Higher Numbers of Americans Take Their Lives than During the Depths of the Great Depression

Suicide rates are tied to the economy.

The Boston Globe reported in 2011:

A new report issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the overall suicide rate rises and falls with the state of the economy — dating all the way back to the Great Depression.

The report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that suicide rates increased in times of economic crisis: the Great Depression (1929-1933), the end of the New Deal (1937-1938), the Oil Crisis (1973-1975), and the Double-Dip Recession (1980-1982). Those rates tended to fall during strong economic times — with fast growth and low unemployment — like right after World War II and during the 1990s.

During the depths of the Great Depression, suicide rates in America significantly increased. As the Globe notes:

The largest increase in the US suicide rate occurred during the Great Depression surging from 18 in 100,000 up to 22 in 100,000

We’ve previously pointed out that suicide rates have skyrocketed recently:

The number of deaths by suicide has also surpassed car crashes, and many connect the increase in suicides to the downturn in the economy. Around 35,000 Americans kill themselves each year (and more American soldiers die by suicide than combat; the number of veterans committing suicide is astronomical and under-reported). So you’re 2,059 times more likely to kill yourself than die at the hand of a terrorist.

NBC News reported in March:

Suicide rates are up alarmingly among middle-aged Americans, according to the latest federal government statistics.

They show a 28 percent rise in suicide rates for people aged 35 to 64 between 1999 and 2010.

RT reports:

In a letter to The Lancet medical journal, scientists from Britain, Hong Kong and United States said an analysis of data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that while suicide rates increased slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled from 2008 to 2010, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month, NY Daily News wrote:

The Great Recession may have been at the root of a great depression that caused suicides to soar among middle-aged Americans, a government report speculates.

The annual suicide rate for adults ages 35 to 64 spiked in the past decade, according to a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And a shaky economy that nose-dived into the worst financial crisis since the Depression may be the biggest reason why.

***

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said the annual suicide rate jumped 28.4% from 1999-2010.

It was the biggest increase of any age group, said the CDC, citing “the recent economic downturn” as one of the “possible contributing factors” for the increase.

“Historically, suicide rates tend to correlate with business cycles, with higher rates observed during times of economic hardship,” the report said.

 

David Stuckler (a senior research leader in sociology at Oxford), and Sanjay Basu (an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist in the Prevention Research Center at Stanford), write in the New York Times:

The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century.

(And see these articles by the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.   This is obviously true world-wide.  For example, last year the New York Times reported:

The economic downturn that has shaken Europe for the last three years has also swept away the foundations of once-sturdy lives, leading to an alarming spike in suicide rates. Especially in the most fragile nations like Greece, Ireland and Italy, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking their own lives in a phenomenon some European newspapers have started calling “suicide by economic crisis.”

***

In Greece, the suicide rate among men increased more than 24 percent from 2007 to 2009, government statistics show. In Ireland during the same period, suicides among men rose more than 16 percent. In Italy, suicides motivated by economic difficulties have increased 52 percent, to 187 in 2010 — the most recent year for which statistics were available — from 123 in 2005.)

Indeed, more Americans are killing themselves today than during the Great Depression. Specifically, there were were 123 million Americans in 1930.  The maximum suicide rate during the depths of the Great Depression was 22 out of 100,000  Americans.  That means that up to  27,060 Americans killed themselves each year.

In contrast, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 38,364 Americans committed suicide in 2010. In other words, 2010 suicides were approximately 142% of suicides during the depths of the Great Depression. (The suicide rate is lower today than during the Great Depression, but – given that there are more Americans – there are more suicides each year.)

The head of my local county’s mental health services confirmed to me today that there are now more suicides now than during the Great Depression.

The Root Causes: Unemployment and Foreclosure

Why do more people kill themselves during severe downturns?  It’s not just a downturn in the business cycle in some general sense.  It’s more specific than that.

Unemployment and foreclosure are the largest triggers in increased suicide risk.

David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu write:

People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.

***

Unemployment is a leading cause of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicidal thinking.

ABC News points out:

“Joblessness is a risk factor for suicide,” said Nadine Kaslow, professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University in Atlanta. “The stress is just overwhelming. … People are freaked out.”

Bloomberg reports:

“The suicide rate started accelerating in 2008, 2009 and 2010 — someone might still be working, but their house is underwater, or they’re working but they’re working part-time,” Eric Caine, the director of the CDC’s Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention, said by telephone. “These things ripple into families. There’s an economic stress.”

NY Daily News writes:

“Most people who commit suicide tend to suffer from major depression, and this vulnerability tends to be brought forth by very stressful situations like losing one’s home or job,” [Dr. Dan Iosifescu, director of mood and anxiety disorders program at Mount Sinai Hospita] said.

NBC News reports:

The American Association for Suicidology says economic recessions don’t normally affect suicide rates.

“Although US suicide rates did increase slightly during the years of the Great Depression, reaching a peak rate of 17.4/100,000 in 1933, subsequent US recessions have not been found to lead to increased national rates of suicide in the period of or immediately following each recession,” the group says.

The latest numbers suggest suicide rates for middle-aged Americans now surpass the peak during the Depression. And there’s another possible explanation.

“There is a clear and direct relationship between rates of unemployment and suicide,” the suicidology group says in its statement.

“The peak rate of suicide in 1933 occurred one year after the total US unemployment rate reached 25 percent of the labor force. Similar findings have been documented internationally. At the individual level, unemployed individuals have between two and four times the suicide rate of those employed.”

The group also raises concern about the home foreclosure rate.

Indeed, it is likely that more people have lost their jobs during this “Great Recession” than during the Great Depression … especially when you look at the masses of people who have given up altogether and dropped out of the work force.

And it is possible that more people have lost their homes through foreclosure than during the Great Depression as well.

No wonder there are so many suicides …

Postscript:  If you suffer from depression, this may help.

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The wide scale US acceptance of fluoride-related compounds in drinking water and a wide variety of consumer products over the past half century is a textbook case of social engineering orchestrated by Sigmund Freud’s nephew and the “father of public relations” Edward L. Bernays. The episode is instructive, for it suggests the tremendous capacity of powerful interests to reshape the social environment, thereby prompting individuals to unwarily think and act in ways that are often harmful to themselves and their loved ones. The example is especially pertinent today as Western governments withhold data and utilize propaganda techniques to suppress knowledge of new technologies and life-threatening disasters such as the still-unfolding nuclear breakdown in Fukushima.

Today the battle over water fluoridation remains obscured in caricature and falsification often perpetuated by the mainstream press itself. The potential for popular myth to eclipse historical fact is greatly accelerated when the political and informational pillars of civilization actively support such distortions. For example, a recent New York Times editorial points to “that cold war paranoia about fluoridation in drinking water [sic].” Citing the Center for Disease Control’s claim that fluoridation is one of the top accomplishments in public health over the past century, the Times evokes fluoride’s difficult struggle with purportedly uninformed segments of the public. “Critics no longer contend that fluoridation is a Communist plot. Instead, they express concerns about the costs involved, improper government control over a personal decision, and potential health dangers.”[1]

The refrain is familiar throughout a corporate-controlled media that unquestioningly amplifies the pronouncements of government agencies concerning fluoride’s alleged safety and value for dental health. Having been seemingly vetted and upheld by the newspaper of record and its counterparts, such sweeping declarations are seldom interrogated further by readers, much less the broader public.

In fact, sodium fluoride is a dangerous poison and has been a primary active ingredient in a wide variety of insecticides and fungicides.[2] The substance bioaccumulates in mammals, has been linked to dulled intellect in children [3] and is a cause of increased bone fractures and osteosarcoma. Further, recent studies indicate that fluoride’s role in preventing cavities through ingestion [4] or even topically [5] is close to non-existent.

Metal Industry’s Pollution Liability
Historical evidence indicates how the many concerns over water fluoridation were wholly warranted. Indeed, fluoridating the nation’s water supply one locality at a time appears to have been a carefully coordinated plan that sought to shield major aluminum and steel producers from the countless liabilities caused by the substantial fluorine pollution their plants generated. This pollution increased alongside stepped-up military aircraft and armaments manufacture during World War Two. The steel factories in California and Utah, and aluminum producing plants in Washington and Oregon, generated fluorine-saturated air that inevitably poisoned livestock, crops, and farming families.

In the postwar era $30 million in damage suits were filed in Provo, Utah alone, with metal manufacturers paying $4.5 million to settle out of court. Thus American industrial interests were the chief forces behind water fluoridation, not because of greed or altruism, but rather through fear of continued and potentially increased pollution liability as the Second World War drew to a close and the Cold War began. This was the conclusion of Dr. F. B. Exner, a steadfast public health advocate and opponent of water fluoridation, who observed that at the turn of the century

“the very existence of the smelter industry, both in Germany and Great Britain, was threatened by successful suits for fluorine damage and by burdensome laws and regulations. Today that same threat hangs over the bulk of American big-industry; and fluoridation offers both camouflage and scapegoat. Hence the relentless and uncompromising drive for universal fluoridation.”[6]

In a discerning 1955 essay Exner points to the unusual absence of research on fluorine in US medical literature beginning in the late 1930s, whereas “the foreign medical literature has contained hundreds of articles on a wide variety of troubles that can be caused by fluorine. The same was true of the veterinary literature in this country. “

Exner further points to the apparent strategy behind fluoridation—one that may be occurring along similar lines in the Japanese government’s efforts to distribute and incinerate radioactive waste from the March 2011 nuclear disaster throughout the archipelago.[7] “There has been constant danger,” Dr. Exner observed, “that someone would analyze tissues in both high and low fluoride areas and find that fluorine poisoning is common [in those residing in high areas]. But if every community can be fluoridated there will be no fluorine-free areas for comparison.”[8]

The PR Campaign to Sell Fluoridation

In the 1930s Edward Bernays was public relations adviser to the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). Alcoa’s principal attorney, Oscar Ewing, went on to serve in the Truman administration from 1947 to 1952 as head of the Federal Security Agency, of which the Public Health Service was a part. In that capacity Ewing authorized water fluoridation for the entire country in 1950 and enlisted Bernays’ services to promote water fluoridation to the public.[9]

Still, the campaign to fluoridate the nation’s water supplies took place mainly in individual cities and townships, necessitating a sophisticated propaganda campaign to persuade local officials to proactively support fluoridation. Bernays recognized New York City as the foremost battleground and a particularly valuable tactical prize given the prevalence of liberal media outlets. Once the New York press was abuzz about the city’s prospective fluoridation other municipalities would be more easily persuaded to form ranks.[10]

Bernays recalled the fluoridation campaign in which he was involved as merely another assignment. “The PR wizard specialized in promoting new ideas and products to the public by stressing a claimed health benefit,” explains journalist Christopher Bryson, who interviewed Bernays on the fluoride campaign in 1993.

“’You can get practically any ideas accepted,’ Bernays told me, chuckling. “If doctors are in favor, the public is willing to accept it, because a doctor is an authority to most people, regardless of how much he knows, or doesn’t know … By the law of averages, you can usually find an individual in any field who will be willing to accept new ideas, and the new ideas then infiltrate the others who haven’t accepted it.’”[11]

Yet in the early 1950s, just as Bernays’ was brought on board, public sentiment toward fluoridation was clearly on the side of the anti-fluoridationist camp that included leading doctors and researchers. Arrayed against those opposing fluoridation were the New York City Health Department Commissioner, New York State’s Health Commissioner, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Public Health Service. “All of this intrigues me to no end,” Bernays elatedly remarked to the City Health Commissioner, “because it presents challenging situations deeply related to the public’s interest which may be solved by the engineering of consent.”

One such approach to prompting public opinion involved correspondence from the city’s Health Department to the presidents of the NBC and CBS television networks, informing them “that debating fluoridation is like presenting two sides for anti-Catholicism or anti-Semitism and therefore not in the public interest.” Another method involved laying the groundwork for making fluoridation a household term with a scientific patina. He advised his clients to send letters to the editors of leading publications discussing what the specific aspects of fluoridation required. “We would put out the definition first to the editors of important newspapers,” Bernays recalled. “Then we would send a letter to publishers of dictionaries and encyclopedias. After six or eight months we would find the word fluoridation was published and defined in dictionaries and encyclopedias.”[12]

In 1957 the Committee to Protect Our Children’s Teeth suddenly emerged to tout fluoridation with several celebrity figures on its roster, including Dr. Benjamin Spock, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, and A. Phillip Randolph. Funded by grants from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation ($23,350) and the Rockefeller Foundation ($2,500), the Committee’s makeup also included major figures from atomic weapons research and manufacturing concerns.

A sleek booklet, Our Children’s Teeth, was ostensibly produced by the Committee and circulated throughout the US. Yet it was first utilized by attorneys defending the Reynolds Aluminum Company in federal appeals court in Oregon against charges for fluoride injury brought by a farming family. The court was reminded by Reynolds’ lawyers how Our Children’s Teeth was packed with testimonies of “one medical and scientific expert after another, all to the effect that fluorides in low concentration (such as are present around aluminum and other industrial plants) present no harm to man.”[13]

The American Journal of Public Health noted how the pamphlet contained no new information on water fluoridation, but was rather “designed for presentation to the New York City Board of Estimate as a distillate of expert opinion” from scientists and officials involved in promoting fluoride. “The statements are concise but extremely quotable,” the review read. “This volume is, therefore, especially commended to those interested in or engaged in the promotion of water fluoridation in their own communities.”[14]

Our Children’s Teeth referenced 300 members comprising the Committee to Protect Our Children’s Teeth. This list appeared alongside two additional lists of 229 “leading American Authorities on Nutrition” and 121 of “The Nation’s Foremost Chemists.” In light of the flurry of names and titles “[t]he real question,” Dr. Exner remarked, “is why anyone with any self respect would permit his name on either list. The names are appended to two statements,” Exner continued, “neither of which could be honestly signed by any intelligent layman, much less by any scientist who values his scientific reputation.”

Curious of how the lists were compiled Exner personally wrote each of the chemists listed in the publication to inquire “whether he had signed or whether he believed the statement true. Some denied signing. Some had signed without reading. Some had signed knowing the statement to be false but because they thought fluoridation so desirable that any means were justified.”[15]

Exner further found that of the 360 “chemists” and “authorities on nutrition” listed in the brochure, 201 worked for 87 institutions including universities that received over $151 million in grants. In the late 1950s a majority of such grants originated from the foremost proponent of water fluoridation–the Public Health Service. Another major recipient of PHS funding was the American Dental Association (ADA). Exner’s research and data proved to be especially valuable in lawsuits brought against the industry and fluoridation proponents. In 1978, shortly after his death, all of his files were lost in an unusual fire.[16]

As the pro-fluoridation propaganda campaign grew to a crescendo in the late 1950s a collaborative surveillance campaign targeting anti-fluoridationists was undertaken by the PHS, the ADA, and the American Water Works Association. The National Fluoridation Information Service of the Division of Dental Health of the US Public Health Service, an intelligence-gathering setup operating out of the PHS-controlled National Institutes of Health, was formally established to monitor and create databases on fluoridation critics in the medical professions. Fluoride heretics were subject to flailing in the press or outright expulsion from their professional organizations.[17]

Fluoridation was finally launched in New York City in 1965 apart from popular referendum and in the face of continued opposition by handing the choice to the municipality’s five-member Board of Estimate. Behind the final effort to fluoridate were Mary and Albert Lasker. The former was involved in the Committee to Protect Our Children’s Teeth and the latter an advertising executive and associate of Bernays who helped American Tobacco Company make Lucky Strikes America’s best-selling cigarettes. The Laskers held an exclusive cocktail party to celebrate the victory, with guests including New York Mayor Robert Wagner and members of the Board of Estimate and City Council.

The anti-fluoride Association for the Protection of Our Water Supply condemned the undemocratic process as “government by cocktails.” “Here is a private one-sided hearing on the most controversial subject,” the organization’s press release read, “in a meeting by officials in an ex cathedra session. Where does it leave the masses of citizens opposed to fluoridation?”[18]

When the Committee to Protect Our Children’s Teeth was formed in 1957 only 5% of US water supplies were fluoridated. Following the massive public relations campaign that paved the way for fluoridating New York City’s water over 60% of water across the US was eventually fluoridated. At present over two-thirds of the US population drinks fluoridated water [19] with close to the entire population consuming fluoride through foods and beverages processed using such water. [20]

Maintaining the Fluoride Status Quo
When new scientific studies emerged suggesting fluoride’s dangers to human health the PHS hastily appointed a commission of veteran pro-fluoride figures that proceed to shelve any new conclusions and reinforce the status quo. In 1983 when an unusual PHS-assembled panel consisting of less induced scientists discovered that the government’s own research upholding fluoride’s safety was almost non-existent, a recommendation of caution was handed down emphasizing particular attention to children’s exposure.

Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s office issued its official report a month later omitting the committee’s most significant opinions and recommendations. The panel members “expressed surprise at their report’s conclusions: They never received copies of the final—altered—version.” Countering the committee’s advice that drinking water should contain no more than 1.4-2.4 parts per million (ppm) for children under 10, the government inserted a statement asserting: “There exists no directly applicable scientific documentation of adverse medical effects of fluoride below 8 ppm.” Based on Koop’s final doctored report the Environmental Protection Agency raised the amount of allowable fluoride in drinking water from 2 to 4 ppm for children and adults.[21]

Today sodium fluoride per se is used in less than 10% of fluoridated water systems. In its place are the fluoride variants sodium silica fluoride or fluorisilic acid, more commonly known as silicofluorides (SIFs). In 2001 researchers found that SIFs may cause a higher absorption of lead in children and decrease cholinesterase, an enzyme necessary for the regulation of neurotransmitters. Neither the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, or any other regulatory agency to date has researched the long term internal effects of consuming fluorisilic acid, a by product of the phosphate fertilizer industry that is now the predominant stand-in for sodium fluoride given its relative low-cost.[22]

What is known, however, is that undiluted fluorisilic acid is an extremely dangerous and corrosive substance. In 1994, for instance, 4,500 gallons of the element were released in Volusia County Florida when a tanker truck carrying the load lost a set of wheels on Interstate 4. The spill sent 47 people to hospital, prompted the evacuation of 2,300 more, and closed the highway for two days. Onlookers experienced “breathing trouble or a burning sensation on their skin.” Motorists that drove through the spill were advised that their cars must be professionally decontaminated because “the chemical will dissolve in water, evaporate and cause respiratory problems to anyone nearby.”[23]

Conclusion
In a world made increasingly uncertain by government and corporate engineers of reality and consent, the bureaucratic and scientific class’ responsiveness to the public welfare is illusory. The case of water fluoridation provides a compelling example of a plan to deceive and propagandize the masses. A full decade before President Eisenhower’s warning of “a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions,” the fluoridation of America’s water supplies was already in full play with the hidden foreknowledge among those in high places that such a campaign would almost certainly lead to the endangerment of public health for many generations to come.

Water fluoridation is banned in many Scandinavian and European nations.[24] Yet it persists in the US, Canada, Australia, and numerous other countries throughout the world. The practice is sustained to a significant degree by the widely held myth Bernays designed and brought forth, by affirmative medical and regulatory authorities, and perhaps above all by a routinely unskeptical and compliant press. Not unlike the contradictory premises upon which psycho-social existence was predicated in Orwell’s 1984–ignorance is strength, war is peace, freedom is slavery–in the case of the West’s 60-plus year experiment with fluoridation, poison is treatment.

Notes

[1] New York Times, “Fluoridation Debate Redux,” 18 March, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/fluoridation-debate-redux.html?_r=1. See also Jane E. Brody, “Dental Exam Went Well? Thank Fluoride,” New York Times, January 23, 2012, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/dental-exam-went-well-thank-fluoride/

[2] Scorecard: The Pollution Information Website, Chemical Profiles: Sodium Fluoride, n.d., GoodGuide, http://scorecard.goodguide.com/chemical-profiles/pesticides.tcl?edf_substance_id=7681-49-4

[3] Ethan A. Huff, “Study: Fluoridated Water Causes Brain Damage in Children,” NaturalNews.com, December 23, 2010, http://www.naturalnews.com/030819_fluoride_brain_damage.html

[4] Fluoride Action Network, “Fluoride & Tooth Decay: Topical Vs. Systemic Effects,” n.d., http://www.fluoridealert.org/health/teeth/caries/topical-systemic.html

[5] Ethan A. Huff, “Does Topica Fluoride Really Protect Tooth Enamel? Study Suggests NO,” NaturalNews.com, March 6, 2011, http://www.naturalnews.com/031602_fluoride_tooth_enamel.html

[6] F. B. Exner, “Economic Motives Behind Water Fluoridation—Fluoride is a Protected Pollutant,” in F. B. Exner, G. L. Waldbott and James Rorty, The American Fluoridation Experiment (New York: Devin-Adair, 1955), pp. 119-121. Available at http://www.fluoridation.com/exner.htm

[7] Asia-Pacific Journal Feature, “Eco-Model City Kitakyushu and Japan’s Disposal of Radioactive Tsunami Debris,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 24, No 6, June 11, 2012. Available at http://www.japanfocus.org/-Asia_Pacific_Journal-Feature/3770; Michael McAteer, “Japan’s Latest Nuclear Crisis: Getting Rid of Radioactive Debris,” The Atlantic, June 4, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/japans-latest-nuclear-crisis-getting-rid-of-the-radioactive-debris/257963/

[8] Exner, “Economic Motives Behind Water Fluoridation.”

[9] J. Y. Smith, “Oscar Ewing Dies; Leading Architect of ‘Fair Deal’ Program for Truman,” Washington Post, January 9, 1980, C6; Christopher Bryson, The Fluoride Deception (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004). Bryson’s description of his encounters with Bernays suggests how the spin doctor recognized the impropriety of the former Alcoa attorney’s influential endorsement of water fluoridation.

[10] Bryson, The Fluoride Deception, 159-160.

[11] Bryson, The Fluoride Deception, 159.

[12] Bryson, The Fluoride Deception, 161.

[13] Bryson, The Fluoride Deception, 161-162, 324f.

[14] Review of Our Children’s Teeth—A Digest of Expert Opinion Based on Studies of the Use of Fluorides in Public Water Supplies, by Herman E. Hilleboe, et al., American Journal of Public Health 48 (1958): 821.

[15] Exner, “Economic Motives Behind Water Fluoridation.”

[16] Joel Griffiths, “Fluoride: Commie Plot or Capitalist Ploy,” Covert Action Quarterly 42 (1992), http://sonic.net/kryptox/history/covert.htm

[17] Bryson, The Fluoride Deception, 165.

[18] Bryson, The Fluoride Deception, 164.

[19] Center for Disease Control 2010 Water Fluoridation Statistics, n.d., http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/statistics/2010stats.htm

[20] Brody, “Dental Exam Went Well? Thank Fluoride.”

[21] Griffiths, “Fluoride: Commie Plot or Capitalist Ploy.”
[22] Washington’s Blog, “Untested Type of Fluoride Used in the Overwhelming Majority of U.S. Water Supplies,” Centre for Research on Globalization, January 10, 2011, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22707

[23] St. Petersburg Times, “Acid Spill Closes I-4,” September 7, 1994, 1B.

[24] “Fluoridation Status of Some Countries,” Fluoridation.com, n.d., http://www.fluoridation.com/c-country.htm

James F. Tracy is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University. He is an affiliate of Project Censored and blogs at memorygap.org.

 

A recent interview given by: an ‘anonymous’ Qatari security official, has shed further light on CIA-led covert arms shipments to militants fighting in Syria. In this Reuters article, the security official and several ‘anonymous’ rebel Commanders confirm that Qatar has “tightened coordination of arms flows [plural] to Syria,” under alleged concern of weapons ending up in the hands of Al Qaeda linked Islamic extremist militants; the very militants as noted previously, that have continually formed the spearhead of the insurgency against the Syrian Government: 

“Rebel fighters in Syria say that in recent months the system for distributing arms has become more centralized, with arms being delivered through opposition National Coalition’s General Command, led by Selim Idriss, a general who defected to the opposition and is a favorite of Washington.”(my emphasis)

What has been long confirmed by ‘official sources’ in the mainstream press, is that these arms shipments commenced in at least “early 2012″. We can be sure, as with the majority of the official timeline, that leeway has been given in these statements: its highly likely smaller arms shipments/smuggling into Syria started much earlier. Statements from eyewitnesses in Libya confirm that arms shipments from the port of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group stronghold Misrata, commenced rapidly after the fall of Gaddafi. Sibel Edmonds also reported in November 2011, long before any corporate media revealed, that the CIA, along with its Turkish and NATO counterparts had been working from the “nerve centre” at the joint US-Turkish air-base in Incerlik, Turkey, since April/May of 2011, coordinating ‘rebel’ elements and ‘activist’s’. Edmonds posits the likely theory that this was one of the initial staging grounds used by the CIA and its regional partners, to smuggle weapons, fighters and materiel into Syria as the insurgency took hold.

Enough of this background information, ‘official sources’ and timeline discrepancies gives the impression that the ‘news’ media is not releasing information when it receives it, and is holding back crucial pieces of the timeline, to fit into the desired narrative of “Assad forces killing peaceful protesters”.

What we learn from the Reuters report is that until Qatar (acting directly under CIA auspices) chose to “tighten” the coordination of their arms supplies into Syria, there was no coherent or structured way of the arms being distributed once they reached the Syrian border:

“The Qataris are now [May 2013] going through the Coalition for aid and humanitarian issues and for military issues they are going through the military command,” a commander in northern Syria interviewed from Beirut said.

This raises the immediate question: who were Qatar (under CIA auspices) distributing the arms thousands of tonnes of arms to before April 2013?  The report goes on to state:

“Before the Coalition was formed they were going through liaison offices and other military and civil formations. That was at the beginning. Now it is different – it is all going through the Coalition and the military command.”

There’s a lot of consultation with the CIA, and they help Qatar with buying and moving the weapons into Syria, but just as consultants,” he said. The CIA declined to comment. (my emphasis)

At least a pinch of salt needs to be taken with this piece of misinformation. What exactly are “liaison offices, military and civil formations?” The ‘opposition’ has never had anything resembling a military formation. Regardless, this raises several important questions and draws several distinctions into the timeline of the Syrian conflict.

We have long known, the main supplier of arms to ‘rebels’ was and still is Qatar, acting directly under the CIA’s “consultation”. We also know that these arms shipments became a considerable amount in “early 2012″ and continued to rise in both quantity and frequency. A New York Times investigation confirmed this to be the case, reporting that eighty-five military cargo planes flew from Qatar to Turkey carrying arms bound for Syria between January 2012 and March 2013. (the maximum load of an average military cargo plane is around 50-60 tonnes.)  What other synonymous distinctions in the conflict do we know about, that commenced and progressed from “early 2012″?

The clearest and most glaring dynamic that occurred along this timeframe, and also continued to rise and greatly increase, is both the death toll, and displacement within Syria. As covered extensively before, the monthly death toll in Syria almost doubled in “early 2012″, and continued to rapidly increase. All available resources and ‘activist’ or opposition groups death toll figures roughly confirm this, as can be seen in this graph compiled by Reuters:

BKO-BeRCIAAuaye.png large

One other critical factor is directly synonymous with both the arms flow increase, (under CIA/Qatari auspices) and the huge rise in death toll. That being: the success, proliferation and bolstering of Jabhat al Nusra and similar Salafi/Jihaddi militant groups. Jabhat al Nusra, or, as they are now known: the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham, (ISIS) were active in Syria under their ‘parent’ group the Islamic State of Iraq’s (Al Qaeda in Iraq – AQI) auspices for years prior to the Syrian uprising. Indeed, ever since the formation of AQI itself the eastern regions of Syria, (bordering the west of Iraq and the Anbar province) have been a hotbed for Al Qaeda activity since its inception following the US invasion in 2003.

It is beyond doubt that Jabhat al Nusra and other Salafi/Jihaddi groups working alongside them have been the driving force of the armed insurgency. Throughout the majority of the armed conflict, it has been Jabhat al Nusra that has led insurgent attacks on key Syrian military installations; air-defense bases; coastal and major highway routes in attempts to block SAA supply lines; the vast majority of suicide attacks in civilian areas; and assassinations on key Government security officials. These extremist groups have become the best equipped, most organised, consistently well-funded and importantly, the most successful on the ground. While the US and its Gulf allies claim to have only armed, trained and supported ‘vetted’ and ‘moderate’ rebels, the reality inside Syria bears absolutely no resemblance to these claims.

We are now left with some theoretical options, first: the CIA will claim, as the US administration has been claiming, that they only ‘coordinated’ arms to, and supported moderate groups; how they found their way to extremists is beyond the CIA remit. Thus passing sole culpability to Qatar or the smugglers in Turkey that transported the arms into Syria. Again, the Qatari intelligence service can also claim plausible deniability, passing the buck to smugglers and rebels controlling the flow on the Turkish border. Do the ramifications of this policy, even if it were true, absolve the sheer recklessness of it and the evident destruction and bolstering of extremists it has permitted?

Another probable outcome, or denial of association with these groups will be that the Syrian Arab Army and the Syrian Government, because of the alleged majority Alawhite leadership, made a conscious decision toinstill sectarianism into the conflict in order to quell the protest movement. When one takes a close look at the Syrian Governments overtures toward the peaceful protest movement, and concessions the Assad government made during the early stages of protests, it is again, hard to see any reality to confirm it was Assad’s intention to divide Syria and start a full-scale sectarian war. Indeed, many concessions were made, including; mass political prisoner releases; a new constitution promising political plurality and maximum presidential terms; the dismissal of several regional governors and the complete dismissal of the Syrian Cabinet. These concessions do not bear the hallmark of a leader looking to marginalize his countries largest demographic. In which the Sunni population was, and still is heavily represented in both the Government and the army.

What is most probable, is that the CIA, along with its Qatari partners, knew full well of the ideologues they were arming and bolstering and chose to pursue this policy; simply because it was the most effective at weakening the Syrian Army and dividing the peaceful, multi-ethnic fabric of Syrian society. As stated above, it is Jabhat al Nusra leading the fight in Syria, it is they that have taken out Syria’s air defense bases, on many an occasion. What threat anti-aircraft missiles and defense radar’s pose to small, lightly armed insurgent groups is hard to fathom, suggesting these groups were acting on outside orders, or state supplied intelligence provided to them with the desired outcome of weakening Syria’s strategic defense capabilities.

For those that study the US governments unrelenting attempts of subversion and destabilization, this tactic of fomenting and supporting Islamic extremists militants will come as no surprise. It is not just Jabhat al Nusra’s (AQI) tactical capability and battle experience that has pushed them into the leadership role, without money and weapons, and indeed psychological appeal to win recruits, experience means nothing.

These groups, supposedly of “Al Qaeda” origin, an ideology in itself, more than a coherent functioning group capable of international war; form the sectarian “shock troops” the US and their allies long ago agreed upon to foment and support in their attempts to block the “resistance” within the “Shiite crescent,” and have quite literally, grown beyond all means of control. Qatar (under CIA “consultation”) has tacitly encouraged, sponsored and armed the very same groups that are prominent now: those of an extremist Salafi/Jihaddi ideology that espouse sectarian hatred against Shia and minority groups to promote division and social chaos. This supposedly happened directly under the CIA’s nose, with their tacit “consultation” and they failed to notice this extremist dynamic developing and rapidly expanding? Another possible added bonus for the US and its allies was recently pointed out by Lebanese political commentator Dr. Asad Abu Khalil who noted:

by listing Nusrah Front as a terrorist organization, the US government has basically licensed all other Syrian armed groups to engage in all sorts of war crimes.  So all an armed group has to do to get away with war crimes, is merely to fly the flag of Nusrah.  That is all what it takes.  So an armed group belonging to the Free Syrian Army umbrella, for example, can engage in a war crime, and then the next day issue a condemnation.  It is an unlimited license for war crimes.

A fully fledged and totally malleable proxy fighting force, promoting subversion, sectarian division, and outright chaos to gain the desired US objective of the destruction of the Syrian state, ergo: removing a key ally of Iran, and the resistance to western hegemony in the Middle East. When the extremism and brutality become too exposed to allow overt western support, the US designate them “terrorists”, and within a change of clothes, they become the falsehood that is the “FSA”.

Phil Greaves is a UK based writer/analyst, focusing on UK/US Foreign Policy and conflict analysis in the Middle East post WWII. http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/

 

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The 1983 Nuclear War Scare

May 17th, 2013 by The National Security Archive

Image: President Reagan and General Secretary Andropov were named “men of the year” in 1983 by the Time Magazine. The Central Intelligence Agency also included an image of this cover in its history of the 1983 War Scare. (Original cover © Time, Inc.)

Soviet “Huffing and Puffing?” “Crying Wolf?” “Rattling Pots and Pans?” or “A Real Worry That We Could Come into Conflict through Miscalculation?”

Largest On-Line Set of Primary Sources on “The Last Paroxysm” of the Cold War Suggests … Both

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 426

PART 1 OF 3 POSTINGS
Posted – May 16, 2013

Edited by Nate Jones
Assisted by Lauren Harper
With Document Contributions from Svetlana Savranskaya

For more information contact:
Nate Jones 202/994-7000 or [email protected]

Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov warned US envoy Averell Harriman that the Reagan administration’s provocations were moving the two superpowers toward “the dangerous ‘red line'” of nuclear war through “miscalculation” in June of 1983. Andropov delivered this warning six months before the 1983 “War Scare” reached its crux during the NATO nuclear release exercise named Able Archer 83, according to Harriman’s notes of the conversation posted for the first time today by the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org).

The meeting provides important, first-hand evidence of Soviet leadership concerns about a possible US threat. But other documents included in this posting suggest that not all Soviet political and military leaders were fearful of a US preemptive first strike, but may rather have been “rattling their pots and pans” in an attempt to gain geopolitical advantages, including stopping the deployment of Pershing II and Cruise nuclear missiles in Western Europe. “This would not be the first time that Soviet leaders have used international tensions to mobilize their populations,” wrote the acting CIA director John McMahon in a declassified memo from early 1984.

President Reagan zeroed in on the essence of this debate in March of 1984 when he asked his ambassador to the Soviet Union, Arthur Hartman, “Do you think Soviet leaders really fear us, or is all the huffing and puffing just part of their propaganda?” The evidence presented here, and in two forthcoming electronic briefing books in this series, suggests that the answer to the president’s question was “both.”

This first of three “War Scare” postings also includes KGB reports corroborating the creation of Operation RYaN, the largest peace-time intelligence gathering operation in history, to “prevent the possible sudden outbreak of war by the enemy;” a newly declassified CIA Studies in Intelligence article concluding that Soviet fears of a preemptive U.S. nuclear strike, “while exaggerated, were scarcely insane;” and declassified backchannel discussions between Reagan advisor Jack Matlock and Soviet sources who warned of “growing paranoia among Soviet officials,” whom the source described as “literally obsessed by fear of war.”

The documents in this series provide new information and add nuance to the ongoing debate over the significance — some even argue, the existence — of a genuine war scare in the Soviet Union. The documents come from Freedom of Information Act releases by the CIA and U.S. Defense Department, research findings from American archives, as well as formerly classified Soviet Politburo and KGB files, interviews with ex-Soviet generals, and records from other former communist states.

The next electronic briefing book in the series will examine the exercises Autumn Forge 83, Reforger 83, and Able Archer 83, using NATO, U.S. Air Force, and other documents. The third posting will chronicle the U.S. intelligence community’s evolving understanding of and debate over the 1983 War Scare.

* * *

“Do you think Soviet leaders really fear us, or is all the huffing and puffing just part of their propaganda?” President Reagan asked his Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Arthur Hartman in early 1984, according to declassified talking points from the Reagan Presidential Library. President Reagan had pinpointed the question central to the 1983 War Scare. That question was key to the real-time intelligence reporting, the retroactive intelligence estimates and analyses of the danger, and it remains the focus of today’s continuing debate over the danger and lessons of the so-called “Able Archer” War Scare.

Some, such as Robert Gates, who was the CIA’s deputy director for intelligence during the War Scare, have concluded, “After going through the experience at the time, then through the postmortems, and now through the documents, I don’t think the Soviets were crying wolf. They may not have believed a NATO attack was imminent in November 1983, but they did seem to believe that the situation was very dangerous.”[1] Others, such as the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Soviet Union, Fritz Ermarth, wrote in the CIA’s first analysis of the War Scare, and still believes today, that because the CIA had “many [Soviet] military cook books” it could “judge confidently the difference between when they might be brewing up for a real military confrontation or … just rattling their pots and pans.”[2]

“Huffing and puffing?” “Crying wolf?” “Just rattling their pots and pans?” While real-time analysts, retroactive re-inspectors, and the historical community may be at odds as to how dangerous the War Scare was, all agree that the dearth of available evidence has made conclusions harder to deduce. Some historians have even characterized the study of the War Scare as “an echo chamber of inadequate research and misguided analysis” and “circle reference dependency,” with an overreliance upon “the same scanty evidence.”[3]

To mark the 30th anniversary of the War Scare, the National Security Archive is posting, over three installments, the most complete online collection of declassified U.S. documents, material no longer accessible from the Russian archives, and contemporary interviews, which suggest that the answer to President Reagan’s question — were the Soviets “huffing and puffing” or genuinely afraid? — was both, not either or.


One of Ronald Reagan’s two index cards containing questions for his March 28, 1984 meeting with Ambassador Hartman.

Today’s posting includes:

  • U.S. notes of the “first real meeting between the United States and the Soviet Union since the start of the [Reagan] Administration” in June of 1983 between General Secretary Yuri Andropov and U.S. envoy Averell Harriman, in which Andropov warned of nuclear war through miscalculation four times. Harriman, who had negotiated with Stalin during the Second World War, concluded that Andropov, “seemed to have a real worry that we could come into conflict through miscalculation.”
  • KGB annual reports for the years 1981 and 1982 corroborating the creation of Operation RYaN (RYaN was the Russian acronym for Raketno-Yadernoye Napadenie, “nuclear missile attack”), the largest peace-time intelligence gathering operation in history to “prevent the possible sudden outbreak of war by the enemy.”
  • A CIA memo providing evidence of the “Warsaw Pact Early Warning Indicator Project” – the U.S. intelligence community’s analogue to Operation RYaN.
  • An unpublished, declassified CIA Studies in Intelligence article (different from the well-circulated CIA unclassified monograph) which provides a narrative of the War Scare and concludes that Soviet fears of a preemptive U.S. nuclear strike, “while exaggerated, were scarcely insane,” and disclosing that the United States also had an intelligence source in Czechoslovakia partially corroborating the British intelligence asset Oleg Gordievsky’s reporting that Soviet leaders feared an imminent war.
  • Volume four of the National Security Agency’s previously classified history, American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989 (Volumes one through three can be foundhere), which chronicles the years 1980-1989, and asserts that “the period 1982-1984 marked the most dangerous Soviet-American confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
  • Declassified backchannel discussions between Reagan advisor Jack Matlock and Soviet sources who warned of “growing paranoia among Soviet officials” whom the source described as “literally obsessed by fear of war.”
  • Interviews with high level “unhappy Cold Warriors” in the Soviet military, conducted in the early 1990s, in which they explain their recollections and experiences during the War Scare.
A slide from a September 1983 COMALF briefing provides an overview of JCS exercises in 1982, including troop numbers for Able Archer 82. A partial overview of NATO exercises conducted in 1983 produced by the National Security Archive.

Before reviewing the documents, it is important to note that the NATO exercise was not known to Soviet intelligence as “Able Archer 83” at the time it was being conducted. Soviet analysts referred to it as “Autumn Forge 83,” the name for the larger, months-long, series of NATO maneuvers, of which Able Archer was the conclusion.[4] Most American military and intelligence analysts would have known the exercise as “Reforger 83,” which occurred during the final phase of Autumn Forge with a momentous “show of resolve” by air-lifting 19,000 troops and 1,500 tons of cargo from the United States to Europe to simulate a conventional war. Able Archer 83, sponsored by the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR) and conducted from 7 to 11 November 1983, simulated the transition from conventional to nuclear war.

The name “Able Archer 83” came into vogue with the first public exposé of the incident in an October 16, 1988, Sunday Telegraph article entitled “Brink of World War III: When the World Almost Went to War.” Hence, “Able Archer 83,” the term most used by the historical community, was not the term most commonly used by actors as the event transpired. In one interview (to be published in a forthcoming Electronic Briefing Book (EBB) in this series), the head of the Soviet General Staff, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, states that he did “not remember” Able Archer 83 but added that “[w]e believed that the most dangerous military exercises were Autumn Forge and Reforger.” This suggests that some Soviet “non-recollections” of “Able Archer” may not be the best evidence for a lack of danger, and that the War Scare deserves further declassification, research, and examination.[5]

Below, for submission into the “echo chamber,” is the first of three Electronic Briefing Books on the War Scare. This first posting will examine: the unprecedented Soviet espionage effort, Operation RYaN; the “fear of war [that] seemed to affect the elite as well as the man on the street” and that led to the operation; and the Reagan administration’s internal debates over the veracity of Soviet attitudes — whether they were “huffing and puffing” or genuinely fearful. The second EBB will examine the exercises Autumn Forge 83, Reforger 83, and Able Archer 83, using NATO, U.S. Air Force, and other documents. The third posting will chronicle the U.S. intelligence community’s evolving understanding of and debate over the 1983 War Scare.


THE DOCUMENTS

Listed non-chronologically to present a clearer narrative.

Document 1: Talking Points for Meeting with Ambassador to the Soviet Union Arthur Hartman, March 28, 1984, Confidential.

Source: Reagan Presidential Library, Matlock files, Chron June 1984, Box 5.

Reagan held two index cards with three questions printed on them during his meeting with Ambassador Hartman in the Oval Office. The final one, “Do you think Soviet leaders really fear us, or is all the huffing and puffing just part of their propaganda?” remains the most important question of the 1983 War Scare. In his diary, Reagan wrote, “Art Hartman came by. He’s truly a fine Ambas. It was good to have a chance to pick his brains.” [6] But, emblematic of the state of the ongoing War Scare debate, no record of Hartman’s response to Reagan’s question has been found.


The Wikipedia article on Able Archer 83 the National Security Agency sent us in response to a FOIA request.

Document 2American Cryptology During the Cold War, 1945 – 1989, Book IV: Cryptologic Rebirth, 1981-1989, Thomas R. Johnson, National Security Agency Center for Cryptologic History, 1999, Top Secret-COMINT-UMBRA/TALENT KEYHOLE/X1.

Source: National Security Agency Freedom of Information Act release.

Volume four of the National Security Agency’s heavily redacted study on cryptology during the Cold War (see here for earlier volumes), released to the National Security Archive through the FOIA, is devoted to the Reagan era. The NSA starkly notes that “[t]he Reagan administration marked the height of the Cold War. The president referred to the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire, and was determined to spend it into the ground. The Politburo reciprocated, and the rhetoric on both sides, especially during the first Reagan administration, drove the hysteria. Some called it the Second Cold War. The period 1982-1984 marked the most dangerous Soviet-American confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

The National Security Agency responded to a 2008 FOIA request on the War Scare by stating that it had 81 relevant documents, but that all were exempt from release. Unhelpfully, the Agency did review, approve for release, stamp, and send a printout of a Wikipedia article.


A side by side view of Benjamin B. Fischer’s redacted and unclassifed War Scare reports.

Document 3: CIA Studies in Intelligence article by Benjamin B. Fischer, “The 1983 War Scare in US-Soviet Relations,” Undated, circa 1996, Secret.

Source: Central Intelligence Agency Freedom of Information Act release.

Two CIA histories -one declassified and redacted, the other unclassified- chronicle the geopolitical factors that made the War Scare “the most dangerous Soviet-American confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

“The 1983 War Scare in US-Soviet Relations,” by Ben B. Fischer, a History Fellow at the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, was authored for the CIA’s classified in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence — likely prior to the presentation of his longer, unclassified, “A Cold War Conundrum,” although its date is redacted. “The 1983 War Scare in US-Soviet Relations” concludes that Soviet fears of a preemptive U.S. nuclear strike, “while exaggerated, were scarcely insane.” Fischer’s account starkly claims that the U.S. dismissal of legitimate Soviet fears, including of a “decapitating” nuclear strike, left the U.S. vulnerable to the possibility that they could lead to very real dangers, including a preemptive Soviet nuclear strike based purely on misinformation.

After President Reagan’s March 1983 assertion that the USSR had violated a self-imposed moratorium on deploying intermediate-range SS-20 missiles facing Western Europe, General Secretary Andropov suggested that Reagan was “insane and a liar,” repeatedly compared him to Hitler, and espoused rhetoric that made it seem war was imminent. Fischer writes that U.S. officials gave little credence to Soviet concerns — or dismissed them as propaganda — and argues that the fears were more nuanced than mere political pandering, as evidenced by Operation RYaN.

According to Fischer’s account, based largely on the MI6 and CIA asset Oleg Gordievsky, in 1981 the Soviet Union launched Operation RYaN, a combined intelligence effort among the KGB and their GRU (military intelligence) counterparts, to monitor indications and warnings of U.S. war-planning, and by 1983 RYaN had acquired “an especial degree of urgency.” RYaN was, according to Fischer, “for real,” and was in part a likely byproduct of American PSYOP tactics conducted throughout the previous two years.

The report also extablishes — for the first time — that another CIA source was, at least partially, corroborating Gordievsky’s reporting. This Czechoslovak intelligence officer — who worked closely with the KGB on RYaN — “noted that his counterparts were obsessed with the historical parallel between 1941 and 1983. He believed this feeling was almost visceral, not intellectual, and deeply affected Soviet thinking.”

This CIA history also reveals that the U.S. military had been probing Soviet airspace to pinpoint vulnerabilities since the beginning of the Reagan administration, and that in 1981 the U.S. Navy led an armada of 83 ships through Soviet waters, effectively eluding “the USSR’s massive ocean reconnaissance system and early-warning systems.” In addition to the PSYOP exercises, and in the heated aftermath of the KAL 007 tragedy of September 1, 1983, the U.S. Navy flew aircraft 20 miles inside Soviet airspace, prompting Andropov to issue orders that “any aircraft discovered in Soviet airspace be shot down. Air-defense commanders were warned that if they refused to execute Andropov’s order, they would be dismissed.” Tensions, and Moscow’s suspicions of a possible U.S. attack, were high. These events rattled Soviet leaders, already aware that their technological capabilities were lagging behind the U.S., and they ramped up Operation RYaN efforts.

Fischer writes that as the Soviets were conducting Operation RYaN, the U.S. began Able Archer 83, an annual NATO command post exercise that the Soviets were familiar with. However, Gordievsky told MI6 that during Able Archer 83, Moscow incorrectly informed its KGB and GRU stations that U.S. forces were mobilizing in Europe. Air bases in East Germany and Poland were put on alert “for the first and last time during the Cold War.” Fischer points out that while the White House was cognizant of Soviet anxiety in the aftermath of Able Archer 83 by way of Gordievsky, there is no corroborating evidence of fear of imminent war from the Kremlin itself, and that other senior Soviet leaders later reported “that none had heard of Able Archer.” (Importantly, there was no mention of Autumn Forge or Reforger.) Though Gordievsky’s accounts were uncorroborated, they undoubtedly influenced U.S. attitudes toward the Soviets.

