Post; Defend Democracy Press, TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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Timely article first published by Global Research on June 25, 2016

The war on cannabis that began in the 1930s seems to be coming to an end. Research shows that this natural plant, rather than posing a deadly danger to health, has a wide range of therapeutic benefits. But skeptics question the sudden push for legalization, which is largely funded by wealthy investors linked to Big Ag and Big Pharma.

In April, Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical cannabis, a form of the plant popularly known as marijuana. That makes nearly half of US states. A major barrier to broader legalization has been the federal law under which all cannabis – even the very useful form known as industrial hemp – is classed as a Schedule I controlled substance that cannot legally be grown in the US. But that classification could change soon. In a letter sent to federal lawmakers in April, the US Drug Enforcement Administration said it plans to release a decision on rescheduling marijuana in the first half of 2016.

The presidential candidates are generally in favor of relaxing the law. In November 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would repeal all federal penalties for possessing and growing the plant, allowing states to establish their own marijuana laws. Hillary Clinton would not go that far but would drop cannabis from a Schedule I drug (a deadly dangerous drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse) to Schedule II (a deadly dangerous drug with medical use and high potential for abuse). Republican candidate Donald Trump says we are losing badly in the war on drugs, and that to win that war all drugs need to be legalized.

But it is Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein who has been called “weed’s biggest fan.” Speaking from the perspective of a physician and public health advocate,Stein notes that hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from chronic pain and cancers are benefiting from the availability of medical marijuana under state laws. State economies are benefiting as well. She cites Colorado, where retail marijuana stores first opened in January 2014. Since then, Colorado’s crime rates and traffic fatalities have dropped; and tax revenue, economic output from retail marijuana sales, and jobs have increased.

Among other arguments for changing federal law is that the marijuana business currently lacks access to banking facilities. Most banks, fearful of FDIC sanctions, won’t work with the $6.7 billion marijuana industry, leaving 70% of cannabis companies without bank accounts. That means billions of dollars are sitting around in cash, encouraging tax evasion and inviting theft, to which an estimated 10% of profits are lost. But that problem too could be remedied soon. On June 16, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to prevent the Treasury Department from punishing banks that open accounts for state-legal marijuana businesses.

Boosting trade in the new marijuana market is not a good reason for decriminalizing it, of course, if it actually poses a grave danger to health. But there have been no recorded deaths from cannabis overdose in the US. Not that the herb can’t have problematic effects, but the hazards pale compared to alcohol (30,000 deaths annually) and to patented pharmaceuticals, which are now the leading cause of death from drug overdose. Prescription drugs taken as directed are estimated to kill 100,000 Americans per year.

Behind the War on Weed: Taking Down the World’s Largest Agricultural Crop

The greatest threat to health posed by marijuana seems to come from its criminalization. Today over 50 percent of inmates in federal prison are there for drug offenses, and marijuana tops the list. Cannabis cannot legally be grown in the US even as hemp, a form with very low psychoactivity. Why not? The answer seems to have more to do with economic competition and racism than with health.

Cannabis is actually one of the oldest domesticated crops, having been grown for industrial and medicinal purposes for millennia. Until 1883, hemp was also one of the largest agricultural crops (some say the largest). It was the material from which most fabric, soap, fuel, paper and fiber were made. Before 1937, it was also a component of at least 2,000 medicines.

In early America, it was considered a farmer’s patriotic duty to grow hemp. Cannabis was legal tender in most of the Americas from 1631 until the early 1800s. Americans could even pay their taxes with it. Benjamin Franklin’s paper mill used cannabis. Hemp crops produce nearly four times as much raw fiber as equivalent tree plantations; and hemp paper is finer, stronger and lasts longer than wood-based paper. Hemp was also an essential resource for any country with a shipping industry, since it was the material from which sails and rope were made.

Today hemp is legally grown for industrial use in hundreds of countries outside the US. A 1938 article in Popular Mechanics claimed it was a billion-dollar crop (the equivalent of about $16 billion today), useful in 25,000 products ranging from dynamite to cellophane. New uses continue to be found. Claims include eliminating smog from fuels, creating a cleaner energy source that can replace nuclear power, removing radioactive water from the soil, eliminating deforestation, and providing a very nutritious food source for humans and animals.

To powerful competitors, the plant’s myriad uses seem to have been the problem.Cannabis competed with the lumber industry, the oil industry, the cotton industry, the petrochemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry. In the 1930s, the plant in all its forms came under attack.

Its demonization accompanied the demonization of Mexican immigrants, who were then flooding over the border and were widely perceived to be a threat. Pot smoking was part of their indigenous culture. Harry Anslinger, called “the father of the war on weed,” was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, a predecessor to the Drug Enforcement Administration. He fully embraced racism as a tool for demonizing marijuana. He made such comments as “marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others,” and “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” In 1937, sensational racist claims like these caused recreational marijuana to be banned; and industrial hemp was banned with it.

Classification as a Schedule I controlled substance came in the 1970s, with President Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs. The Shafer Commission, tasked with giving a final report, recommended against the classification; but Nixon ignored the commission.

According to an April 2016 article in Harper’s Magazine, the War on Drugs had political motives. Top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman is quoted as saying in a 1994 interview:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. . . . We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Competitor or Attractive New Market for the Pharmaceutical Industry?

The documented medical use of cannabis goes back two thousand years, but the Schedule I ban has seriously hampered medical research. Despite that obstacle, cannabis has now been shown to have significant therapeutic value for a wide range of medical conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, lung disease, anxiety, muscle spasms, hepatitis C, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis pain.

New research has also revealed the mechanism for these wide-ranging effects. It seems the active pharmacological components of the plant mimic chemicals produced naturally by the body called endocannabinoids. These chemicals are responsible for keeping critical biological functions in balance, including sleep, appetite, the immune system, and pain. When stress throws those functions off, the endocannabinoids move in to restore balance.

Inflammation is a common trigger of the disease process in a broad range of degenerative ailments. Stress triggers inflammation, and cannabis relieves both inflammation and stress. THC, the primary psychoactive component of the plant, has been found to have twenty times the anti-inflammatory power of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone.

CBD, the most-studied non-psychoactive component, also comes with an impressive list of therapeutic benefits, including not against cancer but as a super-antibiotic. CBD has been shown to kill “superbugs” that are resistant to currently available drugs. This is a major medical breakthrough, since for some serious diseases antibiotics have reached the end of their usefulness.

Behind the Push for Legalization

The pharmaceutical industry both has much to gain and much to lose from legalization of the cannabis plant in its various natural forms. Patented pharmaceuticals have succeeded in monopolizing the drug market globally. What that industry does not want is to be competing with a natural plant that anyone can grow in his backyard, which actually works better than very expensive pharmaceuticals without side effects.

Letitia Pepper, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, is a case in point. A vocal advocate for the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use, she says she has saved her insurance company $600,000 in the last nine years, using medical marijuana in place of a wide variety of prescription drugs to treat her otherwise crippling disease. That is $600,000 the pharmaceutical industry has not made, on just one patient. There are 400,000 MS sufferers in the US, and 20 million people who have been diagnosed with cancer sometime in their lives. Cancer chemotherapy is the biggest of big business, which would be directly threatened by a cheap natural plant-based alternative.

