The UN World Food Program (WFP) aids for the restricted Syrian civilians in Deir Ezzor city have landed mostly in ISIS controlled territories, a source in the city’s administration said Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday, the United Nations said that the WFP had dropped 21 tons of aid into the city on Wednesday.

“Planes dropped the humanitarian help sent by the United Nations into the territory controlled by Daesh. Just two containers ended up in the areas where the Syrian army [is located],” the source told RIA Novosti.

The contents of the containers that landed on the government-controlled territory has been badly damaged due to a parachute system failure, the source added.

According to earlier reports, the WFP has issued a statement admitting difficulties with the operation, adding that necessary adjustments are being carried out.

Some 200,000 people living under the ISIS-imposed siege in Deir Ezzor are experiencing severe water shortages and a total lack of electricity, according to the United Nations.

Russia has also been providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, including through joint efforts with the Syrian government, particularly in Deir Ezzor, reported by Sputnik.

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Why Syrians Support President Bashar al Assad

February 26th, 2016 by Steven Sahiounie

It may be surprising to some that the Syrian people still support Pres. Bashar al Assad.  The western media has gone to great lengths to portray him as an evil dictator. However, Syrian residents are not affected by western media, and have a different view of their leader.

Syrians see Pres. Assad as a reformer.  They have witnessed numerous laws passed for their benefit, and a constant focus on anti-corruption measures.  They witnessed the abolition of the one-party rule, and now over 30 political parties are registered.  They watched him call for a new constitution to be drafted, and it was ratified in 2012.

Syria has millions of civil servants, and they watched as their salaries were repeatedly and routinely increased by order of the President from 2000 until present. Doctors, professors, teachers, and all the millions of civil servants have personally benefited from Pres. Assad.

During the several years of the worst fighting in Homs, Syria the Syrians watched as Pres. Assad   kept the Syrian Army slowly advancing, without unnecessary loss of life.  Some critics wanted a quicker military response in Homs, in order to free Homs and allow the residents to return home and rebuild.  However, Pres. Assad preferred the slow and steady method of using force and patience combined.

Syria is the only secular country in the Middle East. This was established many decades ago, and when Pres. Assad came to office in summer of 2000 he maintained this form of government. The Syrian people have become very used to the secular nature of Syrian government, and social life. There are 18 different religious sects in Syria. The government and institutions are all secular and protect the rights of all Syrians.  In Syria there is no ruling sect, all sects are represented throughout the government, Parliament and military.

Syria has a long history of a policy of resistance to the occupation of Palestine. This has been engrained in the collective thinking of the Syrian population, regardless of religious affiliation, or social status.   The suffering of the Palestinian people is always on the minds, and in the hearts of Syrians.  Pres. Assad is viewed as a champion of this resistance position.  The Syrian people would not take kindly to any softening of this stance.    Part of the moral fabric of the Syrian society is the resistance ideology.

Pres. Assad is a well known brand.  The long length in office of his father put Pres. Bashar al Assad front and center in the political limelight.   Syrians enjoy the safety of continuity, as opposed to radical change which can bring negative changes.

In the June 3, 2014 Presidential election millions of Syrians participated at over 9,600 polling stations across the country. Tens of thousands inundated the Syrian embassy in Lebanon to vote and thousands more came from around the world to vote in Syria because their host countries denied them the right to vote at the local Syrian diplomatic mission.  Syrian abroad voted in 36 Syrian Embassies around the world.  This was the first competitive election since the new Constitution was approved in 2012.  The voting by Syrians living or taking refuge in Lebanon was massive.

Voting in Beirut needed to be extended by a full day. Similarly, the voting inside Syria on June 3, 2014 exceeded expectations and polls remained open until midnight to accommodate the huge numbers of Syrians waiting to vote. Insurgents increased their shelling of civilian areas in Damascus and Aleppo but otherwise the election was conducted peacefully and without attacks on voting stations.  There was a large international observers delegation dispersed around the country. The Higher Judicial Committee of the Constitutional Court reported the results:

  • 15,840, 575 were eligible to vote, both inside Syria and outside.
  • 442,108 ballots were disqualified, for irregularities. (3.8%)
  • 11,634,412 voted (73.4%)
  • Results of the election were presented by the Speaker of the Parliament:
  • Dr. Bashar al Assad received: 10,319,723 votes, 88.7% of the vote.
  • Dr. Hassan al Nouri received: 500,272 votes, 4.3% of the vote
  • Mr. Maher Hajjar received: 372,301 votes, 3.2% of the vote

Syrians value education.  A University degree is the goal of many Syrians, and a source of pride among families.  Given the fact that Pres. Assad is the most highly educated President in the world, with a prestigious Medical degree from UK, they are collectively proud of his intelligence.  They have also noted his balanced personality.  They feel he is neither too soft, nor too hard.  They see him as fair and balanced.  He has shown them a great deal of patience and perseverance during almost 5 years of international attacks on Syria.

Steven Sahiounie began writing political analysis and commentary during the Syrian war, which began in March 2011. He has published several articles, and has been affiliated with numerous media. He has been interviewed by US, Canadian and German media.

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Voices from Syria: Reports from Inside Syria

February 26th, 2016 by Revd Andrew Ashdown

“‘Freedom?’  I hate the word ‘Freedom’. ‘Freedom’ to me means guns and bullets, suicide bombings and killings.  I have deleted the word from my vocabulary. Don’t talk to me about ‘freedom’. We had peace before they brought us ‘freedom’.”

I was sitting in an old Damascene house – the home of a Syrian Christian woman, situated within the walls of the Old City of Damascus.   A teacher, who has for years taught in a Muslim school, with Sunni, Shia, Christian, Druze children all learning together, talks passionately and emotionally, as she laments the situation in Syria.

The room in which  I am sitting,  her living room, has twice received a direct hit from ‘moderate rebel’ positions in the city.  She shows me the heavy, jagged metal shards of the shell that scattered across her courtyard. Fortunately, she and her young family were out.  The shattered windows have plastic covering them

“I will not spend the money to repair them until there is peace, and we can be sure no more shells will come,” she says.

“What is this war? We were living in peace, and everything was fine, until they started talking about ‘freedom’.  Now, we don’t know if we will live or die.  People die just for being in the wrong place, when a shell lands.  I used to live quite happily, with my Muslim and Christian friends.   Now I think how can I afford the most basic things?  What cost me five Syrian pounds before the conflict, now costs me one hundred Syrian pounds. Why?  Because of ‘freedom’.  We now have a shortage of water and electricity.   Everything is difficult.  Many people have left – not because of the President or the Government, but because of the crisis.  I believe in the Government; I believe in the Army.  I feel sorry for the soldier who dies for his country. He is the real martyr.”

I ask her what she thought of the international community.  Her response is:

“Stay away from Syria.  Leave Syria alone.  If two brothers fight, they can resolve their differences.  Syria needs time, but I feel sure that we will have peace again.  We have always been a people that lives together.”

Ommayad Mosque, Damascus 2016

Ommayad Mosque, Damascus 2016

My Connections to Syria

I travelled to Syria after a five week stay in Lebanon, where I undertook an intensive Beginners Course in Arabic.  During my time in Lebanon, I also visited the staff of a Christian agency that has been working closely with Syrian refugees for the last four years; met with faith leaders in Beirut; talked with Syrian refugees on the streets; and travelled for a long weekend to Erbil, in Iraq, visiting Syrian and Iraqi refugees both in the city, and at a Syrian Kurdish refugee camp close to ‘IS’ front-lines, west of Erbil.

Prior to the conflict, I had visited Syria at least four times, and had travelled throughout the country, both as an individual, and leading groups.  This however was my fourth visit to Syria since April 2014.    On previous visits, I have been a member of delegations, and have travelled throughout the government-controlled areas of the country, meeting with Christians of all denominations.  I have interacted with Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Kurds, Druze.  I have visited faith and community leaders.  I have met with  political leaders including all the leaders of the internal opposition parties and finally I have spent time in refugee camps and with internally displaced people –  in Homs, Damascus, Yarmouk, Maaloula, Saidnaya, Qara, Tartous, Lattakia.

For this latest visit, I travelled independently, without any accompaniment; and without security.  I was free to meet whom I please, and to travel at my own risk.  I travelled to Damascus in a shared taxi that I arranged myself from Beirut.

My meeting with Huda, was on the first full day of this visit.  I had decided that, being a Sunday, I would focus on a Christian perspective.  And so I walked from my hotel, about 3 kms to and through the Old City and to the Greek Melkite Cathedral in the old Christian Quarter, just off ‘Straight Street’, and a short distance from where St. Paul met Ananias.

The streets of the city were only beginning to wake up, but wherever I walked, I was greeted with warm smiles and welcomes.   During the subsequent week walking the streets of Damascus, I did not see one other ‘white’ European face.

The car-park of the heavily fortified Four Seasons 5* hotel where any journalists, NGOs and UN staff stay, was filled with official four-wheel drive vehicles, but my experience during every one of my visits to Syria, would suggest that most stay firmly installed in the luxury confines of their hotel.  They exit only for official work and do not integrate with Syrian society.

The fact is that very few people are travelling in Syria and meeting with, and talking to ordinary people in the city or the country.   Walking through Damascus now is a sobering experience.   It is and always was a beautiful city.  Now, of course, there are army checkpoints everywhere and thank goodness that they are there to prevent terrorist or car-bomb attacks in the city.

Sanctions are causing shortages of supplies. Costs have sky-rocketed…infact I could barely afford to cover my stay and eat with the money I had left.  The city is looking tired and unkempt. People are not as well turned out as they used to be.   And everywhere, you see people sleeping on the streets or begging.  It is heart-wrenching.

Whilst some of the suburbs that were occupied by ‘rebels’ have been severely pummelled with bombardment (it is possible to see some of the devastation from the road into the city), the city centre has also received five years of random mortar attacks, leaving it scarred, and vulnerable.  Despite this, apart from Tartous, it is still, probably, the safest place in the country.

Yet, life goes on.  People go about daily tasks,  drinking coffee and smoking ‘argile’ in the cafes.  Schools are still operating.  Hospitals are still functioning, though profoundly stretched due to a shortage of staff and supplies.  As one person said to me: “Despite the hardships, we must carry on.  Carrying on with normal life is our resistance to terrorism”

Grand Mufti Hassoun

Grand Mufti Hassoun

Grand Mufti of Syria.  Dr. Hassoun, Voice of Moderation and Peace

It was a wonderful surprise to receive an invitation to meet with the Grand Mufti of Syria.  It is always a joy to meet him. Vilified and misrepresented in the West, Dr.Hassoun is one of the most moderate Muslim leaders and theologians in the region – passionate about pluralism and mutual respect between faiths, and insistent on the importance of the indigenous Christian presence, and our mutual fellowship under God.

In the political and religious fragmentation in the region, he is a spiritual leader of the highest calibre who we ought to be listening to and engaging with.

[And before anyone raises the oft-repeated accusation that he once ‘threatened’ the West with suicide bombers, he has consistently clarified the remark which was a warning of what could happen if we continued in our policies. Even my own limited knowledge of Arabic, recently acquired, has shown me how easily it can be poorly translated….and of course used for political purposes. In fact, if anything, his words have proved disturbingly prophetic. ]

I count it a privilege to know him. He is a spiritual leader of stature and dignity.

One afternoon, I was invited to give an interview on Syrian TV in order to share my impressions of Syria both before and since the beginning of the conflict. To discuss the view of Syria in the West and to share my own thoughts and impressions from meeting numerous people from all communities around the country.

Entering the State TV building is a bit like entering a bunker.  Situated in a heavily fortified compound, the main office areas are deep within the building.  Windows are covered over to protect from sniper fire and exploding shells.  The main studio is below ground behind heavy steel doors.

I received a warm welcome from the staff, management and TV presenters… many of whom are young and passionate about their country.  A few days later, the 40 minute programme was broadcast as I sat with friends in a local café.

The following day, I was touched when, walking in the streets of the city, a shopkeeper rushed out and heartily thanked me for my words and for visiting the country.  A few hours later, I received a personal ‘phone call from the Grand Mufti, congratulating me for the interview and thanking me for my words.

Following the recording of the interview, I was driven back to my hotel by a young female presenter. She was fluent in English. Her eyes were sad and she spoke slowly and with a sad smile. She asked about my age and I made a joke about being young at heart. Her response I thought was poignant. She said, with tears in her eyes:

“Seeing you here fills me with joy and sadness: joy because you have come to see the real situation and listen to the people; sadness because seeing you reminds me of the days when foreigners would come and visit our beautiful country.  I hope one day they will come again.  I am 28, but I feel like I am 60. Our youth has been taken from us. All we can do is hang on to hope…”

Greek Melkite Patriarch Gregoriuss III Laham.

The Greek Melkite Patriarchate, Damascus.

I arrived early at the Greek Catholic Melkite Patriarchate for their service, chancing upon a wonderful scene – the Patriarch Gregorios III Laham alone with two priests doing Matins. He was clearly training them in the chanting, with a beautiful mix of firm direction, genuine devotion, humility, mild humorous rebuke when they got it wrong, and constant explanation.

He even stopped to welcome me warmly and explain what was going on. Later, the Church filled for the Mass in which I was allowed to partake.  As I met and mingled with members of the congregation afterwards, I detected a deep sadness and weariness in people’s eyes, and in their words.

Christians have been a very part of the fabric of Syrian society since the earliest days of the Church.  The country is full of ancient Christian shrines and holy places, some of which are places of pilgrimage for Muslims too.  Yet, in parts of Syria, the Christian presence is being decimated, and historic Churches are being damaged and destroyed by the very forces that the west are supporting.

All communities acknowledge the gulf that has developed in trust between the communities during this conflict, and express a deep sadness given the historic tolerance and life that the communities shared prior to the conflct.   And yet, after the service, a young Syrian woman approached me and said: “We will stay.  This is our home.  And Syria would not be Syria without the Christian community.”

It has been a privilege to meet with Patriarch Laham on several occasions over the years.   He has always been consistent in his requests that the outside world acknowledges and respects the diversity of Syria.  He has always celebrated Syria’s extraordinary plurality and secularity.

Unfortunately, as with the majority of the Christian leaders in Syria, who call upon western nations to cease supporting outside forces that are promoting sectarianism and violence, his cry, too, remains unheeded.

[End of Part One]

Revd Andrew Ashdown is an Anglican priest in England.  He has been visiting and leading groups to the Middle East for over 25 years, and has visited Syria four times since April 2014, both as a member of faith delegations, and more recently independently.  Andrew is undertaking research into Christian/Muslim relations in the region.

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He always had a rough deal.  He strayed as a young man, a situation that would have been perfectly acceptable if he had picked the approved rogue group or terrorist collective to vent his adolescent angst.  Al Qaeda, and their Taliban hosts, were not on that list.  Having fallen out of favour with the Oscar equivalent of good terrorist nominees, Australia’s David Hicks found himself in the dark, picked up in Afghanistan in November 2001 and conveyed to that terrestrial nightmare known as Guantánamo Bay soon after.

From January 2002 to March 2007, he was detained at the US Naval Base on the island. Over five years later, he was sentenced (on March 31, 2007) by Military Commission to a term of imprisonment of seven years.  A bilateral transfer prison arrangement between the US and Australia followed, with Hicks returning to Australia in May 2007 to serve seven months of his sentence.  Suspecting that his behaviour might turn, the Federal Magistrates Court imposed an interim control order on Hicks on his release on December 28, 2007.

Unfortunately for Hicks, the military commissions, fanciful creatures of executive contrivance, were more real than most. It would take till February 2015 for the courts to find in David Hicks v United States of America that he was innocent, an acknowledgment that led to the vacation of his sentence for providing material support for terrorism.[1]  That greatest of legal sins – retroactivity – had come into play.

Then came, all too late, the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s consideration about what happened to Hicks relative to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[2]  It was submitted on September 10, 2010, and took over five years to finalise.

It reads much like a re-learning of the alphabet of international law and obligations, and its pitfalls.  As we all know, that alphabet tends to lose letters rapidly when it comes to the matter of domestic self-interest. Unfortunately, the UNHRC proved that it, too, can fail when tested on the subject of how the Covenant applies.  Narrow and distinctly tunnelled, the decision will leave human rights lawyers and activists troubled.

Communication No. 2005/2010, otherwise outlining “Views adopted by the Committee at its 115th session (19 October-6 November 2015)” considers such points as retroactive punishment, torture, arbitrary detention, conditions in detention, unfair trial, non-discrimination and the right to privacy. The subject of Hicks grief was the Australian participation in a sordid affair of penal imagination.

The main question charging the UNHRC was whether Australia had jurisdiction over the subject “while he was in the custody of the United States.”  The fact that the US had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Covenant did not prevent the committee from examining Hicks’ concerns regarding Australian responsibility even during his time in US custody.

Time and time again, the Australian case regarding Hicks has been one of dismissal and lack of interest. If Hicks was being tortured, that would pose no concern to the satraps in Australia. If Hicks was being subjected to novel forms of military commission, then that could hardly trouble Australian consul officials. As long as some machinery was turning to punish Hicks, Australia’s officials would be content that someone was doing their job, even when if the grounds were spurious. Offshoring justice, it could be argued, is a very distinct trait in Australia’s legal culture, an effort to lighten the obligations imposed by international law.

Hicks’ powerful argument on torture centred on Australia’s failure to investigate allegations of its commission while in US custody.  In rebuttal, Canberra’s argument was that it had no obligation under the Covenant “to investigate allegations of torture relating to conduct outside the jurisdiction of a State party.”  Such an argument, if accepted, would suggest that torture can, by its very nature, be outsourced, kept beyond the jurisdictional control of the citizen’s country.  If another state is doing it, one is under no obligation to intrusively assist citizens.

The Committee went so far as to note that Australian officials continued to interview Hicks several times while in US custody and the efforts of Australian agents to investigate other claims of torture made against its nationals.  These did not, however, constitute acts of “control” over Hicks, even if Australia might have done more to help their national.  Its officials were “in a position to take positive measures to ensure that [Hicks] was treated in a manner consonant with the Covenant, including to take measures intended to remedy violations of the author’s rights.”

Having considered that aspect, the Committee still felt, rather fancifully, that spending seven months in Australia, despite being a violation, was a form of mitigation of harm “he would have suffered had he continued to be kept” at the Guantánamo Bay facility.  One ill had been mitigated by another.

Hicks’ counsel also failed to get what they wanted on claims that the Covenant was breached over the imposition of the control order once he was released from Australian prison.  The UNHRC decided that challenging the discretion of the Federal Magistrate judge in the matter was not something it could do lightly.  There was no obvious “arbitrariness or denial of justice”.  Again, legal novelty prevailed, with a regime of continued punishment left undisturbed by international scrutiny.

Hicks did get some satisfaction regarding his claim of arbitrary detention (Art. 9(1)) for the seven months of his sentence served in Australia proper.  But in doing so, the UNHRC’s verdict was narrow, and its effect limiting. The large points were left undisturbed.  As the Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University observed, “the UNHRC ultimately focused on the lowest-hanging fruit”.[3]  The sordid tale of Australian complicity remains unchallenged.

 

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

Notes:

  1. https://www.justsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Hicks-v.-United-States-13-004-Decision-Feb-18-2015-1.pdf
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In light of the recent US government case against Apple, we bring to the attention of our readers this piece originally published in January 2014: 

New information made public by Edward Snowden reveals that the governments of the United States and United Kingdom are trawling data from cellphone “apps” to accumulate dossiers on the “political alignments” of millions of smartphone users worldwide.

According to a 2012 internal UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) document, the National Security Agency (NSA) and GCHQ have been accumulating and storing hundreds of millions of user “cookies” —the digital footprints left on a cellphone or computer each time a user visits a web site—in order to accumulate detailed personal information about users’ private lives.

This confirms that the main purpose of the programs is not to protect the population from “terrorism,” but to facilitate the state repression of working class opposition to widening social inequality and social counterrevolution. The programs do not primarily target “terrorists,” but workers, intellectuals, and students.

The collection of data regarding the “political alignment” of cellphone users also suggests that the governments of the US and UK are keeping lists of those whose “political alignments” are of concern to the government. Previous revelations have shown how the NSA and GCHQ “flag” certain “suspects” for additional surveillance: the most recent revelation indicates that suspects are “flagged” at least in part based on their “political alignment.”

The legal rationale behind this process points to a growing movement to criminalize political thought in the US and UK.

If, as the revelations indicate, determining a user’s “political alignment” is a primary goal of this program, then it is also likely a factor in determining whether the government has a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the user is a “terrorist suspect.” If this is the case, the web sites a user visits may raise the government’s level of suspicion that the user is engaged in criminal activity, and may thereby provide the government with the pseudo-legal pretext required to unlock the content of all his or her phone calls, emails, text messages, etc.

Such a rationale would amount to a flagrant violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Not only does the Fourth Amendment protect against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” but the First Amendment also proscribes the government from monitoring individuals based on their political beliefs. The elimination of such a fundamental democratic right would be a dangerous step towards the imposition of a police state dictatorship.

The new report also details the depth of the mobile-app spying operation.

A 2009 “brute-force” analysis test performed by the NSA and GCHQ of what the New York Times describes as a “tiny sliver of their cellphone databases” revealed that in one month, the NSA collected cellphone data of 8,615,650 cellphone users. Data from the GCHQ test revealed that in three months, the British had spied on 24,760,289 users. Expanded to a full year, this data shows that in 2009, the NSA collected data from over 103,000,000 users, while GCHQ collected data from over 99,000,000 users: and this coming from only a “tiny sliver” of a month’s data!

“They are gathered in bulk, and are currently our single largest type of events,” one leaked document reads.

The program—referred to in one NSA document as “Golden Nugget!”—also allows the governments to receive a log of users’ Google Maps application use. Such information allows the intelligence apparatus to track the exact whereabouts of surveillance victims worldwide. One chart from an internal NSA slideshow asks: “Where was my target when they did this?” and “Where is my target going?”

An NSA report from 2007 bragged that so much geo-data could be gathered that the intelligence agencies would “be able to clone Google’s database” of all searches for directions made via Google Maps.

“It effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system,” a 2008 GCHQ report noted.

Additional presentation material leaked by Snowden shows that in 2010 the NSA explained that its “perfect scenario” was to “target uploading photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device.” The same slide asks, “What can we get?” The answer, according to the same presentation, includes the photographs of the user, buddy lists, emails, phone contacts, and “a host of other social networking data as well as location.”

The agencies also use information provided by mobile apps to paint a clear picture of the victim’s current location, sexual orientation, marital status, income, ethnicity, education level, and number of children.

GCHQ has an internal code-name system for grading their ability to snoop on a particular cellphone user. The codes are based on the television show “The Smurfs.” If the agencies can tap the phone’s microphone to listen to conversations, the codename “Nosey Smurf” is employed. If the agencies can track the precise location of the user as he or she moves, the codename “Tracker Smurf” is used. The ability to track a phone that is powered off is named “Dreamy Smurf,” and the ability to hide the spy software is coded “Paranoid Smurf.”

That the intelligence agencies have cheekily nicknamed codes in an Orwellian surveillance program after animated characters from a children’s show is a telling indication of the contempt with which the ruling class views the democratic rights of the population of the world.

Additionally, the agencies have been tracking and storing data from a series of cellphone game applications, including the popular “Angry Birds” game, which has been downloaded over 1.7 billion times.

The tracking of data from online games like “Angry Birds” further reveals that these programs are not intended to protect the population from “terrorism.” It would be indefensible for the NSA and GCHQ to explain that they suspected to glean information about looming Al Qaeda plots from a mindless cellphone game.

Yet this is precisely how the NSA has attempted to justify these programs.

“The communications of people who are not valid foreign intelligence targets are not of interest to the National Security Agency,” an agency spokeswoman said. “Any implication that NSA’s foreign intelligence collection is focused on the smartphone or social media communications of everyday Americans is not true. Moreover, NSA does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission.”

In an added indication of its anti-democratic character, the US government is therefore employing the technique of the “Big Lie” by denying what has just been proven true.

In reality, the revelations have further exposed President Barack Obama’s January 17 speech as a celebration of lies.

The president told the nation that the spying programs do “not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans.” He also said that the US “is not abusing authorities to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails,” and that “the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”

He added in reference to the “folks” at the NSA that “nothing I have learned [about the programs] indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.”

But the evidence is mounting that the governments of the US and UK are compiling information regarding the “political alignments” of hundreds of millions across the globe. All those responsible for carrying out such a facially anti-democratic campaign—including President Obama, David Cameron, their aides, and the leaders of the security apparatus—must face criminal charges and immediate removal from office.

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Bouthaina Shaaban has been an effective and dominating figure representing the Syrian government in Western media for years now. Having delivered a number of fiery rebuttals to Western governments and the claims made by their State Departments and media mouthpieces, the political advisor to President Bashar al-Assad has recently returned to the Western media circuit to respond to questions regarding fighting terrorism in Syria and the upcoming implementation of a U.S. – Russian brokered ceasefire there. 

In her interview to largely sympathetic RT, Shaaban stated that dialogue between the Syrian government, “rebels,” and other “opposition forces” would legitimately be held “whenever the opposition is able to get together and be at the table.” She also pointed out that the so-called “opposition” has yet to even agree on the makeup of their own delegation.

“For five years they [Syrian opposition] have not been able to have a dialogue, because each party of this opposition belongs to a different country and is paid by different countries. They are not an opposition that have a political party in Syria and that have grown from the Syrian people. This is the only opposition in the world that are agents of foreign countries against their own country,”

she said.

Pointing out that both the Syrian and Iraqi armies are doing their best to defeat and destroy ISIS, she also reiterated that “We are running the country according to its constitution… We are fighting terrorism as we should, and we are forthcoming in pursuing any political solution.”

Shaaban specified that the interference of both regional and international players has prevented Syria and Iraq from defeating the terrorist organization and restoring peace to their respective countries.

“If it were not for the support [of militants groups] by regional parties – in particular Turkey and Saudi Arabia, it would not be difficult to defeat ISIL. But the money, the resources, the facilitation comes from these countries to IS. [IS] doesn’t live in a vacuum.”

She added that not only has ISIS received support from countries in the region but also “political support of the United States and the West.”

Shaaban further pointed out the hypocrisy and falsehood of the label “moderate rebel” or “moderate opposition.” Shaaban stated that

“There is no such thing as moderate terrorist or moderate opposition, because anyone who carries arms is not moderate, anyone who is killing people is not moderate, anyone who is destroying institutions in the country is not moderate.”

“Moderate,” she stated, “has no relation to reality whatsoever.”

Shaaban pointed out the use of semantics and wordplay by the West and its regional allies to promote a particular narrative – in this case, the narrative that there is or ever was such a thing in Syria as a “moderate opposition.”

“It’s very dangerous, as so many people are using it almost unconsciously… It’s an abuse of the language,” Shaaban said.

When asked about John Kerry’s Plan B (the breakup and partitioning of Syria) if the ceasefire fails, Shaaban stated that “the Syrian people have fought for five years against any partition of Syria.” Still, she expressed hope that the Russian-American agreement will succeed but stipulated that it must “keep the territorial integrity and the unity of Syria.”

The main objective, Shaaban says, is to defeat terrorism in the region and that “requires, first of all, stopping the flow of support” to the terrorist organizations.

“It’s only [when] the Russian forces came to Syria that the oil trucks that were going to Turkey were attacked. Only when the Russian planes came to Syria, were we able to control some parts of the border with Turkey. . . .And that’s why Turkey started to attack us directly,”

she stated.

Shaaban stated that both the Russian and Syrian air forces only target terrorist targets and never civilians despite the “many false reports that Western media put in order to show that Russia is not doing the right thing in Syria.”

“I get tired of saying how many unfounded news come to us every day from Western media. They fabricate news about Russia, Syria, about what’s happening on the ground – but they have no grain of truth in them,”

she said.

Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 andvolume 2The 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 650 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST atUCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

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Torture of U.S. Political Prisoners. A Review

February 26th, 2016 by J. B. Gerald

The sentences for long term political prisoners are extreme. And cruel, revenge for the prisoner’s challenge to the system rather than appropriate punishment for alleged crimes of self defence or for the unplanned tragedies of political actions. Because many here were provably targeted by law enforcement programs to silence them and are likely to be innocent, the length of prison terms falls into a pattern of racist and political oppression.

The prisoners are consistently from Black or left wing resistance groups after moderate leaders within the system were assassinated. The arrests and sentencing come from a time when police actions against Black Panthers were overtly criminal (Fred Hampton) and covertly part of a military and law enforcement war against the left, anti war resistance, the poor. Allegations against leaders of Black communities couldn’t be relied on as factual. While “life imprisonment” is better than death who will tell us that it’s bearable? Beyond sentencing, some cases show repetitive patterns of withholding medical care to the point of extrajudicial punishment, particularly where the prisoner was accused of crimes against police (ref. Oct. 13, 2013). The additional extra-judicial punishment of holding a prisoner for years in solitary confinement is finally being recognized as a crime. It’s torture. Political prisoners targeted for their convictions, their organizing, their truths, suffered more than most of us can sustain, and some have survived. Their lives weren’t allowed to be lived. Their suffering was caused and intended to scare everyone else. We remember political prisoners because they keep alive our hope that there will always be people who say no to what is unacceptable.

Thomas William Manning of the Ohio Seven: according to Medical Justice of the Jericho Movement Manning remains at FMC Butner where he was transferred in 2010: his knee replacement surgery was performed in 2012 but kept him in a wheelchair since his damaged shoulder didn’t allow him to progress with physiotherapy. Shoulder surgery, for an injury which by my understanding was caused by police (on arrest he was picked up and dropped until something broke), continues to be denied him as ‘not medically necessary.’ Appropriate private medical treatment was effectively denied with his parole, November 2014. He’s expected to be freed August 20, 2020. Tom Manning became an artist in prison and there’s an art book of his paintings out – For Love and Liberty: Artist Tom Manning, Freedom Fighter, Political Prisoner.  [1]

Albert Woodfox, of the Angola 3 was finally released February 19, 2016. The State of Louisiana appealed three former judicial attempts to free him, and kept him in solitary confinement. At the final trial the prisoner pleaded nolo contendere in a plea bargain which gains his freedom without admission of guilt but lets him plead to lesser charges for which he has already served the time. This time he can’t be placed back in a cell. The extreme injustice remains that as an innocent, Albert Woodfox served 43 years in solitary confinement. His lawyer is bringing legal action against the State of Louisiana for its policies of solitary confinement.  [2]

Russell Maroon Shoatz: in 2013 counsel for Russell Maroon Shoatz sued Pennsylvania’s State Corrections Secretary, John Wetzel, and the Greene Correctional Institution Superintendent, Louis Folino, for cruel and unusual punishment without recourse to remedy. This directly attacked the solitary confinement policies of the State’s Department of Corrections. The case protests the cruelty of solitary confinement as applied to Shoatz for over 22 years. It may help other Pennsylvania prisoners. On February 15, 2016 the federal court judge ruled that Shoatz’s case should be decided by a jury trial. At the hearing Shoatz’s lawyer was able to provide a report by Juan Mendez, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture who found the conditions of Shoatz’s imprisonment beyond the current norm of civilized nations.  [3]

Mumia Abu Jamal: his case has allowed a challenge to a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections policy on treatment of patients with Hepatits C. There is a known treatment for the disease. It costs about eighty-four thousand dollars in the U.S.. If not treated Hep C may develop into cirrhosis of the liver which is lethal. Even when diagnosed with Hep C U.S. prisoners are not usually treated for the disease because of the expense. Abu-Jamal’s lawyers are challenging the DFOCV policy of triage which waits to give expensive treatment until there is a Hepatitis C caused medical emergency which is possibly fatal. The hope is to gain Abu-Jamal among other prisoners the life-saving treatment. The effects on Abu-Jamal through lack of appropriate medical treatment as revealed through trial testimony, are awful, similar to the effects of torture, and these were unrefuted.  [4]

Leonard Peltier: the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (ILPDC) has confirmed that a preliminary diagnosis of the prisoner’s condition by an MRI shows an abdominal aortic aneurism. Aware of Peltier’s illness before June 2015, initial results were available about January 10th, 2016. Consistently, prison authorities have moved very slowly to address Peltier’s medical difficulties to the point of endangering his life for the forty years of his imprisonment so far. Treatment of a potentially fatal aneurism requires an exception – it was to be operated on before mid-January. Peltier notes in an article of Feb. 23rd that no operation was forthcoming since he’s in a maximum security prison and inmates don’t get treatment until the problem is terminal. There was always serious doubt of the validity of Peltier’s conviction. There is strong doubt he’s being held legally now. He needs and deserves the clemency students across the country will be demanding February 27th.  [5]

Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: one of the most important alternative voices in America, Al-Amin remains without pardon in prison serving a life sentence. I believe he’s innocent of the charges against him. At Butner Federal Medical Center a bone marrow biopsy on Jan. 23, 2014 revealed the presence of myeloma cells. The condition was to be monitored every several months. Then he was returned to the remote ADX Florence Colorado, an over-controlled maximum security prison for the most dangerous prisoners. It’s considered one of America’s worst. On Sept. 3, 2015 a prisoner was able to contact the Prison Movement with the news that Al-Amin was in a medical emergency. [6]

Robert Seth Hayes: in July 2015, Medical Justice noted that Seth Hayes was beginning to receive some treatment for his Hepatitis C and diabetes but none for “chronic bleeding and abdominal growths.” Despite previous emergency alerts and notices he continues without adequate health care at Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York. Medical Justice claims his diabetes is not under control and as of November 2015 he was having trouble breathing. Medical Justice has asked he be taken to a pulmonary and heart specialist immediately. Medical treatment so far is inadequate to the point of intentional harm. Hayes is a Vietnam war veteran and Black Panther sentenced back in 1973 to from 25 years to life. It’s 2016 now. He’s denied his freedom and his health.   [7]

Sekou Odinga: imprisoned for his part in the 1979 freeing of Assata Shakur and his part in the Brinks robbery of 1981, with a mandatory release date of 2009, Sekou Abdullah Odinga (Nathaniel Burns) left prison on parole Nov. 25, 2014. He passed about half his 34 years time in solitary confinement. [8]

Dr. Mutulu Shakur: under laws no longer in effect Dr. Shakur won his release date of Feb. 10, 2016, after serving 30 years of a sixty year sentence. On Feb. 4th he received notice of a scheduled parole hearing on April 4th and so remains in Victorville U.S. Penitentiary (California). He is being held illegally. Authorities hold against him the planning of the Brinks robbery of 1981 where two policemen and two guards were killed, and attribute to him the successful escape of Assata Shakur (Joanne D. Chesimard) from a New Jersey prison to Cuba. A doctor, healer and teacher he should be allowed to continue his work of wholeness, caring for people in New York. [9]

Judith Clark has served 35 years of a minimum 75 year sentence; she’ll be eligible for parole at the age of 107. She drove a getaway car for the 1981 Brinks robbery which Dr. Shakur is said to have planned. She was not accused of any violent act and the intolerable length of her sentence reflected the court’s judgement of her political thinking and expression rather than her degree of guilt. She refused a lawyer as did David Gilbert still in prison, and Kuwasi Balagoon who has died in prison. Her statements to the court were honest but radical. Of the same group Kathy Boudin plead guilty which brought her a twenty year sentence and she left prison on parole in 2003. The New York Times reports that former presidents of the New York Bar association have joined in a plea of clemency for Judith Clark. Under current law an appeal to the governor is the only means of finding her a release from prison. The length of the sentence is so clearly unjust it reflects poorly on the sanity of the legal system. [10]

Under the norms of civilization, each of these prisoners would be freed. But each of these cases is abnormal, contravening any international expectation of justice. The length of the sentences is consistently skewed from the norm. The sentences are primitive, scented with revenge and racist hatred. These prisoners among all the public doesn’t know about had their lives taken away because of what they believed and who they cared for. From a time when law enforcement was corrupt, racist, and as programmed to right wing extremism as it is today, the charges against the prisoners do not match up with the prisoners’ histories, writings , concerns, deeds over the years, whom they’ve proved themselves to be. So the allegations are either hard to believe, or within a logic of self defence. The courts’ astounding long sentences were intended to wipe out the left wing. In a United States that promises freedom who would have the outrageous ignorance to deny any of these a pardon.

Gouache drawings by Julie Maas

Notes:

  1. “Tom Manning,” current, Medical Justice; “Tom Manning (prisoner) explained,” current, Explained Today‘ “Tom Manning,” current, Wikipedia.
  2. “Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 released from prison in Louisiana,” Steve Almasy, Feb. 19, 2016, CNN; “Albert Woodfox released from jail after 43 years in solitary confinement,” Ed Pilkington, Feb. 19, 2016, theguardian.
  3. “22 Years in Solitary May Be Cruel & Unusual, Federal Judge Says,”Rose Bouboushian, Feb. 18, 2016, Courthouse News Service; “How a Former Black Panther Could Change the Rules of Solitary Confinement,” Victoria Law, Feb. 22, 2016, The Nation.
  4. “Mumia Abu-Jamal vs John Kerestes et al,” #15cv967, Dec. 18, 2015, The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [access:< http://www.prisonradio.org/sites/default/files/letters/pdf/Abu-Jamal%20v%20Kerestes%20PreliminInjunctionTranscript%2012-15%20%281%29.pdf >].
  5. “New Health Emergency for Leonard Peltier,” Jan. 6, 2016, International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; “Leonard Peltier’s MRI Confirms Abdominal Aortic Aneurism Diagnosis,” Levi Rickert, Jan. 10, 2016, Native News Online.net; “Call for National Student Day of Action: Demand Obama Grant Clemency to Leonard Peltier!” current, peltierstudentnationalaction.wordpress.com; “What Can I Say?” Leonard Peltier, Feb.23, 2016, NetNewsLedger.
  6. “Stop the execution of Imam Jamil, the former H. Rap Brown, by medical neglect in federal prison”, the Imam Jamil Action Network, Sept. 6, 2015, BayView; Biopsy results released for Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)”, Karima Al-Amin, Aug. 8, 2014, BayView; “Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown),” current, Medical Justice
  7. “July update on Seth Hayes: Call for support,” July 5, 2015, Medical Justice; “Robert Seth Hayes Urgent Medical Update,” Nov. 16, 2015, Medical Justice.
  8. “UC-Irvine welcomes ‘political prisoner’ involved in cop killings,” Dave Huber, Feb. 10, 2016, The College Fix; “Free ‘Em All: 50 Years Later, Black Panthers Are Still Fighting for Freedom,” Asha Bandele, Feb. 18, 2016 Huffington Post, Alternet.
  9. “Mutulu Shakur,” current, Family & Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur; “Mutulu Shakur has not been released from Prison ,” Pologod, Feb. 12, 2016, The source; “Dr. Mutulu Shakur: More than Tupac’s stepfather!” Feb.18, 2016, BayView.
  10. “As Ringleader in ’81 Brink’s Robbery Goes Free, a Plea for Its Getaway Driver,” Jim Dwyer, Feb. 9, 2016, The New York Times; “Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation,” Tom Robbins, Jan. 12, 2012, The New York Times Magazine.
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US Bombs ISIS in Libya, US and Allies Support ISIS in Libya

February 26th, 2016 by Abayomi Azikiwe

Pan-African News Wire Editor Abayomi Azikiwe [pictured left] says the U.S. is acting like the chief policeman of the region after it participated in the destruction of the Libyan state in 2011.

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

For some time now concerns over the Islamic State have been specific to the nation of Iraq and Syria. But in recent months, with the recent attacks and bombing campaigns, the group has seen a reduction in its ranks in those countries, and around the same time, however, Libya has seen its ISIL membership double to roughly 6,000 fighters. Reports from the intelligence community indicate that ISIL is attempting to establish a caliphate in the West African nation.

On to talk about what’s going on in Libya is Abayomi Azikiwe. He is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, an electronic press agency that was founded in 1998. Abayomi, thank you so much for joining the Real News Network.

ABAYOMI AZIKIWE: Thank you.

PERIES: So Abayomi, there appears to be much consternation over the international community in terms of recent spread of ISIL in Libya. Do you assess this development as a threat?

AZIKIWE: It’s clearly a threat to the people of Libya, who have been imperiled over the last five years as a result of a counter-revolution that began in February of 2011. It led very quickly to the passage of two United Nations resolutions authorizing a naval blockade and economic embargo, and of course a massive bombing campaign that continued from March 19 of 2011 all the way to October 31 of the same year.

Since 2011, Libya has gone from being the most prosperous and stable state on the African continent to being one of the most unstable, that is fostering an instability throughout the entire region of North as well as West Africa. This instability has extended, as well, into the Mediterranean area, because at this point Libya has become perhaps the largest source for human trafficking across the Mediterranean into Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe.

Now, the migration of so-called Islamic State fighters to Libya is in part due directly to the intervention of the Russian Federation, which has been carrying out air strikes against Islamic State positions, as well as bases of other armed groups that are fighting against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. They therefore have new ground, new territory, which many of them have relocated to the northwest coast of Libya. They’ve taken over the hometown of the former leader of the country, who is now deceased, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, of Sirte. And they have spread out from Sirte to other areas of the country. The problem in Libya, as well, is that you have numerous militias and political factions that are vying for authority within their own areas, as well as nationally. They are two competing rival regimes, which they are attempting to force into a merger or an alliance, [inaud.] an interim government. [Inaud.] that interim government is really not functioning as a unified entity. There are still major differences between the two rival regimes as well as in each respective rival junta.

So the context for all of this, it’s a very difficult place to stabilize.

PERIES: The U.S. is dropping bombs on Libya as we speak, and the Pentagon recently proposed spending another $200 million on training and equipping security forces in the North, and in West Africa. What are the long-term implications of this kind of engagement again in Libya?

AZIKIWE: This Kurd engagement is actually a precursor for the deployment of 6,000 United Nations-led so-called peacekeeping forces. Italy is supposed to be the titular head of this military unit. However, there is disagreement among the two rival camps in Libya over the deployment of these UN peacekeeping forces. Martin Kobler, who is a career German diplomat who was also involved in Iraq, as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and spearheaded this effort to implement this unity accord between the so-called House of Representatives as well as a general national congress. These are the two rival regimes, one of which is based in Tripoli, the capital, and the other in the eastern part of the country, in Tobruk.

The bombing that was carried out on February 19 in Sabratha was an action ostensibly designed to halt the spreading of the Islamic State. It’s reported that at least 40 people were killed, two of whom were Serbian diplomats who had been kidnapped by IS operatives who were being held. The Serbian government protested against the bombing, because they were in the midst of negotiating for the release of these diplomats, and the United States did not make them aware that this bombing operation was going to take place. Also, the interim government protested the air strikes because they say they were not informed prior to the strike that it was going to be carried out.

So it looks as if the United States, under the Obama administration, engaging in the same policies that the United States has been known for for years. And that is disrespect of the sovereignty, and of course the right to self-determination of all of these states. So you create conditions for the destruction of Libya in 2011, and after the country has been destroyed, when all efforts to put it back together have failed, the United States now is acting as if it is the chief policeman to bring about some type of stability inside the country against the Islamic State.

But even if we look at the Islamic State itself, its origins go back to Iraq as a direct result of another intervention that failed. That was against the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and the rise of the resistance in Iraq against the U.S. occupation. Now, there’s a different configuration of the so-called Islamic extremist organizations today, but within the context of developments in Iraq, you had the birth of ISIL and later the Islamic State which spread into Syria, and of course now has spread into Libya as well.

PERIES: Now, let’s take a specific example. You mentioned Sirte earlier, which is the hometown of Muammar Gaddafi, and supporters of Muammar Gaddafi that are still there obviously are very upset, and still remember the end of Gaddafi’s reign. And these are very susceptible folks, in terms of getting involved with ISIL. Give us a flavor of how these kinds of sentiments feed and fuel the evolution and the growth of ISIL.

AZIKIWE: The growth of ISIL is clearly connected with U.S. and NATO foreign policy throughout the Middle East. There was an attempt to balance the growing influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran after the intervention by the United States and Britain and their allies in Iraq. The consequence of that was Iran becoming the most stable and most politically influential government throughout the region. Also, you have, you have Hezbollah, which is a resistance movement in Southern Lebanon, which is also a Shia-based movement, which is in alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran. At the same time in Yemen, we have the growth of the Ansar Allah, the so-called Houthi movement, which last year nearly took control of the entire, most of the territory in Yemen.

These entities, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah, the Ansar Allah in Yemen, are allied with Syria, with the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which is an Alawite-dominated government, but is working in alliance with the so-called Shia crescent. This is the terminology that’s been utilized by the West to characterize its alliance, which I just outlined.

So the Islamic State, being a Sunni-based guerrilla and political movement, they, of course, are very sectarian in their approach and view the Shia-dominated movements as their moral enemies, even more so than they do the United States, and even the state of Israel. Consequently, it is a political game of brinkmanship that’s being played out right now, and it appears to many people that the U.S. and its allies, including–there are Turkey, which is a part of NATO, and Saudi Arabia, which is a very close ally of the United States, are actually working in conjunction undermining Iranian influence in the Middle East, and also on the African continent as well.

So it’s been documented that ISIS fighters have had free transport, as well as economic relations and interactions with the Turkish state, because the Turkish state is also committed, along with the U.S., with the overthrow of the Arab Baath socialist party government of President Bashar al-Assad.

PERIES: And what kind of evidence are you pointing to that there is this alliance between the Turkish government and ISIL?

AZIKIWE: Well, the fact that various journalists from numerous news agencies, including Press TV, including RT, have documented the movement of ISIS fighters between Turkey and Syria. Also, the bombing by the Russian federation of these supply lines for oil and weapons and other goods has in fact fueled tensions between Turkey and Moscow. We saw the shooting down of a Russian fighter plane several months ago, claiming that it had veered into Turkish territory, which the Russians denied.

So these are some of the variables that are involved in making these connections between Turkey and the Islamic State, as well as Washington, and also Saudi Arabia.