Fischer concludes that Operation RYaN and the urgency to collect intelligence on U.S. capabilities was more than what Reagan called “huffing and puffing.” He adds that the fear was magnified by the growing technological disparity between the two superpowers, and describes Able Archer 83 as the “last paroxysm at the end of the Cold War.”

Document 4: Central Intelligence Agency Intelligence Monograph by Benjamin B. Fischer, “A Cold War Conundrum: The 1983 Soviet War Scare,” September 1997, Unclassified.

Source: CIA Electronic Reading Room.

A second, well-circulated historical monograph published by Ben B. Fischer, “A Cold War Conundrum: The 1983 Soviet War Scare” in the CIA’s An Intelligence Monograph series, is a longer, unclassified update of his classified piece, “The 1983 War Scare in US-Soviet Relations” (see previous document). With a careful reading, “A Cold War Conundrum” gives insight into what the CIA censored from his earlier, redacted Studies in Intelligence piece. While much of the information is the same, the CIA likely redacted passages about the Soviet’s recognition of their own capabilities, their feelings of vulnerability surrounding recent international disappointments, Oleg Gordievsky’s credibility, and the competence of MI6.

This unclassified article also describes a 1981 KGB estimate of world trends, redacted from the earlier piece, that concludes that the “USSR in effect was losing — and the US was winning — the Cold War.” While Fischer’s redacted article refers to the Soviets’ acknowledgment of an unfavorable “correlation of world forces,” this unclassified article underscores the USSR’s feelings of vulnerability as it was caught in “its own version of America’s Vietnam quagmire” in Afghanistan, was being drained economically by Cuba, and was struggling to support the pro-Soviet regimes in Angola and Nicaragua. These vulnerabilities were likely amplified by a visible shift in U.S. public opinion, which now supported the “largest peacetime defense buildup in the nation’s history.”

The unclassified article also hints at what the largest bulk of redacted portion material likely discusses Oleg Gordievsky. In Appendix B, the unclassified paper outlines the circumstances surrounding Gordievsky’s relationship with MI6 as well as potential bona fides and blemishes on his credibility and track record. While Fischer generally considers Gordievsky credible and bona fide, the CIA’s declassifiers have redacted information that supports his credibility, including the fact that the British debriefed him “150 times over a period of several months, taking 6,000 pages of notes that were reviewed by analysts. Everything checked out, and no significant inaccuracies or inconsistencies were uncovered.”

The description of CIA rival MI6 as “a storehouse of priceless information which even the CIA would find useful” was also omitted in the earlier article.

Document 5: Department of State memo from Frank H. Perez, Office of Strategic and General Research at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, to Leonard Weiss, Deputy Director for Functional Research at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, “Subject: Thoughts on Launch–on–warning,” January 29, 1971, Secret.

Source: National Archives, RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files, 1970-1973, Def 12 USSR January 29, 1971, Secret, and related documents .

Document 6: Secretary of Defense to President Carter, “ False Alerts ,” July 12, 1980, Top Secret, excised copy, and related documents .

Source: Source: Defense Department Freedom of Information Act release.

The primary impetus for Operation RYaN was the Soviet fear of a preemptive nuclear strike driven by both superpowers’ reliance on Launch-on-Warning nuclear postures, combined with the planned deployment of Pershing II missiles that could reach Moscow from West Germany in six minutes.[7] This led to Soviet worries of a “decapitating first strike” and the initiation of Operation RYaN to detect, and possibly preempt this first strike before its launch.

U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was the victim of one terrifying example proving the danger posed by shrinking warning times, which he recounted to his aide, Robert Gates. Gates, who later served as director of Central Intelligence and secretary of defense, recounted in his memoirs that on November 9, 1979, Brzezinski “was awakened at three in the morning by [military assistant William] Odom, who told him that some 250 Soviet missiles had been launched against the United States. Brzezinski knew that the President’s decision time to order retaliation was from three to seven minutes …. Thus he told Odom he would stand by for a further call to confirm Soviet launch and the intended targets before calling the President. Brzezinski was convinced we had to hit back and told Odom to confirm that the Strategic Air Command was launching its planes. When Odom called back, he reported that … 2,200 missiles had been launched — it was an all — out attack. One minute before Brzezinski intended to call the President, Odom called a third time to say that other warning systems were not reporting Soviet launches. Sitting alone in the middle of the night, Brzezinski had not awakened his wife, reckoning that everyone would be dead in half an hour. It had been a false alarm. Someone had mistakenly put military exercise tapes into the computer system.” [8] In 1980 alone, U.S. warning systems generated three more false alerts.

Valentin Falin, a high ranking Soviet official in the Foreign Ministry, described Soviet anxieties in the Central Committee’s prominent journal, Kommunist. He wrote that with the deployment of Pershing II missiles in 1983, “[i]mperialism has decided to limit both the time and the space of the USSR and for all the world of socialism, to just five minutes for contemplation in a crisis situation.”[9]

President Reagan also realized this danger, writing in his memoirs, “We had many contingency plans for responding to a nuclear attack. But everything would happen so fast that I wondered how much planning or reason could be applied in such a crisis … Six minutes to decide how to respond to a blip on a radar scope and decide whether to unleash Armageddon! How could anyone apply reason at a time like that?”[10]

Document 7: Interview with Viktor M. Surikov, Deputy Director of the Central Scientific Research Institute, by John G. Hines, September 11, 1993 in Soviet Intentions 1965-1985: Volume II Soviet Post-Cold War Testimonial Evidence, by John G. Hines, Ellis M. Mishulovich, of BDM Federal, INC. for the Office of the Secretary of Defense Net Assessment. Unclassified with portions “retroactively” classified.

Source: Defense Department Freedom of Information Act release.

In 1995, the Pentagon contractor, BDM Corporation, prepared a two-volume study on Soviet Intentions, 1965-1985, based on an extraordinarily revealing series of interviews with former senior Soviet defense officials — “unhappy Cold Warriors” — during the final days of the Soviet Union. The interviews contain candid Soviet reflections on the 1983 War Scare.

One interviewee, Viktor Surikov, who had over 30 years experience building, testing, and analyzing military missiles and related systems, acknowledged that a shift toward preemption had occurred on the Soviet side as well. Surikov challenged his interviewer, John Hines, alleging that “U.S. strategy and posture was to strike first in a crisis in order to minimize damage to the U.S. He added that U.S. analysts had concluded that there were tremendous differences in levels of damage to the U.S. under conditions where the U.S. succeeded in successfully preemptively striking Soviet missiles and control systems before they launched versus under conditions of a simultaneous exchange or U.S. retaliation. He said, ‘John, if you deny that, then either you’re ignorant about your own posture or you’re lying to me.’ I acknowledged that the U.S. certainly had done such analysis.”

Surikov believed that the basic Soviet nuclear position and posture was also preemption. Soviet General Valentin Varennikov, who served on the General Staff, corroborates this dangerous change in nuclear warfighting. He recounts that in 1983, the Soviet military conducted its own exercise,Zapad (West) 83, which, “prepared (for the first time since the Second World War) for a situation where our armed forces obtained reliable data of [an adversary’s] decision made by highest military and political leadership to launch a surprise attack, using all possible firepower (artillery, aviation, etc.) against us. In response, we conducted offensive operations to disrupt the enemy attack and defeat its troops. That is, a preemptive strike.”[11]


“Report of the Work of the KGB in 1981,” May 10, 1982.

Document 8: KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov to General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, “Report of the Work of the KGB in 1981,” May 10, 1982, and General Secretary Yuri Andropov from Victor Chebrikov, “Report of the Work of the KGB in 1982,” March 15, 1983.

Source: Dmitrii Antonovich Volkogonov Papers. Available at the National Security Archive.

While Yuri Andropov’s 1981 KGB report to Leonid Brezhnev did not use the specific term “Operation RYaN,” it did state that the KGB had “implemented measures to strengthen intelligence work in order to prevent a possible sudden outbreak of war by the enemy.” To do this, the KGB “actively obtained information on military and strategic issues, and the aggressive military and political plans of imperialism [the United States] and its accomplices,” and “enhanced the relevance and effectiveness of its active intelligence abilities.”

The 1982 report — this time sent to General Secretary Andropov from KGB Chairman Victor Chebrikov — confirmed genuine Soviet fears of encirclement. It noted the challenges of counting on “U.S. and NATO aspirations to change the existing military-strategic balance,” and, as such, “Primary attention was paid to military and strategic issues related to the danger of the enemy’s thermonuclear attack.”

These KGB reports (although they do not mention collaboration with the GRU — Soviet military intelligence) square with Gordievsky’s account of the establishment of RYaN.

Gordievsky wrote in 1991, that “In May of 1981 the ageing Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev denounced Reagan’s policies in a secret address to a major KGB conference in Moscow. The most dramatic speech, however, was given by Yuri Andropov, [then] Chairman of the KGB … The new American administration, he declared, was actively preparing for nuclear war. To the astonishment of his audience, Andropov then announced that, by a decision of the Politburo, the KGB and GRU were for the first time to cooperate in a worldwide intelligence operation codenamed RYaN.” [12]

Document 9: KGB Headquarters Moscow, to the London KGB Residency, “Permanent operational assignment to uncover NATO preparations for a nuclear missile attack on the USSR,” and enclosed documents, February 17, 1983, Top Secret.

Source: Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations, 1975-1985, (Stanford: Stanford University Press 1991).

According to Gordievsky, each station chief in “Western countries, Japan, and some states in the Third World” received an Operation RYaN directive. Each was addressed by name, labeled “strictly personal,” and was designated to be kept in a special file. The directive stated:

“The objective of the assignment is to see that the Residency works systematically to uncover any plans in preparation by the main adversary [USA] for RYaN and to organize a continual watch to be kept for indications of a decision being taken to use nuclear weapons against the USSR or immediate preparations being made for a nuclear missile attack.” [13]

Attached to the telegram was a list of seven “immediate” and thirteen “prospective” tasks for the agents to complete and report. These included: the collection of data on potential places of evacuation and shelter, an appraisal of the level of blood held in blood banks, observation of places where nuclear decisions were made and where nuclear weapons were stored, observation of key nuclear decision makers, observation of lines of communication, reconnaissance of the heads of churches and banks, and surveillance of security services and military installations.

Many of the assigned observations would have been very poor indicators of a nuclear attack. Others, including communications lines, nuclear decision makers, and – most significantly – missile depots, might have accurately shown whether a nuclear attack was imminent.

Also attached to the telegram was a thorough and accurate description of the likely methods by which the United States or NATO would launch nuclear war, including a summary of the five DEFCON levels, here called “operational readiness” levels. This attachment emphasized that once the West had decided to launch a nuclear attack; a substantial preparatory period would be required. These preparations included nuclear consultations through secret channels, transportation of nuclear weapons, and preparation of civil defense institutions.

Regrettably, Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions include a facsimile reproduction of only the first page of this document. The additional pages were translated and typeset into English with no Russian corroboration of their authenticity.

Document 10: “MVR Information re: Results from the work on the improvement of the System for detection of RYAN indications, 9 March 1984,” and related documents, Top Secret.

Source: Archive of the Ministry of the Interior and Diplomatic Archive of Bulgaria. Kindly provided by Prof. Jordan Baev.

Documents from other Warsaw Pact countries corroborate Soviet descriptions of Operation RYaN. A Top Secret 1984 Bulgarian intelligence document provided instructions to its agents to monitor underground networks, diplomatic representatives from NATO, combat readiness in neighboring countries, and radio-electronic intelligence. Sources from Czech intelligence also confirm the existence of Operation RYaN and show that compiling an “index of sudden aggression” was the primary mission of Warsaw Pact intelligence agencies.[14] Fischer’s history reports that the German Democratic Republic’s Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, (Main Reconnaissance Administration) played a large role in Operation RYaN. Marcus Wolf, known as “the man without a face,” who served for decades as East Germany’s spymaster wrote, “our Soviet partners had become obsessed with the danger of a nuclear missile attack.” [15]

One document shows that the Bulgarians monitored “VRYAN indicators” as late as June 1987, and East German documents show that the operation continued until 1990.[16]

Document 11: National Intelligence Officer for Warning to Director of Soviet Analysis [CIA] from, “Subject: Warsaw Pact Early Warning Indicator Project,” 1 February 1985, Secret.

Source: Central Intelligence Agency Freedom of Information Act release.

As this heavily redacted memo shows, Operation RYaN had its analogue in U.S. intelligence gathering. The CIA was also working with the DIA, and presumably allied intelligence agencies, to create a list of indicators — including the defense industry — for its chiefs of station to monitor, in an attempt to “emphasize greater early warning cooperation with intelligence services.”

Other parallels to RYaN date back to 1961, when the Soviets also instructed embassies in all “capitalist” countries to collect and report information during the Berlin Crisis. In 1991, one might have deduced the January 16 Desert Storm invasion by monitoring the influx of pizza deliveries to the Pentagon, according to current U.S. Army Operational Security (OPSEC) training materials.

Document 12: Notes of a Conversation with Secretary of State George Shultz, Undersecretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, and Averell Harriman, Undated (prior to Harriman’s trip to the Soviet Union). (Circa May 1983).

Source: W. Averell Harriman Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Box 655.

In May of 1983 — as the Soviets were conducting Operation RYaN — Averell Harriman, who had served as the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Second World War, would meet face to face with General Secretary Andropov to “size up” the disposition of the Soviet leadership and attempt to determine their perspectives and intentions.

Before travelling to the Soviet Union, Harriman met with Secretary of State George Shultz. The two discussed how Harriman should approach his meeting, agreeing that Harriman should state he is meeting as a private citizen. They also decided that they should continue to push for expanded contact with the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin. Shultz told Harriman that since he had “talked with the Soviets more than anyone else” he should “size up” the way that Andropov behaves and estimate “his desire for a better relationship with the US.” Harriman concluded the conversation by alluding to the President’s confrontational rhetoric, telling Shultz, “I do wish the President could be more careful.”

Shultz himself had met Andropov only briefly in November 1982 at Brezhnev’s funeral. Shultznoted at the time that he got the feeling the new GenSec “could take us on” and that he “still had a great deal of energy about him” after shaking some 2,000 hands.

Document 13: Memorandum of Conversation with Institute for USA and Canada Studies Director Georgy Arbatov and Averell Harriman, May 31, 1983.

Source: W. Averell Harriman Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Box 655.

Two days before the meeting with Andropov, the well-connected expert Georgy Arbatov talked to Harriman to “preview” the meeting with the General Secretary. Arbatov revealed Soviet anxiety over the strained state of U.S.-USSR relations, telling Harriman that, “In the Soviet view, this was the first real meeting between the United States and the Soviet Union since the start of the current [Reagan] Administration.”


A photo of Soviet leader Yuri Andropov from the NSA’s American Cryptology During the Cold War, 1945 – 1989, Book IV: Cryptologic Rebirth, 1981-1989.

Document 14: Memorandum of Conversation between General Secretary Yuri Andropov and Averell Harriman, 3:00 PM, June 2 1983, CPSU Central Committee Headquarters, Moscow.

Source: W. Averell Harriman Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Box 655.

Harriman met with General Secretary Andropov for an hour and twenty minutes. Harriman told Andropov he was travelling as a private citizen but was accompanied with a translator provided by the Department of State. Harriman’s notes show that he believed that Andropov’s fear of war through miscalculation was genuine, rather than — to quote Reagan — “huffing and puffing.”

Andropov opened the conversation by stating: “Let me say that there are indeed grounds for alarm.” He bemoaned the harsh anti-Soviet tone of President Reagan and warned that, “The previous experience of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States cautions beyond all doubt that such a policy can merely lead to aggravation, complexity and danger.” Andropov alluded to nuclear war four times during his short statement; most ominously, he morosely stated, “It would seem that awareness of this danger should be precisely the common denominator with which statesmen of both countries would exercise restraint and seek mutual understanding to strengthen confidence, to avoid the irreparable. However, I must say that I do not see it on the part of the current administration and they may be moving toward the dangerous ‘red line.'”

Harriman concluded: “the principal point which the General Secretary appeared to be trying to get … was a genuine concern over the state of U.S.-Soviet relations and his desire to see them at least ‘normalized,’ if not improved. He seemed to have a real worry that we could come into conflict through miscalculation.”

Document 15: “Meeting of the Politburo,” Working notes, August 4, 1983, Top Secret.

Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitrii Antonovich Volkogonov Papers, Container 26, Reel 17.

Two months after meeting with Harriman, Andropov presided over an August 1983 Politburo meeting — one of the last he attended before being committed to a hospital bed beginning in September — and spoke of using “diplomatic propaganda actions” to stop the deployment of Pershing II missiles. Andropov enumerated three measures the Soviet leadership needed to take to attempt to stop the November deployment in Western Europe of the Pershings, which could reach Moscow in less than six minutes -striking before the Soviet leadership could retreat to their bunkers.

“1. We must not lose time setting in motion all the levers that could impact the governments and parliaments of the NATO countries in order to create maximum obstruction on the path of deployment of American missiles in Europe.
2. It is essential to smartly and precisely coordinate all of this, so diplomatic propaganda actions must complement and reinforce each other.
3. Steps should not be formal, but specifically designed to produce the effect [of aborted deployment].”

Andropov’s speech confirms that the Soviets were using propaganda as a tool to stop the deployment of Pershing II missiles, but also reflected the Soviet fear of the destabilization of the nuclear balance referenced in the 1981 and 1982 KGB reports.

Document 16: Unpublished Interview with State Department Official Mark Palmer, (Excerpt), Undated, circa 1989-1990.

Source: Princeton University, Mudd Manuscript Library, Don Oberdorfer Papers 1983-1990, Series 3, Research Documents Files.

The late Mark Palmer, a top Kremlinologist in the State Department (and U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 1986 to 1990), retrospectively summarized the Reagan administration’s internal “argument” about “what the Soviet view of the West is,” in an unpublished interview with The Washington Post‘s Don Oberdorfer.

“Paul [Nitze’s and others] view is that they [the Soviets] never really felt threatened …And most Western analysts — or many, particularly the political-military type analysts feel that way, because they have a hard time, I think, psychologically seeing, as most people do, seeing themselves as possibly being a bad guy in anyone else’s eyes….

“I, on the other hand, think that what Gordievsky [whom he met] reported in ’81 and etc. — that he’s reporting accurately the mood in Moscow. That the Soviets have felt surrounded, that they are paranoid, that they have seen us as being unpredictable and irresponsible from their point of view in doing all sorts of things — invading communist countries, etc, all sorts of stuff. Therefore, I find this entirely credible that they could have, during [what was] a very tense period anyway, [] saw the INF deployments as a threat to them. These were missiles that could hit the Soviet Union. Their [analogous] missiles -the SS 20s- could not hit the United States.”

Document 17: United States Information Agency Memorandum for CIA Director William J. Casey, from Charles Z. Wick, “Soviet Propaganda Alert No. 13,” May 5, 1983, Unclassified.

Source: CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) at the National Archives, Doc No/ESDN: CIA RDP85M00364R001903760018-0.

The USIA’s “Soviet Propaganda Alerts” regularly reported to policymakers news summaries from the Soviet press framed as propaganda orchestrated by the Soviet leadership for political means.

The thirteenth issue of the “Soviet Propaganda Alert,” sent to CIA Director William Casey, relayed that Soviet media had reported that the Pentagon was making “horrendous plans for unleashing and conducting protracted nuclear war against the Soviet Union.” Soviet media described the U.S. strategy as “escalating a conflict to nuclear war and delivering a first strike, in particular by intermediate-range missiles in Western Europe.”

Document 18: “Subject: U.S.-Soviet Relations,” The White House Memorandum of Conversation, October 11, 1983, Secret.

Source: Reagan Presidential Library, Matlock Files, Chron October 1983 [10/11/1983-10/24/1983], Box 2, 90888.

U.S.-Soviet backchannel contacts warned that the tense atmosphere in the Soviet Union was not only propaganda. This memo summarizes NSC Soviet expert Jack Matlock’s lunch meeting with Sergei Vishensky, a columnist for Pravda, with “sound Party and (almost certainly) KGB credentials” at The Buck Stops Here Cafeteria. Vishensky, whom Matlock believes was “conveying a series of messages someone in the regime wants us to hear,” warned that “the state of U.S.-Soviet relations has deteriorated to a dangerous point. Many in the Soviet public are asking if war is imminent.” He also told Matlock that “the leadership is convinced that the Reagan Administration is out to bring their system down and will give no quarter; therefore they have no choice but to hunker down and fight back.”


A December 10, 1983, National Security Council memorandum on Soviet foreign and domestic policy states that “emotionalism and even irrationality are coming into play.”

Document 19: Memorandum for National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane from Soviet expert Jack Matlock, “Subject: American Academic on Soviet Policy,” December 13, 1983, Confidential with attached EXDIS cable from the American Embassy in Moscow.

Source: Reagan Presidential Library, Matlock Files, Chron December 1983 [1 of 2], Box 2, 90888

Other sources confirmed this fear of war. In February, Jack Matlock sent National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane a memo warning that since mid-1983, a “fear of war seemed to affect the elite as well as the man on the street.” He attached a copy of a December 10, 1983, cable describing information from “an American academic with excellent entrée to the Soviet political elite.” The academic warned of “growing paranoia among Soviet officials and sees them literally obsessed by fear of war,” and a growing “emotionality and even irrationality” among the elite. The attached EXDIS cable goes further, recounting “a high degree of paranoia among Soviet officials … not unlike the atmosphere of thirty years ago.”

Document 20: Herbert E. Meyer, National Intelligence Council, “Subject: The View from Moscow, November 1983 Undated.” Secret.

Source: Reagan Presidential Library, Fortier Files, Soviet Project [1 of 2], Box 97063.

Herbert E. Meyer, Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, summarized and circulated two views of the uncertainty in Moscow in this 1983 memo, which — as Mark Palmer suggested — was “an attempt to place ourselves in Soviet shoes [and] look at the world as they look at it.”

After presenting a bleak view for the future of the Soviet Union the memo concludes by asking, “What does all this mean for future Soviet actions?” He presented two views: that the Soviet leadership would either “make necessary sacrifices to stay in the game, get their licks in whenever and wherever they can, and count on new successes to come” or, with less likelihood, “the Soviets might consider themselves backed into a corner and lash out dangerously.”

Document 21: For National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane from acting Central Intelligence Agency Director John McMahon, “Subject: Andropov’s Leadership Style and Strategy,” February 3, 1984, Secret.

Source: Central Intelligence Agency Electronic Reading Room.

Acting CIA Director John McMahon and National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane also debated whether the Soviet fear of war was genuine. McMahon asserted that “clearly Andropov has a stake in the ‘appearance’ of bilateral tension as long as it appears that the United States is the offending party. This would not be the first time that Soviet leaders have used international tensions to mobilize their populations,” espousing the view held by some officials — and supported by Andropov’s August 4 Politburo speech — that Soviet leadership did at times attempt to gin up its own population with fear of war for political gain.

Document 22: Series of five interviews with Colonel General Andrian A. Danilevich by John G. Hines, December 18, 1990 to December 9, 1994, in Soviet Intentions 1965-1985: Volume II Soviet Post-Cold War Testimonial Evidence, by John G. Hines, Ellis M. Mishulovich, of BDM Federal, INC. for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of Net Assessment. Unclassified with portions “retroactively” classified.

Source: Defense Department Freedom of Information Act release.

BDM interviews conducted with the Soviet military elite after the USSR’s collapse provide a retrospective glimpse into the minds of the Soviets, whom some U.S. policy makers were trying to understand in 1983.

Andrian Danilevich, a senior military strategist who reported to Marshal Akhromeyev and authored the three-volume Strategy of Deep Operations, “the basic reference document for Soviet strategic and operational nuclear and conventional planning,” told interviewer John Hines of a general fear of war. He recalled “vivid personal memories” and “frightening situations” during “the period of great tension” in 1983, but that there was never a sense of “an immediate threat” of attack within the general staff. The KGB, he said, may have “overstated the level of tension” because they “are generally incompetent in military affairs and exaggerate what they do not understand.”

While recognizing the increased danger of the War Scare, the Soviet General Staff appeared to be less fearful of an imminent American nuclear strike than their KGB counterparts.

Document 23: Interview with Lieutenant General Gelii Viktorovich Batenin by John G. Hines, August 6, 1993 in Soviet Intentions 1965-1985: Volume II Soviet Post-Cold War Testimonial Evidence, by John G. Hines, Ellis M. Mishulovich, of BDM Federal, INC. for the Office of the Secretary of Defense Net Assessment. Unclassified with portions “retroactively” classified.

Source: Defense Department Freedom of Information Act release.

Gelii Batenin, who worked for Marshal Akhromeyev in the General Staff, told interviewers, “I am very familiar with RYaN.” He also confirmed that the situation was tense but that he personally felt no fear of imminent war. “There was a great deal of tension in the General Staff at that time and we worked long hours, longer than usual. I don’t recall a period more tense since the Caribbean Crisis in 1962.”

Document 24: Interview with Colonel General Varfolomei Vladimirovich Korobushin by John G. Hines, December 10, 1992 in Soviet Intentions 1965-1985: Volume II Soviet Post-Cold War Testimonial Evidence, by John G. Hines, Ellis M. Mishulovich, of BDM Federal, INC. for the Office of the Secretary of Defense Net Assessment. Unclassified with portions “retroactively” classified.

Source: Defense Department Freedom of Information Act release.

Varfolomei Korobushin, former Deputy Chief of Staff of Strategic Rocket Forces, recounted the situation as more dire than some of his colleagues remembered: “We in the Central Committee’s Defense Department considered the early 1980s to be a crisis period, a pre-wartime period. We organized night shifts so that there was always someone on duty in the Central Committee. When Pershing IIs were deployed, there appeared the question of what to do with them in case they were in danger of falling into Warsaw Pact hands during a war. These missiles had to be launched. This made them extremely destabilizing. Furthermore, the only possible targets of these missiles was our leadership in Moscow because Pershings could not reach most of our missiles.”

His recollection is more chilling with his revelation that, “it took just 13 seconds to deliver the decision [to launch a nuclear attack] to all of the launch sites in the Soviet Union.”

Document 25: Series of six interviews with Dr. Vitalii Nikolaevich Tsygichko, General Staff Analyst by John G. Hines, December 10, 1990-1991 in Soviet Intentions 1965-1985: Volume II Soviet Post-Cold War Testimonial Evidence, by John G. Hines, Ellis M. Mishulovich, of BDM Federal, INC. for the Office of the Secretary of Defense Net Assessment. Unclassified with portions “retroactively” classified.

Source: Defense Department Freedom of Information Act release.

After acknowledging that “victory” in a nuclear war, even if achieved, would be “meaningless,” Vitalii Tsygichko revealed how a Soviet nuclear launch would progress:

“The plan, which was updated every 6 months, called for Soviet “launch-under-attack” [otvetno-vstrechnyi udar] using all Soviet silo-based systems. This annihilating retaliatory nuclear strike [unichtozhaiushchii otvetno-yadernyi udar] would be directed not against U.S. silos, which Soviet planners assumed would be empty, but rather against military targets (such as airfields, ports, and C3 facilities) and against the U.S. political and economic infrastructure (including transportation grids and fuel supply lines).”

During a 2006 oral history conference he warned that not all Soviets (or Americans) understood the consequences of nuclear war as well as he:

“Among politicians as well as the military, there were a lot of crazy people who would not consider the consequences of a nuclear strike. They just wanted to respond to a certain action without dealing with the ’cause and effect’ problems. They were not seeking any reasonable explanations, but used one selective response to whatever an option was. I know many military people who look like normal people, but it was difficult to explain to them that waging nuclear war was not feasible. We had a lot of arguments in this respect. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there are a lot of stupid people both in NATO and our country.”[17]

Document 26: October 10, 1983, Diary Entry by Ronald Reagan.

Source: The Reagan Diaries Unabridged: Volume 1: January 1981-October 1985, edited by Douglas Brinkley, some information censored by request of the National Security Council.

President Reagan himself came to an epiphany of the unfeasibility of nuclear war during this period. On the morning of Columbus day, October 10, 1983, he watched an advance screening of the television film The Day Afterat Camp David. The Day After was a realistic portrayal of nuclear war described by The Washington Post as a “horrific vision of nuclear holocaust.” Reagan wrote in his diary: “It has Lawrence Kansas wiped out in a nuclear war with Russia. It is powerfully done -all $7 mil. worth. It’s very effective & left me greatly depressed.”[18] As Andropov had told Harriman, the leaders of the two superpowers did indeed share a “common denominator:” fear of the danger of “conflict through miscalculation.”

The next War Scare Electronic Briefing Book will rely on documents including a NATO summary and declassified after-action reports to present the most detailed description to date of Able Archer 83, the NATO drill that “practice[d] command and control procedures with a particular emphasis on the transition from purely conventional operations to chemical, nuclear and conventional operations … with three days of ‘low spectrum’ conventional play followed by two days of ‘high spectrum’ nuclear warfare.”

NOTES

[1] Robert Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007), 273.

[2] Fritz Ermarth, “Observations on the ” War Scare of 1983 From an Intelligence Perch,” for the Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact, November 6, 2003.

[3] Mark Kramer, “The Able Archer 83 Non-Crisis: Did Soviet Leaders Really Fear an Imminent Nuclear Attack in 1983?;” Thorsten Borring Olesen, “Truth on Demand: Denmark and the Cold War,” in Nanna Hvidt and Hans Mouritzen, ed., Danish Foreign Policy Yearbook 2006, Danish Institute for international Studies, 105; see also Beth A. Fischer’s review of Vojtech Mastny’s “How Able was ‘Able Archer’?” at H-Diplo.

[4] See for instance, Colonel L. V. Levadov, “Itogi operativnoi podgotovki obedinennykh sil NATO v 1983 godu” (Results of the Operational Training of NATO Joint Armed Forces in 1983,”Voyennaya Misl’ (Military Thought), no. 2 (February 1984), 67-76.

[5] One recent paper, ” The Able Archer 83 Non-Crisis: Did Soviet Leaders Really Fear an Imminent Nuclear Attack in 1983?,” relies primarily upon an analysis of Politburo minutes from 1983 and early 1984, (which do not mention “Able Archer 83” or the specific threat of imminent nuclear war), to deduce that the “purported crisis” of 1983 “did not exist at all.” The minutes of these meetings can be found in a donation to the Library of Congress by Soviet general-turned-historian Dmitri Volkogonov, and in “Fond 89,” a collection of documents “submitted to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation for the trial of the Soviet Communist Party” in 1992 and published by Stanford University’s Hoover Intuition. One must keep in mind, however, that historians do not yet have access to the minutes of every Politburo meeting from that period. (For that matter, a set of August 4, 1983, minutes included below, but not in the “The Able Archer 83 Non-Crisis” paper, describes Andropov’s instructions to use “all levers” to stop the deployment of Pershing II missiles in Europe.) Most importantly, the key discussions during Andropov’s tenure as General Secretary did not occur in formal Politburo meetings, but at his hospital bedside. According to historian Roy Medvedev’s biography, Andropov would summon his advisors, generals, and Politburo members to his hospital bed to govern the Soviet Union. It was there that Andropov was “fully engaged in the leadership of the country and the army, and the defense of the country,” according to Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov. As such, an examination of sources broader than select Politburo minutes is required to attain the full picture of the Soviet leadership’s views on the 1983 War Scare. Roy A. Medvedev, Neizvestnii Andropov (The Unknown Andropov), (Rostov: Feniks, 1999), 379-382. The Politburo minutes cited in “The Able Archer 83 Non-Crisis” are: May 26, 1983; May 31, 1983; July 7, 1983; September 2, 1983; September 8, 1983; November 15, 1983; November 24, 1983; January 19, 1984; February 10, 1984; February 23, 1984; and March 1, 1984. They can be viewed at the National Security Archive.

[6] Ronald Reagan, The Reagan Diaries Unabridged: Volume 1: January 1981-October 1985, edited by Douglass Brinkley, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 333.

[7] Pershing IIs were not deployed to Europe until 23 November 1983, but former CIA analyst Peter Vincent Pry speculates that it is likely that Soviet intelligence believed several Pershing II missiles had been deployed before their announced date. Their impending deployment, along with launch on warning doctrine led to an increased reliance upon human intelligence (as opposed to radar and satellite technology) to monitor for a nuclear attack and the creation of Operation RYaN. Pry, Peter Vincent, War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink, (Westport: Praeger, 1999), p. 34.

[8] Robert M. Gates. From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How they Won the Cold War (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1996), 114.

[9] Raymond Garthoff, The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War, (Washington D.C.,: The Brookings Institution, 1994), 173.

[10] Ronald Reagan, An American Life: Ronald Reagan, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 257.

[11] Valentin Varennikov, Nepovtorimoe, (Unique) Volume 4, (Moscow: Sovetskii Pisatel’ 2001), 168. Varennikov was also commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan and later participated in the putsch attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991.

[12] Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations, 1975-1985, (Stanford: Stanford University Press 1991), 67. A quasi-official history of Russian foreign intelligence states that the goal of Operation RYAN was to counter “the real threat to the security of the USSR and Warsaw Pact countries” caused by Western military developments and the introduction of new weapons systems. A.I. Kolpakidi and D.P. Prokhorov, Vneshnyaya razvedka Rossii (The Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia) (Saint Petersburg: Neva, 2001), 80.

[13] Other sources vary the spelling of RYaN. Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin spelled it “ryon.” Another spelling includes the word “suprise:” “VRYAN” “vnezapnoe raketno yadernoe napadenie” —surprise nuclear missile attack. Czech Intelligence referred to the operation as NRJAN. Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence: Moscow’s Ambassador to Six Cold War Presidents (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001), 523; Oleg Kalugin, The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West, (New York: St. Martins, 1994), 302; 9 March 1984, Bulgarian Ministry of Interior; MVR Information re: Results from the work on the improvement of the System for detection of RYAN indications, AMVR, Fond 1, Record 12, File 553, provided by Jordan Baev; Peter Rendek, ” Operation ALAN – Mutual Cooperation of the Czechoslovak Intelligence Service and the Soviet KGB as Given in One of the Largest Leakage Cases of NATO Security Data in the Years 1982 – 1986 .”

[14] Rendek, “Operation ALAN – Mutual Cooperation of the Czechoslovak Intelligence Service and the Soviet KGB as Given in One of the Largest Leakage Cases of NATO Security Data in the Years 1982 – 1986,” Presented at The NKVD/KGB Activities and its Cooperation with other Secret Services in Central and Eastern Europe 1945 – 1989 Conference, Bratislava, 14-16 November 2007.

[15] Markus Wolf with Anne McElvoy, Man without a Face: The Autobiography of Communism’s Greatest Spymaster (New York: Random House, 1997), 222.

[16] Vojtech Mastny, “How Able Was “Able Archer”? Nuclear Trigger and Intelligence in Perspective,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Volume 11, Number 1, Winter 2009, 121.

[17] Jen Hoffenaar and Christopher Findlay, eds., Military Planning for European Theatre Conflict During the Cold War: An Oral History Roundtable Stockholm, 24-25 April 2006,Center for Security Studies ETH Zurich, 161.

[18] Reagan, Diaries, 273.

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Israel Threatens More Attacks against Syria

May 17th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

May 15 is Nakba Day. It follows Israel’s May 14 Independence Day. This year was no exception.

Clashes erupted across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel confronts peaceful demonstrations violently. Fundamental human rights are spurned. Rogue governments operate that way.

Preemptively attacking other countries is official Israeli policy. On May 4 and 5, Israeli warplanes targeted Syria. Doing so was preemptive, unprovoked, lawless aggression.

On May 15, The New York Times headlined “Israel Hints at New Strikes, Warning Syria Not to Retaliate.”

An unidentified Israeli official suggested further military strikes ahead. Allegedly it’s to stop “advanced weapons” transfers to “Islamic militants.”

Assad was warned. Retaliate and face “crippling consequences.” The Israeli official said:

“Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah.”

“The transfer of such weapons will destabilize and endanger the entire region.”

“If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”

“Israel has so far refrained from intervening in Syria’s civil war and will maintain this policy as long as Assad refrains from attacking Israel directly or indirectly.”

It bears repeating. There’s nothing civil about Washington’s war on Syria. US-backed death squads invaded. Hired guns are Obama’s shock troops. They’re directed to kill, destroy and commit unspeakable atrocities. They’re operating as instructed.

Alleged weapons transfers are a ruse. Israel’s May 4 and 5 attacks were a joint US/Israeli operation. They were lawless. They were provocative.

They were launched to goad Syria to respond. Doing so would facilitate greater intervention. Assad wasn’t fooled. He’s fully engaged internally. He’s not about to give Washington, Israel, Turkey or other belligerent states reason to attack.

The Times said the “precise motives for Israel’s warning were uncertain.” Perhaps it’s preparing another strike. If so, why would warning Syria precede it?

After Israel’s May 4 and 5 attacks, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said “(w)e will respond immediately and harshly to any additional attack by Israel.” He justifiably called Israel’s aggression a “declaration of war.”

Israel’s very much part of Obama’s war on Syria. Whether it plans more provocations remains to be seen. Both countries operate jointly.

America wants Assad ousted. It’s longstanding US policy. Turkey’s a co-conspirator. Prime Minister Erdogan arrived in Washington. He’ll press for Obama to act more aggressively against Syria.

Before leaving Ankara, he said “Syria will be our main topic. We will draw a road map.” He claims he’s bringing evidence of Syrian chemical weapons use.

Whatever he has doesn’t wash. No evidence suggests Syrian use. Insurgents used toxic weapons several times. Expect Erdogan and Obama to claim otherwise. Doing so provides greater pretext to intervene.

Erdogan met earlier with John Kerry. He and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will discuss Syria. They’ll do so at the Pentagon. Perhaps war plans will be finalized.

Obama’s incrementally tiptoeing toward full-scale intervention. How and when remains to be seen. Critics say he’s not moving fast enough.

Washington Post editors want war. Editorials advocate it. Previous articles discussed them. On May 8, they headlined “What if the US doesn’t intervene in Syria,” saying:

Whatever the risks of intervening, inaction risks more, they claim. Post editors want more arms for insurgents. They urge an air campaign. “(T)he situation in Syria has grown more dangerous to US interests.”

It’s “increasingly clear that the greatest risk to the United States lies in failing to take decisive action to end the Assad regime.”

In late February, they called John Kerry’s first trip as Secretary of state “Washington’s last chance to help Syria.”

“If the Obama administration is to lead on Syria, it must commit itself to steps that can bring about the early collapse of the regime and its replacement by a representative and responsible alternative.”

“Only direct political and military intervention on the side of the opposition can make that happen.”

On May 14, WaPo editors headlined “Obama administration hopes Putin will deliver Assad,” saying:

Instead of urging direct military intervention, “Kerry seems to have reversed his strategy. Rather than taking steps to turn the tide against (Assad, he’s) rushing to convene a peace conference…”

“Not a shred of public evidence suggests that Mr. Assad is willing to negotiate his own departure.”

“It appears as if the administration again is hoping that the Russian government of Vladi­mir Putin will deliver Mr. Assad.”

“The administration made that same wishful bet last year, only to be stiffed by Mr. Putin.”

“The anti-American campaign Mr. Putin has been waging continues apace, as shown by the Cold War-style propaganda operation staged in Moscow Tuesday following the arrest of an alleged American spy.”

Kerry’s initiative, “like those before it, is more likely to provide excuses for US passivity than an end to Syria’s carnage.”

WaPo editors want war. So does contributor David Ignatius. He has close ties to US intelligence. He openly favors arming anti-Assad death squads.

He wants Assad ousted. So do Charles Krauthammer, Jackson Diehl and other WaPo contributors. They’re not alone. US media scoundrels urged it since 2011.

Only their policy recommendations differ. They’re indifferent to human suffering. They point fingers the wrong way. They blame Assad for Washington’s war.

They support America’s imperial ambitions. They’re comfortable with whatever it takes to achieve them. They promote Washington’s war on terrorism.

They’re mindless about policy priorities to ravage the world one country at a time or in multiples. They ignore US crimes of war, against humanity and genocide. They’ve said nothing about torture as official US policy.

They’re silent about escalating domestic tyranny. They claim America’s economy is improving at a time of deepening main street Depression. Half or more of US households are impoverished or bordering on it.

Millions are one pay check or medical emergency away from homelessness and/or bankruptcy. The state of today’s America is lawless, ruthless, oppressive, and contemptuous of fundamental democratic values.

War on the world is policy. Innocent victims fill America’s gulag. Human need increasingly goes begging. War and corporate priorities take precedence.

Washington’s alliance with Israel threatens humanity. Both countries reflect unspeakable evil. Wealth, power, privilege and unchallenged dominance alone matter. Murder, Inc. is official policy.

Lies, damn lies, and media scoundrel misinformation facilitate it. Fiction substitutes for fact. Victims are called villains. War criminals are hailed as liberators.

America, key NATO partners and Israel get away with murder. They do so by claiming wars are fought for peace. Humanitarian intervention’s about spreading democracy.

Nations are systematically destroyed to free them. Monied interests benefit most. Media scoundrels aid and abet imperial crimes. Truth is the most dangerous disinfectant. Suppressing it keeps millions uninformed.

Syria was largely peaceful before US proxies invaded. So was Libya in 2011. Iran’s moment of truth awaits. Longstanding plans prioritize regime change.

It’s official US policy. It’s next in line after Washington finishes destroying Syria. It’s well along toward doing it.

A Final Comment

On May 15, the UN General Assembly adopted an anti-Assad resolution. It’s non-binding. It was Arab League-led. Washington co-sponsored it. It followed four others since 2011.

Grave concerns were expressed. Voting 107 for, 12 against, with 59 abstentions, the body strongly condemned Assad. It accused him of “widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It called the pro-Western National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (Syrian National Council) an “effective representative interlocutor…for a political transition.”

Ahead of the vote, General Assembly president/Serbian foreign affairs minister Vuk Jeremic said:

“Over the past 800 days, the conflict has continued to escalate, threatening the establishment of ethnic or sectarian fiefdoms – thus gravely imperiling the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”

“Violence is begetting more violence; hatred, more hatred – carving deeper and deeper wounds into Syria’s society.”

“If we are unable to do anything to stop this tragedy, then how can we sustain the moral credibility of this Organization?”

“It is high time to say ‘enough is enough;’ enough to complacency and enough to fratricide.”

He blamed Syria for Washington’s war. Syria’s permanent UN representative, Bashar al-Jaafari, said passage inflames conditions.

Ahead of the vote, he said:

“It is surprising that the draft resolution was presented within the item titled – prevention of the outbreak of armed conflicts – while the context of the draft totally contradicts this noble address as it has sought to escalate the crisis and instigate violence in Syria through creating a dangerous precedent in the international relations, which try to give legitimacy to offering weapons to the armed terrorist groups in Syria.”

Russia’s deputy permanent UN representative, Alexander Pankin, called the measure “irresponsible, unconstructive, and it aggravates the situation in Syria, in addition to hindering the international efforts to implement the Geneva Communique.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said:

“The resolution has been issued at a time when Syria and the region need peace and stability more than ever.”

Passage won’t resolve things. Doing so makes anti-Assad terrorist crimes more likely. Washington, key NATO partners, Israel, and rogue regional allies aid and abet them.

Replacing Assad with pro-Western puppet leadership remains policy. Syria’s being ravaged and destroyed to achieve it.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.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 Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/israel-threatens-more-syrian-attacks/

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The San Francisco Chronicle notes that it is difficult to keep track of foreclosure rates now … let alone during the Great Depression:

Foreclosure rates of the late 2000s are often compared with those of the Great Depression, which took place through the first half of the 1930s. However, there were no public or private agencies keeping track of foreclosure rates at that time. Indeed, the government still does not keep an official statistic on the number of homes in foreclosure or repossessed by banks and lenders.

But the Chronicle provides estimates of foreclosures during the 1930s:

A 2008 article by David C. Wheelock, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, cited annual reports issued by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board during the 1930s. These reports reveal that the foreclosure rate exceeded 1 percent from 1931 until 1935. At the worst point in the Depression-era economic crisis, in 1933, about 1,000 home loans were being placed in foreclosure by banks every day.

How does that compare to the last 5 years?

RealtyTrac notes (via North Carolina State University) that:

From January 2007 to December 2011 there were more than four million completed foreclosures and more than 8.2 million foreclosure starts ….

CoreLogic reported a year ago:

Approximately 1.4 million homes, or 3.4 percent of all homes with a mortgage, were in the national foreclosure inventory as of May 2012 compared to 1.5 million, or 3.5 percent, in May 2011 and 1.4 million, or 3.4 percent, in April 2012. The foreclosure inventory is the share of all mortgaged homes in some stage of the foreclosure process.

Given that there are currently around 316 million Americans – more than twice the number during the Great Depression – such high foreclosure rates mean that there may well be as many people suffering foreclosure than during the Great Depression … or more.

And NBC News reported this month:

Already some 5 million homes have been lost to foreclosure; estimates of future foreclosures range widely. [Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi], who has followed the mortgage mess since the housing market began to crack in 2006, figures foreclosures will strike another three million homes in the next three or four years.

For more comparisons of the Great Depression and today, see:

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Every week we are inspired by the many people throughout the country who are doing excellent work to challenge the power structure and put forward a new path for the country. The popular resistance to plutocracy, concentrated wealth and corporatism is decentralized, creative and growing.

One growing series of protests has been the “Moral Monday” demonstrations in North Carolina.  They do not have ‘one demand’ but rather are challenging the systemic corruption, undermining of democracy and misdirection of a state government that puts human needs second to corporate profits – which they have dubbed ‘Robin Hood in Reverse.’  This week 49 of 200 protesters inside the capitol were arrested singing, chanting and echoing many of the same concerns that demonstrators have for the past three Mondays.  Last week there were 30 arrests, the week before 17.  Among those arrested was an 83 year old retired minister, Vernon Tyson, who was merely a spectator, but he gave a great interview cheering on the protests after his release. And, a group of historians were among those arrested who put these protests in the context of US history.

Another courageous protest involved seven undocumented immigrants who blocked the Broadview Detention Center where immigrants are being incarcerated.  They blocked the doors to the detention facility, linking arms together using pipes, chains, and locks. They were protesting the record-high deportations under President Obama, and the lack of leadership from Illinois representatives to call for a suspension of deportations. On the West coast, the always creative Backbone Campaign supported allied faith communities with a giant banner lift over the private for-profit immigration detention center asking “Who Would Jesus Deport?” and an inflatable lady liberty exposing the unjust policies that break up families. 

There was a recent victory for Seattle teachers and students that resulted from their citywide protests against standardized testing. The school district announced that testing in the high schools would not occur next year.  The teachers said they will keep protesting until the tests are banned from lower grades as well.

We hope the Chicago teachers, who won a major battle with Mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier this year when they went out on strike, have great success this weekend when three days of marches are held against the mass school closings in Chicago.  The teachers union has developed a great organizing strategy that unites teachers with students, parents and communities.  This battle is one of many across the country to stop the thinly veiled corporatization of education.

In another education protest, the students @FreeCooperUnion continue to occupy the office of the president after one week.  They are painting the walls black until he agrees to step down, and are highlighting his $750,000 annual salary.  They are protesting a plan to begin to charge tuition at the university; this plan will not affect these students, but future students who attend Cooper Union.