The threat to big industry profits could explain why cannabis has been kept off the market for so long. More suspicious to Pepper and other observers is the sudden push to legalize it. They question whether Big Pharma would allow the competition, unless it had an ace up its sleeve. Although the movement for marijuana legalization is a decades-old grassroots effort, the big money behind the recent push has come from a few very wealthy individuals with links to Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and producer of genetically modified seeds. In May of this year, Bayer AG, the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical company, made a bid to buy Monsanto. Both companies are said to be working on a cannabis-based extract.

Natural health writer Mike Adams warns:

[W]ith the cannabis industry predicted to generate over $13 billion by 2020, becoming one of the largest agricultural markets in the nation, there should be little doubt that companies like Monsanto are simply waiting for Uncle Sam to remove the herb from its current Schedule I classification before getting into the business.

. . . [O]ther major American commodities, like corn and soybeans, are on average between 88 and 91 percent genetically modified. Therefore, once the cannabis industry goes national, and that is most certainly primed to happen, there will be no stopping the inevitability of cannabis becoming a prostituted product of mad science and shady corporate monopoly tactics.

With the health benefits of cannabis now well established, the battlefield has shifted from its decriminalization to who can grow it, sell it, and prescribe it. Under existing California law, patients like Pepper are able to grow and use the plant essentially for free. New bills purporting to legalize marijuana for recreational use impose regulations that opponents say would squeeze home growers and small farmers out of the market, would heighten criminal sanctions for violations, and could wind up replacing the natural cannabis plant with patented, genetically modified (GMO) plants that must be purchased year after year. These new bills and the Monsanto/Bayer connection will be the subject of a follow-up article. Stay tuned.

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 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. She can be heard biweekly on “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN.FM.

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The government is causing irreversible harm to vulnerable child refugees living in Britain by denying them the chance of being reunited with their close families. Their mums, their dads, their sisters and brothers – the people they need the most. This is a deliberate act. It flagrantly breaches international law.

The Home Office allows adult refugees who have been granted international protection in the UK to apply to be reunited with their families, but it chooses to treat children differently. A new report by the Refugee Council, Amnesty International and Save the Children lays bare the fact that there is no justification for this discrimination. In applying this restriction, the UK is set apart from every other country in the EU. In France, Germany and Sweden, for example, they do the opposite and are active in enabling separated child refugees to be joined by their families.

Frustratingly, this is a policy the home secretary could change in an instant, with the simple stroke of a pen. To date, neither she nor her predecessors have chosen to do so.

The situation begins like this. Persecution and conflict fracture families and tear loved ones apart, no matter how hard they try to stay together. Parents lose contact with their children and partners in the mayhem and chaos of a war zone. As a result they end up in different countries, even continents. They’re physically safe, but isolated, lonely, terrified and disturbed.

Splitting up your family in the hope that at least the children escape harm and find safety is a desperate decision that no-one can plan or prepare for. It’s sometimes the young ones who are targeted – press-ganged as child soldiers or trafficked for exploitation. That’s one of the reasons that urgent flight is sometimes non-negotiable.

Children therefore arrive in the UK alone and in desperate need of support. Recent evidence from the UNHCR shows these children often have no idea where they are, let alone what rights they can expect in their new countries.

Though the UK government recognises that separated, unaccompanied children can be granted refugee status, these children are denied the right to apply to be reunited with their families. They’re condemned to a future that we’d never visit upon any child of our own.

Kids like Habib, one of the 12 children interviewed for the research, are experiencing this first-hand. He was 17 when he fled Sudan after being tortured and imprisoned at just 15-years-old. He travelled to Libya, leaving behind his mother and younger siblings. He was treated so badly there he still spoke of his flashbacks several years later. He finally found safety in the UK but remains separated from his family.

“I haven’t seen my family for nearly three years now,” he said. “It is a long time and I miss my mum. It is really hard. It is something that you cannot forget about. You can cover it, but you can’t forget. Being without your family, it is like you have a body without a soul.”

Social workers and other professionals featured in the report speak of their distress at witnessing the children for whom they care having to cope without their families.

Our research also highlights the criticism that this policy has been subject to, from senior judges to specialist parliamentary committees and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

We are doing all we can to try to minimise the pain children like Habib suffer. In 2018, we promoted a private member’s bill calling for these harmful rules to be changed which attracted the support of over 130 MPs, drawn from across the political spectrum. But the government looked the other way, neglecting to address the issue and choosing instead to block any changes, citing safeguarding concerns about children outside of this country without supporting evidence.

In the light of the compelling evidence contained in this report of the immense and lasting harm that enforced separation causes children, we believe, as do the thousands of people who support our call, that the home secretary should see reason and change these rules immediately.

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Maurice Wren is chief executive of the Refugee Council.

Kate Allen is director at Amnesty International UK.

Daniela Reale is lead on Child Protection and Children on the Move at Save the Children.

Featured image is from iStock

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“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” – The Second Amendment to the US Constitution

We never learn.

In the right (or wrong) hands, benevolent plans can easily be put to malevolent purposes.

Even the most well-intentioned government law or program can be—and has been—perverted, corrupted and used to advance illegitimate purposes once profit and power are added to the equation.

The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, asset forfeiture schemes, road safety schemes, school safety schemes, eminent domain: all of these programs started out as legitimate responses to pressing concerns and have since become weapons of compliance and control in the police state’s hands.

Mark my words: gun control legislation, especially in the form of red flag gun laws, which allow the police to remove guns from people suspected of being threats, will only add to the government’s power.

These laws, growing in popularity as a legislative means by which to seize guns from individuals viewed as a danger to themselves or others, are yet another Trojan Horse, a stealth maneuver by the police state to gain greater power over an unsuspecting and largely gullible populace.

Seventeen states now have red flag laws on their books.

That number is growing.

As The Washington Post reports, these laws “allow a family member, roommate, beau, law enforcement officer or any type of medical professional to file a petition [with a court] asking that a person’s home be temporarily cleared of firearms. It doesn’t require a mental-health diagnosis or an arrest.

In the midst of what feels like an epidemic of mass shootings (the statistics suggest otherwise), these gun confiscation laws—extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws—may appease the fears of those who believe that fewer guns in the hands of the general populace will make our society safer.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way.

Anything—knives, vehicles, planes, pressure cookers—can become a weapon when wielded with deadly intentions.

With these red flag gun laws, the stated intention is to disarm individuals who are potential threats… to “stop dangerous people before they act.”

While in theory it appears perfectly reasonable to want to disarm individuals who are clearly suicidal and/or pose an “immediate danger” to themselves or others, where the problem arises is when you put the power to determine who is a potential danger in the hands of government agencies, the courts and the police.

We’ve been down this road before.

Remember, this is the same government that uses the words “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably.

