usa_israelU.S. State Department’s Deafening Silence After U.S. Citizens Engage In Israeli Settler Violence

By Richard Silverstein, January 07 2016

The silence of the U.S. government when American citizens are actively engaged in anti-Palestinian terrorism suggests that we condemn Islamist terror while condoning Jewish terror.

jeffrey_herfThe Disingenuous Apologies for Israel’s Assault on Palestinian Education

By Matt Peppe, January 07 2016

As the American Historical Association (AHA) prepares to vote this week on a symbolic resolution that affirms support for the right to education in the occupied Palestinian territories, apologists for the Israeli regime’s policies against Palestinians are putting forward nonsensical rationalizations for their opposition to the measure.

DawabshaJewish Terrorists Indicted for Palestinian Arson Murders

By Stephen Lendman, January 06 2016

Israeli soldiers and militarized police extrajudicially execute defenseless Palestinians with impunity. They’ve been denied justice for nearly seven decades. Nothing in prospect suggests change.

money_rollThe United States’ 20 Wealthiest People, The 0.000006%, and Who Pays $300k to Hear Hillary

By David Swanson, January 07 2016

The United States’ 20 wealthiest people (The 0.000006 Percent) now own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.

The United Nations and the Houla Massacre: The Information BattlefieldImmunity of State Officials for War Crimes: UN Library’s Most-checked-out Book in 2015

By Dylan Matthews, January 07 2016

The book in question isn’t a UN document — it’s a doctoral thesis from the University of Lucerne by Ramona Pedretti, pursuing the question of when heads of state and other government officials can be charged in foreign courts. Generally, she explains, there are two forms of immunity in international law from which heads of state can benefit.

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Video: North Korea Hydrogen Bomb Test

January 7th, 2016 by South Front

On January 6, North Korea successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen nuclear device, according to the state broadcaster, KCTV. North Korea’s state news agency later stressed in a statement that Pyongyang will continue to build up its nuclear program as deterrence against potential aggression from the United States.

The statement further underscored that North Korea will act as a “responsible nuclear state”, and will use its nuclear armament only to defend its sovereignty. North Korea also vowed that it will not transfer its nuclear capabilities to other parties. If true, this is the first such device fielded by Pyongyang.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said in a statement on Wednesday that seismic activity in North Korea took place near the country’s nuclear test site. Initial estimates gave readings measuring between 4.2 and 5.1 magnitude.

A nuclear bomb test in the same area in 2013 triggered a 5.1-magnitude quake.

This is the fourth such test by North Korea since 2006, while Washington has made it clear it will not engage with the North until it suspends or even reverses its nuclear and missile programs.

From Pyongyang’s perspective, however, a viable nuclear program is its only guarantee of avoiding any future attempt by the United States to try to trigger a “color revolution” in North Korea, or even carry out military action against Pyongyang.

A new test by the North raises tension on and around the Korean Peninsula. However, from the North’s point of view, any step that strengthens its long-term position is worth the minor disruptions to its relations with outside powers, especially, amid the destructive Western policy in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Thus, the North Korea nuclear issue is merely a part of the ongoing deterioration of international relations.

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Misinformation, disinformation and propaganda – you are subjected to all three every single day. The problem is that the media in Britain is heavily tainted by an agenda driven by politics and money. Many of the decisions you make will be based on your perceptions of life and the way you see it.

Cognitive dissonance – is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change, basically it happens when our beliefs do not match up with our behaviors.

So, will you vote to stay in the EU at the expected “Brexit” referendum based upon immigration? Many will, indeed, in the latest poll conducted by The Independent it shows that this has been central to the debate which has been bolstered by public anxiety over the triplicity of the refugee crisis, the Paris killings and fears over acts of terrorism on home soil – all inter-related. This poll shows about 52% of the population would vote for ‘Brexit’ right now as a result.

However, it is estimated that the empirical annual probability of a UK resident dying from a preventable cause (e.g. smoking, drinking, obesity, adverse hospital events, violence etc) is 1 in 417, this being 38,000 times higher than the empirical annual probability of a UK resident being killed by a terrorist which is about 1 in 16 million.

As far as terrorism is concerned, the government and media have conducted an impressive campaign in frightening its citizens to the point of hysteria to achieve their own aims.

Statistically, you less likely to be killed by a terrorist than by a lightening strike – about 1 in 10 million of the population. Food poisoning will kill three times as many, falling off a ladder will kill five times more as will falling out of bed in the morning.

So, armed with the fact that statistically speaking you will never be killed by a terrorist, who may or may not be a refugee, then voting for Brexit on this basis is wrong. However, deep down, you may want to vote for Brexit on this basis anyway. This is called cognitive dissonance.

Part of the problem is that the average adult thinks that Britain now has 25% of its population who are immigrants and that they are a threat to our traditional way of life.

The reality is that at the last census, (the latest full data we have), there were 7.5 million foreign-born residents in the UK, corresponding to 11.9 per cent of the total population. The latest estimate shows that 4.76 million (7.7 per cent) were born outside the EU and 2.24 million (3.6 per cent) were born in another EU member state.

Don’t forget that language often confuses. Foreign born resident, non UK national and migrants can mean different things in different contexts.

In the Political sphere, the home secretary Theresa May claimed that immigration is pushing thousands out of work, undercutting wages and bringing no economic benefit to the UK. This was reported all over the establishment press.

The facts tell a different story. There are currently 31 million people employed in the UK. Of these, 27.8 million are UK nationals, 3.1 million are non-UK nationals or 10% of the total workforce.

The Home Office, Teresa May’s own department recently published a report confirming that migration was statistically insignificant to the displacement of UK nationals in the workplace. This is also supported by the fact that those out of work (in the entire working age population) but seeking employment has changed little in well over two decades, increasing by just 0.4% in that time.

The same can be said of wages. An OECD report confirms that there is no evidence that migrant workers have cut wages to UK nationals. EU nationals are statistically more likely to be in work than UK nationals and considerably less likely to be on benefits. The Office For Budget Responsibility released a report stating that the net contribution that migrants make will have a positive effect on reducing the national debt.

The distortion of such detail does not fit the narrative of those with an agenda or it may be that we want to believe what we think is right, irrespective of the facts. So, now you know that you won’t be killed by a terrorist and that he/she won’t take your job or push your wages down, Brexit makes no sense on this basis.

The facts that distort our perceptions can make us uncomfortable when we are shown evidence that contradicts our beliefs.

For instance – the wealth that the top 1% own, we massively overestimated. The average guess of the proportion of UK wealth of the 1% is a staggering 59% when the actual figure is 23%. It’s a headline grabber for sure. As it turns out, Britain is most wrong on this out of 33 countries in a recent Ipsos Mori Poll.

When the public were asked what percentage they think the wealthiest 1% should own, they say on average 20%, only slightly below the actual figure.

Obesity is another subject we have wrong. It’s in the press because of the financial pressures being overweight causes the NHS and with headlines like “Obesity could bankrupt NHS if left unchecked” one can see the concerns.

Britons think only 44% of those aged over 20 are overweight or obese, but the actual figure is much higher at 62%. The truth is worse than our perceptions. And our perceptions may be driven by the fact that 70% of obese people think they are simply overweight.

The list of misperceptions goes on and mainly derived from misinformation and disinformation provided by the media.

  1. Teenage pregnancy: the British think one in six (16%) of all teenage girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, when the actual figure is only 3%.
  2. We think one in five British people are Muslims (21%) when the actual figure is 5% (one in twenty).
  3. Benefit fraud: the public think that £24 of every £100 of benefits is fraudulently claimed. Official estimates are that just 70 pence in every £100 is fraudulent – so the public conception is out by a factor of 34.
  4. 26 per cent of people think foreign aid is in the top three items the Government spends money on. It actually makes up just 1.1 per cent of expenditure.
  5. 29 per cent of people think more is spent on Jobseekers’ Allowance than pensions. In fact we spend 15 times more on pensions – £4.9 billion on JSA vs £74.2 billion on pensions.

The relationship between print and digital media, public opinion and government policy usually brings about distortion of the truth and is designed to point your perceptions and understandings of the world around you in one direction – a political one.

Research shows public opinion often deviates from facts on key social issues including crime, health, employment, benefit fraud and immigration – all of which are central to political ideologies.

How is it possible to develop good policy when public perceptions can be so out of shape with the evidence? And without doubt facts are often the enemy of politicians.

A good example is that public support for extending British airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria plummeted since MPs voted in favour of David Cameron’s case that rested on the existence of 70,000 moderate ground forces in Syria, since found to be completely false. Public support fell from 60% to 44% as a result. One conclusion you could make from this is that armed with the evidence, we may not have gone bombing Syria and the threat of terrorism may well have fallen.

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Every day, local officials across the United States make decisions that greatly impact the lives of the people they are supposed to serve. Sometimes, these decisions can have disastrous consequences.

One such case in Michigan is currently making national headlines and serves as an example that government officials on all levels must be watched closely.

This short video provides an excellent introduction to the current situation, which resulted in Michigan’s governor declaring a state of emergency this week. It shows state and local officials lying on camera simply because they think they can get away with it.

To save $5 million, these officials decided not to renegotiate a contract to get clean drinking water from Detroit, and instead opted to tap into the Flint River.

And some of these officials had been warned by the EPA months earlier that the river was contaminated with dangerous levels of lead.

Now, the residents of Flint are paying for the errors of their leaders. The lead-contaminated water is damaging the city’s water system but, more importantly, it threatens the health of anybody who drinks it. In the end, experts predict that the liability for this mistake will be “immense.”

It seems foolish to assume that this is an isolated problem of concern only to the immediate local population. As clean water becomes more scarce, might this be something we should all worry about?

Also, here’s former emergency manager Darnell Earley arguing that he’s not to blame for the decision to use the Flint River as the city’s source of drinking water:

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In July 2015, two Jewish settlers threw a Molotov cocktail into a Palestinian homeand set it alight. Inside was a young family of four: a married couple and their two young sons. The building was fully engulfed by the time the parents awoke. They struggled desperately to get their boys out of the house. The mother swept up a blanket she thought contained her 18 month-old baby. But when she reached safety, to her horror she discovered the baby remained inside. They never reached him.

The mother and father had massive burns and each later died of their wounds after days of agonizing suffering in the hospital. Only their four year-old son survived them. Even he had burns over 60% of his body. They were eventually all taken to an Israeli hospital with a specialized burn unit. Ironically, in October the hospital forwarded the medical bills for treatment to the Palestinian Authority. Imagine: Israelis wipe out a family and Palestine has to foot the bill.

After the carnage was over, observers waited for the results of the investigation … and waited, and waited. In September, the Israeli defense minister suddenly announced that justice might never be done in order to protect the “methods and sources” of the Shabak (a Hebrew acronym for one of Israel’s major intelligence agencies, also known as Shin Bet). No suspects were arrested; the case seemed to be going nowhere.

International figures like Ban Ki Moon and other human rights authorities pressured the Israelis to announce results. All of a sudden, the hitherto somnolent security apparatus had to scramble to produce.

Arrests … better late than never

Amiram Benoliel, confessed murderer of Dawabsheh family

Amiram Benoliel, confessed murderer of Dawabsheh family.

In late November, several arrests were finally made. But, as in all similar security investigations, the Shabak put an ironclad gag order on the case. Names of suspects or their alleged roles could not be discussed in the media. Generally, the Shabak claim that these gag orders protect the integrity of the case and prevent other suspects from learning of the investigation.

Elisha Odess, 17, baby-eyed suspected killer of Dawabshe family. Caption: “We only have the Lord Blessed be He. We fear only Him.”

Elisha Odess, 17, baby-eyed suspected killer of Dawabshe family. Caption: “We only have the Lord Blessed be He. We fear only Him.”

Israel Keller, Jewish radical suspected in the Dawabsheh murders and likely an informant for Israel's intelligence service Shabak.

Israel Keller, Jewish radical suspected in the Dawabsheh murders and likely informant for Israel’s intelligence service, Shabak.

In many such cases, an Israeli security source provides confidential information to me that can’t be reported domestically. Because it can’t be reported inside Israel, it’s almost never reported outside either.

This source, though, offered an inside perspective on these matters. Throughout December, I reported the arrest of a number of individuals, their names, and what was known of their background. Some were arrested specifically for their connection to the Dawabsheh murders and others were arrested for other terror attacks against Palestinians. One of the most heinous of those was the arson attack against the historic Church of Loaves and Fishes in northern Israel.

Three of the suspects were of particular interest. Amiram Benoliel (sometimes transcribed “Ben Uliel”), Israel Keller and Elisha Odess. Late in December, the Israeli press reported that one of the prisoners had confessed to his role in the murders and helped the police reconstruct the crime. Though they could not report who this individual was, a coded Facebook posting from a settler activist alluded to Benoliel

This was confirmed over the past weekend, when the Shabak partially lifted the gag order to confirm that Benoliel was the main perpetrator and had confessed. The same report says that an accomplice was also charged, though he was not at the scene of the crime. It didn’t report his name. But my source confirms that the accomplice who helped plan the attack was Elisha Odess. He is also suspected in the church arson assault as well.

U.S. citizen charged in Dawabsheh murders

Odess is a U.S. citizen. His family in the U.S. has met with senators and asked the State Department to intervene on his behalf. They complained that he’d been arrested without his medications. The powerful settler lobby, consisting of communal leaders and rabbis, protested vehemently against alleged torture tactics used on the Jewish terror detainees.

Ilana Odess protest the treatment of Elisha Odess. Photo: (Glenn Richter/Jewish Forward)

Ilana Odess protest the treatment of Elisha Odess.
Photo: (Glenn Richter/Jewish Forward)

They failed to note that Palestinian security suspects are routinely tortured far worse for far less severe offenses. The methods of torture used are well known and documented by B’Tselem and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. Though Israeli human rights NGOs routinely oppose torture in all forms, settler groups never denounce Palestinian torture.

This murder case seems to have aroused the Israeli security services when so much previous Jewish terrorism hasn’t. They have arrested nearly 100 suspects. Many remain in administrative detention, under long-term arrest without trial. The Shabak itself tacitly acknowledges it has used torture and the Supreme Court, despite its prior rulings against the use of torture, has declined to direct the Shabak to desist.

Despite this reversal of decades of neglect, Israeli police continue using tactics that violate the rule of law and which are largely eschewed in democratic nations. The case relies largely on forced confessions rather than jury trials. In order to foil terror attacks, preventive detention (administrative detention) is used to put people away, rather than requiring prosecutors to build cases against them and try them. In addition, the illiberal use of gag orders hides the Shabak’s motives and shields the case from public scrutiny.

The settlers ostentatious, even outrageous, behavior demonstrates the terror elements among them. Last month, two prominent settler families with violent pasts celebrated the marriage of their children at a settlement. Hundreds of guests danced boisterously with assault rifles, Molotov cocktails, and knives held high in the air (it’s a common ritual at such weddings, and called the “Knife Dance”). They enlarged a photo of the Dawabsheh baby who died in the fire, and were seen on video stabbing it with a knife.

Watch Jewish Radicals Celebrating Wedding by Stabbing Photo of Dawabsheh Baby:

U.S. citizens’ role in Anti-Palestinian terror

I’ve made repeated requests of the State Department to comment on the numerous Americans who’ve been similar charged with murder and other violent crimes against Palestinians. Among them, Jack Teitel, Adam Livvix, and, now, Odess.

In a related matter, I asked the State Department to comment on the reported $220-million in tax-deductible donations from American Jews which fund Israel’s illegal settlements. A portion of these funds also support NGOs like Honenu, which directly fund convicted Israeli terrorists and their families during their prison terms. Among their largest donors are the Falic family of Florida, owners of Duty Free Shops of America. They made a 2011 $60,000 gift to an Israeli charity which is the fiscal sponsor for Honenu.

The State Department ignored my requests for comment. The silence of the U.S. government in the face of such support for terrorism suggests that we condemn Islamist terror while condoning Jewish terror.

Shabak’s “Man in Samaria”

A man mourns alongside the body of a one-and-a-half year old boy, Ali Dawabsheh, during his funeral in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus. The sleeping toddler was burned to death when Jewish assailants set fire to two Palestinian homes, an attack that also critically wounded the child's 4-year-old brother and parents. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

A man mourns alongside the body of a one-and-a-half year old boy, Ali Dawabsheh, during his funeral in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus. The sleeping toddler was burned to death when Jewish assailants set fire to two Palestinian homes, an attack that also critically wounded the child’s 4-year-old brother and parents. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Returning to the night of the Dawabsheh murders, a Palestinian eyewitness saw two masked attackers stand over the burning figures of the father and mother taunting them. An Israeli settler security unit reported seeing Israelis (plural) leaving Duma that night. Yet the charge sheet for Benoliel says he was there alone.

We know that Odess was not at the scene of the crime. He had been supposed to meet Benoliel in a nearby cave, where they made their preparations for the assault. But he never showed and the eventual perpetrator left on his mission without him. So who was the mystery man?

That is where things get interesting. Returning to Defense Minister Bogie Yaalon’s earlier claim the case might never be solved because doing would compromise security sources. My source tells me that there was a mystery man involved in the plot. I call him, ironically, “Our Man in Samaria,” echoing Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana. He was a settler youth who had a dual allegiance. He was among the plotters, but had been turned by a Shabak recruiter. The “plant” was supposed to report everything to his handler about the conspiracy (which had been given the name “The Rebellion,” echoing that of Bar Kochba against the ancient Romans), enabling authorities to disrupt violent crimes before they were committed. Except a most unfortunate thing happened. The agent provocateur betrayed his handlers and left them out in the cold.

Such a security betrayal is not without precedent in Israeli history. The Shabak had recruited someone in Yigal Amir’s circle to report on his plans before the Yitzhak Rabin assassination. Yet Avishai Raviv conveniently “forgot” to tell his handler that Amir had repeatedly threatened to kill Rabin. This left them blind at the very moment the most devastating political murder in the state’s history was being planned.

Israel’s security agencies (Shabak, Mossad and military intelligence) are exquisitely sensitive to how they are portrayed in the media and Israeli society. They have faced their share of embarrassments, scandals, and farces. They understand that their budgets and prestige are dependent on successes. Exposing yet another failure which led to the murder or a baby and the orphaning of his surviving brother would only bring further opprobrium on the Shabak.

So it was in no hurry to solve the crime if it didn’t have to. But after the international hue and cry, when it became clear that action was required, the domestic spy agency had to ensure the most damaging part of the story would not come out. At least not in the mainstream press.

But I believe that there was indeed a second attacker there that night. And it was the agent provocateur whose identity the Shabak desperately wants concealed.

I also have a suspicion (unconfirmed by my source) who the Shabak turncoat may be. One of the suspects Israel arrested is Israel Keller. But of all those arrested under suspicion of involvement in the Dawabsheh case, Keller was the only one released. I think there is a reason he was treated differently than the rest: Shabak’s Man in Samaria is Israel Keller.

Keller’s father enjoys a minor celebrity in Israeli pop consciousness. Nir Keller as a youth, developed an unlikely passion for surfing. Israel isn’t known for its surfing so he travels the world seeking out the world’s best surf spots. Even more startling, in early adulthood he became a Bratslaver Hasid, a follower of the 19th century wonder Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.

If this set of personal qualities strikes you as fertile ground for fiction, an Israeli novelist agreed and wrote the book, Mekimi.  It includes a character, Brenner, based loosely on the real Keller.  He’s a fun-loving surfer dude who basks in the aura of the wisdom of “The Rebbe.”  The book was adapted for a successful cable TV miniseries, which is where Keller’s celebrity was made. Keller adds “terror dad” to his other striking appellations as surfer-Hasid.

Nir Keller holds especially racist views of both Palestinians and Blacks. During Hanukah, when Israel’s beloved President Reuven Rivlin travel to the White House to light Hanukkah candles with President Obama, Keller was calling the Israeli president “Der Fuhrer” on his Facebook page:

I never saw a kippah [head-covering] on the head of Der Führer Rivlin when he lit candles with the Arab [Obama] in the Black House.  I’m sure he never said the blessings over the candles either.  But even had he donned a kippah and said the blessings, there is no worse example of someone who goes down on bended knee and defiling God’s name in the history of the people of Israel..

Keller called Israel a “criminal state” for arresting his son and taunted Israel’s defense minister saying he lived in “Dumaland,” which is an insult comparable to calling Gaza “Hamastan.”

Israeli Media Falls Short in Reporting National Security

As this case develops, after authorities have elicited a confessed or laid charges, the gag orders will eventually be eased or removed entirely. Then Israeli media can report on it more openly. Possibly they can even expose aspects of it which are hitherto unknown, given how little information those reporting on it now have. But of one thing you may be sure: Israeli journalists will refuse to acknowledge the journalist who broke the gag as they’ve done with previous stories of mine; these very stories which put much of the pressure on the security apparatus to remove the gags, because they know a reporter already had the goods and was reporting it abroad anyway. It does seem, except in a few instances, there is an oath of omerta among Israeli media about acknowledging the role of outsider journalists, those who reject the national consensus on security matters and expose the secrets of the national security state.

Richard Silverstein is a MintPress analyst who has written the Tikun Olam blog since 2003, specializing in Israeli politics and US foreign affairs. He earned a BA from Columbia University, a BHL from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and MA in Comparative Literature from UCLA. Follow Richard on Twitter: @Richards1052

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Washington, which leveled widespread sanctions against Russia in an increasingly tenuous bid to isolate and undermine the stability of Moscow, has found itself humiliated and backtracking as it lifts bans on Russia’s RD-180 rocket engines.

And even as Washington does so, the US media finds itself still painting Russia as a villain even as the US finds itself forced to buy rockets from a nation it claims invaded Crimea, is fostering a “hybrid war” in eastern Ukraine, and is bombing US-backed “rebels” in Syria. It is worth mentioning that Russia’s RD-180 rocket engines, possessing unparalleled performance US firms have yet to match, will be used to launch payloads into Earth orbit for the US Department of Defense.

Popular Science in its article “Congress Moves to Lift Ban on Using Russian Rocket Engines” claims:

After Russia invaded Crimea, Congress swore off Russian rocket engines. But its ban on using these rockets to launch military payloads into space was perhaps a bit too hasty. A new bill approved by Congress has found a way to nullify the ban.

United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that has long been the primary contractor for launching Defense Department payloads into space, relies on the Russian-made RD-180. ULA recently declined to bid on a launch contract due to its limited supply of rocket engines, and the Pentagon is not happy. Though ULA is developing a new engine, the BE-4 is years away from reaching the launch pad. This is, after all, rocket science that we’re talking about.

While Russia did not in fact “invade Crimea,” Popular Science is correct in pointing out that a ULA-made replacement for the Russian RD-180’s is years from becoming a reality.

Popular Science also hints toward another reason that might be behind the lift of sanctions on Russian rockets:

ULA has long had a monopoly on military payload launches. SpaceX recently got permission to use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch military payloads as well, right around the time ULA dropped out because of the ban. If the ban is lifted, it means ULA and SpaceX will take part in the first competition for a military launch since 2006–and that could translate into savings for the U.S. government.

Ironically, a desire by ULA (a joint venture between defense industry giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin) to maintain their monopoly and all the unwarranted power and wealth associated with it, has forced them to do business with one of the nations it and a collection of other special interests on Wall Street, in Washington and in London have been attempting to undermine, divide and destroy for decades.

SpaceX seeks to disrupt and decentralize the aerospace industry, a direct threat to Boeing and Lockheed Martin both in short-term and long-term regards.

And it seems that both in short-term and long-term regards, the strategy of these special interests on Wall Street, in Washington and in London, is incoherent and self-defeating. As it attempts to isolate and undermine Moscow, it finds itself threatened by disruptive business models and innovators at home in America. To tamp down domestic competition, these interests have ended up rolling back sanctions against foreign competitors.

Impotent and incoherent, it appears that the US has managed to do more harm to itself than to Russia. While Russia is certainly suffering from sanctions, should it overcome them, it will come out stronger and more self-sufficient on the other side. For the US however, win or lose against Russia, it is clearly harming itself in the process.

For the global public looking on, flooded daily with news and op-eds about how much of a threat Russia is to global peace and stability, the fact that the US Department of Defense is still essentially buying rockets from Russia to put American satellites into orbit should serve as a reminder that nothing resembling actual principles, facts or honesty guides US foreign policy or how it is presented across US and European media.

If the US finds itself unable to justify continued sanctions against Russian rockets, rockets used in vital roles for maintaining US defense capabilities, how is the US continuing to justify other sanctions against Russia that remain in place? Are these sanctions in place simply because the businesses being hurt by them across the West lack the lobbying power of Boeing and Lockheed Martin? And are we expected to continue believing Russia is such a “threat” but still America’s primary partner in launching defense satellites into space, not to mention American and European astronauts and supply missions to the International Space Station?

In fact, flip-flopping on Russian sanctions seems like it should indicate to various stakeholders in Washington and London’s international order that it is looking less like an organized global enterprise, and more like a blind tropism seeking profits wherever it finds them, even if they are over the edge of a cliff. For these stakeholders, it may be time to consider divesting and/or diversifying into something truly looking with its eyes open toward the future and toward real progress.

Ulson Gunnar is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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[Featured image: State Department Spokesman John Kirby. Source: Wikipedia]

A “working paper” written by US diplomats envisions Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ceding power to a new government by March 2017. The State Department confirmed the document was authentic, but denied that it represented official US policy.

The key points of the policy paper were published on Wednesday by the Associated Press. It envisions an 18-month political process, starting with talks in Vienna next month and ending in Assad’s resignation next year.

According to the document, by April there would be a “security committee” composed of members of the current government and opposition groups. By May, the Syrian parliament would be dissolved and a new transitional authority established, with the mission to draft a new constitution and pass reforms. The Syrians would vote on the constitution in a referendum scheduled for January 2017. Two months later, the paper says, Assad “relinquishes presidency; inner circle departs.”

At the press conference on Wednesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby acknowledged the paper was authentic, but tried to dismiss it as a working-level document written by a staff member.

“That kind of work is done here at the State Department all the time,” Kirby said, adding that it did not represent official US policy but merely laid out a potential timeline for the political process in Syria.

“All these are targets,” Kirby said. “Our hope and expectation is that the entire 18-month process will start this month.”

Does envisioning Assad’s departure next year, rather than right away, suggest that Washington wants to avoid a power vacuum that could be exploited by Islamic State, RT’s Gayane Chichakyan asked.

While acknowledging that the US wanted to avoid a collapse of Syrian institutions, Kirby said the US policy towards the Syrian president has not changed. He cited Secretary of State John Kerry as saying that “the exact timing of his departure isn’t something that we’re fixated on.”

In December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution endorsing the political process that would set up “inclusive and non-sectarian governance” in Syria, using the 18-month timeline framework referenced in the State Department document.

Kirby’s efforts to dismiss the document, and AP’s coverage of it, as somehow irrelevant irked the agency’s chief diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee, who at one point asked: “Are your arms a little tired, [from] the straw man you put up to knock down?”

Earlier in the briefing, Lee needled Kirby over the statements about North Korea that made it sound as if the Obama administration rejected reality.

“We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear armed state. And yet it is,” Lee said. “You also say this about other things. You say you’ll never accept Crimea as a part of Russia. Yet it is.”

“Isn’t it time to recognize these things for what they are and not live in this in this illusion, or fantasy, where you pretend that things that are, are not?” Lee asked, to chuckles in the briefing room.

“The short answer is, no,” Kirby retorted, denying that Washington lived in a fantasy world. Rather, he argued, there was a difference between dealing with reality and officially acknowledging it.

Syria has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011, with fractious rebel groups backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the US demanding the ouster of President Assad. The conflict has claimed an estimated 250,000 lives and displaced millions. Russia and Iran have resisted all efforts by outside powers to determine Syria’s future, insisting that this would be a decision for the Syrians themselves.

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[Featured image: Yale School of Public Health]

In an analysis of more than 1,000 chemicals in fluids used in and created by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), Yale School of Public Health researchers found that many of the substances have been linked to reproductive and developmental health problems, and the majority had undetermined toxicity due to insufficient information.

Further exposure and epidemiological studies are urgently needed to evaluate potential threats to human health from chemicals found in fracking fluids and wastewater created by fracking, said the research team in their paper, published Jan. 6 in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental and Epidemiology.

Illustration by Pat Lynch / Yale University

The research team evaluated available data on 1,021 chemicals used in fracking, a process that recovers oil and natural gas from deep within the ground by using a mixture of hydraulic-fracturing fluids that can contain hundreds of chemicals. The process creates significant amounts of wastewater and fractures the bedrock, posing a potential threat to both surface water and underground aquifers that supply drinking water, note the researchers.

While they lacked definitive information on the toxicity of the majority of the chemicals, the team members analyzed 240 substances and concluded that 157 of them — chemicals such as arsenic, benzene, cadmium, lead, formaldehyde, chlorine, and mercury — were associated with either developmental or reproductive toxicity. Of these, 67 chemicals were of particular concern because they had an existing federal health-based standard or guideline, said the scientists, adding that data on whether levels of chemicals exceeded the guidelines were too limited to assess.

“This evaluation is a first step to prioritize the vast array of potential environmental contaminants from hydraulic fracturing for future exposure and health studies,” said Nicole Deziel, senior author and assistant professor of public health. “Quantification of the potential exposure to these chemicals, such as by monitoring drinking water in people’s homes, is vital for understanding the public health impact of hydraulic fracturing.”

Some previous studies have observed associations between proximity to hydraulic fracturing sites and reproductive and developmental problems, but they did not investigate specific chemicals. This latest evaluation could inform the design of future studies by highlighting which chemicals could have the highest probability of health impact, note the researchers.

Fracking has increased dramatically in recent years and the practice is expected to grow in the future. It involves drilling into the earth — as deep as two miles — and releasing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals that fracture the rock and release the gas trapped inside. Fracking is now commonly used in the United States and has significantly boosted domestic natural gas production and driven down prices.

However, the practice may come with a significant public health consequences, warn critics of fracking, noting that the process has the potential to contaminate drinking water supplies with toxic chemicals. Air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and small earth tremors from the drilling and waste disposal processes are also cited as concerns.

“We focused on reproductive and developmental toxicity because these effects may be early indicators of environmental hazards. Gaps in our knowledge highlight the need to improve our understanding of the potential adverse effects associated with these compounds,” said Elise Elliott, a public health doctoral student and the paper’s first author.

The researchers determined that wastewater produced by fracking may be even more toxic than the fracking fluids themselves. This led the researchers to conclude that more focus is needed to study not just what goes into the well, but what chemicals and by-products are generated during the fracking process.

The researchers also noted that the 781 chemicals for which information is currently lacking need to be rigorously analyzed to determine if they pose health threats.

In addition to Deziel and Elliott, the research team included Yale School of Public Health Deputy Dean Brian Leaderer; Michael Bracken, the Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Epidemiology (chronic diseases); and Adrienne Ettinger, an assistant professor at the school when the research was conducted.

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Kosovo is often cited by liberal interventionists as NATO’s success story and now a reason for attacking Syria. However, the ongoing lawlessness in the country shows nothing could be further from the truth.

In 1999, NATO bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days, culminating in the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from the Serbian province of Kosovo. Tens of thousands were killed or maimed by the airstrikes, and Kosovo was carved out as a NATO statelet under the control of UNMIK (the United Nations Mission in Kosovo) in alliance with its local quislings the Kosovo Liberation Army (the KLA).

Last month’s parliamentary debate on British airstrikes in Syria witnessed several MPs citing the operation as a great success. Labour MP Ivan Lewis was “proud of the difficult choices that we made” in Kosovo and elsewhere, which he claimed “saved hundreds of thousands of lives”.

Kosovo was particularly held up by those supporting British military action in Syria as an example of how airstrikes alone, without support from ground forces, can be victorious. Mocking those who argued that “coalition action which rests almost wholly on bombing…will have little effect”, Margaret Beckett responded “well, tell that to the Kosovans, and do not forget that if there had not been any bombing in Kosovo perhaps 1 million Albanian Muslim refugees would be seeking refuge in Europe.”

Conservative MP Richard Benyon concurred, adding: “I asked one my constituents––someone who knows a bit about this, General Sir Mike Jackson––whether he could remember any conflict where air power alone made a difference. He thought and said one word: Kosovo.”

The argument is entirely fallacious. One obvious difference between the NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999 and the British bombing of Syria today is the contrast in their stated aims. NATO was ostensibly bombing Yugoslavia to achieve a limited goal – the secession of Kosovo. In Syria today, however, the ostensible aim of airstrikes against ISIS is the destruction of ISIS. In other words, while the first aimed to force a concession from the force it was targeting; the other apparently aims at the total elimination of its target. While enough punishment might persuade someone to concede a demand, it will not persuade anyone to agree to their own eradication. There is, thus, no parallel in the logic behind the two campaigns, and anyone trying to draw one is being entirely disingenuous.

Secondly, when the actual historical record is examined it becomes clear that, even on its own terms, NATO did not actually achieve its demands. The Rambouillet ‘agreement’ was NATO’s eleventh hour diktat to Yugoslavia on the eve of bombing, designed to be rejected in order to justify the bombing raids. The key bone of contention for Yugoslavia in this document was that it demanded NATO troops be granted full access to air fields, roads, ports and railroads across the country – that is to say, an effective NATO occupation of the entire federal republic.

Obviously, as Sara Flounders and John Catalinotto of the International Action Centre have written, “no self-respecting government could accept such an ultimatum”. Instead, the Yugoslav government offered to withdraw their troops from Kosovo. This was rejected by NATO, who began bombing within days. After nearly three months of heroic resistance from the Yugoslav people, the bombing ended with Yugoslav troops withdrawing from Kosovo – without any NATO occupation of the rest of the country. That is to say, the war was brought to a close on the terms originally offered by the Yugoslavs, and not on the terms demanded by NATO at the outset: hardly the overwhelming victory claimed by the likes of British General Mike Jackson.

‘Opposition has enough gas:’ Anti-Serbia MPs teargasses Kosovo parliament…again http://t.co/85GibFAqXZpic.twitter.com/kzmgtwHMLV

— RT (@RT_com) October 16, 2015

What really gives the lie to the ‘Kosovo success’ narrative, however, is simply the condition of NATO’s statelet today. An in-depth piece by Vedat Xhymshiti in Foreign Policy Journal last month notes that “Kosovo is the poorest and most isolated country in Europe, with millionaire politicians steeped in crime. A third of the workforce is unemployed, and corruption is widespread. Youth unemployment (those aged 25 and under) stands at 2 in 3, and nearly half of the 1.8 million citizens of Kosovo are considered to be in poverty. From December 2014 until February 2015, about 5% of the population was forced to leave the country in an effort to find a better life, studies and more dignified jobs, on their uncertain path towards wealthier countries in the EU.”

The British MPs’ argument that NATO’s takeover of Kosovo was achieved by airstrikes alone, without ground forces, is a lie. NATO’s allies in 1999 were the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), a violent sectarian group who openly sought the establishment of an ethnically supremacist state – much like the forces supported by NATO in Libya, Syria and Ukraine. Once NATO had destroyed the Yugoslav administration in Kosovo, effective power on the ground passed to the KLA, who set about implementing their vision of an ethnically pure Kosovo via a series of pogroms, massacres and persecutions of the province’s Serb, Jewish and Roma populations. They gained effective control of Kosovan politics, and used this power to guarantee themselves impunity both for their historic and ongoing war crimes, and for their massive expansion of organized criminality.

In December 2010, a Council of Europe report named Kosovan Prime Minister and former KLA leader Hashim Thaci “the head of a “mafia-like” Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe”, according the Guardian newspaper’s summary. Following NATO’s intervention, Thaci’s Drenica group within the KLA, according to the report, seized control of “most of the illicit criminal enterprises” in which Kosovans were involved in Albania. The report noted that “agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaçi and other members of his Drenica group as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics.” The human rights investigator who authored the report, Dick Marty, commented that: “Thaçi and these other Drenica group members are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime.”

In addition to their leading role in Europe’s heroin smuggling trade, Thaci and his group were also named as having been responsible for a professional organ smuggling operation involving the kidnapping and murder of Serb civilians in order to harvest and sell their kidneys. Currently serving as both Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Thaci’s NATO protection guarantees he has never been brought to justice for any of these crimes.

Indeed, NATO-sponsored impunity has been a consistent theme amongst the new Kosovan elite. A report by Amnesty International published in August 2013 noted that “the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) singularly failed to investigate the abduction and murders of Kosovo Serbs in the aftermath of the 1998-1999 conflict” adding that “UNMIK’s failure to investigate what constituted a widespread, as well as a systematic, attack on a civilian population and, potentially, crimes against humanity, has contributed to the climate of impunity prevailing in Kosovo.” Marty’s report, too, noted the “faltering political will on the part of the international community to effectively prosecute the former leaders of the KLA”, and Carla del Ponte, former chief war crimes prosecutor at the Hague, stated that she was barred from prosecuting KLA leaders.

15 years on: Looking back at #NATO‘s ‘humanitarian’ bombing of #Yugoslaviahttp://t.co/Rlp7obqSmapic.twitter.com/cnJGqmDeci

— RT (@RT_com) March 24, 2014

UNMIK’s responsibilities for police and justice came to an end in December 2008, following Kosovo’s controversial declaration of independence. It was replaced by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which, according to Amnesty International, inherited 1,187 war crimes cases that UNMIK had failed to investigate. All the signs are that the overt impunity that has prevailed up until now will be replaced by lip service to the rule of law, accompanied by the prosecution of a few low level operatives, whilst maintaining the protection for those at the top. Following the Council of Europe’s damning report, EULEX spent three years investigating the claims, eventually publishing a verdict that was a textbook case of damage-limitation whitewash. EULEX concluded that the crimes were indeed real, and were linked to leading KLA members, but refused to corroborate the names of any specific individuals involved, despite copious evidence. Thaci’s protection, it seems, is absolute.

Nevertheless, in August of this year, the Kosovan parliament finally and grudgingly approved (after initially rejecting) the establishment of a special war crimes court to prosecute KLA leaders for crimes committed between 1998 and 2000. In moves highly reminiscent of scenes outside both the Libyan and Ukrainian parliaments when tentative and tokenistic legal moves were made to end the impunity of the sectarian death squads, the parliament has come under repeated attack ever since. Riots and six separate teargas attacks by the opposition have brought the normal functioning of the Kosovan parliament to a standstill. Failed state status surely beckons.

Meanwhile, the credibility of EULEX, whose officials will be overseeing the establishment of the new court, was further thrown into doubt in November 2014 when Andrea Capussela, former head of UNMIK’s economic unit, released the results of an in-depth analysis of the most significant cases in which EULEX had been involved. Seven of these she claimed had only been brought after intense international pressure, whilst in a further eight, no investigation was carried out at all, despite “credible and well-documented evidence strongly suggesting that serious crimes had been committed.”

She noted that “Eulex’s conduct in these 15 cases – the eight ignored ones and the seven opened under pressure – suggests that the mission tended not to prosecute high-level crime, and, when it had to, it sought not to indict or convict prominent figures”. During its six years of operating, she noted, only four convictions had been secured – three of them against only secondary figures, whilst “higher-ranking figures linked to the same crimes were either not investigated or indicted”. A senior Kosovan investigator noted that “There are people killing people and getting away with it because of Unmik and Eulex,” adding that “The political elite and Eulex have fused. They are indivisible. The laws are just for poor people,” Indeed, Eulex seem to be operating increasingly like a mafia themselves, last year, putting “pressure”, according to Amnesty International, on “journalist, Vehbi Kajtazi, who had reported alleged corruption in EULEX”.

In a final twist to NATO’s ‘success story’, Kosovo has now become the largest per-capita provider of fighters for regime change in Syria. The official figure is 300 but more reliable estimates suggests the true figure is more than 1000 (from a population of 2 million), including one of the top ten ISIS commanders, Lavdrim Muhaxheri. As state education, along with most other social provision, has collapsed since 1999, Saudi-sponsored Madrasas have filled the gap, providing an extreme Wahhabi sectarian education now feeding its first generation of impoverished graduates into NATO’s new Syrian battlefields. No surprise, then, that Kosovan government’s efforts to prevent this have been “superficial and ineffective”, according to David Philips in the Huffington Post.

The ‘lesson’ of Kosovo, then, is not that “airpower works” or any other such nonsense. The real lesson is what it reveals about NATO’s formula for the destruction of independent regional powers – relying on a combination of aerial bombardment alongside the empowerment of local sectarian death squads, who come to dominate the political scene in the aftermath, obliterating the rule of law and guaranteeing a dysfunctional state incapable of providing either dignity or security to its citizens. This was the same formula that was used on Libya in 2011 and currently being attempted in Syria today. Of course, for NATO, all of this is indeed a success: Yugoslavia dismembered; its resources plundered at the expense of its desperate and impoverished people; and Kosovo turned into a provider of shock troops for regime change in Syria, and transit hub for heroin and organ trafficking. If this is what NATO calls a success, we must all pray for failure.

Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
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The Dag Hammarskjöld Library at the United Nations — named after the secretary general who died in 1961 — doesn’t make the news very often. Meant to be used by the professional Secretariat staff of the UN and by national delegations, it stores documents and publications from the UN and related organizations, as well as a raft of other books and materials on international relations, law, economics, and other UN-relevant topics. So, you know, a library.

But even the UN’s library has a social media presence now, and recently it tweeted the publication that got checked out the most frequently in 2015:

What was our most popular book of 2015? Find it in our library catalogue! https://t.co/hmfeCmGKCj (UN only) pic.twitter.com/niGXUxHtGt

— UN Library (@UNLibrary) December 31, 2015

To be clear: The UN is full of delegates representing awful dictatorships, and the book that got checked out the most from the UN library was about … how to be immune from war crimes prosecution. That does not seem like a good thing!

…Guys. Why would you brag about this this is not good. https://t.co/Rt2tWjUzyU

— Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown) January 6, 2016

The book in question isn’t a UN document — it’s a doctoral thesis from the University of Lucerne by Ramona Pedretti, pursuing the question of when heads of state and other government officials can be charged in foreign courts. Generally, she explains, there are two forms of immunity in international law from which heads of state can benefit.

“Immunity ratione personae prevents incumbent Heads of State from being subjected to foreign criminal jurisdiction,” Pedretti writes. “In contrast, immunity ratione materiae protects official acts, i.e. acts performed in an official capacity on behalf of the State, from scrutiny by foreign courts.”

She concludes that immunity ratione personae is absolute, and thus that domestic courts in one country can’t indict the sitting leader of another nation, whereas ratione materiae can be invalidated for defendants who’ve left office — as happened with the arrests of the Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann by Israel and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet by Spain. Basically, Pedretti is arguing that incumbent heads of state can’t be charged and prosecuted by a foreign court, whereas past heads of state can.

Matters are slightly different for the International Criminal Court, a treaty-based permanent court that has indicted incumbents — notably current Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009. As Pedretti explains, those cases can still raise ratione personae issues, and the African Union invoked that principle in condemning Bashir’s indictment. The Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC disagreed, arguing that international courts are generally exempt from ratione personae restrictions, which are only meant to apply to domestic courts in foreign countries (e.g., it means the United States can’t indict, say, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe in American court).

Pedretti ultimately argues that leaders of countries that ratified the ICC’s underlying treaty, and ones whose cases were referred by the UN Security Council (like Bashir’s), are vulnerable to seeing their ratione personae immunity taken away, but that it goes too far to say that all heads of statement lack immunity before the court.

It’s all very nuanced and interesting stuff, especially if you have reason to think you’ve committed crimes that could land you in the Hague!

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America is to be judged by its citizens, not its politicians. But if Americans lose contact with one another; substitute real, tangible realities with virtual ones projected on internet and television screens; refuse to engage in the democratic process and choose passivity over involvement, nihilism over hope, fatalism over self-determination; remain complacent about if not ignorant of US actions and wars in the world; adopt definitions of themselves that are crafted by self-serving special interests, profiteers or merchants of war and hate running now for president from both political parties, they lose all concepts of who they are, what they stand for, and what really constitutes American values.

As it stands, Americans are on the cusp of recognizing that they are losing their historic identity, or the one they embraced before 9/11. 

In the collective American consciousness questing for material objects, success, fame, wealth, property and stock equities, together with a megalomaniacal drive for Empire to dominate a world now splitting itself into East and West, there remains no public figure speaking for “everyone”; for unity through diversity; for peace; for the poor, homeless, disabled and elderly; for children and young people who will inherit a financially bankrupt nation that cheerleads its populist billionaires who take all, avoid taxes, give little back, blame the scapegoat, and ignore the plight of others, particularly the plight of young generations who will inherit it all as they advance into tomorrow’s leadership positions. Who speaks for them?

