Fact-Sheet on Syria’s “White Helmets”

October 7th, 2016 by Simon Wood

The White Helmets – here are a few facts that you need to know.  Share this to your family and friends who subsist on Western corporate media:

* The White Helmets, also called Syria Civil Defence, are not who they claim to be. The group is not Syrian; it was created with USA/UK funding under the supervision of a British military contractor in 2013 in Turkey.

* The name “Syria Civil Defence” was stolen from the legitimate Syrian organization of the same name. The authentic Syria Civil Defence was founded in 1953 and is a founding member of the International Civil Defense Organization (1958).

* The name “White Helmets” was inappropriately taken from the legitimate Argentinian relief organization Cascos Blancos / White Helmets. In 2014, Cascos Blancos / White Helmets was honored at the United Nations for 20 years of international humanitarian assistance.

* The NATO White Helmets are primarily a media campaign to support the ‘regime change’ goals of the USA and allies. After being founded by security contractor James LeMesurier, the group was “branded” as the White Helmets in 2014 by a marketing company called “The Syria Campaign” managed out of New York by non-Syrians such as Anna Nolan. “The Syria Campaign” was itself “incubated” by another marketing company named “Purpose”.

* The White Helmets claim to be “neutral, impartial and humanitarian” and to “serve all the people of Syria” is untrue. In reality, they only work in areas controlled by the violent opposition, primarily terrorists associated with Nusra/AlQaeda (recently renamed Jabhat Fath al Sham).

* The White Helmets claim to be unarmed is untrue. There are photos which show their members carrying arms and celebrating Nusra/AlQaeda military victories.

* The White Helmets claim to be apolitical and non-aligned is untrue. In reality they actively promote and lobby for US/NATO intervention in violation of the norms of authentic humanitarian work.

* The Right Livelihood description that “Syria Civil Defence” saved over 60,000 people and “support in the provision of medical services to nearly 7 million people” is untrue. In reality the zones controlled by terrorists in Syria have few civilians remaining. That is why we see “cat” video/media stunts featuring the White Helmets.

* The NATO White Helmets actually undermine and detract from the work of authentic organizations such as the REAL Syria Civil Defense and Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

* The recent Neflix movie about the White Helmets is not a documentary; it is a self promotional advertisement. The directors never set foot in Syria. The Syrian video, real or staged, was provided by the White Helmets themselves. From the beginning scenes showing a White Helmet actor telling his little boy not to give mommy a hard time until the end, the video is contrived and manipulative. The video was produced by a commercial marketing company Violet Films/Ultra Violet Consulting which advertises its services as “social media management”, “crowd building” and “campaign implementation”.

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America is coming to the rescue of Al Qaeda under a humanitarian mandate. The unspoken agenda is to undermine the Liberation of Aleppo. 

The pretext and justification for these actions are based on America’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P) the “moderates” in Aleppo from Syrian and Russian attacks and bombing raids.

On October 3, the US State Department announced the suspension of bilateral relations with Russia pertaining to Syria (see document below), in response to which, France’s foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault was called upon to intermediate at the diplomatic level. 

Pointing his finger at Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Jean Marc Ayrault casually accused Moscow of crimes against humanity, “La France est indignée”  (France is  indignant).  

In turn, the Western media (including segments of the “Left” alternative media) went into overdrive, accusing Russia of killing innocent civilians, demonizing president Putin;, and more significantly ignoring the devastating impacts of  Obama’s (2014-2016) fake “counterterrorism campaign” implying extensive and routine bombings of both Syria and Iraq over a period of more than two years. 

Initiated in Summer 2014, Operation Inherent Resolve’s real objective is to “protect the terrorists”. 

Strategic Meeting at the White House

On October 5, a strategic meeting of the so-called Principals Committee  (tantamount to a War Cabinet) met behind closed doors at the White House. In attendance: senior officials (Secretary level) from the Pentagon, CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, State Department and top national security advisors of the White House.

On the agenda: a proposal earlier voiced by the US state Department to directly attack Syrian government forces and military facilities, inevitably implying the possibility of direct military confrontation with Russia as well as a process of escalation.

While Russian airstrikes are carefully targeted against the terrorists, Moscow is accused of committing extensive war crimes as well as supporting the terrorist organizations sponsored by the Western military alliance.

The media has built upon the humanitarian crisis triggered by Russian intervention against the [terrorist] “freedom fighters”.

What the media has  failed to investigate since the outset are US war crimes against the People of Syria and Iraq, which are amply confirmed by official US Department of Defense data.

The Figures Speak for Themselves 

1. The US-led coalition is protecting the terrorists

2. U.S. and Coalition Airstrikes (Pentagon data)

3. The Cost of Obama’s Air Campaign: 9.3 billion dollars

4. The US-led coalition is providing the terrorists with large amounts of weapons 

1. The Airstrikes are intended to Protect the Terrorists

What we have witnessed is an ongoing drawn out campaign over the last two years of relentless  air raids and bombings, and the terrorist enemy is apparently still intact.

Let us examine the data regarding air strikes by the US and its coalition partners, all of which were allegedly directed against the ISIS-Daesh terrorists who crossed the desert from Syria into Iraq in their Toyota pickup trucks in June 2014.

What would have been required from a military standpoint to wipe out the ISIS Daesh convoy with no effective anti-aircraft capabilities?

If they had wanted to eliminate the Islamic State brigades, they could have “carpet” bombed their convoys of Toyota pickup trucks when they crossed the desert from Syria into Iraq in June. 

The answer is pretty obvious, yet not a single mainstream media has acknowledged it.

The  Syro-Arabian Desert is open territory (see map right). With state of the art jet fighter aircraft (F15, F22 Raptor, F16) it would have been  –from a military standpoint–  ”a piece of cake”, a rapid and expedient surgical operation, which would have decimated the Islamic State convoys in a matter of hours.

2. U.S. and Coalition Airstrikes

  •  The total number of US and coalition sorties against Syria and Iraq is of the order of 111,000. This translates into an average of 147 sorties a day (over a period of 755 days).
  • More than 8,300 strike sorties have been carried out against Syria according to US Department of Defense sources.
  • The non-strike sorties have been used for the purposes of reconnaissance, logistics and coordination with terrorist commandos on the ground. 
  • 31,900 targets in Syria and Iraq have been hit by US war planes (see table below) including public buildings, residential areas, economic infrastructure (all of which was waged under a fake campaign against ISIS- Daesh).

Its all for a good cause. None of these strikes were directed at the Syrian people, according to official statements.

And these humanitarian statements have never been challenged by the Western media.

The initiative was part of the “Global War on Terrorism”. It was in violation of  international law.

Source US Department of Defense, copyright US DoD

3. The Cost of Obama’s Air Campaign: 9.3 billion dollars

755 days, 12.3 million dollars a day since August 2014

These are the costs of destroying an entire country, killing tens of thousands of Syrians, triggering a refugee crisis. These costs are ultimately financed by tax dollars.

These 12.3 million dollars a day are the cost of destroying Syria and Iraq and killing their people.

In the table above the “official” breakdown is provided, the figures refer to US strikes against Syria and Iraq.

31,900 targets as part of a war on terrorism. Ironically, the number of terrorists has increased dramatically as a result of the “counter-terrorism” campaign, not to mention the NATO sponsored international campaign of recruitment of terrorists.

4. Weapons for the Terrorists

In turn, the US and its allies have since the outset of the conflict send in tens of thousands of tons of light weapons into Syria through illicit arms trafficking channels.

These shipments of weapons are not conducted through internationally approved weapons transfers. While they are the result of  a Pentagon (or US government) procurement, they are not recorded as “official” military aid. They use private traders and shipping companies within the realm of a thriving illicit trade in light weapons. 

Based on the examination of a single December 2015 Pentagon sponsored shipment of more than 990 tons, one can reasonably conclude that the amounts of light weapons in the hands of  ”opposition” rebels inside Syria is substantial and exceedingly large.  

For further details see  U.S. “Military Aid” to Al Qaeda, ISIS-Daesh: Pentagon Uses Illicit Arms Trafficking to Channel Enormous Shipments of Light Weapons into Syria, by Prof Michel Chossudovsky, October 02, 2016

The above data on air strikes, the smuggling of weapons confirm extensive US sponsored crimes against humanity 

And we are led to believe that the Islamic State cannot be defeated by a powerful US led military coalition of 19 countries.

The air campaign was not intended to decimate the Islamic State.

The counter-terrorism mandate is a fiction. America is the Number One “State Sponsor of Terrorism”.   

The Islamic State is not only protected by the US and its allies, it is trained and financed by US-NATO, with the support of Israel and Washington’s Persian Gulf allies. 

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There is currently a barrage of propaganda in the “western” media in support of “rebels” in east-Aleppo. It is all about “hospitals” and “children” but the aim is to stop a Syrian army assault on the “rebel” held quarters of the city. U.S. officials are again talking about “intervention”, meaning open war, to prevent the Syrian army and its allies from storming the “rebel” held eastern parts. It would not work but that is not the only reason why it is a strange idea.

“It is primarily al-Qaeda that holds Aleppo,” said (vid) the spokesperson of the U.S. led ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’, Colonel Warren. That was back in April and al-Qaeda (aka Jabat al-Nusra) has since strengthen its capacities in the city. The French Syria expert Fabrice Balanche tells Le Monde Le Figaro (translate from French):

[Al-Qaeda’s] grip on Aleppo’s east has only increased since the spring of 2016, when it sent 700 reinforcement fighters while moderate brigades fighters began to leave the area before the final exit was closed. The provisional opening of a breach of the siege of Aleppo in August 2016 (Battle of Ramousseh) has further increased its prestige and influence on the rebels.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria DeMistura told (vid, 27:43) the UN Security Council:

We have seen information from other sources that tell us more than half of the fighters present in eastern Aleppo are al-Nusra. We have also seen reports alleging the intentional placement of firing positions close to social infrastructure, inside and aside civilian quarters.

So why does the U.S. want to stop the Syrian government forces in their attempt to free the parts of the city which are undoubtedly held by al-Qaeda?

The U.S. voted “Yes” on several UN Security Council resolutions that demand to fight al-Qaeda and “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria.”

Following the UNSC demand, Syria and its allies have surrounded the al-Qaeda held parts of east-Aleppo. They currently bomb targets of opportunity, take starting positions all around it and prepare to eventually storm and capture it. Measures have been taken to allow civilians to escape from the area.

This whole operation is primarily in defense of west-Aleppo where 1.5 million civilians live under the protection of the government. Daily artillery strikes from al-Qaeda held east-Aleppo have killed and wounded many people in the government help parts.

But some U.S. officials believe that defeating al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo will be useful for al-Qaeda:

A U.S. official says Jabhat al-Nusra has been the “main beneficiary” (other than the Assad regime) of Russia’s onslaught. “Until Moscow stops bombing hospitals and aid workers, Nusra will continue to exploit the situation . . . and portray itself as the defender of the Syrian people,” the official explained.

“Hospitals and aid workers,” are often unfortunate collateral damage in urban fighting. That will not surprise the U.S. military, especially after its bombing of several hospitals in Afghanistan and after it recently practically destroyed Kobani in Syria and Fallujah in Iraq to eradicate the Islamic State from those cities.

The claim that fighting al-Qaeda in Aleppo strengthens al-Qaeda seems dubious to me. But even if that is the case what is the alternative to fighting it in the city areas it holds?

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is urging a new ceasefire with a pause in fighting and aerial bombing of at least seven days. State Department spokesperson Toner explained that yesterday. But he also admitted (vid @14:50) that al-Qaeda and other militant groups use such ceasefire periods to regroup and to resupply:

… we can talk about that some rebel groups or opposition groups may have used the pause to resupply…

It is even more than that. Al-Qaeda wins in every ceasefire (even if those generally do not apply to it) in many other ways. A new study, specifically about al-Qaeda and ceasefire, details that and concludes:

While the establishment of the truces was supposed to help to weaken the most radical factions of the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra emerged indisputably strengthened …

Another ceasefire would help al-Qaeda to resupply and regroup and to regain strength in east-Aleppo and elsewhere.

Despite that and despite agreeing to the UNSC resolution the U.S. does not want the Syrian government and its allies to fight al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo because it believes that would strengthen al-Qaeda. It wants a new ceasefire. But any ceasefire or truce strengthens al-Qaeda.

Somehow the U.S. position does not compute.

It gets even more confusing:

“..,” one senior administration official said. “The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”Fighting al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo and “eradicating” it from the area it holds, as the UNSC demands, would undermine U.S. counterterrorism goals? That is strange. The alternative in east-Aleppo is to keep al-Qaeda well and alive and to let it hold the area it currently holds. Would that further U.S. counterterrorism goals? How?

What then are the actually goals?

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The Eurasian Century Is Now Unstoppable

October 7th, 2016 by F. William Engdahl

I recently returned from a fascinating two week speaking tour in China. The occasion was the international premier of my newest book, One Belt, One Road–China and the New Eurasian Century. In the course of my visit I was invited by China’s Northwest University in Xi’an to give a lecture and seminar on the present global political and economic situation in the context of China’s New Economic Silk Road as the One Belt, One Road project is often called. What I’ve seen in my many visits to China, and have studied about the entirety of this enormously impressive international infrastructure project convinces me that a Eurasian Century at this point is unstoppable.

The idiotic wars of the Washington war-hawks and their military industry–in Syria, in Ukraine, Libya, Iraq and now the South China Sea provocations against China–are not going to stop what is now clearly the most impressive and economically altering project in more than a century.

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The term “American Century” was triumphantly proclaimed in a famous editorial in Life magazine in 1941 in the early phase of World War II, before the United States had even entered the war, to describe the system publisher Henry Luce saw dominating the postwar world after the fall of the rival British Empire.

The American Century has lasted a mere seven decades if we date from the end of the war. Its record has been one of dismal failure on balance. The industrial base of the United States, the predominant leading industrial nation and leading scientific innovator, today is a hollowed, rotted shell with once-booming cities like Detroit or Philadelphia or Los Angeles now burned-out ghettos of unemployed and homeless.

The Federal Debt of the United States, owing to the endless wars its Presidents engage in, as well as the fruitless bailouts of Wall Street banks and Government Sponsored Enterprises like Fannie Mae, is well over 103% of GDP at an astonishing $19.5 trillion, or more than $163,000 per taxpaying American and Washington is adding to the debt this year at near $600 billion. Countries like China and Russia are moving away from subsidizing that debt at a record pace.

America’s economic basic infrastructure–bridges, sewer and water treatment plants, electric grid, railways, highways–have been neglected for more than four decades for a variety of reasons. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently estimated that gross domestic product will be reduced by $4 trillion between 2016 and 2025 because of lost business sales, rising costs and reduced incomes if the country continues to underinvest in its infrastructure. That is on top of the fact that they estimate the country at present urgently requires new infrastructure investment of $3.3 trillion by the coming decade just to renew.

Yet US states and cities are not able to finance such an investment in the future in the present debt situation, nor is the debt-choked Federal Government, so long as a cartel of corrupt brain-dead Wall Street banks and financial funds hold America to ransom. This is the sunset for the American Century, a poorly disguised imperial experiment in hubris and arrogance by a gaggle of boring old patriarchs like David Rockefeller and his friends on Wall Street and in the military industry. It is the starkest contrast to what is going on to the east, across all Eurasia today.

Flowing the Thought to Transform

The Eurasian Century is the name I give to the economic emergence of the countries contiguous from China across Central Asia, Russia, Belarus, Iran and potentially Turkey. They are being integrally linked through the largest public infrastructure projects in modern history, in fact the most ambitious ever, largely concentrated on the 2013 initiative by Chinese President Xi Jinping called the One Belt, One Road initiative or OBOR. The project and its implications for Europe and the rest of the world economy have been so far greeted in the west with a stone silence that defies explanation.

It’s been now three years that have transpired since then-new Chinese President Xi Jinping made one of his first foreign visits to Kazakhstan where he discussed the idea of building a vast, modern network of high-speed train lines crossing the vast Eurasian land space from the Pacific coast of China and Russia through Central Asia into Iran, into the states of the Eurasian Economic Union, principally Russia and potentially on to the select states of the European Union. That initial proposal was unveiled in detail last year by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s economic planning organization, and the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce.

It’s a useful point to look now more closely at what has transpired to date. It reveals most impressive developments, more because the development process is creative and organic. The great project is no simple blueprint made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and then simply imposed, top down, across the so-far 60 countries of Eurasia and South East Asia.

An international conference was recently held in Xi’an, origin of the ancient version of One Belt, One Road, namely the Silk Road. The purpose of the international gathering was to review what has so far taken place. It’s fascinating, notably, in the care that’s being taken by China to do it in a different way, as indications so far are, different from the way American Robber Barons like Cornelius Vanderbilt, E.H. Harriman, Jay Gould or Russell Sage built rail monopolies and deluded and defrauded investors with railroad monopolies more than a century ago.

The seminar, titled the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Shared Memory and Common Development, on September 26th, brought together over 400 participants from more than 30 countries including government officials, universities, corporations, think tanks and media.

A key role is being played by Renmin University of China’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies to identify progress and problems of the OBOR project. Their report in Xi’an presented principles underlying the OBOR international project: It adheres to the principles of the UN Charter; it is completely open for new participant nations to cooperate; it will follow market rules and seek mutual benefit of participating countries.

Those are noble words. What’s more interesting is the flow process underway to realize such words and to build the mammoth game-changing infrastructure.

Notably, China’s Xi Jinping decided to encourage input from sources other than the state central planning agency or the Communist Party for the complex OBOR. He encouraged creation of private and independent think-tanks to become a source of new creative ideas and approaches. Today there is a Chinese Think Tank Cooperation Alliance group coordinating efforts around OBOR headed by the dean of the Renmin University. In turn they partner with think tanks along the OBOR route including think tanks in Iran, Turkey, India, Nepal, Kazakhstan and other countries.

There will be two main routes of the OBOR. On land there are several routes or corridors in work. The Initiative will focus on jointly building what is being called a new Eurasian Land Bridge from China via Kazakhstan on to Rotterdam. Other OBOR land rail corridors include developing China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia, China-Pakistan, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar, and China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridors.v This is huge.

It will build on international transport routes, relying on core cities along the OBOR route and using key economic industrial parks as “cooperation platforms.” At sea, the Initiative will focus on jointly building smooth, secure and efficient transport routes connecting major sea ports along the “Belt and Road” including modern upgraded super port construction that will link present China ports at Haikou and Fujian with Kuala Lumpur’s port in Malaysia at the Malacca Strait passage, Calcutta in India, Nairobi in Kenya and via the Suez Canal to Athens and beyond. Crucial is that land and sea parts of OBOR are seen as one whole circulatory system or flow of trade.

The OBOR Initiative will link key Eurasian ports with interior rail and pipeline infrastructure in a way not before seen

To date China has signed memoranda of understanding with 56 countries and regional organizations regarding OBOR. Since his initial proposal in 2013, President Xi Jinping has personally visited 37 countries to discuss implementation of OBOR. China Railway Group and China Communications Construction Company have signed contracts for key routes and ports in 26 countries. Power plants, electricity transmission facilities and oil and gas pipelines, covering 19 countries along the “Belt and Road” in some 40 energy projects have begun. China Unicom, China Telecom and China Mobile are speeding up cross-border transmission projects in countries along the “Belt and Road” to expand international telecommunication infrastructure.

Already, taking the full sea and land routes of OBOR, some $3 trillion of China trade since June 2013 has flowed over the route, more than a quarter of China’s total trade volume. To date China has also invested more than $51 billion in the countries along the present OBOR route. The new land rail routes will greatly reduce transportation costs across Eurasia, enable formerly isolated regions to connect efficiently to sea and land markets and ignite tremendous new economic growth across Eurasia.

The effects of the OBOR are already beginning to appear. Earlier this year an Iranian container ship arrived at Qinzhou Port in China with 978 containers from several countries along the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road opening the first shipping route linking the Middle East and the Beibu Gulf or Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnamese. In February 2016 a container train with Chinese goods took only 14 days to complete the 5,900 mile (9,500km) journey from China’s eastern Zhejiang province through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. That was 30 days shorter than the sea voyage from Shanghai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, according to the head of the Iranian railway company. China and Iran, now formally part of the OBOR, have targeted bilateral trade, none in US dollars by the way, to exceed $600 billion in the coming decade.

China is presently in negotiations with 28 countries China is in talks with 28 countries including Russia, on high-speed rail projects, China’s train maker, China CNR reports.

It includes a major joint China-Russia $15 billion high-speed Kazan to Moscow line. The 770 kilometers of track between Moscow and Russia’s Tatarstan capital, Kazan, will cut time for the journey from 12 hours now to just 3.5 hours. China has agreed to invest $6 billion in the project which would become a part of a $100 billion high-speed railway between Moscow and Beijing.

Notably, for the new high-speed track being laid, China is developing a new generation of trains capable of reaching speeds of 400 kilometers per hour. And the new trains will solve the costly rail gauge switching problem between China rails and Russian. Trains in Russia run on a 1520mm track, compared to the narrower 1435mm track used in Europe and China. Jia Limin, the head of China’s high-speed rail innovation program told China Daily that, “The train… will have wheels that can be adjusted to fit various gauges on other countries’ tracks, compared with trains now that need to have their wheels changed before entering foreign systems.” Given its strategy of building thousands of kilometers of high-speed railways and developing its domestic Chinese rail sock manufacture as well as other rail technology, China today is the world’s leading producer of rail technology.

Financing the moving

Impressive is that China has secured capital commitment for the OBOR from various sources including the China Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of China, the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the BRICS New Development Bank and other sources including its Silk Road Fund to finance the huge undertaking. The Silk Road Fund has posted $40 billion to fund the OBOR projects. So far close to a quarter trillion US dollars of ready money and another half trillion in supranational institutional working capital is reasonably within reach.

The Western doomsday reports of China’s economy going down the tubes are simply either self-serving propaganda of hedge funds or speculators or fed by lack of understanding of the profound transformation in the entire structure of not only China’s but all Eurasia’s economy through the One Belt One Road initiative. China is undergoing a major transformation from a cheap-labor screwdriver assembly nation to a high-value-added high-tech manufacturer.

Geopolitical transformation

The One Belt, One Road initiative of Xi Jinping and the Eurasian partners, especially Russia, also has strategic dimensions of major import. The construction of new infrastructure corridors spanning across the Eurasian landmass in the form of highways, railways, industrial parks, and oil and gas pipelines, OBOR is connecting for the first time in the modern era landlocked regions of hinterland China and Russia and Central Asia republics with the sea ports. Linking key Eurasian industrial hubs to ports with efficient transportation will revolutionize connectivity of hinterland industrial products and raw materials of every kind. The Russian and Eurasian lands, including China, contain perhaps the richest untapped concentration of every raw material known.

The One Belt, One Road also includes oil and gas pipeline transportation corridors. In January 2015 the Myanmar-China Pipeline project, 2400 km long, was completed, linking Myanmar’s deep-water port of Kyaukphyu on Maday Island in the Bay of Bengal with Kunming in Yunnan province in southeast China near Myanmar’s border. It’s a joint project of the China Development Bank and Myanmar Foreign Investment Bank. The new pipeline allows China to import up to 400,000 barrels a day of Middle East oil over a route 1100 km shorter than the previous Malacca Strait sea route, reducing time to reach the large industrial hub city of Kunming by 30%, major economic gains, and avoiding the strategic chokepoint of the Malacca Strait where the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet dominates.

Previously, 80% of Chinese oil and gas imports crossed the Malacca straits and were subject to US controls. Were the present escalating tensions between Washington and China over the South China Sea or other issues to escalate, China would be brought to her knees much like Japan prior to declaring war in 1941, when the USA embargoed her oil. A second pipeline brings natural gas from Qatar and Myanmar gas fields to China.

The OBOR includes oil and gas pipelines that reduce time and distance to imports of Middle East oil and gas

China will pay $53 billion to Myanmar in pipeline royalties over 30 years. They will also invest $25 million in schooling and other social development projects along the pipeline and 10% of the gas will stay in Burma.

Mackinder Outflanked?

The totality of the strategy behind Xi Jinping’s Eurasian One belt, One Road rail, sea and pipeline initiative, which is moving quietly and impressively forward, is transforming the world geopolitical map. In 1904 a British geographer, Sir Halford Mackinder, a fervid champion of the British Empire, unveiled a brilliant concept in a speech to the London Royal Geographical Society titled the Geographical Pivot of History. That essay has shaped both British and American global strategy of hegemony and domination to the present. It was complemented by US Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan’s 1890 work, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, which advocated “sea power,” stating that nations with domination of the seas, as the British Empire or later the USA, would dominate the world.

The One Belt, One Road, by linking all the contiguous land areas of Eurasia to the related network of strategic new or enlarged deep-water ports of OBOR’s Maritime Silk Road, has rendered US geopolitical strategy a devastating blow at a time the hegemony of America is failing as never in its short history. The Eurasian Century today is inevitable and unstoppable. Built on different principles of cooperation rather than domination, it just might offer a model for the bankrupt United States and the soon-bankrupt European Union, to build up true prosperity not based on looting and debt slavery.

F. William Engdahl is a strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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Three years ago, we published an article in Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus on Taiwan’s energy debates and an accompanying article in Taipei Times with the title ‘China key to Taiwan energy crisis’. At the time, Taiwan was embroiled in endless debates over its commitment to nuclear power, a commitment that precluded a shift to more secure renewable energy sources.

We argued that Taiwan’s obsession with nuclear power as the way forward in energy policy obscured other options. In particular, the country could extend its great successes in IT, semiconductors and flat panel displays to the next great technological challenge, namely renewable energy. We pointed to the example of China and its green energy strategy which is gradually replacing its black, fossil fuelled strategy, thereby improving China’s energy security as well as building renewable energy industries as export platforms for the future.

Now, three years on, the situation in Taiwan is completely different. There is in place a new President and government, and a new ‘green energy’ strategy. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government led by the first female president in Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, elected in January 2016, is taking Taiwan in a new energy direction, headlined by a commitment to be nuclear-free by 2025.

That opens the way to an alternative energy strategy, now focused on building Taiwan’s strength in solar PV and offshore wind power. New targets for 2020 and 2025 are providing the investment certainty that the previous nuclear preoccupations had denied. The government is backing its energy targets with talk of total investment of NT$1,500 billion (about US$48 billion), induced initially by government expenditure and then followed by foreign capital and domestic investment. The current power monopoly Taiwan Power (Taipower), with a nod to the new government policy, has already announced an investment target of NT$ 400 billion (about US$17 billion ) in the development of renewable energy (mainly in solar and wind power) in the nine years (up to 2025). So things are on the move on the energy front in Taiwan.

There already are clear indications that the new energy policy is being implemented, even though the government is still in its first year of office. These signals include a moratorium on nuclear power and a commitment to phase it out completely by 2025. In addition, there are new government policies in place to build 20 GW of solar power by 2025 as well as 3 GW of offshore wind power – which on their own would be sufficient to replace the nuclear power plants as they are mothballed. 1 A first step towards this goal is a doubling of solar PV power generating capacity to reach 1.4 GW by 2017. An institutional innovation has been the creation of the Energy and Carbon Reduction Office (ECRO) in Taiwan, established in July 2016, as a means of coordinating green energy initiatives with a view to reducing Taiwan’s carbon emissions.

In this article we review these trends, and discuss the next steps that are needed to enable Taiwan to build on its brilliant manufacturing successes in the fields of ICT, such as flat panel displays, semiconductors, telecommunications and PCs, and extend these in the new renewable energy directions now opening up.2

Taiwan’s current electric power mix and DPP strategy

Past commitments to fossil fuels and nuclear by the country’s monopoly power generator Taiwan Power (Taipower), have left Taiwan a laggard in the global shift to renewable energy. Taiwan’s total electric power capacity, from all sources, is 40 GW, or 40 billion watts, compared with the US at 1000 GW and China at around 1,500 GW . In per capita terms, Taiwan’s current power capacity is 1.74 kW per person, compared with 3.1 kW per person in the US and 1.2 kW in China. In 2015, its power generation mix saw coal as the principal fuel (38.4%), followed by liquefied natural gas (LNG) (31.1%) and nuclear at 13.8%. Renewable energy (water, wind and sun) accounted for just 4.5% of power generation (Fig. 1).

Figure 1 Taiwan’s electric power generation 2015 (Source: Taipower)

Expanding the nuclear option has been ruled out by the incoming DPP government, while relying further on coal and LNG is both expensive and a source of energy insecurity because they are nearly 100% imports. So that leaves few options other than renewables as a means of resolving Taiwan’s energy issues. This is both a challenge as well as a huge opportunity.

DPP green energy policy

The DPP under the leadership of Tsai Ing-wen went to the election at the end of 2015 with an energy policy that called for closure of the country’s nuclear power production by 2025 (an approach similar to that of Merkel’s government in Germany), combined with calls for rapid expansion of renewable energy generating sources and enhancement of energy efficiency. The party fought the election with a commitment to reach 20% dependence on renewables for electric power generation by 2025. Since the election there have been some scattered statements, in particular a reinforced commitment to a ‘nuclear free homeland’ by 2025, and a target for solar power of 20 GW by 2025 as well as a target for offshore wind power of 3 GW. On their own these targets would easily make up for the decommissioning of nuclear power stations with a current capacity of 5.1 GW.

The DPP’s green energy policy is viewed as evolving through three stages. The first stage is to integrate green energy-related information and communications technology, materials, machinery, and research resources from both corporate and academic institutions. Such integration includes setting up an energy innovation industrial park in Shalun, Tainan province (located in the Southern Taiwan) with the land size 1118 hectares, or 11.2 km2. (New Energy Association of Taiwan). The park would be designed to act as a hub used to integrate the island’s talents, innovation and technology, and would export products for industrial use overseas. The proposed park would also support the local renewable energy sector, such as offshore wind energy in the Taiwan Strait, solar power in Southern Taiwan, geothermal energy in Yilan (Eastern Taiwan) and ocean/tidal power in the Pacific Ocean (see Figure 2). There would also be a focus on development of energy conservation technologies, in order to constrain energy growth in demand.

Figure 2: Geography of targeted green energy development in Taiwan (Source: Green Energy and Environment Research Laboratories and compiled by the authors)

The second stage of the policy would see a focus on increasing green energy generation as a way to attract NT$1 trillion investment (approximately US$ 31 billion) in related industries — to help turn it into a promising industry while the renewable energy development platform is implemented. The third stage would then be aimed at increasing exports not only of components/products but also turnkey solution/integration systems into international markets, on the assumption that by then the global market for green energy would be more mature.

To overcome the criticism that green energy is a fluctuating (hence non-dispatchable3) source of electricity, the DPP government has also announced plans to increase gas-fired energy as a reserve power source (idle capacity) while promoting energy-saving programs across different sectors. Taiwan is now to build a third LNG terminal, expanding the storage stations and gas-fired plants in order to meet the variations in energy demand when the current three operating nuclear power plants I, II, and III are sequentially decommissioned (as planned) in 2019, 2023, and 2025.

Green energy initiatives and prospects 

At this stage the best prospects for Taiwan would appear to be solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and offshore wind. This is because both solar PV and wind power are now mature technologies where Taiwan already has industrial experience and can utilize its ‘fast follower’ strategies to good effect, while investing in R&D to bring it abreast of world leaders.4

Solar photovoltaic 

Taiwan, a small, tear-drop shaped island 180 kilometers off the coast of China’s Fujian Province, is the world’s second largest producer of solar cells, shipping 10.6 GW of cells in 2015 – nearly a fifth of the world total of 55 GW. Taiwan is also one of the leading solar wafer and module makers in the world, with well-established firms like Motech, Gintech, Solartech, E-Ton and newcomer TSEC providing a solid industrial value chain. Taiwan’s solar PV production activities got under way around the year 2000, and by 2009 Taiwan was second producer in the world, after China (Fig. 3). Figure 3 also indicates that the production of solar PV in Japan has declined – in line with the sequence of flying geese model as seen in many electronics and information technology industries such as PCs, semiconductors, and flat panel displays. As Japanese production declined, so production in China, Taiwan, and other Asian latecomers increased.

Taiwan’s industrial development body ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) projects the development of a green energy sector in Taiwan moving through successive phases, as technologies and capabilities are mastered. The sector as a whole is foreseen to be worth eventually NT$ 200 billion (US$ 6.3 billion) by 2016 (Fig. 4).5

However, Taiwan’s domestic solar PVs market remains woefully underdeveloped, with accumulated installations adding up to less than 700 MW in 2015 (0.7 GW), accounting for just 2.4% of a total power generating capacity (6 Consequently, the Council of Agriculture (COA) under the Ministry of Interior has released about 1,200 hectares (12 km2) of idle agricultural land and land subsidence for solar development, enough for some 1GW of solar power installation (Taiwan’s Solar PV Forum, 2016).

Figure 3. World manufacturing of solar PV panels, by country, 1995-2015 (Source: PV magazine)

To find more space for installing solar PVs, the government is reported to be working on alternative agricultural practices by developing methods that allow the land to be used simultaneously for both agriculture and solar PV — such as growing mushrooms under the panels, above-the-water or floating solar panels on aquatic farms and other such devices. In addition, dams and ponds larger than 660 m2 are also listed as targets for solar development. There is a subsidy paid for ‘agricultural’ solar PV determined by the formula (designed by the Bureau of Energy, of the Ministry of Economic Affairs) that depends on the power capacity and type of solar PV along with the cost changes of solar PV equipment. In 2016, the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) for solar PV ranged from NT$4.66 to $6.48 (compared to the fossil fuel price of NT$2.85-$2.93).

For better return-on-investment performance, Taiwan’s new government seems to be encouraging the installation of longer duration ground-mounted solar power plants (lasting 20-35 years) rather than the roof-top solar power (which last on average 10-15 years, depending on the lifetime of the buildings). Current data on Taiwan practices is provided by the TSEC company (one of Taiwan’s major solar system companies).7 The solar daily mean yield (DMY) in central and southern Taiwan (which has proved to have the highest levels of insolation across Taiwan) is 4.35 hours, power system efficiency is operating at the average rate of 82%, annual efficiency decay 1%, natural damage ratio 1%, maintenance and repair 21 days/per year, land usage/MW is 1.1 hectares, land rental cost NT$200,000/hectare, feedback fund to the local government is NT$100,000/hectare, bank loan interest rate 2.85% (based on 10 years loan). There are three major capital costs for building a ground-mounted solar power plant, namely infrastructure and construction cost (47%), solar module system (44%), and utility converters (9% with 5-7 duration years). Therefore, the first year capital cost is approximately NT$52,000/kw. Based on whether the solar plants operate for 20/25/30/35 years, the total costs/kw are NT$59,000/$62,500/$66,000/$69,500 respectively while the depreciation cost is greatly reduced as the lifetime is extended. By taking 25-30 depreciation years as a base, the solar PV power generation cost is expected to reach ‘grid parity’ NT$3.17-$3.30/kwh (approximately US$0.1/kwh) and comparable to Taiwan’s current subsidized fossil fuel price (NT$2.85-2.93). These are all promising data for the development of solar power generation in Taiwan.

Figure 4. Various targeted energy sectors and their current life cycle stages in Taiwan (Source: ITRI and compiled by the authors)

The recent announcement of the release of 10,000 hectares (100 km2) for solar development is evidence that the new government seems to be making good on its promise to substantially ramp up the share of power generation by renewables. To squeeze the accessible land (but prevent the trade-off with regular economic activities), some public lands such as sanitary landfill sites have also been designated for solar power plant installation.8

In this connection, the Taipei city government announced in August 2016 that it intended to build its first solar power farm in Taipei at a 37 hectare former landfill, Fudekeng Environmental Restoration Park, using ground-mounted solar panels. The project is contracted with the Taiwan-based Tatung company, one of Taiwan’s leading brands for energy saving systems and services. The solar power plant is expected to be completed by the end of 2016 with the target of generating up to 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. The Taipei city government is expected to share the utility profit from the feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme with Tatung and receive approximately NT$1 million annually.9Currently, renewable energy sources generate about 487 million kilowatt-hours of electricity for Taipei, which accounts for only 3 percent of the city’s total power consumption. The city (which is under separate political control from the national government) is aiming to increase the contribution by renewable energy sources to 10 percent of its total power generation by the end of 2025.

Offshore wind power

To achieve the goal of 3GW wind power by 2025, the government is aggressively implementing the ‘thousand wind turbines’ project utilizing the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s best offshore wind sites.10The government closely collaborates with the UK and adopts its “Three Rounds” model for developing the offshore wind power guideline. This follows the sequence with initial demonstration farms (Round 1), then potential shallow areas (Round 2), and finally commercial and zonal deep water development (Round 3) (Higgins and Foley 2014). The development of the offshore wind farms also includes strategic environmental assessments, infrastructure construction, and fisheries compensation negotiations. The Offshore Demonstration Incentive Program aims to complete 4 demonstration turbines by 2015 (progress is currently delayed due to the fact that the fisheries compensation negotiation is not finalized) and three demonstration wind farms by 2020 while the government plans to subsidize 50 % cost of the demonstration turbines (with FIT advances/interest-free loan) and NT$250 million for preparatory and developing processes expenses, according to the report of the Offshore Demonstration Incentive Office. The project forecasts are outlined in Table 1, revealing how the target of 3 GW of offshore wind power is to be reached by 2030.

Table 1: Taiwan’s ‘thousand wind turbines’ project, 2015-2030 projections

2015 2020 2025 2030
MW No. MW No. MW No. MW No.
Onshore 866 350 1200 450 1200 450 1200 450
Offshore 15 4 600 120 1800 360 3000 600
Total 881 354 1800 570 3000 810 4200 1050

Source: Offshore Demonstration Incentive Office, Taiwan

Financing of Taiwan’s green shift

While the technologies and business models supporting a shift to green energy in Taiwan are important, the financing is also a matter of the highest priority. Already in Taiwan in July 2014 there was a sprinkling of Taiwanese interest in issuing green corporate bonds. The country’s then-largest solar cell manufacturer, NeoSolar, issued a corporate bond in July 2014 raising US$ 120 million to expand its green energy manufacturing activities.11 In the same year there was also a corporate green bond issued by Taiwan’s Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE), to facilitate the company’s shift to greener production.

In 2016 there has been renewed activity, led by Chailease Finance Co., one of Taiwan’s finance companies as well as the owner of 31 solar power plants in Taiwan making it Taiwan’s third largest owner of solar power plants. Chailease is expected to issue solar asset backed bonds in 2016, corresponding to a generating capacity of 150MW and a market value of NT$9 billion (approximately US$300 million). The securities are expected to be of 5-year and 10-year duration and are designed to support Taiwan’s developing solar power systems (Energy Trend — in Chinese). The underwriter is CTBC Bank and most of subscribers are insurance companies in Taiwan while all of these assets are 20-year solar power purchasing agreements (PPAs) with Taipower12.

Deregulation of the power sector

Like other East Asian countries, including Japan, Korea and China, Taiwan has inherited a quasi-monopoly power company, Taipower, which could be viewed as an obstacle to further greening. Founded in 1946, it generates power, buys power from a handful of independent power producers (IPPs), distributes power and manages most of the country’s retail and wholesale power activities. There have been many attempts to break the Taipower monopoly, going back at least to 2001 (postponed to 2006) – which came to nothing. Now there is new urgency, since the green power shift is clearly being delayed by the Taipower monopoly.

Reform of the utility regulations would greatly influence the performance of Taiwan’s green energy policy (Wang, 2006). When campaigning for the presidency, Tsai Ing-wen committed her party to review the country’s Electricity Act with a view to introducing greater competition and efficiency.13 As a state-owned utility monopoly, Taipower has long been an economic booster to subsidize the utility prices for electricity supplied to both residential (NT$2.85/kwh, approximately US$0.089/kwh) and industrial (NT$2.93/kwh, about US$0.091/kwh) users. In past decades, this significant subsidy enabled Taiwan to emerge as one of the world’s lowest utility cost countries. Hence reform of the regulation of Taiwan’s utility sector and pricing of electricity, in order to introduce competition in power generation and sale, is now an urgent matter (Chang and Lee, 2016). However, such institutional reforms raise issues of national security as well as the transaction costs for negotiating with both economic and political interests groups such as the Taipower labor union. The Taipower labor union once threatened to strike while pro-nuclear political parties are using media to influence the public opinion. The issues involve preventing ‘privatization of Taipower’ and allowing Taipower to own and establish subsidiaries for power generation, delivery, distribution, sales, and grid networks, all in the name of promoting competition in the power sector. Most recently, in mid-August, the new government reached agreement with the Taipower labor union, making four significant concessions. First, the MOEA agreed to exclude privatization of Taipower from any proposed amendments. Second, within 6-9 years (up to 2025) in two developmental stages, green power is to be directly supplied by Taipower to customers (for the 1st stage) while independent producers in the industrial parks will be allowed to distribute the power produced by their own power plants (for the 2ndstage). In other words, the entities managing power supply and power grid are to be separated. Third, Taipower is to be reorganized as a parent holding company with two subsidiaries for power supply and power grid responsible for distribution, transmission, and sales business. And fourth, any further subsidiaries will be established only if workers’ rights and interests are not adversely affected. Such organizational restructuring of Taipower and deregulation of the power sector are aimed to encourage the dispersal of power sources and micro grid communities.

The new government sees revision of the Electricity Act as key to the deregulation of the power industry and the success of the government’s anti-nuclear-power, development, energy and environmental protection policies. As soon as the concessions were agreed, the new DPP government (facilitated by the Executive Yuan) immediately sent a draft of the ‘Revision of the Electricity Act’ (i.e. the deregulation) to the Legislative Yuan in early September 2016. It is already listed as one of the ‘priority bills’ for the legislature to finalize in the coming session where the DPP is for the first time playing the role of the majority party.14

Smart grid promotion

One aspect of Taiwan’s power system which has not been neglected by Taipower is the shift to a smart grid, or IT-enabled grid that facilitates real-time management and control as a means of saving electricity. There is a worldwide shift underway to build such IT-enabled grids, and Taipower has been one of the foremost players in this endeavour. A “Smart Grid Master Plan” was formulated by Taipower and approved by Taiwan’s Executive Yuan in August 2012, under the previous government (Lin et al 2016). In keeping with Taiwan’s expertise in promoting new industries, a vehicle for government-industry collaboration was created, in the form of a Taiwan Smart Grid Industry Association (TSGIA), bringing together Taiwan’s heavy electrical industry and smart grid-related firms for joint development of smart grid technologies and framing of smart grid standards. A total of 18 smart grid projects have so far been launched, under the guidance of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA), the Bureau of Energy and private companies. The focus has been on the technologies involved in Energy Management Systems (EMS) and Virtual Power Plants (VPPs), both critical elements of smart grid innovations. During the first phase of the project, sales of smart grid components and products have been growing at a rate of 80% per year, to reach NT$ 12.4 billion (US$ 390 million) in 2012. Practical applications are to be taken forward under Phase 2 of the project, utilizing the “Penghu smart grid demonstration project” and the “Integrated Application project for demand response, distributed generation and energy storage”.15 We note that all these developments preceded the advent of the DPP government with its fresh energy strategies; as soon as the Legislative Yuan passes the ‘Revision of the Electricity Act’, the way that smart grid initiatives will be integrated with the new renewables strategies will be a point of great interest.

Challenges and conclusions

While the new government’s determination to end the nuclear power era in Taiwan is clear, there is as yet little evidence of a sustained investment strategy that will drive Taiwan’s energy production and manufacturing industries towards renewable power. But it is worth pointing out that Taiwan has the reserves needed for investment once a clear signal is given. Bank deposits in Taiwan’s banks as a whole have recorded a historical high at NT$40 trillion (approximately US$1.27 trillion) in July 2016, according to the statistics of Taiwan’s Central Bank. This amount does not include the reserves of the insurance companies. The total funds available indicate that Taiwan’s financial institutions have the investment capacity which can be activated when the investment target is clear and verified.

Another immediate question concerns whether the DPP’s anti-nuclear stance will simply lead to more coal being burnt in Taiwan, and carbon emissions rising – as has happened initially in Germany. There is evidence that the new government does not intend to allow this to happen. To better respond to fluctuations in power demand in the future, the new government, apart from building a new gas receiving and reservation station, is also planning to spend NT$50 billion to build four big hydro power batteries (one has been built on the Sun Moon Lake) in other four big dams around Taiwan.To prevent NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) effects on generation and transmission projects as well as resistance/lassitude concerning efficiency/conservation measures, efforts have also been expended to make power generation choices more transparent. The new government is working with social enterprise platforms such as Code for Tomorrow (equivalent to the US’s ‘Social Coding 4 Good (SC4G)’ and G0v.tw (see http://g0v.tw/en-US/about.html) to encourage the open data and transparent development in the public sector. The goal is to marshal public efforts to provide citizens with easy-to-use information and with easy-to-participate means for discussion of critical social issues such as renewable energy development. Amongst which, the non-confidential database of Taipower such as coal-fired amounts, power consumption by hours, days, seasons, regions, etc. as well as its budget and costs areto be disclosed. All these efforts are aimed to ensure the nuclear-free policy is not traded-off by the increased coal-burning and carbon emissions.