This is the same government whose agents are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports using automated eyes and ears, social media, behavior sensing software, and citizen spies to identify potential threats.

This is the same government that keeps re-upping the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the military to detain American citizens with no access to friends, family or the courts if the government believes them to be a threat.

This is the same government that has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state.

For instance, if you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you could be at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Moreover, as a New York Times editorial warns, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the police if you are afraid that the government is plotting to confiscate your firearms, if you believe the economy is about to collapse and the government will soon declare martial law, or if you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car.

Let that sink in a moment.

Now consider what happened in Maryland after a police officer attempted to “enforce” the state’s new red flag law, after it went into effect in 2018.

At 5 am on a Monday, two police officers showed up at 61-year-old Gary Willis’ house to serve him with a court order requiring that he surrender his guns. Willis answered the door holding a gun.

Mind you, in some states, merely answering the door holding a gun is enough to get you killed by police who have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.

Willis initially set his gun aside while he spoke with the police. However, when the police attempted to serve him with the gun confiscation order, Willis reportedly became “irate” and picked up his gun again. At that point, a struggle ensued, causing the gun to go off. Although no one was harmed, one of the cops shot and killed Willis.

According to the Anne Arundel County police chief, the shooting was a sign that the red flag law is needed.

What the police can’t say with any certainty is what they prevented by shooting and killing Willis.

Therein lies the danger of these red flag laws, specifically, and pre-crime laws such as these generally where the burden of proof is reversed and you are guilty before you are given any chance to prove you are innocent.

Red flag gun laws merely push us that much closer towards a suspect society where everyone is potentially guilty of some crime or another and must be preemptively rendered harmless.

Where many Americans go wrong is in naively assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or harmful in order to be flagged and targeted for some form of intervention or detention.

In fact, U.S. police agencies have been working to identify and manage potential extremist “threats,” violent or otherwise, before they can become actual threats for some time now.

In fact, all you need to do these days to end up on a government watch list or be subjected to heightened scrutiny is use certain trigger words (like cloud, pork and pirates), surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, limp or stutter, drive a car, stay at a hotel, attend a political rally, express yourself on social media, appear mentally ill, serve in the military, disagree with a law enforcement official, call in sick to work, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, appear confused or nervous, fidget or whistle or smell bad, be seen in public waving a toy gun or anything remotely resembling a gun (such as a water nozzle or a remote control or a walking cane), stare at a police officer, question government authority, appear to be pro-gun or pro-freedom, or generally live in the United States.

Be warned: once you get on such a government watch list—whether it’s a terrorist watch list, a mental health watch list, a dissident watch list, or a red flag gun watch list—there’s no clear-cut way to get off, whether or not you should actually be on there.

You will be tracked wherever you go.

You will be flagged as a potential threat and dealt with accordingly.

This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.

The government has been building its pre-crime, surveillance network in concert with fusion centers (of which there are 78 nationwide, with partners in the private sector and globally), data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).

To that noxious mix, add in a proposal being considered by the Trump Administration for a new government agency HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) that will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

It’s the American police state’s take on the dystopian terrors foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Phillip K. Dick all rolled up into one oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package.

If you’re not scared yet, you should be.

Connect the dots.

Start with the powers amassed by the government under the USA Patriot Act, note the government’s ever-broadening definition of what it considers to be an “extremist,” then add in the government’s detention powers under NDAA, the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance networks, and fusion centers that collect and share surveillance data between local, state and federal police agencies.

To that, add tens of thousands of armed, surveillance drones that will soon blanket American skies, facial recognition technology that will identify and track you wherever you go and whatever you do. And then to complete the picture, toss in the real-time crime centers being deployed in cities across the country, which will be attempting to “predict” crimes and identify criminals before they happen based on widespread surveillance, complex mathematical algorithms and prognostication programs.

Hopefully you’re starting to understand how easy we’ve made it for the government to identify, label, target, defuse and detain anyone it views as a potential threat for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from mental illness to having a military background to challenging its authority to just being on the government’s list of persona non grata.

This brings me back to those red flag gun laws.

In the short term, these gun confiscation laws may serve to temporarily delay or discourage those wishing to inflict violence on others, but it will not resolve whatever madness or hate or instability therein that causes someone to pull a trigger or launch a bomb or unleash violence on another.

Nor will these laws save us from government-instigated and directed violence at the hands of the American police state or the blowback from the war-drenched, violence-imbued, profit-driven military industrial complex, both of which remain largely overlooked and underestimated pieces of the discussion on gun violence in America.

In the long term, all these gun confiscation laws will do is ensure that when the police state finally cracks down, “we the people” are defenseless in the face of the government’s arsenal of weapons.

Now you can largely determine where a person will fall in the debate over gun control and the Second Amendment based on their view of government and the role it should play in our lives.

Those who want to see government as a benevolent parent looking out for our best interests tend to interpret the Second Amendment’s “militia” reference as applying only to the military.

To those who see the government as inherently corrupt, the Second Amendment is a means of ensuring that the populace will always have a way of defending themselves against threats to their freedoms.

And then there are those who view the government as neither good nor evil, but merely a powerful entity that, as Thomas Jefferson recognized, must be bound “down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” To this group, the right to bear arms is no different from any other right enshrined in the Constitution, to be safeguarded, exercised prudently and maintained.

Unfortunately, while these three divergent viewpoints continue to jockey for supremacy, the U.S. government has adopted a “do what I say, not what I do” mindset when it comes to Americans’ rights overall.

Nowhere is this double standard more evident than in the government’s attempts to arm itself to the teeth, all the while treating anyone who dares to legally own a gun, let alone use one, as suspicious and/or on the road to being an outlaw.

In Virginia, for instance, legislation has been introduced that would “require background checks on all firearms purchases, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others, let localities ban weapons from certain events and government buildings, and cap handgun purchases at one per month.”

To those who subscribe to George Orwell’s views about gun ownership (“That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there”), these legislative attempts to regulate and control gun usage among the citizenry is nothing short of tyranny.

Not surprisingly, then, in Virginia and a growing number of states across the country, momentum is building for 2A “sanctuary” cities that adopt resolutions opposing any “unconstitutional restrictions” on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Personally, I’m all for any attempt by the citizenry to nullify government actions that run afoul of the Constitution.

Certainly, there’s no denying that there is a huge double standard at play when it comes to the debate over guns in America: while the government continues to crack down on the citizenry’s right to own and bear arms (merely owning a gun can now get you treated as a suspect, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, shot at and killed despite ever having committed a crime), the government’s own efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees has reached epic proportions.

Ironically, while various state and federal agencies continue to adopt gun control legislation that includes bans on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets, expanded background checks, and tougher gun-trafficking laws, local police agencies are being “gifted” military-grade weaponry and equipment designed for the battlefield.

“We the people” have been so focused on debating who or what is responsible for gun violence—the guns, the gun owners, or our violent culture—and whether the Second Amendment “allows” us to own guns that we’ve overlooked the most important and most consistent theme throughout the Constitution: the fact that it is not merely an enumeration of our rights but was intended to be a clear shackle on the government’s powers.