The heart of the conflict faced in the United States is the inequity of an unfair economy supported by a corrupt two party system.  This week there was a very creative protest in New York City against the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico.  He’s made his billions with the help of government allowing a monopoly on phone service resulting in Slim gouging the public.  Now he gives a small percentage of that wealth back in philanthropy and people applaud him.  But, the protesters were very effective, laughing out loud whenever he spoke. They responded when someone asked “Why is everyone laughing?” with “Because Slim’s philanthropy is a joke!” and followed with mocking kazoos.

In contrast to the world’s wealthiest was the Poor People’s Campaign which marched from Baltimore to Washington, DC ending at Freedom Plaza.  The march occurred on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign and raised issues of poverty, police violence, unfair economy and non-responsive government.  Another march was announced in Pennsylvania from Philadelphia to Harrisburg from May 25 to June 3 to stop spending on prison construction and instead invest in building communities.  Also, from Philadelphia the ‘Operation Green Jobs’ March from Philadelphia to Washington, DC will begin on May 18 and is organized by the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign.

A campaign that is growing every week is the fast food worker strikes. The largest fast food walk out was held in Detroit last week, even the scabs walked out, and this week the strikes spread to their fifth city, Milwaukee, WI.  It is great to see these workers, who no doubt saw themselves as powerless, standing up and demanding fairness.  If you eat at fast food restaurants, this would be a good time to stop, and let them know why – you support the workers who are demanding a living wage.

US Empire and imperialism continue to cause protest. Obama’s Asia Pivot, moving 60% of the US Navy to the Asian Pacific is causing a lot of distress.  On Jeju Island people are fighting for their survival against a massive Navy base.  Jeju is the “Peace Island” that was harshly abused during the US occupation of South Korea after World War II before the Korean War.  And, South Koreans, who regularly protest against the US military, are protesting the US war games that are practicing dropping nuclear bombs on North Korea and invading it.

Protests are mounting in the United States against the abusive Guantanamo Bay prison where more than 100 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike and two-dozen are being brutally force fed. These prisoners have been held without trial for over 10 years, and even though 88 have been approved to leave, they remain.  The Green Shadow Cabinet came out with a statement describing how Obama could close the prison (and why Congress is not an excuse) and what you can do on the 100th day of the hunger strike this Friday. Show solidarity with these prisoners who are being abused by the US government.

Diane Wilson, a shrimper from the Gulf Coast who works with CODE PINK and Veterans for Peace, is on her 15th day of an open-ended solidarity hunger strike in Washington, DC. She explains why she is taking the extreme step of a hunger strike to support the Guantanamo prisoners. And S. Brian Willson is joining Diane in hunger strike.

Another protest related to US Empire occurred in Oak Ridge, TN where Transform Now Plowshares activists protested nuclear weapons by cutting through four chain-link fences and spray-painting biblical messages of nonviolence on a building that warehouses an estimated 400 tons of highly enriched uranium, the radioactive material used to fuel nuclear weaponry. This week an 83 year old nun, Sister Megan Rice, and two other activists were found guilty of damaging government property.  As the jury left the courtroom the people in the courtroom sang to them “Love, love, love, love. People, we are made for love.”  Sentencing is several months away and they face a potential 30 years in prison.

Environmental protests are boiling up throughout the United States.  When President Obama came to New York for a fundraiser (where he raised $3 million), protesters greeted him with signs calling for him to “End the War on Mother Earth” and opposing the KXL pipeline.

Protesters from the Appalachian Mountains came to the EPA in Washington DC to protest polluted water caused by Mountaintop removal for coal.  The protesters displayed the dirty, opaque water in jars in front of the EPA.  And Climate Justice activists from CoalIsStupid.org blocked a freighter delivering coal in Boston with two men on a lobster boat on May 15th.

But more and more Americans are realizing that while we protest the extraction of oil, gas, uranium and coal, the reality is that the root of the problem is in the American Way of Life (AWOL).  One activist from Portland made the point that the Tar Sands starts in our driveways and we need to change the AWOL in order to truly combat it.  We agree that our strategy has two prongs: protest and build i.e. Stop the Machine and Create a New World.

In addition to how much energy we each use, we need to look at where our food comes from. An Occupy group in Berkeley, Occupy the Farm, made that point this week when they took over University of California land to grow farm for the community locally.

Another area where we are seeing continued growth in the movement is in thinking through how we do our work and in developing strategy to achieve our goals.  We published a live streamer “Code of Ethics” developed by people who work in the citizen’s media. Note the high ethics and cooperative approach they take to getting the media out.

Many are thinking about strategy to make the movement more effective.  Gar Alperovitz, a political economist who has been writing about alternatives to big finance capitalism in the United States has a new book out focused on strategy, “What then Must We Do,” and we published a review of the book by Sam Pizzigati of Inequality.org entitled:  A Promising Path for Pummeling Plutocracy.

Upcoming actions:

May 17th, Support the Guantanamo hunger strikers on the 100th Day of their hunger strike with phone calls and tweets to the White House and protests in DC, NY, Chicago and other cities.

May 18th, ‘Operation Green Jobs’ March from Philadelphia to Washington, DC organized by the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign.

May 18th to 23rd the Home Defenders League Week of Action against the banks and foreclosures in Washington, DC.

May 18th to 20th there is a weekend of protests against the closure of schools in Chicago.

May 22nd Stop the Frack Attack People’s Forum in Washington, DC.

 

May 25th Protests against Monsanto everywhere 

May 25th to June 3rd   March from Philadelphia to Harrisburg against prison spending.

June 1st Get on the Bus For Bradley Court Martial Trial  with buses leaving from Baltimore, MD, Washington DC, New York City and Willimantic, CT.

June 14th to 16th Trade Justice Action Camp in Bellingham, WA by the Backbone Campaign

June 24th to 29th is the beginning of “Fearless Summer” that starts “an epic summer of actions.

You can order or print OccuCards to bring with you to these actions. There are cards for all of the issues being protested above and new cards are being created.

And watch for the transformation of October2011/Occupy Washington DC into Popular Resistance, daily news and resources for effective activism, coming in June. Sign up here if you want to be notified of the launch.

This article is based on a weekly newsletter for October2011/Occupy Washington, DC. To sign up for the free newsletter, click here.

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC.  They co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

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A string of negative economic figures released this week point to continuing stagnation in the US in the midst of a worsening slump internationally. The US Labor Department reported Thursday that new claims for unemployment benefits jumped by the highest amount in six months. The same day, the retail giant Walmart said its sales tumbled unexpectedly in the first quarter of the year.

Signs of growing economic and social distress in the US coincide with an accelerating downturn in Europe and slowing growth in China. On Wednesday, the European Union’s statistics agency said that the economy of the euro area contracted for the sixth consecutive quarter, after having posted record unemployment rates earlier in the month.

The number of people in the US who filed new claims for unemployment benefits grew by 32,000, hitting 360,000 in the week ending May 11—significantly higher than economists had predicted.

US industrial production fell last month, registering its sharpest decline in eight months, according to figures released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve. American factories, mines and utilities reduced their output by 0.5 percent in April, compared to a predicted drop of 0.2 percent.

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its economic index for the Mid-Atlantic region fell dramatically in May, to minus 5.2 from plus 1.3 in April, indicating an economic contraction.

Walmart announced that sales at its US stores fell by 1.4 percent in the first quarter, and visits to its stores fell by 1.8 percent. The drop in sales by the retailer, which sells primarily to working class people, reflects the impact of falling wages and continuing mass unemployment.

The negative figures prompted commentators to predict a slowdown in US growth in the second quarter of the year comparable to the last three months of 2012, when the economy slowed to a crawl. “Second-quarter growth is going to be slower than the first quarter,” Julia Coronado, an economist for BNP Paribas, told Bloomberg News.

The US economy added 138,000 jobs in March and 165,000 in April, barely enough to keep up with population growth.

The negative figures for the United States came the same week that Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics service, reported the euro area economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, worse than the 0.1 percent contraction economists had expected. This made the current contraction the longest since the euro was introduced in 1999, longer even than the contraction in 2008-2009.

Earlier this month, Eurostat said that unemployment in the euro zone hit another record in March, climbing for the 23rd consecutive month. The official unemployment rate in the euro area hit 12.1 percent, up 1.1 percentage points from a year earlier.

Last week, Greece’s statistics service said the country’s youth unemployment rate reached a staggering 64.2 percent, up from 54.1 percent in March 2012.

Led by the Federal Reserve, central banks throughout the world have sought to stave off the effects of the global slump through massive infusions of cash into the world financial system. This has served to inflate stock values and corporate profits even as the ruling class intensified its assault on jobs, wages and social services, driving the world economy deeper into slump.

There are indications, however, that the effectiveness of these vast and unprecedented money-printing operations in staving off deflation is reaching its limit. The Labor Department said Thursday that consumer prices in the United States fell by 0.4 percent in May, the sharpest fall since late 2008. This marked the second consecutive month of falling prices, after a 0.2 percent decline in April.

Over the past twelve months, prices have grown by only 1.1 percent, about half the target rate set by the Federal Reserve. “Further falls in US core inflation in the coming months may make some Fed officials concerned about very low inflation, or even deflation,” Paul Dales, an economist with Capital Economics, told Reuters.

Nearly five years after the financial crash of September 2008, there is no recovery in sight. Depression-like conditions in the real economy combined with an unsustainable stock market bubble demonstrate that the crisis is not a temporary downturn that will pass and give way to pre-crisis conditions. Rather, it is a breakdown of the world capitalist system, with no prospect within the framework of that system of relief for the broad masses of working people.

No government anywhere in the world, whether of the official “left” or right, has any policies to offer to address mass unemployment, falling living standards and growing poverty. On the contrary, they all pursue the bankers’ agenda of deeper and more brutal cuts.

Following this week’s report that France had officially fallen into recession for the first time since 2008, the country’s Socialist Party president, François Hollande, reaffirmed his commitment to austerity policies, saying, “We have engaged in reforms [to address] competitiveness and we will continue.”

In the United States, the Defense Department announced Wednesday that it would begin unpaid furloughs for hundreds of thousands of its civilian employees as part of the imposition of $85 billion in “sequester” budget cuts this fiscal year. And the Obama administration is preparing a sweeping attack on Social Security and Medicare, proposing to cut a combined total of more than $500 billion from the two programs over ten years and implement structural changes that will slash benefits for millions of retirees.

In Detroit, once the symbol of the industrial might of American capitalism, the governor of Michigan has imposed a bankers’ dictatorship in the form of an emergency manager, who this week announced a plan to slash city workers’ wages and pensions, sell off assets such as the water and sewerage department, and shut down services to whole sections of the city.

The worsening economic crisis and the predatory response of the ruling class will give rise to vast social struggles. Already the impact of the crisis and the transparent role of governments as agents of the financial elite are producing far-reaching changes in mass consciousness.

Millions all over the world are losing confidence in the capitalist system and coming to the conclusion that radical change is needed. But for the emerging struggles to succeed, they must be guided by a conscious understanding of the nature of the system and the need for an independent and revolutionary struggle by the working class for power. Society must be reorganized on a socialist basis to satisfy social needs, not private profit. The critical issue is the building of a revolutionary leadership in the working class.

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The Obama administration’s secret seizure of the phone records of Associated Press reporters is the latest attack on core democratic rights in the United States.

Last week, the Justice Department acknowledged that it had obtained a subpoena in February of this year to require telecommunications companies to turn over two months of phone records on some 20 lines used by the AP. The subpoena was part of an investigation into an alleged leak of classified information that had occurred the year before.

It is likely that many more media outlets have been similarly targeted, and the administration has refused to respond to requests that it reveal what other records were seized. Anyone who speaks to the media about any matter has to assume that their phone numbers and contact information have been or could be made available to the government by secret court order.

There could hardly be a clearer violation of the First Amendment guarantee of the freedom of the press.

On Thursday, Obama made his first comments on the case in a press conference at the White House. His remarks exposed the fact that the president, who swore an oath to defend the Constitution, is utterly indifferent to and ignorant of the democratic principles that it upholds.

Obama proclaimed that the freedom of the press, a right enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, must strike a “balance” with the prerogatives and interests of the military-intelligence apparatus. This argument essentially invalidates the unambiguous declaration of the First Amendment that no law shall be promulgated “abridging the freedom of speech or of the press…” But according to Obama, this constitutional guarantee of the people’s rights can be tossed aside when it interferes with operations and interests of state.

In another statement that exposed the president’s cynicism and indifference toward the democratic principles articulated in the Bill of Rights, Obama stated that, “free press, free expression and the open flow of information help hold me accountable… and help our democracy function.”

Thus, for Obama—who, according to his official curriculum vitae, taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago—freedom of the press and speech merely “help our democracy function.” With these words, Obama argued implicitly that freedom of the press and speech are somehow external to democracy, and that there can be a democracy without these rights! They may be useful as a matter of procedure, assisting “democracy.” But “democracy,” without these rights, is a meaningless phrase. When constitutional rights conflict with the operations conducted by the Pentagon and CIA, then, according to Obama, government can and should violate them.

This is the antithesis of democracy. Obama was also asked at the press conference what he felt about comparisons between the scandals plaguing the administration and those that occurred under Nixon. The president brushed aside the question, saying the reporter could “draw your own conclusions.” In fact, Obama has carried out operations that go far beyond the crimes and misdemeanors for which Nixon was forced out of office in 1974.

An urgent warning is necessary: The assault on democratic rights is far more advanced than the American people realize. Every basic democratic right included in the Bill of Rights—freedom of the press, freedom of association, free speech, the protection against warrantless searches and seizures, due process, the right to a trial by jury and public counsel, the ban on torture—has been systematically undermined.

The AP spying scandal is entirely in line with the policies and practice of the Obama administration, the most anti-democratic in US history. Obama has prosecuted six current or former government officials for leaking classified information, double the number prosecuted by all previous presidents combined.

The administration has declared the right to assassinate anyone, anywhere, including US citizens, without due process. Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the president has the right to order the killing of a US citizen within the United States.

At the same time, the government is increasing its spying operations on the American people. The administration is preparing to push for a new law that will allow it to tap directly into Facebook, Google and other Internet companies, a major expansion of government efforts to gain access to every digital communication.

The AP revelations, moreover, come only a month after the Boston Marathon bombings, which was followed by the military-police lockdown of the entire city. The precedent was set to respond to any such event with what amounts to martial law and the abrogation of constitutional protections against warrantless searches.

Two basic factors underlie the destruction of American democracy: the unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny fraction of the population and the unending expansion of American imperialism abroad.

Both these factors are rooted in the crisis of American capitalism and the character of the American ruling class. Writing in 1916, Lenin noted, “Imperialism is the epoch of finance capital and of monopolies, which introduce everywhere the striving for domination, not for freedom. Whatever the political system, the result of these tendencies is everywhere reaction and an extreme intensification of antagonisms in this field.”

The American financial aristocracy “strives for domination,” in the United States and around the world. Headed by Obama, the ruling class has engaged in a ceaseless process of plunder, which has only escalated since the crash of 2008. Trillions of dollars have been handed over to the banks, while basic social services have been starved of resources and the working class has been driven deeper into poverty.

At the same time, there is not a part of the globe in which the American military and intelligence apparatus is not engaged in ceaseless intrigue, drone bombings or outright war and occupation. At the same press conference in which he defended the AP spying, Obama, standing beside Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, issued new and more bellicose threats against Syria. The US and its European allies are preparing an escalation of the campaign against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, threatening to unleash a regional war with disastrous consequences.

The American corporate and financial elite, pursuing a deeply unpopular policy at home and abroad, stands in irreconcilable conflict with democratic forms of rule. The defense of democracy is, therefore, a fight against the ruling class and the capitalist system upon which it is based.

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The Central Banks’ Gold: A Story of Silent Expropriation

May 16th, 2013 by Valentin Katasonov

See Part I

The theft of gold from central banks continues

Erik Sprott, a billionaire and well-known investor with 35-years of experience working in financial markets and a great connoisseur of the intricacies of the gold trade, believes that official statistics clearly do not fully take into account the actual demand for gold on the world market (typically estimated to be between 4,000 and 4,500 tonnes per year). According to his calculations, the actual demand for this precious metal over the last decade was an average of 2,300 tonnes higher than the official figures cited by the World Gold Council and other reputable organisations8. The supply of gold through new mining operations and scrap gold is clearly not enough to cover the world’s actual gold demand.

Some kind of secret source of gold exists which is covering an unaccounted-for demand of approximately 2,300 tonnes per year. According to Eric Sprott, the volumes of gold coming onto the market from the vaults of central banks are not enough. Since the beginning of the 21st century, additional supplies have been provided by the central banks of economically developed countries – the US, Western Europe, Japan – as well as international organisations with their own gold reserves – the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. In the first decade of the 21st century, the total gold reserves of these central banks and international organisations, according to official figures, have remained very much unaltered and stand at a level of 23,000 tonnes.

If Sprott is correct, then it turns out that the gold reserves of central banks in economically developed countries have only been available to meet the additional unaccounted-for demand for ten years. So in theory, by around 2011, the vaults of central banks in countries that are part of the «golden billion» zone should have been empty. But it is now already 2013. Moreover, it is worth remembering that these vaults were already half-empty by the beginning of this century, which follows from Veneroso’s estimates in Part 1. As early as 1998, almost half the official gold reserves of all the central banks had «gone walking» beyond the central banks’ walls. So, by way of example, of the 23,000 tonnes of official reserves in the central banks of the «golden billion» zone in 2001, the vaults only actually contained 11,500 tonnes. At best, this would only be enough gold to cover the additional unaccounted-for demand for five years. So the gold vaults of the «golden billion» should have been empty by 2006, not 2011. It is some kind of mysticism!

They are not only stealing their own gold, but other people’s as well

The mysticism disappears if we remember that the central banks of certain countries are not only using their vaults to store gold listed on their balance sheets, but also gold belonging to foreigners (primarily to the central banks and treasuries of other countries). However, their storage services are also used by private structures, first and foremost by major banks. In connection with the story of Germany’s plans to repatriate their gold from other countries, we found out that of the total volume of this country’s official reserves, equalling approximately 3,400 tonnes, more than two thirds is held outside of the country. Exactly 1,536 tonnes are in the vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 374 tonnes are in the vaults of the Bank of France and 450 tonnes in the vaults of the Bank of England.

We will now attempt to look at the issue of foreign gold from the other side – from the point of view of those countries playing the role of «guardians» or «storekeepers». There are a few of these major «guardians» in the world. These are the same old USA, Great Britain, France and Switzerland. Moreover, in the last country in this list, the role of «guardian» is not just played by the central bank (the National Bank of Switzerland), since Switzerland is also home to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). In this short list, the lion’s share of all foreign gold is accounted for by two countries – the USA and Great Britain (see the table below).


 Gold reserves held in the USA and Great Britain (as of 1 October 2012, tonnes)

  USA Great Britain USA and Great Britain together
1. Own gold  8,133.50  310.30  8,443.80
2. Foreign gold being stored  6,200.50  5,067.70  11,268.20
3. Together: own + foreign gold  14,334  5,378  19,712
4. The percentage of foreign gold in the total amount of gold being stored  41.1  94.3  57.2

In order to continue their game with gold, the monetary authorities of the «golden billion» countries needed to dive their hand not just into their own reserves of the precious metal, but also the gold reserves entrusted to them by other countries. It is not difficult to work out that the foreign gold in the vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank of England would be enough to cover the additional unaccounted-for demand for gold to the tune of 2,300 tonnes for approximately five years.

Of course, the gold reserves of foreign countries held in Switzerland, Canada and Australia still need to be taken into account. It is entirely possible that the central banks of a number of countries outside of the «golden billion» might be involved in the gold games being played by the monetary authorities of the «golden billion» countries on a voluntary-compulsory basis. Taking into account these reserves of the precious metal, the central banks’ gold games might last for another one or two years. This is exactly the opinion of Eric Sprott and a number of other gold experts.The USA and Great Britain, in the vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank of England, are holding more than 11,000 tonnes of foreign gold. It is remarkable that in Great Britain there is in excess of 16 times more foreign gold than own gold, while in the USA, foreign gold makes up 76 percent in relation to the country’s own gold reserves.

The Bank of England holds the gold of various countries in the British Commonwealth (Australia, Canada, India etc.). Today, the Bank of England plays a major role not just for countries in the Commonwealth, but also for countries in continental Europe. Austria, for example, holds 80 percent of its gold reserves in the Bank of England, Holland holds 18 percent and Germany holds 13 percent. There are also clients from other countries. The Central Bank of Mexico, for example, holds 95 percent of its gold reserves in the Bank of England. Organisations called bullion banks (private banks that deal with physical gold bullion) also put their gold in the Bank of England. Part of the foreign gold in the Bank of England is held on the basis of storage contracts, with foreign clients paying for the service. Part of the gold is held in deposit accounts, on which interest is charged.

The «gold game» may come to an end as early as tomorrow

The «moment of truth» may come even earlier than Sprott predicts. Why? Because I believe that in his calculations, he does not take into account, or underestimates, certain confounding moments linked with both supply and demand on the world gold market.

The first moment. China’s demand for gold is growing rapidly. The growth rate of gold imports into China is unprecedentedly high. If the import of gold into China through Hong Kong (according to the official statistics of the latter) equalled 45 tonnes in 2009, then in 2011 it amounted to 431 tonnes and in 2012 exceeded 834 tonnes. As part of its gold policy, China intends to further step up its buying of gold on the world’s markets. China is buying up gold to meet the growing demands of the jewellery industry, growing investment demand and to build up state reserves. Sprott took the «Chinese factor» into accounts in his calculations, but somewhat underestimated it.

The second moment. After the first wave of the financial crisis came to an end, a number of central banks began actively buying up gold on the world market. Beginning in 2009, central banks around the world turned en masse from net sellers of gold to net buyers of gold for the first time in two or more decades. In 2011, net sales of gold by the world’s central banks amounted to 430 tonnes, in 2012, according to preliminary estimates, they may exceed 500 tonnes. Hiding behind these average figures is the vigorous activity of central banks in countries like Mexico (net sales of 98.9 tonnes in 2011), Russia (94.4 tonnes), Turkey (79.3 tonnes), Thailand (52.9 tonnes), the Republic of Korea (40.1 tonnes) and Kazakhstan (14.9 tonnes) to buy up gold. Although the Central Bank of the Republic of China has not changed the size of its gold reserves since 2009, it is nevertheless known that the country is one of the main buyers of gold on the world market. Official Chinese statistics are camouflaging the activities of the Central Bank of the Republic of China.

The third moment. Erik Sprott draws attention to this himself in his latest publications. It refers to the sharp decrease in the supply of gold in the form of scrap metal. On average, during the first decade of the 21st century, the size of this supply amounted to 1,700 tonnes, but this has now been cut in half. As a result, the average annual supply of gold has fallen to 850 tonnes.

The fourth moment. This is a question of the real demands or plans of a number of countries around the world to repatriate official gold reserves from abroad. Germany is already in discussions for the return of its gold from the USA, England and France (a total of 2,360 tonnes). The Netherlands, Switzerland, Ecuador and Azerbaijan have also started preparations for the return of their gold from abroad. The campaign to get gold home could turn into a panic that will seize tens of countries (according to certain information, there is gold belonging to 60 countries in the vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York alone)…

It is therefore possible to argue that a final clearing out of the vaults of central banks in countries that are part of the «golden billion» zone is currently under way. The gold could run out at any moment. Maybe it already has.One of the signs that this is the case is the increasingly frequent scandals that keep flaring up about the so-called «tungsten gold». There is strong suspicion that it was not «invented» by the Chinese (as certain media are alleging), but by the real owners of the «golden billion’s» central banks. It is difficult to imagine what else these owners can come up with to maintain the illusion that there is still gold in the vaults of central banks. A scandal is brewing, and it is going to have global economic and political consequences.

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By Dave Johnson

You will be hearing a lot about the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. TPP’s negotiations are being held in secret with details kept secret even from our Congress. But giant corporations are in the loop.

TPP is a “trade” agreement between several Pacific-rim countries that is actually about much more than just trade. It will be sold as a trade agreement (because everyone knows that “trade” is good) but much of it appears to be (from what we know) a corporate end-run around things We the People want to do to reign in the giant corporations — like Wall Street regulation, environmental regulation and corporate taxation.

One-Sided Process

The TPP process appears to be set up to push corporate interests over other interests. The TPP is being negotiated in secret, so what we know about it comes from leaked documents. Even our Congress is being kept out of the loop. But 600 corporate representatives are in the loop while representatives of groups that protect working people, human, political and civil rights and our environment are largely not in the loop.

This one-sided participation unfortunately indicates that the interests of giant corporations are likely to override the interests of working people and those who want to protect non-corporate interests. Otherwise there would be more representation by representatives of organizations representing these concerns, and greater transparency into the process.

 TPP Is A Very, Very Big Deal

The coming TPP is a very, very big deal. If it is agreed to by the Senate and signed by the President it will override American laws in many areas. We won’t be allowed to enforce laws and regulations that impede the “rights” granted to big corporations under this agreement, and it will be very hard to rescind the agreement once signed, no matter how much damage might result. Just look at how NAFTA, China’s entry into the WTO and other agreements are causing huge trade deficits and sending jobs, factories and industries out of the country while dramatically increasing income and wealth inequality.

Making the TPP work for We, the People should be up there on our “litmus test” of things we require of our elected officials — right along with pledging no cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

TPP Not Just Trade

It looks like TPP will go way beyond what most of us would consider to be in a normal “trade” agreement. TPP — negotiated by giant corporate interests — appears set to give giant corporations a veto over a country’s ability to set many laws and regulations that are designed to reign in those corporations. Quelle surprise!

 Leaked documents appear to show that negotiators are writing provisions that will set rules that are binding on Congress and our state legislatures tell us what laws and regulations our own country can pass or enforce in areas like:

  • intellectual property rights like patents and copyrights,
  • government procurement like Buy American which would be banned,
  • investment and land use,
  • service-sector regulation,
  • food and product safety,
  • corporate competition,
  • labor,
  • even environmental standards.
  • Leaks show that TPP even limits government regulation of financial services!

Dean Baker explains that non-trade items like patents in an agreement like TPP can have a huge effect on us by dramatically increasing prices of items like pharmaceuticals, in Political Corruption and the “Free Trade” Racket,

Tariffs and quotas might raise the price of various items by 20 or 30 percent. By contrast, patent and copyright protection is likely to raise the price of protected items 2,000 percent or even 20,000 percent above the free market price. Drugs that would sell for a few dollars per prescription in a free market would sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when the government gives a drug company a patent monopoly.

Again: There are over 600 corporate representatives participating in the TPP process, but few if any representatives of human rights, environmental, civil rights or worker rights organizations. And the resulting agreement will be binding on governments! The corporate powers apparently granted in the TPP can override domestic laws on environmental health and safety, and labor and citizens’ rights. If this agreement becomes law multinationals can claim that those domestic laws and regulations hamper free trade and can sue for millions of dollars in “damages.”

 Bad History Of Trade Agreements Harming Economy, Democracy

Our one-sided, corporate-negotiated trade agreements have dramatically enriched Wall Street and a few CEOs. But the devastation that is apparent in many regions of our country along with the hollowing out of our middle class tells the real story of what these agreements can do to an economy. For example, we all know what has happened since China was allowed to enter the WTO. In the 2000s we lost 50,000+ factories and at least 6 million jobs just to China. Because of the massive cost of building a manufacturing infrastructure it will be very difficult to restore even key industries. But the 1% who pushed this made out extremely well.

 Even the just-signed Korea Free Trade agreement is already hurting our economy. It has increased the trade deficit, increased imports and decreased exports! A recently-released fact sheet from Public Citizen looks at the damage our economy is already experiencing from the Korea, Panama and Columbia agreements. The section on Korea tells the story: exports to Korea down 10%, trade deficit up 37%:

“One year into the Korea FTA, U.S. goods exports to Korea have declined by 10 percent (a $4.2billion decrease) in comparison to the year before FTA implementation. U.S. meat producers lost a combined $206 million in beef, pork and poultry exports in the first year of the Korea FTA relative to the year before FTA implementation, while the U.S. auto and auto parts industries suffered a 16 percent increase in the U.S. auto trade deficit with Korea. Overall, the U.S. trade deficit with Korea has swelled 37 percent under the FTA.”

Just one of many examples in the fact sheet:

  • Imports of cars and auto parts from Korea have soared 15 percent (more than $2.5 billion) under the FTA, driving a 16 percent increase in the U.S. trade deficit with Korea in autos and auto parts relative to the year before FTA implementation.

Also from the fact sheet — loss of 12,000 jobs:

“The combined U.S. trade deficit with Korea, Colombia and Panama under the FTAs has jumped 11percent above pre-FTA levels for the same months as exports to Korea have declined and imports from Korea and Panama have risen substantially. Using the same ratio employed by the Obama administration, this $2.3 billion combined trade deficit expansion implies the net loss of more than 12,000 U.S. jobs in just the first several months of the new FTAs.”

 And that’s just the recent Korea agreement, and in just a few months since it went into effect.

 Trade Can Be Good Or Bad, Depending…

No question about it, a good trade deal can boost exports, boost the economy, boost employment … And of course this promise is how these trade deals are sold to us.

 But the bad trade deals we have gotten ourselves into have instead boosted the trade deficit, boosted unemployment, boosted income and wealth inequality, boosted the loss of factories and industries, boosted the hollowing-out of our middle class and boosted the domination of our politics by the large corporate interests.

 All trade deals have winners and losers. NAFTA and letting China into the WTO were obviously big winners for Wall Street, the 1%ers, and their giant multinational corporations. But these and similar trade deals helped break the back of the unions, the middle class and our economy — especially manufacturing and its supply chains. The result of these changes has been that all of the gains from our economy as productivity increases have increasingly gone to fewer and fewer people who are higher and higher up the food chain.

 We need an open, democratic process that ensures that We, the People are the winners from our trade deals.

 Needed Fixes

The TPP negotiations should not just be negotiated to serve the interests of giant multinational corporations. The process should be opened up to the public and democracy, so people and groups with a huge stake in the outcome — like labor unions, environmental organizations, human rights groups and consumer organizations — can participate. With only corporate participation, only corporate interests will be served. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

 The process of democracy should not be subverted by a “fast track” rule that keeps our Congress from fully considering the implications and effects of such an agreement. “Fast track” just extends the lack of citizen involvement in negotiations into a lack of citizen involvement in the finalization!

Last June 130 members of the Congress wrote a letter to the US Trade Representative asking for transparency in the TPP negotiations and consultation with members of Congress. In addition,more than 400 organizations have asked Congress to replace the “Fast Track” system that limits Congress’ (democracy’s) ability to get involved in the process, and to call for a new direction for TPP as well as other trade agreements.

We also need strong tests and irrevocable language about withdrawing from the agreement if it is harming our economy, environment, smaller businesses, tax base and/or our working people.

 TPP and all future trade deals must include clear and enforceable rules covering currency manipulation and other ways that countries game the system.

Elizabeth Warren Drives It Home

Watch Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asking about trends in trading patterns with Korea since the new “free trade” treaty went into effect, and about how TPP looks like an end run around Wall Street regulation.

Get Involved

The next round of TPP talks will be held May 15-24 in Lima, Peru. It is time to start making sure that your voice is heard in D.C. Trade deals can lift people on both sides of trade borders. But only if a true open and democratic process is used to reach agreement. Otherwise these agreements will continue to be gamed to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

 One of the best comprehensive sources of information on TPP is at Public Citizen and their Global Trade Watch. They have a landing page just waiting for you: TPP: Corporate Power Tool of the 1%. Go take a look.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has a TPP page, explaining their concerns about the sections involving Intellectual Property (IP) as well as the general lack of transparency and openness.

Public Knowledge has a TPP landing page expressing similar concerns.

The AFL-CIO has a TPP detail page and offers Trans-Pacific FTA Outline concluding:

 “Although not all the news coming from APEC was good, it is too early to tell if the TPP will live up to its promise to create great opportunities for America’s working families. Now is the time to speak up. If you have concerns about some of these announcements, too, now is the time to speak up–the TPP is still being negotiated.”

 This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture & also crossposted at the Huffington Post. the author is a Fellow with CAF.

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Has the Obama Department of Justice Violated the Separation of Powers? California Congressman  Devin Nunes (R-CA) says that the Department Of Justice tapped phones in the rooms where Congress members speak informally and off the record, eat, sleep and socialize when they’re not on the floor of the House of Representatives or in their individual offices.These rooms are known as “cloak rooms”, which are the spaces in which a lot of informal conversations occur … both between Congress members, and Congress members and reporters.

Congressman Nunes told Hugh Hewitt:

[Congressman  Nunes]:  I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.

[Interviewer]: Wait a minute, this is news to me.

Congressman  Nunes:  The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.

[Interviewer]: I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Congressman  Nunes: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress ….

Now that is a separation of powers issue here ….

Liberals rightfully lambasted the Bush administration for considering doing something similar.  As Mother Jones reported in 2009:

James Risen and Eric Lichtblau report in the New York Times today that the NSA may have exceeded the wiretapping authority it was given by Congress in 2008.

***

But then there’s this buried in the middle of the story, which isn’t vague at all:

New details are also emerging about earlier domestic surveillance activities, including the agency’s attempt to wiretap a congressman without court approval on an overseas trip, according to interviews with current and former intelligence officials.

….The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact as part of a congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations to gather more intelligence, the official said.

The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some officials in the intelligence community about the idea of using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.

Jesus.  If a member of Congress isn’t a “United States person” protected from warrantless surveillance by every version of FISA that’s ever been on the books, who is?  Shouldn’t this have set off alarm bells at every possible level at NSA, rather than merely being “ultimately blocked” because “some” officials had “concerns” about it?

But – even though top expert say that Obama is trampling on separation of powers and Constitutional liberties more than Bush or Nixon – many Democrats are still hypnotized by what liberal writer Glenn Greenwald calls the “cult of personality“.

Update:  Nunes’ director of communications – Jack Lagner – has issued a clarification:

What Rep. Nunes meant by “tapped” was that the DOJ seized the phone records, as has been widely reported. There was a little confusion between him and the host during the conversation: He did not mean to refer to phone records of the cloakroom itself, but of the Capitol. This refers to the phone records for the AP from  the House press gallery, which the DOJ admitted to looking at. He was explaining that if those phone records were seized, they would reveal a lot of conversations between the press and members of Congress, since reporters often speak to Members from the press gallery phones. The notion of the DOJ looking at phone records from the Capitol of conversations between Members of Congress and reporters is something that concerns Rep. Nunes, bringing up issues related to the separation of powers.

Nunes’ point still stands, though. The Department of Justice collection of phone records of conversations between Congress members and reporters violates the principal of separation of powers.

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Ghatheyya Mifleh al-Khawalda was 15 years old when she fled her home during the Nakba of 1948.

Now 80, Ghatheyya was once a carefree teenager who used to live with her mother and sister in the village of al-Qastina, northeast of Gaza.

Although her early life was marked by tragedy — her grandmother died when she was born and her father passed away on Eid al-Adha — she says she had a happy childhood.

“We had a very nice house, a big house with marble floors in the hallway. My father was a farmer, and we had farmland with orange trees, apple trees, grapefruit trees and others. I used to spend my days playing with my sister and the other girls in the village. We were very happy,” she told the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Her life changed dramatically in 1948, when Jewish militias arrived in the area where she lived.

“We had heard stories about attacks on other villages. Still, the attack on al-Qastina came without warning. Before that, there had been a British military camp nearby, but that year the British left and allowed the Jewish groups to take over.”

Some Jewish militia members were wearing uniform and others had civilian clothes, Ghatheyya said, and when they arrived in the village they began firing at people, killing three villagers.

“We ran away, afraid for our safety, and went to Tal al-Safi, a nearby village on a hill. It was within walking distance, and we were in a hurry to leave, so we didn’t take anything with us. It was like Doomsday. It was utter terror. People’s minds were imprisoned by fear. We couldn’t think of anything except leaving, not even simple things like bringing food with us,” she said.

After a few days in Tal es-Safi, militias came again and forced them to leave. Ghatheyya and her family fled to Beit Jibrin to spend the night, but were followed and forced to leave again.

“If you wanted to die, you stayed. If you wanted to live, you left,” she recalls. “Their main aim was not to kill us, but to get rid of us. If they had wanted us all dead, not one of us would have survived. They used fear to force us to leave our land.”

The family walked along the coast until they reached Gaza. There were thousands of people who fled other villages, sleeping in mosques or on the street, Ghatheyya says, and UNRWA began to build tents for the families.

Ghatheyya and her husband Ahmed, also a refugee from al-Qastina, now have 32 grandchildren and live with their son Nehad. She says she thinks often about her village, and had the chance to visit al-Qastina in the early 1980s and 1990s.

“Al-Qastina crosses my mind very often. It doesn’t make sense that I cannot be in my home, on my land, in the place where I grew up. I still dream of the days of the land.”

More than 760,000 Palestinians — estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants — were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

Around 160,000 Palestinians, who remained in Israel after 1948, now number around 1.36 million people, or 20 percent of the country’s population.

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Arnold August is a political scientist an author, journalist and lecturer living in Montreal, Canada (Quebec). He is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections (Editorial José Martí). He has also contributed a chapter entitled “Socialism and Elections” for the volume Cuban Socialism in a New Century: Adversity, Survival and Renewal (University Press of Florida).

JL: Tell us about your book Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion why did you write this book and how did you go about it?

AA: Well I think many people will agree that when it comes to international politics, pressure by the countries in the North, especially U.S. and regarding the South in general — Asia, Africa and Latin America – there are very few themes that are raised other than the theme of democracy. It has been this way especially since the 1980’s, since the fall of the former Soviet Bloc, the issue of democracy or rather the pretext of democracy is increasingly being used by the U.S. and Europe as a reason to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. At the same time, strange as it may seem there are very few books written on that issue of democracy as such. I guess not many people want to address this subject because it is a very loaded term, it’s not easy to deal with, but I always thought it was necessary. It is in fact my second book on the issue of democracy, the first one, written in 1999 dealt specifically with democracy and elections in Cuba.

JL: I guess a lot of people would be surprised to hear that there is democracy in Cuba. What kind of democracy is it?

AA: In Canada and the U.S.especially, the whole issue of democracy is supposed to be completely foreign to the Cuban experience and now of course the same attitude applies to other countries such as Venezuela. I deal with the issue of democracy but as you notice the subtitle of the book is Democracy in Motion. So I don’t deal only with democracy as such. I try to develop the concept of “Democracy in Motion” that is democratisation as a process which never ends and, at the centre of this whole concept, I try to develop the role of participatory democracy, that is, democracy in which the people play a key role on a daily basis to make their own political power effective.

JL: Do you think people in Cuba participate more in the decision making than in Canada or the U.S. for example?

AA: Well I think you’d have to compare Cuba to what the situation was before 1959, before the Revolution. We can’t even compare it, it is so obvious there was a U.S.controlled, a U.S.-led dictatorship in Cuba before 1959 – the Batista dictatorship – and the people were completely excluded from power. In fact, Fidel Castro was running for the opposition in the senate at the time, in the early 1950’s, and it was obvious he and his party were going to win those elections.

Image: Cuban Revolution 1959

The U.S.-backed Batista regime cancelled the elections and organised a coup d’état. So it gives you an idea of the kind of participation there was before 1959. Since 1959 of course it has been developed. In 1959 it was the first time in the history of Cuba that the people obtained political power. I’m not saying it was perfect. It wasn’t perfect then, it isn’t perfect now. But the main feature of the 1959 Revolution is that for the first time, political power was in the hands of the people. Then term “sovereignty invested in the people” became a real meaningful concept in Cuba.

Now we can draw a parallel between the Cuban revolution and the rebellion in Egypt recently. I would call it a revolution because the Egyptian people revolted and actually succeeded in overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator Mubarak.

egypt riots

Image (right): Tahrir Square 2011

What I find interesting there, and it opened my eyes further on the issue of the need for people to look at democracy as an ongoing process, a participatory democracy, is that the people at Tahrir Square occupied the public space and it is from that area that millions of people on a daily basis made their decisions: what to do, what their priorities were, which was to overthrow Mubarak.

They would not accept anything less than that. In the meantime, a political power was developing at the base to replace the power of the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime. And in fact they overthrew the Mubarak regime. Now what did the Obama administration do right after that? After having supported the Mubarak regime, hypocritically of course, right to the last second? When he was finally overthrown the U.S. immediately tried to impose what I call in my publication the “U.S.-centric notion of politics”, that is, multi-party democracy.

I remember very clearly, and it is chronicled in my publication, that after the overthrow of Mubarak, while the street demonstrations were still going on in Tahrir Square and in squares across Egypt, Hillary Clinton said on behalf of Obama that people have to move from protest to politics. So from the U.S. point of view, people in the street organizing themselves on an entirely new basis to somehow take political power, on an entirely different orientation, even though it was only in an embryonic way, is not politics. The only politics that count are electoral politics. Then the US organized elections in Egypt.

JL: Because this way they can control the outcome?

AA: Exactly, that is what they control through elections. The US could not control Tahrir Square, the people at a very low embryonic level aiming to take political power at the top.

JL: And was there a fear there that something like that would happen in the U.S. as well?

AA: Of course, because the first domino effect of Tahrir Square was in the United States itself.

The Obama administration had to organize elections and the first thing they did was to eliminate the political party based on the Nasserite tradition which is generally progressive and in favour of socialism, definitely in favour of sovereignty from the U.S. That was eliminated by hook and by crook as they usually do and they were left with only two parties – the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian National Movement Party. Both are pro-American. Now here’s an important point as far as the electoral process is concerned versus the political process of democracy in motion: only 52% of the people actually voted in the presidential elections between the two opposing candidates. 52%! And there was a call to boycott it. Of course this is not very well known in public circles. They sort of avoid that issue.

Now here are the two things in contradiction. On the one hand you have the people in Tahrir Square and other squares looking for new ways to attain political power outside of the multi-party political system controlled by the United States. That’s why only 52% voted. At the same time in order to overthrow Mubarak in that 18 day revolution 850 people were killed and 5500 people were seriously injured. Now I ask you: Is it not easier to deposit a ballot compared to fighting on the streets with the possibility of losing your life or being seriously injured to overthrow?  So it’s not because of apathy or lack of interest. It’s basically a rejection of the multi-party system that was reflected in those elections and this is why it’s still going on.

I spent almost 24 hours a day during that 18 day period watching this thing and it allowed me to expand further on the issue of participatory democracy and how elections are used in order to legitimize the status quo. Now that is exactly what Obama did when the Muslim Brotherhood won the election. He phoned Morsi and according to the White House transcript he said “Now you are legitimate.” You have legitimacy to rule in Egypt. That’s how in these countries elections are used when controlled by the U.S.– to legitimize the dictatorship of the old guard.

Image (right): Protests in Montreal, Canada 2012

We can even come closer to home. What happened in Quebec (Canada) last spring? There were millions of people in the streets, literally, students and older people, all over Quebec and what did the Liberal government say? “Well, we were elected.” Of course only 52% of the people voted and the vote split between the two/three parties. “We were elected.” They mean: “We are the legitimate representatives of the people and we can do what we want. We have the mandate to do everything. Anything.” And so the elections are used whether in Egypt, Quebec or other countries to legitimize the rule of the old guard. Now I’m not against elections. I’m not against elections with different political parties, but we have to look concretely how it takes place.

JL: So basically you’re saying that elections don’t guarantee democracy.

AA: It does not guarantee democracy and in many cases it is used as a pretext to completely wipe out any struggle by the people at the base to take political power in their own hands and develop their own type of system.

Overhead view of hundreds of people wearing red for the Teachers' union, protesting against Walker's bill.

Image: Protests in Wisconsin’s Capitol building 2011

JL: How would you describe the events surrounding the Occupy Movement in the U.S.?

AA: What is interesting to note is that after the events at Tahrir Square, the U.S. were very happy to be able to replace the popular movement with the so-called elections, temporarily, because troubles were still going on and have not been resolved. Now ironically, or paradoxically and with justice, the boomerang effect or the first domino effect took place in Madison, in the U.S. itself, in a very short period after Mubarak was overthrown and people had signs saying: “The governor of Wisconsin is our Mubarak.

We have to fight against the dictatorship”. They were inspired by the occupation of the public spaces in Egypt, in Tahrir Square, and they did the same thing in the Capitol of Wisconsin. The Capitol building was occupied for several weeks, people slept there, they made their own decisions, they had manifestos they were building a new political power to challenge that of the establishment political parties. Unfortunately this movement was almost immediately converted into being part of the two-party machinations in the United States so the unions got caught up into a recall struggle against the governor. That is very good, no one can be against that. But the problem is the two-party system and the idea that one party is no good and we have to get rid of it in order to get another party in.

Part II of the interview will focus on the August’s chapter about Obama and the illusion of change.

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Two days after the Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had secretly seized telephone records of its editors and reporters, the Obama administration continued to defend its actions. A House committee that heard testimony from Attorney General Eric Holder initiated a bipartisan whitewash of the virtually unprecedented assault on press freedom.

The Justice Department has rejected AP demands that it return the thousands of telephone records it subpoenaed, without prior notice to the press agency, and destroy all copies. It has refused to answer inquiries from newspapers and television networks as to other possible subpoenas of internal media communications.

In connection with a criminal investigation ordered by Holder last June of an alleged leak of classified information in an article published the previous month by the AP, the Justice Department last February obtained a subpoena for records of all calls from some 20 telephone lines over a two-month period prior to the appearance of the article. The lines that were tracked included the national office of the AP in Washington DC and news offices in Washington DC, New York and Hartford, as well as the telephone used by AP reporters in the congressional press gallery in the Capitol.

Also targeted were the home and cell phones of at least one editor and at least five reporters who were involved in the story, an exposè of a covert CIA operation in Yemen. The story was denounced at the time by John Brennan, then President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, as an “irresponsible and damaging leak of classified information.” Brennan is currently the director of the CIA.

Holder last June also ordered a criminal probe of alleged national security breaches in connection with New York Times articles on Obama’s drone assassination program and the White House “kill list,” and on US collaboration with Israel in the production of the Stuxnet computer virus, which was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program.

In a letter Tuesday to Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole, a media coalition headed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said its members were “stunned” to learn of the Justice Department’s actions. The press organization is comprised of more than 50 news organizations, including the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal .

The letter stated: “In the thirty years since the Department issued guidelines governing its subpoena practice as it relates to phone records from journalists, none of us can remember an instance where such an overreaching dragnet for newsgathering materials was deployed by the Department, particularly without notice to the affected reporters or an opportunity to seek judicial review.”

The signatories added that the Justice Department “should announce whether it has served any other pending news media-related subpoenas that have not yet been disclosed.”

The revelations of illegal government spying on the press coincide with a burgeoning scandal over the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of organizations at odds with the policies of the administration. The IRS has admitted to improperly tagging for more intrusive investigation organizations applying for tax-exempt status that it believed were linked to the Tea Party and other Republican groups.

In the midst of these scandals arising from the anti-democratic methods and policies of the Obama administration, Attorney General Holder testified for some four hours on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee. What the hearing revealed, however, was not only indifference among both Democrats and Republicans to the escalating assault on democratic rights, but overwhelming support for the expansion of police state measures that is being carried out in the name of the “war on terror,” of which the attack on press freedom and prosecution of whistle-blowers is a part.