PERIES: Abayomi, you’re referring here to RT, which is Russia Today, and Press TV, which is the international arm of the Iranian state TV network. Now, how do we know that these sources you are citing are actually in fact correct?

AZIKIWE: They are independent of the Western based corporate as well as governmental media outlets. They provide a different perspective than what you would get over the BBC or CNN, or National Public Radio, or the public broadcasting system. So they are independent of the West. They do have correspondents on the ground in those areas. The alliance between Russia, Syria, Iran, and other forces, they represent the bulwark of opposition against the Islamic State, and as allies and as benefactors within NATO, and also within the United States.

So in that regard, even if you do not accept, totally, the editorial policy or direction of Press TV and RT and other media agencies that operate outside the influence and the control of the West, they still provide a balance in regard to assessing what is actually going on in these geopolitical regions of the Middle East, as well as in North Africa.

PERIES: All right, fair enough. I thank you so much for joining us today, and giving us a perspective that is different from what we see on the mainstream media. Thank you so much for joining us today.

AZIKIWE: Thank you.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, an electronic press agency that was founded in 1998. He has worked as a broadcast journalist for the last 14 years, and has worked for decades in solidarity with the liberation movements and progressive governments on the African continent and the Caribbean. Azikiwe is the co-founder of several Detroit-area organizations including: The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs. Between 2007-2011 Azikiwe served as the chairperson of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights(MCHR) and is currently the president of the organization.

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On February 20th, the anti-Russian propaganda site Newsweek headlined «How We Can Defeat Putin» and presented an essay from Evelyn Farkas, of the NATO-generated Atlantic Council, but didn’t indicate her being controlled by the same people who control NATO (the US aristocracy). (Newsweek hid her connection to NATO – gave no indication of it.)

NATO is run by the North Atlantic Council, and its main PR agencies are the Atlantic Council and the Atlantic Treaty Association, both of which receive funding from international corporations. The head of the Atlantic Council is billionaire Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former US Presidential candidate, and a member of the Bilderberg organization, which was founded in 1954 to engineer a takeover of national governments’ regulatory abilities and a replacement of national economic regulations by international economic treaties, which will supersede any national authority and will not be answerable to any voters except the controlling stockholders in international corporations. (Bilderberger David Rockefeller then created the Trilateral Commission in 1974, to extend the globally controlling aristocracy to include also Japanese aristocrats, and Huntsman is also a member of that Bilderberg spin-off: he’s a member of the Trilateral Commission’s ruling Executive Committee.)

Farkas’s propaganda-piece opened:

«Russia poses a geostrategic threat to the United States and our interests. Indeed, earlier this month Defense Secretary Ash Carter listed it first among the threats faced by our nation.»

She continued: 

«The Kremlin’s objectives are clear: 1) Retain Vladimir Putin’s position as the leader of the Russian Federation, preserving the autocratic political system and mafia-style crony economy that together make up ‘Putinism’; 2) restore Russia’s status as a great power; 3) rewrite the international rules and norms to prevent intervention in states to protect citizens; 4) maintain political control of Russia’s geographical periphery; and, if possible, 5) break NATO, the European Union and trans-Atlantic unity».

One could turn that around against the United States by saying that we Americans have a depersonalized, institutionalized, form of dictatorship, which doesn’t require continuance of the same person to be in control, but which provides foreign policies that extend little changed from one President to the next, even if the rhetoric differs considerably between individual Presidents, such as it did and does from George W Bush to Barack Obama, with little real difference in policies except this: tortures such as waterboarding might possibly now be actually forbidden here. However, Putin’s international policies have been changing far more than that. (They changed a lot after Obama overthrew the democratically elected and pro-Russian President of Ukraine in February 2014 and instituted a rabidly anti-Russian fascist regime there.)

Domestically, Obama continued Bush’s Wall Street bailouts and reduced the prosecutions of white-collar crooks (and also of higher-level «financial fraud»), even lower than was the situation when Bush was the nominal President. Also, the prosecutions of government corruption declined under Obama. This was not the type of «change» that Obama’s voters had been voting for, but it’s what we got.

The only scientific study that has been done of whether or not the US is a democracy or instead a dictatorship (rule of the public by an aristocracy, which may or may not have a king or other nominal dictator that rules answerable to that elite but not to any broader public) found that the US, at least since 1980, has been a dictatorship (the authors called it an «oligarchy»). That doesn’t sound much different from what is typically said about Russia, either.

The readers of Ms Farkas’s propaganda-article, if one judges by the reader-comments there, were far less damning against Mr Putin than they were against the con-job that had just been delivered to them by Newsweek (and so perhaps that ‘news’ site’s constant ads seeking new subscribers to the site are not producing nearly as much income as are the propaganda-services Newsweek delivers on behalf of their international-corporate advertisers). To read those comments from readers, Americans are getting jaundice from reading America’s propagandistic ‘press’. Here were two typical such comments:

«I have been reading and watching western media and Russian media equally. There is no bad guy here in geopolitics. If there is then its the US».

Another said:

«Meanwhile Putin plays chess Americans play checkers. And the Americans (Obama) are sold as chess players (at least they make themselves believe it) to start with… Now they have propaganda outlets like this one, that want to sell you a ‘checkers’ play to win the game».

Of course, such cynicism is also widespread among Russians, against their own nation’s media.

The Newsweek propagandist wrote in her article: «We must be united with our allies and partners worldwide and resolute toward Russian bad behavior». But, what about America’s «bad behavior»: unjustified and catastrophic invasion and destruction of Iraq in 2003, of Libya in 2011, and of Syria in 2013, and Obama’s keeping in power the coup-regime in Honduras that was installed there on 28 June 2009?

That’s not very nice, either – and, unlike anything that can be charged against Russia, there’s no NATO-like organization against the United States to have provoked our invasions, as there is with regard to Russia, which had long ago terminated its equivalent, the Warsaw Pact (in 1991). They disbanded theirs; we continued and still continue ours, even though its alleged raison d’être likewise ended in 1991 (and NATO and its propaganda-arms now drown us with propaganda such as Newsweek published here). Clearly, the US is the international aggressor, par excellence, and it needs propagandists – the US press – in order to make the American public fear «Saddam’s WMD» (to invade Iraq in 2003) and «Russian bad behavior» (to attempt a «color revolution» against Russia’s leader, Putin, whose approval-rating among his people is nearly twice as high as Obama’s own – and yet America calls itself a ‘democracy’ that brings ‘democracy’ to places such as Ukraine, Libya, Syria, and Russia).

More and more Americans are learning that they’re suckers if they pay for their ’news’ – if they pay their hard-earned money in order to be manipulated by their insatiable corrupting aristocracy. And now, with Chrome’s free Google Translate feature, one can receive the news from the media in every country, immediately translated into English, and thereby get a read not only on America’s propaganda but on that of the countries that the US aristocracy want Americans to overthrow (in overthrows that are becoming a very bad habit of this country, and that drain America’s tax dollars for rotten weaponry and a bloated army but enrich the ‘defense’ contractors that our aristocrats invest so heavily in, so as to conquer the lands they don’t currently control). Americans are increasingly coming to recognize that they’ve been (and are being) had: by ‘their’ government and by ‘their’ ‘free press’, if not by the aristocracy that controls them both.

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

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On February 17, a mass delegation of members and supporters of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) marched to Toronto City Hall. We brought with us copies of a report we had put together called Out in the Cold: The Crisis in Toronto’s Shelter System.

The City Council was putting the finishing touches to a municipal budget tailored to the needs of investors, developers and a well resourced police force. We entered the Council Chambers and interrupted their deliberations to deliver the report as many of them scrambled for the exits.

OCAP

The Out in the Cold report, was our attempt to show just how severe the crisis within the shelter system has become. Shelter use has grown by 11 per cent over the last four years and there is no indication that this trend is likely to reverse. This situation arises from the accumulating impacts of an austerity agenda that has reduced the adequacy of income support programs to the point where many people find it impossible to eat properly and retain their housing. At the same time, this City is in the midst of a frenzied drive to create an oversupply of upscale housing that drives up rents and reduces affordable housing stock. Large scale homelessness is the predictable and inevitable end result.

The regime at City Hall that is working to further this twin agenda of austerity and redevelopment is deeply reluctant to adequately respond to the shelter needs of the homeless population that their work is creating. In tough times, people facing destitution will tend to move into the central areas of the major urban centres. The municipal administration is anxious to ensure that Toronto’s shelters remain forbidding places that are hard to access and even harder to tolerate. For this reason, the track record has been to concede as little as possible to community pressure and to keep the shelters crowded and uninviting.

Snapshot of Conditions

During the week of January 18, OCAP organized visits to shelter facilities to survey users, staff and volunteers. We deliberately focused our efforts on the interfaith ‘Out of the Colds’ and warming centres that function as a de facto back up to the main system. We calculated that we could learn a great deal by taking a snapshot of the conditions in these places. What we found was shocking. The City’s policy of keeping shelter occupancy at a maximum level of 90 per cent is being systematically disregarded. 81 per cent of those we surveyed told us that had been denied a shelter bed because the shelters were full. 55 per cent had been denied a spot in the Out of the Colds for the same reason. The system is bursting at the seams and the tensions that this produces are hardly surprising. 55 per cent of those surveyed had witnessed physical or sexual violence in a shelter and 19 per cent had experienced such things personally.

The Out of the Colds are being run by people who are doing all they can to meet needs that are overwhelming them. Mats are put down on church basement floors, sometimes only inches apart. Often there are no showers and inadequate numbers of sinks and toilets. I visited one place myself that had two toilets for seventy people. Ventilation is also often very poor. When the tensions that such a situation creates lead to conflicts, police are called and people are often barred from shelters.

We happened to conduct our survey during a week when the weather was relatively mild. During an extreme cold weather alert shortly afterwards, one of our members visited a warming centre just before the 6.00 AM wake up. He found that they had not only run out of mats but had actually run out of floor space. People were sleeping in chairs and propped up against the walls.

Threshold Has Been Crossed

The picture that emerges from the Out in the Cold report is one of austerity taken to the point of abandonment. After the right to decent wages or income has been denied and, after the very right to housing has been withdrawn, shelter from the elements is the last and most meagre measure of state provision before someone is simply left to survive on their own as best they can, if they can. In Toronto, that threshold has been crossed and the austerity agenda has come to such a point.

Toronto Police Budget

OCAP is now demanding that the 90 per cent maximum occupancy policy be enforced and that available federal property, the armouries, be opened as an emergency measure. We are also calling for an end to discriminatory practices that bar people from the shelters because the overcrowded conditions produce conflicts and incidents. We demand that there be no more closing of shelter beds, especially in the central areas of the City where they are most needed. Finally, we call for the federal and provincial levels of government to respond to the housing crisis that is fueling homelessness and restore funding for social housing that has been lost to the austerity agenda.

It is absolutely essential that trade unions and social movements understand that responding to the homeless crisis is not some consideration of charity. The creation of a growing destitute population is only the sharpest expression of the attack on the broader working class. If we are really going to build a movement that defends workers’ gains, challenges the attack on public services and forces back the privatization agenda, then we must be prepared to draw lines. If our movements in this City will tolerate a situation where people are left to die on the streets or have their health destroyed and their dignity denied in overcrowded human warehouses, then it’s hard to imagine anything that would lead us to say ‘enough is enough’.

During the recent cold spell in Toronto, the Out of the Colds were under enormous pressure and, in the space of 48 hours, a thirty one year old woman and a forty one year old man died on the floors of two of these places. Mayor John Tory and those around him have cynically decided that freezing deaths on the streets are a PR problem. Their ‘solution’ is to cram people into facilities that have become crucibles of human misery and go on with the job of creating the neoliberal city as if all was well. This inhuman agenda must be exposed, challenged and defeated and we must ensure adequate shelter for the homeless as we build a movement for the right to housing for everyone.

John Clarke is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

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Cessation of hostilities is scheduled to take effect on  February 27, at midnight Damascus time. 

Provisions mandate all fighting stop except against ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other Security Council designated terrorist groups, comprising most anti-Assad forces.

Syria and Russia intend showing good faith. It’s unclear whether opposition elements will follow suit. It’ll take time to know beyond the midnight deadline, likely days or longer.

Conditions don’t change dramatically overnight. Given Obama’s rage to make Syria another US vassal state, chances for cessation of hostilities to work are virtually nil. Likewise for a durable peace.

How events play out remain to be seen. . 

If cessation of hostilities fails, John Kerry suggested partitioning northern Syria, creating a so-called safe zone along Turkey’s border, enforced by 30,000 troops, an imperial scheme Moscow and Damascus won’t accept. 

The draft UN Security Council resolution is expected to be unanimously approved later on Friday or Saturday. It mandates cessation of hostilities, designated terrorist groups excluded.

It calls for access to all areas where humanitarian aid is desperately needed, along with UN-brokered peace talks to begin “as soon as possible…in good faith…”

On Monday, a joint US/Russia statement said

“(t)he United States of America and the Russian Federation, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and seeking to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis with full respect for the fundamental role of the United Nations, are fully determined to provide their strongest support to end the Syrian conflict and establish conditions for a successful Syrian-led political transition process, facilitated by the UN.”

Statements are one thing, reality quite another. Washington’s rage for war and dominance haven’t changed. Believing Obama transformed himself into a peacemaker is pure fantasy. Lunatics infesting Washington consider Russia their greatest threat.

As long as Washington and its allies keep supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups, conflict resolution in Syria remains illusive.

 

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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Kagan Endorses Hillary: Clinton in Lockstep with Neocons

February 26th, 2016 by Robert Parry

Prominent neocon Robert Kagan has endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, saying she represents the best hope for saving the United States from populist billionaire Donald Trump, who has repudiated the neoconservative cause of U.S. military interventions in line with Israel’s interests.

In a Washington Post op-ed published on Thursday, Kagan excoriated the Republican Party for creating the conditions for Trump’s rise and then asked, “So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out.”

Then referring to himself, he added, “For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The [Republican] party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.”

While many of Kagan’s observations about the Republican tolerance – and even encouragement – of bigotry are correct, the fact that a leading neocon, a co-founder of the infamous Project for the New American Century, has endorsed Clinton raises questions for Democrats who have so far given the former New York senator and Secretary of State mostly a pass on her pro-interventionist policies.

The fact is that Clinton has generally marched in lock step with the neocons as they have implemented an aggressive “regime change” strategy against governments and political movements that don’t toe Washington’s line or that deviate from Israel’s goals in the Middle East. So she has backed coups, such as in Honduras (2009) and Ukraine (2014); invasions, such as Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011); and subversions such as Syria (from 2011 to the present) – all with various degrees of disastrous results.

Yet, with the failure of Republican establishment candidates to gain political traction against Trump, Clinton has clearly become the choice of many neoconservatives and “liberal interventionists” who favor continuation of U.S. imperial designs around the world. The question for Democrats now is whether they wish to perpetuate those war-like policies by sticking with Clinton or should switch to Sen. Bernie Sanders, who offers a somewhat less aggressive (though vaguely defined) foreign policy.

Sanders has undermined his appeal to anti-imperialist Democrats by muting his criticism of Clinton’s “regime change” strategies and concentrating relentlessly on his message of “income inequality” – for which Clinton has disingenuously dubbed him a “single-issue candidate.” Whether Sanders has the will and the time to reorient his campaign to question Clinton’s status as the new neocon choice remains in doubt.

A Reagan Propagandist

Kagan, who I’ve known since the 1980s when he was a rising star on Ronald Reagan’s State Department propaganda team (selling violent right-wing policies in Central America), has been signaling his affection for Clinton for some time, at least since she appointed him as an adviser to her State Department and promoted his wife Victoria Nuland, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, to be the State Department’s chief spokesperson. Largely because of Clinton’s patronage, Nuland rose to assistant secretary of state for European affairs and oversaw the provocative “regime change” in Ukraine in 2014.

Later in 2014, Kagan told The New York Times that he hoped that his neocon views – which he had begun to call “liberal interventionist” – would prevail in a possible Hillary Clinton administration. The Times reported that Clinton “remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes” and quoted Kagan as saying:

“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy. …  If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue … it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

Now, Kagan, whose Project for the New American Century wrote the blueprint for George W. Bush’s disastrous Iraq War, is now abandoning the Republican Party in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Though Kagan’s Post op-ed is characteristically erudite with references to Greek mythology and the French Revolution, it presents a somewhat skewed account of how the Republican Party lost its way. In Kagan’s telling, the problem emerged from its blind hatred of Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, “a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified.”

The truth is that the Republican Party has harbored ugly tendencies for decades, including the red-baiting McCarthy era of the 1950s, Barry Goldwater’s hostility to civil rights laws in the 1960s, Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” in 1968, Ronald Reagan’s appeal to racial bigotry in the 1980s, George H.W. Bush’s race-baiting “Willie Horton commercials” of 1988, and the GOP’s more recent support for a New Jim Crow era – hostile to black voting and to social programs – along with the party’s anti-Latino bigotry and hostility to immigrants.

As a Reagan apparatchik who continued to rise with the neocon tide in the 1990s and early 2000s, Kagan doesn’t take the Republican exploitation of American fears and prejudices back that far. Instead, he starts the clock with Obama’s election, writing, “there was the party’s accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks. No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers.

“Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue? Who was it who frightened Mitt Romney into selling his soul in 2012, talking of ‘self-deportation’ to get himself right with the party’s anti-immigrant forces?

“Who was it who opposed any plausible means of dealing with the genuine problem of illegal immigration, forcing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to cower, abandon his principles — and his own immigration legislation — lest he be driven from the presidential race before it had even begun?

“It was not Trump. It was not even party yahoos. It was Republican Party pundits and intellectuals, trying to harness populist passions and perhaps deal a blow to any legislation for which President Obama might possibly claim even partial credit. What did Trump do but pick up where they left off, tapping the well-primed gusher of popular anger, xenophobia and, yes, bigotry that the party had already unleashed?”

In that sense, Kagan argues that

“Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker.”

An Issue for Democrats

While Kagan’s op-ed surely makes some accurate points about Republicans, his endorsement of Hillary Clinton raises a different issue for Democrats: Do they want a presidential candidate who someone as savvy as Kagan knows will perpetuate neocon strategies around the world? Do Democrats really trust Hillary Clinton to handle delicate issues, such as the Syrian conflict, without resorting to escalations that may make the neocon disasters under George W. Bush look minor by comparison?

Will Clinton even follow the latest neocon dream of “regime change” in Moscow as the ultimate way of collapsing Israel’s lesser obstacles — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian resistance? Does Clinton have the wisdom to understand that neocon schemes are often half-baked (remember “the cakewalk” in Iraq) and that the risk of overthrowing Vladimir Putin in Moscow might lead not to some new pliable version of Boris Yeltsin but to a dangerous Russian nationalist ready to use the nuclear codes to defend Mother Russia? (For all Putin’s faults, he is a calculating adversary, not a crazy one.)

The fact that none of these life-and-death foreign policy questions has been thoroughly or intelligently explored during the Democratic presidential campaign is a failure of both the mainstream media moderators and the two candidates, Sanders and Clinton, neither of whom seems to want a serious or meaningful debate about these existential issues.

Perhaps Robert Kagan’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton and what that underscores about the likely foreign policy of a second Clinton presidency might finally force war or peace to the fore of the campaign.

[For more on the powerful Kagan family, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Family Business of Perpetual War.“]

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

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Perplexity and Divisions Mark G-20 Meeting

February 26th, 2016 by Nick Beams

Finance ministers and central bankers from the G-20 group of countries, covering more than 80 percent of the global economy, have started a two-day meeting in Shanghai, China, amidst the worst economic outlook since the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

The meeting takes place against the backdrop of fears that any semblance of economic stimulus provided by an ultra-low interest rate regime and quantitative easing, through which central banks have pumped more than $5 trillion into the global financial system, has run its course and the spread of negative interest rates is making a bad situation worse.

Consequently, in the lead-up to the summit, a series of economic institutions have called for a switch in policy, with an emphasis on government spending on infrastructure projects to make up for the shortfall in investment, which is running well below pre-2008 levels in all the major economies.

Last week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) pointed to the need for such measures. It was joined Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which called for “bold multilateral action” to boost growth and contain risks in a briefing note issued for the G-20 meeting.

In its summary of the overall situation, the IMF said “the global recovery has weakened further amid increasing financial turbulence and falling asset prices”. Economic activity slowed towards the end of 2015, and the valuation of risky assets dropped sharply, increasing the likelihood of a further weakening of the outlook. The IMF did not revise down its estimates for global growth, but it indicated this was likely at its April meeting.

It voiced concerns about what it called “China’s transition to more balanced growth”—a reference to the slowdown in the Chinese economy—and pointed to “signs of distress” in other large emerging market economies, particularly as a result of falling commodity prices.

“These developments,” it said, “point to higher risks of a derailed recovery, at a moment when the global economy is highly vulnerable to adverse shocks.” To counter these dangers, it said the G-20 had to “act now” to implement growth strategies and plan for coordinated demand programs to boost public investment.

An even gloomier analysis of the world economy was set out in a column byFinancial Times chief economics commentator Martin Wolf on Wednesday. He began by noting that “the world economy is slowing, both structurally and cyclically.” In other words, on top of a downturn in the business cycle, there are also longer-term processes which are lowering economic growth.

Wolf cited the OECD report, which pointed out that the global economy was growing at the lowest pace in five years. “Behind this is a simple reality: the global savings glut—the tendency for desired savings to rise more than desired investment—is growing and so the ‘chronic demand deficiency syndrome’ is worsening.” In other words, no amount of financial stimulus is going to boost investment in the real economy.

In fact, from the very outset, despite the assertions that cheap money would provide a boost to growth, its real aim was to shore up the position of the speculators and banks who brought the world economy to the point of meltdown in 2008 and enable them to continue the vast looting operation that has transferred trillions of dollars into the hands of the ruling financial elites at the expense of the working class.

There is now a growing realisation that these massive money-printing operations have done nothing to boost global growth but have only fuelled the growth of socially-destructive parasitism and speculation, creating the conditions for another financial crisis, the consequences of which would be even more serious than that of 2008–2009.

Reflecting the growing perplexity in ruling circles over economic policy, Wolf commented: “No simple solution for the global economic imbalances of today exist, only palliatives.” Given that “palliative” care is most often associated with someone suffering from a terminal disease, placed in a hospice with no prospect for a cure, this is a revealing assessment of the state of global capitalism.

Warning that the effect of further quantitative easing would be to lower currency exchange rates as each country sought to increase its exports, in a policy that is “bound to blow up,” he insisted the only alternative was fiscal policy, that is, increased government spending to boost demand. This meant a break from what he called the “lunatic” obsession with austerity.

In reality, the actions of the global policymakers arise from the insanity of the present social order based on the profit system and the division of the world into rival and conflicting nation-states. Indeed, even as the IMF and OECD call for international economic cooperation, all the global powers, led by the United States, are sharply expanding military spending in preparation for global military conflict with their rivals.

This is why the calls by the IMF and other bodies for a coordinated policy will fall on deaf ears as each of the major powers pursues its own interests, insisting that the global crisis is the responsibility of its competitors.

The tone was set by US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. He discounted an emergency G-20 response, calling for China to do more to boost domestic consumption and for countries in Europe running a surplus, in particular Germany, to carry out fiscal stimulus.

“These last few months have made clear that weakness in demand globally is a problem that can’t be solved just by everyone looking to the United States,” he said, declaring that real economies were doing better than financial markets thought. “This is not a moment of crisis. Don’t expect a crisis response in a non-crisis situation.”

Likewise, all the other major powers look to their own interests. The German ruling elite is strenuously opposed to fiscal stimulus in Europe, arguing that such demands from the US will lead to a weakening of its financial system and thereby strengthen the position of American banks against their German rivals.

A Japanese official warned that, while financial markets needed “something refreshing,” there was little prospect of a global deal and “no magic bullet.” The Japanese government would like to see further stimulus, but in the rest of the world, not in Japan where the debt to gross domestic product ratio is among the highest in the world. China, too, would like to see further stimulus but is constrained at home by mounting debts and the instability of its financial system. And so the list goes on.

The austerity program is not a product of defective thinking on the part of the ruling elites as all the would-be reformers of global capitalism claim. It is a class policy imposed in the interests of definite social forces. Directed by the ruling corporate and financial elites, it is aimed at weakening the position of the working class, through unemployment, wage cuts and attacks on social conditions as one of the central mechanisms for increasing profits.

Whatever the immediate outcome of the G-20 meeting, and whatever declarations to take action emerge from Shanghai, this program will be intensified in the coming period as the crisis of the global capitalist system deepens and the divisions between the major powers widen.

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US Social Crisis Overshadows 2016 Presidential Election

February 26th, 2016 by Patrick Martin

The primary campaigns to select the presidential candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties move into the decisive stage over the next four weeks, when two-thirds of all state primaries and caucuses will be completed. Eleven states have primaries on Tuesday, March 1, followed by Michigan and Mississippi on March 8 and Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio on March 15.

The America media gives round-the-clock coverage to the minutiae of capitalist politics—the insults and smears and lies hurled back and forth between the various representatives of big business seeking the nominations of the two parties. But very little attention is being paid to the conditions of life facing the working-class majority of the American population.

The reality of life in America for working people is drastically at odds with the official picture of a society in the seventh year of a slow but steady economic recovery, in which the population is generally prosperous and certainly not in desperate straits. The seething anger among working people, expressed in only a very limited and distorted way in the presidential campaign, is the product of intractable and deepening economic and social tensions.

Numerous reports released during the first two months of 2016 document the staggering dimensions of the social crisis facing working people in the United States. A majority of Americans have too little savings to pay for an emergency expense of $1,000. One in four US adults is burdened by debtscaused by medical expenses. More than one million working people are beingcut off food stamps. One million retirees face pension cuts dictated by the Obama administration.

Of all these social disasters, only the lead poisoning catastrophe in Flint, Michigan has become an issue in the presidential campaign, for the most cynical of reasons—to present the crisis, falsely, as a race issue, rather than one facing the entire working class, white, black and immigrant.

Another report on the social crisis was publicized Thursday on the front page of the New York Times. A study by a recently established think tank, the Economic Innovation Group, found that more than 50 million Americans live in communities—defined by postal ZIP codes—that are severely distressed economically.

The study used measures of education, poverty rate, unemployment, housing vacancy rate, median income and trends in employment and business formation to calculate figures for economic distress, showing that tens of millions “continue to feel left behind by the economic recovery.”

It identified the ten worst urban areas, in terms of economic distress, as (in order): Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, Toledo, San Bernardino, Stockton, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Memphis and Cincinnati. The state of Texas had the largest number of people living in distressed ZIP codes, 5.2 million, while the state of Mississippi had the highest proportion of its population living in distress, 40 percent.

In the most distressed 20 percent of ZIP codes, the study found, “nearly a quarter of adults have no high school degree, over half of adults are not working, and the median income is only two-thirds of the state level.” Since the 2008 Wall Street crash, these ZIP codes lost on average 6.7 percent of their jobs and 8.3 percent of their businesses. Their housing stock was on average more than 50 years old.

Contrasting the economic conditions in the distressed areas with those in high-income, high-growth areas (ZIP codes located mainly in the centers of finance and high technology, including New York City, Boston, Dallas and the San Francisco Bay Area), EIG executive director Steve Glickman observed, “It’s almost like you are looking at two different countries.”

Other studies document the failure of the state and federal governments to provide a social “safety net” adequate to meet the needs of working people. The majority of those who receive some form of public assistance have jobs, many of them full-time, but they earn so little that they cannot make ends meet. A majority of low-paid workers, those making $12 an hour or less, depend on some form of public assistance, principally food stamps and Medicaid.

Wages for the working class as a whole are stagnating. For the last quarter of 2015, total employment costs, the broadest measure of wages and benefits, rose a paltry 0.6 percent, bringing the total increase for the year to 2.1 percent. Only the plunge in oil prices, which has sharply reduced the cost of getting to work, has offset the impact of rising prices for necessities like food, education and medical care.

Extreme social distress has gone hand in hand with an immense growth in social inequality. The policies of the Obama administration have ensured a virtually unlimited stream of cash into the banks and financial system, and the wealth of the top 1 and 0.1 percent of the population has returned to pre-crisis levels.

Summing up data that has previously been reported on the WSWS, a recent article in Foreign Affairs noted, “[T]he share [of wealth] owned by the top 0.1 percent [increased] to 22 percent from nine percent three decades ago. In 2011, the top one percent of US households controlled 40 percent of the nation’s entire wealth.”

The states voting during the month of March include virtually the whole of the South, the most impoverished region in the United States. Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia hold primaries March 1, while Kentucky and Louisiana do so four days later. Later in the month come Mississippi, Florida and North Carolina.

Billionaire Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—herself a multimillionaire with close ties to Wall Street—are favored to sweep the Republican and Democratic primaries in the South. Yet these representatives of the American financial aristocracy are separated by an unbridgeable economic and social gulf from the working people of that region.

Trump, Clinton and the other big business politicians will jet from rally to rally, and spend tens of millions on campaign advertising. Meanwhile, the appalling living conditions faced by millions in the South were put on display as a series of major storms ravaged the region, destroying flimsily-built homes, particularly in impoverished rural areas where manufactured homes and trailers are commonplace.

The recent closures of Walmart stores across the region will reportedly create three new “food deserts,” neighborhoods where residents “will lack any place that sells fresh produce and meat once the last of the Wal-Mart stores slated for closure turns off the lights.” This includes parts of Arkansas, where Clinton was once first lady and served on the board of directors of the retail giant.

No section of the political establishment, from Trump to Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders, has any solution to the social crisis confronting the vast majority of the population. Both Trump and Sanders have in different ways sought to appeal to immense social anger—the former by promoting anti-immigrant and racist bigotry, the latter by calling for a “political revolution” that boils down to promoting the Democratic Party, which for the past seven years has presided over a historic transfer of wealth from the working class to the rich.

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David Cameron receives the King Abdullah Decoration One from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah. Cameron said: ‘The reason we have the relationship is our own national security. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Only days after Prime Minister David Cameron’s embarrassing Little Englander strut around the European Parliament attempting to dictate – sorry, “negotiate” – new terms for Britain’s membership of the European Union, the EU Parliament has delivered a backhanded, but unmistakable blow to the UK and it’s partner in crime, Saudi Arabia. 

As Saudi decimates Yemen with British made bombs and missiles, dropped from British aircraft, advised by British military experts based in the Saudi Command and Control Centre, the European Parliament voted on Thursday, 25th February for an EU-wide arms embargo against Saudi in protest at it’s assault on it’s southern neighbor.

The Parliament cited the “disastrous humanitarian situation” as a result of the “Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen”.

“The vote does not compel EU member states to act but it does increase pressure on Riyadh, in the wake of criticism from the UN and growing international alarm over civilian casualties in Yemen”, comments The Guardian. (1)

“An earlier draft of the resolution” which had named “and criticised the UK and other EU member states, including France, Spain and Germany, was dropped. The final version said ‘some EU member states’ had continued to authorise transfers of weapons to Saudi Arabia since the violence started, in violation of EU rules on arms control.” The amendment was passed by 359 votes to 212, with 31 abstentions.

In fact: “under a 2008 code of conduct, EU member states promised not to sell weapons to countries where they might be used ‘to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law’ and undermine regional peace and stability.”

Since the Saudi blitz began in March 2015, an estimated 7,000 people have been killed and 35,000 injured, with a UN panel in January, stating: “The coalition’s targeting of civilians through airstrikes, either by bombing residential neighbourhoods or by treating the entire cities of Sa’dah and Maran as military targets, is a grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. In certain cases the panel found such violations to have been conducted in a widespread and systematic manner”, in violation of international humanitarian law. (2)

“Holding perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law to account is fundamental and necessary for tackling impunity and deterring future violations in Yemen,” it states.

As the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) points out, in spite of the vote not being legally binding, it sends a strong message to member States that have continued to arm Saudi Arabia despite allegations of war crimes in Yemen.

CAAT again reminds that the UK has licensed £2.8 billion of arms to Saudi since bombing of Yemen began in March 2015 and has licensed £6.7 billion of arms to Saudi since David Cameron took office in 2010.

The Campaign’s Andrew Smith is unequivocal: “The European Parliament has sent a clear, strong and much needed message to governments like the UK, that have been complicit in the destruction of Yemen. The toxic combination of arms sales and political support has helped to fuel, facilitate and legitimise the humanitarian catastrophe that is taking place.”

Moreover: “Government Ministers may talk about the importance of human rights, but UK bombs and fighter jets have been absolutely central to the bombardment. Thousands have died yet the message sent out by the UK government is that their lives are less important than arms company profits.”

In January 2016, Law firm Leigh Day, representing CAAT, issued a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review challenging the government’s decision to export arms to Saudi Arabia despite increasing evidence that Saudi forces are violating international humanitarian law in Yemen. CAAT is expected to make further announcements on the status of the legal action in the coming weeks.

Whilst Saudi Arabia is Britain’s largest customer for weapons, a recent study by Opinium LLP for CAAT found that 62% of UK adults oppose arms sales to Saudi Arabia, with only 16% supporting them.

UK exports of armaments to Saudi increased by over 11,000 percent in just a three month period last year, with David Cameron, when queried in this trade in death ever repeating his delusional mantra that: “We have some of the most stringent arms control procedures of any country in the world.”

Ironically, as Amnesty pints out:

“the UK was a leading light in the creation of the Arms Control Treaty (2014), an important international law designed to eliminate arms sales that fuel human rights abuse. When the UK signed on the dotted line of the treaty in April 2014 Foreign Secretary William Hague stated it would ‘make the world safer, by placing human rights and international humanitarian law at the heart of decisions about the arms trade.’ ” (3)

Meanwhile, as the illegal bloodbath continues in Yemen, William Hague’s successor, Philip Hammond, who, incredibly, appears even more intellectually challenged than his predecessor, states that he is relying on Saudi Arabia to investigate their own carnage, deaths and detonations of International Humanitarian Laws, Human Rights, the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Convention – but then, after the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and arms sales, Britain is hardly in any position to take any high moral ground.

Incidentally, when then Secretary of State James Baker promised to reduce Iraq to a “pre-industrial age” in 1991, the onslaught was called “Operation Desert Storm”, the Saudis have named their equivalent in Yemen “Operation Decisive Storm.” In Latin, Yemen, one of the oldest centres of civilization in the Near East, was called Arabia Felix: “Fortunate Arabia”, or “Happy Arabia.” Response to some ironies can only be to weep.

Notes 

1.http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/25/eu-parliament-votes-for-embargo-on-arms-sales-to-saudi-arabia

2.http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/27/un-report-into-saudi-led-strikes-in-yemen-raises-questions-over-uk-role

3.https://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/press-release-me-let-me-go/arming-saudi-arabia-philip-hammond-controls

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 The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies have been continuing a counter-offensive on the areas of the Aleppo supply line held by ISIS. On Feb.24, the SAA ‘Tiger Forces’ recaptured the vilalge of Rasm al-Nafl and advanced on the outskirts of the Shallalah al-Kabirah village. On Feb.25, the Tiger Forces continued advances  and liberated the strategic town of Khanasser.

The SAA’s counteroffensive is supported by Hezbollah and Liwaa Al-Quds Brigade and marked by a massive usage of artillery, battle tanks and warplanes. But, according to reports, ISIS and Jund al-Aqsa militants still control about 7 km of the road.

In this situation, the Syrian government appears to have paused its major offensive operations in the city of Aleppo. However, the SAA and its allies still have few options to encircle the militants in the area.

The Russian Air Force is continuing airstrikes against ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and linked organizations. Russian warplanes have made 62 sorties and destroyed 187 terrorist targets over the past 2 days. Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov noted 10 terrorist strongholds were destroyed and more than 50 militants were neutralized only in the Hama province.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Feb.24 Syrian Kurdish forces must be excluded from a ceasefire agreement between the warring sides in Syria. We remember, Turkey is continuing to shell constantly the Kurdish YPG units which are fighting terrorists in Northern Syria.

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The Russian/Syrian agreement to the cessation of hostilities in Syria is seen critical from a military point of view. It would have been better to use the current momentum and to proceed fighting instead of giving respite to the enemy.

But the agreement has one huge advantage. It excludes the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. Every “western” media report on the agreement and its likelihood to proceed now has to admit what has long been denied. That the unicorn U.S. supported “moderate rebels” are in deep alliance with al-Qaeda.

Even the grey lady now concedes:

many of the anti-Assad groups aligned with the United States fight alongside the Nusra Front

The readers of such piece note that the U.S. is actually supporting the terrorists it claimed to be fighting for the last 13 years. Somehow that does not compute. This will put pressure the Obama administration. It can hardly blame Russia and Syria for continuing a campaign against Al-Qaeda even during a cessation of hostility with U.S. supported “moderates”. The U.S. lauds itself over killing alleged Al-Qaeda followers in drone strikes all over the world. How can it blame Russia for doing like in Syria?

But not only “western” media are now exposed. The new situation compels the actors behind Nusra/al-Qaeda to reveal their positions:

The PYD is supported because it fights against ISIL. Nusra Front is also fighting against ISIL. Why is it bad?” [the Turkish President Erdogan] asked.AIDS also kills ISIL? Why is it bad?

Just in time the BBC is reporting what everybody watching the war on Yemen already knew. Al-Qaeda is fighting together Saudi and other Gulf troops in their assault on the city of Taiz.

Since 9/11 the “western” public has been conditioned to see Al-Qaeda as the evil enemy. I do not think that it is possible to eradicate that within a few weeks or month.

With the push for the cessation of hostilities the Russian/Syrian side has won a major point in the public relation position. It is becoming clear to even average “western” reader that they are fighting real terrorists while the U.S. and its allies support at least associates to terrorists, if not the terrorists themselves.

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The Russian-American Agreement on Syria?

February 26th, 2016 by The Saker

The recent agreement between the USA and Russia really solves nothing, it does not even end the war, and both sides are expressing a great deal of caution about its future implementation. And yet, this is a huge victory for Russia. While it is too early to say that “the Russian won in Syria”, I think that it is now fair to say that the Russian position on Syria has won. Here is why:

First: nobody is suggesting anymore that Assad will be ousted or Damascus taken. That, in turn, means that everybody has now recognized that Syrian Arab Republic, backed by Russia, has successfully repelled the aggression of the huge coalition the AngloZionists built to overthrow Assad.

Second: Russia has forced the UNSC and the USA to admit that the vast majority of those who fight Assad today are terrorists. Of course, this is not how this was declared, but if you look at the organizations which the UNSC has already declared as ‘terrorists’ then you already have an absolute majority of the anti-Assad forces. This means thatthe moral and legal legitimacy of the anti-Assad forces is lies in tatters.

Third: regardless of what Erdogan does actually try to do next, there are now clear signs that neither NATO, nor the EU nor even the Turkish high military command want a war with Russia. And that means that Erdogan’s gamble has not paid off and that his entire Syria policy is now comprehensively dead. Keep in mind that following the treacherous attack on the Russian Su-24 the Kremlin made it a policy goal to “Saakashvilize” Erdogan. This goal is now almost reached and Erdogan’s future looks very, very bleak: everybody ( except maybe the Saudis) is sick and tired of this maniac. The best thing which could happen to Turkey now would for the military to get rid of Erdogan and to replace him with somebody willing to repair all the damage he did.

Fourth: all the threats to impose a no-fly zone or to occupy Syria have now been invalidated by an agreement which basically declares that anybody not respecting the cease-fire is a legitimate target for engagement and destruction.

Fifth: the USA had to accept the humiliation of having to agree to all of the Russian terms for the current ceasefire. Yes, of course, the USA can, and probably will, try renege on part, or all, of this agreement, but the precedent has been set and it will be very hard, if not impossible, for the USA to openly return to the pre-2016 policies.

Sixth: does anybody still remember the rhetoric of Hillary Clinton about Syria and Russia? Her position was crystal xclear: Assad must go and those who support him “punished”. Even after the Russian military offensive began, the US refused to tell the Russians where the “good terrorists” were and where the “bad terrorists” were. No exchange of information with Russians was acceptable. Now the Americans had to agree to work with the Russians on a map of Syria designating where the participants of the ceasefire and were those who were not included in the ceasefire were deployed. In other words, the US will now have to share with Russia all the info it previously refused to share and work with the Russians on a daily basis.

Seventh: Russia has basically co-opted the so-called “Free Syrian Army”. How? By basically forcing every single faction in Syria to chose between one of two possible statuses: being a ‘terrorist’ (and a fair target for destruction) or being a participant in a political process entirely designed by RussiaThe Russians are now even opening a “Truce Center” at the Khmeimin airbase near Latakia which will now “render assistance” to all the parties to the ceasefire.

Russian_Air_Force_Sukhoi_Su-34

The new face of Russian diplomacy 

This, for the time being, mainly a diplomatic victory, of course, but a Russian diplomatic victory made possible by a Russian military victory. A tiny Russian military contingent has basically completely neutralized the plans of an entire worldwide Empire. That, in itself, is an amazing achievement.

The other big winner here are, in my opinion, the Kurds who, according to British officials, appear to be coordinating their military operations with the Syrian army and the Russian Aerospace Forces and who now might well even achieve their dreams of joining the Iraqi and Syria regions of Kurdistan. Which is just about the worst nightmare for the Turks come true, hence the still remaining risk of a Turkish military operation ostensibly to create a ‘buffer zone’ but really to save face. That kind of intervention will remain a possibility for as long as the Turks can continue to hope to commit aggression against their neighbors under the protection of NATO and the USA. And that ain’t gonna change anytime in the future.

And then there are the Saudis. They are very, very angry. They are angry to the point of making not so subtle threats about using nuclear weapons to deal with their adversaries. See for yourself:

Actually, since Pakistan got The Bomb, I would not dismiss any Saudi claims of having a number of nuclear devices. But what does that really mean?

Absolutely nothing.

It is quite possible that the Saudis have the know how for a nuclear device. And it is quite possible that they even got their hands on enough nuclear materials for a few bombs. They might even have succeeded in purchasing a few nuclear devices from the Pakistanis or Israelis. But even if that is true, the reality is that the Saudis don’t even have the military capability to deal with the poorest Arab country on the planet (Yemen) and that they most definitely don’t have the military capability to engage their nuclear devices in a way which would allow them to achieve any kind of military advantage.

After all, what are we talking about here? Using nuclear weapons against the Syrian military? Against Iran? Against Russia? This is absolutely ridiculous. The reality is that whatever nuclear capabilities the Saudis might or might not have, the fact that they would make nuclear threats is just a sign of weakness and fear, not a sign of strength. This is why nobody is impressed by these statement, least of all the intended targets of such threats.

While it is quite true that the latest agreement between the USA and Russia does not mark the end of the war in Syria, it is a turning point, a kind of a Minsk-2 Agreement which nobody really wants to comply with, but which seals the defeat of the AngloZionist plans in Syria as much as Minsk-2 meant the defeat of the Ukronazi dream.

Time is now on the Russian/Syrian side. With each passing day the Russian task force in Syria will become more powerful, as will the Syrian Armed Forces. That, by itself, will not be enough to defeat Daesh, and we can expect a stiff resistance from the Takfiri crazies, but the writing is on the wall for all to see: the more the Russians and the Americans become directly and jointly involved, the less Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be able to determine the outcome of the war. In other words, while this is far from being the end of Daesh, it is the beginning of the end for Daesh in Syria.

Yet again the nay-sayers and Putin-haters have been proven wrong. To be honest, so have I: I would never have guessed that the Russians could have achieved so much with so little and yet they did pull off this extremely dangerous gamble and they won. Only an extremely skillful combination of military, economic, diplomatic and political means could have yielded such a remarkable result but Putin, apparently, found this perfect mix. The path ahead remains extremely dangerous, for sure, but the outcome of the 20 week Russian military intervention in Syria is nothing short of remarkable.

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Palestinian families warned of subterfuge designed to pressure them into signing over to Israel their rights to 1948 property

Palestinian leaders in Israel have warned that they suspect the Israeli government is behind recent efforts to trick the families of refugees from the 1948 war into signing away the rights to their lands.

The alert has been issued to an estimated 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel descended from refugees who were forced out of their villages during the 1948 war but remained inside the new Israeli state’s borders.

Palestinians refer to the dispossession of their homeland as the Nakba – the word for “catastrophe” in Arabic.

Experts say Israel has been working to pressure refugees into selling the title to their lands for decades as a way to undermine a Palestinian right of return, one of the key demands in any peace agreement.

“Israel has a strong interest in reducing the number of refugees with a claim on these lands so that in the event of an agreement the issue of a Palestinian right of return is weakened,” said Hillel Cohen, a researcher on the Palestinian refugee issue at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“Israel hopes to be able to say to the international community, ‘But the refugees sold their land – where can they return to?’”

Khaled Suleiman, aged 64 and from the Israeli coastal city of Acre, told Middle East Eye his family was among those approached by lawyers trying to persuade them to sell.

Nearly 800,000 Palestinians like Suleiman’s parents became refugees in 1948 and were stripped by Israel of their rights to any property they could not carry with them, under legislation from 1950 known as the Absentee Property Law.

Barred from village

While most Palestinians were forced outside the borders of the newly formed Israeli state, Suleiman’s family were among the 30,000 Palestinian refugees who managed to stay close to their former homes.

They eventually received citizenship and became part of Israel’s large Palestinian minority, numbering today 1.6 million, or a fifth of the population.

Nonetheless, Israel continues to bar the Suleiman family from returning to their former village, Alma, north of the Galilee town of Safed. The homes there were destroyed decades ago by Israel, along with more than 500 other Palestinian communities.

Today the family’s 17 hectares are controlled by an exclusively Jewish agricultural community of the same name as their razed village.

Suleiman said he was shocked to discover that a lawyer – from within the Palestinian minority – had approached his nephew trying to pressure him into selling the family’s lands to the government.

The lawyer led his nephew to believe that he had one last chance to win compensation and that the deadline would expire at the end of next month.

“These people are worse than crooks,” Suleiman said. “We sent him packing.”

Suleiman and dozens of other families approached in recent months have been left wondering why the lawyers sought them out now and how they know so much about them.