When considered in the context of prohibitions against the government, the Second Amendment reads as a clear rebuke against any attempt to restrict the citizenry’s gun ownership.

As such, it is as necessary an ingredient for maintaining that tenuous balance between the citizenry and their republic as any of the other amendments in the Bill of Rights, especially the right to freedom of speech, assembly, press, petition, security, and due process.

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas understood this tension well.

“The Constitution is not neutral,” Douglas remarked, “It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.”

In this way, the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights in their entirety stand as a bulwark against a police state.

To our detriment, these rights have been steadily weakened, eroded and undermined in recent years. Yet without any one of them, including the Second Amendment right to own and bear arms, we are that much more vulnerable to the vagaries of out-of-control policemen, benevolent dictators, genuflecting politicians, and overly ambitious bureaucrats.

You can eliminate all of the guns, but it will not necessarily eliminate violence. Those same individuals sick enough to walk into an elementary school or a movie theater and open fire using a gun can and do wreak just as much havoc with homemade bombs made out of pressure cookers and a handful of knives.

It’s also not even a question of whether Americans need weapons to defend themselves against any overt threats to their safety or well-being, although a study by a Quinnipiac University economist indicates that less restrictive concealed gun-carry laws save lives, while gun control can endanger lives.

In fact, journalist Kevin Carson, writing for CounterPunch, suggests that prohibiting Americans from owning weapons would be as dangerously ineffective as Prohibition and the War on the Drugs:

[W]hat strict gun laws will do is take the level of police statism, lawlessness and general social pathology up a notch in the same way Prohibition and the Drug War have done. I’d expect a War on Guns to expand the volume of organized crime, and to empower criminal gangs fighting over control over the black market, in exactly the same way Prohibition did in the 1920s and strict drug laws have done since the 1980s. I’d expect it to lead to further erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, further militarization of local police via SWAT teams, and further expansion of the squalid empire of civil forfeiture, perjured jailhouse snitch testimony, entrapment, planted evidence, and plea deal blackmail.

Truly, the debate over gun ownership in America is really a debate over who gets to call the shots and control the game.

In other words, it’s that same tug-of-war that keeps getting played out in every confrontation between the government and the citizenry over who gets to be the master and who is relegated to the part of the servant.

The Constitution is clear on this particular point, with its multitude of prohibitions on government overreach. As author Edmund A. Opitz observed in 1964:

No one can read our Constitution without concluding that the people who wrote it wanted their government severely limited; the words “no” and “not” employed in restraint of government power occur 24 times in the first seven articles of the Constitution and 22 more times in the Bill of Rights.

In a nutshell, then, the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms reflects not only a concern for one’s personal defense but serves as a check on the political power of the ruling authorities. It represents an implicit warning against governmental encroachments on one’s freedoms, the warning shot over the bow to discourage any unlawful violations of our persons or property. As such, it reinforces that necessary balance in the citizen-state relationship.

Certainly, dictators in past regimes have understood this principle only too well. As Adolf Hitler noted, “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that starting in December 1935, Jews in Germany were prevented from obtaining shooting licenses, because authorities believed that to allow them to do so would “endanger the German population.”

In late 1938, special orders were delivered barring Jews from owning firearms, with the punishment for arms possession being twenty years in a concentration camp.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it is a history that we should be wary of repeating.

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Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at [email protected].

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The US has eagerly taken credit for the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani amid a series of military strikes carried out by US forces across Syria and Iraq. The assassination was shortly followed by Iranian missile strikes aimed at US bases in Iraq.

The BBC in its article, “Qasem Soleimani: Strike was to ‘stop war’, says Trump,” would claim:

President Donald Trump said the US killed Iran’s top military commander Qasem Soleimani “to stop a war, not to start one”. He said Soleimani’s “reign of terror is over” following the strike at Iraq’s Baghdad airport on Friday.

The strikes also targeted infrastructure supporting a network of Iranian-backed militias known as Popular Mobilization Units or PMUs.

The US claiming these strikes were meant to end “terror” are particularly surreal.

The PMUs along with General Soleimani and his special operations Quds Forces have played a key role in fighting and defeating US and Saudi-sponsored terrorism across the Middle East. This includes fighting terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, its many affiliates, and the so-called “Islamic State in Iraq and Syris” (ISIS) – all of which have been extensively exposed as recipients of US cash, weapons, and other forms of material and political support.

The War of Terror Continues 

Even the clumsy and often-manipulated Wikipedia lists Iran’s Quds Forces as opposed against Al Qaeda, its affiliates, and ISIS alongside nations like the US and its allies. While Wikipedia doesn’t overtly connect these terrorist organizations with their Western sponsors it is clear to even the casual observer that both appearing on the Quds Forces’ opponents list carries with it many implications.

Beyond mere implications  – however –  it was the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) itself in a 2012 leaked memo that admitted, “the West, Gulf monarchies, and Turkey” were behind the rise of a what at the time was being called a “Salafist principality.”

The leaked 2012 report (.pdf) states (emphasis added):

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

To clarify precisely who these “supporting powers” were that sought the creation of a “Salafist” (Islamic) principality” (State), the DIA report explains:

The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.

In other words, the US, its European allies, and its closest allies in the Middle East, sought the rise of a “Salafist” (Islamic) “principality” (State) in eastern Syria, precisely where ISIS eventually manifested itself.

The West and its regional allies did so while simultaneously funding, arming, and training so-called “rebels” who in reality lined the ranks of extremist groups up to and including Al Qaeda and its Al Nusra franchise.

A similar pattern of supporting extremism Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen has emerged. So extensive is US state-sponsorship of terrorism that even the Western corporate media has been forced repeatedly to admit and attempt to cover up the flow of US weapons into the hands of extremists.

Thus – from 2011 onward – the world has become increasingly aware of US state-sponsorship of terrorism – specifically in support of terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda, its affiliates, and ISIS. The US has throughout the Syrian conflict directly and indirectly attacked and undermined the forces fighting these terrorist organizations – and with the latest assassination of General Soleimani – has begun to wage open war against Al Qaeda’s and ISIS’ most effective opponents.

Too Little, Too Late

If General Soleimani was such an important target to eliminate – we can only assume the US believes that he was an effective strategist and leader. And if General Soleimani was either or both of these things – it is certain that amid his skilled and effective operations against US state-sponsored terrorism he also included provisions for continuity for his Quds Forces.

The assassination of General Soleimani will do little to degrade the Quds Forces themselves. Other senior leaders will fill the void and the organization will continue effectively carrying out operations on behalf of Iran and its Syrian and Iraqi allies.

Instead – the attack was more likely meant to serve as a provocation – a desperate attempt by Washington to provoke Tehran and escalate the regional conflict more toward large-scale total war the US believes it may still hold an advantage in over Iran.

For Iran – its strategy of patient, incremental victory in Syria, Iraq, and beyond has paid historical dividends. The geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is being redrawn before our very eyes.