In his opening statement to the committee, Holder began by hailing the role of federal, state and local police and intelligence agencies in the police-military lockdown of metropolitan Boston following the bombings last month at the Boston Marathon. He made no mention of either the IRS scandal or the dragnet of AP phone records. Holder had previously announced that he had recused himself from the AP leak investigation and played no role in the decision to subpoena the information. He has referred all questions on the matter to his deputy, James Cole.

However, Holder implicitly defended the actions of the Justice Department with the preposterous assertion, “We’ve utilized essential intelligence-gathering and surveillance capabilities in a manner that’s consistent with the rule of law, and with our most treasured values.” And while he refused to answer specific questions about the AP case, he repeated previous assurances that Deputy Attorney General Cole and the US attorney in Washington DC had followed all appropriate Justice Department rules and regulations.

The tone for what was to follow was set in the opening statements of the committee chairman, Republican Bob Goodlatte, and the ranking Democrat, John Conyers. Both Goodlatte and Conyers praised the FBI and the other law enforcement agencies for their de facto state of siege in Boston.

In his questioning of Holder, Goodlatte cited the supposed failure of the FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security to “connect the dots” prior to the bombing and suggested that the rules for interrogators be loosened. Holder replied by saying, “I think you’re right, Mr. Chairman.” He offered to work with the Republican congressman toward that end.

Goodlatte also criticized Holder and the Justice Department for not delaying reading the bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his Miranda rights longer than 48 hours. This line of attack on the right to remain silent and the right to counsel was taken up by a number of other Republicans on the committee.

The chairman questioned the extent of the seizure of AP phone records and the failure of the Justice Department to give the news service advance notice, but he did not pursue the matter when Holder dodged the questions.

In his questioning, Conyers did not even mention the attack on the Associated Press, setting the pattern for almost all of the other Democrats on the committee. Only two Democrats, Zoe Lofgren of California and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, directly criticized the Justice Department’s dragnet of phone records, and both did so quickly and perfunctorily.

Lofgren, for example, stated that the Justice Department’s actions had “impaired the First Amendment,” but went on to suggest that this “impairment” might be justified by the “criminal violation” under investigation. When Holder said an “after-action analysis” of the AP case might be appropriate, Lofgren thanked him and said, “That might be good.”

Two Democrats, Hank Johnson of Georgia and Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, openly supported the attack on press freedom. Defending the seizure of the phone records, Johnson said, “The Espionage Act of 1917 would authorize prosecution of anyone who published classified information.”

The Republicans for the most part avoided the AP issue, concentrating instead on the IRS scandal and partisan attacks on Thomas Perez, the current head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, who has been nominated by Obama to become the new labor secretary.

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The controversy over last year’s Al Qaeda assault on US diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi, Libya has been revived amid a deepening political crisis of the Obama administration.

Some Republicans have gone so far as to suggest that administration’s handling of the Benghazi affair could become grounds for impeachment of the Democratic president. There is a sense that Obama, also embroiled in controversies over state spying on the media and IRS harassment of groups politically opposed to the administration, is in serious trouble as a result of anti-democratic and militarist policies pursued behind the backs of the American people.

As always, the presentation of these developments by the American media is dishonest and deliberately misleading.

The media has largely reduced the matter to the small change of electoral politics; whether the White House—aiming to fend off a Republican attack on the eve of the 2012 election—had a hand in altering “talking points” prepared for then-US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who provided the first public explanation of the fatal assault in Benghazi.

This thesis, advanced by the Republicans, suggests that the White House was determined to prevent the truth about Benghazi from interfering with Obama’s plan to run on his record of supposed successes in the “war on terror”—most notably the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Thus, the administration misrepresented the Benghazi assault as a spontaneous anti-American demonstration by Libyans outraged over an anti-Muslim video produced in the US and aired over the Internet.

Some 100 pages of emails released by the White House Wednesday in an attempt to quash the controversy show that the CIA, the State Department, the Pentagon, the FBI, the National Security Council and the White House all intervened in the editing of Rice’s script, with the State Department exerting the greatest pressure to remove references to Al Qaeda and Libyan Islamist militias that were present in its first drafts.

These concerns suggest that there was far more at stake than denying the Republicans an opportunity to tarnish Obama’s record, or that the current controversy stems merely from a Republican strategy for torpedoing the anticipated 2016 Democratic presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

The overriding motive for concealing the identity of those who laid siege to the US facilities in Benghazi has its source in the tangled relationship that Washington had established with the elements that carried it out. Neither the Democratic White House nor the Republican leadership in Congress has any interest in probing this essential question.

For over a decade now, Washington under both Bush and Obama has sought to justify its military interventions abroad and its attacks on democratic rights at home in the name of a never-ending global war on terror, and specifically a supposed struggle to eradicate Al Qaeda.

The reality, however, is that the US and its intelligence agencies have long had a far more complex relationship with these forces than anyone in the US government cares to admit.

These are ties that stretch back to the founding of Al Qaeda as an adjunct to the CIA’s efforts to foment and finance an Islamist insurgency against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan beginning in the late 1970s. Before that, American intelligence had long viewed reactionary Islamist organizations in the Middle East, Iran, and Indonesia as useful assets in the struggle against socialist and left nationalist influences in these areas.

September 11, 2001, we have long been told, “changed everything,” but it did not fully change this relationship, which was so closely bound up with the terrorist attacks of that day.

In its intervention in Libya, Washington utilized Al Qaeda-linked fighters as a proxy ground force in the war to topple the secular regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, arming and advising them and using them to follow up the massive US-NATO bombing campaign.

Christopher Stevens was very much the point man in this relationship, having carefully studied the Islamist opponents of Gaddafi before the launching of the war for regime-change. He was deployed in April 2011 to Benghazi, where he coordinated the arming, funding and training of the so-called rebels, elements previously denounced by the US as terrorists and, in some cases, abducted, imprisoned and tortured by the CIA.

In October 2011, the imperialist intervention in Libya achieved its victory with the lynch-mob murder of Gaddafi, carried out by these US-backed forces.

One of the reasons that the Benghazi affair continues to roil political waters in Washington is that this same strategy is now being employed on an even larger scale in Syria, where once again even more dangerous Al Qaeda-connected militias are serving as the most important fighting force in the war to bring down Bashar al-Assad. As in Libya, the aim is to solidify US hegemony over the region’s oil wealth at the expense of American capitalism’s rivals, particularly Russia and China. In addition, regime-change in Damascus is sought as a means of preparing an even wider war against Iran.

With the Syrian intervention floundering, the Benghazi fiasco serves as a cautionary example of the potential rewards for success in these ventures. There are evidently bitter divisions within the American state apparatus over this policy.

The most likely explanation for the bloody events in Benghazi last September is that the relationship forged with Al Qaeda of the Maghreb turned sour in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s overthrow, perhaps with the Islamists believing that American promises had gone unfulfilled and they had not been adequately compensated for their services. With the assassination of Stevens, who was the US envoy to the “Libyan revolution,” they were sending a definite message to Washington.

This kind of “blowback” has a long and ugly history in US imperialism’s global interventions. On September 11, 2001, those blamed for the terrorist attacks had previously been hailed by Washington as “freedom fighters” and supported in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Even earlier, the Kennedy administration’s backing for the Cuban “gusanos” in the abortive 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba produced a layer of extreme right-wing terrorists in the US who were convinced that they were the victims of a political double-cross. This poisoned relationship in all likelihood played a role in the violent end of the Kennedy administration itself.

In the final analysis, the concerted efforts of the Obama administration, the State Department and the various intelligence agencies to avoid mention of Al Qaeda in the account of the Benghazi attacks was aimed at covering up the enduring covert relationship with this terrorist network and the fact that it is once again creating explosive crises in which the peoples of the Middle East and potentially the US itself are the innocent victims.

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It was recently announced at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, South Africa that MasterCard and the Nigerian National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) under the government of Nigeria would form a partnership to distribute a new identity card to every Nigerian citizen.  The purpose of the card is to have all Nigerian citizens participate in the financial services sector under the control of MasterCard, a multinational financial services corporation headquartered in New York.  MasterCard’s press release ‘MasterCard to Power Nigerian Identity Card Program’ stated:

As part of the program, in its first phase, Nigerians 16 years and older, and all residents in the country for more than two years, will get the new multipurpose identity card which has 13 applications including MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology that will provide cardholders with the safety, convenience and reliability of electronic payments. This will have a significant and positive impact on the lives of these Nigerians who have not previously had access to financial services.

The program is also designed to move Nigeria into a cashless society, one that is dependent on financial institutions, Wall Street and the Nigerian government.  It will be managed by the financial elites of Wall Street, technocrats and of course Washington.  All forms of financial transactions would be exchanged through plastic credit and debit cards that would have implanted RFID chips.  Michael Miebach, President of the Middle East and Africa division at MasterCard  supports the Nigerian government’s decision for a new cashless society, “Today’s announcement is the first phase of an unprecedented project in terms of scale and scope for Nigeria,” said Michael Miebach

“MasterCard has been a firm supporter of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Cashless Policy as we share a vision of a world beyond cash. From the program’s inception, we have provided the Federal Government of Nigeria with global insights and best practices on how electronic payments can enable economic growth and create a more financially inclusive economy.” 

The problem with a cashless society is that the state can terminate your electronic financial lifeline if anything were to happen within the country, for example any form of protests, economic downturns, a war or if a financial institution such as MasterCard were to go bankrupt.  There are many other reasons that the state or its’ corporate backers can decide to turn off the RFID chip.   When you a have a powerful financial institution issuing payments electronically with a government that is supported and controlled by Washington, unlimited control of the populace becomes inevitable.  70% of Nigeria’s population is living below the poverty line as of 2010.  How can MasterCard and the Nigerian government benefit millions of Nigerians who are living in abject poverty?  Is MasterCard going to offer low interest rates on its credit cards in a country that has a more than 70% of the population in poverty with many living with less than a dollar a day?

Another aspect about the National Identity Smart card is that it can be used for surveillance of individuals under the state.  With Nigeria facing a civil war between Islamists insurgents and minority ethnic groups from the oil rich Niger Delta, the National Identity Smart cards can be used to identify its enemies.  The MasterCard press release stated how it identifies the individual cardholder:

The new National Identity Smart Card will incorporate the unique National Identification Numbers (NIN) of duly registered persons in the country. The enrollment process involves the recording of an individual’s demographic data and biometric data (capture of 10 fingerprints, facial picture and digital signature) that are used to authenticate the cardholder and eliminate fraud and embezzlement. The resultant National Identity Database will provide the platform for several other value propositions of the NIMC including identity authentication and verification.

According to MasterCard, the purpose of the Nigerian Identity Card Program is for the economic prosperity of Nigerian people.  Is it a facade?  Is the Nigerian government on the verge of controlling its population financially with Washington’s support?  With MasterCard and Wall Street involved, Washington will support the Nigerian government in order for it to succeed with the plan:

The announcement was witnessed by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy in Nigeria, who stressed the importance of the National Identity Smart Card Scheme in moving Nigeria to an electronic platform. This program is good practice for us to bring all the citizens on a common platform for interacting with the various government agencies and for transacting electronically. We will implement this initiative in a collaborative manner between the public and private sectors, to achieve its full potential of inclusive citizenship and more effective governance,”

The Nigerian based independent newspaper The Guardian with reporter Marcel Mbamalu along with the Africa Press Organisation (APO) interviewed the Division President of Sub Sahara Africa for MasterCard, Daniel Monehin in an article called ‘Identity Card: Biometric Data of Nigerians Remain with FG, Not MasterCard, Says Monehin’:    

 Marcel Mbamalu: You talk of something close to general application of the card; yet, the finance Minister was quoted as saying that it will begin with government pensions before…

Daniel Monehin: That was in response to the question that was asked the honorable Minister as to what would be the criteria for selecting the pilot citizens. She responded that she’s really excited at the auspicious time that this is going on because there’s a lot of work that is being done centrally for central treasury and for payment within the federal government, and she would like to see pensioners being part of this first group of the pilot, so that the federal government can begin to load their payment automatically, take out the physical nature of it so that the old tale of people dying on the line while trying to wait on the line to collect their pension would be a thing of the past.

 The whole thing that is happening is that this is a platform not just for receiving government tension but for receiving government pensions, benefits, bursary payments, NGO’s that are funding private segments of the society can be funded directly; salaries can be paid directly. Anybody with that card has a whole new world opened to him or her. So, from government-to-people payments, from people-to-people payments, ATM all of those platforms or avenues are open. This is not a card that is restricted, its not even restricted to Nigeria; it is loaded.

You can go out of Nigeria to Ghana, Gambia, USA, China and use it. It is accepted in 210 countries and territories, and over 35 million acceptance locations around the world.

So, in terms of potential, this is a massive platform and what the minister just alluded to is just one segment of its use, not all.

The issuance is starting within the next three months. The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is going to do an event locally to flag it off.

Nigeria’s decision to have a cashless society under corporate control in the near future is a disturbing trend for humanity.  Let’s hope that the Nigerian people resist MasterCard and the government and find an alternative economic solution that will allow them to live in free society they deserve.

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Aside from the international media frenzy surrounding the sacking and trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy, and the occasional anti-imperialist tirades of former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia has rarely made international headlines. That is partly because this resource rich multi-ethnic state has been an island of stability since its independence in 1957, preaching a moderate-brand of Islam with a steady focus on economic development.

Malaysia is unique in contrast to other states in the region and throughout the Muslim world in that it has given unprecedented cultural and religious autonomy to non-Muslim ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities who wield significant influence over the economy. Although the country has practiced participatory politics and democratic elections from its inception, the ruling party, responsible for steering all developmental efforts since independence, has never been unseated. Covering local politics in the heart of Southeast Asia is a fast-paced exercise, and in Malaysia, mistrust is rampant and grand allegations are exchanged between political factions like bank notes in a marketplace.

In the fallout of a heated election held in early May, which saw the incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Barisan Nasional coalition continue its uninterrupted rule, passions are high and those of the social-media generation are advertising their discontent in the streets, thirsty to challenge the infallibility of the regime. Since his coalition failed to take power following the closest fought general election in Malaysian history, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been leading protest rallies throughout the country alleging that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition resorted to “massive fraud” to secure victory in the polls. Over the course of my time in Malaysia,

I have reviewed various assessments of Mr. Ibrahim; I’ve had in depth discussions with his former political allies who defected from his opposition coalition, and I’ve sat down with former PM Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the man who saw Anwar as a son, who groomed him to lead the nation, only to condemn him to political free-fall for rampant corruption and allegations that he sodomised a male aid.

No matter if they were formerly from the government or the opposition, everyone told me the same things about Anwar: that he is narcissistic chameleon, a genius of political opportunism, a master of public rallying and street-theatre, and that he has a ravenous obsession with becoming the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Months before the election Mahathir sat across from me, 87 and still sharp and healthy as ever, and told me how Anwar planned to bring down the government through street action, taking after the Arab Spring uprisings. “The opposition is already receiving money from NGOs that are financed by the US government,” hold told me. “Apparently they would like to see regime change in Malaysia, and they have in mind someone who is known to be very pro-American and in defense of Israel.” To the average Malaysian democracy activist who is ever critical of Mahathir’s shortcomings, this rhetoric is absolute rubbish, seen as diversionary tactic to distract people from the Barisan Nasional’s own corrupt dealings and monopoly on power. Unfortunately for those activists, this author is readily convinced that the Doctor’s prescription is spot on.

Who is Anwar Ibrahim?

What I’ve observed from speaking to rally-goers and social-medialites is that most Malaysians under 30 know very little about Anwar Ibrahim’s past dealings in government, his flirtation with Wahhabi Islam, and his unabashed shoulder-rubbing with neoconservatives in the Bush administration. Anwar was a man of humble beginnings, raised by a middle-class family. From his early days in politics, he established close alliances with both Wahhabi missionaries and the Muslim Brotherhood; he called for Malaysia to be ruled by a 14th century interpretation of the Koran and sharia law. Anwar was part and parcel of Saudi Arabia’s approach to religious expansion, whereby missionaries are used to recruit Islamists in moderate Sunni states, injecting an alien brand of political Islam with the intention of undermining secular Muslim regimes. Riyadh’s drive to Arabize states in Southeast Asia had a lot to do with offsetting the influence of revolutionary Iran, which inspired much of the politically ambitious religious establishment in Malaysia and elsewhere. 

Anwar was given his start in government by none other than Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. At the time, Mahathir’s biggest political competition was the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), an Islamist political party that remains a strong component in the opposition coalition even today. Mahathir brought Anwar onboard as the Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports to offset PAS’s influence. Once in government, he began working closely with banks tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabis to build the necessary financial resources needed for his political ascent. Anwar was promoted to Education Minister where he worked to advance the spread of Wahhabi Islamic doctrine in the schools as part of policy that attempted to re-order Malaysian society from the top down. In schools, Muslim prayers were publicly recited, sermons preached, and Islamic festivals celebrated as part of the curriculum, a far-reaching departure from the heretofore multi-ethnic character in national schools.

Mahathir allowed this on his watch, apparently to shore up his support base against PAS, who preached that Malaysia’s leadership were decadent, untrue Muslims. During his time in government, Anwar was known to have amassed a significant fortune, in the multi-millions through elite corruption and kickbacks from cronies at Petronas, the state oil company. Anwar had dealings with Al Baraka Bank, the world’s largest source of Islamic finance, which generously funded Saudi proxies and their causes from the madrassas in Pakistan to the glitzy capital cities of Southeast Asia. Anwar formed an NGO in the United States, the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), which labeled itself a harbinger of moderate Islam, and was utilized to influence policymakers in the US government and academia – the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Grover Norquist, Bill Cohen, Richard Perle, Madeleine Albright, William Perry, Colin Powell, Richard Holbrooke – the same individuals who would cry foul and threaten Malaysia with diplomatic consequences over Anwar’s six-year detainment after being charged with corruption.

Anwar, ambitious and aspiring to unseat Mahathir, paraded himself around Washington D.C. as the ideal stooge, a force for good that stood for democracy and free markets. Jonathan Smith vividly describes how US officials “often took with them the belief that if only Anwar were in charge in Malaysia, here at last could be a perfect Muslim democracy. American liberals – amusingly, overwhelmingly Jews – accepted Anwar’s projection at face value. To them, he was their tabula rasa: A Muslim who cared about the environment, about global peace and nuclear disarmament, about social justice – basically, about all of their core beliefs, yet never with any specific detail – Anwar was the noble savage for these men and women who likely believed Malaysia a tropical rainforest where the natives went around naked most of the time.” As time went on, Anwar embraced neoliberalism and more brazenly endorsed the values of the American establishment.

During the Asian financial crisis on 1997, Anwar implemented IMF austerity policies, including cutting government expenditures by 20 per cent, stripping funding from Mahathir’s enormous infrastructure projects that promised to bring Malaysia into the 21st century – a move that dismayed Mahathir and hastened Anwar’s departure from government, which happened dramatically in 1998. In the end, Mahathir rejected the IMF’s medicine and took credit for spearheading Malaysia’s recovery through currency controls and protectionist measures. After Anwar’s stint in prison, he based himself in Washington, where he chaired the Foundation for the Future, a US think-tank established by Elizabeth Cheney, Dick’s daughter. While Ibrahim was on trial for sodomy, Wolfowitz and Al Gore authored a joint opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in support of Ibrahim, while the Washington Post published an editorial calling for consequences that would affect Malaysia’s relations with Washington if Ibrahim were to be found guilty. Ibrahim enraged many when he stated that he would support policy to protect the security of Israel in an interview with the Wall Street Journal; this is particularly controversial in Malaysia, where support for Palestine is largely unanimous. Malaysian political scientist Dr. Chandra Muzaffar argues:


“It is obvious that by acknowledging the primacy of Israeli security, Anwar was sending a clear message to the deep state and to Tel Aviv and Washington that he is someone that they could trust. In contrast, the [incumbent] Najib government, in spite of its attempts to get closer to Washington, remains critical of Israeli aggression and intransigence. Najib has described the Israeli government as a ‘serial killer’ and a ‘gangster’.” 

Anwar Ibrahim’s closest allies outside of Washington and Riyadh are in Istanbul, where he enjoys close ties with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, both devout protégés of the House of Saud. Malaysia with Anwar Ibrahim at the helm would bare strong parallels to the political direction taken by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, which has steered secular Turkey’s domestic policy in a noticeably Islamist direction, while drifting steadily closer into the US-Saudi sphere of influence.  

Popular Grievances & Allegations of Fraud

Because Malaysia exists as a multi-cultural and multi-religious state, both the ruling and opposition coalitions attempt to field candidates that represent the interests of the nation’s largest ethnic groups. Approximately 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslim ethnic-Malays, 25 percent are predominantly Buddhist ethnic-Chinese, and 7 percent are mostly Hindu ethnic-Indians. The main parties in the Barisan Nasional governing coalition have traditionally been the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MCI), although support has dwindled in recent times for the latter two parties. Malaysia has become politically divided, and many – especially the online-savvy middle class – feel extremely disillusioned with corruption that pervades all levels of society, from taxi drivers and hawkers to the elite figures in business and government. Citizen equality is a major concern, especially of minorities who feel sidelined over constitutionally protected affirmative action policies that give ethnic Malays advantages in business and education. Opponents of these affirmative action policies routinely call them intentionally discriminatory, alleging they reflect a “Malay dominance” paradigm that has not been shaken from the ruling polity since independence.

Proponents of the policy argue that it was historically justified because some 60 percent of all Malays lived below the poverty line at the time of independence, and the policy is still required, as the Malay majority are still lowest income earners. It’s quite commonplace to find ethnic-Chinese Malaysians railing against their self-perceived status as “second-class citizens,” but these frustrations don’t live up to scrutiny, as the conditions Malaysia’s Chinese community are subjected to do not resemble that of a deprived community by any stretch of the imagination. The Chinese community dominates the middle and upper income earning strata, they are not hindered from attending vernacular schools in their mother tongue, from practicing their respective faiths, and they are a vibrant and active force in politics. One memorable defense of affirmative actions policies I’ve come across came from a Chinese taxi driver, who told me “If not for those policies, the Malays would be window-washers and street sweepers. How many Malays do you see with Chinese drivers?” he joked.

Activists and opposition supporters often criticize on open truth, that the mainstream media is dominated with pro-government views, with most reportage of the opposition being negative. It should also be noted however, that the opposition coalition absolutely dominates social media. The explosion of social media users, up 45% from 2008, was a critical factor in the past general election and the opposition has undeniably made its voice heard through various campaigns that have swayed a large portion of young voters. Facebook profile pictures were replaced with solid black images in protest of the prevailing status quo following the announcement of the election results, as emotional refutations of the poll results went viral, along with slogans such as “R.I.P. Democracy.” Among the poor and in the rural Malay heartlands that have traditionally been Barisan Nasional-strongholds, there is a fear of unknown political terrain that may adversely affect low-income communities, who are most vulnerable to feeling the burn if the economy is mismanaged following a political transition. Barisan Nasional retained its position thanks to support from the rural electorate who felt like the development projects and populist policies on offer were the safest bet.

The opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, currently controls three state governments and is led by Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the staunchly Islamist Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), and the Chinese-led secular Democratic Action Party (DAP), the latter being by far the strongest force in the coalition, reflective in the fact that Chinese voters by and large abandoned Barisan Nasional and voted in their favor. Despite being strange bedfellows, the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition won massive gains in the recent elections, firmly entrenching a two-coalition system. It’s not all roses and sunshine though, these three parties have fundamentally different ideologies, and critics have likened their coalition to a marriage of political opportunism. PAS for example, ardently advocates the implementation of sharia law and hudud Islamic penal code, and from its inception has called for the foundation of an Islamic state. DAP stanchly opposes the implementation of hudud law and the concept of an Islamic state, while Anwar, always a man of many masks, plays the middle ground, saying that hudud is not the official policy of the coalition, but that he personally supports it.

Aside from instilling the perception that Malaysia’s electoral process is deeply unfair and rigged in favor of the ruling party, the opposition campaigned on a platform of fighting corruption and creating more equitable wealth distribution, which resonated deeply with the electorate. Pakatan retained their stronghold of Penang while making significant inroads in places like Sabah, Sarawak, and Johor, known to be “fixed deposits” of the ruling party. Even with significant victories achieved by the opposition, Anwar Ibrahim has held steadfast to his pre-election assertion that only “massive fraud” would prevent his coalition’s victory. This statement is inherently problematic, because it presupposes that any election result that yields anything other than Anwar’s victory is: invalid, illegitimate, and fraud. The opposition notably meted out a steady stream of allegations, which largely remain entirely unsubstantiated. Anwar accused Prime Minister Najib Razak’s office of flying in some 40,000 foreign nationals to illegally to vote on behalf of the ruling coalition in key battleground states in Malaysia.

Such an allegation is not only logistically unsound, but bloggers soon pointed out several mathematic discrepancies in the details Anwar provided, and that the feat of transporting such a large volume of individuals could not possibly be accomplished with the alleged flights that took place. At the time of this article being written, he has produced no evidence to validate his accusation. Operators of the airlines Anwar claimed were involved dismissed his claims as baseless rumors. Third-party election monitors, such as the IDEAS Institute, claimed that although structural biases exist, such as in the uneven delineation of voting constituencies and the government’s control of mainstream media, the election process “proceeded smoothly” and that “the vast majority of the glitches were not major” lending credibility away from claims of that “massive fraud” took place. The Merdeka Centre, a widely quoted polling agency, also accused the opposition of making a “host of unsubstantiated allegations about the elections”. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Anwar, always a publicity-junkie, declared Pakatan’s victory over Twitter before any official results were announced, creating mass confusion. If compelling evidence exists that proves Barisan Nasional stole the elections, the opposition hasn’t made it available for public scrutiny.

‘Democracy does not work’

Haris Ibrahim from the pro-opposition group ABU recently vowed to overthrow the ruling coalition by force, stating, “We will take to the streets and take over. If we really want to overthrow them, there is no other way. Democracy does not work.”  Members of the opposition coalition hold conflicting views regarding attempts to overthrow the government by force; some have condoned it while others have condemned it. Bersih, an electoral watchdog, has promised to mobilize protestors to descend on Malaysia’s administrative capital, Putrajaya. The National Endowment for Democracy or NED, is a Washington-based foundation that supports democratic initiatives and US-friendly opposition groups abroad; it provides over $1 million to various projects in Malaysia each year, and most of the players now calling for overthrowing the regime are the recipients. According to the NED’s website, it conducts training, research, and leadership cultivation exercises with the governments of Penang and Selangor, key opposition-held states. Members of Barisan Nasional have denounced Ibrahim’s connections to the NED in the Malaysian Parliament, and the lack of transparency surrounding the funding.  

The electoral watchdog group Bersih has organized rallies calling for electoral reform, which many criticized as being as thinly veiled anti-government protests due to the participation of key opposition figures. Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim, a key player in the opposition prior to defecting from the DAP, claimed that Americans from US-based foundations were calling the shots and outlining the functions and operations of Bersih. “In the meeting, I was offered to head the watchdog because they said I have the credentials, integrity and credibility for the post. They told me that the movement was to ensure free and fair elections in the country,” he said, disclosing that he was offered some $4,000 monthly plus other perks and allowances for his position. Aziz also accused Malaysia’s opposition leader of using Bersih to channel support to his political campaign, “Anwar makes good use of his international networking to get these funds. I don’t know whether Bersih leaders knew it or not, but Bersih is Anwar’s vehicle to receive international funds under the guise of democracy and free and fair elections. Bersih is not a non-partisan independent organisation. It’s Anwar’s baby.” Aziz resisted overseas funding because he claims it compromises national integrity and dignity. “Local organisations should justify their existence to Malaysians, not to foreigners. Local organisations should not owe their existence and allegiance to foreigners,” he stressed.

Upon closer examination of the language used by these foundations, when they claim to be working toward “broadening the appeal of political parties,” a critical question comes to mind – when does so-called ‘democracy-promotion’ become political interference? The work of the NED has ostensibly blurred the line between the two, while masking their overt backing for actors they support in the benign language of electoral transparency, freedom and the promotion of human rights. The US has displayed an undeniable resurgence of interest in Southeast Asia as part of its Asia Pivot policy, ostensibly as a response to growing Chinese economic influence in the region. PM Najib Razak has attached primary importance to Malaysia’s relationship with Beijing, Malaysia’s largest trade partner. Washington’s backing for Malaysia’s US-friendly opposition must be seen in the context of its moves to bolster its military muscle and dominance over the Asia-Pacific region in line with its pivot. Malaysia is a key player in Southeast Asia, and Washington is doing what it can to tip the scale in favor of the opposition after its success in the 2008 elections and the 2013 elections. Despite the current administration’s considerable efforts to deepen ties to the US, Anwar’s history makes him more of an asset to US policy than the incumbent.

The ruling coalition is far from perfect, it is has failed to stifle issues of high-level corruption and elite opulence remains a huge problem. However, Malaysia was transformed from an exporter of rubber and tin into a key industrial player with strong domestic industries under its watch; it has overseen stable economic growth, while promising 3.3 million new jobs in the high-income sector and attracting multi-million dollar investments.

The ruling government will likely be able to ride through the coming barrage of protestors out with the express purpose of toppling the government, but analysts say if trends continue, the opposition will likely overcome and take power in the 2018 by the ballot box. PM Najib is now in a delicate position, and he must make greater efforts to address the trust deficit that exists between the people and the Malaysian leadership, and focus on implementing reforms to the EC that are recommended by observer groups to ensure greater transparency. The most pressing and arduous task ahead of him will be reestablishing trust with an angry, highly polarized and wary electorate. Malaysia has never experienced a change in government, but if Anwar Ibrahim ever finds himself at the helm, the nation will walk on unchartered political territory that will bring far-reaching changes, not only in economic and diplomatic directions of the country, but also in the state’s relationship with the moderate brand of Islam it was founded upon.  

Nile Bowie is a blogger and independent Malaysia-based political analyst. 

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CIA agents operate most everywhere.  Some pose as diplomats.

Diplomacy provides cover for why they’re sent. Christopher Fogle was caught red-handed. He was assigned to Washington’s Moscow embassy political section. He was third secretary.

A web site name search found no match. It’s no surprise why. He was arrested, declared persona non grata, and expelled. He got off easy. He committed espionage. He should have been imprisoned.

On May 14, Voice of Russia (VOR) headlined “FSB catches CIA Agent Controller red handed,” saying:

The previous evening, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said Fogle “was arrested while in the process of attempting to recruit a member of one of the Russian special services.” No name was mentioned.

According to the embassy’s political section, it

“presents US foreign and security policy positions to the Government of the Russian Federation and interprets for Washington, Russia’s major foreign, defense and security policies.”

“Also, (it) analyzes and reports on significant events and trends in Russian domestic politics (elections, political parties, Kremlin-regional relations, media, human rights etc.) in so far as they affect Russia’s relationship with the US.”

“The section consists of three units: External Affairs, Political-Military Affairs, Internal Affairs.”

In other words, it spies. It does so under cover of diplomacy. It’s much like during Cold War days. Washington spends unknown sums doing it. Black budgets aren’t revealed.

VOR said:

“While the CIA may place an agent or officer under official cover in any position, even ambassador, it is important to note that the section this particular agent was working in would have been responsible for whatever operations the US has connected to the recent Russian opposition and meddling in the elections processes in Russia.”

When Fogle was arrested, FSB said he had technical devices, a disguise, a large stack of 500-euro notes (about $650 each), and Russian instructions for an intelligence agent he tried to recruit.

A photo showed him lying face down. His arms were pinned behind his back. Instructions apparently were in letter form. It was addressed to a “Dear friend,” saying:

“YOUR COOPERATION VALUED”

“This is an advance from someone who has been highly impressed by your professionalism, and who would highly value your cooperation in the future.”

“We are willing to offer you $100,000 and discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation, and payment could be significantly larger, if you are willing to answer concrete questions.”

It added that $1 million annually would be paid for longterm cooperation. Bonuses were promised for special information.

Instructions explained an anonymous Internet cafe gmail account – [email protected] Write to the address was said, wait seven days, and check for an answer.

The closing comment was: “Thank you for reading this. We are very anxious for the opportunity to be working with you in the near future. Your friends.”

VOR said embassy undercover work is “old school….(W)hat’s interesting is the apparent desperation the CIA is operating under in attempting to obtain intelligence about Russia.”

Using an anonymous gmail address is another twist. Russia’s FSB said:

“Recently, the US intelligence community has repeatedly attempted to recruit employees of Russian law enforcement agencies and special departments.”

These attempts were “recorded and passed to FSB Counter-Intelligence.” It prevents widespread internal US meddling. It does so effectively.

Various schemes were discovered. Doing so foiled US schemes. VOR said Washington’s color revolution plot failed. USAID was expelled.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Channel 1 television aired comments from a man called an FSB officer. His identify was concealed. He said:

“Over the past two years we have been observing persistent attempts by the CIA to recruit employees of Russian law enforcement and security agencies.”

“We asked our American colleagues to discontinue such disturbing practices with regard to Russian citizens. However, our requests were ignored.”

He added that Russian counterintelligence knew Fogle was a career CIA agent the moment he arrived. He was closely monitored.

His foiled espionage mission wasn’t his first. His amateurish disguise wasn’t the first time he used one.

Other CIA operatives infest Russia. Its counterintelligence perhaps is on to their schemes. It’s had decades learning how. Its Cold War adversary hasn’t changed.

Golos is a so-called independent NGO election monitor. America’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds it.

In last year’s Russian elections, it alleged over 2,000 irregularities, including 900 in Moscow. Executive director Grigory Melkonyants claimed “massive serious violations.” He was well paid to say it.

NED, its National Democratic Institute (NDI) arm, the International Republican Institute (IRI), USAID, and similar organizations function as destabilizing US foreign policy tools.

Russia’s a prime target. The Cold War never ended. It’s reinvented in new form.

Taking NED or other foreign money violates Russian law. Making baseless accusations compounds malfeasance. Golos is considered a foreign agent.

It’s been fined two or more times. Charges involved violating Russian electoral law. It still operates. Strict new reporting measures are enforced. All NGOs must comply.

Washington’s subversion and destabilization schemes are harder to implement successfully. Fewer opportunities are afforded.

Moscow prefers cooperative relations with America. Good faith offers are made. Washington’s confrontational policies prevent them.

America’s covert war persists. It’s much like the bad old days. Names, faces, strategies and technology alone changed.

Russian effectiveness in preventing CIA subversion exposes a “very large gap in US intelligence,” said VOR.

Michael McFaul is US ambassador. On May 15, he was summoned to Russia’s Foreign Minister to explain. The previous day, he refused to answer journalists’ questions. He faced tougher official ones.

At the same time, Moscow’s Center for Political Information general director Alexei Mukhin believes Russian-US relations won’t change much. “Despite being a very unpleasant incident,” he said, “it is still more or an embarrassment.”

He’s likely right. Both countries know the other spies. Most nations do it. Key is not getting caught. Other issues take precedence. They affect normalized relations.

Last December, America’s Magnitsky Act became law. Putin called it “purely political (and) unfriendly.”

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian attorney. In 2009, he died in police custody. His death drew international media attention.

He specialized in civil law. He did anti-corruption work. He uncovered evidence of tax fraud. He implicated police, judiciary figures, tax officials, bankers, and Russia’s mafia.

He accused them of stealing around $230 million dollars in 2007 through fraudulent tax refunds.

Initially his death was blamed on medical neglect. Later claims suggested murder. Official investigations began. In July 2011, death by medical neglect was ruled.

Enacting Magnitsky normalized US/Russian trade relations. Doing so came with strings. Moscow raised legitimate objections.

The legislation imposes visa bans, asset freezes, and other sanctions on Russian nationals accused of committing human rights abuses. Other disturbing provisions were included.

Russia responded. The Dima Yakovlev bill was enacted. It imposes visa bans and asset freezes on US officials accused of violating the rights of Russian citizens abroad.

It prohibits US-sponsored NGOs from operating in Russia disruptively. It also targets US citizens associated with them. Another provision bans US citizens from adopting Russian orphans.

At issue is neglect causing harm or death. Dima Yakovlev was a Russian boy. His adoptive father’s reprehensible negligence and abuse caused his death. He was acquitted on manslaughter charges.

Lax US adoption laws and follow-through procedures prevent knowing how other Russian orphans are treated.

US-Russia 2009 reset policies promised a “fresh start.” Rhetoric was more promise than fulfillment. Washington’s intentions prevent normalized relations. Obama is more belligerent than Bush. Conflict is prioritized over diplomacy.

Encircling Russia with US bases is major thorn affecting normalized relations. Militarizing North Africa, the Middle East and part of Eurasia breached GHW Bush’s pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev not to do so.

Washington’s promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Russia understands well. At a time no nation threatens America, the Pentagon maintain a growing network of well over 1,000 global bases. Unknown secret ones exist.

Many are positioned near Russia’s borders. Doing so is provocative and belligerent. So called missile defense systems and advanced tracking radar are for offense, not defense.

Friendly countries don’t treat others this way. Doing so is fraught with risks. Russia knows it’s targeted. US policy destroys trust.

Fogel’s arrest appears strategically timed. On June 17 and 18, Putin and Obama will attend the G8 summit. It’s scheduled for Northern Ireland. They’ll likely talk privately.

In September, they’ll meet again. The G20 summit is scheduled for St. Petersburg. Egg on Obama’s face affords Putin more leverage. How things will play out remains to be seen.

Major bilateral and geopolitical issues must be addressed. On May 15, Russia Today (RT) headlined “Presidential post: Putin’s response to Obama letter to be ‘mailed’ soon.”

Obama’s letter discussed missile defense, nuclear disarmament and transparent interaction. Putin’s response is expected shortly. It’s “exact content” isn’t known.

Russia’s Kommersant daily learned the main topics. RT said Obama proposed a legally binding agreement. He wants to assure neither country plans aggressive moves against the other.

It bears repeating, American promises aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. The 2010 New Start treaty was deeply flawed. It reflected old wine in new bottles.

Nuclear disarmament isn’t planned. Rhetoric changed, not policy. Washington plans new, upgraded weapons. They’ll replace outdated ones.

Dangerous testing continues. First-strike capability is prioritized. Plans include doing so from space. Putin understands the threat.  Mutual distrust won’t change. Putin has just cause for concern.

On May 15, he chaired a council of Russia’s top military officials. Discussion focused on developing defensive missile systems. At issue is countering America’s threat. It’s a menace too great to ignore.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.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 Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/russia-catches-cia-spy-red-handed/

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Road to the Riches: Tracking the Journey of the Superwealthy

May 16th, 2013 by Global Research News

How Rich is Rich?

Growth of the Global Billionaire Population

While nearly 1 in 2 people on this planet have a net worth of less than $10,000, a select few are worth more than a million dollars.

And an even more select group is worth a billion or more.

 

Road to Riches: Tracking the Journey of the Global Superwealthy
Image source: www.bestvalueschools.com

Road to Riches: Tracking the Journey of the Global Superwealthy

 

How Rich is Rich?

While nearly 1 in 2 people on this planet have a net worth of less than $10,000, a select few are worth more than a million dollars. And an even more select group is worth a billion or more.

Composition of net worth around the world

– >$1 million – 29,000,000
– $100,000-$1 million – 344,000,000
– $10,000-$100,000 – 1,035,000,000
– <$10,000 – 3,184,000,000

Snapshot of Superwealth

Here is a look at the number of billionaires by region, including projections
– Country – 2011 – 2012 – 2022
– Africa – 25 – 35 – 75
– Asia – 496 – 543 – 1191
– Europe – 672 – 708 – 1115
– Latin America – 123 – 145 – 301
– Middle East – 128 – 140 – 203
– North America – 487 – 586 – 1146
– Australasia – 36 – 41 – 45

Growth of global billionaire population

– 2011 – 2012 – 2022
– 1967 – 2198 – 4076

Top 30 global cities by high net worth population ($30 million+), 2012

– New York – 7,580
– London – 6,015
– Tokyo – 5,440
– San Francisco – 4,590
– Los Angeles – 4,520
– Beijing – 2,285
– Mumbai – 2,105
– Hong Kong – 3,205
– Sao Paulo – 1,880
– Rio de Janeiro – 1,740
– Delhi – 1,945
– Mexico City – 2,585
– Osaka – 2,970
– Shanghai – 1,415
– Chicago – 2,615
– Paris – 2,860
– Houston – 2,295
– Washington DC – 2,395
– Dallas – 2,020
– Toronto – 1,765
– Zurich – 1,805
– Munich – 1,670
– Singapore – 1,345
– Sydney – 1,405
– Dusseldorf – 1,420
– Hamburg – 1,370
– Geneva – 1,360
– Melbourne – 1,150
– Frankfurt – 1,220
– Rome – 1,130

Luxury Locations

 

How many square feet does $1 million buy?
– In Monaco – 14
– In London – 19
– In Paris – 32
– In Moscow – 36
– In New York – 37
– In Sydney – 37
– In Beijing – 49
– In Miami – 57
– In Tokyo – 60
– In Mumbai – 75
– In Istanbul – 85
– In Sao Paolo – 114

Most expensive neighborhoods in the world

– Seventh Arrondissement, Paris, France
– Average home price: $1.2 million

– La Jolla, San Diego, California
– Average home price: $1.7 million

– TriBeCa, New York City
– Average home price: $1.76 million

– Shibuya Neighborhood, Tokyo, Japan
– Average home price: $1.8 million

– Sea Island, Georgia
– Average home price: $2.23 million

– Victoria Peak, Hong Kong
– Average home price: $3.5 million

– Pacific Heights, San Francisco, California
– Average home price: $4.5 million

– Belle Haven, Greenwich, Connecticut
– Average home price: $5 million

– Jupiter Island, Florida
– Average home price: $5.6 million

– Kensington Palace Gardens, London, England
– Average home price: $85 million

Most expensive residential buildings in the world

– One Hyde Park, London – $220 million
– One57, New York – $90 million
– Opus, Hong Kong – $56 million
– Absolute Tower, Mississauga, Canada – $3.1 million
– Aqua, Chicago – $1.1 million

SOURCES

– Knight Frank
– http://www.askmen.com/top_10/travel_top_ten_60/98b_travel_top_ten.html
– http://worth.com/index.php?option=com_listings&view=slideshow&id=12
– http://www.propertyobserver.com.au/overseas/gehry-s-opus-secures-second-record-hong-kong-apartment-price-in-three-months/2012111357824
– http://realestate.yourmoney.ca/2011/12/905-condo-on-the-market-for-32-million.html
– http://www.highrises.com/chicago/aqua-condos/

 

 

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Economics and Armchair Psychology

May 16th, 2013 by John Kozy

Image: John Maynard Keynes

“Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man.”― Henry Hazlitt

Over millennia, numerous enterprises have sought the status of science. Few have succeeded because they have failed to discover anything that stood up to scrutiny as knowledge. No body of beliefs, no matter how widely accepted or how extensive in scope, can ever be scientific.

In the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the epicycle is a geometric model of the solar system and planetary motion. It was first proposed by Apollonius of Perga at the end of the 3rd century BCE and its development continued until Kepler came up with a better model in the 17th century, and the geocentric model of the solar system was replaced by Copernican heliocentrism. In spite of some very good approximations to the problems of planetary motion, the system of epicycles could never get anything right.

Phrenology was originated by Franz Joseph Gall [right] in the late 1700s. After examining the heads of a number of young pickpockets, Gall found that many of them had bumps on their skulls just above their ears and suggested that the bumps, indentations, and shape of the skull could be linked to different aspects of a person’s personality, character, and abilities. Gall measured the skulls of people in prisons, hospitals, and asylums and developed a system of 27 different “faculties” that he believed could be directly diagnosed by assessing specific parts of the head, and he chose to ignore any contradictory evidence. After Gall’s death in 1828, several of his followers continued to develop phrenology. Despite some brief popularity, it was eventually viewed as a pseudoscience much like astrology, numerology, and palmistry. All of these, too, could never get anything right.

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who is known as the father of psychoanalysis which is a clinical method for treating psychopathology by having a patient talk to a psychoanalyst. Results on the mental health of patients were scanty at best. Some contend that Freud set back the study of psychology and psychiatry “by something like fifty years or more”, and that “Freud’s method is not capable of yielding objective data about mental processes”. Others consider psychoanalysis to be perhaps the most complex and successful pseudoscience in history. Karl Popper, who argued that all proper scientific theories must be potentially falsifiable, claimed that no experiment could ever disprove Freud’s psychoanalytic theories and thus were totally unscientific. Now Freud’s work has little relevance in psychiatry. It could never cure anyone. But it was not Freud who created a  pseudoscience, it was the people who uncritically adopted his views.

Today the great fraudulent science is economics, but I don’t intend to beat that carcass. It has been shown not to be a science by numerous astute people. Even some renowned economists have been convinced of it. Paul Samuelson has said, “Economics has never been a science—and it is even less now than a few years ago.” Even Nassau William Senior knew it: “The confounding Political Economy with the Sciences and Arts to which it is subservient, has been one of the principal obstacles to its improvement.”

Yet many working economists continue to claim that it is or at least that it is more of a science than its siblings in the social enterprises of study. Perhaps these people feel that their work lacks dignity if it is not scientific, being unable to say exactly what it is if it is not science. So let’s look at some things that economists regularly do to see if what they are doing can be defined.

Jared Bernstein [right], with a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from Columbia University, is not technically an economist but he has held many positions that an economist would usually hold. He was chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute. Between 1995 and 1996, he held the post of deputy chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. His pieces are frequently posted on Economist’s View where I found a piece containing the following section:

the deeper, and more interesting, reason one worries about too-low inflation right now comes out of the work of Ackerlof et al back in the mid-1990s. It has to do with sticky wages, something Keynes recognized as contributing to intractably high UK unemployment back in the early 1920s. Back in the mid-90s, we also faced a period when price growth was slowing, and inflation hawks called for the Fed to set zero as their inflation target. Alan Greenspan apparently took it seriously, and internally debated the idea.

That inspired Ackerlof et al to think about what might happen in a zero inflation economy, and what they found was that it would engender significant costs in terms of unemployment and growth.

The reason that zero inflation creates such large costs to the economy is that firms are reluctant to cut wages. In both good times and bad, some firms and industries do better than others. Wages need to adjust to accommodate these differences in economic fortunes. In times of moderate inflation and productivity growth, relative wages can easily adjust. The unlucky firms can raise the [nominal] wages they pay by less than the average, while the lucky firms can give above-average increases. However, if productivity growth is low (as it has been since the early 1970s in the United States) and there is no inflation, firms that need to cut their relative wages can do so only by cutting the money [i.e., nominal] wages of their employees. Because they do not want to do this, they keep relative wages too high and employment too low.

As long as there’s a little inflation in the system, “less fortunate” firms can give nominal wage increases below the rate of inflation, allowing them to adjust to harder times. With very low inflation, they don’t have the room to pull that off.

When I read this, I recognized that the fuzzy writing, which is always a symptom of bad thinking, lead to entirely the wrong conclusions. First we see that “firms are reluctant to cut wages.” Then we see that firms cut wages by giving “nominal wage increases below the rate of inflation” which, apparently, firms are not at all “reluctant” to do. The conclusion that aches to be drawn is that inflation allows firms to covertly reduce the wages of their employees, and it does that regardless of the firms’ financial conditions, since nothing prohibits any firm from giving raises below the rate of inflation. Bernstein wants the rate of inflation to be higher so employers can engage in this sneaky way of reducing the wages of their employees. Inflation is good for employers but bad for employees.