Almost unconsciously, Americans salute a market-centric culture unaware it is controlled by Wall Street, bond traders, speculators, hedge funds and enormous multinational corporations and banking hegemons. Silicon Valley young technocratic tycoons provide proof of American superiority and exceptionalism and the momentous rewards capitalism bestows. The rewards of capitalism, however, go to the few and fewer and what are concealed in a sea of commercials and seamless hype are what many young people should already know; for during a majority of their years as mature adults America has been a nation of non-stop endless wars; has become the largest debtor nation in the world – debt that can’t be repaid and probably won’t be repaid. It has devolved into waves of police-sanctioned violence and murders, socially damaging hate-groups and vicious political vitriolic. When done in the name of competition and profits, it legally sanctions illegalities.

Young people have learned privacy is non-existent and social interactions take place using costly digital devices connected through toll booths owned by corporate networks behind whose one-way mirror sit both government and mega-corporations amassing personal information, biometrics, opinions, attitudes, consumer behavior, political affiliations, friendships, credit and banking details, and their psychographic profiles for private profit and for social and government behavior-mod programs and social engineering.

Many have learned a stable job of 40 hours per week with benefits, sick pay and vacation time is a luxury afforded a few. Some have learned to live at home with mom and dad at age 25 because they can’t afford high rents at meager wages, let alone purchase a home. Some will live through decades of paying-off college loans that delivered greater debt peonage than employment opportunity.  They have seen how credit is mistakenly viewed as an asset and used to salvage households that have undergone decades of stagnant wages. They have seen benefits accrue in accumulation of wealth for employers, corporations and investment banks.

Should they ever run for president, they know they will have to agree to kill “innocent people and children”, conduct drone operations on “targeted assassination” lists, approve and expand America’s seamless dragnet surveillance state, enlist people their age to die for wars they had no say in and no true understand of. If young people think the American Dream is over and act apart and clustered together in a swarm, they do so for good reasons: there are no public figures offsetting the “post 9/11 normal” with incisive alternatives, real debate, knowledgeable dissent and penetrative truths about the causes underlying America’s many imbroglios. It should be no surprise that most millennials didn’t vote in 2014 (87% stayed home).

But the “9/11 normal” in this country is not the normal I knew, is not the America that weaned me, is not the normal I wish to live under or see young people struggle with in order to survive. If any group is blameless in causing any one problem now afflicting America, it is they. But they are too young to have known a better time; some can’t imagine one; many have relegated America before 9/11 to the history books! This is how it seems for a millennial.

My employee was neither normal nor “new normal”, but an example of what UK economist Guy Standing calls “The Precariat: The New Dangerous Generation”. [1] This self-defined uneducated, politically unaware person who worked for me over five years suddenly presented a dangerous and threatening remark recently. Knowing she cannot find Chicago on the map; knowing she is encircled by friends and family with little grasp of government, American history or the democratic process,  she asked me to define a “white supremacist”, which I did in detail. Knowing she defines African-Americans as “dem people” and everything she hears about President Obama is that he’s “gonna take guns away”, I proceeded cautiously. At the finish, she replied to my explanation with emphatically shocking defiance.  She shouted back ferociously: “Obama should be assassinated!”

Keeping calm, I asked why he should be assassinated? “Because he’s not good for America,” she quipped. “Why isn’t he good?” I asked. She looked up and down, rolled her eyes, looked up and down and with a coy self-effacing smile beamed, “Gee, I don’t know.”

Her supervisor didn’t find the remark troublesome but did cite her for talking politics to a client and pulled her from my account. “You finally got to see who and what she really is,” stressed the supervisor. Later, in conversation, a police chief told me her inflammatory statement was to be considered a “form of free speech”; and I should “consider the source”. I replied that for many people who lived through three assassinations in the 1960s, a call for the killing of a president is not to be defended as free speech or viewed lightly. If a majority of Americans do find it defendable, America is in far worse shape today than at any other time in my 68 years, I answered. Although this worker is far from committing such an act, how many people does she represent who might try to commit this crime? No president need be assassinated when the legal system is available to remove one from office peacefully.

The worker is a “precariat” and does not represent America, nor do those who feel as she does. Police-violence and murders of young blacks by errant and rogue officers do not represent the standard for law enforcement and are illegal acts in both character and degree. Wall Street greed and asset-stripping neoliberalism are byproducts of a capitalism that has been unregulated, becoming voracious and predatory. America is a nation and capitalism is an economic and market system adopted by the nation. Capitalism is not a nation unto itself controlling its host country. Yet, the market system is striving to gain complete control over this nation at all levels through powerful economic institutions with support from libertarian zealots, “small government” conservatives to far-right extremists hoisting flags, a Constitution and a Bible.

The right-wing presently in control of the Republican party and exhibiting increasing power over Congress, the White House and media are not American but anti-American and unAmerican in my opinion. Indeed, they constitute a “fifth column” undermining democracy, peace, security, welfare and brotherhood which are the true historical hallmarks of our secular democracy. What seeds have been planted during the last decades – from the presidency of Ronald Reagan to financial capitalism, privatizations, off-shoring of jobs to the Pacific Rim and China, collapse of the country’s industrial base and infrastructure, neoliberal restructuring of public finances, neoconservative Empire building through endless wars of aggression, decimation of social and welfare programs that were won for all Americans in the 1930s and 1960s – have borne the bitter herbs today of hate, violence, religious bigotry, racism, and mounting threats of war with Russia and China in order to circumvent and abort an inevitable transition from a U.S. dominated unipolar world to a bipolar one.

Such a bipolar world challenges America’s “full spectrum dominance” and particularly threatens to dislodge the U.S. dollar as world reserve currency. The agents of this “post 9/11 new normal” are leading the nation into the grip of what Europeans today call by its rightful name: fascism, the merger of state and corporate power militarily enforced . Will Americans allow it?

European nations are seeing a rise of neo-Nazis and self-proclaimed fascists. [2] [3]  By reflecting popular discontent over imposed austerity, an influx of immigrants fleeing war zones in the mid-East, the perceived loss of national sovereignty to Brussels, the rise of fascistic right-wing parties in many EU nations are exploiting growing anti-government attitudes and creating political power formations in scenes highly reminiscent of the 1930s. In some respects, the propaganda diatribes and appeals by the Tea Party, Faith and Freedom Coalition and other U.S. “anti-government” groups of far-right libertarians, survivalists, white supremacists, militias, sovereign citizens, nativists and Christian theocrats bear comparison to programs and platforms of Pegida in Germany, National Front in France and Golden Dawn in Greece. [4]

More importantly, resemblances exist between the anti-government, anti-immigrant, racist, nativist and anarchistic rhetoric and appeals of these groups in both Europe and the United States with positions publicly endorsed and vocalized by Republican candidates for president, particularly by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. [5]  In the course of more than a decade, the GOP permitted itself to be hijacked by right-wing conservatives advancing today’s extremism in order to win elections and in winning perpetuate the rise of the corporate, banking and military-industrial state at the expense of workers and the social safety net. Populist far-right “people” movements from below and the corporate-military-intel-wealth “power elite” from above are twin forces undermining what remnants remain of American democracy. They will call it by many other names, but Europeans call it fascism.

Americans resist the label “fascism” because, as Sinclair Lewis observed eighty-one years ago, Americans are convinced “it can’t happen here”. [6] They are wrong. It can happen here, is happening here and the question becomes how far will it metastasize within the body politic? The frightening degree of popular interest measured by TV ratings of recent political debates where collective hate and war-mongering are staged as positive and constructive solutions to America’s imbroglios of crises further demoralizes the population and weakens the national immune system against this cancer metastasizing.

What is America, its people, culture and set of values? By mid-century, it was the leader of the world politically and economically. By the mid-60s, it boasted a “mixed economy” balancing the needs of profit with social welfare. It once fostered peace at home and in the world; it co-existed with its main rival, the Soviet Union, in a balance of power arrangement and in so doing avoided war. Two nuclear powers can only assure each other peace through sanity lest mutual destruction be the result if one or the other starts war – a fact obfuscated by today’s war mongers in Congress and on the presidential campaign platforms; their sociopathic threats are echoed without challenge in American mass-media, the very vehicles used to successfully engineer war-fever and hysteria on the basis of few facts, some lies, and reams of accusations lacking evidence. Americans fail to know the extent of its bombing campaigns, its coups, the number of dead innocents labeled “collateral damage” by the Pentagon, its purposeful destabilization of nations to secure resources and install puppet governments subservient to Washington. Few Americans suspect that the deaths of almost a million and injuries to millions more in the middle-east caused by American-NATO bombings might someday return in kind. Americans are fearful of terrorist acts within their country but fail to understand how we have sponsored, trained and financed terrorists to fight our “dirty wars” from the 1980s in Afghanistan to today in Syria and Iraq. Americans are fearful and thus paralyzed. What a perfect opportunity for a dictator and fascist to exploit.

“America is a moderate country with a slight tilt to the right,” claimed a friend in the mid-West. On the other hand, activist-historian William Blum claims America is not a force for good in the world but a rogue state that is the greatest threat to humanity. [7] [8]  People that largely ignore the rise of police powers, the surveillance state, the cost of endless wars, and the decline of civil liberties are called “sheeple” by critics. Members of the press and media who have abandoned their role as objective journalists and become public relations spokespeople for the State Dept., Pentagon, Wall Street and CIA are known as “presstitutes”. Taken together, democracy is replaced with mindless consumption of media propaganda leaving authorities and power-centers freedom of movement to act and control without constraint or opposition.

World leaders are tentatively understanding the need to act together to resolve global crises that are infecting all layers within societies. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to three minutes to minute citing nuclear wars and ecological cataclysms ahead given the current projectory. [9]  Pope Francis in his highly secular eco-enclyclical Laudato Si! outlines a basal text for a concerted trans-national approach to solve climate change, economic disparities and mushrooming military build-ups in nations. [10] Francis spoke frankly and truthfully when he bravely confessed to an unbelieving and disoriented world that World War III has already begun fought piecemeal. [11]  The Dalai Lama also spoke frankly when he said God wasn’t going to solve our problems. We created them and we need to fix them. God’s not going to do it for us. [12]

America is at war and is planning for greater ones, but its greatest war is the battle within itself. Who is America? What is America? What does America stand for? These questions will be answered but not without conflict, social disruption, acts of civil disobedience, emerging whistleblowers risking careers and livelihoods to speak truth in a sea of disinformation and eroding morality. Campaign officials expect the cost for this year’s presidential campaign to reach $5 billion, most of that money going into the coffers of network and cable TV which, in turn, will please their sponsors – political parties, power brokers and wealth sectors  – and media will remain a house of presstitution. [13] [14]

Democracy needs an informed electorate but Americans have been “dumbed down” enough to believe they have no power over government decisions and economic policies. They are paralyzed by it. In a relatively short span of time, beginning from September 11, 2001, democracy has been under attack by forces from within rather than from without. It has been stolen by hidden unelected financial, corporate and military-industrial cartels that have inculcated fear and exploited it as a pretext for citizens to relinquish liberties. By their own narrow vision induced by rampant consumerism, poor knowledge about government and economics, Americans have endorsed politicians who make wars, relegate human beings secondary to private profit and markets, who conquer dissent, diversity and strength-in-numbers using the mechanism of “identity politics”, who turn morality on its head by taking from the poor and giving to the rich, who call the peaceful weak and the warrior strong, who enshrine our Empire as “exceptional” and “indispensable” on the basis of myths that no longer exist and that fewer and fewer nations believe, including so-called “allies”.

Inscribed in the DNA of America is a deep-seated belief in “destiny”. America had it, lost it, and will someday regain it. It is not found in profits, property, gold, markets or Empire building. The work of ascertaining, identifying and perpetuating this destiny will fall upon tomorrow’s leaders selected from the ranks of millennials and those younger, Generation Z. It will live or die according to their wisdom or their folly. They will build upon a new paradigm or fail trying to resuscitate the old. They will be Lot of the Bible and move forward knowing only one step ahead, or be Sara who turned to salt by fixing her stare upon what was crumbling behind her. The first question to answer must be: What is the ideal world you wish for yourself, family, friends, community and nation? Once realized and empowered by sincere intent and motivation, it will materialize. The world of tomorrow begins in concept today. To more forward, don’t look back. Build it, and if it is for the common good of all Americans and all people of the world, “they will come”.

Others who staunchly support peace, world-wide harmony, justice, non-violence, democracy and the safety of mother earth are good people whose intentions, influence and silent acts now hold hope for our nation and world.

But many more good people must do something. And the time for doing it is now.

Michael T Bucci is a retired public relations executive currently living in New England. He has authored nine books on practical spirituality collectively titled The Cerithous Material.

Notes:

[1] Standing, Guy (2014). The Precariat: The New Dangerous Generation. London: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN  9781472536167.

http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/the-precariat-9781472536167/

[2] “Fear, Anger and Hatred: The Rise of Germany’s New Right“, Spiegel Online, December 11, 2015.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/refugee-crisis-drives-rise-of-new-right-wing-in-germany-a-1067384.html

[3] “WELCOME TO THE ‘RECHTSRUTSCH’: The far right is quietly making massive gains in Europe“, Business Insider, October 19, 2015.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-far-right-is-quietly-making-massive-gains-in-europe-2015-10?r=UK&IR=T

[4] “How does the Tea Party compare with European far right movements?”, Baker Institute for Public Policy.

https://bakerinstitute.org/media/files/files/f6f08c52/IFRI-pub-SirkesTeaParty-2012-1-.pdf

[5] Cas Mudde, “The Trump phenomenon and the European populist radical right”, Washington Post, August 26, 2015.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/08/26/the-trump-phenomenon-and-the-european-populist-radical-right/

[6] Lewis, Sinclair (1935). It Can’t Happen Here. New York: Signet ISBN 9780451465641

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/293163/it-cant-happen-here-by-sinclair-lewis/9780451465641/

[7] Blum, William (2013). America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy. London: Zed Books ISBN-13: 978-1780324456

http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/paperback/americas-deadliest-export

[8] Kevin Zeese, “US Empire Reaches Breaking Point. Greatest Threat to Humanity. Time To End It, Global Research, July 20, 2014

http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-empire-reaches-breaking-point-greatest-threat-to-humanity-time-to-end-it/5392310

[9] “It is Three Minutes to Midnight”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Janaury 19, 2015

http://thebulletin.org/clock/2015

[10] Pope Francis (2015). Encyclical Letter Laudato Si!, On Care for Our Common Home. Full text at Vatican web site.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

[11] Athena Yenko, “World War 3 Has Begun – Pope Francis”, Morning News USA, June 9, 2015.

http://www.morningnewsusa.com/world-war-3-has-begun-pope-francis-2323017.html

[12] Michael McLaughlin, “Dalai Lama: Humans Created Terrorism, So Stop Praying To God For A Solution”, Huffington Post, November 17, 2015.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dalai-lama-terrorism_564b8975e4b045bf3df16e75

[13] Amie Parnes and Kevin Cirilli, “The $5 billion presidential campaign?” The Hill, January 21, 2016

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/230318-the-5-billion-campaign

[14] Julie Bykowicz, “Campaign ads are a feast for TV stations and they’re out to guard it from online competition”, Associated Press, December 9, 2015

http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2015/12/09/tv-broadcasters-try-to-drum-up-more-campaign-ads

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PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR

This is the second of four articles analyzing the new US Department of Defense Law of War Manual. The first article was posted November 3.

The most menacing passages of the Pentagon’s Law of War Manual concern its relationship to other areas of law. According to the manual, the law of war is separate from and supersedes all other bodies of law, including international human rights treaties and the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights. This is nothing less than a formula for martial law, military dictatorship and the suspension of the Constitution.

Citing a legal treatise entitled “Military Law and Precedents,” the manual states that the law of war can supersede the Constitution: “‘On the actual theatre of military operations,’ as is remarked by a learned judge, ‘the ordinary laws of the land are superseded by the laws of war. The jurisdiction of the civil magistrate is there suspended, and military authority and force are substituted.’ Finding indeed its original authority in the war powers of Congress and the Executive, and thus constitutional in its source, the Law of War may, in its exercise, substantially supersede for the time even the Constitution itself …” (p. 10, emphasis added).

With the entire world declared to be the “battlefield” in the “war on terror,” this is a formula for the Pentagon to impose military dictatorship on all of Planet Earth.

When the Pentagon refers to the “law of war,” it is not referring to historic precedents or international treaties. The phrase “law of war,” in the context of the manual, is a euphemism for “the law according to the Pentagon.”

Under the Pentagon’s pseudo-legal framework, the “law of war” is an independent source of legal authority that overrides all democratic rights and sanctions arbitrary rule by the military. The manual states: “Although the law of war is generally viewed as ‘prohibitive law,’ in some respects, especially in the context of domestic law, the law of war may be viewed as permissive or even as a source of authority” (p. 14).


Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt

Changing a few words here and there, these doctrines could have been copy-pasted from the writings of the Nazi “crown jurist” Carl Schmitt (1888-1985). According to Schmitt’s infamous “state of exception” doctrine, under conditions of a national emergency, the executive is permitted to override democratic protections and disregard the rule of law. Under this doctrine, democratic rights are not formally abrogated, they are simply suspended indefinitely.

Schmitt’s “state of exception” doctrine was used as a legal justification for the 1933 “Act to Relieve the Distress of the People and the Reich,” also known as the “Enabling Act,” which codified Hitler’s dictatorship.

The Pentagon manual invokes Schmitt’s “state of exception” theory in all but name. Having claimed that the law of war is a “special” discipline of law, as opposed to a “general” discipline, the manual states that “the special rule overrides the general law” (p. 9). For added effect, a Latin legal maxim saying the same thing is cited: “lex specialis derogat legi generali.”

Thus, according to the Pentagon, the law of war is the exception to the general “law of peacetime.” Here we have nothing less than a Nazi legal doctrine, incorporated by the Pentagon into a major policy document.

“In some circumstances,” the Pentagon’s manual states, “the rules in the law of war [i.e., the rules invented by the Pentagon] and the rules in human rights treaties may appear to conflict; these apparent conflicts may be resolved by the principle that the law of war is the lex specialis during situations of armed conflict [again, the state of exception], and, as such, is the controlling body of law with regard to the conduct of hostilities and the protection of war victims” (p. 9).

In other words, whenever the Pentagon’s policies conflict with human rights treaties, the human rights treaties should be ignored.

The manual continues, “Underlying this approach is the fact that the law of war is firmly established in customary international law as a well-developed body of law that is separate from the principles of law generally applicable in peace” (p. 10). The implication is that during wartime, America’s vast military establishment is a “separate,” independent branch of government, subject to its own rules and accountable to no one.

Despite the references to the war powers of Congress and the executive under the American Constitution, the Pentagon’s conceptions are the opposite of the framework envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence, in its list of grievances against the British monarch, charges that the king “affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have been fond of invoking the phrase “commander in chief,” which appears in Article II of the US Constitution, in a manner that turns its original meaning upside down. The American revolutionaries described the president as the commander in chief of the navy and army as a way of expressing the subordination of the military to civilian authority. This phrase was not meant to elevate the military, with the president as its head, into some kind of supreme authority over the rest of the state and the population.

The manual’s reference to “principles of law generally applicable in peace” has particularly sinister implications.

“Human rights treaties,” according to the Pentagon, are “primarily applicable to the relationship between a State and individuals in peacetime” (p. 22). Therefore, in “wartime”—including the “war on terror” of indefinite scope and duration—human rights treaties no longer apply.

This formula would allow the Pentagon to override more than just human rights treaties. The manual’s authors include the Bill of Rights and other guarantees of civil liberties in the category of laws that apply in “peacetime” only. The arguments made by the manual justify suspending the Bill of Rights altogether as a “peacetime” law that is superseded for the duration of the “war on terror.”

But why stop there? Aren’t elections also part of a system of laws “generally applicable in peace?” What about other civil liberties? What about the right to freedom of speech, or the right to form political parties? What about the right to trial by jury? What about the right to privacy, and the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment?” What about laws against racial discrimination? The right to a minimum wage?

Taken to its logical conclusion, the Law of War Manual would justify imposing a military dictatorship, suspending all democratic rights and rounding up and imprisoning all dissenters.

Should any reader think this analysis far-fetched, it should be remembered that one top American military man recently called for setting up military internment camps for “disloyal” and “radicalized” Americans. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark (a Democrat) declared:

“If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States, as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right, and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”

He added, “We’ve got to cut this off at the beginning.”

Clark’s extraordinary proposals provoked no significant discussion or disagreement within the political or media establishment. None of the current presidential candidates from either major party has referred to Clark’s statement, presumably because they do not fundamentally disagree with it. There have been no consequences for Clark’s lobbying and consulting firm. The Pentagon’s manual makes clear that Clark was merely testing the waters, revealing plans that have been broadly discussed, developed and approved at the highest levels of the state.


Antonin Scalia

When asked last year about the military internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia responded, “You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing won’t happen again.” He added, in a formulation that mirrors the Pentagon’s manual, “In times of war, the law falls silent.”

The manual also features a heavy dose of the Obama administration’s trademark “balancing” rhetoric. Pursuant to this approach, a basic democratic right or legal principle will be affirmed in abstract terms. But then it will be “balanced” against some authoritarian counter-principle, with the result that the basic principle will be rendered meaningless. The Obama administration has invoked this formula repeatedly as its justification for NSA spying, as well as for drone assassinations.

The document states, “Civilians may not be made the object of attack, unless they take direct part in hostilities.” This seems clear enough, but then a “balancing” formula is introduced. “Civilians may be killed incidentally in military operations; however, the expected incidental harm to civilians may not be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage from an attack, and feasible precautions must be taken to reduce the risk of harm to civilians during military operations” (p. 128).

In other words, after applying the “balancing” formula, it turns out that it is acceptable to kill civilians if, on balance, the expected “military advantage” outweighs the harm to civilians. This effectively makes the rule against killing civilians meaningless. In practice, the “balancing” formula translates to the unfettered power of military leaders to order mass killing and destruction.

The brutality of imperialist war

The manual features a chilling discussion of killing civilians. According to the Pentagon, massacres of civilians are permissible if they help achieve “operational objectives.”

The authors take pains not to state that the killing of civilians is prohibited per se. Instead, the manual indicates that “feasible precautions” should be taken to “avoid” civilian casualties, which should not be “excessive” or “unreasonable.” However, the manual defines “feasible precautions” as merely “those that are practicable or practically possible, taking into account all circumstances ruling at the time, including humanitarian and military considerations” (p. 190).

The Pentagon’s manual authorizes mass killing of civilians as in the assault on Fallujah during the Iraq War

“For example,” the document states,

“if a commander determines that taking a precaution would result in operational risk (i.e., a risk of failing to accomplish the mission) or an increased risk of harm to their own forces, then the precaution would not be feasible and would not be required” (p. 191).

This is a blank check for mass killings of civilians if a military leader decides that failing to do so would be an “operational risk.” If exterminating the population of a hostile city would reduce the “risk of harm” to US forces, then the Pentagon manual would allow it.

This “balancing” formulation appears to contradict previous statements of American policy, such as the following remarks from 1987 by a State Department legal adviser: “[C]ivilian losses are not to be balanced against the military value of the target. If severe losses would result, then the attack is forbidden, no matter how important the target” [2].

The manual also codifies the tendentious “human shields” doctrine, whereby civilian deaths are blamed on the targets of indiscriminate bombing.

“A party that is subject to attack might fail to take feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians, such as by separating the civilian population from military objectives … the ability to discriminate and to reduce the risk of harm to the civilian population likely will be diminished by such enemy conduct” (p. 198).

This is merely a justification for collective punishment by another name. If the Pentagon identifies a “military objective” in a densely populated area, then the military supposedly has the legal right to obliterate the neighborhood with high explosives and blame the civilian population for being “human shields.” Collective punishment is, under international law, a war crime. It is designed to terrorize a population and discourage resistance.

The manual expressly authorizes targeted killings. “Military operations may be directed against specific enemy combatants,” the document states, adding, “US forces have often conducted such operations” (p. 201).

In support of targeted killings, the manual cites Obama’s speech on May 2, 2011:

“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound [suspected of housing Osama Bin Laden] in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body” (p. 201).

The manual fails to mention that journalist Seymour Hersh has exposed the account given in Obama’s speech as a pack of lies.

Censorship and targeting of journalists as “unprivileged belligerents”

The manual’s proposed treatment of journalists as spies has evoked the only media attention to the document. “Reporting on military operations,” the manual states, “can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying” (p. 175).

The Pentagon goes on to authorize itself to “capture” and “punish” journalists, forbid journalists to work anonymously, and require that journalists obtain “permission” and “identification documents” from the US military to conduct their work.

The manual states:

“A journalist who acts as a spy may be subject to security measures and punished if captured. To avoid being mistaken for spies, journalists should act openly and with the permission of relevant authorities. Presenting identification documents, such as the identification card issued to authorized war correspondents or other appropriate identification, may help journalists avoid being mistaken as spies” (p. 175).

The document further states that journalists can be subject to military censorship. It declares:

“States may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy. Under the law of war, there is no special right for journalists to enter a State’s territory without its consent or to access areas of military operations without the consent of the State conducting those operations” (p. 175).

There is nothing here that would be out of place in the code of laws of a totalitarian police state. This legal framework, for example, would justify setting up a military internment camp to imprison each journalist who published material disclosed by Edward Snowden. There is nothing in the manual that would prohibit the Pentagon from launching drone strikes against targeted journalists who are deemed to be acting as “spies.” (If a journalist’s family and friends were killed in the drone strike, it would be the journalist’s fault for employing “human shields”).

Do we exaggerate? An article appeared in the recent spring/summer issue of the academic National Security Law Journal titled “Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict/Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column” [3 Nat’l Sec. L.J. 278 (2015)]. In this article, West Point law professor William C. Bradford argues that academics who criticize the “war on terror” are “aiding the enemy,” such that they should be treated as “unlawful combatants” under the law of war.

Bradford, a professor at the prestigious United States Military Academy, goes on to argue that by criticizing the war on terror, certain professors are working in “the service of Islamists seeking to destroy Western civilization and re-create the Caliphates.” These professors, Bradford charges, are guilty of “skepticism of executive power,” “professional socialization,” “pernicious pacifism,” and “cosmopolitanism.”

Bradford recommends firing “disloyal” professors and imposing loyalty oaths at universities. He further recommends arresting and prosecuting professors for treason and for providing material support to terrorism. Finally, he argues that “disloyal” professors and the universities that employ them could be considered “lawful targets” for military attack under the law of war.

Bradford has also advocated a military coup (“What conditions precedent would be required before the American military would be justified in using or threatening force to oust a US president…?”) and genocide (“total war” until “the political will of Islamist peoples” is broken, or until “all who countenance or condone Islamism are dead”). The latter policy would include the targeted destruction of “Islamic holy sites.”

The journal subsequently repudiated Bradford’s article, calling it an “egregious breach of professional decorum,” and Bradford resigned from West Point on August 30. However, the episode provides a glimpse of what the Pentagon has in mind for its critics under the “law of war.” Bradford’s fascistic rants simply represent the doctrines expressed in the Law of War Manual taken to their logical conclusions.

The persecution of journalists such as Glenn Greenwald (and his partner David Miranda) and Julian Assange, together with whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, has already made clear that the American government will treat the exposure of official criminality as “espionage” and “aiding the enemy.” The Pentagon’s manual codifies this position and authorizes the military to carry out repressive measures against journalists.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on July 31 protesting the manual, pointing to the rising numbers of journalists killed and maimed while covering armed conflicts. “The Obama administration’s Defense Department,” the CPJ wrote, “appears to have taken the ill-defined practices begun under the Bush administration during the War on Terror and codified them to formally govern the way US military forces treat journalists covering conflicts.”

It is significant that the words “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press” do not appear anywhere in the Pentagon’s manual.

In a section setting forth the Pentagon’s authority as an “Occupying Power,” the manual states that “for the purposes of security, an Occupying Power may establish regulation of any or all forms of media (e.g., press, radio, television) and entertainment (e.g., theater, movies), of correspondence, and of other means of communication. For example, an Occupying Power may prohibit entirely the publication of newspapers that pose a threat to security, or it may prescribe regulations for the publication or circulation of newspapers of other media for the purpose of fulfilling its obligations to restore public order” (pp. 759-60).

A footnote includes the caveat that “this sub-section focuses solely on what is permitted under the law of war and does not address possible implications of censorship under the First Amendment of the Constitution.” Presumably, the authors would contend that the First Amendment applies only in “peacetime,” and is “superseded” by the Pentagon’s “lex specialis” for the duration of the “war on terror.”

Notes:

[2] See The Position of the United States on Current Law of War Agreements: Remarks of Judge Abraham D. Sofaer, Legal Adviser, United States Department of State, Jan. 22, 1987, American University Journal of International Law and Policy 460, 468 (1987) (cited in the Law of War Manual, p. 247).

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“It is the terrorism that threatens our freedom today. It is not the state of emergency. I repeat: the state of emergency does not mean the abandonment of the rule of law. We are fighting terrorism, and we will defeat it, with the arms of the Republic, of democracy, with the strength of our values, our principles and our republican principles of law.” So said the smooth-talking French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (image left) on December 2, 2015 before announcing the results of the “exceptional measures” permitted by the state of emergency, taking care not to specify, for the some 10% of searches that would have led to seizures, detainment and/or legal actions, how many of them were actually related to terrorism. 

It was revealed since that almost all seizures and indictments concerned offenses and crimes very far from planning acts of terror and/or “radical Islam” – such as drug trafficking, banditry, etc., and to date, despite the thousands of wrecked homes, the places of worship desecrated and above all the countless innocent lives left traumatized or even ruined, no “terrorist” has been arrested, no “cell” has been dismantled. A resounding failure in all, at least if one considers that this is indeed, first and foremost, about fight against terrorism, which all the same requires a strong dose of credulity.

In 1990, in his novel Le Bouclage (The Sealing Off), Vladimir Volkoff [1] had already described such methods: impose on a whole “sensitive” neighbourhood a state of siege, intern and file its people and search their homes from top to bottom, on the pretext of an imminent terrorist attack, which will be “heroically” foiled by the elimination of a criminal organization that was under longstanding close surveillance, but which the location and neutralization of will retroactively constitute the official pretext for the entire operation. It will allow the imprisonment of some offenders previously elusive through legal channels, and above all to summon the entire population to the due veneration towards the Nation, Order and Security. A dastardly plot of which the author, a visceral anticommunist and Islamophobe and flatterer of American imperialism, seemingly a supporter of torture, openly monarchist, was a proselyte, but our current government has clearly seen the wider picture and extended its Gestapo measures to the whole territory, in addition to having established them for an absolutely senseless term – and one that is indefinitely renewable.

The fight against the terrorism of Daesh, which our country [France] openly allied itself to in Syria and before that in Libya, is clearly a pretext to restrict the freedoms and force terror on the population, to silence any “dissident” voices, any political or social protest.

And of course, Muslims and descendants of immigrants as a whole are a primary target, either to destroy what remains of their “foreign” culture or to woo voters of the far-right National Front. Especially as in order to create a “Sacred Union”, a common enemy can act as a political project, and the more spectacular the acts and measures, the harder it will be for the masses to reflect and consider.

All these measures are obviously another attempt of the most discredited government in the history of the French Republic to improve its image, legitimately and irreparably tarnished, but through which we can perceive – and this is the only thing that can reassure us – the convulsive spasms of an agony foreseen to be devastating.

“The Al Nosra Front is doing a good job in Syria.” (Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister) 

“…It’s doing a good job in France too!” (Al-Baghdadi)

The supposed fight against terrorism is clearly a terrible deception, eminently absurd moreover, both in terms of its postulates and principles – who can believe that all these measures can discourage or hinder in the slightest the action of seasoned terrorists, determined to die at gunpoint – and in terms of its results. But even if it had any efficacy and contributed occasionally to protect the lives of citizens (in a purely quantitative sense, since it is difficult to conceive of a healthy life after the unprecedented violence of a police search, or while living in the fear of it, especially since it targets innocent Muslim families, political and trade union activists, etc. ; let us remind that Winston Churchill said that “Democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman…”), it would be the duty of any person attached to republican values to denounce its arbitrariness and fight it.

Terrible though it may be, the prospect of a terrorist attack remains that of a criminal act perpetrated by individuals, madmen, fanatics, who destroy human lives in an atrocious way, but it constitutes a violence that retains the status of accident within a society – as opposed to a systemic or structural deterioration. Terror acts are not committed by State officials, by law enforcement, and as such are comparable to acts of banditry, with their share of innocent victims, albeit collateral, which does not fundamentally change things. Terrorism and banditry are committed by individuals who place themselves beyond the law and may threaten the life of any citizen, but in no way threaten society as a whole or in its foundations: while criminals flout, defy and trample it, the law stands still for all other citizens and the whole of society. But when the State apparatus, which, according to the famous definition of Max Weber, holds the “monopoly on legitimate violence, itself abolishes the rule of law and is guilty of such abuses of persons, regardless of the reason or rather the pretext, giving to arbitrary and illegitimate violence the force of law, it is the very foundations of democratic society that are undermined. The State, which has been constituted so as to ensure the freedom, the safety and the welfare of citizens (and in the Western philosophical tradition, freedom is its supreme goal), becomes the very body that tramples the basic rights of all citizens, without any possible resistance, without any resort or appeal, which should be considered far more serious, far more dangerous than November 13th, January 7th or even September 11th. Despite what Mr Cazeneuve says, while terrorism may actually threaten our lives, only the State can be a real threat to our freedoms.

The maxim that guides the French government’s action, and which is seemingly, tacitly or explicitly, approved by all of the political class, the media, and much of the French population, is this: the most valuable asset of man is not freedom, but security, and it would be quite natural and sane to sacrifice some freedoms for more security. An idea which constitutes a death certificate for republican values, and could even cause us to wonder, disregarding the extremely marginal nature of the French Resistance, if it was worth the fight against the Nazi occupation. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States,

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety [and end up losing both].”

And as we have seen, if the violations of the freedoms allowed by the state of emergency are gross and vile, bordering on totalitarianism, temporary security gains made are minute at best, and at worst and in full likelihood, are negative, because the targeting of a whole category of citizens can only feed tensions, further divide society and give more credit to extremist discourse and actions, and thus promote the recruitment of Daesh and other violent organizations. Even the Judiciary Union had denounced the state of emergency in an unusually vehement statement.

The security escalation, denial of rights and the emergency measures that affect all citizens cannot reduce violence and extremism : on the contrary, such measures are inflammatory and, while pretending to be their cure, enter them insidiously into our lives. These are elementary truths, although stifled by the surrounding political and media hype. Goebbels himself theorised, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” And he added:

“The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Our government seems to have understood this, as it is considering measures that would make France a police state that dictatorships have nothing to envy, by muzzling freedom of expression and information, by attacking privacy, and inscribing the state of emergency into the Constitution, in order to sustainably and totally control the whole population – not to mention the deprivation of nationality for dual citizens, which violates the very idea of equal rights and justice. George Orwell, here we are.

Faced with this relentless state violence, what can we do, if not make use of the freedoms we still have? Reject it in principle, and, in deed, denounce it as much as possible. Show our solidarity to all the victims of these unacceptable and outrageous measures, which is a civic and humanitarian duty. Never (again) to compromise by voting for individuals or groups who backed these totalitarian measures, so that at least they cannot claim to act in our name.

Ultimately, let us remind the words of Henry David Thoreau, theorist of civil disobedience: “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

To the raiders: the key is under the doormat!!!

 

#RaidMe”  
Note

[1] Vladimir Volkoff, French novelist of Russian origin whose parents were exiled after the 1917 Revolution, French intelligence officer in Algeria, won the French Academy prize in 1982 following an anti-Soviet spy novel, had in particular these words: “Why should we care about the outcry? Let us do like the Israelis in Palestine, Thatcher in the Falklands and Reagan in Granada!… The real enemy of the police officer is not the villain nor the villains’ lawyer but the judge… This country loves right-wing politics with a left-wing label.” Le Bouclage, Fallois Press, L’Age d’Homme, Lausanne, 1990, pp.117, 199, 584. And let’s also mention this: “The French are runaways, they mostly ran in 1940, many of their intellectuals licked the boots of the Communists for forty years, and the more masochistic continue with Islam.” The Berkeley at five, Fallois Editions and L’Age d’Homme, Paris and Lausanne, 1994, p. 7. He is above all the author of an excellent series of books for youths, Langelot.

Original source: http://sayed7asan.blogspot.fr/2015/12/etat-durgence-les-fossoyeurs-de-la.html 

Translated from French by Jenny Bright 

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On Jan.5, the Yemeni army and popular forces loyal to the Houthi movement thwarted an attempt by the Saudi-led coalition’s forces to enter Yemen from the Jizan province through the border crossing of Tawwal. According to the reports,  both sides suffered causalities.

The clashes in this area have been especially heavy since the Houthi alliance captured the villages of Khobe, Qarn and Sahabakh inside the Jizan region of Saudi Arabia on Jan.4. The several coalition combatants were also killed.

The Saudi military base in the Alhajleh region of Najran province came under the Houthi forces’ attack. The pro-Yemeni sources argue that the Houthi forces killed tens of Saudi military servicemen and captured the military base.

In a separate development, the Houthis captured the village of Al-Huwaymi in the Al-Lajh province in Southern Yemen. Now, the Houthi forces are advancing to the town of Kirsh.

The Saudi Air Force launched a number of airstrikes over the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Tuesday morning. Over 40 civilians were killed and wounded and several civilian sites were damaged. Separately, the Saudi warplanes conducted air raids in the Yemeni province of Sa’ada.

On Jan.5, Hassan Hamoud Uqlan, a known field commander of ISIS in the Tha’bat district of Ta’izz Province was killed in the clashes with fighters of the Houthi movement and military units. Openly, ISIS controls only separate areas in Yemen, however, a significant incensement of the terrorist group’s activity have been observed since the start of the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in the country.

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On the 3rd of January, before the blood of Saudi executed Sheikh Nimr had even dried, Ex Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford (pictured left) tweeted this appalling piece of leading propaganda: 

ford on Nimr

Link to Tweet

This must firstly be compared to an equally insensitive and cynical propagandist, profiteering tweet from arch lie merchant, Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch. This dreadful piece of exploitative cynicism was subsequently deleted, perhaps after even Ken Roth realised he had overstepped the mark of decency.  This was Ken Roth’s attempt to overshadow the US bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz with further tired and universally discredited anti Assad propaganda.

I guess in Robert Ford’s favour he waited 24 hours before his display of disrespect towards a much loved and respected activist and campaigner against the Saudi regime’s despotism and brutality, supported of course by its Western cohorts.

Ken Roth on the other hand, could barely contain his excitement at being able to find another opportunity to attack Assad personally, tweeting his little gem on the same day as the US had relentlessly bombed one of the few remaining hospitals in Kunduz for over an hour.  30 people including nursing staff, patients and doctors were massacred, 37 injured in one of the worst incidents of civilian casualties in the 14-year war  by US forces seemingly oblivious to their screams for help and for the onslaught to stop.

It appears that disseminating fake information on Syria took priority over highlighting the US gross negligence and violations of rules of war.

Screenshot (314)

 

Of course we cannot ignore the fact that Ford is watching US and NATO [Israeli and GCC] plans for regime change in Syria floundering irreparably.  Sheikh Nimr’s execution was a desperate and appalling attempt to revive a Western/Saudi  engineered sectarian conflict that is being thwarted by Syria’s innate secularism and the unity of the majority of the Syrian people behind a President who has emerged from the eye of the almost 5 year  propaganda storm, as a symbol of resilience and unflappable dignity.

“As with Sheikh Zakzaky in Nigeria, Sheikh Nimr campaigned against the Saudi Wahhabi distortion of Islam and engineered division of the Muslim world along sectarian lines that did not exist prior to the Saudi propaganda, inflamed and fuelled by the West intent on partitioning the region to best serve Israel’s security and Western economic and resource agendas,” Vanessa Beeley, with Syrian Solidarity Movement, told Tasnim on Monday.

“From the reaction of certain US Congress representatives such as Robert Ford to the hideous execution of Sheikh Nimr Bagher al-Nimr by the despotic Saudi regime, it is clear that the Sheikh’s execution is a reaction to the US NATO floundering regime change policies in Syria,” she added.

“The US is determined to maintain perpetual sectarian conflict and anyone who dares to evoke unity and cohesion will not be tolerated.  Will this bring more extremism to the region?  Iran is more intelligent than this as is Russia.  Both countries have been sorely provoked and both are showing huge restraint and wisdom, unlike their antagonists,” Beeley said.

Now a little reminder about Robert Ford’s close relationship with “moderate rebel” FSA [Free Syrian Army] Colonel Okaidi.

Ford dark etc

Twitter Link 

One of the most senior “moderate” rebel commanders to be backed by the US and main recipient of Western aid, Col. Okaidi, is seen in a video, which has been authenticated by Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma, speaking during interviews saying “My relationship with the brothers in ISIL is good … I communicate almost daily with brothers in ISIL … the relationship is good, even brotherly.”

Okaidi admits al-Qaida is not any different from the FSA: “They [al-Nusra] did not exhibit any abnormal behavior, which is different from that of the FSA.”

The video shows Okaidi with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal celebrating a victory, as an ally ISIS fighter shouts “I swear to Allah, O Alawites, we came to slaughter you. Await what you deserve!”

US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who worked closely with Okaidi, himself admitted to giving material support to ISIS and al-Nusra, stating that he “absolutely does not deny” knowing that most of the rebels he backed fought alongside ISIS and al-Nusra ~ Steve Chovanec for Mint Press News

In response to Robert Ford’s tweet on Sheikh Nimr, I tweeted Camille Alexandre Otrakji‘s excellent article contesting  Ambassador Ford‘s analysis of the US intervention in Syria.

“The United States has the power to shape narratives around the globe … it has the power to name villains and heroes … it can decide who is on the right side of history and who is not.

Then it can promote the ones that it blessed while building international coalitions to punish the ones it condemned to the wrong side.

Usually it also punishes their people and their countries and sometimes neighboring countries, in the process… collateral damage … the price for freedom …

It is all done is a slick style that the narrative-building machine describes as “Justice” and “protecting the people” or “the price they need to pay to gain their freedom”, rather than the more impulsive or selfish motivators: “teaching them a lesson they won’t forget” or “protecting America’s interests (oil and defense sectors usually).”  ~  excerpt from Camille Otrakji’s article. 

This article seemed to cause sufficient consternation for Robert Ford to divert me to Direct [private] message on Twitter.  The following is the unedited conversation I had with Ford.

Ford:  Vanessa – rather than put a tweet out to thousands, in answer to your question, I do remember Camille’s long piece. I agreed with some of it. Some of it badly distorted things I had said and misinterpreted American policy and some of it ignored realities on the ground and what the Syrian government does. I wrote him a long response last spring. You can ask him to share it if he wants. I note that he didn’t publish it on his FB page, but that’s his right

Vanessa: Um did you not just tweet to thousands, utterly incorrect statistics from Syria. According to you Assad personally killed 200,000. That is a barefaced lie even by the US Government standards and to state that in conjunction with the heinous execution of Sheikh Nimr without even including his title out of respect for this visionary man of peace and unity and with no reference to the continuing policy of execution both in Saudi Arabia and globally by their Frankenstein monsters that your Government helped create..you are the propagandist sir, Camille’s article is at least well researched. Your statement is a lie, that we have all stopped believing.

You saw the execution of a Saudi Muslim faith leader and opposition speaker against the despotic Saudi regime as an opportunity for propaganda, both against Syria and Iran..shame on you. Where is your respect?

All figures coming out of Syria are skewed by your propagandists on the ground and you know that. Where are the figures on the US Coalition bombing civilian deaths in Syria? Al Bab, Aleppo bombing of civilians covered up by Congress. Where are the figures for the “rebel” mortar victims in Damascus and Homs & across Syria, the “mod reb” suicide bomb attacks across Syria, the “moderate rebel” snipers, the “rebel” hell cannon attacks in Aleppo? When are they ever mentioned by your pet UKFO CIA/Soros propagandists, aka the White Helmets?

Ford:  i take my figures from the syrian network for human rights which has activists inside syria and which documents victims by name. their estimates are lower than the syrian observatory. both have detailed reports on the internet that you can check if you wish. if you have more accurate data than these 2 organizations do, well, let’s see it. and where is your respect for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the assad regime? sheikh nimr was one man. i have a colleague who once met him and said he appeared reasonable. but i also regret more the death of many thousands of civilians. and i make no apologies for that.