The best way to procure revenge for yet another provocative and toxic display of US foreign policy is for Iran to continue the work General Soleimani  had successfully endeavored toward – the continued frustration of US belligerence in the region, the dismantling of US-proxies including terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS, and the eventual and total uprooting of US hegemony across the region.

Iran’s missile strikes targeting US military bases rendered no casualties yet demonstrated Iran’s capacity to carry out long-range precision strikes at US forces illegally or coercively occupying the region.

The US was subsequently faced with the choice to fight big and lose, or once again demonstrate its growing impotence by doing little or nothing. The US has its forces spread across the planet, fighting numerous adversaries yet unable to achieve a single decisive victory. Its demonstrated failures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan mean that mounting full-scale military operations against the much larger and more formidable Iran is particularly unrealistic.

Iran’s pinpoint missile strikes aimed at US bases in Iraq – avoiding casualties – represents a show of force reminding Washington of what could happen if hostilities widen – but also a show of restraint illustrating to the rest of the world that Iran is reasonable even in the face of Washington’s unreasonable provocations.

Just as Russia endured humiliating provocations designed to provoke and distract Moscow from successfully defending Syria – leaving Moscow and its Syrian allies victorious and the US desperate, frustrated, and in some cases, literally running from its positions in Syria – Iran too must endure.

US provocations come too little and too late.

They only serve to further illustrate the menace current US foreign policy and the interests driving them pose to the world. They have failed to reverse Washington’s flagging fortunes in either Syria or Iraq. And unless Iran gives the US exactly what it wants – a pretext to escalate further – these provocations will likely end up on the long list of failed attempts to reverse Washington’s fortunes regarding its weakening grip on Iraq, its failed regime change war in Syria, and its overall unraveling hegemony across the Middle East and North Africa.

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Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Westminster Cannot Block Scottish Independence

January 16th, 2020 by Craig Murray

Boris Johnson’s facetious, point-scoring reply to the formal request from the Scottish government for agreement to a second Independence referendum is an act of extreme arrogance. An off-the-cuff campaign remark from a single politician has no weight in weighing the will of a nation, and I presume Johnson is not arguing that every political statement Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond has ever made has the force of law.

The “once in a generation” remark has no more force than “die in a ditch”. It is not contained in any official document, and appears in neither the Edinburgh Agreement nor the Smith Commission report. For Johnson to base his refusal of a vital democratic step on such a flimsy pretext is extremely arrogant. It is born of colossal self-confidence. He is perfectly confident the highly centralised Westminster system will allow him simply to ride roughshod over Scotland.

Johnson is of course right. You may be surprised to hear that I agree with the analysis of McHarg and McCorkindale published today that a legal challenge arguing the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum is a waste of time, not least because if such legal challenge looked like succeeding the Tories would simply pass Westminster legislation outlawing the referendum explicitly. There is no doubt whatsoever that such legislation would be upheld by the UK Supreme Court under the doctrine of the Sovereignty of (Westminster) Parliament.

I also have no doubt that a futile and time-wasting court action is going to be a key part of the Scottish Government’s approach in response to Johnson, of pretending to do something about Independence a few more years.

McHarg and McCorkindale are quite right on UK Constitutional Law, which is where their expertise lies. They know very little about public international law and still less about international politics.

The truth is that UK Constitutional Law is as irrelevant to Scottish Independence as Soviet Constitutional Law was to the question of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Independence. The UK is disintegrating and not the smirk of Johnson, the frippery of the UK Supreme Court nor the witterings of lawyers can hold it together.

Independence is not a matter of domestic law. It is a matter of international law alone. Independence is the existence of a state in relation to other states. It is gained not by any internal process- internal process is utterly irrelevant, and in 95% of cases does not involve a referendum – but by recognition of other states, formalised through the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I touched on these points in my brief statement at the AUOB press conference after the march on Saturday.

In its judgement on Kosovo, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) specifically confirmed that the agreement of the state being seceded from was not necessary for Independence. That is the position in law, whatever any UK court may say. Indeed it was the UK government itself that put this argument most clearly to the ICJ in the Kosovo case.

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State’s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. It is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that a state has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of the original state and its political or legal authorities.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

So the key question is, could Scotland get recognition from other states for a Declaration of Independence? The attitude of the EU will be crucial and here Catalonia is obviously a key precedent. But it is one that has been totally misunderstood.

The vast majority of the politicians and functionaries of the EU institutions viewed the actions of the Francoist government of Spain in assaulting the people of Catalonia who were trying to vote, with extreme distaste. But they held their noses and supported Spain. Because over 20 years experience as a diplomat taught me that the EU functions as a club of member states, who will support each other in almost any circumstance. So Spain was supported.

But the UK is shortly going to stop being a member. It is Scotland, as a potential member with a long history of valued membership and a firm intention to join, which will have the natural support of the EU, the more so as there will be a strong desire to get Scotland’s fishing, energy and mineral resources back within the bloc. The disintegration of the UK will also be encouraged as a salutary lesson to any other states that consider leaving the EU. The political forces within the EU are very, very strongly behind recognition of Scottish Independence.

Once the EU decides to recognise Scotland (and crucially it is not a decision that needs unanimity in the EU vote, an extremely important and overlooked fact) the rest will be easy. The UK is detested in much of the developing world for its continued refusal to decolonise Diego Garcia, for the Iraq War, and for the whole history of colonialism.

So how should Scotland proceed? My advice would be to declare Independence at the earliest possible opportunity. We should recall all Scottish MPs from Westminster immediately. We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

The key criterion which governments have traditionally used to recognise another state is control of the state’s internal territory. (They do not have to use that criterion, each state can recognise on whatever basis it wishes, but that is the usual one cited). This is where the Catalonian Declaration of Independence failed, the Catalan Government never managed to enforce it on its own ground.

There is going to be no process of Independence agreed with the British government. We have to take Independence, not beg for it. At some stage, there is always the danger that the British government may try to react by sending in the British Army to enforce Westminster’s will. If we believe we are an independent nation, we have to be prepared to defend ourselves as an independent state should the worst happen. Calling a confirmatory referendum as the first act of the Independent state would make it difficult for Johnson to justify sending in the British Army to try to prevent it, but we cannot rule it out. Hopefully that will not involve anyone getting killed, but we must be plain that Westminster will never voluntarily allow us to leave and may physically attack us if we try.

I appreciate this may all sound very unpleasant and confrontational.

We have two alternatives now – we stand up for ourselves and our inalienable right of self-determination in international law as defined in the UN Charter, or we grovel before Johnson’s smirk and try various “legal” and “constitutional” avenues in terms of the UK’s utterly irrelevant domestic legislation. Which will get us nowhere, slowly.

The time has come for Scottish Independence. With a referendum denied by no fault of ours, we must seize the moment and take the Independence for which they will not let us vote.

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Nine years after the military intervention, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to overthrow Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya remains trapped in a spiral of violence involving armed groups, sectarian, ethnic groups and external interference that have led the country into absolute chaos.