“He knew about how much land we owned in 1948, where our plots were located, and how to find us,” he said.

Palestinian leaders in Israel strongly suspect they know the answer.

Hana Swaid, a former Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament who now heads an organisation dealing with land issues, told MEE that the Israeli government’s fingerprints were all over the lawyers’ scheme.

These lawyers have access to official lists of absentee property that are extremely difficult to get hold of. Someone is clearly helping them – and you don’t need to look far to understand who it is.

Government’s guiding hand?

Reports of lawyers making similar approaches to refugee families in Israel have been pouring in, leading to fears that an organised campaign to persuade refugees to sell their lands is under way.

The High Follow-Up Committee, an umbrella body representing the main Palestinian political leadership in Israel, recently launched a series of meetings in Israel’s largest Palestinian communities to raise awareness.

“It seems clear that the Israeli government is the guiding hand behind these approaches,” said Maysana Mourani, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre for the Palestinian minority that has been closely involved in the awareness-raising campaign.

At stake, say campaign organisers, is one of the core principles of the peace process: the right of the refugees to return to their lands or receive internationally arbitrated compensation as part of a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Cohen, of Hebrew University, told MEE Israel had shown an interest from the outset in persuading internal refugees – those still living inside Israel – to sign away rights to their lands.

Although the Absentee Property Law made no provision for compensation for refugees, he said, the Israeli parliament made an exemption for the internally displaced. They were allowed to seek compensation under later legislation, the Land Acquisitions Law of 1953.

Cohen said officials had imposed no deadline for the internal refugees, now numbering 300,00, to sell their lands to the state.

He added that there was little information about these sales because neither Israeli officials nor Palestinians in Israel had an interest in publicising such deals.

Land-dealing taboo

For Palestinian society, land dealing with Israel is considered taboo.

But some refugees admitted that Israel had been using various forms of pressure long before the latest lawyers’ ruse to persuade families into signing away their rights.

Ziad Awaisi, an official in ADRID, a committee representing the internally displaced, told MEE that the Israeli authorities had exploited the refugees’ extreme vulnerability in the state’s early years and the fact that the Palestinian minority was living under harsh military rule until 1966.

My grandfather told me that people from his village, of Saffuriya, were threatened in 1949 with being denied an identity card unless they sold their land to the government.

Others were told they would never get a licence to build a home, at a time when they were still living in United Nations tents. The security services had a lot of ways to intimidate the refugees.

Suleiman said he could remember his father being visited in the 1960s by the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence services, when they had tried to pressure him into selling.

“My father was a strong nationalist and refused, but I believe some other families from our village did sign, either because they were desperate for money or because they were scared,” he said.

According to Cohen’s best estimate, based on data about compensation received under the 1953 law, as much as a quarter of the land belonging to the refugees may have been sold to the Israeli state over subsequent decades.

Alexandre Kedar, a law professor at Haifa University, said most compensation to Palestinian refugees in the state’s early years had been based on outdated land values that significantly reduced the sums they received.

‘Present absentees’

The latest reports of lawyers approaching families indicate that efforts to pressure the refugees into land sales have not ended.

There are also rumours that Palestinian lawyers from Israel have been visiting refugee camps in Jordan trying to get refugees there to sign documents transferring their lands to Israel.

According to Mohammed Kayal, a senior official in ADRID, the lawyers are paid by the Israeli state for every refugee they find and persuade to sell their land.

A fifth of Israel’s Palestinian citizens are believed to be classified as “present absentees” according to the Absentee Property Law – denoting that they are present in Israel, but absent from their land.

Rights group have warned that the lawyers accused of tricking the refugees tell them that a recent high court ruling entitles them to a one-off compensation deal.

In fact, the court case applies exclusively to those affected by a different law, governing compulsory land purchase orders.

The judge in that case ruled that Israeli citizens who had originally refused government compensation could apply for it for a limited time, even if the statute of limitations had expired.

The window for applying for the retrospective financial compensation in these cases closes at the end of next month.

Suhad Bishara, of Adalah, said the lawyers had been misleading refugee families like the Suleimans.

“They are trying to put pressure on them by making them believe that this will be their last chance ever to gain compensation,” she said. “But this court ruling is irrelevant to their rights.”

Homeland ‘not for sale’

The awareness-raising campaign has been conducted under the slogan: “Don’t surrender our parents’ and grandparents’ lands.”

Mourani told MEE that Israel had confiscated some 7,000 square km – or a third of Israel’s total territory – from Palestinian refugees using the Absentee Property Law.

In subsequent years it expropriated a further 1,200 square km of land, much of it from Palestinian citizens, under the 1953 Land Acquisitions Law, she added.

Mohammed Barakeh, head of the Follow-Up Committee, warned at a recent meeting in Nazareth: “Our homeland is not for sale.”

He added: “Israel wants the signatures of the victims [of 1948] so that it will look like they have accepted both their expulsion from their lands and the Zionist account of the Nakba.”

But lawyers behind the drive to persuade Palestinian families to sell their land said they had done nothing wrong.

Ayman Abu Raya, head of a law firm in Sakhnin, who has led calls for lawyers to help locate refugee families, called the awareness campaign “ugly”.

“We have never misled anyone, and everything we do is within the law,” he told MEE. “We specialise in these kinds of compensation cases. The families are entitled to money and we help them get it.”

He denied government involvement and said his firm located land deeds for refugees in the local land registry offices. He said he had won “substantial compensation” for many families.

Bishara, a lawyer with Adalah, said even if refugees did sell land it should not undermine their rights in international law.

“The right of return is not just an individual right but a collective matter for the Palestinians. It is a bigger issue than these land sales,” she said.

 

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The world is crazy, asinine, deprived of all common sense. Presstitute pundits aping the opinions and values of politicians, of pathetic, unelected politicians, of self-styled lords. The lords of Brussels are falling on their knees to beg ‘Sir’ Cameron, to retain the United Kingdom in the sick, defunct non-union, called the European Union.

Flash back one year and juxtaposed to the current EU-UK show of embrace: The masters of Maastricht, the new fascists of Europe, Schaeuble and Co, with the help of the infamous ‘troika’, the self-appointed European Commission, the European (non) Central Bank and the IMF, have literally slaughtered another member of the EU, Greece – and they are continuing the assassination of the Greek people, through systematic deprivation of health services, privatization of public and social services, literally robbing the last physical asset of the country, leaving hordes of people without work, without income and without health services and education.  That’s the disgraceful EU – menacing expulsing the cradle of Democracy if she will not obey the dictate of Brussels neocolonial economics – that’s the un-solidary European Union. While the same EU is pleading with the UK, the US vassal numero uno, to please remain a member of our elitist club – we will accommodate any condition you may require. And so it happened. Perhaps with some leverage of Washington’s.

What has the UK done for Europe? Other than being the epitome of a neoliberal capitalist mole for Washington helping dictating the will of the corporate Zionist-Anglo-Saxon elite upon the ‘Old Continent’?

And Greece? – The people of Greece a year ago have taken the liberty in a democratic election attempting to retake their sovereignty by electing a socialist government. Totally intolerable in a neo-fascist world. The country had to be punished and strangled – strangled in debt, and threatened with death. At that time the Greek debt of about 120% of GDP would have been well manageable without more debt infusion which drove the debt-GDP ratio up to close to 200% in 2015. Debt is a perfect instrument forcing a country to give-away its national assets to the looter-creditors.

Nobody will admit death threats were at stake, but how else would it be possible that the elected left-wing leader makes a 180-degree U-turn – and becomes a neoliberal serf? – In his two bestsellers of An Economic Hitmen, John Perkins has more than convincingly explained how the system works: either you do what we tell you to do, or else… And the ‘else’ is what most politicians fear – for their own lives, and the lives of their families and loved ones. Examples abound.

Mind you we are here talking about a white collar criminal gang that has structured the (EU) laws so that the noble crooks are operating fully within their countries’ legal system – and we the people, have completely lost track of the moment when our democratically elected legislators made laws to ‘legally’ oppress, rob and abuse us, the 99.99%.

These white collar criminals are now begging the UK not to leave the ‘union’ – the same white collar criminals who are continuing murdering a country, threatening it with eviction from the EU, because it dared to take her sovereignty back from Brussels. It is beyond imagination and believe that Greece accepts this dictate, unless they suffer badly from the Stockholm syndrome, loving their hangman more than freedom; or, of course, for Economic Hitmen (EHM) at work.

Greece could reject this fascist dictate, according to the expressed will of the people, take the consequences, leaving the EU and the Eurozone, starting afresh with a public banking system, revamping her economy and social system for the good of the people. In 5 to 10 years Greece could be fully recovered and be a shining light for others suffering the neoliberal sledge hammer of Brussels and its troika masters.

Back to Mr. Cameron: After a 30-hour marathon session of ‘intense’ so-called negotiations with the EU Brussels clan, “Sir” David Cameron triumphed, forced concessions out of Brussels – more autonomy from Brussels and no social benefits to immigrants – and the little mentioned border closing to refugees. Cameron went home, claiming victory, recommending his subjects to vote ‘yes’ – for we want to stay in the union – in a referendum set for 23 June 2016. How could they, the Europeans, let them, the UK, go – these peons of the United States? – The whole referendum is a farce. Brexit was only a propaganda tool to give the EU a much needed boost. But is it really? Now the conservative mayor of London, Sir Boris Johnson, has joined the ‘no to Europe’ camp. His voice is strong and has leverage.

Washington also has leverage. When it comes down to the vote, Washington will not allow its mole in the EU to leave, nor will Obama’s poodle, David Cameron, be defeated. The stakes are too high – the collapse of the entire EU is at risk. In the run-up to the 23 June vote, Washington will pump millions, hundreds of millions, if necessary, into pro Europe propaganda and apply other vote manipulation strategies, as they usually do when they want regime change, or specific election results.

Refreshing our memories: Washington interests prevailed through so-called ‘election coups’ – last November in Argentina the ultra-neoliberal Mauricio Macri ‘won’ against all odds with a paper-thin 2.5% margin against his center-left contender, who was ahead after the first round; and in December in Venezuela, where parliamentary elections gave the right wing a two thirds majority. Spain is still ‘pending’, as no workable government has yet seen the light of the day after the 20 December 2015 elections. New elections may be called for and chances are that Rajoy with much foreign funded and manipulated propaganda might then win an absolute majority; or else, the workers party (PSOE) Sanchez, now mandated by King Felipe to form a government, may be forced to go the way of Tsipras. As Perkins points out, EHMs are well and alive also in Europe.

The point is – the dissolution of Europe or the collapse of the Eurozone is not in Washington’s cards, nor in the vassals of Brussels game plan. With the secretly, literally behind closed doors, negotiated TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) – Europe is destined to become a high-tech low-wage colony of the empire. That’s a fact. We are already there. It’s just a matter of time when all the wheels start turning – and that will happen when the TTIP is rammed down the European citizens’ throat, when private corporate courts have supremacy over sovereign national courts, when literally corporations decide who will live and who will die.

The unraveling drama about Brexit or not in the presstitute media is nothing but a show. It’s a propaganda for others who might consider exiting this unholy union to be warned of the dire consequences, whatever they may be. Indeed, a Brexit as well as a Grexit, could set dynamics in motion which may escape Washington’s control.

Germans, French as well as the Nordics, are weary of the EU, the increasing false or true terror threats, the increasing militarization of their countries, the US / NATO war caused destabilizing flood of refugees from the bombed-to-rubble Middle Eastern home lands – most EU countries would like to take back their destiny, as sovereign, autonomous nations. Away from the nefarious neoliberal all-destructive globalization, and back to the concept of local production for local markets – with public banks that work to restore national economies, not to feed the greed of WS shareholders.

Victory or farce apart, Cameron may have set in motion a process against his own wits (sic) that might liberate Europe from the neocolonial fangs of the Empire. Such new found freedom might also help awaken Europe’s consciousness: never again becoming colonial powers, such as in the past 500 years, exploiting, looting and murdering the people of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Instead, respecting peoples of all creeds and colors. It’s a long process – and a very long shot. But it’s the only one that may allow the survival of mankind in the generous lap of Mother Earth.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, CounterPunch, TeleSur, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

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Tony Blair should stand trial for war crimes over the invasion of Iraq, the frontrunner in the Labour leadership said last night.

Jeremy Corbyn claimed the 2003 conflict was an “illegal war” and argued that those responsible for it should face justice.

“We went into a war that was catastrophic, that was illegal, that cost us a lot of money, that lost a lot of lives, and the consequences are still played out with migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, refugees all over the region,” he said.

Asked if Mr Blair should be charged with war crimes, he added: “If he’s committed a war crime, yes. Everyone who’s committed a war crime should be.

“I think it was an illegal war, I’m confident about that, indeed [former UN secretary general] Kofi Annan confirmed it was an illegal war, and therefore he has to explain to that.

“Is he going to be tried for it, I don’t know. Could he be tried for it? Possibly.”

His remarks add to an ongoing feud between the veteran left winger and the former Prime Minister – who led Labour to three successive election victories.

(…)

Read the full article here

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Testifying Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry faced intensely hostile questioning as he defended a Syrian “cessation of hostilities” reached with Moscow that is supposed to go into effect this weekend.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California suggested that the agreement might be little more than a “rope-a-dope” deal, while the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, warned that Russia would “continue to kill the folks that are our friends and allies.”

Kerry responded by stressing that there was a “significant discussion taking place now about a Plan B,” presumably entailing a major escalation of the US military intervention in Syria and a potential armed confrontation with Russia, should the truce deal fail to further Washington’s aims.

The key sticking point in the US-Russian deal is precisely the status of those to whom Senator Corker referred as “the folks that are our friends and allies.” He, like the Obama administration, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the entire political and media establishment, carefully avoided any precise identification of these “folks.”

The dirty secret they are all doing their best to conceal is that Washington’s most important “friend” and “ally” in the war for regime change in Syria has been, since its inception nearly five years ago, Al Qaeda. It is this criminal relationship that is at the heart of the difficulties in brokering any kind of negotiated halt to the grinding sectarian war that has killed more than a quarter of a million Syrians and turned 11 million more into homeless refugees.

The cessation of hostilities that is supposed to take place on Saturday specifically excludes both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a split-off from Al Qaeda, and the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s designated Syrian franchise. The High Negotiations Committee, the Syrian “rebel” front cobbled together by the Saudi monarchy for the purpose of UN-sponsored negotiations, has rejected any ceasefire that fails to protect al-Nusra.

US intelligence analysts have warned that al-Nusra and the so-called “moderate” terrorists promoted by Washington are “intermingled.” Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s envoy to the “coalition” participating in the US-led war in Iraq and Syria, told a White House press briefing Tuesday that the supposed moderates and the Al Qaeda group “are marbled together.”

Behind such awkward formulations, the reality is that Al Qaeda and related groups have long constituted the principal proxy ground forces utilized by US imperialism and its allies in the brutal war to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad. They have served as a mercenary army, which has been massively funded and has received an avalanche of arms from the US and its principal regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. What is commonly referred to as the Syrian civil war is nothing less than a massive CIA regime-change operation.

This bloody intervention in Syria exposes as a fraud the entire “war on terror,” which has served as the linchpin for the conduct of war abroad and the buildup of state repression at home for nearly 15 years, under both the Bush and Obama administrations. The US is not involved in some existential struggle against terrorism in general and Al Qaeda in particular. Rather, it is employing Al Qaeda killers to do its dirty work in the struggle to establish US hegemony in the Middle East.

The latest incarnation of this supposed struggle, the campaign against ISIS, has, within the space of less than five months, been exposed as a phony war. Russia’s intervention, with far fewer military resources than can be brought to bear by the Pentagon, has reversed the tide of battle in Syria, cut off routes used by ISIS to receive arms and supplies, and destroyed its lucrative oil business with Turkey. Washington had failed to prosecute any such campaign because ISIS served as an instrument of US policy in the war to overthrow Assad and was therefore effectively protected.

A revealing report in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday quoted senior Obama administration officials who indicated increasing “discord” between the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department over the course of the Syrian regime-change operation. The CIA, the Journal reported, is “infuriated” because Russian airstrikes “have aggressively targeted relatively moderate rebels [i.e., the al-Nusra Front and its allies] it has backed with military supplies, including antitank missiles.”

The article suggests that there are differences within the US state apparatus over whether to supply these same “rebels” with Manpads, advanced portable antiaircraft weapons, that could bring down Russian jets, potentially triggering a wider war pitting the US against Russia. The CIA, at the same time, is warning that if action isn’t taken to defend the Islamist militias, Saudi Arabia or Turkey could “decide to break ranks with Washington and send large numbers of Manpads into northern Syria to shoot down Russian bombers.” In other words, the incredibly reckless policy pursued by Washington may yet unleash a conflict that could end in a nuclear exchange.

Al Qaeda and related groups constitute a kind of Frankenstein’s monster created and cultivated by Washington as an instrument of imperialist intervention and counterrevolution. As is well known, Al Qaeda itself was born as a creature of the CIA, together with Saudi and Pakistani intelligence, during the US-instigated war against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the 1980s. It served then, as it does now in Syria, as an agency for funneling money, arms and foreign Islamist fighters to prosecute Washington’s proxy wars.

Washington’s promotion of reactionary jihadist currents goes back much further—to the 1950s and the US attempts to utilize these forces as a means of combating Arab nationalism and the influence of socialism, which were both deemed mortal threats to the domination of the Middle East by the American oil corporations.

Ever since, the relations between the American intelligence agencies and Al Qaeda and similar jihadist outfits have remained intimate. This is what explains why, in virtually every terrorist incident, from 9/11 to the Boston Marathon bombing and beyond, the perpetrators were well known to US agencies and allowed to travel freely in and out of the country with no questions asked.

Today, US imperialism is more heavily invested than ever in these forces, and not only in the Middle East, where they have been employed to bring down the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and in the attempt to do the same to Assad in Syria.

Among the foreign fighters who poured into Syria, one of the largest contingents is made up of Chechens and other Islamists from Russia’s North Caucasus region. China has reported that significant numbers from its Uighur Muslim minority in the western Xinjiang region have gone there to join ISIS. These forces are being trained in the Syrian bloodbath in preparation for their utilization in far more dangerous imperialist operations aimed at subjugating and dismembering Russia and China.

Having organized, armed and funded such organizations, the US military and intelligence apparatus has no doubt made them various pledges of support, which are now being called into question by a Syrian truce deal that, in the final analysis, has been forced upon Washington by Russia’s intervention. This is what accounts for the explosive anger within both official US circles and the Al Qaeda-dominated Syrian rebel fronts over the deal reached by Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

There is an obvious danger that the Islamist outfits will devise their own “Plan B” involving retribution against their imperialist patrons for what they see as a betrayal. This is a familiar pattern, seen in the evolution of those around Osama bin Laden who were abandoned after the Soviets withdrew their troops from Afghanistan. The ultimate result was the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.

The criminal and reckless actions Washington is carrying out in Syria and elsewhere pose the imminent threat of spawning an even more deadly blowback operation by the “moderate” terrorists that the CIA has armed and supported.

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How the US Helps Al Qaeda in Yemen

February 26th, 2016 by Jonathan Marshall

The Obama administration, eager to assuage Saudi Arabia’s anger over the Iran nuclear deal and the failure to achieve “regime change” in Syria, has turned a blind eye to Riyadh’s savaging of Yemen, even though that is helping Al Qaeda militants expand their territory, writes Jonathan Marshall.

For nearly a year, the Obama administration has turned a blind eye to the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen since Saudi Arabia invaded in March 2015 to crush an Iranian-supported insurgency and restore a discredited former president to power. But Washington cannot so easily ignore the rapid resurgence of a dangerous branch of Al Qaeda that is thriving on the chaos to take control of much of southern Yemen.

The war between indigenous Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed supporters of former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has cost more than 6,000 lives and caused more than 35,000 casualties.

King Salman the President and First Lady to a reception room at Erga Palace during a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

King Salman the President and First Lady to a reception room at Erga Palace during a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In addition, a Saudi-imposed blockade on Yemen, supported by Washington, has allowed only a trickle of relief supplies to reach the country, putting millions of people at risk of starvation.What a United Nations report called “widespread and systematic” attacks against civilians by Saudi and Gulf emirate pilots, armed with U.S.-made aircraft andcluster bombs that are banned by international treaty, account for the bulk of civilian deaths and for the wholesale destruction of ancient cities and cultural centers.

In the midst of this Hobbesian nightmare, militant followers of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants are making a rapid comeback after being crippled in 2012.

Recently seizing numerous towns, including two provincial capitals, AQAP now dominates much of three provinces. And a new report suggests that AQAP insurgents are fighting alongside pro-Saudi forces in a savage battle for control of the large city of Taiz, northwest of the port of Aden.

As Jane’s Intelligence Weekly reported to its clients recently, “Exploiting a persistent security vacuum and the absence of effective state institutions, AQAP is in the process of asserting itself as the dominant actor across much of southern Yemen. The territory currently controlled by AQAP is larger than the area it held in 2011, when the group’s area of control reached its peak” during a popular rising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

A merger of Al Qaeda groups in Yemen and Saudi Arabia formed AQAP in January 2009. AQAP’s predecessors in Yemen had bombed the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 U.S. seamen. Its Saudi members killed nearly two dozen oil field workers during the infamous Khobar massacre in 2004.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally designated AQAP as a terrorist organization in December 2009 — 11 days before a supporter of the group tried to blow up a U.S. passenger jet headed for Detroit on Christmas Day, with a bomb sewn into his underwear.

The following year, CIA officials concluded that AQAP was the single most urgent threat to U.S. security, surpassing all other Al Qaeda branches, owing to its ongoing determination to hit American targets. The group has vowed to damage the U.S. economy and “bring down America” by mounting small-scale attacks to capitalize on the U.S. “security phobia.” It also took credit for the January 2015 terrorist attack on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which killed a dozen people.

Within Yemen, AQAP has also proved formidable. In May 2012, a single suicide bomber killed more than 120 people and wounded 200 during a military parade. A month later, it killed 73 civilians with newly planted land mines. An attack on the country’s defense ministry in December 2013 left at least 56 dead.

The movement was severely weakened by a Yemeni government offensive in 2012 and an intense campaign of drone strikes ordered by the White House. Among the controversial targets were several U.S. citizens, including the prominent imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who reportedly inspired not only the Christmas 2009 “underwear bomber” and Charlie Hebdo terrorists but the Fort Hood shooter and even the Boston Marathon bombers. (Two weeks later, another strike killed Awlaki’s son, also a U.S. citizen, though the U.S. government said he was not the target.) In April 2014, two days of “massive and unprecedented” air strikes in southern Yemen reportedlykilled dozens more militants — along with at least several civilians.

But taking advantage of the chaos caused by Saudi Arabia’s invasion in March 2015, AQAP mobilized quickly to strike back. That April it conquered the southern port town of Al Mukalla, which allowed jihadists to loot the central bank branch of more than $120 million, seize an oil terminal and major weapons depot, and free hundreds of inmates from the city’s prison. Through clever coalition building, AQAP members allied with local Sunni tribal leaders to provide security and essential services, winning support from residents.

Last December, AQAP seized the capital of Abyan province near the main port city of Aden. Soon its militants staged a blitzkrieg that seized five towns in a mere two weeks. In the process AQAP managed to link up its forces across much of southern Yemen from Lahij near the Red Sea east to Al Mukalla.

Like followers of Islamic State, AQAP jihadists are now pressing their attacks against government forces in Aden, where they recently killed a general who commanded regional operations.

“The group may well be reconstructing the quasi-state it ruled at the height of its power in 2011 and 2012,” commented Katherine Zimmerman of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. “AQAP is becoming an ever-more serious threat to American national security, and no one is doing much about it.”

Even allowing for the usual threat inflation from this prominent neoconservative sanctuary, the fact remains that AQAP is successfully exploiting the turmoil of civil war to make significant territorial gains. It has proven adept at governing and is often welcomed by a population that deeply resents the violence brought to Yemen by Houthi insurgents and their Saudi-backed enemies.

Meanwhile, U.S. air strikes against AQAP have accomplished little or nothing. As The Long War Journal observed recently, “Although AQAP has lost several key leaders in American drone strikes since early 2015, this has not slowed al Qaeda’s guerrilla war. . . . Not only has AQAP continued to gain ground, it also quickly introduced new leaders to serve as public faces for the organization.”

Events in Yemen are reaffirming a lesson that should have been learned in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria: Civil wars breed vicious killers who thrive on conflict and jump from battlefield to battlefield with the help of modern technology and zealous supporters. American intervention in those civil wars invariably blows back against us.

By contributing to Yemen’s failure as a state, Washington is creating fertile ground for the renewed growth of anti-American terrorism there. The White House may not care much about the overall havoc wreaked by the Yemen war — as evidenced by its extensive support for Saudi Arabia’s war crimes — but it should be under no illusion that Fox News and Republican members of Congress will go easy when the next terrorist attack by AQAP kills Americans at home or abroad.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).

Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]

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With only 148 Americans officially killed in action and only 467 wounded, the Gulf War seemed to be a shining victory for our military and its leaders. However, this victory has cast a long, lingering shadow. Today we know that nearly 200,000 of our Gulf service men and women are suffering from a debilitating and sometimes deadly syndrome. The suffering our military personnel have endured from Gulf War syndrome is outrageous in and of itself; however, the US government’s decades-long denial that the illness even exists has compounded the problem tremendously.

Clearly there is a sadistic irony being played out. We asked brave Americans, whether in the reserve, National Guard, or enlisted troops, to serve in dangerous environments, including Afghanistan and Iraq. We exposed them to biological and chemical agents, experimental vaccines, and environmental toxins – ranging from the byproducts of air pollutants released from burning oil wells to depleted uranium (DU). After they are brought home, not only do they not receive adequate medical treatment, but the government even denies the existence of their very serious health conditions. As a result, many veterans have filed bankruptcy. Their conditions are not covered under any veteran program. A 2015 US Department of Housing and Urban Development report estimates that nearly 48,000 veterans are currently homeless on any given night, which accounts for approximately 11% of the entire homeless American population.(1) Since it is difficult to determine the actual number of homeless veterans, this figure is likely conservative.

Due to the government’s serious neglect, too many veterans are now destitute, homeless, and hungry, having spent tens of thousands of dollars and depleting their life savings in an unsuccessful attempt to relieve their ailments. As former Senators Don Riegle Jr. (D-MI) and Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) so adeptly observed, “The veterans of the Gulf War have asked us for nothing more than the assistance they have earned. Our refusal to come to their immediate assistance can only lead others to question the integrity of the nation they serve.” (2)

In a recent interview, James Binns, who served as the chairman of the Research Advisory Committee tasked with investigating multi-symptom illnesses in 2008 , expressed his misgivings about the conspicuous lack of attention given to the issue by those in our halls of power:

We did it to ourselves. Pesticides, PB, nerve gas released by destroying Iraqi facilities—all are cases of friendly fire. That may explain why government and military leaders have been so reluctant to acknowledge what happened, just as they tried to cover up Agent Orange after Vietnam. Certainly, the government should have been facing the problem honestly and doing research from the start to identify diagnostic tests and treatments. (3)

Recently, Binns and his colleagues published a report in the journal Cortex showing compelling new research linking Gulf War syndrome with toxic wartime exposures. (4)

Denying Healthcare: A Culture of Corruption

In a 1994 interview I conducted with Paul Sullivan, one of the Gulf War vets profiled in Part 1 of this article, Sullivan shared with me the roadblocks he encountered trying to receive medical attention for his illness:

When you finally get into the VA system, what happens is, they’ll lose your records. I went to appointments, ended up waiting four, five additional hours for the doctor simply to find my medical records or the X-rays that they took two or three days earlier. When you do get an exam, the doctor will say, ‘I’ve got five minutes. Tell me your problem.’ Then they won’t record your symptoms. You hear stories about doctors where their stethoscopes were not even in their ears. You hear stories about soldiers going in there like me, with rashes and respiratory problems and the doctors not even writing it down. Then, even though we’re sick, they don’t do any tests. Lung function tests, sinus X-rays, chest X-rays – they weren’t doing any of that. Then for the few tests they did run, such as blood tests, in my case, they knew I had an immune deficiency – nobody ever looked at the results. …

Unfortunately for many veterans who get out of the service and don’t have any health insurance, the VA is our only option. And our only option has crashed and burned under the stress of so many hundreds of thousands of vets coming in and looking for help.(5)

Twenty-two years later, have things changed? Hardly. The appalling lack of quality and timely healthcare through the VA continues to be a major issue plagued by scandal and corruption.

In 2014, officials at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health System were exposed for concealing the fact that as many as 1,600 ailing vets endured months-long wait periods before being seen by doctors. It’s estimated that at least 40 US veterans died while waiting for appointments. Many were placed on “secret wait lists” designed to hide the unacceptably long wait periods. (6) Recently retired Phoenix VA physician Dr. Sam Foote commented on the lists saying, “The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules.” (7)

The issue of unreasonably long delays is not limited to the Phoenix VA system. In 2014, amidst growing pressure, Congress enacted the Veterans Choice Program, a $10 billion program to provide vets with access to healthcare services if they have been waiting over 30 days to receive VA medical care, or if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility. While Veterans Choice seemed to be a welcome improvement to the previous system, new revelations indicate that this latest program is shamefully ineffective, leaving untold thousands of veterans with little to no access to healthcare for months and even years. Sources indicate that this recent federal program, which doles out payments to cover veterans’ health costs at both VA and private facilities, has caused numerous problems, effectively preventing veterans’ access to healthcare. (8)

Courageous whistleblowers are calling attention to the downsizing and elimination of important departments, such as neurosurgery and orthopedics, by VA hospital administrators. (9) These actions have forced veterans into the Choice program in order to cut hospital costs while also allowing the hospitals to reap additional federal funding.(10) The result has been fewer health service options for veterans contending with serious illnesses and conditions. Across the country, reports document the continuation of long delays and bureaucratic barriers to receive healthcare.

In a 2015 CNN interview, one insider stated that even at the Phoenix VA, former service people wait more than 6 months to see a doctor. (11) At the Phoenix VA alone, over 8,000 requests for medical care were found to have wait times of more than 90 days. The ongoing travesty is perpetuated by the VA’s new and misleading system of measuring wait times, which, according to the insider, “enables an official line that’s not consistent with reality,” (12) VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson admitted last year that on any given day across the country, there are 500,000 appointments with extended wait times. (13)

Many employees appear hesitant to speak out against the VA’s ineffective and corrupt policies from fear of repercussions. According to Carolyn Lerner of the US Office of Special Counsel, a body charged with investigating and prosecuting ethics violations and whistleblower retaliation, an incredible 40% of the cases reviewed concern the VA.(14) Dr. Katherine Mitchell, a VA physician and whistleblower who testified before Congress about the secret wait list scandal and culture of retaliation inside the VA, believes the number of whistleblowers coming forward would rise significantly if employees felt comfortable voicing their opposition. Dr. Mitchell stated,

I believe that percentage will go up significantly. The amount of retaliation that’s going on in every facility throughout the nation for decades, if the employees are encouraged that they can come forward honestly, I believe that the VA will be 90 percent of their cases. (15)

New reports show that some VA officials responsible for these catastrophic failures have not only managed to avoid accountability, but are receiving bonuses. Last year the VA paid out $143 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses to VA physicians and administrators. A number of these recipients were embroiled in controversies.(16) Dr. David Houlihan, former chief of staff at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, who stands accused of prescribing excessive amounts of narcotics to ailing vets, was given a $4,000 performance bonus in 2014.(17) Another VA chief of staff from St. Cloud Minnesota, Dr. Susan Markstrom, was awarded a $3,900 bonus even though an internal investigation report from January 2014 pointed to her role in mismanaging hospital operations and enforcing a culture of intimidation at the facilities, which discouraged employees from speaking out against the hospital management. (18) Also among the recipients of the performance bonus was VA benefits office director Kimberly Graves, who came under fire in a September 2015 VA Inspector General report for allegedly abusing her authority to change job positions, and in the process, collected $129,000 in compensation. (19)

Vaccines and Pyridostigmine Bromide : A Question of Ethics

In Part 1, we reviewed the science behind the dangerous vaccines given to military personnel during the Middle East campaigns. It is necessary to take a deeper look at the corrupt machinations of the military-industrial complex that allowed these harmful vaccines to be administered in the first place. These vaccines were experimental; therefore, many questions have arisen as to why our government dispensed them – and why our military men and women had to suffer from them. What are the ethical ramifications of giving experimental drugs to soldiers in time of war? Dr. Arthur L. Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, stated the following at the hearing titled “Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans’ Health?” led by the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Caplan asserted:

Some would argue that the entire category of ethically suspect research makes no sense in the context of war. Hot or cold, when the threat to the nation’s security is immediate, real, and serious, then the prevailing rules of human experimentation requiring the informed consent of subjects and prior review by research review committees must, of necessity, go out the window. The niceties of ethics regarding how to conduct human experimentation are for times of peace, not for the exigencies imposed by the threat or reality of war. But this argument is wrong.

The prevailing standards for human experimentation were set down during the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War. In the aftermath of the trials, a code of research ethics was established and has now been incorporated into both professional ethics and law by many governments and political bodies since that war. The Nuremberg Code makes no exception for research conducted in the context of war. The enormously important goal of protecting the nation’s security is not held to be a value that is so overriding as to obliterate individual subjects’ rights. The code states clearly and unambiguously that everyone involved in research is to be so informed and that they are to have the right to give or withhold their consent to that research.(20)

For our soldiers, however, none of those conditions were met. The Department of Defense (DOD) had the FDA grant waivers from informed-consent regulations for the use of pyridostigmine and botulinum-toxoid vaccine. Consequently, many Gulf veterans were not told what vaccine they were being given nor the adverse risks. The aforementioned government-appointed researchers, Dr. Diana Zuckerman and Dr. Patricia Olson reported that:

…many [veterans] report that they were told not to tell medical personnel that they had received a vaccination, even if the vaccination caused pain or swelling. No record of the vaccine was available in medical records. As a result, physicians who were concerned about any local or, systemic reactions often had no information about the possible causes of those symptoms. Veterans who claim they were harmed by the vaccines or pyridostigmine frequently have no proof that they were vaccinated or took the pills, or that they had an adverse reaction. (21)

One Gulf veteran who knows this situation firsthand is the Reverend Dr. Barry Walker, who served as a chaplain in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait. In his testimony to a Senate committee hearing, he confirmed the veil of mystery that the DOD drew over the medication and vaccines to which they were subjected:

On January 16, 1991 I received the first of two shots of a vaccine, but we were not told exactly what it was. We were later told that the purpose of the vaccine was to protect us; rumor was that it was for protection against anthrax. Also in January, after the first Scud was launched, we were ordered to start taking some pills, although we were not told exactly what they were, either. All we were told was that the pills would protect us against chemical and biological weapons. We were told to take the pills and not given a choice, though some soldiers did not take them. I was expected to be an example to others, so I took them at first. I later learned that these pills were pyridostigmine.

To my knowledge, none of the 4,700 troops [in my ministry], except maybe the command headquarters, was given any real information about the risks of these drugs or vaccines. We were not shown anything in writing or told anything other than that these would protect us. My chemical officer was asked to find out more about the pills, and she shared some of that information with the group commander and a few staff officers. She said there were no problems with the pills.

The fact that we were given the vaccine or drugs was not recorded in our medical records, although I insisted that the vaccine be recorded in my personal record. Many soldiers did not carry a vaccine record, and most wouldn’t have thought to ask that it be recorded. I don’t recall any list being made of who was given the vaccine.(22)

Today, the controversy around vaccination of our service people has only increased. In November 2015, the United States Senate passed the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act; if passed by the House, the legislation would require all members of our armed forces to submit to the recommended adult vaccine schedule, which amounts to about 90 injections. It is thought that those who refuse to follow the mandate will be at risk of losing their health coverage. (23) It seems that the US military hasn’t done enough experimentation on our troops using unproven vaccines.

We now turn our attention to the use of pyridostigmine bromide, a medication that had only been approved by the FDA to treat patients with the neurological disorder myasthenia gravis, which affects the biomolecular communication between nerves and muscles. The government wanted to use pyridostigmine to protect US troops against certain chemical weapons, but it had not been proved safe or effective for repeated use (and it was distributed repeatedly to the troops). Despite the DOD’s claims for pyridostigmine’s safety, the FDA could not establish the drug’s safety and efficacy based upon the research the DOD provided. To the contrary, Zuckerman and Olson stated:

Pyridostigmine bromide is a chemical which is believed to enhance the effectiveness of established drugs for the treatment of nerve-agent poisoning. Pyridostigmine is also a nerve agent itself. … In recent studies, animals given pyridostigmine followed by two antidotes (atropine and 2-PAM) were more likely to survive exposure to a nerve agent called soman. However, pyridostigmine pretreatment may make individuals more vulnerable to other nerve agents, such as sarin. The DOD scientists concluded that pyridostigmine should only be used when the chemical-warfare threat is soman. Iraq was believed to have both soman and sarin, and the only verified report of chemical weapons in the Gulf War concluded that sarin was present.(24)

They further asserted that the DOD’s use of pyridostigmine was ineffective:

In addition, DOD documents indicate that the treatment regimen for U.S. troops during the Persian Gulf War may have included an inadequate dose of atropine. Therefore, even if Persian Gulf soldiers had been exposed to soman, it is questionable if the pyridostigmine pretreatment would have provided any protection, since the dose of atropine was apparently inadequate.

Due to the DOD’s concerns about serious adverse reactions, all of the studies screened male subjects to determine whether they were hypersensitive to pyridostigmine before allowing them to participate in the experiment. In addition, individuals with multiple medical conditions, taking prescription medications, and persons who smoked were excluded from the studies. Participants were told not to drink any alcoholic beverages. Despite these precautions, serious adverse reactions were reported during several of the studies, including respiratory arrest, abnormal liver results, unusual electrocardiograms, gastrointestinal disturbances, memory loss, and anemia.

None of the Persian Gulf War troops were adequately warned about the risks associated with the drug, and few if any were given a choice of whether or not to take it.(25)

Nurse Carol Picou, who served in the Gulf, experienced this firsthand:

This has been used since 1955 on patients with Myasthenia Gravis. This drug has never been tested on healthy human beings. Yet I have a report where they show they did do testing on 10 soldiers – men. Two couldn’t even finish the program. Two got severely sick. Even when you give it to Myasthenia Gravis patients you monitor for levels of toxicity. You give it to them according to their height, weight, bone structures. Yet they gave us pyridostigmine – everybody the same pack – 30 mg pills. Take them three times a day. And when people had problems with them they didn’t take us off. Right away, I looked it up. In 1955, if you have problems with this drug, they should take you off of it, and the antidote is atropine. Well, we received atropine during the war. We didn’t know why we had to carry atropine and Valium. Well, it’s because of the fact of the chemical warfare threat, and the fact that if something would happen to us from the pyridostigmine, that would be our antidote.(26)

Picou has experienced serious health problems, not the least of which is head-to-toe neurological damage, since her Gulf service.

Although there were sufficient concerns about pyridostigmine’s adverse effects, Dr. James Fox, a scientist with the US Department of Agriculture, conducted pyridostigmine research on cockroaches and made some startling discoveries. His findings have significant implications for Gulf War veterans. Fox discovered that pyridostigmine, when used in combination with the common pesticide DEET, rendered a powerful pesticide punch: DEET became 10 times more toxic. DEET and many other pesticides were used extensively throughout the Gulf War. Consequently, veterans who took pyridostigmine pills became more vulnerable to the pesticides surrounding them, giving a very plausible explanation for the serious neurological symptoms experienced by so many Gulf War vets.(27)

The Depleted Uranium Deception

There have been several army reports on the dangers of depleted uranium, which have been released by the Depleted Uranium Citizens’ Network. In November 1996, Sara Flounders, coordinator of the International Action Center, a network of organizations and activists initiated by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, pointed out that an Army Environmental Policy Institute report discusses the negative health and environmental consequences of DU use in the Army. According to the report, the financial implications of long-term disability payments and other health-care costs would be excessive if DU were indicted as a causative agent for Desert Storm illnesses. Flounders believes this may be why DU had not been discussed as a possible cause of Gulf War syndrome.(28)

Since the first Gulf War, DU has been used in the Balkans and Kosovo, and, more recently in the the United States’ Middle East invasions. It has been suspected as the culprit in lung and kidney illnesses because it is soluble in water and can be ingested as a fine dust through inhalation. Soldiers in Kosovo have complained of an illness that causes extreme lethargy. Since federal officials have not recognized an official illness caused by DU exposure, the government concludes that DU radiation in the areas that were bombed does not exceed background radiation. Despite suspicions for a relationship between DU and debilitating disease, until 2001 no extensive health research had been completed to determine the long-term effects from repeated DU exposure.(29)

Dr. Doug Rokke, a retired major who served as the director of the US Army Depleted Uranium Project in the mid-90s, and a specialist in uranium clean-up efforts, has been an advisor for DU science and health to the Centers for Disease Control, US Institute of Medicine, Congress, and the DOD. Rokke has been at the forefront in efforts to alert health and military officials about DU’s enormous health risks. After Operation Desert Storm, he was the officer in charge of cleaning up the mess and assessing environmental risks due to the invasion. During the course of his mission, Rokke said he received an order, the Los Alamos Memorandum, “which was a direct order to lie in all the reports about the health and environmental effects from uranium munitions in order to sustain their use and avoid all liability.” Throughout his months in Saudi Arabia in cleanup efforts, Rokke and his team received “numerous orders to provide medical care and numerous orders to ignore them and numerous orders to lie, cheat, steal and do whatever you have to do.”(30)

Rokke is now convinced that the DOD’s own reports stating that almost 20% of active-duty personnel in the current military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq are non-deployable because of severe illness, are the direct result from prolonged exposure to the toxic swamp that has become the Middle East. He has also observed that with respect to the causes of death among OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) and OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) personnel for medical reasons, there is a surprising proportionality with the medical causes of death among veterans from the first Gulf War. What GIs from both campaigns share is their high exposure to chemical toxicity, multiple toxic vaccines, and in particular DU.(31)

***

Though the Gulf War concluded 25 years ago this month, the devastating toll it has taken on the lives and health of thousands of Americans is still felt today. The systemic deception, denial and corruption on the part of the US government has contributed immensely to the ongoing hardships faced by America’s bravest. A critical reexamination of how we care for those serving in the armed forces is long overdue. It’s time for us to demand an end to the unjust policies and politics that have kept our service men and women suffering and dying in silence and begin to institute comprehensive reform that places the health and wellbeing of our soldiers first.

 Notes

  1. 2015 AHAR: Part 1 – PIT Estimates of Homelessness in the U.S. HUD Exchange https://www.hudexchange.info/resource/4832/2015-ahar-part-1-pit-estimates-of-homelessness/
  2. Riegle DW, D’Amato AM. U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual Use Exports to Iraq and their Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the Gulf War. US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. May 25, 1994. Available at:http://www.gulfweb.org/bigdoc/report/riegle1.html.
  3. http://www.bu.edu/sph/2016/01/25/toxic-exposures-caused-illness-in-gulf-war-veterans/
  4. Ibid
  5. Null GM. The Gulf War syndrome: causes and the cover-up. Penthouse. September 1994. Reprinted with permission of the author
  6. Bronstein, S., & Griffiin, D. (2014, April 23). A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital’s secret list. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/health/veterans-dying-health-care-delays/
  7. Ibid
  8. Greenblat, Mark. Monk, Daniel and Kessler, Aaron. “Exclusive: Whistleblowers say Veterans Choice used to slash budget deficit and care”http://www.abc2news.com/longform/exclusive-whistleblowers-say-veterans-choice-used-to-slash-budget-deficit-and-care_
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. Griffin, Drew et al. “Veterans Still Facing Major Medical Delays at VA Hospitals.” CNN. Cable News Network, 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
  12. Ibid
  13. Ibid
  14. Shastry, Anjali. “VA Whistleblower Disappointed, Would Tell Other Doctors to Stay Away.” Washington Times. The Washington Times, 30 July 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
  15. Ibid
  16. Brennan, Margaret. “Employee Bonuses in Question at Embattled VA.” CBS News. N.p., 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
  17. Ibid
  18. Slack, Donovan, and Bill Theobald. “Veterans Affairs Pays $142 Million in Bonuses amid Scandals.” USA Today. Gannett, 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
  19. Ibid
  20. Null GM. The Gulf War syndrome: causes and the cover-up. Penthouse. September 1994.
  21. Ibid
  22. Ibid
  23. Phelan, J. (2015, November 15). US Senate Passes Bill Approving Mandatory Vaccinations for Veterans. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://www.naturalblaze.com/2015/11/us-senate-passes-bill-approving-mandatory-vaccinations-for-veterans.html
  24. Null GM. The Gulf War syndrome: causes and the cover-up. Penthouse. September 1994.
  25. Ibid
  26. Null G. Interview with Carol Picou. Aug. 8, 1997.
  27. Null G. Interview with James Fox. Sept. 4, 1999.
  28. Null G. Interview with Sara Flounders. Nov. 1996.
  29. Depleted uranium and its deadly legacy. January 15, 2001; January 2006.
  30. Interview with Dr. Doug Rokke: a special investigation on Gulf War syndrome. Gary Null Show. Progressive Radio Network. April 15, 2010.
  31. Ibid
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The international community, speaking through the United Nations, has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights – colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation… Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem contains elements of all three of these regimes”. – John Dugard, UN’s former Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

This week, the Canadian Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of a motion condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The motion, passed on February 22 by a 229-51 vote, states:

“That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

First, there is no such thing as “friendship” between states. States have no friends, they have interests and nothing else.

Second, the BDS movement does not promote “the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel,” as the motion puts it, in a very unfactual and questionable manner. The BDS movement promotes international law and Palestinian rights and condemns Israel’s total lack of respect for both.

Despite its emotional and propagandist wording, the motion completely fails to hide the fact that it condemns criticism of human rights violations by Israel. This calls for some explanations.