We then conclude by asking what are the difficulties and challenges involved in achieving the non-nuclear goal by 2025 in Taiwan. The first point is the obvious one that the government has been making its initial moves without the benefit of a thorough public airing of the issues. There is an immediate need for a full government-led inquiry into Taiwan’s energy future, where the options for moving beyond nuclear and fossil fuels can be discussed. One of the critical points in such an inquiry would be to draw on Taiwan’s own track record as a high technology fast follower, with an important role for the government industrial laboratories ITRI in this next phase of Taiwan’s industrial development.

Second, new greening programs also call for integration of policies across various government departments and agencies as well as NGOs. Energy administration has become fragmented, with various contributions from different administration authorities, such as the Councils of Agriculture, Interiors, Environmental Protection, and Ministry of Economic Affairs, working at cross-purposes. Third, funding arrangements need clarification. Investment strategies and fundraising mechanisms at the initial stage are not clear yet. Fourth, the compensation and negotiation mechanisms are not legally guaranteed. The lack of a secure legal framework threatens to increase the time and cost of negotiation activity with stakeholders (such as shifting land use arrangements).

We believe Taiwan could be an important player in renewable energy. For years it has been missing opportunities due to the focus on nuclear power and fossil fuels (which probably owed more to Taiwan’s geopolitical situation than to strictly energy-related concerns). But now the way is open to build the country’s generating capacity utilizing renewables whose impact can be increased by investment in smart grids. This would allow Taiwan to complement its manufacturing capacities in producing solar PV cells as well as (potentially) wind turbines and other renewable energy devices. This is truly a strategy grounded in “building energy security through manufacturing”.16 Taiwan has well-tested industrial development models involving the promotion of new industries through market stimulation and domestic technology leverage, and now is the time to apply these skills to the urgent needs of cleaning up its energy system and creating new pillar industries for the future.

Related articles

John A. Mathews, China’s Continuing Renewable Energy Revolution – latest trends in electric power generation
John Mathews and Hao Tan, The Revision of China’s Energy and Coal Consumption Data: A preliminary analysis
Andrew DeWit, Japan’s Bid to Become a World Leader in Renewable Energy
John Mathews and Hao Tan, A ‘Great Reversal’ in China? Coal continues to decline with enforcement of environmental laws
John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, The Greening of China’s Black Electric Power System? Insights from 2014 Data
John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, “China’s Continuing Renewable Energy Revolution: Global Implications”
John A. Mathews and Hao Tan, “Jousting with James Hansen: China building a renewables powerhouse”
John A. Mathews, The Asian Super Grid
Andrew DeWit, Japan’s Energy Policy at a Crossroads: A Renewable Energy Future?
Sun-Jin YUN, Myung-Rae Cho and David von Hippel, The Current Status of Green Growth in Korea: Energy and Urban Security
Mei-Chih Hu and Ching-Yan Wu, Concentrating Solar Power – China’s New Solar Frontier

References

Chang, C. S. 2016. Presentation to Taiwan Solar PV Forum, Academia Sinica, Taipei, 22 Feb 2016 (in Chinese).

Chang, C.T. and Lee, H.C. 2016. Taiwan’s renewable energy strategy and energy-intensive industrial policy, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 64: 456-465.

Higgins, O. and Foley, A. 2014. The evolution of offshore windpower in the United Kingdom, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 37: 599-612.

Lin, C.Y. 2016. Strategy for ‘nuclear-free homeland’ in Taiwan. Green Energy and Environment Research Laboratories, Industrial Technology Research Institute, Taiwan (in Chinese).

Lin, F.J., Chen, Y., Lu, S.Y. and Hsu, Y. 2016. The smart grid technology development strategy of Taiwan, Smart Grid and Renewable Energy, 7: 155-163.

Mathews, J.A., Hu, M.-C. and Wu, C.-Y. 2012. Fast-follower industrial dynamics: The case of Taiwan’s Solar PV industry, Industry and Innovation, 18 (2): 177-202.

Mathews, J.A. and Tan, H. 2014. Manufacture renewables to build energy security, Nature, 513 (11 Sep 2014): 166-168.

Wang, K.M. 2006. The deregulation of Taiwan electricity supply industry, Energy Policy 34 (16): 2509-2520.

Wu, C.-Y. and Mathews, J.A. 2014. Knowledge flows in the solar photovoltaic industry: Insights from patenting by Taiwan, Korea and China, Research Policy, 41: 524-540

Notes

Taiwan has three nuclear power sites in operation. A fourth nuclear power plant was completed in 2015, but it was mothballed as soon as the construction was finished due to social pressure for a ‘nuclear-free homeland’.
For our earlier articles on Taiwan and renewables, see Mathews, Hu and Wu (2012), and Wu and Mathews (2014).
A source of electricity is considered dispatchable if it can be turned on or off in order to meet changing demand.
In our article three years ago we endorsed concentrated solar power (CSP) systems, involving arrays of lenses and mirrors, but this option did not prove to be a strong contender in Taiwan where industrial strategy is focused on the already well-established and promising solar PV sector. For an overview of recent developments by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, see Pat Gao, ‘A sustainable vision’, July 1 2016, Taiwan Today.
In 2015, the production value of solar PV cells in TW reached NT$170 billion. The goal for NT $200 billion for PV and other renewables is set for 2016.
Some optimistic solar companies such as TSEC investigated the available lands across Taiwan and proposed the goal for 40 GW grounded solar power plants (with 30 years depreciation) by 2030 (Taiwan’s solar PV Forum, 2016).
The data were released by TSEC at Taiwan’s Solar PV Forum held by the Academia Sinica, Taipei, on the 22nd February 2016.
There are 371 landfill sites across Taiwan; 67 sites are under operation and 250 sites are in ecological restoration
See ‘Taipei to turn former landfill into solar plant’Taipei Times, July 31 2016.
10 According to the database investigated by the British marine consultancy, 4C Offshore Company, for the global wind farms, Taiwan Strait secures 16 best sites out of the 18 world’s best wind farm sites.
11 See the report on the website of Climate Bonds Initiative.
12 See the Bloomberg story ‘Chailease Plans Solar-Backed Bonds on Taiwan Clean Power Push’, August 24 2016.
13 See ‘DPP states hope to phase out nuclear power by 2025’The China Post, Jan 24 2015.
14 See Taipei Times.
15 See the description at the IEEE webpage.
16 This phrase was used by Mathews and Tan in the article published in 2014 in Nature.

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A group of ex-U.S. intelligence officials is warning President Obama to defuse growing tensions with Russia over Syria by reining in the demonization of President Putin and asserting White House civilian control over the Pentagon.

ALERT MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: PREVENTING STILL WORSE IN SYRIA

We write to alert you, as we did President George W. Bush, six weeks before the attack on Iraq, that the consequences of limiting your circle of advisers to a small, relatively inexperienced coterie with a dubious record for wisdom can prove disastrous.* Our concern this time regards Syria.

We are hoping that your President’s Daily Brief tomorrow will give appropriate attention to Saturday’s warning by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova: “If the US launches a direct aggression against Damascus and the Syrian Army, it would cause a terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region.”

Speaking on Russian TV, she warned of those whose “logic is ‘why do we need diplomacy’ … when there is power … and methods of resolving a problem by power. We already know this logic; there is nothing new about it. It usually ends with one thing – full-scale war.”

We are also hoping that this is not the first you have heard of this – no doubt officially approved – statement. If on Sundays you rely on the “mainstream” press, you may well have missed it. In the Washington Post, an abridged report of Zakharova’s remarks (nothing about “full-scale war”) was buried in the last paragraph of an 11-paragraph article titled “Hospital in Aleppo is hit again by bombs.” Sunday’s New York Times totally ignored the Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s statements.

In our view, it would be a huge mistake to allow your national security advisers to follow the example of the Post and Times in minimizing the importance of Zakharova’s remarks.

Events over the past several weeks have led Russian officials to distrust Secretary of State John Kerry. Indeed, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who parses his words carefully, has publicly expressed that distrust. Some Russian officials suspect that Kerry has been playing a double game; others believe that, however much he may strive for progress through diplomacy, he cannot deliver on his commitments because the Pentagon undercuts him every time. We believe that this lack of trust is a challenge that must be overcome and that, at this point, only you can accomplish this.

It should not be attributed to paranoia on the Russians’ part that they suspect the Sept. 17 U.S. and Australian air attacks on Syrian army troops that killed 62 and wounded 100 was no “mistake,” but rather a deliberate attempt to scuttle the partial cease-fire Kerry and Lavrov had agreed on – with your approval and that of President Putin – that took effect just five days earlier.

In public remarks bordering on the insubordinate, senior Pentagon officials showed unusually open skepticism regarding key aspects of the Kerry-Lavrov deal. We can assume that what Lavrov has told his boss in private is close to his uncharacteristically blunt words on Russian NTV on Sept. 26:

“My good friend John Kerry … is under fierce criticism from the US military machine. Despite the fact that, as always, [they] made assurances that the US Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, supported him in his contacts with Russia (he confirmed that during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin), apparently the military does not really listen to the Commander in Chief.”

Lavrov’s words are not mere rhetoric. He also criticized JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford for telling Congress that he opposed sharing intelligence with Russia, “after the agreements concluded on direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama stipulated that they would share intelligence. … It is difficult to work with such partners. …”

Policy differences between the White House and the Pentagon are rarely as openly expressed as they are now over policy on Syria. We suggest you get hold of a new book to be released this week titled The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by master historian H. W. Brands. It includes testimony, earlier redacted, that sheds light on why President Truman dismissed WWII hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur from command of U.N. forces in Korea in April 1951. One early reviewer notes that “Brands’s narrative makes us wonder about challenges of military versus civilian leadership we still face today.” You may find this new book more relevant at this point in time than the Team of Rivals.

The door to further negotiations remains ajar. In recent days, officials of the Russian foreign and defense ministries, as well as President Putin’s spokesman, have carefully avoided shutting that door, and we find it a good sign that Secretary Kerry has been on the phone with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And the Russians have also emphasized Moscow’s continued willingness to honor previous agreements on Syria.

In the Kremlin’s view, Russia has far more skin in the game than the U.S. does. Thousands of Russian dissident terrorists have found their way to Syria, where they obtain weapons, funding, and practical experience in waging violent insurgency. There is understandable worry on Moscow’s part over the threat they will pose when they come back home. In addition, President Putin can be assumed to be under the same kind of pressure you face from the military to order it to try to clean out the mess in Syria “once and for all,” regardless how dim the prospects for a military solution are for either side in Syria.

We are aware that many in Congress and the “mainstream” media are now calling on you to up the ante and respond – overtly or covertly or both – with more violence in Syria. Shades of the “Washington Playbook,” about which you spoke derisively in interviews with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg earlier this year. We take some encouragement in your acknowledgment to Goldberg that the “playbook” can be “a trap that can lead to bad decisions” – not to mention doing “stupid stuff.”

Goldberg wrote that you felt the Pentagon had “jammed” you on the troop surge for Afghanistan seven years ago and that the same thing almost happened three years ago on Syria, before President Putin persuaded Syria to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction. It seems that the kind of approach that worked then should be tried now, as well – particularly if you are starting to feel jammed once again.

Incidentally, it would be helpful toward that end if you had one of your staffers tell the “mainstream” media to tone down it puerile, nasty – and for the most part unjustified and certainly unhelpful – personal vilification of President Putin.

Renewing direct dialogue with President Putin might well offer the best chance to ensure an end, finally, to unwanted “jamming.” We believe John Kerry is correct in emphasizing how frightfully complicated the disarray in Syria is amid the various vying interests and factions. At the same time, he has already done much of the necessary spadework and has found Lavrov for the most part, a helpful partner.

Still, in view of lingering Russian – and not only Russian – skepticism regarding the strength of your support for your secretary of state, we believe that discussions at the highest level would be the best way to prevent hotheads on either side from risking the kind of armed confrontation that nobody should want.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that you invite President Putin to meet with you in a mutually convenient place, in order to try to sort things out and prevent still worse for the people of Syria.

In the wake of the carnage of World War II, Winston Churchill made an observation that is equally applicable to our 21st Century: “To jaw, jaw, jaw, is better than to war, war, war.”

* In a Memorandum to President Bush criticizing Colin Powell’s address to the UN earlier on February 5, 2003, VIPS ended with these words: “After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Fred Costello, Former Russian Linguist, USAF

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)

John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)

Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat

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Dear Global Research Readers,

The US has been waging war with its allies in Syria and Iraq for a while now. Yemen has also become a battle field, where war for democracy is being waged by… monarchies. Mahdi Nazemroaya highlights the irony of the situation:

The House of Saud and a military coalition that consists mostly of anachronistic monarchies are claiming to bomb Yemen as a means of saving the Yemenite people and their transition to democracy. The irony should not be lost on observers that recognize that the Saudi-led coalition — consisting of the Kingdom of Morocco, UAE, Kuwait, Kingdom of Bahrain, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Qatar, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia itself — is comprised of an unhealthy mixture of backward family dictatorships and corrupt governments that essentially are the antithesis of democracy.” (The War on Yemen: Where Oil and Geopolitics Mix)

Will there now be war with Russia?

Whenever Russia, China or North Korea conduct military exercises, the mainstream media presents them as a threat to peace. What we are never told, however, is that the U.S. and its NATO allies are holding this kind of exercise almost on a daily basis around the globe, but mostly on Russia’s doorstep. You can see for yourself the extent to which NATO is preparing for war against Russia through selections of articles compiled by Rick Rozoff like US-NATO “Defensive” Military Initiatives and War Games Threaten Russia and Preparing for War with Russia? NATO War Games “Joint Warrior” in Scotland: 13,000 Troops, 54 Warships, 70 Planes, Submarines.

In this context, it is worth recalling the adoption by the U.S. Congress of an important legislation back in December 2014.

The adoption of a major piece of legislation by the US House of Representatives on December 4th (H. Res. 758)  would provide (pending a vote in the Senate) a de facto green light to the US president and commander in chief to initiate –without congressional approval– a process of military confrontation with Russia.

Global security is at stake. This historic vote –which potentially could affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people Worldwide– has received virtually no media coverage. A total media blackout prevails.  (Michel Chossudovsky, America is on a “Hot War Footing”: House Legislation Paves the Way for War with Russia?)

Global Research works to give readers critical coverage of such issues and much more.

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The elites believe they are privileged because they are convinced they are the smartest, most creative, most talented and hardest working. They cap this grotesque narcissism with a facade of goodness and virtue. They turn their elitism into a morality play. — Thomas Frank (paraphrased by Chris Hedges)

The powerful establishment interests vested in the continuation of the status quo and, therefore, the election of Hillary Clinton, have created a campaign narrative that tends to stereotype and stigmatize the white working class as racist, sexist and xenophobic. This was most colorfully expressed recently by Clinton herself when in an unguarded moment before her wealthy donors in Manhattan she stated that half of all Trump supporters consisted of a “basket of deplorables.” Those backing Trump, she continued, were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.”

Implicit in this narrative is that support for Donald Trump is driven largely by innate, primordial prejudices and personal characters; and that economics or class issues have nothing or very little to do with his ascendance. Accordingly, the narrative maintains that to the extent that economic conditions of the white working Americans have steadily deteriorated in recent years they have no one to blame but themselves: their laziness, their lack of drive, their moral failures, their sense of entitlement, and the like.

Commenting on this narrative, Conner Kilpatrick of the Jacobin magazine writes, “Somehow liberal pundits have gotten it into their heads that white workers . . .  are just an aggrieved, pissed off, outnumbered minority” [1].

The narrative is propagated by both Republican and Democratic elites and operatives. For example, Anthony DiMaggio, a purported liberal political scientist supporter of Hillary Clinton at Lehigh University writes, “Hillary Clinton caught a lot of flak for referring to half of Trump Supporters as ‘the deplorables.’ She was being far too generous. Public opinion surveys over the last year or so suggest that the white supremacist contingent of Trump voters is even larger.” DiMaggio further writes, “The ascendance of Donald Trump tells us much about the quality of American character – particularly about our enduring and toxic legacy of hate, ignorance, bigotry, and white-supremacy” [2].

Likewise, Jonathan Chait, another liberal intellectual, writes:

“Then there are the voters, whose behavior provided the largest surprise. . . . As low as my estimation of the intelligence of the Republican electorate may be, I did not think enough of them would be dumb enough to buy his [Trump’s] act. And, yes, I do believe that to watch Donald Trump and see a qualified and plausible president, you probably have some kind of mental shortcoming. . . . His appeal operates not at a low intellectual level but at a sub-intellectual level” [3].

Conservative elitists are even more indignant of Trump supporters. Writing in the avowedly conservative National Review magazine, Kevin Williamson writes:

“It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t…  Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. …  The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. . . . The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul” [4].

Williamson’s colleague and conservative co-thinker David French (also writing in the National Review) similarly explains how some poor white people he had known were utterly lazy, irresponsible and obnoxious:

“If they couldn’t find a job in a few days—or perhaps even as little as a few hours—they’d stop looking. If they got angry at teachers or coaches, they’d drop out of school. If they fought with their wife, they had sex with a neighbor. And always — always — there was a sense of entitlement” [5].

These kinds of statements, disparaging and dismissing the white working class, are the name of the game for the establishment elites and courtiers. The problem with this line of argument is that it is not just vulgar and elitist, it is also untrue. The considerable support that the white wage-earning voters in States such as West Virginia and Indiana gave the self-described socialist Bernie Sanders showed that they do, indeed, vote for a progressive populist agenda (more on this later). Their substantial support for Sanders revealed that many Trump voters do not necessaritly subscribe to his bigoted and demagogic agenda, but that they are so disgusted with the status quo that they nonetheless vote for him, largely as an act of revenge or protest. They seem to be instinctively cognizant of the fact that “Trump is the Symptom, Clinton is the Disease,” as Roger Harris put it.

Are Trump’s Supporters Driven by Racism and Xenophobia? 

In a real sense, the juxtaposition between economic and non-economic factors in the rise of Trump is a false dichotomy: both evidence and logic point to the fact that high levels of unemployment and economic hardship are breeding grounds for the escalation of racism and xenophobia.

It was no accident that the classic European fascism rose in conjunction with the harrowing economic conditions of the Great Depression. Nor is it altogether fortuitous that fascistic manifestations have become rampant in many core capitalist countries that are grappling with the ongoing financial turbulence that was set off by the 2008 financial implosion in the U.S., and has since spread to many other countries.

This is not to say that racist or xenophobic sentiments are always or altogether precipitated by economic factors. It is rather to point out that to the extent that there exist such prejudices they tend to remain largely latent during periods of high employment and economic prosperity. Many Trump supporters have economic difficulties that they misguidedly view through the prism of racism and xenophobia. Certainly, xenophobic rhetoric has played an important role in the rise of Donald Trump but, as Daniel Denvir of the Salon magazine put it, “it is the admixture of economic populism, however phony, that makes him so potent” [6].

The claim that Trump owes his electoral victory mainly to non-economic factors such as racism and xenophobia lust much of its credibility when Bernie Sanders won handily against Hillary Clinton in States such as Indiana and West Virginia. According to this claim, as a self-described socialist who advocated a multiracial, multicultural, inclusive and relatively equitable society, Sanders was not supposed to win in places like West Virginia, the whitest (93.7 percent) of all states. But there he was, winning big against Clinton among men, women, young, and old.

The outcome of such primaries, indicating that large numbers of white working Americans voted for Sanders was quite discomforting to the powerful interests vested in the status quo. Not surprisingly, the Clinton campaign (and the elitist courtiers of the establishment in general) became childishly creative: claiming that somehow West Virginia’s vote for a Jewish socialist Brooklyn native was prompted by racism!

“Instead of acknowledging the size and importance of this part of the electorate, Democratic Party elites have simply constructed a new narrative to suit their interests—a narrative that was on display after West Virginia. Following Sanders’s win, a significant chunk of the punditocracy came to the conclusion, mostly by abusing the hell out of exit polls, that a vote for the Jewish socialist was actually a vote for white supremacy. . . . After decades of being told white workers would never support socialism because they’re racist, we’re now told that they support the socialist candidate because they are racist. Yes, this is where liberals are in the year 2016” [7].

To downplay the role of the white working voters in Trump’s campaign, some proponents of the status quo have gone as far as arguing that Trump supporters are not actually working class because the median household income of his supporters is above the national median household income [8].

This is a highly misleading argument. Since black, Latino and other non-white workers/households are more marginalized economically, and still make significantly less than white people, the median income of Trump voters would, accordingly, show a higher figure than the median national income. Furthermore, better-off-than average does not necessarily translate into economic security. A snapshot or static picture of median income does not tell us much; more importantly, it is the trend or change in people’s economic conditions over time that matters most.

Median household income and wealth have drastically fallen in recent years. Wages have been stagnant, and in many cases fallen in real terms. At the same time, healthcare, childcare, higher education, housing, and retirement costs have escalated. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that in 1971 about 61 percent of American households were categorized as middle class. Today, that number is barely 50% [9]. As a number of observers have pointed out, Trump support is highly correlated to areas where the death rates of middle-aged white people, fueled by opioid overdoses, are spiking [10].

Why Are the Establishment Elites so Eager to Reject Economic/Class Explanations? 

The establishment elites and corporate media pundits tend to stigmatize the white working Americans in order to sanitize the brutal neoliberal policies of austerity economics of the past four decades. The plan and the hope is that in so doing they can exonerate the policy-makers of the establishment—both Republican and Democratic—of the responsibility for the unsavory state of affairs that has given rise to Donald Trump. When racism and bigotry can be blamed capitalism is exonerated.

U.S. economic policy of the past 40 years or so has consisted of a steady escalation of neoliberal austerity economics while its foreign policy has consisted of a steady escalation of war and militarism. Neither Bill Clinton deviated from Ronald Reagan’s policies of supply-side economics at home and military aggressions abroad, nor has Barak Obama deviated from those of George W. Bush.

Indeed, masterfully masquerading as liberals, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama have proven to be much more effective engineers of demolishing the New Deal Economics, of substituting corporate welfare for public welfare, and of deregulating and strengthening the parasitic financial sector than their Republican counterparts. Likewise, using harebrained pretexts such as “humanitarian intervention” and/or “responsibility to protect,” Clinton and Obama have proven to be more successful architects of “regime change” in more countries than Reagan and Bush ever were.

This explains why the liberal elites of the Democratic Party (like their conservative counterparts in the Republican Party) are promoting the obfuscationist narrative that sidesteps the decades-long policies of neoliberalism and militarism, or the fundamental injustices of capitalism, and instead blame the rise of Donald Trump on “moral failures” or “personal characters” of the white working Americans. As Daniel Denvir points out, “If there is no economic context, and Trump’s supporters are just mired in primordial racism, then they are forever lost in the morass of right-wing politics . . . [and] progressives can forget about the angry white guys” [11].

Concluding Remarks 

Capitalism has always employed the age-old tactic of divide-and-rule to pit various strata of the working class against each other in order to keep them docile. This tactic has especially been used more effectively in the United States because as a country of immigrants it has always benefitted from the flow of successive waves of migrant workers who, due to the vulnerability of their circumstances, could easily be exploited more compared to the workers who had arrived before them.

Not only has U.S. capitalism handsomely benefitted from this perennial competition between successive generations of migrant workers, between the old and new migrants, but also elite politicians have often taken advantage of this competition for their own nefarious political and economic purposes. “Slave owners did this by getting laws passed that required white indentured servants and black slaves to be treated differently. Richard Nixon did it by employing the cynical ‘Southern strategy.’ Now Trump is following in this long tradition by pitting struggling white people against immigrants and Muslims” [12].

Hillary Clinton has employed a different tack in pitting the working people against each other: while Trump is guilty of peddling racism and xenophobia, she is guilty of touting moralities, identity politics and wedge issues. Feigning an artificial moral high ground, she (and other elites of the establishment) argues that the worsening of the economic conditions of the white working Americans is mainly the result of their own personal and/or moral failures: laziness, racism, sexism and xenophobia.

While often misplaced or misdirected, the white working Americans’ economic grievances are real. Hillary Clinton and the powerful by-partisan supporters of her campaign tend to dismiss this reality because acknowledging it would be tantamount to acknowledging their own guilt: the fact that their economic policies of the past four decades have been disastrous for working Americans.

Blaming white American workers (as Clinton does) or migrant workers (as Trump does) for the sins of neoliberal austerity economic policies of the past forty years or so represent a blatant effort on the part of the two presidential candidates to scapegoat the working class in order to sanitize the capitalist class. Despicable as these attempts at deflection and deception are, however, one cannot really blame Clinton or Trump for pursuing such self-serving policies of diversion and obfuscation in the service of their class, the reach and powerful.

The real blame goes, instead, to the bureaucratic labor/union leaders who have betrayed the working class by supporting the capitalist class, largely through their support for Hillary Clinton and, more generally, the Democratic Party. The combined number of voters for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is much higher the number of voters for Hillary Clinton—perhaps 50% higher. This is an obvious indication that a clear majority of the American electorate are ready for radical changes; they prefer anti-establishmentarian candidates to the establishment candidate, even when one of the alternative candidates is a self-described socialist and the other is an avowed bigot.

This is also an indication that were the bureaucratic labor leaders really committed to the interests of the working class, and entered the election contests with their own candidates at both local and Federal levels, independent of the two corporate parties, such independent labor/grassroots candidates could win unimaginable victories in the interest of the overwhelming majority of the people, the so-called 99%.

Political lessons for the working class and other dispossessed masses are unmistakable: To challenge and (ultimately) change the status quo, the labor and other grassroots need to decisively break with the two-party system and the bureaucratic labor leaders. What is needed to reverse the weakening of labor and the declining living standards of the overwhelming majority of the people is a new type of labor organization, a new labor movement and new labor politics.

The new labor/grassroots politics would aim at exposing the lies and deceptions of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Champions of the new politics would explain that both migrant workers and white workers, which essentially means migrant workers of today and yesterday, are victims, first and foremost, of the woes and vagaries of the capitalist system—of neoliberalism and militarism.

They would further explain that the workers and other grassroots need to extricate themselves from the divisive setups of the fraudulent two-part system and, instead, forge an alliance that would safeguard their interests against the ills and injustices of neoliberal economics, and chart a political course that would, ultimately, supplant the crisis-prone and unjust capitalist system with a more humane civilization. Fighting against the ills of capitalism is crucial to labor and other social layers suffering from them. But it makes little sense to fight symptoms without challenging the system that produces them.

References 

[1] Burying the White Working Class.
[2] White Supremacist America: Trump and the “Return” of Right-Wing Hate Culture.
[3] Here’s the Real Reason Everybody Thought Trump Would Lose.
[4] Chaos in the Family, Chaos in the State: The White Working Class’s Dysfunction.
[5] Working-Class Whites Have Moral Responsibilities.
[6] An entire class of Americans misunderstood and rejected: Dismissing white workers is profoundly reactionary.
[7] Conner Kilpatrick, Burying the White Working Class.
[8] Nate Silver, The Mythology Of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support.
[9] America’s Shrinking Middle Class.
[10] Daniel Denvir, An entire class of Americans misunderstood and rejected: Dismissing white workers is profoundly reactionary.
[11] Class dismissed: Is the Trump campaign driven by racism or economics? The only possible answer is both.
[12] Holly Otterbein, A Visit to Trump Country

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

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Russian and Syrian warplanes have delivered massive air strikes on the joint terrorist forces in the province of Hama. Positions and manpower of the US-backed Ahrar al-Sham militant group, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) and Jund al-Aqsa (recently designated by the US as a terrorist group) near Kafr Zita, Tal Abyad and Al-Sathiyat were hit. Local sources say that air raids resulted in destruction of high number of military equipment and ammunition belonging to the terrorist forces.

The air raids also helped the government forces to repel the terrorists’ advance on Al-Sathiyat. Various sources report that the pro-government forces lost from 8 to 15 fighters in these clashes.

US military strikes against the Syrian government is at the top of the agenda today at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the coalition in Syria, The Washington Post daily reported. The US officials are going to push forward so-called “limited military strikes” in order to, according to the official version, prevent violations of the cease-fire by the Assad government and disrupt his ability to continue committing war crimes against civilians in Aleppo and, for sure, to push it back to the negotiating table.

The options under consideration reportedly include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships. The report says the idea is supported by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One proposed way to do so without a UN Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment.

This approach also explains the coalition’s actions against the Syrian army outside Deir Ezzor in September when over 60 pro-government fighters were killed and over 100 injured in air strikes lately called an accident by US officials. Now, there are little doubts that it was likely an intended move to damage the government forces fighting with ISIS in the area.

The same threat forces Moscow to deploy an additional battery of the air defense system S-300 to the Russian Navy’s logistic facility in Tartus. The information was confirmed by Defense Ministry spokesman. Igor Konashenkov said the system will provide protection for the facility and Russian ships off Syria’s shores. Nonetheless, it’s clear that it will also strengthen the Russian air defense shield over the government-controlled areas of Syria.

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Not since the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has Official Washington’s political/punditry class clamored more single-mindedly – and openly – for the U.S. government to commit a gross violation of international law, now urging a major military assault on the government of Syria while also escalating tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

And, like the frenzied war fever of 2002-2003, today’s lawless consensus is operating on a mix of selective, dubious and false information – while excluding from the public debate voices that might dare challenge the prevailing “group think.” It’s as if nothing was learned from the previous disaster in Iraq.

For Americans who may find those two points hard to believe, they should remember that the United States and Saudi Arabia went in 50/50 with billions of dollars to finance the jihadist mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, viewing these religious fanatics as a useful “tip of the spear” to kill Soviet troops who were defending the leftist secular regime then governing in Kabul.Most notably, there are two key facts about Syria that Americans are not being told: one, U.S. regional “allies” have been funding and arming radical jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda terrorists, there almost since the conflict began in 2011 and, two, the claim about “moderate” Syrian rebels is a fraud; the “moderates” have served essentially as a P.R. cut-out for the U.S. and its “allies” to supply Al Qaeda and its allies with sophisticated weapons while pretending not to.

That exercise in U.S.-Saudi realpolitik gave birth to the modern jihadist movement, bringing together a network of foreign jihadists, led by Saudi Arabia’s Osama bin Laden (which morphed into Al Qaeda), with Afghan/Pakistani extremists who evolved into the Taliban.

Though U.S. officials eventually came to fear this Frankenstein monster that they had helped create, Saudi intelligence continued to work with Al Qaeda and its affiliates, using them as a kind of international paramilitary force to punish Saudi enemies, particularly Shiite-dominated governments, from Iran to Syria to now Iraq.

The Saudis also began collaborating with Israel, which shared Riyadh’s view that Iran and the “Shiite crescent” represented a strategic threat. Between Saudi money and Israeli political clout, the two countries could fend off occasional fits of U.S. anger, even to the point of getting the U.S. government to hide a 29-page chapter about Saudi financing for the 9/11 hijackers from the congressional 9/11 report for a dozen years.

For the past five years, the principal target of this powerful coalition has been Syria, with President Obama occasionally joining in – as he did in authorizing “covert” CIA and Pentagon programs to arm “moderate” rebels – and occasionally bowing out – as he did in resisting pressure to bomb the Syrian military after a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

In summer 2014, when Al Qaeda’s spin-off, the Islamic State, began beheading Western hostages, Obama authorized bombing inside Syria but only against the Islamic State, which also had overrun large sections of Iraq and threatened the Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad. (Obama’s bombing inside Syria was not authorized by the Syrian government so it was illegal under international law but Syria didn’t press the point as long as the U.S. coalition was attacking forces regarded as terrorists.)

New U.S. Hysteria

This more complex reality is completely missing in the new round of political/press hysteria in the United States. The neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks only talk about stopping the “barbarism” of the Syrian government and its Russian allies as they try to finally wipe out Al Qaeda’s jihadists and their “moderate” allies holed up in eastern Aleppo.

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.

This new “group think” has prevented Americans from looking at the Syrian situation with more nuance and objectivity. Indeed, if you mix in some of the other facts, the on-the-ground reality could be seen as the U.S. and its “allies” stoking the fire in Syria for five years and, now, as the Syrian military and Russian air power take drastic measures to finally get the blaze under some control, the U.S. government may bomb the firefighters and destroy their equipment.Many of these calls for a U.S. military intervention against the Syrian government (and the Russians) are coming from the same advocates for war who created the misguided consensus for invading Iraq in 2002-2003, voices such as Sen. John McCain, Washington Post editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt, and New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. And, much like the Iraq example, these esteemed opinion-leaders pile up their propaganda arguments in a one-sided fashion designed to silence the few voices that dare raise doubts.

Beyond the illegality of that action, how the U.S. military intervention is supposed to fix things in Syria is never discussed. By strengthening Al Qaeda and its “moderate” front men, the prospects for a longer and bloodier conflict are increased, not decreased.

The long-held neocon dream of a Syrian “regime change” – even if it could be accomplished – would only open the gates of Damascus to a victory by Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff, the Islamic State. How that would make life better for the Syrian people is another never addressed question. There is simply the pretense that somehow, magically, the “moderate” rebels would prevail, though they are only an auxiliary to Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise.

The “group think” also doesn’t permit in the inconvenient truth that the recent collapse of the U.S.-Russia limited cease-fire was driven by the fact that the “moderate” rebels are so intertwined with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front – which recently underwent a cosmetic name change to the Levant (or Syria) Conquest Front – that the rebels can’t or won’t separate themselves.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets have sought to bury this reality because it doesn’t fit the preferred narrative of the U.S. fulfilling its commitments under the partial cease-fire agreement and blaming its collapse entirely on the Russians and their dastardly behavior.

One outlier in this propaganda barrage, ironically, has been Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, which published a serious article on this key topic on Sept. 29. It said, “Some of Syria’s largest rebel factions are doubling down on their alliance with an al Qaeda-linked group, despite a U.S. warning to split from the extremists or risk being targeted in airstrikes.

“The rebel gambit is complicating American counterterrorism efforts in the country at a time the U.S. is contemplating cooperation with Russia to fight extremist groups. It comes after a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire collapsed last week and the Syrian regime and its Russian allies immediately unleashed a devastating offensive against rebel-held parts of Aleppo city that brought harsh international condemnation. …

“The two powers have been considering jointly targeting Islamic State and the Syria Conquest Front — formerly known as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front — a group that is deeply intermingled with armed opposition groups of all stripes across Syria’s battlefields. The U.S. has also threatened to attack any rebels providing front-line support to the group. …

“Some rebel groups already aligned with Syria Conquest Front responded by renewing their alliance. But others, such as Nour al-Din al-Zinki, a former Central Intelligence Agency-backed group and one of the largest factions in Aleppo, said in recent days that they were joining a broader alliance that is dominated by the Front. A second, smaller rebel group also joined that alliance, which is known as Jaish al-Fateh and includes another major Islamist rebel force, Ahrar al-Sham. …

“In a call with Mr. Kerry on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syrian rebels ‘refused to follow the U.S.-Russian agreement…but instead merged with [Nusra Front].’”

Misleading the American People

So, isn’t that point relevant to understanding what is occurring in eastern Aleppo, an area essentially under the control of Al Qaeda terrorists? As horrible as war is, there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy when politicians and pundits, who cheered the U.S. Marines’ destruction of Fallujah during the Iraq occupation and who support driving the Islamic State out of the Iraqi city of Mosul, wax indignantly in outrage when the Syrian military seeks to remove Al Qaeda terrorists from one of its own cities.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

For instance, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who repeatedly wrote as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMDs, is still today the editorial page editor of The Washington Post, urging a new U.S. war on Syria. The Times’ Friedman, who was infamously wrong about the Iraq War and pretty much everything else, is still considered a premier American columnist who is courted to make high-profile public appearances.There is also the issue of why writers who helped mislead the American people and the world into the catastrophe of the Iraq War were never held accountable and are now in position to whip up more war fever over Syria, Ukraine and Russia. Far from being held accountable, the propagandists who justified the criminal invasion of Iraq have been rewarded with plum assignments and golden careers.

Now, Friedman wants to escalate tensions with nuclear-armed Russia, apparently with the sloppily thought-through mission of imposing another “regime change,” this time in Moscow. As unnerving as a nuclear showdown with Russia should be, Friedman starts his Wednesday column by fabricating a news item about a leak that supposedly revealed that Putin “owns $30 billion in property, hotels and factories across Russia and Europe, all disguised by front organizations and accounting charades.”

After going on for several paragraphs with his fake “news,” Friedman admits that “I made it up.” Ha-ha, so clever! Then, however, he cites what he claims is real news about Russia, including the dubious prosecutorial “report” blaming the Russians for the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down on July 17, 2014. That “report” – actually a series of videos – had serious evidentiary gapslogical problems and obvious bias, since it was driven largely by Ukraine’s notorious SBU intelligence service which the United Nations has accused of covering up torture.

But to Friedman, the allegations blaming Russia for the shoot-down were unassailable. He writes, “a Dutch-led investigation adduced irrefutable video evidence that Putin’s government not only trucked in the missile system used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane flying over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 civilians onboard, but also returned it to Russia the same night and then engaged in an elaborate cover-up.”

It might be noted that some of that “irrefutable video evidence” came in the form of computer-generated images of an alleged Russian Buk missile battery traveling down darkened Ukrainian roads, very persuasive scenes, much like Secretary of State Colin Powell showing computer-generated images of Iraq’s “mobile chemical weapons labs” in 2003, labs that didn’t exist.

It also might be remembered that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was also accused of mounting “an elaborate cover-up” of his WMD stockpiles, that also didn’t exist. The point being that slick presentations, which rely mostly on assertions and allude to untested evidence, aren’t always accurate. Skepticism is not only a sign of journalistic professionalism but is necessary to avoid horrible misjudgments, especially on questions of war and peace.

Blaming Russia for Everything

But Friedman just plunges ahead, also asserting that on Sept. 19, Russia bombed a U.N. relief convoy heading for Aleppo. In this case, Friedman cites U.S. intelligence officials who say that “almost certainly” Russia did it, although I had been told that some CIA analysts feared the attack was launched by Al Qaeda’s chief Syrian ally, Ahrar al-Sham, using a U.S.-made TOW missile. The United Nations also withdrew its initial assertion that the attack was an airstrike (although Friedman leaves that fact out, too).

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right). (White House photo)

The problem with propagandists like Friedman is that they ignore the illegal actions of the United States, including mounting military attacks on countries without United Nations’ authority or without the justification of self-defense, in other words, outside the realm of international law. It’s also illegal to supply weapons to terrorists, as has been occurring in Syria both directly by Saudi Arabia and other U.S. “allies” and indirectly by U.S. covert operations giving arms to “moderates” who then turn them over to Al Qaeda.This is not to say that the Russians are innocent in these terrible incidents. Further evidence might convincingly prove that they are guilty – and, if they are, accountability should be assessed as appropriate. Horrible errors happen in war, such as the U.S. airstrike that killed some 62 Syrian soldiers in eastern Syria on Sept. 17 as they were fighting off an attack by Islamic State militants.

While putting on blinders regarding U.S. violations of international law and their human consequences, such as the Syrian refugee flow, the sanctimonious Friedman bizarrely blames Putin for this human suffering, too.

Friedman cites a scholar named Robert Litwak in claiming that “Putin’s departure from standard great-power competition — encouraging a flood of refugees and attacking the legitimacy of our political system — ‘is leading to shifts in global politics that could have revolutionary consequences, even if Putin is not motivated by revolutionary ideology.’”

Friedman’s solution to this highly questionable if not imaginary problem is to increase the pain on Putin and Russia, saying “it’s now clear that we have underestimated the pressure needed to produce effective engagement, and we’re going to have to step it up. This is not just about the politics of Syria and Ukraine anymore. It’s now also about America, Europe, basic civilized norms and the integrity of our democratic institutions.”

While it’s always tempting to dismiss Friedman as a nitwit, the sad reality is that he is an influential nitwit who helps shape “elite” American public opinion. He is now contributing to a new “group think” that is even more dangerous than the one he helped construct in 2002-2003 regarding the Iraq War.

Today, this new “group think,” which — like the Iraq one — is based on a false or selective reading of the facts, could lead to a nuclear war that could end life on the planet.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia?” and “Obama Warned to Defuse Tensions with Russia.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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Washington Leads The World To War

October 6th, 2016 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

What must the world think watching the US presidential campaign? Over time US political campaigns have become more unreal and less related to voters’ concerns, but the current one is so unreal as to be absurd.

The offshoring of American jobs by global corporations and the deregulation of the US financial system have resulted in American economic failure. One might think that this would be an issue in a presidential campaign.

The neoconservative ideology of US world hegemony is driving the US and its vassals into conflict with Russia and China. The risks of nuclear war are higher than at any previous time in history. One might think that this also would be an issue in a presidential campaign.

Instead, the issues are Trump’s legal use of tax laws and his non-hostile attitude toward President Putin of Russia.

One might think that the issue would be Hillary’s extremely hostile attitude toward Putin (“the new Hitler”), which promises conflict with a major nuclear power.

As for benefitting from tax laws, Pat Buchanan pointed out that Hillary used to her benefit a loss almost as large as Trump’s and during the Arkansas years Hillary even took a tax deduction for itemized pieces of used clothing donated to a charity, including $2 for one of Bill’s used underpants.

The vice presidential “debate” revealed that the Democratic Party’s candidate is so ignorant that he thinks Putin, who is democratically elected and has enormous public support, is a dictator.

Here is what we know about the two presidential candidates. Hillary has a long list of scandals from Whitewater and Vince Foster to Benghazi and violation of national security protocols. She is bought-and-paid-for by the oligarchs on Wall Street, in the mega-banks, and in the military-security complex as well as by foreign interests. The proof is the Clinton’s $120 million personal fortune and the $1,600 million in their foundation. Goldman Sachs did not pay Hillary $675,000 for three 20-minute speeches for the wisdom they contained.

What we know about Trump is that the oligarchic establishment cannot stand him and has ordered the Ministry of Propaganda, a.k.a., the US media, to destroy him.

Clearly, Hillary is the candidate of the One Percent, and Trump is the candidate for the rest of us.

Unfortunately, about half of the 99 percent is too dumb to know this.

Moreover, if Trump were to end up in the White House, it doesn’t mean he could prevail over the oligarchy.

The oligarchy is entrenched in Washington with control over economic and foreign policy positions, think tanks and other lobbyists, and the media.

The people control nothing.

What does the world think when they see Donald Trump damned because he doesn’t want war with Russia or the American economy moved offshore?

Where in American politics do Washington’s European, British, Canadian, Australian, and Japanese vassals see leadership worthy of their sacrifice of sovereignty and independent foreign policy? Where do they even see a modicum of intelligence?

Why does the world look to the most stupid, vile, arrogant, corrupt and murderous government on the planet for leadership?

War is the only destination to which Washington can lead.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the WestHow America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.
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Top Washington Officials, the Clinton Campaign, and main stream media (including The Washington Post and New York Times) have thrown their full support behind Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, in an effort to not have the last terrorist strong hold of East Aleppo be liberated by the internationally recognized Syrian government.

The WaPo is talking about Russian war crimes. Talk about a parallel universe. Russia, the country that has been invited legally under international law, is being accused of war crimes because it is fighting to liberate Aleppo from Al Qaeda and ISIS control…while the uninvited (in Syria illegally) United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey fight to keep Al Qaeda alive.

Unfortunately this is the America, that for al intensive purposes, has crossed the rubicon, fallen off the wagon, and has entered into an evil alliance with jihadists terrorists…the very same terrorists who attacked the US in 2001.

If only, everyday Americans could know that their government are now interlocked, brothers in arms, with Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, in an effort to wipe out a secular and stable middle east government, and hand over the keys of the country to Wahhabi, Saudi sponsored, butchers.

The reality of what America has become is hard to stomach. News coming in that top Washington officials are discussing striking positions of the Syrian military without a UN Security Council resolution is the real war crime.

The war hawks are working out a plan to bomb air force runways in Syria, with missiles fired from US and US-coalition planes and ships.