On Oct. 20, 2011, amid protests supported by the governments of the United States and the European Union, an armed uprising that plunged the country into a civil war, the Libyan leader was captured and brutally murdered by the rebels.

Being one of the most prosperous countries in the African continent, thanks to its vast oil fields, after the fall of Gaddafi, the North African country was divided between rival governments in the east and west, and among multiple armed groups competing for quotas of power, control of the country and its wealth.

Gaddafi ruled for 42 years, leading Libya to a significant advance in social, political and economic matters that were recognized and admired by many African and Arab nations at the time. Despite his controversial government, Gaddafi came to represent an important figure for anti-imperialist struggles for his position mainly against the U.S. and the policies carried out from Washington on the Middle East.

It is for this reason, his life and death became pivotal events in Libya and key to understand the current situation.

Libya Before Gaddafi

After World War II, Libya was ceded to France and the United Kingdom, and both countries linked it administratively to their colonies in Algeria and Tunisia.

However, the U.K. favored the emergence of a monarchy controlled by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the U.N., the Senussi dynasty, which ruled the country since its “independence” in 1951 under the monarchy of King Idris I, who kept Libya in total obscurantism while promoting British economic and military interests.

When oil reserves were discovered in 1959, the exploitation of wealth did not translate into benefits for the people. According to political analyst Thierry Meyssan, during the monarchy, the nation was mired in backwardness in education, health, housing, social security, among others.

The low literacy rates were shocking, according to Meyssan, only 250,000 inhabitants of the four million could read and write.

But it was in 1969 that the Senussi dynasty was overthrown by a group of officers led by Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi who proclaimed true independence and removed the dominant foreign forces from the country.

One of Gaddafi’s immediate policies was to share the benefits and wealth to all Libyans.

Libya With Gaddafi

Since Gaddafi took power, oil has been the main resource in the hands of the leader of the newly proclaimed Libyan Arab Republic. The triumph of the 1969 revolution marked a paradigm shift, moving the new government to use its oil income to boost redistributive measures among the population, generating a new model of economic and social development for the country.

According to analysts, among the measures of “economic sovereignty” which drove Gaddafi’s policies were the nationalization of various Western oil companies such as British Petroleum (BP) and the creation of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), which characterized the configuration of a more socialist model.

Throughout Gaddafi’s tenure, ambitious social programs were launched in the areas of education, health, housing, public works and subsidies for electricity and basic foodstuffs. These policies led to a substantial improvement in the living conditions of Libyans, from being one of the poorest countries in Africa in 1969 to being the continent’s leader in its Human Development Index in 2011.

In fact, the United Nations Development Programme (2010) considered Libya a high-development country in the Middle East and North Africa. This translated status meant a literacy rate of 88.4 percent, a life expectancy of 74.5 years, gender equality, among several other positive indicators.

At the national level, Gaddafi was able to deal with two central dilemmas characteristic of Libyan society, on the one hand, the difficulty of exercising control over the tribes, and, on the other, the fragmentation of society into diverse and sometimes opposite tribal and regional groups.

Gaddafi had the ability to hold together these territories with little connection to each other. It is estimated that there are about 140 tribes in the Libyan territory, each with different traditions and origins.

At the international level, Pan-Arabism should be highlighted with the confrontation opened to the United States due to the opposition that Gaddafi exerted on the influence of this country, reaching closer ties with other Arab countries to carry out common policies of rejection of Washington’s policies on the Middle East and Africa.

The Libyan leader worked to strengthen ties with neighboring countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Chad, among others, as well as maintaining close relations with countries like France and Russia. Gaddafi also connected with Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Cuba, which led him to cultivate an extensive network of contacts and uncomfortable influence for Europe and the U.S.

By the time of his killing, Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Fewer people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.

The Fall of Gadaffi

The citizen protests that began in Tunisia in December 2010 (Arab Spring) arrived a month later in neighboring Libya, although in a different way, as the mass and popular demonstrations that characterized Tunisia and Egypt were not replicated. In contrast, in Benghazi, where the anti-Gaddafi movement focused, Islamists groups predominated.

Some political analysts agree that in Libya there was never a mass movement on a national scale like the other countries, nor was there popular support to overthrow Gaddafi’s government.

However, the uprisings in Benghazi were enough for the U.N. Security Council and NATO to intervene on behalf of the Responsibility to Protect (Resolution 1973) and launched a bombing campaign between March and October 2011 that had a decisive impact on the assassination of Gaddafi.

According to Meyssan, NATO’s interference in the internal affairs of Libya and the overthrow of Gaddafi were not the result of a conflict between Libyans but to a long-term regional destabilization strategy for the whole group the Middle East.

Nine years after his death, residents in the chaos-wracked country’s capital have grown to miss the longtime leader as the frustrations of daily life mount.

“I hate to say it but our life was better under the previous regime,” Fayza al-Naas, a 42-year-old pharmacist told AFP in 2015, referring to Gaddafi’s rule. A sentiment shared by many Libyans, including those who opposed him at some point.

The economically and socially stable Libya under the Gaddafi versus a fragmented country, without a government, devastated by attacks, bombings, and continuous clashes, is the result of the NATO invasion in 2011. A conclusion that many regret supporting almost a decade later.

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Will Lab-grown Food Really Save the Planet?

January 16th, 2020 by Claire Robinson

The environmental campaigner and journalist George Monbiot has created a huge controversy by predicting that farmers and farming as we know them will soon be made redundant by the massive expansion of lab-grown food. This, he argues, is largely a good thing (though he adds that it is not without its own dangers), because agriculture is the key driver of the major environmental catastrophes that we face: climate breakdown, maxed-out water use, agrochemical pollution, soil erosion, and Insectageddon (the mass die-off of insects).

Monbiot set out his case in an article that he wrote for The Guardian, Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet and a documentary for Channel 4 TV in the UK, called Apocalypse Cow: How Meat Killed the Planet.

We at GMWatch hugely respect and admire George Monbiot for his tireless and courageous work over many years highlighting environmental issues and exposing corruption in power structures, including the corruption of science. We have also been proud to cooperate with him on a series of major investigative pieces that he has written drawing on our research, where we have seen the care he takes over getting things right. But sadly, we believe he is seriously mistaken in his latest intellectual venture, for reasons we explain below.

Monbiot’s arguments

Monbiot’s key message is summed up by this excerpt from his article in The Guardian:

“We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years. While arguments rage about plant- versus meat-based diets, new technologies will soon make them irrelevant. Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. This means multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories. I know some people will be horrified by this prospect. I can see some drawbacks. But I believe it comes in the nick of time.”

Much of the food revolution that Monbiot anticipates will require the use of genetically modified bacteria that will “create the specific proteins needed for lab-grown meat, milk and eggs”. Monbiot believes that while fruit and veg will continue to be grown on farms-as-we-know-them, we will rely on bioreactors to manufacture meat, dairy, palm oil, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

In his documentary, Monbiot visited a Finnish factory in which a company called Solar Foods is using a bioreactor to manufacture a flour-like substance that is intended as a protein-rich food-like substance. The bioreactor uses hydrogen extracted from water as its energy source. Monbiot gets them to make him a pancake from the flour. He eats it and states his verdict that it tasted “just like a pancake”. Solar Foods’ venture has given rise to a BBC News headline claiming that Food ‘made from air’ could compete with soya.