Vanessa: If the SNHR is so reliable why has the UN stopped documenting victim figures from Syria because information from on the ground is so unreliable?

I presume, if they record names, you will have all 200, 000 names that you are claiming Assad killed?

Who are the activists supplying this information? Are they part of the agitprop shop set up by Avaaz in 2011 that included that bastion of truth, Danny Abdul Dayem and many other such embarrassing fakers..or the Syria Civil Defence, proven CIA/UKFO backed agents, embedded in Al Nusra and ISIS areas and allied with these terrorist factions against the Syrian people.

I can demonstrate SNHR connections to Governmental agencies with a vested interest in Syria regime change, the SOHR has been universally discredited.

You have failed to answer my question, where are the figures for the casualties of your proxy terrorist armies and gangs in Syria? Where are the figures of the mortar maimed and dead, fired by your “moderate rebels” into civilian areas? Where are your figures of civilians killed by your Coalition bombs or the essential infrastructure destruction by your bombs that ensures the starvation and privation of the Syrian people? Where are your figures for the SAA who make up the majority of the victims of this war on Syria, and they are the Syrian people.

And your comment about Sheikh Nimr is a blatant and woeful example of American exceptionalism..your colleague’s opinion of this courageous leader outweighs that of his tens of thousands of supporters and followers across the world.

I have respect for the Syrian civilians who are losing their lives and enduring the horror inflicted upon them by your terror gangs and “moderate rebels”, I have respect for those raped, crucified, tortured, shelled, bombed and torn apart by these monsters you have unleashed upon Syria. You are right I have, not one iota of respect for one of those terrorist lives lost. Nor should you!

They say silence speaks volumes….

In reality Ford is trying to play ‘neutral’ and a ‘good guy’ but still clinging to the Western script of events which is falling apart at the seams on a daily basis.

History alone will show what an awful debacle this plot against Syria has been.  It will take a few years for the true version of events to be accepted as “consensus reality” but that time will come.

The West took a side, moulded it , embellished it and armed it and it was not the side of the Syrian people.  The “rebels” such as they were did a deal with the Devil and brought the made-in-the-West  Devil to Syria on promises of money, status and a seat at the table of power when the “regime” change was completed. Both are seeing their agendas being dismantled before their eyes and both sides are making fatal mistakes in their propaganda efforts.

This is the neocolonial dance.  Merciless exposure of their fraudulence and disinformation campaign is needed to ensure they stumble into oblivion.

May the soul of the courageous Sheikh Nimr rest in Peace and may his legacy of unity and resistance against oppression live on through all of us.

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The United States’ 20 wealthiest people (The 0.000006 Percent) now own more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households. The Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation’s entire African-American population — plus more than a third of the Latino population — combined; more wealth combined than the bottom 61 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 194 million people or 70 million households.

These stats are from the Middle Ages and also from the Institute for Policy Studies which acknowledges that much wealth is hidden offshore and the reality is likely even worse.

What did those 20 wealthiest, most meritorious people do to deserve such disgusting riches? The group includes four Wal-Mart heirs, three Mars candy heirs, and two Koch brother heirs. They earned their wealth by being born to wealthy parents, just like some who want to work for them, such as Donald Trump. One politician is actually one of them: Michael Bloomberg.

These individuals could fund a total shift to clean energy or end starvation on earth or eradicate diseases. That they choose not to is murderous and shameful. It’s not their sacred right. It’s not cute. And it’s not funny when one of them pretends to give his money away by giving it to himself.

The 0.000006 Percent has a tight grip on the media as well, with Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post and Amazon, Sheldon Adelson buying newspapers, Mark Zuckerberg owning Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin with Google, Warren Buffet owning whole chains of newspapers, and again Bloomberg with Bloomberg News.

In the first phase of the 2016 Presidential election cycle, according to the New York Times, 158 wealthy donors provided half of all campaign contributions, 138 of them backing Republicans, 20 backing Democrats. No candidate can easily compete without huge amounts of money. And if you get it from small donors, as Bernie Sanders has done the most of, you’ll be largely shut out of free media coverage, and belittled in the bit of coverage you’re granted. The media coverage, the debate questions, and the topics discussed are determined by the interests of the wealthy in this national oligarchy.

Then there’s the corrupt foundation money and speaking fees flowing into the Clinton family from wealthy sources in the U.S. and abroad. While most Americans are unable to sit through a full presidential debate, Wall Street, Big Pharma, and corporate technology interests have shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars supposedly just to hear Hillary or Bill Clinton speak.

According to a new report by Consortium News, Hillary Clinton took in $11.8 million in 51 speaking fees between January 2014 to May 2015. Bill Clinton delivered 53 paid speeches to bring in $13.3 million during that same period. That’s over $25 million total, largely if not entirely from wealthy parties with a strong interest in influencing U.S. government policy.

This system of rewarding former politicians is one of the great corrupting forces in Washington, DC, but the revolving door that brings such politicians back into power makes it many times worse.

According to the Washington Post, since 1974 the Clintons have raised at least $3 billion, including at least $69 million just from the employees and PACs of banks, insurance companies, and securities and investment firms.

According to the International Business Times, the Clintons’ foundation took in money from foreign nations while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, nations such as Saudi Arabia for which she then waived restrictions on U.S. weapons sales. (Also on that list: Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar.) I brought this up on a recent television program, and one of the other guests protested that I was not, at that moment, criticizing Donald Trump. But, even if we assume Trump is the worst person on earth, what has he done that is worse than taking a bribe to supply Saudi Arabia with the weapons that have since been used to slaughter children in Yemen? And what does Trump have to do with bribery? He’s self-corrupted. He’s in the race because of the financial barrier keeping decent people out. But he hasn’t been bribed to act like a fascist.

The Wall Street Journal reports that during the same period, Bill Clinton was bringing in big speaking fees from companies, groups, and a foreign government with interests in influencing the U.S. State Department. Eight-digit donors to the Clintons’ foundations include Saudi Arabia and Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk. Seven digit donors include: Kuwait, Exxon Mobil, Friends of Saudi Arabia, James Murdoch (son of Rupert), Qatar, Boeing, Dow, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and the United Arab Emirates. Those chipping in at least half a million include Bank of America, Chevron, Monsanto, Citigroup, and the Soros Foundation. And they don’t even get a speech!

Sign this petition:
We urge the Clintons to clear their corrupted image by donating their $25 million in recent lecture fees to organizations legitimately working for campaign finance reform, Wall Street reform, environmental protection, and peace.

Watch this video.

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Yemen: A US-Orchestrated Holocaust

January 7th, 2016 by Stephen Lendman

Millions of lives are at risk from violence, starvation, lack of vital medical care, and overall deprivation.

A new UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) report downplayed the ongoing catastrophe, undercounting civilian casualties since conflict began last March.

It’s likely in the tens of thousands from Saudi terror-bombing heavily populated areas and absence of vital essentials to life.

Claiming it’s only 2,800, another 5,200 wounded mocks the unbearable suffering of millions of Yemenis, victims of US imperialism.

The world community remains largely indifferent, ignoring an entire population at risk. Millions may perish before conflict ends. Nothing is being done to prevent it.

Fighting shows no signs of abating. Obama’s orchestrated war complicit with Riyadh is another high crime on his rap sheet, major media scoundrels giving it short shrift.

Famine stalks Yemen, around 20 million at risk, children, the ill and elderly most vulnerable. War without mercy continues.

Secure sources of food, potable water, fuel, electricity and medical care are absent or in too short supply in most of the country – impossible conditions to survive for many.

Malnutrition is rampant, near-starvation commonplace. So are preventable diseases claiming unknown numbers of lives for lack of treatment. Body counts exclude nonviolent deaths.

A phantom mid-December ceasefire ended in the new year. Saudis escalated terror-bombing US selected targets, including densely populated residential areas, hospitals, refugee camps, vital infrastructure and other non-military sites.

A blockade remains in force, preventing vital to life essentials from getting to people in need in amounts enough to matter.

Washington and Riyadh want war, not peace. Ceasefire was more illusion than reality – Houthis irresponsibly blamed for imperial crimes. Yemenis continue suffering horrifically.

Their country is being systematically ravaged and destroyed – increasingly looking like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

US imperialism bears full responsibility, destroying life on earth one country at a time, making things unbearable for survivors.

Last September, a largely Saudi-drafted (US/UK supported) UN Human Rights Council resolution on Yemen excluded an independent international war crimes investigation, whitewashing imperial high crimes.

It authorized only UN provided technical assistance to a Yemeni inquiry headed by illegitimate president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi – US-installed in a 2012 election with no opposing candidates.

Yemen remains a black hole of endless violence and instability, no relief in sight for its suffering millions.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

 

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The showdown between armed ranchers and federal agents in the US state of Oregon has triggered passionate debates not only about the particulars of the standoff itself, but the precise manner in which people should stand up against an increasingly overbearing government and the corporate-financier special interests that have commandeered it.

Wall Street and Washington have left the country itself in socioeconomic shambles. Abroad, these collective special interests are subverting nations politically and economically from Venezuela to Southeast Asia, waging war throughout North Africa and the Middle East, while propping up criminal client regimes in nations like Ukraine.

A handful of armed ranchers with a few boxes of supplies, who live within and are completely dependent on a system controlled by the very special interests they are standing up against, will do little to change the military, economic, political, and social factors that add up to the above described global equation.

The ranchers’ supply cache looks like it was picked up from one of America’s many mega-retailers, the literal consumerist feeding troughs that keep the American people perpetually in servile dependence, and the Fortune 500 deeply entrenched amid the unwarranted power and influence it has enjoyed for decades and is able to wield at home and abroad with virtual impunity.

It is not unlike a group of American G.I.’s trying to fight the Germans during WW2, while buying German rations, from the Germans, all while leaving German supply lines completely intact. They would not only be preserving their enemy’s source of strength to fight, but paying into it. The harder they “fought” the more supplies they would need, and the stronger their enemy would become.

The ranchers’ standoff, from a purely strategic point-of-view, is already a failure. No matter who is really behind it, and no matter how it plays out, the actions of the ranchers at best will cause the government to back down on this one particular issue, and only for this particular case At worse, it will only further justify the growing police state evolving within America’s borders. Regardless, it will do absolutely nothing to change the balance of power enabling Wall Street and Washington at home or abroad.

How to Fight Tyranny 

A growing tyranny is not entirely unlike an insurgency. The terms insurgency and counterinsurgency can quickly become confusing in a politically motivated context. However, generally speaking, an insurgency seeks to overthrow an established institution or political order, while a counterinsurgency seeks to maintain that order.

In the United States, and around much of the world where the nation-state still prevails, the established order is one of national sovereignty based on constitutions and charters produced by each respective nation, with an infrastructure built and improved upon over generations by each nation’s respective cultures, economic activities, and innovations. From a nation’s national courts and military, all the way down to the individual family, these are the established institutions of one’s nation.

Image: The problem goes beyond the various government agencies that torment us, be it land departments perceived to be harassing ranchers, or police perceived to be harassing African-Americans, and stems from the unwarranted power and influence the government wields due to the corporate-financier interests that have commandeered it to serve its own interests. A few guns and a box of supplies bought at Walmart will not solve a problem that, ironically, includes Walmart.

There is an insurgency to subvert all of this. A global corporate-financier insurgency, or simply a “corporate-insurgency.”

The corporate-insurgency seeks to subvert our institutions, starting with the family, extending to our schools, universities, churches, temples and mosques, our local sheriff, and even reaching into our national governments, rewriting or eradicating altogether our national constitutions and charters. It has, to a great extent, already subverted our independent local infrastructure, while implementing laws and regulations to prevent us from restoring it. We have the very tactics described in a vast library of government and military counterinsurgency documents being employed against us, where ever we are and to a profound effect.

“Insurgency is the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify or challenge political control of a region. As such, it is primarily a political struggle, in which both sides use armed force to create space for their political, economic and influence activities to be effective. Insurgency is not always conducted by a single group with a centralized, military-style command structure, but may involve a complex matrix of different actors with various aims, loosely connected in dynamic and non-hierarchical networks. To be successful, insurgencies require charismatic leadership, supporters, recruits, supplies, safe havens and funding (often from illicit activities). They only need the active support of a few enabling individuals, but the passive acquiescence of a large proportion of the contested population will give a higher probability of success. This is best achieved when the political cause of the insurgency has strong appeal, manipulating religious, tribal or local identity to exploit common societal grievances or needs. Insurgents seek to gain control of populations through a combination of persuasion, subversion and coercion while using guerrilla tactics to offset the strengths of government security forces. Their intent is usually to protract the struggle, exhaust the government and win sufficient popular support to force capitulation or political accommodation. Consequently, insurgencies evolve through a series of stages, though the progression and outcome will be different in almost every case.” – page 7 U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Guide, 2009 (emphasis added)

While this above quote is a most accurate description of an insurgency, as one reads the US Government Counterinsurgency Guide (2009), they will realize that the opposing methods of counterinsurgency itself involve all of these same factors, simply mirrored and reflecting the interests of the US versus the interests of targeted “insurgencies.”

Image: The cover of the US Government Counterinsurgency Guide (2009) features the signatures representing the trifecta of modern day empire, covert operations (USAID), military force (Department of Defense), and system administration (the State Department). COIN describes the methods by which empire is implemented at a grassroots

As a matter of fact, what is described by the 2009 counterinsurgency (COIN) guide, is an accurate description of how political control has been achieved and maintained by all governments throughout the entirety of human history – it also forms the foundation of modern empire.

Understanding this is key to finding solutions when one finds themselves under the subjugation of an unfavorable political ideology or system. The tactics the guide describes can, and often are, used by either side in any political struggle, not necessarily only in an armed “insurgency.”

COIN is a socioeconomic-tactical synthesis, an interdisciplinary strategy based on an understanding of how a society functions, how to organize human resources to multiple force, and what needs and desires motivate individuals, as well as how these can be manipulated and controlled to collectively motivate a society. These more technical concepts are generally absent from everyday political discourse, and equally absent or incomplete in regards to finding solutions for a failing or unfavorable system.

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: How to Fight Back 

While the US Government COIN guide gives us a clear picture over the governmental-military interdisciplinary aspects of COIN, the Marine Corps Field Manual 3-24 (FM 3-24) provides us with a complete picture of the actual components of an insurgency and all the relating factors that affect it.

This includes an enumerated list of services, institutions, organizations, and processes that must be controlled in order to establish political, tactical, and economic primacy. Without these, counterinsurgency fails. Without these, any political movement seeking to assert itself over a flawed or failing system, fails. 

USMC Counterinsurgency FM 3-24.

While FM 3-24 deals with an armed insurgency, presumably in a foreign country, the basic concepts can and are applied to the relatively peaceful execution of real political power throughout the world as well. The reason why so many well-intentioned political solutions fall short, is because they are tailored without understanding these basic concepts.

1. Establishing Essential Services

When attempting to establish political primacy – essential services, basic infrastructure, economic development and administration must all be controlled by the counterinsurgency. It is upon these basic aspects of modern society that people depend, and from which popular support is sustainably derived. Strength in arms alone will fail utterly unless these aspects are secured, controlled, and developed properly.


Upon page 117, the manual discusses the establishment or restoration of essential services. It states specifically (emphasis added):

Essential services address the life support needs of the HN [host-nation] population. The U.S. military’s primary task is normally to provide a safe and secure environment. HN or interagency organizations can then develop the services or infrastructure needed. In an unstable environment, the military may initially have the leading role. Other agencies may not be present or might not have enough capability or capacity to meet HN needs. Therefore, COIN military planning includes preparing to perform these tasks for an extended period.

Any goal, no matter how well-planned, noble, or progressive, cannot be achieved before these basic services are established and capable of being sustainably maintained. The military is a highly trained, disciplined, well organized institution capable of developing, maintaining, as well as protecting these services. In our local communities around the world, we have to ask ourselves how we can similarly develop and maintain these services sustainably.

Community gardens, farmers’ markets, alternative energy and energy cooperatives, and many other local initiatives shift the power and influence centralized governments and corporate-financier special interests enjoy, away from their monopolies and toward our local communities. Communities that no longer dependent on these special interests are less likely to support them and more likely to defend vigorously infrastructure they are directly invested in.

Image: Local energy cooperatives – maybe not as exciting as a shootout with the Feds, but definitely more constructive and unlike a shootout with the Feds, will actually leave the balance of power tipped slightly greater in the people’s favor…

The task is not entirely as daunting as it may seem. Local communities around the world accomplish this through a combination of traditional and newly created local institutions. Most local communities around the world operate with the added advantage that the corporate-insurgency they face is low-intensity and generally not armed. For prospective activists, auditing what their communities already possess, and how to develop it to be more organized and effective would be a good first step.

Some other initial priorities identified by the manual include the following taken from page 122:

Many communities already possess the ability to do these activities on their own. Points such as “building an indigenous local security force” might translate into efforts to empower local sheriff offices to negate intrusive, unconstitutional federal government control. It might also include the establishment of professional neighborhood watches and shooting clubs where responsible gun ownership is taught – not only to gun enthusiasts, but inclusively to community demographics not traditionally associated with firearm ownership.

Building and improving schools might translate into expanding and improving local home schooling networks, leveraging freely available open-courseware online, and opening after-school tutoring centers giving remedial classes or teaching trades and skills not taught at existing educational institutions.

Image: Growing food organically, locally, undermines big-ag and big-retail. It also redistributes wealth not through government programs that breed dependency amongst the population, but through local entrepreneurship where people directly participate in and benefitfromproductiveeconomicactivity.

Ultimately, most communities are not faced with absolute destitution. For the most part, basic services exist. The problem really is that these services are carried out in some cases by “corporate-insurgents” and play an essential role in building legitimacy and a support base dependent on the corporate-insurgency for these services. Therefore, the goal should be to take ownership over the execution of these basic services which can be done as a community effort or as a local, small business. The precept of “boycott and replace” is the equivalent of the “take, hold, and rebuild” doctrine in military “nation-building” and counterinsurgency.

2. Economic Development 

On page 119 of the report, it states the importance of expanding on basic services and supporting economic development. It states specifically:

The short-term aspect concerns immediate problems, such as large-scale unemployment and reestablishing an economy at all levels. The long-term aspect involves stimulating indigenous, robust, and broad economic activity. The stability a nation enjoys is often related to its people’s economic situation and its adherence to the rule of law. However, a nation’s economic health also depends on its government’s ability to continuously secure its population.

Planning economic development requires understanding the society, culture, and operational environment. For example, in a rural society, land ownership and the availability of agricultural equipment, feed, and fertilizer may be the chief parts of any economic development plan. In an urban, diversified society, the availability of jobs and the infrastructure to support commercial activities may be more important. Except for completely socialist economies, governments do not create jobs other than in the public bureaucracy.However, the micro economy can be positively stimulated by encouraging small businesses development. Jump-starting small businesses requires micro finance in the form of some sort of banking activities [now easily done via crowd funding]. So then, supporting economic development requires attention to both the macro economy and the micro economy.

Without a viable economy and employment opportunities, the public is likely to pursue false promises offered by insurgents. Sometimes insurgents foster the conditions keeping the economy stagnant. Insurgencies attempt to exploit a lack of employment or job opportunities to gain active and passive support for their cause and ultimately undermine the government’s legitimacy. Unemployed males of military age may join the insurgency to provide for their families. Hiring these people for public works projects or a local civil defense corps can remove the economic incentive to join the insurgency.

The report then goes on to list the major categories of economic activity that it implies are essential for the counterinsurgency to control:

Clearly all of these industries are dominated by corporate-financier special interests and their “corporate-insurgency.” One need not stretch their imagination here to see how the economic crisis created by corporate-financier interests across the West and spreading around the world is comparable to the sort of economic challenges facing a post-war nation fighting an armed insurgency.

Image: Through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, local communities can “jump-start” local businesses and their local economies without banking monopolies being involved or possessing leverage over the community long after loans are granted.

The description and redresses described on page 119 are particularly relevant, and if we consider the corporate-financier interests who have overtaken our government and institutions as the insurgency, we must see it within ourselves and our communities to search for the energy and initiative to begin local economic development.

And again, where the military possesses the ability and the resources to do this on their own, or with other government institutions assisting – local communities must develop their own institutions to accomplish these same goals themselves. Hackerspaces and farmers’ markets represent two organized efforts to develop economic opportunities locally, and present viable models that can be expanded into other industries.

3. Logistics

An entire section of the counterinsurgency field manual is dedicated to logistics. The importance of managing logistical lines not only enable an army to conduct counterinsurgency operations efficiently, but deny the insurgency supplies to conduct their operations. As it is pointed out, throughout history, insurgencies many times supply themselves off of carelessly protected counterinsurgency supply lines.

The report states on page 169 (emphasis added):

Insurgents have a long history of exploiting their enemies’ lines of communications as sources of supply. During the Revolutionary War, American forces significantly provisioned themselves from the British Army’s overindulgent and carelessly defended logistic tail. In the 1930s, Mao Zedong codified a doctrine for insurgency logistics during the fight against the Japanese occupation of China. Without exaggerating, Mao stated, “We have a claim on the output of the arsenals of [our enemies],…and, what is more, it is delivered to us by the enemy’s transport corps. This is the sober truth, it is not a jest.” For Mao’s forces, his enemy’s supply trains provided a valuable source of supply. Mao believed the enemy’s rear was the guerrillas’ front; the guerrillas’ advantage was that they had no discernable logistic rear… 

…For these reasons, forces conducting counterinsurgency operations must protect all potential supplies. Forces must also vigorously protect their lines of communications, scrupulously collect and positively control dud munitions and access to other convertible materiel, and actively seek ways to separate insurgents from black market activities. 

The corporate-insurgency’s logistical lines are particularly easily to compromise – that is because we the people are their logistical lines. Corporate-financier special interests and the government they have constructed to serve them, sustains itself from the collective patronage of communities around the world failing to develop local institutions, services, and economies, and instead pay into centralized, monopolizing multinational corporations. By boycotting and replacing these multinational corporations,we cut the corporate-insurgency off entirely from its logistical lines, starving it into submission.

But just as the USMC COIN manual implores counterinsurgency planners to secure their logistical lines from pilfering insurgents, the corporate-insurgency uses laws and regulations to protect their lines.

Image: The Oregon ranchers’ supply lines appear to lead right to Walmart’s front door. Resistance against Wall Street that pays into Wall Street to sustain itself is doomed to fail before it even begins.

Laws and regulations are designed to prevent independent local institutions, services, and economies from springing up and competing directly with the corporate-insurgency. Farmers in America have been fighting laws seeking to disrupt and regulate out of business, local farmer’s markets. Similar laws in regards to “intellectual property rights” seek to stifle the emergence of independent technological innovation and personal manufacturing. Understanding the greater implications of these laws should provide us a greater impetus to organize and find the means of circumventing them.

For local communities organizing against the corporate-insurgency, our “supplies” consist of our food and water, our electricity, our means of communication, and many others. To secure these, we must assume ownership over them, maintaining them as a collective common or a small, local business. To organize against the corporate-insurgency when we are still dependent on them for even simple things like food and water, is a recipe for instant and repeated failure.

4. Communications

In a very literal sense, a local community’s communications include telephone networks, the Internet, and radio. Like many other aspects of fighting the corporate-insurgency, the low-intensity nature of it affords us the ability to piecemeal boycott and replace various aspects of its power structure without disrupting the lives of people in our local community.

Often times, alternatives are more appealing than existing, monopolized options, and enhance rather than disrupt the lives of ordinary people.

In terms of communication infrastructure, ad hoc wireless networks could be constructed to connect a local Internet. This is already being done by the US State Department to infiltrate and overthrow sovereign nation-states – they already recognize it as an essential strategy of the corporate-insurgency.

In New York Times’ article, “U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors,” it states:

The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.

The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype “Internet in a suitcase.” 

With a well developed community Hackerspace, a similar network can be created for a local community to simply circumvent and replace corporate-financier monopolies, providing custom tailored services for a community its creators already know, and spreading the profits of communication monopolies across local communities worldwide – a redistribution of wealth done not through socialist handouts, but through innovative local entrepreneurship. A larger international Internet could be made by simply providing links between communities.

Image: Hackerspaces – sometimescalledmakerspaces- are local institutions that pool together both technological and human resources to prototype and manufacture local technology and solutions. They serve as the perfect nexus for solving everything from agricultural problems to creating local communication solutions, and even bringing manufacturing down to a personal level.

The alternative media is a perfect example of a new decentralized “institution” leveraging communication to successfully counter the corporate-insurgency, and it does so by leveraging technology that allows us to do as individuals what was once only possible with large, capital intensive organizations.

The alternative media also reflects some of the tactical considerations expressed by the USMC COIN field manual in regards to logistics. By using large corporate-owned, free services like Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others to spread a constructive message aimed at developing our local communities, and against the corporate-insurgency, we are essentially exploiting their own logistical lines for our own cause.

Conclusion 

It must be understood that while, without taking these basic aspects into consideration a political movement is sure to fail, this does not by any means negate the work of activists focused in other areas. A synergy must be created between all efforts aimed at unwarranted corporate-financier influence – but these fundamentals must be understood by all involved.

It must also be understood that not everyone employed or involved in a large corporate-financier, multinational corporation is a bad person. In fact, many people who work for corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Halliburton, Exxon, and even Monsanto or Cargill are hardworking and incredibly talented. Like many military who leave the service and join the cause of humanity, these people can become some of our most valued allies if and when they realize the greater implications of what they are involved in and what, for their own best interests and those of humanity, they must next do.

For our part, we must work hard to develop our local communities, to create tangible solutions to the problems we face, superior local alternatives to replace the dependency that empowers special interests, and produce a viable model that is self-evidently a system people will want to join and help build.

Of all the aspects discussed in the voluminous collection of counterinsurgency manuals the US government has produced, possessing a morally superior cause and instilling a sense of legitimacy within a population ranks toward the top in importance. Building a local community with the people’s best interests addressed by the people’s own two hands themselves, exhibits just such a cause, featuring just such legitimacy. It would be a movement very difficult for the corporate-insurgency to prevail against, and is the key reason why their doctrine has failed them overseas in pursuit of their empire where nations and peoples have successfully accomplished this.

For the Oregon ranchers, their ill-conceived strategy fits nowhere within the above outlined necessities for taking back our communities and institutions. A well-organized and well-armed citizenry if led and used properly, would deter confrontations before they even unfolded. A group finding itself in multiple armed standoffs before it has even built the necessary sociopolitical and technical underpinning necessary to sustain any kind of struggle, has failed to understand even the most elementary aspects of strategic doctrine and has doomed itself before it even began.

The best advice for those either joined with these ranchers, or supporting them, is to step back from the Hollywood narrative apparently being woven, see how our attention has been distracted away from real solutions and real local empowerment, and directed toward an expanding confrontation Wall Street and Washington are well prepared to easily win.

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Vaccines: Threads of Corruption

January 7th, 2016 by Bonnie Faulkner

Attorney Alan Phillips, whose practice specializes in vaccine exemption law, lays out the case for legislative activism to counter the wave of coercive state legislation mandating extensive vaccination of children, and the elimination of choice.  The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act freed the vaccine industry of accountability and created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  The corruption of science and research is discussed, as well as the unconstitutionality of many state vaccine laws. The challenging legal quagmire facing children and adults and the many arenas where vaccines are required is addressed, as well as recent draconian California legislation.    

Because while ultimately this is a scientific issue – are vaccines safe, are they effective, are they necessary, are there other things we can do, that’s all science questions. The way it plays out in our lives day-to-day is a legal question. At any given point in time when somebody’s required to get a vaccine there’s either a law that says you can say or no or there isn’t. So where the rubber meets the road primarily is in the state legislature, so we’ve got to become legislatively involved whether we like that or not, we’ve got to be proactive pushing our agenda for informed choice because whether we do that or not they’re pushing their agenda backed by huge sums of money and lobbyists and so forth.

I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, Alan Phillips. Today’s show: Vaccines: Threads of Corruption. Alan Phillips is a practicing attorney headquartered in North Carolina. He is a nationally recognized legal expert on vaccine policy and law. He is the only attorney in the United States whose practice is focused solely on vaccine exemptions and waivers, and vaccine legislative activism. He advises individuals, families, attorneys, legislators, and legislative activists throughout the U.S. on vaccine exemption and waiver rights, and vaccine politics and law. He hosts a weekly radio show, “The Vaccine Agenda.” He is the author of The Authoritative Guide to Vaccine Legal Exemptions, published as an e-book. Guns and Butter co-producer Tony Rango caught up with Alan Phillips for an update on the current vaccination legal and political environment, its effects on doctors and healthcare workers, students and employees, as well as related industries including medical publishing and pharmaceuticals. We begin with the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act that granted legal protection to the vaccine industry.

Transcript:

Tony Rango: Alan Phillips. Welcome to Guns and Butter.

Alan Phillips: Thanks for having me. It’s a real pleasure and honor to be here.

Tony Rango: You are in a very unique position to discuss vaccine exemptions since you are the only lawyer in the US with a practice that focuses specifically on legal exemptions. And I know there’s a lot you have to share with our listeners on this topic, especially in light of recent California legislation mandating vaccines, SB 277 for children and SB 792 for adults. There are two areas: The first is corruption, an area you’ve been covering lately. The other is legal and legislative issues, which also include exemptions. Take us through the legal environment in which the vaccine industry operates that provides opportunity and what appears to be incentive to be corrupted. What did the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act change?

Alan Phillips: Well, first of all, we need to understand why that 1986 act was passed, and the pharmaceutical industry was going out of business. Not the pharmaceutical industry but the vaccine manufacturing portion of the pharmaceutical industry was going out of business in the early-1980s, mid-1980s. They were pulling out of the vaccine business. The court awards for vaccine injury and death were too many and too high, and Congress stepped in to save that industry.

We really have to question, I think, whether there was a need to save anything there but this was in kind of this broad premise about how vaccines are necessary; that’s an irrefutable fact so we’re not even going to debate that, because if it weren’t for vaccines we’d have rampant disease running everywhere and so forth. If you look at the official government statistics, and not only here in the US but also in Great Britain, in Australia and probably some other countries as well – the mortality decline from childhood infectious diseases dropped steadily across the 1900s, a period of decades. That drop was on average about 90% before vaccines were even introduced in the first place.

So vaccines may have had and may have some impact on disease incidence but not on disease mortality. We do not have low disease death rates with regard to the childhood infectious diseases today because of vaccines. Vaccines had nothing to do wit that. The vast majority of that decline preceded the introduction of vaccines. So I would question the need for anybody to do anything and decide to try to and protect the vaccine industry. If their products don’t stand on their own merits they should either fix the products or get out of the business.

And there’s a whole other category, a question about whether or not there are other ways of dealing with childhood infectious diseases. And I’ll just mention very, very briefly, because I think it’s such an important one that needs to become a bigger part of this conversation, and that is homeoprophylaxis, which is a very particular type of homeopathic remedy that has been demonstrated quite successfully in parts of India and in Cuba among other places in recent years where they have used homeoprophylaxis on literally millions of people and documented scientifically the results, and seen that it has been very effective. And it’s a fraction of the cost of convention allopathic immunizations, it’s more effective, and it doesn’t have a side effect of injury and death.

We know that vaccines cause injury and death. The federal government pays out money every year. Over the last six years the average payout was over $220 million a year, and that’s about twice the average annual payout over the life of the program, which is now, I think, in its 26th year of paying out money to compensate victims of vaccines. And that number’s enormous, Tony, but we know from multiple sources, including people from the FDA and the CDC but also non-governmental agencies such as the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and the National Vaccine Information Center, which has conducted independent surveys, that roughly only 1 to 10% of the serious vaccine adverse events ever even get reported.

This is not only a serious problem in that it means there’s literally no data available for anyone to use to calculate whether there’s any net benefit from vaccines. The cynical but informed among us would say that’s not an accident because we see people in the healthcare industry deliberately violating federal law. A part of that 1986 act, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, included federal statutes requiring anybody administering a vaccine to give a physical piece of paper to the vaccine recipient, or the parent if it’s a minor that’s being vaccinated, that spells out not only the supposed risks and benefits of vaccines but more importantly for purposes of this point, the existence of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which is one of the things that that 1986 act created. This is a program that compensates people or families of people who are injured or killed by vaccines.

So the vast majority of the injuries and deaths from vaccines are probably not even being reported at all. Again, we have multiple sources, governmental and non-governmental agencies agreeing at least in general terms that the vast majority never even gets reported. We have laws that require doctors – again, another part of this 1986 act – anyone administering a vaccine, if they see certain events in terms of medical conditions show up within a certain period of time after a vaccine – and it has nothing to do with whether the doctor thinks the vaccine has anything to do with it or not. It’s not about their professional opinion. If this condition shows up in this amount of time after a vaccine it has to be reported, and anything in the package inserts listed as a side effect, if that shows up it has to be reported. And yet, the majority of doctors are not reporting.

Tony Rango: I’ve never had a doctor say anything like that to me or give me any information ahead of time. Is that pretty standard or what’s your sense on that?

Alan Phillips: Well, surveys show that most doctors don’t do that and anecdotal evidence I hear over and over again from people like yourself just now who say, “No, they’ve never offered a piece of paper.” When my oldest son went in for his first immunization – this would have been over 22 years ago or about 22 years ago – we were handed a piece of paper. At that point in time I was not an attorney and I wasn’t familiar with this law. I wasn’t even aware of vaccine injury or death as a potential reality at that point in time, but I now know looking back that the piece of paper the doctor gave me was something he was required by law to give me. Maybe they were more consistent back then or maybe I just had one of the few who actually did it. But this doctor, it was real interesting. He was out of the room for some period of time for one reason or another and he came back in and I had read this paper while he was gone and I said, “Doctor, it says here that my son’s chance of dying from pertussis is 1 in 10 million but his chance of a serious adverse reaction are about 1 in 1750.” He got very angry with me and raised his voice and he was close to yelling at me and he says, “It doesn’t say that.” He storms out of the room and as he’s closing the door he says, “I guess I should read that some time.”

Tony Rango: Sorry for laughing. I was going to say, my understanding is and what happens in the media instead of reporting these is they demonize the parent who brings in their child who maybe has been vaccine injured to ask that question, and they’re ridiculed and told that can’t be possible.

Alan Phillips: Well, to be fair, I rarely have people ever call me up and say, “By the way, I want you to know that everything went smoothly and beautifully. Thanks for being there.” People contact me when they have problems. But certainly I hear anecdotally over and over again reports along the lines of what you just described, that many doctors – who knows how many, but many; it’s certainly common – for some reason on this issue it pulls them out of professional behavior.

I don’t think it’s an accident, frankly, because what I’ve heard from several doctors about medical school, they say, “We’re not taught anything about vaccines in medical school except here’s the schedule and vaccines are safe. And by the way, here are some pictures of children dying from these infectious diseases. This is why we need vaccines.” So there’s an emotional or psychological programming going on and what doctors have implanted in them at an emotional level is these horrible pictures of children dying from these infectious diseases.

And let’s not make any mistakes. These infectious diseases have been horrible killers in decades past. Now, 100 years ago a significant number of children died, and prior to that time, from these infectious diseases. So they certainly have been problems in the past, but what we are not told, because it’s not good marketing, is the fact that the deaths from these diseases, the death rate declined steadily for decades before vaccines ever came on the scene. So where we are today, before the measles vaccine was first introduced, in the years immediately preceding that, the measles was nothing more than a cold with spots. It was not regarded as something that anybody should be concerned about. Okay, you’re sick. Good. Now you’ll be done with it. Unlike a cold, it’s something you get once and you’re done with it, and so it was actually a good thing to get it, and we now know from medical research that getting measles and mumps and these childhood diseases actually protects from certain kinds of cancers and other chronic diseases later in life. So it’s beneficial to get, especially as a child, these childhood infectious diseases, and there was no problem with getting them until after there was a vaccine available, and then for marketing reasons they had to change the image of these diseases to make them something terrible and awful to be feared.

Tony Rango: Now it seems like it’s a life-threatening epidemic to get it.

Alan Phillips: Right. It’s not a life-threatening epidemic to get any of these diseases that they don’t have a vaccine for but the ones they have a vaccine for, they suddenly become life threatening because there’s a vaccine. We need to understand that vaccine policy law is driven by mainstream medicine. And mainstream medicine, for whatever good that it does and includes and has, is also severely and substantially corrupt. It’s corrupt in the sense that it has been skewed by the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over state and federal legislatures and health departments to skew policy and law to favor them from a marketing point of view.

Because not only are vaccines now a multi-billion dollar industry – and again, no liability, virtually no liability for all practical purposes – but vaccines are introducing chronic disease into the population and everyone who develops a chronic disease from a vaccine and it doesn’t kill them, then is potentially a lifelong customer for other pharmaceutical products.

We need to understand that psychopaths make up a certain percentage of the population. I’ve seen different figures ranging from 4 to 8%. And every psychopath is not a serial killer. Some of these people are intellectually brilliant and they learn at a very early age how to act appropriately. Even though they have no conscience themselves they can see and imitate and learn how to act, and some of these people will rise up the corporate ladder or the government ladder to key decision-making positions and, in fact, have done so.

So the evidence of this is not simply – this is not simply conspiracy theory. There’s objective evidence for this. The pharmaceutical industry routinely engages as just a matter of business practice in massive criminal behavior. There have been combined criminal / civil fines $100 million and up, as high as $3 billion or more, at least 33, 34 times since 2001. That’s just the ones above $100 million. I don’t have the time to go researching all the ones that were only in the millions or hundreds of thousands or whatever. And criminal fines have been in the hundreds of millions of dollars and even as high as $1 billion, the criminal portion of these larger combined criminal / civil fines. This is an industry that routinely engages in massive criminal behavior, as documented. Anybody can go to the Justice Department website and look it up. It’s right there for anybody to go see, who wants to take the time to do that.

So the question is, why do they do that? Well, for three simple reasons. One, nobody goes to jail. There’s nobody that’s held accountable in the way that people are ordinarily held accountable in our society for criminal behavior.

Two, there’s a net profit. They wouldn’t do this unless there was a net profit. And the behavior has gotten worse. If you look at the size and frequency and number of these fines, they have gotten larger and larger over the last several years compared to prior years, so the problem’s getting worse and worse and they wouldn’t do it unless there was a net profit, so there’s a net profit.

And then again, the third reason, because the people that are making these decisions – and I’m not rendering a diagnosis here; I’m using labels to make a point – they’re either sociopaths or psychopaths. And what I mean by that is they lack a conscience. They lack the ability to refrain from engaging in behavior, even though it’s profitable, because it’s going to cause some unnecessary death and disability. But when you make those kinds of decisions in the healthcare arena, well, at least the way the legal system is set up right now these people pay fines when they get caught. Who knows how many times they do things and don’t get caught? But when they get caught, yes, they’ll pay fines, and sometimes some pretty heavy fines.

I’m not suggesting that in 2012, for example, when GlaxoSmithKline paid a $3 billion fine – $1 billion criminal, $2 billion civil – I’m not suggesting they were happy. But there was this, to use a quick analogy, a little skit on the “Laugh-In” show two or three decades ago. The old lady comes into the pharmacy and she asks for her prescription, and the pharmacist says, “That will be $5.” You can tell how long ago it was now, right? He says, “That will be $5.” Then the phone rings and he picks up the phone and starts talking. Well, the little old lady pulls out two quarters and waves it in front of the guy but he’s busy on the phone and doesn’t see her. She sets the two quarters down on the counter and walks out. The pharmacist gets off the phone, looks down and sees 50 cents and he yells out to the lady, “No, lady, that wasn’t 50 cents; it’s $5.” But she’s already gone. The punch line is, “Oh, well, a quarter profit’s better than none.” So it’s like who cares if you pay a $3 billion fine if there’s a $20 billion profit?

The World Health Organization back in 2009 estimated that developed nations individually – this is not collectively – individually on average probably have about $23 billion of corrupt health care practice going on. I saw a more recent estimate talking about the US specifically, estimating something more on the range of $60 billion. In 2014, or at the end of 2014, the Justice department bragged that during 2014 they had recovered $3.3 billion. Let’s give credit where credit is due; that’s a lot of money to get back from the pharmaceutical industry. But if they’re doing $23 billion, or maybe $60 billion depending on whose estimate you look at, that’s one heck of a net profit.

So the industry certainly doesn’t want to pay fines if they can get away with it but when you’ve got that kind of a net profit, the only thing that’s going to stop somebody at that point is if they have a conscience and realize that, hey, it’s not okay to engage in behavior that creates unnecessary death and disability, or is even just morally or ethically wrong.

We need to understand that there are people in key decision-making positions who will make decisions that hurt, injure, and kill people so long as there’s a net profit and they are not being directly held accountable for it. There are people who will do that, there are people who have been doing it and are doing it as we speak. Once we get over this hump of, “Well, nobody would really do that,” then we can get to a place where we can really look at the problem and start to take some steps to address it.

Tony Rango: Right, and you mentioned this “accountability” for the pharmaceuticals but this is somewhat accountability because those companies are setting that money aside and the shareholders are paying, so there is not really accountability, but that doesn’t even exist with vaccines. You and I are paying that with our taxpayer funds that go into the system. Isn’t that correct?

Alan Phillips:
Well, the way they have it structure and labeled, it’s a tax that the manufacturerpays, 75 cents on every vaccine. But do you think they take that out of their profit or you think they just add it on to the cost of the vaccine? So whether you want to say they pay for it or we pay for it sort of depends on how you want to look at it.

And then, who buys the vaccines? You and I do, so we’re paying that tax in the cost of vaccines, whether it’s the government – state and federal governments, of course, purchase vaccines and administer vaccines, but private citizens do, as well, so it’s some combination.

But any way you want to look at it, it’s not like they’re taking that out of their bottom line and just taking a hit for the common good. That’s not the way this works. So yeah, at the end of the day it’s the taxpayers who are paying this net money. The tax on each vaccine that goes into a federal government fund that then is where the money comes from to compensate, through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, victims or their families.

Tony Rango: Which, when there is criminal or quasi-criminal behavior, that is not impacting the actual manufacturers of the vaccines or the doctors themselves that are administering it.

Alan Phillips:
Well, part of this 1986 act requires vaccine manufacturers to take steps to make safer vaccines, but there’s no enforcement mechanism. They’re in this program happy to have the program that significantly removed liability when the act was passed in 1986.

But then we had a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court case that took it even further, that basically said there’s virtually no liability now. Originally, the law said you have to go to this federal program first and if you don’t like the results of that, then you can go to state court and sue just like you would any other personal injury case. But the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted the language in such a way as to say, no, you really can’t do that anymore. Again, for all practical purposes, it is the first and last stop now.

I said earlier, doctors are required to give information to vaccine recipients or their parents, informing people of this program. Well, they’re not doing that, and there are today roughly 140, 150 attorneys around the country who do these vaccine injury compensation cases – and by the way, for all people listening to this, there is no cost to hire one of these attorneys. The government pays the attorneys on both sides in these cases, and there are people representing themselves because they can’t afford an attorney, and they don’t realize you don’t have to afford an attorney.

So you always want to have an attorney whenever you can with any important legal matter because, unfortunately, the legal system is complex and there are a lot of people with winning cases who lose because they don’t know how to navigate the legal system. Unfortunately, it’s a complex system and it really helps to have an expert guide you through that system or represent you through the system, especially with vaccine injury compensation.

Tony Rango: Well, let’s go back to the corruption in science. I want to talk a little bit more about that. In what other ways have science and research been corrupted and maybe tell us a little about Dr. Thompson and what he has revealed.

Alan Phillips: Let me back up a step on a couple of points here. I want to talk just a little bit about the medical publishing industry, because what doctors rely on – very few doctors have time, and medical students even less time, to actually go out and do medical research on vaccines or anything else for that matter. When they can find time to read the medical journals they’ll look at the conclusions, and that’s what they base their practice in large part on, or the CDC or other governmental, non-governmental agencies will often look to the medical literature, and that can drive to a large extent what goes on.

Now, the point I’m about to get to is separate and apart from the idea of cherry-picking, which goes on considerably, where you look at the studies that say what you want them to say and you ignore the studies that don’t say what you want them to say. Somehow those studies are either nonexistent or they’re wrong by default because if you have a preconceived conclusion rather than looking objectively to see whether or not there’s consensus in the medical literature and if so what it is, and if there’s not consensus what are the conflicting points and why and so forth. Doctors don’t have the time to get into that.