One administration official who is to take part in the discussions told the war ready Washington Post…

“One proposed way to get around the White House’s objection to striking the Assad regime without a UN Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment.”

The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented in the Deputies Committee meeting by Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva, are now pressing for more “kinetic” options.

“There’s an increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the regime. The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

“Kinetic” options is US double speak for illegal war.

The “fall of Aleppo”…how about the liberation of Aleppo.

Is Aleppo not a city belonging to Syria, and does Syria’s internationally recognized government not have the right to remove Al Qaeda terrorists from inhabiting the city?

The “fall of Aleppo” double speak for the fall of Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria. The “fall” of the Saudi and Qatari pipeline dream. The “fall” of America’s evil and destructive regime change operation.

It is now up to Obama. We can only hope the “hope and change” president still has some good left in him. The WaPo reports (much to the paper’s disappointment) that…

–“there’s still great skepticism, however, that the White House will approve military action. Other administration officials told The Post this week that Obama is no more willing to commit U.S. military force inside Syria than he was previously and that each of the military options being discussed have negative risks or consequences.

The National Security Council’s senior coordinator for the Middle East, Rob Malley, and the president’s special envoy to the coalition for the fight against the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, are also said to be against any military escalation against the Assad regime, officials said. There’s no consensus on what options should be sent to the president’s desk. Other options include increased weapons for some Syrian rebel groups and an increase in the quality of such weapons, to allow rebels to defend Aleppo’s civilians.”

Not happy with the prospect that sanity and logic will prevail in Syria, the Washington Post is still pushing for conflict, as the US drums of war beat ever louder.

The WaPo continues to demonise the legitimate government of Assad, and the invited military campaign of Russia…in an all out media blitz to prop up Al Qaeda, and keep Aleppo under the occupation of jihadist terrorists.

U.S. military strikes against the Assad regime will be back on the table Wednesday at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the way forward in Syria. But there’s little prospect President Obama will ultimately approve them.

Inside the national security agencies, meetings have been going on for weeks to consider new options to recommend to the president to address the ongoing crisis in Aleppo, where Syrian and Russian aircraft continue to perpetrate the deadliest bombing campaign the city has seen since the five-year-old civil war began. A meeting of the Principals Committee, which includes Cabinet-level officials, is scheduled for Wednesday. A meeting of the National Security Council, which could include the president, could come as early as this weekend.

Last Wednesday, at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed limited military strikes against the regime as a means of forcing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to pay a cost for his violations of the cease-fire, disrupt his ability to continue committing war crimes against civilians in Aleppo, and raise the pressure on the regime to come back to the negotiating table in a serious way.

The options under consideration, which remain classified, include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, an administration official who is part of the discussions told me. One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.

If Obama does not approve greater support for the Syrian rebels or increased coalition pressure on the Assad regime, the only option left is to wait out the siege of Aleppo and reengage the Russians if and when Aleppo falls, albeit in a weaker position.

Former State Department Syria official Frederic Hof wrote Monday that any policy going forward that hinges on the assumption that Russia is looking for a near-term diplomatic solution in Syria is destined for failure.

“Whatever excuses the administration offers for leaving Syrians defenseless against mass murder, the continued search for common ground with Vladimir Putin should not be one of them,” he wrote. “If nothing else, John Kerry’s exhaustive diplomatic due diligence should retire that illusion permanently.”

Kerry’s deputy, Antony Blinken, testified last week that the U.S. leverage in Russia comes from the notion that Russia will eventually become weary of the cost of its military intervention in Syria. “The leverage is the consequences for Russia of being stuck in a quagmire that is going to have a number of profoundly negative effects,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The argument against more U.S. military intervention in Syria, including strikes against the regime, is based on risks that should be taken seriously but that are ultimately hypothetical. The effects of continuing the current policy are not hypothetical. They include more of what we are seeing now: Russia and the Assad regime committing war crimes against civilians with impunity and destroying Syria’s largest city.

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There won’t be a direct US military intervention against Assad under Obama. Obama turned back from plunging the US into what was clearly going to be an unpopular adventure after the false flag Ghouta chemical attack in 2013. He certainly isn’t going to roll the dice at the height of election season and with the Democratic candidate just barely edging out the Republican Trump.

Moreover, we’ve now learned that this time around even Secretary of State John Kerry — who was one of the main proponents of bombing in 2013 — is against it. The Washington Post:

This time around, Kerry has not favored using U.S. military force against the Assad regime, two administration officials said. He now prefers continued diplomacy with Russia, even in the face of what he says is Moscow’s willingness to “turn a blind eye” to, if not participate directly, in war crimes in Aleppo.

But just so you don’t think this means there are now fewer utter morons running around DC; since renewed brainstorming on Syria begun in the Obama administration last week the Joint Chiefs of Staff have joined the CIA in backing the US entering the Syrian civil war on the side of the Islamist rebels:

The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented in the Deputies Committee meeting by Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva, expressed support for such “kinetic” options, the official said. That marked an increase of support for striking Assad compared with the last time such options were considered.

Even these clowns understand this would be blatantly illegal, but not to worry, they have a solution for it:

The options under consideration, which remain classified, include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, an administration official who is part of the discussions told me.

One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.

This proposal — raining down cruise missiles without taking responsibility for them — happens to be the exact same hare-brained scheme Kerry was banding about in 2013, and even he has since grown out of it.

Funny how the US on the one hand is talking up its bombs as a fitting instruments of its virtuous foreign policy but on the other hand would actually be reluctant to carry out this virtuous bombing out in the open. If the campaign is a virtuous one why the apparent shame?

And just so you know, the reason why Assad has to be bombed is counter-terrorism:

“There’s an increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the regime,” one senior administration official said.

“The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

That’s right. Should the jihadis allied and intermingled with al-Qaeda be driven from Syria’s Aleppo city this will set back “America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria”. For America’s “counter-terrorism” goals in Syria to keep a strong foundation terrorist sympathizers have to remain in control of half of Syria’s largest city. Somebody has read their Orwell well.

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On September 30, the World Socialist Web Site warned: “It is evident… that the question of whether an escalation of the US intervention in Syria can wait until after the US election of November 8 has become the subject of heated debate within the US ruling establishment.”

It has taken barely a week for this assessment to find decisive confirmation. It has been fully established that the Obama administration is holding precisely such a debate.

On Wednesday, the so-called Principals Committee, consisting of the secretaries of defense and state, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA director, as well as top presidential security aides, convened at the White House to consider proposals to attack Syrian government forces with cruise missiles as well as other acts of military aggression.

Both the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are reportedly in favor of such an escalation, which carries with it the real prospect of a direct armed confrontation between the US and Russia, the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Reflecting the growing support within sections of the US establishment for a far wider war, key sections of the media, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, have weighed in on the side of those within the military and intelligence apparatus advocating a new eruption of American militarism.

Among the most explicit examples is an opinion column by John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, published in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. McCain indicts the Syrian government and its ally, Russia, for having “slaughtered countless civilians” through “relentless, indiscriminate bombing.” This is being written by an individual who was one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the “shock and awe” war in Iraq that cost over 1 million Iraqi lives.

The Republican senator writes: “The US and its coalition partners must issue an ultimatum to [Syrian President] Assad–stop flying or lose your aircraft–and be prepared to follow through. If Russia continues its indiscriminate bombing, we should make clear that we will take steps to hold its aircraft at greater risk.”

McCain also calls for the creation of “safe zones” for Syrian civilians protected by the US military and “more robust military assistance” to the so-called “rebels.” He acknowledges that this strategy “will undoubtedly entail greater costs,” but provides no specific indication as to the nature of these costs or who will pay them. McCain does not even hint at the catastrophic global implications of a military confrontation between Washington and Moscow.

Similarly, in an editorial Wednesday, the Washington Post asserts that Washington’s policy has failed in Syria because the US has “refused to use military pressure against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” The newspaper complains that the Obama administration’s failure to carry out a more direct military intervention in Syria has resulted in “the shrinking of US influence, to Russia’s gain,” and approvingly cites CIA and Pentagon proposals for cruise missile attacks and the provision of more sophisticated weaponry to the “rebels.”

Finally, the New York Times published a front-page lead article Wednesday warning that Russia was using the period between now and the January 2017 inauguration of the next US president as a “window of opportunity” to “move aggressively” in providing military support for the Syrian government. The article favorably reports proposals for US air strikes and goes on to cite unnamed US officials as arguing that Washington could turn Syria into a “quagmire” for Russia, “particularly if the Arab states that support the rebels supply them with antiaircraft weapons and Islamic terrorists decide to retaliate by attacking Russian cities.”

This passage echoes an earlier warning from the top US State Department spokesman that the response of Islamist forces to Russia’s military actions in Syria could “include attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities.”

The implications are unmistakable. Washington exerts overwhelming operational influence over the Islamist militias that have constituted the principal fighting force in the five-year-old, CIA-orchestrated war for regime change in Syria. Just as it directed them to attack the government in Damascus, it could order them to do the same in Moscow.

The article is supplemented by an opinion piece by Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, who writes in his signature bully boy style, “Isn’t it time we give Putin a dose of his own medicine?”

While acknowledging that a military confrontation with Russia poses the direct threat of nuclear war, he declares, “But we also cannot just keep turning the other cheek” in regard to “Putin’s behavior in Syria and Ukraine.” He denounces Russia for “mercilessly bombing civilians in Aleppo” and twice charges Russian President Vladimir Putin with violating “basic civilized norms.”

Even from a columnist who has established the gold standard for cynicism and deceit, Friedman’s invocation of “basic civilized norms” leaves one somewhat slack-jawed.

There is not a single war of aggression launched by US imperialism for which he has failed to serve as a fanatical cheerleader. The same man who today laments the Russian bombing of east Aleppo in 1999 wrote in response to the US bombing of Serbia: “It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted… [W]e will set your country back by pulverizing you.”

Less than four years later he played the same role in relation to Iraq, declaring before the 2003 invasion that he had no problem with “a war for oil,” and writing afterwards that the US had attacked Iraq “for one simple reason: because we could…”

Such are the civilized norms observed by the man from the Times .

Underlying the frenzied support for military escalation in Syria is the fact that the various terrorist organizations Washington has used as its proxy forces–including those directly affiliated to Al Qaeda–are on the verge of a complete debacle in Aleppo, threatening a strategic defeat in the five-and-a-half-year war to bring down Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran, and install a US puppet government in Damascus.

Such an outcome would represent a serious reversal for the policy pursued by US imperialism for the last quarter century, in the wake of the Moscow Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union. Washington saw this development as opening an unobstructed path to its pursuit of global hegemony. It adopted the policy of exploiting its military supremacy as a means of offsetting the decline in its global economic position.

The element of hysteria in response to Moscow’s actions in Syria stems from the fact that both Russia and China are beginning to frustrate this policy.

The media’s lurid claims of Russian aggression notwithstanding, there is no question that in Syria, as in Ukraine and the South China Sea, it is US imperialism that is the aggressor, provoking defensive reactions from both Russia and China. That, however, does not impart any progressive content to the policies being pursued by the Russian government. If Putin could get a deal with Washington that preserved the interests of both his government and those of US imperialism, he would sign it in a minute.

Unable to do so, and in the face of growing economic crisis and signs of social unrest at home, Putin has resorted to the promotion of Russian nationalism and an increasing reliance on the residual military power he inherited from the Soviet Union.

In the past few days, the Russian government has ordered the deployment of additional surface-to-air missile batteries to Syria and suspended an agreement with Washington for the destruction of weapons-grade plutonium. At the same time, pro-government Russian newspapers have warned of the threat a third world war and the government has launched a major civil defense exercise in preparation for just such an eventuality.

A policy of national defense by a regime that represents the interests of Russia’s capitalist oligarchy can only fuel the drive to world war. The masses of Russian working people confront the ultimate consequence of the Stalinist liquidation of the USSR in the form of a growing threat of nuclear holocaust.

.

The only force that can prevent a new world war is the international working class, organized independently and mobilized in a struggle against capitalism, the source of war. This requires the building of an international socialist leadership, and there is no time to lose.

We urge all of our readers to attend the November 5 emergency conference in Detroit, “Socialism vs. Capitalism & War,” as a critical step in this fight. Visit the conference web site and register today!

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The US has attempted to direct attention away from the fact supposed “moderate rebels” it has been supporting are now openly aligned to designated foreign terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda, Jubhat Al Nusra, and the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) by focusing instead on the alleged “humanitarian crisis” unfolding amid final operations to restore security to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

Syria Already Controls the Vast Majority of Aleppo

The operation however, headed by Syrian forces and supported by its allies including Russia, aims to bring the last remaining districts of  the city under government control. Already, the vast majority of Aleppo’s remaining 2 million residents live in government controlled territory, with less than a quarter of a million trapped in terrorist held sections of the city.

The Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, during a recent interview reiterated the fact that not only do 1.75 million of Aleppo’s 2 million residents live in government controlled sections of the city, but militant groups held up in districts awaiting liberation are not even entirely made up of Syrians – but rather foreigners who have entered the country.

This entirely undermines the West’s narrative that Syria is undergoing a “civil war” rather than a foreign orchestrated invasion by proxy, and that security operations to secure Aleppo’s remaining districts represents somehow, an unprecedented “humanitarian disaster.”

And as the US-Russian brokered ceasefire collapses, Russia has cited the United States’ inability and unwillingness to clearly delineate between what Washington alleges are “moderate rebels” and designated terrorist organizations the US itself admits are operating alongside militants they are backing.

Reuters in an article titled, “Russia urges U.S. to deliver on promise to separate Syria’s moderates from ‘terrorists’,” would admit:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday to make good on U.S. pledges to separate Washington-oriented units of Syrian opposition from “terrorist groups”, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

In response, Washington has incoherently and dishonestly blamed Russia for what it calls the driving of moderates into the arms of terrorist organizations.

A BBC article titled, “Syria conflict: US says Russia driving rebels into extremists’ camp,” would claim that:

Russia’s increasing military action in Syria is forcing moderates within the opposition into the hands of extremists, the US has said.

However, in reality, a long-standing truth entirely negates America’s current rhetoric – so thoroughly that this reality lays the blame for the last five years of regional catastrophe entirely at Washington’s feet.

Washington’s War on Syria Began in 2007 Led by Policymakers, Not 2011 by “Protesters”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in a now prophetic 2007 article titled, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” laid out years before the Syrian conflict began not only who and how the war would be triggered and then subsequently waged, but the very sort of humanitarian and sectarian catastrophe that would unfold, and how those the US claimed were “villains” would play a pivotal role in protecting religious and ethnic minorities across the region as it burned in foreign-fueled conflict.

The article began by stating explicitly (emphasis added):

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

This statement is underpinned by a further 9 pages of interviews with American, Lebanese, and Saudi intelligence sources, as well as revelations that monetary and political support was already being funneled at the time into Syria to lay the groundwork for the coming conflict.

The US Can’t Separate “Moderates” from Terrorists, Because There Are No Moderates 

The 2007 report clearly explains why the US cannot “separate” its alleged “moderate rebels” from Al Qaeda and its various affiliates – precisely because there were never any “moderate rebels” to begin with. In fact, it is clear now that the notion of “moderate rebels” was merely cover for the West’s intentional support provided to terrorists since  before the conflict even began.

Thus, it’s not that Syria and Russia are suddenly “driving rebels into the extremists’ camp,” it is instead that America’s attempts to cover up the fact that it has armed and supported extremists since as early as 2007 are no longer tenable.

Hersh’s article would also admit (emphasis added):

Nasr went on, “The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis”—Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.”

He would continue by stating (emphasis added):

This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

Yet despite this realization, even back in 2007, the US continued in earnest, with the conspiracy transcending the Bush administration and being carried forward under US President Barack Obama’s administration.

Predicting the coming sectarian conflict that would unfold in the region, Hersh’s article would note:

Robert Baer, a former longtime C.I.A. agent in Lebanon, has been a severe critic of Hezbollah and has warned of its links to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But now, he told me, “we’ve got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it’s going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites.

Indeed, it was stated then, and evident now that Syria’s government, its military, and their allies constitute the only force capable of protecting the region’s many minorities from a US-Saudi backed horde of sectarian extremists.

Thus, even as the US feigns urgent concern for what it attempts to portray as an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, it is itself guilty of intentionally engineering the entire conflict in the first place – knowing precisely the nature and degree of barbarity that would unfold and the extent to which it would reach. By attempting to shield its terrorist proxies remaining in Aleppo and throughout the rest of Syria, it is attempting to prolong, not end the humanitarian crisis, and tip Syria further toward what would be a catastrophic collapse making Libya’s recent US-induced division and destruction pale in comparison.

US spokespeople, before their various podiums and amid their various press conferences, are struggling to explain what the United States is doing in Syria and toward what end besides repeating the devastating destruction that it has unleashed in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They struggle not because the “truth” is difficult to convey to the public, but because the truth is difficult to deny any further.

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

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“Five million Syrian people have already been forced to leave their country. Now they are being scattered all over the Middle East: throughout Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey. Some have even gone as far as Europe, Canada and Chile.

How much more can one country endure?

And how can the rest of the world just stand by and watch as it is put through hell?

The answer is obvious: the rest of the world does not know; it does not understand! The propaganda coming out of the Western mass media outlets and indoctrination-spreading institutions is so thorough, so professional, that to most of people all over the world everything related to Syria appears to be blurry, murky, and incredibly complex. President al-Assad is demonized on a daily basis. Heroic resistance is called the “regime’s brutal actions”, pro-western terror groups are described as “moderate opposition.”

This is what my good friend, Andre Vltchek, wrote in his recent piece about “Syria’s Heroic Fight Against Western Imperialism”. It is almost an understatement. Living in Europe, being exposed to the daily, hourly, horrifying barrage of abject lies, day-in-day-out, for weeks no end, is unbearable.

Europe, alias the West, has become infested with falsehoods, with thirst for profit and more gains and personal comfort, a hearth of egocentricity and disrespect for her brothers and sisters, let alone for the rest of the world – there is no equal on earth, other than the US of A, the Master of all Masters of crime and horror. Europe with its hundreds of years of colonization always was the chieftain of these ignoble attributes, but now, all scruples are gone; the veils are lifted. There is not even an iota of shame left.

Let’s face it, the six Anglo-American media giants that dominate the western world, can spend billions on propaganda. Money doesn’t matter. Money is made of thin air. Money for wars doesn’t matter either – it’s also made of thin air. It’s made by the dollar manufacturing machine, meaning the US private banking system. Today, 97% of all the money produced in the US is made by private banks in the form of debt, mostly by Wall Street. And the epitome of financial fraud throughout the globe is Goldman Sachs, the same GS that makes EU financial and monetary policy, through the European Central Bank which is headed by a former GS executive.

So the rest of the world, which is buying US debt as treasury bonds in their reserve coffers, is actually financing all the wars and the slandering of unbending nations, like Syria, Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela – and the list is growing every day, as people are resisting. Most of the propaganda is directed against the very nations that are held hostage by the western dollar-based casino scheme. To add a little caveat: It is all controlled by the Rothschild gang, in connivance with the Rockefellers and consortia of this world, as is the FED itself.

Syria’s fight is indeed heroic. She stands up tall and bold, while burying her hundreds of thousands of death, many of them women and children – the children who would be the future of Syria to rebuild their country. Now they are gone. They died miserable torturous deaths, by cluster bombs, phosphorous-laden missiles and poisonous sarin killer gas, provided to the terrorists by NATO, CIA and Mid-Eastern vassal allies. Others had to flee their homes, their country under the most horrible conditions of famine, disease, discrimination and violence. But the western MSM have brainwashed their public to believe it is the work of Bashar al-Assad, the legitimate President of Syria, who still enjoys close to 80% support of the Syrian population, with the help of Russia and, of course, as always, President Putin. It’s been said before but must be said again – we are in the midst of WWIII, but thanks to the number one diplomatic chess strategist, Vladimir Putin, we have so far been spared from a nuclear war.

Syria is not only fighting the most abhorrent weaponry the west invented to not just kill, but to cause tremendous suffering before death – and to cause for those who survive, generations of malformations and birth defects; generations of people who could not live normal lives, even if peace one day would return. Falluja in Iraq is just an example. Aleppo may become another such horrifying legacy, if not liberated soon by Syria’s and Russia’s armies.

When one sees the pictures of the war victims, or reality itself, the barbarism being committed in Syria and the Middle East, accompanied by the constant rumble of western lie-propaganda, day by day, there is no other option than to conclude that the west has ceased to be human. That process has started hundreds of years ago, by colonial exploitation, mass-murders, esclavisation, torture of literally the entire world by the West and its monotheist Judo-Christian religions. Just think of water-boarding and other diabolical forms of torturing, invented under the Catholic Kings of France and Spain, the infamous Inquisition that began in the 12th Century and lasted for almost 800 years. Its revolting torture methods were promptly taken over by our modern western special forces and secret services, like CIA, MI6, Mossad and all those who serve the empire – which itself is nothing more and nothing less than the descendant of inhuman European stock.

Syria is confronting an entire western culture (sic), dying indeed, but kept alive with an artificial heart, the nefarious dollar-making-machine, as long as feasible with the western pyramid or Ponzi monetary scheme. We, who see through this horror, have to stand up and scream it out to the people, to awaken them from their brainwashed state of zombie; to ignite in them the tiny spark of conscience that we were all born with. Will we succeed?

Make no mistake, Washington will never let go – not by itself, never. Their target is world hegemony – the goal of their self-indulging PNAC – Plan for a New American Century. And to attain this goal, the fall of Syria had been planned long in advance, in the early 1990’s. “Regime Change” is relentlessly being pursued – see Wesley Clark at the Commonwealth Club of California, October 3, 2007 – ‘7 countries have to fall in five years’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUCwCgthp_E .

In addition to the balkanization of Syria, along with the spreading eternal chaos throughout the Middle East and North Africa, one of the key reasons why Mr. Assad has to go – is the infamous Qatari gas pipeline which the US oil giants want to pass through Syria and Turkey – and to which Mr. Assad said NO. He said ‘no’ in 2000; and a definite ‘no’ in 2007. That’s when the CIA started recruiting and training terror groups that would eventually erupt into another ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011 in Syria, to become what’s now euphemistically called a civil war – which is another outrageous lie. It’s a full-out war, driven by Washington with NATO and its European and Mid-Eastern vassal allies – and their foot soldiers and well-paid mercenaries, the western recruited and groomed terror armies. (See F. William Engdahl,  Global Research, March 16, 2016

This pipeline is meant to disrupt the Russian European gas market – and, most important – to keep the hegemony of the dollar. It would again justify printing trillions of new debt dollars, just to extend the reign of the dollar a bit longer. The alternative pipeline, Iran-Iraq-Syria to Europe would be complementary. It is favored by Iran, Russia and Syria; and covertly also by most future European clients, as they would be free from the yoke of the western dollar system. Russia, China and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) alliance have freed themselves years ago from the rule of the dollar, using their own currencies for trade, including for trading hydrocarbons.

The only way to defeat the monster, is by pulling the rug from under its bloody boots – the monetary rug, that is. This is already gradually happening and may be happening much faster than we think. The ‘crisis’ artificially started by Washington in 2007 / 2008 – under orders of the cream of crop of the occult elite that pulls the strings on Obama, Merkel, May and Co., towards the One World Order – is never ending, as it is meant to prolong the supremacy of the dollar and its by-product, the euro, to the very Armageddon. But, We, The People, can stop it from reaching that horrifying end.

As long as the world is blind to this fact and pundits keep arguing about details of the ‘crisis’ and who is to blame for it (when the willing culprits are clearly those ‘invisible elitists’ who control the monetary system), or as long as politicians are afraid of the consequences of seeing the light, so long the hegemon will advance and encircle the world, like an octopus, gradually but steadily sucking up all its internal and external juices. It’s already happening.

Look at NATO aggressions at Moscow’s doorstep, the absurd and highly propagated US threats on Chinese sovereignty in the South China Sea, are clear signals, that there is no way in heaven that Washington will seriously negotiate for anything; not for a cease fire in Syria, not for reducing weapon-grade plutonium, not for a halt to fighting in the Ukraine Donbass – not for anything. Every attempt at diplomacy is an abject failure, as it is countered with verbal insults at the UN, with lies, accusations and denigrations in all western media. Syria is considered but a stepping stone towards Washington’s Full Spectrum World Dominance – the goal clearly spelled out in the PNAC.

But Syria is no stone, let alone a stepping stone. Syria is a solid rock. Syria has the world’s strongest alliance it could dream of – Russia, Iran and China. This Alliance of Peace will eventually triumph over the diabolical US-NATO-Brussels terror-alliance of destruction and killing.

Peter Koenig is an economist, and water resources and environmental specialist. He has worked for over 30 years with the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Swiss Development Cooperation, in Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, East and South East Asia and Latin America. Peter is also a geopolitical analyst for Global Research, Information Clearing House, RT, PressTV, Sputnik, TeleSUR and The 4th Media, China. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance

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Can the Left Survive a Trump Presidency?

October 5th, 2016 by Shamus Cooke

It’s easy to overestimate an adversary. Especially a billionaire who says scary, racist things.

The disbelief triggered by Donald Trump’s candidacy exposed a mass crisis of confidence in the establishment, whose policies alienated the electorate, creating a Trump-sized political void. Trump seems strong because the establishment is so weak, and hated.

Trump himself is a decades-old member of the establishment, but his entry into politics provoked vitriol from his former buddies. It’s an embarrassment to their rule that Trump is a contender to lead the country.

The ruling class has consequently unified behind Hillary Clinton: Republicans, billionaires and conservative military generals are flocking to her as they holler about Trump’s lack of credentials.

The establishment’s shallow anti-Trump rhetoric contrasts with the legitimate fears coming from vulnerable populations and the Left in general, which ring anti-Trump alarm bells for different reasons.

A Trump presidency does pose a direct threat to ethnic and religious minorities, to women, immigrants, labor, and basic democratic rights. These are all real concerns, but how large is the threat, and can the Left survive it?

A worst-case scenario was presented by Arun Gupta, an astute journalist and analyst whose recent article published by ‘In These Times’ was entitled “How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence – and Devastate the Left.”

It’s a good read. Gupta envisions President Trump using the full powers of the federal government — including the National Guard —  to stop protests, attack reproductive rights, attack unions and immigrants, and outlaw Black Lives Matter, while “White supremacists, Neo-Nazis, the Klan, and the Alt-Right would all be welcome into his administration, overtly or covertly…”

Many of Gupta’s points are obviously correct. And several of them would be correct in the context of any Republican president in 2016, especially after eight years of a Democratic president.

The bolder assertions of Gupta’s deserve closer scrutiny, including his assumption that “Black Lives Matter will be declared a domestic terrorist outfit” and “there will be no more climate justice movement,” etc.

Gupta’s stronger assertions rely on comparing a Donald Trump presidency to past fascist governments, which used state power combined with mass movements to physically destroy labor unions, leftist organizations, working-class movements while targeting ethnic and religious minorities.

A mass movement is a central component of fascism, which is used as a hammer to violently smash existing working-class organizations and movements. The classic example of this dynamic remains Nazi Germany.

Gupta characterizes Trump’s campaign — correctly — as a “proto fascist” movement, meaning embryonic fascism, which may or may not develop into a fetus, let alone a baby. Proto-fascism has the DNA necessary to develop into a fully developed fascist movement, but without organizational sustenance and ideal conditions, the embryo withers.

While Gupta is right to warn of the threat, he overstates its imminence. A Trump presidency would feed the fascistic fetus in some ways while likely poisoning it in others.

A comparison of Trump’s campaign to the Nazi movement is helpful to illustrate. German fascism was a genuine, organized mass movement, with the Nazi party becoming the biggest political party in Germany. The party also had a massive paramilitary wing, the “Brownshirts,” which at its height had three million well-organized troops.

When Hitler came into state power, he brought with him his personal army, a massive political party with its own distinct, powerful ideology.

Trump doesn’t even have his own party, let alone a real movement (an electoral campaign is not a movement). His ideas are rudimentary and inconsistent. Because of him the Republicans are deeply split. Trump joined the Republicans out of weakness, not strength, and weakened the Republicans in the process.

Regardless, Gupta is right to criticize the U.S. Left for believing the establishment will save them from Trump. The ruling class fears organized workers far more than their old friend Donald.

The establishment, however, doesn’t arbitrarily dabble with fascism; they use it only when necessary, since engaging with fascism causes political and economic disruption, making profits less predictable.

Historically, a large section of the establishment opens its arms to real fascism when they literally fear for their life. Fascism is the “nuclear option” for capitalists, who use the far-right ideology to prevent the Left from taking power, so that capitalism can be preserved, and with it the large profits for the wealthy.

When Germany’s capitalists invited Hitler into power, the country was in shambles. The establishment was led by President Hindenburg, whom the Left rallied around as the “lesser evil” to Hitler.  After winning the election, the lesser-evil Hindenburg acted as the establishment figurehead, by appointing Hitler to be Chancellor.

The German establishment needed Hitler to save capitalism, which was in imminent danger of being overthrown by the millions-strong and growing Socialist and Communist movements, led by mass organized parties.

The balance of power between the establishment and the working class was nearly even. Consequently, the establishment could not rule effectively. Protests were numerous, employers were under attack with strikes, and pro-capitalist reforms could not be implemented without risking insurrection.

Hitler and the German establishment were in total agreement that the Socialists, Communists and the trade union movement were too powerful, and had to be crushed. The first inhabitants of the concentration camps were leaders of the Left.

The situation in the U.S. is nowhere near 1930’s Germany. The U.S. establishment doesn’t yet need Brownshirts to save capitalism. Yes, widening inequality is an inherent and growing threat to U.S. capitalism, but a new Hitler isn’t yet required to smash the Left. This dynamic is ultimately what will prevent a President Trump from being too large a threat in the immediate future.

Yes, Gupta is right that white supremacists would be emboldened with a Trump victory, but they would likely experience a quick letdown, as Trump quickly gets incorporated into the Republican establishment. There is a reason he didn’t run as an independent or form a new party. His leverage within the Republican Party will be much less than Hitler’s leverage when entering office.

Behind the scenes Trump is already good friends with the establishment, whereas Hitler was an actual outsider who led and organized a real mass movement of the middle class, from scratch.

Trump’s followers will be completely let down by him in office, minus a smattering of racist policies plus the usual Republican program.

Gupta’s article also includes another big assumption about U.S. politics: that electing Republicans is bad for social movements and the Left in general. This was definitely true under President Reagan, but sometimes the opposite is true.

President Obama was in many ways awful for the Left: the anti-war and immigrant’s rights movements were decapitated. Both were powerful movements against Bush, and Obama continued Bush’s approach to wars and immigration, deporting more people than Bush and destroying Libya and Syria, matching Bush’s destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

If Trump becomes president, the various social movements — labor, peace, immigration, women, LGBT, Black Lives — will be given free reign to fight back by the Democrat-affiliated media and politicians, who will all discover the backbones they lost while Obama was in office. Good media examples are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who were brave pit bulls against Bush but toothless puppies under Obama.

In this sense, a Republican president can open space for the Left, even as they attempt to implement policies against it, while Democratic presidents shut off political space. Under Obama, protests were discouraged. Challenging politicians with bold demands was prohibited as the working class was told to defend Democrats from the right wing. Politics was stifled.

Obama’s policies are incredibly right-wing and few working-class “leaders” lifted a finger, creating a political void on the Left soon filled by the Chicago Teachers, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Climate Justice, Native organizing, 15now, etc.

These are genuine movements to varying degrees, since they were either created by independent working class initiative or maintained by the energy of working class people, often despite a leadership who did little to nothing to support them.

Gupta envisions these movements being smashed by Trump. But a movement is sometimes harder to crush when it’s not well organized, especially when it’s in a fighting mood.

When the left was smashed in Germany, it’s precisely because they refused to fight, with Stalin famously relying on the German electoral system to eventually bring the Communists to power. Stalinists argued, “after Hitler, our turn.” This unwillingness to mobilize — as Leon Trotsky persistently denounced — allowed Hitler to brag that he came to power without “one single window-pane being broken.”

It’s possible that a President Trump might overplay his hand by taking the bold actions Gupta envisions. The backlash this could create is possibly just what the Left needs. The reason the establishment hasn’t already frontally assaulted the working class is precisely because these backlashes do happen, and create big political and economic disruptions.

For example, the Republican frontal-assault in Wisconsin led to massive demonstrations and nearly a general strike; the labor movement had every opportunity to win before they prematurely conceded. But it was the hundred thousand strong rallies that struck fear into the Wisconsin establishment and beyond.

The Obama administration created a different backlash when it escalated its assault on teachers unions via his “Race to the Top” program. In response the Chicago Teachers Union radicalized and spread a much more militant model of teacher unions that spread across the country.

It could be argued that the Occupy movement was itself a backlash against Obama’s economic policies.  Obama responded to Occupy by smashing it, using national coordination with the FBI (the lesson being that both parties utilize state power to stop left movements).

Another way social movements can defend themselves against Trump is the shifting societal attitudes that favor the Left, while Trump’s base are middle age or older and white. Young people prefer socialism to capitalism, Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The country is rapidly becoming more diverse, and thus less open to racism. Young people have overwhelmingly accepted homosexuality and are demanding action on climate change. Yes, these attitudes need to be organized, but they pose a potentially fatal blow to U.S. fascism.

Yes, there is a battle looming. Gupta is right to warn us of it. But Trump will not be the general to lead a real fascist movement. He is a buffoon who’s shown no zeal for organizing, and has no plan to build an independent political party, let alone a real movement.

As president he’ll be undermined worse than Obama was, or be completely forced to conform to Republican Party norms. His aptitude for politics ends with name-calling and race baiting, which are most effective for electoral campaigns, not governing.

It’s likely that Trump won’t be elected president; every debate reveals more shortcomings. After losing, he’ll return to TV and real estate, while a more suitable fascist leader waits in the wings.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at [email protected]

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At the end of a meeting of the Ministers for Defence of the European Union, the General Secretary of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, who had been «invited», gave a Press briefing [1].

He declared that he had been shocked by the battle of Aleppo, which he equated with the attack on a humanitarian convoy. He went on to qualify both events as «violations of international law».

However, the attack on the humanitarian convoy was perpetrated on the ground by the «Local Council of Aleppo» against the Syrian Red Crescent, while the battle of Aleppo is being fought by Syria and Russia in application of UNO resolutions calling for the struggle against terrorism. During the Aïd cease-fire, the «Local Council of Aleppo» considered themselves to be linked with organisations listed as terrorist by the UNO, and refused to stipulate the distinction.

Responding to a question from Reuters, Mr. Stoltenberg indicated that NATO would deploy AWACS to improve the Coalition’s view of the sky.

However, Syrian air-space is legally used only by Syria and Russia, and illegally by the Coalition and Israël. The rebel or terrorist armies have no air force. It seems that NATO intends to test the methods of aerial surveillance which still function despite the deployment of the Russian system for disconnecting the Alliance’s command and control.

Translation
Pete Kimberley

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U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing September 28 2016 – Spokesperson John Kirby

QUESTION: But what I don’t think we have heard here is, so what are the consequences for Russia if this agreement falls through beyond some interagency discussions about options that have not yet been chosen? What are the consequences for Russia other than Secretary Kerry won’t talk to them on this particular issue going forward?

MR KIRBY: The consequences are that the civil war will continue in Syria, that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft.

The Russian Federation interpreted that not as a prediction or warning, but as a direct threat.

Monument to defense of Sevastopol in the second world war 1941-1942

The ceasefire agreement fell through. The U.S. essentially blocked it by NOT pushing its proxy forces in Syria to follow its provisions. It blamed, as usual, the Russian side which had followed the ceasefire nearly to the letter.

Then this happened:

Al-Nusra Front Shells Russian Embassy in Damascus

The Russian embassy in Damascus was shelled from the areas controlled by al-Nusra Front and Faylaq al-Rahman militants, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.”The Russian diplomatic mission came under mortar shelling on October 3. One of the mines exploded on the embassy area near its residential department. Fortunately, no one was wounded. The diplomatic mission sustained material damage. Another two mines went off next to the embassy.” The Ministry said the shelling was conducted from the Jobar municipality controlled by al-Nusra Front and Faylaq al-Rahman terrorists. “We view this shelling of the Russian embassy as a consequence of actions of those who, like the US and its allies, provoke the violent conflict in Syria, flirting with militants and extremists of different sorts.

Russia has deployed a number of additional bombers to Syria. We do not yet know how many. But as soon as these are operational the “rebels” will face a significant larger amount of air attacks. A few weeks of intense attacks and their abilities, logistics and command and control will have been degrade to a point where they can no longer wage an organized fight.

Also deployed was a battery of S-300 air-defense systems. The specific type is said to be S-300VM, also known as Antey-2500. These are specially designed for defending against ballistic- and cruise missiles. The system will be stationed near Tartus harbor and will protect the Syrian east coast as well as the Russian fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. These also have good capabilities against attacking planes. A volley cruise missile attack by the U.S. against the Syrian and Russian airports and air forces in Syria, discussed in various U.S. papers as the start of a “no-fly zone” war, will be severely hampered by this.

Then there is this:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai#Damascus agreed & #Russia is ready to send several thousands of special forces & other various units officers this month to #Syria.

9:57 AM – 4 Oct 2016

The final decision for this was, I believe, made after the U.S. attack on  Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor which opened the besieged city to the Islamic State. That, and the current U.S. bombing of bridges in Deir Ezzor, will allow for an isolated area in which the Islamic State can survive. Russia can and will not condone that.

The U.S. wants, for lack of better ideas, play hardball with Russia. But it does not want to go to war. Russia will go along with the hardball game. It makes sure that the U.S. understands that it will indeed have to fight a full fledged war with Russia and its allies if it wants to get its way in Syria. Further arming its al-Qaeda proxy-Jihadis, as Washington is currently doing, will not change that.

Russia will not give in to U.S. demands without a very severe fight. It bets that Obama, the members of his administration and the generals in the Pentagon are, in the end, pampered cowards. It has, in my estimate, a very high chance to win that bet.

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US-NATO’s War On Russia: The Winds Howl Before The Storm

October 5th, 2016 by Christopher Black

A few weeks ago I wrote, “I have been a defence lawyer most of my working life and am not used to gathering evidence for a prosecution, but circumstances impelled me to open a file for the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, or perhaps some future citizen’s tribunal, in which is contained the evidence that the NATO leaders are guilty of the gravest crime against mankind, the crime of aggression. I would like to share with you some brief notes of interest from that file, for your consideration.

Article 8bis of the Rome Statute, the governing statue of the International Criminal Court states:

For the purpose of this Statute, “crime of aggression” means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter on the United Nations.

Since then I have written little partly due to other events in life that interfered with the ability to sit back, take in, and think about what was happening in the world, but principally because to choose to write about one particular crime committed by the west, meaning the United States of America, when faced with their multitude of crimes, celebrated in the western media under the bloody banners of patriotism, nationalism, chauvinism, and fascism, led to a type of paralysis; state of shock, is perhaps, a better phrase.

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Others must feel the same. Maybe most of us feel that way from time to time. What’s the point? Why say or write anything? They’re going to destroy us all anyway. It doesn’t matter what we say and besides, it’s all been said before. It was said in World War One. It was said in the Second. Now we’re entering, or probably already in the middle of the third-all those words of peace, and outrage and the result? The wars happened despite them.

John Lennon made our fundamental demand, “Give Peace A Chance,” and the CIA shot him in the back for it-one of the great crimes against the people-the murder one of our heroes-for when they shot him in the back they shot all of us in the back.

But this feeling fades, the numbness retreats, the blood begins to flow again, the Peter Finch cry from Paddy Chayefsky’s Network “I’m not going to take it anymore!’ comes screaming back and you stand up and say, “Damn right! I’m not going to take this anymore!”

So I have reopened the file I am preparing for the prosecutor of a future peoples’ tribunal or, a miracle, a really independent prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, to lay war crimes charges against the United States and its NATO and other allies, their leaders and military officers, for the crime of aggression and all the other crimes they commit on a daily basis against many different countries.

The new charges concern their involvement in the political coup carried out in Brazil against the socialist government there, elected by the people, essentially robbing the Brazilian people of their democracy and independence as a nation, their continued and dangerous provocations in Asia against China and North Korea, which they are directly threatening with nuclear annihilation by flying B1 and B2 bombers over the peninsula, ongoing provocations of NATO forces in the Baltic and the Balkans, all threatening Russia, and committing crimes against the peoples of the Donbas republics and now Crimea, that is, Russia itself. But the most dangerous of all is their invasion of Syria to protect and assist their ISIL or Daesh proxy forces. The presence of US, British, French, Canadian, Israeli and other forces in Syria is of course illegal and constitutes the crime of aggression. There are no excuses or justifications for the crime of aggression. Their aggression also constitutes a complete repudiation of the UN Charter, which requires all disputes to be settled peacefully, and forbids the use of force for any reason outside the parameters of the UN mandate.

The invasion of Syria by their direct forces and ISIS proxy forces under various names, and now it appears Turkish forces, has killed hundreds of thousands of people. While Syria, Russia, Iran and others try to find a peaceful conclusion to the war, the Americans and their gang, perpetually dishonest, talk cease-fire from one side of their face, as, from the other, they give orders to attack

The recent bombing of the Syrian positions near Deir es-Zor on September 17th everyone knows was a deliberate attack. The more so since we now have Britain and Denmark stating their planes were involved, as well as American. For all four nations’ pilots to make the same mistake when such a joint operation would have to be finely tuned is beyond far-fetched. The Syrians now claim they have radio intercepts of Daesh and the Americans coordinating the attack. This was a particularly cruel war crime since the Syrian soldiers who were killed were under the impression they were safe from any such attack, didn’t see it coming, a sneak attack, an ambush, by the world’s greatest cowards.

Then to cover that crime under moral indignation they accuse Russia and Syria of attacking an aid convoy that those two countries spent a lot of time and work organizing, then carried on their attack by insulting Russia in the Security Council using the type of vile language that shows their complete contempt for the Russian people.

Many think it’s because Samantha Power is a crazy bitch, which she is of course. Is that personality required for the job? No, but it helps because these gratuitous insults are not just a matter of personality and the personal psychopathy of the individual. This ugly behaviour serves a propaganda purpose and needs to be delivered with hatred and venom for maximum effect. Samantha Power is a natural. Her personality marches perfectly the needs of the regime she represents. Her displays are acted out deliberately and with the one purpose of showing the world that Russia is not worthy of credit or respect, that the Russian people and government are beneath contempt and therefore they are not really human beings. They are things that can be destroyed without feeling anything, for they are nothing. That is the message and anyone who fails to understand this fails to understand what the ultimate objective is-Russia’s complete subjection or war.

The quick response by the Syrian forces to the breaking of the ceasefire by the Americans and, if some reports are credible in Sputnik and Fars, that the 3 Russian, ship-launched missiles fired at Aleppo, hit a central command post manned by American, Israeli and other allied forces, killing 30 of them, then the world is already at war. The report of 11 Canadian soldiers being killed in the Donbas after attacking republican positions there on July 23, while not confirmed, has not been denied by the Canadian authorities in response to my query about the report.

The Americans seem hell bent on war and the up-coming elections in the US hold no hope for the future, only more despair. The Russians and the rest of the world are faced with Godzilla, the monster that threatened Japan in several science fiction films made in the 50’s. Those films were cleverly disguised political attacks on the United States and its destruction and occupation of Japan. America was the monster that was born in the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. It was the monster threatening to destroy everything in its path. Nothing could seem to stop Godzilla, except of course nuclear weapons. And this is where we are; the Russian government trying everything it can think of to avoid that catastrophe while the Americans keep pushing them and all of us, into a corner there is only one escape from.

So, I mark the file, add the new charges, build the criminal dossier; because one day there will be a reckoning with these people. One day, justice will prevail in this world. For as I wrote in a poem,

Once there was Enlightenment,

And Reason’s voice sang sweet,

Of Rights of Man, and truths we now lament,

Murdered with impunity, cut down on every street,

So now we must renew our song,

Our struggle take another form,

For the days run dark, the nights are long,

The winds howl before the storm.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, he is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and he is known for a number of high-profile cases involving human rights and war crimes, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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On October 2nd, Oleg Manuilo, the spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry for Emergencies (MCHS) announced that a large scale “civil defense” drill will take part in the next few days.

Over 40 million personnel from Russia’s regional and municipal authorities, as well as emergency and evacuation services will be involved.

“The drill will take place from the 4th to the 7th October 2016. As a total, over 40 million people will be involved, with 200,000 specialists from various rescue services, and over 50,000 equipment units will be put to the test.” – Manuilo said.