Comparing this process with growing food plants in fields, Monbiot says,

“The hydrogen pathway used by Solar Foods is about 10 times as efficient as photosynthesis. But because only part of a plant can be eaten, while the bacterial flour is mangetout, you can multiply that efficiency several times. And because it will be brewed in giant vats the land efficiency, the company estimates, is roughly 20,000 times greater. Everyone on Earth could be handsomely fed, and using a tiny fraction of its surface. If, as the company intends, the water used in the process (which is much less than required by farming) is electrolysed with solar power, the best places to build these plants will be deserts.”

Monbiot concludes,

“Farmfree food will allow us to hand back vast areas of land and sea to nature, permitting rewilding and carbon drawdown on a massive scale… Farmfree food offers hope where hope was missing. We will soon be able to feed the world without devouring it.”

Counter-arguments

Monbiot’s ideas have come in for heavy criticism from a variety of sources. We’ll give just a taster of these below, but anyone who is interested in these issues should read the articles we cite in full, as they are wide-ranging and make a multitude of points.

Oxford Real Farming Conference

Monbiot reiterated his argument for doing away with farming at the Oxford Real Farming Conference in early January. The gist of the debate has been summarised by Food Navigator.

Monbiot was booed by some in the audience, which included a large number of farmers who aim to manage their land and livestock sustainably. He was also strongly challenged by the other panel members – who, however, voiced their deep respect for him as a person and an environmental campaigner. These included Patrick Holden and Richard Young from the Sustainable Food Trust, who believe that locally sourced meat from grass-fed animals makes up an essential part of a sustainable food system, and Joanna Blythman, the food writer and broadcaster.

Young called lab-grown meat a “fools’ gold”, adding that “the very last thing we need is more processed food”. He also took issue with Monbiot’s data, showing several slides in which he cited figures that are at odds with Monbiot’s statements.

Citing the examples of imported jackfruit and banana blossom as “unconvincing” plant-based substitutes for meat, Joanna Blythman said, “I really feel that we’ve lost the plot when arcane imports and genetically modified fake meat burgers dreamed up by venture capitalists in Silicon Valley are portrayed as more acceptable than a lamb chop from a British hillside.”

The new technologies promoted by Monbiot, she said, have “huge problems”: “The doctrine of high-tech inevitability is propaganda. We should see it for what it is: those who claim to know the future are trying to own the future.”

Techno-optimism run amok?

An anonymously authored article on the Regenetarianism blog, called Techno-optimism run amok… George Monbiot’s latest delusion, draws attention to the ‘elephant’ in this vision of our food future – the fact that bioreactors are extremely resource- and energy-hungry. The article opens:

“In George Monbiot’s techno-optimistic scenario…. proteins and carbs are created via precision fermentation in brewing tanks requiring infrastructure, blue water [water taken from surface or groundwater resources] and energy. These proteins and carbs (plus some additional minerals, antibiotics and growth factor) will be used in place of amino acids and carbs from industrial crops (soy, corn, etc) to feed growing stem cells in bioreactors that also require a lot of blue water, non-intermittent energy, and infrastructure. The fermentation tanks and bioreactors will also need to be contained in sterile conditioned spaces requiring infrastructure (made of CO2 emitting concrete and steel) and energy. All this energy infrastructure will also need a lot of raw materials and energy to build.

“So first, it certainly would be interesting to see a life cycle analysis [LCA] of this above techno-fix at scale for both energy and blue water use. And then compared that LCA to a LCA of AMP managed [AMP is a global renewable energy infrastructure manager and owner] solar power head of cattle turning non-edible to human grasses watered by green water into beef, leather and a number of other by-products. Does George have such a LCA for his fermented/cell Ag solution to compare to this recent LCA done of White Oak Pastures beef cattle that was carbon negative? Doing any sort of techno-fix at scale is a lot different than doing a small batch ‘proof of concept’ in a petri dish.”

Vast amounts of energy, vaster amounts of nutrients needed

The Regenetarianism article is aggressive in tone, which we do not condone. However, we cannot fault the facts presented in the article, including the apparent absence of life cycle analysis for lab-grown food and the difficulties of scaling up the technology to the extent needed.

These views are very much in tune with comments offered to GMWatch by the London-based molecular geneticist Dr Michael Antoniou. Dr Antoniou is familiar with smaller-scale bioreactor technology from his work in medical research, which has included the manufacture of therapeutic proteins in these giant fermentation vats.

Dr Antoniou says that bioreactors of the scale that would be required – 20,000 litres or more – require large amounts of materials and energy to run them (as for the ‘food out of thin air’ notion of Solar Foods, the process of splitting hydrogen from water (electrolysis) is extremely energy-hungry).

He explains that large-scale bioreactors would require vast amounts of nutrients and other inputs that make up the culture medium for the bacteria or yeast that produce the desired proteins. The culture of animal muscle cells in particular to produce synthetic meat requires a huge quantity of nutrient and other inputs. There are dozens of ingredients, including minerals, vitamins, amino acids, glucose and growth factors – as listed in a report by the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit group promoting cell-based meat.[1] Many of these ingredients, especially the growth factors, in turn need to be manufactured from genetically engineered bacteria or mammalian cells – in other bioreactors. Infrastructure will be needed to create the supply chain that will enable one bioreactor to be ‘fed’ by others, as well as to transport raw materials to the bioreactors and dispose of the waste.

While some of the components of culture medium are cheap to buy or manufacture, others are extremely expensive – such as the growth factors that are required to make the animal cells multiply. For example, to supply the growth factors insulin and transferrin has been estimated by the Good Food Institute to cost $131,920 and $85,600 respectively, for a single production batch in a 20,000 litre bioreactor.[1] The costs for the growth factors FGF-2 and TGF-β are far higher: an eye-watering $4 million and $3.2 million. And remember, that’s only for one batch: each successive culture will require fresh culture medium.

Bioreactors are complex structures with miles of pipework. The materials to make the thousands of bioreactors needed to ‘feed the world’ will have to be mined, adding to the damage that extractive mining already does to the planet.

When the bioreactors are up and running, they will need maintenance, including a constant supply of energy. There is also the problem of the waste culture medium once a batch has been harvested: it will require treatment with toxic disinfectants before disposal. Also, between production runs, the whole system will need to be disinfected and the resulting waste will need to be disposed of somehow. Thus the potential for environmental pollution is high. Bioreactor systems are also not immune from contamination. Although relatively rare, contamination would shut down a facility for months.