So, a couple of comments here from three different people who are either in or have been in the heart of the mainstream medical publishing world, and the first quote here comes from Dr. Marcia Angel from Harvard University. She was an editor for the New England Journal of Medicine for 20 years and she went public, I think it was back in 2004 – it’s been several years ago now. She said, “It’s simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians and authoritative medical guidelines.” She was very reluctant to say this. She says, “I take no pleasure in this conclusions, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.” She wrote a book called The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. It comes from somebody who’s as much a mainstream insider as you could be, or certainly she was.

Another quote here. This comes from a gentleman by the name of John Ioannidis, and he wrote something in 2005, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” He says in the abstract of this article: “Simulations show that for most study designs and settings it’s more likely for a research claim to be false than true,” and that “for many current scientific fields, research findings may simply be accurate measures of the prevailing bias,” going to the comment I was saying there that there seems to be a tendency to when you want to assert a point of view you cherry-pick.
Now, what did Dr. Angel say in articles I’ve read about hers and probably gets into in depth in her book? In one sense it’s sort of simple. It’s just that money is driving what gets published and what the published research says, rather than objective science. You publish a study and it either supports or doesn’t support a new drug and millions if not a billion dollars or more can be on the line there. And there’s just something about money, when it reaches a certain level that it takes on a life of its own and it rolls over anything in its path, and whether it’s because people have phenomenally myopic vision and can’t or refuse to see the moral and ethical issues and lines and even outright civil and criminal legal lines or because they just deliberately choose to roll over it anyway, who knows in any given situation? But that is, in fact, what’s happening, is that these lines are being rolled over.

More recently, just last year, this same fellow, Dr. Ioannidis, says, “Currently many published research findings are false or exaggerated and an estimated 85% of research resources are wasted.” And I would add, wasted maybe with respect to objective science but probably otherwise very carefully targeted to sell products.

I want to take it one step further, because this comes from earlier this year: Richard Horton, who is the Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet. This is one of the most respected and prestigious medical journals on the planet, as is The New England Journal of Medicine that Marcia Angel used to work for, as well. But here’s Richard Horton, the editor in chief of The Lancet. He says, “The case against science is straightforward. Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.” He gives a quick list of some of the reasons for this but the end phrase here is very telling, Tony. He says, “Science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

Now, this is not the kind of language that somebody who’s the editor-in-chief of a prestigious medical journal uses, “Science has taken a turn towards darkness.” That’s just not a scientific phrase or even an intellectual kind of phrase. To me, this is a cry for help. “Science has taken a turn towards darkness.” He sees something that is totally out of control and just doesn’t have any other way to phrase it. This is my interpretation, but I can’t come up with any other explanation for this. That phrase, “Science has taken a turn towards darkness,” that’s a cry for help.
But some of it gets just downright absurd. There was a Harvard science journalist who submitted 304 versions of a fraudulent research paper to open access journals and more than half of the journals accepted the paper for publication. What kind of a world do we live in when you can make up a study and somebody will publish it?

But it gets even more absurd. I’m going to take it one step further. This is from an article in MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT News in April of this year, 2015, “How three MIT Students fooled the world of scientific journals.” These three students wrote a computer program that they called SCIgen. This computer program generates random computer science papers, complete with realistic looking graphs and figures and citations but it’s just random. It invents made-up science papers, and they’ve actually had these papers be accepted. One paper was accepted for presentation in a conference and there was a situation a couple years ago where the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and Springer Publishing removed more than 120 papers from their websites after a French researcher’s analysis determined that more than 120 papers were generated by SCIgen, a computer science program that was written just as a joke. Now, they had to be really good. These must have been really convincing-looking fake studies to be accepted, but how could anybody read a fake study and then not recognize that it’s a fake study, randomly generated?
So this is the point here. We’re at a place where scientific publishing is a joke. And I’m sorry to say that because I’m sure there are many credible researchers with high integrity who do serious work, submit it for publishing and get published, so I’m not saying that that doesn’t ever happen. But what is also happening is that you can just make up studies and a lot of times they’ll still get published. Or you can even have a computer program invent random, arbitrary studies and they get published. This is a very sad state of affairs that we’re in.

All this comes back to a real simple but profound point. We want to bring it back into vaccines specifically and medical publishing. If the medical literature is not reliable – and clearly, based on what I’ve just said, it’s not – then who should have the final decision making for you and your kids and when it comes to healthcare issues? You? Or the state? Or your employer? Or anybody who’s going to rely on this fraudulent research that’s out there – or potentially fraudulent research, unreliable?

Tony Rango: I heard about those different studies and things you mentioned and it’s truly amazing and, I think darkness captures it quite well.

Alan Phillips: Right. Well, this sort of leads into another question here. Vaccine policy and law – in fact, healthcare policy and law generally – is driven by mainstream medicine. So this gets into the question of why did we fail with SB 277 and another bill in Illinois that passed that is the most egregious religious exemption law I’ve ever seen in the country now, in Illinois. We had some wonderful successes in other parts of the country, but they’re going to come back better organized and with better strategies. We’ve got our work cut out for us here.
But there’s a real important distinction, especially with respect to talking with legislators, trying to educate them on the issue, in my opinion. The distinction has to do with the difference between what has been officially documented and what hasn’t. What I’m saying is, for purposes of educating legislators your better starting points are the already confirmed, officially, formally documented things, such as the fines that have been assessed and paid, for example.

I’ve started putting some of this information in graphs so you can look at it and see it as a picture. You know the old saying, a picture speaks a thousand words, or whatever it is, really can hold true for some of these vaccine issues. You look at a graph, and I’ve put one of these together just in the last few days, of the payouts year-to-year from the Vaccine Compensation Program and there’s all these tall bars on the right side of the graph because in the last six years the payout amounts have skyrocketed compared to all the prior years, the average in the last six years over twice the average across the duration of the whole program.

You look at a graph of the criminal / civil fines in the pharmaceutical industry that are above $100 million over the last, say, 15 years and you see in the last several years, 6, 7, 8 years, you see these bars on the right side that are way taller than all the bars on the left side and you see that the combined criminal fines are in the multi-billions of dollars in the last several years whereas they were only in the hundreds of millions of dollars in preceding years. Sometimes a graph just really communicates better than giving a study or writing a paragraph or whatever.

Tony Rango: You’ve also been working with a lot of healthcare workers, as well, over the past number of years, certainly as the pressure’s been increasing. What kind of success have you been having with exemptions and getting them support with their jobs?
Alan Phillips: Well, based on what my clients have been telling me, and I’ve heard this from at least two different clients in different parts of the country where they say, ‘Our hospital system has had over 1,000 requests for exemptions,’ or over 1,500 in one instance; the hospital administrators brag that they only allowed four exemptions in one case or very few or no exemptions. So they offer exemptions but they don’t really want to grant any.

What I see in my practice is that the vast majority of my healthcare worker clients will get the exemptions, high 90s. I haven’t kept track of it specifically and documented it but the vast majority of them do. When people don’t get an exemption, if they have come to me up front and they’re working with me up front as supposed to trying it on their own and then they get rejected – because a lot of times people have unwittingly, of course, shot themselves in the foot and it can be really more difficult in those situations. But the people who come to me up front from the start will almost always, if not always, end up with a qualifying exemption. The question then becomes does the employer cooperate or not. The problem with any vaccine exemption arena is that the people on the other side have the leverage. If they want to make you jump through hoops to enforce your rights, they can do that. And so the question then becomes, when that happens, how far is my client willing to go?

So the few instances where I’ve had clients who didn’t get an exemption, it’s usually because they stopped fighting at some point even though they had a winning position. They didn’t want to pay me or didn’t have money to pay me to take it to the next step or they go to the EEOC, for example, which is where you go if you have a dispute with an employer about a religious exemption and you want to take it to the next step formally. Maybe if the EEOC doesn’t get it right you can go to court then, but people or the emotional stamina or whatever it is to go to court. So I’ve had clients with winning cases that just stopped at some point, for whatever reason, but again, the vast majority of them in this arena are successful. And my impression is, from what my clients tell me, is that the vast majority who aren’t getting legal help are not successful because people on both sides of the issue don’t understand how it works legally.

Tony Rango: Right. So you’re able to help these folks more with the federal religious exemption rather than working with families, say, in California who are dealing with state exemption issues. Is that correct?

Alan Phillips: Well, I work with clients and when necessary local attorneys around the country, and whether it’s state law or federal law or mixture just depends on the specific situation. There’s a long list of different categories where exemption issues come up and most people don’t realize – I didn’t realize it when I first got into this work – how vast and broad and deep it is. But vaccines are required at birth, for school and daycare enrollment, for college enrollment, increasingly at work, in the military and that can involve military members, families and civilian contractors, for immigrants, which could include foreign adopted children.

Another issue I see coming up more and more in my practice is where parents divorce or split up and disagree about whether or not to vaccinate the kids, and the legal arguments there are completely different from other child custody disputes, and family law attorneys just don’t see that. I’ve spoken now with dozens of family law attorneys around the country and I’ve never talked to one who knew what I had to share with them before we got on the phone and talked about it. It’s not because I’m smarter than any of them but I’ve just been focused on this issue for years and years, and they’re seeing it for the first time when it comes up there. So just a lot of different arenas where vaccines are required, and you’ve got to understand what law applies and how it applies and what the exemptions are.

In terms of exemptions for school and daycare, for example, it varies from state to state because the federal government doesn’t have authority to mandate vaccines for state residents. But with employers and employees, there are only three states that have state exemption laws that would apply to any healthcare workers or employees, so most states don’t have a state law at all that can help them in that arena. But federal civil rights law can help them. And it’s not about a vaccine religious exemption, per se, it’s about religious discrimination in the workplace, but the law can function for practical purposes like a vaccine religious exemption.

So you just have to understand what situation you’re in, what the starting place is in terms of the law and often it’s a mixture of state and federal law because any time, for example, there’s a religious exemption that brings in federal constitutional free exercise of religion rights and so forth.

Tony Rango: Let’s switch gears a little bit and go back to California. I wanted to get on the SB 277. You said you had some advice for parents regarding that, as far as an approach goes either for other states or for parents in California. What are your thoughts?

Alan Phillips:
Well, first of all, just the obligatory disclaimer: I’m not offering legal advice on the air here; I’m just offering information for general educational purposes. But I would point out that the language in SB 277 refers to a “letter or affidavit” that if you get into the daycare or school before January 1st 2016, then you can preserve your right to continue exercising the personal belief exemption under the old law until the child reaches either kindergarten or seventh grade. So people whose child is going into kindergarten or seventh grade next fall I think are out of luck unless they’re going to home school or leave the state, frankly.

But a lot of people are saying, “Make sure you have a personal belief exemption in to preserve your right under the old law.” And I’m not asserting one way or the other. I’m just raising a question. I don’t know whether a personal belief exemption falls under this label of “letter or affidavit.” So if it were me and I lived in California I would write a letter and I would get it notarized, which is what makes a document an affidavit, or I would label it affidavit. I would make sure that I had a letter or affidavit is what I’m saying. It may be that the personal belief form under the old law counts as a letter or affidavit but I’m not sure if it does, so I’m just raising that question.

But there’s an aspect of this new law, Tony, that is really fascinating and that’s that it rewrites the medical exemption and it’s incredibly broad. It really puts the total authority in the hands of medical doctors, and without restricting them by saying you have to meet this condition or this criteria in a specific way. It’s very general language, which leaves it pretty wide open for doctors to exercise their professional discretion and that’s the end of the story. So I don’t know whether doctors who write medical exemptions are going to be … There could be some consequence for that politically or some kind of pressure, but the language of the law gives the doctor pretty much total authority to decide.

Tony Rango: Yeah, and that raises actually a question I had. Have you heard of doctors getting punished for not sticking to certain vaccination schedules or getting an incentive to have a higher vaccination rate or compliance rate? Is there any kind of incentive or coercion techniques?
Alan Phillips: When you have these enormous financial interests and people who are able and willing to do anything to protect those interests and further those interests, you risk some negative feedback when you start messing with those interests. And the vaccine industry – It was really interesting that somebody else had to sort of bring this to my attention: The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and that 1986 law substantially removes liability for manufacturers or anyone administering vaccines for the death and disability that’s caused by vaccines. But your vaccine has to be on the list.

So the industry has been making this aggressive shift away from whatever else they do and into the vaccine arena where they have limited liability. And so there are all kinds of things now, treatments that are being developed, that are beginning called vaccines that have nothing to do with childhood infectious diseases. There are vaccines under development for obesity, for cocaine addiction, for things you would never think of as having to do with a vaccine, and if it has anything to do with the immune system I guess they can call it a vaccine – and then if they can get it on the vaccine list they’ll have no liability for it. And the patents on a lot of the blockbuster drugs have recently run out or are running out and so they’re looking for another basket to put their eggs in, and they’re putting it in the vaccine basket.

So the push for flu vaccines is just a door opener. The CDC has been saying for years already that they want to revaccinate every adult with all the childhood vaccines, but there are literally hundreds of new vaccines in development. I heard a figure over 270 vaccines, and this was several months ago now, that were already at the FDA waiting for approval or licensure – vaccines have to be licensed by the FDA before they can be administered in the U.S. – or they were in clinical trials, the last stages before going to the FDA. So there’s just this enormous shift into the vaccine arena and away from other places where the profits are not as big and the liability is still there.

This is a disturbing progression because we’re going to see more and more kinds of vaccines developed, or things called vaccines that you would never think of as having anything to do with vaccines, so they can get into this no-liability arena. And every man, woman and child on the planet is a potential recipient of vaccines from the moment of birth until somewhere up to, what, a year after you die you’re supposed to keep getting flu shots now, I think. It might as well be, as ridiculous as all this is, and there’s just no limit to the number of vaccines, as far as the industry’s concerned, that any person can get at any stage and age in their life.

The reason they’re requiring healthcare workers to get flu vaccines is the healthcare workers are the door-opener to the rest of the adult population. We’re supposed to all look at the healthcare workers and say, “Oh, they’re the health professionals. They’re all getting flu shots. It must be good. I better go get my flu shot.” Of course, they’ll conveniently leave out the part that the reason they’re getting these shots is because they’d lose their jobs if they didn’t, and then the flu vaccine is a door-opener to literally hundreds of new vaccines to come. So it’s an open-ended agenda. There’s no light at the end of this tunnel.

Tony Rango: Right. And you mentioned getting vaccinations at birth and my understanding, I think I heard you talk about this at one point, is why they’re given at birth and at such a young age, because you have such an under-developed immune system until you’re about one year old. So why would you actually need a vaccine when you’re that young?

Alan Phillips: Well, I saw a doctor at a formal presentation several years ago say that children shouldn’t be vaccinated at all until you’re about 4 or 5 because of the development and the maturation of the immune system. So there are different opinions out there about who should get how many vaccines and when, if any.

And my position, my professional, public position is everybody should have that right to make that decision for themselves and their children, and in consultation with the healthcare professional of their choosing whether it’s allopathic or otherwise, because as soon as you put that decision in the hands of the state, where you’re being required to, then the door’s open for industry to influence to its benefit and to our detriment that decision, which is exactly what’s going on in the world here.

The hep-B vaccines, when you say why are they doing it, it just depends on what perspective. One answer to that question is because they can get away with it and make lots of money for it. Hepatitis B is not a high-risk disease for newborns. I can count on one hand the number of newborn children I’ve ever heard of anywhere who were sexually promiscuous intravenous drug users. It’s just a really small percentage. I think really right down there at or next to zero, I would guess. I’m being facetious here, but the point is to show you how incredibly stupid this is.

I remember somebody telling me that they had asked a nurse once, “Why do we vaccinate newborns?” and the answer something like, “Because that’s what we do.” That’s the mentality that’s out there with a lot of people. They just follow orders. You do what you’re told. They don’t want to make waves because they don’t losetheir job or be disciplined or be scolded or yelled at by the supervising doctor or whatever, so people are just all following orders.

Well, that’s what happened to Nazi Germany and you see the results there. There’s a huge profit there, but the medical reason that they give is, “Well, this was the only vaccine that at least some newborns would actually have an immune response to.” They, of course, have tried to give all the other vaccines at birth but there’s no immune response so they wait until 2 months and 4 months and 6 months and 12 and 15 months and whatever it is they do with which vaccines. Supposedly it’s based on when they can get immune response in the infant or toddler, whatever it is. That’s the argument, so that’s why hepatitis B and no other vaccines, but why would you vaccinate for hepatitis B at all? The only risk is if a child’s mother has hepatitis B, and you can test the mother ahead of time and find out. You don’t need to risk injury or death from the vaccine by vaccinating every newborn just in case Mom has hepatitis B. No. You test Mom.

And a vaccine’s not going to help you anyway. This is the same story, you go into the emergency room with a deep cut or puncture wound and they want to give you a tetanus shot. It’s not going to help you. If you’re exposed to hepatitis B at birth, a hepatitis B vaccine is not going to help you. Vaccines take days or weeks to develop a full antibody response, and if you’re exposed to tetanus by the cut the tetanus vaccine isn’t going to help you. What you need are tetanus antibodies. Maybe that would help you, but I’ll tell you, when I’ve talked about this with Dr. Mayer Eisenstein he said, “Well, they used to give the tetanus antibodies in the emergency room but they stopped doing it because the reactions were so severe, so they said, ‘Well, we’ll just give the vaccines’.”

The whole thing is medically ridiculous. It serves a non-medical agenda and most people are just going to follow orders and not question anything and not look into it for themselves. We’ve got to get over that.

The shift that is taking place, Tony, and that we need to facilitate with shows like this and other things that we can do is a shift from external reliance to internal reliance, where we just turn over all the important decision making to other people and just blindly follow whatever they say, because whenever you do that, you open the door to manipulation and control and that’s exactly what’s happened.

Now, I’m not saying you don’t look outside of yourself to get information. But at the end of the day you take responsibility for deciding what’s best for you and your children and we work to get laws in place that allow us to do that, because while ultimately this is a scientific issue – are vaccines safe, are they effective, are they necessary, are there other things we can do, that’s all science questions. The way it plays out in our lives day-to-day is a legal question. At any given point in time when somebody’s required to get a vaccine there’s either a law that says you can say or no or there isn’t. So where the rubber meets the road primarily is in the state legislature, so we’ve got to become legislatively involved whether we like that or not, we’ve got to be proactive pushing our agenda for informed choice because whether we do that or not they’re pushing their agenda backed by huge sums of money and lobbyists and so forth. So if we don’t become proactive we lose. It’s not a question of if; it’s just a question of when. So that’s where we need to get involved here.

Tony Rango: Right, and you mentioned getting legislatively active, and I would point listeners to check out the National Vaccine Information Center, NVIC.org, I believe it is. Go there and you can get information about the states and what’s happening in your own state, and also get on their list and get active so that you can get involved with what’s happening locally in your own area and your state.

Alan Phillips: Yeah, and I strongly recommend them. They have what they call their Advocacy Portal. They actually have a separate web address for that. You can get there from NVIC.org or you can go there directly from NVICAdvocacy.org, and that’s the Advocacy Portal. And they have really streamlined the process. You no longer have to take time off and make it a part-time job to be legislatively active. You can go to this website and sign up, and if you choose to join and give them your mailing address information the software will tell you who your representatives are and what their phone numbers and addresses are. They keep that information confidential, of course, so only they and the NSA have access to it. That’s a feeble attempt at humor there. Unfortunately, it’s probably true. But the point is this. They’ve made it as easy as possible to be legislatively active and involved.

Tony Rango: Excellent. Well, Alan Phillips, thank you very much.

Alan Phillips: Thank you, Tony. It’s been a pleasure.

* * * * *

You’ve been listening to Alan Phillips interviewed by Tony Rango. Today’s show has been Vaccines: Threads of Corruption. Alan Phillips is a practicing attorney headquartered in North Carolina. He is a nationally recognized legal expert on vaccine policy and law, whose practice is focused solely on vaccine exemptions and waivers, and vaccine legislative activism. He advises individuals, families, attorneys, legislators, and legislative activists throughout the U.S. on vaccine exemption and waiver rights, and vaccine politics and law. He hosts a weekly radio show, “The Vaccine Agenda” every Monday evening, available at blogtalkradio.com/thevaccineagenda. He is the author of The Authoritative Guide to Vaccine Legal Exemptions, published as an e-book. Visit his website at vaccinerights.com. He may be contacted at [email protected].

Guns and Butter is produced by Bonnie Faulkner, Yarrow Mahko and Tony Rango. Visit us at gunsandbutter.org to listen to past programs, comment on shows, or join our email list to receive our newsletter that includes recent shows and updates. Email us at [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter at #gandbradio.

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Thoughts on Nature and Humanity

January 7th, 2016 by Dady Chery

When rumors of sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker surfaced around spring 2006, the Nature Conservancy decided to girdle to death about three trees per acre near the bird’s potential habitat in an Arkansas swamp. The idea was to introduce some dying trees in a relatively young forest. This girdling of trees, although inspired by beavers, would never involve these gentle creatures because, all around the area, the beavers were being killed and their influence removed from the landscape. This brought to mind the notion that there is as much human arrogance in conserving as in ravaging nature. We are destroyer and creator. We reserve our absolute right to be gods, and this might well kill us all.

Is conservation a nostalgic wish to return to an America untouched by Europeans? This would hardly be possible without reducing the population to 16th century levels and forsaking most of the technological crutches of the last five centuries. The idea of conservation ought to be replaced by a desire to achieve a state of maximum ecological complexity, in which as many niches as possible may be filled. Consider a fish tank, with its bottom feeders, like the suckers and catfishes, and the middle and top feeders. A balance leads to a tank that stays clean with little input of human energy.

WilsonBigaud_Paradis

So-called foreign or invasive species can then be seen for what they are: creatures who have discovered and exploited an ecological vacuum. Nature is dynamic and cannot be conserved. Rivers shift their courses. One native parrot species disappears and a new one migrates into its place, just as the American dream, shorn by the wealthy and complacent American-born children, is continually renewed by new flocks of starry-eyed immigrants. The niches are not necessarily comfortable: they simply have to be unwanted. Pandas live precarious lives on a diet of one species of bamboo. Snow leopards live on impossibly steep and barren slopes in the Himalayas and an unreliable diet of antelopes.

The migrants are not necessarily driven by competition, as suggested by Darwinian theory, but by their own ingenuity. The notion of giraffes developing longer and longer necks while a mad herd grazes all around them has always confounded me. I think that a giraffe becomes a giraffe by learning a new trick, isolating himself and others of his kind in a new niche, and reproducing, unbothered by competitors or predators for many generations. Many species observed on the discovery of islands have been as improbable in appearance and innocent of predation or competition.

GerardFortune_AdamEve

Human immigrants, by this notion of competition and predation, move to their new countries because they cannot compete for jobs, or they are being persecuted. Though this is no doubt true for some immigrants. I think we can get a clearer picture of most immigrants’ ambitions by their wishes for their children rather than for themselves. They do not merely want their children to get jobs. They work so that their children will achieve a level of self-realization that they themselves never dared even to dream about. This goes well beyond the trivial notions of competition and self-preservation.

On the other hand, consider the seal clubbers. These appear to be an isolated population of humans who have carefully and abundantly bred themselves for cruelty and idiocy. How can there possibly be any good in destroying their environment and making it a living hell for the seals with whom they share it? These humans reproduce beyond their means and prostitute themselves to the ship owners to whom they provide the seals. In short, they behave as a pack of mad dogs, without loyalty even to themselves: the ultimate in domestication. They reproduce, all right, but are they fit, in the Darwinian sense? Would it not be better for them to make fewer offspring and give birth to themselves?

Has no one else said that humans merely contribute to a great ongoing experiment, where as many of life’s possibilities are being tried and tested: our contributions being different but no better than those of a butterfly or tarantula. We do not stand at the apex of a pyramidal scheme but merely form a tenuous link in a great circle.

Our question to ourselves should be: given our specific talents, how can we promote the existence of other life forms and enhance and support their contributions? Arguably, our most laudable talents are:

  • Our invention of time beyond our own lifetimes;
  • Reading and writing;
  • Manipulation of the natural world.

All of this is quite pointless if we life solely for our own pleasure and reproduction and then crash and burn as an index species. It is useless even if we learn to respect Nature in the abstract, as something to fear and leave alone. No. Nature must become as real as a chick or a grasshopper eating from our hands, if we are to survive. It is simply not in us to feel an ideal as fiercely as a kiss.

Dady Chery is a Haitian-born writer and the author of We Have Dared to be Free: Haiti’s Struggle Against Occupation. Paintings are renditions of Paradise by Haitian artists Fritzner Alphonse, Wilson Bigaud, Gerard Fortune, Fritz Merise, and Pierre Maxo, respectively, from top to bottom.

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Post Communist Russia in a Multi-Polar World

January 7th, 2016 by Michael Welch

The way Russia is now structured as a political unit, it looks very much like a big corporation…Putin basically, he’s anything but a dictator, he’s more like a chair of a board.” -Boris Kagarlitsky

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This special holiday edition of the Global Research News Hour features a speech by Boris Kagarlitsky, delivered at the University of Manitoba September 27, 2015, as the closing keynote speech from the inaugural Geopolitical Economy Research Group Conference.

Boris Kagarlitsky is a native of Russia. A political dissident, Kagarlitsky has been imprisoned twice in his country – once under the Soviet regime of Leonid Brezhnev, and once under Boris Yeltsin. He is director of the Moscow-based Institute for Globalization Studies and Social Movements, a leading Russian leftist think-tank. Kagarlitsky is also the editor of the on-line magazine Rabkor, and author of numerous books, including Empire of the Periphery” (Pluto) and “From Empires to Imperialism” (Routledge).

In his September 27 talk, Kagarlitsky devoted his attention to the state of Russian politics and economics in the post communist era. He explained the role played by the oligarchs in Russian and Ukrainian society, the dynamics of political decision making in Putin’s Russia, and how the situation has been influenced in the wake of US and other foreign political and economic decisions.

Video of the talk along with a question and answer discussion is available below.

     

Footage courtesy of Sean Cain and Nicolas Kochay of Better World Communications

For more on the Geopolitical Economy Research Group 2015 Conference, please visit www.gergconference.ca.

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The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca . The show can be heard on the Progressive Radio Network at prn.fm. Listen in every Monday at 3pm ET.

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Boston College Radio WZBC 90.3FM NEWTONS  during the Truth and Justice Radio Programming slot -Sundays at 7am ET.

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As the American Historical Association (AHA) prepares to vote this week on a symbolic resolution that affirms support for the right to education in the occupied Palestinian territories, apologists for the Israeli regime’s policies against Palestinians are putting forward nonsensical rationalizations for their opposition to the measure. Writing in History News Network, University of Maryland History Professor Jeffrey Herf (pictured left) essentially argues that his profession has no practical value: “as historians we have neither the knowledge nor expertise to evaluate conflicting factual assertions about events in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”

If historians should not evaluate the veracity of factual assertions about an issue then what exactly is the use of historical studies? To merely compile and organize documents? Surely a historian’s job involves analytical – in addition to technical – skills. And surely their methods include empirical analysis – no different than a scientist testing a theory. If someone says the earth is round but another person says the earth is flat, that doesn’t mean the scientist should throw his hands up in the air and say “as scientists we have neither the knowledge nor expertise to evaluate conflicting factual assertions.”

Historians analyzing political questions use the same principles as scientists testing a theory. Take, for example, conflicting accounts of the actions of the Belgians under King Leopold in the Congo near the end of the 19th century. Leopold claimed he treated the Congolese people benevolently as part of his “Christian duty” to help the poor. Others claimed Leopold’s forces were engaged in the systematic plunder of resources carried out through massive violence. They described women held hostage by Belgian forces to force Congolese men to engage in involuntary labor, with the hands of those who did not produce enough rubber for the colonists cut off and kept as trophies.

According to Herf’s axiom, historians would not have the ability to distinguish between these competing claims. It would be outside the scope of the historical vocation to evaluate the available evidence and reach a conclusion about the truth.

In the Congo, the African American historian George Washington Williams worked tirelessly to document the true condition of the local population under Belgian rule. As Adam Hochschild explains in his book King Leopold’s Ghost, Williams’s insistence on questioning the official narrative enabled him to uncover and expose the brazen lies meant to cover up the genocidal destruction of an entire society for the material enrichment of a tyrant.

“Williams was a pioneer among American historians in the use of nontraditional sources. He sensed what most academics only began to acknowledge nearly a hundred years later: that in writing the history of powerless people, drawing on conventional, published sources is far from enough,” Hochschild writes.

Much like the Belgian regime in the Congo more than a century ago, the state of Israel today covers up its crimes against Palestinians by denial, deflection and counter-accusations. They rely on the support of apologists in media, government, civil society, and academia to side with authority by accepting their justifications at face value.

Herf writes that “(i)t is fair to insist that where there is an indictment, we must pay attention to the case for the defense.” Absolutely true. But we must pay attention to the evidence for the case itself, not merely conclude that the existence of a defense means there is no way to draw a conclusion about the facts.

Herf requested a response from the Israeli Embassy on accusations presented in the AHA resolution. Among their claims are that the movement of faculty, staff and visitors in the West Bank are not limited except occasionally because “Palestinian universities periodically serve as sites of violence and incitement.”

The evidence is overwhelming that movement in the West Bank is severely limited and adversely impacts education. A UN report found that checkpoints, settler violence, and long commutes present risks to West Bank students. Another UN report documented 542 obstacles to movement in the West Bank. Students from Gaza are denied permission to study in the West Bank, a policy that has been criticized by Amnesty International. The policy has been endorsed by Israel’s High Court. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have raided West Bank universities. Visiting academics are denied entry to the West Bank. After arbitrarily being denied entry to deliver several lectures there, world-renowned scholar Noam Chomsky compared his treatment by Israeli authorities to that of Stalinist regimes.

There is no evidence presented, however, to support the claim that Palestinian universities serve as sites of violence and incitement.

Herf also quotes the Israeli Embassy defending their bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza (IUG) in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge “not because it was a university but because it was used by the terrorist organization Hamas to manufacture and fire rockets at Israeli civilians.”

First, it should be noted that Hamas is not recognized as a terrorist organization by the United Nations. The description carries exactly as much weight as Hamas calling the Israeli regime a terrorist organization. But that is beside the point. The accusation is that Hamas used the university to make and fire rockets.

The source provided for this claim is “Israeli military intelligence officials.” After the bombing, the IDF claimed to target a “weapons development center” within the university. This is a predictable accusation. The IDF made similar accusations after bombing the same university in 2008. A UN report on that conflict “did not find any information about their use as a military facility or their contribution to a military effort that might have made them a legitimate target.”

Rami Almeghari, who teaches journalism at IUG, noted in the Electronic Intifada that the university is not run by Hamas or any other political party. Students and faculty, like those at any higher educational institutional, have varied political affiliations. Many others, like himself, belong to no party.

“Contrary to what Israel claims,” Almeghari writes, “Gaza universities do not have departments dedicated to military research or training. This is in contrast to Israeli universities which play an integral role in the military occupation and weapons development and have actively promoted the onslaught in Gaza.”

None of the Israeli government’s accusations are substantiated by anything other than its own word – which should be treated with the same skepticism as any criminal defendant pleading his innocence. On the other hand, a mountain of evidence from independent sources (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,UNESCOPalestinian Centre for Human RightsInstitute for Middle East UnderstandingB’Tselem, etc.) supports the accusations in the AHA resolution.

The idea that evaluating contrasting factual assertions and reaching a judgment is outside the scope of a historian’s profession is asinine. This notion is beneficial for the propagation of state propaganda, but devastating for the advancement of human rights, including the right to education.

Matt Peppe writes the Just the Facts blog. He can be reached on Facebook and Twitter or by email at [email protected].

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Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont gave a speech yesterday that is destined to go down in the history books of this era, further enshrining him as one of the most courageous voices of our time. Sanders promised to break up the serially criminally-inclined banks on Wall Street and reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act to drive a permanent stake through the heart of too-big-to-fail. But if you watched either his official campaign’s YouTube video of his speech or the one provided by volunteers for his campaign, three key passages of what he said have gone missing from the video. We were able to reconstruct the full speech as delivered by transcribing the three missing sections from a YouTube video posted by the PBS Newshour which, notably, had no gaps in its video. (Watch the PBS video of the speech at the end of this article.)

Perhaps it’s simply attributable to a glitch. On the other hand, if you are familiar with the dirty tricks used by the American Liberty League to undermine proposed reforms by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a similar era of unprecedented corruption and one percent control, or conversant with how the Kochtopus is attempting to rewrite The Big Short movie, you might well harbor suspicions of skulduggery.

The first missing chunk of video comes early in Sanders speech as he explains what a real banking system is supposed to do. The portion that appears in orange below is missing from the official video:

Sanders: “We need a banking system that is part of the productive economy – making loans at affordable rates to small and medium-sized businesses so that we can create decent-paying jobs in our country. Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments, making huge profits and assured that, if their schemes fail, the taxpayers will be there to bail them out.”

What could possibly be so threatening in describing Wall Street as “an island unto itself, gambling trillions…” that someone would censor it from a speech? Well, Wall Street is located in Manhattan – an island. And while Manhattan is often referred to as the economic and cultural center of America, it’s also where the vast majority of financial crime is originating and which has, not coincidentally, “more billionaires than any other city in the world,” a total of 78 according to Forbes. Many of these billionaires have fleeced shareholders, or the banks’ depositors, or investors to achieve that one-percent status.

(…)

Click here to read the rest of this article

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Jewish Terrorists Indicted for Palestinian Arson Murders

January 6th, 2016 by Stephen Lendman

Last July’s immolation murders made world headlines. Three Palestinian Dawabsha family members succumbed to devastating third-degree burns too severe to save them, including 18-month-old infant Ali.

Four-year-old Ahmed alone survived, still hospitalized in intensive care. His painful struggle to recover continues.

Israel stonewalled for months, knowing the guilty parties, refusing to bring charges on the phony pretext of “protect(ing) the identity” of alleged intelligence sources, effectively sanctioning cold-blooded murder.

Had one or more Palestinians committed a similar act against Jews, they’d likely have been hunted down and extrajudicially executed – denied due process and judicial fairness.

Perhaps the lingering effects of brutal murders capturing world attention finally got Israel to act. On Sunday, two Jewish terrorists were indicted for murder.

Amiram Ben Uliel, aged 21, faces three murder charges, an unnamed minor indicted as an accomplice. Two others (possibly three) face terrorism related charges along with the two murder suspects.

A gag order remains in place so further details aren’t known, including whether suspects were released pending trial. Much about the investigation and ongoing process remains confidential. The Palestinian public’s right to know is ignored.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked suggested the suspects may not be tried fairly, barely stopping short of supporting their immolation murders.

Will prosecutions result in slap-on-the-wrist sentences, perhaps commuted after short-term imprisonment if any hard time is imposed?

Why did Israel wait five months to act when the killers were known last summer, should have been arrested and prosecuted straightaway, leaving doubt now whether justice will be served?

A court is set to hear arguments to lift some gag order restrictions. Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, representing several of the suspects, said their confessions were obtained through torture.

“The indictment is not the end of the story, but the opening of a Pandora’s box for the Shin Bet,” he said. “My clients are innocent. (They) only confessed because (of) severe(ly) abus(ive) interrogation.”

Shin Bet claims they only faced “moderate physical pressure,” legal in terror investigations, not subjected to torture or other forms of abuse.

What happens at trial and its aftermath remains to be seen. Israel crimes against Palestinians almost never are punished. Extremist settlers freely commit violence and vandalism unaccountably.

Israeli soldiers and militarized police extrajudicially execute defenseless Palestinians with impunity. They’ve been denied justice for nearly seven decades. Nothing in prospect suggests change.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at[email protected].

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

 

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SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence is continuing to study the balance of powers in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. China has already contributed and is contributing many resources to the modernization of its Navy. The growing Chinese naval power is the main reason of the US’s attention to the South China Sea and the whole American policy aimed to restrain the Chinese expansion in the region. In turn, without a powerful Navy, China won’t be able to continue pursue own geopolitical goals and defend crucial maritime routes.

Introduction

When most people think of a modern warship, they envision a sleek vessel with a stealthy superstructure, an advanced sensor and communications capability, a vertical launch system (VLS) and a balance of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-aircraft warfare (AAW) capabilities. The U.S. Arleigh Burke Class DDG is the poster boy of modern surface warfare ships. For many years, and arguably for many more to come, the Arleigh Burke Class DDG has been at the cutting edge of naval combatant design. It is; however, no longer alone.

Many nations that have advanced naval capabilities took notice when the first Arleigh Burke Class DDG came in to service, and immediately set out to learn from its strengths and to avoid its weaknesses. A number of nations incorporated into the U.S. defense structure, set out to build similar platforms with the same combat management system and defensive and offensive capabilities. Nations that found themselves outside this defense structure, and often times the target of a robust and adversarial U.S. defense posture decided to go “back to the drawing board” and design a vessel that could not only incorporate the strengths of the Arleigh Burke Class, but one that could exceed them. They decided to design a better vessel.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was a force in need of modernization at this point. Chinese destroyers lacked the AAW capability to defend themselves beyond the range of land-based anti-aircraft missile batteries. With this in mind, China did not possess a “blue water” navy. In order to expand the effective range of its naval forces and to acquire the ability to project power farther out to sea, the PLAN needed modern warships that could both protect themselves and defeat an opponent.

The Chinese government would embark on the most extensive naval modernization program in modern history, one that has seen the PLAN grow from an antiquated coastwise navy to a truly potent blue water force. The crowning achievement of this effort is the Type 052 (NATO designation: Luyang-III) Class DDG.

Development history

The Type 052D Class DDG is the latest development in the Type 052 family of destroyers. The Type 052D was proceeded by the Type 052C and Type 052B Class destroyers, with the Type 052C being China’s first vessel to have true long range fleet air defense capability. The Type 052C used the same hull and propulsion systems as the Type 052B; however, the superstructure design was modernized and an active electronically scanned phased array radar was fitted coupled to a VLS equipped with 48 HQ-9 anti-aircraft missiles. This gave the vessel stand-alone AAW capabilities previously lacking in all other PLAN vessels. The ship also carried a complement of 8 anti-ship cruise missiles, carried in two 4 cell launchers. Rounding out her armaments, the Type 052C carries a 100mm deck gun, 2 x 30mm close-in defense guns and 6 x 324mm torpedo tubes in two triple launchers. The vessel has an aft hangar and flight deck for one helicopter for support, reconnaissance and long range ASW defense. The first Type 052C, Lanzhou DDG-170 was commissioned in September of 2005.

Type 052C picture illustrating convex radar array panels and round VLS 6 cell launchers.

Type 052C picture illustrating convex radar array panels and round VLS 6 cell launchers.

China continued to make rapid advancements in both missile technology, battle management systems and AESA multi-function phased array radars in the first decade of the 21st century, and a more powerful warship built on the Type 052C platform was designed. The new vessel was designated the Type 052D and would be equipped with more advanced detection and targeting systems and an ingenious modular VLS. This modular VLS sets the Type 052D apart from other DDGs in the navies of the world and is a true game changer for the PLAN.

Capabilities

The Type 052D is a true blue water navy warship. It hull and propulsion provide good seaworthiness, maneuverability and speed. Her AESA radar has obviously been improved with the most advanced such radar that China has produced. The easiest way to tell is by contrasting the flat panel phased array radar antennae of the Type 052D with the convex panel of its predecessor the Type 052C. This denotes that the newer vessel most likely has an improved version of the Type 348 radar that is also liquid cooled, as opposed to original the air cooled version. It is surmised that this new radar may be able to detect and track stealthy aircraft such as the F-35A/B Lightning II, but at what effective range is unknown.

Type 052D DDG.

Type 052D DDG.

The Type 052D has incorporated a brand new VLS system, which is also different from the Type052C VLS’s 6-missile cylinders. The new modular VLS is the most striking improvement of the new DDG. It is rectangular in design, with one 32 cell unit mounted forward of the superstructure and one 32 cell unit mounted aft. The VLS system resembles the U.S. Mk41 VLS, with no visible exhaust ports, which denotes that the system is either capable of cold launch, or the exhaust is vectored to a different location than its predecessor. Each VLS cell can house 4 missiles of different types. The VLS system is capable of launching surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles including the YJ-18, anti-submarine missiles, and land attack cruise missiles. Such a system allows the Type 052D to be armed with a variety of missiles dependent upon the mission requirements. In theory, all VLS cells could be loaded with anti-ship missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles to create a powerful “Aircraft Carrier Strike Group Killer”. Such a load-out is imprudent, but possible. A more balanced armament would be most likely, and would be tailored to the mission, and with 12 vessels in the Type 052D Class planned, this represent a great deal of firepower.

Detail of differing VLS and AESA radar arrays of Type 052C and 052D Class DDGs.

Detail of differing VLS and AESA radar arrays of Type 052C and 052D Class DDGs.

YJ-18 Anti-ship Cruise Missile

The YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile poses a significant threat to the U.S. Navy as well as any other potential adversary. It is believed that the missile has a subsonic cruising speed of roughly Mach 0.8 and then before striking its target it enters a terminal stage of supersonic speeds of up to Mach 3, which makes it extremely hard to intercept. The YJ-18 has an effective range of 290 nautical miles, with a theoretical threat area of 264,200 square nautical miles. This missile reportedly has an inertial guidance system fed by the BeiDuo Satellite System (BDS), often referred to as the Chinese GPS system.

Specifications:

Displacement: approaching 7,000 tons fully loaded.

L.O.A.:  156 m/ 511.8 ft.

Beam:   18 m/ 59 ft.

Draft:    6.5 m/ 21.3 ft.

Propulsion: Twin gas-turbine main engines, twin marine diesel auxiliaries.

Speed: 30+ knots.

Crew: 280

Weapons Systems:

64 cell VLS armed with any combination of ASW, ASCM, LACM, and SAMs.

  • CY-5 ASW missiles
  • HHQ-9 long range SAMs
  • DK-10A medium range SAMs
  • YJ-18 or YJ-83 ASCMs
  • CJ-10 LACMs

1 x H/PJ-38 130mm deck gun.

2 x 30mm remote control guns

1 x H/PJ-12 CIWS

1 x 24 cell launcher for HHQ-10 short range SAMs

2 x triple launchers for 324mm torpedoes

Aviation: Hangar and flight deck for 1 helicopter.

Building Project

One of the more striking aspects of the Type 052D DDG program is the rate at which these surface warfare platforms have been constructed. Building of the first vessel the Kunming DDG-172, was commenced in 2012. Since then, a total of nine vessels have been built, with a tenth under construction. Three vessels are currently commissioned and operating with the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet. A total of twelve Type 052D DDGs are planned before resources and efforts are put into the larger 055 Type DDG.

Base of Operations

It is no coincidence that all three of the active Type 052Ds (Kunming DDG-172, Changsha DDG-173, and Hefei DDG-174) are assigned to the South Sea Fleet and are based at the PLAN fleet naval base on Hainan Island. This sends a clear message to other claimants to disputed South China Sea islands and waters that China has the power and intention of backing their claims with force if necessary. These vessels also act as a strong access/area denial tool with their capable AESA radars and powerful AAW and ASW capabilities. With these vessels, the PLAN can create a large air defense umbrella over Chinese military operations and building projects in the region.

Future Development

The PLAN has been working on a larger and more powerful vessel than the Type 052D DDG that they call the Type 055 DDG. Although called a destroyer, a design displacement of over 10,000 tons (some sources suggest a displacement as large as 14,000 tons) would put the vessel into the category of a guided missile cruiser (CG). The vessel would most likely be designed as a fleet command vessel and powerful air defense platform for a future aircraft carrier strike group. Although construction has not yet begun on such a vessel, a mock-up to test the layout of radar arrays and other sensors, communications and information processing systems has been built in Wuhan, China. The vessel would likely be armed with two 64 cell VLS fore and aft of the bridge, a large deck gun in a stealthy turret, as well as a full complement of ASW weapons and close-in defense systems. Missile complement for the 128 total VLS cells would be similar to the Type 052, with the possible addition of more capable cruise missiles not yet disclosed. There would be hangar space aft for two helicopters as well as a flight deck.

Type 055 DDG/CG concept.

Type 055 DDG/CG concept.

Conclusions

China has steadily modernized its navy over the past two decades, with an obvious acceleration in both its capabilities and acquisition of vessels in recent years. The PLAN is now fielding vessels that are arguably on par with western navies, and have a decided advantage over all other regional navies with the exceptions of Japan and Australia. In this case; however, they are rapidly gaining a numerical superiority.