By condemning a peaceful movement that tries to bring Israel to account, Canada expresses its total disregard for human rights and international law and its sheer hypocrisy when faced with human rights violations.

There are currently 22 states targeted by Canadian sanctions, several of them for human rights violations. And Israel, being Canada’s “friend”, is not one of them, even if the sanctioned countries’ misdeeds pale in comparison to the death and destruction Israel has imposed on Palestinians for decades.

While not one sanction has been imposed on Israel for its war crimes and crimes against humanity, some countries have been sanctioned by Canada simply for “misappropriating state funds.”

There are no words to describe the scale of this hypocrisy, but, we don’t need any since the facts speak for themselves. Before looking at the list of sanctioned countries and the reasons behind their sanctions, it is worth mentioning only a few facts about Israel.

As mentioned in the quote above, Israel’s policies and practices violate the most fundamental human rights of the Palestinians. The Hebrew state has been the subject of at least 77 UN resolutions since 1955, and has been criticized in at least 26 resolutions for its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

In July 2015, a report by Amnesty International found “compelling evidence of serious violations of international humanitarian law by Israeli forces” as well as “strong evidence of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity” during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.” Evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity were also found during Operation Cast Lead in 2008.

Of course, most reports from the U.N. as well as the ones from human rights organizations mentioned below pretend to be “balanced” by equally blaming both sides, the Israeli army as well as Palestinian militias. If opinions can be “balanced”, facts, however, cannot, and the scale of death and destruction doesn’t lie. Most, if not all the damage and loss of life occurs on the Palestinian side. Every single time.

These few facts about Operations Cast Lead in 2008 and Protective Edge in 2014 prove it:

Cast Lead:

“[B]etween 1,385 and 1,419 Palestinians were killed during Cast Lead, a majority of them civilians, including at least 308 minors under the age of 18. More than 5000 more were wounded. Thirteen Israelis were also killed, including 3 civilians.

According to the UN, 3,540 housing units were completely destroyed, with another 2,870 sustaining severe damage.

More than 20,000 people – many of them already refugees, some two or three times over – were made homeless.”

Protective Edge:

“At least 2,100 Palestinians were killed, of whom the United Nations identified more than 1,500 as civilians, and approximately 11,000 people, mostly civilians, were injured. The tens of thousands of Israeli attacks caused the vast majority of destruction during the fighting, which left uninhabitable 22,000 homes, displacing 108,000 people, and left hundreds of thousands without adequate water or electricity.

Attacks by Palestinian civilians injured 61 Israeli settlers in the West Bank as of October 31, the UN reported. In addition to the three Israeli teenagers who were killed in June, nine Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians.”

How many dead Israeli civilians compared to Palestinian civilians? How many housing units destroyed in Israel? How many homeless Israelis? Let’s be honest. A truly balanced report would reflect the facts and not try to equally blame both sides. The forces in this conflict as well as the damage done are anything but equal. They are completely disproportionate.

That being said, Israel’s contempt for international law is legend and with this motion, Canadian Parliamentarians have just proven one more time they are bought and sold.

It is now worth taking a look at the countries against which Canada has placed sanctions and why, since all of them, without exception, pale in comparison to Israel’s bloody record.

The list clearly shows how Canada has no credibility whatsoever when it comes to condemning states for their lack of respect for human rights or people who protest against criminal states, for that matter.

Here is the list of the countries sanctioned for human rights reasons. It should be noted that several, if not all, background explanations provided on the Canadian Government web site (in brackets) are totally biased and simplistic, when not pure propaganda.

Belarus: “[D]eteriorating human rights situation.”

This includes “widespread harassment and detention of opposition party campaign workers, the physical assault of senior opposition figures, arbitrary use of state powers to support the incumbent president, pressure on state workers and students to support the President, restrictions on the ability of opposition campaigns to communicate with the electorate, and control of the state media to severely restrict access by opposition candidates.”

What happens it the Occupied Territories is much worse, yet no sanctions against Israel.

Burma: “[G]ravity of the human rights and humanitarian situation…, which threatened peace and security in the entire region.”

Libya: “[V]iolence and the use of force against civilians.”

Day-to-day in the Occupied Territories.

Russia: “Activists were beaten, kidnapped and tortured [in Ukraine]. The Russian government encouraged, and supported, these measures.”

Meanwhile, more and more “Palestinian children [are] beaten and tortured by Israeli security forces while in detention.” Read also Israeli NGO B’Tselem’s report Backed by the System: Abuse and Torture at the Shikma Interrogation Facility.

Sudan: “[H]umanitarian crisis and widespread human rights violations resulting from the conflict in Darfur region”

Syria: “The Syrian Government’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters led to many civilian deaths and injuries. Thousands of civilians were detained arbitrarily and there were credible reports of summary executions and torture.”

Israel arbitrarily detains Palestinians on a regular basis, including children, and summary executions and torture and common.

According to B’Tselem: At the end of Dec. 2015, 422 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, including 6 administrative detainees.”

According to Human Rights Watch:

Israeli security forces continued to arrest children suspected of criminal offenses, usually stone-throwing, in their homes at night, at gunpoint; question them without a family member or lawyer present; and coerce them to sign confessions in Hebrew, which they do not understand… As of October 31, Israel held 457 Palestinian administrative detainees without charge or trial, based on secret evidence. Israeli prison authorities shackled hospitalized Palestinians to their hospital beds after they went on long-term hunger strikes to protest their administrative detention.”

Last year, Amnesty International has condemned “what it called a ‘clear pattern’ of… summary killings… as the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this month [October 2015] rose to at least 61. )

Ukraine: “Activists were beaten, kidnapped and tortured.”

Zimbabwe: “marked escalation in human rights violations and violence directed at the political opposition, a stolen election, the denial of a peaceful democratic transition and a worsening humanitarian situation.”

Other reasons for which Canada has sanctioned countries include:

– “political crisis and conflict” (Yemen, Somalia);

– “violations of ceasefire and hostilities” (Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo);

– “misappropriated state funds” (Egypt, Tunisia);

– “heavy loss of human life and widespread material damage resulting from a conflict” (Eritrea, Somalia);

– “nuclear program” (Sanctions on Iran, which has a nonexistent nuclear program, but none on Israel, which is known to possess between 200 and 400 nuclear warheads.)

– “invasion” (Sanctions on Iraq for the invasion of Kuwait… but no sanctions for the U.S. which has illegally invaded Iraq, among other countries, and of course, no sanctions on Israel for decades of occupation);

– “continued escalation of hostilities” (Lebanon)

– “support for the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone” (Liberia)

– “violation of the constitution and international law” (Ukraine).

– “conducting a test of a nuclear weapon” (North Korea)

– “acts of violence and the increase in acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea against vessels” (Somalia)

– “engaging in violent conflict, much of it along ethnic lines” (South Sudan)

As you probably noticed, none of these countries has been accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Canada imposes sanctions on countries for misappropriated state funds, but regards war criminal state Israel as a “friend” which deserves that it condemns its own citizens for protesting against its supreme crime.

Parliamentarians need to explain this nonsense.

As a member of the United Nations, Canada should, as stated in the U.N. Preamble, “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and… establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.”

By voting in favour of this motion, Canadian Parliamentarians have failed to honor their obligations. Miserably.

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Detroit City has been a center for the struggle against slavery and national oppression for a century-and-a-half

Historical developments in Detroit during early 1863 represented the social elements which have characterized race and power relationships in the United States since the Civil War.

During the course of the first two years of the War Between the States the southern Confederacy proved to be a formidable adversary of Washington. Many whites of all social classes rejected the notion of going to war to protect the Union particularly if the end result would be the emancipation of four million enslaved Africans.

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862 challenging the slaveholding secessionist states to end involuntary servitude by January 1, 1863. Two border states which did not secede, Missouri and Kentucky, were exempted along with Tennessee which was the last state to join the Confederacy and the first to return to the Union. Several other regions within some rebel states were also exempted as the political grip of the Confederacy had waned.

This executive order only served to enrage the Confederate planters even more along with prompting widespread opposition among Northern Democrats. The Democrats were the party of slavery and they controlled numerous newspapers in the North that maintained vociferous editorial positions against the Lincoln administration and the war. These Democrats who vehemently opposed the war to preserve the Union were called “copperheads” by Republicans supporting the war along with the Abolitionists.

On March 3, 1863, the U.S. Congress passed the Enrollment Act (Civil War Military Draft Act) mandating the conscription of men aged 20-45, both citizens and non-citizens seeking naturalization, into the military. Exemptions from the draft could be purchased for $300 and therefore the law targeted poor and working class whites who could not afford to buy their way out of serving in the Union military.

This new law resulted in the escalation of racial tensions against the African populations in the North. The Democratic Party press in New York City and other areas published articles and editorials designed to fuel hatred against African people.

These papers used the most derogatory slurs against African people as their standard editorial practice. They emphatically opposed the Conscription Act and encouraged defiance of the law.

New York historian Alan Singer wrote of the period that “In the months leading up to the July 1863 Draft Riots, John Mullaly, editor of the Roman Catholic Church’s newspaper, Metropolitan Record, called for armed resistance. At a Union Square rally May 19, 1863, Mullaly declared ‘the war to be wicked, cruel and unnecessary, and carried on solely to benefit the [n]egroes, and advised resistance to conscription if ever the attempt should be made to enforce the law.’ Following the July Draft riots, Mullaly was indicted for ‘inciting resistance to the draft.’” (historynewsnetwork.org)

The New York Draft Riots of 1863 pitted Irish immigrants against Africans residing in the city resulting in the reported deaths of over 1,000 people, mainly Blacks. Homes, businesses and orphanages were burned to the ground while local police and military forces in many cases sided with the racists.

This same author continues noting “The 1864 Presidential election provided the Copperhead press an opportunity to express open, casual, and nasty racism. A key figure was journalist David Goodman Croly, who at one time or another worked for the New York Evening Post, the Herald, and the World. Croly helped to anonymously produce one of the more avowedly racist attacks on Republicans and African Americans produced during the Civil War, a 72-page pamphlet titled ‘Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the White Man and the Negro.’ The pamphlet charged that the Civil War was a war of ‘amalgamation’ with the goal of ‘blending of the white and black,’ starting with the intermixing of Negroes and Irish.”

Race Terror Strikes Detroit in March 1863

Four months prior to the New York Draft Riot on March 6, the African community in Detroit was attacked leaving at least two people dead and many others injured. The false charge of rape of a white girl was utilized to reign down violence on innocent residents of the city.

A tavern owner named William Faulkner was charged with sexual assault against two young girls, one white and the other Black on February 26. Faulkner’s arrest, trial and conviction was used a pretext to attack the African community where businesses and homes were ransacked and burned along with the beating, torture and outright murder of others.

Some accounts of the incident say that Faulkner had denied being of African descent that he was of Spanish and Native American descent. Others, including the Detroit Free Press, a Democratic publication and the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune, labelled him as Black, even if he only had a slightly distinct trace of African ancestry.

Racial tensions escalated in Detroit on the first day of the trial on March 5 when Faulkner was taken from City Hall to the jailhouse during which time he and his guards were attacked and hit with projectiles. After Faulkner was convicted on the second day, the Detroit Provost Guard mobilized to ostensibly protect the defendant while he was being moved back to the jail. The Guard fired shots in the air attempting to disperse the mobs but it did not work. Other shots were fired one of which struck a German man Charles Langer in the heart killing him.

The first building attacked belonged to a Black coppersmith and home owner, Whitney Reynolds, who was not at the location at the time. Nonetheless, the five people working in the shop were set upon by the white mob. Gunfire from inside the shop temporarily drove back the mob however soon enough the building was engulfed in flames forcing the inhabitants to flee. One man Joshua Boyd was struck in the head with an axe and died, becoming the second documented death of the day.

Crowds moved along Lafayette and Fort streets screaming “kill all the Niggers” while people attempted to defend their lives and property. Many of the copper shops owned by Africans were targeted with an obvious economic motive. Homes were torched with people in them while children, women and men were attacked without any pretense other than the color of their skin.

A document published anonymously in the aftermath of the terror campaign entitled “A THRILLING NARRATIVE FROM THE LIPS OF THE SUFFERERS OF THE LATE DETROIT RIOT,

MARCH 6, 1863, WITH THE HAIR BREADTH ESCAPES OF MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN,

AND DESTRUCTION OF COLORED MEN’S PROPERTY, NOT LESS THAN $15,000” provides first-hand accounts of the mob violence and the heroism of the African community. The text includes statements from various men and women who provide details on how the so-called riot began and proceeded within the city.

The U.S. military forces based at Fort Wayne and Ypsilanti were called in to put down the reign of terror. Order was said to have been restored by late that evening while the impact of the orgy of violence lasted for years to come.

Many Africans fled to Canada and areas in Michigan outside of Detroit. The Detroit Advertiser and Tribune labelled the incident as a “Free Press Riot”, attacking the newspaper for its pro-slavery position despite its editorial claim of supporting the Union against the succession by the Confederate states.

Faulkner spent seven years in prison at Jackson while the young white girl recanted her statements alleging sexual assault. This case was indicative of a racist judicial system that targeted Africans as a mechanism of social control and economic exploitation.

Historical Significance of the 1863 Race Terror

This important period in Detroit’s past helped set the stage for the Post Civil War racial and political construct. The utilization of sexual paranoia, economic exploitation and competition, a biased legal system, mob violence and forced removals characterized the treatment of African Americans through the latter decades of the 19th century and through most of the 20th century in the South, West and the North.

With the escalation in mass migration of African Americans into Detroit during World War I continuing through the 1960s, the city has been a boiling pot of racial unrest fueled by institutional discrimination and super-exploitation. The 1943 “Race Riot” and the 1967 Rebellion were also unprecedented episodes of conflict and state repression.

Today Detroit is facing a renewed round of political and economic policies designed to suppress the now majority African American population. If the history of the city since 1833 is any indication, the oppressed will continue their struggle for full equality and self-determination.

This report was delivered on February 24, 2016 at the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Midtown Detroit.

The panel discussion entitled “Detroit: Attacked and Fighting Back” was sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life & History (ASALH), Detroit chapter. Also making contributions to the discussion was Sharon Sexton, a documentary filmmaker and historian; Dale Rich, photojournalists and historian; Orlin Jones, author and President of the Conant Gardens Homeowners Association in Detroit; and Nubia Polk of ASALH who served as moderator. 

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More U.S. Troops Killed by Halliburton than by Iraqis

February 26th, 2016 by David Swanson

The U.S. government, from Dick Cheney to Hillary Clinton, told blatant lies about the Iraqi government creating chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in 2002, despite having been informed of the fact that Iraq was doing no such thing. U.S. leaders lied about ties between Iraq and terrorists that they also knew did not exist.

Then the U.S. military attacked and invaded Iraq, in the process heavily bombing old sites of Iraqi chemical weapons from the 1980s, many of those weapons having been provided by the United States. In large part because of the U.S. origin of the old Iraqi chemical weapons, the U.S. kept quiet about them during the new war. Another reason for the official silence was that, during the 2003 U.S. destruction of Iraq, many of those old weapons were seized by fledgling terrorist groups. The war had done exactly what it had been justified as being needed to prevent; it had given WMDs to terrorists.

The geniuses running the U.S. military set up U.S. bases at the sites of old chemical weapons piles, dug giant burn pits into the ground, and began burning the military’s trash — monumental quantities of trash, something like The Story of Stuff on steroids. They burned hundreds of tons of trash every day, including everything you can think of: oil, rubber, tires, treated wood, medicines, pesticides, asbestos, plastic, explosives, paint, human body parts, and . . . (wait for it) . . . nuclear, biological, and chemical decontamination materials.

The burn pits poisoned Iraq, together with depleted uranium weapons, napalm, white phosphorous, and various other horrors, creating unprecedented epidemics of birth defects, and killing untold masses of Iraqis. The burn pits also poisoned tens of thousands of U.S. troops, many of whom have died as a result, including very likely the son of the current U.S. vice president. The burn pits profited Halliburton, the company of the previous U.S. vice president.

The burn pits were no secret, although bases sometimes stopped the burning during VIP tours. Typically, huge clouds of smoke filled the air and created immediate breathing difficulties and sicknesses. Soldiers knew which colors of smoke were most dangerous and discussed it as they discussed an enemy. Numerous burn pits turned hundreds of previously healthy U.S. troops into invalids. But the burn pits at six particular bases caused the most severe illnesses and the most deaths. They caused, among other things, numerous cases of constrictive bronchiolitis, which could only have resulted from exposure to mustard gas — a chemical weapon left over from a program the United States had supported when it existed and used as an excuse for war when it didn’t.

I’m reminded of a ship that sits at the bottom of the Mediterranean. In 1943, German bombs sank a U.S. ship at Bari, Italy, that was secretly carrying a million pounds of mustard gas. Many of the U.S. sailors died from the poison, which the United States dishonestly claimed to have been using as a “deterrent,” despite keeping it secret. The ship is expected to continue leaking the gas into the sea for centuries. The earth and water of Iraq have been similarly poisoned, as have U.S. soldiers.

The Pentagon made crystal clear in Iraq, as most everywhere else, that it cares not a damn for the people or the natural environment of the places it attacks, and that it cares even less for the troops it uses to do so. But if you imagine that the Pentagon has reserved its concern for the civilian inhabitants of the Fatherland, don’t look too closely into the open-air burns still happening in the United States. The U.S. military is the third-largest polluter of U.S. waterways, top producer of superfund disaster sites, and top consumer of petroleum. At least 33,480 U.S. nuclear weapons workers who have received compensation for health damage are now dead. Where it is blocked by legal regulations effectively enforced, the military shows restraint; where it isn’t, it doesn’t. In Virginia, the military very responsibly throws dead soldiers into a landfillrather then burning them. Either method communicates equally well just how much the military cares.

Halliburton, for its part, is as happy to deal death at home as abroad. Residents of Duncan, Oklahoma, have sued Cheney’s cash machine for poisoning the ground water with  ammonium perchlorate. Government investigators also concluded that Halliburton was, in part, to blame for the BP oil spill that flooded into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Joseph Hickman’s new book, The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers, collects the evidence, including from similar incidents during the first Gulf War that were known before the first 2003 burn pit was dug and lit. Hickman gives us stories of young healthy men who headed off to Iraq believing the lies, believing that the U.S. government that is now begging Russia to stop attacking terrorists because the U.S. wants to overthrow yet another government — believing that this U.S. government had good intentions in attacking Iraq. These poor souls went to Iraq hoping to protect people from horrible suffering, and ended up inflicting horrible suffering on people including themselves. They come home, develop cancer, get stonewalled by the VA, and die dreaming of what it might have been to have health and the wealth needed to attend college. Their American Dream was cut short by the militarized American Fantasy.

Joe Biden supported a war that very likely killed his son by means of burn pits. He then chose not to run for president because of his grief. His decision not to run received more media coverage than several months of the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders who had voted against the war. But did Biden lift a finger to hold Halliburton or the military or the Congress accountable? Not that I’ve heard.

Hickman describes the burn pits, and analogous poisons from past wars like Agent Orange in Vietnam, as “recklessly endangering the health of our fighting men and women.” The only trouble with this is the fact that all war, all “fighting,” consists of recklessly endangering the lives of the vast bulk of the victims (the Vietnamese, Iraqis, etc.) and of the U.S. troops. There’s nothing non-reckless about any war. Perhaps distant drone pilots are not endangered in the typical way, but then look at how they’re mocked within the Air Force. If troops weren’t endangered, people wouldn’t treat them with reverence and describe them — as Hickman does — as somehow “serving” their country, even while the facts he includes in his book speak otherwise.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held since 1950 that members and former members of the military cannot sue over injuries received on the job. It may, however, still prove possible to win compensation from Halliburton. If so, you can probably chalk up another assist to Chelsea Manning who leaked evidence that the military had knowledge of the dangers when it created the burn pits, knowledge that General David Petraeus blatantly lied about in response to a Congressional inquiry.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie.

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Contemporary geopolitical struggle concepts invariably include provisions concerning the creation and functioning of “networks.” The sense of a “net” or a “network principle” lies in the exchange of information, the maximum possible expansion of information production, access, distribution, and feedback. The “net” is the main element of information space, in which information operations are carried out with the aim of achieving political, economic, informational, technical, and military objectives. “Network” as a system in the global understanding of the term includes several elements which earlier used to be viewed as strictly separate phenomena.

The basic principle of conducting modern geopolitical struggle is “net-centrism.” This principle based on three postulates.

1. The modern world is defined not only by transport corridors with associated flows of goods and services, but also informational and communications networks, which form the skeleton of the global information space.

2. The global historical process is a unified, global process of conflict, mutual help, or neutral coexistence of human societies organized along hierarchical (vertical) and also network (horizontal) principles, with the net-centric (horizontal) possibly becoming dominant in the future. Vertical and horizontal network structures, with varying origin, purpose, numerical strength, geographic and temporal boundaries, and legal status, are both the objects and subjects of the global historical process whose interaction facilitates the emergence of new structures and connections.

3. The dynamically developing of artificial (electronic) networks which intertwine and interact with psycho-social networks and amount to a qualitatively new social phenomenon, are a unique feature of the informational network skeleton of the future global society. That phenomenon is identified within the net-centric information war concept as SPIN—Segmented, Polycentric, Ideologically integrated Network. We should note that Microsoft offered a more precise definition of this phenomenon, namely “electronic nervous system,” or ENS.

The main global actor systematically using the net-centric principle in geopolitical struggle is the USA. Its executive actors are the mutually intertwined state agencies, corporations, and international network structures.

The international networks structures, which are usually referred to as “behind the scenes actors”, and which are the basic initiators of the process of globalization, are essentially a network of highly influential NGOs which form the Euro-Atlantic’s globalists (or Western) ideological “super-community” and which are closed to outsiders. Such network structure can exert serious pressure on the whole of global political environment, financial system, economy, through its representatives and lower-rank international entities. They can also make and implement decisions to effect a change of regime and course of development of selected countries.

Relying on the mobilization of net-centric assets located under the control of these representatives, the Euro-Atlantic’s globalists “super-community”can effect a “soft” resolution of a wide range of clearly defined and coordinated domestic and international political problems.  Global direction and control can be effected thanks to the existence of such a distributed and hierarchically ordered meta-net-centric organization whose upper echelons are represented by networks which belong to the Western “super-community”. The individuals being directed may not even understand that he is being directed, and even if he does, he will not be able to figure out from where the directions are emanating and who bears responsibility for it.

The main content of all “net-centric wars” consists of “effects-based operations” (EBO). This is the most important concept in the entire net-centric warfare theory developed in the US. EBO are defined by US specialists as a “combination of actions aimed at forming a specific model of behavior among friends, neutral forces, and enemies during peace, crisis, and war.” (Edward A. Smith, Jr. Effects based Operations. Applying Network centric Warfare in Peace, Crisis and War, Washington, DC: DoD CCRP, 2002.) EBO’s main result is the establishment of full and absolute control over all parties to the conflict (including armed conflict), and their complete manipulation under all circumstances. Including when the conflict is ongoing, when it is threatening, and when there is peace.

The essence of “net-centric warfare” is that it does not have a beginning or an end, it is being conducted on a permanent basis, and its objective is to ensure that the parties conducting the war have the ability to effect comprehensive control over all international actors. Embedding the “network” deprives countries, nations, armies, and governments of all vestiges of independence, sovereignty, and even separate existence, transforming them into closely controlled, programmed objects. It allows the implementation of a new model of direct planetary control, of global dominion of a new type, where the content, motivation, actions, and intentions of international actors are all subject to outside direction.

It’s a design for global manipulation and total control on a world scale. That is apparent from the EBO definition. EBO tasks include forming a behavior structure not only among friends, but also neutrals and enemies, in other words, both enemies and neutrals act in accordance with a scenario imposed on them and are driven not by their own will but by the will of the EBO executors. If enemies, friends, and neutrals do that which the Americans want them to do, they become puppets even before their ultimate defeat. The battle is won before it even begins. EBO are conducted concurrently with military operations, during crises and during peacetime, which reflects the total character of net-centric wars.

A net-centric war’s strategic objective is the absolute control over all the participants of the political process on a global scale. Its tactical objective is to establish the geopolitical aggressor’s control over the victim state’s assets, with the “transfer” largely taking place in a willing and voluntary manner since the attack is not perceived as aggression but rather as an impulse toward further development.

This makes net-centric war far more complex to implement than a traditional “hot” war, but it is also vastly more effective. Results of “hot wars” are usually challenged and dissipated over time (as shown by World Wars I and, especially, II). The effects of net-centric wars can last for centuries, until the aggressors and their basic needs change.

Net-centric war’s main front is located in the mental space, with the enemy’s goal being the destruction of traditional basic values of a given nation and implanting its own. The existence and structure of this type of war cannot be perceived on the level of mass consciousness. If the political elite of a society that is being targeted by net-centric war is not sufficiently qualified to identify this type of aggression and organize suitable response, the society itself is doomed to a crushing geopolitical defeat.

Specialists note another characteristic peculiar to net-centric wars, namely the absence of a rigid structure within the aggressor entity. We’d like to point out that it is due to the high degree of heterogeneity among the entity’s institutional elements. Individual and comparatively autonomous state and non-state elements of the aggressor are not part of some vertical hierarchy, instead they are connected by irregular horizontal interactions. The absence of hierarchy and regularity of interaction makes it difficult to clearly identify the existence and activities of the aggressor.

Due to the peculiar nature of NCW (Net-Centric Warfare), its technological structure (or the sum total of social technologies used to attack the target society) is very complex. NCW technologies include “multi-step combinations and intrigues whose instigators are not evident, a wide spectrum of means of influence, and using individuals who are ignorant of their role.”  Most importantly, according to US experts, NCW is a post-industrial informational post-modern era differ from ordinary wars of industrial modern era by their desire to achieve an outwardly bloodless reapportionment of territories and resources. The objective is to sustain the image “developed democracies’” which are conducting NCWs in a wide variety of geopolitical contexts under the slogan of protecting human rights. In an era of total “humanization”, conducting combat operations is viewed as a flawed option. The world society sleeps better if outwardly everything looks fine. Thanks to modern technologies and gathered experience, even genocide can be pursued without gas chambers and mass shootings. It’s enough to create conditions to reduce birth rates and raise death rates. Success can also be achieved by dumbing down the nation through changing its stereotypes and behavior norms so that even an escalation of events to the level of violence is perceived as natural.

Today one of the characteristic manifestations of NCW in a globalizing world are “color revolutions”. A Color Revolution (CR) is a net-centric operation whose objective is the removal of existing political regimes in another country. It is based on “non-violent struggle” methods developed by George Sharp in the 1980s (a US product, one of net-centric technologies). The CR concept implies establishing full control over a country and its territory without the use of armed force, if possible. It can be achieved by applying “soft power” which US political scientist Joseph Nye Jr. defines as a state’s (or alliance’s or coalition’s) ability achieve desired international results through persuasion and not suppression, imposition, or compellence, which is characteristic of “hard power.” Soft power achieves its effect by inducing others to adhere to certain international norms of behavior, which leads to the desired outcome without applying compellence.

Color Revolution consequences.

For states and political systems, CRs contain aspects of colonialism. The interests of the target society are not taken into consideration, it is expendable “spare change.” The “revolutionaries” are the first to vanish from stage and, often, from life itself. People who sincerely begin to believe in CR ideals without suspecting that those ideals have been induced are the fuel for such revolutions, and are also expendable. The society itself is destabilized, social foundations are undermined, the respect for government disappears, dissatisfaction increases, and economy is in anything but a normal state. These are the ideal conditions to impose Western social models. US enters the country.

CR brings no benefit to the country’s political forces or society. The only beneficiary is the USA, which establishes a painless, non-violent, “soft” control over its new territory.

Modern Georgia is an example. It lost its sovereignty after the “Revolution of Roses” triggered serious transformations, destabilized the society, and led to the loss of about 20% of the country’s territory. Georgia is the most important US bridgehead in the Caucasus. It is so for a number of reasons:

– Georgia is an element of the Caucasus isthmus through which Russia obtains direct contact with Iran with which it wants to establish a strategic relationship.

– Georgia is a base for a force build-up and projection throughout the entire Caspian region, including Russia.
– Georgia is a transit country for energy resources from the Caspian to Europe.

Pursuing the main task of US geopolitics related to Russia and Caspian, the US took Georgia from under the last vestiges of Russia’s geopolitical influence and subjected it to its own direct geopolitical control. Georgia adopted an Atlanticist development vector and lost the last remnants of its sovereignty.

There are a number of other important factors.

1. The US seeks to establish direct military and strategic control over Azerbaijan and Armenia. Leaders of Azerbaijan are certain that the opposition demonstrations in March of 2011 and the planned attempts to oppose the existing constitutional order were organized from outside the country.

2. In order to ensure partnership with the EU, and particularly with Germany, the US created a cordon sannitaire extending from the cold northern seas through the Baltic States, Ukraine, Moldova, toward Georgia. Belarus is at the moment a breach in the cordon, with Poland filling that breach. The belt, consisting of Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova, and Georgia, which cuts Russia off from Europe, was created by the US in order to achieve their top geopolitical objectives through the sequential initiation of CRs in these countries as part of the NCW against Russia.

In the last 20 years, US and NATO transformed Ukraine into a country hostile to Russia also through the application of net-centric technologies. The 2014 coup and 2014-2015 civil war were initiated by the US, which also provided informational, financial, and military support. Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policies are strictly anti-Russia in character.

3. Uzbekistan and Kirgiziya will remain key US geopolitical presence platforms in Central Asia. US will never abandon the intent to establish full control over the region. It will periodically destabilize the situation there in order to take Uzbekistan and Kirgiziya under control.

Usually such unsuccessful “velvet” coup attempts of the sort we observed in Uzbek Andijan or in the somewhat confusing “revolution cascade” in Kirgiziya are followed by harsher scenarios. The level of pressure is gradually increased. The “velvet” scenario is replaced by a harder line, including clashes with police, first casualties, pogroms, and then, as a rule, the situation is destabilized along ethnic lines since it is the hardest type of conflict to resolve. These actions are accompanied by a parallel creation of several social instability epicenters, the rise in economic problems, disruptions of the social situation, and a general domestic political polarization. The goal is to force these countries’ leaders to agree that they have lost control, that they no longer have power.

The outcome is the country’s territory passing under US control. The CR, should it be successful or semi-successful, is followed by more direct approaches which can ultimately lead to military operations as in Iraq and Libya.

Being a nuclear weapons state, Russia is considered by the US and NATO one of its main geopolitical adversaries. The current key geopolitical US objective is a regime change in Russia consisting of removing Vladimir Putin and his team from power. Analysis suggests that at the moment Ukraine, Caucasus, and Central Asia are the most advantageous places for the US to use in order to ratchet up pressure on Russian leadership. Maintaining the potential for violence in these locations will continue until they find a new, fresher source of conflict on Russian territory, with a potential for successful separatism, which could become a constant source of externally induced political pressure on Russian leadership.

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The United States and Europe, along with many willing collaborators have waged a series of wars and proxy wars stretching across much of Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

What the West was pursuing in reordering the post-Soviet world through conventional military means in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq beginning in 2003, it continued through somewhat less-conventional means – the so-called “Arab Spring” and the series of proxy wars that erupted afterward beginning in 2011.

Today, Western-fueled wars continue to consume Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, while violence and political instability plague other nations the West has either recently meddled in or is currently occupying or undermining.

France alone – in addition to conducting military operations in Libya in 2011, and currently carrying out military operations in Syria and Iraq – has troops stationed in African nations including the Central African Republic (2,000), Chad (950), Ivory Coast (450), Djibouti (2,470), Gabon (1,000), Mali (2,000), and Senegal (430).

Eritrea and Somalia during this 15 year period have been subjected to invasions from neighboring Ethiopia – who despite being plagued by widespread poverty – has been the benefactor of US military support and encouraged to carry out proxy war upon its neighbors not unlike Saudi Arabia is now doing in Yemen.

Predictably, the result is an arc of chaos stretching halfway around the world. Also predictably, from this arc of chaos refugees flee, and they are fleeing to Europe, the only place they can go to escape the chaos.
For Africa, perhaps the most ironic aspect of the current refugee crisis besetting Europe is the fact that Libya – whom Europe conspired to destroy – had been absorbing refugees from across Africa for years, putting them to work and giving them a stable nation to live their lives in. When Libya was set upon by the US and Europe in 2011, it was predicted that Libya would go from serving as a destination for refugees, to a gateway for them, onward to Europe. And that is precisely what has happened.

Europe Created the Refugees, Europe Must Take Responsibility for Them 

Without doubt, along with the US and many others, Europe is responsible for the refugee crisis. Every nation that voted for or contributed military assets to operations across North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia are directly responsible for the subsequent instability that has inevitably followed.

It was in “humanitarianism” that the West justified these wars, and now that is time to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees created by these same wars, there is now inexplicably a debate on whether or not to render aid, and to what degree.

Citing international law is moot, since one would have expected international law to have made the extraterritorial aggression that precipitated this refugee crisis in the first place an impossible proposition. But the inescapable question remains – if Europe is not to take in the refugees its own wars created, nor will its collaborators – the US, Turkey, Israel, and the Persian Gulf – who should?

Turning a Crisis into Chaos 

56453322Tens of thousands of people flooding from a trans-regional conflagration into Europe will inevitably create tension. Systems must absorb a growing number of people who need to be fed, clothed, housed, cared for medically, and eventually educated and put to work. Under the best circumstances with a reasonable and honest government, it would be a challenge. Considering that those charged with managing the crisis were those directly responsible for creating it, ensures that a manageable crisis turns to greater chaos.

Turning this crisis cynically into chaos requires three ingredients:

Fascists: First, the US and Europe have invested heavily in the spreading of “Islamophobia” in the wake of September 11, 2001, to help fuel the endless wars subsequently predicated on the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Groups like the English Defense League (EDL), and the more recent “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West” (PEGIDA) have sprung out of and have since been supported by the very engineers of the wars driving people from their countries into Europe. Ironically, this “War on Terrorism” was being waged by armies of terrorists these very same interests along with their Saudi partners were arming and funding for decades.

The EDL and PEGIDA deal in the worst sort of disinformation, lumping the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims into a single group they claim is set on “Islamizing” the planet. For the average EDL or PEGIDA member, it doesn’t matter to them that if even 1% of the world’s Muslims were violent extremists, that would constitute an army 10 million strong that would have long already “Islamized” them.

When torrents of refugees began flooding into Europe, in a climate of fear and ignorance carefully and methodically constructed over the past 15 years, it doesn’t take much to convince EDL and PEGIDA followers that the “invasion” had begun.

Terrorists: The second ingredient is extremists. The United States, Europe, and its Turkish and Persian Gulf allies have invested for decades in creating terrorist groups to both act as a proxy mercenary force abroad and a means of violent, coercive fear inducement at home. Through a concerted campaign by the media, these extremists are lumped in together with the refugees – and Western intelligence agencies may even be literally lumping them into camps and enclaves springing up all across Europe.

For those that doubt this, reports of “mosques” featuring “imams” supporting the so-called “Islamic State” and even recruiting fighters from across Europe to join the fight in Syria should be of particular interest. Especially when these same “mosques” are revealed to be working with the police and government to manage these fighters when they return as was the case with one notorious “mosque” in Denmark.

The Local DK would report in an article titled, “Danish mosque doubles down on Isis support,” that:

“We want the Islamic State to come out on top. We want an Islamic state in the world,” the mosque’s chairman, Oussama El-Saadi, said in the DR programme.

El-Saadi also said that he views Denmark’s participation in the US-led battle against Syria as a direct affront not only to his mosque but to all Muslims.

“The war is against Islam,” he said.

Paradoxically, a man who should by all accounts be arrested and removed from society for providing support for a listed terrorist organization was later revealed to be the centerpiece of a Danish program rolled out to handle returning ISIS fighters from Syria. Der Spiegel’s article, “Community Response: A Danish Answer to Radical Jihad,” would report:

Commissioner Aarslev says he is proud of what they have thus far achieved, though he never forgets to praise his people and the others involved in the program. He is particularly effusive when speaking of one man: a bearded Salafist who is head of the Grimhøjvej Mosque in Aarhus, where many of the young men who left Aarhus to join the war in Syria were regulars. It’s leader is a man named Oussama El Saadi….

…these two men have joined forces in a project that is seeking to find answers to questions that are plaguing the entire continent of Europe: What can be done about radical returnees from Syria? What measures are available to counter the terror which once again seems to be threatening the West closer to home?

El Saadi role is threefold. He intentionally feeds into the narratives of the EDL and PEGIDA, fills the ranks of the West’s terrorists forces abroad, and serves as a handler for them when they return home, with a deadly array of skills and connections which can be leveraged to further inflame existing tensions inherent with any influx of refugees.

Multiculturalism: The third and final ingredient is the West’s version of “multiculturalism.” Like terrorism and far-right extremism, the same special interests have also invested in an army of NGOs to prop up their own take on what should be a fairly straightforward concept.

Far from anything resembling impartial mutual respect for other people’s race, religion, and culture, under a singular national identity, it is instead the intentional, selective, and cynically manipulative use of culture, lending it primacy not only over national identity and the rule of law, but over the cultures of others whenever and wherever convenient.

This way, those cultural characteristics found as most disruptive can be intentionally placed ahead of those that are most stabilizing and constructive, at the expense of other people’s lives and liberty. It is done intentionally to breed a sense of privilege and animosity among different cultures, races, and religions, and has historically been an integral part of any ‘divide and conquer’ stratagem.

Together, this trifecta works with devastating efficiency, turning what is already a crisis of Europe’s own creation, into chaos – chaos that can be wielded to suit the special interests behind this trifecta.

From Chaos, to Crisis, to Stability 

Throughout human history, huge numbers of refugees and migrants have been absorbed into nations not only with success, but to the benefit of those who made genuine efforts to absorb these influxes. For Europe, doing likewise will be difficult but is not impossible, but several matters must be addressed.

1. End the Wars: Even under ideal conditions, the refugee crisis would be difficult to manage. As long as Europe wages or backs wars around the world, this crisis will not only continue, it will only get worse. Even as European leaders pose as victims amid their own self-made catastrophe, they are still pushing for war in Syria, allowing Saudi Arabia with absolutely impunity to destroy neighboring Yemen, and occupying with their military forces a large number of foreign nations.

Ending the wars and allowing these nations to rebuild in their own way is the only way the current deluge will be stayed. Obstructing Syrian and Russian forces in the restoration of peace and order in Syria is an indictment of the lack of sincerity expressed by European leaders regarding humanitarian concerns and more specifically their refugee crisis they are attempting sidestep.

2. Humanize the Refugees: To truly protect the refugees, they must be given an identity. Calling them “refugees” rather than humanizing them, and recognizing them not only as an “influx,” but as individuals, denies those that both created this crisis and seek to exploit it the opportunity to collectivize the influx and thus collectivize responsibility for when anyone amongst this influx commits a crime or is even baselessly accused of doing so.

For many Europeans, they cannot distinguish the difference between Shia’a and Sunni, let alone understand how Wahhabism is neither. Many cannot even distinguish the difference between Sikhs and Muslims in most cases. This ignorance is the swamp within which racism and bigotry breed. Draining this swamp is essential. Rather than attacking the most extreme and immovable edifices leading the EDL and PEGDIA in the streets, appealing to and educating the silent majority as to who is really in these camps will make it ever so much clearer who is creating trouble among a very small minority, and who came to Europe and is prepared to live within the rules to build a new future.

Pretending that out of tens of thousands of refugees no where will there be found a criminal element denies the realities of human nature itself – and by collectivizing the refugees in this matter, we aid those who seek to exploit this crisis in collectivizing responsibly among all refugees when one does ill. Assigning characteristics, good or bad, to any group is the very definition of bigotry. If one doesn’t want it wielded against the refugees, they must not wield it in their defense.

3. Reclaim Multiculturalism: Russian President Vladimir Putin himself would say in a piece titled, “Russia: The Ethnicity Issue,” that:

Any individual living in this country [Russia] should be keenly aware of their faith and ethnicity. But above all they must be citizens of Russia – and be proud of it. No one has the right to place ethnic and religious concerns above state law. The law, however, must take account of ethnic and religious concerns.

President Putin claims this is demonstrated in Russia. In Singapore, it is also the definition of multiculturalism. For Singaporeans who range from Muslims to Christians, from Buddhists to Hindus and secular, they are all first and foremost Singaporeans. Their national identity is defined by universal ideas like meritocracy, professionalism, excellence in education, and hard work. They provide mutual respect for one another’s cultures, faiths, and beliefs, neither asking to be spared from those of others, nor being forced to abandon their own. What results is distinctively different cultures and religions working together under a singular identity as Singaporeans.

The abuse of multiculturalism takes this concept and twists it. Like an imperial viceroy ruling over a colony intentionally showing favor for one tribe over all others to intentionally bait the others into attacking the former, Western “multiculturalism” is really the playing off of one culture against another – keeping all of them weak, and with mutual respect erased entirely from the equation.

Moving beyond the false ‘left-right’ pro- and anti-multiculturalism narrative, it must instead be redefined and taken back. When those defending the refugees are able to delineate between real refugees and their religion and culture, versus Western-created cartoon characters like “Imam” Oussama El Saadi and the perversions he passes off as religion and culture, the majority in the middle gravitating toward PEGIDA will finally have a rational alternative to turn to.

4. Integrate the Refugees: Leaving the refugees segregated and in legal and socioeconomic limbo ensures only further tension and incidents. Integrating them into society and allowing them to begin rebuilding their lives must take precedence above all else. In the unlikely event that Europe and its allies cease hostilities across the globe and withdraw their troops and proxies from the many nations they are now destroying and undermining, resources can then be invested in helping these people return home.

The refugees are capable and willing to work, like the many millions already doing so across Europe from over the decades and even centuries. They will become an asset to Europe and the economic threat they pose to Europeans will not exist if afforded equal protection under the law on the streets, at school, and especially at work. Additionally, by integrating them socioeconomically, they begin the process of assimilation.

Europeans who fear their nations will be changed by this influx of refugees are at least partially right. Europe will change. After all, a nation’s current state is but an amalgamation of its history. Part of that history for Europe is invading and destroying the nations of other peoples, faiths, and cultures, leaving them with no alternative but to follow the trail their futures were stolen down. The refugees will change Europe precisely because Europe has changed the nations the refugees are fleeing.

Cause, for better or worse, and effect, for better or worse, but inescapable.

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

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The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for the introduction of an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia over its operation in Yemen, The Greens political group reported on its website.

The resolution calls for an EU-wide arms embargo against the country, until alleged breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen have been investigated, the group wrote.

“The European Parliament’s call for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia is unprecedented and reflects growing frustration at the conduct of war in Yemen by the Saudi Air Force. Saudi Arabia is a top arms client of the UK and France, and there is evidence that these weapons have been used in gross violations of international law in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed since the start of the war in March 2015,” Greens/EFA foreign affairs spokesman Alyn Smith, who led efforts to get the amendment passed, said following the resolution’s adoption.

He added that there are “real grounds to believe that EU-made weapons systems are being exported to Saudi,” and called on EU foreign policy high representative Federica Mogherini to investigate how an arms embargo can be implemented.

Saudi Arabia has been lobbying to MEPs in an effort to prevent an arms embargo. The Saudi ambassador to Brussels, Abdulrahman al-Ahmed, sent a letter to parliamentarians on Sunday in which he pleaded with them not to vote for the amendment and defended his country’s military intervention in Yemen.

In the document, which was obtained by the Guardian, al-Ahmed blames the intervention mainly on Iran, insisting that much of Saudi Arabia’s action has involved humanitarian aid.

He went on to state that Saudi Arabia’s intervention was partly in response to Western concerns about Yemen-based terrorists, including Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

A UN panel set up to investigate the bombings in Yemen reported to the Security Council last month that it had uncovered “widespread and systematic attacks on civilian targets by Saudi Arabia.”

Tensions in Yemen escalated after Shia President Saleh was deposed in 2012 and his Houthi supporters, reportedly aided by Iran, eventually seized the capital city Sana’a last year. Houthi forces then advanced from Sana’a towards the south, seizing large parts of Yemen, and sending the current Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

In March 2015, a Saudi Arabian-led coalition responded with airstrikes in order to stop Houthi advances and reinstate Hadi back in power. By late summer, the Saudi-led forces had started a ground operation, which so far is stuck in a stalemate.

According to the UN, “conservative estimates” indicate that over 700 children have been killed and more than 1,000 injured since the Saudi-led intervention began. The organization also noted that as many as 720 children have been documented as being forcibly removed as child soldiers by the warring parties.

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Washington created ISIS and virtually all other significant terrorist groups, used to advance its imperium, wage endless war on humanity.

A new Conflict Armament Research (CAR) study provides more insight into Washington’s agenda – titled “Tracing the Supply of Components used in Islamic State IEDs,” it provides evidence from a 20-month investigation in Iraq and Syria.

America, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and allied  states supply ISIS and other terrorist groups with armaments, financing, training and other forms of material support.

Dozens of US, European, Turkish and other companies through their home countries provide ISIS with detonators, cables, wires, and other components used to assemble improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

They’re devastating terror weapons like anti-personnel land mines, banned by 162 signatories to the 1997 Ottawa Treaty: The Convention on the Prohibition, Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

Non-signatories include America, China, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf States. Signatories like Turkey and other NATO countries ignore its provisions.

ISIS uses IEDs as terror weapons. Thirteen Turkish companies alone are involved in its supply chain. The report calls Ankara “the most important choke point for components used in the manufacture of IEDs by (ISIS) forces.”

“These components include chemical precursors, containers, detonating cord, cables, and wires, which Turkish companies either manufactured or sold in Turkey before (ISIS) forces acquired them in Iraq and Syria.”

Ankara refused to cooperate with CAR’s study, according to its executive director James Bevan, explaining

“(F)indings support growing international awareness that (ISIS) forces in Iraq and Syria are very much self-sustaining – acquiring weapons and strategic goods, such as IED components, locally and with ease.”