Need for immortalised cell lines

Dr Antoniou adds that the proponents of synthetic meat production through the culture of muscle cells also face yet another major biological limitation. Muscle cells isolated from, say, a cow or bull have a limited growth capability in culture: that is, the muscle cells grow well for a while, but then senesce (age) and die, just as they would in the body of the animal from which they were derived. This makes it very unlikely that normal muscle cells isolated from an animal will have the growth capacity to fill a 20,000 litre bioreactor, unless vast numbers of cells were initially isolated from a large number of animals, which is impractical.

Thus the claim by Maastricht University in the Netherlands that cells from a single cow can produce 175 million quarter-pound beefburgers, while you would need 440,000 cows from traditional farming, is disingenuous.

To try to overcome this limitation, proponents of lab grown meat are being forced to consider using genetically engineered “immortalised” animal muscle cell lines, which are akin to cancer cells and have a much greater lifespan in culture than normal muscle cells isolated directly from an animal. The potential safety problem with immortalised muscle cell lines is that they have been generated by the introduction of growth regulator genes, which can be carcinogenic. This raises major concerns, as eating synthetic meat containing large quantities of cancer-causing oncogenes is an obvious safety risk. It will be interesting to see how regulatory agencies respond to requests from industry to approve the use of immortalised muscle cells in food production. If normal safety rules are applied, such requests should be rejected.

Bioreactors also need a large number of highly trained staff to run them.

As for ‘sparing’ land with this system of food production, the large number of bioreactors needed will take up large tracts of land.

And if by some miracle in this dystopian world, some land is spared, then who decides what will happen to it? Will it be rewilded, as per Monbiot’s wish? If so, who will compensate the landowners for the lost income they otherwise would receive by allowing it to be farmed? Or will the landowners retain some say over what happens to their land? In which case they will doubtless prefer to sell it for housing or other development, which would make them far greater profits.

Real costs not assessed

The Good Food Institute report concludes optimistically that “it is likely that cell-based meat is capable of ultimately being cost-competitive with conventional meat production at scale”. But tellingly, the report states that it excludes from its estimates the costs of labour, energy, and the expenditures necessary to build the facility. In other words, the real costs of this industry have not been realistically assessed and would likely prove prohibitive at the large scale needed.

Corporate consolidation

Permaculture expert and critic of capitalism Rebecca Ellis also believes that Monbiot is on the wrong track – from the point of view of corporate control of the food supply. She writes,

“The type of high-tech, venture capitalist-backed lab foods advocated by Monbiot represents an intensification of the industrial capitalist food system and a move towards further consolidation of power in the hands of a few corporations. Monbiot realizes this is a risk and advocates for a decentralization of this new system of lab foods. However, in the actually-existing world, this is not what is happening or will happen. This is because lab-based foods will require a huge amount of capital investment. Food will essentially be created in lab-factory hybrids which, to build at a scale to feed 7 to 9 billion people, will be incredibly resource intensive.

“Already, this emerging industry is being supported by venture capitalists, and other tech optimists, who believe firmly that high-tech capitalism will save humanity and the Earth. Of course those of us with a critique of capitalism know that the system is about wealth accumulation and private profit, not about feeding people or regenerating the Earth. In fact, we currently grow more than enough food for the world’s population. People starve to death and face chronic malnutrition not due to lack of food but due to the cruelty of the capitalist system (for an incisive critique of the industrial-capitalist food system, please see the work of Dr. Tony Weis).”

The ecomodernist delusion

A witty takedown of Monbiot’s position is offered by Chris Smaje, a social scientist and small-scale farmer.

Smaje writes, “First, historically, getting people out of farming has rarely ended well for the ex-farmers, and there are more farmers in the world than any other single job. And second, making people mere spectators of the natural world is unlikely to do either people or the natural world a long-term favour. George’s plan for sparing nature is self-defeating.”

The main point of Smaje’s article is to explore “why George has ended up where he has”. With that aim in mind, he offers a “nature spotters’ guide to the ecomodernists”, a group of technophiles that Monbiot appears to have joined in his latest venture into farm-free food. Smaje diagnoses Monbiot as a “Last-Chancer”, a type of ecomodernist who has “looked long and hard at the future to which we’re hurtling and got very, very scared. They’ve spent a lot of time trying to warn us about this wolf at our door, only to find that not only do we treat their prophecies with indifference but we’ve actually welcomed the wolf in and installed him in the White House and No. 10. Understandably, they’ve now given up on prophecies and politics and are desperately clutching at whatever darned thing they think might just conceivably save us in the last chance saloon we now inhabit – nuclear power, lab-grown eco-gloop or whatever.”

Smaje doesn’t think the Last-Chancer vision will work because after the moment of “ecomodernist salvation”, there is never any plan in place detailing how to institute a resilient ecological economy. In contrast, Smaje believes that the only things that will save us are “two of the oldest human trades: farming and politics”.

Reconnecting with nature by disconnecting from nature?

GMWatch largely shares the views of the critics cited above and we’d like to add a postscript of our own.

Chris Smaje captures something that we all need to be aware of. As the climate and ecological crises worsen and governments continue to fail to take robust action, the allure of simplistic techno-fixes is going to grow ever greater amidst the resulting sense of desperation and despair. And you can be sure that there will be plenty of corporations, venture capitalists and entrepreneurial scientists more than ready to exploit the situation.

But techno-fixes are based on what Monbiot himself has characterised as a “wildly romantic” view of technology as somehow magically able to solve the complex and difficult problems we face. And worse still, they serve as a distraction from the hard work that needs to be done to heal our relationship with the planet we live on.

That relationship has become largely characterised by abuse and violence (we say “largely” because clearly there are pockets of sustainability). And the only way to heal that damaged relationship is by facing up to what we have collectively done and retracing our steps back to a simpler, more honest, and more accountable stance upon the Earth. But that process is much less likely to happen as long as we settle for distracting ourselves with supposedly magical techno-fixes.

The notion of saving the Earth through farm-free food is no better than the notion (proposed by various experts, including Stephen Hawking) of colonising other planets to save us from the destruction we are wreaking upon our home planet.

Removing ourselves from the mess we have made of the Earth to refocus our attention on a brave new world of bioreactors will only lead us to recreate the same old problems in our new food-producing environment: the resource-guzzling materials and processes, the pollution, the corporate consolidation and corruption in the search for ever-greater profits.

And there will be another serious problem. Due to our new diet of super-processed food-like substances, the vast majority of the bioreactor-fed population may grow increasingly sick in body and mind. The precise reasons for that sickness will take decades to unravel scientifically. But they may make it well-nigh impossible for us to pull ourselves out of the dystopian construction we have built for ourselves.

We all know what’s needed to start to mend the damage we’ve caused – and it cannot entail turning our backs on the land that feeds us. We have to look our ‘victim’ in the eye, stop doing the things that damage and destroy, and start doing the things that regenerate. It’s quite simple, even if right now it’s further away than it’s ever been.

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Note

1. Liz Specht, “An analysis of culture medium costs and production volumes for cell-based meat”. The Good Food Institute, February 13, 2019. Table 1. https://www.gfi.org/files/sci-tech/clean-meat-production-volume-and-medium-cost.pdf

Featured image is from GMWatch