All federal and local authorities will take part in the drill. The evacuation practice is intended to test the current emergency and evacuation management plans, for efficiency and speediness.

“We will test our communications systems as well as the systemic medical and rescue services” – says Manuilo.

“Moreover, all civil defense units will be readied. In coordination with regional and municipal authorities, all emergency notification systems will be trialed.” These systems are only utilized in the event of a sudden threat.

As part of the drill, standard medical facilities and rescue services will be checked for their readiness and ability to offer assistance.

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Washington’s pursuit of hegemony has fallen short of its goal, causing havoc and collapse of states, Bashar Assad said in a new interview. Syria’s head believes that US meddling in the conflict aims to “save what is left” from its fading global preeminence.

In an interview to Iranian magazine Tehran Foreign Policy Studies Quarterly on Wednesday, the Syrian president argued that the US resort to force every time it fears a challenge to its clout and ability to control the international agenda unilaterally.

“United States builds its position on hegemony over other states and it has been the case since they took advantage of the USSR collapse and established unilateral control over this world up to this day,” the president said, adding that the real motive behind US military interventions into foreign countries is to coerce them to submit to American authority, as in the case with Syria.

“Today, the United States are waging wars with the only goal to cement its project of total control by launching attack on everyone, who opposes its dominance,” Assad said, noting that Washington “rejects” and “refuses to acknowledge” the nascent balance of powers in the world affairs and the rise of other states.

Assad believes that while Washington has been losing its grip, it cannot accept the fact it’s not being in charge of the global affairs, and tries to reaffirm, if not to strengthen, its positions in the world.

“What is happening in Syria is an attempt to save what is left from the American and western hegemony in the world,”Assad said.

According to the Syrian president, “the only one thing the Americans have succeeded is creating problems and destroying states, no more than that.”      

Washington spares no means to inflict losses on its ideological rivals, including “terrorism”, psychological and economical methods, Assad said. However, he thinks that a biased coverage of the conflict by mainstream media delivers one of the most significant blows.

“Here we are talking not only about the minds of the officials, but about the people, about the wrong analysis of what is happening and presenting things in a distorted way.” 

If Syria manages to withstand the pressure and uproot the terrorism from its soil, the victory will pave the way for “spread of ideas of independent development [in the world], that is what the West fears most of all,” Assad said, adding that “what will happen in Syria will affect the political map.” 

The Syrian president does not believe that that the US foreign policy may change its track in the foreseeable future, as wars are in the interest of American powerful lobby groups, in particular, arms and oil lobbies.

“There is no point in analyzing US politics on the basis of common sense, as it is guided by the factional interests,” Assad said.

Earlier, Moscow raised concerns about the possible impact of the US trying to ouster the Syrian president by means of a direct military aggression, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova warning it would lead to a “terrible, tectonic shift not only in the country, but in the entire region”.

For its part, Russia has been assisting Syrian government in the fight against terrorism at the request of Assad since September last year. Russia’s UN envoy and the current UN Security Council President Vitaly Churkin on Monday said he believes “had it not been for our [Russian] involvement in Syria, it might well be that the black flags would be flying over Damascus.”

The assertion that Russia has been the main contributor to the Syrian anti-terror campaign and did not let it slip into the hands of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants was rejected by Mark Toner, State Department’s spokesperson in a briefing on Tuesday. Washington has been downplaying Russia’s role in helping to put an end to the Syrian bloodshed, even claiming that its bombing campaigns have been largely targeting the opposition forces instead of IS.

Despite the breakdown of US-Russian cooperation on Syria, Washington indicated it is not going to inflame the standoff by striking Syrian government targets as it is concerned it would put Russian and US forces on the brink of military confrontation.

“The president [Barack Obama], as he thinks through those options, is going to think very carefully about the consequences of taking different actions,” White House spokesman John Earnest said on Tuesday.

US-led coalition carried out airstrike on Syrian government troops in Deir ez-Zoir on September 19, killing 62 servicemen and injuring over hundred. In the wake of the attack, President Assad announced the end of the latest US-Russia brokered ceasefire in Syria.

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The International Monetary Fund has revised down its estimates for the US and other advanced economies for this year while maintaining its forecast for global growth as a whole at the low level of 3.1 percent in its latest World Economic Outlook report released yesterday.

It said the major economies would grow by just 1.6 percent this year compared to 2.1 percent in 2015, down from the forecast of 1.8 percent growth made last July. The most significant decline in the US where the IMF cut its July forecast of 2.2 percent growth to just 1.6 percent following what it said was a “disappointing first half caused by weak business investment” and a rundown of inventories.

It said the euro area would expand 1.7 percent this year and 1.5 percent next year compared to 2 percent growth in 2015. Growth in Japan, the world’s third largest economy, would be only 0.5 percent this year and 0.6 percent in 2017. Growth in the UK economy is forecast to be 1.8 percent this year, falling to 1.1 percent in 2017, compared to growth to 2.2 percent in 2015.

Growth in the Chinese economy, the world’s second largest, is forecast to be 6.6 percent this year, falling to 6.2 percent in 2017, compared to growth of 6.9 percent in 2015.

Falling growth in the major economies is offset to some extent by growth in so-called emerging market and developing economies, which is forecast to rise for the first time in six years to 4.2 percent this year, up from the forecast of 4.1 percent in July, and then increase to 4.6 percent in 2017.

Summarising the outlook, the IMF’s economic counsellor Maurice Obstfeld said: “Taken as a whole, the world economy has moved sideways. Without determined policy action to support economic activity over the short and longer terms, sub-par growth at recent levels risks perpetuating itself through the negative economic and political forces it is unleashing.”

On the economic front those forces include the emergence of the “deflationary cycle” in which “weak demand and deflation reinforce each other” giving rise to a “deflationary trap” in which interest rates, already close to zero, cannot stimulate the economy,” according to the WEO.

An IMF discussion note, co-authored by Obstfeld and released on the eve of the report, warned that downside risks were high, confidence in a sustainable recovery low and, with interest rates at the lower bound, “a deflationary cloud threatens as weak growth looms.”

In his remarks on the WEO, Obstfeld pointed to the political impact of slow growth and rising inequality in the eight years since the global financial crisis of 2008. “The slow and incomplete recovery from crisis has been especially damaging in those countries where the distribution of income has been skewed sharply towards the highest earners leaving little room for those with lower incomes to advance,” he said.

The main factor in the growth of income and wealth inequality, above all in the advanced economies, has been the policies of “quantitative easing” by the world’s major central banks. With the full support of the IMF, they have pumped trillions of dollars into the financial system, enabling rampant speculation, parasitism and the accumulation of unprecedented wealth on the heights of society, while living standards and social conditions have been slashed through a combination of lower wages and cuts in social services.

According to Obstfeld, the consequence of this economic development was a “political movement that blames globalisation for all woes and seeks to wall off the economy from global trends rather than engage cooperatively with foreign nations. Brexit is only one example of this.” Protectionist trade measures have been on the rise across the world, he said.

However, to blame the rise of protectionist measures on a movement of resentment and hostility from below over rising social inequality is completely false. The drive toward protectionism is being organised from above as the governments and ruling classes of the major capitalist powers, confronted by a contracting world economy, take action against their rivals.

As the World Trade Organisation and other international trade bodies have noted, protectionist measures have significantly increased over the past two years, mainly as a result of actions initiated by the governments of the major countries. This has taken place despite repeated declarations at the G-20 summit meetings that the lessons of the 1930s, when such beggar-thy neighbour policies helped fuel the drive to war, have been learned.

The conflict over the $14 billion fine imposed by the US Department of Justice against Deutsche Bank was a political initiative aimed at weakening, if not completely crippling, Germany’s only significant international bank. This prompted claims from leading German politicians that the US was waging “economic warfare” against Germany and that the US had a “long tradition” of waging what amounted to trade war “if it benefits their own economy.”

The move on Deutsche Bank followed in the wake of the European Union decision to impose a €13 billion back tax claim on Apple, prompting strident denunciations from US business leaders, and the virtual scuttling of the US-backed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership by Germany and France.

The release of the WEO was preceded by a series of warnings from leading economic commentators about the direction of the global economy and its implications for world politics.

According to the Brookings Institution-Financial Times tracking index, growth rates for the world economy were “sliding back into the morass [they have] been stuck in for some time.”

Brookings Institution economist Eswar Prasad said most of the world could be described as having “weak investment, stagnant productivity and tepid private sector confidence.” With little prospect of a spontaneous recovery or any new stimulus “ a strong adverse feedback loop has been set in with low growth, fragile business and consumer confidence, low interest rates, trade tensions and political instability feeding into and reinforcing each other.”

Writing in the Financial Times, Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic adviser to the financial firm Allianz, warned that the “new normal” of the past seven years was unsustainable. The consequences of low growth went far beyond today’s forgone economic opportunities because the longer they persist “the more they eat away at the potential for future growth” as investment plans are shelved.

“The ‘new normal’,” he concluded, “is coming to an end. The reason is simple: it has lasted for so long that it is now breeding the causes of its own destruction.”

Former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia Stephen Roach, now a lecturer at Yale, took aim at the policies of the central banks. Their approach led to an “insidious connection” between monetary policies, financial markets and asset-dependent economies which had led to the meltdown of 2008-2009 and “could well sow the seeds of another crisis”

“Central bankers desperately want the public to believe they know what they are doing. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The lack of response to zero interest rates was “strikingly reminiscent of the so-called ‘liquidity trap’ of the 1930s, when central banks were also ‘pushing on a string’.” But having depleted their traditional arsenal long ago, central bankers remained “myopically focused on devising new tools, rather than owning up to the destructive role their old tools played in sparking the crisis.”

The drawing of a parallel between present conditions and those of the 1930s is not misplaced. The stagnation in the world economy and the failure of the ruling elites to devise any measures to turn it around is fuelling the rise of geo-political tensions and conflicts, which, in turn, impact on the world economy. Coupled with the rise of militarism, these processes point inexorably in the direction of war.

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The United States blocked at the United Nations Security Council Russia’s statement on the shelling of its embassy in Damascus, Syria that took place on Monday, the representative of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations told RIA Novosti.

“[The statement] was actually blocked by the US delegation, which tried to add extraneous elements in a standard in such cases text,” the permanent mission statement said.

“The British and Ukrainians clumsily played up to the Americans. It demonstrates their blatant disrespect for the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations,” the statement added.

On October 4, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported the shelling of the Russian embassy in Damascus on Monday. One of the mines exploded near a residential complex on the territory of the embassy but none of its staff was hurt.

According to the ministry statement, the embassy was shelled from the Jobar municipality controlled by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) and Faylaq al-Rahman militant groups.

On October 3, US State Department announced in a press release that Washington was cutting off participation in bilateral channels with Russia on sustaining a ceasefire agreement in Syria, which was reached by the two countries in September.

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In the wake of breaking off bilateral talks with Moscow on efforts to achieve a truce and political settlement in Syria, the Obama administration is reportedly convening a meeting today to consider escalating US military intervention in the war-ravaged country.

The so-called Principals Committee, to be attended by the secretaries of state and defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA director, as well as top White House officials, is being convened amid an increasingly dangerous escalation of tensions between the US and Russia, the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the meeting would consider classified proposals that include “bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, as well as other acts of military aggression.”

An unnamed administration official is quoted by the Post as reporting that, in order to placate White House concerns over launching such direct military attacks against another country without authorization from the United Nations Security Council, it has been proposed that the strikes be carried out “covertly and without public acknowledgment.”

According to the official cited by the Post, both the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have already “expressed support for such ‘kinetic’ options.” Another unnamed senior administration official told the Post that both the Pentagon and the CIA were backing such a military option because “the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

This is of course a propaganda pretext for the launching of another direct US military intervention in the Middle East. What the US military and intelligence apparatus really fears is that the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive to overrun eastern Aleppo will deprive the so-called “rebels,” who have been armed, funded and directly paid by the CIA and US regional allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—of their last stronghold in western Syria’s major population centers. This would spell a crushing reversal for the five-year-old war for regime change orchestrated by Washington.

The claim that this would “undermine America’s counterterrorism goals” only underscores the fraud of the US war on terror. The principal fighting force inside Aleppo is made up of the long-time Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda and allied Islamist militias.

While the Post article suggests that President Barack Obama will likely reject the proposal for military action, the combined pressure of the CIA and the military command may well force a shift in policy. A full meeting of the National Security Council, including the probable participation of Obama, is expected as early as next weekend, when a decision would likely be made.

At the same time, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced Tuesday that it is beefing up Russian air defense systems inside Syria, deploying an advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile battery to protect the Russian naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus. Given that the Islamist “rebels” have no air force, such weapons systems are intended to raise the cost of any US strikes on Russian and Syrian government positions.

The breakdown of the Syrian ceasefire talks and the menacing military escalations by both sides are the product not merely of individual truce violations. On the US side, these were egregious, with the US-backed militias carrying out hundreds of attacks. Even more decisive was the September 17 US bombing of a Syrian government outpost near the town of Deir ez-Zor, which killed and wounded nearly 200 troops. While the Pentagon claimed this airstrike was an accident, Syria has charged that it was intentional. It served to blow up the ceasefire deal and prevent the implementation of a joint targeting and intelligence-sharing agreement with Russia that the US military command openly opposed.

Underlying the clashes over the ceasefire are the diametrically opposed aims pursued in Syria by US imperialism on the one hand and the Russian government of Vladimir Putin on the other. Washington is intervening in Syria not to fight terrorism or champion human rights, but to further its longstanding drive to assert unchallengeable US hegemony over the Middle East and its vast energy resources, and to deny access to both Russia and China. It is prepared to prolong the bloodshed as long as necessary to bring about regime change and prevent Russia from consolidating a government under current President Bashar al-Assad, or a successor that is amendable to Russian interests.

For its part, the Putin government sees Syria as part of a broader struggle against the US drive to militarily encircle Russia. It fears that a successful US regime-change operation in Syria would serve as a stepping stone toward direct intervention in Russia, including through the unleashing of CIA-funded Islamist fighters drawn from Russia’s Caucasus region. A US-backed client regime in Damascus could help funnel such separatist forces, already trained on the Syrian battlefield, back into Russia to serve as Western proxies in a campaign to destabilize and ultimately dismember the Russian Federation.

While there was a defensive element to Moscow’s intervention, in the final analysis it is directed at defending not the interests of the masses in either Russia or Syria, but rather those of the ruling oligarchy that seized its wealth and power in the criminal operations that accompanied the Stalinist bureaucracy’s restoration of capitalism and dissolution of the Soviet Union a quarter century ago. The methods being utilized in Syria, including in the bloody siege of Aleppo, reflect those class interests.

At the same time, the denunciation on the part of the US government of the loss of civilian life in the Russian-Syrian bombing of Aleppo is utterly hypocritical. After 15 years of waging aggressive war in the Middle East at the cost of over a million deaths and the destruction of entire societies, Washington is the last one to deliver lectures on “war crimes.”

Moreover, there is ample indication that the US military is itself preparing operations that will prove as bloody and punishing as the current siege of Aleppo. UN officials estimate that as many as a million people may be driven from their homes in a US-backed Iraqi offensive, expected as early as next month, against the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which is under the control of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).

Washington’s NATO ally in the region, Turkey, has issued public warnings about the upcoming Mosul offensive. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim described US plans as “dangerous,” adding, “Our partners’ plans for the Mosul operation are not transparent.” Yildirim warned that the use of Shia and Kurdish militias to take the city would “lead to a new fire being stoked in the region.”

Friction between Ankara and Washington has mounted in relation to the US use of Syrian Kurdish separatist militias as their main proxy force in northern Syria. Turkey is determined to drive back the Kurdish forces and prevent them from consolidating an autonomous territory on Turkey’s border.

Prime Minister Yildirim vowed that Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, which sent troops into Syria beginning at the end of August, would continue in order to drive back the US-backed Kurdish forces and carve out a 5,000-square-kilometer “safe zone” around El-Bab in the north of Syria.

Separately, another Turkish official, Defense Minister Fikri Isik, commented Wednesday that in the event of a major US-Russian confrontation in Syria, “Turkey always protects its own interests.”

Russian President Putin is scheduled to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Turkey on October 10, the first such visit since Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian jet on the Turkish-Syrian border in November 2015.

Turkey’s tensions with Washington and pursuit of its own regional ambitions in Syria only serve to heighten the geopolitical tensions that could turn the Syrian war for regime change into a new world war.

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Set aside 2 minutes to read this and watch a 20 minute video. It will truly astonish you, no matter how cynical you may be when it comes to the so-called ‘war on terror’, Iraq, Syria and many other conflicts around the world.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was a British Ambassador. While Ambassador to Uzbekistan he accused the Karimov administration of human rights abuses, which he argued was a step against the wishes of the British government. Murray complained to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in November 2002, again in early 2003 and in June 2004 that intelligence linking the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to al-Qaeda was unreliable, immoral and illegal, as it was thought to have been obtained through torture. He described this as “selling our souls for dross”. He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial post on 14 October 2004 by Tony Blair’s government.

The UK sent ground troops into Sierra Leone during a bitter civil war, yet has neglected to intervene in either Sudan or Zimbabwe, two countries of greater repression and suffering; and now Syria is left unaided despite the military support in Libya – British and American citizens are not privy to the truth.

Murray exposes the plan to build a gas pipeline over Afghanistan when George W Bush signed the construction deal whilst his father George H Bush was a member of the board of the pipeline construction company.In this video, Murray talks about how the same people turn out to be behind the same wars in very different parts of the world. In part, he talks about how the USA was in collusion with some of the most dreadful dictatorships in the world whilst the CIA were using them for ‘extraordinary rendition’ or torture programmes. The reasons for these alliances were that U.S. companies were monopolising the natural resources of entire countries. But there’s more to it than that.

Murray continues with his experience negotiating the peace talks in war-torn Sierra Leone which Britain subsequently invaded. He explains why ‘humanitarian’ military intervention is a lie and why diplomacy doesn’t work because of powerful individuals in the background with a different agenda.

What is startling about Murray’s revelations is that Tony Blair’s war in Sierra Leone was nothing to do with humanitarian intervention and everything to do with money, no matter what the consequences. This may not surprise you given what we now know about Blair. What might surprise you though is that Murray goes on to accuse individuals in senior government positions with the power to make decisions who were also board members of private companies set to benefit from those decisions. One individual in the U.S. State Dept who was supposedly negotiating a peace deal was also the chair of a resource company that had serious financial interests, where war benefited his company, whilst at the same time being the founding partner of another company that devised the extraordinary rendition or torture programme being conducted in that same country. Murray names the guilty.

There is another revelation in this short video that should utterly astound everyone about Tony Blair’s war in Sierra Leone. Murray makes the case that a senior member of Blair’s government, the Secretary of State for International Development at the time was also a member of the board of Sierra Leone’s only titanium mine.  Murray names and accuses this individual of refusing the resources (along with the American’s) to help make the Sierra Leone peace deal work, which culminated in Britain’s (what turned out to be a pre-planned) invasion and the subsequent deaths of countless thousands. Ironically, this person is today the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is now a Life Peer, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council.

Murray finishes off with a few words about why peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world will not stop whilst western countries retain their current political and economic power structures. He suggests that a tiny number of evil people truly aspire to gain total domination of the world’s resources and are at the centre of much of the needless death and destruction across the planet.

Watch the video, it is truly breathtaking.

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Droning Julian Assange and Wikileaks: The Clinton Formula

October 5th, 2016 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

“We believe in what we are doing… If you are pushed you push back.”

Julian Assange

The mutterings have become furious, and it is clear that the Democratic contender for the White House has again shown how traditional her ploys towards power are going to be.  Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have again managed to pull the blinds off an episode of some consequence, not least because it casts insight into the inner workings of the already maligned Clintoncomplex.

For one, it shows that Hillary Clinton will not be averse to muddying the waters of international law she is so happy to proclaim against Russia, China and other contesting bug bears.  For another, it does not suggest that a Clinton administration is going to go soft on whistleblowers, or the secrecy complex.  The latter is richly ironic given the Secretary’s own slap dash attitude to secrecy protocols when heading the State Department.

The latest WikiLeaks related fuss began a few days ago with the publication on True Pundit that claimed, referring to “State Department Sources” that Clinton had queried the use of a drone to silence the growing nuisance of Assange before the document release that came to be known as Cablegate.[1]

The “early morning November meeting [in 2010] of State’s [the State Department] top brass” has Clinton posing the question: “Can’t we just drone this guy?” This was suggested by True Pundit as being a product of pure frustration, one increased in vain attempts to “cut off Assange’s delivery of the cables” and failing that, forging “a strategy to minimize the administration’s public embarrassment over the contents of the cables.”

Was such a blood thirsty query made in jest, the normalised, crude product of a culture already used to remotely directed extra-judicial assassinations?  The report claims otherwise. Initial, dismissive laughter from officials in the room “quickly died off” before the terse manner of the Secretary.  “Clinton said that Assange, after all, was a relatively soft target, ‘walking around’ freely and thumbing his nose without any fear of reprisals from the United States.”

Such casual talk about eliminating a designated enemy of theUnited States should be of little surprise.  Classified emails (yes, those emails) were of particular interest to the FBI in its own criminal investigation into Secretary Clinton’s butter fingered handling of classified information.

A number touched on the approval process for drone strikes, executed by the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan,Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.  Only a few of these were ever rejected by Clinton.  Even more dire, many, notably those touching on attacks in Pakistan, found their way onto her personal email account.[2]

The retorts to these allegations have been far from convincing, having much the effect of flogging by damp lettuce.  (In a campaign featuring such characters as Clinton and Trump, these could never be any other way.)  Clinton’s campaign manager, Robbie Mook, began to see allies of Trump coming out of every cyber nook and cranny.

Donald Trump and his allies are trying to do everything they can to change the debate here right now. Donald Trump failed at the debate, he became increasingly unwound, was tweeting at 3 a.m., making wild accusations of his own against the former Miss Universe and against Hillary Clinton. [3]

For Mook, Trump’s arsenal, supplemented by assistance from his allies (these are not necessarily elaborated with any distinction), had to “find some way to change this up, and they’re trying to do that by doubling down on conspiracy theories.”

Having drawn a web around his own conspiracy theory of compliance, slotting WikiLeaks, by innuendo and suggestion, into a Trump universe, he had to contend with the direct allegations about the drone strike.  The lettuce started looking damper than ever. “I’m reticent to comment on anything that the WikiLeaks people have said. They’ve made a lot of accusations in the past.”

Many of these accusations have had the rather brutal semblance of truth to them, not to mention the previous spectacular of the DNC disclosures.  These did not reveal so much a conspiracy of theory, but of solid fact in efforts, ruthlessly contrived, to eliminate Bernie Sanders as a threat to the Clinton campaign.

WikiLeaks has been thrilling, horrifying and agitating its audiences with the top hits of disclosure over the ten years it has been in existence. On Tuesday, the organisation celebrated 10 years of an often heady existence, which comprised the release of over ten million classified documents.

It was fitting that this pearler, featuring such a recurring figure of notoriety as Hillary Clinton, should surface at this moment of commemoration.  Clinton’s campaign coven have been less than convincing in denying this point. This stands to reason, given that previous denials have tended to vanish before the onslaught of reality.

Like many previous WikiLeaks revelations, it will be up to voters, opinion makers, and the chattering classes to decide what this means.  In the case of Tunisia, these assisted the first disruptions that came to be known as the Arab Spring.  In the case of the United States, it may harden pre-existing sentiment, the sort fairly immune to any revelations, however grotesque.

A Trump in the White House sends shivers down the spine and turns the stomach of many a voter; but to have a Clinton there, redux of corruption, calamity and mistake, would also shock the sensible and enrage the conscionable.

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

 Notes

[1] http://truepundit.com/under-intense-pressure-to-silence-wikileaks-secretary-of-state-hillary-clinton-proposed-drone-strike-on-julian-assange/

[2] http://www.wsj.com/articles/clinton-emails-in-probe-dealt-with-planned-drone-strikes-1465509863

[3] http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/clinton-manager-reticent-to-comment-on-report-about-droning-assange/article/2603505

 

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As the Syrian Arab Army dug in for a fight against the self-declared Islamic State on September 17, they were struck by an air raid that killed 62 soldiers and injured 100 more. The culprit was a foreign military that has never been attacked by, and has not declared war on, Syria. Two weeks later, that same nation’s military killed 22 soldiers in a strike inside Somalia, another country which it had never been attacked by nor declared war on. The very next day the New York Times published a stinging editorial decrying flagrant violations of international law by an “outlaw nation.”

The Times, of course, was not referring to the perpetrator of both attacks: the United States government. Each act was a clear violation of Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter prohibiting the use of force against another nation and demanding respect for its sovereignty. But the “supreme international crime” of aggression did not merit mention in the Times, who saw something far more sinister than carrying out illegal massacres across countries and continents in the actions of “Vladimir Putin’s Outlaw State.”

Russia, according to the Times’ righteous defenders of international law, is guilty of violating “not only the rules intended to promote peace instead of conflict, but also common human decency.” The editorial board finds not only disregard for the law, but the absence of standard ethics accepted by civilized people and societies. It is a pretentious way of saying that Russia’s leaders are sociopathic, lacking the humanism and benevolence of Americans and their allies.

The cause for the Times’ outrage was the international report released last week that claims Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was shot down and its 298 passengers and crew members killed by Ukranian rebels fighting the illegitimate government formed in the wake of the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev. The rebels in the Eastern part of Ukraine were resisting bombing and shelling in their towns and cities by fascist and neo-Nazi led militias representing a coup government which had, among other things, rescinded a language law extremely important to the mostly Russian speaking – and ethnically Russian – residents near Donbass.

The investigation claims the Buk surface-to-air missile responsible for blowing up the Malyasian passenger plane was supplied by Russia and subsequently returned to Russia. The headline in the Times was that the report “links” Russia to the deaths. It does not, however, find they participated in the attack or had any advanced knowledge of plans to kill civilians. The Times claims the report “uses strict standards of evidence and meticulously documents not only the deployment of the Russian missile system that caused the disaster but also Moscow’s continuing cover-up.” In reality, this claim could hardly be taken seriously.

RT, a news organization funded by the Russian government, notes that the report depends on unnamed witnesses, anonymous phone calls, and computer simulations. Radar data, perhaps the most reliable source of evidence, was absent from the report’s findings. The report claims U.S.-provided radar data supported its conclusion, but such data was not included as evidence. Russia provided its own data, which purportedly shows that no missile was detected in rebel-held areas.

The Times calls on the United States to pursue the “quest for accountability.” This is noticeably different than the editorial board’s tone in 1988 when the U.S. warship U.S.S. Vincennes stationed in Iranian waters shot down Iran Air Flight 655 inside Iranian airspace and killed 290 passengers and crew. In that case, there was no question the weapon belonged to the United States. Furthermore, there was no question the United States military itself blew the plane out of the sky and killed everyone on board. They admitted it. The Times called the incident a “terrible mistake” and a “blunder” committed amidst the “fog of war.” However, not everyone was so quick to accept the government’s rationalizations at face value and dismiss the incident with a shrug of the shoulders.

Colonel David R. Carlson of the U.S. Navy, who was aboard a different ship near the Vincennes at the time, revealed that he and his colleagues had nicknamed the Vincennes “Robo Cruiser” for its belligerent actions prior to incinerating a plane full of civilians. Carlson suggested that the Vincennes’ crew may have been seeking to battle test the new Aegis Combat System aboard the vessel.

Disputing that an attack on the Vincennes was inevitable, Carlson writes: “I don’t buy it… My guess was that the crew of the Vincennes felt a need to prove the viability of Aegis in the Persian Gulf, and that they hankered for an opportunity to show their stuff. This, I believe, was the climate that aided in generating the ‘fog.’ “

But the Times editorial board assures readers that the American military simply made a tragic, regrettable, mistake. Just like the editorial board nearly 30 years later would explain that the sustained, hour-long destruction of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan was caused by a “torrent of mistakes” due to “gross negligence.” Again, tragic and regrettable mistakes. Presumably no different than the U.S. government’s “mistakes” of kidnapping and torturing people never charged with crimes, hunting and killing political cadres in South Vietnam, organizing and training fascist death squads across Latin America, or killing hundreds of thousands of civilians while carpet bombing Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, Japan and Germany.

For the Times, international law is not an issue if a country has benevolent intentions, which the United States always does, naturally. No matter that the U.S. never obtained U.N. Security Council approval to wage war on Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq or Afghanistan. Or that U.S. warships had no business in participating in a war between Iraq and Iran in 1988. The U.S., due to its status as an exceptional nation, is able to be judged by its own moral criteria in place of the existing legal framework that international treaties (and its own Constitution) obligate the government to follow.

Russia, on the other hand, is a rogue state led by deranged and irrational savages. As a permanent member of the Security Council – obviously a regrettable historical accident – Russia holds a “special responsibility to uphold international law.” One would think from reading this that it was actually Russia, rather than the United States, that has used its veto on the Council far more than any other member during the last 45 years, including 42 vetoes shielding Israel from accountability for its oppression of Palestinians and aggression against neighboring countries.

The other cause for the Times’ wrath against Russia is its behavior in Syria, where “(t)here seems to be no holding Putin to account.”

The United States has no legal right to violate of the sovereignty of Syria, making any and all American military actions inside Syrian territory necessarily illegal.

Russia, on the other hand, is engaging militarily at the behest of the legitimate Syrian government, which is permissible under international law. Russia meets jus ad bellum criteria regarding whether a war is justifiable. Of course, they also have to comply with jus in bello rules regarding conduct during war.

While there is substantial evidence Russia may be in violation of international humanitarian law, absent adjudication in a court of law the evidence is merely one side of the story. The Times accuses Russia (specifically Putin) of “air attacks that have included bunker-busting bombs that can destroy underground hospitals and safety zones where civilians seek shelter” and bombing an aid convoy. Unsurprisingly, there is no substantiation of these claims, or even links provided with such accusations. The Guardian earlier this week quoted a think tank employee stating that “(c)onclusive proof that Russia is using bunker-busters may be hard to find.” The U.S. Air Force does possess such weapons, namely the 37,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, and it has been pronounced “ready” for use.

The Times also implies that Russia violated a ceasefire negotiated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. As Gareth Porter has reported, the U.S. itself is actually responsible for sabotaging multiple ceasefires negotiated with Russia. Porter wrote in FAIR that in early April the Al Qaeda franchise in Syria, Al Nusra, along with its embedded U.S.-backed “moderate” rebels, launched an offensive intended to undermine the ceasefire, which it succeeded in accomplishing. When the Syrian government responded by counter-attacking the rebels, major media outlets, including the New York Times, erased the original jihadist attack and implicitly stated that regime bombings were responsible for the end of the ceasefire.

Last week, Porter wrote in Middle East Eye that the Pentagon had destroyed another ceasefire by attacking Syrian troops on September 17, in what the Times would undoubtedly declare another “mistake.” Porter notes that “the final blow apparently came from the Russian-Syrian side,” but this was “provoked” by the U.S. bombing. The Times, though, contends that Russia and Syria have undermined the U.S. in negotiations over an end to hostilities, rejecting reasonable American overtures in order to “continue the slaughter.”

As I have written previously, and Howard Friel and Richard Falk have extensively documented in their book The Record of the Paper, the New York Times consistently ignores international law as a matter of editorial policy in regards to the actions of the United States government. But official enemies like Russia and its president Vladimir Putin are subject to a transparently hypocritical double standard, in which accusations become facts, and international law is suddenly the gold standard by which governments and their officials should be judged.

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If recent mainstream economic reports are to be taken seriously, some of the big brains managing global capitalism these days are starting to lose faith in their neoliberal ideology. Some come close to sounding like virtual heretics — like Jonathan Ostry, the IMF’s deputy director of research and lead author of an article (“Neoliberalism: Oversold?”) in the IMF’s official publication. He stated, with a childlike innocence: “[s]ome aspects of the neoliberal agenda probably need a rethink. The [2008] crisis said: ‘The way we’ve been thinking can’t be right.’” No point, I suppose, in dwelling on the past — that is, the millions of lives made miserable by decades of IMF structural adjustment programs.

The lack of mea culpas notwithstanding, the IMF bravely identifies two aspects of neoliberal policy for scrutiny: the elimination of capital controls (allowing for capital flight to be used as a political weapon against poor countries) and fiscal austerity. While “cheering” aspects of the “neoliberal agenda,” according to the Financial Times, he also acknowledged some “‘disquieting conclusions” including that they resulted in “increased inequality that undermined economic growth.”

That report came out in May but just last week the annual report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has leapt ahead of any cautious “rethinking” and calls for a virtual reversal of the whole neoliberal “edifice.” The report contains some of the most alarming warnings UNCTAD has ever issued. And that warning relates, in part, to the near-zero interest rates developed countries are using to try to restart their economies.

There are unintended consequence of low interest rates, says the report: “Alarm bells have been ringing over the explosion of corporate debt levels in emerging economies, which now exceed $25 trillion. Damaging deflationary spirals cannot be ruled out.” And later:

The benefits of a rushed integration into international financial markets post-2008 are fast evaporating. If policymakers fail to mitigate the negative impacts of unchecked global market forces …a significant share of developing-country debt incurred since 2008 could become unpayable and exert considerable pressure on the financial system.

UNCTAD’s analysis also attacks Western governments’ obsession with austerity which has starved global demand but it more broadly blames “[t]he entire edifice of liberal market finance…” As far as the UN is concerned, this development is the “third leg” of the global financial crisis — the first two being the U.S. housing bubble and the second the EU meltdown. Its solution sounds almost revolutionary, according to the London Telegraph:

“The world must jettison neoliberal ideology, and launch a ‘global new deal’ with a blitz of investment on strategic sectors. …a return of the ‘developmental state,’ commanding a potent industrial policy, and backed by severe controls on capital flows.”

The report also highlights the fact that global corporations — which designed the neoliberal Washington Consensus explicitly to reverse the old social contract and the “development state” — have failed utterly to deliver on the quid pro quo: their promise of growth and prosperity. The global corporate sector is characterized by management captured by “activist funds” which focus almost exclusively on shareholder value, the maximum extraction of profit and mergers and acquisitions rather than the reinvestment of their profits “[i]nto production capacity, jobs, or self-sustaining growth.”

This latter criticism describes the Canadian corporate sector in spades. Instead of investing its record profits — and its tax break windfall in the billions — it is sitting on over $600 billion idle cash. But the situation with Canadian corporations is actually much worse than in most OECD countries, particularly compared to their main competitors in the U.S. In previous columns I have quoted past studies done by Harvard Business School’s Michael E. Porter. He concluded: “The U.S. is just much more entrepreneurial (than Canada)… Research uncovered key weaknesses in the sophistication of (Canadian) company operations and strategy.” He went on to describe Canadian business as cautious and risk-averse, unwilling to spend money on research and development, and addicted to exporting almost exclusively to the U.S.

Just this past week Deloitte Canada published a report which took Porter’s academic studies a step further by interviewing 1,200 Canadian CEOs regarding their willingness to takes risks and invest in the future of their companies. The results of the study — entitled The Future Belongs to the Bold — paint a pathetic picture. The poll concluded: “At a time when Canada needs its businesses to be bolder and more courageous than ever before, almost 90 per cent aren’t up to the task.” The companies fell into one of several categories: 15 per cent of CEOs were “fearful,” 43 per cent were “hesitant,” 30 per cent were “evolving,” and 11 per cent were “courageous.”

The result? “Investments aren’t made. New ideas aren’t explored. And Canadian companies slowly fall further and further behind.” Companies have actually reduced spending on training by 40 per cent since the mid-1990s. As Porter earlier observed, where Canadian companies are successful it is mostly due to access to cheap labour and natural resources.

And this week the Conference Board of Canada published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail decrying the lack of investment in manufacturing innovation, observing:

[r]esearch and development spending in the sector is generally very low. Indeed, investment has been so weak for a number of years that many manufacturing segments have actually become less capital intensive. The result is an erosion in the global competitiveness of Canadian manufacturing.

Once again we see the folly of placing our economic future in the hands of “fearful” and risk-averse CEOs while giving them every possible advantage from suppressed wages, huge tax cuts and privatization, to deregulation and endless idiotic “trade” deals. Corporate Canada signed a contract and broke it. It should be forced be back to the negotiating table. And this time it should focus on the domestic economy.

The Liberal preoccupation with trade deals looks increasingly ill considered. In yet another warning about the state of global trade, Roberto Azevêdo, the World Trade Organization’s director-general, declared: “The dramatic slowing of trade growth is serious and should serve as a wake-up call.” The question for the Trudeau Liberals is what to do if they do wake up. Instead of more oil and gas infrastructure in a world already awash in both, it should itself be “courageous” and use bold fiscal policy to launch a serious transition away from fossil fuels and at the same time actually take the Paris climate accord seriously. But that would require “rethinking” another neoliberal policy: the reckless tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations which rob federal government coffers of $50 billion every year.

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Israeli Gunboats on Way to Hijack Gaza-Bound Women’s Boat

October 5th, 2016 by The Palestinian Information Center

A few hours before the Zaytouna boat reaches Gaza shores, a cry for help has been launched by onboard activists to guarantee their safe arrival to the coastal territory.

With Israeli threats materializing on the ground, the International Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza appealed for guaranteeing women onboard al-Zaytouna a safe arrival to Gaza shores without being hijacked by Israel.

A fleet of Israeli gunboats has, meanwhile, set sail from the Ashdod Harbor in an attempt to intercept the Zaytouna solidarity boat.

The American activists onboard the ship appealed to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to deter Israel from attacking the boat. However, they were told by the embassy that the occupation navy has received instructions to commandeer the boat right as it approaches Gaza shores and to tow it to the Ashdod Seaport. In case of any defiance, activists will be arrested.

Israeli gunboats docked in Ashdod navigated to international waters so as to force Zaytouna to backtrack.

The international anti-siege committee dubbed Israel’s projected takeover of the boat an infringement of international laws and parliamentary immunity and also a crime against peaceful activists that do not pose any threat to Israel.

The committee’s chairman Zaher Birawi called on activists around the world to launch a solidarity campaign via social media in the event of an Israeli assault.

A similar Gaza-bound aid flotilla ended in tragedy in 2010 when the Turkish “Mavi Marmara” aid ship was raided by Israeli commandos, who killed 10 Turkish activists.

Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has deprived its almost two million inhabitants of most basic commodities, including food, fuel, medicine and desperately-needed building materials.

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“The Parties hereby establish a free trade area…”

— CETA Article 1.4

“Trade, like Religion, is what every Body talks of, but few understand: the very Term is dubious, and in its ordinary Acceptation, not sufficiently explain’d.”

— Daniel Defoe, A Plan of the English Commerce (1728)

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement(CETA), like other looming mega-treaties, is a comprehensive vehicle for expanding the scope of transnational investment by rolling back the capacity of governments to regulate in the public interest. The attack on democratic governance is not restricted to the notorious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which privileges transnational capital by creating a parallel legal system exclusive to transnational investors. The invasive claims of transnational investors permeate the entire treaty.

Save democracy - Stop CETA.

Canada and the EU are already among the world’s most open economies. Tariffs are at a historic all-time low. CETA’s primary mission is to eliminate “non-tariff barriers” – namely the laws and regulations constructed over decades of struggle to limit corporate power and support the services and policies needed to defend workers, citizens and the environment. CETA is an investment treaty embedded in a comprehensive deregulatory project.

‘Free Trade’ and the Expanding Investor Universe

The treaty leaves existing regulations and policies in Canada and the EU vulnerable to investor challenges – directly through ISDS, or indirectly through corporate-driven state-to-state dispute mechanisms. It also forecloses the use of essential policy tools which progressive governments will need to reverse the social destruction which is feeding an authoritarian, nationalist and xenophobic right.

The treaty builds on an expansive definition of investment which broadens its scope beyond existing treaties between Canada and the EU. It is virtually identical to the leaked draft investment chapter in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The “legally scrubbed” official CETA text states, tautologically: “Investment means every kind of asset that an investor owns or controls, directly or indirectly, that has the characteristics of an investment” (CETA, 2014: 39). Characteristics of an investment include “the expectation of gain or profit.” In addition to direct investment in an enterprise, ‘investment’ includes stocks, shares, bonds and other debt instruments; concessions, “including to search for, cultivate, extract or exploit natural resources”; intellectual property rights and “other moveable property, tangible or intangible, or immovable property and related rights,” and “claims to money or claims to performance under a contract” (CETA 2014: 39ff). A corporation need only demonstrate a “legitimate expectation” of profit to challenge regulatory obstacles to realising that expectation.

The market access and national treatment provisions set out in the investment chapter apply to governments at every level, erasing all restrictions in the name of ‘non-discrimination’. The treaty prohibits governments from managing foreign investment for distinct objectives, and prohibits any restrictions on profit repatriation.

‘Indirect Expropriation’

The investment chapter ‘reaffirms’ governments’ rights to regulate in the public interest, but investors are guaranteed expanded “fair and equitable treatment” and protection against “indirect expropriation” of anticipated profits through the adoption of new laws and regulations. The dispute settlement body will determine whether indirect expropriation has occurred through a ‘fact-based inquiry that takes into consideration, among other factors: the extent to which the measure or series of measures interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations’ (CETA, 2014: 331; my emphasis). Indirect or ‘regulatory expropriation’ has enabled a growing number of successful investor challenges to public interest laws, regulations and court decisions through investor-to-state lawsuits.

Public services are exempted from market access, national treatment and performance requirements and the most-favoured-nation provisions of the investment chapter only to the extent that they are ‘carried out neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more economic operators’. This is the phantom public sector carve-out established in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) agreement. As there are pockets of private business in most public services, few meet these criteria. Parties must explicitly reserve the services they wish to exclude – the negative list approach – based on the United Nations’ 1991 Central Product Classification, whose thousands of entries blur the distinction between public and private and manufacturing and services. Standstill and ratchet clauses freeze current levels of privatisation, making it difficult, and costly, for governments to take privatised services back into public hands.

CETA’s Domestic Regulation chapter is not restricted to services. Governments must ensure that any regulatory restrictions they maintain or adopt ‘do not unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service, or the pursuit of any other economic activity’ (CETA, 2014: 91; my emphasis). Article 2 of the chapter on Technical Barriers to Trade reinforces limits on regulation by stipulating that technical regulations must “not be more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill a legitimate objective.”

The chapter on Government Procurement widens corporate penetration into governments at every level by generalising ‘national treatment’ and prohibiting ‘offsets’, defined as ‘any condition or undertaking that encourages local development’.

The Financial Services chapter allows for loosely-defined ‘prudential measures’ but weakens the potential to restrict the size or market share of financial institutions even where such measures are ‘non-discriminatory’ with respect to foreign and national investors. Governments seeking to restrict the introduction of new financial ‘products’, or limit the size of financial corporations, will find that financial corporations have, through CETA, insured themselves against regulatory risk.

The chapter on Regulatory Cooperation commits signatories to ‘remove unnecessary barriers to trade and investment’ and ‘enhance competitiveness’ through an unaccountable Regulatory Cooperation Forum, which institutionalises corporate lobbying. The Forum is tasked with reducing compliance costs, exploring ‘alternatives’ to regulation, and promoting the ‘recognition of equivalence and convergence’ – a blunt instrument for levelling protection. Governments will share ‘non-public information’ with their Forum counterparts before the information is shared with lawmakers or the public – all ‘without limiting the ability of each Party to carry out its regulatory, legislative and policy activities’!

Regulatory approaches are to be ‘technology-neutral’ – a requirement at odds with the vague promise in the chapter on Trade and the Environment in which the parties ‘commit to cooperate in means to promote energy efficiency and the development and deployment of low-carbon and other climate-friendly technologies’.

How important is investment (and its proxy ‘trade in services’) compared with trade in goods in CETA? The treaty provisions cease to apply 180 days after notice of intention to terminate. However Chapter 8 (Investment) remains in force for a full twenty years (CETA 2014: Article 30.9).

Labour’s Agenda?

After the Brexit vote, the European Commission announced that CETA – scheduled to be signed at the EU-Canada summit in late October – would be treated as a ‘mixed agreement’, requiring approval by the national parliaments of EU member states as well as by the main EU institutions. But the Commission proposes that the treaty enter immediately into ‘provisional’ force following approval by the European Council and European Parliament, meaning that its investment provisions would apply for some years before full ratification, and even if one or more member state voted to sink the deal.

Unions and our civil society allies are unanimous in calling for the removal of ISDS from the treaty. The European Commission’s rebranding of ISDS as an investment court fails to eliminate its fundamental toxicity (See for example Eberhart, 2016) and should be rejected on similar grounds.