It shows “lack of monitoring (and complicity) by national governments and companies” operating on their territory.

ISIS couldn’t exist and thrive without foreign support – mainly from America, Turkey, NATO allies, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.

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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Saudi Arabia Deploys Combat Aircraft to Turkey

February 25th, 2016 by Brian Kalman

It’s clear that the recently adopted ceasefire threatens the Turkish and Saudi interests in Syria significantly. Both countries support a wide range of Islamic militant groups including Al Nusra Front, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the UNSC. Turkey has clearly been violating Syria’s sovereignty with its systematic artillery shelling of the northern part of the country and by allowing the flow of reinforcements to militants while Saudi Arabia spent significant amounts of petro-dollars in order to support groups attempting to overthrow the Syrian government. In this case, the Turkish statements claiming the possibility of a military invasion of Syria and Saudi Arabia’s intention to deploy an air force to support the Turkish operations can’t be ignored.

Background

The Syrian conflict took a decidedly sinister turn for the worse recently, with the announcement of Saudi Royal officials that the kingdom intended to commit both air and ground forces to fight against Daesh (ISIS) in Syria. The word hypocrisy immediately comes to mind with such a statement, in light of the reality that ISIS and similar Islamic fundamentalist groups wreaking havoc across Syria have been armed and funded by Riyadh from the start. All of these groups have a shared ideology and embrace the Wahhabi school of fundamentalist Islam, which was founded and fostered by Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism has spread like a scourge across the Middle East, and beyond, because of the patronage of the Saudi monarchy.

On Saturday, February 14th, Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri confirmed that Saudi Royal Air Force jets were deployed to Incirlik air base in southwestern Turkey with the intention of using them in coalition efforts to combat ISIS in Syria in the near future.

Saudi Arabia has been a member of the U.S. led coalition to combat ISIS for over a year now, even though both nations have armed, trained and funded ISIS and its affiliates in Syria for years. The truth is plain for the entire world to see, regardless of the thin veneer of deception, that Saudi Arabia is sending air forces and possibly ground forces not to combat ISIS, but to ensure that the Syrian government is not able to regain sovereignty of the entirety of the nation.

Saudi Arabia wants to force President al-Assad from power and fragment and destroy the secular nation of Syria, and replace it with a chaotic state divided into small Wahhabi fiefdoms that it can control in conjunction with Turkey and its primary Gulf allies. They intend to excise the fledgling Syria-Iraq-Iran alliance and remove the threat of a predominantly Shia axis of influence in the Middle East and an oil and natural gas conduit to the European market that would severely undermine their position of leadership in controlling this trade in the region.

map

The Royal Saui Air Force

Saudi Arabia undoubtedly has one of the most modern and well-equipped air forces in the region and has invested heavily in this military tool for over two decades. The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) gained a great deal of experience during the first gulf war, with its ground attack aircraft, primarily the Tornado, carrying out bombing missions. In addition, in some of the few air-to-air engagements of that conflict, Saudi pilots shot down Iraqi aircraft that were most likely fleeing to Iran.

The RSAF has been engaged in a bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Western Yemen for many months now. Saudi Arabia decided upon direct military intervention to reinstall the Saudi aligned Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi after he was forced to flee the country by a popular uprising in Yemen. Fearing that an Iranian friendly government was coming to power in Yemen, Saudi Arabia decided to intervene and commenced a punishing, and arguably indiscriminant bombing of the Middle East’s poorest nation. The toll on the civilian population has been high, either exhibiting Saudi indifference or poor tactical execution of air power, or quite possibly both.

Little has been revealed regarding specific RSAF deployments to Turkey after Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri’s announcement of February 14th; however, it is most likely that Saudi Arabia has dispatched strike fighters and or bombers to Incirlik air base in Turkey. The only evidence that has been publicly released is of F-15S or F-15C strike fighters landing at Incirlik. These aircraft will be accompanied by their ground crews and necessary logistics support, who will arrive aboard follow on air transport.

The RSAF Strike Inventory

Saudi Arabia has an impressive inventory of strike aircraft in use with various squadrons based across the kingdom. A mix of both U.S. and European aircraft are in use in these squadrons, from the venerable F-15C and Tornado, to the relatively new Typhoon. The F-15Cs and Tornados have all recently been modernized and 48 units of the Typhoon have been delivered to the Kingdom from Britain. As recently as 2013, the RSAF and British Royal Airforce (RAF) engaged in extensive joint training operations over the British Isles in Operation Green Flag. The training encompassed flights of 2 to 4 aircraft, both Tornados and Typhoons of the respective nations engaged in various aerial training operations including tactical formation flying, aerial patrol, air to air combat and interdiction, as well as ground attack. It is important to note that all flights were conducted with a mix of Saudi and British aircraft. This was done in order to bring Saudi aircrews up to speed on a new aircraft with pilots with a higher degree of time and proficiency with the Typhoon, as well as to enhance the Saudi-British ability at cooperative operations in case future developments in the Middle East would soon call these long-term allies together once again in joint operations.

F-15C/D Air Superiority Fighter

The RSAF has 70 F-15C single seat air superiority fighters as well as 16 F-15D twin seat air superiority fighter/trainers. The F-15C is a proven fighter aircraft of venerable service to many air forces of the world. It was purpose designed as an air superiority fighter in the 1970s and is still the mainstay of the USAF, having undergone numerous upgrades and modernization programs.

RSAF F-15C landing at an airbase in Saudi Arabia.

F-15S (E) Strike Fighter

The F-15S is the Saudi version of the F-15E Strike Eagle strike fighter. The RSAF has 70 x F-15S strike fighters in service. It is planned to upgrade all of these units to the latest F-15SA standard. Developed in the late 1980s as a strike version of the proven air superiority fighter, the F-15E can carry out both air superiority missions as well as ground attack missions. It has been used in U.S. military combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and is currently engaged in ground attack missions over Iraq and Syria targeting ISIS.

A bomb laden F-15S taking off for a mission in Yemen.

Panavia Tornado IDS Strike Bomber

The Tornado was developed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands in the 1970s to be a high performance strike bomber that could successfully engage Soviet infantry and armor on a hypothetical European battlefield. Saudi Arabia decided to purchase 48 x Tornado IDS aircraft in the late 1980s. The RSAF would eventually take purchase of both the IDS and ADV versions of the aircraft from the UK. It is phasing out the ADVs, but has signed a contract with BAE Systems to upgrade its total fleet of 84 x Tornado IDS aircraft at the cost of $4.6 billion (USD). The Tornado has proven rugged and reliable in service with a number of nations, and its variable swept wing design allows for high performance at low altitude, which is a major advantage in close air-support missions.

RSAF Tornado in desert colors, most likely of a squadron based at King Abdullah Aziz Air Base.

Eurofighter Typhoon

The Saudi Air Force has ordered a total of 72 Typhoon T-2 and T3A variants from BAE of the UK. Currently, one squadron, the 3rd Squadron of the RSAF 2nd Wing based at King Fahd airbase in northwestern Saudi Arabia is equipped with the Typhoon, with the 10th Squadron being established and equipped with these aircraft as well. Although this is a modern fighter with strike capabilities, it is rather unproven in combat compared to the F-15s and Tornados historically operated by the Saudis.

Considering that Saudi Arabia has decided to commit significant funds to the upgrading of its F-15S and Tornado IDS aircraft, it is a great wonder why they would decide to incorporate a totally new aircraft into RSAF ranks. The answer may have more to do with politics than military considerations. The Saudis have bought political influence and diplomatic favors by purchasing significant amounts of military hardware from the United States and Britain for many decades, and the Typhoon acquisition is likely just such a political investment.

Typhoon T2 of the RSAF 10th Squadron. The 10th Squadron is being equipped with T2 and T3As currently.

Strike-Aircraft-Squadrons-of-the-RSAF

With the RSAF engaged in bombing and reconnaissance missions over Yemen, fighters and strike fighters which are most likely based in the south of the kingdom at Dhahran (King Abdullah Aziz Air Base),  may have to be pulled from this effort and forward deployed at Incirlik. There are a number of units based at the major air bases operated by the RSAF that could be repositioned.

Dhahran (King Abdullah Aziz) Air Base

  • RSAF 3rd Wing
  • 13 Squadron F-15C
  • 92 Squadron F-15S (Saudi version F-15E Strike Eagle)
  • RSAF 11 Wing
  • 7th Squadron Tornado IDS
  • 75th Squadron Tornado IDS
  • 83rd Squadron Tornado IDS

Khamis Mushayt (King Khalid) Air Base

  • RSAF 5th Wing
  • 6th Squadron F-15S

Tabuk (King Faisal) Air Base

  • RSAF 7th Wing
  • 2nd Squadron F-15 C

Taif (King Fahd) Air Base

  • RSAF 2nd Wing
  • 3rd Squadron Typhoon F2/T3
  • 5th Squadron F-15C
  • 10th Squadron Typhoon F2/T3
  • 34th Squadron F-15C

Major Saudi airports and air bases.

Deployment Scenarios

If Saudi Arabia is actually intent upon deploying and using a mix of strike aircraft and fighter escorts in Syria, they will most likely be based at Incirlik airbase, along with U.S. and other NATO air forces. This air base has the infrastructure and logistics in place to handle the aircraft of various NATO types and has been host to international forces in the past. The base is also close to the proposed area of operations (Northern Syria) and is guarded by modern air defenses, and even houses tactical nuclear weapons. With a regular USAF presence, this air base would be a very provocative target for attack by the Russian Air Force.

We are likely to see a small deployment of elements of two to four RSAF squadrons equipped with F-15C, Tornado, and Typhoon strike aircraft with possibly elements of one squadron of air superiority fighters in support. It is unlikely that the Saudis will make a major commitment, in line with their previous military commitments in the region as well as their ongoing quagmire in Yemen, which is occupying the attention of most of the strike aircraft squadrons based at King Abdullah Aziz Air Base in the southern portion of the kingdom.

Any Saudi force would most likely only go into battle with the backing of a U.S. or NATO mandate, and the employment of U.S. and NATO aircraft in preliminary strikes. It remains to be seen if the United States and NATO will take the bait and engage in a disastrous gambit to support their erstwhile NATO partner Turkey and the even more delusional Saudi monarchy. It is very clear that any air campaign engaged upon by Turkey and Saudi Arabia alone will be met with a swift and effective Russian response with both ground and naval-based air defenses as well as the most modern and capable air superiority fighters in the region. The Su-30 and Su-35 fighters are far superior to the Tornado, are more than a match for the F-15C and E and even the Typhoon. The Su-35 is the most modern Flanker variant in service in the world, and is more advanced in all respects to the Eurofighter Typhoon. The greatest difference, of course will be the pilot in the cockpit. Russian pilots have already exhibited their bravery, skill and professionalism since the Russian air campaign began at the end of September 2015. They have already accomplished more than Western estimates ever predicted, and in just about every respect. Russian pilots have proven that their exhaustive training in all matters of modern aerial combat have borne fruit, much to the delight of their supporters and allies and the chagrin and awe of their detractors.

Saudi Tornados in formation.

Power Struggle within the Saudi Royal Family

Reports have circulated in the past six months that there is an internal power struggle within the higher leadership of the Saudi royal family, that King Salam is suffering from dementia, and that his younger son Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammad bin Salam Al Saud, is vying with his older brother to assume the throne. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is the historically legitimate heir to the throne, being the eldest son. The Deputy Crown Prince is the recognized architect of the disastrous military campaign in Yemen. This campaign has brought to light the various shortcomings and ineptitude of the Saudi military in all aspects of modern warfare, most importantly command and control.

In Yemen, Saudi Arabia has grappled with the poorest and most poorly equipped army in the region and come up wanting. The Houthis have taken advantage of the poor coordination between Saudi Army units and their local allies and coalition partners on the ground. Saudi air raids have proven to be highly inaccurate and ineffective, regardless of the wealth of battlefield intelligence provided by U.S. spy satellites and surveillance aircraft. The Houthis have proven resilient and able to adapt quickly on the urban, desert and mountain battlefield, where their Saudi opponents have proven unable to make sound tactical decisions regarding the most basic of tactical issues. Much of these failures on the battlefield can be attributed to three main factors.

Firstly, the Saudis have no moral motivation. The Houthis and their allies are fighting a foreign invasion that hopes to re-impose, through force of arms, a tyranny that they themselves fought long and hard to rid themselves of over previous years. They are also defending their homeland, their friends and their families. What is the average Saudi soldier fighting for? They are fighting to impose the will of an unelected, theocratic monarchy on a nation of people who pose no military threat to them and that are willing to die to oppose them.

Secondly, the Saudi military suffers from long engrained cultural inhibitions that render proper decision making in a modern army impossible. NCOs and junior officers will not make decisions on the spot that are contrary to the exact orders given to them by their superiors as the realities of a battle unfold. Freedom of action, and the ability to make sound and timely decisions as the ever-changing factors on the battlefield change, is an imperative ability of NCOs and officers in combat. Equally important is the readiness of superior officers to share information with subordinates so that they are “in the loop” on the overall plan and changing developments in strategy and the goals of an operation. Saudi officers have been culturally programmed to keep information to themselves and to not trust nor give authority to subordinates “beneath” them.

Thirdly, the structure of the Saudi Army and the Saudi National Guard have been designed to ensure mistrust, a division within the leadership as well as the dissolution of military power between both organizations. This has been devised intentionally, so as to remove any threat that the military might pose to the Royal House of Saud. The Royal family wanted to ensure that no Gadhafi or Nasser would rise up through the officer ranks to depose them. This has resulted also in a noticeable division and mistrust between the Army, which falls under the direction of the Ministry of Defense, and the National Guard, which takes its orders from the Interior Ministry. To further solidify the division, military training, roles and equipment is divided amongst the two forces in a way that both are lacking elements that would allow them to be considered a self-sufficient, combined arms force. In order to prevail in combat, they would have to rely on one another fighting jointly; however, the system exists to ensure that they may never do so. In many respects, Saudi Arabia has the largest and best equipped Army in the Middle East that may never be used, as this would immediately reveal that it is simply a mirage.

It is obvious to anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of the Syrian conflict, that neither Turkey nor Saudi Arabia has any intention of defeating ISIS or any of their Wahhabi affiliates in Syria. On the contrary, they aim to hinder the advance of the SSA and their allied forces and to degrade their offensive capability through direct military means now that their proxies have largely been defeated in a succession of military actions with the support of the Russian armed forces. Turkey has the added aim of making sure that a strong united Kurdish region is not allowed to solidify along its southern border.

The Erdogan regime has staked its future on toppling al-Assad and dividing Syria amongst the victors to its own benefit. It hopes to crush the aspirations of the Kurds and to eliminate the threat of an independent Kurdistan that would shake the very foundations of modern Turkey. Erdogan’s gamble is unraveling in front of his eyes, and the move to direct military intervention is an obvious sign of its failure. Erdogan’s foreign policy of destabilization in Syria have in fact only strengthened the Kurdish position and led to greater Kurdish autonomy.

Saudi Arabia on the other hand could care less about the Kurds. They have been more than happy to allow the “Kurdish dilemma “to occupy their neighbors to their own detriment. Saudi Arabia has invested a great deal of capital and resources in the establishment of a multitude of Wahhabi terrorist groups and mercenary armies that fight on its behalf, their great benefactor in ensuring the downfall of a secular Syria and the elimination of that state as a competitor in the production and transport of oil and natural gas out of the Middle East and into Europe. They hope to eliminate what was becoming a largely Shia dominated logistics pathway through Syria-Iraq-Iran, that stood to greatly undercut their position as a global giant in oil and natural gas production and transportation.

Saudi Arabia’s threat of direct military intervention in Syria also signals the failure of their war by proxy. Their armed gangs of Islamic zealots and terrorists have largely collapsed as a viable threat on the battlefield and face a certain defeat. Most of the moderate opposition was never embraced or aided by the Saudis, with such groups being either absorbed by the Islamist radicals, eliminated, or in time joining forces with the Syrian government. A failure in Syria along with a stalemate in Yemen may prove to be one failure too many for a Saudi monarchy that is suffering from internal division amongst itself and the hundreds of clans whose loyalty ensures their legitimacy. Failure in Syria may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The Russian Response

Russia has made it extremely clear, in diplomatic yet unambiguous terms that it will not allow any outside forces to invade Syria to topple the government and secure their own aims in violation of Syrian sovereignty. Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev clearly stated to the world that Russia will not stand idly by while Turkey or Saudi Arabia invade the sovereign territory or airspace of Syria. Russia has not historically utilized its military outside of its borders, but when it does, it does not do so in half measures nor without a very clear idea of the goals and strategy for victory. It has invested a great deal in ensuring that Syria will become a stable country once again, a buffer between itself and the Middle East that will provide for the national security of Russia against the spread of state sponsored radical Islamism.

The latest generation Su-35. Its presence in Syria is a clear signal of Russia’s resolve.

Additionally, Russia has international law on its side in any dispute. It is carrying out military operations within Syria at the request of the legitimate government of that nation. It is honoring a long standing defense treaty with that same nation, and would continue to be doing so if outside parties violate Syrian sovereignty with hostile intent and Russia responds with force to repel such efforts. After Turkey downed a Su-27 bomber late last year, and their Turkmen proxies killed the pilot and a marine on a rescue mission to save the downed aircrew, the Russian leadership took very concrete steps to bolster air force and air defense capabilities in the Region. They sent a very clear message; this will not happen a second time.

Conclusion

The belligerent statements coming out of Riyadh over the past week coupled with the movement of RSAF combat aircraft to Incirlik air base in Turkey and the massing of ground forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council for joint training exercises on the Arabian Peninsula have brought the world to the brink of a war of global proportions. Instead of supporting efforts to bring about a ceasefire and de-escalation of violence in Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have decided to work together to throw additional fuel on the fire. The Erdogan regime and the Saudi royal family are betting on U.S. and NATO support in their efforts; while at the same time expect Russia to abandon a long-term ally and their strategic interests in region.

It is quite possible that Turkey and Saudi Arabia will ignore the clear messages coming out of Moscow that Russia will not allow any military incursion on the part of these two parties, as well as the reality of the battlefield successes of the Syrian and Russian military efforts over the past four and a half months. With the failure and collapse of their proxies in the battle to oust al-Assad and forever tear apart Syria, the Turks and Saudis may have decided to double-down by directly involving themselves militarily. It remains to be seen whether this development is a bluff, or a major escalation of the war, which would trigger an immediate military response from Russia.

While the assets of the RSAF are modern and capable, they do not represent a technological or combat experience advantage over the forces that Russia can bring to bear in response. Russian air force and air defense forces present in Syria alone present a strong deterrent to any outside power seeking to violate the airspace of Syria without the expressed permission of the Syrian government. It is understood that any direct military confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Russia will further complicate and expand a costly regional conflict into a global one. Much of the world is currently holding its breath and hoping for sanity and pragmatism to carry the day and ease us back from the precipice of disaster.

Written and produced by SF TeamBrian Kalman, Edwin Watson

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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THE GLOBALIZATION OF NATO

Author:  Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Clarity Press (2012)
Pages:  411 with complete index

Now Available: Order directly from Global Research

The world is enveloped in a blanket of perpetual conflict. Invasions, occupation, illicit sanctions, and regime change have become currencies and orders of the day. One organization – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – is repeatedly, and very controversially, involved in some form or another in many of these conflicts led by the US and its allies. NATO spawned from the Cold War. Its existence was justified by Washington and Western Bloc politicians as a guarantor against any Soviet and Eastern Bloc invasion of Western Europe, but all along the Alliance served to cement Washington’s influence in Europe and continue what was actually America’s post-World War II occupation of the European continent. In 1991 the raison d’être of the Soviet threat ended with the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. Nevertheless NATO remains and continues to alarmingly expand eastward, antagonizing Russia and its ex-Soviet allies. China and Iran are also increasingly monitoring NATO’s moves as it comes into more frequent contact with them.

Yugoslavia was a turning point for the Atlantic Alliance and its mandate. The organization moved from the guise of a defensive posture into an offensive pose under the pretexts of humanitarianism. Starting from Yugoslavia, NATO began its journey towards becoming a global military force. From its wars in the Balkans, it began to broaden its international area of operations outside of the Euro-Atlantic zone into the Caucasus, Central Asia, East Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian Ocean. It has virtually turned the Mediterranean Sea into a NATO lake with the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, while it seeks to do the same to the Black Sea and gain a strategic foothold in the Caspian Sea region. The Gulf Security Initiative between NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council seeks to also dominate the Persian Gulf and to hem in Iran. Israel has become a de facto member of the military organization. At the same time, NATO vessels sail the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. These warships are deployed off the coasts of Somalia, Djibouti, and Yemen as part of NATO’s objectives to create a naval cordon of the seas controlling important strategic waterways and maritime transit routes.

The Atlantic Alliance’s ultimate aim is to fix and fasten the American Empire. NATO has clearly played an important role in complementing the US strategy for dominating Eurasia. This includes the encirclement of Russia, China, Iran, and their allies with a military ring subservient to Washington. The global missile shield project, the militarization of Japan, the insurgencies in Libya and Syria, the threats against Iran, and the formation of a NATO-like military alliance in the Asia-Pacific region are components of this colossal geopolitical project. NATO’s globalization, however, is bringing together a new series of Eurasian counter-alliances with global linkages that stretch as far as Latin America. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have been formed by Russia, China, and their allies as shields against the US and NATO and as a means to challenge them. As the globalization of NATO unfolds the risks of nuclear war become more and more serious with the Atlantic Alliance headed towards a collision course with Russia, China, and Iran that could ignite World War III.


AVAILABLE TO ORDER FROM GLOBAL RESEARCH

The Globalization of NATO

Author:  Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
ISBN:  978-0-9852710-2-2
Clarity Press

Year:  2012
Pages:  411 with complete index

Price: $22.95

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Global Research Editor’s Note

We bring to the attention of our readers this important and timely book by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, award winning author, geopolitical analyst and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

This book analyses in detail the historical evolution of NATO’s post-Cold War mandate and military interventions.

The author takes the reader across the Eurasian geopolitical chessboard, from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, to Central Asia and the Far East, through the “military corridors” of the Atlantic Alliance, the Pentagon and the Washington think tanks, where the new post-Cold War military doctrine of global warfare is decided upon.

And from the formulation of military doctrine,  Nazemroaya examines NATO’s mandate, its military campaigns, focusing on the geopolitical regions where Global NATO has extended its Worldwide grip.

The book from the outset examines the economic dimension of NATO’s military undertakings, how the latter support the imposition of deadly macroeconomic reforms on sovereign countries. War and globalization are intricately related.  Economic globalization under the helm of Wall Street and the IMF is endorsed by a global military agenda.

Nazemroaya explores how dominant economic interests are supported by the “internationalization” of NATO as a military entity, which has extended its areas of jurisdiction from the European-North Atlantic region into new frontiers. “The Globalization of NATO” endorses and sustains the Worldwide imposition of neoliberal economic doctrine.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a man of tremendous courage and conviction. Having lived through the extensive NATO bombing raids of Tripoli at the height of NATO’s humanitarian” war on Libya, the lives of others within his entourage were always more important than his own life.

It is within this frame of mind and commitment, having witnessed firsthand the horrors of NATO’s “Responsibility to Protect”, that upon returning from Libya in September 2011, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya started working relentlessly on his manuscript.

While the conclusions of Nazemroaya’s detailed analysis and investigation are by no means optimistic, this globally military agenda can be reversed when people around the world, in the true spirit of internationalism and national sovereignty, join hands in dismantling the NATO killing machine and its corporate sponsors.

That is why this book is an important landmark, a handbook for action.

Through commitment, courage and truth at all levels of society, across the land, nationally and internationally, this process of “global militarization” described by Nazemroaya, can be forcefully reversed.

At this critical juncture in our history, “the criminalization of  war” is the avenue which must be sought, as a means to instating World peace.

Can the objective of World peace be achieved? In the words of former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, read Nazemroaya’s book “before it is too late.”

Michel Chossudovsky, Montreal, October 8, 2012


REVIEWS

“The Globalization of NATO by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is simply magnificent, erudite and devoid of the ethnocentrism to which one has become so accustomed from Western authors. The book deals with what doubtless are the most important and relevant issues of the day for all those committed to saving life and protecting Mother Earth from rampant human irresponsibility and crime. There is no other book that, at this particular time, I would most heartily endorse. I think Africans, Near Eastern peoples, Iranians, Russians, Chinese, Asians and Europeans generally and all the progressive Latin American countries of today will find a much needed reinforcement and support for their peaceful ideals in this excellent must-read book.”
MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, Foreign Minister of Nicaragua (1979-1990) and President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (2008-2009): Managua, Nicaragua.

“We are far away from the principles and objectives for which the United Nations was created and the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal stipulating that some state actions can be considered crimes against peace. Nazemroaya’s book, in addition to reminding us that the role of the United Nations has been confiscated by NATO, elaborates the danger that the North Atlantic Treaty represents to world peace.”
JOSÉ L. GÓMEZ DEL PRADO, Chairman of the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries (2005-2011): Ferney-Voltaire, France.

“Through carefully documented research, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya analyzes the historical and geopolitical evolution of NATO from the Cold War to the post 9/11 US- led “Global War on Terrorism.” This book is a must read for those committed to reversing the tide of war and imperial conquest by the world’s foremost military machine.”
MICHEL CHOSSUDOVSKY, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG): Montréal, Canada.

“A very timely book. Yes, US-led NATO is globalizing, like the US-led finance economy. No doubt also for it to protect the latter, the “free market.” It is a classical case of overstretch to help save the crumbling US Empire and Western influence in general, by countries most of whom are bankrupt by their own economic mismanagement. All their interventions share two characteristics. The conflicts could have been solved with a little patience and creativity, but NATO does not want solutions. It uses conflicts as raw material it can process into interventions to tell the world that it is the strongest in military terms. And, with the help of the mainstream media, it sees Hitler everywhere, in a Milosevic, a bin Laden, a Hussein, a Qaddafi, in Assad, insensitive to the enormous differences between all these cases. I hope this book will be read by very, very many who can turn this morbid fascination with violence into constructive conflict resolution.”
JOHAN GALTUNG, Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies and Sociology at the University of Oslo and Founder of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO), the Galtung- Institut, and the Transcend Network: Oslo, Norway.

“Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya’s prolific writings give us a comprehensive understanding of the character of the military thrust and it’s all out, no holds barred STRATEGIC plans and moves to invade, occupy and plunder the resources of nations, inflicting unprecedented barbaric acts on civilian populations. He is one of the prescient thinkers and writers of contemporary times who deserves to be read and acted upon by people with a conscience and concern for humanity’s future.”
VISHNU BHAGWAT, Admiral and Chief of the Naval Staff of India (1996-1998): Mumbai, India.

“This is a book really necessary to understanding the role of NATO within the frame of long-term US strategy. The Globalization of NATO by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya not only provides an articulate analysis on the Atlantic Alliance: it is the best modern text devoted to the hegemonic alliance. With this book Nazemroaya reconfirms his ability as a brilliant geopolitical analyst.”
TIBERIO GRAZIANI, President of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Geopolitics and Auxiliary Sciences/L’Istituto di Alti Studi in Geopolitica e Scienze Ausiliarie (IsAG): Rome, Italy.

“Nazemroaya is an unbelievable prolific writer. What has often amazed many is his almost nonstop writing on extremely important issues for the contemporary world and his analysis about the globalization of NATO. What amazes many of us in other parts of the world are his seemingly limitless depth, breadth and the thoroughness of his knowledge that has been repeatedly appearing in his work. We are deeply indebted to Nazemroaya’s humble, tireless and invaluable contributions through his fearless, insightful and powerful writings.”
KIYUL CHUNG, Editor-in-Chief of The 4th Media and Visiting Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University: Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

“The Journalists’ Press Club in Mexico is grateful and privileged to know a man who respects the written word and used it in an ethical way without another interest other than showing the reality about the other side of power in the world. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya gives voice to the “voiceless.” He can see the other side of the moon, the side without lights.”
CELESE SÁENZ DE MIERA, Mexican Broadcaster and Secretary-General of the Mexican Press Club: Federal District of Mexico City, Mexico.

“With his very well documented analysis, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya has conducted a remarkable decryption of the strategies implemented by NATO – in the interests of the United States, the European Union and Israel – to expand its military grip on the world, ensure its control over energy resources and transit routes, and encircling the countries likely to be a barrier or a threat to its goals, whether it be Iran, Russia or China. Nazemroaya’s work is essential reading for those that want to understand what is being played out right now on the map in all the world’s trouble spots; Libya and Africa; Syria and the Middle East; the Persian Gulf and Eurasia.”
SILVIA CATTORI, Swiss political analyst and journalist: Geneva, Switzerland.

AVAILABLE TO ORDER FROM GLOBAL RESEARCH

The Globalization of NATO

Author:  Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
ISBN:  978-0-9852710-2-2
Clarity Press

Year:  2012
Pages:  411 with complete index

Price: $22.95

 

Click to visit the Global Research ONLINE STORE

saudiukUK Undermining Human Rights, Contributing to a Worldwide “Culture of Impunity”: Amnesty International

By Patrick Wintour, February 25 2016

Featured image: Philip Hammond shakes hands with the Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, in Riyadh last October.

foodbank-flickr-Bailey-and-Muppet-978x556Boycotting ‘Unethical’ Companies: New Law Will Enable UK Government to “Dictate Where People Shop”

By James Wright, February 25 2016

A new law being introduced by the Tories will mean they can dictate where people can and can’t shop.

prisonUK Government Proposes to Set Up Muslim-only Jail

By Barry Mason, February 25 2016

The UK government is considering setting up a secure prison unit solely to house convicted Islamist terrorists. The UK has 130 such prisoners, who all face being moved into the proposed secure prison.

europe-flag_2460727bDefence Chiefs’ Claims that EU Membership Increases Britain’s Security, Do Not Bear Scrutiny

By Anthony Bellchambers, February 25 2016

All 28 member states of the European Union, with the possible exception only of Sweden, plus another 20 non-­EU states in Europe and North Africa are all now within range of Israel’s secret nuclear-armed submarine fleet in the Mediterranean…

Former British Prime Minister Blair speaks at launch of Tony Blair Faith Foundation in New YorkWhy Tony Blair is Baffled by Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn

By Jonathan Cook, February 24 2016

The Guardian’s interview with Tony Blair published today inadvertently offers two major insights.

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Polish Government Expands Police State Powers

February 25th, 2016 by Clara Weiss

Poland’s right-wing nationalist government has rapidly expanded its police state measures in recent weeks. Since assuming power last autumn, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), has stripped the constitutional court of its power, brought the intelligence services directly under its control, co-opted public radio and television in line with the state and launched a rearmament programme for use at home and abroad.

Since the beginning of the year, the government has enacted a series of authoritarian laws. At the end of January, parliament rushed through a law in an emergency session that subordinates the state prosecutor’s office to the Ministry of Justice. The functions of the prosecution service and Ministry of Justice were only separated in 2009.

The elimination of this separation, which PiS had promoted in its election campaign, represents a massive infringement on the balance of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government. The PiS government will thus be in a position to intervene directly into investigations by the state prosecutor and influence proceedings.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Zbioro is among the most right-wing and hated figures in the government. He held the same post in the PiS government of 2005-2006. During that period, he controlled the state prosecutor’s office, which he used to carry out substantial purging of the state apparatus in the interests of his party. Zbioro was accused at the time of ordering journalists and politicians to be spied upon.

Another law passed in January, which came into force at the beginning of February, drastically expands police surveillance powers. According to the non-governmental organisation Panoptykon, the police can legally access virtually all personal data of an Internet user—from passwords and e-mails to medical data.

To date, police could only request such data in writing from firms if they required it for an ongoing investigation. Companies then had to give out the data without any questions. Now, the process for the police has been made even easier: without a written request, the police merely need to contact the firm or even collect the data themselves. Unlike in the past, access to the data does not have to be approved by a court.

According to newspaper Polityka, which is aligned with the opposition Citizens Platform (PO), the law also does away with the legally protected obligation of lawyers to not forward to the judiciary or police information given to them by a client in confidence.

Dr. Wojciech Marchwicki, a Polish lawyer, told Polityka that with comprehensive access to data, it would be easy for the state to blackmail people or defame them by publishing details about their professional or private lives. In addition, the police can install surveillance programmes on private computers with court approval, without the affected person being informed about this prior to it taking place.

In recent weeks, several demonstrations have been held against the law. As with earlier protests, these have been dominated by the so-called Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD). The committee is formally independent of all parties, but closely tied to PO and the liberal opposition Nowoczesna (Modern). The perspective of the protests is to appeal to the European Union (EU), and above all Germany, to adopt harsh measures against the PiS government.

For the first time in its history, the EU set into motion the so-called rule of law mechanism. Brussels thus enters a “process of dialogue,” presenting representatives of the Polish government with proposals to change Polish laws. If Warsaw continues to refuse to adopt these measures, the EU can strip Poland of its voting and veto rights at EU summits and in negotiations.

The reactionary character of appealing to the EU is clear from the case of the law on state surveillance. In recent years, the EU has ensured that state surveillance in all member states has been massively expanded. The German government introduced a data storage law and permits communications to be comprehensively intercepted by the foreign intelligence service (BND), which then shares data with the US National Security Agency (NSA). Similarly comprehensive surveillance programmes exist in other EU member states.

It was no accident that no European country granted asylum to Edward Snowden or Julian Assange after they exposed the massive surveillance programmes of the Western powers. On the contrary, European governments actively supported and publicly defended the witch-hunt of Assange and Snowden by the US government.

That the so-called democratic movement is appealing to such forces shows it has no genuine interest in defending democratic rights. The KOD movement in reality represents the interests of sections of the Polish bourgeoisie and middle class, which fear that the PiS government will restrict their social privileges and political interests, and orient foreign policy too closely towards the US.

In tandem with the strengthening of the state’s domestic powers, the PiS government has increased military spending and rearmed paramilitary units, integrating them into the state apparatus. In total, these units are now made up of 80,000 men, corresponding to some two thirds of the regular Polish armed forces of 120,000.

The strengthening of the military and state apparatus is aimed first of all at preparing for war with Russia and closer integration into the war strategy of US imperialism. At the same time, the PiS government is well aware that it sits atop a social powder keg, and, facing growing social tensions, is preparing for a confrontation with the working class.

According to a report by the economic web site bankier.pl from the summer of 2015, 43 percent of the Polish population lived on less than the financial minimum for survival. Roughly 4.6 million people, more than 10 percent of the entire population of 40 million, had just 514 zloty (around €117) available to spend. A further 6 million people lived on just 1,000 zloty (around €230). In recent weeks, shipyard workers in Gdansk went on strike. Miners are also threatening new strikes and protests following a series of talks that brought no results.

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UK Government Proposes to Set Up Muslim-only Jail

February 25th, 2016 by Barry Mason

The UK government is considering setting up a secure prison unit solely to house convicted Islamist terrorists. The UK has 130 such prisoners, who all face being moved into the proposed secure prison.

If the proposal were implemented, it would overturn the standard practice in place since the 1960s of housing convicted terrorists in the general prison population. Currently, convicted terrorists are held in one of six maximum-security jails, Frankland near Durham, Full Sutton near York, Long Lartin in Worcestershire, Wakefield, Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire and Belmarsh in south London.

Convicted terrorists held within these prisons are regularly transferred to different locations. A single unit for Islamist terrorists has been dubbed by the media a “British Alcatraz,” a reference to the US prison built on an island off San Francisco to contain dangerous prisoners. A more apt analogy would be the “British Guantanamo,” in reference to the United States military prison camp in Cuba, where prisoners deemed “unlawful combatants” are held by the US authorities in order to deny them official prisoner-of-war status and the most rudimentary human rights.

The new secure unit could be contained within one of the six maximum-security prisons—a “prison within a prison”—or could be established as a new separate entity.

The proposal for a separate unit comes from a review of how to deal with prisoners convicted of terrorist offences, set up by the Justice Secretary Michael Gove. The review, led by former prison governor and senior Home Office official Ian Acheson, is to be published in March.

The last occasion in the UK when prisoners were held together based on sharing an ideological belief was the infamous “H block” cells in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. In the H blocks, the inmates were deemed to be political prisoners and were classed as either loyalists or nationalists, and duly segregated.

In a recent speech, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron all but signed up to setting up a separate unit for Muslims convicted of terrorist offences. He said, “I am prepared to consider major changes: from the imams we allow to preach in prison to changing the locations and methods for dealing with prisoners convicted of terrorism offences, if that is what is required.”

The proposals to isolate Muslim prisoners in British prisons is part of the demonization of Muslims, who are constantly associated with “terrorism” and “extremism” in the press.

Prior to Cameron’s speech, Home Secretary Theresa May called for an “extremism officer” to be sited in prisons to deal with “radicalisation.”

What is defined as “extremism” by the government is now so broad, it could include virtually any form of opposition to the British ruling elite. In December 2013, the then Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition published a reportentitled “Prime Minister’s Task Force on Tackling Radicalisation and Extremism.” It defined “extremism” as

“vocal or active opposition tofundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas. There is a range of extremist individuals and organisations, including Islamists, the far right and others.” [emphasis added]

There are now more than 85,600 people in UK prisons. While five percent of the general population is Muslim, in prisons the figure is one in seven (roughly 15 percent) and in high-security prisons the figure is nearer 20 percent. The number of Muslims in jail has roughly doubled over the decade from 2004 to 2014, with their numbers going up from around 6,500 to over 12,000.

A Muslim Council of Britain report published last year, based on the latest census data, showed the unemployment rate among Muslims to be higher than the average. It found that around half of the British Muslim population lives in the bottom 10 percent of local authority districts rated by deprivation.

Cameron and May are following the example of the escalating assault on the social and democratic rights of Muslims being enforced in France. The French government trialled a separate secure unit for convicted Islamist terrorists at Fresnes prison, near Paris. This has now been extended to five other prisons throughout France, with the prospect of eventually setting up such units in 26 prisons nationwide.

Each of these units holds between 20 and 25 prisoners. Their access to social and recreational activities is severely restricted, as is their access to the Internet and phone communication. They are held under close surveillance. This level of isolation and surveillance is comparable to that imposed at Guantanamo Bay.

A February 12 Guardian article on the secure units in France noted:

“Inmates are selected based on the supposed radicalization threat they represent using a ‘detection grid’ assessing personality, background and observed religious behaviour. France has also recruited nearly 400 extra wardens, social workers, psychologists and surveillance specialists for its larger prisons, as well as more Muslim chaplains.”

The over representation of Muslims in French prisons is even more stark than in British prisons. The Guardian noted a 2004 survey by Farhad Khosrokhavar, an Iranian-born Professor of Sociology at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. He estimated that around 50 percent of the French prison population are Muslims. This figure rose to 70 percent for those short-term prisoners held in jails on the outskirts of large cities.

As in Britain, many French Muslims, mainly of Algerian origin, live in conditions of deprivation and wretched poverty in areas of high unemployment, such as in the banlieues (housing estates) around Paris. Many of the Muslims held in French prisons come from such run-down estates.

The assault on the democratic rights of Muslims is far advanced in France. As far back as September 2010, the French Senate voted into law a bill banning the wearing in all public places of full-face veils, such as the burqa or niqab, worn by some Islamic women. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November last year, a state of emergency was declared. Recently, the lower house of the French parliament voted for the state of emergency to beincorporated into the French constitution, making it a permanent feature.

A report issued at the beginning of February by Human Rights Watch noted how the state of emergency was being used to target Muslims and create an atmosphere of fear and panic. It noted,

“France has carried out abusive and discriminatory raids and house arrests against Muslims under its sweeping new state of emergency law. The measures have created economic hardship, stigmatized those targeted, and have traumatized children.”

The Cameron government’s pursuit of anti-Muslim policies à la française is ominous. The ongoing scapegoating of Muslims is being consciously utilised in order to shift politics further to the right.

The demonization of Muslims in France has only benefited far right and fascistic forces. Although it eventually came third, the far-right Front National emerged strengthened from the December regional elections, after winning the first round amid a poisonous atmosphere of police repression and anti-Muslim hysteria.

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That’s Western ‘nation-building’ and international law for you

John Kerry is an incredible motivator! He has just told Syrian jihadi-controlled rebellion that all it has to do is sabotage the upcoming ceasefire he has agreed to with Moscow and he will reward them with a mini-state carved out from Syria. What better incentive to abide by the deal and cease hostilities could he possibly give them?

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has said he will move towards a plan B that could involve a partition of Syria if a planned ceasefire due to start in the next few days does not materialize, or if a genuine shift to a transitional government does not take place in the coming months.

Oh yes, you may have thought that “partition” is a bad word, but that’s only true when the Russians do it. When Americans partition a foreign country (Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Sudan) that is actually a good thing.

Which presents us with a problem since Kerry is apparently willing to invite Putin to help with the partition:

Kerry suggested partition could form part of an eventual solution, saying “this can get a lot uglier and Russia has to be sitting there evaluating that too. It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if it is much longer”.

It is the first time Kerry has spoken of partition, although some believe Putin would be content to see this happen.

This creates a moral problem for us because while a unilateral partition of Syria by the virtuous US would be a good thing, a joint US-Russian partition would be tainted by the virtue of having evil Russian paws over it.

Hopefully the Russian nation-breaking dictator will decline the offer of the nation-building Obama Administration official and avert the possibility of American-Russian collusion in breaking up a sovereign third country.

PS. Wasn’t it just a short few weeks ago that the West was accusing Moscow of plotting partition of Syria? How times change.

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 “If the president proceeds with knowingly breaking the law … he will be met with fierce bipartisan opposition here in Congress and we are taking all legal preparations necessary to meet with that resistance.” Paul Ryan, US House Speaker, Feb 24, 2016

It has become theatre and spectacle, the persistent small pox of the American legal system. The US President, coming to the podium, making the grand announcement about the ultimate closure of that great thorn in the side of American foreign policy: the detention facilities on Guantánamo Bay.

The detention facility is so well known, Gitmo has slipped into the common, cultural vernacular.  The elimination of the Spanish accent on the second syllable of the name took place earlier, a sign as much of symbolic appropriation as territorial. “Guantanamo Bay,” suggests Rear Admiral M. E. Murphy in The History of Guantanamo Bay (1953), happily unaccented and washed of its Spanish context), “is in effect a bit of American territory, and so it will probably remain as long as we have a Navy, for we have a lease in perpetuity to this Naval Reservation and it is inconceivable that we should abandon it.”

Its facilities have made torture and incarceration inseparable twins about a flawed and ill-conceived “war on terror”.  Others heavy with the need to capitalise the term have preferred “Global War on Terrorism,” an absurd designation that remains as incongruous as it is impossible.  The point of such designations was its stress on emergency.  In times of emergency, bits of land that were within, yet beyond the eagle eye of the US domestic legal system, could be utilised to deal with certain undesirable non-citizens.

This result was occasioned largely by what Amy Kaplan sees as a historical product.  The use of the facility against non-US subjects, its creation as “an ambiguous space both inside and outside legal systems” can only be understood as the outcome of the ghost of imperial history.[1]

Keeping the camp facility beyond the remit of US legal scrutiny was always the rationale of certain conservative legal voices like the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Since the Cuban territory, despite being under US control via a lease, is not “domestic,” protections otherwise guaranteed by US laws would simply not extend.  To do so would suggest that US protections would spread to every country Washington’s military forces occupied, or claimed control over (Rasul v Bush). Worse still, those detainees might actually wish to come to the United States, perpetuating an unwanted contagion of legalism.

The text of the latest plan of closure, termed in rather lukewarm terms a “blueprint,” conforms to hollow, and unfulfilling precedent.  “Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is a national security imperative. Its continued operation weakens our national security buy furthering the recruiting propaganda of violent extremists, hindering relations with key allies and partners, and draining Department of Defense resources.”[2]

According to the statement, US government strategy on the facility revolves around three fronts, all pursued “simultaneously”: the identifying of transfer opportunities for detainees slated for transfer; the continued review of the threat posed by those detainees not currently eligible for transfer and not facing military commission charges and the continued effort to prosecute those detainees “who remain designated for continued law of war detention, identifying individualized dispositions where available”.

Reduced to the human details, the plan would see 35 of the 91 current inmates transferred to other countries in due course, with the remaining detainees, either facing trial by military commission or deemed too dangerous to be released despite facing no charges, transferred to a US facility.  Up to 13 potential sites, which would be converted into detention facilities, have been identified.

None of these suggestions can be remotely described as being in the spirit of fanfare or triumph, let alone certainty.  Much concerning the detention facility has been a limping matter, given that Congress has made it legally impossible to close the camp with government funds.  Laws also prevent detainees from being transferred to other countries, like Yemen, on security grounds.

The White House has been repeatedly blocked by a Congress determined that legal exceptionalism be made the norm.  Such matters were deemed “a complex piece of business” by Obama in a press conference, but they suggest something far deeper in the US legal culture. Paradoxically, this new form of detention creates its own radicalising incentive – uncharged, yet deemed too dangerous to be released is a unique combination for inmates to face.

GOP members have also played up to the theatrical expectations of opposition.  A sense of stunned disbelief would follow had agreement on closing the facility been expressed.  On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan(R-Wis.), with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas), came together to argue in a press conference that Obama’s plan went against the annual ban made by Congress blocking the president from transferring Guantánamo detainees to US soil. “These detainees,” explained Ryan, “cannot come to American soil.”[3]

The category of exception when it comes to dealing with enemies, be they actual or otherwise, through a mechanism seemingly alien yet totally normalised in practice, is here to stay.  Whatever tends to happen in US courts, be they attempts to extend the reach of habeas corpus, Congress has returned with a rebuking bit of reversing legislation.