Bernstein is involved in equation adjusting, a prevalent practice among economists. An equation exists; economists call it a model. The equation, they believe, describes reality albeit in a simplistic way. When economic data is plugged into the equation, if both sides are unequal, one side, or sometimes both sides, must be adjusted to make both sides equal. I don’t know what specific equation Bernstein has in mind, but I know that one side describes, in mathematical terms, the economic conditions firms face, and the other side describes the costs of production. So when the side that describes the economic conditions the firms face declines, something on the other side must be reduced.

For Bernstein, it’s wages. But what has the equation to do with reality? Economists believe that their equations describe reality accurately, but no model ever comes accompanied by a proof that it does. As Keynes pointed out, “Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.” As others have pointed out, the map is not the territory.

When the model that Bernstein has in mind is combined with what economists call the Paradox of Thrift (the claim that saving benefits consumers but damages the economy and spending, which benefits the economy, damages consumers), it follows that Capitalism can never be made to function in a way that benefits all people.

Economic models are based on mere beliefs, many of which can never be known to be true. Consider the following claims for instance:

“Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that.” Adam Smith

“Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command.” Adam Smith

“That every person is desirous to obtain, with as little sacrifice as possible, as much as possible of the articles of wealth.” Nassau William Senior

“Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state.” Frederic Bastiat

“People spend more when they feel wealthier, even if they’re not.: Economists call this the “wealth effect,”

“the consumption of the rich is no more than a scaled-up version of the consumption of the poor”

And then there’s this from Dani Rodrik: “Mainstream economists are often seen as ideologues of the market economy. I would concede that most of my economist colleagues tend to view markets as inherently desirable and government intervention as inherently unwelcome. But in reality what we teach our students in the classroom – the advanced students if not the undergraduates –and what we talk about in the seminar room are typically much more about the myriad ways in which markets fail.”

How could anyone know any of these things? Did Adam Smith spend a lot of time observing the behavior of dogs? And even if he did, what would that have taught him about trade? In what sense do public school teachers or nurses continually exert themselves to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital s/he can command? How many readers of this piece want to live at the expense of the state? And how many economics teachers have had their teaching observed by Prof. Rodrik? No evidence exists for the truth of any of these examples.

So why do economists make claims like these? Is it because these claims describe how they themselves would behave if given the opportunity? Was Bastiat spectacularly lazy? Was Smith really a greedy man? If those who make such claims wouldn’t have acted in the ways they described, wouldn’t they then know that the claims were false?

These all are unprovable claims about human (or canine) nature. Economics as we know it is nothing but claims about how human beings will act in given circumstances. As such, it is nothing but armchair psychology, and the psychology is based on the psychological attributes of the economists making the claims. Greedy people believe that all people are. Dishonest people believe that all people are. Corrupt people believe that all people are. Evil people believe that all people are. But, you know, they’re wrong! Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale, says.

When it comes to accepting or changing the status quo . . . [people] tended to “defer to experts or the community.” Economists assume that “everything is subject to market pricing unless proven otherwise. … The problem is not that economists are unreasonable people, it’s that they’re evil people. … They work in a different moral universe.”

Martin Feldstein tells us how its all supposed to work:

“When the Fed buys long-term government bonds and mortgage-backed securities, private investors are no longer able to buy those long-term assets. Investors who want long-term securities therefore have to buy equities [stocks]. That drives up the price of equities, leading to more consumer spending [wealth effect].”

But it doesn’t work, does it?

Economists have been carrying coal to Newcastle since Adam Smith provided English merchants with a rationalization of what they had always wanted to do—treat their fellow human beings as beasts of burden. Economists continue to perform the same function.

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”—John Maynard Keynes

Economics is not about economy; it is a way or organizing society. Our economists have resuscitated an old social order. We live in a neofeudal world where the elite rentier group lives in manor mansions and everyone else is a serf.

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

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Obama ‘Is a War Criminal’

May 15th, 2013 by Common Dreams

by Jacob Chamberlain

In an interview with the Guardian published on Sunday, renowned professor and prolific critic of the “military-industrial-complex” and rampant “plutocracy” in the U.S. and around the world, Dr. Cornel West explained his views on the state of America today and his fall from grace, by design, with President Barack Obama:

“He’s just too tied to Wall Street. And at this point he is a war criminal.”

“They say I’m un-American,” West told interviewer Hugh Muir, referring to Obama’s team.

But from someone who actively campaigned for the man, only to be quickly and vastly disappointed, West sees in Obama the epitome of Washington corruption:

“He talked about Martin Luther King over and over again as he ran,” West said of their campaign stops together, adding later, “You can’t just invoke Martin Luther King like that and not follow through on his priorities in some way.”

“King died fighting not just against poverty but against carpet-bombing in Vietnam; the war crimes under Nixon and Kissinger.”

Cornel West (Photo: David Levene / the Guardian, right)

West goes on:

You can’t meet every Tuesday with a killer list and continually have drones drop bombs. You can do that once or twice and say: ‘I shouldn’t have done that, I’ve got to stop.’ But when you do it month in, month out, year in, year out – that’s a pattern of behavior.” […]

I think there is a chance of a snowball in hell that he will ever be tried, but I think he should be tried and I said the same about George Bush. These are war crimes. We suffer in this age from an indifference toward criminality and a callousness to catastrophe when it comes to poor and working people.” […]

“I knew he would have rightwing opposition, but he hasn’t tried,” West said of Obama’s unwillingness to curb Wall Street’s hold on Washington. “When he came in, he brought in Wall Street-friendly people – Tim Geithner, Larry Summers – and made it clear he had no intention of bailing out homeowners, supporting trade unions.”

And later:

And he hasn’t said a mumbling word about the institutions that have destroyed two generations of young black and brown youth, the new Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex. It’s not about race. It is about commitment to justice. He should be able to say that in the last few years, with the shift from 300,000 inmates to 2.5 million today, there have been unjust policies and I intend to do all I can. Maybe he couldn’t do that much. But at least tell the truth. I would rather have a white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones.”

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During the run-up to the Iraq War, the New York Times amplified erroneous official claims about weapons of mass destruction (FAIR Action Alert, 9/8/06). Looking at the paper’s coverage of allegations of chemical weapons use by Syria, some of the same patterns are clear: an over-reliance on official sources and the downplaying of critical or skeptical analysis of the available intelligence.

In “Syria Faces New Claim on Chemical Arms” (4/19/13), the paper told readers that, according to anonymous diplomats, Britain and France had sent letters to the United Nations about “credible evidence” against Syria regarding chemical weapon use. On April 24, the Times reported that Israel had “evidence that the Syrian government repeatedly used chemical weapons last month.”

The next day (4/25/13), the Times reported that, according to an unnamed “senior official,” the White House “shares the suspicions of several of its allies that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.” The article spoke of the “mounting pressure to act against Syria,” adding, “Some analysts say they worry that if the United States waits too long, it will embolden President Bashar al-Assad.”

And then on April 26, under the headline “White House Says Syria Has Used Chemical Arms,” the Times reported:

The White House, in a letter to congressional leaders, said the nation’s intelligence agencies assessed ”with varying degrees of confidence” that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had used the chemical agent sarin on a small scale.

The story included a source, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), who presented the intelligence as more definitive: She “said the agencies actually expressed more certainty about the use of these weapons than the White House indicated in its letter.”

An April 27 Times report warned that there were dangers in waiting too long to respond to the charges that Syria has used chemical weapons:

If the president waits for courtroom levels of proof, what has been a few dozen deaths from chemical weapons–in a war that has claimed more than 70,000 lives–could multiply.

In following days, the accusations of chemical weapons use were presented uncritically as the premise for political stories: pondering how the White House would “respond to growing evidence that Syrian officials have used chemical weapons” (4/28/13) or noting Republican attacks on the White House following “revelations last week that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, is believed to have used chemical weapons against his own people” (4/29/13).

On May 5, the Times was again weighing in on the political ramifications:

Confronted with evidence that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, President Obama now finds himself in a geopolitical box, his credibility at stake with frustratingly few good options.

Then, on May 5 came an unusual shift: Carla Del Ponte, a member of a United Nations team investigating human rights abuses in the Syrian civil war, claimed that the UN had collected evidence that chemical weapons had been used in Syria–but by the rebels, not by the government.

After running a Reuters dispatch on May 6, the Times published its own piece on May 7, a report that talked about “new questions about the use of chemical weapons.” But the emphasis was clearly on rebutting the charges: The paper reported that the White House had “cast doubt on an assertion by a United Nations official that the Syrian rebels…had used the nerve agent sarin.” The piece included three U.S. sources–one named, two unnamed–who questioned the Del Ponte claims.

 The article went on to reiterate that the White House was weighing other options based on “its conclusion that there was a strong likelihood that the Assad government has used chemical weapons on its citizens.”

Outside the New York Times, though, doubts about the evidence pointing to Syrian use of poison gas  were evident from the very start. McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay (4/26/13) reported that one source characterized the U.S. intelligence as “tiny little data points” that were of “low to moderate” confidence.

 An April 30 report from GlobalPost noted that a “spent canister” at the scene of one attack “and the symptoms displayed by the victims are inconsistent with a chemical weapon such as sarin gas.” A subsequent GlobalPost dispatch (5/5/13) reported that blood samples tested in Turkey were not turning up evidence of sarin exposure.

 NBC reporter Richard Engel (5/8/13) traveled to Syria with rebel forces to examine evidence they had collected. He seemed to concur with the GlobalPost reports that the chemical exposure could very well have been from a type of tear gas.

By May 7, McClatchy was reporting that the case was looking weaker, noting that no concrete proof has emerged, and some headline-grabbing claims have been discredited or contested. Officials worldwide now admit that no allegations rise to the level of certainty…. Existing evidence casts more doubt on claims of chemical weapons use than it does to help build a case that one or both sides of the conflict have employed them.

It is clear that the Times has promoted a storyline that treats the chemical weapons claims as more definitive than they are, and has given scant attention to subsequent revelations about the evidence.

In a recent column (5/5/13), Times public editor Margaret Sullivan argued that the paper still faces problems with its credibility based on its reporting about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction over 10 years ago. The Times “pledged more skeptical and rigorous reporting” going forward, and Sullivan argues that the Times “has taken important steps” in that direction.

But does the paper’s handling of the Syria chemical weapons stories demonstrate that the paper has learned lessons? Or is it repeating the same mistakes?

ACTION:

Ask the New York Times public editor to evaluate the paper’s reporting on Syria and chemical weapons.

CONTACT:

New York Times

Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor

[email protected]

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Top Constitutional Experts: Obama Is Worse than Nixon

May 15th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Objective Analysis: Obama Versus Nixon

In the wake of the twin scandals of the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Department of Justice spying on AP reporters, the comparisons between Obama and Nixon are everywhere.

But what do experts say?

Former New York Times general counsel James Goodale – who represented the paper during its Pentagon Papers fight with the Nixon administration – said in an interview yesterday that Obama is worse than Nixon when it comes to press freedoms. And see this.

Former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald noted last year:

We supposedly learned important lessons from the abuses of power of the Nixon administration, and then of the Bush administration: namely, that we don’t trust government officials to exercise power in the dark, with no judicial oversight, with no obligation to prove their accusations. Yet now we hear exactly this same mentality issuing from Obama, his officials and defenders to justify a  far more extreme power than either Nixon or Bush dreamed of asserting: he’s only killing The Bad Citizens, so there’s no reason to object!

Jonathan Turley – perhaps the top constitutional law expert in the United States (and a liberal) – writes:

The painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.

Four decades ago, Nixon was halted in his determined effort to create an “imperial presidency” with unilateral powers and privileges. In 2013, Obama wields those very same powers openly and without serious opposition. The success of Obama in acquiring the long-denied powers of Nixon is one of his most remarkable, if ignoble, accomplishments. Consider a few examples:

Warrantless surveillance

Nixon’s use of warrantless surveillance led to the creation of a special court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). But the reform turned out to be more form than substance. The secret court turned “probable cause” into a meaningless standard, virtually guaranteeing any surveillance the government wanted. After hundreds of thousands of applications over decades, only a couple have ever been denied.

Last month, the Supreme Court crushed any remaining illusions regarding FISA when it sided with the Obama administration in ruling that potential targets of such spying had to have proof they were spied upon before filing lawsuits, even if the government has declared such evidence to be secret. That’s only the latest among dozens of lawsuits the administration has blocked while surveillance expands exponentially.

Unilateral military action

Nixon’s impeachment included the charge that he evaded Congress’ sole authority to declare war by invading Cambodia. In the Libyan “mission,” Obama announced that only he had the inherent authority to decide what is a “war” and that so long as he called it something different, no congressional approval or even consultation was necessary. He proceeded to bomb a nation’s capital, destroy military units and spend more than a billion dollars in support of one side in a civil war.

Kill lists

Nixon ordered a burglary to find evidence to use against Daniel Ellsberg, who gave the famed Pentagon Papers to the press, and later tried to imprison him. Ellsberg was later told of a secret plot by the White House “plumbers” to “incapacitate” him in a physical attack. It was a shocking revelation. That’s nothing compared with Obama’s assertion of the right to kill any U.S. citizen without a charge, let alone conviction, based on his sole authority. A recently leaked memo argues that the president has a right to kill a citizen even when he lacks “clear evidence (of) a specific attack” being planned.

Attacking whistle-blowers

Nixon was known for his attacks on whistle-blowers. He used the Espionage Act of 1917 to bring a rare criminal case against Ellsberg. Nixon was vilified for the abuse of the law. Obama has brought twice as many such prosecutions as all prior presidents combined [and see this]. While refusing to prosecute anyone for actual torture, the Obama administration has prosecuted former CIA employee John Kiriakou for disclosing the torture program.

Other Nixonesque areas include Obama’s overuse of classification laws and withholding material from Congress. There are even missing tapes. In the torture scandal, CIA officials admitted to destroying tapes that they feared could be used against them in criminal cases. Of course, Nixon had missing tapes, but Rose Mary Woods claimed to have erased them by mistake, as opposed to current officials who openly admit to intentional destruction.

Obama has not only openly asserted powers that were the grounds for Nixon’s impeachment, but he has made many love him for it. More than any figure in history, Obama has been a disaster for the U.S. civil liberties movement. By coming out of the Democratic Party and assuming an iconic position, Obama has ripped the movement in half. Many Democrats and progressive activists find themselves unable to oppose Obama for the authoritarian powers he has assumed. It is not simply a case of personality trumping principle; it is a cult of personality.

Long after Watergate, not only has the presidency changed. We have changed. We have become accustomed to elements of a security state such as massive surveillance and executive authority without judicial oversight. We have finally answered a question left by Benjamin Franklin in 1787, when a Mrs. Powel confronted him after the Constitutional Convention and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” His chilling response: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

We appear to have grown weary of the republic and traded it for promises of security from a shining political personality. Somewhere, Nixon must be wondering how it could have been this easy.

Nixon’s “Enemies List” is famous, and the former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program says that Obama also has an enemies list … which has been used to take down a wide variety of people, including the head of the CIA. The Washington Post’s Ed Rogers notes:

Obama doesn’t need a traditional Nixonian enemies list. In the digital age, with the Obama machine’s much-celebrated technological capabilities, the president can sort his enemies by keywords.

You’ve heard about the AP spying scandal, and the head of the Department of Justice implies that the government has spied on many other reporters.

Reporters who criticize those in power are being smeared by the government and targeted for arrest (and see this).

Indeed, the Obama administration is treating real reporters as potential terrorists.

After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge.

Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange could face the death penalty for his heinous crime of leaking whistleblower information which make those in power uncomfortable … i.e. being a reporter.

Daniel Ellsberg notes that Obama’s claimed power to indefinitely detain people without charges or access to a lawyer or the courts is a power that even King George didn’t claim.  Former judge and adjunct professor of constitutional law Andrew Napolitano points out that Obama’s claim that he can indefinitely detain prisoners even after they are acquitted of their crimes is a power that even Hitler and Stalin didn’t claim.

Indeed, Obama has turned America into the most spied upon nation in world history, and has rolled back liberties to the time of the enactment of the Magna Carta in 1215.

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Growing Racism and the Social Crisis in Greece

May 15th, 2013 by Sofiane Ait Chalalet

Listen to the voices of refugees in the centre of Athens. If we hear them clearly, we will have no doubt as to what needs to be done. We need to reject totally all those  who seek to present refugees as criminals, as sub humans, as garbage or terrorists as a means of protecting their privileges.

Refugees can only survive by the kindness and friendship of strangers who very often become life long friends. Support from family networks wherever they exist are also important. Just as we discovered during our visits to the West Bank of Palestine, we came across extraordinary solidarity and friendships amongst the mainly Algerian refugees with whom we recently spent 3 days in central Athens.

Accommodation, food, clothing, work, health needs and more are mainly met through these solidarities. There is nothing from the Greek state, there is nothing from their embassy, and what few resources are available from citizen support groups hardly touch the problems they face or can deal with the immediacy of the problem. So much happens at night. Who helps them then? Each other.

 Take Mohammed. He told how he arrived in Athens after spending 3 months in the detention centre on Samos, alone and knowing nobody. But he knew the areas where the Algerians gathered. Having coffee in the area, Amin joined him realising that Mohammed with his packed back pack was new to the city. Mohammed lived with Amin and his wife for the next 3 months. People together who had never previously met.

Samir was released the night before we arrived. He had been 9 months in a police cell. His crime? No papers. He arrived in the neighbourhood late at night and was immediately found a room. The next day he was vomiting blood.  He had been beaten repeatedly by the police during his jail time. All his care came from other refugees.

There is a lot of moving around rooms. Some had their own places and if they had spare rooms these would be available to any who needed them. Those without a fixed base would move around, not because of any sense of overstaying their welcome, but rather they wanted to see other friends. They might not always have water or electricity in their houses but if they had space it was offered.

If you have, you give, is taken for granted amongst those we met. It is not something to be talked about but to be done. There are no conditions. It is beautiful to see people with so little being so generous.  Just as on the West Bank, all the refugees we met had experienced bad things either to themselves or to close friends. One told of  how his wife miscarried after a police beating, another of a  friend who had died of cancer but got so little help. The  Algerian embassy refused to repatriate the body so it was left to the refugees to collect the money to fly the body home. Most had experience of being swept up, humiliated on the streets and held for varying lengths of time in police cells. That there is still humour and laughter, that so many remain steadfast, is due entirely to their solidarities.

Such attitudes and behaviour are crucial to ‘staying strong’.

Food, a room, clothes are just one aspect to staying strong. More importantly, we were told again and again, it was what was in your head that mattered. Staying strong meant being a human being with dignity and being a part of humanity. The terror of never knowing when you might be picked up and beaten by the police, for no reason; the terror of having been beaten up in your own home by police young enough to be your children; the sick feeling that comes from hearing the Greek prime minister state that one of the first objectives of his government was to take the cities back from the migrants; of daily confronting a police system that allows you to be robbed, beaten and messed around for no reason and with total impunity for the aggressor: all of these and more demand strength. Without strength these feelings can defeat you.

If we really want to understand what is going on we must listen to the refugees. They know that they are the victims of a system that quickly resorts to racism to deflect the anger and distress of the   majority population that is suffering under this crisis. The Algerians we met loved the Greek people in their neighbourhood. They talked of them as being of a similar character to themselves in their attitudes to work and living – ‘a relaxed people’ like themselves. They shared their pain at the devastation of the small shops and bars in their area and the loss of work and income. And who could ever remain unaffected by seeing so much suffering and hardship in the streets around you no matter what their origins?

An Algerian in his late 50s who had been in this neighbourhood for 10 years, laughed as he told a crowd of us in the coffee bar how police hassled him recently saying all Algerians are thieves and were disturbing Greek lives. He told them to go and arrest some bankers. But another younger guy was clearly cowed by his experience of being repeatedly slapped around the face in his room. Every time the policeman slapped his face he would shout “all Algerians are thieves”  – slap – “You are barbarians; primitive” -slap-  You have no right to be here” – slap – and “ You are garbage!” -slap. This guy was frightened. He stayed in his room for most of the day. He was scared to be outside.

That the Algerian embassy does nothing for their migrants in Athens might normally deepen these vulnerabilities. We heard many stories about appeals to the embassy. When a small group went to the embassy to demand that they protest to the Greek government about the violence and attacks from Golden Dawn, they were told by Embassy staff that there was nothing they could do. They also told  the refugees that they had not been invited to Greece and if they didn’t like what they found, should move on. For some, this just showed once more how the system works. They expect nothing from their embassy. Nothing. But even so when it came to ensuring that Algerians could get their papers and ID’s confirmed, or for registering the birth of a child or helping fly someone sick or dying home, the Embassy’s refusal provoked disgust.

Growing Racism

Those Algerians who had been in Athens for some years all spoke  about the ways in which racism was deepening and growing, mirroring the on going economic decline and the rise in violent austerity measures. Neither, they said, was this just happening in Greece. In many places, those on the outlying margins of society are being demonised  and presented as the cause and not the victim of the crisis; ‘of capitalism’ as one young Algerian told us. The forms of victimisation are various, but in Athens it has taken the form of presenting all Algerian refugees as criminal. But any criminalisation of the refugees is entirely due to the actions of the Greek state which refuses them  so many of the fundamental rights to life, work and travel.

Understanding the way in which racism works for  the system by dividing people and making them weak, helps keep you strong. It helps you be clear about what the enemy is and not slip into the trap of the elites who would love you to hate with equal measure the people around you infected by the racist virus. But it is hard. Racist violence of all kinds hurts.

The growth of racism is disturbing to many of those we met. It is the hatred which is so frightening. Where is it going to end? Where are the racist police of today going be in 10 years time? What damage would people do to themselves if they turn ever more to racism? These anxieties are deepened by the knowledge that the Greek state itself is deeply implicated in the process and  legitimates, protects and encourages its growth. For the Algerians we met for example, there was no distinction to be made between the police and Golden Dawn. They were simply interchangeable. Everybody knew that the police could beat you and imprison you with utter impunity. They all knew of some such as lawyers who had tried to help them but were then moved against and silenced. They all knew that Greece has no anti-racist legislation which could protect them. They all knew that no police had been punished even though half of the reported cases of racist violence in the past year are attributed to the police. In any event to report the violence of police was a no brainer as it simply brought you more pain. They all knew that many police were active supporters of Golden Dawn and worked directly with them.

But there is another side to this story too. Conversations in the cafeterias also tell of victories, big and small against the police. Of  winning places where they can meet and relax knowing the police are scared to come close because they will be hassled and threatened. Gaining such free spaces is uplifting both in  keeping the racists out and providing places where people can breathe air free from fear.

 The scale of the intelligence to be found in such cafeterias and bars is extensive and vital to the survival of the refugees. This is where you can find a room when you have just arrived. This is where you find out what is going on in the neigbourhood and the city. This is where you find out who is hurting and needs help. This is where you can get news of your friends, and networks. This is where you can talk things through. Where you can relax.

However, you don’t need to walk the streets for long to realise that many around you have not stayed strong and who have not been able to withstand the incredible pressure. Heroin addiction is a big problem. It is available and relatively cheap. Addiction in this context is a nightmare. What temporary relief it might bring is overwhelmed by its consequences including loss of appetite and paranoia. It calls on no genius to explain the causes of heroin addiction amongst some of the refugees nor to recognise that calls for more drug counsellors are no answer. Just as it is no solution to press for better conditions in detention centres and police cells when the people should never have lost their freedom in the first place.

Listen to the refugees. They can tell us much. Solidarities keep them alive and human  in the most terrible of circumstances.  But what they have to endure is almost beyond belief. And for what reason – because they have not got the right paper or right skin colour and class background ? Ask the refugees what they stand for, and the most common response is “for humanity”. That says it all.

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The ironically named criminal justice system in this country is good at prosecuting and creating many criminals but not very good at producing any justice. The United States would not have the largest prison population of any other country on earth if it did not also have the harshest prosecution and sentencing system of any other country. America’s addiction to racism and violence creates outright criminality among police and prosecutors. Their misconduct is tolerated and even encouraged and the result is an untold number of innocent people in jail.

In 1989, five New York City teenagers, four black and one Latino, were convicted of raping and assaulting a then anonymous woman known as the Central Park jogger. In the now infamous case the teens were coerced into giving false video taped confessions. None of the established procedures for interviewing minors were in place and police and prosecutors broke the law in order to convict them. Unable to pay for good legal representation and convicted in the court of public opinion, the five spent between six and thirteen years behind bars.

In 2002 a sole perpetrator confessed to the attack, DNA tests proved his guilt and the convictions were vacated. Thanks to the new documentary, The Central Park Five, the prosecutors who orchestrated the travesty have come under scrutiny but none of them have suffered as a result of their actions. Until very recently prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer bragged about her involvement in the case and included it in her biography. She is still a law professor at Columbia University. It isn’t clear why anyone would want her to teach anything about the law, but there she sits in the lap of establishment legal profession luxury. When an outraged citizen circulated a petition pressuring Columbia to fire Lederer, the wagons circled around her and the media excoriated those who only wanted accountability and justice.

Lederer’s boss, Linda Fairstein, also made quite a name for herself in the ensuing years. She became a best selling author and a wealthy woman after the prosecution. Her behavior in getting the teens arrested and convicted was particularly egregious.

“Fairstein gruffly dismissed Yusef Salaam’s aunt and threatened his mentor, Brooklyn federal prosecutor David Nocenti, in refusing to let them see the teen while he was being interrogated. According to both Sharonne Salaam and Timothy Sullivan’s book on the case, Unequal Verdicts, Fairstein then called her husband to demand the home number of Nocenti’s then boss, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney, so she could get the young attorney fired. According to court records, Fairstein even tried to block Sharonne Salaam from interrupting the interrogation, despite Sharonne’s claims that Yusef was 15 and too young to be questioned without an adult.”

The five men will not get back the years they lost in prison, but the world knows they were innocent. However, the city of New York still maintains their guilt and fights every effort to bring them some financial justice. The exonerated men filed a $250 million lawsuit in 2003 but the city has spent the past ten years defending itself and even attempted to intimidate the documentary producers by issuing subpoenas for their video footage.

In New York others still languish in jail, sometimes for decades, because of law enforcement corruption. There are now 50 murder convictions under review by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office because of one man, retired detective Louis Scarcella. His criminal behavior came to light when an innocent white man, David Ranta, was freed after spending 23 years in jail because Scarcella coached a witness into falsely identifying him as a killer.

When Scarcella wanted an individual convicted he stopped at nothing to make his case. He took informants out of jail and allowed them to smoke crack and visit prostitutes. Supposed witnesses deny having spoken to him, or were told whom to pick out of a line up or told what to say. One prostitute allegedly witnessed six different murders investigated by Scarcella and testified under oath every time.

The district attorney’s office is now investigating these cases, but they can hardly investigate themselves. How did supposedly smart people allow the same person to testify numerous times that she had witnessed murders? The answer is obvious. Anyone who noticed the implausibility of these situations must also have noticed that the Scarcellas of the NYPD worked hand in hand with prosecutors to prosecute as many people as possible and that their bad behavior was condoned.

Shabaka Shakur is serving the 26th year of a 40 year sentence in part because Scarcella claimed he made self-incriminating statements. There are no records of such a statement, yet Shakur was convicted anyway. Derrick Hamilton was paroled after serving 21 years in prison and now strives to prove he was set up by Scarcella. “He told me, ‘I know you didn’t commit this murder, but I don’t care.’ “

Those words may have been spoken by one man, but they represent the thinking of an entire system and its attitudes towards black people. One-half of all wrongfully convicted prisoners are black. Mass incarceration depends on an assembly line of conviction and imprisonment and too few who are charged with caring about justice really do.

It is indisputable that America strives to put as many black people behind bars as possible. Inevitably some white people will be caught up too, but the goal of criminal justice is to make every black person a criminal. No one knows how many Shabaka Shakurs and Derrick Hamiltons there are behind bars in New York and across the country.

Any discussion of ending mass incarceration must address these travesties which take place on a daily basis. The crooked prosecutors and cops must be held accountable. They ought to be charged criminally themselves. There is no incentive for them to obey the law if they are not. The exonerated men and women are expected to quietly accept their misfortune and disappear without expecting any relief. In a sense that is the expectation for all black people. We are known to be innocent but the system doesn’t care.

Margaret Kimberley‘s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

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NATIONAL TEACHERS Appreciation Week, traditionally the first full week of May, passed this year without even a token statement from Barack Obama. Instead, the White House issued a presidential proclamation honoring the same weeklong period as…National Charter Schools Week.

Yep, you read that right. Barack Obama–who got the votes of millions of teachers last November and whose party depends on hundreds of millions of dollars in political spending by teachers’ unions and the rest of organized labor–not only couldn’t be bothered to utter a symbolic good word about teachers. He went out of his way to celebrate an initiative of the Republican Bush administration that spotlights a centerpiece of the anti-teacher school deform agenda.

If you’re a regular reader of SocialistWorker.org, you’ll know that there’s a long history of the Democrats talking populist when they’re asking for the votes of their working-class and liberal base of support–but acting quite differently when “the party of the people” is in office.

But Obama and Co. seem almost eager to rub their supporters’ faces in it.

Teachers aren’t the only example. At election time, one of the most reliable appeals for voting Democratic is to raise the specter of Republicans taking away a woman’s right to choose. The urgent pleas of pro-choice supporters in 2008 and 2012 to vote for Obama were a stark contrast to his administration’s neglect of the issue.

This week, though, the Obama administration took action on reproductive rights, appealing in court for…continued restrictions. In April, a federal judge struck down an Obama-era rule barring women younger than 17 from obtaining the Plan B “morning-after” pill without a prescription. This Monday, the Justice Department of a pro-choice Democratic president asked a higher court to overturn that decision.

Its reasoning for stopping the judge’s order from going into effect–that women would become “confused” if they gained unrestricted access to Plan B, only to have it taken away later if the Obama administration succeeded in its appeal–was a glaring and infuriating display of contempt for women and their rights.

There are plenty more examples. The willingness of Obama and the Democrats to give ground to Republicans on issue after issue while kicking their own base in the teeth has come into particularly sharp focus this spring. It’s worth pointing out that these are also the opening months of Obama’s second term, during which the president was, according to some liberal commentators writing before the election last year, supposed to prove he was a true progressive after all.

This isn’t a new insight into the nature of the Democratic Party, by any means. But the importance of the lesson that flows from it–anyone who wants to see change must rely not on allies in high places, but the collective strength of our struggles and our movements–is all the more crucial to remember as activists mobilize around the urgent issues we face today, from immigrant rights to climate justice and more.

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THE REPUBLICAN Party and the Democratic Party aren’t identical. If they were, there wouldn’t be any reason to have two of them.

Most of the time, most Democrats stand to the left of most Republicans. That’s a big part of why Democrats are effective in carrying out an agenda that serves the political and social status quo. They can win the votes and political support of masses of ordinary people well to their left who fear even worse from the other guys.

But some of the time, there’s not even the proverbial dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans. Charter schools and the corporate school deform agenda are a prime example.

The standardized testing mania, scapegoating of teachers and encroachment of private interests into public education began in earnest under George W. Bush with his No Child Left Behind law. But Obama took over the Bush program for public schools and kicked it into high gear. His administration’s Race to the Top program dangled billions of dollars in front of state governments, in return for passing “reform” laws that tied teacher evaluation to test scores and opened the way for more charter schools, among other measures.

Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan were speaking glowingly about charters long before National Charter Schools Week. The language of Obama’s proclamation is typical: “These learning laboratories give educators the chance to try new models and methods that can encourage excellence in the classroom and prepare more of our children for college and careers.”

Every part of that statement flies in the face of the facts. Charter schools prepare fewerof our children for anything at all, because the private operators who run schools with public funds get to exclude the students they don’t want.

For example, a 2011 study of 14 Florida school districts found that more than 86 percent of charter schools didn’t have a single student with a severe disability, compared to more than half of district public schools that did. The pattern is similar with homeless students. As education expert Diane Ravitch reported at a 2010 hearing, “New York City has 50,000 homeless students, but only about 100 are enrolled in a charter school. If a proportionate number were in charters, there would be 1,500, not 100.

In other words, charter schools on the whole take the students they want from public schools–preferably, those without special needs that cost more money–and leave the rest behind in a system that’s even more starved for financial resources, thanks to the subsidies for charters.

And even so, charter schools can’t demonstrate that they do any better at educating the students they do take. On the contrary, a 2009 study by the respected RAND Corporation, for example, analyzed charter schools in five major cities and three states, and found that in every location, students in the charter schools performed no better at best, and demonstrably poorer at worst.

So why the zealous cheerleading for charter schools? The answer: Follow the money.

Follow the money in a direct sense–more than one-third of charter schools were run by for-profit companies as of 2010, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Public school privatization is proving to be an even bigger bonanza in other areas–companies like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. are scrambling to get their hands on the billions to be made off the standardized testing bonanza.

But you can also follow the money in an indirect sense. The charter school crusade is aimed squarely at the power of the teachers’ unions–according to Diane Ravitch, 90 percent of charters are non-union. Charterization has become a dependable way to get rid of well-paid, veteran, union teachers–and replace them with educators who labor under the conditions described by one Ohio teacher in a comment at Ravitch’s website:

I’ve been an educator in Columbus, Ohio, since university. In my eighth year, I currently earn $34,000 before taxes at a 9-12 charter school. I can be fired at any time. I have no tenure, no union and scarce resources to teach…My family needs the money I earn, so I must teach, but I just pray a public school gives me a chance.

Teachers and education workers are one of the last remaining strongholds of the union movement–around three in every 10 union cards in the U.S. are held by members of the American Federation of Teachers or National Education Association. An injury to those unions through charterization is an injury inflicted on the whole working class, to the benefit of the bosses.

Plus, there’s the ideological angle. Charter schools are promoted by free marketeers, liberal and conservative alike, who claim that the private sector always does a better job than wasteful, corrupt, bloated big government.

Actually, it’s abundantly clear that the private sector is a cesspool of waste, corruption, bloat and worse–which is why the charters need a vigorous, pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain public relations campaign, with the president of the United States serving as cheerleader-in-chief.

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REPUBLICANS AND their media mouthpieces like Fox News still like to portray the Democrats as tools of organized labor, but it’s hard to believe anyone buys that any more.

Labor’s political power has been shrinking with its membership numbers for decades, while business’ spending advantage in elections expands with each cycle. But more to the point, the leadership of the Democratic Party has molded itself so completely into the role of servants to Corporate America that it doesn’t even bother with the old symbolic gestures any more.

As historian Van Gosse wrote after last year’s election, “The mass party of the center, birthed 20 years ago by Bill Clinton triangulating his way into a ‘socially liberal’ version of neoliberalism (or what used to be ‘liberal Republicanism’ in the days of Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney), has been brought to fruition by Barack Obama’s savvy Chicago apparatchiks.”

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that the Obama administration’s policies are bent and twisted in whatever ways are necessary to serve the interests of Corporate America, at the expense of the people who make up the main base of support for the Democrats.

But even as Obama and the Democrats thank their most devoted supporters with betrayals and insults, they won’t tolerate the least criticism from their base.

On this score, the Obama White House is every bit as belligerent as Democratic administrations that came before it–maybe more so. Thus, Joe Biden told anyone dissatisfied with the multitrillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street to “stop whining”; Obama himself mocked liberal critics of his health care law for “seeing the glass as half empty”; and White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs sounded off against the “professional left” that would only “be satisfied when we have Canadian health care, and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.”

In stark contrast to their timid attitude in confrontations with Republicans, the Democrats save their real venom for anyone to their left who dares to hold them accountable for the policies and principles they claim, usually at election time, to stand for.

You don’t have to go far on the Internet to find a liberal commentator who fumes about this two-faced behavior. But all too often, even critical voices accept that the only “realistic” course in a two-party system is to seek to influence their Democratic “allies.”

But is it realistic to expect working people to get a hearing from a party that is so intent on listening only to the demands and dictates of Corporate America?

Or is it more realistic to rely–as the most important struggles for change in history always have–on the power of mass mobilization and action at the grassroots to build a political alternative that breaks out of the confines of the two-party political system?

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Global Research Editor’s Note

In the interest of sharing diversity of opinions and promoting an atmosphere of exchange and critique, we bring to the attention of our readers the following text by Jorge Capelán and Toni Solo.

This text is in response to an article published on Global Research entitled The Pink Tide in Latin America: An Alliance Between Local Capital and Socialism?  by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya on May 03, 2013.


For the imperial propaganda machine, leftist Latin American governments and political leaders are either too leftist, not really leftist, or blind fanatics, as well as being shrewdly machiavellian, capitalists in red clothing, enemies of the market and scores of other contradictory pairs of things all at once.

This is so because the purpose of propaganda is to render unusable the intellectual capacity of the target population to understand reality.  By promoting mistrust, anxiety and confusion among those sections of the public in the imperialist countries that might oppose the designs of their rulers, the war planners seek to neutralize any effective solidarity efforts.

Sadly, most European and North American progressive and radical movements and intellectuals have problems coming to terms with this, no matter what their experience, reputation or insights into what the Empire routinely does to humanity.

Without direct involvement in them, virtually none of those intellectuals can offer a true and fair view of Latin America’s various revolutionary processes. They may offer plausible theories and schemas, but the nitty gritty of achieving power and effecting radical change will always elude them. Examples of this fact abound.

Depending entirely on academics like Noam Chomsky, or James Petras, for example, for a grasp of events in Latin America is a mistake. Those writers theoretical preconceptions tend to fall apart when applied to specific realities. One need not follow the anti-Stalinism of the historian E.P.Thompson into its ultimate social-democrat cul-de-sac to acknowledge the central argument of “The Poverty of Theory” against idealist theory.

The article “Pink Tide in Latin America: An Alliance Between Local Capital and Socialism” by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya published on May 3 by Global Research is an example of this sad truth. In the final paragraphs of his article, a series of reflections on the future developments in the region after Chavez’ death, the author writes: “It can be argued that the political current in Latin America is mostly a question of financial and economic independence, rather than a socialist project challenging the capitalist world-system.”

Without developing further this thesis, Nazemroaya’s piece actually is an exercise in inconsequential and superficial dissection of the progressive/radical governments in the region, with the purpose of questioning the anti-capitalist character of the process of integration taking place in Latin America. Since Nazemroaya’s analysis spreads many biases and mistaken views that are functional to the imperial propaganda efforts against those governments, we will deal with it in this article, but first let us address the core thesis the author put forward in his piece without thoroughly grounding it.

Indeed, there is a (conflictive) synergy between (some) Capitalist and anti-capitalist interests behind the movement for Latin American unity and independence. There is a huge amount of money in the hands of the Latin American oligarchies which, under the right circumstances, might be interested in investing in the regional market rather than, say, in the Swiss banking system or in regional tax havens. The emergence of China as a major lender and investor in the region, the stagnation of the US and European economies and the massive development projects carried out thanks to the initiative of governments which Nazemroaya designates under the derogatory term “Pink Tide”, explain some of the central drives behind this process. But does this mean that what is going on in Latin America today is not the emergence of “a socialist project challenging the capitalist world-system”?

Whoever doesn’t see the anti-capitalist value of ending the hegemony of Western imperialism once and for all and of building a multi-polar world order should start writing science-fiction novels instead of feigning engagement in actual anti-capitalist struggle. It’s really puzzling that a  Research Associate of the  Centre for Research on Globalization has problems grasping this point. However, there is much more to the anti-capitalist ambitions of the Latin American integrationist efforts than the multi-polar dimension alone.

In Latin America, it is impossible to engage in the construction of socialist and anti-capitalist alternatives without at the same time struggling to integrate the region politically, economically and even culturally. “I desire to see America fashioned into the greatest nation in the world, greatest not so much by virtue of her area and wealth as by her freedom and glory” (1). That is the legacy of Bolivar, as was the legacy of Martí, of Sandino, Mariátegui, Gaitán, Che, Fidel Castro and many other Latin American revolutionaries since Independence. This is so because the colonial and imperial powers needed to split the region up into small countries in order to exploit its resources and labor. This is not something Chavez made up, it is an old insight down here.

At the core of the Latin American process of independent integration is the Bolivarian Alliance, ALBA, which comprises 8 full members with a total population of 70 or 80 million (some 15% of the region’s population) plus an ever-growing list of countries participating as guest members and observers.

ALBA’s economic relationships are not based on profit but on solidarity and complementarity among its members. Nor is it an alliance of convenience, but a project aimed at consolidating a higher political unit beyond Capitalism. It is not based on Venezuelan charity either, but on the use of common resources as a lever enabling its member countries to leave Capitalism behind.

Through ALBA and schemes such as PETROCARIBE (18 member countries), Venezuelan oil imports are re-invested by non oil-producing countries in social and economic programs financed by almost interest-free long-term loans. Thus, agricultural countries such as Nicaragua widen their list of trade partners, but most importantly, they develop and diversify their economies, becoming less dependent on the export of agricultural products.

Exchanges at all levels between Venezuela, Cuba and the rest of the ALBA member countries aim at sharing experiences on all fields. For example, Nicaraguan rural workers travel to Venezuela to share their experiences of cooperative organization in order to help Venezuela increase its food production. Cuban personnel from many different fields, specially health care and education, play a very important role in many social programs, but they also share their experience and know-how while at the same time gathering many experiences from their colleagues in the other member countries. ALBA members have started using their own  national currencies instead of the US dollar to trade with each other through a financial arrangement called SUCRE, the Unified System of Regional Compensation. This scheme helps protect the ALBA’s economies from the financial collapse of Capitalism.

From the examples above, it is foolish to deny the anticapitalist dynamics of ALBA. Even more foolish would be to deny ALBA’s influence on the rest of Latin America.

ALBA was founded in 2004 after an agreement between Venezuela and Cuba. The following year, in 2005, the US plan to build a “free trade” zone in the Americas, the FTAA, was buried at the Summit of The Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, when most Latin American governments refused to hail Bush’s offer of “open up your customs or else…” Without the joint leadership of Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Lula da Silva and late Argentinean president Néstor Kirchner, this strategic defeat of imperialism in Latin America would not have been possible.

With the establishment, on February 23rd, 2010, of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, the 33 countries in the region, for the first time in history, created an organization outside the control of the United States and Canada. Without the role played by Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, CELAC’s profile would not be as integral as it is today. Actually, Venezuela’s contribution was crucial, not only because of the strategic dimension of the Bolivarian revolution, but also because of its intelligent handling of the most reactionary sectors of the Colombian oligarchy represented by Alvaro Uribe.

It is quite clear that some Capitalist interests see important opportunities in all these developments, but they are not politically organized. The Latin American right is dominated by highly aggressive, reactionary pro-imperialist political parties, right-wing networks and corporate media. On a daily bases, these groups conspire and carry out disinformation campaigns against almost all governments in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially those with progressive and radical inclinations.

In his article, Nazemroaya questions these government’s leftist and anti-capitalist credentials. Although he warns against “oversimplification and romanticization”, and although he tries to define what he understands as “left”, Nazemroaya confuses the concepts and decontextualizes the facts, ending up with a list of more or less flattering aspects which he then uses to build up a negative portrait of the developments in Latin America.

Let us start with the concepts. Correctly, Nazemroaya defines “left” and “right” as political positions within a given context, but he then almost immediately abandons all interest in understanding the multiplicity of the contexts that compose the reality of the region to focus on the fact that there is “a Plethora of ‘Lefts’ in Latin America”, an “eclectic bunch” as the author’s derogatory style defines them.

Nazemroaya goes even further and states that “Latin American left-wing governments do not strictly operate to the ‘left'”: So, according to his actual view, there is a “real left” (a context-independent Left he feels he is entitled to define as such) and some kind of “fake left” (another context-independent left he thinks one is entitled to denounce as false). As “proof” of his assertion, the author refers to an alleged “debate over whether the Cuban socialist project is genuinely reforming or if it will eventually follow the paths of capitalist restoration like China and Vietnam”.

A debate where? In some cafe in Toronto? That is not a serious argument, for two reasons. Firstly, the existence of debates about the future course of a revolution are no proof of the actual orientation of that revolution. Secondly, Nazemroaya passes as received truths his opinions on socialism in China and Vietnam without feeling it necessary to go into any further details.

Actually, as true as the fact that there are many “lefts” in Latin America, is the fact that there is a vast experience of collective discussions among those “lefts”. An example of this is the Forum of Sao Paulo, which since 1990 has gathered more than 90 political organizations from almost all countries, including Puerto Rico. Most  countries are represented by several political parties, and in cases such as Argentina and Uruguay, by 12 or 13 organizations.

For over 20 years, those organizations, ranging from the Chilean Socialist Party to the Cuban Communist Party, from various Peronist parties in Argentina to Peruvian nationalists, just to mention a few examples, have been able to carry out many debates and achieve consensus around key issues such as the struggle to end the US genocidal blockade of Cuba, the support to the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and ALBA as well as the project of continental integration.

The huge continental wave of solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution after Hugo Chavez’ death, especially in face of the fascist violence unleashed by Capriles Radonski’s thugs, is another case in point in relation to the capacity of this variegated array of “leftist” movements to very quickly set aside their differences for a common cause. Without the existence of similar mechanisms and processes, it would have been impossible, in recent months, to mobilize a movement capable of denouncing the Cuban CIA agent Yoani Sanches World Tour. In capital after capital where the CIA blogger attempted to smear Cuba, she was received by large groups of activists that on several occasions managed to force her to desist from her activities.

Another case in point, The existence of the Network of Intellectuals in Defence of Humanity, composed of hundreds, if not thousands, of intellectuals from all over the world and from a broad ideological spectrum, routinely organizing campaigns in defence of Cuba, Venezuela and ALBA, as well as against  imperialist putschist moves in countries such as Honduras, Ecuador or Paraguay. Without denying the differences between various political movements, it is necessary to stress that there exists an ever-growing common understanding of the problems and challenges ahead.

Nazemroaya warns against easy generalizations but goes on to make sweeping generalizations such as the following:

“Latin America’s comprador elites are the local representatives of the foreign corporations, governments, and interests that have exploited Latin America for centuries. These comprador elites can frankly be described as either the ‘House Negros’ or racist upper class that have historically ruled Latin America and managed its wealth and resources for the changing centres of power in other parts of the world that have controlled the area. Today, the regional comprador elites are mostly aligned with the United States and prefer Miami or New York City to Caracas or Quito”.

One first commentary about this description is obvious: If the Latin American “comprador elites are mostly aligned with the US and prefer Miami or New York to Caracas or Quito”, how can they actually be a driving force behind a process of regional integration that is not to the liking of the US, NATO and Europe? Are they really a driving force behind this process as Nazemroaya implies?

This is the kind of sweeping, oversimplifying generalization that makes it impossible to understand the contexts and the particular traits of the various countries in the region. This in turn explains why there are so many “lefts” which, incidentally, show a startling capacity to cooperate with each other and to reach a common consensus around key issues. Also, such oversimplifying generalizations make it impossible to understand the complexities of the international relations among the region’s countries, for example, in the case of the relations between Colombia and Venezuela and the Peace Process taking place between FARC-EP and Santos.