The Type 052D guided missile destroyer is an extremely capable, modern surface warfare combatant that provides the PLAN with a strengthened and growing blue water capability. The PLAN will no longer be limited in its range of operations, dependent upon land-based air defense coverage. The Type 052D DDG can stand alone and defend itself from multiple threats. It is a great ASW and AAW platform for fleet defense and will be instrumental in development of a modern Chinese aircraft carrier battle group. With the acquisition of an aircraft carrier, and with a second currently being built, as well as three type 052D DDGs (of 12) and four Type 071 LPDS (of 6) China has built a formidable access/area denial capability to reinforce its claims in the South China Sea. It is important to note that China has gained this capability in just the past decade. Additional vessels of smaller displacement such as the Type 054A Class frigate and Type 056 Class corvette have also been built in large numbers in the same time period.

As nations with conflicting claims in the South China Sea are faced with going into battle against a Chinese navy that has exponentially grown in size and capability, they may see military confrontation as exceedingly futile. A naval alliance of opposing claimants has been building in response, with Vietnam and the Philippines joining forces with non-claimant nations such as Indonesia, Australia and the United States. An added urgency has recently manifested itself in recent “freedom of navigation” operations on the part of this alliance, with both the U.S. and now Australia flying aircraft over Chinese island building projects in the Spratly Islands. Tensions are increasing with the U.S. sending the Arleigh Burke Class USS Lassen DDG-82 and a number of flights of aircraft, including B-52 strategic bombers within twelve miles of the islands.

If China can avoid being drawn into a conflict early on, and gain the time required to establish its artificial island bases in the region and complete the commissioning of the modern naval vessels already being built, the nation will be at a distinct advantage. China has the resources, ingenuity and manpower to win a naval arms race with its neighbors. Chinese ability to control access to the South China Sea and effectively control this entire area is just a matter of time.

Written by Brian Kalman  for SouthFront: Analysis & Intelligence. Brian Kalman is a management professional in the marine transportation industry. He was an officer in the US Navy for eleven years. He currently resides and works in the Caribbean.

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China and Russia Challenge US Naval Supremacy

January 6th, 2016 by South Front

A remarkable period of success for Russia and China has come in the efforts of developing their advanced navies. This occurs to be a problem for America’s naval supremacy at a time when the US Navy is trying to adapt to the changing security environment, US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said.

“For the first time in 25 years, the United States is facing a return to great power competition. Russia and China both have advanced their military capabilities to act as global powers,” he stated in a report, titled “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority.”

The document, released on January 5,  commented on the other countries that are trying to acquire “advanced technology, including military technologies that were once the exclusive province of great powers.” Richardson listed North Korea, Iran’s “advanced missiles, proxy forces and other conventional capabilities,” as well as international terrorist organizations as a threat to the US.

“Coupled with a continued dedication to furthering its nuclear weapons and missile programs, North Korea’s provocative actions continue to threaten security in North Asia and beyond,” the document stated.

According to Richardson’s document Russia and China command a ‘growing arsenal of high-end warfighting capabilities’, designed to exploit the US Navy’s ‘vulnerabilities’ and ‘to leverage the maritime, technological and information systems,’ the document noted.

The document also comments on the fact that both of the countries ‘continue to develop and field information-enabled weapons, both kinetic and non-kinetic, with increasing range, precision and destructive capacity.’

“The Russian Navy is operating with a frequency and in areas not seen for almost two decades, and the Chinese PLA(N) is extending its reach around the world,” the report added.

On January 6,  Pyongyang announced that North Korea successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Russia considered the action as an violation of international law and urged all stakeholders to look for a diplomatic solution to the issue.

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President Abraham Lincoln rendered the Union marble from rather haphazardly made brick.  It took the most vicious of civil wars on US soil to make a mystique of it. But the tensions between the central government and fractious peripheries within the US did not dissipate.  The US remains a complex entity of disparate factions, held together tenuously by the ideals of the Republic.

Since the weekend, armed militants have held sway in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, with an intention of staying on “for several years”.  Some stem from Harney County, including Ammon Bundy, son of a Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who won a 2014 standoff with officers over the use of federal land (The Guardian, Jan 4).

The refuge itself was seized by militia stemming from the Nevadan Bundy family (Ryan and Ammon); Montana electrician Ryan Payne; and Jon Ritzheimer and Blaine Cooper, both of whom hail from Arizona.

Ostensibly, the occupying militants seek the release of two local ranchers, father Dwight and son Steven Hammond.  Both were convicted of arson on federal land.  But much more seems to be at stake, with the whiff of the vigilante challenging authority coming to the fore. This was in evidence with the march on Harney County courthouse in the name of the Hammonds.  Customary symbols of authority were rebuked, with the courthouse and the sheriff’s office pelted with coins.

What Harney County sheriff David Ward saw was far more than a protest specific to the release of two ranchers whom the protesters felt had been hard done by.  At stake was something of an anti-Occupy Movement, a reactionary effort to destabilise the federal compact in the name of an anti-environment, and populist land rights agenda.  “These men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the country and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”

Ammon Bundy is certainly doing nothing to dissuade detractors of the broader mission.  “This will become a base place for patriots from all over the country.  We’re the point of the spear that’s going to bring confidence and strength to the rest of the people.”

The refuge, deemed an ornithological paradise, is the purposeful point of Bundy’s spear. It is the area which President Theodore Roosevelt declared protected in 1908 – a federally intrusive move that the militia can only see as negative.  (It was, however, far more negative to the first nations who were effectively dispossessed by a conservationist ideal.)[1]  According to these protestors, occupying the refuge and returning it to that nebulous consciousness of the rancher, the logger and the miner “would restore a poor region to prosperity”.

At the core of this vision is nostalgia, one which has been violated and stolen by Washington.  It is, in a sense, a joust between thieves and appropriators of territory, a dispute about who should control land that is deemed, miraculously, theirs.  The federal government undoubtedly holds sway, being the largest landholder and effectively the greatest conquistador of all.

“The government has beaten us and oppressed us and took everything from us,” claimed Cooper.  They, argue the militia members, own the land which needs to be leased, with loggers, ranchers, farmers and miners reliant on such arrangements.

The disintegrating family farm is the flashpoint of impersonal economic forces that have exerted their victimising pull on ranching. Agriculture has been heavily industrialised; environmental conditions such as drought have also taken their toll. Much American stuffing has been knocked out of the manufacturing and agricultural industries over the last three decades, victims of free trade ideology.  Paired with a colonisation narrative, the interior parcelled out by banking and mining interests, and various grievances become potential flashpoints.

This Oregon militia fling may well be dismissed as some inane prattlers with a good degree of exhibitionism to boot.  There is even an argument to be made that the actions are seditious, if not down right terroristic.[2]

How Bundy and his men will be able to stay “for several years” on the refuge, developing its prosperity, is by no means clear.  But the butt of their grievances in certain respects is harder to dismiss.  However artificial the anti-federal rhetoric may seem, the insistence on open rights in terms of recreation and grazing could just as well be a manifestation of libertarian bliss or agrarian socialist utopia.

As for a suitable response, Federal authorities have shown themselves ill-prepared and brutal in attempting to combat militancy in the past. The Waco disaster of 1993 casts a very long shadow indeed, with the spirit of David Koresh lingering as a terrible reminder about the costs of aggressive, centralised power.  It is also hard to get past the fact that such a militia seizure, had been framed along the lines of Islamic State rhetoric, or a Black Panther narrative, would have been treated with a similar degree of reservation.

The Bundy crew remain somewhat spoiled in their indignation, irritants who have so far have been kept at a distance, to be possibly prosecuted at a later date.  Ryan insists that the situation is grave enough to warrant a willingness “to kill and be killed if necessary.”  Certainly, when consulting such sites as that of the Oregon Militia Alliance, one is struck by prevalent tin can paramilitarism in the name of being a good American citizen.[3]

Eventually, this militia account will be re-incorporated into the language of the Union.  Ronald Reagan gave the impression he was on the side of the Sagebrush rebellion which seems to have been channelled into this latest Oregon “occupation”.  Then, as now, the issue was who had entitlements to use land. Naturally, other landholders – primarily indigenous – were the great absentees from the debate.  The language of theft tends to be jaundiced.

All that happened once Reagan took the White House was that land rights were privatised, with ranching rights limited. The source of grief shifted from the government official to the private land holder. Such revolts, as ever, end up dying in circular fashion.

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

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How Corrupt Is the American Government?

January 6th, 2016 by Washington's Blog

Government corruption has become rampant:

  • Senior SEC employees spent up to 8 hours a day surfing porn sites instead of cracking down on financial crimes
  • NSA spies pass around homemade sexual videos and pictures they’ve collected from spying on the American people
  • Investigators from the Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General found that some of the regulator’s employees surfed erotic websites, hired prostitutes and accepted gifts from bank executives … instead of actually working to help the economy
  • The Minerals Management Service – the regulator charged with overseeing BP and other oil companies to ensure that oil spills don’t occur – was riddled with “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity”, which included “sex with industry contacts
  • Agents for the Drug Enforcement Agency had dozens of sex parties with prostitutes hired by the drug cartels they were supposed to stop (they also received money, gifts and weapons from drug cartel members)
  • The former chief accountant for the SEC says that Bernanke and Paulson broke the law and should be prosecuted
  • The government knew about mortgage fraud a long time ago. For example, the FBI warned of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud in 2004. However, the FBI, DOJ and other government agencies then stood down and did nothing. See this and this. For example, the Federal Reserve turned its cheek and allowed massive fraud, and the SEC has repeatedly ignored accounting fraud (a whistleblower also “gift-wrapped and delivered” the Madoff scandal to the SEC, but they refused to take action). Indeed, Alan Greenspan took the position that fraud could never happen
  • Paulson and Bernanke falsely stated that the big banks receiving Tarp money were healthy when they were not. The Treasury Secretary also falsely told Congress that the bailouts would be used to dispose of toxic assets … but then used the money for something else entirely
  • The American government’s top official in charge of the bank bailouts wrote, “Americans should lose faith in their government. They should deplore the captured politicians and regulators who distributed tax dollars to the banks without insisting that they be accountable. The American people should be revolted by a financial system that rewards failure and protects those who drove it to the point of collapse and will undoubtedly do so again.”
  • Congress has exempted itself from the healthcare rules it insists everyone else follow
  • Law enforcement also grabs massive amounts of people’s cash, cars and property … even when people aren’t CHARGED with – let alone convicted of – any crime
  • Private prisons are huge profit-making centers for giant companies, and private prison corporations obtain quotas from the government, where the government guarantees a certain number of prisoners at any given time
  • The government covered up the health risks to New Orleans residents associated with polluted water from hurricane Katrina, and FEMA covered up the cancer risk from the toxic trailers which it provided to refugees of the hurricane. The Centers for Disease Control – the lead agency tasked with addressing disease in America – covered up lead poisoning in children in the Washington, D.C. area (the Centers for Disease Control has also been outed as receiving industry funding)
  • In response to new studies showing the substantial dangers of genetically modified foods, the government passed legislation more or less PUSHING IT onto our plates
  • Government scientists originally pushed fluoridation of water as “safe and effective” because fluoride is a major byproduct of making nuclear weapons … and the government ordered them to downplay the risks of fluoride exposure in order to prevent massive lawsuits by those suffering injury from poisoning
  • The Bush White House worked hard to smear CIA officers, bloggers and anyone else who criticized the Iraq war
  • The FBI smeared top scientists who pointed out the numerous holes in its anthrax case. Indeed, the head of the FBI’s investigation agrees that corruption was rampant
  • Warmongers in the U.S. government knowingly and intentionally lied us into a war of aggression in Iraq. The former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – the highest ranking military officer in the United States – said that the Iraq war was “based on a series of lies”. The same is true in Libya, Syria and other wars. Indeed, the U.S. has often launched or proposed launching wars based upon FALSE PREMISES
  • When the American government got caught assassinating innocent civilians, it changed its definition of “enemy combatants” to include all young men – between the ages of say 15 and 35 – who happen to be in battle zones. When it got busted killing kids with drones, it changed the definition again to include kids as “enemy combatants”
  • The government treats journalists who report on government corruption as CRIMINALS OR TERRORISTS. And it goes to great lengths to smear them. For example, when USA Today reporters busted the Pentagon for illegally targeting Americans with propaganda, the Pentagon launched a SMEAR CAMPAIGN against the reporters. But  journalists who act as mere cheerleaders for the government who never criticize are protected and rewarded

The biggest companies own the D.C. politicians. Indeed, the head of the economics department at George Mason University has pointed out that it is unfair to call politicians “prostitutes”. They are in fact pimps … selling out the American people for a price.

Government regulators have become so corrupted and “captured” by those they regulate that Americans know that the cop is on the take. Institutional corruption is killing people’s trust in our government and our institutions.

Neither the Democratic or Republican parties represent the interests of the American people. Elections have become nothing but scripted beauty contests, with both parties ignoring the desires of their own bases.

Indeed, America is no longer a democracy or republic … it’s officially an oligarchy. And the allowance of unlimited campaign spending allows the oligarchs to purchase politicians more directly than ever.

No wonder polls show that the American people say that the system is so thoroughly corrupt that government corruption is now Americans’ number one fear.

And politicians from both sides of the aisle say that corruption has destroyed America. And see this.

Moreover, there are two systems of justice in Americaone for the big banks and other fatcats … and one for everyone else. Indeed, Americans have .

Big Corporations Are Also Thoroughly Corrupt

But the private sector is no better … for example, the big banks have literally turned into criminal syndicates engaged in systemic fraud.

Wall Street and giant corporations are literally manipulating every single market.

And the big corporations are cutting corners to make an extra penny … wreaking havoc with their carelessness. For example:

  • U.S. military contractors have pocketed huge sums of money earmarked for humanitarian and reconstruction aid. And see this (whistleblowers alerted the government about the looting of Iraq reconstruction funds, but nothing was done)
  • There is systemic corruption among drug companies, scientific journals, university medical departments, and medical groups which set the criteria for diagnosis and treatment

(Further examples here, here, here, here and here.)

We’ve Forgotten the Lessons of History

The real problem is that we need to learn a little history:

  • We’ve known for thousands of years that – when criminals are not punished – crime spreads
  • We’ve known for centuries that powerful people – unless held to account – will get together and steal from everyone else

Beyond Partisan Politics

Liberals and conservatives tend to blame our country’s problems on different factors … but they are all connected.

The real problem is the malignant, symbiotic relationship between big corporations and big government.

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The United Nations Security Council will discuss delivery of weapons from Turkey to Syria on Tuesday at Russia’s request, Uruguay’s Permanent Representative to UN Elbio Rosselli, who is presiding over the UN Security Council in January, told journalists on Monday. He added that the meeting would take place behind the closed doors.

“Yes. The question of delivery of (weapons) across the Turkish-Syrian border will be raised tomorrow (Tuesday) as part of the general discussion. The consultations will take place at Russia’s request,” the diplomat told TASS.

According to Rosselli, Jeffrey Feltman, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is to deliver a report.

In December 2015, Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said that Moscow was extremely concerned with the ongoing arms supplies to Syria and the penetration of terrorists into the country via the U.N.-monitored checkpoints at which U.N. observers are supposed to check the relief cargoes.

Safronkov said that Russia had suggested applying the U.N. monitoring mechanisms to all the cargoes bound for Syria, including those declared as relief cargoes. However, the United Nations Security Council ignored the Russian initiative as it was preparing Resolution 2258, which authorizes the delivery of relief cargoes to the conflict-stricken areas in Syria directly from the territories of neighbouring countries until January 10, 2017.


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central-banks-economy 2Federal Reserve Intentionally “Front-Loaded An Enormous [Stock] Market Rally in Order to Create a Wealth Effect”: Former Fed Official

By Washington’s Blog, January 06 2016

Central banks – including the Bank of Japan, Bank of Israel, Bank of Switzerland and the Czech Republic– have been buying stocks to prop up their nations’ stock markets. We’ve noted for years that Fed policy is aimed at boosting stocks, as well.

IMF_450478c-400x266Chinese Yuan Incorporated into IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR): US Congress Gives In and Endorses the IMF Quotas Reform

By Ariel Noyola Rodríguez, January 06 2016

(…) now, thanks to approval from the US Congress, the IMF will finally be able to implement the reform of the quotas representation system, China and other emerging countries will increase their power in decision-making, whilst European countries will lose relevance.

wall streetWall Street Kicks Off 2016 with a Faceplant

By Mike Whitney, January 06 2016

The combination of dreary economic data, shrinking profits, dwindling capital investment, sub-par growth, and higher interest rates has put Wall Street in a foul mood foreshadowing a volatile and bumpy year ahead with little cause for celebration.

Global markets fall as fears grow over Spanish debt crisisMass Privatization and Britain’s Spiralling Public Debt, The Result of Failed Economic Policies

By Graham Vanbergen, January 04 2016

Public sector debt, that is the national debt that is declared as debt on the books of UKplc stands at around £1.6 trillion or 81% of GDP (all goods and services produced by the nation in one year).

Who Does The Law Serve?The Rule Of Law No Longer Exists In Western Civilization

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, January 06 2016

Putin is correct. America and its vassals are lawless. No one is safe from the government.

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Apparently the year 2015 marks the beginning of the new IMF interior revolution. First the incorporation of the yuan into the SDR’s was approved, the reserve basket created in 1969 to serve as a supplement of member nations’ official reserves. And now, thanks to approval from the US Congress, the IMF will finally be able to implement the reform of the quotas representation system, China and other emerging countries will increase their power in decision-making, whilst European countries will lose relevance. However, it is still too early to conclude that this is a radical transformation of the correlation of forces inside the IMF: The United States will retain its powers of veto.

The United States seem to have finally understood that in order to keep its global leadership, it is more counterproductive to repudiate the growing role of China and other emerging powers than it is to share the responsibilities of international financial management. For this reason, and very regretfully, Washington has had no other alternative but to grant important concessions to its adversaries through the International Monetary Fund (IMF)[1].

In the first instance, the last week of November, the IMF decided to incorporate the yuan into the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), the reserve currency basket created at the end of the 1960s in order to supplement the official reserves of its members. Although inside the Fund several American officials were opposed from the beginning, at the end of the day Beijing committed itself to moving forward with the liberalization of its financial sector.

Until now the People’s Bank of China has signed nearly forty bilateral currency swaps agreements. This year the central banks of Surinam, South Africa and Chile have started promoting among their companies the abandonment of the dollar. To an increasing extent, the yuan is substituting the US currency in the Asian Giant’s commercial exchanges.

This strategy has allowed the yuan to become the second most used currency in commercial financing and the fourth in cross-border payments, according to numbers from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)[2]. And sooner rather than later the Chinese currency will be fully convertible, that means, freely exchangeable in the market place.

Thus Communist Party leaders [of China] managed to break down the suspicions of executive IMF director Christine Lagarde: from the 1st of October 2016 the yuan will become the third most important currency in SDR composition[3]. The “people’s currency” (‘renminbi’) will have greater economic weight in IMF currency basket composition compared with Japanese yen and pound sterling, although it will still be under the euro and the dollar.

Secondly, last Friday 18th December, the US Congress gave the green light to the IMF to implement quotas representation system reform. Without a doubt, it is the most important change inside the IMF since 1944, the year when the Bretton Woods agreements were built. The new quotas distribution also means a significant breathing to the Fund in legitimacy terms.

After the 2008 economic collapse it was evident that the IMF did not have enough resources to face this lack of liquidity. No sovereign state had the intention of asking for its help. The IMF was decried following its action during the debt crisis in Latin America and South West Asia: It had shown that it was operating as the armed branch of the US Treasury Department, not as a multilateral fund responsible for stabilizing the balance of its adherents’ payments.

Thus, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was the IMF managing director between 2007 and 2011, convinced emerging countries to make new goals in exchange for the quota increase. The IMF Executive Board supported the proposal in 2010 within the framework of the 15th Major Overhaul of Quotas[4].

Then the initiative of reform was presented to the Board of Governors (embedded by all its members), to undergo the approval of all of the national parliaments. And then US government claimed its veto power. In order for a decision to be accredited by the Fund, a majority of 85% of the vote is required, and the United States alone counted for 16.7% of the total.

But some days ago, after five years of fervent opposition from the US Congress the inertia finally was broken. Quota system reformation will be a reality. Resources available to the IMF have doubled, and they will increase to 659.67 billion US dollars. It is worth stressing that the quota assigned to a country determines the maximum level of its financial commitments to the IMF and its number of votes in the institution, and is a factor determines its access to IMF finances.

The greatest progress corresponds to China, whose right to vote will change from 3.8% to 6%, therefore, it will be the third most powerful country, behind the United States and Japan. Brazil has risen four positions, while India and Russia have entered into the lost of the top ten most powerful. However, European assignation has fallen. With the exception of Spain’s quota, which will increase from 1.68% to 2%, Germany, France, Italy and United Kingdom will reduce their participation.

“The reforms significantly increase the IMF’s core resources, enabling us to respond to crises more effectively, and also improve the IMF’s governance by better reflecting the increasing role of dynamic emerging and developing countries in the global economy” Lagarde point out in a press release[5].

All out, unfortunately the United States will keep its veto power: its right to vote will just decrease two tenths, from 16.7% to 16.5%. Until now everything seems to say that leaders in Beijing don’t want to confront US domination within IMF, an institution that along it more for more than 70 years, has been the most important “lender of last resort” on a world scale, keeping in kind how many resources it has.

The dispute between China and the United States is just tangent. Beijing has tried to increase its financial influence through its powerful state banks (China Development Bank, China Ex-Im Bank, ICBC, Bank of China, etc.), and through regional development banks in which it takes part: Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)[6], Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS bank (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa acronym)[7].

Both in Asian-Pacific, Africa and in Latin America and Caribbean[8], there is no doubt that China is directly competing with the World Bank and developing regional banks supported by Washington (Asian Development Bank, African Development bank, Inter-American Development Bank, etc.) in the financing of infrastructure projects and projects in the extraction of commodities.

Nevertheless, financial cooperation mechanisms propelled by Beijing provide liquidity to countries in critical stages (liquidity problems), such as the Chiang Mai Initiative (formed by China, Japan, South Korea and ten more ASEAN countries) and the Contingent Reserves Arrangement of BRICS (also known as “mini-IMF”) with scarce monetary resources, they work with the dollar[9], and also depend on IMF endorsement to give loans from a certain limit.

Therefore, even if it is great news for the world that China and some other countries with large Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate have managed to increase their IMF participation and to have two more places among the twenty four in the Executive Board, United States will continues to have a crushing domination.

If Washington does not agree in some detail, even if it is minimal, they will be able to veto any emerging countries’ proposals thanks to their veto power. There is no doubt that in any moment, China should exert pressure to avoid that just one country writes the game rules, a little time…

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez is an economist who graduated from the Autonomous National University of Mexico.

Translation: Ines Condoy Franco.

Source: Russia Today.

Notes:

[1] «Congress Set to Approve Overhaul of IMF’s Governance», Ian Talley, The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2015.
[2] «Chinese Yuan demonstrates strong momentum to reach #4 as an international payments currency», Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, October 6, 2015.

[3] «The yuan will be the third most powerful currency in the IMF basket», by Ariel Noyola Rodríguez, Translation Jordan Bishop, Russia Today (Russia), Voltaire Network, 10 December 2015.

[4] «IMF Executive Board Approves Major Overhaul of Quotas and Governance», International Monetary Fund, November 5, 2010.

[5] «IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde Welcomes U.S. Congressional Approval of the 2010 Quota and Governance Reforms», International Monetary Fund, December 18, 2015.

[6] «Beijing, le crépuscule asiatique post-Bretton Woods», par Ariel Noyola Rodríguez, Réseau Voltaire, 11 novembre 2014.

[7] «6th BRICS Summit: the seeds of a new financial architecture», by Ariel Noyola Rodríguez, Voltaire Network, 3 July 2014.

[8] «China has become main banker in Latin America», by Ariel Noyola Rodríguez, Translation Thirza Toes, Voltaire Network, 13 March 2015.

[9] «Lead the world economy’s yuan-ization», by Ariel Noyola Rodríguez, Translation Thirza Toes, Russia Today (Russia), Voltaire Network, 17 July 2015.

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This aggressive relic of the Cold War remains in force today, despite being condemned every year at the UN by the international community, even after Havana and Washington opened a new chapter in their bilateral relations December 17, 2014

The Apollo spacecraft landing on the moon, the lifting of the prohibition of alcohol in Mississippi and the end of racial segregation, are the stuff of history books in the United States. However, these three events all postdate the implementation of the economic, political and financial blockade against Cuba.

Many may wonder how it is possible that this relic of the Cold War remains in force today, despite being condemned every year at the UN by the vast majority of the international community, even after Havana and Washington opened a new chapter in their bilateral relations.

The economic damages are estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars, but the human cost of a policy designed to exhaust the Cuban people through hunger and desperation is almost impossible to calculate.

After more than half a century, the main U.S. authorities recognize that this policy has failed to achieve its objectives and it is time to “try something different.”

Experts, academics and politicians from both sides of the Florida Straits spoke to Granma regarding their visions on the future of the blockade and the possibility that its days may be numbered.

The Final Blow

Although the president has broad executive powers to change the application of the blockade, the U.S. Congress is the only body that can eliminate it completely, as the policy has been codified in law since 1996 through the Helms-Burton Act.

The current scenario in the U.S. legislature is tense, with the Republicans, who enjoy a majority in both Houses, strongly opposed to the Democratic executive.

“A policy of over half a century can not be removed at once, it would require an extraordinary consensus which is currently unthinkable in the U.S. Congress, particularly given the phenomenon of political polarization we are witnessing,” Carlos Akira de la Puente, professor and researcher at the Center for Hemispheric and United States Studies (CEHSEU) of the University of Havana, told Granma.

Akira added that it is important to consider is that there are sectors within the Republican ranks that are in favor of removing the blockade, indicating a new approach within this party, traditionally opposed to a rapprochement with Cuba.

President Barack Obama himself acknowledged in a recent interview the growing bipartisan support for a change of policy toward Cuba, opening up the possibility for action by Congress.

U.S. lawyer Robert Muse, specializing in Cuba, recalls that within the U.S. political system, it is much harder to repeal legislation than to approve it. He cites as an example the ruling regarding the Havana Club trademark, which went through Congress as a draft budget bill consisting of hundreds of pages, yet over 20 years later remains in force despite violating international treaties and the attempts to render it ineffective.

“Indifference is the key characteristic of the Congress of the United States,” Muse notes.

Visiting Professor of the Center for Global Affairs of the New York University, Arturo López-Levy, highlights that a “significant blow” could dismantle the blockade completely due to the level of interconnection between the respective parts. “The embargo (blockade) is a half-sunken ship awaiting a torpedo to strike below the waterline.”

López-Levy particular emphasizes that the travel ban to Cuba for U.S. tourists remains in force and is a key component of the policy of aggression toward the island.

Dismantling Step by Step

There are currently several draft bills passing through the U.S. legislature aimed at dismantling aspects of the blockade. The level of support and chances of success vary according to each of these.

“The embargo (blockade) has many layers imposed over time in different laws. I believe some aspects will be lifted sooner than others. For example, the right to travel to Cuba, including as a tourist, could be reestablished before the complete removal of the embargo (blockade) as U.S. citizens have a constitutional right to travel,” U.S. Professor William M. LeoGrande, co-author of the book Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, stated.

Equally, he assures that the ban on granting credit to Cuba in order to buy food could be lifted as there is strong support from the agricultural lobby.

“The draft bill which is closest to being approved by Congress is that which would allow travel to Cuba. Survey after survey demonstrate how strongly Americans reject this ban. The most recent indicates that 81% of both Democrats and Republicans are opposed,” James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a bipartisan coalition that lobbies Washington for an end to the blockade, explained.

Cuban Professor and researcher Carlos Alzugaray notes that partial success in regards to travel and agricultural trade are more likely in the medium term as they respond to wide interests and could be argued for in terms of citizens’ rights.

In a recent interview, former Congressman Bill Delahunt, a veteran supporter of rapprochement with Cuba, told Granma that the past can serve to learn lessons and open up holes in the blockade legislation.

He recalled that several decades ago, this issue was not up for discussion and remained dominated by the representatives from Florida, however, various visits by legislators from other states to Cuba and their meetings with Fidel, began to alter the panorama.

Delahunt maintains that the success of the rapprochement, both politically and economically, is key to victory. “If we have here the interests of American traders, they will become allies. They will be our lobbyists.”

“The new stage in the process has had positive impacts on expectations regarding Cuba in the United States and the rest of the world and, of course, encourages interest in relations between the two countries in terms of trade and investment, which will have a progressively far-ranging reach due to the advantages of Cuba – geographic proximity, stability and security with a highly qualified workforce – to mention but a few aspects,” CEHSEU Professor and researcher, Luis René Fernández, stressed.

“These forces interested in expanding their relations with Cuba must increase their pressure on Congress to open up this possibility,” he added.

An Empty Shell

The president of the United States, using his executive powers, has the authority to issue licences that leave the majority of the sanctions against Cuba without practical effect.

To date, Obama has only used these powers to influence a minimal array of elements of the application of the blockade, mainly regarding remittances, the self-employed sector and telecommunications, leaving the bulk of the blockade in place.

Various analysts agree that the chosen sectors are motivated by obvious political interests.

The president has the prerogative to make viable substantial collaboration with Cuba in traditional areas of security, as well as on a new security, educational and health agenda, the use of the air space of both countries, direct travel to Cuba from multiple U.S. cities, environmental protection, the fight against crime and human and drug trafficking, López-Levy outlined.

Likewise, he noted that multilateral cooperation between the two countries is as important as bilateral cooperation. “The greater and more comprehensive the rapprochement between the two countries, the stronger the incentives to consolidate a new strategic U.S. policy toward Cuba.”

However, some analysts note that the President could limit the reach of his executive actions, based on the political scenario. Obama himself has said that he would be “selective and cautious” in this sense.

A key area on which experts agree is that the President could concentrate on modifying aspects that hinder the application of the measures taken thus far.

“In his next decisions he should probably work to remove some of the restrictions that have been most visible in the bilateral negotiations, which could for example be associated to the use of the U.S. dollar, or the ban on granting loans to Cuban enterprises by U.S. banks,” Professor Luis René Fernández indicates.

He adds that the obstacles to monetary and financial relations, as well as investment, will also be among the most important elements on which the Obama administration could act before the end of his term.

The Time of Factor

The time factor is another key aspect of the process underway between Cuba and the United States, with Presidential elections on the horizon and just a little over a year left for Obama in the White House.

In addition, given that the changes in the policy toward Cuba have come from the executive, a president with a different position could reverse what has been done so far.

All analysts we spoke to agreed that the most important thing now is to advance and achieve concrete results.

Professor Luis René Fernández believes that the increase in exchanges and negotiations, while limited by the blockade, is contributing to speeding up the elimination of the policy, as these impact on the view of Cuba both within and outside of the United States.

“We must move forward and demonstrate that we are capable of negotiating and reaching agreement on everything that is in our interest,” Alzugaray stresses.

“While the challenges are great, the socioeconomic conditions of Cuba and the perfecting of its system are clearly being consolidated and progressing; and this is crucial to explaining the course of U.S. policy toward Cuba,” Professor Luis René concluded.

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After President François Hollande announced last month that France might deprive dual nationals convicted of terrorism or crimes against the state of French citizenship, the Socialist Party (PS) government is now considering extending that punishment to all French nationals.

This would be a flagrant violation of international law. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man specifies nationality as a fundamental right of any person, while a 1961 UN convention specifies that member states cannot deprive anyone of their nationality if this makes that person stateless. Indeed, in his announcement, Hollande said that the measure would only apply to dual nationals, in order to avoid making people stateless.

Nonetheless, on Monday, PS Junior Minister for Relations with the Parliament Jean-Marie Le Guen announced that deprivation of citizenship for all nationals was “an element in the debate.” Bruno Le Roux, the chair of the PS fraction in the National Assembly, seemed to go further, issuing an ambiguous call for depriving of French nationality “anyone who turns their weapons against the state.”

Government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll explained, “We will look at various positions and see what we can put on the table. The president and the government are concerned with obtaining a broad majority on a question that is above all the safety of the French people, and which must therefore go beyond the usual divisions.”

This shift even further to the far right is bound up with attempts to solidify the PS majority behind Hollande’s reactionary plans. Initially, layers within the PS felt obliged to emit certain criticisms of deprivation of citizenship; it is a measure associated with the neo-fascist National Front (FN), the Nazi collaborationist regime of Vichy during World War II, and the Holocaust. The Vichy regime infamously used it to deprive thousands of naturalized French Jews of their citizenship and deport them to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps.

Its last prominent use under a parliamentary regime came in February 1940, in the reactionary climate of the opening months of World War II, against the left. At that time, two leaders of the Stalinist French Communist Party (PCF), National Assembly deputies Maurice Thorez and André Marty, were denounced as tools of the USSR and deprived of their citizenship.

Now, however, under the pretext that the government is no longer discriminating against dual nationals, broad sections of the PS are moving to support Hollande’s initiative. PS party chairman Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, who previously said that deprivation of nationality for dual nationals was “not an idea of the left,” said this week that it could be considered, “if it was open to all Frenchmen.”

The official conceit that this is a measure directed against French terrorists tied to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which carried out the Charlie Hebdo and November 13 attacks last year in Paris, is a political fraud. The measure does nothing to aid the surveillance or prevention of terrorist attacks. It would only serve to create a layer of individuals permanently deprived of any civil rights and forced to live and work illegally in France.

As the daily Libération wrote, “Indeed, deprivation of nationality can only be imposed after a definitive conviction and after the accused has served his time. This means at least 15 years delay (for terrorism-related crimes) and then an incongruous situation: made stateless, the individual would be marooned in France without papers, probably condemned to remain in this situation. ‘What other country would accept him on its territory?’ asked [Lille University law professor Gilles] Lepoutre.”

Moreover, it seems unlikely that a French Islamist who carried out a terror attack would be subject to deprivation of nationality. All of them—from 2012 Toulouse shooter Mohamed Merah, to the Kouachi brothers and Amédy Coulibaly who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo/Hyper Cacher attacks, to the November 13 attackers—either were murdered by paramilitary units or fled France.

Rather, the law moves France towards a situation where police could effectively outlaw anyone convicted of an ever-widening range of terrorism-related offenses or of violence against police and other representatives of state power.

Various politicians in and around the PS are still proposing alternatives to deprivation of citizenship. Green leader Jean-Vincent Placé is proposing deprivation of civil rights—a measure applied in the late 19th century to working-class supporters of the 1871 Paris Commune who survived the mass murder of the Communards by the bourgeois government of Versailles.

What is ever clearer, however, is that the PS is seizing upon the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris to try to resolve the deep political crisis in France by shifting the official climate far to the right, and aligning itself with the policies of the FN.

In the period before the November 13 attacks, after the collapse of social-democratic parties like PASOK in Greece and the PSOE in Spain, the PS’s long-term survival was in question. PS Prime Minister Manuel Valls had warned of “the death of the left.” PS policies of austerity and war garnered Hollande the lowest approval ratings of any French president since World War II, and there were questions as to whether the PS would survive next year’s presidential elections.

For the PS, the November 13 attacks were a political godsend, allowing Hollande to declare himself the “war president” and try to fashion broader support for his administration on the basis of law-and-order measures.

The debate on deprivation of nationality is exposing the class content of this policy. As Le Foll’s remarks show, the PS is seeking to “go beyond” the traditional division between left and right—that is to say, to overcome the bourgeoisie’s reticence to employ policies too visibly linked to the heritage of 20th century fascism.

The reactionary pro-capitalist groups that for decades have passed for the left since the 1968 general strike, the petty-bourgeois parties that emerged from the student movement and the PS itself, are completing a historic degeneration. These forces represented, in the final analysis, an alliance between finance capital and sections of the affluent middle class hostile to Marxism. Over decades in which they imposed reactionary policies, starting with the PS presidency of François Mitterrand in 1981, they emerged as a social layer totally alien from the working class.

Now, as the PS’s electoral fortunes collapse, they are veering rapidly onto the terrain of the far right, advocating state illegality and authoritarian forms of rule. The PS announced plans to rule through a permanent state of emergency, which Hollande aims to impose via a constitutional amendment. Beyond this, however, amid the confusion caused by the debate inside the PS and the media over the deprivation of citizenship, a broad series of attacks on democratic rights are being prepared.

The PS is hurriedly drafting a reform of the penal code to strengthen police powers, ostensibly under the pretext of fighting terrorism or organized crime. The law would extend police immunity for the use of deadly force during raids, broaden police powers to search persons and belongings without judicial authorization, and allow police authorities to detain individuals and consign them to house arrest for a month without judicial approval.

The police and the Interior Ministry are seizing enormous powers, effectively doing an end run around the courts and the judicial system. Le Monde wrote that the law’s goal “is clear: to prolong measures authorized by the state of emergency beyond the state of emergency… It points to a basic tendency of successive governments: to marginalize the judiciary, particularly investigating magistrates that are legally independent [from the executive], and replace them with prosecutors, who are named by the government.”

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North Korea Implements “Successful” H-bomb Test

January 6th, 2016 by The 4th Media

The 4th Media’s Editorial Note:

“In April, [2015] the head of the US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Admiral William Gortney, said the US military believes Pyongyang is capable of launching an ICBM with a nuclear warhead from a hard-to-track mobile launcher at the US West Coast.” RT

“North Korea’s current delivery systems consist of about 1,000 ballistic missiles and a small number of light bombers able to reach most targets in South Korea and Japan,” said a paper titled ‘The Future of North Korean Nuclear Delivery Systems’ published on 38nort.org.

“In a ‘special and important’ announcement at noon, DPRK(North Korean) TV claimed that the country had successfully detonated a miniature hydrogen bomb, marking the country’s fourth known nuclear test.

The announcement followed the detection of an “artificial seismic event” in the vicinity of a known Pyongyang nuclear site.

Mastering a hydrogen nuclear device would be a major breakthrough for North Korea.

The technology allows scaling up the yield of a nuclear device with few limitations.

The claimed miniaturization of a nuclear device may mean that North Korea could soon develop a nuclear warhead for its larger ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang has already claimed it can deliver nuclear strikes on the US mainland, …” RT

North-Korea-hydrogen-bomb

Text of official  DPTK press release

Pyongyang, January 6 (KCNA) –  

The DPRK government issued the following statement Wednesday:

The first H-bomb test was successfully conducted in Korea at 10:00 on Wednesday, Juche 105 (2016), pursuant to the strategic determination of the WPK.

Through the test conducted with indigenous wisdom, technology and efforts the DPRK fully proved that the technological specifications of the newly developed H-bomb for the purpose of test were accurate and scientifically verified the power of smaller H-bomb.

It was confirmed that the H-bomb test conducted in a safe and perfect manner had no adverse impact on the ecological environment.

The test means a higher stage of the DPRK’s development of nuclear force.

By succeeding in the H-bomb test in the most perfect manner to be specially recorded in history the DPRK proudly joined the advanced ranks of nuclear weapons states possessed of even H-bomb and the Korean people came to demonstrate the spirit of the dignified nation equipped with the most powerful nuclear deterrent.

This test is a measure for self-defence the DPRK has taken to firmly protect the sovereignty of the country and the vital right of the nation from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the US-led hostile forces and to reliably safeguard the peace on the Korean Peninsula and regional security.

Since the appearance of the word hostility in the world there has been no precedent of such deep-rooted, harsh and persistent policy as the hostile policy the US has pursued towards the DPRK.

The US is a gang of cruel robbers which has worked hard to bring even a nuclear disaster to the DPRK, not content with having imposed the thrice-cursed and unheard-of political isolation, economic blockade and military pressure on it for the mere reason that it has differing ideology and social system and refuses to yield to the US’s ambition for aggression.

The Korean Peninsula and its vicinity are turning into the world’s biggest hotspot where a nuclear war may break out since they have been constantly stormed with all nuclear strike means of the US imperialist aggressor troops, including nuclear carrier strike group and nuclear strategic flying corps.

While kicking up all forms of economic sanctions and conspiratorial “human rights” racket against the DPRK with mobilization of the hostile forces, the US has made desperate efforts to block its building of a thriving nation and improvement of the people’s living standard and “bring down its social system”.

The DPRK’s access to H-bomb of justice, standing against the US, the chieftain of aggression watching for a chance for attack on it with huge nukes of various types, is the legitimate right of a sovereign state for self-defense and a very just step no one can slander.

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Genuine peace and security cannot be achieved through humiliating solicitation or compromise at the negotiating table.

The present-day grim reality clearly proves once again the immutable truth that one’s destiny should be defended by one’s own efforts.

Nothing is more foolish than dropping a hunting gun before herds of ferocious wolves.

The spectacular success made by the DPRK in the H-bomb test this time is a great deed of history, a historic event of the national significance as it surely guarantees the long-lasting future of the nation.

The DPRK is a genuine peace-loving state which has made all efforts to protect peace on the Korean Peninsula and security in the region from the US vicious nuclear war scenario.

The DPRK, a responsible nuclear weapons state, will neither be the first to use nuclear weapons nor transfer relevant means and technology under any circumstances as already declared as long as the hostile forces for aggression do not encroach upon its sovereignty.

There can neither be suspended nuclear development nor nuclear dismantlement on the part of the DPRK unless the US has rolled back its vicious hostile policy toward the former.

The army and people of the DPRK will steadily escalate its nuclear deterrence of justice both in quality and quantity to reliably guarantee the future of the revolutionary cause of Juche[independent, self-determined, & self-reliant] Korea for all ages.

Juche Korea will be prosperous forever as it holds fast to the great WPK’s line of simultaneously pushing forward the two [both economic and nuclear power] fronts. (emphasis added)

Korea Central News Agency, An Official DPRK News Agency

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Wall Street Kicks Off 2016 with a Faceplant

January 6th, 2016 by Mike Whitney

2016 started with a thud on Monday when news from China sent global stocks into freefall. The Shanghai index plunged 242 points before a system-wide circuit breaker kicked in and trading was halted.  All three major US indices followed Asia’s downward slide with the Dow Jones leading the pack with a triple-digit loss on the day. The news that Chinese manufacturing continued to contract after ten straight months of erosion put the kibosh on any New Years rally as jittery traders dumped stocks at a pace not seen since 2011. The combination of dreary economic data, shrinking profits, dwindling capital investment, sub-par growth, and higher interest rates has put Wall Street in a foul mood foreshadowing a volatile and bumpy year ahead with little cause for celebration.

While the proximate cause of the current turbulence is China’s flagging manufacturing sector, the underlying reasons are even more important, like the dismal state of the US economy which continues to languish in a long-term coma.  Here’s a brief recap from economist Jack Rasmus at CounterPunch:

The real U.S. economy since 2008 has grown at only roughly half to two-thirds its normal rate. Decent paying jobs in manufacturing and construction today are still a million short of 2007 levels. Median wages for non-managers are still below what they were in 2007, and households are piling on new debt again to pay for rising medical costs, rents, autos, and education. Retail sales are slowing. Construction activity is only two-thirds what it was and U.S. manufacturing is contracting again. The gas-oil fracking industrial boom of 2012-2014 – a major source of growth – has ended this past year and mass layoffs in the hundreds of thousands are now occurring in mining, manufacturing and transport. Reflecting the true weakness of the U.S. economy, prices are slowing and are now at a historic low of 1.3 percent and heading lower, as the United States – like Japan and Europe – is drifting toward deflation.  (“Central Banks Out of Control“, Jack Rasmus, CounterPunch)

Rasmus sums it up perfectly.  The Fed’s zero rate stimulus has been a bust for everyone except the investor class which has raked in trillions off monetary programs that were designed to inflate bubbles while the real economy remains stuck in neutral.  It’s particularly interesting that he mentions the “gas-oil fracking industrial boom of 2012-2014”, since virtually all the so-called credit expansion took place in this  capital-intensive industry that is presently in severe crisis due to tumbling oil prices and  reemerging deflation.  Take a look at this chart on Warren Mosler’s excellent website “The Center of the Universe” that follows credit growth since 2001:

whitgraf1

So if the Fed’s low rates didn’t touch off a credit expansion among US households and businesses, then what was gained?

Not much really. The high-paying jobs in the oil patch have already dried up leaving the owners with sizable debts on drilling operations that are no longer profitable. As oil prices continue to slump, the price of cash in the junk bond market continues to rise paving the way for a wave of defaults that could domino through the industry.  This is a fairly typical scenario whenever the Fed lowers rates. Investors search frantically for higher yield oftentimes dumping their money into overpriced bonds that provide funding for risky operations that eventually go belly up. The fracking boom is just another example of how cheap money and falling prices can lead to disaster.