Obama’s continued difficulties are simply a firm admission of that fact: that the Republic has accepted singularity in its treatment of various non-citizens who can effectively disappear into state-sanctioned purgatory.  Congress, in its law-making frenzy, has added to the initial executive zeal in creating such a category, accepting that a certain category of inmate shall never reach US soil.  They must instead reside in Guantánamo, which, to refer to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments in argument in Rasul v Bush (2004), “is an animal [and] there is no other like it.”[4]

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

Notes

[1] https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/v057/57.3kaplan.pdf

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US Presidential Elections 2016: The Revolt of the Masses

February 25th, 2016 by Prof. James Petras

The presidential elections of 2016 have several unique characteristics that defy common wisdom about political practices in 21st century America.

Clearly the established political machinery – party elites and their corporate backers -have (in part) lost control of the nomination process and confront ‘unwanted’ candidates who are campaigning with programs and pronouncements that polarize the electorate.

But there are other more specific factors, which have energized the electorate and speak to recent US history.  These portend and reflect a realignment of US politics.

In this essay, we will outline these changes and their larger consequences for the future of American politics.

We will examine how these factors affect each of the two major parties.

Democratic Party Politics:  The Context of Realignment

 The ‘rise and decline’ of President Obama has seriously dented the appeal of ‘identity politics’ – the idea that ethnic, race and gender-rooted ‘identities’ can modify the power of finance capital (Wall Street), the militarists, the Zionists and ‘police-state’ officials.  Clearly manifest voter disenchantment with ‘identity politics’ has opened the door for class politics, of a specific kind.

 Candidate Bernie Sanders appeals directly to the class interests of workers and salaried employees. But the ‘class issue’arises within the context of an electoral polarization and, as such, it does not reflect a true ‘class polarization’, or rising class struggle in the streets, factories or offices.

In fact, the electoral ‘class’ polarization is a reflection of the recent major trade union defeats in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.  The trade union confederation (AFL-CIO) has almost disappeared as a social and political factor, representing only 7% of private sector workers.  Working class voters are well aware that top trade union leaders, who receive an average of $500,000-a-year in salaries and benefits, are deeply ensconced in the Democratic Party elite.  While individual workers and local unions are active supporters of the Sanders campaign, they do so as members of an amorphous multi-class electoral movement and not as a unified ‘workers bloc’.

The Sanders electoral movement has not grown out of a national social movement:  The peace movement is virtually moribund; the civil rights movements are weak, fragmented and localized; the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has peaked and declined while the ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’ is a distant memory.

In other words, these recent movements, at best, provide some activists and some impetus for the Sanders electoral campaign.  Their presence highlights a few of the issues that the Sanders electoral movement promotes in its campaign.

In fact, the Sanders electoral movement does not ‘grow out’ of existing, ongoing mass movements as much as it fills the political vacuum resulting from their demise.  The electoral insurgency reflects the defeats of trade union officials allied with incumbent Democratic politicians as well as the limitation of the ‘direct action’ tactics of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Occupy’ movements.

Since the Sanders electoral movement does not directly and immediately challenge capitalist profits and public budget allocations it has not been subject to state repression.  Repressive authorities calculate that this ‘buzz’ of electoral activity will last only a few months and then recede into the Democratic Party or voter apathy. Moreover, they are constrained by the fact that tens of millions of Sanders supporters are involved in all the states and not concentrated in any region.

The Sanders electoral movement aggregates hundreds of thousands of micro-local struggles and allows expression of the disaffection of millions with class grievances, at no risk or cost (as in loss of job or police repression) to the participants.  This is in stark contrast to repression at the workplace or in the urban streets.

The electoral polarization reflects horizontal (class) and vertical (intra-capitalist) social polarizations.

Below the elite 10% and especially among the young middle class, political polarization favors the Sanders electoral movement. Trade union bosses, the Black Congressional Caucus members and the Latino establishment  all embrace the anointed choice of the political elite of the Democratic Party: Hilary Clinton.  Whereas, young Latinos, working women and rank and file trade unionists support the insurgent electoral movement. Significant sectors of the African American population, who have failed to advance (and have actually regressed) under Democratic President Obama or have seen police repression expand under the ‘First Black President’, are turning to the insurgent Sanders campaign.  Millions of Latinos, disenchanted with their leaders who are tied to the Democratic elite and have done nothing to prevent the massive deportations under Obama, are a potential base of support for ‘Bernie’.

However, the most dynamic social sector in the Sanders electoral movement are students, who are excited by his program of free higher education and the end of post-graduation debt peonage.

The malaise of these sectors finds its expression in the ‘respectable revolt of the middle class’:  a voters’ rebellion, which has temporarily shifted the axis of political debate within the Democratic Party to the left.

The Sanders electoral movement raises fundamental issues of class inequality and racial injustice in the legal, police and economic system.  It highlights the oligarchical nature of the political system – even as the Sanders-led movement attempts to use the rules of the system against its owners.  These attempts have not been very successful within the Democratic Party apparatus, where the Party bosses have already allocated hundreds of ‘non-elected’ so-called ‘mega-delegates’ to Clinton – despite Sander’s successes in the early primaries.

The very strength of the electoral movement has a strategic weakness:  it is in the nature of electoral movements to coalesce for elections and to dissolve after the vote.

The Sanders leadership has made no effort to build a mass national social movement that can continue the class and social struggles during and after the elections.  In fact,  Sanders’ pledge to support the established leadership of the Democratic Party if he losses the nomination to Clinton will lead to a profound disillusionment of his supporters and break-up of the electoral movement.  The post-convention scenario, especially in the event of ‘super-delegates’ crowning Clinton despite a Sanders popular victory at the individual primaries, will be very disruptive.

Trump and ‘Revolt on the Right’

The Trump electoral campaign has many of the features of a Latin American nationalist-populist movement.  Like the Argentine Peronist movement, it combines protectionist, nationalist economic measures that appeal to small and medium size manufacturers and displaced industrial workers with populist right-wing ‘great nation chauvinism’.

This is reflected in Trumps’ attacks on ‘globalization’ – a proxy for Peronist ‘anti-imperialism’.

Trump’s attack on the Muslim minority in the US is a thinly veiled embrace of rightwing clerical fascism.

Where Peron campaigned against ‘financial oligarchies’ and the invasion of ‘foreign ideologies’, Trump scorns the ‘elites’and denounces the ‘invasion’ of Mexican immigrants.

Trump’s appeal is rooted in the deep amorphous anger of the downwardly mobile middle class, which has no ideology . . . but plenty of resentment at its declining status, crumbling stability and drug-afflicted families (Witness the overtly expressed concerns of white voters in the recent New Hampshire primary).

Trump projects personal power to workers who bridle under impotent trade unions, disorganized civic groups, and marginalized local business associations, all unable to counter the pillage, power and large-scale corruption of the financial swindlers who rotate between Washington and Wall Street with total impunity.

These ‘populist’ classes get vicarious thrills from the spectacle of Trump snapping and slapping career politicians and economic elites alike, even as he parades his capitalist success.

They prize his symbolic defiance of the political elite as he flaunts his own capitalist elite credentials.

For many of his suburban backers he is the ‘Great Moralizer’, who in his excess zeal, occasionally, commits ‘pardonable’ gaffes out of zealous exuberance – a crude ‘Oliver Cromwell’ for the 21st Century.

Indeed, there also may be a less overt ethno-religious appeal to Trump’s campaign:  His white-Anglo-Saxon Protestant identity appeals to these same voters in the face of their apparent marginalization.  These ‘Trumpistas’ are not blind to the fact that not a single WASP judge sits on the Supreme Court and there are few, if any, WASPs among the top economic officials in Treasury, Commerce, or the Fed  (Lew, Fischer, Yellen, Greenspan, Bernacke, Cohen, Pritzker etc.).  While Trump is not up-front about his identity – it eases his voter appeal.

Among WASP voters, who quietly resent the ‘Wall Street’ bailouts and the perceived privileged position of Catholics, Jews and African-Americans in the Obama Administration, Trump’s direct, public condemnation of President Bush for deliberately misleading the nation into invading Iraq (and the implication of treason), has been a big plus.

Trump’s national-populist appeal is matched by his bellicose militarism and thuggish authoritarianism.  His public embrace of torture and police state controls (to ‘fight terrorism’) appeals to the pro- military right.  On the other hand, his friendly overtures to Russian President Putin (‘one tough guy willing to face another’) and his support to end the Cuban embargo appeals to trade-minded business elites.  His calls to withdraw US troops from Europe and Asia appeals to ‘fortress America’ voters, while his calls to ‘carpet bomb’ ISIS appeals to the nuclear extremists.  Interestingly, Trump’s support for Social Security and Medicare, as well as his call for medical coverage for the indigent and his open acknowledgement of Planned Parenthood’s vital services to poor women, appeals to older citizens, compassionate conservatives and independents.

Trump’s left-right amalgam: Protectionist and pro-business appeals, his anti-Wall Street and pro-industrial capitalism proposals, his defense of US workers and attacks on Latino workers and Muslim immigrants have broken the traditional boundaries between popular and rightwing politics of the Republican Party.

Trumpism’ is not a coherent ideology, but a volatile mix of ‘improvised positions’, adapted to appeal to marginalized workers, resentful middle classes (marginalized WASPs) and, above all, to those who feel unrepresented by Wall Street Republicans and liberal Democratic politicians based on identity politics (black, Hispanic, women and Jews).

Trump’s movement is based on a cult of the personality:  it has enormous capacity to convoke mass meetings without mass organization or a coherent social ideology.

Its fundamental strength is its spontaneity, novelty and hostile focus on strategic elites.

Its strategic weakness is the lack of an organization that can be sustained after the electoral process.  There are few ‘Trumpista’ cadres and militants among his adoring fans.  If Trump loses (or is cheated out of the nomination by a ‘unity’ candidate’ trotted out by the Party elite) his organization will dissipate and fragment.  If Trump wins the Republican nomination he will draw support from Wall Street, especially if faced with a Sanders Democratic candidacy.  If he wins the general election and becomes President, he will seek to strengthen executive power and move toward a ‘Bonapartist’ presidency.

Conclusion

The rise of a social democratic movement within the Democratic Party and the rise of a sui generis national-populist rightist movement in the Republican Party reflect the fragmented electorate and deep vertical and horizontal fissures characterizing the US ethno-class structure.  Commentators grossly oversimplify when they reduce the revolt to incoherent expressions of ‘anger’.

The shattering of the established elite’s control is a product of deeply experienced class and ethnic resentments, of former privileged groups experiencing declining mobility, of local businesspeople experiencing  bankruptcy  due to ‘globalization’(imperialism) and of citizens resentment at the power of finance capital (the banks) and its overwhelming control of Washington.

The electoral revolts on the left and right may dissipate but they will have planted the seeds of a democratic transformation or of a nationalist-reactionary revival.

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Secret documents found in the Australian National Archives provide a glimpse of how one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century was executed and covered up. They also help us understand how and for whom the world is run. 

The documents refer to East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste, and were written by diplomats in the Australian embassy in Jakarta. The date was November 1976, less than a year after the Indonesian dictator General Suharto seized the then Portuguese colony on the island of Timor.

The terror that followed has few parallels; not even Pol Pot succeeded in killing, proportionally, as many Cambodians as Suharto and his fellow generals killed in East Timor. Out of a population of almost a million, up to a third were extinguished.

This was the second holocaust for which Suharto was responsible. A decade earlier, in 1965, Suharto wrested power in Indonesia in a bloodbath that took more than a million lives. The CIA reported: “In terms of numbers killed, the massacres rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.”

This was greeted in the Western press as “a gleam of light in Asia” (Time).The BBC’s correspondent in South East Asia, Roland Challis, later described the cover-up of the massacres as a triumph of media complicity and silence; the “official line” was that Suharto had “saved” Indonesia from a communist takeover.

“Of course my British sources knew what the American plan was,” he told me. “There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops, so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust. It was only much later that we learned that the American embassy was supplying [Suharto with] names and ticking them off as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing the Suharto regime, the involvement of the [US-dominated] International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were part of it. That was the deal.”

I have interviewed many of the survivors of 1965, including the acclaimed Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who bore witness to an epic of suffering “forgotten” in the West because Suharto was “our man”.  A second holocaust in resource-rich East Timor, an undefended colony, was almost inevitable.

In 1994, I filmed clandestinely in occupied East Timor; I found a land of crosses and unforgettable grief. In my film, Death of a Nation, there is a sequence shot on board an Australian aircraft flying over the Timor Sea. A party is in progress. Two men in suits are toasting each other in champagne. “This is a uniquely historical moment,” babbles one of them, “that is truly, uniquely historical.”

This is Australia’s foreign minister, Gareth Evans. The other man is Ali Alatas, the principal mouthpiece of Suharto. It is 1989 and they are making a symbolic flight to celebrate a piratical deal they called a “treaty”. This allowed Australia, the Suharto dictatorship and the international oil companies to divide the spoils of East Timor’s oil and gas resources.

Thanks to Evans, Australia’s then prime minister, Paul Keating — who regarded Suharto as a father figure — and a gang that ran Australia’s foreign policy establishment, Australia distinguished itself as the only western country formally to recognise Suharto’s genocidal conquest. The prize, said Evans, was “zillions” of dollars.

Members of this gang reappeared the other day in documents found in the National Archives by two researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Sara Niner and Kim McGrath. In their own handwriting, senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs mock reports of the rape, torture and execution of East Timorese by Indonesian troops. In scribbled annotations on a memorandum that refers to atrocities in a concentration camp, one diplomat wrote: “sounds like fun”. Another wrote: “sounds like the population are in raptures.”

Referring to a report by the Indonesian resistance, Fretilin, that describes Indonesia as an “impotent” invader, another diplomat sneered: “If ‘the enemy was impotent’, as stated, how come they are daily raping the captured population? Or is the former a result of the latter?”

The documents, says Sarah Niner, are “vivid evidence of the lack of empathy and concern for human rights abuses in East Timor” in the Department of Foreign Affairs. “The archives reveal that this culture of cover-up is closely tied to the DFA’s need to recognise Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor so as to commence negotiations over the petroleum in the East Timor Sea.”

This was a conspiracy to steal East Timor’s oil and gas. In leaked diplomatic cables in August 1975, the Australian Ambassador to Jakarta, Richard Woolcott, wrote to Canberra: “It would seem to me that the Department [of Minerals and Energy] might well have an interest in closing the present gap in the agreed sea border and this could be much more readily negotiated with Indonesia … than with Portugal or independent Portuguese Timor.”  Woolcott revealed that he had been briefed on Indonesia’s secret plans for an invasion. He cabled Canberra that the government should “assist public understanding in Australia” to counter “criticism of Indonesia”.

In 1993, I interviewed C. Philip Liechty, a former senior CIA operations officer in the Jakarta embassy during the invasion of East Timor. He told me: “Suharto was given the green light [by the US] to do what he did. We supplied them with everything they needed [from] M16 rifles [to] US military logistical support … maybe 200,000 people, almost all of them non-combatants died. When the atrocities began to appear in the CIA reporting, the way they dealt with these was to cover them up as long as possible; and when they couldn’t be covered up any longer, they were reported in a watered-down, very generalised way, so that even our own sourcing was sabotaged.”

I asked Liechty what would have happened had someone spoken out. “Your career would end,” he replied. He said his interview with me was one way of making amends for “how badly I feel”.

The gang in the Australian embassy in Jakarta appear to suffer no such anguish.  One of the scribblers on the documents, Cavan Hogue, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “It does look like my handwriting. If I made a comment like that, being the cynical bugger that I am, it would certainly have been in the spirit of irony and sarcasm. It’s about the [Fretilin] press release, not the Timorese.” Hogue said there were “atrocities on all sides”.

As one who reported and filmed the evidence of genocide, I find this last remark especially profane. The Fretilin “propaganda” he derides was accurate. The subsequent report of the United Nations on East Timor describes thousands of cases of summary execution and violence against women by Suharto’s Kopassus special forces, many of whom were trained in Australia. “Rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence were tools used as part of the campaign designed to inflict a deep experience of terror, powerlessness and hopelessness upon pro-independence supporters,”  says the UN.

Cavan Hogue, the joker and “cynical bugger”, was promoted to senior ambassador and eventually retired on a generous pension. Richard Woolcott was made head of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra and, in retirement, has lectured widely as a “respected diplomatic intellectual”.

Journalists watered at the Australian embassy in Jakarta, notably those employed by Rupert Murdoch, who controls almost 70 per cent of Australia’s capital city press.  Murdoch’s correspondent in Indonesia was Patrick Walters, who reported that Jakarta’s “economic achievements” in East Timor were “impressive”, as was Jakarta’s “generous” development of the blood-soaked territory. As for the East Timorese resistance, it was “leaderless” and beaten. In any case, “no one was now arrested without proper legal procedures”.

In December 1993, one of Murdoch’s veteran retainers, Paul Kelly, then editor-in-chief of The Australian, was appointed by Foreign Minister Evans to the Australia-Indonesia Institute, a body funded by the Australian government to promote the “common interests” of Canberra and the Suharto dictatorship.  Kelly led a group of Australian newspaper editors to Jakarta for an audience with the mass murderer. There is a photograph of one of them bowing.

East Timor won its independence in 1999 with the blood and courage of its ordinary people. The tiny, fragile democracy was immediately subjected to a relentless campaign of bullying by the Australian government which sought to manoeuvre it out of its legal ownership of the sea bed’s oil and gas revenue. To get its way, Australia refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the Law of the Sea and unilaterally changed the maritime boundary in its own favour.

In 2006, a deal was finally signed, Mafia-style, largely on Australia’s terms. Soon afterwards, Prime Minister Mari Alkitiri, a nationalist who had stood up to Canberra, was effectively deposed in what he called an “attempted coup” by “outsiders”. The Australian military, which had “peace-keeping” troops in East Timor, had trained his opponents.

In the 17 years since East Timor won its independence, the Australian government has taken nearly $5 billion in oil and gas revenue — money that belongs to its impoverished neighbour.

Australia has been called America’s “deputy sheriff” in the South Pacific. One man with the badge is Gareth Evans, the foreign minister filmed lifting his champagne glass to toast the theft of East Timor’s natural resources. Today, Evans is a lectern-trotting zealot promoting a brand of war-mongering known as “RTP”, or “Responsibility to Protect”.  As co-chair of a New York-based “Global Centre”, he runs a US-backed lobby group that urges the “international community” to attack countries where “the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”. The man for the job, as the East Timorese might say.

www.johnpilger.com

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Hillary Clinton’s Global-Burning Record

February 25th, 2016 by Eric Zuesse

On 17 July 2015, Paul Blumenthal and Kate Sheppard at Huffington Post bannered, “Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Campaign Bundlers Are Fossil Fuel Lobbyists”  and the sub-head was “Clinton’s top campaign financiers are linked to Big Oil, natural gas and the Keystone pipeline.” This description of her fits for a politician who does the lobbyists’ bidding while she provides liberal rhetoric that denies she will, and so who burns-up not only the planet but the trust of the liberals who have voted for her in the mistaken belief that because her label is “Democrat” and because she makes her appeals to women, Blacks, Hispanics, and other disenfranchised groups, she’s not actually representing (just like the Republicans do) their common-enemies, which go beyond such ethnic or other groups and constitute the top-0.0001%-economic-class that’s exploiting almost the entire public — including  women, Blacks, Hispanics, etc. 

Her record does show that she represents those lobbyists, not the public. As I had reported previously, the Hillary Clinton State Department’s two environmental impact statements on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline were triple-hoaxes that totally and scandalously ignored the proposed pipeline’s impact on climate-change but that did discuss the impact of climate-change on the proposed pipeline (as if anybody even cared about that); neither of the two studies had even one climatologist on the team that prepared the report; and the State Department didn’t do either of the reports themselves, but instead hired two oil-industry contractors that were proposed to the State Department by TransCanada Corporation, which is the company that was proposing to build and own the pipeline. So: those ‘studies’ were rigged to enable the President to approve the Pipeline — which he ultimately decided not  to do.

Furthermore, on 2 May 2013, Steve Horn headlined, “Digging Into TransCanada’s Lobbying History,” and he found that, indeed, Hillary Clinton was surrounded by TransCanada lobbyists while the reports were being prepared by TransCanada’s chosen oil-industry contractors. On 12 March 2014, I headlined “Keystone XL Pipeline Corruption With State Department Should Not Be Legal,”  and reported that, “The Office of Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. State Department has determined that all of the corruption that was entailed in the preparation of the Hillary Clinton State Department’s two Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) on the TransCanada corporation’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, and that is still present in the John Kerry State Department’s final EIS, was legal.” This didn’t mean that it was at all ethical. It was disgustingly corrupt, regardless of whether it was legal. But, he found: it was legal.

Hillary Clinton is also a big champion of fracking. In September 2014, Mariah Blake bannered “How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World,” and reported that, “As part of its expanded energy mandate, the State Department hosted conferences on fracking from Thailand to Botswana. It sent US experts to work alongside foreign officials as they developed shale gas programs.” The energy-companies didn’t pay for those sales-calls by the U.S. Secretary of State; taxpayers did.

On 10 April 2015, New Yorkers Against Fracking sent a letter to Clinton, opening, “We, the undersigned citizens groups from across the United States, write to urge you to join the growing majority of Americans against fracking.” Probably, she will, verbally, ‘join’ them, but her record shows that she often doesn’t follow her word, but that she does reliably follow her money: where that points, she goes (but as much in the dark as she possibly can — ergo, her private email server being used for government-business).

She earns her keep, for the lobbyists, and for her financial backers.

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

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The Great Fukushima Nuclear Cover-Up. The Power of Propaganda

February 25th, 2016 by Linda Pentz Gunter

The Japanese were kept in the dark from the start of the Fukushima disaster about high radiation levels and their dangers to health, writes Linda Pentz Gunter. In order to proclaim the Fukushima area ‘safe’, the Government increased exposure limits to twenty times the international norm. Soon, many Fukushima refugees will be forced to return home to endure damaging levels of radiation.

Once you enter a radiation controlled area, you aren’t supposed to drink water, let alone eat anything. The idea that somebody is living in a place like that is unimaginable.

Dr. Tetsunari Iida is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) in Japan.

IAEA fact-finding team leader Mike Weightman visits the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on 27 May 2011 to assess tsunami damage. Photo: Greg Webb / IAEA Imagebank via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

IAEA fact-finding team leader Mike Weightman visits the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on 27 May 2011 to assess tsunami damage. Photo: Greg Webb / IAEA Imagebank via Flickr (CC BY-SA).

As such, one might have expected a recent presentation he gave in the UK within the hallowed halls of the House of Commons, to have focused on Japan’s capacity to replace the electricity once generated by its now mainly shuttered nuclear power plants, with renewable energy.

But Dr lida’s passionate polemic was not about the power of the sun, but the power of propaganda. March 11, 2011 might have been the day the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. But it was also the beginning of the Great Japan Cover-Up.

On the ISEP website, Iida extols the coming of the Fourth Revolution, following on from those in agriculture, industry and IT. “This fourth revolution will be an energy revolution, a green industrial revolution, and a decentralized network revolution”, he writes.

But in person, Iida was most interested in conveying the extent to which the Japanese people were lied to before, during and after the devastating nuclear disaster at Fukushima-Daiichi, precipitated on that same fateful day and by the deadly duo of earthquake and tsunami.

“Shinzo Abe says ‘everything is under control'”, said Iida, speaking at an event hosted by Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Green Cross, and Nuclear Consulting Group in late January. It was headlined by the former Japan Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who was at the helm when the triple disasters struck.“Yes – under the control of the media!”

A trial for Tepco like post-war Tokyo Trials

The media may have played the willing government handmaiden in reassuring the public with falsehoods, but in July 2012, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded that the disaster was really no accident but man-made. It came about, the researchers said, as a result of “collusion” between the government, regulators and the nuclear industry, in this case, Tepco.

“There should be a Tepco trial like the post-war Tokyo Trials”, Iida said, referring to the post World War II war crimes trial in which 28 Japanese were tried, seven of whom were subsequently executed by hanging.

Hope for such accountability – without advocating hanging – is fleeting at best. In 2011, while addressing a conference in Berlin hosted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, I suggested the Tepco officials should be sent to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, (a body the US still conveniently refuses to recognize) to answer for what clearly amounts to crimes against humanity.

The remark caused a bit of a stir and earnest questions about the mechanism by which Tepco could be brought there. Needless to say, nothing of the kind ever happened, or is likely to.

Instead, the Abe’s government’s preferred tactic is to go full out to restart reactors and move everybody back home as soon as possible, as if nothing serious had happened. Just scoop off a little topsoil, cart it away somewhere else and, Abracadabra! Everything is clean and safe again!

Normalizing radiation, a policy and now a practice

Of course radiological decontamination is not that easy. Nor is it reliable. It is more likepushing contamination from one spot to the next”, as independent nuclear expert, Mycle Schneider describes it. And radiation does not remain obediently in one place, either.

“The mountains and forests that cannot even be vaguely decontaminated, will serve as a permanent source of new contamination, each rainfall washing out radiation and bringing it down from the mountains to the flat lands”, Schneider explained. Birds move around. Animals eat and excrete radioactive plant life. Radiation gets swept out to sea. It is a cycle with no end.

Nevertheless, efforts are underway to repopulate stricken areas, particularly in Fukushima Prefecture. It’s a policy, and now a practice, of ‘normalizing’ radiation standards, to tell people that everything is alright, when clearly, there is no medical or scientific evidence to support this. And it was an approach already firmly and institutionally in place, even on March 11, 2011 as the Fukushima disaster first struck and much of the decision-making was left to individual judgement.

“We were told that evacuating poses a greater risk than radiation,” recalls Hasegawa Kenji, a farmer from Iitate, a village situated 45 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Featured in the Vice documentary Alone In The Zone‘, Hasegawa criticizedIitate’s mayor for making what he called a terrible mistake.

Even when the scientists told the mayor that Iitate was dangerous, he ignored them all. He brought in experts from around the country who preached about how safe it was here. They said we had nothing to worry about. They kept telling us that. Eventually the villagers fell for it and began to relax. And the mayor rejected the idea of evacuating even more. That’s why nobody left, even though the radiation levels were so high.

The nuclear industry did not tell the public the truth

The confusion surrounding evacuation was so profound that, as Zhang et al. noted in a September 11, 2014 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public HealthUnclear evacuation instructions caused numerous residents to flee to the northwestern zone where radiation levels were even higher.”

All par for the course, said Iida. “I must emphasize, the people in the nuclear industry did not tell the public the truth and keep us informed.”

Next in the ‘normalization’ process came the decision to raise allowable radiation exposure standards to 20 millisieverts of radiation a year, up from the prior level of 2 mSv a year. The globally-accepted limit for radiation absorption is 1 mSv a year.

This meant that children were potentially being exposed to the same levels of radiation that are permitted for adult nuclear power plant workers in Europe. Some officials even argued that zones where rates were as high as 100 mSv a year should be considered ‘safe’. Writing on his blog, anti-pollution New Orleans-based attorney, Stuart Smith,observed wryly:

Instead of taking corrective measures to protect its people, Japan has simply increased internationally recognized exposure limits. It seems that the priority – as we’ve seen in so many other industrial disasters in so many other countries – is to protect industry and limit its liability rather than to ensure the long-term health and well being of the masses. Go figure.

The great repatriation lie

All of this set the perfect stage for the Great Repatriation Lie. “It’s the big cover-up,” Iida told his Westminster audience. “People are being told it’s quite safe to have a little [radiation] exposure.”

Indeed, at a recent conferences of prefectural governors, young people in particular were urged to return to Fukushima. “If you come to live with us in Fukushima and work there, that will facilitate its post-disaster reconstruction and help you lead a meaningful life”,said Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori.

Young people in Japan, however, appear not to be cooperating. Where evacuees are returning, the majority are senior citizens, who have less to lose from a health perspective and are more traditionally tied to the land and their ancestral burial grounds.

“They want to die where they were born and not in an unfamiliar place”, said Yoshiko Aoki, an evacuee herself who now works with others, and who also spoke at the London conference.

All of this impacts revenue from the inhabitants’ tax which constitutes 24.3% of all local tax sources and is collected by both prefectures and municipalities. It is levied on both individuals and corporations but with the bulk of revenue coming from individuals.

Senior citizens who have retired do not contribute to income tax, so the onus is on governors and mayors to lure as many working people as possible back to their towns and regions in order to effectively finance local public services.

Radioactive areas are hardest hit economically

Late last year, the Asahi Shimbun looked at tax revenues in the 42 municipalities affected by the triple 2011 disasters of earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdowns.

Unsurprisingly, the areas hardest hit by radiological contamination had suffered the biggest economic blows. Those areas free from radioactive fallout could simply rebuild after the tsunami and earthquake, and had consequently recovered economically, some even to better than pre-3/11 levels.

On the other end of the scale, Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, marked the biggest decreasing rate – 72.9 percent – in tax revenues for fiscal 2014″, the Asahi Shimbunreported“All residents of the town near the crippled nuclear plant remain in evacuation. Although tax payments from companies increased from decontamination work and other public works projects, income taxes paid by residents and fixed asset taxes have declined.”

To return or not to return is the question of the hour – or it will be come March 2017, when the Abe government has announced it will revoke many evacuation orders. At that point, government compensation to evacuees would be lifted, putting them under financial pressure to return. Cue more confusion.

People are confronted, said Iida, with “two extreme views, either that it’s very dangerous or quite safe. So it’s very difficult to decide which is the truth and it has been left up to individuals.”

One of those towns that could be declared ‘safe’ is Tomioka, Japan’s Pripyat, formerly home to close to 16,000 people but now uninhabited.

“It’s like a human experiment, that’s how we feel,” said Aoki in London, herself a former Tomioka resident. “The Governor of Fukushima spoke about a safe Fukushima. We want it to become safe, but our thoughts and reality are not one and the same.”

Observes Kyoto University professor of nuclear physics, Koide Hiroaki, in the Vice film, who has been outspoken for decades against the continued use of nuclear energy:

Once you enter a radiation controlled area, you aren’t supposed to drink water, let alone eat anything. The idea that somebody”, he pauses, ” … is living in a place like that is unimaginable.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear, a Takoma Park, MD environmental advocacy group.

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A new law being introduced by the Tories will mean they can dictate where people can and can’t shop.

Recently, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson decided he would no longer shop at Walmart-owned Asda, following the supermarket’s decision to remove foodbank donation points from UK stores. He called for the boycott of the company.

However, this Labour mayor’s ethical decision will soon be made illegal by the Tories, along with any other public authority that wishes to act morally. This is because the Government plan to outlaw local councils, public bodies and even student unions from boycotting ‘unethical’ companies.

Why boycott?

Boycotts enable consumers to:

1. Not be complicit in the practices of unethical corporations through supporting them financially.

2. Large scale boycotts can stop corporations engaging in unethical practices altogether.

Profit-seeking companies are not very receptive to anything that doesn’t impact their turnover. A systematic boycott from consumers, damaging their profits, will speak volumes to them, while reasoned debate will not.

Boycotts have been very successful in preventing corporations from profiteering and helping maintain the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. To illustrate, Belgium pension fund PGGM announced it would divest from 5 Israeli banks, SodaStream – a company with facilities in the West Bank –  had to close its flagship store, and Agrexco, Israel’s former largest agricultural company, entered liquidation in 2011.

To understand why someone would want to boycott these corporations, here are a few facts about the occupation:

-The Israeli authorities have maintained their air, land and sea blockade of Gaza, effectively imposing collective punishment on all 1.8m inhabitants.

-Israeli authorities control Palestinian imports and exports.

-They are building illegal Jewish-only settlements in Palestinian territories.

-In 2014, over 2,300 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. 39 Israelis were killed.

-Palestinian children are routinely tortured and killed in Israeli prisons.

Boycotts are an effective democratic tool, which is why the Conservatives want to ban them. According to Channel 4, around 80% of Conservative MPs are members of ‘Conservative Friends of Israel’ (CFI). Hence, the UK government is complicit in the same atrocities that the companies are. Peter Oborne has called CFI “by far Britain’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.”

Tory contempt for democracy

If the Tories were elected on a mandate to eradicate what democracy we have in the UK as quickly as possible, then they’d be doing a brilliant job. They’re looking to strip Labour of £8m per year, cut government funding for all opposition parties, and gerrymander constituency boundaries, in a leap towards a one-party state. Now David Cameron plans to squeeze out the little economic democracy there is in our current corporate system: the ability to freely make ethical decisions about what one purchases.

In dictating where they shop, the Conservatives are breathing down the necks of local councils, which runs totally contrary to the localism that they have been championing. Last October, Chancellor George Osborne unveiled his “devolution revolution”; a plan to devolve powers to local councils. But now, with this plan to curtail the democratic power of local councils, it is clearer than ever that this devolution is a gambit to devolve the dirty work of implementing Tory spending cuts.

Moreover, outlawing boycotts is a move to sanitise public bodies to ensure they are subservient to the corporate status quo. Public bodies that do not dare look beneath the shiny surface of big corporations will help maintain Cameron-and-co’s runaway crony capitalism, rather than challenge a global system where 62 individuals own as much wealth as half the planet.

The Tories always worship the ‘free market’, with Cameron describing it as “the best imaginable force”, but on analysis we soon see it is freer for some than it is for others. It is free for the multinational corporations, who choose whether they pay tax, what laws are passed and even “co-write” trade deals involving entire continents.

Compare this to how an ordinary person experiences the ‘free market’ and the picture changes beyond recognition. An ordinary person must pay tax, will get no say in what laws are passed except indirectly once every five years, and will be kept entirely in the dark on the devastating consequences of trade deals like TTIP.

And now, the public institutions that serve ordinary people will be forced to accept the unethical practices of big business, in a kind of corporate fascism. Take G4S, the British security company:

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This spoof ad in the London Underground details the abhorrent practices of G4S and it’s involvement in maintaining the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. G4S runs the Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank, along with other detention centres, and therefore facilitates: “the systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners, held in solitary confinement.”

Through banning boycotts, the Tories are forcing local bodies to be complicit in the unethical activities of corporations, like G4S. This is a big step towards corporate fascism.

The boycott of G4S, which included divestment by the Gates Foundation, has played a big role in the corporation saying it will end its Israeli prison contracts when they expire.

Asda

Contrary to the boycott ban, public bodies should lead ethically by example, like Anderson has done in calling to boycott Asda. His reason is that they have removed collection points for food banks, with awful consequences for charities.

Mayor Anderson said:

“Through no fault of their own people are being pushed into poverty and finding themselves dependent on food banks to live a healthy and dignified life.”

However, there are a few other ethical reasons to boycott Asda: to oppose US giants and support the local economy, or to say no to tax dodging. Asda is owned by Walmart and engages in large scale tax avoidance. Through Asda, Walmart’s ruling family are draining millions from the British economy into a family who already own more wealth than 42% of America. After helping themselves to a huge slice of our economy, they are then not even contributing back through taxes for infrastructure, education and other public utilities and services.

Whatever ethical reason a public authority may want to boycott a corporation, soon they will be banned from doing so.

The cabinet office minister, Mathew Hancock said boycotts from public authorities are: “inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the government.”

Boycotting Asda and focusing on the local economy would be beneficial for the British public. Yet, the Tories are making it illegal for public bodies to act outside of narrow, corporate interest. Meanwhile, they allow themselves to continue sanctioning other nations arbitrarily, like Russia. This may sound like the Tories have outlawed other people’s ethics and not their own, which would be a fascist policy itself.

Yet, it is in fact worse than that. Conservative boycotts and sanctions are only ostensibly for moral reasons. We know this because they support the tyrannical Saudi regime, the House of al-Saud. This governing monstrosity executed 47 people in one day last month, and almost daily devastates neighbouring Yemen with indiscriminate airstrikes. As we have seen, the Tories also support the illegal Israeli occupation. The Tory compass is rarely a moral one; its needle points towards money, power and geopolitical gain, not towards justice or altruism.

In banning boycotts, the government have actually made morals illegal for the public bodies that are supposed to uphold them. Britain will be left with only the quasi-morality the Conservatives use to make their policies more palatable. And mayor Anderson will no longer be able to make ethical choices on behalf of Liverpool.

The state should uphold moral behaviour, not make it illegal. This policy to outlaw boycotts is part of a general perversion of the rule of law, where even ethics are considered “inappropriate” by the government. It should be rejected by all who value a civilised, democratic society.

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Irrespective of the fact that student protests, ranging to thousands of participants called for a solidarity march on 18th February in large numbers, the reality of the ground has not changed. In spite of exposing how the fraudulent news channels had doctored the videos with ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans, the strong clutches of the police still ask for more evidence, trying to force the case of sedition against the students.

Umar Khalid, one of the student leaders, who was also charged with draconian laws of criminal conspiracy and sedition, had to finally surrender on Tuesday night, in spite of the fact that there’s no evidence against him. What does it mean? Within ten days, his identity was reduced to being a Muslim, not a student who got offer from Yale University or a free citizen of the country who had Right of Free Speech and Expression. Instead his family was threatened, his 12-year-old sister cannot attend school where she is being treated as a pariah. In the latest attacks, his family was threatened that ‘if they want to have their son alive, he needs to leave India.’

What does it mean to our Indian democracy when vibrant student leaders have to surrender in this way? Does not it humiliate the idea of being an Indian who can voice his dissent? In a vibrant campus like JNU, where the slogan is ‘If politics decides your future, you should decide what your politics should be’, it’s a shame that in spite of massive solidarity, students like Umar Khaliad and Anirban Bhattacharya are still seen as criminals who need to be punished.

The non-partisan and cursory comment on such student protests by those occupying the highest echelons in corporate offices state that universities are temples of education and students are just wasting their time in protesting. The students instead of marching on the streets should go back to their hostel rooms, study, graduate and do something concrete with their lives. This interpretation by those who themselves have never thought beyond their text-books is quite problematic. Firstly, they make a major portion of commentators who believe that studies cannot have discussions, arguments and debates, and should stay far apart from politics. Secondly, this kind of interpretation also evokes the understanding that protests do not serve any purpose, as it hardly gets concrete things done, problems resolved. It indeed is a problematic situation because this junta does not understand the efforts that students put in, to live for a cause that is beyond their own selves.

It’s definitely a shame that Umar Khalid had to surrender. It tramples down the voice of dissent, of questioning, of reframing the political discourse. Now, it would be scarier for students to question the government, to demand for changes, because they will fear arrest. So, how is India being different from the authoritarian dictatorships when our own democracy is being dominated with right-wing politics? Aren’t we then moving towards a police state, where police commissioners are not questioned, where lawyers can assault defenseless students and protest against bail pleas?

Where is our voice? Why is it being silenced? Why is the Idea of India being made so fragile that a small questioning by students makes it vulnerable? Why cannot our country embrace the diversity of opinions, rather than haunting them down? Where are we moving, then? What is our direction?

What will happen to Umar Khalid and several others who believe in his politics? Would be become the scape-goat of Indian right-wing politics, a lesson that you should never dissent?

But most importantly, will he, after the surrender, remain safe?

Shubhda Chaudhary is a PhD Scholar in JNU. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Featured image: Philip Hammond shakes hands with the Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, in Riyadh last October. Amnesty has repeatedly called on the UK government to suspend sales of arms to Saudi Arabia that could be used to commit human rights violations in Yemen. Photograph: Reuters

Britain is setting a dangerous precedent by undermining human rights and contributing to a worldwide “culture of impunity”, Amnesty International has said in its annual report on the state of human rights.

Plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, the UK’s absence from EU refugee resettlement schemes, proposed new spying laws and the alleged downgrading of human rights as a Foreign Office priority in favour of commercial deals are all cited by the group as evidence of a trend.

Amnesty’s UK director, Kate Allen, said:

“The UK is setting a dangerous precedent to the world on human rights. There’s no doubt that the downgrading of human rights by this government is a gift to dictators the world over and fatally undermines our ability to call on other countries to uphold rights and laws.”

Ministers plan to replace the Human Rights Act, which was brought in by Labour in 1998, with a British bill of rights. The government has been criticised for breaching privacy and allowing insufficiently accountable agencies to undertake mass surveillance.

Allen said UK behaviour towards China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt showed the government had lost its passion to promote human rights, partly due to the replacement of William Hague as foreign secretary with Philip Hammond.

She said the government’s claims that it had made progress on human rights through private diplomacy were not borne out by any visible evidence, and highlighted George Osborne’s visit to China at a time when hundreds of dissidents were being arrested.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne hosts the Economic Financial Dialogue between British and UK businesses and government ministers in Beijing.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne hosts the Economic Financial Dialogue between British and UK businesses and government ministers in Beijing. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

There are concerns among human rights groups that the Foreign Office’s own comprehensive annual human rights report, due in April, is being “dramatically scaled back” and will be a quarter of the length of previous publications.

 

 

The Foreign Office, which is facing budget constraints and restructuring its human rights work, has argued that a more focused report will have much more impact. There has been a shift in Foreign Office language so that it no longer speaks of “countries of concern” but “human rights priority countries”.

The Amnesty report highlights how the government has continued to provide billions of pounds worth of arms export licences to a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in Yemen, even though thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed.

Amnesty has repeatedly called on the UK to suspend all sales of arms to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that could be used to commit human rights violations in Yemen. This call has been echoed by the parliamentary international development committee, while a group of leading international law experts have issued a comprehensive legal opinion showing that continued weapons exports to Saudi Arabia are in breach of UK and international laws.

The Foreign Office has so far opposed an independent inquiry into Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen and has not said it will impose a ban on export licences. The Foreign Office minister, Tobias Ellwood, told MPs that a recent UN inquiry highlighting human rights abuses in Yemen had not visited the country and was based on satellite images.

On Tuesday David Mepham, the director of Human Rights Watch, told the foreign affairs select committee that there had been a deprioritisation and a lack of political commitment to human rights at the top of the Foreign Office. He claimed Hammond regarded human rights activists as naive and was more focused on security.

Mepham said there has been a shift of expertise from human rights to trade on ministerial overseas trips. He said HRW was “very concerned by the trend in China policy”, which he said was increasingly run by the Treasury. Despite a “relentlesss crackdown on dissent” in China, Osborne had not raised human rights issues on a recent visit, Mepham said.

He said he found it astonishing that Egypt was excluded as a country of concern in last year’s Foreign Office report. “On any objective basis if you look at what is going on in Egypt – the mass deaths, the detentions, the largest mass killings in recent history, the clampdown on civilian society – Egypt would have to be included, but for political reasons Egypt has been taken out. That is very worrying.”

In response to the Amnesty report, the government said that it was absolutely committed to promoting and protecting universal human rights. It said the Foreign Office had doubled funding for global human rights and democracy projects to £10.6m, and “human rights, democratic values and strengthening the rules-based international system are vital and integral parts of the FCO’s work.”

Justice Minister Dominic Raab, said: “It is irresponsible for any campaign group to criticise our proposals before they’ve seen them. Amnesty have already been told our plans involve the UK remaining in the European Convention, so this scaremongering undermines their own credibility.”

A government spokesman said Britain was committed to finding a comprehensive solution to deal with the causes of the migration crisis and not just its consequences.

“The UK has prioritised humanitarian aid to people in the region and has contributed £1.12bn to the Syrian crisis – the largest ever UK response to a humanitarian crisis. Britain is also committed to taking in 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees.”

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DNA evidence shows that the culprit behind a deadly blast in Ankara was Turkish-born, not Syrian as initially claimed by Turkish authorities, says a security official.

Last Wednesday, a car bomb went off next to several military buses near Turkey’s armed forces base in Ankara, killing 29 people. The following day Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu laid the blame for the incident on a Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighter, Salih Necar, hailing from the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah.

However, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) group claimed responsibility for the blast on its website on February 19.

On Tuesday, a senior Turkish security official, citing DNA evidence collected from the blast site, stated that Abdulbaki Somer, born in the eastern Turkish city of Van, was the bomber. The announcement fully corresponds with claims made by TAK.

“The DNA report has been published. We saw that it was not Necar,” the Turkish official told Reuters on condition of anonymity as the report is yet to be made public.

“The bomber’s DNA matches that of Abdulbaki’s father. It looks like the bomber was Abdulbaki Somer, that’s what the report is saying,” he said.

According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, prosecutors have confirmed the report.

Smoke and flames rise over vehicles following a bomb attack that targeted a convoy of military buses in Ankara, Turkey, on February 17, 2016. (AFP)

Turkey regards the YPG and its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as allies of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.

The leader of the YPG has denied being behind the attack, saying Turkey is using the Ankara blast as a pretext to escalate its attacks in Syria.

Ankara, vowing revenge on those it claimed had carried out the attack, shelled YPG positions in northern Syria for days after the incident while Syrian and Kurdish forces were making daily gains against Daesh Takfiri terrorists in the country’s northern regions near the border with Turkey.

Same ‘terrorist structure’

Earlier on Tuesday, Davutoglu said that TAK’s claim of responsibility for the blast “aims to divert attention from the YPG” as all armed groups in the region are part of the same “terrorist structure.”

“As a result of rapid work by our security units, it has been clearly understood that this attack was planned and carried out through a cooperation between the YPG and the PKK,” he stated.

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When asked by Wolf Blitzer in January if she was “the establishment,” Hillary Clinton replied: “I just don’t understand what that means. He’s been in Congress, he’s been elected to office a lot longer than I have.” Several weeks later, her Democratic primary opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders made the case in a debate that the issue was who enjoyed the support of more powerful elected officials, arguing that “more governors, mayors, members of the House” back Clinton.

Clinton framed the notion of “the establishment” as consisting solely of political bodies of elected officials. Sanders simply argued that a better indicator of belonging to the establishment is one’s power and influence within political circles.

As part of the “two for the price of one” that Bill Clinton promised during his rise to the Presidency, Hillary is forced to hide from her role in the creation of the neoliberal New Democrats, the dominant faction of the party. During their joint reign in the White House, the Clintons steered the party far to the right with their draconian criminal justice measures, assault on welfare, liberalization of trade, and deregulation of banking. Their cronies continue to staff the highest ranks of the party and the Obama administration.

Clinton, in a desperate piece of deflection, resorted to playing the gender card: “Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.” This fatuous identity politics is meant to distract from her decades-long tenure at the top of the political system and collusion with those who exercise control over it. Of course, as Bernie points out, Hillary most represents and enjoys the support of the Democratic faction of the political establishment.