The 33 nations that compose Latin America and the Caribbean show a common situation of dependence on imperialism, but they also show startling differences. Countries like Chile, Argentina or Uruguay have very strong European cultural influence, while other countries, such as Bolivia or Guatemala have big indigenous majorities. Some oligarchies are richer than others, some of them have had more freedom than others to carry out policies of import substitution.

Some countries, such as Honduras and Paraguay, have been ruthlessly subjected to a state of utmost political underdevelopment for decades by repressive dictatorships, while others, such as Ecuador or Uruguay, have enjoyed relatively long periods of successful reformism. Although Latin America is the world’s most unequal region, not all countries and societies are equally poor and not all of them are equally underdeveloped. Different forms of dependent economic insertion in the World Market, different political cultures, different social realities explain the differences among the political subjects.

Are “Latin America’s comprador elites … the local representatives of the foreign corporations, governments, and interests that have exploited Latin America for centuries” as Nazemroaya puts it? They are many other things besides that. They are mediators between the Western multinational interests and the local markets, but in many cases, they are players on their own right as well. Think about the example of Mexican Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man. Think about the financial Colombian capitalists represented by Santos or even sectors of the Brazilian oligarchy. They fear Socialism and most progressive politics, but they also fear the prospects of a sociopolitical meltdown that would make their profits vanish into thin air. In many cases, they have to reluctantly accept many of the progressives’ and radicals’ policies, even if their newspapers routinely pour bile on those governments.

Lacking a better political reference frame, Nazemroaya lays hand on James Petras’ typology on the Latin American left – one the weakest intellectual products of the US-American sociologist. With this typology, an otherwise sharp analyst such as Petras cannot resist the Western temptation of handing out small stars of revolutionary approval to movements he fancies more than others, irrespective of the concrete circumstances of their struggles. Incapable of understanding many of the true challenges of social transformation in the real world and the actual limits of political power, Petras projects his romanticized revolutionary ideals on various movements and subjects. When those movements in real life do not behave according to Petras’ wishes, they are either ditched or condescendingly tapped on the back with some scornful comment on having “sold out”. Apparently unable to understand the value of nation-building for the materialization of any sort of socialist project, he rejects movements such as Peronismo, irrespective of how stubbornly the working-class masses support them.

Petras’ schematic division between “radical left”, “pragmatic left”, “pragmatic neo-liberals” and “doctrinaire neo-liberal regimes” is seriously flawed when confronted with reality. If FARC were in the same situation as PSUV in Venezuela, it would certainly act along much the same lines. In fact, it supports the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and shares its inspirational force, namely, the heritage of Simon Bolivar.

In Brazil, the Landless Workers’ Movement gives critical support to the Worker’s Party (PT). While it rightly criticizes the agribusiness-oriented development strategy of Lula’s and Dilma Roussef’s party, the Landless Workers’ Movement also understands the various constraints the PT government faces being dependent on alliances with other political forces, in an inmense country where the oligarchy retains considerable power at all levels. They are also well aware of what it would mean were the neo-liberal right to return to political power in Brazil.

In Argentina, to call Cristina Fernández a “pragmatic neo-liberal” is an outright insult, not to mention an irresponsible lack of solidarity with a progressive government subject every day to the most vicious destabilizing campaigns from the oligarchy. No neo-liberal regime increases minimum wages, raises pensions, improves education or fights poverty. Nor does any neo-liberal regime say “Good-bye” to IMF the way Argentina has done.

The same goes for Mauricio Funes’ government in El Salvador, where the FMLN is on its way to win the coming elections with a candidate of its own. Incapable of identifying processes and accumulation of forces, dogmatic analysts such as Petras/Nazemroaya see only traitors, sell-outs and capitalists everywhere. The superficiality of Petras’ analysis becomes sheer bad faith when it comes to certain countries he simply doesn’t mention such as Nicaragua, where cooperatives account for about 40% of the country’s GDP and about 70% of the work force.

Back in mid-2008, a group of leading left-wing Western intellectuals, most prominently Noam Chomsky, wrote a letter supporting a hunger strike held by ex-FSLN leader Dora Maria Tellez in Nicaragua. Tellez was protesting the elimination of her MRS political alliance from the municipal elections in November of that year for having failed to comply with the electoral law. So Noam Chomsky and the other well-respected intellectuals concerned demonstrated the loyalty and solidarity of their intellectual-managerial class and spoke out on her behalf.

In fact, as it transpired, the MRS immediately entered into an electoral alliance with the Nicaragua’s corrupt extreme right-wing PLC party. They campaigned in particular in support of reactionary banker, Eduardo Montealegre who to this day uses his parliamentary immunity to avoid indictment for multi-million dollar banking fraud. Clearly, the MRS suckered Noam Chomsky and his fellow intellectuals into misguidedly supporting her 2008 charade, because those intellectuals had no idea of the political realities in Nicaragua. Anyone who doubts MRS’ allegiance to the US Embassy in Managua, should read some of the diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks on the subject.

That particular case only highlights the pitfalls of depending on the neat schemes of the managerial class who dominate intellectual production in North America and Europe. So when Nazemroaya cites James Petras as his theoretical reference point in his recent  article on Latin America, one needs to apply extreme skepticism to his arguments so as to try and discern the reality. Among the typical omissions of James Petras and his colleagues, Nicaragua understandably looms large by its absence.

They see that a given country still is in the grip of IMF loans, but they are incapable of seeing that the country is becoming less dependent on such loans. They see that a given country is depending on agro-exports, but they don’t see how that country is diversifying its economy and becoming less dependent on those exports. They see capitalists and State-Capitalism and cry “Neoliberalism! Extractivism!” without even proposing a workable alternative that might to develop a country’s productive forces. Or else when they actually see those alternatives being implemented by those governments, they shout “It is not enough!”.

To revolutions applies an old Latin American saying: “It is easy to look at the lady from afar, but quite a different story to go ahead and talk to her”.

A superficial and disrespectful treatment of developments in Latin America poses two sets of problems. The first one is that it makes practical solidarity more difficult, especially now, when Washington is engaging in a fascist continental crusade against Latin America. The second set of problems has to do with the crucial importance of the Latin American experience for any new projects beyond Capitalism anywhere else in the world.

US$ dollars have been flooding the financial markets ever since Bernanke launched quantitative easing allegedly to turnaround the US economy. These huge amounts of US$ toilet paper are mainly in financial markets (and in central banks) outside of the United States. A huge chunk is represented as reserves in central banks led by China and Japan.

If truth be told, the real value of the US$ would not be more than a dime and I am being really generous here, as even toilet paper has a value.

That the US dollar is still accepted in the financial markets (specifically by central banks) has nothing to do with it being a reserve currency, but rather that the US$ is backed/supported by the armed might and nuclear blackmail of the US Military-Industrial Complex. The nuclear blackmail of Iran is the best example following Iran’s decision to trade her crude in other currencies and gold instead of the US$ toilet paper.

If  the United States were not a military threat and a global bully that can blackmail with impunity the oil exporting countries in the Middle East, the global financial system which hinges on the US$ toilet paper would have collapsed a long time ago.

The issue is why has the US$ not collapsed as it should have by now?

When we apply common sense and logic to the state of affairs, the answer is so simple and it is staring at you.

But, you have not been able to see the obvious because the global mass media, specifically the global financial mass media controlled mainly from London and New York, has created a smokescreen to hide the truth from you.

Let’s analyse the situation in a step by step manner, and apply common sense.

1. The US is the world’s biggest debtor. The biggest creditors are China and Japan, followed by the oil exporting countries in the Middle East. With each passing day, the value of the US$ toilet paper is worth less and less. Like I said earlier, even toilet paper has some intrinsic value. It reaches zero value when everyone has to carry a wheelbarrow of US$ to purchase anything.

2. For the US$ toilet paper creditors, they cannot admit the fact that they have been conned by the global Too Big To Fail Banks (TBTFs) acting in concert with the FED and the Bank of England to accept US$ toilet papers. The central bankers of these countries have a reputation to preserve (not that there is in fact any reputation, for their so-called financial credibility is also part of the scam) and the political leaders that relied on them is in a bigger bind. How can the political leaders be so very stupid to trust these central bankers (who have stashed away in foreign tax havens huge US$ toilet papers as a reward for their complicity). This is the current state of affairs in plain English. They are having sleepless nights worrying if and when the citizens would wise up to this biggest con in history i.e. the promotion and acceptance of fiat currencies, the US$ being the ultimate fiat currency.

3. The global financial elites led by the FED know that this state of affairs is to their advantage and they are exploiting it to the hilt! They also know that no country or organisation has the military resources to threaten the US to stop this global ponzi scheme which has been going on since 1945 and intensified since 1971 when President Nixon de-coupled the US$ from gold. The pound sterling is another story but, it is not relevant for the purposes of this analysis.

4. Additionally, and as a result of the above-stated scam, countries were led to believe and to accept the false economic theory that export generated growth (GDP) should be the foundation of economic development, as the United States having limitless US$ toilet paper has the ability and the means to purchase the global exports, it being the largest consumer market in the world. In the result, the world’s factories and their workers, including those in the developed world such as France and Germany worked their butts off to be rewarded with US$ toilet paper whose value is less than the paper and ink that produce it! The financial frolic went on for more than forty years and came to an abrupt and foreseeable end in the 2008 global financial tsunami.

5. When the party ended, the United States was up to her eyeballs in debts as a result of reckless financial speculation in the global derivatives casino and the consumption binge financed by housing mortgages. Debts must be repaid. But, the US has no means to do so. They cannot produce enough goods to earn the revenue to pay the debts because US manufacturing has been outsourced to the developing world – China became the world’s number 1 factory. So, the financial elite appointed helicopter Bernanke to lead the charge for the US and the UK to use the printing press (digital or otherwise) to print more US$ toilet papers to pay off the debt. In economic jargon, this is “monetising the debt”. It is outright fraud, but no one (i.e. central bankers) in his right mind would admit to this fraud as they would be hung from the lamp-posts if the truth is discovered as was the case when the Italian fascist leader Mussolini was hung by the Italian partisans.

6. Initially, central bankers confronted with this situation and having to face a restless populace embarked on a regime of competitive easing/ devaluation of their currencies. But, the price was horrendous. Inflation spiked in all these countries. But, this scheme of things did not work out as planned for the simple reason, the US$ toilet paper continued to be lower as a result of more QE by Bernanke. China realised the danger and adopted other means to overcome this situation, one of which was to enter into bilateral arrangements with her trading partners to finance trade in their respective currencies. Such agreements were entered between China and Japan, members of BRIC, Malaysia etc. This counter-measure was perceived as a threat to the continued dominance of the US$ toilet paper regime. In the result, Obama declared at the urging of the financial elites (he does not have the grey cells to think) a foreign policy shift – the Asia Pivot to prevent a further deterioration of US$ dominance.

7. When Japan entered the agreement with China, her behaviour was deemed unacceptable since Japan was under the nuclear protection of the US. Japan was caught between a rock and a hard place. It was expected that sooner or later the US would apply the squeeze on Japan to behave in a proper manner. Applying geopolitical strategies, the US towing South Korea along provoked North Korea by launching a military exercise which included flying B-2 bombers which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. North Korea responded in the manner that was expected. Japan was exposed and in like manner reacted by seeking US protection. To muddy the waters and complicate the situation, the US engineered a Idispute between China and Japan over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands. This was followed by the installation of a new regime in Japan by the election of the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as the Governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ).

8. Now comes the mechanics of US counter-measures in shoring up the artificial dominance/value of the US$ toilet paper. Japan was ordered to do its part as a quid pro quo for being protected by the US’s nuclear umbrella. A new version of the Plaza Accord must be put in place – a “reverse Plaza Accord”.

9. Let me explain. In the 1985 Plaza Accord, the dollar was devalued to reduce the current account deficit and to help the US recover from the recession of the early 1980s. It was a managed devaluation and the exchange value of the Dollar versus the Yen declined by 51 per cent from 1985 to 1987 – reaching ¥151 per US$1 in March 1987. The dollar continued to slide till 1988. The effect of the strengthened Yen depressed Japan’s exports and brought about the expansionary monetary policies that resulted in the infamous asset bubbles of the late 1980s. The G-6 countries then gathered in 1987 in Paris to arrest the slide of the dollar and to manage and stabilise the international currency markets. The end result was the Louvre Accord. In the next 18 months the dollar strengthened to ¥160 per US$1.

10. However, in the current situation, the devaluation of the US$ toilet paper was the result of massive QEs so as to enable US to monetise her debts. However, for US to continue to monetise her debts and have the world’s central banks agreement to continue to hold dollar reserves, the value of the dollar must appreciate, failing which the dollar would collapse, the US defaulting on her debts, as creditors would no longer accept US$ as payment. The trick was to artificially inflate the value of the dollar without arousing any suspicions.

11. In the 1970s, following the de-coupling of the dollar from gold by President Nixon, the dollar would have collapsed in like manner as it was not backed by gold. It became pure fiat money! The trick then was to create an artificial demand for dollar which would in turn raise the value of the currency. This was effected by the proposal of Kissinger to the Arabs that if they would dollarize their oil exports, the US would guarantee their safety and survival even from the threats of Israel. When the Arabs agreed to this arrangement, every country in the world had to buy oil in US$. Countries have to exchange their currencies into US$ to buy oil. This demand for US$ strengthened the currency and prolonged the US fiat money monopoly.

12. However, this option is no longer available presently as oil is now being sold in other currencies besides the US$. The petro-dollar is no longer in dominance. In any event, the continued use of petro-dollars would spike the oil price and this would be inflationary and detrimental to the US economy as well as the world’s economy in the present economic climate – i.e. deep recession. Another means must be used.

13. This is the reason for the sudden “shock and awe” monetary policy of the new Japanese regime of Shinzo Abe and Haruhiko Kuroda. My detractors will accuse me of indulging in conspiracy theories. But, the facts speak for themselves. I had said earlier, that the G-7 countries have collectively attempted to devalue their currencies but, it did not stem the slide of the US$ because Bernanke was increasing the intensity of QE since 2008. And the EU was not willing and or able to adopt a suicide policy of massive QE as Germany was well aware of such a risk having suffered the negative effects of hyperinflation. China would not kow-tow to the US and in fact together with fellow members of BRIC was adopting counter-measures to confront Bernanke’s QE financial weapon. That left only one country who can be compelled to do the US bidding, to commit Hara-kiri to save and or prolong the US$ toilet paper regime – Japan!

14. And so, Japan launched its sudden massive QE and the desired effect is that now the US$ toilet paper has artificially appreciated in value vis-a-vis the Yen and less so with other currencies. This cannot be disputed by my detractors because:

On May 11, the financial elites of G-7 countries explicitly agreed with this kamikaze policy of Japan.

Koichi Hamada has also declared earlier that the target for this policy is to allow the dollar to rise to ¥110 per US$1 and this rise would be managed in a staggered fashion in small increments (step by step approach) thereby controlling the rate of inflation in Japan which would not be allowed to exceed the agreed target rate.

It is suggested that Japan can do this because it can utilise its huge dollar reserves of US$1.2 Trillion to manage the devaluation! According to Alan Ruskin, the global head of Group of 10 foreign-exchange strategy in New York at Deutsche Bank ASG, he said “I think we are opening up the door to look at 105 in the next few months and 110 by the end of the year …” and this surely must be interpreted to mean that Koichi Hamada’s strategy is definitely in play.

In conclusion, it is my view that such “managed artificial appreciation” of the US$ toilet paper while effective in the short run would fail in the long run because the fundamental issues of the US economy have not been addressed and resolved. Only real economic growth can reverse the dollar’s demise.

Seriously, would Bernanke stop further QE when the yen exchange rate reaches ¥110 by the year end? Has not Bernanke declared that QE would continue till 2015? And since Japan has drawn the Red Line at ¥110, can Japan risk further damage to its economy and continue to back-stop US beyond ¥110?

The US$ quadrillion derivative casino is the millstone around the US and the global economy, and as long as this is not resolved, the crisis would only get worse. Like water, after sufficient heat, the boiling point would be reached.

While I cannot forecast the precise date of the implosion, I am of the view that the end is near, sparked by a black swan event and then snowballed to its final devastation.

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The weekly news is like a recurring bad dream that is becoming an even worse nightmare. While the investor class cheers a rising stock market, the rest of us sink.

The headline that jumped out at us this week came from Bloomberg News, CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law. Is that possible?  Can they have gotten that outrageous? Bloomberg reports that it’s true.

One example of where that big income is coming from is the health care profiteers, those that treat our health like it is a commodity from which they can profit rather than a human right. This week, Big Pharma executives get the headline, Big Pharma CEOs Rake in $1.57 Billion in Pay.  Since the passage of Medicare Part D, with the provision forbidding Medicare administrators from negotiating bulk prices, Pharma has ripped off the elderly and the government producing $711 billion in profits over the last decade.

Another rip-off of Medicare is the private insurance portion known as Medicare Advantage. It added an excess $34.1 Billion to the cost of Medicare in 2012 alone. Between insurance companies and pharmaceuticals, it is no wonder Medicare is struggling in this system. Medicare keeps its overhead at a low 2% to 3%, but the profiteers rip the system off.

It is not only Medicare patients that are in trouble, more and more Americans are not getting needed healthcare because the out-of-pocket costs are too high, as insurance covers less and charges us more. Supporters of Obamacare applaud the lower health costs, but in reality it is coming at the cost of the health of Americans. It is no victory in health policy for Americans not to get the healthcare they need because it is too expensive.

One reason for the increased costs, for-profit hospitals charge as much as they can get away with creating runaway costs and vast discrepancies. As a result, more Americans are going abroad to get healthcare, often to developing countries where the cost of health services is much lower.

They say that a fish rots from the head. When it comes to low-wage workers, while President Obama is saying people should have a living wage, it turns out the federal government employs more poverty-level workers than McDonald’s and WalMart combined. Obama could end it with a stroke of a pen, but will he?

As has been true for a long time, women workers make up half of the minimum wage earners in the United States, meaning single parent mothers, really struggle – as do their children. All of the challenges of unemployment, underemployment and stagnant wages are leading to a big increase in suicides, now more death from suicides than auto accidents.

Government policies are making the employment situation and race to the bottom for wages worse.  Mistaken austerity programs have cost the U.S. economy 2.2 million jobs according to the Brookings Institution. This loss of jobs due to austerity is occurring despite rapidly falling deficits in the federal budget. In other words, Congress and the administration could be investing in the economy, rather than shrinking it. And, the courts are siding with employers, overruling the NLRB and saying the bosses don’t have to notify workers of their rights.

While workers struggle, the big banks keep racking in government subsidies, $102 billion in subsidies since 2009, but that’s not enough. In addition to shaking down taxpayers, they are also shaking down customers. Banks are using robo-signing to create false credit card debt, suing customers – without giving them notice – and then getting judgments against customers for debts they really don’t owe. California is suing JPMorgan Chase over this practice, but the other big banks do it too. And, as the investor class watches cities fail, they look for opportunities to profit, like vultures circling cities for meat to pick off the bones of urban decay.

Some good news: there is some pressure on JP Morgan CEO and Chairman, Jamie Dimon. The combination of reckless training, lawsuits and lots of bad PR is leading some to say he should not keep both jobs, maybe even lose both. Dimon is threatening to quit if he loses one of his jobs at the shareholders meeting on May 21st. Institutional Shareholder Services recommends rejection of three of management’s proposed board members, a majority, and big investors in JP Morgan are undecided about Dimon, although they supported him a year ago.

All of these problems point to the reality that the too-big-to-fail banks are on shaky ground and pose a danger to the economy. Is Washington doing anything about it? Well, it doesn’t look good. We’ll see how far it goes, but the House Financial Services Committee voted for three bills that would gut the already weak Dodd-Frank bill with just six members of the 61-member committee voting against all of them. Just in the last election cycle, members of this committee received $14.8 million in donations from the financial services industry.

And, the Obama administration is working to build the power of transnational corporations.  This week he met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The two were talking about beginning negotiations on the corporate trade agreement between the European Union and the US. Like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) we have been warning you about, this trade deal will also give corporations the power to challenge government policy in rigged trade tribunals.

More people are waking up and taking action. Register to participate in the Trade Justice Training Camp and protest the TransPacific Partnership this summer. If you think corporate personhood is bad, wait till you see the impact of corporate nationhood. These Obama trade agreements are global corporate coups that need to be stopped and can be stopped.

And Food Justice advocates recently joined the growing opposition to the TPP, pointing out ten reasons why food eaters and food justice activists should oppose the TPP.  In short, corporate trade agreements give big agribusiness control over food supplies, drive famers off their land, collapse domestic production around the world and drive up food prices. Profit before people when it comes to food means more hunger and food scarcity.

Food giant, Monsanto, won a Supreme Court victory protecting its genetically modified seeds.  Monsanto dominates the commercial seed market and is pushing genetically modified food into the market aggressively. Indeed, the U.S. Department of State virtually markets seed giant’s products throughout the world. Worldwide protests against Monsanto are scheduled for May25th. We discussed the reasons to protest Monsanto on Clearing the FOG this week.

All of this shows that in order to create an economy that works for us, people must work together. In the battle against austerity, we are seeing too much division, people fighting for their own project to be funded. We can’t let the actions of the government divide us. We must hang together or we will surely hang separately.  The root causes of the problems we face are all shared – the power of concentrated wealth exercised through corporate interests.  That is our political enemy. We must stand in solidarity against it.

Look for our new project this June, Popular Resistance; a news, information and resource clearinghouse for the growing culture of resistance. People are fighting back and there are ways for everyone to become informed, get involved and work together in solidarity. Sign up here to be notified about Popular Resistance.

We hope to see you at the Public Banking Conference in June. And we are organizing the Economic Democracy track for the Democracy Convention in August.

This article is based on a weekly newsletter for ItsOurEconomy.us. To sign up for the free newsletter, click here.

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC.  They co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

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Zakaria Kandahari, a member of a US Special Forces “A Team,” has been accused by Afghan officials of carrying out and directing the torture of 15 civilians detained in recent raids in Warduk province. Afghan officials say Kandahari is an American of Afghan descent and a leader of the Special Forces unit.

Of the 15 prisoners, seven are confirmed dead, with the other eight missing. The body of one of the prisoners, Mohammad Qassim, was found dumped in a trash pit outside a US installation shortly after the detentions.

US forces have long conducted bloody counter-insurgency operations in the province, just west of Kabul, prompting repeated accusations by local villagers that they torture and murder civilians. In February, responding to popular outrage, President Hamid Karzai demanded Special Forces cease operations in province.

The latest accusations are based on a video recording of Kandahari conducting a torture session on Afghan civilian Sayid Mohammad. Afghan officials have said a voice can be heard in the background of the recording speaking American English while Kandahari tortures Mohammad. Kandahari, who speaks fluent English with an American accent, was working closely with US special forces to carry out missions.

Testimony from one of the victims has also implicated Kandahari. Hikmatullah, a 16-year-old Afghan student, says he was tortured by Kandahari, who he identified by the large sword tattoo on his upper right arm.

According to Hikmatullah, Kandahari beat him savagely, dislocating his shoulder after the student denied any connections with the anti-occupation insurgency. Hikmattulah’s two brothers, Sadiqullah and Ismatullah, who were also captured by the A Team, are still missing.

US General John Allen promised to hand Kandahari over to Afghan authorities for questioning within 24 hours, yet the next day the US command announced he had escaped and was nowhere to be found.

Predictably, the occupation authorities have denied involvement in the incident. “After thorough investigation, there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by U.S. or ISAF forces relating to the detainees or deaths in Nerkh,” the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), NATO’s military command in Afghanistan, asserted in a statement. ISAF representatives have asserted the roundups were carried out by Afghan forces, without collaboration by occupation forces.

Attempts to shift blame for the incident onto the Afghans are patently absurd given the long and continuing use of such methods by ISAF and especially US Special Forces.

US military forces in Afghanistan have established a network of black sites, where suspected insurgents can be taken at any time, including the notorious Bagram airbase. The US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has authorization to hold suspected insurgents in these detention facilities for up to nine weeks without any pretense of legal charges, at which point a waiver from the Pentagon suffices to detain the prisoners indefinitely.

Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First’s described the conditions inside these JSOC black sites, stating that inmates are “forced to strip naked, then kept in solitary confinement in windowless, often cold cells with lights on 24 hours a day.”

These methods have been employed in an unsuccessful effort to crush the fierce resistance to the occupation and puppet regime in Kabul.

Three US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar province on Tuesday. On Monday, three Georgian soldiers were also killed in Helmand. Also on Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a US Special Operations convoy. An earlier blast on May 1 killed three British soldiers.

Local villagers have registered numerous complaints of torture and abuse at the hands of US commandos in recent months, which have been ignored by the NATO leadership. Hundreds of families in Warduk province have fled their homes as a result of the frequent raids.

The use of such methods, far from being an aberration, flows from the logic of the US occupation itself. Facing intractable popular resistance, the US-led forces respond with the same murderous tactics used in countless “dirty wars,” in Algeria, in Vietnam, in Central America, and in Iraq. Death squads are deployed, torture becomes standard operating procedure, and civilians are rounded up indiscriminately.

With the much-heralded “drawdown” of imperialist forces from Afghanistan scheduled to occur during 2014, the US has relied even more heavily on these methods of unbridled terror to subjugate the population and maintain control.

Whatever drawdown is carried out will largely be a redeployment of military assets in preparation for new wars against Syria, Iran, and other countries.

At the same time, the US plans to maintain nine permanent bases in Afghanistan, with a residual force of 10,000-20,000. This will be complimented by stepped up terror by Special Forces death squads and the deployment of drones, which can remotely kill anti-occupation forces from thousands of miles away.

Lt. General Nick Carter of the British military told The Atlantic that occupation forces will need to play a significant role in Afghanistan at least through 2018, aiding the Afghan national forces in numerous capacities. Carter admitted, even after four more years of combat operations, the situation on the ground will continue to be characterized by high levels of disorder and violence.

According the National Journal’s article “NATO’s Plan for Afghanistan Post-2014: A ‘Stable Instability,’” Carter views such an outcome as “not necessarily a disaster for ISAF.” In fact, such a situation is welcomed by imperialist policy makers, who hope to take advantage of the social catastrophe to implement the strategy of divide and rule in Afghanistan, and prevent the consolidation of anti-US forces.

In Carter’s scenario for “stable instability”—something General David Petraeus previously dubbed “Afghan Good Enough”—the occupation will maintain a minimum of security around US military installations, while carrying out counter-insurgency operations in the hinterland when deemed necessary. Territory outside the major cities will remain under the control of local warlords.

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In a brazen and illegal attack on press freedom, the Obama Justice Department secretly subpoenaed the telephone records of Associated Press editors and journalists and tracked ingoing and outgoing calls on at least 20 telephone lines, including the national headquarters of the press agency and its news bureaus in New York, Hartford and Washington DC. Among the lines tracked was the telephone used by AP reporters working out of the House of Representatives press gallery in the Capitol.

The Associated Press was given no advance notice of the government dragnet, which reportedly began in April of 2012 and continued through May of that year. Such a massive operation over a two-month period would generate records of many thousands of telephone calls, providing the government with legally privileged information about AP journalists’ sources and methods. More than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were seized.

The lines that were tracked included the home and cell phones of at least one editor and an unknown number of reporters. While the Justice Department has not provided any reason for the spying operation, it is widely assumed, and so asserted by AP, that it was carried out in connection with a federal investigation into an alleged leak of “classified” information by the press agency in a May 7, 2012 article concerning a CIA covert operation in Yemen.

The article reported details of CIA efforts in Yemen to break up an alleged plot to blow up an airliner heading for the United States around the time of the one-year anniversary of the May 2, 2011 assassination of Osama bin Laden. The AP acknowledges that it had agreed to delay reporting the story at the urging of Obama administration officials.

Following the publication of the story, John Brennan, at that time President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser and currently director of the CIA, denounced it as an “irresponsible and damaging leak of classified information.” In June of 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered federal leak investigations into the AP story as well as a New York Times report about the Stuxnet computer worm, which was developed jointly by the US and Israel to attack nuclear centrifuges at Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that it had asked the Justice Department whether its telephone records had been seized in connection with the Stuxnet article probe, but had not received a reply.

The Associated Press became aware of the spying operation against it only last Friday, when it was informed in a letter from the Justice Department. The AP reported Monday that included among those whose phones were tracked were five reporters and an editor who were involved in the May 7, 2012 story. The two lead reporters on the story, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, were members of a team of journalists who won a Pulitzer Prize last year for reporting on the New York Police Department’s covert surveillance of Muslim Americans.

In a letter to Holder sent on Monday, Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt said: “I am writing to object in the strongest possible terms to a massive and unprecedented intrusion by the Department of Justice into the newsgathering activities of The Associated Press.”

Demanding the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies, Pruitt continued: “There can be no possible justification for such an overboard collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

Arnie Robbins, executive director of the American Society of News Editors, said, “On the face of it, this is really a disturbing affront to a free press. It’s also troubling because it is consistent with perhaps the most aggressive administration ever against reporters doing their jobs—providing information that citizens need to know about our government.”

Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment lawyer who defended the New York Times against the Nixon administration in the “Pentagon Papers” case, said: “The norm… was for the government to ask the press organization for information and to pursue them in court when they didn’t receive it. The notion of avoiding any First Amendment resolution by the courts by going right to the telephone company with no notice to the press organization is outrageous.”

At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Holder sought to distance himself personally from the seizure of AP phone records, announcing that he had recused himself from the investigation and any decision to subpoena the records would have been made by Deputy Attorney General James Cole. At the same time, he defended the actions of the Justice Department and the US attorney in Washington DC, who is heading up the investigation. He said the AP article involved a “very serious leak” that “put the American people at risk,” requiring “very aggressive action” by the government.

He dodged a question as to whether other news organizations had been similarly targeted, saying that question should be addressed to the deputy attorney general.

At a Tuesday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed that Obama had no knowledge of the seizure of AP telephone records. He repeatedly deflected reporters’ questions by saying the White House could not comment on an ongoing investigation. At the same time, he spoke of the need to prosecute “illegal activity” and “balance” press freedom against the interests of “national security.”

Also on Tuesday, Cole sent a reply to AP CEO Pruitt’s letter, brushing off Pruitt’s protests and defending the government’s actions. Cole said the subpoenas were “limited in both time and scope,” and concluded that the Justice Department had struck “the proper balance” between the public’s right to know and “national security.”

In fact, the revelation of massive spying against a leading press agency is consistent with the deeply anti-democratic practices of the Obama administration. Obama has relentlessly pursued alleged leakers and whistleblowers in an attempt to suppress exposures of government secrets and crimes. His administration has brought six cases against people accused of publicizing classified information, twice as many as all previous administrations combined.

Just last January, the Obama Justice Department obtained a 30-month prison sentence for former CIA agent John Kiriakou, whom it prosecuted for giving television interviews in 2007 in which he acknowledged that the CIA was engaged in the torture of alleged terrorists. Obama’s policy is to jail those who expose abuse and torture of prisoners while refusing to prosecute the authors of the torture policy or those who carry it out.

The administration has conducted a vendetta against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange in retaliation for their exposures of US war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries and Washington’s reactionary intrigues around the world. It is prosecuting Private Bradley Manning, after holding him in solitary confinement for years, for handing over material to WikiLeaks exposing the murderous activities of the US military internationally.

The scandal over spying against the press, moreover, coincides with the revelation that the International Revenue Service (IRS) targeted groups politically at odds with the administration that sought to obtain tax-free status as “social welfare” organizations. While it appears that the bulk of the groups initially selected for more intrusive investigation—including demands for lists of donors and political contacts—were associated with the Tea Party and the Republican right, guidelines drawn up by the IRS in 2012 called for tagging all organizations that were critical of government policies.

The attack on press freedom in the case of the Associated Press is part of a far broader assault on democratic rights and the preparation of dictatorial forms of rule. (See: “ The criminalization of political dissent in America ”). In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, which saw the military-police occupation of a major American city, Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, told CNN that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored by the government, including telephone calls, emails, online chats and other forms of communication.

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The UK government has announced a £40 million aid package to foreign-backed terrorists fighting the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, local media reports.

The package was announced during a meeting between British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barak Obama in Washington on Monday, when the two exchanged views about the ongoing conflict in the Middle Eastern country they both have strongly enhanced and promoted in a desperate attempt to change the regime there.

“During a joint press conference with US President Barack Obama today, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK would be providing an extra £30 million [$45.9 million] of humanitarian support for the victims of the Syria crisis, and an additional £10 million [$15.3 million] in non-lethal support to strengthen the Syrian opposition, to help reduce the effects of the conflict spilling over into neighboring countries and to support human rights and civil society,” British prime minister’s office claimed in a statement.

Britain and its allies have been playing an “unconstructive role” in the region by lending support to same terrorist groups they have been fighting in Afghanistan as part of the so-called US-led “war on terror.”

The British government is also accused of supplying weapons to insurgents and dispatching mercenaries to Syria’s neighboring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, where they receive special training by MI6 and CIA officers and then are transferred into Syria illegally to fight the Syrian government.

Diplomatic discussions on the Syrian conflict is set to continue this week, with President Putin due to hold talks in Russia with Israeli regime’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over issues surrounding the conflict in Syria.

The talks come as the US and Britain claim they have found common ground with Russia on how to proceed in Syria.

At their meeting in Washington, President Obama and David Cameron promised to make diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the two-year crisis in Syria, AFP reported.

However, Obama and Cameron revealed their true intention when they said that the rule of President al-Assad must end in Syria.

“If in fact we can broker a peaceful political transition that leads not only to Assad’s departure but a state in Syria that is still intact (…) and that ends the bloodshed, stabilizes the situation, that’s not just going to be good for us — that will be good for everybody,” claimed the US president.

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

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By Jed Morey

The manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects offered the nation a window into the stunning military-style capabilities of our local law enforcement agencies. For the past 30 years, police departments throughout the United States have benefited from the government’s largesse in the form of military weaponry and training, incentives offered in the ongoing “War on Drugs.” For the average citizen watching events such as the intense pursuit of the Tsarnaev brothers on television, it would be difficult to discern between fully outfitted police SWAT teams and the military.

The lines blurred even further Monday as a new dynamic was introduced to the militarization of domestic law enforcement. By making a few subtle changes to a regulation in the U.S. Code titled “Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies” the military has quietly granted itself the ability to police the streets without obtaining prior local or state consent, upending a precedent that has been in place for more than two centuries.

The most objectionable aspect of the regulatory change is the inclusion of vague language that permits military intervention in the event of “civil disturbances.” According to the rule:

Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.

Bruce Afran, a civil liberties attorney and constitutional law professor at Rutgers University, calls the rule, “a wanton power grab by the military,” and says, “It’s quite shocking actually because it violates the long-standing presumption that the military is under civilian control.”

A defense official who declined to be named takes a different view of the rule, claiming, “The authorization has been around over 100 years; it’s not a new authority. It’s been there but it hasn’t been exercised. This is a carryover of domestic policy.” Moreover, he insists the Pentagon doesn’t “want to get involved in civilian law enforcement. It’s one of those red lines that the military hasn’t signed up for.” Nevertheless, he says, “every person in the military swears an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States to defend that Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

One of the more disturbing aspects of the new procedures that govern military command on the ground in the event of a civil disturbance relates to authority. Not only does it fail to define what circumstances would be so severe that the president’s authorization is “impossible,” it grants full presidential authority to “Federal military commanders.” According to the defense official, a commander is defined as follows: “Somebody who’s in the position of command, has the title commander. And most of the time they are centrally selected by a board, they’ve gone through additional schooling to exercise command authority.”

As it is written, this “commander” has the same power to authorize military force as the president in the event the president is somehow unable to access a telephone. (The rule doesn’t address the statutory chain of authority that already exists in the event a sitting president is unavailable.) In doing so, this commander must exercise judgment in determining what constitutes, “wanton destruction of property,” “adequate protection for Federal property,” “domestic violence,” or “conspiracy that hinders the execution of State or Federal law,” as these are the circumstances that might be considered an “emergency.”

“These phrases don’t have any legal meaning,” says Afran. “It’s no different than the emergency powers clause in the Weimar constitution [of the German Reich]. It’s a grant of emergency power to the military to rule over parts of the country at their own discretion.”

Afran also expresses apprehension over the government’s authority “to engage temporarily in activities necessary to quell large-scale disturbances.”

“Governments never like to give up power when they get it,” says Afran. “They still think after twelve years they can get intelligence out of people in Guantanamo. Temporary is in the eye of the beholder. That’s why in statutes we have definitions. All of these statutes have one thing in common and that is that they have no definitions. How long is temporary? There’s none here. The definitions are absurdly broad.”

The U.S. military is prohibited from intervening in domestic affairs except where provided under Article IV of the Constitution in cases of domestic violence that threaten the government of a state or the application of federal law. This provision was further clarified both by the Insurrection Act of 1807 and a post-Reconstruction law known as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (PCA). The Insurrection Act specifies the circumstances under which the president may convene the armed forces to suppress an insurrection against any state or the federal government. Furthermore, where an individual state is concerned, consent of the governor must be obtained prior to the deployment of troops. The PCA—passed in response to federal troops that enforced local laws and oversaw elections during Reconstruction—made unauthorized employment of federal troops a punishable offense, thereby giving teeth to the Insurrection Act.

Together, these laws limit executive authority over domestic military action. Yet Monday’s official regulatory changes issued unilaterally by the Department of Defense is a game-changer.

The stated purpose of the updated rule is “support in Accordance With the Posse Comitatus Act,” but in reality it undermines the Insurrection Act and PCA in significant and alarming ways. The most substantial change is the notion of “civil disturbance” as one of the few “domestic emergencies” that would allow for the deployment of military assets on American soil.

To wit, the relatively few instances that federal troops have been deployed for domestic support have produced a wide range of results. Situations have included responding to natural disasters and protecting demonstrators during the Civil Rights era to, disastrously, the Kent State student massacre and the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee.

Michael German, senior policy counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), noted in a 2009 Daily Kos article that, “there is no doubt that the military is very good at many things. But recent history shows that restraint in their new-found domestic role is not one of them.”

At the time German was referring to the military’s expanded surveillance techniques and hostile interventions related to border control and the War on Drugs. And in fact, many have argued that these actions have already upended the PCA in a significant way. Even before this most recent rule change, the ACLU was vocal in its opposition to the Department of Defense (DoD) request to expand domestic military authority “in the event of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high yield explosive (CBRNE) incidents.” The ACLU’s position is that civilian agencies are more than equipped to handle such emergencies since 9/11. (ACLU spokespersons in Washington D.C. declined, however, to be interviewed for this story.)

But while outcomes of military interventions have varied, the protocol by which the president works cooperatively with state governments has remained the same. The president is only allowed to deploy troops to a state upon request of its governor. Even then, the military—specifically the National Guard—is there to provide support for local law enforcement and is prohibited from engaging in any activities that are outside of this scope, such as the power to arrest.

Eric Freedman, a constitutional law professor from Hofstra University, also calls the ruling “an unauthorized power grab.” According to Freedman, “The Department of Defense does not have the authority to grant itself by regulation any more authority than Congress has granted it by statute.” Yet that’s precisely what it did. This wasn’t, however, the Pentagon’s first attempt to expand its authority domestically in the last decade.

Déjà vu

During the Bush Administration, Congress passed the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill that included language similar in scope to the current regulatory change. It specifically amended the Insurrection Act to expand the president’s ability to deploy troops domestically under certain conditions including health epidemics, natural disasters and terrorist activities, though it stopped short of including civil disturbances. But the following year this language was repealed under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 via a bill authored by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who cited the “useful friction” between the Insurrection and Posse Comitatus Acts in limiting executive authority.

According to the DoD, the repeal of this language had more to do with procedure and that it was never supposed to amend the Insurrection Act. “When it was actually passed,” says the defense official, “Congress elected to amend the Insurrection Act and put things in the Insurrection Act that were not insurrection, like the support for disasters and emergencies and endemic influenza. Our intent,” he says, “was to give the president and the secretary access to the reserve components. It includes the National Guard and, rightfully so, the governors were pretty upset because they were not consulted.”

Senator Leahy’s office did not have a statement as of press time, but a spokesperson said the senator had made an inquiry with the DoD in response to our questions. The defense official confirmed that he was indeed being called in to discuss the senator’s concerns in a meeting scheduled for today. But he downplayed any concern, saying, “Congress at any time can say ‘we don’t like your interpretation of that law and how you’ve interpreted it in making policy’—and so they can call us to the Hill and ask us to justify why we’re doing something.”

Last year, Bruce Afran and another civil liberties attorney Carl Mayer filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration on behalf of a group of journalists and activists lead by former New York Times journalist Chris Hedges. They filed suit over the inclusion of a bill in the NDAA 2012 that, according to the plaintiffs, expanded executive authority over domestic affairs by unilaterally granting the executive branch to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without due process. The case has garnered international attention and invited vigorous defense from the Obama Administration. Even Afran goes so far as to say this current rule change is, “another NDAA. It’s even worse, to be honest.”

For Hedges and the other plaintiffs, including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, the government’s ever-expanding authority over civilian affairs has a “chilling effect” on First Amendment activities such as free speech and the right to assemble. First District Court Judge Katherine Forrest agreed with the plaintiffs and handed Hedges et al a resounding victory prompting the Department of Justice to immediately file an injunction and an appeal. The appellate court is expected to rule on the matter within the next few months.

Another of the plaintiffs in the Hedges suit is Alexa O’Brien, a journalist and organizer who joined the lawsuit after she discovered a Wikileaks cable showing government officials attempting to link her efforts to terrorist activities. For activists such as O’Brien, the new DoD regulatory change is frightening because it creates, “an environment of fear when people cannot associate with one another.” Like Afran and Freedman, she too calls the move, “another grab for power under the rubric of the war on terror, to the detriment of citizens.”

“This is a complete erosion of the rule of law,” says O’Brien. Knowing these sweeping powers were granted under a rule change and not by Congress is even more harrowing to activists. “That anything can be made legal,” says O’Brien, “is fundamentally antithetical to good governance.”

As far as what might qualify as a civil disturbance, Afran notes, “In the Sixties all of the Vietnam protests would meet this description. We saw Kent State. This would legalize Kent State.”

But the focus on the DoD regulatory change obscures the creeping militarization that has already occurred in police departments across the nation. Even prior to the NDAA lawsuit, journalist Chris Hedges was critical of domestic law enforcement agencies saying, “The widening use of militarized police units effectively nullifies the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.”

This de facto nullification isn’t lost on the DoD.

The DoD official even referred to the Boston bombing suspects manhunt saying, “Like most major police departments, if you didn’t know they were a police department you would think they were the military.” According to this official there has purposely been a “large transfer of technology so that the military doesn’t have to get involved.” Moreover, he says the military has learned from past events, such as the siege at Waco, where ATF officials mishandled military equipment. “We have transferred the technology so we don’t have to loan it,” he states.

But if the transfer of military training and technology has been so thorough, it boggles the imagination as to what kind of disturbance would be so overwhelming that it would require the suspension of centuries-old law and precedent to grant military complete authority on the ground. The DoD official admits not being able to “envision that happening,” adding, “but I’m not a Hollywood screenwriter.”

Afran, for one, isn’t buying the logic. For him, the distinction is simple.

“Remember, the police operate under civilian control,” he says. “They are used to thinking in a civilian way so the comparison that they may have some assault weapons doesn’t change this in any way. And they can be removed from power. You can’t remove the military from power.”

Despite protestations from figures such as Afran and O’Brien and past admonitions from groups like the ACLU, for the first time in our history the military has granted itself authority to quell a civil disturbance. Changing this rule now requires congressional or judicial intervention.

“This is where journalism comes in,” says Freedman. “Calling attention to an unauthorized power grab in the hope that it embarrasses the administration.”

Afran is considering amending his NDAA complaint currently in front of the court to include this regulatory change.

As we witnessed during the Boston bombing manhunt, it’s already difficult to discern between military and police. In the future it might be impossible, because there may be no difference.

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America’s allies are terrorists, warlords, and corrupt officials, plied with bounty payments and quid-pro-quo assassinations.

The recent revelation that the Central Intelligence Agency has handed tens of millions of dollars over to the offices of the president of Afghanistan should come as no surprise. The CIA has a long history of this sort of activity. And most importantly, it’s the latest reminder of how America’s global “war on terror” has been forged through backroom deals, cold hard cash and the fostering of corruption.

From Yemen to Afghanistan to Somalia, America has prosecuted its perpetual war the usual way U.S. foreign policy is conducted: partnerships with unsavory leaders who are corrupt and commit abuses. Here are five striking examples of how the U.S. global war has been characterized by unsavory activity since 2001.

1. Bounty Payments For Alleged Terrorists

Cash payments in Afghanistan aren’t limited to the CIA paying off corrupt Afghan government officials. The lure of money played a major role at the start of the war on Afghanistan when the U.S. was looking for suspected terrorists to arrest and eventually throw in Guantanamo detention camp. The U.S. offered thousands of dollars to people to turn in alleged terrorists; 86% of all Guantanamo prisoners were people who were captured by bounty hunters, according to a report published by Seton Hall University in 2005. Many of them ended up being innocent of any crime–another clear example of how money is a corrupting tool in America’s never-ending global war.

The U.S. paid off Afghan warlords to capture people they suspected of having a role in terrorism. The payments ranged from $3,000 to 25,000, according to the Associated Press. The U.S. also gave money to Pakistani security forces to do the same. The AP article on bounties for people who ended up at Guantanamo reported that “a detainee who said he was a Saudi businessman claimed, ‘The Pakistani police sold me for money to the Americans.’ ‘This was part of a roundup of all foreigners and Arabs in that area,’ of Pakistan near the Afghan border.”

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf admitted the bounty payments to security forces in his memoir, published in 2006. “We have captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties totalling millions of dollars. Those who habitually accuse U.S. of not doing enough in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the Government of Pakistan,” he wrote.

2. Secret Blood-Soaked Deal With Pakistan

Despite the on-again, off-again nature of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, the country has been a major partner in the U.S. “war on terror.” The country’s tribal areas have been pounded by American drones. While the Pakistani government has never outright admitted that it accepts all drone strikes, their former president said it signed off on at least some. And Pakistan has never shot down a U.S. drone, is told about strikes in advance and even clears its airspace so drones can fly unimpeded.

The American program of drone strikes in Pakistan–which has killed between 2,541-3,533 people, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism–started out with a secret, blood-soaked deal which wasn’t revealed until this year in a book by New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti. Here’s how the deal went down: in 2004, the Pakistani government wanted a tribal leader allied with the Pakistani Taliban dead. Nek Muhammad had been leading a fight against Pakistani troops in the largely ungoverned tribal areas of Pakistan. And for a few years, the government had balked at allowing the CIA to wage a campaign of drone strikes.

But all that changed with a secret deal: the CIA would kill Muhammad in exchange for the use of airspace for its drones. Despite the fact that Muhammad was thought to be more a Pakistani internal problem than a threat to U.S. security, a drone ripped through his compound, killing him and two young boys. That paved the way for a ferocious campaign of U.S. drone strikes in the country that continues today.

Mazzetti detailed the terms of the deal in an excerpt of his book in the New York Times: “Pakistani intelligence officials insisted that they be allowed to approve each drone strike, giving them tight control over the list of targets. And they insisted that drones fly only in narrow parts of the tribal areas…The ISI and the C.I.A. agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the C.I.A.’s covert action authority — meaning that the United States would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent.”