But ISDS is only one element, albeit a major one, in CETA’s comprehensive corporate power grab. Transnational investors can press their claims through state-to-state dispute mechanisms, as the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body demonstrates. The expansive claims of transnational investors are systematically built into the treaty; corporate confiscation of democratic governance links the chapters. ISDS cannot be surgically excised, leaving a text which then somehow serves as a vehicle for a progressive trade agenda. Nor can a sweeping charter of investor claims be ‘balanced’ by inserting stronger provisions to defend labour rights or protect the environment. CETA is fundamentally hostile to democracy and the labour movement; it has to be scrapped, not ‘improved’.

Behind CETA, or course, lurks the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Should TTIP fail, many of its ambitions can be realised through CETA. The majority of U.S. transnationals have Canadian subsidiaries with activities and ‘expectations of profit or gain’ in the EU. They can use ISDS and other provisions to feed their growing appetites. EU corporations can sue the government of Canada, but also use Canadian subsidiaries to attack European regulations they find inconvenient, reinforcing the EU’s current retreat from regulation.

For long decades, labour has been fighting purely defensive battles against the neo-liberal trade and investment agenda; we lack an agenda of our own. Lost ground will not be reclaimed on what is fundamentally hostile territory. Crisis, stagnation and the longest investor strike in recent history will not be reversed through stronger doses of neo-liberalism. Substantial programs of public investment are needed to address mass unemployment, inequality, disintegrating public services and climate change. CETA and its flanking treaties effectively preclude them. •

Peter Rossman is the Director of Campaigns and Communication for the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). This article first published by Global Labour Column.

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Republic of Korea (ROK) on Friday announced a new site for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile-defense system despite of strong opposition from locals and reasonable concerns of China and other regional countries. The announcement came just days after the US military set the deployment deadline as the end of next year.

The ROK government cited the concerns of the public in Seongju county, the originally-designated site, as the reason for the alteration, but a site change is not a prescription at all.

Despite the altered site, local public are expected to continue their opposition to the THAAD deployment. In Gimcheon (see map below), a southeastern city that is closer to the newly-chosen site, enraged residents have begun a new round of backlash.

As a matter of fact, the ROK government can neither appease the concerns of people from the designated sites, nor persuade its citizens to believe in the so-called effectiveness of the missile shield in protecting its national security.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s fifth nuclear test offered Seoul’s plan a new selling point. ROK government, by using the test as a more “convincing” excuse, advertised the so-called necessity to install the THAAD system, cement its military alliance with the US and resist threats through extended deterrence.

However, to avoid further deterioration of tensions on Korean Peninsula, a comprehensive and systematic solution must be found out to address both symptoms and root causes.

Past and present facts have proved that in order to sustain the peace and stability of the peninsula, efforts must be devoted to denuclearizing the peninsula, normalizing the ties between concerned countries, and building a peace and security mechanism for Northeast Asia.

The evolution course of the peninsula also showed that the so-called extended deterrence will only escalate confrontation, aggravate the tension on the peninsula and ultimately place Seoul’s security in a more risking edge.

What’s more, the technical clues also point to a conclusion: it is absurd for Seoul to pursue a sense of security through the THAAD system.

As early as Seoul and Washington announced the decision, experts have pointed out that with a radar range of 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers, the missile shield is designed to shoot down missiles at a relatively high altitude of 40 to 150 km. Given the geographical conditions of the Korean Peninsula, it is ridiculous to use the THAAD missile defense system to “deter nuclear threats from DPRK”.

 Protest against THAAD in Gimcheon

Therefore, ROK has to realize that its true guardian is by no means one or two hollow weapons like the THAAD system, but a clear awareness of the reality and broader world situation.

Given the sensitive and frail security on the peninsula, the unscrupulous actions by any party may lead to an escalated tension. Against such background, the deployment of the THAAD system by Seoul and Washington will undoubtedly add fuels to the deteriorated tensions on the peninsula.

In fact, even ROK public are not convinced by the reasons given by their government. More and more locals called on the authority to reconsider the reckless decision, blaming the latter’s approval to deploy THAAD system as the culprit for today’s dilemma.

Local media Kyunghyang Shinmun commented recently that the ROK government was stubborn in ensuring national security by deterring DPRK with armament race, but as a result made its public more upset and pulled the country further away from security goals.

The public’s security worries and doubts over the guarantee provided by the US are out of historic backgrounds and reality considerations. Trapping in the whirlpool of the peninsula tension, ROK would be the direct victim with a total turn in its destiny once the situation lost control.

What’s worse, the remote US is by no means reliable helper. In recent years, in order to expand its hegemony, the superpower has fallen into a breaker of international law. Employing a “puppet” strategy, it repeatedly threw other countries or regions into disarray and then escaped unscathed.

China will never change its stance of opposing the deployment of the THAAD system since the missile shield, instead of easing regional tension, will pose serious threat to the strategic security balance of regional nations including China.

Like any other countries, China can neither be vague nor indifferent on security matters that affect its core interests. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China also shoulders a responsibility in maintaining world and regional peace and stability.

The US and ROK have to wake up to the facts that the Korean Peninsula is no place to take risks, and that they cannot afford the cost of such dangerous action. If the US and ROK undermine the strategic security interests of China and other regional countries, then they are destined to pay the price and receive a proper counter attack.

“We will pay close attention to relevant developments, and consider taking necessary actions to protect national strategic security and the regional strategic balance,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman told a press conference.

“What needs to be stressed is that Chinese people mean what they say,” the spokesman added, underlining China’s determination and stance against the installment of THAAD system.

Originally published in Chinese by Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily)

Translation, courtesy of  People’s Daily for Global Research

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“The International Day of Non-Violence is marked on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.” — un.org

Thus starts the UN Resolution that on 15 June 2007 formalized the legacy of one the most prominent figures of the 20th Century, born 1869 dead 1948 and still ahead of his time in 2016. Yet, in the short span of 9 years this celebration has already become merely symbolic, ceremonial, practically meaningless. Gandhi Jayanthi as it is called in India. Myths can be useless and also misleading. So let me stick to the man and his meaning to humans.

gandhiLet’s remind ourselves of the worldwide wars, proxy-wars, invasions, occupations, terrorisms (State and private); slaveries/tortures of various kinds, human trafficking, forced human mass displacements, persecutions of minorities, economic exploitation, and cruelty to animals. Governments, TNCs, the arms industry, and the top 1%—the elites– profit from all of the above across religious, political, cultural, national, ideological, geographical divides (the globalization).

Such elites will provide narratives for why they have to kill, mutilate, exploit, and cause pain & suffering. And the masses will swallow their vile interpretations and rewritings of reality with a religious apathy and disconnection from reality. And that despite Internet, cell phones, social media, instant communications, and all the gimmicks that supposedly bring info, knowledge, culture, literacy to them. Pessimism? Realpolitik? Realism? Take your pick. History at its best.

But it doesn’t matter the amount or prevalence of violence employed or practiced anywhere anytime. It was from within a violent environment, which oppressed him both in South Africa and in India, that the Mahatma, born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, gave birth to his philosophy of nonviolence. Yin-Yang. The world is readier than ever for it. Nevertheless, besides a philosophy NV can be many things for many people depending on contexts.

Gandhi reminded us that conflicts are natural occurrences. “Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.” They may arise from incompatible goals (Galtung). Or from pathologies. Nonviolence is one way of responding to conflicts whether at a personal, familiar, social, or political level (Micro- Meso-Macro-Mega levels: Galtung). Another response is the use of violence. Nonviolence is therefore a means to conflict resolution or transformation. Peace by peaceful means.

Because conflicts are symptoms of damaged relations, it is in the relationships that they are to be addressed, not in the parties–as a starting point. For if you steal my bicycle, and we fight over it, before ‘making peace’ you must return the stolen bike: common justice as a prerequisite.

Nonviolence can also be a political strategy to achieve a public goal or set of goals. The difference between strategy and tactics is that strategy is done above the shoulders whereas tactics are done below the shoulders, someone said. NV can be used as both, in tandem, defensively or offensively, a tool, a skill, an art: Civil Disobedience. Besides being a way of life, ahimsa.

“Non-Violence,” a sculpture by Karl Fredrik Reutersward, sits permanently outside UN Headquarters in New York.

In his only book, The Story of My Experiments with Truth: An Autobiography, a collection of articles he wrote for Young India around 1927, Gandhi repeats many times the maxim that guided his actions throughout his life: Truth is God. Not God is truth, which would be a mere attribute, like God is love, God is light, God is the father. In his consciousness, Truth comes before God. Not mere semantics or a slogan but a principle to live–and die–for. Aptly, he named his movement Satyagraha (satya “truth”; agraha “insistence” or “holding to”).A most popular quote of Gandhiji is: “Be the change you want in the world.” The change starts in the person; nonviolence starts here—a design for living.

It was this depth of commitment to truth and principle that Gandhi brought to the table and to his nonviolent interventions, which resulted in the retreat of the biggest empire of the time from India. Independence was not granted; it was conquered, but without bloodshed of the oppressors.

Sir Winston Churchill gave this unflattering description of Gandhi:

“It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the kingemperor.” (India Today)

As the resistance and instances of civil disobedience swelled, Churchill announced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion, breeding like rabbits.” Such was his hatred for the successful nonviolent uprising and Gandhi.

gandhi-an-autobiography-the-story-of-my-experiments-with-truthGod was never separated from Gandhi’s actions. His understanding of nonviolence implied the need for virtue in the satyagrahi, the practitioner of NV. A few quotes of his:

“Nonviolence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice—nonviolence springs from love, cowardice from hate.”

“The weak will never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at His feet.”

“Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.”

“Faith is not something to grasp, is a state to grow into.”

It was here that Gene Sharp and others diverted from Gandhi’s approach to NV. Sharp tried to transform nonviolent actions into mere instruments that could be carried out by any party seeking any objective however lowly either could be. This is not the place to elaborate on this, but I encourage readers and students to research further.

Gandhi gave a new meaning to the concept of civilization. In the 19th Century, the British spuriously classified peoples and races as Civilized, Barbarians or Savages insofar as their ‘evolution’ vis-a-vis Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest. They placed themselves, the white Anglo-Saxons, at the top of this food chain as the civilized ones. Barbarians were all non-Europeans such as Arabs, Indians, Asians; and Savages were the sub-Saharan Africans, natives from the Americas and Islanders. All non-white.

Gandhi redefined, imparted a new meaning to the term ‘Civilization’ with his concept of ‘Nonviolence’ as the way of truly civilized persons and cultures, of relations, mediation of conflicts; a necessary first step for the abolition of war as institution. For by eliminating the violence (smoke) mediators can look into the source of conflicts (fire)—and work on them. The soft side of all religions mandate nonkilling of humans, but Gandhiji expanded it to all forms of life: ahimsa.

Gandhi’s legacy was felt also inside of India with the abolition of the caste system by law. He renamed the Untouchables as Harijans or children of God. But, like racism in the USA, also outlawed, it had little impact in society. Laws cannot and do not erase traditions and customs ingrained in people’s minds and in deep culture. His own wife, Kasturba, would not agree in sharing their table with harijans, as he wished.

He did everything in public, with the masses he loved. He ate, prayed, fasted, slept, worked in their presence. His stomach was the weakest part of his body as he suffered from a chronic diarrhea that forced him to use diapers at times.

The Mahatma did not win a Nobel Peace Prize despite being nominated. The excuse was that he was not a man of peace, he fought against the British Empire [and dared to win—I’d say]. He was rather of the naïve persuasion, as many of us are; not a hawk, a personality trait essential for success in business and politics today. Case in point, the rat race we witness to the White House.

Last act: Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead on Jan 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic nationalist who asked forgiveness before pulling the trigger. He wouldn’t accept what in his view was Gandhi’s partiality toward Muslims in the partition of India into India/Pakistan. Upon falling, Gandhiji uttered his last word: “Rama.” One of God’s name in India.

Antonio Carlos Silva Rosa, is the editor of the pioneering Peace Journalism website, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS, an assistant to Prof. Johan Galtung, and Secretary of the International Board of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. 

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In order to overcome the partisanship on both sides of this U.S. Presidential contest, the corruption of both of the candidates needs to be acknowledged, and a quick way to do that is to consider the cases of their respective charities (we’ll go beyond that to a broader view afterward):

On September 10th, David A. Farenthold headlined in the Washington Post, «How Donald Trump retooled his charity to spend other people’s money», and he documented that Trump has lied in his many statements asserting that he donates lots to charities, and that he has even used his (actually meager) Foundation as a device to collect donations from others and then simply donate that money from others, to other charities as being «charitable donations by the Trump Foundation». He even has sometimes used donations others had made to his ‘Charity’ in order to purchase things for some of his own businesses. So: not only is his ‘charity’ meager, but it consists largely of the charity of others — and of benefit to himself and to the value of his brand.

Regarding Clinton’s case, a post was made to Huffington Post’s «blog» on 29 May 2016, that optimistically (and unrealistically trusting that the U.S. government would actually follow through on this) predicted «Hillary Clinton to be Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges» for her having used the U.S. State Department to fundraise for her Clinton Foundation (money that she and her family control), but the article lasted less than a day online before being taken down by HuffPo management.

I personally checked out all of this article’s linked sources and found that they are sound and collectively documented an extensive racketeering operation. Other articles have documented some of its harmful consequences, such as (here and here and here and here) against the Haitian people for the benefit of both Haiti’s and America’s aristocracies; and, so, even if what the immediate withdrawn-by-management article predicted would happen has turned out to have been false (as now seems inevitable), the things that it was alleging to have already occurred (the historical account) were, indeed, entirely true, and damning. The article does show Hillary Clinton to have been operating the U.S. State Department as a personal racket. And other articles document many harmful consequences from it.

The Presidential nominees of both of our major political Parties are profoundly corrupt, and they lie to the public about their kindness and their generosity, which are absent (more like the opposite) in reality. Hillary Clinton’s attempt to destroy evidence in the criminal case against her, by destroying all records she could of her emails, and the FBI’s refusal even to investigate to find the motive for that crime and thereby to say it wasn’t prosecutable, are additional crimes (that won’t be prosecuted) regarding the Clinton Foundation side of this matter, but both of the major-Party nominees are poseurs, liars, and psychopaths.

The deeper question is why, at the present stage of U.S. history, our supposedly (but no longer actually) democratic system of government, has offered to the American people, what the theocratic Iranian system offers to its people: a choice between only uglies — excluding any and all decent, progressive, nominees. There was one decent and progressive candidate in the Presidential contest, Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, and he had the highest net approval-ratings, and also in all the polls showed as being able to beat, by the biggest margins, each and every one of the opposite Party’s candidates.

And so that candidate, Sanders, was clearly preferred the most, by the largest percentage of Americans — but today’s corrupt American political system excluded that person from being even a choice at all, in the final round (November 8th) contest. Sanders also has by far topped the annual surveys of approval of each of the 100 Senators among the people within the given Senator’s own state, the very people who have considered that person’s policy-record and Senate votes the closest and the longest; and, in the latest published survey, which was reported on 13 September 2016, Sanders’s approval-rating there was 87%, and the second-most-approved Senator had an approval-rating of 69% — an enormous fall-off of 18% from the number-one Senator).

It’s like Iran’s mullahs excluding the best candidates from the final choice by the Iranian people. (Incidentally, on the Republican side of the 2016 Presidential contest, the strongest candidate in the head-to-head matchups against both Clinton and Sanders was John Kasich; but, just like in the Democratic Party, the strongest-polling candidate failed to win his own Party’s nomination. In the polled match-ups between Kasich and Sanders, Sanders was almost always the winner, but in the polled matchups between Kasich and Clinton, Clinton was.)

It is not a democracy when both of the two candidates that are the most preferred by the most people are excluded from the final two-person choice — such as in Iran, and, now, also in the United States. If America were a democracy, the final Presidential contest now would be between Sanders and Kasich — but it’s not.

This is the situation that one would expect in an «oligarchy» — a nation that’s controlled by its aristocrats (the very few wealthiest persons). In all of politics, in every country, there is always an intrinsic conflict between money and voters, for control over the nation’s government.During the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787, in which America’s Constitution was written, the debates focused upon how to avoid the U.S. to become an oligarchy — rule by the wealthiest, against the public.

However, the only scientific study that has ever been done of whether the U.S. is controlled by the public (a democracy), or contrarywise by only the wealthiest — an aristocracy or «oligarchy» — finds (based upon study of 1,779 policy-issues during the period 1981-2002) that the U.S. is, in fact, an «oligarchy.» (The situation has actually become even worse since that period ended, but no study has been done of the subsequent years.)

In other words: former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is correct to state that the U.S. now is «just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery». The evidence since he left the White House in 1981 (and up till at least 2002) showed clearly that that is the case; and it has been getting worse (not better) after 2002 (because of the activist-conservative, Republican, rabidly pro-aristocracy, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as Citizens United — which the ‘Democrat’ Hillary Clinton exploits more than any other politician).

For example, there was considerable rhetorical difference between the candidates in the last U.S. Presidential election, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but afterwards in actual policies, one can well imagine that Romney would have done much as Obama has done as President, and not only in domestic policies but even also in foreign policies. It was Romney — not Obama — who said (and it was Obama — not Romney — who mocked), «Russia, this is without question our number one geopolitical foe.»

At the Bilderberg conferences and at all other forums in which the U.S. — and its other allied — aristocracy gather, or in their public statements such as in the U.S. aristocracy’s Foreign Affairs journal or Foreign Policy magazine, this viewpoint (that after both the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact military alliance ended in 1991, still «Russia, this is without question our number one geopolitical foe») is ceaselessly put forth (and in a March 2006 article in Foreign Affairs, was even put forth the view that America should go all the way to nuclearly blitzing Russia; and Obama in 2015 started the Prompt Global Strike plan in order to enable this goal to be able to be achieved mainly by non-nuclear weaponry — he apparently wants to be able to make use of at least some of Russia, after it’s conquered).

Similarly, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are pushing for the TPP, TTIP, and TISA proposed treaties, which would give international corporations a higher sovereignty than any nation’s sovereignty, and would, if passed into law, enable international corporations to sue the taxpayers of any participating nation, for multi-billion-dollar sums, in a supra-national system not of courts, and not of any nation’s constitution and laws, but of three-person panels of corporate «arbitrators» whose decisions (not dependent upon any country’s laws) will be non-appealable.

Only deeply corrupt nations’ governments can approve such treaties, because if their publics knew what those treaties’ «ISDS» provisions mean, the public would revolt against passage of it: therefore, the press need to be rigidly controlled in order for a ‘democratic’ country to sign it. If any of these three horrific treaties (introducing actually an international fascist dictatorship) goes into effect, then not only the U.S. will be thoroughly corrupt at the top, but the entire world will soon become so (the parts that haven’t yet).

In other words: the U.S. aristocracy control U.S. politics; and that’s the reason why both of America’s major-Party contenders are profoundly corrupt. This would not happen in an authentic democracy. It is not the result of democracy; it is the result of democracy’s having ended in the U.S.

The question of whether a ‘benign dictatorship’ has ever existed, can reasonably be debated upon the basis of the evidence. However, the answer to the question of whether the U.S. still is a «democracy,» is clear and beyond debate, on the basis of the evidence — and it is not a democracy. After 1981, it has been, and is, an aristocracy, ruling here. And any aristocracy is profoundly corrupt — that is the very nature of aristocracy: unaccountable power, what can almost be defined to constitute «an aristocrat».

And that is why both Trump and Clinton are corrupt. This is the culmination of that deeper reality. On the surface is partisanship loaded heavily with lies; underneath is the reality of America’s aristocracy controlling, now, both of the two political Parties.

(Incidentally, and so this is added here parenthetically: Americans who say such things as «Don’t vote for either of them» or «Vote third-party,» are pretenders to participating in their nation’s politics, not actual participants in it — whatever it is, which, in the current U.S. case, is a choice of the lesser of two evils. Even Ralph Nader and Ross Perot failed to come even close to winning even merely a single one of the 50 States in the Electoral College; such ‘candidates’ are fakes, whose only real function is to attract enough more away from the number of potential voters for one of the two Parties’ nominees than away from the other of the two Parties’ nominees, so as to throw the ‘election’ — and that strategy has succeeded only once in modern history, when Nader drew enough away from Gore, both in New Hampshire and in Florida, so as to enable the five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court to be able to appoint George W. Bush as President, by the Electoral College vote of 266 Gore to 271 Bush, though Gore won 543,895 more of the nationwide counted votes than did Bush.

Bush won the Presidency by, among other things, his 5-4-vote win in the U.S. Supreme Court, an opinion that was so corrupt — making unprecedented and blatantly antithetical use of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, to apply to ballots instead of to voters — so that even the 5-vote majority decision said, using tortured logic, that this ruling would not be able to be cited in future Supreme Court rulings as a precedent: «Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.» However, there is no applicability of the Equal Protection Clause to ballots, but only to people.

That’s not ‘complex’ at all. The Republicans simply don’t want the Democrats to be able to cite this decision as a precedent in the future if, at that future time, the shoe might happen to be on the other foot. Nader’s voters were suckers who helped him to throw the ‘election’ to Bush, which was what Nader was trying to do. In an aristocracy, everything related to government is corrupt, and the only way to ‘justify’ that sort of government is constant lying.)

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The US Fox News TV channel has reported, citing military sources, that Russia had deployed the S-300V4 “Antey-2500” anti-ballistic missile system in Syria. S-300V4 is an upgraded version of S-300.

It’s designed to defeat short- and medium-range ballistic missile, aeroballistic and cruise missiles, fixed-wing aircraft, as well as loitering ECM platforms and precision-guided munitions.

According to Fox News, it was delivered to the Russian naval facility in Tartus via the sea.

In 2015, Moscow deployed the S-300 long range surface-to-air missile system after the incident with the downing of Russia’s Su-24M bomber aircraft by Turkey. The new phase of strengthening of the air-defense capabilities of Moscow’s military grouping comes amid the increased US-Russian tensions over the ongoing conflict.

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On October 3, Washington suspended bilateral contacts with Moscow over the crisis and, de-facto, withdrew from the peace process in Syria. There is “nothing more for the US and Russia to talk about”, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. Nonetheless, contacts between US and Russian military to “deconflict” encounters between their aircraft in Syrian skies will continue.

The very same day Moscow accused Washington of sabotaging the ceasefire deal, saying that the US will be responsible for any new terror attacks in Syria. The US “has never exerted any real pressure on Jabhat Al-Nusra, done nothing for delineation to succeed and taken no action against its militants,“ the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that “We are becoming more convinced that in a pursuit of a much desired regime change in Damascus, Washington is ready to ‘make a deal with the devil’.”

The Syrian army, the National Defense Forces (NDF), Liwa al-Quds and Hezbollah have been advancing in Aleppo city. The loyalists are clashing with militants in the Awijah neighborhood. The Syrian army and Liwa al-Quds have set a fire control of the Jandoul roundabout after a series of firefights. This chains significantly the movement of militant units in the area. Now, Jaish al-Fatah militants need to use the Asfar and Sawmills heights to maneuver in the neighborhood.

The Syrian army and Hezbhollah advanced against Jaish al-Fatah militants inside the Suleiman al-Halabi Neighborhood of Aleppo city. Recently, the pro-government forces have entered the water foundation area. Clashes are ongoing. The pro-government forces also launched attacks on the Sheikh Sa’eed neighborhood and the missile base of Khan Tuman in southern Aleppo.

The pro-government forces keep initiative in Aleppo and the recent developments show that without active help from foreign powers, the militants will not be able to hold the city.

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Everyone claims to want to end the war in Syria and restore peace to the Middle East.

Well, almost everyone.

“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York told the New York Times in June 2013. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.”

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, stressed the same points in August 2016:

“The West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction… Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys… Moreover, instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change… The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.”

Okay, not exactly everyone.

But surely the humanitarian website Avaaz wants to end the war and restore peace.

Or does it?

Avaaz is currently circulating a petition which has gathered over a million signatures and is aiming at a million and a half. It is likely to get them, with words like this:

“100 children have been killed in Aleppo since last Friday.

“Enough is enough!”

Avaaz goes on to declare: “There is no easy way to end this war, but there’s only one way to prevent this terror from the skies — people everywhere demanding a no-fly zone to protect civilians.”

No-fly zone? Doesn’t that sound familiar? That was the ploy that served to destroy Libya’s air defenses and opened the country to regime change in 2011. It was promoted zealously by Hillary Clinton, who is also on record as favoring the same gambit in Syria.

And when the West says “no-fly”, it means that some can fly and others cannot. With the no-fly zone in Libya, France, Britain and the United States flew all they wanted, killing countless civilians, destroying infrastructure and allowing Islamic rebels to help themselves to part of the country.

The Avaaz petition makes the same distinction. Some should fly and others should not.

“Let’s build a resounding global call to Obama and other leaders to stand up to Putin and Assad’s terror. This might be our last, best chance to help end this mass murder of defenseless children. Add your name.”

So it’s all about mass murder of defenseless children, and to stop it, we should call on the drone king, Obama, to end “terror from the skies”.

Not only Obama, but other “good” leaders, members of NATO:

“To President Obama, President Erdogan, President Hollande, PM May, and other world leaders: As citizens around the globe horrified by the slaughter of innocents in Syria, we call on you to enforce an air-exclusion zone in Northern Syria, including Aleppo, to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.”

The timing of this petition is eloquent. It comes exactly when the Syrian government is pushing to end the war by reconquering the eastern part of Aleppo. It is part of the massive current propaganda campaign to reduce public consciousness of the Syrian war to two factors: child victims and humanitarian aid.

In this view, the rebels disappear. So do all their foreign backers, the Saudi Johnstone-Queen-Cover-ak800--291x450money, the Wahhabi fanatics, the ISIS recruits from all over the world, the U.S. arms and French support. The war is only about the strange whim of a “dictator”, who amuses himself by bombing helpless children and blocking humanitarian aid. This view reduces the five-year war in Syria to the situation as it was portrayed in Libya, to justify the no-fly zone: nothing but a wicked dictator bombing his own people.

For the public that likes to consume world events in fairy tale form, this all fits together. Sign a petition on your computer and save the children.

The Avaaz petition does not aim to end the war and restore peace. It clearly aims to obstruct the Syrian government offensive to retake Aleppo. The Syrian army has undergone heavy losses in five years of war, its potential recruits have in effect been invited to avoid dangerous military service by going to Germany. Syria needs air power to reduce its own casualties. The Avaaz petition calls for crippling the Syrian offensive and thus taking the side of the rebels.

Wait – but does that mean they want the rebels to win? Not exactly. The only rebels conceivably strong enough to win are ISIS. Nobody really wants that.

The plain fact is that to end this war, as to end most wars, one side has to come out on top. When it is clear who is the winning side, then there can be fruitful negotiations for things like amnesty. But this war cannot be “ended by negotiations”. That is an outcome that the United States might support only if Washington could use negotiations to impose its own puppets – pardon, pro-democracy exiles living in the West. But as things stand, they would be rejected as traitors by the majority of Syrians who support the government and as apostates by the rebels. So one side has to win to end this war. The least worst outcome would be that the Assad government defeats the rebels, in order to preserve the state. For that, the Syrian armed forces need to retake the eastern part of Aleppo occupied by rebels.

The job of Avaaz is to get public opinion to oppose this military operation, by portraying it as nothing but a joint Russian-Syrian effort to murder civilians, especially children. For that, they call for a NATO military operation to shoot down (that’s what “no-fly” means) Syrian and Russian planes offering air support to the Syrian army offensive.

Even such drastic measures do not aim to end the war. They mean weakening the winning side to prevent it from winning. To prolong a stalemate. It means – to use the absurd expression popular during the Bosnian war – creating an “even playing field”, as if war were a sports event. It means keeping the war going on and on until nothing is left of Syria, and what is left of the Syrian population fills up refugee camps in Europe.

As the New York Times reported from Jerusalem in September 2013  , “The synergy between the Israeli and American positions, while not explicitly articulated by the leaders of either country, could be a critical source of support as Mr. Obama seeks Congressional approval for surgical strikes in Syria.” It added that “Israel’s national security concerns have broad, bipartisan support in Washington, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington, weighed in Tuesday in support of Mr. Obama’s approach.” (This was when Obama was planning to “punish President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons without seeking to force him from power” – before Obama decided to join Russia in disarming the Syrian chemical arsenal instead, a decision for which he continues to be condemned by the pro-Israel lobby and the War Party.) AIPAC’s statement “said nothing, however, about the preferred outcome of the civil war…”

Indeed. As the 2013 report from Jerusalem continued, “as hopes have dimmed for the emergence of a moderate, secular rebel force that might forge democratic change and even constructive dialogue, with Israel, a third approach has gained traction: Let the bad guys burn themselves out. ‘The perpetuation of the conflict is absolutely serving Israel’s interest,’ said Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst for the International Crisis Group.”

The plain truth is that Syria is the victim of a long-planned Joint Criminal Enterprise to destroy the last independent secular Arab nationalist state in the Middle East, following the destruction of Iraq in 2003. While attributed to government repression of “peaceful protests” in 2011, the armed uprising had been planned for years and was supported by outside powers: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and France, among others. The French motives remain mysterious, unless linked to those of Israel, which sees the destruction of Syria as a means to weaken its archrival in the region, Iran. Saudi Arabia has similar intentions to weaken Iran, but with religious motives. Turkey, the former imperial power in the region, has territorial and political ambitions of its own. Carving up Syria can satisfy all of them.

This blatant and perfectly open conspiracy to destroy Syria is a major international crime, and the above-mentioned States are co-conspirators. They are joined in this Joint Criminal Enterprise by ostensibly “humanitarian” organizations like Avaaz that spread war propaganda in the guise of protecting children. This works because most Americans just can’t believe that their government would do such things. Because normal ordinary people have good intentions and hate to see children killed, they imagine that their government must be the same. It is hard to overcome this comforting faith. It is more natural to believe that the criminals are wicked people in a country about which they really understand nothing.

There is no chance that this criminal enterprise will ever arouse the attention of the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, which like most major international organizations is totally under U.S. control. For example, the United Nations Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, who analyses and frames political issue for the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, is an American diplomat, Jeffrey Feltman, who was a key member of Hillary Clinton’s team when she was carrying out regime change in Libya. And accomplices in this criminal enterprise include all the pro-governmental “non-governmental” organizations such as Avaaz who push hypocrisy to new lengths by exploiting compassion for children in order to justify and perpetuate this major crime against humanity and against peace in the world.

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USA Empire

By Prof. James Petras, October 03 2016

Over the past decade and a half, the US and its allies have invaded, occupied, killed, wounded and dispossessed over ten million people, from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Military and civilian officials have systematically destroyed entire economies, fostered ethno-religious wars, and placed corrupt political puppets in power.

American Way of Life

By John Kozy, October 03 2016

Do you really believe that people are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? If so, you are totally irrational. No! You are deranged. Since human beings evolved, they have been taking each other’s lives and enslaving others. And as for pursuing happiness? Whether you chase it until the end of your life, no one will ever care. Having a right to pursue it is irrelevant. Attaining it is what matters, and no one has even ever suggested that people have that right. When Jefferson put those sentiments into the Declaration of Independence, he knew they were pure propaganda.

cold-war

By William Blum, October 03 2016

“Russia suspected of election scheme. U.S. probes plan to sow voter distrust.” That’s the Washington Post page-one lead headline of September 6. Think about it. The election that Americans are suffering through, cringing in embarrassment, making them think of moving abroad, renouncing their citizenship; an election causing the Founding Fathers to throw up as they turn in their graves … this is because the Russian Devils are sowing voter distrust! Who knew?

white helmets

By Tony Cartalucci, October 03 2016

Recent protests held across North America and Europe staged by supporters of armed militants in Syria have staged scenes in Western streets eerily similar to those featured in the photos and videos of the US-European funded “Syrian Civil Defence” also known as the “White Helmets.”

syrian-war-propaganda

By Prof. James Petras, October 03 2016

Washington’s quest for perpetual world power is underwritten by systematic and perpetual propaganda wars. Every major and minor war has been preceded, accompanied and followed by unremitting government propaganda designed to secure public approval, exploit victims, slander critics, dehumanize targeted adversaries and justify its allies’ collaboration. In this paper we will discuss the most common recent techniques used to support ongoing imperial wars.

internet-yellow

By John Stanton, October 03 2016

There is an inverse relationship between public access to the Internet and the inability of governments and institutions to control information flow and hence state allegiance, ideology, public opinion, and policy formulation. Increase in public access to the Internet results in an equivalent decrease in government and institutional power. Indeed, after September 11, 2001, Internet traffic statistics show that many millions of Americans have connected to alternative news sources outside the continental United States. The information they consume can be and often is contrary to US government statements and US mainstream media reporting.

SYRIA-CONFLICT

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, October 02 2016

The total shipment is of the order of 994 tons of “humanitarian” R2P light weapons for the “Moderates” in Syria. (in a single shipment out of Romania) among numerous comparable shipments by sea as well as by air.

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Back in 2010, CBS news reported that the Australian government had a potential RFID microchipping plan in the works related to the health care system.

Now, it seems that this plan is beginning to unfold but the push is not a result of mandated health care reforms, but rather a clever propaganda campaign that equates RFID microchipping with becoming superhuman, and people are begging for it.

Under the headline ‘Australians embracing super-human microchip technology’, Australia’s premier media outlet news.com.au (News Corp Australia) reports:

It may sound like sci-fi, but hundreds of Australians are turning themselves into super-humans who can unlock doors, turn on lights and log into computers with a wave of the hand.

Shanti Korporaal, from Sydney, is at the centre of the phenomenon after having two implants inserted under her skin.

Now she can get into work and her car without carrying a card or keys, and says her ultimate goal is to completely do away with her wallet and cards.

She told news.com.au:

 You could set up your life so you never have to worry about any password or PINs it’s the same technology as Paypass, so I’m hoping you’ll be able to pay for things with it.

With Opal you get a unique identification number that could be programmed into the chip. Any door with a swipe card … it could open your computer, photocopier. Loyalty cards for shops are just another thing for your wallet.

The microchips, which are the size of a grain of rice, can act like a business card and transfer contact details to smartphones, and hold complex medical data.

In her interview with the Australian news outlet, Shanti claims that her friends and family are envious of her microchip lifestyle;

 My nana wants one. I’ve had more opposition to my tattoos than I’ve ever had to the chip. My friends are jealous.

In fact, the 27-year-old has noticed a business opportunity and set up a distribution service called Chip My Life with her husband, Skeeve Stevens where for just $80 to $140, people can become so called “super humans.”

On the same day this news story broke, Shanti appeared at Australia’s launch of the much anticipated cyborg themed video game Deus Ex Mankind Divided, alongside American implantable technology pioneer Amal Graafstra.

As you can see, the push for RFID microchipping and assimilating the human population with robots and technology, is something that will most likely be sold to the public as helping them to become “super human,” but clearly if you become part machine/computer, that means there will be someone who can control that technology. If you think the elites wouldn’t capitalize on such an exceptional opportunity to control the population you obviously don’t know  history very well.

Amal Graafstra, who became one of the world first RFID implantees back in 2005, just made headlines recently in the US with a prototype of the world’s first implant-activated smart gun and is a huge proponent for this new technology.

He’s written a book, spoken at TEDx and also appeared in a number of documentaries.

In an interview with the Australian media outlet, Amal explained that the technology he has implanted into his body has “given me the ability to communicate with machines. It’s literally integrated into who I am.”

Shanti has bought into the culture that dominates society today, which is one dominated by the fantasy of super heroes that mesmerizes the population at theaters all across the globe.

“Ever since watching movies like the Terminator, Matrix and Minority Report I wondered if we could actually live like that. I always wondered why we all weren’t living as ‘super-humans’

You can watch how Shanti uses the microchip in her daily life in the video below;

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It’s official.

The United States government closed out the 2016 fiscal year that ended a few days ago on Friday September 30th with a debt level of $19,573,444,713,936.79.

That’s an increase of $1,422,827,047,452.46 over last year’s fiscal year close.

Incredible. By the way, that debt growth amounts to roughly 7.5% of the entire US economy.

By comparison, the Marshall Plan, which completely rebuilt Western Europe after World World II, cost $12 billion back in 1948, or roughly 4.3% of US GDP at the time.

The initial appropriation for the WPA, perhaps the largest of Roosevelt’s New Deal “make work” programs that employed millions of people, cost 6.7% of US GDP.

And, more recently, the US $700 billion bank bailout at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis was the equivalent of 4.8% of GDP.

So basically these people managed to increase the national debt by a bigger percentage than the cost of the New Deal, Marshall Plan, and 2008 bank bailout.

What exactly did you get for that money?

Did they spend $1.4 trillion on achieving world peace, eradicating poverty, saving the planet, or some other pipedream?

Did they finally fix America’s crumbling infrastructure that has been in desperate need of repair?

Did they send a gigantic tax refund check to every man, woman, and child in the country?

Actually the answer is (D), none of the above. They squandered it all.

In fact, the 2016 fiscal year had the THIRD largest increase in government debt in US history.

The only two previous times in which the debt increased more than the 2016 fiscal year were during the financial crisis.

But there was no financial crisis in 2016.

The government didn’t have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the banks.

All things considered, 2016 was a pretty normal fiscal year for the federal government. There were no major emergencies to drain taxpayer funds.

Yet they still managed to blow $1.4 trillion because this level of waste and spending is now baked into the system.

Even if they dramatically slashed spending and got rid of entire departments of the federal government, they would still be hemmhoraging cash at a rate far greater than the economy can now possibly grow.

Social Security and Medicare are now the largest parts of that financial sinkhole, and according to their own projections, their drain on the budget is growing each year.

All other government spending COMBINED pales in comparison to Social Security and Medicare.

So if you add up military spending, homeland security, national parks, and President Obama’s jet, it’s just a fraction of what they spend on Social Security and Medicare.

These programs consume the vast majority of US tax revenue, forcing the government to borrow mind-boggling amounts of money to fund its operations, even in good times.

(Just imagine how much the debt will grow when times get tough again.)

What’s even more crazy is that Social Security and Medicare aren’t even properly funded. Both are rapidly running out of money.

The programs’ annual trustee reports show that their primary trust funds will become completely depleted starting in the next few years.

In fact one of Social Security’s major trust funds for Disability Insurance was actually fully depleted last year.

So even though these programs are already draining taxpayer resources and forcing the government to take on more and more debt, they are in need of a HUGE bailout.

This leaves precisely ONE option: default… but on whom?

It’s possible the government could try to borrow the $42 trillion that they calculate is necessary to make these programs solvent again.

That seems extraordinarily unlikely.

But even if it were possible to print and/or borrow that much money, it would either create a terminal currency crisis, or force the US government to default on unaffordable interest payments, throwing the financial system into chaos.

The other option is to simply default on the future beneficiaries of these programs, telling people, “Hey sorry, we wasted all of your money and there’s nothing left.”

So their choice comes down to either screwing the banks or screwing the taxpayer.

Gee I wonder which option they’ll pick…

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After the US Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which overrides the principle of sovereign immunity to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, an Iraqi group has requested parliament to prepare a lawsuit seeking compensation from the US for the invasion of Iraq.

The “Arab Project in Iraq” lobby group “sees their opportunity to ask for compensation from the United States over violations by the US forces following the US invasion that saw the toppling of late President Saddam Hussein in 2003,” the Al-Arabiya news channel reported on Saturday.

“It urged for a full-fledged investigation over the killing of civilians targets, loss of properties and individuals who suffered torture and other mistreatment on the hand of US forces.”

The Iraqi group is the first to take advantage of the precedent set by JASTA in overturning the principle of sovereign immunity.

President Obama had attempted to veto the legislation, but his veto was overturned by the Senate on Wednesday. By passing JASTA and allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia, the Senate has also made the US vulnerable to legal action seeking compensation for its foreign policy activities across the world.

The day after the Senate vote, former Republican Senator Larry Pressler expressed fear that as a veteran of the Vietnam War, he could now face legal action.

“As a Vietnam combat veteran, I could almost certainly be sued by the Vietnamese government or by a Vietnamese citizen,” Pressler wrote in The Hill.

“The Gulf War, Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans are more protected by constitutional congressional actions, but we Vietnam veterans will be raw targets if Americans can sue Saudi Arabia.”

On Saturday the first US lawsuit was filed under JASTA, alleging that Saudi Arabia provided material support to al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden. The complaint was filed by Stephanie Ross DeSimone, who was widowed when her husband, a Navy Commander, was killed at the Pentagon on 9/11. The lawsuit is also filed on behalf of the couple’s daughter, who was born after his death.

Saudi Arabia denies any culpability for the 9/11 attacks, and has warned that it might be forced to sell off billions of US assets to avoid sanctions if JASTA became law, a move which would destabilize the US dollar.

“Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the US Congress in March, the New York Times reported.

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Michel Chossudovsky will be speaking at the Beit Zatoun Cultural Centre in Toronto, 

Wednesday, October 5 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The world community is being held hostage by the American military agenda and the implications of its new “tactical” nuclear weapons.

Any one of the many flashpoints around the Middle East, China, North Korea, and Russia’s borders could precipitate a situation that threatens the future of humanity.


Michel Chossudovsky
 is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Ottawa and the director of the Centre for Research on Globalization, a cutting-edge, independent research and media organization at: www.globalresearch.ca.

Chossudovsky has written: The Globalization of Poverty and The New World OrderAmerica’s “War on Terrorism”Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War and his latest: The Globalization of War: America’s Long War against Humanity.

 

Beit Zatoun Cultural Centre in Toronto, 

Wednesday, October 5 @ 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm 

 612 Markham St.

Toronto, ON  M6G 2L8

1 minute from Bathurst subway stop on Bloor line (Markham St. exit)

Phone: 647-726-9500

Email: Email us!

Michel Chossudovsky can be contacted at [email protected]

Archive of Michel Chossudovsky’s online articles at Global Research

facebook event


Need to know:
– Doors open at 6:50
– $10 donation (suggested minimum)
– Accessible on demand via portable ramp; washrooms not accessible
– Please avoid using strong-scented products due to sensitivities

Tasty refreshments (non-alcoholic) with Zatoun oliveoil+za’atar dipping.

*      *      *

“The world is at a dangerous crossroads.  The United States and its allies have launched a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity.

Under a global military agenda, the actions undertaken by the Western military alliance (U.S.-NATO-Israel) in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Palestine, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq are coordinated at the highest levels of the military hierarchy. We are not dealing with piecemeal military and intelligence operations. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Asia Pacific region.

The current situation is all the more critical inasmuch as a US-NATO war on Russia, China and Iran is part of the US presidential election debate. It is presented as a political and military option to Western public opinion.” 

America’s “Humanitarian War” against the World By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, September 28, 2016

“The United States of America is not fighting the terrorists in Syria. 

The Obama administration, with the support of its allies including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, is supporting the Islamic State (ISIS Daesh)

Obama’s counterterrorism campaign in Syria and Iraq is bogus.” 

Obama is Protecting the Terrorists, America to the Rescue of ISIS-ISIL-Daesh. Testimonies of Syrian Soldiers Who Witnessed the US Airstrikes By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, September 19, 2016

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In a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday, two former CIA detainees described previously unreported torture techniques used in secret U.S. prisons overseas, shedding new light on the program the government fought for years to keep hidden.

Ridha al-Najjar, 51, and Lotfi al-Arabi El Gherissi, 52, both Tunisian men recently repatriated after being in CIA custody for 13 years without charge, independently described being threatened with a makeshift electric chair, deprived of sleep, subject to multiple forms of water torture, chained by their wrists to the ceilings of their cells for extended periods of time, and severely beaten.

The executive summary of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s still-classified torture report makes no mention of electric chairs.

HRW writes of El Gherissi’s experience:

He said the chair was made of metal, or perhaps iron. It had clips with wires attached to it intended to be fit on fingers, and a helmet with wires. His description suggested something makeshift, attached to a pipe that came out of a wall. His interrogators put him in the chair and threatened to use it on him unless he gave them more information, though they did not. He said this terrified him and he was trembling. The room also had a board that they threatened to put him on, but never did. He said he understood that water would be used on him while he was on the board.

Al-Najjar separately recounted similar treatment:

It was made out of metal or iron, had plugs attached to wires for fitting on fingers, and a headset with wires. The description suggested make-shift apparatus, attached to a wall pipe. His U.S. interrogators threatened during interrogations to use the chair on him, but never actually did. The room also contained other instruments used for torture, including a board that he believes his interrogators used on him on various occasions for different types of water torture, and a coffin in which they threatened to place him.