But framing the issue as simply a matter of party politics and the electoral system misses the point. Elected officials are merely the public face of the ruling establishment. The broader establishment is composed of the elite class that determines economic policy.

There is no building that says “Establishment” on the door, but there is a century-old institution made up of wealthy and influential representatives of business, Wall Street, corporate law, academia and government. It is a creation of the elite ruling class to ensure their control over shaping policy for their own benefit. Their decisions result in funneling money – and, hence, power – into the hands of a small percentage of capitalists who exercise control over the political process in a positive feedback loop.

In their book Imperial Brain Trust, Laurence Shoup and William Minter write that: “The Council on Foreign Relations is a key part of a network of people and institutions usually referred to by friendly observers as ‘the establishment.’ ” [1]

The Council was founded after World War I in response to growing domestic social tensions and labor unrest. Socialism was gaining in popularity among the American public in an economic environment marred by exploitative working conditions and skyrocketing inequality.

The Council’s mission was to carry out long-term planning for a national agenda. The agenda was meant to undermine a domestic-oriented program that would involve collective decision making to achieve self-sufficiency, and thereby reduce the country’s dependence on foreign resources, trade, and other governments.

Some of the many multinationals that subscribed to the CFR’s Corporation Service included General Motors, Exxon, Ford, Mobil, United States Steel, Texaco, First National City Bank and IBM. [2]

“The Council, dominated by corporate leaders, saw expansion of American trade, investment, and population as the solution to domestic problems. It thought in terms of preservation of the status quo at home, and this involved overseas expansion,” Shoup and Minter write. [3]

This imperialist agenda was achieved through manufacturing the consent of the masses (what they called “public enlightenment”), as well as developing foreign policies and ensuring government officials supported and executed these policies.

The Council has been remarkably successful in its mission. It has achieved a monopoly over foreign policy planning, and become thoroughly integrated with the government that carries out policy prescriptions. Entire administrations have drawn their foreign policy officials from the ranks of the Council. There is a steady two-way flow of personnel between the Council and government.

Both Bill and Chelsea are current members of the CFR. While Hillary herself is not a member, she is no doubt influenced by her immediate family’s ties to the Council. Additionally, she collaborated closely with the Council while she served as Secretary of State, as she made clear in a 2009 speech at the Council’s office in Washington:

“I am delighted to be here in these new headquarters. I have been often to, I guess, the mothership in New York City. But it’s good to have an outpost of the Council right here down the street from the State Department. We get a lot of advice from the Council, so this will mean I won’t have as hard a go to be told what we should be doing, and how we should think about the future.”

One of many people whose career was launched by his association with the Council was Henry Kissinger. In the late 1950s, he was appointed the director of a study group on nuclear weapons, in collaboration with several of the Council’s directors. The result was a book authored by Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy.

Kissinger went on to serve as possibly the most influential foreign policy official in American history under Richard Nixon (and later Gerald Ford), as both Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. He helped carry out war crimes when he transmitted President Nixon’s order “anything that flies on anything that moves” to General Alexander Haig, directing a massive, secret bombing campaign of Cambodia hidden from Congress and the American public.

Kissinger’s tenure also saw him intimately involved with the military coup led by General Pinochet to overthrow and kill democratically-elected President Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973; the invasion by Indonesia of East Timor in 1975 and the subsequent genocide against the native East Timorese; the South African invasion of Angola in 1975 and attempted installation of a puppet ruler amenable to the apartheid regime; and the Dirty War in Argentina in which leftist opposition members were killed an disappeared.

Rather than being subjected to prosecution, or even suffering a loss of prestige, Kissinger has seen his reputation rise in the decades following his genocidal actions.

Clinton wrote that “Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state.”  She noted that they share “a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.”

Clinton’s abstract and idealistic rhetoric exemplifies the bipartisan, imperialist agenda formulated and propagated by the Council on Foreign Relations. The humanitarianism is a guise for the ruthless pursuit of United States political and economic hegemony across the world. The people who belong to this elite club have internalized the imperialist worldview that the U.S. is an “indispensable nation” that upholds “a just and liberal” world order, and use this belief to rationalize their Machiavellian exertions of power abroad.

The American establishment that matters most is not limited to any one party, gender, or government organization. It is limited to people who are involved, directly or peripherally, in formulating and carrying out the plans of a tiny elite class – plans that ignore the 99 percent of the Americans in whose names they act, and the billions of people whose lives their decisions impact. There is no one whose social relationships and professional career typifies this more than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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

Notes

  1. Shoup, Laurence H. and William Minter. Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations & United States Foreign Policy. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press, 1977/2004. (pg. 9)
  2.  Ibid. (pg. 50)
  3. Ibid. (pg. 23)
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All 28 member states of the European Union, with the possible exception only of Sweden, plus another 20 non-­EU states in Europe and North Africa are all now within range of Israel’s secret nuclear-armed submarine fleet in the Mediterranean, and its cruise missiles.

The fleet consists of five, Dolphin­ Class, German­-built submarines that were supplied by Angela Merkel in a unilateral decision that, at a stroke, rendered virtually the whole of Europe vulnerable to attack from a non­-NATO state situated in the eastern Mediterranean which is not bound to either the NPT or the IAEA.

That fateful decision dramatically altered the balance of power, the potential consequences of which have yet to be appreciated not least by Britain’s current Defence Chiefs of Staff.

It is a political and military error of immense proportions that a non-­member of NATO has been allowed a ‘second strike’ nuclear capability over the entire European Union with a population of 500,000,000, as a result of the grave misjudgement of the current German Chancellor.

Anthony Bellchambers. London February 2016. [email protected]

References:

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Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of its Parliament

February 25th, 2016 by Jonathan Cook

Benjamin Netanyhu’s government is drafting legislation that ought to resolve in observers’ minds the question of whether Israel is the democracy it proudly claims to be. The bill empowers a three-quarters majority of the parliament to oust a sitting MP.

It breathes new life into the phrase “tyranny of the majority”. But in this case, the majority will be Jewish MPs oppressing their Palestinian colleagues.

Netanyahu has presented the bill as a necessary response to the recent actions of three MPs from the Balad faction of the Joint List, a coalition of parties representing the often-overlooked fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian citizens.

He claims the MPs “sided with terror” this month when they visited Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem who have been waiting many months for Israel to return relatives’ bodies.

The 11 dead are among those alleged to have carried out what are termed “lone-wolf” attacks, part of a recent wave of Palestinian unrest. Fearful of more protests, Israel has demanded that the families bury the bodies in secret, without autopsies, and in plots outside Jerusalem.

There is an urgent moral and political issue about Israel using bodies as bargaining chips to encourage Palestinian obedience towards its illegal occupation.

But the three Palestinian MPs also believed they were under an obligation to help the families by adding to the pressure on the Netanyahu government to return the bodies.

Israel’s Palestinian minority has a severely degraded form of citizenship, but it enjoys more rights than Palestinians living under occupation.

When a video of their meeting the families was posted online, however, the Israeli right seized on the chance to defame the MPs. A parliamentary “ethics” committee comprising the main Jewish parties suspended the three MPs for several months. Now they face losing their seats.

This is part of a clear trend. Late last year the government outlawed the northern Islamic Movement, a popular extra-parliamentary political, religious and welfare organisation.

Despite Netanyahu’s statements that the movement was linked to “terror”, leaks to the Israeli media showed his intelligence chiefs had advised him weeks before the ban that there was no evidence to support such accusations.

At the time many Palestinians in Israel suspected Netanyahu would soon turn his sights on the Palestinian parties in the parliament. And so he has.

Balad, which decries Israel’s status as a Jewish state and noisily campaigns for democratic reform, was always likely to be top of his list.

In every recent general election, an election committee dominated by the Jewish parties has banned Balad or its leaders from standing, only to see the Israeli courts reverse the decision.

Now Netanyahu is legislating the expulsion of Balad and throwing down a gauntlet to the courts.

It won’t end there. If Balad is unseated, the participation of the other Joint List factions will be untenable. In effect, the Israeli right is seeking to ethnically cleanse the parliament.

For those who doubt such intentions, consider that two years ago the government raised the electoral threshold for entry to the parliament specifically to exclude the Palestinian factions.

The intention was to empty the parliament of its Palestinian representatives. But these factions put aside their historic differences to create the Joint List.

Netanyahu, who had hoped to see the back of the Palestinian parties at last year’s general election, inadvertently transformed them into the third biggest party. That was the context for his now-infamous warning during the campaign that “the Arabs are coming out in droves to vote”.

The current crackdown on Palestinian parties may finally burst the simplistic assumption – widely accepted in the west – that Israel is a democracy – and not least because its Palestinian minority has the vote.

This argument was always deeply misguided. After Israel’s creation in 1948, officials gave citizenship and the vote to the few Palestinians remaining inside the new borders precisely because they were a small and weak minority.

In exiling 80 per cent of Palestinians from their homeland, Israel effectively rigged its national electoral constituency to ensure there would be a huge Jewish majority in perpetuity.

A Palestinian MP, Ahmed Tibi, summed it up neatly. Israel, he said, was a democratic state for Jews, and a Jewish state for its Palestinian citizens.

In truth, the vote of Palestinian citizens was only ever meant as window-dressing. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, assumed that the rump Palestinian population would be swamped by Jewish immigrants flooding into the new state.

He miscalculated. The Palestinian minority had a far higher birth rate and maintained its 20 per cent proportion of the population.

None of that would matter had the Palestinian representatives quietly accepted their position as shop-window mannequins.

But in recent years, as Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has grown ever weaker, confined to small enclaves of the West Bank, the Palestinian MPs in Israel have taken up some of the slack.

That was why the Balad MPs met the Jerusalem families. The PA, barred by Israel from East Jerusalem, has been looking on helplessly as the families have been desperately trying to get their loved ones’ bodies back.

This month Mr Netanyahu said he would surround Israel with walls to keep out the neighbourhood’s “wild beasts”. In his view, there are also wild beasts to be found in Israel’s parliament – and he is ready to erect walls to keep them out too.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

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Regime Change in Ankara? More Likely Than You Think

February 25th, 2016 by Mike Whitney

On Friday, the United States rejected a draft resolution by Russia that was intended to prevent a Turkish invasion of Syria. Moscow had called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to address its growing concern that Turkey is planning to send thousands of ground troops and armored vehicles it has massed on its southern border, into Syria to protect Turkish-backed militants and to block the Kurdish militia, the YPG, from establishing a contiguous state in northern Syria. Moscow’s one-page resolution was a thoroughly-straightforward document aimed at preventing a massive escalation in a conflict that has already claimed the lives of 250, 000 and left the country in ruins.

According to Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, “The main elements of this Russian draft resolution are to demand that all parties refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Syria, that they fully respect Syria’s sovereignty and independence, stop incursions, and abandon plans for ground operations.”

The resolution also expressed Moscow’s  “grave alarm at the reports of military buildup and preparatory activities aimed at launching foreign ground intervention into the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

There was nothing controversial about the resolution, no tricks and no hidden meaning. The delegates were simply asked to support Syrian sovereignty and oppose armed aggression. These are the very principles upon which the United Nations was founded. The US and its allies rejected these principles because they failed to jibe with Washington’s geopolitical ambitions in Syria.

Quashing the resolution confirms in the clearest terms that Washington doesn’t want peace in Syria. Also, it suggests that the Obama administration thinks that Turkish ground troops could play an important role in shaping the outcome of a conflict that the US is still determined to win. Keep in mind, if the resolution had passed, the threat of a Turkish invasion would have vanished immediately.

Why?

Because the Turkish  “military has publicly stated that it is not willing to send troops across the border without U.N. Security Council approval.” (Washington Post)

Many people in the west are under the illusion that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dictatorial powers and can simply order his troops into battle whenever he chooses. But that is not the case. While Erdogan has removed many of his rivals within the military, the top brass still maintains a certain autonomy from the civilian leadership. Turkish generals want assurances that they will not be prosecuted for war crimes in the future. The best way to do that is to make sure that any invasion has the blessing of either the US, NATO or the UN.

The Obama administration understands this dynamic, which is why they quashed the resolution. Obama wanted to leave the door open so Turkish troops could eventually engage the Russian-led coalition in Washington’s ongoing proxy war. This leads me to believe that the Washington’s primary objective in Syria is no longer the removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad but the bogging down of Russia in a never-ending conflict.

Just hours after the US defeated Moscow’s draft resolution at the UN,  closed-door talks were convened in Geneva where high-level U.S. and Russian military officials met to discuss the prospects for ceasefire.

The cease-fire, which is typically referred to as a “cessation of hostilities”, is aimed at temporarily stopping the fighting so the battered jihadists and US-backed rebels can regroup and rejoin the war at some later date. Both Moscow and Washington want to deliver humanitarian aid to war-torn cities across Syria, and to move towards a “political transition” although both sides are deeply divided over Assad’s role in any future government. According to the Washington Post:

One of the many problems to be overcome is a differing definition of what constitutes a terrorist group. In addition to the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Russia and Syria have labeled the entire opposition as terrorists.

Jabhat al-Nusra, whose forces are intermingled with moderate rebel groups in the northwest near the Turkish border, is particularly problematic. Russia was said to have rejected a U.S. proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra off-limits to bombing as part of a cease-fire, at least temporarily, until the groups can be sorted out.  (“U.S., Russia hold Syria cease-fire talks as deadline passes without action“, Washington Post)

Repeat: “Russia was said to have rejected a U.S. proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra (al Qaida) off-limits to bombing as part of a cease-fire, at least temporarily, until the groups can be sorted out.” In other words, the Obama administration wanted to protect an affiliate of the group that killed 3,000 Americans in the terror attacks on 9-11 and that is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Syrian civilians whose only fault was that they happen to occupy country that these Wahhabi mercenaries wanted to transform into an Islamic Caliphate. Naturally, Moscow refused to go along with this charade.

Even so, Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced on Sunday that he and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov,  “had reached a ‘provisional agreement in principle’ for a temporary truce in the Syrian civil war and that it could start within days”  although no one really knows how the “cease-fire would be enforced and how breaches would be resolved.”

Consider how hypocritical it is for Obama to reject Russia’s draft resolution at the UN and, just hours later,  try to put Al Qaida under the protective umbrella of a US-Russia brokered ceasefire. What does that say about America’s so called “war on terror”?

Meanwhile in Turkey, Erdogan’s threats to invade Syria have intensified following a car bombing in Ankara last week that killed 28 and wounded 61 others. The Turkish government blamed a young activist, Salih Neccar, who had links to the Turkish militia (YPG) in Syria of being the perpetrator. But less than 24 hours after the blast, the government’s version of events began to fall apart. In a story that has been scarcely reported in the western media, the  Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed full responsibility for the bombing according to a statement on its website. (The Freedom Hawks are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.) Then, on Monday, the Erdogan regime was slammed with more damning news: DNA samples demonstrated conclusively that Neccar was not perpetrator, but rather Abdulbaki Sömer, a member of the group that had claimed responsibility from the beginning. (TAK)  As of this writing, the government still hasn’t admitted that it lied to the public to build their case for war.  Erdogan and his extremist colleagues continue to use thoroughly discredited information to threaten to invade Syria. As he said on Saturday at a UNESCO meeting in Gaziantep:

Turkey has every right to conduct operations in Syria and the places where terror organizations are nested with regards to the struggle against the threats that Turkey faces…No one can restrict Turkey’s right to self-defense in the face of terror acts that have targeted Turkey.

This explains why Turkey has been shelling Syrian territory for the last week. It also explains why Erdogan has given Sunni jihadists a free pass to traverse Turkey and reenter the war zone in areas that improve their chances of success against the Syrian Army. Check this out from the New York Times:

Syrian rebels have brought at least 2,000 reinforcements through Turkey in the past week to bolster the fight against Kurdish-led militias north of Aleppo, rebel sources said on Thursday.

Turkish forces facilitated the transfer from one front to another over several nights, covertly escorting rebels as they exited Syria’s Idlib governorate, traveled four hours across Turkey, and re-entered Syria to support the embattled rebel stronghold of Azaz, the sources said.

“We have been allowed to move everything from light weapons to heavy equipment, mortars and missiles and our tanks,” Abu Issa, a commander in the Levant Front, the rebel group that runs the border crossing of Bab al-Salama, told Reuters, giving his alias and talking on condition of anonymity.  (“Syrian Rebels Say Reinforcements Get Free Passage via Turkey“, New York Times)

The Obama administration  knows that Erdogan is fueling the conflict, but has chosen to look the other way. And while Obama has (weakly) admonished Turkey for shelling Syrian territory, he has, at the same time, acknowledged Turkey’s “right to defend itself”, which is an expression the US reserves for Israel when it conducting one of its murderous rampages in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Now, Obama has bestowed that same honor on Erdogan. This alone speaks volumes about the duplicity of Washington’s approach.

So what is Washington’s gameplan in Syria? Is the administration serious about defeating ISIS and ending the hostilities or does Obama have something else up his sleeve?

First of all,  Washington is not the least bit concerned about ISIS. The group is merely a straw-man that allows the US to conduct military operations in a region that is vital to its national interests. If the ISIS boogieman disappeared tomorrow, the White House would conjure up some other phantom–like the drug war or something equally ridiculous–so it could continue its depredations uninterrupted.  What matters to Washington is breaking up the strong, secular Arab governments that pose a long-term threat to US-Israeli ambitions. That’s what really matters. The other obvious goal is to control critical resources and pipeline corridors to the EU and make sure those resources continue to be denominated in US dollars.

We continue to believe that the US-Kurdish (YPG) alliance does not really advance US strategic interests in Syria. The US is not interested in Kurdish statehood nor do they care if jihadist militias control the northern quadrant of Syria’s border-region. The real purpose of the US-YPG alliance is to enrage Turkey and provoke them into a cross-border conflict with the Russian-led coalition. If Turkey deploys ground troops to Syria, then Moscow could face the quagmire it has tried so hard to avoid. Turkish forces would serve as a replacement army for the US-backed jihadists and other proxies that have prosecuted the war for the last five years but now appear to be in full retreat.

More importantly, a Turkish invasion would exacerbate divisions inside Turkey seriously eroding Erdogan’s grip on power while creating vulnerabilities the US could exploit by working with its agents in the Turkish military and Intel agency (MIT). The ultimate objective would be to foment sufficient social unrest to incite a color-coded revolution that would dispose of the troublemaking Erdogan in a Washington-orchestrated coup, much like the one the CIA executed in Kiev.

It is not hard to imagine Obama secretly giving Erdogan the greenlight, and then pulling the rug out from under him as soon as his troops crossed over into Syria.  A similar scam was carried out in 1990 when U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, gave Saddam Hussein the nod to invade Kuwait. The Iraqi Army had barely reached its destination before the US launched a massive military campaign (Operation Desert Storm) that forced Saddam to speedily withdraw along the infamous Highway of Death where upwards of 10,000 Iraqi regulars were annihilated like sitting ducks in a vicious and homicidal display of American firepower.   That was the first phase of Washington’s plan to overthrow Saddam and replace him with a compliant Arab stooge.

Is the same regime change trap now being set for Erdogan?

It sure looks like it.

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Europe’s economic crisis has offered vast business opportunities to an all-powerful nexus of financial interests that have snapped up valuable state assets at bargain basement prices, defrauding the poorest countries of countless billions of euros, write Sol Trumbo & Nick Buxton. The EU’s highest institutions are in the grip of a deep, systemic corruption that knows no boundaries.

These lobbyists have turned privatisation into a capitalist virility test; used to judge whether an indebted country is truly committed to economic reform. The fact their advice reaps considerable private profit for themselves is rarely mentioned.

Some rights reserved.When the leftist party Syriza came to power in Greece in 2015, it promised to revise the crisis-hit country’s unpopular privatisation programme.

Yet this month, the same party found itself in fierce confrontations with its own electoral base, unionised workers, protesting the government’s sale of its major ports in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Greece's recently privatised port of Piraeus, near Athens, gateway to the islands. Photo: Jeffrey via Flickr (CC BY-ND).

Greece’s recently privatised port of Piraeus, near Athens, gateway to the islands. Photo: Jeffrey via Flickr (CC BY-ND).

Reactivatating Greece’s privatisation programme was made a central condition of the humiliating memorandum that Syriza signed in July 2015, after capitulating to its creditors. Since July, Syriza has moved forward with the privatisation of Piraeus port in Athens, 14 regional airports and is currently preparing to privatise its rail network.

So why have the European Commission’s policy makers made privatisation such a central tenet for agreeing to loans to Europe’s indebted countries? The European Commission (EC) in correspondence in 2012 explained it this way:

… privatisation of public companies contributes to the reduction of public debt, as well as to the reduction of subsidies, other transfers or state guarantees to state-owned enterprises. It also has the potential of increasing the efficiency of companies and, by extension, the competitiveness of the economy as a whole, while attracting foreign direct investment.

In other words, privatisation would help countries pay back their debt, would improve the state-owned companies’ efficiency and effectiveness, and therefore would boost economic growth.

That’s the dogma. So what are the facts?

But do those arguments stand up in practice? Five years into the economic programmes imposed by the EC, Transnational Institute in its report The Privatisation Industry in Europe decided to examine the evidence. Its conclusions cast serious doubt on the EC’s rationale.

It found that the sales of state-owned assets during recession have consistently failed to raise expected revenues. Greece for example was predicted to raise €50 billion but has so far raised a paltry €3.5 billion. This may be partly down to popular and Syriza resistance, but it is also what happens when profitable companies are sold at a time of recession.

Greece’s sale of 14 regional airports is typical of how privatisation short-changes taxpayers, as only the profitable ones were sold, leaving the unprofitable ones still subsidised by Greek citizens.

In other austerity-struck countries, share prices of state-owned assets soared as soon as the sale went public, suggesting the set price was far too low. In the case of the airport network AENA in Spain, for example, the price of the shares increased by 20% the first day of going public, which meant a loss of almost €1 billion for the Spanish state.

Meanwhile, the case for increased efficiency has ironically been undermined by research by European universities funded by the European Union. The project examined the relationship between employment, productivity and quality of public services undergoing a process of privatisation in six European countries and concluded that it “promoted a model of competition that is largely based on the reduction of wage costs and not on the improvement of quality and innovation.”

As well as reducing wages and undermining labour rights, other evidence shows privatised companies tend to increase costs for consumers. In the 34 OECD countries, for example, the average price for energy charged by private companies is 23.1% higher than the price charged by public companies. In France, which has a long history of privatised water supply, the price of water provided by private companies is 16.6% higher than water provided by municipal utilities.

Perhaps most perversely, the European Commission’s argument in favour of private as opposed to public ownership, falls apart when you realise that significant numbers of state-owned companies in Greece and elsewhere are currently being taken over by state companies from other nations.

Greece’s regional airports for example are being sold to Fraport, majority-owned by the German state. Meanwhile Chinese state companies have been actively buying up state companies across Europe, notably energy companies in Portugal, Italy and the UK.

A nexus of financial power comes in for the kill

So if the arguments for privatisation no longer stand up to scrutiny, what is driving the process? Along with an ideological fixation with neoliberal policies in the Commission, it is notable how many powerful legal, accountancy and financial firms are reaping profits from the process.

The report, The Privatisation Industry in Europe shows that the privatisation of state-owned assets depends on the participation of a small coterie of corporations, that provide the financial and legal advice.

In terms of financial advice, Lazard and Rothschild are the big players; legal advice features mainly UK-based law firms, such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Allen and Overy, and in all of the deals the so-called ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms (Deloitte, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young) are involved. Their advice does not come cheap: Lazard made profits of £1.5 million as an advisor in the privatisation of Royal Mail.

In a few cases, these large corporate firms have had both the legal and financial departments of their company involved in privatisation which means they have been able to profit from their own advice.

For example, in the aforementioned sale of AENA in Spain, Lazard advisory branch helped determine the price of shares, and its asset management branch, Lazard World Dividend & Income Fund, acquired AENA shares at the IPO and sold them roughly a month later netting a 60% profit.

The firms argue that a ‘Chinese wall’ between their different divisions prevent conflicts of interest, but perhaps a more honest assessment is provided by William Cohan, a former Lazard banker who said: “This is a very high-margin business … All their expenses are paid, and they have no capital at risk. This is as sweet as it gets.”

‘The drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it. It still is.’

It comes as no surprise that these institutions are all involved in powerful European lobbying groups, such as the European Financial Services Roundtable, Business Europe and the Society of European Affairs Professionals. Many of the firms have their own lobbyists in Brussels: Freshmans Bruckhaus Deringer openly states that it is present there to “help to shape EU legislation and administrative decisions.”

Collectively, these lobbyists have turned privatisation into a capitalist virility test; used to judge whether an indebted country is truly committed to economic reform and competitiveness. The fact their advice reaps considerable private profit for themselves in the process is rarely mentioned.

The fact that the financial sector emerged not only unscathed, but strengthened in the wake of the financial crisis is a conundrum that the left and progressives still grapple with. It showed that popular awareness and anger was not enough to overcome the combined force of a powerful financial industry and a neoliberal ideology deeply entrenched in political and cultural life.

So it is perhaps no surprise that privatisation has accelerated in Europe rather than slowed down since the economic crisis. As Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman put it: “The drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it. It still is.”

However, just as in the financial crisis, this powerful nexus of forces cannot hide the social costs of policies that put private profits before human needs. Along with anger at the surging inequality expressed in the rise of anti-establishment party candidates on both sides of the Atlantic, there is also growing disaffection with growing cases of privatisation that have led to declining public services and rising prices.

In the area of water, for example, 235 cities worldwide in the last 15 years have brought water services back under public control in frustration at rising prices and declining service delivery. This trend is one that European Commission bureaucrats would do well to learn from before ploughing ahead with the next wave of austerity-drive privatisation in its most indebted countries.

Their failure to listen, will only contribute to a growing disaffection with the European Union project, from both the left and the right, that won’t be reversed until economic policies are designed for the benefit of the majority rather than a privileged minority.

Sol Trumbo is an economist and political activist working for TNI since November 2012. He is focussing on the construction of a pan-European social movement to resist and provide alternatives to the current neoliberal EU policies. Sol has a BSc degree in Economic science from the Universidad de Valencia in Spain and a MSc in International Relations from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. Since their uprising in 2011 he has been involved in the Indignados and Occupy movements, acting locally while working towards the international convergence of these new grass-roots movements with other civil society organizations that share the same objectives and values.

Nick Buxton is a communications consultant, working on media, publications and online communications for TNI. He has been based in California since September 2008 and prior to that lived in Bolivia for four years, working as writer/web editor at Fundación Solón, a Bolivian organisation working on issues of trade, water, culture and historical memory.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

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The closing of Guantanamo prison and the return of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba is one of the most heated subjects of Cuba–US relations. It is taking on even more significance as Obama’s trip to Cuba on March 21–22 approaches.

On February 23, 2016, President Barack Obama announced, in a prepared statement to the press, that he is taking measures to close the notorious Guantanamo facility through Congress. He did not evaluate the possibility of using his executive power to do so. He did not entertain questions from the journalists, who perhaps may have raised this issue.

What is this executive option to close the prison?

Thomas B. Wilner is one of the most important lawyers in the US dealing with the Guantanamo issue. A timely interview with Wilner by Cuban journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde was published on February 23, 2016 in CubaDebate. In response to her question as to whether Obama can use executive power to finally shut down the prison even if Congress opposes the plan, Wilner said:

I am not absolutely clear if he will do this. I think he has the power, as President, to close the Guantanamo prison and transfer detainees to the US, even if Congress opposes. I think he has this power.

Gregory B. Craig is a prestigious lawyer who served as White House counsel to Obama in 2009. Cliff Sloan was the special envoy for Guantanamo closure in 2013 and 2014. In a co-authored article published on November 6, 2015 in The Washington Post they wrote:

Some maintain that the congressional ban on transfers from Guantanamo to the United States prevents closure without congressional approval. But that is wrong. Under Article II of the Constitution, the president has exclusive authority to determine the facilities in which military detainees are held. Obama has the authority to move forward. He should use it…. The question is whether Congress can tell the president where military detainees must be held. The answer is an emphatic no. One need not accept a particularly broad view of executive authority – let alone the Bush administration’s sweeping view that the president has ‘exclusive and virtually unfettered control over the disposition of enemy soldiers and agents captured in time of war’ (an extravagant assertion with which we disagree) – to see that the restrictions Congress has imposed are unconstitutional.

There are different views at this time as to why Obama does not use the power he has at his disposal to close Gitmo. This will be an ongoing debate as the situation develops in the coming months.

One possible consideration relates to domestic politics. A lot is being said about Obama’s legacy. Let us forego for the moment the notion of his legacy as seen negatively by others. Perhaps not enough emphasis is placed on the importance of a Democratic Party victory in the November 2016 presidential elections. This is an absolute condition in assuring the credibility of a positive endowment. In the case of Obama, a Republican victory would put into question his legacy. If his policies and actions could not even result in his party electing the next president, then what value would his heritage hold in the broader political spectrum of US politics?

For example, George W. Bush’s Republican Party lost the presidential elections in 2008. As a result, even though the potential of a positive legacy was far inferior to Obama’s, any chance for a positive endowment was eliminated. George W. Bush was left with his brother candidate Jeb Bush repeating in the latest phase of his campaign that “George W. Bush has ‘been a great president’ and that his father, George H. W. Bush ‘is the greatest man alive.’” Shortly after that, Jeb Bush had to abandon the campaign, as the result of a complete lack of support among the Republicans.

The Republican-controlled Congress strongly opposes the closing of the Guantanamo prison, even though some individual Republicans are in favour of shutting it down. Thus, by refusing to use his power to close Gitmo and relying instead entirely on the Republican-dominated Congress, Obama can blame the Congress for blocking it. This would, according to the logic, place the eventual Democratic presidential candidate in a positive light while reflecting poorly on the Republican candidate.

This red-herring approach (i.e. blaming the Republicans) is also used with regard to lifting the blockade against Cuba. In the January 2016 State of the Union address, Obama called on Congress to lift the blockade. He knows full well that, for the moment, Congress will not vote to do so, even though there is growing support – including among some Republicans – for eliminating this obstacle to trade, commerce and travel. However, while insisting that Congress lift the blockade, Obama has not used the enormous executive powers he has at his disposal to implement the many measures that could render much of the blockade ineffective. In fact, in 2015–2016, some companies outside of the US have been fined for violating the blockade. Will Obama change course and use his powers to mitigate the effects of the blockade on the Cuban people? Perhaps he will do so before and during his sojourn to Cuba on March 20–21, 2016.

The second possible angle to take into account regarding his refusal to use his power to close Guantanamo prison is related to the trip to Cuba, followed by his visit to Argentina. Obama has stated on many occasions, from 2014 to present, that his Cuba policy is designed to improve relations with Latin America. Immediately following the Cuba visit, the Argentine leg of his March 2016 trip to Latin America is a key element in this plan. This was confirmed by Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.

One cannot underestimate the damage Guantanamo has done to US credibility on human rights, especially in Latin America. A very politically conscious region, many countries have suffered under US-imposed military dictators using torture and assassinations to remain in power. One of these countries is Argentina. Perhaps the White House has to consider this. Already the Plaza de Mayo grandmothers – family victims of these atrocities – are planning a demonstration against the Obama visit. The prestige of this Plaza de Mayo movement is so high that President Macri had to meet with the organizers on February 23, 2016 to deal with their complaints about his dictatorial methods.

These types of activities in Buenos Aires can have repercussions in other countries of Latin America, whose people also have a very negative perspective on US respect for human rights. Flying into Argentina with the dead weight of Guantanamo on Obama’s back will definitely not help as far as the people are concerned, even though the newly elected right-wing Argentine President Macri does not have any issues regarding Guantanamo. Perhaps Obama believes he can arrive in Argentina with his head high, carrying the February 23 statement as a badge: his attempt to close Guantanamo despite Congressional opposition.

Factors other than the two mentioned above may also be contributing to his refusal to close Guantanamo. Let us leave it up to others to weigh in on this important issue, so as to put pressure on Obama to close the prison and return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.

Arnold August, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections and, more recently, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion. Cuba’s neighbours under consideration are the US, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Arnold can be followed on Twitter @Arnold_August.

 

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Heavy clashes are ongoing in several points along the Khanasser-Aleppo road and the Sheikh Hilal-Ithriyah road including the town of Khanasser captured by ISIS in the recent days. At the moment, the both supply roads remain closed. Despite the optimistic claims of some pro-government sources, experts estimate the supply line to Aleppo will be hardly opened earlier than the end of this week.

On the other hand, Khanasser could become a big operational trap for ISIS with the SAA’ task to drag into combat as many fresh ISIS forces as possible and then to terminate them by massive air and artillery strikes with ground counter offensive. Nonetheless, all will depend on the effectivity of the pro-government forces’ actions.

The SAA and National Defense Forces (NDF) are advancing on the militants in Northeastern Lattakia. On Feb.23, the SAA took control of the villages of ‘Ayn Al-Ghazal and Rasha after advancing northeast from Kinsibba clashing with militants of al Nusra, the Free Syrian Army and Ahrar Al-Sham. Thus, the SAA is in position to advance on the strategic village of Kabani in the coming days and approach the border with the province of Idlib.

A coordination center to reconcile the implementation of the ceasefire among warring parties in Syria has been launched at the Khmeimim airbase. The coordination center will monitor the various sides’ compliance with the expected ceasefire. Russia has handed over the hotline contact to the US. We remember the center is also used for the Russian anti-terror campaign in Syria which is a bad omen for the terrorists.

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Selected Articles: Radical Zionism is Uncriticizable in the West

February 24th, 2016 by Global Research News

hijabU.S. Military White Paper Describes Wearing Hijab as “Passive Terrorism”

By Murtaza Hussain, February 24 2016

A policy paper issued by the Air Force Research Laboratory, titled Countering Violent Extremism: Scientific Methods & Strategies, includes a chapter setting forth controversial and unsubstantiated theories of radicalization, including the idea that support for militant groups is driven by…

MCGILLCanada: Toward Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli Apartheid. McGill University

By Dan MacFadden, February 24 2016

… the end of Israeli apartheid appears distant on the horizon as it has been ever since the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel in 1967. The use of the term “apartheid” is a parallel drawn by human rights organizations and activists between the past racial segregation of South Africa and the Israeli concept of Hafrada (“separation”), whereby Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are literally walled off via the Israeli West Bank barrier and the Gaza barrier.

ah_bdsUS, Britain and Canada Endorse Anti-BDS Measures. One Sided Support for Israel

By Stephen Lendman, February 24 2016

Global BDS activism is the most vital initiative against Israel’s ruthless agenda, essential to support – why Washington, Britain and Canada want its effectiveness neutralized.

NetanyahuIsrael is on the Brink of a Tyranny of the Majority

By Jonathan Cook, February 23 2016

By discrediting and disenfranchising Palestinian parliament members, Israel’s democracy is being exposed as a facade.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Tel Aviv is drafting legislation that ought to resolve in observers’ minds the question of whether Israel is the democracy it…

New Middle East (Arabic)Balkanizing the Middle East: The REAL Goal of America and Israel: Shatter Syria and Iraq Into “Many Small Pieces”

By Washington’s Blog, February 24 2016

The hawks in the U.S. and Israel decided long ago to break up Iraq and Syria into small fragments.

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Abortion is one of the defining issues of the 2016 national Irish election, yet a vast majority of candidates have declined to give their views on the controversial subject. 331 of the 392 candidates have not declared a position, 33 candidates have stated support for keeping the 8th Amendment, and another 28 candidates have stated that they want to repeal the 8th. Labour, Sinn Féin, the Greens, Social Democrats, and a number of Left Independents have pledged to hold a referendum to remove the “right to life” 8th Amendment from the Constitution, which prevents the liberalization of the state’s abortion laws.

Along with the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Australia, Ireland is a liberal-democratic welfare state. Given that the idea of individual rights is the corner stone of liberal democracies, reproductive autonomy (a woman’s right to control her own body) is a clear expression of her free will. In other words, free and safe abortion on demand is a basic condition for equal participation in society. Canada, Australia, and the U.S. offer abortion without restriction as to reason. The U.K. offers abortion on socioeconomic grounds. In Ireland, abortion is illegal except where the woman’s life is explicitly in danger.

Historically, the role of the Irish state in the sexual and reproductive lives of its citizens has been extensive including, concerns with: homosexuality, incest, maternal and child health, unwed mothers, abortion, and with the regulation of contraception. The majority of candidates in this election are aware that abortion is a particularly divisive issue and therefore prefer to sit on the fence rather than provoke either pro-life or pro-choice voters. Weak political leadership has been the foremost factor in Ireland being the only liberal democratic welfare state unwilling to support women’s reproductive choice.

The History: “There is only one sin in Ireland and only women can commit it”

In February 1984, the body of 15 year old schoolgirl Ann Lovett was found under a grotto in Granard, County Longford. She had died in childbirth. A year later, in what became known as the Kerry Babies case, the death of two newborns, one found buried on a beach and the other buried in a farmyard, brought into public view the reality of concealed pregnancies.

Around this time, there were two bitter and divisive referenda on women’s right to reproductive choice. In 1983, although there was no widespread demand for abortion, a few small pro-life groups on the Catholic right were successful in inserting a pro-life (8th) amendment into the Constitution. Given the fact that abortion was illegal in Ireland under the Offences against the Person Act of 1861, the constitutional amendment suggests weak political leadership more than strong oppositional forces. Attacks on pro-choice campaigners were so callous that the left effectively abandoned efforts to insert a “right of access to information” amendment about legal abortions services abroad. It, therefore, continued to be illegal to seek or provide abortion information to women living in Ireland.

In 1992, after a 14 year old girl, pregnant and suicidal as a result of rape, was prevented from leaving the country for an abortion, Ireland was again embroiled in a debate about abortion. Known as the X Case, the Supreme Court determined that the pro-life amendment of 1983 protected the life of the mother also, and where there was threat of suicide the mother’s life had to take precedence. In the 1993 referendum, the 1983 pro-life 8th amendment was amended at this time to include the right to travel abroad and to access information for purposes of abortion. However, a third proposed amendment – legalising abortion if there was a risk to the life of the mother – was rejected. It would take another twenty years before the right to an abortion if there is threat of suicide was fully legalised (Protection of Life Act, 2013).

In 2012, Dr. Savita Halappanavar was experiencing a miscarriage. She requested an abortion but was refused on legal grounds – the foetus still had a heart beat. Within a week Halappanavar miscarried but died from multiple organ failure related to septicemia. Halappanavar’s death galvanized pro-choice forces and Ireland was, once again, entangled in the abortion issue.

The Struggle: “Condemned to a life of motherhood and homemaking”

Feminist struggles to shape the abortion debate in Ireland flows from a broader social struggle to fully separate the state from the Church. The Church’s primary interest in women’s reproductive lives has been toward preserving a vision of women’s role in the family and society that is anachronistic: a nuclear family unit where the man is the wage-earning, head-of-household and the woman is the unpaid caregiver. Rejecting abortion on any grounds, the Catholic Church condemns women, especially poor and working-class women without the means to travel abroad for abortion services, to a life, in many cases, of unwanted motherhood and unpaid domestic work.

According to a recent Central Statistics Office report Irish women are highly educated (more women than men have university degrees); there is a growing trend among women who are choosing co-habitation over marriage and those who do marry tend to marry later (in their 30s); 60% of women are in the paid labour force. Further, numerous public opinion polls conducted during the last two years have shown that 78% of Irish people support medical entitlement to abortion while almost half the population supports abortion-on-demand. About 70% believe that abortion should be decriminalized, 50% believe it is the woman’s right to choose, and almost 85% are in favour of widening the grounds for abortion.[1]

Since the death of Savita Halappanavar a vibrant network of Left activists have renewed the struggle for women’s right to choose. A grassroots organization called ROSA (for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism, and Austerity) has been particularly effective in attracting media attention and public support toward repealing the 8th. ROSA, established in 2013 by female members of the Irish Socialist Party, launched a republic-wide pro-choice campaign on the slogan, “Never Again” (in reference to Halappanavar’s unnecessary death). These feminist socialists are demanding a complete repeal of the 8th Amendment (right to life) and full medical entitlement to free, safe abortion services across the country. In addition, ROSA advocates for free contraception, secular and progressive sex education in schools, an end to rape culture and violence against women, and an end to spending cuts to social services and programmes critical to women’s well-being such as welfare, child care, health, education, and emergency shelters.

In addition to organizing public information sessions, leafleting, and street protests such as the annual March for Choice (which has attracted over 20,000 supporters), on 24 October 2014, the second anniversary of Halappanavar’s death, ROSA activists traveled to Northern Ireland to collect medical abortion pills and brought them back to Dublin where they publicly swallowed them. This event was widely covered in the European media. On the 24 October 2015, ROSA deployed an “abortion bus” to tour major cities. Inspired by the Canadian “abortion caravan” of the early 1970s, these feminists traveled across country informing women where and how they could obtain abortion pills. Irish law prohibits helping women to procure these pills. ROSA activists risked 14 years in prison. Nonetheless, the caravan captured the attention of media around the world and forced the issue onto the 2016 electoral agenda.

The Reality: “Candidates are reluctant to nail their colours to the mast”

During the last decade, there has been widespread social change in Ireland. For example, in a referendum on May 2015, 62% voted YES for marriage equality. This represented a massive victory for the LGBTQ community. Additionally, the moral authority of the church has collapsed due to child sex abuse, Taum Babies, and Magdalene Laundries scandals (a network of homes for unwed mothers run by the church where mass graves of women and babies were recently discovered). Yet, political leadership has failed to keep-up with the times.

The outgoing Fine Gael Party leader and Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, has proposed a Constitutional conference to look at the situation with a view to additional amendments based on fatal foetal abnormalities rather than repealing the 8th. Further, Kenny has assured members a free vote and opposes the woman’s right to choose. In 2013, the Labour Party leader, Joan Burton, introduced a 14 year prison sentence for having, or helping someone to have an abortion and voted against motions for holding a repeal referendum in December 2014 and May 2015. In February 2015, Labour voted against allowing abortion even in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. Despite this anti-feminist record, the Labour leader is promising a referendum if it is elected to government.

Repeal the Eighth

In terms of the other party leaders contesting the election, Fianna Fáil has stated that it will not initiate a referendum to repeal the 8th and rejects a woman’s right to choose. Sinn Féin promises to hold a referendum to the repeal the 8th. However, party leader Gerry Adams has stated that he plans to amend, not repeal, the 8th amendment. The Green Party supports repeal but wants to limit abortion rights to cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, rape, incest and risk to health, but does not support the right to choose. Renua, formed by Fine Gael TDs (MPs) who left the party because of their opposition to legislating for the X case and allowing abortion even where there is ‘a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman’s life’, have been promised a free vote on the issue, however, only 12% of Renua candidates have pledged to repeal the 8th. Social Democrats support repeal. However, they propose that new legislation be developed in a convention and do not advocate the right to choose. Only Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit and the Workers’ Party have pledged to repeal the 8th amendment and advocate a woman’s right a choose.[2]

Conclusion: “How the battle for a woman’s right to choose can be won”

Between 1983 and 2014, 161, 987 women travelled to England and Wales to access safe abortion services.[3] The people of the Irish Republic, for the most part, have very progressive ideas about the rights and roles of women in the 21st century and do not agree that a plane ticket is the solution. Many also believe strongly that the Catholic Church has no business in the private lives of citizens.

Indeed, since the death of Savita Halappanavar, the tone and language around women’s reproductive choice suggests a significant leftward shift in political consciousness. Polling results during the last few weeks show establishment parties losing support and left-wing parties who call for repealing the 8th steadily gaining ground. There is a great sense that the 2016 election will be a major turning point in Irish politics with potential for the most socialists to be elected in the country’s history.

For many Irish people, the struggle for free, safe, universally accessible abortion is both an individual and collective one; inside and outside the state. They know that in order to win the battle for women’s right to choose, people must struggle in the streets and at the ballot box.

Carol-Anne Hudson is a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Public Policy in the Department of Political Science at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Her research explores the changing political economy of the welfare state, business participation in social policy renewal, and living wages.

Notes:

1.Abortion in Ireland: Public Opinion.”

2. Diana O’Dwyer, Where the Parties Stand on Abortion and Repeal the 8th Amendment (as of February 17, 2016).

3.Abortion in Ireland: Statistics.”

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The hawks in the U.S. and Israel decided long ago to break up Iraq and Syria into small fragments.

The Guardian noted in 2003:

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt predicted devastating consequences for the Middle East if Iraq is attacked. “We fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region,” he said.

***

They are probably still splitting their sides with laughter in the Pentagon. But Mr Mubarak and the [Pentagon] hawks do agree on one thing: war with Iraq could spell disaster for several regimes in the Middle East. Mr Mubarak believes that would be bad.The hawks, though, believe it would be good.

For the hawks, disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.

***

The “skittles theory” of the Middle East – that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes – has been around for some time on the wilder fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the back of the “war against terrorism”.

Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by an Israeli thinktank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Entitled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm”, it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism …”

***

The paper set out a plan by which Israel would “shape its strategic environment”, beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.

With Saddam out of the way and Iraq thus brought under Jordanian Hashemite influence, Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and “roll back” Syria. Jordan, it suggested, could also sort out Lebanon by “weaning” the Shia Muslim population away from Syria and Iran, and re-establishing their former ties with the Shia in the new Hashemite kingdom of Iraq. “Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them”, the paper concluded.

***

The leader of the “prominent opinion makers” who wrote it was Richard Perle – now chairman of the Defence Policy Board at the Pentagon.

Also among the eight-person team was Douglas Feith, a neo-conservative lawyer, who now holds one of the top four posts at the Pentagon as under-secretary of policy.

***

Two other opinion-makers in the team were David Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav(see US thinktanks give lessons in foreign policy, August 19). Mrs Wurmser was co-founder of Memri, a Washington-based charity that distributes articles translated from Arabic newspapers portraying Arabs in a bad light. After working with Mr Perle at the American Enterprise Institute, David Wurmser is now at the State Department, as a special assistant to John Bolton, the under-secretary for arms control and international security.