Indeed, the Pakistani government lied through its teeth about the killing of Muhammad. It told its people he was killed by troops who fired a rocket at him.

3. Keeping U.S. Strikes in Yemen Secret

The first American strike on Yemen occurred in 2002, but it wasn’t until the Obama administration took office that a ramped-up military campaign commenced that has so far killed between an estimated 232-333 people. But the Yemeni government wanted to keep that campaign secret because the assassination by drone program is deeply unpopular among the civilian population. The Obama administration, which has been far from transparent about its drone program and other activities in Yemen, happily obliged.

The evidence for this comes via WikiLeaks. In January 2010, General David Petraeus, then the head of US Central Command, met with Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen at the time. Their discussion centered around U.S. assistance for Yemen’s fight against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. By that time, the U.S. had conducted a few cruise missile and drone strikes on Yemeni territory to beat back the militant group which has been accused of plotting attacks on the U.S.

“We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Petraeus. That telling line was prompted by a discussion about a controversial cruise missile strike that occurred in December 2009 that killed 41 civilians, including women and children. The Yemeni government insisted it carried out the attack in al-Ma’jalah, Abyan.

Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister Alimi joked that “he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.” The reference to Arhab and Shebwa was a nod to other American attacks on Yemen in those areas.

It was Amnesty International that exposed the fact of U.S. involvement in the strike. The human rights group published photos of U.S. cluster munitions and Tomahawk cruise missiles that were used in the deadly strike in al-Ma’jalah.

Despite the fact that the drone program is deeply unpopular in Yemen and has helped fuel Al Qaeda recruitment, the campaign continues, though it has become untenable to pretend that the Yemeni military was carrying out the attacks. In September 2012, the new Yemeni president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, praised U.S. drone strikes in his country. “They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” he said. The U.S., though, continues to maintain a policy of silence on specific drone strikes in the country.

4. Working With Somali Warlords

Somalia is yet another front in the U.S. war on terror. Since 2011, the U.S. has carried out drone strikes on the country targeting al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group in the country that is also an affiliate of Al Qaeda. The U.S. has also snatched and rendered alleged terrorists in the country and has operated a secret prison there run by the CIA.

To do all this, U.S. intelligence and military officials have worked with unsavory Somali warlords and intelligence agents. Nation investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill exposed details of the CIA’s backing of Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, a notorious Somali warlord. Since Qanyare owned a secretive airport the CIA wanted to use, they began paying him $100,000 to $150,000 a month. Although the U.S. did not begin carrying out direct strikes in the country until 2007, Qanyare thought he had U.S. backing to carry out his own attacks. So he and other warlords began hunting down people they thought Washington would want taken care of, according to Scahill’s reporting. But these activities ended up producing blowback and empowered Al Qaeda-affiliated forces, much as other U.S. policies, like supporting Ethiopia’s war in the country, ended up spreading militant influence.

“These people were already heinous warlords; they were widely reviled in Mogadishu. And then they start assassinating imams and local prayer leaders who had nothing to do with terror,” one expert on Somalia, Abdirahman “Aynte” Ali, told theNation. “They were either capturing them and then renditioning them to Djibouti, where there is a major American base, or in many cases they were chopping their head off and taking the head to the Americans or whoever. And telling them, ‘We killed this guy.’”

Another example of misguided policy is the secret sites the U.S. operates in Somalia, which Scahill also exposed. One of the sites is a prison used by the CIA and run by Somali intelligence agents, who get paid $200 a month. The prisoners held at the site in Mogadishu are alleged members of al-Shabaab. But some of them have been held for over a year, and haven’t been charged with a crime.

And in 2003, a Somali militia sold an alleged Al Qaeda member named Suleiman Abdallah to the CIA after capturing him from a hospital. Abdallah was then spirited off to Kenya, and eventually to Afghanistan. He was reportedly beaten and tortured by CIA agents. No charges were ever brought against him, and he was released in 2008.

5. Cash for the Karzais

The New York Times revealed April 29that “wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.” The literal bags of cash to Karzai’s office were made in an effort to influence the Afghan president and maintain access to his inner circle, thus ensuring that the CIA continued to play a role in prosecuting the Afghanistan war.

What the cash ended up doing, though, was fueling corruption–an inevitable outcome considering the fact that Karzai and his family are known to be corrupt, as WikiLeaks cables revealed.

The money went to paying off warlords and politicians, “many of whom have ties to the drug trade and, in some cases, the Taliban,” the New York Times reported. The CIA pays these unsavory figures to ensure that they continue serving as proxies in the fight against the Taliban. In turn, the money ended up bolstering the corrupt patronage networks the U.S. insists it wants dismantled. Some of the money also went directly into the pockets of aides to the Afghan president.

This isn’t the first time the CIA was caught paying off corrupt Afghan officials. In October 2009, the New York Times exposed cash payments to Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother and a powerful figure in southern Afghanistan. The intelligence agency made the payments because Karzai helps operate an Afghan paramilitary force that is a partner in the CIA’s effort against militants battling the U.S. occupation of the country. There was a big problem with these payments: Ahmed Karzai is suspected of being a major player in the drug trade in Afghanistan, the same drug trade the U.S. has been fighting against.

“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” one U.S. military intelligence official told the New York Times.

So despite high-minded rhetoric from U.S. leaders about how American wars are conducted, cash payments, backroom deals and the fostering of corruption are the norm. The CIA’s payments to corrupt Afghan leaders are the latest in a long line of counter-productive U.S. actions taken in the name of the war on terror. And if history is any guide, more of these activities will be revealed in the future.

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Why Obama’s ‘Red Line’ in Syria has turned Pink

May 15th, 2013 by Patrick Henningsen

Back in August 2012, things were a lot different in Washington DC and in the White House.

The Obama administration was brandishing a confident swagger back then, heading into the elections against a hobbling GOP opponent, and Benghazi had yet to unfold in all of its ugliness.

As Hillary Clinton was jetting around on the US State Department budget promoting her ‘Friends of Syria’ Middle East and European tours, and as the CIA were busy like bees working in the gray shadows of Benghazi, Washington and London were laying the groundwork for their new WMD case is Syria.

As last summer drew to a close, President Barack Obama confidently announced he was drawing a ‘Red Line’ in Syria regarding the use of chemical weapons, meaning that any evidence of their use on either side of that conflict would lead to consequences, the obvious inference being automatic US military intervention.

Fast forward to the present, and Washington appears to have been caught in the vortex of its own spin machine, with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney recently forced to ‘clarify’ the President’s infamous ‘Red Line’ decree with what can only be described as desperate political cover. Here Carney attempted to explain away the previous ultimatum and re-explain the President’s position:

“What the president made clear is that it was a red line, and that it was unacceptable, and that it would change his calculus… What he never did – and it is simplistic to do so is to say that ‘if X happens, Y will happen’. He has never said what reaction he would take.”

It’s hard to run a global empire and still pander to sensitive liberal concerns at home. The White House seems to be at pains coming to terms with what the Neoconservative Bush government already knew a decade ago – that there really is no good, safe way to do a military intervention. In the end, the façade of political spin cannot provide ethical cover for invading and toppling another sovereign state. You can’t finesse your way into it, you have to just go for it in full view – lie if you have to, fabricate evidence if need be, and be damned with the political fallout.

This approach sort of worked in the past for the US and Britain with Iraq. Granted, the WMD case was knocked down eventually, but the lie was good enough to achieve lift off for an attack, invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, and to a lesser degree the same system netted a result – with the help of a NATO smokescreen in Libya in 2011. The Obama Administration believed it would merely follow the already existing template for ‘humanitarian intervention’.

The case

Thus far we can point to three concerted attempts in 2013 by the US and its NATO allies to fabricate a case for chemical weapons in Syria. The first was a plan allegedly hatched by the British with the help of Qatar, through the use of a safe proxy to provide‘deniability’ – in this case, a UK defense contractor named Britam. The plan was simple and would have gone unnoticed if not for the inconvenience of it being prematurely exposed in the “Britam Leaks” from an anonymous hack back in January. The plan was to take old Gadaffi era chemical weapons stocks from Libya, transfer them out via Benghazi, and then plant them in Syria in order to blame the Assad government and thus open to door for western military intervention. The leaked emails also indicated clearly that Qatar would be paying a substantive sum for the operation to be coordinated through Britam. The UK’s Daily Mail had initially run the Britam Leaks story, but then suddenly pulled in down from their website within 24 hours of the story running.

The second attempt to make a chemical weapons charge stick in Syria came in March, following reports of a deadly chlorine attack in the northern region of Aleppo, with both sides claiming the other was responsible. With Washington openly touting its agenda of regime change and the Obama ‘Red Line’ promising intervention in Syria if either side was found to use chemical weapons, the obvious motive would fall on in the rebel opposition camp. The Aleppo case that was quickly knocked down by a number of alternative media outlets including 21st Century Wire, who outlined a detailed and compelling case to illustrate how manufactured chlorine munitions were not used in Aleppo by the Syria government forces, but rather, makeshift chlorine ‘dirty bombs’ were assembled and likely detonated by a Saudi-linked Islamic rebel confab originating out of Iraq, who coincidentally, had a track record of exploding the same devices before in Iraq.

Man is brought to a hospital in the Khan al-Assal region in the northern Aleppo province, as Syria's government accused rebel forces of using chemical weapons for the first time. The opposition denied the claim, saying instead that government forces might have used banned weapons.(AFP Photo / HO-SANA)

Man is brought to a hospital in the Khan al-Assal region in the northern Aleppo province, as Syria’s government  accused rebel forces of using chemical weapons for the first time. The opposition denied the claim, saying instead that government forces might have used banned weapons.(AFP Photo / HO-SANA)

The third attempt was led by British scientists who claimed they had found evidence of chemical weapons that were used in Syria in relation to two incidents in the Damascus area around March 19th. Critics rightly pointed out the inherent problems with their case, including the obvious chain of custody issue that meant the ‘evidence’ brought from Syria to a British lab could easily have been contaminated, or even fabricated in order to come to a conclusion which the British government wanted in order to get a green light for military intervention.

The UN’s own investigation into chemical weapons claims, led by Carla Del Ponte, has concluded that that witness and victim testimonies clearly show that Western and Gulf-backed Syrian rebels used chemical weapons such as the nerve gas sarin. This is at odds with US Secretary of State John Kerry who claims to having seen himself “strong evidence” that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons. Turkey has also entered the fray this week, themselves claiming to have seen evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Seeking truth

So who is telling the truth? From a common sense point of view, there is no motive, not does it make any real sense for the Syrian army to deploy chemical weapons in there fight, especially since the ‘Red Line’ has been laid down already. The rebels on the other hand have a motive, as does Washington, London and its NATO allies like Turkey – who have all been actively facilitating and aiding the rebel factions in Syria since the conflict began two years ago. They have a vested interest in any outcome which involves Western military intervention.

Meanwhile, in Washington the confusion has already begun to set in with the true believers and war hawks insisting that the UN investigation has reached the wrong conclusions.

In an attempt to control the political damage, Jay Carney swiftly moved to derail any UN findings that Syria’s rebels – and not President Bashar Assad’s forces, used chemical weapons. The White House Press Secretary attempts to re-spin the argument, trying in vain to hold Obama’s ‘Red Line’:

“We find it incredible, not credible, that the opposition has used chemical weapons,” he said. “We think that any use of chemical weapons in Syria is almost certain to have been done by the Assad regime.”

Already painted in a corner, President Obama is left to watch his ‘Red Line’ on chemical weapons – turn pink. It was a fatal mistake by President Obama to take such an illogical line so early on, but his statement was merely a reflection of Washington’s own schizophrenic and irrational foreign policy which has chosen to openly side with known al Qaeda Islamist guerrilla fighters in both Libya and in Syria.

US President Barack Obama.(AFP Photo / Jim Watson)

US President Barack Obama.(AFP Photo / Jim Watson)

The ‘Red Line’ was a historical first, in the sense that this ultimatum was woven to insure a case for intervention either way and would mean that the US would be free to attack the Assad government militarily even if the foreign terrorist confab were the guilty party. It was an attempt to essentially widen the definition of a case for intervention, essentially rewriting the language of international law and replacing it with language more suitable for a global police force who could act out under the guise of ‘keeping the peace’. An extraordinary first in global diplomacy for sure, and a very difficult line to enforce in view of an international community cannot see the sense in such an insane equation put forth by a US President.

Another reason for Obama’s fading ‘Pink Line’ in Syria is the Benghazi Hearings. Events of this week have finally begun to expose the inadequacy in US intelligence circles, as well as the institutional corruption that allows political gain to trump American lives in Washington. Rival factions within the US power structure, including those of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been implicated in both using and covering-up what happened in Benghazi.

Much more damaging than this however, is that Benghazi links the White House directly to the Syrian proxy war. The hearings have already begun to open the lid on how the US covert ‘national-wrecking’ road show were facilitating both the transfer of both weapons and foreign al Qaeda fighters from Libya in order to help destabilize the sovereign nation of Syria. Ambassador Chris Stevens and the others who died when Washington was forced to pull the plug on their operation there, are now known to be mere expendable cannon fodder – a revelation that has disgusted many American voters who would have previously turned a blind eye to any similar covert and underhanded US operations overseas.

On Wednesday Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul(R) weighed in on the Benghazi debacle, in a direct challenge to the President and Hillary Clinton, inferring that the Sept. 11, 2012 attack unfolded as a result of a secret arms trade, and rubbishing the previous government line put forward by Susan Rice and the US Intelligence community that the attack was a result of a YouTube film, “The Innocence of Muslims”. During a recent CNN interview Paul explains:

“I’ve actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria,” he said.

“Were they trying to obscure that there was an arms operation going on at the CIA annex?” 

Additional heat has been put on Washington with regards to Syria last week, as Israel’s unprovoked bombing raids inside Syria have appeared to have thrown a spanner into the works of Washington’s carefully woven public relations plan, with many critics believing that Israel’s raid on Damascus was sanctioned by Washington – in effect, using Israel to help soften-up the Assad forces for a sharper blow later on.

Obama’s fading ‘pink line’ also means that both neo-conservatives and those in Washington who are guided by Israeli influence have been forced to declare their wider intentions in arguing that attacking Syria is important right now – because Iran would not take future US threats seriously unless Obama follows through with his ‘red line’. Such a  political force majeure means that those once covert plans to take down both Syria and Iran have now been forced into the open.

Russian-led diplomacy efforts have proposed an international conference on Syria, but the major powers may not be ready until the end of June, which will put more stress on the Western agenda and their foreign guerrilla fighter factions who are currently engaged in a dead lock in Syria. In light of the UN’s guilty chemical weapons findings against the rebel opposition, US desires to ship arms directly to those same rebel proxies – no matter how insistent Senator hawks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham might be –  will no longer play so well in the public arena.

On top of all this, Washington and London have been accused of steering Syria’s ‘government in exile’ who, along with western-supported opposition groups  inside Syria have refused to engage in any dialogue with the government of Syria, an outsider engineered move which has completely smashed any diplomatic or political solution from the onset.

The chemical weapons crowd in Washington and London are now on very shaky ground indeed.

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A previous article discussed institutionalized spying on Americans. Anyone can be monitored for any reason or none at all.

Manufactured national security threats, silencing dissent, targeting whistleblowers, and challenging press freedom subvert constitutional rights.

Doing so is worse than ever now. Obama bears full responsibility. He governs by diktat authority. He’s waging war on humanity. He’s spurning fundamental rights. He’s targeting press freedom.

James Madison understood the threat, saying:

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy, or perhaps both.”

Harry Truman once said:

“When even one American – who has done nothing wrong – is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril.”

Earlier, Helen Thomas accused Obama of trying to control the press. “It’s shocking,” she said. “It’s really shocking. What the hell do they think we are, puppets?”

“They’re supposed to stay out of our business. They are our public servants. We pay them.”

Free speech, a free press, free thought and intellectual inquiry are fundamental. Without them all other freedoms are endangered.

In Palko v. Connecticut (1937), the Supreme Court called “(f)reedom of thought….the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.”

On May 13, AP headlined “Gov’t Obtains Wide AP Phone Records in Probe,” saying:

“The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news.”

According to AP attorneys, records obtained “listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery.”

During April and May 2012, more than 20 phone lines were monitored. Over 100 journalists work in targeted offices. They report “on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.”

AP president/CEO Gary Pruitt protested. He called DOJ’s action a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.” He wrote Attorney General Eric Holder. He demanded all phone records be returned. He wants all copies destroyed, saying:

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.”

“These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

DOJ officials left unexplained why phone records were sought. AP said a criminal investigation is being conducted into “who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot.”

At the time, AP headlined “US: CIA thwarts new al-Qaida underwear bomb plot,” saying:

Agents foiled “an ambitious plot by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a US-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, The Associated Press has learned.”

AP described an upgraded underwear bomb plot. It was “designed to be used in a passenger’s underwear, but this time” US officials called it “more refined.”

A same dayFBIissued statement said:

“As a result of close cooperation with our security and intelligence partners overseas, an improvised explosive device (IED) designed to carry out a terrorist attack has been seized abroad.”

“The FBI currently has possession of the IED and is conducting technical and forensics analysis on it. Initial exploitation indicates that the device is very similar to IEDs that have been used previously by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in attempted terrorist attacks, including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations.”

“The device never presented a threat to public safety, and the US government is working closely with international partners to address associated concerns with the device.”

The incident was fake. It was a false flag. It was like the December 2009 so-called underwear bomber. US officials claimed Nigerian citizen Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab traveled to Yemen, got Al Qaeda training, and explosive PETN chemicals.

He was wrongfully accused of trying to blow up a Christmas day Amsterdam-Detroit-bound airliner. The incident was staged. Abdulmutallab was set up. He was a patsy for a joint CIA/Mossad/India Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) false flag.

The same alliance staged coordinated 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded. They also were behind former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s 2007 assassination.

In February, CIA director John Brennan called releasing information about the 2012 incident to the media an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”

He left unexplained what’s discussed above. White House spokesman Jay Carney denied knowledge of DOJ’s investigation.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R. CA) said the agency “had an obligation to look for every other way to (investigate) before (it) intruded on the freedom of the press.”

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D. VT) added:

“The burden is always on the government when they go after private information, especially information regarding the press or its confidential sources.”

“On the face of it, I am concerned that the government may not have met that burden. I am very troubled by these allegations and want to hear the government’s explanation.”

ACLU Washington legislative office director Laura Murphy said:

“The attorney general must explain the Justice Department’s actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again.”

This type intrusion has a chilling effect on journalists, whistleblowers and others involved in investigating government wrongdoing, she added.

William Miller, spokesman for US attorney Ronald Machen, stonewalled AP’s request. Information on why its journalists were targeted was sought. Dismissively he said: “We do not comment on ongoing criminal investigations.”

DOJ “strict rules” require “all reasonable attempts” be made to obtain relevant information from other sources.

A media subpoena must be “as narrowly drawn as possible. (It) should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited period of time.”

It’s to avoid “impair(ing) the news gathering function.” Authorities are required to recognize that “freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of reporters to investigate and report the news.”

If phone records are wanted, news organizations are supposed to be notified well in advance. A reasonable explanation should be given. Both sides must agree on information to be provided.

DOJ cited an exemption. It claimed advance notification might “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.” One intrusion means across the board is OK, whatever reason is given.

AP said it’s unknown whether a judicial or grand jury authorization was sought.

American Society of News Editors executive director Arnie Robbins expressed grave concern, saying:

“On the face of it, this is really a disturbing affront to a free press. It’s also troubling because it is consistent with perhaps the most aggressive administration ever against reporters doing their jobs – providing information that citizens need to know about our government.”

According to Federation of American Scientists’ government secrecy expert, Steven Aftergood:

“This investigation is broader and less focused on an individual source or reporter than any of the others we’ve seen.”

“They have swept up an entire collection of press communications. It’s an astonishing assault on core values of our society.”

A Newspaper Association of America statement said:

“Today we learned of the Justice Department’s unprecedented wholesale seizure of confidential telephone records from the Associated Press.”

“These actions shock the American conscience and violate the critical freedom of the press protected by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called DOJ’s action “a terrible blow against the freedom of the press and the ability of reporters to investigate and report the news.”

Privacy laws need updating, it added. Data-mining is out-of-control. Constitutional, statute, and/or judicial constraints must be imposed.

DOJ violated its own rules. Privacy and press freedom are threatened. The so-called third party doctrine is outdated.

It relates to information or spoken words by one person to another, a government agency, a business, or organization. Doing so excludes Fourth Amendment protection.

In Miller v. United States (1976), the Supreme Court ruled:

“The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information revealed to a third-party and conveyed by him to Government authorities, even if it is revealed on the assumption that it will be used only for a limited purpose and the confidence placed in the third-party will not be betrayed.”

The Court added that information revealed to another source “takes the risk (that it) will be conveyed” to someone else.

In Smith v. Maryland (1979), the High Court extended the third party doctrine to telephone communications.

The court said in “expos(ing) that information” to phone company equipment, individuals “assumed the risk that the company would reveal to police the numbers…dialed.”

Last year in US v. Jones, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor acknowledged the need to update Fourth Amendment protections, saying:

“People disclose the phone numbers that they dial or text to their cellular providers, the URLS that they visit and the e-mail addresses with which they correspond to their Internet service providers, and the books, groceries and medications they purchase to online retailers.”

“I would not assume that all information voluntarily disclosed to some member of the public for a limited purpose is, for that reason alone, disentitled to Fourth Amendment protection.”

In United States v. US District Court (1972), a unanimous Supreme Court ruling upheld Fourth Amendment protections in cases involving domestic surveillance targeting a domestic threat.

Spying in America today is institutionalized. Privacy rights no longer matter. Phone calls, emails, and other communications are being monitored secretly without court authorization.

Unconstrained data-mining and monitoring occur without probable cause. America’s a total surveillance society. A previous article said Big Brother no longer is fiction. It hasn’t been for some time. It’s official US policy.

Unprecedented, unwarranted prosecutions follow. No one’s safe anymore. Everyone’s vulnerable. Constitutional rights don’t matter. That’s how police states operate. Given the capability of modern technology, America’s by far the worst.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.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 Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/spies-r-us/

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Petition to End the Fluoridation of Drinking Water

May 15th, 2013 by Global Research News

By Andrew Puhanic
Globalist Report

 Now, more than ever, is the time for the world to begin petitioning local authorities and politicians to end the mandatory fluoridation of drinking water supplies.

The dangers of drinking fluoridated water are well-known. To learn more about the dangers of drinking fluoridated water, click here, here and here.

However, the problem we face at both the local and global level is the lack of willingness by authorities and politicians to tackle the pro-fluoride lobby and end the mandatory fluoridation of drinking water supplies.

Therefore, the only way for us to be heard, is to contact our local authorities and politicians directly to show them personally what dangers are being imposed on the broader community.

The following is a letter you can download to send to your local representative, demanding the end of water fluoridation.

Sign our Petition to end mandatory fluoridation of drinking water

This letter highlights the dangers of drinking fluoridated water and brings to the attention of our local representatives the need to change current practices.

Download a petition

However, contacting our local authorities to end the fluoridation of drinking should only form one part of our strategy.

Ultimately, we need to petition the United Nations to demand that countries stop fluoridating their drinking water.

If the United Nations reverses its policy of endorsing the fluoridation of drinking water, then local authorities around the world will be more receptive to change.

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The recent Ontario provincial budget did not do very much to uphold Kathleen Wynne‘s claim to the title of ‘Social Justice Premier.’ Most of those on social assistance received an increase in their benefits that was below the rate of inflation while no increase whatsoever was provided to those subsisting on the minimum wage. Modest improvements in the amount of part time earnings and assets that can be kept without having them clawed back will not come close to preventing those on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) from falling even deeper into poverty this year. The utter absurdity of the Liberal assertion that they have shown any commitment to ‘poverty reduction’ can be seen in the fact that single people on OW are living on benefits that have lost 56 per cent of their spending power since 1993. Even those on ODSP, who were not subject to the Mike Harris 21.6 per cent benefit cut in 1995, are at an income level that is 22 per cent below where it was twenty years ago.

Anti-poverty activists take shelter in City Hall. [John Bonnar]

Liberal Finance Minister, Charles Sousa, asserted that, during the decade his Party has held power in this Province, social assistance rates have increased by 15 per cent. Given the rise in the cost of living during those years, Sousa’s comment is a de facto admission that people are significantly poorer now than they were when the Tories left office.

Still, it is apparent that the Wynne Liberals are only in the opening stages of a process of regressive welfare redesign and that their biggest attacks lie ahead. The blueprint they will use in developing this strategy is last year’s, Brighter Prospects, the Report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. This study of the system was undertaken by Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh and it charts a course for a thoroughly regressive remodelling of social assistance in line with the needs of the prevailing international agenda of austerity. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’s (OCAP) analysis of this document was entitled “Brighter Prospects for Cheap Labour” which speaks to its essential thrust. It charts a course for dismantling ODSP, by downloading the Program to the municipal level of government, reassessing those who have already qualified for disabled benefits and reorganizing the means of obtaining these benefits in such a way that disabled people will be forced to compete for the lowest paying jobs on offer. I’ll return to the situation in Ontario shortly but, first, I want place it in the context of the long standing attack on income support programs and the emerging international strategy to attack disability benefits in particular.

Welfare and Wages

The attack on income support has been central to the process of imposing austerity on working-class populations because of the connection between the adequacy of such programs and the bargaining power of employed workers and unions. From Marx’s concept of an ‘industrial reserve army’ to the notion that economists like Milton Friedman have put forward of a ‘natural rate’ of unemployment, it has long been understood that the level of joblessness is of great importance in determining the balance of forces between employers and workers. However, it is not just a question of how many are out of work. The degree of desperation among the unemployed and the level of intimidation affecting those still employed are greatly influenced by the adequacy or otherwise of income support systems. In fact, subject only to limits that may be set by social dislocation or organized resistance, the interests of employers are best served when unemployment is totally ‘natural’ and synonymous with outright destitution.

The process of undermining income support, in this Province and throughout Canada, has spanned decades and taken a massive toll. Unemployment insurance has been reduced to the point where only a minority of the jobless even qualify for it. 74 per cent of Canada’s unemployed qualified in 1990 but, by 2004, this level had fallen to 35 per cent.[1] Uniform national standards for provincial social assistance programs were destroyed in 1993 with the elimination of the Canada Assistance Plan. The spending power of social assistance payments in all provinces has been driven down massively. Supplementary programs have been gutted and rules tightened considerably to make it harder to obtain assistance and to retain benefits once qualifying for them. When the Ontario Tories came to power, in 1995, the system of providing a separate and relatively secure benefit to single parents, established in the 1920s as ‘mother’s allowance,’ was eliminated and never restored. All of this has forced people into a low wage sector that has expanded considerably.

Today in Ontario, very much as part of an international trend, the next great step in the process of smashing income support systems has been recognized by political leaders and policy makers as a drive to fundamentally undermine benefit systems for the disabled. In this regard, the David Cameron Government in the UK is on the cutting edge of the attack.

Cuts in UK and U.S.

A vast array of austerity measures has been introduced by the British Government and many of these impact poor and disabled people. These have included the merging of jobless and disabled benefits and a huge, privatized effort to reassess disability claims so as to rob people of their benefits en masse. A September 26, 2012 article in the British Daily Record reported that the Department of Work and Pensions had admitted that, of those who had by then been cut off disabled benefits, 55 per cent were without work or income, 30 per cent were existing on the jobseekers allowance and a mere 15 per cent were employed. As this unfolds, one British Tory MP has openly called for the introduction of a sub minimum wage for the disabled.

The sheer viciousness of the way the British Government has hounded disabled people can be found in another British media report dealing with people in Scotland living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND). This neurological condition causes loss of ability to walk, speak or even breathe without assistive devices and it leads to death, usually within fourteen months. However, the British Department of Work and Pensions has determined that ‘terminal illness’ will only be defined as conditions that will claim your life within a six month period. If you are expected to live longer than that, you will be required to take ‘fitness to work’ tests and be subject to the infamous ‘bedroom tax’ imposed on April 1 of this year. This has meant MND sufferers have been cut off benefits and lost their housing.

Similar attacks are now being developed in the United States and a glance at media coverage there shows that a veritable campaign is underway to ensure disabled people are targeted. As early as February 12 of last year, we find an online article with Business Insider entitled “The unemployed are now going on disability and it’s costing the Government billions.” The idea being put forward is that a stagnant U.S. economy is creating a lot of long term jobless and many of them are avoiding precarious welfare programs by registering claims for disability with an overly lax system. They are not, it is asserted, really disabled but a population of hidden unemployed who need to be flushed out from their dishonest place of refuge and comfort.

Liberal’s Plans in Ontario

This is the context in which the Liberals are planning major changes to social assistance in this Province. They have now held power for a decade and, during this time, have allowed poverty to intensify. In the last period, they have fully embraced the austerity agenda and have begun to fashion their own version of it here in Ontario as their recent Budget demonstrates.

Given this Government’s track record and the directions being taken in the UK that I have described, it is an appalling miscalculation to see something positive in the above mentioned Lankin/Sheikh Report. This document does not press for income adequacy for people on ODSP and for barriers to accessing the program to be removed. Rather, it is all about creating a system of disability benefits that judges everything by standards of ‘employability’ with a maximum drive to low waged work as its dominant consideration. They go so far as to advocate the setting up of ‘employer’s councils’ to assist in the process.

The next period will be one in which there will be a serious need for communities to take action against the impending attack on ODSP and the disabled as part of a broader assault on income support. However, a barrier to such urgently needed action exists in the form of a political perspective that has come to be known as ‘constructive engagement.’ A network of social agencies and other organizations has, over a long period, developed a co-operative and consultative relationship with the Liberal Government. In the face of all evidence to the contrary, they insist that the Liberals can be convinced, through education and discussion, to embark on a course of progressive social assistance reform and ‘poverty reduction.’

In the specific context of Wynne’s recent austerity budget, this perspective of positively reinforcing rather than challenging the Liberals has become an even more serious political problem as we can see from a number of reactions to this budget. The Daily Bread Food Bank issued a statement that begins, “Measures announced today in the 2013 budget are important steps to help move Ontario forward in transforming social assistance.” The 25 in 5 Poverty Reduction Network put out a press release that claims, “this budget puts money in the pockets of low-income Ontarians and starts the process of social assistance reform that will create greater security and opportunity for low-income Ontarians.”

The Toronto Star has played the leading media role in promoting the views of the constructive engagement initiative. Obviously, respectable lobbying, as opposed to community mobilization, is exactly what the liberal Star wants to focus on and promote. So, we see a column from Martin Reg Cohn, in the wake of the budget, driving home the message that progressive welfare reform is on track. Entitled “Good news on the poverty front in Kathleen Wynne’s first budget,” the column speaks of “several surprisingly robust improvements to Ontario’s current welfare mess.” These are, however, only ‘the low hanging fruit’ and, for the bigger things to come, Cohn points to the ‘landmark’ Lankin/Sheikh Report. The Star, characterizes a budget that makes people poorer as a bold step forward and presents the regressive blueprint that the government is working from as a pathway to major improvements for those in poverty.

As part of the Budget, the Liberals announced that they would be establishing a special committee of Cabinet to take forward implementation of the Lankin/Sheikh Report. Doubtless, there will be yet more ‘stakeholder’ meetings and consultations, many of them handled personally by Wynne’s new ‘progressive’ Minister of Community and Social Services, Ted McMeekin. They will be a trap designed to provide legitimacy and, as much as possible, divert potential challenges to the government into safe channels. This demobilization strategy must be overcome. Last year, when the Liberals announced plans to eliminate the vital Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) for people on social assistance, OCAP was able to link up with unions, First Nations communities and local anti poverty organizations, through the Raise the Rates Campaign, and organize resistance to the cut across Ontario. Even though community action was not able to prevent the downloading of the program onto local governments, the restoration of $42-million of the $60-million cut was achieved. It was a fragile and partial victory but an important one, nonetheless.

Communities Fight Back

The Raise the Rates Campaign, which we have been able to build up with the serious support of CUPE-Ontario, creates a model of poor communities fighting back as part of a broader working-class common front.

The Raise the Rates Campaign, which we have been able to build up with the serious support of the Canadian Union of Public Emplyees (CUPE-Ontario), creates a model of poor communities fighting back as part of a broader working-class common front. It is just such a movement that will have to be developed on a bigger scale if we are to turn back the attack on disability benefits in this province. This year, in Toronto, we found ourselves fighting desperately but with some success to force the City to expand shelter facilities for the homeless in the face of a lethal crisis of overcrowding. As this struggle unfolded, it struck us that the austerity agenda had reached the point where it was prepared to abandon people to death on the streets.

Now, again, when we look at the threat to ODSP, we see another indication of the nature of austerity. The Elizabethan Poor Laws (1601) were careful to make a distinction between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor. It was grudgingly recognized that a disabled person should at least be entitled to a slightly blunted and more stabilized form of poverty. Today’s austerity agenda, however, has no time for any limits set by the Tudors. Disabled benefits are in the way of their developing plans. If the adequacy and relative security of those benefits can be eliminated, then the result will be an influx of people competing for the worst and most precarious jobs available.

Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is, in fact, already creating this model for injured workers. They are being assessed by private companies and the Board has adopted the widespread practice of ‘deeming’ injured workers capable of performing particular jobs regardless of the practical prospects of such employment being obtained. From the example of the measures taken in the UK, we can see that the approach is to act quite recklessly and err on the side of denying benefits to those without real prospects of finding low waged work. Certainly, straight cost savings on social expenditures are part of what drives this agenda so the Cameron Government sees no reason for caution. If ODSP were successfully downloaded onto the municipalities, we can be sure that UK style cut offs of the disabled would occur on a widespread basis in Ontario.

The Tory Social Services Critic, Toby Barrett, has already tabled a Private Members Bill in the Legislature for the merging of OW and ODSP and, obviously, there is no doubt that a Hudak Government would intensify the attack on this and many other fronts. It is, however, a profound mistake to believe that Ted McMeekin’s readiness to show up for consultation meetings looking interested offers any kind of protection. The attack on disabled benefit systems has become an important feature of the strategy to impose austerity on working-class populations. The Ontario Liberals will not fail to comply with the needs of that agenda unless they face an opposition that forces them to do otherwise. The challenge for us is to mobilize that opposition, led by disabled and poor people, so as to defend ODSP as part of a broader fight for the right to decent income and living wages for all.

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

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Findings of the Mussalaha Peace Mission to Syria

May 14th, 2013 by Global Research News

The Concluding Declaration of the Mussalaha Delegation to Syria – Friday, May 10th 2013

by Father Dave Smith

Syria exhibits a massive and terrible breakdown of human decency and respect. There are millions of innocent victims and many individual acts of heroism, but amongst the powerful we see an appalling degree of violence, hypocrisy and corruption. Tens of thousands have died, millions have been displaced, and nearly the entire population of 23 million lives in fear. The international community has stated and we confirm that the Syrian tragedy is possibly the worst since World War II.

How to Change the World

States, political organisations and combatants are the primary causes of the misery, which they pursue for their own advantage, sewing terror and manipulating the suffering to reflect badly on their opponents while all too often refusing to compromise or even talk to each other.

These are the findings of our delegation, consisting of 16 human rights activists from seven countries. Over the course of nine days we visited refugee camps, affected communities, religious leaders, combatants, government representatives and many others – perpetrators and victims – in Syria and Lebanon.

We were already horrified by what we knew before coming, but what we have learned as a delegation brings shame to almost everyone involved.

We call on the international community to protect the territorial integrity of Syria and to respect the fundamental rights of Syria as a sovereign state. We deplore any intent to breach the integrity of Syria’s frontiers or to damage the unity and rich diversity of the Syrian people.

We recognise the legitimacy of the aspirations of the Syrian citizens for change, reforms, the eradication of State corruption and the implementation of a democratic life that respects and protects the fundamental rights of all citizens and minorities but we believe that effective and lasting reforms an only be achieved through non-violent means.

Our primary appeal is that all countries stop their interference in Syrian affairs – more specifically, that they halt the supply of arms and foreign combatants to both sides of the conflict. If foreign countries agree to eliminate the influx of arms and fighters, we are confident that Syrians can find their own solutions to their problems and achieve reconciliation.

We unequivocally oppose all aggression and foreign intervention against Syria under any justification. At the same time we appeal to all parties, including the government, to show restraint in response to the provocations that aim to escalate the violence and broaden the conflict.

We consider it beyond debate that the Syrian people have the right to determine their own government and their own future. Foreign interference is currently preventing the Syrian people from exercising their right to self-determination. We are concerned that such pernicious intervention is tearing apart the fabric of the country itself, with long-term consequences that can only be imagined.

The cautionary example of Iraq serves to remind us of the dire consequences of such international folly. This humanitarian crisis is already spilling into neighbouring countries. A collapse of Syrian society though will destabilise the entire region. We appeal to the international community to show that it can learn from history and make better choices in the case of Syria, which will spare further tragedy for the courageous Syrian people.

Secondly, we appeal to the international media to stop the flow of misinformation regarding the Syrian conflict. We believe that every Syrian, both in and outside the country, should be given the right to be heard and we do not see this reflected in the international coverage of this crisis.

Thirdly, while we entirely support the embargo on arms, we ask the international community to review and reconsider the crippling sanctions that are taking such a heavy toll on ordinary Syrian people.

Fourthly, we urge the international community to take seriously the vast number of refugees and persons who have been internally displaced by this conflict.

We look towards the cessation of all violence when these people might be allowed to return to their homes. In the meantime, however, humanitarian aid efforts must be expanded to meet the basic needs of such persons.

Our earlier report, the “Declaration of the Mussalaha Delegation to Syria on the Refugee Situation in Lebanon”, outlines the inadequacies of current refugee programmes. We appreciate that various government authorities have attempted to respond to the refugee crisis. We recognise though that the International Committee of the Red Cross and its affiliates, as well as other humanitarian agencies, must be allowed to set up centres inside Syria to care for internally displaced persons, so as to prevent these displaced persons from fleeing to foreign countries.

This work requires immediate and significant funding by the international community. While this will be a costly undertaking, we believe that the costs will in fact be only a fraction of the amount currently being spent on destroying Syria.

Finally, we appeal to all parties involved to put an end to all forms of violence and human rights violations – actions that target and terrorise innocent civilians and prisoners, indiscriminate terrorist attacks on the civilian population, the unjustified systematic targeting of vital state infrastructures, civilian installations, industrial zones, factories, communication facilities, agriculture reserves, health centres and hospitals, schools and universities, and religious and cultural landmarks – all of which results in the transformation of the residential areas into war zones, resulting in the flight of the civilian population.

We likewise oppose the use of religious decrees that encourage, trivialise and justify barbarity, rape and terrorism. We appeal to the entire religious community to call the faithful to nonviolence and peacemaking, and to reject all forms of violence and discrimination.  We express our admiration and respect for the many Syrian religious leaders who have refused to endorse the use of violence and have dedicated their lives to working for a peaceful solution to this conflict, and we appeal specifically for the immediate release of the two abducted Christian bishops, both of whom were dedicated to the work of peace and reconciliations, as we appeal for the release of all Christian and Muslim clerics and other abducted Syrian citizens.

We conclude by commending the work of Mother Agnes Mariam and the Mussalaha initiative. We have witnessed their work inside diverse communities across Syria. We offer our unequivocal and ongoing support to these brave people, and we commit ourselves to continue to work alongside them until Syria is truly at peace.

Mussalaha team members at Baalbek (Lebanon) preparing to cross into Syria

 

The Mussalaha Delegation to Syria:

Francesco CANDELARI (Italy) His current role is International Coordinator of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and he has held previous positions at the United Nations and as journalist covering the Arab Spring. He has been in close touch with people from Syria and interested in looking for possible nonviolent solutions to the conflict in Syria.

Marinella COREGGIA (Italy) Italian journalist and writer in the field of ecological justice; and an ecological farmer, Marinella Correggia, has been active for peace since 1991. Associated with the No War Network, she co-organised many demonstrations in Rome, petitions to the UN, sending information to some Un missions in Geneva, writing articles and conferences.

Susan Anne Day DIRGHAM (Australia) has organized and helped lead tour of Syria for students from La Trobe University, Melbourne. She organised accommodation, transport, interviewees in Damascus (through Ministry of Information) for Australian film-maker Bruce Petty.

Mel DUNCAN (USA) is Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Nonviolent Peaceforce. Mel Duncan is the founding Executive Director and current Advocacy and Outreach Director of Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP). Modeled on the Gandhian concept of Shanti Sena, Nonviolent Peaceforce is composed of trained citizens from around the world. Mr. Duncan has 40 years of experience organizing and advocating nonviolently for peace, justice, and the environment. He currently focuses on advancing the recognition, policy and funding support for nonviolent peacekeeping at the UN.

Tiffany EASTHOM (Canada) She is Country Director for South Sudan for Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) which is an international non-governmental organization (INGO) engaged in the creation of a large-scale unarmed peacekeeping force, composed of specially trained civilians. Prior to becoming NP’s Country Director in South Sudan, Tiffany served as Country Director at NP’s Sri Lanka project as well as Country Director for Peace Brigades International in Indonesia.

Denning ISLES (Australia) is a graduate of Welsey Institute, majoring in Audio Technology (2008). He currently works for Fr. David Smith with Fighting Fathers Ministries, in which he supports various youth and community organisations such as Dulwich Hill’s Holy Trinity Youth Center, Binacrombi Camp Site and the Dulwich Hill Gym.

Franklin LAMB (USA) is an international lawyer based in Beirut-Washington, DC. A former Assistant Counsel of the House Judiciary Committee of the US Congress, Lamb has written widely on Middle East issues as part of his commitment to the cause of Palestine.

Paul LARUDEE (USA)is a former Ford foundation project supervisor, and Fulbright-Hays lecturer in Lebanon, and a U.S. government advisor to Saudi Arabia. He has been a faculty member at several universities in the San Francisco Bay Area,an organizer with the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine and co-founder of the movement to break the Israeli siege of Gaza by sea, and was aboard the boats that succeeded in doing so in 2008 as well as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which was attacked by Israeli forces on May 31, 2010. He is a cofounder of the Global March to Jerusalem.

Amir M. MAASOUMI (Canada) is a sociologist, specialist of contemporary Islam, intercultural and interfaith relations, dialogue among cultures and civilizations. He is also a peace, social justice and human rights activist.

Mairead MAGUIRE (Northern Ireland) is Nobel Peace Laureate (l976) Hon. President, Co-Founder Peace People, Northern Ireland. Mairead (Corrigan) Maguire is a Nobel Peace Laureate (l976) Hon. President and Co-founder of the Peace People, Northern Ireland. Mairead was responsible for co-founding the Peace People. She has received many honours and awards, including an honorary doctorate from Yale University, the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Distinguished Peace Leadership Award and the Nobel Peace Prize Award (l976).

Michael MALOOF (USA) is a senior writer for WND (WND.com), or World Net Daily, specializing in international political and economic reporting and analysis. He also writes a weekly column for subscribers only for WND’s G2Bulletin providing analysis in these areas. As part of his reporting, Maloof travels many times a year to Lebanon where he is expected to set up a bureau there for WND.

Ann PATTERSON (Ireland) is a family therapist at the Quaker Centre in Belfast, she works to provide counseling support for families from the divided communities. During the peace process in Northern Ireland, she worked with imprisoned paramilitaries from both sides, preparing them to enter into peace talks. She is founder member of the Peace People, a pacifist movement that played a critical role in promoting the Good Friday Agreement and advancing the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Antonio Carlos da Silva ROSA (Brasil) is the editor of TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS since its inception in 2008, he is also the Secretary of the Board of Conveners of TRANSCEND International-A Network for Peace, Development and Environment, founded by Johan Galtung in 1993.

Father Dave SMITH (Australia) started Fighting Fathers Ministries in 2002 – a company that aims to offer an alternative culture to young people, based on values of courage, integrity and teamwork. This work has been the subject of numerous TV documentaries and one short film. Particularly well-known for our use of boxing-training as a means to help young men overcome anger-management issues. He was twice nominated for Australian of the Year on the basis of this work. He is known for his friendship with Mordechai Vanunu (the Israeli ‘nuclear whistle-blower’), which started in Sydney in 1986, started my involvement in social justice work in the Middle East and has subsequently developed a strong profile in Australia as a Palestinian human rights activist.

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While the Harper Conservative government has loudly proclaimed its close ties to Israel, most Canadians would be surprised to learn the Tories have decided to make the two countries blood brothers. In the international affairs equivalent of a Mafia initiation ceremony Canada has sworn undying loyalty and to be a faithful soldier in Israel’s cause.

Think that’s an exaggeration? Consider the following:

• Since Stephen Harper took office the two nations defence ministers and top generals have repeatedly visited each other’s country. These visits have resulted in various accords and “the [two] countries have agreed to exchange secret defense information,” according to a June 2012 CBC summary of government briefing notes.

• The week before last the head of Canadian Forces visited Israel to deepen “cooperation between the two militaries.” Reportedly, Thomas Lawson met his Israeli counterpart, the Defense Minister and various other senior military officers. According to a Jerusalem Post summary, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon called for Canada and Israel to “further increase their cooperation in the fight against terror in light of the upheaval in the Middle East and Iran’s role in fueling the region’s conflicts.”

• In 2008 Canada and Israel signed a wide-ranging public security agreement and for the first time in its history in 2011 Israel named a defense attaché to Ottawa. Until at least the end of 2010 the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv served as Israel’s Contact Point Embassy to NATO, the military alliance of Western nations. The embassy served as the liaison between Israel and NATO, assisting with visits of NATO officials to Israel. According to internal government documents examined by The Dominion, Ottawa worked to strengthen Israel’s partnership with the military alliance, helping its “pursuit of a Status of Forces Agreement, getting access to the NATO Maintenance Supply Agency, [redacted].”

• In February 2010 deputy foreign minister Peter Kent implied that Canada already considered Israel a member of NATO, which operates according to the principle that an attack on any member is considered an attack against all members. Reflecting the alliance’s purported principle, Kent said “an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada” and in July 2011 defence minister Peter MacKay reiterated this position privately. According to briefing notes uncovered by CBC he told Israel’s top military commander, Gabi Ashkenazi that “a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada.”

• At the same time as official military relations have intensified there has been an increase in weapons sharing and relations between Israeli and Canadian arms manufacturers. At a November 2011 press conference with his Israeli counterpart defense minister MacKay described the two countries’ “growing relations in the defense sector.” Among the more significant examples, the Canadian military bought the Israeli-made Heron drone for use in Afghanistan and Israel’s Elisra Electronics Systems is working on upgrading a dozen Halifax-class warships.

• Despite the Israeli Defense Force’s many human rights violations, many Canadian companies sell weapons directly to Israel. According to a 2009 Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade report, more than 140 Canadian weapons makers export products to Israel. Last year British Columbia-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates won a $90+ million contract to supply Israel Aerospace Industries with satellite technology. The December 2011 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs detailed some Canadian military exports to Israel. “Ottawa’s Allen Vanguard Corporation provides ‘counterterrorist’ equipment and training. iMPath Networks of Ottawa and Halifax design solutions for real-time video surveillance and intrusion detection technology. Mecachrome Technologies, based in Montréal and Toronto, provides components for military aircraft. And MPB Technologies of Pointe Claire, Edmonton, Airdrie and Calgary manufacturers, among other things, communications equipment and robotics for [Israeli] military use. … British Columbia-based 360 Surveillance sells technology for Israel’s apartheid wall and checkpoints.”