“These terrifying accounts of previously unreported CIA torture methods show how little the public still knows about the U.S. torture program,” said HRW senior U.S. national security counsel Laura Pitter.

The most abuse took place at a facility known as Cobalt, a site in Afghanistan, which al-Najjar and El Gherissi called the “Dark Prison.” Other detainees have referred to it alternately as the Dark Prison or the “Salt Pit” as well. Al-Najjar recounted his interrogators at Cobalt “threatening the ‘well-being of his family,’ using ‘sound disorientation techniques,’ denying him sleep using round-the-clock interrogations, depriving him of any ‘sense of time,’ keeping him in ‘isolation in total darkness; lowering the quality of his food,’ using cold temperatures, playing music ’24 hours a day, and keeping him shackled and hooded.'”

A CIA cable issued September 21, 2002 described him as a “clearly broken man” who was “on the verge of a complete breakdown.” He remained in CIA custody for another 13 years.

Both men were set free in 2015 with no compensation or support from the U.S. or Tunisian governments, which violated international human rights law, HRW said—particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, both of which the U.S. has ratified. Under those laws, “governments have obligations to ensure the right to an effective remedy for victims of serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment,” the human rights group wrote. “Although these violations did not take place in the United States, they occurred while the individuals were under the effective control of U.S. security forces.”

Today, al-Najjar and El Gherissi live with their families in Tunisia in destitute conditions, struggling with severe trauma. Al-Najjar, who said his hips, ankle, and back were broken in detention, told HRW that he is still suffering from damage to several internal organs, as well as his ear. “My sister has five kids,” he told Pitter. “I am the sixth.”

El Gherissi lives with his family in a house that has no doors or full roof. He shares a bed with his elderly mother and cannot afford to see a doctor.

Pitter continued, “The release of these two men without the U.S. providing any assistance or redress for their torture and suffering also shows how much the U.S. still needs to do to put the CIA torture program behind it.”

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Do We Really Want Nuclear War with Russia?

October 4th, 2016 by Robert Parry

Through an endless barrage of ugly propaganda, the U.S. government and the mainstream American press have put the world on course for a potential nuclear showdown with Russia, an existential risk that has been undertaken cavalierly amid bizarre expressions of self-righteousness from Western institutions.

This extraordinarily dangerous moment reflects the insistence of the Establishment in Washington that it should continue to rule the world and that it will not broach the possibility of other nations asserting their own national interests even in their own neighborhoods.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, at the outset of a bilateral meeting on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]

Rather than adjust to a new multi-polar world, the powers-that-be in Washington have deployed a vast array of propaganda assets that are financed or otherwise encouraged to escalate an information war so aggressively that Russia is reading this onslaught of insults as the conditioning of the Western populations for a world war.

While that may not be the intention of President Obama, who in his recent United Nations address acknowledged the risks from imposing uni-polar order on the world, a powerful bureaucratic machinery is in place to advance U.S. propaganda goals. It is operating on a crazed auto-pilot hurtling toward destruction but beyond anyone’s ability to turn it off.

This machinery consists not just of outlets and activists funded by U.S. tax dollars via the National Endowment for Democracy or the U.S. Agency for International Development or NATO’s Strategic Communications Command, but like-minded “human rights” entities paid for by billionaire currency speculator George Soros or controlled by neoconservative ideologues who now run major U.S. newspapers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times.

This propaganda apparatus now has so many specialized features that you get supposedly “progressive” and “anti-war” organizations promoting a major U.S. invasion of Syria under the guise of sweet-sounding policies like “no-fly zones” and “safe zones,” the same euphemisms that were used as the gateway to bloody “regime change” wars in Iraq and Libya.

There exists what intelligence veterans call a Mighty Wurlitzer, an organ with so many keys and pedals that it’s hard to know where all the sounds come from that make up the powerful harmony, all building to the same crescendo. But that crescendo may now be war with nuclear-armed Russia, which finds in all this demonizing the prelude to either a destabilization campaign aimed at “regime change” in Moscow or outright war.

Yet, the West can’t seem to muster the sanity or the honesty to begin toning down or even showing skepticism toward the escalating charges aimed at Russia. We saw similar patterns in the run-up to war in Iraq in 2002-2003 and in justifying the ouster, torture and murder of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Western propaganda also has enveloped the conflict in Syria to such an extent that the American people don’t understand that the U.S. government and its regional “allies” have been supporting and arming jihadist groups fighting under the command of Al Qaeda and even the Islamic State. The propaganda has focused on demonizing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while downplaying or ignoring the real nature of the “moderate” opposition.

Taking Aim at Putin

In many ways, the Western insistence on “regime change” in Syria ties in directly to the extraordinary escalation of that strategy to seek “regime change” in Russia. In August-September 2013, America’s neocons and liberal war hawks were salivating over the prospect of a U.S. military bombing campaign to devastate Assad’s army as punishment for his alleged role in a sarin gas attack outside Damascus.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria “Toria” Nuland, addresses Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, at the outset of a bilateral meeting on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]

Although the intelligence was weak regarding Assad’s “guilt” – and subsequent evidence has pointed to a likely provocation by radical jihadists using home-made sarin and a jerry-rigged rocket – Official Washington was rubbing its hands at the prospect of a retaliatory bombing operation that would punish Assad and advance the cause of “regime change.”

At the last minute, however, President Obama listened to the doubts from his intelligence advisers and rejected what he later called the Washington “playbook” of a military response to a complex problem. To the annoyance of Washington insiders, Obama then collaborated with President Putin in a diplomatic settlement in which Syria surrendered all its chemical weapons while still denying any role in the sarin attack. Obama was accused of weakness for not “enforcing his red line” against chemical weapons use.

The despair over Obama’s failure to bomb the Syrian government and open the path for a long-desired “regime change” in Damascus led to a search for other villains, the most obvious one being Putin, who then became the focus of neocon determination to make him share their pain and disappointment.

National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman took to the op-ed page of The Washington Post in late September 2013 to declare that Ukraine was now “the biggest prize” and represented an important interim step toward eventually toppling Putin in Russia.

Gershman, who is essentially a neocon paymaster dispensing $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers’ money to activists, journalists and various other operatives, wrote: “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

Within weeks, U.S. neocons – including Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sen. John McCain – were encouraging right-wing Ukrainian nationalists to overthrow Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, a coup accomplished on Feb. 22, 2014, touching off a civil war between Ukraine’s west and east.

As part of that Western propaganda barrage, the Ukraine coup ousting the elected president was hailed as a victory for “democracy” and Yanukovych’s supporters in the south and east who resisted this imposition of illegitimate authority in Kiev became the target of a U.S.-backed “Anti-Terrorism Operation” or ATO.

Led by The New York Times and The Washington Post, the Western media fell in line behind the preferred narrative that there was “no coup,” that there were “no neo-Nazis” spearheading the non-coup (or maybe just a few), that the “Heavenly Hundred” who died in the putsch against Yanukovych had given their lives for Ukraine’s “freedom” even though some of the “heavenly” inconveniently were neo-Nazi street fighters, part of a paramilitary force that had killed some 16 police officers.

Killing ‘Terrorists’

Given the West’s pro-coup propaganda themes, it became necessary to justify the thousands of eastern Ukrainians slaughtered in the ATO as the killing of “terrorists” or Russian “stooges,” getting what they deserved. The 96 percent vote in Crimea’s referendum to reunify with Russia had to be a “sham” since the West’s narrative held that the Ukrainian people were thrilled with the putsch, so the Crimeans must have voted that way at Russian gunpoint.

Screen shot of the fatal fire in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014, killing scores of ethnic Russians trapped inside. (From RT video)

The explanation of Crimea’s secession from Ukraine was that Russia “invaded” and “annexed” Crimea although there were no images of an invasion (no tanks crossing Crimea’s borders, no amphibious landings, no paratroopers descending from the sky – because Russian troops were already in Crimea as part of a basing agreement and helped protect Crimea’s inhabitants so they could hold their vote which did represent their desires).

Because the Western propaganda insisted that the new authorities in Kiev were wearing white hats, the Russians had to be fitted with black hats. Every bad thing that happened was automatically Putin’s fault. So, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the West’s propaganda machinery whirred into action, blaming Russia for supposedly giving the ethnic Russian rebels powerful Buk anti-aircraft missiles.

The propaganda momentum was so strong by then that there was no Western support for Russia’s request for a United Nations investigation. Instead the inquiry was largely turned over to the torture-implicated Ukrainian intelligence service, the SBU, upon which the Dutch and Australians, the other two principal members, became increasingly dependent (by their own admissions). Belgium and Malaysia played lesser roles.

The Joint Investigation Committee (JIT) considered no serious alternatives to the Russians and the rebels being responsible. For instance, when the JIT released its “report” on Sept. 28, 2016, there was no explanation offered for why Dutch intelligence (i.e. NATO intelligence) had concluded that the only missile systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, capable of shooting down MH-17 were controlled by the Ukrainian military. The JIT “report” was silent about where those Ukrainian Buk missile systems were at the time of the shoot-down.

It’s also a bit of a misnomer to describe the JIT’s findings as a “report” since they were really expressed in a series of videos featuring computer-generated graphics supposedly showing a Russian Buk crew driving around Ukraine, mixed in with a few photos from social media of a Buk convoy.

Key to the JIT’s findings were phone intercepts provided by the SBU and assembled to reinforce the impression of Russian guilt. The problem, however, was that except for one intercept in which someone said he’d like to have Buks, the word “Buk” is not mentioned; nor the word “missiles”; nor the word “aircraft”; nor any discussion about shooting down a plane. That was all supposition with an authoritative narrator filling in the gaps.

Ignoring Contrary Evidence

The JIT also ignored evidence that contradicted its conclusions, such as other intercepts reporting that a Ukrainian convoy had penetrated close to the eastern city of Luhansk. The significance of that revelation is that it confirms a point that has been largely ignored, that the Ukrainian military could move almost at will across “rebel-controlled territory.” The notion that the Ukrainian civil war was like World War I with fixed trench lines was simply a fallacy.

Screen shot from the Joint Investigation Team’s video report citing where a Russian Buk missile battery allegedly crossed into eastern Ukraine.

The JIT also had to impose a bizarre route for the Russian Buk battery to follow on its way to the supposed firing location south of the remote eastern town of Snizhne. Because the “social media” photos show the Buk convoy heading east toward Russia, not west from Russia, the JIT had to map out a journey that ignored a simple, direct and discreet route from the Russian border to Snizhhe in favor of a trip more than twice as long roaming around eastern Ukraine all the way to Donetsk before turning eastward past a number of heavily populated areas where the Buk convoy, supposedly on a highly secret mission, could be photographed.

The alleged firing location also conflicts with the alleged reason for the Russians taking the extraordinary risk of introducing a Buk system – that it was needed to defend rebel soldiers then fighting mostly in the north against Ukrainian troops and aircraft. For that purpose, the positioning of a Buk battery far to the southeast makes little sense, nor does the decision for a Russian Buk crew to shoot down a commercial airliner flying at 33,000 feet.

JIT’s account of the post-crash exfiltration of the Buk convoy back to Russia also is curious, since again the shortest, easiest and least populated route was ignored in favor of one that went far to the north past Luhansk, the alleged site of the supposed “getaway” video (although the supposed location of the “getaway” video was misplaced by Western media groups trying to pin the blame on Russia).

The confirmed parts of the Buk convoy’s route, i.e., along highways east of Donetsk, would fit better with a scenario that, I’m told, received serious consideration from U.S. intelligence analysts, that a Ukrainian Buk system under the control of a rogue military unit loyal to a fiercely anti-Putin oligarch traveled east into what was considered “rebel-controlled territory” to fire on what was hoped to be Putin’s official plane returning from a state visit to South America, i.e. to kill Putin.

A source briefed by these analysts said the missile was fired despite the unit’s doubt that the plane was Putin’s. Although it’s unclear to me exactly what the U.S. intelligence consensus ultimately turned out to be on MH-17 (since I have been refused official updates), there would be logic in a Ukrainian hardliner staging such an audacious missile attack deep inside “rebel territory,” since any assassination of Putin would have to be explained as an accidental attack by his own allies, i.e., the ultimate case of Putin being hoisted on his own petard.

To evaluate which scenario makes more sense – that the Russians dispatched a Buk missile battery on a wild ride across eastern Ukraine or that a Ukrainian Buk battery penetrated into supposedly rebel-controlled territory with the intent of attacking a civilian plane (although not MH-17) – it would be crucial to have an explanation of where the Ukrainian Buk batteries were located on July 17, 2014.

Silence on Dutch Intelligence

Some of the Russia-did-it crowd have dismissed claims that Ukrainian Buk systems were in the area as Russian disinformation, but their presence was confirmed by a report from the Dutch intelligence service, MIVD, relying on NATO information to explain why commercial airliners were still being allowed over the war zone.

A photograph of a Russian BUK missile system that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt published on Twitter in support of a claim about Russia placing BUK missiles in eastern Ukraine, except that the image appears to be an AP photo taken at an air show near Moscow two years earlier.

The MIVD’s explanation was that the only anti-aircraft missiles that could hit a plane at 33,000 feet were controlled by Ukraine, which was presumed to have no interest in attacking commercial aircraft, and that the rebels lacked any missile system that could reach that high. Clearly, there was an intelligence failure because either some Ukrainian Buk operators did have an intent to strike a civilian plane or the rebels did have a Buk system in the area.

If the JIT were operating objectively, it would have included something about this intelligence failure, either by showing that it had investigated the possibility that Ukrainian Buk missiles were used by a rogue unit or explaining how Western intelligence could have missed Russia’s introduction of a Buk system into eastern Ukraine.

Instead, there was just this video that includes cryptic phone intercepts, assertions about unnamed witnesses and computer-generated graphics “showing” the movement of a Russian Buk convoy along darkened roads in Ukraine.

Despite the unusual nature of this “indictment,” it was widely accepted in Western media as the final proof of Russian perfidy. The evidence was called “overwhelming” and “conclusive.”

Rather than treating the video report as a prosecutor’s brief – a set of allegations yet to be proved – Western journalists accepted it as flat fact, much as they did Secretary of State Colin Powell’s similar presentation on Feb. 5, 2003, “proving” that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. (Powell also used computer-generated images — of Iraq’s “mobile chemical weapons labs” that, in reality, didn’t exist.)

The day after the JIT video report was issued, The New York Times’ lead editorial was headlined, “Mr. Putin’s Outlaw State.” It read:

“President Vladimir Putin is fast turning Russia into an outlaw nation. As one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, his country shares a special responsibility to uphold international law. Yet, his behavior in Ukraine and Syria violates not only the rules intended to promote peace instead of conflict, but also common human decency.

“This bitter truth was driven home twice on Wednesday [Sept. 28]. An investigative team led by the Netherlands concluded that the surface-to-air missile system that shot down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine in July 2014, killing 298 on board, was sent from Russia to Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night. …

“Russia has tried hard to pin the blame for the airline crash on Ukraine. But the new report, produced by prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, confirms earlier findings. It uses strict standards of evidence and meticulously documents not only the deployment of the Russian missile system that caused the disaster but also Moscow’s continuing cover-up. …

“President Obama has long refused to approve direct military intervention in Syria. And Mr. Putin may be assuming that Mr. Obama is unlikely to confront Russia in his final months and with an American election season in full swing. But with the rebel stronghold in Aleppo under threat of falling to the government, administration officials said that such a response is again under consideration.

“Mr. Putin fancies himself a man on a mission to restore Russia to greatness. Russia could indeed be a great force for good. Yet his unconscionable behavior — butchering civilians in Syria and Ukraine, annexing Crimea, computer-hacking American government agencies, crushing dissent at home — suggests that the furthest thing from his mind is becoming a constructive partner in the search for peace.”

Rich Irony

Granted, there is some rich irony in a major U.S. newspaper, which helped justify illegal aggression against Iraq with false reporting about Iraq buying aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges, pontificating about international law.

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who co-authored the Times’ bogus story about Iraq buying aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges.

Indeed, the very idea that any serious person in the United States would lecture other countries about international law would be laughable if the hypocrisy were not delivered in such a serious set of circumstances. For decades now, the United States has been a law onto itself, deciding which countries should be bombed and who should be assassinated.

President Obama himself has acknowledged authorizing military strikes in seven countries during his presidency and many of those attacks were done outside international law. Indeed, the Times editorial appears to urge Obama to launch illegal military strikes against the Syrian government and, not surprisingly, doesn’t mention the U.S. airstrike that killed some 62 Syrian government soldiers just last month, delivering a death blow to the partial ceasefire.

Instead, you get a medley of the Times’ greatest anti-Russian propaganda hits while ignoring the U.S. role in destabilizing and overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government in favor of a harshly anti-Russian nationalist regime that then began slaughtering thousands of ethnic Russians who resisted the coup.

Nor does the Times mention that Russia is operating inside Syria by invitation of the sovereign government, while the U.S. has no such authority. And the Times leaves out how the U.S. government and its allies have covertly armed and funded jihadist rebels who have inflicted many of the hundreds of thousands of dead in Syria. Not everyone, including Syrian soldiers, was killed by Assad and the Russians, although that’s the impression the Times leaves.

A more nuanced account would reflect this murky reality in which sophisticated U.S. weapons, such as TOW missiles, have ended up in the possession of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and its jihadist allies. It would acknowledge that many sides are at fault for these tragedies in Syria and Ukraine – not to mention all the bloodshed that has followed the U.S.-led and U.S.-enabled wars that have torn apart the Middle East over the past decade and a half.

The Times might also admit that Putin was helpful in resolving the 2013 sarin crisis in Syria and achieving a breakthrough on the Iran nuclear talks in 2014. But that would not fit the propaganda need to demonize Putin and ready the American people for another, even more terrifying “regime change,” this time in Moscow.

What we can now expect are a series of legal actions brought against Russia in connection with the MH-17 case and other controversies. The goal will be to further demonize Putin and to destabilize Russia, a process already underway with economic sanctions that have helped throw Russia’s economy into recession.

The neocon plan is to ratchet up tensions and pain so Putin’s elected government will somehow collapse with the neocons hoping that some U.S. lackey will take over and allow another round of “shock therapy,” i.e. the plunder of Russia’s resources to the benefit of a few favored oligarchs and their American consultants.

However, given the dreadful experience that the average Russian faced from the earlier round of “shock therapy” in the 1990s – including a stunning decline in life expectancy – the more likely outcome from even a successful neocon scheme of “regime change” would be the emergence of a much more hard-line Russian nationalist than Putin.

Whereas Putin is a calculating and rational leader, the guy who follows him might well be an ideologue ready to use nuclear weapons to protect Mother Russia’s honor. After all, it’s not as if one of these neocon “regime change” calculations has ever gone wrong before.

Yet, whichever way things go, Official Washington – and its complicit mainstream media – now appear determined to push Russia into a corner with military encroachments from NATO on Russia’s borders and with criminal accusations before biased international “investigations.” Any misstep in this dangerous game could quickly end life as we know it.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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Russia has now managed twice to shame the U.S. into action against Jihadis by publicly demonstrating that the U.S. is not really committed to its promises.

During 2014 and 2015 the U.S. did very little to attack the Islamic State. U.S. strikes hit irrelevant targets like an “ISIS excavator” or some lone truck. Meanwhile ISIS was making millions per day from pumping oil out of the Syrian desert and selling it to Turkish contacts. Hundreds of Turkish tanker trucks assembled near the oil wells in south-east Syria waiting to load. No airstrike would hit them.

The Russians saw this and were appalled. The loudmouth U.S. spoke about its big coalition and attacking ISIS but did essentially nothing. The Russian President Putin then decided to shame the U.S. and Obama personally. On November 15 2015 at the G20 meeting in Turkey he walked around the table and showed satellite pictures to his international colleagues. Hundreds of trucks waiting in the Syrian desert for loading without fear that anyone would harm them:

“I’ve demonstrated the pictures from space to our colleagues, which clearly show the true size of the illegal trade of oil and petroleum products market. Car convoys stretching for dozens of kilometers, going beyond the horizon when seen from a height of four-five thousand meters,” Putin told reporters after the G20 summit.

The very next day on November 16 U.S. airplanes, for the first time, hit truck assemblies near ISIS oil wells in south-east Syria:

In the first wave of U.S. airstrikes since the Paris attacks, A-10 Thunderbolt ground attack aircraft and AC-130 gunships raked a convoy of more than 100 ISIS oil tanker trucks in Syria in a stepped-up effort to cut off a main source of terror funding, the Pentagon said Monday.

Putin had successfully shamed Obama into attacking ISIS’s oil revenue.

Something similar happened Friday and today. First the Russian Foreign Minister accused the U.S. of complicity with al-Qaeda:

The Russian foreign minister said Russia has “more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare Al-Nusra and to keep it just in case for Plan B or stage two, when it would be time to change the regime.”

At the daily State Department press briefing on Friday, State spokesman Toner was grilled by multiple reporters over Lavrov’s accusations and the lack of U.S. attacks on al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Jabhat Fateh al-Sham):

QUESTION: In that interview with the BBC, Foreign Secretary – Foreign Minister Lavrov said what the Russians have been saying for a number of days now, which is that accusing the United States of having failed to disentangle the Nusrah from the opposition that you support.MR TONER: Yeah. […]

Once we felt that we were at that point, to the best of an agreed-upon ability to reach that point, then we would say, okay, we’re ready to move on to the next phase. At that point, as I said, then it’s – the moderate opposition who are integrated with al-Nusrah would have had a choice to make.

QUESTION: So in other words, are they making a fair point here —

MR TONER: So —

QUESTION: — the Russians? That they say you failed to do the disentangling?

MR TONER: No, because there wasn’t enough time. …

QUESTION: What – just a final question: And again, with the regards to the Russian suspicions, you haven’t really gone after Nusrah that much. Have you been holding back on going after Nusrah because they were mixed with the opposition? I mean, all we hear about is the strikes on ISIS.

MR TONER: Yeah, so —

QUESTION: We don’t hear about strikes on Nusrah.

MR TONER: So —

(For your amusement read the longer transcript excerpt below this post or read the full one at the State Department website.)

 

State spoks Mark Toner admits that no U.S. strike had hit Nusra since March this year. His excuses are paltry and in the end he punts to the Pentagon. He really got his balls squeezed.

But that pressure, initiated by the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, created results. The U.S. was shamed into action and today killed some Nusra number 2: Pentagon: US targets ‘core al-Qaida’ member in Syria strike.

Al-Qaeda confirmed the strike:

LBCI News English Verified account @LBCI_News_ENJabhat Fateh al-Sham, former Nusra Front, says Egyptian alQaeda cleric Abu al-Faraj al-Masri killed in #US led coalition strike in #Idlib

10:17 AM – 3 Oct 2016

This is the very first strike on al-Qaeda in Syria, a UN designated terrorist organization which the U.S. vowed to fight, since March 2016. It comes a weekend after Lavrov accused the U.S. of not striking Nusra and a grilling at the State Department briefing.

The Russian shaming has again worked.

But it is not yet clear if this U.S. reaction to the shaming is serious, if more strikes will follow.

Abu al-Faraj al-Masri was a high commander who has been on varous target list for a long time. But he was not near any U.S. proxy force fighting together with Nusra. One expert is somewhat skeptical:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlraiEx-Nusra (JFS) account announce the death of Egyptian Ahmad Salama Mabrouk, aka Abu Faraj al Masri, 2d in command of JFS & #AQ core leader pic

9:50 AM – 3 Oct 2016

Mabrouk was killed by a drone in Darkouch, #Idlib, #Syria, the HQ and gathering of #AQ/#Nusra/#JFS & Jihadists.

#JFS officially announce the death of Abu al-Faraj al-Masri, #AQ leader. Group still calming “we have nothing to do with Qaidat al-Jihad”.

This is the same group that the #USA is not willing to ask its proxies in #Syria to keep a distance from (#AQ).

While the shaming worked in that it provoked the U.S. into action it had long promised but always delayed other issues between the U.S. and Russia on Syria are not going well.

Russia announced the end of military-military discussions with the U.S. about delineating zones for a longer ceasefire in Syria:

Exchange of information between Russian and US military has stopped of late despite Moscow’s commitment, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Monday.

The U.S. responded in kind:

The United States is suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the Cessation of Hostilities.

The U.S. will also withdraw personnel that had been dispatched in anticipation of the possible establishment of the Joint Implementation Center. To ensure the safety of our respective military personnel and enable the fight against Daesh, the United States will continue to utilize the channel of communications established with Russia to de-conflict counterterrorism operations in Syria.

The U.S. blames Russia for destroying the ceasefire by “hitting civilians”. Meanwhile:

Syria Today @todayinsyriaAirstrikes by the US-led coalition reportedly killed 40 civilians in Marea, N.#Aleppo

10:30 AM – 3 Oct 2016

This ending of cooperation MAY be some crossing the Rubicon moment. The gloves are now off.

Russia has managed twice to shame the U.S. into action it had promised but not fulfilled. This will work only rarely and only when it comes at high levels (Putin, Lavrov) and with obvious evidence.

But its fun when it works and it proves that Russia, in both cases, has been right. The U.S. does not attack Jihadis but uses them for its own purpose. We will now likely see even more of this. It will continue until the U.S. is again shamed and embarrassed into following its public commitments to attack the terrorist instead of cooperating with them.

 

–End

Relevant excerpts of the Sep 29 State Department press briefing regarding U.S. attacks on Nusra:

QUESTION: In that interview with the BBC, Foreign Secretary – Foreign Minister Lavrov said what the Russians have been saying for a number of days now, which is that accusing the United States of having failed to disentangle the Nusrah from the opposition that you support.MR TONER: Yeah. …

Once we felt that we were at that point, to the best of an agreed-upon ability to reach that point, then we would say, okay, we’re ready to move on to the next phase. At that point, as I said, then it’s – the moderate opposition who are integrated with al-Nusrah would have had a choice to make.

QUESTION: So in other words, are they making a fair point here —

MR TONER: So —

QUESTION: — the Russians? That they say you failed to do the disentangling?

MR TONER: No, because there wasn’t enough time. …

QUESTION: What – just a final question: And again, with the regards to the Russian suspicions, you haven’t really gone after Nusrah that much. Have you been holding back on going after Nusrah because they were mixed with the opposition? I mean, all we hear about is the strikes on ISIS.

MR TONER: Yeah, so —

QUESTION: We don’t hear about strikes on Nusrah.

MR TONER: So —

[Second, different question-answer exchange]

MR TONER: […] In answer to your first question, which was, again, about?

QUESTION: We keep hearing about —

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — striking ISIS, but never —

MR TONER: Oh.

QUESTION: — about striking Nusrah.

MR TONER: We did carry out strikes initially, back in 2014-2015, against Nusrah. But absolutely, you’re correct in that, as they became intermingled and as they became intermingled in civilian areas, we’ve always sought to limit the possibility of civilian casualties in any of our airstrikes. …

QUESTION: Could I just ask a follow-up?

MR TONER: Of course. I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: You hit Nusrah – I believe you described it as al-Qaida – maybe in March —

MR TONER: Affiliate, yeah.

QUESTION: — or something or – it was earlier this year.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Since then, there hasn’t been any specific action against Nusrah, is that right? Military action.

MR TONER: No, but I’d have to double check.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Why aren’t you attacking Nusrah anyhow if it’s in U.S. interest?

MR TONER: That’s what I was saying, is – but I – and I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear —

QUESTION: No, no. I understand what you’re saying, but how would that change by cooperating with Russia? You still wouldn’t attack civilian populations, buildings —

MR TONER: No, but I – but what we, again – and I’m – I would really encourage you to talk to someone at the Pentagon who can give you a much more detailed tactical view of this. …

QUESTION: If you had actionable intelligence against Nusrah senior leaders, as you describe them, would you —

MR TONER: Would we —

QUESTION: — be able to target them today or not? Because Aleppo and Idlib and a lot of these areas —

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — are out of your – are they in the confliction zone?

MR TONER: I would – I don’t want to – so I would encourage you to talk to somebody —

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: — from the Department of Defense, whether we would be able to – through our de-confliction mechanism be able to target them.

QUESTION: Okay.

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US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced last Thursday a further dramatic expansion of the Pentagon’s “rebalance” or “pivot” to the Asia Pacific that will only heighten the already tense military confrontation with China in the region. He insisted that the Asia Pacific was “the single most consequential region for America’s future.”

Speaking on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in San Diego, Carter outlined what he called the “third phase” of the US military build-up and the strengthening of a “principled and inclusive security network” in Asia. While claiming that Beijing was not excluded from the “network,” every aspect of the “third phase” is aimed at preparing for a war with China.

The importance that Carter attached to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to “bind the United States more closely together with 11 other countries” underlines the real purpose of the “pivot:” to maintain American dominance and subordinate China to the interests of the United States. The very terms of the TPP ensure that Beijing will be excluded unless it accepts the rules set by Washington.

The defence secretary made clear US economic hegemony had to be underpinned by military might. In outlining the “third phase,” he declared that “the United States will continue to sharpen our military edge so we remain the most powerful military in the region and the security partner of choice.”

Carter indicated that the “first phase” of the “pivot” announced in 2011 involved a quantitative boost of the US military and the restructuring of its basing arrangements. Tens of thousands of American military personnel were redirected to Asia, with a commitment to station 60 percent of overseas naval and air assets in the region. The restructuring of US bases in Japan, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii was begun and new basing arrangements reached with Australia.

The “second phase” involved sending the “most advanced capabilities” to the Asia Pacific, including F-22 and F-35 stealth fighter jets, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and the navy’s newest surface warfare vessels, as well as continuous deployments of strategic bombers. It also included a concerted effort to expand military ties throughout the region in an effort to encircle China with allies and strategic partners. Carter highlighted strengthened security relations with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, India, Singapore, Vietnam and New Zealand in particular.

In order to maintain the “military edge,” Carter outlined extensive plans to “qualitatively upgrade and invest in our regional force posture.” He provided a list of hi-tech projects that will be funded, starting this year, including:

* Making Virginia-class nuclear submarines “more lethal and more capable” by trebling their cruise missile payload.

* Increased funding for multiple types of undersea drones, as part of more than $40 billion in allocations over the next five years to maintain “the most lethal undersea and anti-submarine force in the world.”

* Providing $12 billion over five years for the new B-21 Raider Long-Range Strike Bomber.

* Spending $56 billion over five years to buy more than 400 stealthy F-35 joint strike fighters.

* Investing nearly $16 billion over five years to upgrade the aerial tanker fleet.

* Re-purposing the SM-6 missile “so that it can also strike enemy ships at sea at very long ranges.”

* Investing in improving the “range and accuracy for land attack and anti-ship missiles,” as well as new torpedoes.

* Making large new investments, to the tune of $34 billion next year alone, in cyber, electronic and space warfare.

Every one of these new weapons and upgrades is geared to fighting a war with China, premised on the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle strategy—a massive missile and air assault on the Chinese mainland supplemented by a crippling naval blockade.

Moreover, as Carter indicated, there were also “more surprises”—some “leap-ahead” investments—that will “keep our decades-old commitment to undergirding security in the Asia-Pacific, strong and unchallengeable.”

The “third phase” features the intensification of the “Asia-Pacific’s growing principled and inclusive security network,” which Carter declared was “not a formal alliance, nor is it an effort to contain or isolate anyone.” The use of the term “principled”—denoting “shared interests and values”—is designed to exclude China, by cynically and hypocritically contrasting a network of supposed “democracies” with the autocratic regime in Beijing.

Carter’s speech was delivered just before attending a meeting of the defence ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), in order to draw these countries into the US-led “security network.” It is worth noting that the 10 ASEAN members are: the Thai military junta, Stalinist police-state regimes in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, virtual one-party states in Malaysia and Singapore, the absolute monarchy of Brunei, the Philippines currently headed by the fascistic President Rodrigo Duterte, along with Indonesia and Myanmar, whose militaries continue to play a significant political role.

Carter nevertheless declared that the second informal dialogue with ASEAN defence ministers would “reflect on our shared interests and principles and identify new ways to partner together to realise them.” The real purpose of the gathering is to draw the ASEAN countries into an anti-China alliance and ramp up pressure on China over the South China Sea.

The meeting, which focussed on “maritime security,” came in the wake of the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in favour of a US-backed challenge by the Philippines to Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Washington is increasingly concerned that Philippine President Duterte is backing away from a confrontation with China over the issue and announced a loosening of military ties with the United States. In this context, Carter’s declaration that “our alliance with the Philippines is iron clad” is a thinly-veiled threat to Duterte not to move into Beijing’s camp.

Carter sought to impress the assembled defence ministers with a display of American military might with flyovers by F-22 Raptor fighters and a B-1B strategic bomber. Friday’s events concluded with a dinner on board the battleship USS Missouri, followed on Saturday by a tour of the destroyer USS Chung-Hoon.

The defence secretary outlined new maritime security initiatives, including an ASEAN maritime dialogue and a maritime domain awareness exercise. The Pentagon is already providing $425 million over five years in a Maritime Security Initiative to provide hardware and boost collaboration with some ASEAN members—the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

There is nothing innocent or peaceful about the Pentagon’s determination to rapidly roll out the “third phase” of its rebalance to Asia. In the name of maintaining regional security, US imperialism is rapidly and recklessly preparing for a showdown with China, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

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In a highly provocative move, the United States announced yesterday it was breaking off bilateral talks with Russia on halting fighting in Syria’s civil war. The decision is only the latest indication that the US is preparing the ground for a major escalation of military operations in its war for regime-change in Syria.

With boundless hypocrisy, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that Russia had failed to maintain its end of the bargain. “This is not a decision that was taken lightly,” Kirby said. “Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments, and was also either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed.”

US officials added that contact between the two countries would continue to reduce the risk of clashes between US and Russian aircraft operating in Syrian air space. But this pledge cannot conceal the fact that both powers have mutually incompatible agendas in Syria and are perilously close to a direct military clash that could spiral out of control and trigger a wider war. As White House spokesman Josh Earnest bluntly put it, on Syria, there was “nothing more for the US and Russia to talk about.”

Washington’s attempt to pin the blame on Russia for the breakdown of diplomacy in Syria is thoroughly dishonest. The United States never had any intention of abiding by the ceasefire agreement struck between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last month. It exploited the week-long pause in fighting to enable its proxy Islamist “rebels” to regroup in the face of a Russian- and Iranian-backed offensive by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops in Aleppo, while continuing to provide its Al Qaeda-linked allies with arms. The US-backed anti-Assad forces never accepted the ceasefire.

Open differences emerged within the US political and military establishment over the ceasefire terms, with the Pentagon publicly rejecting military and intelligence cooperation with Moscow in the name of fighting terrorism. It is likely that a September 17 US air strike on a Syrian army outpost near the town of Deir ez-Zor, which helped ISIS fighters capture positions in the area, was deliberately launched by a faction of the US military opposed to intelligence-sharing with Russia, for the purpose of blowing up the ceasefire agreement.

The incident had the desired effect. The ceasefire collapsed several days later when a UN aid convoy came under attack. Washington and its European allies blamed the attack on Moscow and used it to demand that Russia and Syria ground their aircraft. Russia denied any involvement in the bombing of the aid convoy.

The US government and media have seized on the bombardment of “rebel”-held eastern Aleppo, controlled by the al-Nusra front, which Washington lists as a terrorist organization, to accuse Russia of war crimes and prepare the ground for an escalation of the war. Since intervening on the side of the Syrian government last September, Moscow has sought to advance its own interests by propping up its ally Assad. Syria is the site of Russia’s sole naval base outside of the former Soviet Union.

According to UN figures, at least 320 civilians have been killed in Aleppo since the end of the ceasefire. Civilians have been targeted by both sides, although the Western media has generally buried reports of the shelling of government-controlled areas by Islamist “rebels.” Up to 270,000 civilians, including 100,000 children, are trapped in the city.

The crocodile tears shed by US and Western politicians over the fate of Aleppo’s inhabitants are a transparent fraud, aimed at concealing the fact that primary responsibility for the catastrophe in Syria, where more than half a million people have lost their lives and over 50 percent of the population have fled their homes, lies with the US and its allies. Washington deliberately fomented the civil war with the aim of removing Assad, installing a puppet government, and asserting its hegemony in the energy-rich Middle East against its main rivals, Russia and China.

The Western powers’ humanitarian pretenses were further exposed by a leaked UN report which placed chief responsibility for the disastrous conditions in Syria on the US and European Union’s sanctions regime. The report, which was published in May but only released Sunday by the Intercept after it obtained a leaked copy, accuses Washington and Brussels of imposing since 2011 “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.”

US prohibition on money transfers has made it almost impossible for aid groups to pay salaries and buy supplies, leaving the way open for ISIS and the al-Nusra Front to open unofficial avenues for the transfer of financial assistance. A separate letter from “a key UN official” in August described the sanctions as a “principal factor” in the collapse of the healthcare system.

The Obama administration never had any intention of reaching a deal with Russia to curb the violence in Syria unless it fully capitulated to US demands for the installation of a pro-Western puppet regime.

Moscow has instead made increasingly clear that it is unwilling to back down in the face of US threats to encourage Islamist terrorists to direct their attacks against Russia. After Kirby menacingly declared last week that extremists could attack “Russian interests” and even Russian cities, an ominous pronouncement given Washington’s long-standing collaboration with Jihadi terrorists, Russia shot back that any US escalation in Syria would lead to “total war” and cause “tectonic shifts” throughout the Middle East.

Earlier on Monday, President Vladimir Putin announced the suspension of the United States from an agreement regulating the disposal of plutonium from decommissioned nuclear weapons. Putin cited as reasons “the radical change in the environment, a threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the US against Russia, and the inability of the US to deliver on the obligation to dispose of excessive weapons plutonium under international treaties.”

On Syria, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Washington had failed to separate US-backed “moderate rebels” from the al-Nusra Front, which was to have been a first step under the ceasefire deal to the establishment of a joint implementation center from which Moscow and Washington would coordinate attacks on terrorists.

“We are becoming more convinced that in a pursuit of a much desired regime-change in Damascus, Washington is ready to ‘make a deal with the devil,’” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday. For the sake of ousting Syrian President Assad, the US appears to be ready to “forge an alliance with hardened terrorists.”

In truth, such an alliance has long been cemented. In 2011, the Obama administration exploited similar “humanitarian” concerns as those now being whipped up over Syria to justify the bombardment and destruction of Libya so as to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. This was combined with support to Islamist extremist forces, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands and plunging the North African country into a brutal civil war. Many of these same Islamists were then relocated to Syria, supplied with arms funneled through the CIA, the Gulf states and Turkey, and encouraged to wage war on the Assad regime. It was out of this environment that ISIS emerged and began to gain ground.

The US political and military establishment is fully prepared to risk an all-out conflict with nuclear-armed Russia to secure its geo-strategic ambitions in the Middle East and beyond. Less than two weeks ago, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that extending US control over Syrian air space would mean war with Syria and Russia. He emphasized that the US military had no intention in establishing any kind of intelligence-sharing arrangement with Russia.

Last week, in another calculated provocation, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter delivered remarks at a nuclear base in North Dakota threatening nuclear conflict with Russia.

The escalation of tensions with Russia has the support of Washington’s Western allies, including Britain and France. The suspension of talks coincided Monday with reports that Paris is circulating a draft UN Security Council resolution demanding that the Assad regime halt its bombardment of Aleppo and warning that those responsible for war crimes will be held accountable.

The text also refers to the need to immediately halt all military flights over Aleppo, which in effect restricts only Syrian and Russian planes and could serve as the initial step to a “no-fly” zone enforced by US and allied aircraft. Diplomats expect Russia will veto the resolution if it comes to a vote, a move that French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has vowed would result in Moscow being labeled as complicit in war crimes.

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The Clintons will break all rules and laws to seize White House power. This is amply proven by the manner in which they rigged and stole the first presidential debate.

The operation appears to have been planned in advance of the September 26, 2016 event, involving the Clintons and their operatives, the debate organizers, the broadcast media (NBC and “moderator” Lester Holt), the managers of the venue, and the security detail at the facility.

The rig was carried out with near-military precision.

It began with the building of a special podium for Hillary Clinton: one that was smaller than the podium designated for Donald Trump. The smaller podium gave Hillary the illusion of being bigger in physical stature. More importantly, the podium seems to have been built or adapted with some sort of electronic console or teleprompter.

Who oversaw the building and modification of this podium? Why did the Trump people not notice this immediately?

Prior to the debate, tape footage shows how a device meant to be installed into Hillary’s podium was smuggled in by the Clintons and their operatives. Also brought in was a stack of documents; perhaps the debate questions obtained in advance from someone inside. The behavior appears highly suspicious; they are clearly up to something.

Photos also lay waste to the lie that Lester Holt was not wired during the debate. He clearly was, and a technician even removed his jacket to install it. Hillary herself might also have been wired. To what, we do not know, but they were both wired.

During the debate, footage shows Hillary Clinton’s podium lighting up with a computer screen, while Trump’s podium stays dark. Hillary’s hand appears to be pressing or toggling controls on the podium to scroll through her teleprompter screen. Her motions have been interpreted by some as involuntary tremors from Parkinson’s disease, but they appear to be far more deliberate than involuntary.

Analysis shows Hillary apparently giving signals to Lester Holt several times at key moments during the debate. Each time she scratched her nose or touched her face, Holt promptly interrupted, attacked and derailed Trump.

.

The timing was too systematic to be coincidental. Holt also clearly let Clinton have a free pass to speak ad nauseum without “fact checking” and without interruptions throughout the debate. This in addition to the inane topics—which did not include any questions about Clinton’s track record—were already a setup that did not favor Trump.

The most damning evidence of the rigging involves what happened after the debate ended. Footage shows the Clintons and their operatives “doing a sneaky dance” on the stage after the debate to retrieve the device from Hillary’s podium while the crowds mill about.

Watch these breakdowns:

Hillary Clinton’s teleprompter at the debate caught on camera

Podiumgate 

Hillary’s teleprompter inside debate podium and Cleaner Man

Only Hillary’s podium light on and Cleaner Man Identified

The main Clinton operative—the white-haired mustached man wearing glasses— has been identified as Brady Williamson, a Democratic Party strategist and lawyer, and a man who has worked for the Clintons for decades. Williamson, the “Cleaner Man” darts around, with two others lurking nearby acting as lookouts. Their movements suggest that they are clearly up to no good. Finally the entire Clinton team, including Bill and Hillary, surround the secret podium to hide the retrieval of the object(s) out of the podium. These items are passed from Williamson to another operative, and then secreted out.

(Were it not for sharp-eyed observers who analyzed this footage and posted it on YouTube, we would not have caught the Clintons pulling this off. This is why the powers that be want to control and shut down the Internet to prevent citizen investigative work such as this.)

A clear difference in criminal experience

Criminal behavior on the part of the Clintons is no surprise. It is how they have always done things, and gotten away with all of it. Criminality, secrecy, and deception are the foundations of their political dynasty. Any seasoned observer expects the dirtiest dirty tricks from them.

What is baffling is that this blatant fraud occurred without the Trump camp noticing, or doing anything about it. Trump agreed to the terms and mechanics of the debate well in advance. What happened to Trump’s security detail? How did no one notice how Hillary’s podium lit up? Why was the stage controlled only by Clinton operatives? Didn’t anyone not aligned to Clinton check the podiums and the stage before the debate began? Why didn’t someone confront Williamson or the other suspicious characters? Why didn’t Trump cry foul during the fraud, or afterwards?

If the Trump forces are unable to counter or match the dirty tricks and psy-ops of the highly experienced Clinton machine, they will not survive.

Foolishness while the world burns

The world is facing unprecedented crisis.  Yet substantive issues are not addressed in these campaign events. If and when any real issues are approached, deception, lies and falsehoods dominate the rhetoric.

As expected, the Clinton faction is trying to reduce matters to the lowest common denominator, focusing attention on gossipy tabloid material, such as “rude things that Trump said or tweeted”, Trump’s “fat shaming” of women and Miss Universe contestants, and Trump’s tax returns. The Clintons have calculated, probably correctly, that the dumbed down American masses care much more about trivial matters than such real issues as world war, nuclear holocaust, collapsing economies and other realities.  The low road, familiar to the dirty Clintons, is their key to victory. They view the populace with utter contempt. Their goal is to seize power, and to hell with the rest.

Tragically, instead of turning matters to his advantage, Trump has so far taken the bait, falling into the Clinton trap, by reacting to the Clinton gossip. He has even added more hot air to the mix, blabbering about his own business affairs and matters of irrelevance. He himself is the embodiment of tabloid gossip and a reality show circus, and he has done a poor job changing this impression. Both Clinton and Trump are head cases.