Naturally, if you drop the price of money to zero and keep it there for seven years, bad things are going to happen. Speculation is going to increase, investors are going to take on more risks, and the price of stocks and bonds are going to soar. But what doesn’t happen is that ordinary working people who are still trying to reduce their debtload after the last big bust, don’t start borrowing more money and spending like madmen. That hasn’t happened and that won’t happen. The only recovery has been in the stock portfolios of the bank moguls and other filthy-rich investors. Everyone else is still just treading water.

There have been numerous warnings that the Fed’s monetary policies are steering the system towards another financial crisis.  Check out this blurb from  the World Socialist Web Site:

In a report on the state of financial markets issued this week, the Office of Financial Research (OFR), set up by the US Treasury after the 2008 crisis, painted a picture of, in the words of Financial Times economic commentator Gill Tett, a “distinctly distorted American financial system” resulting from seven years of ultra-low interest rates.

The OFR said that “credit risk in the US non-financial business sector is elevated and rising.” It went on to warn that “higher base rates may create refinancing risks… and potentially precipitate a broader default cycle.”

In other words, a situation has been created where a default or a series of defaults in high risk areas could set off a chain reaction in the system as a whole, recalling the effects of the sub-prime mortgage collapse.  (“After Fed rate hike, global economic fault lines deepen”, Nick Beams, World Socialist Web Site)

This is exactly what happened in 2008 when Lehman got into trouble and threatened to take down the entire US banking system along with it.   Now–according to the Office of Financial Research–we’re in the same pickle due to the Fed’s zero rates which have “distinctly distorted” asset prices creating the prospect of another meltdown.

It’s clear the Fed is worried about how all this is going to shake out. Just last week, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said that the Fed needed more tools to prevent the financial crash and to contain the fallout should one occur. This is from Bloomberg:

(Fisher) “told the American Economic Association on Sunday that the Fed is not as well-equipped with regulatory powers to rein in housing and other asset bubbles as some other central banks. And he questioned whether Congress had gone too far in limiting the Fed’s ability to intervene if a crisis erupted and threatened the financial system.

“We won’t know until it’s very late” whether the Fed has been constrained too much, Fischer said at the AEA’s annual meeting in San Francisco. That’s something “we have to worry about a great deal.”….

Fischer also contrasted the congressional curbs placed on the Fed’s ability to act as a lender of last resort in a financial emergency …In banking legislation passed in 2010, U.S. lawmakers prohibited the Fed from engaging in rescues of individual financial firms, such as it did with Bear Stearns Cos. and American International Group Inc. during the last meltdown.” (“Fischer Worries Fed Can’t Head Off or Contain Financial Crises“, Bloomberg)

Why would Fisher ask for additional powers if he didn’t see clouds gathering on the horizon?

The Fed is entirely responsible for the condition of the financial markets. They’re the primary regulator and the braintrust behind these experimental programs like QE and zirp (zero interest rate policy). Not surprisingly, they implemented both policies with no idea of an exit strategy. Now they are trying desperately to improvise a way out of the mess that they alone created.   Just look at the way they’re trying to raise interest rates. It’s a completely new procedure that may or may not work, no one really knows. Before the financial crisis, the Fed used to raise the fed-funds rate by simply buying small amounts of securities.  But now that the Fed has flooded the banks with reserves in excess of $2.6 trillion, that’s no longer possible.  Instead, the Fed plans to experiment with reverse repos hoping that it will help them to regain control of the rate-setting mechanism.  Here’s a brief rundown of how it’s supposed to work from the Wall Street Journal:

The Fed has been testing a new tool: the overnight reverse repurchase agreement. These are effectively collateralized loans to the Federal Reserve that temporarily drain excess reserves from government entities or excess cash from money-market funds.This, however, has risks, too. If the Feddoesn’t limit the amount of repurchases, the opportunity of earning risk-free interest at the Fed’s new higher rate could trigger a potentially destabilizing flight from risk assets such as bond mutual funds. Should the Fed set too low a cap, itrisks losing control of overnight borrowing rates.  (“The Fed’s Rate Increase: A New Test Looms“, Wall Street Journal)

So according to the author, the new process for raising rates is:

(a)  Risky and

(b) No one knows if it will work because it’s never been tried before.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Fed’s new policy, now is it?

Of course, no one’s going to admit that none of this would have been necessary if the Fed had nationalized the banks and written down their debts when they had the chance in 2008.  Oh, no. Instead, they’re going to keep repeating the same nonsense they’ve been saying for the last eight years, that everything is getting better and that prosperity is just around the corner.  What a laugh. Meanwhile, the financial system continues to edge closer to its inevitable day of reckoning thanks in large part to the efforts of the Fed.

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

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British Special Forces have been deployed in Libya to wrest back control of more than a dozen oil fields seized by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants, it has emerged.

Approximately 6,000 European and US soldiers, including 1,000 British troops, will be involved in a number of offensives set up to halt the advance of the jihadist terror group.

The operation will be led by Italian forces and supported mainly by Britain and France.

Special Forces, including military close observation experts from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, are spearheading the major coalition offensive against the jihadist group, according to the Daily Mirror.

IS has seized several revenue-boosting oil fields in Libya and is eager to win more control over the country, as the land could provide them with millions of dollars to fund terror attacks.

The terrorist network is now targeting the Marsa al Brega oil refinery, the biggest in North Africa.

If jihadists successfully capture the oil refinery, located between Sirte and Benghazi, they would gain full control of the country’s oil.

Britain’s SAS is working with Libyan commanders to advise them on key “battle-space management” tactics to control the battlefield using troops, tanks, warplanes and navy ships.

They will also send intelligence to Ministry of Defence (MoD) chiefs that could be used to determine whether airstrikes are needed.

A senior military source told the Mirror: “This coalition will provide a wide range of resources from surveillance, to strike operations against Islamic State who have made significant progress in Libya.

We have an advance force on the ground who will make an assessment of the situation and identify where attacks should be made and highlight the threats to our forces.”

Moreover, the ideologies of jihadism and of political Islam are alive and well. It is far too soon to write off Islamic State and organizations similar to it.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told IB Times: “In Libya, there is the perfect mix ready to explode and in case it explodes, it will explode just at the gates of Europe.”

The Libya intervention would mark the first time British troops have officially taken part in a direct ground assault against IS.

Libya has been in the throes of a chaotic civil war since the 2011 ousting of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi. Today, two rival governments and parliaments compete for dominance amid a deepening Islamist insurgency.

More than 5,000 IS extremists are active in the country, according to the Libyan Interior Ministry.

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Britain And Italy To Occupy Libya . . . Again

January 6th, 2016 by Brandon Turbeville

As time passes over the foreign policy of Western nations, the façade of promoting “freedom” and “democracy” passes with it. Even with well-established propaganda mechanisms in place to convince the Western public that NATO involvement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) serves a noble purpose, there are breaks in the wall of nonsense that passes for official explanations and mainstream media reporting that document the NATO march of terror across the world that is currently underway.

In this case, the lie is that a direct Western presence in Libya is anything other than a return to open colonialism by the very powers who perpetrated it in years past on the very same territory.

The latest crack in the façade (for those paying attention), is the deployment of a joint British-Italian force consisting of 6,000 soldiers to Libya under the guise of defeating ISIS.

It is estimated that there are around 4,000 ISIS fighters present in Libya at the moment and that these fighters pose a significant threat to the national security of European nations as well as a number of oil fields located in Libya.

As Colin Freeman writes for the Telegraph,

Pressure for British troops to be deployed against Islamic State militants in Libya grew on Monday after the terror group attempted to seize the country’s largest oil depot.

At least two people were killed when Isil fighters launched a combined gun and suicide car bomb attack on the Sidra oil port on Libya’s Mediterranean coast. A rocket fired into a 420,000 barrel oil tank also sparked a huge blaze.

Sidra lies around 130 miles east along the coast from the late Colonel Gaddafi’s home city of Sirte, where Isil first raised its black jihadist flag a year ago.

The prospect of Isil also grabbing lucrative oil facilities will increase pressure on Britain to press ahead with a plan to send troops to help Libya’s fledgling government push Isil out.

Libya was “offered help” by Britain provided that the two separate Libyan governments – the more secular House of Representatives and the Islamist General National Congress – form a unity government, which both parties did shortly before Christmas.

It is noteworthy that the British press reported the decision to form a unified government in terms of the deployment of British troops as opposed to the domestic political repercussions in Libya itself.

With the formation of the unity government, British troops, along with Italian ones (notably Libya’s previous colonial controller), are apparently on their way, although the plan appears that it will take a few months to be put in place.

As Freeman reports, “Under the plan, up to 1,000 British troops would form part of a 6,000-strong joint force with Italy – Libya’s former colonial power – in training and advising Libyan forces. British special forces could also be engaged on the front line.”

Regarding the ISIS attack on the Libyan oil facility, Freeman writes that “While Sidra’s oil depot has been out of action for much of the past year because of Libya’s ongoing civil war, capturing it would still have been a major prize for Isil, which has earned millions of dollars from its control of oil facilities in Syria.”

Of course, with the deployment of Italian and British troops to the country, it is both Italy and the UK who are set to hold the oil ports near the Mediterranean coasts with the new Libyan coalition government serving as a mere cover for NATO control, a convenient “coincidence” for the European powers who would love to have control of yet another source of oil, particularly of the Libyan variety.

Clearly, the deployment of British and Italian troops to Libya is nothing more than another geopolitical move designed to gain access to oil and gain strategic footing in North Africa and the Middle East.

The true enemy, from the perspective of NATO is not ISIS. Hence, the deployment of such a small number of troops (6,000 vs 4,000).

The true enemy is national independence and the strategic positioning of Russia, the nation that holds much of Europe by the scruff of the neck when it comes to oil.

Regardless of the manner in which the deployment is being presenting by the Western mainstream press, the truth is that the re-re-invasion of Libya is nothing more than colonialism version 3.0.

Brandon Turbeville is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President. Turbeville has published over 500 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

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This is our second look at the work of Robert Stuart, concerning the BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children. (go here for our first instalment). When did the alleged chemical attacks actually occur? Why do accounts of the timing differ so widely? And why did producer Darren Conway become defensive and incoherent when asked one simple question?

The BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children began as quite low key coverage of the work of two British doctors (Rola Hallam and Saleyha Ahsan) visiting the Atareb hospital in Aleppo on August 26 2013. But then – the story goes – completely by chance, while they were filming, there was an incendiary attack (originally described as a “chemical attack”), supposedly by the Syrian government, on the Urem Al-Kubra school 8 or 9 miles away, fortuitously permitting the film crew to get dramatic footage of the victims arriving at the hospital for treatment.

This footage was first aired on BBC’s ten o’clock news on August 29 2013, just as the UK parliament were debating possible military intervention in Syria. As it happens the motion for intervention was unexpectedly defeated by a narrow majority. If this had not happened the BBC’s footage would unquestionably have served as very timely and useful PR in support of the coming war against Assad.

On September 30 2013 the Panorama program Saving Syria’s Children was aired. It included the footage of the alleged chemical/incendiary attack shown a month earlier, though the audio had been altered in slightly curious ways, which we have discussed on OffG earlier. Explanations for why the changes were made have been less than satisfactory at deflecting the suspicion of deliberate attempts at war propaganda.

However, the puzzle of the altered audio is – for Robert Stuart – only one small part of the numerous problems this documentary presents. His website discloses multiple inconsistencies, anomalies and puzzles which combine to imply there is something very seriously not right about the incident as reported, and the footage taken of alleged victims at the scene. We’ll certainly be returning to this important question again and again in coming months, and as always we urge everyone to read Stuart’s own detailed analyses, but here we’ll look at just one small but crucial aspect. The chronology of the alleged chemical attack on the school.

All agree it took place on August 26, but Stuart points out the alleged time of day varies by nearly six hours depending on what source you consult. Human Rights Watch gives the time as “around midday”. The Violations Documentation Centre in Syria put the time of the attack at around 2pm. However Ian Pannell, the reporter on Saving Syria’s Children, has stated the incident happened “around 5.30, at the end of the school day.” While his colleague on the program, director and cameraman Darren Conway, estimated the time to have been “between 3 and 5 o’clock”. Another alleged eyewitness has put the time even later, at around 6pm.

This is a little odd. Particularly curious that the two BBC crew present don’t seem to agree on the timing of the events they not only witnessed but filmed. Can it be explained simply by the confusion inherent in such a catastrophic event? It’s hard to entirely rule out that possibility of course. The alleged victims would have to be transported from the school to the hospital, could this account for the apparent inconsistency? It doesn’t seem probable. The school in Urem al Kubra is less than nine miles from the Atareb hospital, so it seems unlikely the first victims would be arriving three to six hours after the attack.

More curious still, however, is the subsequent response and reactions of the BBC crew to questions on the subject. In October 2014, during an interview at the Frontline Club, Stuart had the opportunity to ask cameraman Darren Conway, from the audience, to clarify his own timeline and explain the apparent anomalies. This is the transcript of that brief exchange:

 

‘Saving Syria’s Children’ cameraman, director and producer Darren Conway at the Frontline club on 15 October 2014

Stuart: Just one small point of fact about the Panorama programme, because there’s been some variation in what time it actually happened, this playground bomb, the BBC say 5.30 at the end of the school day, Human Rights Watch in their report say it was midday and Violations Documentation Centre in Syria say 2pm and one of their correspondents said they heard about it at 3pm, so what time of day did this actually happen?

Conway: It was the end of the day, yeah, I mean I don’t remember the exact time but we were there, we only arrived in the afternoon, we were at that hospital on our way out of the country for about I don’t know, 20, 30 minutes before it happened and then it became dark not long after, so I would say it was around, I don’t know, between three and five, something like that.

Stuart: But you can’t… give any reason why there’s so much discrepancy in the various…

Conway: I don’t… there’s lots of discrepancy about that I mean, ah, you know I, you, it, er we could get into that for hours, I mean it kind of makes me sick to my stomach to think [people?] believe that, er, that happens, but that do not happen, but I mean there’s a, there’s a, there’s a big machine that works, erm, that works for the sort of regime as well that tries to sort of er, you know, discredit this sort of stuff so you know I don’t want to really talk about that.

As we can see, Stuart did not make even the smallest suggestion that the time anomalies called the reality of the event into doubt, yet Conway reacts with defensiveness and a certain amount of confusion. He even begins an incoherent form or rebuttal of an accusation no one had made….

…I mean it kind of makes me sick to my stomach to think [people?] believe that, er, that happens, but that do not happen, but I mean there’s a, there’s a, there’s a big machine that works, erm, that works for the sort of regime as well that tries to sort of er, you know, discredit this sort of stuff so you know I don’t want to really talk about that….

This is a very strange response by Conway, who received an OBE a few months after Saving Syria’s Children aired, and whose reputation has never been called into question over the matter. Why didn’t he just say “I don’t know why HRW said it happened at midday, I was there, so I know when it happened. Period.” His anticipatory defensiveness seems very hard to explain, if indeed events happened as he and his documentary claim.

More oddnesses followed quickly on. Stuart’s brief Q&A took place at the end of an extensive interview with Conway as part of a series called Reflections, run jointly by Frontline and the BBC, in which senior figures in journalism are celebrated. The series has featured such notables as John Pilger and Jon Snow. The event is live streamed on the internet and the video is usually uploaded to Youtube and to the Frontline website shortly afterwards.

But so far, a year after the event, Conway’s interview has not been uploaded. In late 2014 Stuart emailed Frontline’s Programme Editor, Millicent Teasdale to enquire when/if the video would appear. He was told:

A few edits have had to be made to the video for security reasons and I hope to have it online early next year.

But apparently those “few edits” were just impossible to achieve, because in March 2015 the following note appeared on the Frontline website:

The video from Darren Conway’s Reflections has not been put on the Frontline Club site to protect those colleagues whose names were mentioned that work in extremely dangerous locations. Everyone is aware of the extreme risk that journalists are facing today in places such as Syria and DC wants to do everything possible to prevent them from being put at further risk, something that we at the Frontline Club of course support. This is the only reason why DC’s Frontline Club session is being held back and, as soon as it is deemed safe for the individuals concerned, it will be made available on our site.

Given the event was live streamed on the internet, this seems like rather belated and useless caution. Stuart claims he can only recall two colleagues being mentioned by Conway: Ian Pannell, who presented the Panorama documentary, and whose name is therefore already out there and no secret, and “Saving Syria’s Children’s credited “Fixer/Translator” Mughira Al Sharif, whom Conway very briefly referred to, calling him only “Mughi”.” Is he the colleague so desperately in need of protection? If so, how can it have taken Frontline 12 months and counting to bleep out that one syllable before uploading the interview?

Thank goodness Frontline tells us protecting Conway’s colleagues is “the only reason why DC’s Frontline Club session is being held back”, because otherwise this might have been one of those situations where attempts to conceal, evade or obfuscate only succeed in making those involved look as if they bear some kind of consciousness of wrongdoing.

Until Frontline decide their interview with Darren Conway OBE is finally safe enough to upload, the only record we have of any part of it is the cellphone vidof Stuart’s brief Q&A with Conway. Short as it is, it’s worth watching.

Meanwhile we are left to wonder why a seemingly innocuous question about timing anomalies a) caused Conway to instantly become both defensive and incoherent, and b) seems to have resulted in the entire video of his Reflections interview being pulled from the web for over a year.

For more detailed information please read Stuart’s ownanalysis of these events, and the entire interconnecting mesh of lies, confusions and curiosities underpinning this controversial documentary.

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North Korea’s Bomb Test Hysteria

January 6th, 2016 by Jan Oberg

Here media hysteria goes again. This is BBC.

It is very difficult to know what has happened. The media and many governments around the world immediately condemn this test. The EU says it is against UN Security Council resolutions – a council consisting exclusively of much stronger, nuclear powers.

Before we get carried away, it should be pointed out that North Korea’s military expenditures (US$ 7-10 bn and very complicated to calculate, but anyhow) is around 1% of those of the U.S., about 20% of South Korea’s and about 15% of Japan’s.

North Korea’s entire military costs a bit less than the newest single nuclear bomb the U.S. tested last year.

Nuclear weapons remain a huge problem to the world. However, countries that have nuclear weapons themselves focus on proliferation. Humanity focuses on the existence of nuclear weapons. Simply put, as long as there are some who have nuclear weapons, others will try to acquire them.

Mass media that blow this inferior nuclear power’s test of whatever it was up on the front pages but forget to tell their audiences much much more serious nuclear stories are – knowingly or not – part of a militarist propaganda machine. Thereby they promote what I have called MIMAC – the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex.

That should not be the role of any media. It would be to highlight all nuclear activities by any government, get some proportions, highlight how these weapons violate international law and inform the world about both the huge risks and what would happen if they are used and, finally, inform us about the activities for nuclear disarmament and abolition.

Just contributing to “fearology” about a nuclear dwarf and keep us uninformed about the giants militates against objectivity, pluralism and freedom of the press. And it contributes indirectly to militarism.

What are the much more serious nuclear stories I mentioned above?

Well, it has just been revealed that 33,000 U.S. atomic factory workers have died over the last 70 years because of the dangerous environment.

Fact is that nuclear weapons cause many problems even without being used directly – such as the war on Iraq, such as polluting the environment and making larges areas – like in Khazakstan – uninhabitable. There are constant nuclear accidents and the world could be more or less totally destroyed from a single technical or human failure.

And what does the U.S. do with a president who wanted to work for a nuclear-free worldand received the Nobel Peace Prize?

It has decided to spend US$ 1 trillion – i.e. 1000 billion – the next 30 years on new nuclear weapons. Read more about this perverse ‘peace’ policy here.

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The Rule Of Law No Longer Exists In Western Civilization

January 6th, 2016 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

My work documenting how the law was lost began about a quarter of a century ago. A close friend and distinguished attorney, Dean Booth, first brought to my attention the erosion of the legal principles on which rests the rule of law in the United States. My columns on the subject got the attention of an educational institution that invited me to give a lecture on the subject. Subsequently, I was invited to give a lecture on “How The Law Was Lost” at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York City.

The work coalesced into a book, The Tyranny Of Good Intentions, coauthored with my research associate, Lawrence M. Stratton, published in 2000, with an expanded edition published in 2008. We were able to demonstrate that Sir Thomas More’s warning about prosecutors and courts disregarding law in order to more easily convict undesirables and criminals has had the result of turning law away from being a shield of the people and making it into a weapon in the hands of government. That is what we witness in the saga of the Hammonds, long-time ranchers in the Harney Basin of Oregon.

With the intervention of Ammon Bundy, another rancher who suffered illegal persecution by the Bureau of Land Management but stood them off with help from armed militia, and his supporters, the BLM’s decades long persecution of the innocent Hammonds might have come to a crisis before you read this.

Bundy and militiamen, whose count varies from 15 to 150 in the presstitute media, have seized an Oregon office of the BLM as American liberty’s protest against the frame-up of the Hammonds on false charges. As I write the Oregon National Guard and FBI are on the way.

The militiamen have said that they are prepared to die for principles, and the rule of law is one of them. Of course, the presstitute media is making the militiamen into the lawbreakers—and even calling them terrorists—and not the federal government’s illegal prosecution of the Hammonds, whose crime was their refusal to sell their ranch to the government to be included in the Masher National Wildlife Refuge.

If there are only 15 militiamen, there is a good chance that they will all be killed, but if there are 150 armed militiamen prepared for a shootout, the outcome could be different.

I cannot attest to the accuracy of this report of the situation:

https://www.superstation95.com/index.php/world/723

The resources required to verify the information in this account of how the government escalated a “crisis” out of the refusal of a family to bend is beyond the resources of this website. However, the story fits perfectly with everything Lawrence Stratton and I learned over the years that we prepared our book on how the law was lost. This account of the persecution of the Hammonds is the way government behaves when government has broken free of the rule of law.

I can attest with full confidence that the United States no longer has a rule of law. The USA is a lawless country. By that I do not mean what conservative Republicans mean, which is, if I understand them, that racial minorities violate law with something close to impunity.

What I mean is that only the mega-banks and the One Percent have legal protection, and that is because these people control the government. For everyone else law is a weapon in the hands of the government to be used against the American people.

The fact that the shield of law no longer exists for American citizens is why, according to US Department of Justice statistics, only 4 percent of federal felonies ever go to trial. Almost the entirety of federal felonies are settled by coerced plea bargains that force defendants to admit to crimes that they did not commit in order to avoid “expanded indictments” that, if presented to the typical stupid, trusting, gullible American “jury of their peers,” would lock them away for hundreds of years.

American justice is a joke. It does not exist. You can see this in the American prison population. “Freedom and Democracy” America not only has the largest percentage of its population in prison than any country on the planet, but also the largest number of prisoners.

If you consider that “authoritarian” China has four times the population of the United States but fewer prisoners, you understand that “authoritarian” China has a more protective rule of law than the United States.

Compared to “freedom and democracy America,” Russia has hardly anyone in prison. Yet, Washington and its media whores have defined the President of Russia as “the new Hitler.”

The only thing we can conclude from the facts is that the United States Government and those ignorant fools who worship it are evil incarnate.

Out of evil comes dictatorship. The White House Fool, at best a two-bit punk, has decided that he doesn’t like the Second Amendment to the US Constitution any more than he likes any of the other constitutional protections of US citizens. He is looking for dictatorial methods, that is, unlegislated executive orders, to overturn the Second Amendment. He has the corrupt US Department of Justice, a criminal organization, looking for ways for the dictator to overturn both Congressional legislation and Supreme Court rulings.

The media whores have fallen in line with the would-be dictator. All we hear is “gun violence.” If only Karl Marx were still with us. He would ridicule those who turn inanimate objects into purposeful actors. It is extraordinary that the American left-wing thinks that guns, not people, kill people.

The position of the “progressive left-wing” in the United States is perplexing. Here are Americans, immersed into a police state, as are the Hammonds, and the progressive left-wing wants to disarm the population.

Whatever this “progressive left-wing opposition” is, it has nothing in common with revolutionaries. The American left-wing is totally irrevelant, a defeated force that sold out and no longer represents the people or the truth.

Even more astonishing, judging by comments on RT’s report on the situation and the readers comments, all RT and American blacks want to know is where is the National Guard in Oregon? Why isn’t it called out against the White militia protests as it was called out against the Black Ferguson protests?

https://www.rt.com/usa/327809-bundy-militia-oregon-reaction/ 

If protesting the murder of a young black American by Ferguson police is not legitimate and the protesters are “terrorists,” why aren’t the Oregon protestors terrorists for trying to protect jailbirds from their “lawful sentence”? This is the wrong question.

It really is discouraging that the American black community is unable to understand that if any American can be dispossessed, all Americans can be dispossessed.

It is also discouraging that RT decided to play the race card instead of comprehending that law is no longer a shield of the American people but is a weapon in the hands of Washington.

Why doesn’t RT at least listen to the President of Russia, who states repeatedly that America and the West are lawless.

Putin is correct. America and its vassals are lawless. No one is safe from the government.

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Central banks – including the Bank of Japan, Bank of Israel, Bank of Switzerland and the Czech Republic– have been buying stocks to prop up their nations’ stock markets.

We’ve noted for years that Fed policy is aimed at boosting stocks, as well.

Today, the decade-long former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – a voting member of the the Fed’s principal monetary policymaking group (the Federal Open Market Committee) – admitted (CLICK full interview):

 

What The Fed did, and I was part of it, was front-loaded an enormous rally starting in 2009 … in order to create a wealth effect…

I wouldn’t blame [the declining stock market]  on China.

***

An uncomfortable digestive period is likely now.

Indeed, only higher income brackets ever liked the Fed’s “wealth effect” policies.

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Does Bernie Sanders’ Imperialism Matter?

January 6th, 2016 by Shamus Cooke

Critiquing Bernie Sanders from the left can be a lonely project. There is a “hope”-powered hysteria surrounding his campaign, and bursting the “hope” bubble can produce a fierce backlash. The Sanders “hope” explosion is so fierce because capitalism has become a hopeless place.

Hope can be positive by pushing people into political action, but it’s also exploited by the establishment as shiny bait. Obama, for example, fished for votes using “hope” and reeled in the presidency.

He then clubbed “hope” senseless by betraying his promises, continuing war and maintaining the domestic policies of the 1%. Hope was so thoroughly thrashed that a new messiah of hope was needed to cure the Obama-fortified hopelessness.

Bernie’s version of hope is deeper than Obama’s shallow PR electoral campaign, but under capitalism real “hope” isn’t a simple recipe, and Bernie is missing some key ingredients, most notably “anti-imperialism,” which is exemplified in Bernie’s reactionary foreign policy positions.

Imperialism can be loosely defined as the multitude of actions that maintain the U.S. global empire. Most Americans don’t realize the true political depth of imperialism — or don’t even know they live in the largest empire in world history, which adds urgency to the educating and organizing around this issue.

Some on the left would dismiss anti-imperialism as a “secondary” issue, accusing those who insist on its inclusion as “dogmatic” or “purist.” “Bernie is doing so many great things,” they insist, “that focusing on his weak points is counter-productive.”

It’s of course perfectly reasonable that many progressive/liberal and working class people would be attracted to Sanders’ platform. But socialists/revolutionaries must have a broader perspective. Imperialism is, in some ways, the beating heart of U.S. capitalism: a central power of the “billionaire class” that stops progress abroad while blocking progress at home.

The rabidly pro-imperialist section of the establishment is the most powerful and class-conscious section of the ruling class, with deep roots in the military industrial-complex. It also has deep, racist roots in the South, where military enlistees remain vastly over-represented, and where many military bases are named after pro-slavery civil war heroes. This is the most hideously reactionary section of the establishment, who’d be the first to support fascism domestically, since they’ve already supported it in various forms abroad.

The U.S. pro-imperialist establishment has helped to create a network of global military alliances that funnel weapons internationally, while cash flows globally into the hands of the 1% via free trade agreements crafted by the pro-imperialist establishment.

Without this imperialism the exports or markets of the largest U.S. corporations would suffer: including the big banks, big oil, big healthcare/insurance corporations, defense contractors (the arms industry), agro-corporations, tech firms, etc.

Bernie’s failure to confront this specific, crucial power of the “billionaire class” isn’t a “blind spot” of his politics, since imperialism is like a tank parked in your living room, too big to ignore. By consciously allying with this imperialist-section of the establishment, Sanders has exposed himself as a push over, whenever the imperialists decide its push comes to shove over war.

This imperialist pressure to “fall in line” extends beyond war. Sanders helped write and gave crucial political support to Obamacare, betraying his longstanding “dedication” to universal health care.

Sanders knew that Obamacare was not “a step in the right direction,” but a decision to spend all of Obama’s political capital on a scheme that strengthens the health care/pharmaceutical corporations that act as the biggest barrier to universal health care. If elected, President Sanders would abandon much of his campaign promises and “fall in line” as quickly and ingloriously as Obama did.

Sanders surely knows that foreign policy cannot be separated from domestic policy. They are two sides of the same coin that directly affect each other. What happens abroad affects what is possible domestically, and vice versa.

For example, the U.S. imperialist project — via “defense” spending —— drains the U.S. national budget (57% of discretionary spending), which could otherwise actually fund the things Bernie is proposing; universal health care and fully fund public schools, free college education, job creation, etc.

A Harvard study estimated that the full cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone will cost over $4 trillion, a number that is already increasing as the wars get indefinitely extended. This is a big reason why public schools are being shuttered and health insurance remains unaffordable or absent for tens of millions of people.

This kind of imperialist spending has effectively vetoed the job and social programs that people would enthusiastically vote for. This imperialist veto over domestic programs exemplifies how oppression abroad limits your freedoms at home. True freedom and economic security cannot be won in a bubble within an international economic system, especially within a U.S. imperialist system.

Imperialism also directly affects race relations in the United States. The U.S. establishment finds it acceptable to commit atrocities against people of color abroad because people of color at home live in dehumanized conditions and are treated as second-class citizens.

The imperialist actions abroad reinforce the oppression domestically, the most recent example being the Muslim people who are bombed overseas and then discriminated against at home. This racism is purposely exacerbated by politicians and the media, serving to reinforce the position of the establishment by dividing working class people in both affected nations.

The same dynamic is used in Africa, where the underlying racism against African Americans is projected abroad, aiding and abetting the regimes that committed the Rwandan and Congo genocide. These U.S.-supported atrocities are then blamed on the “inexplicably savage” behavior of African “tribalism”, a racist lie used to legitimize the racism, mass incarceration, job discrimination, and crushing poverty experienced by African Americans.

It’s no exaggeration to say that U.S. imperialism is the most politically reactionary force in the world, directly and deeply shaping governments and militaries/police across the world that then use these U.S.-made weapons against their own citizens.

For example, a recent article in Salon was named “35 Countries where the U.S. has supported Fascists, Drug Lords, and Terrorists.” The point is well made; U.S. imperialism artificially shoves governments across the globe far to the right, preventing these governments from becoming examples or allies for social movements within the United States.

The 700+ U.S. military bases across the globe directly affect the politics of every hosting nation, while U.S. imperialist political pressure is also applied via military alliances (NATO), arms sales, training military/police, supporting dictators, supporting military coups, proxy wars, direct military intervention, etc.

Supporting Bernie Sanders means ignoring — or minimizing — his imperialism, since political campaigns are won through cheerleading not criticism. And by ignoring Bernie’s foreign policy — because it might “hurt the campaign” — imperialism is reinforced through valuable political cover. The most powerful section of the U.S. establishment thus benefits.

Some Sanders supporters might respond; “at least his foreign policy is better than Hillary’s.” But Sanders himself has been unable to provide a real argument to support this claim during the ongoing debates.

When Sanders attempted to frame Hillary as “pro-regime change” in relation to the catastrophe she created in Libya, Hillary pointed out that Sanders voted “yes” to support that regime change. As the war machine rolled into Libya Sanders wasn’t a speed bump; he was a lubricant. Clinton and Sanders both have Libyan blood on their hands.

Sanders has Afghan blood on his hands too, having voted for the invasion of the now-endless Afghan war that triggered the beginning of the flurry of Middle East wars. And while Sanders brags about voting “no” for the 2003 Iraq war, his vote soon morphed into a “yes,” by his several votes for the ongoing funding of the war/occupation.

Sanders also voted “yes” for the U.S.-led NATO destruction of Yugoslavia, and supports the brutal Israeli military regime that uses U.S. weapons to slaughter Palestinians.

When it was announced that Obama was choosing sides and funneling guns to the Syrian rebels — thus exacerbating and artificially extending the conflict — Bernie was completely silent; a silence that helped destroy Syria and lead to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

Sanders is consistently on the wrong side of history; he’s also been a direct accomplice to a series of massive war crimes.

Sanders often uses weak rhetoric to mitigate his imperialism. On his campaign website he says that the U.S. needs a “strong national defense infrastructure” and a “strong defense system,” but adds the caveat that he’s “concerned” about the military budget, and wants “accountability” for the enormous amounts that are spent. Obama the candidate spoke more clearly about war and peace than Sanders does.

Highlighting Sanders imperialism is especially important because the left has been repeatedly duped by imperialist wars in recent years, to the point that imperialism is becoming increasingly ignored, and consequently strengthened.

Large sections of the left were silent about the destruction of Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria. They were blissfully ignorant of the ongoing imperialist adventures throughout Africa, most spectacularly in Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and the Congo. The worst dictators in Africa — for example in Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda — are “good friends” of the United States.

By not giving adequate focus to the U.S. foreign military adventures, valuable political cover is given to allow these wars to continue. The U.S. anti-war movement was mostly silent about Obama’s imperialism while two historically important countries of the Middle East — Libya and Syria — were obliterated.

By not educating and organizing against imperialism, it’s impossible to make alliances with forces fighting imperialism abroad. Creating international alliances has a long tradition among the left among unions, Black liberation, and the socialist/communist movements.

There have also been powerful connections that helped curb apartheid South Africa, strengthen the Venezuelan revolution and empower Palestinians against the apartheid Israeli government.

However, the people on the ground in the Middle East who preferred that the U.S. not destroy their nations, have had little solidarity with people in the United States. In fact, the United States in many of their eyes is the number one enemy, which in turn makes them think that terrorism against U.S. citizens is justified.

Ultimately, the nationalist demands of the Sanders’ campaign cannot be achieved while simultaneously allowing international imperialism to thrive. Imperialism is a bogeyman that haunts social progress, re-appearing in countless forms to keep resources flowing endlessly into wars abroad that stunt domestic spending and distract from working class demands. A new military “crisis” will always strive to take priority over domestic considerations.

It’s obligatory for the left to challenge imperialism by any means necessary, waging campaigns and raising demands to stop foreign aggression.

By lowering our voices in response to Bernie’s campaign, an opportunity is missed to amplify our voices in strategic interventions such as the successful Black Lives Matter actions at Sanders’ rallies. Silence on these issues always benefits imperialism at the expense of everybody else.

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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It’s difficult enough for the Left to make any headway against the formidable forces arrayed against it without some of its members abandoning concrete analysis and coherent argument in favor of fantasy and appeal to emotions.

In May 2013, a group calling itself the Global Campaign for Solidarity with the Syrian Revolution promoted a petition which called for “Solidarity with the Syrian Struggle for Dignity and Freedom.”

The petition listed Gilbert Achcar, Richard Seymour, Tariq Ali, Vijay Prashad, Norman Finklestein and Ilan Pape among its supporters.

Appearing to equate Islamists seeking a harsh theocratic rule in Damascus to “revolutionaries” linked to the struggles of Palestinians and opponents of neo-liberalism in the West, the petition called on the Syrian president to leave immediately and submit to a peaceful transition. One problem. The petition’s drafters failed to mention that this could only mean surrender to the rule of murderous sectarian fanatics in Damascus, with regrettable consequences for anyone who didn’t share the fanatics’ religious views. Or that the bulk of Syrians didn’t favor this outcome.

Nowhere did the petition mention:

  • Takfirism or Wahabbism;
  • Political Islam, backed by imperialist powers and their regional allies, as the driving force of the rebellion;
  • Washington’s efforts to “build” a US partner who would govern in Damascus;
  • The material support Washington provided to anti-Assad forces even in advance of the Arab Spring;
  • Constitutional changes the Syrian government made in 2012 in response to the March 2011 uprising to open political space in the country;
  • The reality that the largest Sunni fighting force in Syria was, then as now, the Syrian Arab Army;
  • The fact that Assad had commanded sufficient popular support to continue in power despite, at that point, two years of war and the concerted opposition of the world’s most formidable powers and their regional allies— hardly a feat to be expected of a government that was oppressing its people.

In place of concrete realities to engage our minds, the petitioners offered honeyed, nebulous, words to play on our emotions. We were to sign up to a romantic vision of heroic revolutionaries struggling for freedom and dignity against an evil dictator in a fairy book world where imperialism; sectarian intolerance; Saudi, Turk, Qatari and US agendas; the Syrian government’s concessions; al Qaeda; and a decades-long struggle within Syria between political Islam and secularism, didn’t exist.

Instead, they asked us to “defend the gains of the Syrian revolutionaries,” but didn’t say who the revolutionaries were or what gains they had won.

They called for “a peaceful transition of power,” but didn’t say to what.

They asked us to “support the people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria,” but didn’t say who they were or where we could find them, or what a democratic and free Syria would look like (free from what and to do what?)

They said that the rebellion in Syria was linked to “the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation,” and “the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality,” yet they didn’t say how. Was it also linked to the revolt of the southern states against the Union?

And yet while they demanded that “Bashar al-Assad leave immediately,” the Syrian government was the only organization on the ground of any significance, then as now, that (a) (with the constitutional changes of 2012), offered Syria a democratic future of multi-party parliamentary and contested presidential elections and (b) offered freedom from domination by the political agendas of outsiders, both those of the Western powers who seek a US “partner” to govern in Syria and the sectarianism of the West’s retrograde anti-democratic regional allies.

It’s as if in the middle of Operation Barbarossa—Nazi Germany’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union—that a call had been made for Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to leave immediately and arrange “a peaceful transition” so that Russia could “begin a speedy recovery toward a democratic future.” Of course, a call for a peaceful transition would have meant nothing but surrender to the Nazis and their multinational coalition of Italy, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Finland and Spain, with the consequent enslavement of the Slavs. (The United States isn’t the only country that could put together a multinational coalition.)

Likewise, it’s clear that, then as now, Assad leaving immediately would bring al Qaeda-linked organizations to power in Damascus, with carry-on massacres of populations the “revolutiCall for onaries” deemed heretics and apostates. Demanding Assad leave immediately and peacefully was a call for surrender to sectarians backed by retrograde despotisms allied to Washington—an odd way to show solidarity with the Syrian people and hardly likely to promote their freedom and dignity.

Of course, much has happened since the petition was drafted in May 2013, and some of petition’s supporters may have changed their views since, but others, including Gilbert Achcar, continue to use demagogic methods, appealing to emotion rather than reason, to authority rather than evidence, taking cover in ambiguities and romantic fantasies, while shunning concrete social, political, military and economic realities.

To anyone who insists on evidence and critical analysis, Achcar and company are a good part of the reason it’s still possible to refer to a “loony left.” For the cautious, they’re suspected of advancing a sinister political agenda under cover of promoting leftist and humanitarian concerns. Neither possibility is pleasant to contemplate.

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Russia-US-ChinaVideo: 2015, Year of Crisis and Military Escalation. What to Expect in 2016?

By South Front, January 05 2016

2015 was marked by a series of crucial diplomatic and military developments in the world. The old world order established after the Cold War is rapidly changing.

dollars-money-economy-crisis2016: A Year of Financial Barbarism?

By Ben Schreiner, January 05 2016

With New Year celebrations barely in the rear view mirror, foreboding storm clouds are once again forming along the horizon.

latinamericaA New Political Situation in Latin America: What Lies Ahead?

By Claudio Katz and Richard Fidler, January 05 2016

Two recent events – the second-round victory on November 22 of right-wing candidate Mauricio Macri in Argentina’s presidential election, and the December 6 victory of the right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable, winning two thirds of the seats in Venezuela’s National Assembly elections – have radically altered the political map in South America.

Energy warThe Middle East Energy War Heats Up: Israeli-Turkish Normalization, Turkey’s Military Base in Qatar

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, January 05 2016

Within the contours of a resource and energy war, the Turkish military deployment was a move by the Turkish government to secure its illegal oil trade with the so-called Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS/IS/DAESH).

union-europeenneHistorical Origins of US Covert Operations to “Assimilate Europe” Into A Federal State

By Graham Vanbergen, January 05 2016

For anyone who still has doubts, the European Union was not really motivated by the twin desires of ending warfare on the continent of Europe and promoting economic growth by making it easier for European countries to trade with each other. This was the story you were spoon-fed. It was actually the creation of America.

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West Largely Silent About Erdogan’s War on Kurds

January 5th, 2016 by Stephen Lendman

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members are marked for elimination. Earlier attempts for peace collapsed in July. Open warfare followed – Ankara using tanks, artillery, warplanes, attack helicopters and thousands of combat troops in heavily populated areas. Civilians suffer most.

Cities and towns affected are trapped under virtual siege – without food, electricity, medical supplies and other essentials. Erdogan vowed to eliminate PKK members, freedom fighters wanting local autonomy or independence in Turkey’s southeast, wrongfully designated terrorists.

Erdogan minced no words saying “(y)ou will be annihilated in (your) houses, (your) buildings, (your) ditches which you have dug. Our security forces will continue this fight until it has been completely cleansed” – no matter the cost in human lives and suffering.

Trapped civilians say tanks and artillery fire all day long. They have nowhere to hide. They’re dying in their homes. Their schools, hospitals and vital infrastructure were destroyed. Kurdish areas resemble war-torn Syria and Iraq – endless devastating conflict with no relief.

Human Rights Watch Turkish researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb blasted what she called “ignor(ing) or cover(ing) up what’s happening” to Kurdish communities. Erdogan’s operation has “no limits. (There is) no law.”

One Kurdish citizen spoke for others, saying “(t)he east of the country is burning, and it feels like no one” notices or cares.

Western leaders able to intervene responsibly support their Turkish ally, a valued NATO member.

Turkey’s General Staff said hundreds of PKK members were killed since late December alone. Dargecit businesswoman Melek Gumus said her warehouses and everything inside were destroyed.

“(T)he whole district is like this,” she said.

“We were stuck at home for 20 days, and there was nothing to eat. It was torture for everybody.”

“We want freedom. We want peace. We don’t want them to be unfair to us.”

Turkish forces are destroying everything. Civilians are targeted like militants.

Snipers man rooftops. Anyone going out after curfew risks being shot. Thousands lost everything. People have no work, many without essentials to survive.

Over the weekend, hundreds of Berliners marched carrying signs and banners, saying: “Stop the war against the Kurdish people!” Protesters compared Erdogan’s ruling AKP party to ISIS.

Kurds are Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, representing up to 25% of the population, according to some estimates, ruthlessly treated for decades.

Earlier, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Ankara for committing high crimes against its Kurdish people since the Turkish state’s 1923 creation – including massacres, extrajudicial executions, torture, forced displacements, arbitrary arrests, ravaged towns and villages, as well as disappeared journalists and regime critics.

Erdogan pursues his own agenda while pretending to be combating ISIS in Syria and Iraq. He’s a major sponsor of terrorism, representing pure evil.

Selahattin Demirtas co-chairs the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party of Turkey (HDP) – founded in 2012, combining several left-wing groups – including supporters of equal rights for women and gays, secularists, anti-capitalists and environmentalists, putting it at odds with Erdogan’s agenda.

He accused HDP of fronting for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Last week, Ankara’s public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into Demirtas, relating to his support for Kurdish self-determination in southeastern Turkey.

The Kurdish Democratic Society Congress (DTK) passed a resolution demanding local autonomy as the only way to resolve things responsibly.

“The rightful resistance mounted by our people against the policies that degrade the Kurdish problem, is essentially a demand and struggle for local self-governance and local democracy,” the resolution said.

Demirtas expressed support, saying “regional autonomy offers a very important opportunity for everyone in terms of living together” – putting him at direct odds with Erdogan’s agenda.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused him of “treason” for meeting with Sergey Lavrov in Moscow last month, publicly denouncing Turkey’s downing of a Russian bomber in Syrian airspace.

He forthrightly opposes Erdogan’s lawlessness, calling him and ruling party officials “murderers. Your hand is bloody. Blood has splattered from your face, your mouth to your nails and all over you. You are the biggest supporters of terror.”