A fifth member of the team was James Colbert, of the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa) – a bastion of neo-conservative hawkery whose advisory board was previously graced by Dick Cheney (now US vice-president), John Bolton and Douglas Feith.

***

With several of the “Clean Break” paper’s authors now holding key positions in Washington, the plan for Israel to “transcend” its foes by reshaping the Middle East looks a good deal more achievable today than it did in 1996. Americans may even be persuaded to give up their lives to achieve it.

(Before assuming prominent roles in the Bush administration, many of the same people – including Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, John Bolton and others – advocated their imperial views during the Clinton administration via their American think tank, the “Project for a New American Century”.)

Thomas Harrington – professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut – writes:

[While there are some good articles on the chaos in Iraq, none of them] consider whetherthe chaos now enveloping the region might, in fact, be the desired aim of policy planners in Washington and Tel Aviv.

***

One of the prime goals of every empire is to foment ongoing internecine conflict in the territories whose resources and/or strategic outposts they covet.

***

The most efficient way of sparking such open-ended internecine conflict is to brutally smash the target country’s social matrix and physical infrastructure.

***

Ongoing unrest has the additional perk of justifying the maintenance and expansion of the military machine that feeds the financial and political fortunes of the metropolitan elite.

In short … divide and rule is about as close as it gets to a universal recourse the imperial game and that it is, therefore, as important to bear it in mind today as it was in the times of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, the Spanish Conquistadors and the British Raj.

To those—and I suspect there are still many out there—for whom all this seems too neat or too conspiratorial, I would suggest a careful side-by side reading of:

a) the “Clean Break” manifesto generated by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) in 1996

and

b) the “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” paper generated by The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in 2000, a US group with deep personal and institutional links to the aforementioned Israeli think tank, and with the ascension of  George Bush Junior to the White House, to the most exclusive  sanctums of the US foreign policy apparatus.

To read the cold-blooded imperial reasoning in both of these documents—which speak, in the first case, quite openly of the need to destabilize the region so as to reshape Israel’s “strategic environment” and, in the second of the need to dramatically increase the number of US “forward bases” in the region ….

To do so now, after the US’s systematic destruction of Iraq and Libya—two notably oil-rich countries whose delicate ethnic and religious balances were well known to anyone in or out of government with more than passing interest in history—, and after the its carefully calibrated efforts to generate and maintain murderous and civilization-destroying stalemates in Syria and Egypt (something that is easily substantiated despite our media’s deafening silence on the subject), is downright blood-curdling.

And yet, it seems that for even very well-informed analysts, it is beyond the pale to raise the possibility that foreign policy elites in the US and Israel, like all virtually all the ambitious hegemons before them on the world stage, might have quite coldly and consciously fomented open-ended chaos in order to achieve their overlapping strategic objectives in this part of the world.

Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo notes:

Iraq’s fate was sealed from the moment we invaded: it has no future as a unitary state. As I pointed out again and again in the early days of the conflict, Iraq is fated to split apart into at least three separate states: the Shi’ite areas around Baghdad and to the south, the Sunni regions to the northwest, and the Kurdish enclave which was itching for independence since well before the US invasion. This was the War Party’s real if unexpressed goal from the very beginning: the atomization of Iraq, and indeed the entire Middle East. Their goal, in short, was chaos – and that is precisely what we are seeing today.

***

As I put it years ago:

“[T]he actual purpose was to blow the country to smithereens: to atomize it, and crush it, so that it would never rise again.

“When we invaded and occupied Iraq, we didn’t just militarily defeat Iraq’s armed forces – we dismantled their army, and their police force, along with all the other institutions that held the country together. The educational system was destroyed, and not reconstituted. The infrastructure was pulverized, and never restored. Even the physical hallmarks of a civilized society – roadsbridgeselectrical plantswater facilitiesmuseumsschools – were bombed out of existence or else left to fall into disrepair. Along with that, the spiritual and psychological infrastructure that enables a society to function – the bonds of trust, allegiance, and custom – was dissolved, leaving Iraqis to fend for themselves in a war of all against all.

“… What we are witnessing in post-Saddam Iraq is the erasure of an entire country. We can say, with confidence: We came, we saw, we atomized.”

Why? This is the question that inevitably arises in the wake of such an analysis: why deliberately destroy an entire country whose people were civilized while our European ancestors were living in trees?

The people who planned, agitated for, and executed this war are the very same people who have advanced Israeli interests – at America’s expense – at every opportunity. In “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a 1996 document prepared by a gaggle of neocons – Perle, Douglas Feith, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was urged to “break out” of Israel’s alleged stagnation and undertake a campaign of “regime change” across the Middle East, targeting Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and eventually Iran. With the exception of Iran – and that one’s still cooking on the back burner – this is precisely what has occurred. In 2003, in the immediate wake of our Pyrrhic “victory” in Iraq, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared to a visiting delegation of American members of Congress that these “rogue states” – Iran, Libya, and Syria – would have to be next on the War Party’s target list.

(Indeed.)

And Michel Chossudovsky points out:

The division of Iraq along sectarian-ethnic lines has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon for more than 10 years.

What is envisaged by Washington is the outright suppression of the Baghdad regime and the institutions of the central government, leading to a process of political fracturing and the elimination of Iraq as a country.

This process of political fracturing in Iraq along sectarian lines will inevitably have an impact on Syria, where the US-NATO sponsored terrorists have in large part been defeated.

Destabilization and political fragmentation in Syria is also contemplated: Washington’s intent is no longer to pursue the narrow objective of “regime change” in Damascus. What is contemplated is the break up of both Iraq and Syria along sectarian-ethnic lines.

The formation of the caliphate may be the first step towards a broader conflict in the Middle East, bearing in mind that Iran is supportive of the al-Maliki government and the US ploy may indeed be to encourage the intervention of Iran.

The proposed re-division of both Iraq and Syria is broadly modeled on that of the Federation of Yugoslavia which was split up into seven “independent states” (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia (FYRM), Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo). According to Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, the re division of Iraq into three separate states is part of a broader process of redrawing the Map of the Middle East.

The above map was prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters. It was published in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006, Peters is a retired colonel of the U.S. National War Academy. (Map Copyright Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters 2006).

Although the map does not officially reflect Pentagon doctrine, it has been used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers”. (See Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East” By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research, November 2006)

Breaking Apart Syria

Similarly, Neooconservatives in the U.S. and Israel have long advocated for the balkanization of Syria into smaller regions based on ethnicity and religion. The goal was to break up the country, and to do away with the sovereignty of Syria as a separate nation.

In 1982, a prominent Israeli journalist formerly attached to the Israeli Foreign Ministry allegedly wrotea book expressly calling for the break up of Syria:

All the Arab states should be broken down, by Israel, into small units …. Dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run.

It is well-documented that – in 1996 – U.S. and Israeli Neocons advocated:

Weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria ….

As Michel Chossudovsky points out:

Destabilization and political fragmentation in Syria is also contemplated: Washington’s intent is no longer to pursue the narrow objective of “regime change” in Damascus. What is contemplated is the break up of both Iraq and Syria along sectarian-ethnic lines.

In 2013, former Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas said:

Let them both [sides] bleed, haemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.

Indeed, in May 2015, one of the key architects of the Iraq war – John Bolton – said:

The Arabs divided between Sunnis and Shias – I think the Sunni Arabs are never going to agree to be in a state where the Shia outnumber them 3-1. That’s what ISIS has been able to take advantage of.

I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists. What’s left of the state of Iraq, as of right now, is simply a satellite of the ayatollahs in Tehran. It’s not anything we should try to aid.

In September 2015, Pentagon intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart said that he has “a tough time” seeing either Iraq or Syria really coming back together as sovereign nations.

Dan Sanchez noted last week:

In general, Israel ideally prefers regime changes that result in the installation of stable puppets. That is Plan A. But Plan B is to balkanize. Better to divide and conquer than to countenance a “rogue” (independent) neighbor.

So it is noteworthy that Israel is endorsing its Plan B for Syria just when its enemies are making it plain that Plan A (“Assad Must Go”) is not happening any time soon.

And Sec. State John Kerry confirmed just yesterday that “Plan B” is to break Syria up into different states.

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According to leaked documents, the Obama administration’s use of metadata to identify and target terrorists in Pakistan would misidentify over 99,000 innocent people.

The SKYNET program, named after the antagonist in the Terminator movie series, is used to examine the cellular network metadata of over 55 million people in Pakistan and flag suspicious patterns to target for “counter-terrorism” operations like kidnapping, interrogation or drone assassination.

The drone assassination program, begun in 2002 under Republican president George W. Bush, has been greatly expanded under Democratic president Barack Obama. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism conservatively estimates the death toll from these targeted killings at over 3,200.

An unknown portion of these strikes were based on automated programs like SKYNET. According to the former director of the National Security Administration (NSA) as well as the CIA, retired General Michael Hayden, “We kill people based on metadata.”

Documents reviewing the metadata targeting program were leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and then published by The Intercept last year. Patrick Ball, a director of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, told Ars Technica in an interview that the methods used by the NSA in SKYNET are “ridiculously optimistic” and “completely bullshit.”

In order to process the records for millions of cell phone users the NSA uses a process called “machine learning,” where the computer is fed a set of “known terrorists” and then looks for new targets by how closely an individual’s behavior matches the known set. It is essentially the same method used by corporations to target Internet advertising.

Overall the NSA examines 80 different variables such as travel patterns, co-travelers, SIM card swapping, phone contacts and turning off a phone which the NSA sees as an attempt to evade surveillance. The assumption of the NSA is that the behavior of “terrorists” significantly differs from innocent people in consistent ways.

The method the NSA uses to measure success however is fundamentally unsound. To test the program, the NSA began by taking a random sample of 100,000 people and adding seven “known terrorists.” The NSA then gave the program six of the individuals marked as terrorists to analyze and tasked it with finding the seventh. The exceedingly small seed of “known terrorists,” makes the results of the test unreliable.

This is combined with the fact that the “terrorists” tested were handpicked as belonging to the same network, while the ordinary people were randomly selected, removing a significant portion of their social network from the test. Applying the same program to the full database would result in a significant increase in false positives.

In the leaked documents, when the NSA applied their method to the full data set of 55 million, only one of the “known terrorists” was in the top 100 suspects, and only five of them were in the top 500.

According to the NSA slides, they expect to falsely categorize 0.18 percent of the sample as terrorists. This may sound like an exceedingly small number, but when applied to the data of 55 million people, it comes out to 99,000 innocent people wrongly accused. This is much larger than the Haqqani Network, one of the largest groups targeted by the US which is estimated to have anywhere from a 4,000 to 12,000 members, significantly smaller than the number of expected false positives.

The absurdity of the NSA’s method is exposed in a slide that presents Al-Jazeera ‘s longstanding Islamabad bureau chief, Ahmed Zaidan, as the highest rated target. The top secret slide lists him, in sharp contradiction, as a member of both al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, two opposed organizations. As a journalist, Zaidan has traveled extensively through Pakistan speaking to all sides of various conflicts.

Disturbingly, Zaidan appears to have already been assigned a watch list number as an al-Qaeda member before being flagged by SKYNET, demonstrating significant inaccuracies in the NSA’s set of “known terrorists.”

It is unclear what steps, if any, exist between SKYNET flagging someone as a terrorist and someone being targeted for drone assassination. What is clear from Hayden’s statement is that some people are killed based on metadata and the use of programs like SKYNET.

Within Pakistan where SKYNET operates, the drone assassination program is run with fewer restrictions than in other countries. In 2013, Obama ostensibly tightened the guidelines for targeted killings requiring the CIA to have evidence that the target was an “imminent threat” and that they have “near-certainty” that no civilians would be hit. The drone program in Pakistan has been operating under a waiver that explicitly removes those guidelines.

Overall the drone assassination program is thoroughly brutal and inaccurate. Other leaked documents showed that out of 235 people killed by Operation Haymaker in Afghanistan between 2012 and 2013, only 35 were targets; the rest were bystanders.

Obama has relied heavily on assassination during his presidency in order to avoid the political difficulties of actually trying people accused of terrorism. Many of those detained for terrorism at Guantanamo are being held on circumstantial or inadmissible evidence gathered from CIA torture or illegal NSA spying.

According to the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn: “The drone campaign right now is really only about killing. When you hear the phrase ‘capture/kill’ capture is actually a misnomer.”

Increasingly, the Obama administration is relying on metadata and signals intelligence for identifying “terrorists” and selecting drone targets. In Somalia and Yemen, over half of the intelligence used to select targets is based on electronic signals like phone calls that do not directly identify the target.

The Department of Defense announced last August that it was going to expand its drone program by 50 percent over the next four years and Italy has recently agreed to allow US drones to operate out of a base in Sicily to target Libya. Enormous civilian casualties can be expected from the growth of these mechanized killing operations.

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Photo : Ciudad de México, 16 de febrero del 2016. Theotonio dos Santos (centro) recibiendo diploma y medalla de parte de autoridades de la UNAM, antes de comenzar a dictar la Cátedra Maestro Ricardo Torres Gaitán.

Si hay alguien que ha dejado huella en el pensamiento económico de América Latina es Theotonio dos Santos: científico social brasileño, catedrático de la Universidad del Estado de Río de Janeiro, exponente de la Teoría Marxista de la Dependencia y galardonado con el Premio Economía Marxista 2013 de la Asociación Mundial de Economía Política. Dos Santos dictó a mediados de febrero una serie de conferencias sobre teorías del desarrollo como parte de la Cátedra Maestro Ricardo Torres Gaitán que le fue otorgada por el Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas de la UNAM por sus aportaciones en la materia.

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez, consiguió entrevistar a Theotonio dos Santos durante su estancia en la Ciudad de México y abordó, entre otros temas, las perspectivas de la economía y el sistema mundial, las contradicciones del desarrollo capitalista de China, el ascenso del yuan como divisa de reserva internacional, los desafíos de la integración latinoamericana, el atasco burocrático del Banco del Sur, el reposicionamiento regional de Estados Unidos, la crisis del pensamiento económico y los problemas que enfrenta la izquierda para construir alternativas.

Por su amplia extensión, la publicación de la entrevista se ha dividido en varias partes. En esta primera entrega Noyola Rodríguez explora con dos Santos la posibilidad de que se materialice una nueva recesión global, la reestructuración de la economía mundial comandada por los BRICS, las contradicciones del desarrollo capitalista de China y el ascenso del yuan como divisa de reserva internacional…

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez: Muchas gracias por haberme concedido esta entrevista. Quiero comenzar con la complicada situación por la que atraviesa la economía mundial en estos momentos, y cuál será, desde su punto de vista, el impacto sobre los países latinoamericanos. Durante el último mes se ha observado un desplome considerable de las principales bolsas de valores. Las acciones de los grandes bancos de inversiones (Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, etc.) se han derrumbado en estos días, lo mismo ha sucedido con los precios de las materias primas (commodities) y los tipos de cambio de los países emergentes ¿Estamos a las puertas de una nueva recesión mundial? ¿En qué posición se encuentra América Latina ante ese posible escenario?

Theotonio dos Santos: La crisis de 2008-2009 fue muy fuerte para los países que formaban parte del centro de la economía mundial, pero al mismo tiempo, China se mantuvo con un fuerte crecimiento junto con los países de los BRICS (acrónimo de Brasil, Rusia, India, China y Sudáfrica), y también casi todos los países en desarrollo. De manera que la tasa de crecimiento del Producto Interno Bruto (PIB) de la economía mundial no cayó. Esto muestra que hubo cambios muy significativos en los últimos años: el motor de la economía mundial se desplazó de la zona central, básicamente de la tríada (Estados Unidos, Europa y Japón), hacia otras regiones.

Esto ha dado origen a una serie de trabajos, de intentos de explicación de este fenómeno. Desde la década de 1970, incluso un poco antes, nosotros mostramos la tendencia a la decadencia de la economía norteamericana y europea, y hasta Japón, que en aquel momento estaba en un auge económico importante, aunque también se comenzó a revelar una cierta tendencia a una caída que operó a partir de la década de 1990. En ese sentido, Japón mostró un poco lo que iba a pasar con las economías industrializadas. La economía japonesa entró en una baja bastante significativa. Recordemos que Japón registró entre 8 y 10% de crecimiento del PIB durante gran parte del período de posguerra, pero en la década de 1990 bajó a cero, incluso obtuvo tasas de crecimiento negativo (-2%, -3%, etc.), y apenas alcanzó un ligero crecimiento en años muy aislados.

La crisis que estalló en Estados Unidos el año 2008 es una de las más graves en la historia del capitalismo como sistema mundial, sólo comparable con la Gran Depresión de 1929. Ante el declive de la economía norteamericana, el ascenso de China y los BRICS ha acelerado la reestructuración de la economía global a favor de Oriente

Ahora hay otro problema que está causando desesperación en el centro del sistema, y es que los países en desarrollo, los que han ganado una mayor participación en la economía mundial, ahora también empiezan a tener un menor crecimiento. Es que gran parte de la expansión desde los años 2000 hasta 2010-2012, estuvo basada en la demanda china. La demanda de China es un asunto poco estudiado, durante la década de 1990 cuando nosotros llamamos la atención sobre el crecimiento de la demanda china en la economía mundial, la reacción de muchos colegas fue que eso era absurdo, que China, un “país de pobres”, no iba a generar ninguna demanda importante.

Era un gran desconocimiento, China tiene todavía sí, una población bastante pobre, pero en la década de 1980 y 1990 se desarrolló mucho la economía del Sur de China sobre todo, y esa economía alcanzaba ya unos 500 millones de habitantes con un nivel de consumo próximo a todo el Sur de Europa. Es decir, en esos años se agregó a la economía mundial una “Europa del Sur”. Entonces, despreciar este fenómeno era un problema muy grave porque mostraba exactamente la crisis, esa sí bastante grave, del pensamiento económico.

¿Ahora bien, qué pasó con la caída del crecimiento chino? Frente a la crisis, la dirección política de China tomó posiciones que están alterando bastante su participación en la economía mundial en este momento. Una de esas decisiones fue volcarse más hacia su mercado interno. En 2008 China había adoptado ya la decisión de volcar 500,000 millones de dólares para ampliar la demanda de las zonas más pobres, y re-orientar su economía hacia sus propios mercados. Ese giro tuvo un efecto sobre todo para los países que estaban en ascenso, ya que ese ascenso estaba vinculado con el aumento de los productos de exportación hacia China.

Y a pesar de que se tomaron algunas decisiones para intentar aprovechar el auge de las exportaciones, no fueron suficientes, no se logró un cambio tan sustancial que nos permitiera colocarnos de lleno dentro de las nuevas tendencias de la economía china, para así disminuir un poco el efecto de la caída de la demanda mundial. Además hay otro problema, hay una caída de los precios de las materias primas (commodities), que componen el grueso de las exportaciones de nuestros países hacia China. Frente a eso, hemos tenido problemas graves, y en lo que respecta al petróleo sobre todo.

Hay un intento de manipular el mercado petrolero para servir a objetivos geopolíticos, sobre todo de Estados Unidos, país que para hacer frente al auge de China, favoreció el uso de la fractura hidráulica (fracking), que es un método de producción interesante en términos económicos para las empresas de Estados Unidos. El fracking tiene la ventaja de permitir un gran crecimiento de la producción petrolera sin destinar grandes montos de inversión, pero al costo de acabar con el agua. La crisis del agua se va a agravar en Estados Unidos, en unos 15 o 20 años más.

De cualquier forma, era una decisión estratégica para enfrentar a los enemigos que Estados Unidos definió en este período, básicamente Rusia, Irán y Venezuela, golpeando también a Brasil y otros países. Brasil está ingresando en un dominio petrolero muy grande, que afecta bastante el funcionamiento de la economía mundial. En busca de bajar el precio del petróleo, y así generar problemas en América Latina, Estados Unidos apostó por la acumulación de inventarios (stocks) y colocaron al mercado de materias primas (commodities) en una crisis bastante grave, y también profundizaron la crisis energética.

En este cuadro es posible entender que esa política tuvo efectos bastante negativos desde el punto de vista económico, pero desde el punto de vista político no funcionó. Rusia, en vez de aceptar las presiones de la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN) comandada por Estados Unidos, se convirtió entonces en una fuerza muy activa en Europa. Y Europa oriental depende hoy mucho de Rusia, que además se aproximó más a China, garantizando una nueva salida de sus productos de exportación, y además apoyó fuertemente la idea de los BRICS, que es la base de una nueva dinámica económica mundial.

El Oriente Medio también está cansado de Estados Unidos. Arabia Saudita se está reuniendo con Rusia en este momento. La idea es que la Organización de Países Exportadores de Petróleo (OPEP) tenga una política común con los grandes productores de petróleo [Nota: en efecto, momentos después, la OPEP y Rusia acordaron congelar la producción petrolera a los niveles del mes de enero, una medida que busca apoyar el repunte de los precios]. Arabia Saudita siempre ha sido una fuerza fundamental de Estados Unidos en Oriente Medio, no se gustan mutuamente, pero son necesarios entre sí.

Por eso no es simplemente una crisis, estamos en un momento de reestructuración de la economía mundial. Claro que los más débiles, sobre todo Brasil y Venezuela, son los más afectados. Venezuela por su dependencia económica de las exportaciones de petróleo, por el hecho de que ya no esté presente Hugo Chávez, que tenía una calidad de pensamiento y de estrategia, muy por encima de la media. Entonces, todo esto claro, está afectando muy gravemente la situación económica de Venezuela. Y Brasil también está afectado muy fuertemente, lo mismo Argentina.

Todo esto está en el cuadro, más amplio, de que para enfrentar la crisis en Estados Unidos y Europa la fórmula principal fue una acción muy fuerte de parte de los Estados para proteger al sector financiero, que era el más directamente afectado por la crisis de 2008. Así se generó una transferencia masiva de los recursos del Estado hacia el sector financiero. Esto permitió que la crisis no se agravara tanto en un primer momento, pero creó las condiciones para que en un momento siguiente, que es lo que estamos viviendo ahora, no exista forma de pagar estas deudas.

Los Estados se convirtieron en grandes deudores, los países del Sur de Europa, Estados Unidos, etc. El caso de Estados Unidos es muy dramático. La deuda pública de Estados Unidos salta en estos años de 6 a más de 16 billones de dólares, que es igual al monto del resto de la deuda pública del mundo. Y no hay cómo pagar algo así. Deben buscar alguna forma, la deflación (caída precios) quizás sea una salida. La única forma es la quiebra, la deflación sería una quiebra colosal para Estados Unidos.

El otro problema que tiene Estados Unidos, y Europa también, es que no pueden tener una tasa de interés muy alta. Porque eso los llevaría a una baja de su crecimiento mucho más grave. Los bancos centrales de los países industrializados mantienen actualmente tasas de interés cercanas a cero, pero Japón ya lo hacía desde la década de 1990, eso no resuelve el problema en las economías centrales, eso digamos, permite que la crisis no se manifieste tan fuerte, pero se va generando otra crisis, de grandes excedentes de deuda.

En América Latina no estábamos preparados para enfrentar la crisis, a pesar de que algunos de nosotros lanzamos advertencias. La tendencia en nuestra región es de prejuicio, de no entender lo que pasa más allá de la dinámica del pensamiento que viene de Estados Unidos. La verdad es que no se dio importancia suficiente a lo que pasaba en China, India, etc. Nuestros países no se prepararon para hacer frente a una demanda que todo el tiempo se dijo que no existía. Cuando se llega al gobierno se tiene primero una situación de fantástico crecimiento. Por ejemplo, Brasil pasó de exportar mercancías por 60,000 millones de dólares a casi 200,000 millones de dólares. China que al principio no era tan importante, pasó a ser el primer país importador de productos brasileños.

Chávez sí entendió el contexto, hizo un gran esfuerzo junto con la OPEP, para reestructurar el mercado petrolero, para mejorar el papel de Venezuela como país exportador de petróleo. Chávez intentó forzar la industrialización en Venezuela, pero el problema de países como Venezuela, los que están en el Caribe, Cuba también, es que algunos sectores de la población están acostumbrados a utilizar los excedentes de dólares, que se consiguen en ciertos momentos históricos, para comprar bienes de consumo del exterior. No existe la percepción de que ese dinero que posees debe ser cuidado para utilizarlo después como un instrumento para el desarrollo. Tienes muchos dólares y los pierdes en el exterior, no permites que esos excedentes se utilicen en el desarrollo industrial del país.

La industrialización está basada en el avance de la productividad. Y el avance de la productividad no se da en escala nacional solamente. Desde la década de 1960 se va constituyendo una economía de una gran diferenciación de productos y el capital que dirige eso, el capital de las multinacionales va re-orientando su producción a los lugares donde paga menos impuestos, donde encuentra la mano de obra más barata, etc., la economía mundial se reestructura. Tu país se queda con una parte de eso, pero no cuentas con la capacidad tecnológica para que tú mismo dirijas el proceso, ni económica. Entonces se crea un nuevo tipo de dependencia, que incluso se ha profundizado.

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez: Hay una reforma capitalista que está en curso de dimensiones mundiales, promovida por China y otros países emergentes. En el ámbito de las finanzas internacionales, el gobierno chino consiguió que se incluyera el yuan en los Derechos Especiales de Giro (DEG). Y el Congreso estadounidense destrabó finalmente la reforma del sistema de cuotas de representación del Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI), con lo cual, China y los BRICS vieron incrementados sus porcentajes de participación, si bien Estados Unidos todavía conserva su poder de veto.

Sin embargo, las concesiones otorgadas por el FMI comprometen a China a llevar a cabo una serie de reformas estructurales que profundizarían su vinculación con el mercado financiero mundial por la vía de la liberalización de las tasas de interés, los tipos de cambio y el mercado de capitales. Los chinos han construido su propio mercado de derivados para emitir títulos financieros respaldados en materias primas (commodities) pero denominados en yuanes, ya no en dólares. Asimismo, la banca en la sombra (shadow banking system), compuesta por las entidades financieras fuera del marco regulatorio, va cobrando una mayor relevancia en el sistema de crédito.

Por otra parte, si bien es cierto que China viene ganando terreno frente al antiguo Grupo de los 7 (G-7, integrado por Alemania, Canadá, Estados Unidos, Francia, Italia, Japón y Reino Unido) en la jerarquía de la economía mundial, al mismo tiempo se mantiene fuertemente ligada a las economías y los instrumentos de los países industrializados, bajo esta perspectiva, parece haber construido una relación de dependencia mutua, más que de autonomía. Por ejemplo, cuando Lehman Brothers quebró, China mantuvo sus adquisiciones de bonos del Tesoro de Estados Unidos. Asimismo, China es hoy el principal socio comercial de Estados Unidos, y uno de los principales destinos de inversión de Estados Unidos, Europa y Japón.

Algunos plantean incluso que el ascenso económico de China será puesto en cuestión en un tiempo breve. La deuda pública sí, todavía es baja, pero la deuda privada, la que incluye la de las familias y las empresas, ha aumentado de modo bastante significativo. La deuda total, esto, es, si sumamos la deuda pública y la privada, sería equivalente a más de 200% del PIB de China.

Entonces, ¿Cómo interpretar el avance económico de China frente al bloque occidental y la construcción de una nueva dinámica económica mundial, cuando en otros aspectos Pekín legitima las instituciones e instrumentos del orden mundial de la segunda posguerra, y reproduce al mismo tiempo muchas de las pautas seguidas por el capitalismo estadounidense?

Theotonio dos Santos: Bueno, estamos en un proceso de armar una nueva economía mundial. La posibilidad de influenciar fuertemente esta nueva economía en un cierto momento parecía muy difícil. Y en la actualidad sí, por supuesto, aún se piensa usar el FMI, digamos, abrir el FMI para lograr una presencia más fuerte, sobre todo de China, pero también de otros países, en términos de mejorar su posición en las cuotas del FMI.

Pero la reforma fue muy pequeña, y ahora finalmente se consiguió, porque Estados Unidos fue obligado a aparentar ayudar un poco la posición de los países en desarrollo. Sin embargo, el FMI actúa para Estados Unidos, también el Banco Mundial. La verdad es que a nuestros países no les interesa más el FMI. Nosotros no somos deudores del FMI, somos acreedores, incluso hemos ayudado con nuevos recursos. Lo que ellos están haciendo claro, es buscar captar nuestras reservas, y buscan mecanismos para lograr eso, muy ayudados por los bancos centrales de nuestros países. 

El gobierno chino consiguió que se incluyera el yuan en los Derechos Especiales de Giro (DEG), la canasta de divisas que creó el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) en 1969 para complementar las reservas oficiales de los bancos centrales. En la imagen, Christine Lagarde, la actual directora gerente del FMI, tras dar a conocer a la decisión

En China existe una corriente, digamos, dentro del mismo gobierno, que defiende que China entre fuertemente al mercado financiero mundial. Y para hacer eso los chinos tendrían que aceptar gran parte de los instrumentos existentes. Pero hay otra corriente que está armando otro tipo de instrumentos. El banco de los BRICS por ejemplo, creo que se va a convertir, a pesar de que se han creado dificultades para impedir que se consolide, en un órgano más poderoso que el Banco Mundial.

Y lo mismo va a pasar con el Banco Asiático de Inversiones en Infraestructura (BAII). A Estados Unidos le correspondía contener el apoyo de los europeos y no lo consiguió, todos los europeos se fueron a financiarlo. Lo que revela que la influencia china en este momento es más poderosa que la de Estados Unidos, en una cuestión mercantil, no en una cuestión política propiamente, pero sin duda esto tiene desdoblamientos políticos. Es que el BAII no sólo garantiza el funcionamiento de Asia en general, con la entrada de estos países (Alemania, Francia, Reino Unido, etc.), se convierte en un instrumento de actuación muy amplio, incluso para Europa.

Son cambios que no implican simplemente meterse en el mercado financiero mundial, sino que se están estableciendo nuevas reglas para la economía mundial. El otro asunto es que en los próximos 10 años veremos el ascenso del yuan. De 4 años para acá, el yuan pasó de representar 2% a alcanzar más de 8% del total de las operaciones de financiamiento comercial, un crecimiento de 4 veces, según los datos de la Sociedad para las Comunicaciones Interbancarias y Financieras Mundiales (SWIFT, por sus siglas en inglés). Y esta dinámica va a continuar, porque el dólar está en plena caída en verdad, pende de un hilo.

A nadie le interesa que haya una caída tan brutal del dólar, pues se podría acentuar la deflación, por eso están haciendo todo lo posible para evitar su derrumbe. Tampoco la caída del dólar le interesa a los chinos, que tienen muchos dólares en este momento, y que necesitan al dólar para realizar muchas operaciones. Pero, en el contexto de la tendencia económica mundial actual, ¿Qué preferirías tú, dólar o yuan?

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez: El yuan, sin lugar a dudas…

Theotonio dos Santos: Evidentemente, es una moneda que se valoriza, cuyo rol en la economía tiende a crecer. El dólar en cambio, es una moneda en decadencia, no paga interés alguno por los títulos de deuda pública norteamericanos. Estados Unidos es un país deudor absoluto. La deuda pública es equivalente al tamaño de su PIB, la deuda misma que el gobierno acepta como tal.

Las deudas que tú mencionas son deudas emitidas por otros agentes sociales, económicos, que el gobierno puede claro, entrar a patrocinarlas, también en un cálculo de que si no lo hacen se haría más profunda la crisis del dólar. Y evitar el colapso del dólar sería mejor para China, pero también para casi todos los jugadores (players) mundiales. Sin embargo, si el yuan consigue mantener ese nivel de ascenso, en unos 10 años podría llegar a 30%, muy próximo a alcanzar 50%. Y cuando llegas a más de 50% entonces puedes emitir moneda, que es lo que hace Estados Unidos. Las previsiones actuales apuntan hacia esa dirección.

Ariel Noyola Rodríguez: Aunque bueno, quizás las contradicciones del desarrollo capitalista de China entorpezcan el ascenso del yuan como moneda de reserva mundial. El Banco Popular de China ha disminuido en varias ocasiones la tasa de interés de referencia, lo mismo el nivel de encaje de los bancos, precisamente para evitar una mayor desaceleración de la economía, apuntalar la provisión de crédito, e impedir a toda costa que la deflación contagie a su industria manufacturera.

Por otro lado, desde que China comenzó a devaluar el yuan, en agosto de 2014, su banco central se ha visto obligado a ocupar una tercera parte de sus reservas internacionales en la defensa de la estabilidad del tipo de cambio, como una consecuencia sí, en parte de los ataques de los especuladores, pero también por cierta desconfianza de los inversionistas en torno a su fortaleza financiera ¿Considera usted que hay riesgos de que estalle una crisis financiera en China por el agravamiento de las contradicciones de su desarrollo capitalista?

Theotonio dos Santos: No, no veo perspectivas de una crisis financiera en China. Ese tipo de problemas son cuestiones de política monetaria, una política que no busca apreciar el yuan fuertemente. El tipo de cambio yuan/dólar no tiene que ver tanto con la política china, es el resultado de las interacciones del mercado financiero mundial. Los chinos quieren que la apreciación de su moneda sea lenta. Y evitarían sin duda que la crisis del dólar fuera tan grande si ellos estuvieran en condiciones de comandar la política económica mundial. Estados Unidos necesita del apoyo chino para poder evitar la crisis del dólar.

La crisis del yuan no sería un problema grave porque no tendría que ver con la tendencia económica de China, que está invirtiendo en el mundo entero, creando mecanismos propios, de préstamos, de inversión, etc. Entonces para los chinos [la apreciación cambiaria] no es algo que ellos quieran apurar. Es un resultado de la mecánica de la economía mundial, derivada a su vez del rol histórico del capitalismo en su organización. Ahora bien, Estados Unidos puede tener más influencia en la economía mundial, y evitar una crisis más grave si teje alianzas con China, pero bajo una condición subordinada. Y es difícil pensar que los norteamericanos lo vayan a aceptar fácilmente.

Pero quizás sí lo hagan, en alguna medida. Por ejemplo, en cuanto a la renovación de la deuda de Estados Unidos, el presidente del Sistema de la Reserva Federal (FED) de ese momento fue semanalmente a China a discutir el asunto para evitar que China se deshiciera de sus bonos del Tesoro. Los chinos conservaron sus títulos, pero ya no compraron más. Pero para convencerlos de que los mantuvieran, Bernanke tuvo que ir semana tras semana a China, durante 1 mes, 2 meses.

La moneda de China, el yuan, podría estar en condiciones de competir cara a cara con el dólar de Estados Unidos dentro de una década

Esto es una subordinación clara, tú depende más de ellos, que ellos de ti. Los chinos no fueron obligados a comprar más títulos respaldados en dólares, sino a renovar. Al renovar, China pide exigencias y condicionamientos. Los acreedores siempre imponen sus propias condiciones, sobre todo cuando la deuda es muy grande, porque hay un instrumento de poder muy importante, que es simplemente no pagar.

A nadie le conviene una caída muy fuerte de los títulos de la deuda pública norteamericana, que ya la hay de hecho, aunque no se habla mucho de eso. Nadie compra un título de deuda de Estados Unidos por lo que vale. Cómo vas tú a pagar 100% por un título que representa en realidad 60% de su valor original, menos aún. Para proteger el dólar es verdad que los norteamericanos necesitan a los chinos, sí.

Pero también hay que presentar esta situación desde el otro lado. Los norteamericanos también dependen de China, no es solamente que los chinos dependan de Estados Unidos. Sí, en cierta parte dependen. Es que los chinos no tienen interés en una depreciación masiva del dólar por la enorme cantidad de reservas que poseen, más de 3.3 billones de dólares. Ese es el gran problema.

Muchos sectores en Estados Unidos quieren una pelea con China porque aún piensan que son dueños del mundo. Piensan que hay que imponerse por la fuerza frente a los chinos. Pienso que sería un error muy grave. Y ese escenario no se desdoblaría solamente en el ámbito financiero.

¿Quién puede controlar esos fenómenos que tú citaste, y que obligarían a China a valorizar más el yuan? Bueno, China acepta que tiene que valorizar, pero no lo quieren hacer del todo, no quieren contribuir a eso. Excepto el sector financiero, ellos sí quieren que China entre rápidamente en el mercado financiero mundial en calidad de gran potencia. Cualquiera que sea la salida, creo que no beneficiará a Estados Unidos, en términos de recuperar su poder en el mundo, más bien será favorable para China…

 Ariel Noyola Rodríguez

 Ariel Noyola Rodríguez: Economista egresado de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

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On Syria: Thank you, Russia!

February 24th, 2016 by Stephen Kinzer

Once again, Moscow has shown itself better able to make strategic choices than we are. Russia is not an ideal partner for the United States, but sometimes its interests align with ours. In those cases, we should drop our Cold War hostility and work with Russia. The best place to start is Syria.

American policy toward Syria was misbegotten from the start of the current conflict five years ago. By immediately adopting the hardest possible line—“Assad must go”—we removed any incentive for opposition groups to negotiate for peaceful change. That helped propel Syria into its bloody nightmare.

Russia, which has suffered repeated terror attacks from Islamic fanatics, is threatened by the chaos and ungoverned space that now defines Syria. So are we. Russia’s policy should be ours: prevent the fall of Bashar al-Assad’s government, craft a new regime that would include Assad or his supporters, and then work for a cease-fire.

The fall of Assad would create a catastrophic power vacuum like those that have turned Iraq and Libya into terrorist havens. This would be bad for the United States, and even worse for Russia and Iran. We should recognize this common interest, and work with countries that want what we want.

This may seem eminently logical, but the very suggestion is hateful in Washington. It violates a central precept of the liberal/conservative, Republican-Democrat foreign policy consensus: Russia is our eternal enemy, so anything that promotes Russia’s interests automatically undermines ours — and that goes double for Iran. Instead of clinging to this dangerously outdated with-us-or-against-us mantra, we should realize that countries with which we differ in some areas can be our partner in others. Russia is an ideal example.

We would have been more secure as a nation, and might have contributed to a more stable world, if we had followed Russia’s foreign policy lead in the past. The government Moscow supported in Afghanistan, run by Mohammad Najibullah from 1987-92, was more honest and progressive than any that has ruled Afghanistan since American-backed forces deposed Najibullah. Later, Russia urged the United States not to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. They were right both times, and we were wrong. In Syria, Russia is right for a third time. Keeping the odious Assad in power, at least for the moment, best serves American interests. The alternative could be an ISIS “caliphate” stretching from the Mediterranean to the Tigris River.

No military solution is possible in Syria. Continued fighting only adds to the toll of death and horror. Russia wants a negotiated settlement. We are reluctant, because our so-called friends in the region want to keep fighting. They calculate continuing war to be in their interest. It may be — but it is not in the interest of the United States.

Opposition groups in Syria that we have half-heartedly supported refuse to negotiate until a cease-fire is in place. By accepting that formula, the United States guarantees continued war. Instead, negotiations should be aimed at creating a new regime that both Russia and the United States could support. From there, peace can grow.

How long Assad remains in power is not crucial to the United States. Weakening ISIS and al Qaeda is. Fighting those forces is the policy of Russia and Iran. We should recognize this confluence of interests, and work with every country or faction that shares our goals in Syria.

Our reflexive rejection of all cooperation with Russia is a throwback to a vanished era. It prevents us from taking decisive steps to ease the crisis in Syria. Its effects are also being felt in Europe. The Obama administration recently announced a four-fold increase in spending for troop deployments near Russia. Russia responded with military maneuvers near its border with Ukraine. This spiral of tension ignores the reality that Europe can never be truly secure without Russian cooperation.

Refusing to work with Russia hurts us more than it hurts Russia. Seeking avenues of cooperation would benefit both, and contribute to global security. Syria is the best place to start. Russia’s strategy — fight ISIS and al Qaeda, defend Assad, and seek a cease-fire that preserves his regime in some form — is the least bad option. Until we accept it, Syrian blood will continue to flow.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Follow him on Twitter @stephenkinzer.

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In a bombing operation on Feb. 19 in Sabratha, Libya, said to have targeted an Islamic State training camp, over 40 people were killed by Pentagon F-15E fighter jets. The air strike was aimed at an IS operative who has been linked to an attack on the Bardo museum in neighboring Tunisia during 2015.

This airstrike hit the seaside area 50 miles west of Tripoli targeting Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian national.  Chouchane has been accused of arranging the arrival of Islamic State operatives into Libya.

Chouchane, who is 35, was said by the Pentagon to have been killed in the bombing which leveled a residence with sixty other inhabitants claimed to be affiliated with IS. The attack follows similar airstrikes in June targeting Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar and in November aimed at Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an Iraqi national who was the leader of the IS military structures in Iraq.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook in a briefing claimed “He (Chouchane) facilitated the movement of potential ISIL-affiliated foreign fighters from Tunisia to Libya and onward to other countries. Destruction of the camp and Chouchane’s removal will eliminate an experienced facilitator and is expected to have an immediate impact on ISIL’s ability to facilitate its activities in Libya, including recruiting new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya, and potentially planning external attacks on U.S. interests in the region.”(Associated Press, Feb. 19)

Diplomatic Fallout Surrounds Killing of Serbian Nationals

Nonetheless, media outlets are saying that two Serbian nationals held by the IS have been killed in the bombing. It has been reported for months that the Pentagon is drawing up coordinates for the bombing of Libya under the guise of targeting so-called “Islamic extremists.”

IS has established bases in western Libya where they control the city of Sirte, the home of former Jamahiriya leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi who was brutally assassinated in the area on October 20, 2011. Libya had been subjected to a Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) engineered war of regime-change which resulted in thousands dead, millions displaced; leaving the once most prosperous state in Africa as a major source of poverty, underdevelopment, human trafficking andinstability throughout the region.

The killing of the two Serbians has prompted protest from both the government in Belgrade and among people across the country. Serbian officials had been negotiating for an end to the captivity of two of its citizens who were said to be diplomats.

According to Russia Today (RT) worldwide satellite television news network, “NATO’s promise of security and attempts to drag Serbia into the alliance are humiliating for the Balkan country at a time when two of its diplomats held hostage in Libya were killed in a pin-point US airstrike, Russia’s FM spokeswoman [Maria Zhakarova]  said….  Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said the death of two embassy workers was ‘terrible collateral damage’ and demanded explanations from Washington.” (Feb. 22)

In response to the attacks and recent pressure to sign a cooperation deal with NATO, Serbians participated in a wave of demonstrations on February 20. The agreement signed by the Serbian government guarantees diplomatic immunity and free movement by NATO military forces.

Thousands who demonstrated in the country were rejecting the accord as unconstitutional and against the popular will of the people.

The same article published by RT also noted “The US government should have known that two Serbian hostages were being held by IS affiliates in Libya, Zakharova said, as the Serbian government had shared their information with US intelligence agencies prior to the strikes. ‘The most tragic is that this information was given to the FBI and CIA. This is what the Serbian authorities asaid,’ Zakharova noted, adding that the US is now ‘denying’ knowledge of the hostages’ whereabouts.”

Bombing May be Precursor to Ground Invasion

This attack comes amid growing threats by German career diplomat and United Nations envoy Martin Kobler to mobilize a 6,000-person military occupation force that would intervene in Libya to impose a proposed unity regime between two rival factions vying for international recognition. The unity accord between the two rival regimes is designed to pave the way for a deployment of imperialist-led troops with the approval of the militia-backed juntas in both Tripoli and Tobruk.

The proposed UN peacekeeping force would be led by Italy and encompass troops from Britain, France and other allied states. Britain has already publically announced that it is planning to launch airstrikes inside Libya as well.

In a January 31 article published in the Daily Mail, it says “Britain is planning aerial bombings against Islamic State militants controlling parts of war-torn Libya, according to a military source.”

In more specific terms, the same report acknowledges “A team of six RAF officers and MI6 operatives flew to an airbase near the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk, which is under control by internationally recognized militia forces. Diplomats from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and US and French military personnel also took part to the gathering, the Sunday Times reports.”

Absent of the consolidation of the accord bringing together the two Libyan camps, the Pentagon will continue to launch air raids and special operations strikes against rebel leaders.

The Obama administration has come under criticism for its war against Libya in 2011 which has become a further stain on the White House seeking to facilitate the election of a Democratic president in November. Over the last seven years the foreign policy of the U.S. has continued its escalating military interventions and the building of bases in various areas throughout Africa.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) troops number in the thousands in the Horn of Africa state of Djibouti spreading out its operations into Somalia and Ethiopia to along the Indian Ocean basin across Central and into West Africa and out into the Gulf of Guinea. Pentagon and CIA personnel work in close cooperation with other imperialist states seeking to dominate all of the continental governments through trade, diplomatic maneuvering, intelligence penetration and military “partnerships.”

Obama said on February 16 that “We will continue to take actions where we’ve got a clear operation and a clear target in mind. At the same time, we’re working diligently with the United Nations to try to get a government in place in Libya. And that’s been a problem.” (New York Times)

However, the interim regime in Libya designed to merge the competing factions based in Tobruk and Tripoli, denounced the bombing by the Pentagon saying the operation took place without the consultation and acknowledgement of either faction. There is a lack of unity and uniformity of action among the regimes raising doubts about the viability of this imposed dispensation.

A statement issued by the Libyan coalition of competing forces on February 19 “strongly condemns the airstrikes carried out by the US Air Force at certain positions in the town of Sabratha on Friday morning, February 19, 2016, without any coordination or consultation with the interim Libyan government. Any interference, similar to the one that has taken place, will be considered an open and flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the Libyan state and international law.” (RT.com)

Neighboring Tunisia, which was designated during 2015 as a significant non-NATO state by the Obama administration, has escalated its security operations aimed at keeping armed groups from entering the country from Libya. Although Tunisia is labelled as the only “democracy to emerge from the uprisings in the region during 2011,” the government in Tunis has maintained close ties with both the Pentagon and one of its principal allies in the Middle East, the monarchy of Saudi Arabia.

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