Even when he has been given opportunities to drive the discourse, Trump has failed to articulate how he would be less of a New World Order neocon/war monger/corporatist than Clinton. He and Clinton argue about who is the better “anti-terrorist” and the tougher adversary against Russia and China, the more aggressive “law and order cop”.

Yes, Trump has criticized Clinton and Obama for some of their war policies, for “disasters” such as creating ISIS, etc.  But would Trump have ended the wars if he had been at the controls?

Does he intend to end them now? Would he stop the regime change agenda in Syria? Would he make peace with Russia and stop military operations aimed at Russian forces? Would Trump end the criminal reign of the CIA?  Would Trump do anything about the decades of crimes of the Clintons and Bushes, for which they deserve severe punishment? Would he prosecute the highest figures of the New World Order?  Would Trump dare expose the fact that Bush-Clinton/neoliberal-neocon is a charade that masks the united criminal reality  that is the New World Order? Unless the answer to all of these questions is yes, then Trump is no hero, either.

Trump will not pull the plug on the machine that put him on the map; the system that made him rich. It would be delusional to think he would.

“Not being Clinton” is not, by itself, a qualification. If Trump is backed by the Bush faction, and by neocons such as his vice presidential partner Mike Pence, and if Trump pushes ideas that appeal to right-wing extremists and the Religious Right, then he is simply a different path to the same holocaust, with slightly differences in style and timing.

Given her well documented penchant for war crimes and murder, Hillary Clinton is the larger threat to the planet. But a Trump/neocon/Republican administration would likely also result in continued chaos and suffering, and dangers of great magnitude.

The next circus moment

The second debate scheduled for October 9, 2016 promises nothing better for Trump. The last debate saw Hillary Clinton and Lester Holt ganging up on Trump. This next time, it will be three against one.

One of the “moderators” is CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who was a CIA intern, who likely still functions as an intelligence asset.

CNN is so heavily skewed to the Clintons, and dominated by former Clintonites, that it is referred to derisively as the “Clinton News Network”. Cooper has pushed the lie that Lester Holt was deferential to Trump, when in fact Holt constantly interrupted Trump and bashed him every time Hillary asked him to. Cooper’s statements  suggest that he will attack Trump even more aggressively than Holt.

The other “moderator” will be ABC’s Martha Raddatz, who was White House correspondent in the George W. Bush administration. Raddatz is further proof that the corporate media is a revolving door through which Washington insiders slither and slime back and forth.

As long as the Clinton operatives continue to be allowed to get away with fraud and criminal shenanigans—-be it rigged podiums, rigged stage props, hidden teleprompters, hidden transceivers, cheat notes, and collusion with “moderators”—and as long as the corporate media continues to conspire with the Clintons without consequences, then Donald Trump will be toast again.

That is what the Clintons are counting on.

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Nicknamed the “Big Four” Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young (EY), KPMG and Price Water House Coopers (PwC) are the big four audit firms that operate in concert as an inescapable cartel in the world of multinationals and global finance.

At first they were the “Big 8”, all dominated by the United States, which became the “Big 6” in 1989, with two giant mergers creating Deloitte and Ernst & Young.

A decade later, the creation of PwC concentrated them into five entities, the “Big 5”. In 2002, with the bankruptcy of the firm Arthur Andersen because of accounting fraud after the Enron and Worldcom scandals, we came into the era of the “Big Four” which share virtually all of the world market. These four multinationals are auditing most large companies listed on the stock exchange including all those in the CAC 40 in France for example. Ubiquitous in business, they are also present in the universities where they train and recruit, as Rik de Vanpeteghem of Deloitte Belgium explains: “We don’t only introduce ourselves in the universities: we will give courses, fund thematic Chairs…” |1|

Despite this vanguard position of capitalism, nose in the accounts of the largest banks and businesses, the “big four” did not predict the 2007-2008 crisis, or the problems of the Lehman Brothers, nor those of other large banks that they had countersigned the accounts. It must be said that these auditing firms are not free from error: In 2010, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), the US regulator of auditing professions, denounced an increase in errors of the Big Four firms (KPMG, E&Y, PwC and Deloitte) operating in the United States. Deloitte blithely achieved the inconceivable with 45% of copies for review, against 22% in 2009, followed closely by PwC with 39% of audits being unsatisfactory in 2010 (against 12% in 2009). |2| Despite this, undaunted, the four multinationals in consulting and auditing, continued on their way, disdaining the scandals that marked their paths, their eyes riveted on austere accounting statistics and other profitability indicators at the antithesis of sustainable well-being…

Deloitte encourages tax evasion

A victim of acute schizophrenia, Deloitte, which employs more than 225,000 people worldwide |3|, have said they want to fight against tax evasion, and yet they give advice on how to divert money.

In 2013, the NGO ActionAid made public a Deloitte confidential document whose title leaves no room for ambiguity: Investing in Africa through Mauritius. The Deloitte firm has been trying to convince investors to use its services, with the lure of the multiple tax advantages of a direct debit to Mauritius to escape the tax department for their projects on the African continent, each year depriving the poorest States of the world of hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. |4| No offense to Mozambique, where over 50% of the population lives below the poverty line and where life expectancy is 49 years, Deloitte explains how a foreign company would only have to pay 8% instead of 20% tax on repatriation of profits, while the tax on capital gains would be reduced to zero. |5| In Europe, a world away, some tax heavens are good for business as attested by Brendan Jennings, of Deloitte Ireland : “Ireland has an economy that is flexible, competitive and highly qualified, as well as being a very attractive location for business”. |6|

Thanks to the scandals, Deloitte, a key piece in the LuxLeaks affair, faced judicial proceedings when they were unable to carry out “amicable” settlements in return for financial consideration. Although the new EU legislation provides for rotation of audit and consulting firms in companies to avoid conflicts of interest, it does not seem to go so far as to prevent the development of organized theft in the coffers of states via tax fraud.

Deloitte is inundated with condemnations

The Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, said that Deloitte has received no condemnation, which is why the firm was able to obtain the market to evaluate and select the actors of cooperation development able to receive state subsidies: “The conclusion was that the firm Deloitte, who have received no legal condemnation, have market access.” |7| However, Deloitte is inundated with condemnations. The list of scandals that the multinational is involved in is far too long to be listed here, but all the same let us mention two employees of the Deloitte Italian branch Adolfo Mamoli and Giuseppe Rovelli, prosecuted for disclosure of false information and market manipulation while Deloitte was accused of complicity when it audited the Italian food group Parmalat in 2003, which entangled in the biggest financial scandal in post-war Europe.

The Deloitte audit firm is controversial even in countries where the multinational headquarters since July 2013, the court Financial Reporting Council (FRC) confirmed on appeal their grievances against Deloitte. The company and an ex-partner were found guilty of failing to comply with laws on conflicts of interest during the attempt to restructure the car manufacturer MG Rover. Deloitte was fined 14 million £ (16.6 million €) for failing to manage conflicts of interest in its consulting business to companies involved in the collapse of the car manufacturer that went bankrupt in 2005, resulting in almost 6 000 workers losing their jobs.

More recently, in January 2016, the former president of Deloitte’s Quebec branch, Luc Villeneuve, has been targeted by a series of criminal proceedings for illegal funding that would have profited illegally 11 times the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP). A month later, February 4, 2016, the 18th Chamber of the Criminal Court of Luxembourg announced a three months suspended prison sentence and a 10,000 euro fine against each of the four former partners of the firm Deloitte Luxembourg for having signed and backdated documents in 2002 on behalf of Italian customers.

As part of one of the biggest financial scandals of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi stock market regulator, the Committee for the Resolution of Securities Disputes (CRSD) dependant of the CMA (Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority), asked listed companies to no longer use the services of Deloitte for a period of two years from the 1st of June 2016 and imposed a fine of 80,000 dollars (300,000 Saudi riyals, SAR) on Deloitte & Touche Bakr Abulkhair & Co, the Saudi branch of Deloitte. The investigation of the CMA continues its course with former leaders of Deloitte implicated for breach of the rules on the losses accumulated during the certification of the accounts of the Mohammad Al-Mojil Group (MMG), a real estate services company whose shares have been suspended since July 2012 for unsustainable debt. |8| The cumulative loss of MMG at the end of October 2014 amounted to 2.79 billion riyals (743.4 million dollars), equivalent to 223% of its capital, according to the current stock exchange of November 13, 2014 ($1 = 3.7528 Saudi riyal). |9|

Deloitte do not pay their fines!

In Spain, a fine of € 12.3 million was imposed on Deloitte in September 2014 by the Instituto de Contabilidad y Auditoría de Cuentas (ICAC) dependant of the Ministry of Economy for irregularities in the certification of Bankia allowing it to go public. Now, in its accounting records of 2015, Deloitte said nothing on this subject and did not accrue the necessary amount. Deloitte simply ignored this fine to satisfy the appetite of the shareholders! The amount, which is something close to the profits registered in Spain in 2015 (€ 13.3 million for the annual report 2014) were largely distributed in dividends… Lillo, Auditores Asociados which is the auditor who oversees Deloitte’s accounts did not do anything to correct this error either. |10|

Will we finally question the legitimacy of Deloitte, an expert in tax optimisation at the expense of society? Should we not choose to do without their advice after so many cases involving a veritable siphoning of state funds by the shortfall in corporate taxes, which encourage States to borrow more while applying antisocial austerity policies to tackle their structural deficit? Or are we going to wait for yet another scandal to end its action, as was the case of the audit firm Arthur Andersen which disappeared in 2002 after being convicted of having manipulated and withheld critical data for its client Enron?

 

Article in French :

Translated by Jenny Bright for Tlaxcala

Notes

|1| Benoît July, “Deloitte will recruit 400 university students this year,” February 10, 2016.https://references.lesoir.be/articl…. (In French)

|2| “The staggering error rate of the four major auditing firms”, Ecofin Agency, 31 December 2011.http://www.agenceecofin.com/consult… (In French)

|3| Including 3,200 employees in Belgium who charged a fee of about 420 million euros. Benoît July, “Deloitte will recruit 400 university students this year,” February 10, 2016.

|4| Deloitte in Africa – Advising big businesses on how to avoid tax in some of the world’s poorest countries, 2013. http://www.actionaid.org.uk/sites/d…

|5| Jamie Doward, « Deloitte promotes Mauritius as tax haven to avoid big payouts to poor African nations », The Guardian, 3 November 2013. https://www.theguardian.com/busines…

|6| Nathalie Raulin and Christopher Alix, “The Brexit shock wave sweeping the City”, Libération, 26 June 2016.http://www.liberation.fr/planete/20… (In French)

|7| Jérôme Duval, “A champion of tax evasion to evaluate players in the non-governmental cooperation”16 June 2016.

|8| June 16, 2016, the same markets authority (the Committee for the Resolution of Securities Disputes, CRSD) condemned Mohammad Al-Mojil Group to pay $ 427 million (SAR 1.6 billion) for “illegal profits”. Mohammad Al-Mojil, founder of MMG and his son, Adel Al-Mojil, Director of MMG, were also sentenced to five years in prison. Deloitte was the auditor for MMG.

|9| Reem Shamseddine and Marwa Rashad, « Saudi regulator suspends Deloitte from auditing listed firms – circular », Reuters, 1 December 2014. http://www.reuters.com/article/delo…

|10| « Deloitte aparta de las cuentas la multa que se come todo su beneficio », Economia digital, 1 July 2016. 

 Jérôme Duval is staff member of CADTM Belgium and member of the Spanish Citizen’s Debt Audit Platform (PACD)
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Introducción

A pesar del establecimiento de un diálogo histórico con La Habana el 17 de diciembre de 2014 y pese a la visita oficial del presidente Barack Obama a la isla en marzo de 2016, Washington sigue aplicando sanciones económicas contra la población cubana, suscitando la incomprensión de la comunidad internacional. Establecidas en 1960, en plena Guerra Fría, las sanciones perduran más de medio siglo después, ocasionan importantes dificultades a la economía cubana e infligen sufrimientos inútiles a las categorías más vulnerables de la población. Su costo elevado y su alcance extraterritorial motivan el rechazo unánime de la comunidad internacional. No obstante la resolución de este conflicto asimétrico depende del poder ejecutivo estadounidense, que dispone de las prerrogativas necesarias para desmantelar gran parte de la red de sanciones impuestas a la isla.

Costo de las sanciones económicas

El 13 de septiembre de 2016 Barack Obama volvió a renovar por un año la Ley de Comercio con el Enemigo, una legislación de 1917 utilizada por primera vez por el presidente John F. Kennedy en 1962 para imponer sanciones económicas totales a Cuba, que prorroga el estado de sitio contra la isla. Esta ley, prorrogada cada año por los nueve presidentes de Estados Unidos desde esa fecha, sólo se aplica contra La Habana.

Una vez más el impacto de las sanciones ha sido dramático para la economía y la sociedad cubanas. En un año, de abril de 2015 a marzo de 2016, costaron 4.680 millones de dólares a la isla según Bruno Rodríguez, ministro cubano de Relaciones Exteriores. En su informe anual sobre las sanciones económicas, las autoridades cubanas estimaron los daños causados a nivel nacional. Resultaron afectados particularmente tres sectores. Primero las exportaciones, ya que Cuba no puede vender bienes ni servicios a Estados Unidos. Luego el costo producido por la búsqueda de mercados alternativos geográficamente alejados de la isla. Y finalmente el impacto financiero, pues Cuba todavía no puede usar el dólar en sus transacciones internacionales, a pesar de las declaraciones del presidente Obama sobre la supresión de esta restricción. “No existe elemento en nuestras vidas en el que no esté presente su impacto”, concluyó Bruno Rodríguez. En total las sanciones económicas han costado 125.000 millones de dólares a Cuba desde su implementación en los años 1960.

Otros sectores vitales, como el de la salud, resultan afectados por las sanciones económicas. Sólo para citar un ejemplo, Cuba no puede adquirir los estimuladores cerebrales profundos, que permiten tratar las enfermedades neurológicas, que produce de modo exclusivo la empresa estadounidense Medtronic. Varios centenares de pacientes cubanos con la enfermedad de Parkinson, que podrían beneficiar de una mejor calidad de vida gracias a este equipo, se ven privados de él a causa de un diferendo político que opone Washington a La Habana desde hace más de medio siglo.

Aspecto extraterritorial de las sanciones

A pesar del acercamiento histórico de diciembre de 2014, varias entidades internacionales fueron fuertemente sancionadas después de esa fecha por realizar, en perfecta legalidad con el derecho internacional, transacciones financieras con Cuba. Así, en mayo de 2015, el banco francés BNP Paribas fue condenado a una multa record de 8.900 millones de dólares por mantener, entre otros, relaciones financieras con Cuba. En octubre de 2015 otro banco francés, Crédit Agricole, tuvo que pagar una multa de 1.116 millones de dólares por el mismo motivo. Conviene recordar que BNP Paribas y Crédit Agricole no violaron ninguna ley francesa y respetaron escrupulosamente el derecho europeo y el derecho internacional. Washington aplicó de modo extraterritorial, es decir ilegal, sus sanciones contra Cuba. Otras entidades financieras también fueron fuertemente sancionadas. Así el banco alemán Commerzbank tuvo que pagar una multa de 1.710 millones de dólares y puso término a todas sus relaciones con Cuba. El poder ejecutivo estadounidense tomó todas estas decisiones.

Margen de maniobra del presidente Obama

No obstante, el presidente Obama lanzó varios llamados al Congreso convidándolo a poner fin al estado de sitio anacrónico, cruel e ineficiente. Expresó varias veces su oposición al mantenimiento de medidas de retorsión económica que además de afectar gravemente el bienestar de los cubanos han aislado a Estados Unidos en la escena internacional. Durante su histórico viaje a Cuba admitió lo siguiente: “La política de Estados Unidos ha fracasado. Debemos tener la valentía de reconocer esta verdad. Una política de aislamiento elaborada para la Guerra Fría no tiene ningún sentido en el siglo XXI. El embargo sólo hace daño al pueblo cubano en vez de ayudarlo. Es una carga de otro tiempo que pesa sobre el pueblo cubano”. La comunidad mundial, favorable a la resolución pacífica de este conflicto, aplaudió este discurso marcado por la lucidez.

Sin embargo la retórica constructiva de Barack Obama no ha sido corroborada por hechos tangibles, a pesar de sus prerrogativas como jefe del poder ejecutivo. Es verdad que el presidente de Estados Unidos restableció el diálogo político con Cuba en diciembre de 2014, amplió el número de categorías de ciudadanos estadounidenses autorizados a viajar a la isla en enero de 2015, retiró a Cuba de la lista de los países patrocinadores del terrorismo en mayo de 2015, restableció los lazos diplomáticos con la reapertura de embajadas en Washington y La Habana en julio de 2015, autorizó la exportación de bienes y servicios en el campo de las telecomunicaciones en marzo de 2016 (sólo hacia el sector no estatal) y facilitó la reanudación del transporte marítimo de pasajeros entre ambas naciones en mayo de 2016 y de los vuelos comerciales en agosto de 2016.

No obstante, más allá de estas medidas positivas pero muy limitadas, el presidente de Estados Unidos dispone de todo el margen de maniobra necesario para desmantelar la casi totalidad de la red de sanciones impuestas desde 1960, sin necesitar la autorización del Congreso. Barack Obama podría autorizar a las empresas cubanas a abrir cuentas bancarias en Estados Unidos para facilitar las transacciones comerciales y financieras. Podría también poner fin a la persecución financiera contra Cuba, de la cual han sufrido muchos bancos internacionales. En total la administración de Obama infligió multas por un importe total de 14.000 millones de dólares a diversas entidades bancarias del mundo por sus relaciones con la isla del Caribe. Del mismo modo, la Casa Blanca podría permitir el comercio bilateral entre las empresas cubanas y estadounidenses (importaciones/exportaciones). También podría consentir a los capitales estadounidenses la posibilidad de hacer inversiones en Cuba. Por fin, podría, por ejemplo, eliminar la restricción que impide que todo barco, cual fuere su origen, que transporte mercancía a Cuba, entre en un puerto estadounidense durante los siguientes seis meses.

Sólo hay cuatro sectores que el poder ejecutivo no puede tocar sin el acuerdo del Congreso. El Presidente Obama no puede autorizar el comercio entre las subsidiarias de las empresas estadounidenses ubicadas en el exterior y Cuba (Ley Torricelli de 1992). En cambio, puede permitir el comercio entre la empresa matriz instalada en Estados Unidos y las empresas cubanas, lo que hace que resulte de facto inútil toda transacción con una subsidiaria establecida en un tercer país.

Del mismo modo, Barack Obama no puede permitir el turismo ordinario en Cuba (Ley de Reforma de las Sanciones Comerciales de 2000). En cambio puede perfectamente multiplicar el número de categorías de ciudadanos autorizados a viajar a la isla y ampliar su definición. Así, la Casa Blanca podría redefinir la noción de “viaje cultural” e integrar por ejemplo la visita de un simple museo. De este modo todo ciudadano que se comprometa a visitar un museo durante su estancia en Cuba podría beneficiarse de la categoría “viaje cultural”.

Sin el acuerdo del Congreso, el presidente Obama tampoco puede autorizar la venta a crédito de materias primas alimenticias (Ley de Reforma de las Sanciones Comerciales de 2000). En cambio puede perfectamente consentir la venta a crédito de todo producto no alimenticio, lo que limitaría considerablemente el impacto de la sanción.

Finalmente la Casa Blanca no puede permitir las transacciones con las propiedades estadounidenses nacionalizadas en los años 1960 (Ley Helms-Burton de 1996). No obstante, puede abrir la vía a todo negocio que implique las demás propiedades de la isla.

Rechazo unánime de las sanciones

Todos los sectores de la sociedad estadounidense están a favor del levantamiento de las sanciones económicas. El mundo de los negocios, mediante la Cámara de Comercio de Estados Unidos, desea fuertemente su fin pues ve un mercado de 11 millones de habitantes a 150 kilómetros de las costas estadounidenses que acoge a otros inversionistas internacionales. La opinión pública favorece a más del 70 % la normalización completa de las relaciones bilaterales entre ambas naciones, pues no entiende por qué su gobierno le prohíbe viajar a Cuba para hacer turismo ordinario. Las autoridades religiosas, mediante el Consejo Nacional de Iglesias, han condenado las sanciones por el sufrimiento que infligen a la población de la isla. Los cubanoamericanos, con un 63 % según un sondeo de septiembre de 2016, también son partidarios del levantamiento de las sanciones, pues saben que las medidas económicas hostiles afectan a sus familiares en la isla. Por fin conviene recordar que en 2015, por vigesimocuarta vez consecutiva, 191 países sobre 193 pidieron el fin del estado de sitio contra la isla durante la reunión anual de la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas.

Un conflicto asimétrico

Algunos observadores consideran que Cuba debe responder a los gestos que realizó el presidente Obama con cambios de orden interno. Olvidan de hecho el carácter asimétrico del conflicto. En efecto, en el diferendo que opone Washington a La Habana, la hostilidad es unilateral. Cuba no impone sanciones económicas a Estados Unidos, no ocupa de modo ilegal una parte de su territorio soberano (Guantánamo), no financia abiertamente a una oposición interna con el objetivo de conseguir un “cambio de régimen”, no roba el capital humano como lo hace la Ley de Ajuste Cubano, no realiza transmisiones ilegales destinadas a fomentar la subversión interna –como es el caso con Radio y TV Martí- Por otra parte, Cuba es una nación independiente y según el derecho internacional y desde el Congreso de Westfalia de 1648, que reconoce la igualdad soberana entre los Estados, los cambios en la isla son competencia exclusiva del pueblo cubano, el único que puede decidir su sistema político y su modelo de sociedad.

Conclusión

Las sanciones contra Cuba son anacrónicas, crueles e ineficientes. Tienen un impacto desastroso sobre la economía cubana y afectan durablemente el bienestar de la población de la isla. A pesar de las declaraciones constructivas de la Casa Blanca a favor de un levantamiento de este estado de sitio, no se ha adoptado ninguna medida de envergadura para aliviar a los cubanos de este estrangulamiento económico que dura desde hace más de medio siglo y que la comunidad internacional condena de modo masivo. Desde luego, ninguna normalización completa de las relaciones será posible mientras esté en vigor esta política hostil.

 Salim Lamrani

Universidad de La Réunion

 

Doctor en Estudios Ibéricos y Latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani es profesor titular de la Universidad de La Reunión y periodista, especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Su último libro se titula Cuba, ¡palabra a la defensa!, Hondarribia, Editorial Hiru, 2016.

http://www.tiendaeditorialhiru.com/informe/336-cuba-palabra-a-la-defensa.html 

Contacto: [email protected] ; [email protected] 

Página Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel 

 

 

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L’Italia base Usa per l’Africa

October 4th, 2016 by Manlio Dinucci

Mentre i riflettori politico-mediatici sono puntati sulla  Siria, al centro di una colossale psyop per far apparire gli aggrediti come aggressori, resta in ombra ciò che avviene in altre parti del Medioriente e in Africa.

Stati uniti, Arabia Saudita, Qatar, Kuwait ed Emirati – che da cinque anni conducono la guerra in Siria con forze terroriste infiltrate e ora accusano il governo siriano di crimini di guerra sponsorizzando la mostra fotografica Caesar presentata domani a Roma – continuano a fare strage di civili nello Yemen. Alla guerra partecipa il Comando centrale Usa con attacchi «antiterrorismo», ufficialmente documentati, effettuati nello Yemen con droni e cacciabombardieri.

Ancora più in ombra, sui media, restano le operazioni militari Usa in Africa. Esse sono condotte dal Comando Africa  (Africom), che ha in Italia due importanti comandi subordinati.

Lo U.S. Army Africa (Esercito Usa per l’Africa), il cui quartier generale è alla caserma Ederle di Vicenza, «fornisce il comando di missione e impiega forze per il teatro operativo», fornendo allo stesso tempo assistenza militare ai partner africani per stabilire «sicurezza e stabilità» nel continente.

Le U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (Forze navali Usa per l’Europa e l’Africa), il cui quartier generale è nella base di Capodichino a Napoli, sono costituite da sei task force formate dalle navi da guerra della Sesta Flotta basata a Gaeta. La loro «area di responsabilità» copre Russia, Europa e Africa (salvo l’Egitto che rientra in quella del Comando centrale), compresa metà dell’Atlantico dal Polo Nord all’Antartico. Sono agli ordini dell’ammiraglia Michelle Howard, che allo stesso tempo è a capo del Comando della forza congiunta alleata (Jfc-Naples) con quartier generale a Lago Patria (Napoli).

Con queste forze, compresi i caccia delle portaerei e i droni armati con base a Sigonella, gli Usa stanno intensificando le operazioni militari in Africa. I raid aerei, effettuati da agosto in Libia con la motivazione di fermare l’avanzata dell’Isis (la cui minaccia è stata ingigantita), servono in realtà al piano di riconquista e ricolonizzazione della Libia, dove operano da tempo forze speciali statunitensi ed europee.

Ma questa è solo la punta emergente del «grande gioco» africano. Tra le sue molte «missioni», l’Africom sta costruendo in Niger una base di droni armati, ufficialmente in funzione «antiterrorismo». Essa serve alle operazioni militari che gli Usa conducono da anni, insieme alla Francia, nell’Africa del Sahel, soprattutto in Mali, Niger e Ciad. Paesi tra i più poveri del mondo (con un tasso di analfabetismo che in Niger è del 70% tra gli uomini e del 90% tra le donne), ma ricchissimi di materie prime – coltan e oro in Mali, uranio in Niger, petrolio in Ciad – sfruttati da multinazionali statunitensi e francesi che temono la concorrenza delle società cinesi, le quali offrono ai paesi africani condizioni molto più favorevoli.

Un’altra operazione militare Usa, con droni e forze speciali,  è in corso in Somalia, paese di primaria importanza geostrategica.

Allo stesso tempo, lo U.S. Army Africa penetra nel continente con programmi di «cooperazione alla sicurezza» il cui vero scopo è formare élite militari al servizio degli Usa. Allo stesso scopo le navi da guerra delle U.S. Naval Forces Africa percorrono le coste africane per fornire «assistenza alla sicurezza marittima».

Non viene trascurata l’assistenza spirituale: il cappellano della nave da assalto anfibio Wasp ha celebrato in videoconferenza dal Mediterraneo la Santa Messa per i marinai della nave da guerra San Antonio impegnata in una missione in Africa.

Manlio Dinucci

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The Israeli navy has been preparing to attack the Women’s Boats heading to break the ten-year-old siege on the Gaza Strip, Quds Press reported yesterday. The boats, which are part of the Freedom Flotilla Alliance, are expected to arrive in Gaza within three days if they are not impeded in any way.

According to a report on Israel’s Channel 2 TV, naval gunships have been waiting in the port of Ashdod ready to move and intercept the Zaytouna and Amal, the two boats making the bid. The TV report claimed that the activists on board the boats have been trained in order to know what to do if they are confronted by the Israeli navy.

Meanwhile, Channel 7 TV said that a group of right-wing Jewish settlers are planning their own flotilla off the coast of Gaza to intercept the Zaytouna and Amal, and oblige them to go to Syria. Refugees there, they argue, are in more need of their support than the Palestinians in Gaza.

Thirty international activists are on the humanitarian mission to Gaza, including the Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland, Swedish European Parliament Member Malin Bjork, Marama Davidson, a Green Party MP from New Zealand, and American screenwriter and playwright Naomi Wallace. Turkish athlete Cigdem Topcuoglu, who sailed on the Mavi Marmara in 2010 and whose husband was among the ten activists killed by Israeli commandos, is also on board the Women’s Boats to Gaza.

According to the UN, Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020, said Canadian social worker, Wendy Goldsmith, adding that the WBG “declares that the illegal blockade of Gaza must end, so that every person can live with freedom and dignity.”

Pro-Palestinian Turks gather on the fourth anniversary of a deadly Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara ship, in Istanbul, Turkey

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, the flagship of a flotilla crewed by an alliance of pro-Palestinian activists who had combined to deliver 10,000 tonnes of aid to Gaza.

The Israeli raid killed nine Turkish citizens and injured about 50 other people. A tenth Turkish national later succumbed to his injuries.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

The Tel Aviv regime has waged three wars on the coastal enclave since 2008, including the 2014 offensive, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead and over 11,100 others wounded.

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En 1823, el gobierno de los Estados Unidos adopta la doctrina Monroe, denominada así por el nombre de un Presidente republicano de los Estados Unidos, James Monroe. Esta doctrina condena toda intervención europea en los asuntos «de las Américas». En realidad, la doctrina Monroe va a servir para justificar una política de conquista cada vez más agresiva por parte de los Estados Unidos en detrimento de los nuevos Estados latinoamericanos independientes, comenzando por la anexión de una gran parte de México en los años 1840 (Texas, Nuevo México, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Utah). Recordemos que las tropas norteamericanas ocuparon la capital México en septiembre de 1847. Hay que subrayar también que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos intentó exterminar a todos los pueblos nativos, los «pieles rojas», que se negaban a someterse. Quienes se sometían fueron igualmente víctimas de atrocidades y acabaron en las reservas.

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Territorios de México y Estados Unidos a principios del siglo XIX. Aunque ya entonces Estados Unidos se había apropiado de amplios territorios de Nueva España (incluyendo Florida y Luisiana), todavía la superficie de México equivalía a casi las tres cuartas partes de la de Estados Unidos (que entonces aún no poseía Alaska).
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La guerra de agresión expansionista de Estados Unidos contra México suposo la pérdida más de 2 millones de Km2 de territorio mexicano.

En 1898, como hemos visto, los Estados Unidos declararon la guerra a España y tomaron el control de Cuba y Puerto Rico.

En 1902, en contradicción con la doctrina Monroe, Washington no tomó la defensa de Venezuela que sufría una agresión armada de Alemania, de Gran Bretaña, de Italia y de Holanda que tenía por objetivo obligar a ese país a reembolsar la deuda. Luego, los Estados Unidos intervinieron diplomáticamente a fin de que Caracas reanudara el pago de la deuda. Esta actitud de Washington dio lugar a una gran controversia con diferentes gobiernos latinoamericanos y en particular con el ministro de Asuntos Exteriores argentino, Luis M. Drago, que declaró: «El principio que querría ver reconocido es el de que la deuda pública no puede dar lugar a una intervención armada, y aún menos a la ocupación física del suelo de las naciones americanas por una potencia europea». Es lo que se conocerá posteriormente como la doctrina Drago. Los debates entre gobiernos dieron lugar a una conferencia internacional en La Haya que llevó en particular a la adopción de la Convención Drago-Porter (del nombre de H. Porter, militar y diplomático de los Estados Unidos) en 1907. Preveía que el arbitraje debía ser el primer medio para resolver conflictos: todo Estado que formara parte de la Convención debía a partir de entonces aceptar someterse a un procedimiento de arbitraje y participar en él de buena fe, si no el Estado que reclamaba el reembolso de su crédito recuperaba el derecho a utilizar la fuerza armada para conseguir sus fines.

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La noticia de la falsa “paz” en el diario Tiempo de México (1844) que anuncia la pérdida de la mitad del territorio mexicano. En realidad fue más de la mitad.

En 1903, el presidente Theodore Roosevelt organiza la creación de Panamá que es separado de Colombia contra la voluntad de ésta. Se trataba de poder luego crear el canal de Panamá bajo control de Washington.

En 1904, el mismo presidente anuncia que los Estados Unidos se consideran como el gendarme de las Américas. Enuncia lo que se llama el corolario Roosevelt de la doctrina Monroe: «La injusticia crónica o la impotencia que resulta de una distensión general de las reglas de la sociedad civilizada puede exigir, a fin de cuentas, en América o en otros lugares, la intervención de una nación civilizada y, en el hemisferio occidental, la adhesión de los Estados Unidos a la doctrina de Monroe puede forzar a los Estados Unidos, sin embargo a su pesar, en casos flagrantes de injusticia y de impotencia, a ejercer un poder de policía internacional» |1|.

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Theodore Roosevelt (centro, izquierda) y los «Rough Riders» en Cuba, 1898 

En 1915, los Estados Unidos invadieron Haiti con el pretexto de recuperar deudas y ocuparon el país hasta 1934 |2|. Otras intervenciones militares de los Estados Unidos tuvieron lugar en la misma época pero la lista exhaustiva sería demasiado larga.

Este breve resumen de la intervención y de la política de los Estados Unidos en las Américas en los siglos XIX y comienzos del XX permite comprender las motivaciones reales de Washington en el repudio de las deudas en Cuba en 1898 y en Costa Rica en los años 1920.

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Intervenciones militares de Estados Unidos en América Latina

En 1935, el Mayor General Smedley D. Butler, que participó en muchas expediciones estadounidenses en las Américas, resumía a su manera, cuando estaba jubilado, la política de Washington: «He pasado treinta y tres años y cuatro meses como militar en la fuerza más eficaz de este país: la infantería de marina. He subido todos los escalones de la jerarquía, desde el grado de subteniente al de general de división. Y durante todo este período, he pasado la mayor parte del tiempo como sicario de primera clase para los altos negocios, para Wall Street y los banqueros. En una palabra, he sido un criminal a sueldo al servicio del capitalismo… Por ejemplo, en 1914, ayudé a que México, y más en especial Tampico, fuera una presa fácil para los intereses petroleros americanos. Ayudé a que Haití y Cuba se convirtieran en lugares convenientes para el cobro de las rentas de la National City Bank… En 1909-1912, ayudé a depurar Nicaragua para el banco internacional Brown Brothers. En 1916, llevé la luz a la República Dominicana en nombre de los intereses azucareros norteamericanos. En 1903, ayudé a pacificar Honduras, en beneficio de las compañías fruteras norteamericanas» |3|.

Eric Toussaint

 Articulo en francés :

Amériques

Histoire : La politique des Etats-Unis par rapport à ses voisins des Amériques du 19e s. au début du 20e siècle

Traducido por Alberto Nadal

 

Notas

|1https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corol…

|2| Eduardo Galeano escribe: “Los Estados Unidos ocuparon Haití durante veinte años, y en ese país negro que había sido el teatro de la primera revuelta victoriosa de los esclavos, introdujeron la segregación racial y el régimen de los trabajos forzosos, mataron a mil quinientos obreros durante una de sus operaciones de represión (según una investigación del Senado americano en 1922) y cuando el gobierno local se negó a convertir el Banco Nacional en sucursal de la National City Bank de New York, suspendieron el pago de las indemnizaciones habitualmente pagadas al Presidente y a sus ministros para obligarles a reflexionar”. Eduardo Galeano, op.cit. p. 151.

|3| Publicado en Common Sense, noviembre 1935. Ver Leo Huberman, Man’s Wordly Goods. The Story of the Wealth of Nations, New York, 1936. Esta traducción de la cita proviene de Eduardo Galeano, op.cit. p.150. A señalar que una base militar americana situada en Ikinawa lleva el nombre del jefe militar Smedley D. Butler. Su testimonio hace indudablemente pensar en el de John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004. Para la traducción en inglés, el texto original https://www.goodreads.com/author/qu… Nota para las ilustraciones: se encuentran fotos con el texto de Butler en internet.

Eric Toussaint es maître de conférence en la Universidad de Lieja, es el portavoz de CADTM Internacional y es miembro del Consejo Científico de ATTAC Francia. Es autor de diversos libros, entre ellos: Bancocracia Icaria Editorial, Barcelona 2015,, Procès d’un homme exemplaire, Ediciones Al Dante, Marsella, 2013; Una mirada al retrovisor: el neoliberalismo desde sus orígenes hasta la actualidad, Icaria, 2010; La Deuda o la Vida (escrito junto con Damien Millet) Icaria, Barcelona, 2011; La crisis global, El Viejo Topo, Barcelona, 2010; La bolsa o la vida: las finanzas contra los pueblos, Gakoa, 2002. Es coautor junto con Damien Millet del libro AAA, Audit, Annulation, Autre politique, Le Seuil, París, 2012. Coordinó los trabajos de la Comisión de la Verdad Sobre la Deuda, creada por la presidente del Parlamento griego. Esta comisión funcionó, con el auspicio del Parlamento, entre abril y octubre de 2015. El nuevo presidente del Parlamento griego anunció su disolución el 12 de noviembre de 2015. A pesar de ello, la comisión prosiguió sus trabajos y se constituyó legalmente como una asociación sin afán de lucro.

 

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State assets, including water and electricity utilities, are to be transferred to a new asset fund created by international creditors. The plans have sparked demonstrations and public sector strikes across the country.

Greece’s parliament passed new reforms on Tuesday night to cut pension expenditure and transfer control of public utilities to a new asset fund.

Alexis Tsipras bei der heutigen Parlamentwahl in Griechenland (picture alliance/AP Photo/P. Giannakouris)

The reforms seek to unlock 2.8 billion euros ($3.14 billion) in financial loans as part of the country’s latest bailout program.

The reforms were passed by a narrow 152-141 majority vote in Greece’s 300-seat parliament, after 152 parliamentary members of the ruling Syriza-Independent Greeks coalition approved the reform bill. Only one member of the coalition voted against the bill, along with all opposition members.

The reforms will see public assets transferred to a new asset fund created by Greece’s creditors. Assets include airports and motorways, as well as water and electricity utilities. The holding company groups together these state entities with the country’s privatization agency, the bank stability fund and state real estate. It will be led by an official chosen by Greece’s creditors, although Greece’s Finance Ministry will retain overall control.

Public backlash

The reforms sparked significant backlash among demonstrators and public sector workers.

Ahead of the vote, protestors outside of the parliament in Athens chanted, “Next you’ll sell the Acropolis!”

Read Complete Article on Deutsche Welle

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The honorary degree system at universities tends to be a rotten business, though Stephen Edward Epler, in his Honorary Degrees: A Survey of Their Use and Abuse (1943), regarded them as “perhaps the most important honorific in the nation.”

Left to lauding the achievements of the exceptional, notably those who might not have spent much time in the direct line of research or squirrel scholarship, such awards have their place.  But the modern honorary awards system reflects the modern university funding environment.  Awards follow the money – and the donor.

Corruption often gets a helping hand; officials long past their use as researchers or teachers find themselves in the trough of gratitude. Then comes the largesse given former political figures, be it in terms of professorial appointments or degrees that say more about the institution awarding it than them.

Universities have also shown themselves susceptible to bestowing honorary doctorates to the celebrity figure, a fairly nonsensical and utterly needless exercise that has done wonders to diminish institutional value.

Comedian Bill Cosby, to take a notable, flawed example, has received a whole stash over the years, though that number has declined of late.  Accusations of drugging and molestation led such universities as Marquette, Fordham and Brown to withdraw their ill-considered awards.

Brown’s president, Christina Paxson, said in a campus-wide email that the withdrawal was necessary, given that the award had been based on good university values: “honesty, fair play, love of family, and respect for humanity.”

Such statements seem spectacularly disingenuous when you consider that universities have even gone so far as to regard entities not deemed Homo sapiens eligible.  A moronic Kanye West might well qualify for the wooden spoon, but even that would be stretching it.

Ever wanting to surprise, the officialdoms of universities have engaged in a form of one upmanship, finding ever stranger recipients.  That Kermit the Frog somehow qualifies shows how the celebrity figure, notably fictionalised, trumps academic sobriety.  On May 19, 1996, the long-time figure of children’s program Sesame Street received an Honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters from Southampton College, New York.

This was hardly even daringly amusing but when the Oxford Union permits the puppet figure to give voice to the idea before 1,000 students that,  “The responsibility of representing an entire species rests on my shoulders, ”the world has truly been turned on its injudicious head.

Former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, was never as popular as Kermit, and the decision of Sydney University to award him an honorary doctorate was initially going to be one of those dull affairs. Other Australian prime ministers who had graduated from the institution had been similarly rewarded.

Last Wednesday, the institution stated that Howard’s doctorate acknowledged his achievements in instigating “world-leading gun law reform” while also providing leadership in East Timor and contributing to “economic reform”. How any of these categories would have merited a honorific is hard to say, but such institutions have form.

Protestors thought otherwise of the decision.  On Friday morning, some 150 gathered outside the Great Hall lead by academic of English and linguistics Nick Riemer.  There were also 50 agitated students who, according to The Guardian, “splintered off to lead chants of ‘Racist, sexist, and anti-queer – Howard is not welcome here’ and ‘John Howard, blood on our hands’.”[1]

Riemer’s points were cogent enough in describing a view alien to genuine academic practice.  Howard famously avoided the painstaking world of evidence and verifying the case for many of his policies. His Australia became a surlier, more mean spirited place, one suspicious of phantom threats of terror or refugees. The economy boomed, but reasoning fell sharply.

As a letter with more than 100 signatures of Sydney University staff and PhD students opined, “To confer a doctorate on him is an insult to Indigenous people, refugees, and anyone committed to multiculturalism, peace and social progress in this country and the world.”

Importantly, it was also an Australia that went to war in the Middle East in the absence of any credible evidence that a sovereign country posed a threat to its security interests, or for that matter the interests of any of its allies.  As his predecessor, Paul Keating, explained, “there was never any evidence that such weapons [in Iraq] existed and that fact was established following the exhaustive UN investigation led by Hans Blix”.[2]  Not one for evidence, old Howard.

In truth, there is something to be said about awarding the corrupt, the questionable, and the non-human with degrees that speak volumes about modern research and teaching institutions.  Howard’s abuses in office were exceptional by Australian standards, but university management has proven to be an indifferent beast to such achievement.

Notes

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jul/08/paul-keating-says-john-howard-should-hang-his-head-in-shame-over-iraq-war

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

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Posing as a non-political solidarity organization, the Syria Campaign leverages local partners and media contacts to push the U.S. into toppling another Middle Eastern government.

On September 30, demonstrators gathered in city squares across the West for a “weekend of action” to “stop the bombs” raining down from Syrian government and Russian warplanes on rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Thousands joined the protests, holding signs that read “Topple Assad” and declaring, “Enough With Assad.” Few participants likely knew that the actions were organized under the auspices of an opposition-funded public relations company called the Syria Campaign.

By partnering with local groups like the Syrian civil defense workers popularly known as the White Helmets, and through a vast network of connections in media and centers of political influence, The Syria Campaign has played a crucial role in disseminating images and stories of the horrors visited this month on eastern Aleppo. The group is able to operate within the halls of power in Washington and has the power to mobilize thousands of demonstrators into the streets. Despite its outsized role in shaping how the West sees Syria’s civil war, which is now in its sixth year and entering one of its grisliest phases, this outfit remains virtually unknown to the general public.

The Syria Campaign presents itself as an impartial, non-political voice for ordinary Syrian citizens that is dedicated to civilian protection. “We see ourselves as a solidarity organization,” The Syria Campaign strategy director James Sadri told me. “We’re not being paid by anybody to pursue a particular line. We feel like we’ve done a really good job about finding out who the frontline activists, doctors, humanitarians are and trying to get their word out to the international community.”

Yet behind the lofty rhetoric about solidarity and the images of heroic rescuers rushing in to save lives is an agenda that aligns closely with the forces from Riyadh to Washington clamoring for regime change. Indeed, The Syria Campaign has been pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria that would require at least “70,000 American servicemen” to enforce, according to a Pentagon assessment, along with the destruction of government infrastructure and military installations. There is no record of a no-fly zone being imposed without regime change following —which seems to be exactly what The Syria Campaign and its partners want.

“For us to control all the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia. That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee this month.

While the military brass in Washington seems reluctant to apply the full force of its airpower to enforce a NFZ, The Syria Campaign is capitalizing on the outrage inspired by the bombardment of rebel-held eastern Aleppo this year to intensify the drumbeat for greater U.S. military involvement.

The Syria Campaign has been careful to cloak interventionism in the liberal-friendly language of human rights, casting Western military action as “the best way to support Syrian refugees,” and packaging a no-fly zone — along with so-called safe zones and no bombing zones, which would also require Western military enforcement — as a “way to protect civilians and defeat ISIS.”

Among The Syria Campaign’s most prominent vehicles for promoting military intervention is a self-proclaimed “unarmed and impartial” civil defense group known as the White Helmets. Footage of the White Helmets saving civilians trapped in the rubble of buildings bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally has become ubiquitous in coverage of the crisis. Having claimed to have saved tens of thousands of lives, the group has become a leading resource for journalists and human rights groups seeking information inside the war theater, from casualty figures to details on the kind of bombs that are falling.