Erdogan tolerates no opposition or critics, Demirtas a likely marked man. Perhaps he and his party officials are designated for elimination as part of Erdogan’s all-out war on Turkey’s Kurds.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

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For the first time since the dissolution of the USSR and the restoration of capitalism in 1991, a strategic document of the Russian state has openly designated the United States and the NATO military alliance as threats to Russian national security.

The document, “About the Strategy of National Security of the Russian Federation,” was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on New Year’s Eve. It warns that Russia faces “counteraction from the USA and its allies, which are striving to retain their dominance in global affairs.” It predicts that this will lead to further “political, economic, military, and informational pressure” on Russia.

The document points in particular to actions NATO has taken since backing the February 2014 coup that installed a far-right, pro-Western regime in neighboring Ukraine. It cites the “intensification of military activities of [NATO] member countries,” the “further expansion of the alliance” into Eastern Europe along Russian borders, and “moving military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders” as national security threats to Russia.

The publication of such a document is a warning that preparations for war between NATO and Russia, a nuclear-armed state, are well advanced. In diplomatic parlance, a national security threat is a threat so severe that a state is prepared to use military force to suppress it, and the strategy document states that Russia reserves the right to use military force if other measures to “protect national interests” are ineffective.

The Russian national security document amounts to an official recognition by the Russian state that its relations with NATO, and in particular with the United States, are in a state of collapse. The policies pursued by NATO over the last two years signify that war between NATO and Russia is a real possibility.

Since backing the coup in Kiev, NATO has supported the war pursued by the Ukrainian regime and allied far-right militias on Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine. Early last year, the US government proposed to openly arm the Kiev regime for war against separatist forces tacitly backed by Moscow. The current Russian national security document refers to Ukraine as a “long-term source of instability in Europe, and directly at the Russian border.”

This was part of a broad build-up of NATO military power threatening Russia. NATO posted thousands of troops and warplanes in the Baltic republics, only a few minutes by fighter flight from the Russian city of St Petersburg. It has sent troops, organized military exercises, and posted missile defense units across Eastern Europe, and deployed naval forces on missions or exercises from the Arctic to the Baltic.

The strategy document reportedly does not mention the Middle East, where NATO’s proxy war to oust Syria’s Russian-backed president, Bashar al-Assad, thus placed the Middle East and the entire world on the verge of all-out war. However, it is clearly a response to Turkey’s decision, endorsed by US President Barack Obama shortly afterwards, to shoot down a Russian jet last November over Syria, in a blatant act of war.

NATO is making even more dire threats, however. Washington in particular has shifted to open preparation of aggressive nuclear war against Russia. Last year, US officials testified before the Congress that US forces are preparing for possible preemptive “counterforce” strikes with nuclear weapons against military targets inside Russia, before any attack by Russia took place.

In its national security document, the Kremlin concludes that the NATO powers are seeking to overthrow the Russian government, on the model of “color revolutions” that produced US-backed regime change in countries like Georgia and Ukraine. It also warns that the NATO powers will seek to dissolve Russia. It lists “radical social groups which use nationalist and religious extremist ideologies, foreign and international NGOs, and also private citizens” among potential threats to Russian internal security and territorial integrity.

With the Kremlin fearing the worst, its national security document advocates a strategy of seeking to maintain good relations with the NATO powers, while relying on Russia’s military strength to deter NATO attacks. This includes above all maintaining Russia’s nuclear arsenal. The document stresses that Russia’s nuclear stockpile will be reduced only if this can be done “without damaging international security and strategic stability.”

The contents of the Russian national security strategy testify to the bankruptcy of the world capitalist system and amount to an indictment of the reckless policy of the imperialist powers. In an attempt to whip Moscow into line and assert their geostrategic interests in Eurasia, they are fueling a military escalation and an arms race that threatens to explode into a war that could claim millions or billions of lives.

The response of Putin and the Russian capitalist oligarchy that emerged from the dissolution of the USSR is however bankrupt and reactionary. They are both unable and unwilling to make any appeal to opposition to war in the international working class. Desperately trying to maintain relations with the imperialist powers and their financial and economic resources, they oscillate between trying to cut deals with the NATO countries and threatening to defend themselves by fighting a catastrophic war with them.

What emerges from the statements of the Kremlin and of Putin are the disastrous consequences of the dissolution of the USSR for Russia and the world. Surrounded by hostile NATO outposts in former Soviet republics in the Baltics, the Caucasus and Ukraine, devastated by the industrial and economic collapse that followed capitalist restoration in the USSR, Russia has been unable to rely on anti-imperialist solidarity that existed in the international working class with the USSR. The entire region has been thrown open to imperialist intervention, with catastrophic results.

The national security document itself points to the backward and parasitic character of Russian capitalism as a major national security threat. It bemoans Russia’s “lag in the development of advanced technologies, the vulnerability of the financial system, the imbalance of the budgetary system, the economy going offshore, the exhaustion of the raw materials base, the strength of the shadow economy, conditions leading to corruption and criminal activities, and uneven development of regions.”

All this makes it easier for the NATO powers to threaten Russia with financial sanctions, trade penalties, and the partition of the Russian Federation along regional or ethnic lines.

Above all, Russia is being confronted with the full brunt of the economic and geostrategic crisis of world imperialism. To the extent that the continued existence of the Russian state is emerging as an obstacle to the assertion of imperialist interests in the Middle East and Eurasia, it has become the target of ruthless military pressure from NATO.

Significantly, Putin made dire warnings about the rising danger of war between the major powers in his remarks last year to the Valdai Discussion Club.

According to Putin, “the world leaders of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and even 1980s did treat the use of armed force as an exceptional measure. In this sense, they behaved responsibly, weighing all the circumstances and possible consequences. The end of the Cold War put an end to ideological opposition, but the basis for arguments and geopolitical conflicts remained… In the past 25 years, the threshold for the use of force has gone down noticeably.”

He warned that as a result, “political, economic or military competition may get out of control.” He cited the dangers of “regional conflicts, especially in ‘border’ areas, where the interests of major nations or blocs meet,” and of “a new spiral of the arms race.” He attacked “the concept of the so-called disarming first strike [i.e., a preemptive US strike to destroy the Russian nuclear arsenal] including one with the use of high-precision long-range non-nuclear weapons comparable in their effect to nuclear weapons.”

Putin concluded that Russia’s nuclear arsenal would no longer deter other countries from attacking it, and seeking to advance their interests via global nuclear war. He declared, “The nuclear deterrent lost its value. Some probably even had the illusion that victory of one party in a world conflict was again possible—without irreversible, unacceptable, as experts say, consequences for the winner, if there ever is one.”

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Oil and the ISIS: Another US-NATO War on Libya is Imminent

January 5th, 2016 by Stephen Lendman

 In 2011, US-led NATO ravaged Africa’s most developed country. Libya remains a cauldron of violence and chaos, now threatened by ISIS.

Washington helped ISIS establish a foothold in Sirte, a jumping off point to expand to other areas – with designs on Libyan oil, perhaps just a matter of time before it seizes control without efforts to stop their forces.

Sirte is a gateway to several major oil fields and refineries further east. ISIS fighters targeted them before, gaining control of some. Its propaganda claims “Sirte will be no less that Raqqa,” its self-declared Syrian capital.

In mid-December, rival Tobruk and Tripoli agreed on the formation of unity governance, despite numerous tribal groups left out, a shaky arrangement at best.

Despite Libyan officials rejecting a US-led bombing campaign and/or ground operation, reports indicate plans to deploy about 1,000 UK special forces on the pretext of combating ISIS – to be joined by thousands more American, French and Italian combat troops.

On Monday, Britain’s Daily Mirror headlined “SAS (special forces) spearhead coalition offensive to halt Islamic State oil snatches in Libya,” saying:

“The (pretext) is to halt the advance of 5,000 (ISIS) extremists who have seized more than a dozen major oil fields, boosting their war coffers” – aiming to capture “Libya’s prize oil refinery at Marsa al Brega,” North Africa’s largest, located between Sirte and Benghazi, giving them virtual control over all Libyan oil if successful.

US-led NATO forces intend operating in Libya illegally – without government or Security Council authorization.

A likely bombing campaign is imminent, involving US-led warplanes, creating greater violence and turmoil than already – supporting, not combating ISIS, replicating what’s ongoing in Syria and Iraq, striking infrastructure and government targets, acting as the terrorist group’s air force, the campaign to begin in weeks or sooner.

A senior British military source lied to the Mirror, saying:

“(t)his coalition will provide a wide range of resources from surveillance, to strike operations against Islamic State who have made significant progress in Libya.”

“We have an advance force on the ground who will make an assessment of the situation and identify where attacks should be made and highlight the threats to our forces.”

US-led NATO ravaged and destroyed Libya in 2011 – about to become a bloody battleground again, using ISIS to further Washington’s imperial aims.

The endless ordeal of long-suffering Libyans continues.

A Final Comment

On New Year’s eve, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Washington of waging phony war on ISIS – “imitating the struggle against” it.

Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said America’s Syrian aerial campaign “for (over) a whole year (failed to notice) convoys of fuel tanker trucks with smuggled oil that feeds the terrorists’ forces.”

“(A)n impression is being created that the US-led coalition is hostage to its politicized approach and is rather imitating the struggle against” ISIS.

“The actions of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition in Syria are in principle illegitimate. The sovereignty of that state is openly violated, as neither the UN Security Council, nor official Damascus gave their permission to bombings of Syria to coalition forces.”

Instead of combating the scourge of ISIS and other terrorist groups, Washington openly aids them – the same scheme now planned for Libya.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

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Co-founder of the National Liberation Front (FLN) had lived in exile for decades

Thousands attended the funeral of Hocine Ait Ahmed in his home village named after him in Berber-dominated region of Algeria. Although he was in opposition for well over five decades, the FLN government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika paid respects to the fallen leader who had fought gallantly and suffered immensely in the struggle against French imperialism.

Hocine Ait Ahmed was imprisoned by the French colonialists in 1956 and was not released until the ceasefire of 1962 leading to the independence of the North African state under the leadership of Ahmed Ben Bella. He was known as a founding member of what was described as the “Sons of Toussaint”, a group of nationalist leaders who initiated the armed struggle on November 1, 1954.

The North African state of Algeria was colonized by Paris beginning in 1830. A system of national oppression and economic exploitation was instituted and lasted up until the early 1960s.

Algerian Nationalists Waged Eight-Year Armed and Mass Campaigns for Independence

During the course of the liberation movement at least one million Algerians died through massacres, mass detentions and tactics aimed at starving out freedom fighters that fought tirelessly utilizing popular demonstrations, general strikes and armed resistance.

On the night of November 1, 1954 a series of attacks by the FLN launched the guerrilla war for independence from France. All the operations took place within an hour or two from one end of Algeria to the other, revealing to Paris that the attacks had been well organized.

The Governor-General for colonial Paris immediately asked for reinforcements from Europe and these were deployed immediately. Three units of Public Security Guards including 600 troops arrived shortly in the country signaling an escalation of efforts to repress the uprising.

Despite the widespread killings of Algerians and the system of detention, torture and attempted isolation of the revolutionary forces, the FLN prevailed after France could no longer justify to its population the tremendous cost of the war in money and lives.

Ait Ahmed broke with other leaders of the FLN and the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic to form an opposition party, the Socialist Front Forces (FFS), in 1963. He had serious differences with other leaders within the FLN over the type of political system instituted during the post-colonial period of the 1960s.

He was imprisoned by the Algerian government in 1964 under threat of death. He escaped from prison and went into exile in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1966.

Nonetheless, he had returned to the country on numerous occasions but never came to terms with the FLN government which is backed by the military.

Ait Ahmed re-located to Algeria in 1989 after the FFS was legalized and stood as a candidate in presidential elections in 1999, but pulled out in the middle of the campaign arguing that the election process was structured in favor of Bouteflika. After the nullification of the election results of 1992 which seemed to have been in favor of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), Ait Ahmed went back into exile in Switzerland due to the serious security situation inside the country.

A civil war erupted after the 1992 political crisis which lasted for nearly a decade. A number of smaller Islamic-oriented opposition forces remain in conflict with the largely secular government in Algiers.

According to an overview of the history of the FFS published by medea.be, it says “Participating for the first time in parliamentary elections, the FFS became the third most important political party during the December 1991 elections – after the FIS and the FLN, the former single party – and the leading party in the Berber regions. Its relative success is partially explained by its demands for a multilingual Algerian society where Berber and French would be recognized alongside Arabic.”

This same report continues noting how the party “Strongly condemned the interruption of the electoral process in January 1992 and the setting up of institutions controlled by the army, the FFS has always called for the re-establishment of the democratic process (it supports the principle of a proportional representation voting system which would bring the FIS back to its true electoral proportions).”

Ait-Ahmed’s health began to fail in 2012 and he soon stepped down in 2013 as the leader of the FFS. He died in Lausanne on December 23.

Recognition by Algiers of His Contributions

His death prompted the government in Algiers to declare him a national hero and designate his memorial as a state funeral.

Ait Ahmed did not want to be buried alongside other FLN veterans in Algiers and was interned in his hometown named after him in the Berber dominated region of Kabyle. However, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, also a veteran of the struggle for independence, declared eight days of mourning after Aït Ahmed’s death.

Covered in Algeria’s national flag, the coffin was transported in an ambulance through the village, where tens of thousands filled the streets. “Today and tomorrow, Hocine lives!” they chanted. “Algeria, Free and Democratic!”

During the procession the crowd moved towards the coffin as it was brought out of the ambulance in preparation for the burial, which took place in the early afternoon. The state funeral was broadcast live on television and a wake was later held at the headquarters of the FFS. The funeral cortege had traveled 100 miles (160km) south-east from Algiers to his village.

Algeria despite its contentious post-colonial political history remains a secular state that refrained from participation in the imperialist destruction of Libya in 2011 led by the United States and NATO. The Algerian government along with Syria voted against the Arab League endorsement of a so-called “no-fly zone” being implemented over Libya by the Pentagon-NATO forces and their allies in March 2011.

The war against Libya resulting in the toppling of the Jamahiriya system under the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi, killed in October 2011, has resulted in Africa’s once most prosperous state being turned into a source of instability, human trafficking and mass poverty. Imperialist states are attempting to deploy ground troops in Libya under the guise of fighting the so-called Islamic State which has established a base in Sirte and other sections of the oil-rich nation.

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Tensions within the war-ravaged Middle East have escalated sharply in the wake of Saudi Arabia’s January 2 mass executions of 47 prisoners, including a prominent Shia cleric who had criticized the ruling monarchy and its suppression of the country’s Shia minority population.

Saudi Arabia cut all diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday, using angry protests against the beheading of the Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, as the pretext. Demonstrators Sunday stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and firebombed a consular facility in the Iranian city of Mashhad. At least 50 of the protesters were arrested and no Saudi functionaries were injured.

On Monday, the Saudi monarchy followed up its severing of diplomatic links with the announcement that it is also banning all flights to and from Iran and also cutting trade ties.

The Saudi actions were followed Monday by Bahrain and Sudan severing diplomatic ties with Iran as well. Bahrain, which is host to the US Fifth Fleet, is a majority Shia country ruled by a dictatorial Sunni monarchy. Saudi troops and tanks played the decisive role in suppressing mass protests that swept the country in 2011.

For its part, Sudan, a former ally of Iran, switched allegiances last year after heavy Saudi investments in the Sudanese economy, including a reported deposit of up to $4 billion from the Saudis and their Gulf Cooperation Council into Sudan’s central bank.

Another Sunni gulf oil sheikdom, the United Arab Emirates, downgraded its diplomatic relations with Tehran, but stopped short of severing all ties with Iran, which is a major trading partner.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the Saudi regime for using the protests as a pretext to cut ties and ratchet up tensions. “Saudi Arabia sees not only its interests but also its existence in pursuing crises and confrontations and attempts to resolve its internal problems by exporting them to the outside,” ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said Monday.

He insisted that Iran was committed to providing diplomatic security, adding, “Saudi Arabia, which thrives on tensions, has used this incident as an excuse to fuel the tensions.”

Evidence emerged Monday that, indeed, the mass executions and the subsequent breaking of relations were part of a well-planned Saudi provocation.

The British daily Independent made public the contents of a leaked Saudi government memo showing that the ruling monarchy “knew the mass execution of 47 people would spark an angry backlash and ordered its security services to be on full alert before going ahead.”

The memo, directed from the head of security services to police agencies across the desert kingdom, placed the regime’s extensive repressive apparatus on a high state of alert.

The British human rights group Reprieve, which first received the leaked memo, said it pointed to the “politically motivated” character of the mass beheadings.

“This letter shows the level of preparation the Saudi authorities went to ahead of Saturday, having predicted the outrage that would follow their politically motivated executions of protesters,” said Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve.

Mass protests have continued in the wake of the state killings. A crowd of several thousand gathered in Tehran again on Monday, while demonstrators in Iraq besieged the recently reopened Saudi embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone and took to the streets of the predominantly Shia cities of Basra, Karbala and Najaf.

In a disturbing sign that the Saudi action is stoking sectarian strife, two Sunni mosques in the area of Hilla, 50 miles south of Baghdad, were rocked by bomb blasts. A muezzin was killed at one of the mosques. In a separate attack, the Sunni imam of a mosque in Alexandria in central Iraq was shot and killed by gunmen.

Meanwhile, the Saudi regime itself reported a deadly shooting incident in Sheikh Nimr’s hometown of Awamiya, in Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shia Eastern Province, on Sunday night. While the regime claimed that its security forces had come under fire, the only victims reported were a civilian who was killed and a child who was wounded.

As the linchpin of repression and reaction in the Arab world, the Saudi monarchy has been the foremost instigator of sectarianism, deliberately exacerbating and exploiting tensions between Sunni and Shia as a means of dividing popular opposition within the country and isolating Iran, its principal regional rival.

Until now, the ruling monarchy has refrained from murdering leading figures within the Shia community—arresting and harassing them, suppressing demonstrations, but ultimately releasing them in an attempt to assuage anti-regime sentiments.

The beheading of Nimr, together with the 46 others, was clearly organized for political ends. He himself had been in prison since 2012, while the bulk of those whose heads were chopped off or were shot to death were Sunni accused of involvement in Al Qaeda attacks inside the kingdom. They had been jailed for upwards of a decade. Joining Nimr’s execution with theirs was meant to signal that Shia opposition to the monarchy’s absolute rule was tantamount to terrorism.

The political purposes of this bloody provocation are both foreign and domestic. It was staged barely three weeks before Syrian peace talks were set to begin in Geneva and less than two weeks before UN-brokered talks on a settlement of the bloody nine-month-old Saudi war in Yemen were due to resume.

The Saudi monarchy, which has been a principal financier and sponsor of the Al Qaeda-linked Sunni Islamist militias unleashed in the war for regime change in Syria, has no interest in ending the more than nearly five-year-old conflict short of toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s principal Arab ally.

Nor does it want to end its war in Yemen under the present conditions, with the Houthis, a Shia-based insurgent movement, undefeated. The mass beheadings coincided directly with the Saudi announcement that a supposed ceasefire declared on December 15 had formally ended.

The war in Yemen has claimed nearly 6,000 lives since the Saudi military began launching indiscriminate air strikes last March. The US has aided the intervention with arms, intelligence and midair refueling of Saudi bombers, which have dropped American-made cluster bombs on civilian targets and struck at least 100 hospitals. While it is an increasingly costly debacle for the Saudi monarchy, to end the war without defeating the Houthis would be seen as a humiliating defeat.

Ultimately, the aim of the Saudi regime is to disrupt any rapprochement between Washington and Iran in the wake of the recent nuclear deal and, if possible, to drag US imperialism into a wider war against Iran itself.

Domestically, the fomenting of sectarianism and clashes with Iran serves as a means of diverting explosive social tensions away from the monarchy itself. The kingdom faces an increasingly intractable economic crisis driven by the collapse in oil prices for which its own policies bear major responsibility. It has already implemented cuts in gasoline subsidies and increases in fees for water and electricity in an attempt to confront its fiscal crisis. More drastic austerity measures, aimed at social subsidies used to quell popular unrest, are expected.

Within official Washington, the reaction to the mass beheadings and the judicial murder of Sheikh Nimr has been muted at best. There has been no direct condemnation of the grisly mass killings, and no senior official has so much as issued a statement.

Within the ruling political establishment, policy toward the Saudi monarchy, the number one arms market for the US and Washington’s closest Arab ally, is, like most basic foreign policy questions, an issue of conflict and divisions.

This was expressed Monday in editorials published by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

The Journal, expressing the views of the most right-wing layers within ruling circles, as well as the constituency of the military-industrial complex and finance capital, which have both reaped super profits off the Saudi monarchy, posed the issue not as a matter of Saudi crimes or even crisis, but rather of the supposed danger of Iran and Russia “toppling the House of Saud,” and the question of whether the Obama administration “would do anything to stop them.”

The Journal editorial chided the Obama administration for having “walked back” sanctions against Iran over recent ballistic missile tests. While acknowledging problems in Saudi support for the export of Wahhabism, the ideological underpinnings of Al Qaeda, ISIS and similar outfits, the Journal concluded: “But in a Middle East wracked by civil wars, political upheaval and Iranian imperialism, the Saudis are the best friend we have in the Arabian peninsula. The US should make clear to Iran and Russia that it will defend the Kingdom from Iranian attempts to destabilize or invade.”

The Post took a somewhat more concerned approach, recognizing that the execution of Nimr “was an act that appears bound—and maybe was intended—to further inflame conflict between Shiites and Sunnis across the Middle East.” It warns against the Saudi ruling family “sowing chaos in an already stricken region while undermining itself.”

However, it attributes Riyadh’s “reckless moves” to “Saudi perceptions that the United States is no longer willing or able to stop Iran’s drive for Middle Eastern hegemony, forcing Sunni regimes to act in their own defense.”

In the end both editorials point to the same supposed remedy for the destruction and bloodshed wrought by both US imperialism and its Saudi client state in the Middle East: the escalation of militarism and the preparation of new and even wider wars directed against both Iran and Russia.

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Capitalist state repression intensifies amid rising anti-racist demonstrations

Law-enforcement brutal and lethal force is continuing inside the United States.

During 2015, two corporate media estimates, one in the U.S., the Washington Post, and the Guardian, based in Britain, say that approximately 975 people died at the hands of the cops throughout the country.

In the Washington Post on December 26, it reported that the newspaper was seeking to study the number and character of police killings of civilians which they point out is not efficiently and scientifically done by the Justice Department, the highest law-enforcement institution within the government. The Post suggested that the number of nearly 1000 was twice as high as figures supplied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Although it appeared as if the Post study was attempting to minimize the racial nature of police violence in light of the mass demonstrations and urban rebellions which have swept the country during the last year-and-a-half, saying that “the kind of incidents that have ignited protests in many U.S. communities — most often, white police officers killing unarmed black men — represent less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings. Meanwhile, The Post found that the great majority of people who died at the hands of the police fit at least one of three categories: they were wielding weapons, they were suicidal or mentally troubled, or they ran when officers told them to halt.” (Dec. 26)

These are essentially the same arguments and rationales utilized by law-enforcement entities, grand juries, district attorneys’ offices, the courts and quite often the corporate media outlets, which rely on these state structures for explanations involving the use of deadly force.

Nonetheless, in this same Post article is says also that 40 percent of unarmed men killed by the cops are African American, although they only constitute six percent of the overall population in the U.S.

In addition, the Post indicates that 60 percent of those who are unarmed exhibited what is considered by them as less than threatening behavior. The same article notes as well where 25 percent of police shooting victims irrespective of race were being pursued in chases.

This approach to reporting on what has become a cutting edge issue both domestically and within the realm of the U.S. image abroad, attracted the ire of the progressive news website Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which in an article accused the Post of downplaying the problem of law-enforcement use of deadly force against African Americans and other oppressed peoples.

FAIR writer Jim Naureckas stressed “the Post’s ‘meanwhile,’ juxtaposed against ‘incidents that have ignited protests,’ implies that the categories that follow would not inspire protest: those killed ‘wielding weapons,’ who were ‘suicidal or mentally troubled,’ or who ‘ran when officers told them to halt.’ Actually, people very much protest these sorts of police killings, starting with Michael Brown, who ran when Wilson told him to halt. Laquan McDonald, whose death at the hands of Chicago police has resulted in a first-degree murder charge for officer Jason Van Dyke and the ouster of the city’s police chief, was ‘wielding’ a three-inch knife when he was shot 16 times, so he would have been counted in the first category – as would Tamir Rice, since the Post made the questionable choice to count ‘toy weapons’ in the same category as knives.” (Reprinted by Truth-out.org, Dec. 31)

Naureckas observes quite rightly the level of dehumanization of police killing victims in the U.S., particularly African Americans, in regard to how they were represented through the imagery of the Washington Post graphics in comparison to the Guardian report which carried photographs of the dead. In general the police attempt to “criminalize” the dead and wounded by making allegations that they were “suspects” for crimes or had criminal records, which are routinely repeated by the corporate media with the underlying suggestion that their serious injuries and deaths were justified.

The FAIR critique of the Post article says “In the print edition of the Washington Post, those killed by police are represented by what appear to be stylized bullets – with black dots on the ones that represent African-Americans. On the Post website, the dead appear as stereotyped silhouettes.”

Police Killings Continue Despite Mass Demonstrations and Economic Sanctions

This problem persists despite the growth in the anti-racist movement popularly labelled “Black Lives Matter.” Hundreds of protests took place during the “holiday season” from the West to the East coasts and all across the South.

Social media networks, websites and urban talk radio programs emphasized the need to refrain from shopping beyond what was essential, saying there should be no business as usual amid the failure of law-enforcement, municipalities and the federal government to protect the basic civil and human rights of African Americans and oppressed peoples.

In Detroit, Kevin Matthews, 35, was killed by suburban Dearborn police on December 23, an action which has generated demands for a full investigation and prosecution of the cops involved. Matthews was unarmed when he was shot to death after being pursued from the suburban city on the border with Detroit into the city.

Corporate news accounts of the incident claim that Matthews had a criminal background and attempted to grab the officer’s weapon. Demonstrations and press conferences have been held denouncing the killing and demanding that the name of the officer involved be publically named while he is supposedly on administrative leave.

In Chicago, two more African Americans were gunned down on December 26 when police responded to a call related to a domestic violence incident. Quintonio LeGrier, 19, a college student on break, along with Bettie Jones, 55, a mother of five, were both gunned down in the West Garfield Park area of the nation’s third largest municipality.

City officials say that Jones was killed accidently while attempting to provide a rationale for the use of lethal force against LeGrier. These deaths came amid mass demonstrations in the downtown business district demanding justice for Laquan McDonald, 17, shot sixteen times in October 2014 while walking away from police.

On January 4, even Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said he was “very disappointed” in how Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez dealt with the investigation into the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Both Emanuel and Alvarez have been requested by many people within Chicago to resign, which they have refused to do. In an attempt to change the focus of the discussions, Emanuel announced the arming of officer with Tasers, which can be just as deadly as any other weapon, and also announcing “de-escalation techniques” for the police.

The U.S. political and economic system is rooted in racist violence and state repression aimed at maintaining the status-quo of racial capitalism. Consequently, the burgeoning movement to halt the use of lethal force will have to address this history as part of the contemporary struggle for its abolition.

As the economic fabric of capitalism and its state structures experience deeper crises, the level of violence and repression will escalate. A greater emphasis has been placed on blocking retail outlets and refraining from any form of conspicuous consumption on the part of the oppressed, attacking the base of the system which is built on the exploitation of the majority of working people and African Americans as a whole.

 

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Sacred Trees, Christmas Trees and New Year Trees: A Vision for the Future

January 5th, 2016 by Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

Trees are a very important part of world culture and have been at the centre of ideological conflict for hundreds of years. Over this time they have taken the form of Sacred trees, Christmas trees and New Year trees.

In the current debates over climate change, trees have an immensely important role to play on material and symbolical levels both now and in the future. With the rising awareness of climate change, climate resilience i.e. the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change, has become the focus of groups from local community action to global treaties. The planting of trees is an important action that everyone from the local to the global can engage in. Trees act as carbon stores and carbon sinks, and on a cultural level they have been used to represent nature itself the world over.

As symbols, trees have been imbued with different meanings over time and I suggest here that they should continue to hold that central role as a prime symbol of our respect for nature, and not just at Christmas time but the whole year round in the form of a central community tree for adults and children alike. In an uncertain future, the absolute necessity of developing a society that harks back to much earlier forms of engagement with nature in a sustainable way will have to have a focal point. Trees as important symbols of our respect for nature have a long and elemental past.

The Tree of Life

From earliest times trees have had a profound effect on the human psyche:

“Human beings, observing the growth and death of trees, and the annual death and revival of their foliage, have often seen them as powerful symbols of growth, death and rebirth. Evergreen trees, which largely stay green throughout these cycles, are sometimes considered symbols of the eternal, immortality or fertility. The image of the Tree of life or world tree occurs in many mythologies.”

In Norse mythology the tree Yggdrasil, “with its branches reaching up into the sky, and roots deep into the earth, can be seen to dwell in three worlds – a link between heaven, the earth, and the underworld, uniting above and below. This great tree acts as an Axis mundi, supporting or holding up the cosmos, and providing a link between the heavens, earth and underworld.”


Yggdrasil, the World Ash (Norse)

Sacred Trees

However, both Christianity and Islam treated the worship of trees as idolatry and this led to sacred trees being destroyed in Europe and most of West Asia. An early representation of the ideological conflict between paganism (polytheistic beliefs) and Christianity (resulting in the cutting down of a sacred tree) can be seen in the manuscript illumination (illustration) of Saint Stephan of Perm cutting down a birch tree sacred to the Komi people as part of his proselytizing among them in the years after 1383.

Stefan of Perm takes an axe to a birch hung with pelts and cloths that is sacred to the Komi of Great Perm (a medieval Komi state in what is now the Perm Krai of the Russian Federation.)

Christian missionaries targeted sacred groves and sacred trees during the Christianization of the Germanic peoples. According to the 8th century Vita Bonifatii auctore Willibaldi, the Anglo-Saxon missionary Saint Boniface and his retinue cut down Donar’s Oak (a sacred tree of the Germanic pagans) earlier the same century and then used the wood to build a church.

“Bonifacius” (1905) by Emil Doepler. 

Christmas Trees

Over time the pagan world tree became christened as a Christmas tree. It was believed that evil influences were warded off by fir or spruce branches and “between December 25 and January 6, when evil spirits were feared most, green branches were hung, candles lit – and all these things were used as a means of defense. Later on, the treesthemselves were used for the same purpose; and candles were hung on them. The church retained these old customs, and gave them a new meaning as a symbol of Christ.’(p20) While there are records of this practice dating from 1604 of a decorated fir tree in Strasbourg, it was in Germany that the Christmas tree took hold in the early 19th century. It then “became popular among the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia.”

 Father and son with their dog collecting a tree in the forest, painting by Franz Krüger (1797–1857) 

The Russian Revolution

In Russia the tradition of installing and decorating a Yolka (tr: spruce tree) for Christmas was very popular but fell into disfavor (as a  tradition originating in Germany – Russia’s enemy during World War I) and was subsequently banned by the Synod in 1916. After the Russian Revolution in 1917 Christmas celebrations and other religious holidays were prohibited under the Marxist-Leninist policy of state atheism in the Soviet Union.


A 1931 edition of the Soviet magazine Bezbozhnik, distributed by the League of Militant Atheists, depicting an Orthodox Christian priest being forbidden to cut down a tree for Christmas

New Year’s trees

Although the Christmas tree was banned people continued the tradition with New Year trees which eventually gained acceptance in 1935: “The New Year tree was encouraged in the USSR after the famous letter by Pavel Postyshev, published in Pravda on 28 December 1935, in which he asked for trees to be installed in schools, children’s homes, Young Pioneer Palaces, children’s clubs, children’s theaters and cinemas.” They remain an essential part of the Russian New Year traditions when Grandfather Frost, like Santa Claus, brings presents for children to put under the tree or to distribute them directly to the children on New Year’s morning performances.

Trees in public places

In many public places around the world Christmas trees are displayed prominently since the early 20th century. The lighting up of the tree has become a public event signaling the beginning of the Christmas season. This is now usual even in small towns whereby a large fir is chopped down and displayed prominently in a central part of the town or village. While fir trees are now grown expressly for sale and display, in the past the cutting down of whole trees (maien or meyen) was forbidden: “Because of the pagan origin, and the depletion of the forest, there were numerous regulations that forbid, or put restrictions on, the cutting down of fir greens throughout the Christmas season.”(p20)


Bringing Home the Tree by Norman Rockwell. 12/18/1920.

Not cutting down trees

However if we look at the origins of sacred trees the important point was that they were not to be cut down, as respect for nature took precedence. The cutting down and destruction of so many trees today has become an important part in the commercialization of Christmas. However, growing a tree in the centre of villages, towns and cities as the focal point of our relationship with nature could be a year round celebration for adults and children and another aspect of the call for climate resilience policies the world over. The tree could then be decorated at Christmas or New Year. The decorations can be removed from the tree afterwards, allowing it to become a focal point for other festivities throughout the year. The educational value of this strategy for children would also be as an object lesson in the importance of sustainability and conservation.

Celebrating nature by chopping down the material reality of nature in the form of a tree every year is a contradiction in terms and could be remedied by encouraging people to grow trees or buying potted fir trees instead. Our ancestors from all over the world knew the importance of the balance of nature and tried to keep that balance through rites and prayers before the sacred trees. Now, in an era of climate change, rapidly becoming climate chaos, it is incumbent on us more than ever to develop a new appreciation and respect for nature and especially for trees as a primary symbol of that relationship.

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist who has exhibited widely around Ireland. His work consists of paintings based on cityscapes of Dublin, Irish history and geopolitical themes. His critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country on his blog.

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2015 was marked by a series of crucial diplomatic and military developments in the world. The old world order established after the Cold War is rapidly changing. Russia, China, and Iran have become the main forces openly making steps to change the global system.

In turn, the US-led block is seeking to retain the old world order by any means. The clash of interests in crisis regions around the world is engendering a serious escalation. Even if 2015 was successful for Russian and Iranian diplomacy, the situation remains complicated on the ground. While neither of the main world crises have been resolved or is there any expectation that they will be resolved in the nearest future, it is possible to summarize provisional results of the year.

Draft Transcript of  Video

The situation in Libya, a center of tensions in the Mediterranean, is deteriorating with fail of the UN-led peace initiatives. Local ISIS branch is deeply entrenched in the war-torn country. It’s expected that flow of foreign militants into Libya from the Syrian and Iraqi directions will grow if Syria and Iraq continue successfully their anti-terrorist operations fueled by the Russian Air Forces’ presence in the Middle East region.

Separately, ISIS increased activity in the Sinai Peninsula destabilizing the domestic situation in Egypt which tries to exercise multi-vector foreign policy in the region which not satisfy its Western-backed neighbors. The local destructive forces are also attempting to destabilize Egypt, de facto, assisting the militants. In turn, Cairo is strengthening its security efforts.

In the Sahel region the humanitarian situation remains extremely fragile while the number of terrorist attacks is increasing. Boko Haram militants stated allegiance to ISIS remain the most dangerous terrorist threat there.

The European migration crisis is especial acute. Since 2013, a cruel competition has been going among migrants, European governments and local societies. Immigrants concentrated in the entry point states move to the countries of the Central Europe (Germany, France) and the North Europe (United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway), spread over the whole union. The European governments impacted by critical look of the public opinion and the economic crisis have been trying to stop this process using the more and more gray approaches based on the wide notion of nation security concepts and the disregarding of human rights. However, the para-military operations in the Mediterranean sea and the usage of unadapted camps only conducts an additional exacerbation of migrants often pushed from their homes by the circumstances of insuperable force. In turn, inability of governments to solve the ongoing crisis conducts the anger of European citizens and contributes to the growth of radical parties and movements.

Thus, the migration crisis has also triggered additional disputes between the national elites and European bureaucracy. European nations are faced with a dilemma: to surrender under the pressure of the main European powers and the eurocracy or try to defend what remains of their unique national sovereignty. The projects as the National Front Party, Marine Le Pen, aspires to renew its own national goals are strongly opposed by the mainstream European establishment.

Meanwhile, NATO is continuing military build-up in Europe stationing additional forces, exercising numerous drills and even attempting to move nuclear warheads to the Russian borders. In early December 2015, Poland’s government issued a number of statements concerning the country’s participation in the NATO Nuclear Sharing program, which allows NATO member countries to deliver US nuclear warheads in wartime, using their own means of delivery.

The smoldering conflict in Donbass, a corrupt government and unregulated paramilitary groups consisting of criminals and radicals make Ukraine a zone of instability in Europe. The situation is worsening due to the unavoidable economic collapse and the Kiev’s government inability to negotiate.

The whole Middle East is affected by the major crisis. Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are its core, but the destabilization has been spreading. Turkey is affected by terrorism, Kurdish insurgency and economical instability. Israel is involved into the conflict against Palestinian. Saudi Arabia is involved into a protracted war in Yemen and affected by Yemeni cross-border raids. – FPD Middle East Big Game

Separately, the Russian military operation in Syria marked a loss of the US’s monopoly on the recourse to force. Now, the US and its partners are lossing the leadership in the Middle East region. The success of the alternative anti-ISIS coalition will mean that the US could lose the leadership in a great part of the world, in Eurasia. For Western-backed states as Turkey and Saudi Arabia it means decrease of their influence in the region.

Turkey has been shaping its approach in the region. It includes an additional rapprochement with Saudi Arabia and Qatar which leads to a hard anti-Iranian policy amid the ongoing cooling in relations with Russia.

Meanwhile, the US has sent ground forces, including special operations units, into the region. And such countries as France, the UK and Germany has begun to operate more actively in the region. It seems that NATO powers have realized the strategy aimed at Assad’s ouster by a diverse range of militant groups including ISIS has failed.

In this case, the NATO allies urgently need a new plan to hold control at least of the northern oil corridor from Iraq and try to take advantage of this opportunity to involve Russia in a long expensive war, in other words, to accomplish that which they failed to do in Ukraine. If the NATO contingent tries to occupy crucial infrastructure including oilfields, it could easily lead to an open military conflict in the region.

The borders between the Central Asian states and Afghanistan have become increasingly active in terms of militant, diplomatic and security activity. Militant activity has increased in northern Afghanistan in recent months, punctuated by Taliban forces’ capture of the town of Kunduz in late September and ISIS militants have been gathering momentum and concentrating there. ISIS militants see this region as a foothold for further expansion into Central Asia. The important fact is they don’t fight foreign or Afghan government troops. They conserve and gather strength. The threat is also growing in the South. The number of ISIS militants has been growing at the borders of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan amid serious domestic problems of the Central Asian states.

In this case, the Central Asia is attracting attention of the key regional players: Russia, the US and China. While the all sides state that they are interested in the regional stability, the Washington administration is clearly seeking to expand in the Central Asian countries amid the failing Afghan projects.

The tensions in the South China Sea is a visible part of the ongoing US-China standoff in the Asia-Pacific region. The Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and the US newly released maritime strategy de facto mean that the Washington has taken a course on a long-standing countering of the China’s influence in the region. A core but often unstated component of U.S. national strategy is to maintain global superiority at sea. By controlling the seas, the United States is able to deploy military power and to control the movement goods worldwide. In the Indo-Asia-Pacific region the US has been rapidly building political, economic and military alliances to balance the raise of the China’s economic and military power. Beijing can’t ignore this fact. The China’s strategy maritime strategy aimed to defend its eastern coastal area and crucial maritime routes in the Indian Ocean challenges the American approach.

Another hot point in the region is the Korean Peninsula. 2015 was marked by a new standoff between the North and South along the Demilitarized Zone conducting a complicated environment. The situation is further challenged by an aggressive South Korean stance supported by the US. According to Korean military sources the US has been considering to dispatch B-52 or a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and a nuclear-powered submarine currently stationed at Japan’s Yokosuka naval base. The US has previously dispatched its military assets to the peninsula to support Seoul in its stand-off with Pyongyang two years ago. In April 2013 it had flown B-2 stealth bombers. The tensions in the Korean Peninsula will be definitely used in the ongoing US-China dispute for the leadership in the Asia-Pacific.

Generally, 2015 was a year of crisis escalation and a fresh source of tension in international relations. The main directions of aggravation of the international situation have come into full force. However, last year was only the beginning when the system of international relations started to rebuild. Unfortunately, international practice revealed that global actors were not able to cooperate fruitfully to overcome mounting differences. The establishment took on the usual clannish spirit and protected the corporate interests of the crony elites, while the election race in the United States and the deepening economic recession fueled the flame. The entire year was steeped in the smell of gunpowder, but had not yet enveloped the world in the smoke of a global war.

In 2016, we should expect continued tension in international relations. The number of local conflicts will not be reduced. There are high chances that there will be a significant escalation of the conflict in the eastern Ukraine. In the spring of 2016 the situation in Central Asia is expected to be destabilized, and Afghanistan could once again turn into a full-scale civil war. The zone of conflict in the Arabian Peninsula will expand. Turkey is at high risk of civil war. In turn, the intensity of the fighting in Syria and Iraq will decline or remain at current levels.

2016 will be marked by the growing probability of  a wider global conflict. The turbulent climate in the South China Sea, the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe, the colonial style of US foreign policy and its double standards are capable of bringing the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe in the near future.

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Breaking: Terrorists Occupy a Federal Building

January 5th, 2016 by Anthony Freda

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Hillary Clinton’s “regime change” policies as Secretary of State helped spread the chaos that has turned the Middle East into a killing field and might have done even worse if not for extraordinary obstructions from the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff regarding Syria, as Gareth Porter recounts at Middle East Eye.

Seymour Hersh’s recent revelations about an effort by the U.S. military leadership in 2013 to bolster the Syrian army against jihadist forces in Syria shed important new light on the internal bureaucratic politics surrounding regime change in U.S. Middle East policy. Hersh’s account makes it clear that the Obama administration’s policy of regime change in both Libya and Syria provoked pushback from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

That account and another report on a similar episode in 2011 suggest that the U.S. military has a range of means by which it can oppose administration policies that it regards as unacceptable. But it also shows that the military leadership failed to alter the course of U.S. policy, and raises the question whether it was willing to use all the means available to stop the funneling of arms to al-Nusra Front and other extremist groups in Syria.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

Ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shortly before he was murdered on Oct. 20, 2011.

Hersh details a JCS initiative in the summer of 2013 to share intelligence on Islamic State and al-Qaeda organizations with other German, Russian and Israeli militaries, in the belief that the information would find its way to the Syrian army. Hersh reports that the military leadership did not inform the White House and the State Department about the “military to military” intelligence sharing on the jihadist forces in Syria, reflecting the hardball bureaucratic politics practiced within the national security institutions.

The 2013 initiative, approved by JCS chairman, General Martin Dempsey, was not the first active effort by the U.S. military to mitigate Obama administration regime change policies. In 2011, the JCS had been strongly opposed to the effort to depose the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya, a regime-change effort led by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

When the Obama administration began its effort to overthrow Gaddafi, it did not call publicly for regime change and instead asserted that it was merely seeking to avert mass killings that administration officials had suggested might approach genocidal levels. But the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which had been given the lead role in assessing the situation in Libya, found no evidence to support such fears and concluded that it was based on nothing more than “speculative arguments.”

The JCS warned that overthrowing the Gaddafi regime would serve no U.S. security interest, but would instead open the way for forces aligned with al-Qaeda to take over the country. After the Obama administration went ahead with a NATO air assault against the Gaddafi regime the U.S. military sought to head off the destruction of the entire Libyan government.

General Carter Ham, the commander of AFRICOM, the U.S. regional command for Africa, gave the State Department a proposal for a ceasefire to which Gaddafi had agreed. It would have resulted in Gaddafi’s resignation but retain the Libyan military’s capacity to hold off jihadist forces and rescind the sanctions against Gaddafi’s family.

But the State Department refused any negotiation with Gaddafi on the proposal. Immediately after hearing that Gaddafi had been captured by rebel forces and killed, Clinton famously joked in a television interview, “We came, we saw, he died” and laughed.

By then the administration was already embarked on yet another regime change policy in Syria. Although Clinton led the public advocacy of the policy, then CIA Director David Petraeus, who had taken over the agency in early September 2011, was a major ally. He immediately began working on a major covert operation to arm rebel forces in Syria.