But like The Syria Campaign, the White Helmets are anything but impartial. Indeed, the group was founded in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transitional Initiatives, an explicitly political wing of the agency that has funded efforts at political subversion in Cuba and Venezuela. USAID is the White Helmets’ principal funder, committing at least $23 million to the group since 2013. This money was part of $339.6 million budgeted by USAID for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” — or establishing a parallel governing structure that could fill the power vacuum once Bashar Al-Assad was removed.

Thanks to an aggressive public relations push by The Syria Campaign, the White Helmets have been nominated for the Nobel Prize, and have already been awarded the “alternative Nobel” known as the Right Livelihood Award. (Previous winners include Amy Goodman, Edward Snowden and Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu.) At the same time, the White Helmets are pushing for a NFZ in public appearances and on a website created by The Syria Campaign.

The Syria Campaign has garnered endorsements for the White Helmets from a host of Hollywood celebrities including Ben Affleck, Alicia Keyes and Justin Timberlake. And with fundraising and “outreach” performed by The Syria Campaign, the White Helmets have become the stars of a slickly produced Netflix documentary vehicle that has received hype from media outlets across the West.

But making the White Helmets into an international sensation is just one of a series of successes The Syria Campaign has achieved in its drive to oust Syria’s government.

Targeting the UN in Damascus 

When an aid convoy organized by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs came under attack on its way to the rebel-held countryside of West Aleppo in Syria this September 18, the White Helmets pinned blame squarely on the Syrian and Russian governments. In fact, a White Helmets member was among the first civilians to appear on camera at the scene of the attack, declaring in English that “the regime helicopters targeted this place with four barrel [bombs].” The White Helmets also produced one of the major pieces of evidence Western journalists have relied on to implicate Russia and the Syrian government in the attack: a photograph supposedly depicting the tail fragment of a Russian-made OFAB 250-270 fragmentation bomb. (This account remains unconfirmed by both the UN and SARC, and no evidence of barrel bombs has been produced).

Ironically, the White Helmets figured prominently in The Syria Campaign’s push to undermine the UN’s humanitarian work inside Syria. For months, The Syria Campaign has painted the UN as a stooge of Bashar Al-Assad for coordinating its aid deliveries with the Syrian government, as it has done with governments in conflict zones around the world. The Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen praised a 50-page report by The Syria Campaign attacking the UN’s work in Syria as “damning.” A subsequent Guaridian article cited the report as part of the inspiration for its own “exclusive” investigation slamming the UN’s coordination with the Syrian government.

At a website created by The Syria Campaign to host the report, visitors are greeted by a UN logo drenched in blood.

The Syria Campaign has even taken credit for forcing former UN Resident Coordinator Yacoub El-Hillo out of his job in Damascus, a false claim it was later forced to retract. Among the opposition groups that promoted The Syria Campaign’s anti-UN report was Ahrar Al-Sham, a jihadist rebel faction that has allied with Al Qaeda in a mission to establish an exclusively Islamic state across Syria.

A Westerner who operates a politically neutral humanitarian NGO in Damascus offered me a withering assessment of The Syria Campaign’s attacks on the UN. Speaking on condition of anonymity because NGO workers like them are generally forbidden from speaking to the media, and often face repercussions if they do, the source accused The Syria Campaign of “dividing and polarizing the humanitarian community” along political lines while forcing humanitarian entities to “make decisions based on potential media repercussions instead of focusing on actual needs on the ground.”

The NGO executive went on to accuse The Syria Campaign and its partners in the opposition of “progressively identifying the humanitarian workers operating from Damascus with one party to the conflict,” limiting their ability to negotiate access to rebel-held territory. “As a humanitarian worker myself,” they explained, “I know that this puts me and my teams in great danger since it legitimizes warring factions treating you as an extension of one party in the conflict.

“The thousands of Syrians that signed up with the UN or humanitarian organizations are civilians,” they continued. “They not only joined to get a salary but in hopes of doing something good for other Syrians. This campaign [by The Syria Campaign] is humiliating all of them, labelling them as supporters of one side and making them lose hope in becoming agents of positive change in their own society.”

This September, days before the aid convoy attack prompted the UN to suspend much of its work inside Syria, The Syria Campaign spurred 73 aid organizations operating in rebel-held territory, including the White Helmets, to suspend their cooperation with the UN aid program. As the Guardian noted in its coverage, “The decision to withdraw from the Whole of Syria programme, in which organisations share information to help the delivery of aid, means in practice the UN will lose sight of what is happening throughout the north of Syria and in opposition-held areas of the country, where the NGOs do most of their work.”

Despite The Syria Campaign’s influence on the international media stage, details on the outfit’s inner workings are difficult to come by. The Syria Campaign is registered in England as a private company called the Voices Project at an address shared by 91 other companies. Aside from Asfari, most of The Syria Campaign’s donors are anonymous.

Looming over this opaque operation are questions about its connections to Avaaz, a global public relations outfit that played an instrumental role in generating support for a no-fly zone in Libya, and The Syria Campaign’s founding by Purpose, another PR firm spun out of Avaaz. James Sadri bristled when I asked about the issue, dismissing it as a “crank conspiracy” ginned up by Russian state media and hardcore Assadist elements.

However, a careful look at the origins and operation of The Syria Campaign raises doubts about the outfit’s image as an authentic voice for Syrian civilians, and should invite serious questions about the agenda of its partner organizations as well.

A creation of international PR firms

Best known for its work on liberal social issues with well-funded progressive clients like the ACLU and the police reform group, Campaign Zero, the New York- and London-based public relations firm Purpose promises to deliver creatively executed campaigns that produce either a “behavior change,” “perception change,” “policy change” or “infrastructure change.” As the Syrian conflict entered its third year, this company was ready to effect a regime change.

On Feb. 3, 2014, Anna Nolan, the senior strategist at Purpose, posted a job listing. According to Nolan’s listing, her firm was seeking “two interns to join the team at Purpose to help launch a new movement for Syria.”

At around the same time, another Purpose staffer named Ali Weiner posted a job listing seeking a paid intern for the PR firm’s new Syrian Voices project. “Together with Syrians in the diaspora and NGO partners,” Weiner wrote, “Purpose is building a movement that will amplify the voices of moderate, non-violent Syrians and mobilize people in the Middle East and around the world to call for specific changes in the political and humanitarian situation in the region.” She explained that the staffer would report “to a Strategist based primarily in London, but will work closely with the Purpose teams in both London and New York.”

On June 16, 2014, Purpose founder Jeremy Heimans drafted articles of association for The Syria Campaign’s parent company. Called the Voices Project, Heimans registered the company at 3 Bull Lane, St. Ives Cambridgeshire, England. It was one of 91 private limited companies listed at the address. Sadri would not explain why The Syria Campaign had chosen this location or why it was registered as a private company.

Along with Heimans, Purpose Europe director Tim Dixon was appointed to The Syria Campaign’s board of directors. So was John Jackson, a Purpose strategist who previously co-directed the Burma Campaign U.K. that lobbied the EU for sanctions against that country’s ruling regime. (Jackson claimed credit for The Syria Campaign’s successful push to remove Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s re-election campaign ads from Facebook.) Anna Nolan became The Syria Campaign’s project director, even as she remained listed as the strategy director at Purpose.

“Purpose is not involved in what we do,” The Syria Campaign’s Sadri told me. When pressed about the presence of several Purpose strategists on The Syria Campaign’s board of directors and staff, Sadri insisted, “We’re not part of Purpose. There’s no financial relationship and we’re independent.”

Sadri dismissed allegations about The Syria Campaign’s origins in Avaaz. “We have no connection to Avaaz,” he stated, blaming conspiratorial “Russia Today stuff” for linking the two public relations groups.

However, Purpose’s original job listing for its Syrian Voices project boasted that “Purpose grew out of some of the most impactful new models for social change” including “the now 30 million strong action network avaaz.org.” In fact, The Syria Campaign’s founder, Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans, was also one of the original founders of Avaaz. As he told Forbes, “I co-founded Avaaz and [the Australian activist group] Get Up, which inspired the creation of Purpose.”

New and improved no-fly zone

The Syria Campaign’s defensiveness about ties to Avaaz is understandable.

Back in 2011, Avaaz introduced a public campaign for a no-fly zone in Libya and delivered a petition with 1,202,940 signatures to the UN supporting Western intervention. John Hilary, the executive director of War On Want, the U.K.’s leading anti-poverty and anti-war charity, warned at the time, “Little do most of these generally well-meaning activists know, they are strengthening the hands of those western governments desperate to reassert their interests in north Africa… Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian—putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.”

John Hilary’s dire warning was fulfilled after the NATO-enforced no-fly zone prompted the ouster of former President Moamar Qaddafi. Months later, Qaddafi was sexually assaulted and beaten to death in the road by a mob of fanatics. The Islamic State and an assortment of militias filled the void left in the Jamahiriya government’s wake. The political catastrophe should have been serious enough to call future interventions of this nature into question. Yet Libya’s legacy failed to deter Avaaz from introducing a new campaign for another no-fly zone; this time in Syria.

“To some a no-fly zone could conjure up images of George W. Bush’s foreign policy and illegal Western interventions. This is a different thing,” Avaaz insisted in a communique defending its support for a new no-fly zone in Syria. Sadri portrayed The Syria Campaign’s support for a no-fly zone as the product of a “deep listening process” involving the polling of Syrian civilians in rebel-held territories and refugees outside the country. He claimed his outfit was a “solidarity organization,” not a public relations firm, and was adamant that if and when a no-fly zone is imposed over Syrian skies, it would be different than those seen in past conflicts.

“There also seems to be a critique of a no-fly zone which is slapping on templates from other conflicts and saying this is what will happen in Syria,” Sadri commented. He added, “I’m just trying to encourage us away from a simplistic debate. There’s a kneejerk reaction to Syria to say, ’It’s Iraq or it’s Libya,’ but it’s not. It’s an entirely different conflict.”

Funding a “credible transition”

For the petroleum mogul who provided the funding that launched the Syria Project, the means of military intervention justified an end in which he could return to the country of his birth and participate in its economic life on his own terms.

Though The Syria Campaign claims to “refuse funding from any party to the conflict in Syria,” it was founded and is sustained with generous financial assistance from one of the most influential exile figures of the opposition, Ayman Asfari, the U.K.-based CEO of the British oil and gas supply company Petrofac Limited. Asfari is worth $1.2 billion and owns about one-fifth of the shares of his company, which boasts 18,000 employees and close to $7 billion in annual revenues.

Through his Asfari Foundation, he has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to The Syria Campaign and has secured a seat for his wife, Sawsan, on its board of directors. He has also been a top financial and political supporter of the Syrian National Coalition, the largest government-in-exile group set up after the Syrian revolt began. The group is dead-set on removing Assad and replacing him with one of its own. Asfari’s support for opposition forces was so pronounced the Syrian government filed a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of supporting “terrorism.”

In London, Asfari has been a major donor to former British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party. This May, Cameron keynoted a fundraiser for the Hands Up for Syria Appeal, a charity heavily supported by Asfari that sponsors education for Syrian children living in refugee camps. The Prime Minister might have seemed like an unusual choice for the event given his staunch resistance to accepting unaccompanied Syrian children who have fled to Europe. However, Asfari has generally supported Cameron’s exclusionary policy.

Grilled about his position during an episode of BBC’s Hardtalk, Asfari explained, “I do not want the country to be emptied. I still have a dream that those guys [refugees] will be able to go back to their homes and they will be able to play a constructive role in putting Syria back together.”

In Washington, Asfari is regarded as an important liaison to the Syrian opposition. He has visited the White House eight times since 2014, meeting with officials like Philip Gordon, the former Middle East coordinator who was an early advocate for arming the insurgency in Syria. Since leaving the administration, however, Gordon has expressed regret over having embraced a policy of regime change. In a lengthy September 2015 editorial for Politico, Gordon slammed the Obama administration’s pursuit of regime change, writing, “There is now virtually no chance that an opposition military ‘victory’ will lead to stable or peaceful governance in Syria in the foreseeable future and near certainty that pursuing one will only lead to many more years of vicious civil war.”

Asfari publicly chastised Gordon days later on Hardtalk. “I have written to [Gordon] an email after I saw that article in Politico and I told him I respectfully disagree,” Asfari remarked. “I think the idea that we are going to have a transition in Syria with Assad in it for an indefinite period is fanciful. Because at the end of the day, what the people want is a credible transition.”

For Asfari, a “credible” post-war transition would require much more than refugee repatriation and the integration of opposition forces into the army: “Will you get the Syrian diaspora, including people like myself, to go back and invest in the country?” he asked on Hardtalk. “…If we do not achieve any of these objectives, what’s the point of having a free Syria?”

The Independent has described Asfari as one among of a pantheon of “super rich” exiles poised to rebuild a post-Assad Syria — and to reap handsome contracts in the process. To reach his goal of returning to Syria in triumph after the downfall of Assad’s government, Asfari not only provided the seed money for The Syria Campaign, he has helped sustain the group with hefty donations.

Just this year, the Asfari Foundation donated $180,000 to the outfit, according to The Syria Campaign’s media lead Laila Kiki. Asfari is not The Syria Campaign’s only donor, however. According to Kiki, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund also contributed $120,000 to the outfit’s $800,000 budget this year. “The rest of the funds come from donors who wish to remain anonymous,” she explained.

Shaping the message

Among The Syria Campaign’s main priorities, for which it has apparently budgeted a substantial amount of resources, is moving Western media in a more interventionist direction.

When The Syria Campaign placed an ad on its website seeking a senior press officer upon its launch in 2014, it emphasized its need for “someone who can land pieces in the U.S., U.K. and European [media] markets in the same week.” The company’s ideal candidate would be able to “maintain strong relationships with print, broadcast, online journalists, editors in order to encourage them to see TSC as a leading voice on Syria.” Prioritizing PR experience over political familiarity, The Syria Campaign reassured applicants, “You don’t need to be an expert on Syria or speak Arabic.” After all, the person would be working in close coordination with an unnamed “Syrian communications officer who will support on story gathering and relationships inside Syria.”

Sadri acknowledged that The Syria Campaign has been involved in shopping editorials to major publications. “There have been op-eds in the past that we’ve helped get published, written by people on the ground. There’s a lot of op-eds going out from people inside Syria,” he told me. But he would not say which ones, who the authors were, or if his company played any role in their authorship.

One recent incident highlighted The Syria Campaign’s skillful handling of press relationships from Aleppo to media markets across the West. It was August 17, and a Syrian or Russian warplane had just hit an apartment building in rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Sophie McNeill, a Middle East correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, received a photo from the Syrian American Medical Society, which maintains a WhatsApp group networking doctors inside rebel territory with international media.

The photo showed a five-year-old boy, Omran Daqneesh, who had been extracted from the building by members of the White Helmets and hoisted into an ambulance, where he was filmed by members of the Aleppo Media Center. The chilling image depicts a dazed little boy, seated upright and staring at nothing, his pudgy cheeks caked in ash and blood. “Video then emerged of Omran as he sat blinking in the back of that ambulance,” McNeill wrote without explaining who provided her with the video. She immediately posted the footage on Twitter.

“Watch this video from Aleppo tonight. And watch it again. And remind yourself that with #Syria #wecantsaywedidntknow,” McNeill declared. Her post was retweeted over 17,000 times and the hashtag she originated, which implied international inaction against the Syrian government made such horrors possible, became a viral sensation as well. (McNeill did not respond to questions sent to her publicly listed email.)

Hours later, the image of Omran appeared on the front page of dozens of international newspapers, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Times of London. CNN’s Kate Bolduan, who had suggested during Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip in 2014 that civilian casualties were, in fact, human shields, broke down in tears during an extended segment detailing the rescue of Omran.

Abu Sulaiman Al-Muhajir, the Australian citizen serving as a top leader and spokesman for Al Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot, Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, took a special interest in the boy. “I cannot get conditioned to seeing injured/murdered children,” Al-Muhajir wrote on Facebook. “Their innocent faces should serve as a reminder of our responsibility.”

Seizing on the opportunity, The Syria Campaign gathered quotes from the photographer who captured the iconic image, Mahmoud Raslan, and furnished them to an array of media organizations. While many outlets published Raslan’s statements, Public Radio International was among the few that noted The Syria Campaign’s role in serving them up, referring to the outfit as “a pro-opposition advocacy group with a network of contacts in Syria.”

On August 20, McNeill took to Facebook with a call to action: “Were you horrified by the footage of little Omran?” she asked her readers. “Can’t stop thinking about him? Well don’t just retweet, be outraged for 24 hours and move on. Hear what two great humanitarians for Syria, Zaher Sahloul & James Sadri, want you to do now.”

Sadri happened to be the director of The Syria Campaign and Sahloul was the Syrian American Medical Society director who partnered with The Syria Campaign. In the article McNeill wrote about Omran’s photo, which was linked in her Facebook post, both Sahloul and Sadri urged Westerners to join their call for a no-fly zone— a policy McNeill tacitly endorsed. (Sahloul was recently promoted by the neoconservative columnist Eli Lake for accusing Obama of having “allowed a genocide in Syria.” This September, Sahloul joined up with the Jewish United Federation of Chicago, a leading opponent of Palestine solidarity organizing, to promote his efforts.)

As the outrage inspired by the image of Omran spread, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (a friend and publisher of Syria Campaign board member Lina Sergie Attar) called for “fir[ing] missiles from outside Syria to crater [Syrian] military runways to make them unusable.” Meanhwile, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough waved around the photo of Omran and indignantly declared, “The world will look back. Save your hand-wringing…you can still do something right now. But nothing’s been done.”

As breathless editorials and cable news tirades denounced the Obama administration’s supposed “inaction,” public pressure for a larger-scale Western military campaign was approaching an unprecedented level.

Damage control for opposition extremists

The day after Omran made headlines, the left-wing British news site the Canary publicized another photograph that exposed a grim reality behind the iconic image.

Culled from the Facebook page of Mahmoud Raslan, the activist from the American-operated Aleppo Media Center who took the initial video of Omran, it showed Raslan posing for a triumphant selfie with a group of rebel fighters. The armed men hailed from the Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki faction. At least two of the commanders who appeared in the photo with Raslan had recently beheaded a boy they captured, referring to him in video footage as “child” while they taunted and abused him. The boy has been reported to be a 12-year-old named Abdullah Issa and may have been a member of the Liwa Al-Quds pro-government Palestinian militia.

This was not the only time Raslan had appeared with Al-Zenki fighters or expressed his sympathy. On August 2, he posted a selfie to Facebook depicting himself surrounded by mostly adolescent Al-Zenki fighters dressed in battle fatigues. “With the suicide fighters, from the land of battles and butchery, from Aleppo of the martyrs, we bring you tidings of impending joy, with God’s permission,” Raslan wrote. He sported a headband matching those worn by the “suicide fighters.”

Despite its unsavory tendencies and extremist ideological leanings, Al-Zenki was until 2015 a recipient of extensive American funding, with at least 1000 of its fighters on the CIA payroll. Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute who has said his research on the Syrian opposition was “100% funded by Western govts,” has branded Al-Zenki as “moderate opposition fighters.”

This August, after the video of Al-Zenki members beheading the adolescent boy appeared online, Sam Heller, a fellow for the Washington-based Century Foundation, argued for restoring the rebel group’s CIA funding. Describing Al-Zenki as “a natural, if unpalatable, partner,” Heller contended that “if Washington insists on keeping its hands perfectly clean, there’s probably no Syrian faction—in the opposition, or on any side of the war—that merits support.”

This September 24, Al-Zenki formally joined forces with the jihadist Army of Conquest led by Al Qaeda-established jihadist group, Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham. For its part, The Syria Campaign coordinated the release of a statement with Raslan explaining away his obvious affinity with Al-Zenki. Sophie McNeill, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reporter who was among the first to publish the famous Omran photo, dutifully published Raslan’s statement on Twitter, acknowledging The Syria Campaign as its source.

Curiously describing the beheading victim as a 19-year-old and not the “child” his beheaders claimed he was, Raslan pleaded ignorance about the Al-Zenki fighters’ backgrounds: “It was a busy day with lots of different people and groups on the streets. As a war photographer I take lots of photos with civilians and fighters.”

Mahmoud Raslan may not have been the most effective local partner, but The Syria Campaign could still count on the White Helmets.

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project at AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

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Death Toll Mounts In US Police Killings

October 4th, 2016 by Patrick Martin

At least 19 people lost their lives in encounters with police in the United States last week. The victims, all men, ranged in age from 18 to 53. Seventeen were shot to death, one tased, and one both tased and beaten and strangled. In only two of the cases were the victims shot while engaged in violent attacks on others. All the others were shot while fleeing or allegedly resisting police, or while experiencing mental health or emotional crises.

In several instances the police killings sparked protests. In El Cajon, California, a suburb of San Diego, there were protests over the death September 27 of Alfred Olango, an immigrant from Uganda who was tased and shot to death while unarmed. Olango was having an emotional breakdown after learning of the death of a friend.

In Pasadena, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, more than 100 people gathered to protest the killing of Reginald Thomas, father of eight children, after police were called to address a domestic dispute early Friday. The 36-year-old black man, who was reportedly bipolar, was said to be waving a knife and a fire extinguisher when police arrived.

Despite the claims by Democratic Party politicians and middle-class groups like Black Lives Matter that police violence is exclusively a matter of race, with white cops killing African-Americans, the 19 victims last week included at least eight white men, a Hispanic man and an Asian man.

The race of the police killers was usually not reported, but the killings took place in many cities with racially diverse police forces, including Newark, New Jersey; Houston, Texas; and Los Angeles and San Diego, California.

The geographic distribution of the killings included inner cities, suburbs and rural areas, and all regions of the country, from the Northeast to the Pacific Coast. By states, the killings fell as follows: Arizona, Arkansas, California (3), Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan (2), Minnesota, New Jersey (2), Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas (2), and West Virginia.

The death toll on a single day, Friday, September 30, gives a glimpse of the savage character of social relations in the US and the unrestrained brutality of the police, who serve as the first line of defense for capitalist property and the authority of the capitalist state. There were no less than seven victims.

These included, in addition to Reginald Thomas in Pasadena:

* Clayton Eugene Baker, a 24-year-old white man, shot to death by a Trinity County sheriff’s deputy in Groveton, Texas, a small town north of Houston, after the policeman arrived in response to a reported domestic dispute.

* Douglas Marrickus Rainey, a 32-year-old black man, shot to death by a SWAT team in rural Gowensville, South Carolina, hours after a reported armed robbery at a Dollar General which led to a general lockdown of the region.

* Richard Parent, a 37-year-old white man, shot by Michigan state police in Van Buren Township, in the western suburbs of Detroit, after a lengthy chase. Parent refused to pull over on a traffic stop, allegedly claiming to be a “sovereign citizen.”

* Najier Salaam and George Richards-Meyers, both 18 years old, shot to death by six Newark, New Jersey police, who claimed to be confronting a three-man gang responsible for a series of carjackings. None of the officers was injured despite claims of a wild shootout.

* Jacquarius M. Robinson, a 20-year-old black man, killed by a police SWAT team in Columbus, Ohio, 10 hours after police responded to the scene of a shooting death on the city’s east side. Robinson attempted to flee and police shot him dead. It was not known whether there was any evidence connecting him to the earlier killing.

Public attention has focused on the killings in southern California because these provoked angry protests, albeit on a limited scale and without further clashes with the police. Tensions rose again over the weekend after an 18-year-old black youth, Carnell Snell Jr., was shot to death by police about 1 p.m. Saturday in south Los Angeles, after police stopped a car on suspicion that it was stolen.

Two people fled from the car and police shot and killed one of them, later identified as Snell. Police claimed to have found a handgun at the scene, but there was no indication that the youth had the gun in his possession or had fired it. Police frequently place “throw-down” guns at the site of such shootings to provide retroactive justification.

There were protests from family members and other local residents, including one young woman who told the Los Angeles Times, “A police officer should not be the judge, the jury and the executioner.” Snell’s mother, Monique Morgan, said she had been told her son was shot five times in the back. Witnesses told the local CBS television station KCAL that Snell had his hands up and was telling police not to shoot him when they opened fire.

According to the grim tally kept by the web site killedbypolice.net, the week’s death toll, including the police shooting Sunday morning of an as yet unidentified man in Markham, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, brought the year’s total to 868 people. A separate tally, maintained by the Washington Post, found that whites comprised 46 percent of the victims of police killings this year, blacks 24 percent, and Hispanics 16 percent, with other races and undetermined accounting for the remaining 14 percent.

Blacks are killed by police at a much higher rate than their proportion in the population, an indication that racism plays a significant role, but the number of white victims demonstrates that class, not race, is the more fundamental issue. Nearly all the victims of police killings are from the working class, and usually its poorest sections. Police killings do not take place in Beverly Hills, Grosse Pointe or the Upper East Side of Manhattan, but in lower income areas, whether urban, suburban or rural.

That does not stop Democratic Party politicians from seeking to cover up the class character of police violence with rhetoric about “systemic racism.” Hillary Clinton did so during her debate with Republican Donald Trump last Monday and again during a visit Sunday morning to an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where 36-year-old Keith Scott was gunned down by police September 20.

Scott; the policeman who killed him, Brentley Vinson; and the Charlotte police chief in charge of whitewashing his death, Kerr Putney; are all African-American. That fact alone demonstrates that the struggle against police violence requires uniting workers of all races in the building of a political movement directed against the capitalist class and the police and politicians who serve it.

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The Empire Strikes Back

October 4th, 2016 by Chris Hedges

A decade ago left-wing governments, defying Washington and global corporations, took power in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador. It seemed as if the tide in Latin America was turning.

The interference by Washington and exploitation by international corporations might finally be defeated. Latin American governments, headed by charismatic leaders such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, won huge electoral victories. They instituted socialist reforms that benefited the poor and the working class. They refused to be puppets of the United States. They took control of their nations’ own resources and destinies. They mounted the first successful revolt against neoliberalism and corporate domination. It was a revolt many in the United States hoped to emulate here.

But the movements and governments in Latin America have fallen prey to the dark forces of U.S. imperialism and the wrath of corporate power. The tricks long practiced by Washington and its corporate allies have returned—the black propaganda; the manipulation of the media; the bribery and corruption of politicians, generals, police, labor leaders and journalists; the legislative coups d’état; the economic strangulation; the discrediting of democratically elected leaders; the criminalization of the left; and the use of death squads to silence and disappear those fighting on behalf of the poor. It is an old, dirty game.

President Correa, who earned enmity from Washington for granting political asylum to Julian Assange four years ago and for closing the United States’ Manta military air base in 2009, warned recently that a new version of Operation Condor is underway in Latin America. Operation Condor, which operated in the 1970s and ’80s, saw thousands of labor union organizers, community leaders, students, activists, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, journalists and artists tortured, assassinated and disappeared. The intelligence chiefs from right-wing regimes in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and, later, Brazil had overseen the campaigns of terror. They received funds from the United States and logistical support and training from the Central Intelligence Agency. Press freedom, union organizing, all forms of artistic dissent and political opposition were abolished. In a coordinated effort these regimes brutally dismembered radical and leftist movements across Latin America. In Argentina alone 30,000 people disappeared.

Latin America looks set to be plunged once again into a period of dictatorial control and naked corporate exploitation. The governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, which is on the brink of collapse, have had to fight off right-wing coup attempts and are enduring economic sabotage. The Brazilian Senate impeached the democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff. Argentina’s new right-wing president, Mauricio Macri, bankrolled by U.S. hedge funds, promptly repaid his benefactors by handing $4.65 billion to four hedge funds, including Elliott Management, run by billionaire Paul Singer. The payout to hedge funds that had bought Argentine debt for pennies on the dollar meant that Singer’s firm made $2.4 billion, an amount that was 10 to 15 times the original investment. The previous Argentine government, under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had refused to pay the debt acquired by the hedge funds and acidly referred to them as “vulture funds.”

I interviewed Guillaume Long, Ecuador’s minister of foreign affairs and human mobility, for my show “On Contact” last week. Long, who earned a doctorate from the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London, called at the United Nations for the creation of a global tax regulatory agency. He said such an agency should force tax-dodging corporations, which the International Monetary Fund estimates costs developing countries more than $200 billion a year in lost revenue, to pay the countries for the natural resources they extract and for national losses stemming from often secret corporate deals. He has also demanded an abolition of overseas tax havens.

Long said the neoliberal economic policies of the 1980s and ’90s were profoundly destructive in Latin America. Already weak economic controls were abandoned in the name of free trade and deregulation. International corporations and banks were given a license to exploit. “This deregulation in an already deregulated environment” resulted in anarchy, Long said. “The powerful people had even less checks and balances on their powers,” he said.

“Neoliberalism is bad in most contexts,” Long said when we spoke in New York. “It’s been bad in Europe. It’s been bad in other parts of the world. It has dismantled the welfare state. In the context where we already have a weak state, where institutions are not consolidated, where there are strong feudal remnants, such as in Latin America, where you don’t really have a strong social contract with institutions, with modernity, neoliberalism just shatters any kind of social pact. It meant more poverty, more inequality, huge waves of instability.”

Countries saw basic services, many already inadequate, curtailed or eliminated in the name of austerity. The elites amassed fortunes while almost everyone else fell into economic misery. The political and economic landscape became unstable. Ecuador had seven presidents between 1996 and 2006, the year in which Correa was elected. It suffered a massive banking crisis in 1999. It switched the country’s currency to the U.S. dollar in desperation. The chaos in Ecuador was mirrored in countries such as Bolivia and Argentina. Argentina fell into a depression in 1998 that saw the economy shrink by 28 percent. Over 50 percent of Argentines were thrust into poverty.

“Latin America,” Long said, “hit rock bottom.”

It was out of this neoliberal morass that the left regrouped and took power.

“People came to terms with that moment of their history,” Long said. “They decided to rebuild their societies and fight foreign interventionism and I’d even say imperialism. To this day in Latin America, the main issue is inequality. Latin America is not necessarily the poorest continent in the world. But it’s certainly the most unequal continent in the world.”

“Ecuador is an oil producer,” Long said. “We produce about 530,000 barrels of oil a day. We were getting 20 percent royalties on multinationals extracting oil. Now it’s the other way around. We pay multinationals a fee for extractions. We had to renegotiate all of our oil contracts in 2008 and 2009. Some multinationals refused to abide by the new rules of the game and left the country. So our state oil company moved in and occupied the wells. But most multinationals said OK, we’ll do it, it’s still profitable. So now it’s the other way around. We pay private companies to extract the oil, but the oil is ours.”

Long admitted that there have been serious setbacks, but he insisted that the left is not broken.

“It depends on how you measure success,” he said. “If you’re going to measure it in terms of longevity, and how long these governments were in power—in our case we’re still in power, of course, and we’re going to win in February next year—then you’re looking at, more or less in Venezuela 17 years [that leftist governments have been in power], in Ecuador now 10, and in Argentina and Brazil it’s 13.”

“One of the critiques aimed at the left is they’re well-meaning, great people with good ideas but don’t let them govern because the country will go bust,” he said. “But in Ecuador we had really healthy growth rates, 5 to 10 percent a year. We had lots of good economics. We diversified our economy. We moved away from importing 80 percent of energy to [being] net exporters of electricity. We’ve had big reforms in education, in higher education. Lots of things that are economically successful. Whereas neoliberal, orthodox economics was not successful in the previous decade.”

Long conceded that his government had made powerful enemies, not only by granting political asylum to Assange in its embassy in London but by taking Chevron Texaco to court to try to make it pay for the ecological damage its massive oil spills caused in the Amazon, where the company drilled from the early 1960s until it pulled out in 1992. It left behind some 1,000 toxic waste pits. The oil spills collectively were 85 times the size of the British Petroleum spill in the Gulf of Mexico and 18 times the size of the spill from the Exxon Valdez. An Ecuadorean court ordered Chevron Texaco to pay $18.2 billion in damages, an amount later reduced to $9.5 billion. The oil giant, however, has refused to pay. Ecuador has turned to international courts in an attempt to extract the money from the company.

Long said that the different between the massive oil spills elsewhere and the Ecuadorean spills was that the latter were not accidental. “[They were done] on purpose in order to cut costs. They were in the middle of the Amazon. Normally what you’d do is extract the oil and you’d have these membranes so that it doesn’t filter through into the ground. They didn’t put in these membranes. The oil filtered into the water systems. It polluted all of the Amazon River system. It created a huge sanitary and public health issue. There were lots of cancers detected.”

Long said his government was acutely aware that Chevron Texaco has “a lot of lobbying power in the United States, in Wall Street, in Washington.”

“There are a lot of things we don’t see,” he said of the campaign to destabilize his government and other left-wing governments. “Benefits we could reap, investments we don’t get because we’ve been sovereign. In the case of [Ecuador’s closing of the U.S.] Manta air base, we’d like to think the American government understood and it was fine. But it was a bold move. We said ‘no more.’ We declared it in our constitution. We had a new constitution in 2008. It was a very vibrant moment of our history. We created new rules of the game. It’s one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. It actually declares the rights of nature. It’s the only constitution that declares the rights of nature, not just the rights of man. We made Ecuadorean territory free of foreign military bases. There was no other way. But there are consequences to your actions.”

One of those consequences was an abortive coup in September 2010 by members of the Ecuadorean National Police. It was put down by force. Long charged that many of the Western NGO’s in Ecuador and throughout the region are conduits for money to right-wing parties. Military and police officials, along with some politicians, have long been on the CIA’s payroll in Latin America. President Correa in 2008 dismissed his defense minister, army chief of intelligence, commanders of the army and air force, and the military joint chiefs, saying that Ecuador’s intelligence systems were “totally infiltrated and subjugated to the CIA.”

“There is an international conspiracy right now, certainly against progressive governments,” he said. “There’s been a few electoral setbacks in Argentina, and Venezuela is in a difficult situation. The media frames it in a certain way, but, yes, sure, Venezuela is facing serious trouble. There’s an attempt to make the most of the fall of prices of certain commodities and overthrow [governments]. We just saw a parliamentary coup in Brazil. [President Rousseff had been] elected with 54 million votes. The Labor Party in Brazil [had] been in power for 13 years. The only way they [the rightists] managed to get rid of it was through a coup. They couldn’t do it through universal suffrage.”

Long said that even with the political reverses suffered by the left it will be difficult for the rightists to reinstate strict neoliberal policies.

“You have a strong, disputed political ground between a traditional right and a radical left,” he said. “A radical left, which has proved it can reduce poverty, it can reduce inequality, it can run the economy, well, it’s got young cadres that have been [government] ministers and so on. I reckon that sooner or later it will be back in power.”

Corporate leviathans and the imperialist agencies that work on their behalf are once again reshaping Latin America into havens for corporate exploitation. It is the eternal story of the struggle by the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich, the powerless against the powerful, and those who would be free against the forces of imperialism.

“There are no boundaries in this struggle to the death,” Ernesto “Che” Guevara said. “We cannot be indifferent to what happens anywhere in the world, for a victory by any country over imperialism is our victory; just as any country’s defeat is a defeat for all of us.”

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The “No” vote won in the Colombian plebiscite on the peace deal recently signed between the government and the FARC-EP, when surveys anticipated that at least two-thirds of voters would approve it.

Looking closely at the geographical distribution of the vote, it seems that the “No” vote received more support in Colombian departments that are not as affected by the armed conflict.

Meanwhile, the poorest, rural, Afro-descendent, Indigenous departments—located on the outskirts of the country, including border and Caribbean departments—have overwhelmingly favored a political solution to the conflict because they continue to pay the highest price for the conflict.

Of the major cities, Bogota, the country’s capital, and Cali voted “Yes,” while Medellin, with ties to nacro -trafficking, voted “No.”

“Thanks to the armed conflict, Colombia has been able for years to avoid addressing strong protests or social demands,” said sociologist Daniel Pecaut, in an interview with El Tiempo in June. “The armed conflict has contributed to maintaining the social and political structures of the country, and even to increasing the concentration of land property, as well as the unequal distribution of revenues.”

“Many sectors, not only the governing elites, found out, quite subconsciously, that the armed conflict was not disturbing the cities too much, but only the country’s peripheries,” he said two years earlier to Semana, commenting on the electoral campaign that mostly revolved around the possibility of peace negotiations with the FARC-EP.

 The armed conflict has also resulted in the elimination “of a whole generation of social leaders,” especially at the hands of paramilitary groups, seriously hampering the development of peaceful social movements in the urban, as well as rural areas, with trade unionists, students, human rights activists and campesinos unable to mount large-scale protests against government policies.

As a result, he observed, Colombia has paradoxically had a consistent economic growth in the past 30 years, yet maintaining the same level of social inequality as in the 1930s.

With the recent agrarian strikes that paralyzed Colombia, the ruling sectors of the country started fearing even more—the possibility of social reforms—and the peace deal could create the conditions for such reforms.

Such sectors are represented by former president Alvaro Uribe, known for his close ties with paramilitary groups, who has led a smear and fear-mongering campaign against the peace deal.

 Uribe and the big landowners would rather risk international isolation, as the peace deal was largely supported by the European Union, the United Nations and the United States, than to bow to the possibility of even a slight redistribution of land and wealth. To them, and the paramilitaries who back them, no political dissent can be tolerated.

“A modern country needs to accept social conflict; this is the price of democracy,” warned Pecaut, who found “extremely worrying” the country’s divisions around the peace deal.

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A Russian actor claims the recent Sky News documentary about undercover Russian mercenaries in Syria was staged. RT spoke a man who claims to have impersonated one of the fighters the British outlet spoke to.

In a recently-aired Sky News  the channel claimed it uncovered facts about Russian mercenaries in Syria operating undercover.

One of the key pieces of evidence provided was an interview conducted by Sky News’ Moscow correspondent, John Sparks, who spoke to two males who allegedly comprised part of a secret Russian force, called “Wagner” operating in Syria.

One of them, named Dmitry said that some 500 to 600 people of the unit died while serving in the country. The faces of the men were hidden and voices changed “to protect their identities.”

Following the report, Russian television channel, NTV, aired its own investigation, claiming to have found Dmitry, who apparently turned out to be a Russian actor living in Moscow.

RT also contacted a man, whose real name is Aleksandr Agapov, and he said that he played the role of a “Wagner” fighter at the request of the Sky News.

“They said we have this information. You simply need to prepare yourself based on that information and make out you were in the military in Syria in a service of a private company,” Agapov told RT.

In the interview, Agapov said he had been told by the clip would be part of a movie. However after getting suspicious Agapov decided to record a conversation with Sparks that supposedly took place in a Moscow hotel. The recording was initially passed to NTV.

RT went on to check this claim as well. Our channel forwarded the recording to an acoustic analysis laboratory in Moscow for detailed information. Audio analyst Ivan Ursov said that the outcome clearly pointed to one of the voices belonging to Aleksandr Agapov.

“The results of the analysis demonstrate a 75.5 percent match between the recordings. That’s good enough to conclude they are indeed the same person,” Ursov said.

While analyzing the second voice the specialist found that with “85 percent certainty” it was that of Sky News correspondent John Sparks.

To clarify Agapov’s allegations we reached out to the Sky News representatives. Sky News maintained its journalistic integrity.

“Sky News stands fully behind the story which is the product of a detailed investigation over many months,” the media outlet said in an email.

Another request on social media addressed to Sky News as well as personally to John Sparks did not yield any results.

It’s not the first time that the media outlet has found itself in hot water over such a case.

Recently, the outlet triggered outrage in Romania after suggesting in one of its reports that there was a thriving illegal arms trade in the country. In that case a Sky News reporter Stuart Ramsay spoke to two masked men, who was selling a number of weapons, including semi-assault rifles.

According to Romanian officials, the outlet paid the men some £5,000 ($6,600) in what they called a “faked report”. Ramsay denied the allegations.

Romania’s Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos reacted to the case saying that it is “unacceptable to denigrate a country without proof.” Romania’s Secretary of State at National Audiovisual Council, Valentin Jucan, even vowed to bring Ramsay to court, posting a message on his Twitter feed.

 

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Dramatic Decline in U.S. Oil Production

October 3rd, 2016 by WhoWhatWhy

by Jeff Clyburn

originally published by WhoWhatWhy

Those “drill baby drill” fanatics who still insist America is on the smooth road to energy independence might want to pump the brakes just a bit.

A look at the latest report by the US Energy Information Administration shows US oil production is down over one million barrels per day since its June 2015 peak of 9.6 million. As of September 9, 2016, US oil production is at 8.5 million barrels per day. That’s an 11.5% drop in production in a relatively short period of time, and it’s a downward slope with no end in sight.

OPEC did agree to a modest production cut of under 1 million barrels per day on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and prices quickly shot up 5%.

Two of the three biggest formations in the US — Eagle Ford, predominantly in Colorado, and Bakken, predominantly in North Dakota — are now producing 40% and 25% less, respectively, compared to this time last year. It is an alarming drop off that can’t be dismissed by merely blaming the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for “flooding markets” and awaiting a price rebound.

Skeptics suggest the long-predicted production decline is terminal. In their view, investment tricks can’t overcome the fact that this is a matter of resource depletion, where the deeper you have to dig, the more expensive the resource gets to extract, refine and deliver.

Those sounding the alarm insist the rate of borrowing within the industry has grown desperate, and was always unsustainable. They scoff at faith-based appeals to the wonders of technology, as US shale formations are not a new discovery, nor is the technology used to harvest the resource particularly new. What changed was years of sky-high oil prices between 2002 and 2014, making these unconventional reserves suddenly worth drilling. After overproducing for 3-4 years, we now remain very far from that kind of global oil price today.

That 5% increase Wednesday left Brent at $48.96 per barrel at the close of trading. During the fracking boom years of 2011-2013, Brent averaged $110.

Apologists for the oil industry, however — or just those who see US growth as inevitable — cite the depressed global price for oil as a temporary roadblock that will work itself out as soon as demand catches up to supply again and markets tighten.

Hydraulic fracturing site. Photo credit: Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Hydraulic fracturing site.
Photo credit: Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

They insist Saudi Arabia is pumping too much, and the resulting global oversupply is hurting US drillers who must endure much higher production costs. But that’s OK, they say, because when (not if) the price rises again, US production will boom once more and happy days will seamlessly return in short order for the US oil patch.

Of course, none of that rationalization accounts for three important questions: 1) Even if (not when) prices return to the level needed for US producers to maintain free cash flow, what happens when the oversupply inevitably returns and global prices dip all over again? 2) How can they be certain Wall St. investment dollars will return after the bloodbath the industry is currently enduring? 3) Why is Saudi Arabia, and OPEC in general, obliged to suddenly pump less just to make room for the new kids on the block?

The answer to the final question is easy: The Saudis, long a swing producer, are not obliged to cut production. Oil is a globally traded, fungible commodity. It is not compulsory for any nation to slice production volume just to make it easier for competitors who have higher costs.

This is especially true for a country like Saudi Arabia, which gets roughly 80% of its budgetary revenues from the petroleum sector, and has a number of expensive religious wars to fund to its immediate north and south. The Kingdom literally survives on oil exports, and isn’t about to make concessions for any new producer, ally or otherwise.

The reality is that the recent US oil “revolution” is made up of hydraulic fracturing companies who always needed the global oil price considerably higher than it has been since plummeting in late 2014. Drillers have borrowed billions of dollars in order to keep pumping, and the long-expected payoff never materialized. As a result, the wave of bankruptcies in the US oil patch the past two years has been relentless.

Diminished US production obviously means reduced US revenue and increased reliance on foreign imports in order to maintain our 19 million barrel per day appetite of consumption. It’s nice to point to expansion of renewable energy infrastructure as bridging that gap, but that’s a long process hindered by economic and political gridlock.

Further, believe it or not, there are roles that fossil fuels provide that green energy simply can not match. Moving an 18-wheeler full of goods, uphill and across vast distances, immediately comes to mind.

It is clear that US energy production is at a critical crossroads. While once-booming fracking cities like Williston, N.D., continue to go bust, the industry can continue to cut costs, hold its breath and hope and pray that global oil prices rise. Unfortunately, that says nothing about the average consumer’s capacity to afford those elevated prices — and the myriad costs associated with energy inflation — all over again. We all remember $3-4 gas and the strains it put on municipal and family budgets for five years.

If the sluggish economy has taught us anything the past nine years, it’s that when searching for a sweet spot on the acceptable price of oil, there is now a huge imbalance between what the public can afford and what the industry absolutely needs to make money. That gap is widening.

There’s really no wonder the oil and gas industry wants all talk of expanding renewables quashed. Turning to green energy solutions only hampers demand for their product, further denying oil prices ever return to the stratospheric levels they desperately require to keep their business model solvent.

In any event, the slow drawdown of the fossil fuel industry as a result of depletion is both a good thing and a bad thing for our extremely complex, modern society.

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