The CIA operation used ostensibly independent companies in Libya to ship arms from Libyan government warehouses to Syria and southern Turkey. These were then distributed in consultation with the United States through networks run by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The plan went into operation within days of Gaddafi’s death on October 20, 2011, just before NATO officially ended its operation at the end of that month, as the DIA later reported to the JCS.

But the result of the operation was to accelerate the dominance of al-Qaeda and their Islamist allies. The Turks, Qataris and Saudis were funneling arms to al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al-Nusra Front, or other closely related extremist groups. That should not have surprised the Obama administration. The same thing had happened in Libya in spring 2011 after the Obama administration had endorsed a Qatari plan to send arms to Libyan rebels. The White House had quickly learned that the Qataris had sent the arms to the most extremist elements in the Libyan opposition.

The original Petraeus covert operation ended with the torching of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in September 2012 in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed. It was superseded by a new program under which Qatar and Saudi Arabia financed the transfer of weapons from other sources that were supposed to be distributed in cooperation with CIA officials at a base in southern Turkey.

But “thousands of tons of weapons” were still going to groups fighting alongside the jihadists or who actually joined them as Vice President Joe Biden revealed in 2014.

By spring 2013, al-Nusra Front and its Islamic extremist allies were already in control of wide areas in the north and in the Damascus suburbs. The Islamic State had separated from al-Nusra Front and established its own territory south of the Turkish border. The secular armed opposition had ceased to exist as a significant force.

The “Free Syrian Army”, the nominal command of those forces, was actually a fiction within Syria, as was reported by specialists on the Syrian conflict. But despite the absence of a real “moderate opposition,” the Obama administration continued to support the flood of arms to the forces fighting to overthrow Assad.

In mid-2013, as Hersh recounts, the DIA issued an intelligence assessment warning that the administration’s regime change policy might well result in a repeat of what was already happening in Libya: chaos and jihadist domination. The JCS also pulled off a clever maneuver to ensure that the jihadists and their allies were getting only obsolete weapons. A JCS representative convinced the CIA to obtain much cheaper arms from Turkish stocks controlled by officials sympathetic to the CIA’s viewpoint on Syria.

But the JCS failed to alter the administration’s policy of continuing to support the flow of arms into Syria. Did the military leadership really use all of its leverage to oppose the policy?

In 2013, some officials on the U.S. National Security Council staff pushed for a relatively modest form of pressure on Qatar to get it to back off its continued supply of arms to extremists, including al-Nusra Front, by pulling out a U.S. fighter squadron from the U.S. air base at al-Udeid in Qatar. But as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, the Pentagon, obviously reflecting the JCS position, vetoed the proposal, arguing that the forward headquarters of the Central Command at the airbase was “vital” to U.S. operations in the Middle East.

The political implications of the episode are clear: bureaucratic self-interest trumped the military’s conviction that U.S. security is being endangered. No matter how strongly the JCS may have felt about the recklessness of administration policy, they were not prepared to sacrifice their access to military bases in Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Turkey to pressure their Middle Eastern allies.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. [This article originally appeared at Middle East Eye,http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/us-military-leadership-s-resistance-regime-change-1343405723#sthash.RtsyxSes.dpuf]

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Research conducted by Dr. Ivan Katchanovski on the Maidan “Snipers’ massacre” of February 2014 has shown that the killings of protesters were organized by far right paramilitary groups and allied political parties, not the former government’s Berkut riot police, as claimed by the current Kiev government and repeated by Western media

A study of the February 20, 2014 “Snipers’ massacre” in Kiev, where scores of protesters were killed by shots fired from surrounding buildings, has proved that it was carried out by Western-backed opposition groups.The research found that the Berkut special police force, which was loyal to the Ukrainian government, was not responsible, contrary to the narrative which was created by the post-Maidan coup government in Kiev, and consequently accepted by Western governments and media.

Ivan Katchanovski, a teacher of political science at the University of Ottawa, studied eyewitness reports, estimates of ballistic trajectories, 30 gigabytes of security forces’ radio intercepts, 5,000 photos and 1,500 videos and broadcast recordings of the protesters’ deaths.

“This academic investigation concludes that the massacre was a false flag operation, which was rationally planned and carried out with a goal of the overthrow of the government and seizure of power,” wrote Katchanovski in his study, called ‘The “Snipers’ Massacre” on the Maidan in Ukraine.’

“t found various evidence of the involvement of an alliance of the far right organizations, specifically the Right Sector and Svoboda, and oligarchic parties, such as Fatherland. Concealed shooters and spotters were located in at least 20 Maidan-controlled buildings or areas.

The deaths of 49 protesters on February 20 have been attributed by Kiev’s current government to the Berkut special police force, loyal to then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s government. Investigations of the massacre by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office and other government agencies blame Berkut for shooting the protesters on Yanukovych’s orders.

The prosecutor’s report falsely concluded that Berkut snipers killed 39 of the protesters who died that day, reports Katchanovski.

The killings took place as the Yanukovych government was negotiating with opposition groups to find a political solution to the crisis, and was soon followed on February 22 by an armed coup that gave Ukraine’s Verkhovnaya Rada the power to change the constitution and overthrow the president.

“The Maidan-led government used the Maidan massacre as a source of its legitimacy and widely commemorated this mass killing and its victims among the protesters. The killed protesters were posthumously awarded ‘Hero of Ukraine’ titles by President Petro Poroshenko, and the government established February 20 as a day in their honor,” Katchanovski explains.

The post-Yanukovych government’s version of the events of that tragic day has been largely unchallenged by the Western governments and media, who have represented the massacre and the Maidan protests as “a part of the narrative presenting ‘Euromaidan’ as a democratic, peaceful mass —protest movement and a revolution led by pro-Western parties,” says the academic.

“A report of the International Advisory Panel, set up by the Council of Europe, presented evidence in 2015 that the investigation of the ‘snipers’ massacre’ on the Maidan has been stalled, in particular by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor General office. The report revealed that contrary to the public statements, the official investigation had evidence of ‘shooters’ killing at least three protesters from the Maidan-controlled Hotel Ukraina or the Music Conservatory and that at least other 10 protesters were killed by unidentified ‘snipers’ from rooftops.”

While observing the overwhelming bias of Western media representations of the events, the scholar was able to cite some more thorough investigations. German TV program Monitor shows shooters based in the Hotel Ukraina, and revealed manipulation of the government’s investigation of the shootings. In addition, Katchanovski found reports from the BBC and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that confirmed the presence of armed protesters at the Music Conservatory and their shooting of the police at Maidan.However, Katchanovski also relates other serious examples of media manipulation of the shootings, such as BBC editing of an interview with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which “was misrepresented by BBC and the Ukrainian media as an admission of his and his police forces’ responsibility for carrying out the Maidan massacre.”

“The transcript of the full Yanukovych interview published on the BBC Russian website shows that he did not admit his and his police forces’ responsibility for carrying the Maidan massacre and repeated his previous statements about a ‘coup’ by ‘radicals’ but regretted his failure to prevent the massacre.”

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Islamophobia, USA, And the Case of the Arabic Language

January 5th, 2016 by Sufyan bin Uzayr

While sane and insane voices exist in every society, it is common knowledge by now that Islamophobes are pretty loud in the West, especially in the USA. The story of Ahmed, the kid who brought a self-made clock to school, is a case in point. Of course, Islamophobia is not the dominant ideology in USA, as can be seen in the efforts of several good-willed Americans who seek nothing but peace. After all, Ahmed did get support and appreciation from all corners, didn’t he?

However, what happens when such Islamophobic paranoia, even though it might be in the minority, spills out and makes itself visible in stuff that is otherwise not a monopoly of Islam? What happens when one’s bigotry makes him/her feel scared of a language?

Apparently, some Islamophobes in USA seem to be scared of the Arabic language.

Islamophobes Dislike Arabic?

Recently, a teacher at a school in Augusta County, Virginia handed out a homework assignment. The homework, part of the Geography curriculum, dealt with world religions. Among other exercises, it included a question asking students to copy Arabic calligraphy (in order to help them understand the complexity of calligraphy in the Arabic language).

The result?

It led to an angry backlash by several parents of students, as they felt it was an attempt to convert their kids to Islam. The school received multiple calls from angry parents, and some even demanded the the concerned teacher should be fired from her job (note that the teacher did not frame the questions herself, but took it from a standard workbook on world religions).

Things kept getting ugly, with more hate-filled calls and messages coming in, and more parents reacting to the incident with threats. All the schools in the county had to be shut down, and then reopened amidst high security. Eventually, the question was eliminated from the workbook.

Thankfully, there were voices of sanity too, and some former students created a Facebook group to defend their geography teacher.

This is not the first time that Islamophobic paranoia in the USA resulted in bias against the Arabic language. Back in March 2015, a school near New York City had to apologize for including Arabic as one of the languages during its Foreign Languages Week celebration.

Clearly, Islamophobes would hate anything and everything, including the Arabic language. To help them realize just how poor their logic is, I decided to put together just a small fraction of things for which they should thank the Arabic language and its speakers.

Why Should They Not Hate Arabic?

What has the Arabic language or the Arabic script ever done to anyone? Here is small selection:

  • Renowned Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas was influenced by several philosophers — guess which language those philosophers wrote it? Yes, Arabic.
  • While the good and bad qualities of Christopher Columbus are surely debatable, it is established beyond doubt that during his voyage to America, Columbus depended heavily on the calculations of al-Farghani. In fact, al-Farghani was one of the first to prove that the earth was spherical, and he wrote all of that in Arabic.
  • It is argued that zero first originated in India. However, the circular zero that is in use today comes from the works of Arabic scholars. Don’t like the zero? Good luck dividing XLIV by CLXIV.

Need more? Yes, there is a lot more.

Conclusion

If Islamophobes want to turn their children away from the Arabic language because they feel it is related to Muslims, will they be turning their kids away from Trigonometry, Algebra [Al Jabr], Chemistry [Al Kimiya], Pharmacy and Medicine? Because many of these were, in some way or the other, invented and developed by Arabs.

Quite obviously, paranoia and religious bigotry knows no reason, and is purely illogical. Such ignorance needs to be fixed because, as shown in the references above, Arabic as a language has proven nothing but beneficial for human existence as a whole.

Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various reputed publications and verticals, and is the author of several books. He regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance atnPolitical Periscope (www.politicalperiscope.com

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The New Year’s Eve release of over 3000 new Hillary Clinton emails from the State Department has CNN abuzz over gossipy text messages, the “who gets to ride with Hillary” selection process set up by her staff, and how a “cute” Hillary photo fared on Facebook.

But historians of the 2011 NATO war in Libya will be sure to notice a few of the truly explosive confirmations contained in the new emails: admissions of rebel war crimes, special ops trainers inside Libya from nearly the start of protests, Al Qaeda embedded in the U.S. backed opposition, Western nations jockeying for access to Libyan oil, the nefarious origins of the absurd Viagra mass rape claim, and concern over Gaddafi’s gold and silver reserves threatening European currency.

Hillary’s Death Squads

A March 27, 2011 intelligence brief on Libya, sent by long time close adviser to the Clintons and Hillary’s unofficial intelligence gatherer, Sidney Blumenthal, contains clear evidence of war crimes on the  part of NATO-backed rebels. Citing a rebel commander source “speaking in strict confidence” Blumenthal reports to Hillary [emphasis mine]:

Under attack from allied Air and Naval forces, the Libyan Army troops have begun to desert to the rebel side in increasing numbers. The rebels are making an effort to greet these troops as fellow Libyans, in an effort to encourage additional defections.

(Source Comment: Speaking in strict confidence, one rebel commander stated that his troops continue to summarily execute all foreign mercenaries captured in the fighting…).

While the illegality of extra-judicial killings is easy to recognize (groups engaged in such are conventionally termed “death squads”), the sinister reality behind the “foreign mercenaries” reference might not be as immediately evident to most.

While over the decades Gaddafi was known to make use of European and other international security and infrastructural contractors, there is no evidence to suggest that these were targeted by the Libyan rebels.

There is however, ample documentation by journalists, academics, and human rights groups demonstrating that black Libyan civilians and sub-Saharan contract workers, a population favored by Gaddafi in his pro-African Union policies, were targets of “racial cleansing” by rebels who saw black Libyans as tied closely with the regime.[1]

Black Libyans were commonly branded as “foreign mercenaries” by the rebel opposition for their perceived general loyalty to Gaddafi as a community and subjected to torture, executions, and their towns “liberated” by ethnic cleansing. This is demonstrated in the most well-documented example of Tawergha, an entire town of 30,000 black and “dark-skinned” Libyans which vanished by August 2011 after its takeover by NATO-backed NTC Misratan brigades.

These attacks were well-known as late as 2012 and often filmed, as this report from The Telegraphconfirms:

After Muammar Gaddafi was killed, hundreds of migrant workers from neighboring states were imprisoned by fighters allied to the new interim authorities. They accuse the black Africans of having been mercenaries for the late ruler. Thousands of sub-Saharan Africans have been rounded up since Gaddafi fell in August.

It appears that Clinton was getting personally briefed on the battlefield crimes of her beloved anti-Gaddafi fighters long before some of the worst of these genocidal crimes took place.

Al-Qaeda and Western Special Forces Inside Libya

The same intelligence email from Sydney Blumenthal also confirms what has become a well known theme of Western supported insurgencies in the Middle East: the contradiction of special forces training militias that are simultaneously suspected of links to Al Qaeda.

Blumenthal relates that “an extremely sensitive source” confirmed that British, French, and Egyptian special operations units were training Libyan militants along the Egyptian-Libyan border, as well as in Benghazi suburbs.

While analysts have long speculated as to the “when and where” of Western ground troop presence in the Libyan War, this email serves as definitive proof that special forces were on the ground only within a month of the earliest protests which broke out in the middle to end of February 2011 in Benghazi.

By March 27 of what was commonly assumed a simple “popular uprising” external special operatives were already “overseeing the transfer of weapons and supplies to the rebels” including “a seemingly endless supply of AK47 assault rifles and ammunition.”

Yet only a few paragraphs after this admission, caution is voiced about the very militias these Western special forces were training because of concern that, “radical/terrorist groups such as the Libyan Fighting Groups and Al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are infiltrating the NLC and its military command.”

The Threat of Libya’s Oil and Gold to French Interests

Though the French-proposed U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 claimed the no-fly zone implemented over Libya was to protect civilians, an April 2011 email sent to Hillary with the subject line “France’s client and Qaddafi’s gold” tells of less noble ambitions.

The email identifies French President Nicholas Sarkozy as leading the attack on Libya with five specific purposes in mind: to obtain Libyan oil, ensure French influence in the region, increase Sarkozy’s reputation domestically, assert French military power, and to prevent Gaddafi’s influence in what is considered “Francophone Africa.”

Most astounding is the lengthy section delineating the huge threat that Gaddafi’s gold and silver reserves, estimated at “143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver,” posed to the French franc (CFA) circulating as a prime African currency. In place of the noble sounding “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine fed to the public, there is this “confidential” explanation of what was really driving the war [emphasis mine]:

This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French franc (CFA).

(Source Comment: According to knowledgeable individuals this quantity of gold and silver is valued at more than $7 billion. French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began, and this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya.)

Though this internal email aims to summarize the motivating factors driving France’s (and by implication NATO’s) intervention in Libya, it is interesting to note that saving civilian lives is conspicuously absent from the briefing.

Instead, the great fear reported is that Libya might lead North Africa into a high degree of economic independence with a new pan-African currency.

French intelligence “discovered” a Libyan initiative to freely compete with European currency through a local alternative, and this had to be subverted through military aggression.

The Ease of Floating Crude Propaganda

Early in the Libyan conflict Secretary of State Clinton formally accused Gaddafi and his army of using mass rape as a tool of war. Though numerous international organizations, like Amnesty International, quickly debunked these claims, the charges were uncritically echoed by Western politicians and major media.

It seemed no matter how bizarre the conspiracy theory, as long as it painted Gaddafi and his supporters as monsters, and so long as it served the cause of prolonged military action in Libya, it was deemed credible by network news.

Two foremost examples are referenced in the latest batch of emails: the sensational claim that Gaddafi issued Viagra to his troops for mass rape, and the claim that bodies were “staged” by the Libyan government at NATO bombing sites to give the appearance of the Western coalition bombing civilians.

In a late March 2011 email, Blumenthal confesses to Hillary that,

I communicated more than a week ago on this story—Qaddafi placing bodies to create PR stunts about supposed civilian casualties as a result of Allied bombing—though underlining it was a rumor. But now, as you know, Robert Gates gives credence to it. (See story below.)

Sources now say, again rumor (that is, this information comes from the rebel side and is unconfirmed independently by Western intelligence), that Qaddafi has adopted a rape policy and has even distributed Viagra to troops. The incident at the Tripoli press conference involving a woman claiming to be raped is likely to be part of a much larger outrage. Will seek further confirmation.

Not only did Defense Secretary Robert Gates promote his bizarre “staged bodies” theory on CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” but the even stranger Viagra rape fiction made international headlines as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice made a formal charge against Libya in front of the UN Security Council.

What this new email confirms is that not only was the State Department aware of the spurious nature of what Blumenthal calls “rumors” originating solely with the rebels, but did nothing to stop false information from rising to top officials who then gave them “credence.”

It appears, furthermore, that the Viagra mass rape hoax likely originated with Sidney Blumenthal himself.

 Note

[1] The most comprehensive and well-documented study of the plight of black Libyans is contained in Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa (publ. 2012, Baraka Books) byMaximilian Forte, Professor Anthropology and Sociology at Concordia University in Montréal, Québec.

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Two recent events – the second-round victory on November 22 of right-wing candidate Mauricio Macri in Argentina’s presidential election, and the December 6 victory of the right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable,[1] winning two thirds of the seats in Venezuela’s National Assembly elections – have radically altered the political map in South America. In the following interview, Argentine Marxist Claudio Katz discusses what these setbacks for the left mean for the progressive “process of change” that has unfolded on the continent over the last 10-15 years. My translation from the Spanish.

Katz is a professor of economics at the University of Buenos Aires, a researcher with the National Council of Science and Technology, and a member of Economists of the Left.[2]

This interview with La Llamarada occurred just before the outgoing National Assembly in Venezuela called the first meeting of the “National Communal Parliament,” a new legislative structure of delegates from the country’s more than 1,400 communes, the grassroots bodies in rural and urban communities throughout Venezuela. President Nicolás Maduro was quoted as saying “I’m going to give all the power to the communal parliament…. This parliament is going to be a legislative mechanism from the grassroots. All power to the Communal parliament.”

— Richard Fidler.

Q. In your work on South America, you speak of the duality that has characterized the last decade. What exactly is that duality?

Claudio Katz. In my opinion, the so-called progressive cycle of the last decade in South America has been a process resulting from partially successful popular rebellions (Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador) that altered the relationship of forces in the region. They allowed us to take advantage of higher prices for raw materials and dollar income in a way that differed considerably from what prevailed in other periods. During this interval, neo-developmental and distributionist economic policy schemes existed alongside the neoliberal model. Politically, right-wing governments were now joined by center-left and radical governments. It was a period in which imperialism’s capacity for action was seriously circumscribed, with a retreat from the OAS and recognition of Cuba. David had finally defeated Goliath and the United States had to accept that defeat.

It was also a decade in which there were no Greek-style adjustments in almost any Latin American countries. And there were important democratic victories. It is highly illustrative to compare South America with Central America. The level of aggression that is current in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala contrasts with the public freedoms conquered in Argentina, Bolivia or Brazil, a clear indication of the scope of this change. And Chavismo rescued the socialist project. For all these reasons South America became a point of reference for social movements throughout the world.

In a recent article I pointed to a “duality in Latin America” because this change in the political cycle and in the relationship of forces coexisted with a consolidation of the pattern of extractivist accumulation located in the export of basic raw materials and Latin America’s insertion in the international division of labour as a provider of basic products. That is a natural situation for a neoliberal government, it forms part of its strategy. But for progressive governments of the center-left, there is a tension with that structure; and for radical, distributionist governments, there is a conflict of huge proportions.

There were successful rebellions, therefore, that resulted in distinct governments, some anti-liberal, but also a situation that sooner or later had to disappear, since they could not coexist with the extractivist model and the strengthening of the traditional dependent economic configuration of Latin America. It is that contradiction that has prevented them from getting back on their feet in recent months. And that is why the conservative restoration began, and with it the debate around the end of the progressive cycle. At year-end we are confronted by two crucial events.

First, the triumph of Macri, which is important because it is the first instance of a rightist return to Argentina’s presidency. Beginning with the cacerolazos [the banging of pots and pans in street demonstrations] the Right built its political power, defeated Peronism and formed a cabinet of the “CEOcracy” for a country now governed by “its proper owners,” a cabinet directly from the capitalist class.

The second event is more partial but more significant. In Venezuela the Right has won not the government but the parliament, in conditions of a brutal economic war, media terrorism, economic chaos generated by reactionaries. And Venezuela is the most complete symbol of the radical processes within the progressive cycle.

Q. What is the situation, in this new continental scenario, of the countries that far from duality have maintained not only the economic pattern but also the neoliberal policies?

A. One of the major information gaps in this entire period has been the concealment of what is happening in the countries governed by neoliberalism. You might get the impression that everything is going marvellously there and that the only problems in Latin America are in the other countries. But in fact this is a monumental media distortion. It’s enough to look at the situation in Mexico, a country that has extremely high levels of crime, destruction of the social fabric and huge regions rife with drug trafficking. Or to see the situation of Central American countries decimated by emigration, by the predominance of crime and with presidents like the one in Guatemala, who have been removed from office over corruption scandals. Or take the Chilean economic model, which is in a quite critical situation with significantly reduced growth and now the appearance of corruption in a country that has made a show of transparency. Family indebtedness, labour precariousness, inequality, and the privatization of education have begun to surface. And Bachelet’s government is paralyzed. Those reforms in pensions and education, which it thought it would carry out, are now delayed.

Looking at the neoliberal universe we also see the sole case of debt default throughout this period, in Puerto Rico, a country that is in fact a North American colony that has endured decapitalization, the pillage of its resources, the disintegration of its social fabric. For a time it was compensated with public financing but now this prop is finished and it has defaulted.

So in the countries where the raw material rents of this super cycle were not redistributed, the social, political and economic situation is very serious. But no one talks about that.

Q. In this new scenario that has opened, what do you think will happen in the neo-developmentalist countries like Argentina and Brazil? Will the conservative restoration in those countries tend to reconfigure the “blocs,” integrating them with the openly neoliberal bloc?

A. There we can be very categorical in our balance sheet of what has happened, and very cautious about what is coming. I would separate things, to differentiate what we know from what we can imagine. Clearly, in Argentina and Brazil the change under way is the result of an exhaustion of the neo-developmentalist economic model. That is not the sole cause nor am I sure that a greater impact can be attributed to it than to other factors, but it is the background to the problem.

In both countries there was an attempt to use a portion of the rent generated by the increase in raw materials prices in order to revamp industry and attempt to build a model based on consumption. But since we are operating within the capitalist system this type of processes has very strict limits, because what functions at the outset is later exhausted insofar as capitalist profitability is affected. The theory of reverse feedback does not work. It is an illusion of Keynesian heterodoxy to suppose that with a mere increase in demand a virtuous circle begins. The contrary happens. At some point those governments encounter a limit, and the classic process begins, with capital flight and pressure on the exchange rate — which is what has happened in both cases.

I think there is an economic erosion but also there has been a major political deterioration both in Brazil and in Argentina. That erosion was determined in both cases by the appearance of social discontent that neither government was willing to harness by responding to the demands. That was the climate in which Macri’s ascent and the expansion of the social base of the Brazilian Right was situated.

That assessment is clear, but what is to come is not clear. The big test will be the Macri government. We still cannot assess that. It is a classic right-wing government with all the reactionary characteristics of a right-wing government. But it is operating in a context of great combativity. Thus there is a contradiction between what it wants to do and what it can do.

Q. Going back to Venezuela, in a talk you gave you raised an idea that we think is important, noting the futility of always and everywhere applying the cliché that “what does not advance, retreats,” “what does not radicalize, turns back.” But putting this in concrete terms, we recall Fidel’s recommendation to Allende after the Tancazo, “This is your Girón.”[3] What prospects — not abstract but concrete, in terms of the political and social forces — do you see for a radicalization in Venezuela? What would be the measures to be taken in that direction?

A. Those phrases are heard repeatedly, but many of those who use them forget to apply them when it is necessary to do so, especially today in Venezuela. In Venezuela the progressive cycle and the future are being defined. It has been the principal process and its outcome will determine the context throughout the region.

It is obvious that imperialism has set its sights on Venezuela. The United States recognizes Cuba, has friendly relations with many governments, but not with Venezuela. There it imposes the decline in the price of oil, supplies the paramilitary organizations, finances conspiratorial NGOs, operates militarily. It has set in motion strategies for overthrow prepared for some time now. The elections unfolded in this context of economic war and in the end the Right achieved its victory. For the first time it won a majority in the parliament and is now aiming to call a referendum to revoke President Maduro’s mandate.

The Right will try to straddle two paths, that of Capriles and that of López.[4] The latter promotes a return to the guarimbas while Capriles favours a war of attrition against Maduro. And it is highly illustrative that in Argentina Macri first proposed an assault behind the screen of the “democratic clause”[5] although he later opted to postpone it. Macri is balancing between the two strategies (but note that Corina López, the wife of Leopoldo, was present at his electoral victory). He will follow the dominant tone. On the one side López and on the other Capriles, since the two complement each other. They are two lines of the same thing. And Macri is one of those orchestrating that conspiracy internationally.

Now there is strong pressure on Maduro to agree to negotiation, which would leave him overwhelmed without the ability to do anything. But he can also react and apply the famous phrase: a process that does not radicalize will regress. He can land a counterblow. A big conflict is approaching, because the parliament under right-wing leadership will demand powers that the President is not prepared to give it. The parliament will vote amnesty for López and the executive will veto it. The executive will bring out a law against hoarding and the parliament is not going to accept it. Either the executive governs or the parliament governs, a clash of powers that is very typical.

In that sense, since it takes a year to prepare a revocation referendum — they have to collect the signatures, they have to have them officially recognized,[6] they have to call the referendum and win it — that is going to generate a major conflict. And therein lies the dilemma. There is a conservative sector, social democratic or mixed up in corruption, within Chavismo that has no desire to do anything in response to that dilemma through a radicalization of the process.

That sector stands in the way of reacting against the Empire’s aggression. It is obvious that imperialism is waging an economic war on Venezuela, but the problem is that Maduro has not managed to defeat those attacks. The problem is that Venezuela is a country that continues to receive dollars, through PDVSA,[7] and those dollars are handed over to sectors of the corrupt civil service, and the capitalists, who recycle them and ruin the Venezuelan economy. Those dollars find their way into smuggling to Colombia, into creating shortages, into exchange rate speculation, and the country lives with queues and general irritation. Furthermore, Venezuela is now burdened with a sizeable public debt. It does not have enough dollars to pay for all the imports and at the same time pay down the debt.

In these conditions the social-democratic and conservative sectors of the government limit themselves to complaining about “the terrible situation imposed by imperialism” but without taking effective action to thwart that aggression.

And this conduct has consequences, because it increases demoralization. The Right was victorious not so much because it stole votes from Chavismo but because people did not go out to vote. That has happened before. It is a form of protest that some Venezuelans engage in. And much more problematic, more serious, is the attitude of leaders who say goodbye to Chavismo or return to private life. They express no opinion or criticize the government instead of proposing radical measures against the Right. That in turn is accentuated by the government’s conduct in preventing left currents from developing. Instead of encouraging them, instead of facilitating their action, it limits their possibilities. And it maintains the verticalist structure of the PSUV.[8]

So that’s the situation. And as many people say, this time it is the last opportunity. Now or never. And this last opportunity means making decisions in two very clear-cut areas. Economically: to nationalize the banks and foreign trade, and to use those two tools to define another way of using the dollars. There are many good economists who have been saying this for ten years now. They have devised programs that explain in detail how this is done. So these are not unknown measures. And the other pillar is political. To sustain the radicalization, communal power is needed. Venezuela now has legislation, a structure, adopted laws, that provide for administering the country with a new form of communal organization; from below and from above, with distinct authorities, in which democracy is a reality and popular power is not confined to being a set of defensive institutions. It is a decisive architecture for contending with the parliament of the Right. If Maduro and the Venezuelan leadership want to rescue the Bolivarian process, this is the time for communal power. We shall see. What I think is that the cards are on the table and decisions must be made.[9]

Q. It has become common for intellectuals, including activists, to place their expectations more in the protagonism of governments than in the protagonism of the mass organizations. What is the prospect that lies ahead for social struggles? What role should anti-imperialism and anticapitalism have in them?

A. It is very important, I think, in any discussion about whether or not the progressive cycle has ended to look not only at the governments but also at what is going on below. Many writers tend to assess a cycle in terms of who is exercising the executive power. But that is only one element. The cycle originated with popular rebellion and it is these rebellions that define the relationship of forces. The process over the last decade was novel because, through a partial redistribution of resource rents, many governments developed social security networks and consumption patterns that moderated social struggles. That is one of the explanations for why we have not had rebellions since 2004.

There is a change in the economic cycle that is going to put the social struggle back on the agenda, and in this process discussion of the left project will resume. Much depends on what develops in Venezuela, which has been the political reference in the recent period for the significant left, in the same way that the Cuban revolution or Sandinismo were at other times. The emancipatory references are continental. They occur in one country and become the focus of all the others.

But the big strategic problem lies in the fact that many thinkers are of the view that the left should focus on building a model of post-liberal capitalism. This idea blocks the radicalization processes. It assumes that being on the left is to be post-liberal, that to be on the left is to slog away for an organized, human, productive capitalism. This idea has undermined the left for several years now because being left means fighting capitalism. To me, this is ABC. To be socialist is to fight for a communist world. At each stage that horizon changes and the strategic parameters are renewed. But if the identity of the left is altered, the result is frustration.

Building the left means taking up again the idea of the later Chávez. A strong commitment to a socialist project that is linked with the traditions of Latin American Marxism and the Cuban Revolution. It seems to me that this strategic line of march has been distorted by strong illusions in the convenience of replacing this horizon through convergence, for example, with Pope Francis. The assumption is that with Chávez’s death we need another reference and it is thought that the substitute can be Pope Francis. I think this is a strategic error. I don’t think the Social Doctrine of the Church is the guide that we should adopt in our battle against capitalism. Pope Francis is being recycled with the intention now of reconstructing the popular influence of a much weakened Latin American church. And in my opinion it takes great naiveté to suppose that this reconstruction is going to favour a left that is situated at the polar opposite of the Vatican’s project. I think we ought to shore up our own ideals at this key moment in Latin American history.

Notes:

[1] Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD). Argentina’s Macri was the candidate of a coalition, Cambiemos (Let’s change), formed to end an era in which various wings of the Peronist movement have governed for decades.

[2] For more in English by Claudio Katz, see http://isreview.org/person/claudio-katz. Also, The Cuban Epic.

[3] A CIA-sponsored counter-revolutionary military force invaded Cuba on April 16, 1961at Playa Girón, known in English as the Bay of Pigs. It was soon defeated, the invaders surrendered and their leaders were tried and executed or jailed. The remainder were later returned by Cuba to the United States in exchange for needed medicine and food. Just prior to the invasion, on April 15, after Cuban air fields had been bombed by eight CIA-supplied B-26 bombers that then returned to the United States, Fidel Castro declared the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution, which he was confident would motivate the Cuban masses to fight in defense of their country. For more, see Bay of Pigs Invasion.

[4] Henrique Capriles Radonski was the Right’s candidate for President in 2012 and 2013, when he was defeated first by Hugo Chávez, then by Nicolás Maduro. Leopoldo López is a right-wing politician who was sentenced in September to a jail term of 13 years 9 months for public incitement to violence in the guarimbas, the antigovernment street riots starting in 2013 in various parts of Venezuela.

[5] Argentina’s newly-elected President Mauricio Macri has threatened to invoke Mercosur’s “democratic clause” in order to get the trade alliance to expel Venezuela on the absurd allegation that Venezuela is not democratic and is therefore ineligible for membership.

[6] Katz is referring to Art. 72 of the Venezuelan Constitution, under which a demand for a referendum to remove a public official from office requires the signatures of 20 percent of the electorate. Here is an English translation of the Constitution.

[7] PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.) is the country’s state-owned hydrocarbons company.

[8] PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela) is the “united socialist party” founded by Hugo Chávez and headed by President Maduro.

[9] La Llamarada Editor’s note: The interview occurred before the convening of the Communal Parliament was announced.

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After shooting down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M tactical bomber jet operating in Syrian airspace, in early December 2015 the Turkish government sent a heavily armed battalion to the Zilkan military base in Iraq. This move ignited tensions between Ankara and the Iraqi federal government, which renounced it as an act of Turkish aggression.

Within the contours of a resource and energy war, the Turkish military deployment was a move by the Turkish government to secure its illegal oil trade with the so-called Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS/IS/DAESH).

Turkish Military Base in the Persian Gulf

Weeks after the Turkish military deployment to Zilkan, the Russian military’s General Staff reported that it had tracked 11,755 oil tankers and trucks around the town of Zakho on both sides of the Iraqi-Turkish border on December 25, 2015. Despite the claims by the Kurdistan Regional Government that the oil tankers and trucks were the result of a long lineup created by the closure of the Iraqi-Turkish border due to Ankara’s military operations against the Kurds in southeast Turkey, the oil tankers and trucks were understood to be part of a re-channeled smuggling route for Syrian oil stolen by the ISIL.

The Turkish government has taken several steps to redirect its energy ties away from Russia and Iran. It is precisely in the context of securing energy reserves that Ahmet Demirok, the Turkish ambassador to Qatar, announced Ankara’s plans to open a military base in Qatar in the Persian Gulf region on December 16, 2015. In an interview with Reuters Ambassador Demirok said that the Turkish base was being set up in accordance with the security agreement signed between Ankara and Doha in 2014 and that the military base would help both Turkey and Qatar jointly “confront common threats” from certain countries, which Demirok declined to name.

The unnamed countries that Ambassador Demirok was implying could be none other than the duet of Iran and Russia. Moreover, Turkey’s announcement about the establishment of a Turkish military base in Qatar coincided with an announcement on the following day, December 17, by Salem Mubarak Al-Shafi, the Qatari ambassador to Turkey, that Doha was prepared to provide as much liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Turkey as it needed.

Israel and Turkey Come Together: Eastern Mediterranean Natural Gas

A day after Qatar’s Ambassador Salem Mubarak Al-Shafi announced that Doha would provide Turkey with as much LNG as it needed, on December 18, it was announced that Israel and Turkey had signed a framework agreement to export Israeli natural gas to Turkey. Although Turkish tensions with Russia, Iran, and Iraq could have hastened the natural gas deal between Ankara and Tel Aviv, the Israeli-Turkish framework agreement for energy trade had been quietly negotiated over for several months by the Israeli and Turkish government.

Analysts and journalists presented the natural gas agreement between Israel and Turkey as a part of a Turkish move to normalize its diplomatic and military ties with Israel as a means of counter-balancing Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and their regional partners. These views and claims, however, overlook the fact there have been clear signs that Israel and Turkey have maintained their cooperation, if not close allied relationship, in the economic and military sectors. Both the Turkish and Israeli militaries have even had synchronized movements and operations on the Syrian border.

While Israel has been re-exporting the smuggled oil that Turkey has been exporting from Syria and Iraq, Tel Aviv has tried to legitimize its appropriation of the Palestinian natural gas reserves off the cost of the Gaza Strip. In parallel, Tel Aviv has exerted its full influence to gain control of the Egyptian natural gas reserves north of the Nile Delta. This is while Israel has tried to lay claim to Lebanese maritime territory holding large deposits of natural gas and courted Cyprus for control of its Mediterranean natural gas reserves.

Contours of a Broader Energy War Emerge

The agreements with Israel and Qatar are a part of a broader energy trade nexus that falls within the contours of an energy war predating recent Russo-Turkish tensions. In fact, both Ambassador Al-Shafi and Ambassador Demirok were only repeating information about deals that were reached between Erdogan and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani during Erdogan’s visit to Qatar at the time of the Russian military’s press conference announcing his involvement in the ISIL’s oil smuggling. Furthermore, the spatial configuration of the Israeli, Turkish, and Qatar reflected the dimensions of the energy war taking place in the Middle East.

Turkey has done almost everything possible to stop an Iran-Iraq-Syria energy corridor bypassing Turkey from being created. The Turkish military deployment to the Mosul District in Iraq and the creation of a Turkish military base in Qatar are tied to the joint goals of Turkey and Qatar for creating a rival energy corridor running through Turkey to Europe from the Persian Gulf and Iraq. The public demands that Israel give Turkey “unrestricted” access to the Gaza Strip could also be tied to the Palestinian natural gas reserves off of Gaza’s coast.

Furthermore, for years both Israel and Turkey have worked to establish a Levantine energy corridor where Eastern Mediterranean natural gas would be mainly exported northwards towards Turkey and the European Union while oil would be mainly exported southwards towards Israel. The materialization of this corridor has been obstructed mainly by Syria. This is one of the reasons that the Turkish government has pushed for regime change in Damascus.

While there are claims that Turkey is acting independently of the US government, it is highly improbable that no coordination has taken place in regards to the joint US and Turkish objective of regime change in Damascus. The re-direction of Turkish energy trade falls in line with the US objective to cripple the Russian energy sector by obstructing energy trade between the Russian Federation and other international actors.

This article was originally posted by the Strategic Culture Foundation on December 30, 2015.

2016: A Year of Financial Barbarism?

January 5th, 2016 by Ben Schreiner

With New Year celebrations barely in the rear view mirror, foreboding storm clouds are once again forming along the horizon.  The blackening skies are casting a dour mood over 2016, which in its mere infancy seems all but assured to see deepening global tumult, conflict, and crisis.

At the root of this palpable disquiet lies the still fragile state of the global economy, coming up on eight years after the financial collapse of 2008.

Writing in the German newspaper Handelsblatt last week, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde pointed to “rising interest rates in the United States and an economic slowdown in China,” coupled with slowing growth in global trade and “a decline in raw material prices,” to warn that, “global growth will be disappointing and uneven in 2016.”

Back in October, the IMF projected a lackluster 2016 global growth rate of 3.6%, a 0.2% reduction from its previous forecast.  As IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld commented at the time, “Six years after the world economy emerged from its broadest and deepest postwar recession, a return to robust and synchronized global expansion remains elusive.”

On Monday, stoked by fears of slowing growth in China, evidenced by a report from the market data firm Markit showing a contraction in Chinese manufacturing, global stock indexes tumbled as they rang in 2016.  But as HSBC strategist Devendra Joshi noted of the plunge to the New York Times, “This will be the theme for the year.  There will be more volatility.”

It’s worth remembering that not long ago China was heralded by mainstream economic commentators to be the engine that was to drive global economic growth.  But such elite optimism has since all but dissolved into air.

Indicative of the growing recognition of the realities of elusive growth in the wake of the 2007-08 financial collapse has been the steady emergence of “secular stagnation” in the lexicon of orthodox economists, most pointedly Larry Summers.  In fact, since Summers first mused back in 2013 on secular stagnation having “relevance to the American experience” post financial collapse, the concept has gained a degree of notable currency in conventional economic circles.

Of course, the concept of secular stagnation is nothing particularly new, as any follower of the monopoly capitalism analysis championed most prominently by the journal Monthly Review would know.

Indeed, in their 2012 book, The Endless Crisis, current Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster and former editor Robert McChesney not only argue that global monopoly capitalism is defined by sustained low growth, but a far more dangerous “stagnation-financialization trap,” which leaves ever greater financialization as the only available means of sustaining the system.

“Yet,” Foster and McChesney write, “rather than overcoming the stagnation problem, this renewed financialization will only serve at best to put off the problem, while piling on further contradictions, setting the stage for even bigger shocks in the future.”

With Federal Reserve’s December interest rate rise, curtailing to some extent the unprecedented free money gifted to financial speculators, further systemic contradictions indeed appear to be lurking in wait to trigger bigger future shocks.

Tremors have been felt most recently in the high-yield, high-risk “junk bond” market.  With corporations and banks pursuing further parasitism in the wake of the 2008 collapse, a flood of money via junk bonds rushed into the oil and commodities industries, spurred on in the U.S. by the fracking boom.  But as oil and commodities prices collapsed, so too, largely, has the junk bond market.  As the Wall Street Journal reported in mid-December, a report by the “U.S. Office of Financial Research found ‘elevated and rising credit risks’ among nonfinancial businesses and emerging-market borrowers, and it said a significant shock that further impairs credit quality ‘could potentially threaten U.S. financial stability.'”

The outstanding debt in the U.S. junk bond market is estimated to exceed $1 trillion.

With such contradictions piling up as the stubborn specter of Marxist analysis haunts even the most celebrated of conventional economists, neoliberal ideologues have been forced once again into the rather unenviable position of having to deny reality itself.

Enter former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, who bravely penned an April op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he dismissed secular stagnation as “just another in a long line of excuses” for slow growth.  Gramm instead opted to finger fading “American exceptionalism” as the cause of recessed growth, which Gramm claimed has “[taken] economic growth with it.”  A variation of such delusions can now heard in nearly every 2016 presidential candidate’s campaign stump speech.

But no matter the ruling elite’s refusal to actually see the economic crisis in full, let alone undertake to resolve it, elite angst over its ramifications, particularly widening economic inequality, mount nonetheless. Tellingly, the year’s first issue of the influential Foreign Affairs journal, published by the quasi-official Council on Foreign Relations, is devoted to tackling the whats and whys of economic inequality.  As editor Gideon Rose writes, the trends of deepening inequality “are starting to define our era.”

To be clear, our era, to channel Lenin, is one of renewed political reaction all down the line.  In concrete terms, it’s an era in which 50 million Americans are food insecure and a staggering 50% live at or near poverty; it’s a time in which rents and health care cost soar well beyond languishing wages; and it’s a moment in which all the worn political elite can manage to muster in response is the tired chant of austerity.

But austerity, lest it ever be forgotten, is a dietary remedy exclusively prescribed to the rabble.  No matter the calls for “fiscal responsibility,” there is always money to be found for the elite’s preferred crisis resolution of war abroad, repression at home.

Even so, it’s rather remarkable with American “boots on the ground” in both Iraq and Syria that the leading contenders from both political parties–from the neo-fascist reality TV star to that once “dead broke” vagrant–have actually pledged to escalate U.S. military intervention in the region by seeking to impose a “no-fly zone” in Syria.

Such proposals, spoken in the ease with which politicians mindlessly call upon God to bless America, are nothing short of deranged calls for war.  We need look no further than Robert Gates (hardly what one could consider a peacemaker) to understand what the loose calls for a “no-fly zone” truly connote.  As Gates warned prior to NATO’s disastrous 2011 adventure in Libya: “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses.”  The air defenses in Syria today include the sophisticated Russian manned S-400 system.

Indicative of the insanity of the political present, some 2016 presidential candidates have gone so far as to not only call for a “no-fly zone,” but to actually verbalize the logical conclusion of such reckless rhetoric by proudly touting the fact that they would shoot down Russian planes over Syria.  Such threats are revealing not only of the politicians willing to make them, but also of the segment of the American electorate soothed by such apocalyptic visions.

Meanwhile, left unfulfilled even by the thoughts of burning Russian warplanes falling from the sky, Washington is once again revving up a renewed sanctions push against Iran.  This, despite Tehran’s continued compliance with the nuclear accord struck last year.  Think of this latest poke in Tehran’s eye, then, as an early 2016 gift from Washington to its favorite regional clients: the head-choppers in the House of Saud and the apartheidists in Tel Aviv.

Of course, Washington’s gifts are widely spread, with the American arms bazaar exporting nearly $40 billion worth of hardware in 2014–capturing over 50% of the global market.  All of which obviously serves only to further fan the flames of the simmering tinderboxes now found dotting the globe from the South China Sea to Ukraine to the Middle East.

American military adventurism, though, cannot be untangled from the economic and social crises ravaging the “homeland.”  Opening the spigot of military spending is part of what Ismael Hossein-zadeh writes in The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism to be the “cynical policy of simultaneously raising military spending and cutting taxes on the wealthy in order to force cuts in nonmilitary government spending.”  In other words, it’s class war waged from on high against the hapless souls below.

And so as we embark on a year with an already ominously stormy start, the American political class appears once again set on confronting all looming crises with the only thing it is now capable of producing: barbarism.

Ben Schreiner is the author of A People’s Dictionary to the ‘Exceptional Nation’.

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