• Taxpayers often underwrite ties between Canadian and Israeli military companies. The multimillion dollar Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation funds research projects (including many in the “security” field) between the two countries’ corporations. (For details see Kole Kilibarda’s Canadian and Israeli Defense -Industrial and Homeland Security Ties: An Analysis).

To the extent that the dominant media questions the Harper government’s pro-Israel policies they focus on public pronouncements, UN votes and other diplomatic moves such as foreign minister John Baird’s recent meeting with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in occupied East Jerusalem (a rare occurrence designed to further legitimize Israel’s illegal control over that part of the city). But, deepening Canadian security ties with Israel may be more significant than the Conservatives anti-Palestinian public statements and UN votes.

For instance, what role do growing ties between the two countries’ military leadership play in the Conservatives extremely hostile position towards Iran? Or, is there a connection between the Canada Israel public security agreement and the RCMP’s highly suspect recent claim that two operatives with “direction and guidance” from “al-Qaeda elements in Iran” planned to blow up a major Canadian bridge? Finally, what role do growing military ties play in spurring the Conservatives’ anti-Palestinian diplomatic moves?

Though little discussed, the military is an important element of the Conservatives ‘Israel no matter what’ policy. In addition to the Jewish establishment, Christian Zionism and the role Israel plays as a Western outpost in the Middle East, the Conservatives militaristic tendencies lead them to support that country. Harper’s government, for instance, is close to the Canadian military companies that sell to Israel and do business with that country’s top-flight weapons industry. Additionally, Canadian military leaders appreciate the tactical information and expertise Israel’s well-practiced military shares.

Like a wanna-be gangster looking up to a Mafia boss, the Harperites are impressed by the large role Israel’s military plays in the country’s affairs.

Ordinary Canadians should be concerned. Very concerned.

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Hi Fighter,

I left Syria yesterday and, quite frankly, the days spent there were amongst the most intense and meaningful of my life! I sensed as I crossed the border into Lebanon that I had left some of my heart behind in Damascus!

I’m afraid I was a right pain to those I sat next to on the flight to Abu Dhabi, and to staff and companions in subsequent airport lounges, as I can’t stop talking about what I saw and what I learned. I’m conscious that I could prattle on endlessly in this missive too if I’m not careful, so I thought that today I would share with you only four encounters with Syrians that I met – two men and two women – and leave the rest for another time.

Our team visits Baalbek refugee camp in Lebanon before crossing the border into Syria

The woman in black

Our hosts – the Mussalaha organising committee – encountered a fair degree of difficulty in obtaining the 16 visas needed for our team. When we finally crossed the border into Syria there was a great degree of jubilation, and this only increased when we arrived at the Dama Rose hotel to be greeted by a team of well-dressed delegates.

The Dama Rose is a five-star hotel, and even though we were in the middle of a war-zone, it was hard to escape feeling like members of some royal family – we were treated with such warmth and appreciation! The reality started to sink in though when I was grabbed by a middle-aged woman in the foyer, dressed in black, who started to tell me about her 12-year-old son, Mohamed, who had recently been killed. 

She was speaking in Arabic but had an interpreter in her other hand who was trying to keep up with the woman’s pain and passion. She said that the rebel soldiers had put a bomb in his pocket and that he was blown apart (she gestured grotesquely). “And why did they kill him?” she cried. “Because we are Shi’ite”.

She pulled out a crumbled photo of the boy from her pocket and kissed it repeatedly. I borrowed the photo briefly and kissed Mohamed too.

The Woman from Mount Qasioun

He was walking to work when a mortar shell blew off his legI shared dinner with a very articulate woman who lived on the slopes of Mount Qasioun, which is within jogging distance of the centre of town.

Mount Qasioun is the mountain that was bombed last week by Israeli jets. This woman told me that she had been thrown out of her bed by the force of the explosions!

The Israelis claimed they were targetting a convoy of weapons bound for Hezbollah, and the US President excused the attack accordingly. This woman though told me that three very precise targets had been hit:

  1. The barracks of ‘Brigade 14′ – Bashar Al-Assad’s elite ‘royal guard
  2. The ammunition dump
  3. The military research centre

This would suggest that the attack had nothing to do with Hezbollah, though sources in Lebanon have said that seven Hezbollah personnel had been killed in the attack. Either way though, this was a direct attack by Israel on Syria and not on Hezbollah, and it has the potential to lead to World War III.

This is the third Israeli assault on Syrian soil. The plan seems to be to continue to provoke Syria with small murderous acts until Israel gets a response. That response is not likely to come from Syria (whose resources are completely tied up with its internal struggle) but from Iran (whom many believe are really in control of Syria now). Once this happens, the Israelis will have the excuse they need to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

It seems that the US has not given Israel permission to attack Iran. If Iran attacks Israel though Netanyahu won’t need permission. He’ll then be able to drag the US into the conflict as it escalates into a regional war. One can only imagine the consequences!

We present the Minister for Justice with a petition for the release of 72 non-violent activists

The Sheikh with one ear

We met a Sheikh with only one ear in our visit to the hospital in Damascus.

This man had been abducted by rebel troops, tortured, beaten with rods, had his ear cut off, and was eventually shot in the throat and left for dead. Somehow he survived, but now he is unable to leave the grounds of the hospital as he knows that there are people on the outside waiting to kill him.

How did this man become so hated? He said that the rebel fighters had asked him to bless their troops. He refused.

We meet up with a local Mussalaha peace team

The Mufti

I had the enormous privilege of meeting, on our last day in Syria, the Grand Mufti.

I don’t normally get excited about meeting big-name people, and indeed we met many during our stay, including the Prime Minister of Syria, but no one made an impression on me like the Mufti! Indeed, I don’t think anyone has ever made such a strong first impression on me!

I’m still not sure how to articulate the experience, but the man simply exuded gentleness! Both his words, his manner and his touch embodied the sort of love that, as a Christian, I aspire to.

He spoke about how his son had been killed. His son, he said, was not remotely political. He was a university student, absorbed in his studies. Even so, he was targeted and shot. He then shared how he and his wife had determined not to hold the ‘blood-guilt’ of their son against his killer. Instead they had committed themselves to forgiveness and reconciliation!

I can’t tell you how shocked I was when, after hearing this, I was singled out (along with only two others from our group) to receive a special gift from the Mufti! When he reached out for me I instinctively took his hand and kissed it. This is not proper protocol, of course, as it is a sign of submission – inappropriate for a cleric from another religion. I felt him begin to pull his hand away, but then he relaxed, and then he embraced me and kissed me on both cheeks and held me close for quite some time. It was an extraordinary moment.

I know that many people will shake their head and think me an idiot for my behavior  Some will even think me a traitor to my faith! All I can say is that I was struck by the Spirit of Christ in this man, and I will treasure his gift till the day I die!

The Grand Mufti of Syria - Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun

Pray for Syria

I must wind up my Syrian story for today though there is so much more I want to share with you. I haven’t even mentioned the joy of working alongside Mairead Maguire – a true woman of God – and my dear Mother, Agnes Miriam of Homs.

There are a few other snippets strewn across the web if you want to hear a bit more:

  • I’ve created a reasonably comprehensive photo album of the trip on the Fighting Fathers member site (here).
  • I did a blog post on day one of the trip on the same member site (here). I’d intended to do one per day but …
  • I uploaded pics and video of our trip to the Palestinian and Syrian refugee camp on the Lebanese/Syrian border to israelandpalestine.org (here)
  • My friend and team-mate, Paul Larudee, gave an excellent write-up of his experience   of Damascus on the Free Palestine Movement website (here).

Praying together for peace at the Umayyad mosque

You can expect more Syrian stories to trickle down from me over the coming weeks and months, as I have no intention of relaxing my efforts at peacemaking and, indeed, I am hoping that you will join me in this work.

The needs are so deep and the stakes are so high! If Syrian society falls apart, the overflow of refugees will almost certainly take Lebanon down too, and if World War III starts as a result of the collapse, nobody on this planet will be safe.

Moreover, the people of Syria deserve better than what they are receiving from the International community. They are being treated as cannon-fodder in a global battle where the ‘great‘ powers are vying for strategic control of their region. Let’s plead with our governments to get their grubby hands off Syria and let the Syrian people determine their own future, through dialogue rather than violence.

I read today that the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, had met with rebel leaders this week, promising more weapons to fuel the conflict and saying:

“Let me be very clear. The US position has not changed. Approximately two years ago, we announced that Bashar al-Assad had lost his legitimacy, and that he had to resign. We still say that Bashar al-Assad must resign, he must resign. And the Syrians must create a new transitional government that excludes him and his inner circle.” (from Alternet.org)

Here is a man who not only tells the Syrian people what sort of government they must have, but who is also happy to help spread death and terror across the country until Syrians come into line and do what he tells them to do! God save us all from this sort of ‘humanitarian intervention‘!

I’ll climb down from my virtual pulpit now and see you next week.

Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

 

with Mairead Maguire in Beirut - my hero!

Father Dave with Mairead Maguire in Beirut – my hero!

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Last week news coverage around the world heralded the conviction of Efrain Rios Montt on the charges of genocide against the Mayan people during his 17 month tenure as Guatemala’s head of government and military strongman.  The three-judge panel led by Jazmin Barrios determined that evidence presented to the court established that there was a clear and systematic plan to exterminate the Ixil people as a race and that the plan developed and executed by the Montt government satisfied the definition of genocide. With this conviction, the 86 year-old ex-dictator was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

This is a tremendous victory for the people of Guatemala that is a powerful expression of justice and accountability for human rights abuses that offers hope to the many victims of atrocities around the world. This victory, however, doesn’t end with the sentence of the Guatemalan dictator. Another chapter needs to be opened with a more thorough examination of the relationship between Montt, the Guatemalan military and the United States government which, if examined objectively, establishes a clear chain of moral and legal culpability. A relationship that even with a cursory understanding of the history of the conflict in Guatemala would lead logically to the inescapable conclusion that if Efrain Rios Montt, and by extension the Guatemalan military, are guilty of the crime of genocide, the U.S. government and its officials are just as guilty as Rio Montt and that justice in Guatemala remains unfulfilled until everyone, including those responsible for pulling the strings in Guatemala, are also brought to justice.

The story of Rio Montt and the U.S. government was uncovered in the bloodstained, declassified U.S. government documents that graphically detail how U.S. officials were fully aware of the pogrom against the Ixil people in the mountains of Guatemala at the very moment that the U.S. government was involved in training and arming the Guatemalan military, passing intelligence to its clandestine services, and providing political and diplomatic support to the government.  President Ronald Reagan called Rios Montt “a man of great personal integrity and commitment” even as he was receiving reports from his intelligence agencies documenting the scorched- earth policies of the Guatemalan military in its’  campaign against the Ixil.

As horrible as that 17 month period during the Reagan administration was for the indigenous people of Guatemala it was only a brief moment of horror in the macabre drama of U.S.-Guatemala relations.  For many in the world there is no doubt that U.S. support, encouragement and guidance made it culpable in the genocidal policies of its’ client State during that 17-month period. The history of U.S. and Guatemalan relations since the U.S. inspired coup of 1954 that overthrew Guatemala’s reformist President Jacobo Arbenz has been a sordid history of criminal collusion against the people of Guatemala.

From the moment the U.S. Ambassador met with the military leaders of the coup to give them their instructions and deliver a list of radical opponents to be eliminated, the country’s future would be marked by systematic brutality.  Thousands were arrested in those early days with many tortured and killed and a period of bloodshed ushered in that would define everyday life in the country over the next decades.

The cost for the people of Central America as a result of U.S. support for tyrannical regimes across the region has been staggering. Just in the 80s, over a 100,000 people lost their lives in in Guatemala, 70,000 in El Salvador and 20,000 in the U.S. destabilization of Nicaragua.  Honduras was turned into a staging base for U.S. intervention throughout the region from Panama to Nicaragua with murder and political “disappearances” the weapon to bludgeon the Honduran population into compliance.

The people of Guatemala have made the first courageous step toward real accountability. Now it is up to the international community to take the next step to bring full justice to the victims.  For those of us who lived through the 1980s and opposed the genocidal policies in Guatemala, we celebrate the small sliver of justice that the conviction of Rios Montt represents.  But our moment of satisfaction is tempered by the awful memories of what occurred in that country, our knowledge of the role that the U.S. played in those horrors and the possibility that the hegemonic puppeteer might once again escape accountability if we don’t act.

 Ajamu Baraka is an internationally recognized human rights defender and veteran of Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity  Movements in the United States.  He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Baraka is currently living in Cali, Colombia.

 

www. Ajamubaraka.com

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Local resolutions have helped advance many issues, including war opposition, when they’ve been passed in large numbers.  When we passed a resolution in Charlottesville, Va., last year opposing any attack on Iran, I heard from numerous cities that wanted to do the same.  As far as I know, none did.  I heard back from some that they’d been told it was anti-Semitic to oppose a U.S. attack on Iran.  I didn’t have an answer to that — not a printable one anyway.

When Charlottesville passed a resolution against drones in February of this year, I heard from people all over the country again.  Since that time, to my knowledge, one little town in Minnesota called St. Bonifacius has passed something, while dozens and dozens have tried and failed.  The problem seems to be that drones can have good uses as well as bad.  Of course, that’s grounds for halting the lawless and reckless spread of drones until we can figure out any ways in which their good use can be compatible with our Constitutional rights.  But that would make too much sense.  When there’s money to be made, technology to be played with, and terrorists to destroy our freedoms if we don’t hurry up and destroy them first, the American way is full steam ahead.  But I actually think I might have at least a partial answer this time.

There are two separable issues to be addresses in anti-drone resolutions and ordinances and laws and treaties.  One is weaponization.  The other is surveillance.  I’m not aware of anyone yet having any difficulty getting their local officials to oppose weaponized drones.  Most are unaware that some U.S. localities already have drones armed with rubber bullets and tear gas.  Most consider it a crazy idea — as they should.  But it is an idea that should be addressed, because it is not science fiction; it is a dystopia that is already upon us.  Getting localities in the United States to oppose the use of weaponized drones in their skies should be easy.  Having thus established that our towns can address the problem of drones, we could come back and deal with the complex matter of surveillance.

The best solution on surveillance may be the one produced by the Rutherford Institute and embodied in the Charlottesville resolution.  There is nothing in that resolution that prevents a drone from delivering your coffee or checking out a forest fire.  I wish there were, but there actually isn’t.  While I’d like stronger resolutions, I think at this point the movement would benefit from passing any resolutions at all.  And I think the way to make it simpler, clearer, and extremely easy would be to ask our local representatives to simply oppose weaponized drones.

Ideally, of course, I’d like to see cities and counties join the movement to ban weaponized drones from the world.  Such a resolution might read:

Weaponized drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) — including those carrying lethal weapons such as hellfire missiles, and those carrying non-lethal weapons such as tear gas or rubber bullets — are no more acceptable than chemical weapons or land mines.  Whether these drones are controlled by pilots or act autonomously, whether they are publicly or privately owned, they can have no place in a civilized world and should be banned.  The City of ________ urges the State of _________, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. State Department to pursue state, national, and international prohibitions on the development, ownership, or use of weaponized drones.

The trouble with this, of course, is that most of your city council members approve of murdering foreigners with drones.  Thus it becomes a harder measure to pass.  What we want, therefore, is something that does not conflict with the resolution above but addresses itself to local, state, or U.S. skies.  To ease passage most swiftly, we want local resolutions that don’t commit localities to anything, but simply make recommendations to states and the federal government.  However, I suspect that — as in Charlottesville — a statement of local policy will not be a deal breaker.  Here’s a version of the Charlottesville resolution stripped down to the weaponized drone issue alone (just delete the last 14 words to commit your city to nothing):

NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the City Council of ________ calls on the United States Congress and the State of ________ to adopt legislation precluding the domestic use of drones equipped with anti-personnel devices, meaning any projectile, chemical, electrical, directed-energy (visible or invisible), or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being; and pledges to abstain from similar uses with city-owned, leased, or borrowed drones.

Opponents of this resolution will be, and should be denounced for being, supporters of putting weaponized drones in our skies.  Supporters can remain technology lovers.  They can continue to believe every move we make should be videotaped by Big Brother.  They can plow right ahead with their brilliant idea for replacing the pizza guy with a drone.  But they will be taking a stand on a popular issue that has no opposition.  There is no organized popular movement in your town in support of putting weaponized drones in the sky.  There’s not even a concerted effort by police, or even by the drone profiteers.  They can make big bucks off surveillance.  They can fill the skies with drones first.  The weapons can largely come later.  They are not prepared for us to build a movement against weaponized drones and then turn our focus toward the lesser offense of spying.  And by us I mean essentially everyone.  Libertarians and leftists are in agreement on this, and so is everybody else.

So, you can build public pressure.  It’s not hard.  In Charlottesville, we brought a crowd of people to two consecutive city council meetings and dominated the public speaking period.  You should watch the videos of the January 22nd and February 4th meetings here.  We published a column in the newspaper making the case, including the case that it is proper for cities to speak up on national issues.  We organized an event in front of City Hall on the day before the vote.  We displayed a giant model drone produced by New York anti-drone activist Nick Mottern.  Our little stunt produced coverage on the two television channels and in the newspaper.  I asked people to commit to attending the meeting on a FaceBook page.  And when I spoke in the packed meeting, I asked those in agreement to stand.  Most of the room stood.

We presented a weak resolution at the first meeting, which put the issue on the agenda.  We then proposed a stronger one, which one of the best city council members put into the official agenda for the second meeting.  At the second meeting, the council members negotiated a compromise.  You might want to try that approach, which we stumbled into unplanned.

You can also lay the groundwork.  We invited Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin and Nick Mottern and Kathy Kelly and other great speakers to Charlottesville in the months leading up to this resolution effort.  This was not part of a plan, but we knew that it never hurts to educate people about their government’s crimes.  If you sign the international petition to ban weaponized drones from the world, you’ll see a list of organizations at the bottom.  Those are the places to go for resources, speakers, props, reports, flyers, and books that can help you in this effort.  You can also print out a mammoth list of signatures on the petition to impress your elected officials.  Or you can gather signatures locally and add them.

It’s time we made things nice and simple.  Are we in favor of killer flying robots over our homes and schools, or are we not?

Once we’ve given the obvious answer, maybe we’ll start asking each other whether we really think Pakistanis disagree.

David Swanson’s books include “War Is A Lie.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

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L’Unione europea e la McJihad in Siria

May 14th, 2013 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Interessanti sviluppi hanno luogo nell’Unione europea. L’allarme aumenta in tutta l’UE, mentre funzionari dell’Unione europea e di diversi Stati membri dell’UE esprimono timore per il ritorno di loro cittadini combattenti in Siria. L’allarme è iniziato quando sono stati emessi avvisi nei Paesi Bassi su cittadini olandesi che si recano a combattere in Siria, seguiti dal Belgio. Poi, l’Ufficio europeo di polizia (Europol), le forze dell’ordine dell’UE che si occupano d’intelligence criminale, ha riferito che gli scontri in Siria potrebbero creare una futura ondata di terrorismo che potrebbe minacciare i membri dell’Unione europea, nel suo EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) for 2013. Per quanto riguarda la Siria, sul rapporto Europol si legge: “La Siria è divenuta la meta scelta dai combattenti stranieri nel 2012. Un certo numero di cittadini dell’UE è stato arrestato in Belgio, Francia, Paesi Bassi e Regno Unito in viaggio da o per la Siria.” (TE-SAT 2013, p.22).

Il coordinatore antiterrorismo dell’UE, Gilles de Kerchove, ha poi precisato che circa cinquecento cittadini europei, soprattutto di Gran Bretagna, Francia e Irlanda, erano in Siria a combattere a fianco delle forze anti-governative con l’obiettivo di rovesciare il governo di Damasco. De Kerchove esprimerebbe le stesse preoccupazioni di Europol su questi cittadini dell’UE che ritornano nell’UE dai campi di battaglia in Siria. Le sue preoccupazioni sarebbero state riprese a Londra. Anche se il suo governo lavora per legalizzare il trasferimento di armi britanniche alle forze anti-governative in Siria, il ministro degli Esteri britannico, William Hague, ha avvertito della minaccia posta alla Gran Bretagna dai combattenti inglesi di ritorno dalla Siria. Poco dopo, la Germania ha confermato che cittadini tedeschi prendono parte alla lotta per rovesciare il governo siriano. In precedenza, si ebbe la notizia che anche un cittadino danese, ex prigioniero di Guantanamo, era stato ucciso negli scontri in Siria.

La McJihad

La situazione è abbastanza paradossale. La Siria viene presentata, ora dall’UE, come preoccupante, per l’”assenza di Stato” e come “covo jihadista”. L’ironia è che i membri dell’UE, a fianco dei loro omologhi di Stati Uniti, Turchia, Giordania Arabia Saudita e Qatar, hanno promosso e agevolato l’intera McJihad in Siria con l’obiettivo finale di un cambio di regime a Damasco. Per più di due anni, gli appelli alla jihad contro Damasco sono stati diffusi in tutto il mondo da personaggi come Yusuf al-Qaradawi e altri pseudo-religiosi e tele-predicatori in Arabia Saudita e nelle tirannie del Consiglio di cooperazione del Golfo. I funzionari dell’UE non hanno detto niente. Inoltre, organizzazioni come i Fratelli musulmani, che reclutano combattenti da mandare in Siria, in realtà lavorano liberamente a Londra, dove hanno sede da molto tempo, così come organizzazioni simili che guardano alla Russia e all’Asia centrale per le fasi successive della McJihad. Dall’Afghanistan controllato dai taliban alla Somalia, i cosiddetti “Stati falliti”, operano per conto degli Stati Uniti, e questi stessi Paesi formano i gruppi degli “Amici della Libia” e degli “Amici del popolo siriano”. Questi Paesi dovrebbero essere chiamati, più correttamente, “Imperialismo SpA”. William Hague e soci hanno bisogno solo di guardarsi allo specchio per trovare i colpevoli che minacciano di terrorismo l’UE.

Il concetto di “ritorno di fiamma” o di conseguenze non intenzionali delle operazioni d’intelligence diventa vecchio. Da un lato persone provenienti da Paesi come la Gran Bretagna e la Francia inondano la Siria come combattenti anti-governativi, mentre dall’altra parte spaventano la propria popolazione con il loro allarmismo su questi combattenti. Nella maggior parte dei casi, i combattenti dell’UE entrati in Siria hanno sostanzialmente avuto il via libera e il permesso dal proprio governo per andarvi a combattere. La situazione era la stessa in Libia, dove cittadini statunitensi, britannici, canadesi, francesi e irlandesi hanno combattuto per rovesciare la Jamahiriya libica. Un cittadino statunitense dell’Arizona, Eric Harroun, ritornato negli Stati Uniti dalla Siria avrebbe dovuto affrontare un processo per aver combattuto a fianco di al-Nusra, ma suo padre Darryl Harroun ha rivelato il segreto che Eric lavorava per la CIA in Siria.

Punto di svolta?

Un punto di svolta è all’orizzonte, puntando a una rinnovata spinta contro il governo siriano. Richard Ottaway, un parlamentare dello stesso partito conservatore britannico di William Hague e presidente del comitato ristretto della Commissione Affari Esteri della Camera dei Comuni britannica, ha annunciato che crede che l’annuncio dell’Aja sia legato ai piani britannici per intervenire apertamente in Siria per “minare” i jihadisti stranieri. In termini orwelliani, i combattenti stranieri vengono utilizzati come pretesto per armare ulteriormente le forze anti-governative in Siria. Non sarebbe un caso che le capitali dei Paesi membri della NATO annunciano che il gas nervino sarin sia stato utilizzato dal governo siriano. Annunci circa l’uso di armi chimiche da parte della Siria sono stati fatti da Londra, Parigi, Tel Aviv e Washington DC. Nonostante il fatto che le forze anti-governative abbiano minacciato di usarle, i rapporti sull’uso di armi chimiche in Siria consegnati dal governo siriano alle Nazioni Unite vengono politicizzati con l’obiettivo di incolparne Damasco. Ripetendo lo scenario libico, l’UE ha deciso di iniziare a comprare petrolio siriano dalle forze anti-governative, mentre gli Stati Uniti hanno inviato truppe in Giordania e Israele per la costruzione di infrastrutture per le forze anti-governative e preparandosi ad inviare droni in Siria dallo spazio aereo giordano.

I combattenti stranieri e le forze anti-governative che combattono in Siria collaborano con gli Stati Uniti e i loro alleati direttamente o indirettamente. Ormai il fallimento della cosiddetta “guerra al terrore” degli Stati Uniti dovrebbe essere evidente ai più. Sin dall’inizio non era una guerra contro il terrorismo, ma una “guerra terroristica.” Coloro che sono stati etichettati terroristi e jihadisti dal governo degli Stati Uniti e dai suoi alleati, in molti casi erano proprio la fanteria degli statunitensi nella lenta guerra imperialista di conquista.

Avanti con la McJihad

L’alleanza della guerra fredda tra jihadisti e blocco occidentale, durante la luna di miele anti-sovietica in Afghanistan, è stata ripresa. Ancora una volta i combattenti jihadisti vengono utilizzati come fanteria nella McJihad degli USA. Nella chiamata alle armi, al-Qaradawi e la sua gente hanno dichiarato che la Russia è il nemico numero uno degli arabi e dei musulmani. Ma prima sulla loro lista dei nemici c’è la nemesi degli USA, l’Iran. Questa posizione è politicamente motivata, perché al-Qaradawi aveva proibito ogni combattimento nel 2010 contro la Russia nel Caucaso del Nord. Il pubblico destinato alla revisione della sua posizione sulla Russia e all’animosità verso l’Iran, è composto da battaglioni di combattenti stranieri in Siria, tra cui gruppi militanti del Caucaso del Nord entrati Siria e Libano per combattere attivamente contro il governo siriano, nell’ambito della McJihad degli USA. Le milizie anti-governative in Siria avevano già espresso la loro ostilità verso Mosca e Teheran.

Il Telegraph di Londra, presentato dalla trionfante lingua di Jake Wallis Simons, commenta che la chiamata alle armi di al-Qaradawi è il segnale che una nuova alleanza di interessi si forma tra le forze che la primavera araba ha portato al potere, come ad esempio i Fratelli musulmani, e l’occidente, contro l’asse formato da Russia, Iran e Cina. Simons avrebbe inoltre implicitamente assegnato Israele a questa nuova alleanza contro Mosca, Teheran e Pechino. Ciò spiegherebbe perché degli israeliani sono stati catturati mentre spiavano le navi russe a Tartus.

La Siria non sarà il capolinea della McJihad. Se la Siria cade, in un modo o in un altro attraverso l’instabilità cronica o un cambiamento di regime, i combattenti stranieri invaderanno dal suo territorio tutto il mondo, utilizzandolo come chiave di volta per colpire Paesi come l’Iran e la Russia. Ciò è quello che è successo in Libia, utilizzata come base per inviare armi e combattenti in Siria dal Nord Africa. Potenzialmente, posti come il Distretto Federale del Caucaso del Nord in Russia e le province di confine iraniane poterebbero vedere l’afflusso di combattenti stranieri ed attentati terroristici. Ma nel breve termine il Libano sarà il prossimo fronte, se la Siria dovesse cadere.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

US Saudi connection

The European Union and the McJihad in Syria, Maggio 05, 2013

Traduzione di Alessandro Lattanzio – SitoAurora

  • Posted in Italiano
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Why There Is So Much Pro-War Reporting

There are five reasons that the mainstream media and the largest alternative media websites are both pro-war.

1. Self-Censorship by Journalists

Initially, there is tremendous self-censorship by journalists.

A survey by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review in 2000 found:

Self-censorship is commonplace in the news media today …. About one-quarter of the local and national journalists say they have purposely avoided newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Fully four-in-ten (41%) admit they have engaged in either or both of these practices.

Amediawar War Is Sold Just Like Soda or Toothpaste

Similarly, a 2003 survey reveals that 35% of reporters and news executives themselves admitted that journalists avoid newsworthy stories if “the story would be embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a news organization’s owners or parent company.”

Several months after 9/11, Dan Rather told the BBC that American reporters were practicing “a form of self-censorship”:

There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around peoples’ necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions…. And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism.

What we are talking about here – whether one wants to recognise it or not, or call it by its proper name or not – is a form of self-censorship.

Rather said in 2008:

One of the most pernicious ways in which we do this is through self-censorship, which may be the worst censorship of all. We have seen too much self-censorship in the news in recent years, and as I say this please know that I do not except myself from this criticism.

As Mark Twain once said, “We write frankly and freely but then we ‘modify’ before we print.” Why do we modify the free and frank expression of journalistic truth? We do it out of fear: Fear for our jobs. Fear that we’ll catch hell for it. Fear that someone will seek to hang a sign around our neck that says, in essence, “Unpatriotic.”

We modify with euphemisms such as “collateral damage” or “less than truthful statements.” We modify with passive-voice constructions such as “mistakes were made.” We modify with false equivalencies that provide for bad behavior the ready-made excuse that “everybody’s doing it.” And sometimes we modify with an eraser—simply removing offending and inconvenient truths from our reporting.”

Keith Olbermann agreed that there is self-censorship in the American media, and that:

You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble …. You cannot say: By the way, there’s something wrong with our …. system.

Former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. . . .

There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter – whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.

MarketWatch columnist Brett Arends wrote yesterday:

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories.

Do you want to know what kind of people get promoted and succeed in the modern news organization? Social climbers. Networkers. People who are gregarious, who “buy in” to the dominant consensus, who go along to get along and don’t ask too many really awkward questions. They are flexible, well-organized, and happy with life.

And it shows.

This is why, just in the patch of financial and economic journalism, so many reporters are happy to report that U.S. corporations are in great financial shape, even though they also have surging debts, or that a “diversified portfolio” of stocks and bonds will protect you in all circumstances, even though this is not the case, or that defense budgets are being slashed, when they aren’t, or that the U.S. economy has massively outperformed rivals such as Japan, when on key metrics it hasn’t, or that companies must pay CEOs gazillions of dollars to secure the top “talent,” when they don’t need to do any such thing, and such pay is just plunder.

All of these things are “consensus” opinions, and conventional wisdom, which are repeated over and over again by various commentators and vested interests. Yet none of them are true.

If you want to be a glad-handing politician, be a glad-handing politician. If you want to be a reporter, then be angry, ask awkward questions, and absolutely hate it when everyone agrees with you.

Self-censorship obviously occurs on the web as well as in old media.  As Wikipedia notes:

Self-censorship is the act of censoring or classifying one’s own work (blog, book(s), film(s), or other means of expression) …

2. Censorship by Higher-Ups

If journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.

The 2000 Pew and Columbia Journalism Review survey notes:

Fully half of [the investigative journalists surveyed] say newsworthy stories are often or sometimes ignored because they conflict with a news organization’s economic interests. More than six-in-ten (61%) believe that corporate owners exert at least a fair amount of influence on decisions about which stories to cover….

The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour Hersh, said:

“All of the institutions we thought would protect us — particularly the press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress — they have failed. The courts . . . the jury’s not in yet on the courts. So all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn’t. The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that’s the most glaring….

Q: What can be done to fix the (media) situation?

[Long pause] You’d have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and executives. You’d actually have to start promoting people from the newsrooms to be editors who you didn’t think you could control. And they’re not going to do that.”

In fact many journalists are warning that the true story is not being reported. And see this announcement.

A series of interviews with award-winning journalists also documents censorship of certain stories by media editors and owners (and see these samples).

It’s not just the mainstream media.  The large “alternative” media websites censor as well.   For example:

Every year Project Censored [which Walter Cronkite and other ] puts together a list of the top 25 stories censored and ignored by the mainstream media.

How many of these stories were you aware of? Even regular consumers of alternative, independent media may be surprised to learn about some of these stories ….

There are many reasons for censorship by media higher-ups.

One is money.

The media has a strong monetary interest to avoid controversial topics in general. It has always been true that advertisers discourage stories which challenge corporate power. In 1969, Federal Communications Commission commissioner Nicholas Johnson noted that tv networks go to great lengths to please their sponsors.

Some media companies make a lot of money from the government, and so don’t want to rock the boat.  For example, Glenn Greenwald notes:

Because these schools [owned by the Washington P0st’s parent company, whose profits subsidize the Post] target low-income students, the vast majority of their income is derived from federal loans. Because there have been so many deceptive practices and defaults, the Federal Government has become much more aggressive about regulating these schools and now play a vital role in determining which ones can thrive and which ones fail.

Put another way, the company that owns The Washington Post is almost entirely at the mercy of the Federal Government and the Obama administration — the entities which its newspaper ostensibly checks and holds accountable. “By the end of 2010, more than 90 percent of revenue at Kaplan’s biggest division and nearly a third of The Post Co.’s revenue overall came from the U.S. government.” The Post Co.’s reliance on the Federal Government extends beyond the source of its revenue; because the industry is so heavily regulated, any animosity from the Government could single-handedly doom the Post Co.’s business — a reality of which they are well aware:

The Post Co. realized there were risks attached to being dependent on federal dollars for revenue — and that it could lose access to that money if it exceeded federal regulatory limits.

It was understood that if you fell out of grace [with the Education Department], your business might go away,” said Tom Might, who as chief executive of Cable One, a cable service provider that is owned by The Post Co., sat in at company-wide board meetings.

Beyond being reliant on federal money and not alienating federal regulators, the Post Co. desperately needs favorable treatment from members of Congress, and has been willing to use its newspaper to obtain it:

Graham has taken part in a fierce lobbying campaign by the for-profit education industry. He has visited key members of Congress, written an op-ed article for the Wall Street Journal and hired for The Post Co. high-powered lobbying firms including Akin Gump and Elmendorf Ryan, at a cost of $810,000 in 2010. The Post has also published an editorial opposing the new federal rules, while disclosing the interests of its parent company.

The Post is hardly alone among major media outlets in being owned by an entity which relies on the Federal Government for its continued profitability. NBC News and MSNBC were long owned by GE, and now by Comcast, both of which desperately need good relations with government officials for their profits. The same is true of CBS (owned by Viacom), ABC (owned by Disney), and CNN (owned by TimeWarner). For each of these large corporations, alienating federal government officials is about the worst possible move it could make — something of which all of its employees, including its media division employees, are well aware. But the Post Co.’s dependence is even more overwhelming than most.

How can a company which is almost wholly dependent upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. Government possibly be expected to serve as a journalistic “watchdog” over that same Government? The very idea is absurd.

In addition, the government has allowed tremendous consolidation in ownership of the airwaves during the past decade.

Dan Rather has slammed media consolidation:

Likening media consolidation to that of the banking industry, Rather claimed that “roughly 80 percent” of the media is controlled by no more than six, and possibly as few as four, corporations.

This is documented by the following must-see charts prepared by:

And check out this list of interlocking directorates of big media companies from Fairness and Accuracy in Media, and this resource from the Columbia Journalism Review to research a particular company.

This image gives a sense of the decline in diversity in media ownership over the last couple of decades:

 The large media players stand to gain billions of dollars in profits if the Obama administration continues to allow monopoly ownership of the airwaves by a handful of players. The media giants know who butters their bread. So there is a spoken or tacit agreement: if the media cover the administration in a favorable light, the MSM will continue to be the receiver of the government’s goodies.

The large alternative media websites also censor news which are too passionately anti-war.

The biggest social media websites censor the hardest-hitting anti-war stories. And see this.

Huffington Post – the largest liberal website – is owned by media giant AOL Time Warner, and censors any implication that a Democratic administration could be waging war for the wrong reasons.   So HuffPost may criticize poor prosecution of the war, but would never say that the entire “War on Terror” as currently waged by the Obama administration is a stupid idea.

Similarly, Drudge Report – the largest conservative website – never questions whether the government’s engagement in offensive military action around the world is strengthening or weakening our national security.

The largest “alternative” websites may weakly criticize minor details of the overall war effort, but would never say that more or less worldwide war-fighting is counterproductive. They may whine about a specific aspect of the war-fighting … but never look at the larger geopolitical factors involved.

They all seem to follow Keith Olbermann’s advice:

 

You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble …. You cannot say: By the way, there’s something wrong with our …. system.

 

3. Drumming Up Support for War

 War Is Sold Just Like Soda or Toothpaste

 Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

 In addition, the owners of American media companies have long actively played a part in drumming up support for war.

It is painfully obvious that the large news outlets studiously avoided any real criticism of the government’s claims in the run up to the Iraq war. It is painfully obvious that the large American media companies acted as lapdogs and stenographers for the government’s war agenda.

Veteran reporter Bill Moyers criticized the corporate media for parroting the obviously false link between 9/11 and Iraq (and the false claims that Iraq possessed WMDs) which the administration made in the run up to the Iraq war, and concluded that the false information was not challenged because:

The [mainstream] media had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked.

As NBC News’ David Gregory (later promoted to host Meet the Press) said:

I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up [in the run-up to the war] and say ‘this is bogus, and you’re a liar, and why are you doing this,’ that we didn’t do our job. I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role.

But this is nothing new. In fact, the large media companies have drummed up support for all previous wars.

For example, Hearst helped drum up support for the Spanish-American War.

And an official summary of America’s overthrow of the democratically-elected president of Iran in the 1950′s states, “In cooperation with the Department of State, CIA had several articles planted in major American newspapers and magazines which, when reproduced in Iran, had the desired psychological effect in Iran and contributed to the war of nerves against Mossadeq.” (page x)

The mainstream media also may have played footsie with the U.S. government right before Pearl Harbor. Specifically, a highly-praised historian (Bob Stineet) argues that the Army’s Chief of Staff informed the Washington bureau chiefs of the major newspapers and magazines of the impending Pearl Harbor attack BEFORE IT OCCURRED, and swore them to an oath of secrecy, which the media honored (page 361) .

And the military-media alliance has continued without a break (as a highly-respected journalist says, “viewers may be taken aback to see the grotesque extent to which US presidents and American news media have jointly shouldered key propaganda chores for war launches during the last five decades.”)

As the mainstream British paper, the Independent, writes:

There is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it. The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news.

The article in the Independent discusses the use of “black propaganda” by the U.S. government, which is then parroted by the media without analysis; for example, the government forged a letter from al Zarqawi to the “inner circle” of al-Qa’ida’s leadership, urging them to accept that the best way to beat US forces in Iraq was effectively to start a civil war, which was then publicized without question by the media.

So why has the American press has consistently served the elites in disseminating their false justifications for war?

One of of the reasons is because the large media companies are owned by those who support the militarist agenda or even directly profit from war and terror (for example, NBC was owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in the world … which directly profits from war, terrorism and chaos. NBC was subsequently sold to Comcast).

Another seems to be an unspoken rule that the media will not criticize the government’s imperial war agenda.

And the media support isn’t just for war: it is also for various other shenanigans by the powerful. For example, a BBC documentary proves:

There was “a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen . . . . The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.”

Moreover, “the tycoons told the general who they asked to carry out the coup that the American people would accept the new government because they controlled al the newspapers.“

See also this book.

Have you ever heard of this scheme before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?

(Kevin Dutton – research psychologist at the University of Cambridge – whose research has been featured in Scientific American Mind, New Scientist, The Guardian, Psychology Today and USA Today – also notes that media personalities and journalists – especially when combined in the same persons – are likely to be psychopaths. Some 12 million Americans are psychopaths or sociopaths, and psychopaths tend to rub each others’ backs.)

4. Access

Dan Froomkin,  Brett Arends and many other mainstream reporters have noted that “access” is the most prized thing for mainstream journalists … and that they will keep fawning over those in power so that they will keep their prized access.

But there is another dynamic related to access at play: direct cash-for-access payments to the media.

For example, a 3-time Emmy Award winning CNN journalist says that CNN takes money from foreign dictators to run flattering propaganda.

Politico reveals:

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to “those powerful few”: Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors…

The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — was a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.

That may be one reason that the mainstream news commentators hate bloggers so much. The more people who get their news from blogs instead of mainstream news sources, the smaller their audience, and the less the MSM can charge for the kind of “nonconfrontational access” which leads to puff pieces for the big boys.

5. Censorship by the Government

Finally, as if the media’s own interest in promoting war is not strong enough, the government has exerted tremendous pressure on the media to report things a certain way.

If they criticize those in power, they may be smeared by the government and targeted for arrest (and see this).

Indeed, the government treats real reporters as terrorists.  Because the core things which reporters do could be considered terrorism, in modern America, journalists are sometimes targeted under counter-terrorism laws.

The government spies on reporters.

Not only has the government thrown media owners and reporters in jail if they’ve been too critical, it also claims the power to indefinitely detain journalists without trial or access to an attorney which chills chills free speech.

After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge.

An al-Jazeera journalist – in no way connected to any terrorist group – was held at Guantánamo for six years … mainly to be interrogated about the Arabic news network. And see this.

Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange could face the death penalty for his heinous crime of leaking whistleblower information which make those in power uncomfortable … i.e. being a reporter.

As constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald notes:

It seems clear that the US military now deems any leaks of classified information to constitute the capital offense of “aiding the enemy” or “communicating with the enemy” even if no information is passed directly to the “enemy” and there is no intent to aid or communicate with them. Merely informing the public about classified government activities now constitutes this capital crime because it “indirectly” informs the enemy.

***

If someone can be charged with “aiding” or “communicating with the enemy” by virtue of leaking to WikiLeaks, then why wouldn’t that same crime be committed by someone leaking classified information to any outlet: the New York Times, the Guardian, ABC News or anyone else?

***

International Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller made a similar point when the charges against Manning were first revealed:

“[I]f Manning has aided the enemy, so has any media organization that published the information he allegedly stole. Nothing in Article 104 requires proof that the defendant illegally acquired the information that aided the enemy. As a result, if the mere act of ensuring that harmful information is published on the internet qualifies either as indirectly ‘giving intelligence to the enemy’ (if the military can prove an enemy actually accessed the information) or as indirectly ‘communicating with the enemy’ (because any reasonable person knows that enemies can access information on the internet), there is no relevant factual difference between [Bradley] Manning and a media organization that published the relevant information.”

***

It is always worth underscoring that the New York Times has published far more government secrets than WikiLeaks ever has, and more importantly, has published far more sensitive secrets than WikiLeaks has (unlike WikiLeaks, which has never published anything that was designated “Top Secret”, the New York Times has repeatedly done so: the Pentagon Papers, the Bush NSA wiretapping program, the SWIFT banking surveillance system, and the cyberwarfare program aimed at Iran were all “Top Secret” when the newspaper revealed them, as was the network of CIA secret prisons exposed by the Washington Post). There is simply no way to convert basic leaks to WikiLeaks into capital offenses – as the Obama administration is plainly doing – without sweeping up all leaks into that attack.

***

The same [Obama] administration that has prosecuted whistleblowers under espionage charges that threatened to send them to prison for life without any evidence of harm to national security, and has brought double the number of such prosecutions as all prior administrations combined. Converting all leaks into capital offenses would be perfectly consistent with the unprecedented secrecy fixation on the part of the Most Transparent Administration Ever™.

The irony from these developments is glaring. The real “enemies” of American “society” are not those who seek to inform the American people about the bad acts engaged in by their government in secret. As Democrats once recognized prior to the age of Obama – in the age of Daniel Ellsberg – people who do that are more aptly referred to as “heroes”. The actual “enemies” are those who abuse secrecy powers to conceal government actions and to threaten with life imprisonment or even execution those who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing.

Former attorney general Mukasey said the U.S. should prosecute Assange because it’s “easier” than prosecuting the New York Times. But now Congress is considering a bill which would make even mainstream reporters liable for publishing leaked information (part of an all-out war on whistleblowing).

As such, the media companies have felt great pressure from the government to kill any real questioning of the endless wars.

For example, Dan Rather said, regarding American media, “What you have is a miniature version of what you have in totalitarian states”.

Tom Brokaw said “all wars are based on propaganda.

And the head of CNN said:

There was ‘almost a patriotism police’ after 9/11 and when the network showed [things critical of the administration’s policies] it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and “big people in corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American here.’

Indeed, former military analyst and famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11:

Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised that today’s American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to take [former FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds up on her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations [which Ellsberg calls “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers”].

As Edmonds has also alluded, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who “sat on the NSA spying story for over a year” when they “could have put it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome.”

“There will be phone calls going out to the media saying ‘don’t even think of touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security,’” he told us.

* * *

“I am confident that there is conversation inside the Government as to ‘How do we deal with Sibel?’” contends Ellsberg. “The first line of defense is to ensure that she doesn’t get into the media. I think any outlet that thought of using her materials would go to to the government and they would be told ‘don’t touch this . . . .‘”

Of course, if the stick approach doesn’t work, the government can always just pay off reporters to spread disinformation.

Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA has already bought and paid for many successful journalists. See also this New York Times piece, this essay by the Independent, this speech by one of the premier writers on journalism, and this and this roundup.

Indeed, in the final analysis, the main reason today that the media giants will not cover the real stories or question the government’s actions or policies in any meaningful way is that the American government and mainstream media been somewhat blended together.

Can We Win the Battle Against Censorship?

We cannot just leave governance to our “leaders”, as “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” (Jefferson). Similarly, we cannot leave news to the corporate media. We need to “be the media” ourselves.

 “To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.”
– Abraham Lincoln

 “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Powerlessness and silence go together. We…should use our privileged positions not as a shelter from the world’s reality, but as a platform from which to speak. A voice is a gift. It should be cherished and used.”
– Margaret Atwood

 “There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.”
– Howard Zinn (historian)

 “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”
– Thomas Jefferson

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South Korean President Park Geun-hye made her first visit to the Washington imperial court last week, what is always a moment of great prestige for the junior ally-state still under wartime control of the United States sixty years after the Korean War. During the trip, and fitting her subaltern position, President Park signaled her intention to maintain a posture toward China’s relationship with North Korea that will please Washington, but remain completely ineffectual.

Speaking to the Washington Post on May 8, Park willingly played the “blame China” card, arguing it “can do more” to force North Korea to change.

“In order for…the Korean Peninsula to enjoy greater peace, North Korea needs to choose the right path, and China should exert greater influence in inducing North Korea to do so,” she said after meeting President Barack Obama.

The “right path” includes, presumably, North Korea renouncing its policy of nuclear deterrence and giving up its small arsenal of questionably operable atomic weapons before any kind of negotiations with the U.S. can begin. Of course, the “right path” might refer to human rights as well, but, though President Park may care (as former first lady of and apologist for her father’s authoritarian government it is hard to say), it would be naive to assume her superiors in Washington are truly concerned about conditions within the North. The U.S. is, after all, responsible for the most grave international war and human rights crimes of any nation currently existing (see Afghanistan, Iraq, torture, drones, the drug war, and so on).

Notions of “right” or “wrong” paths aside, it seems reasonable to assume North Korea is unlikely to give its nuclear weapons up — even if it has sincere incentive (in the form of a Washington peace treaty, among other benefits) to do so. If the North Korea government wasn’t already determined to keep their nukes, the fate of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya showed North Korea’s leadership that having even the appearance of a nuclear deterrent may be the difference between finding one’s head on a spike and living it up in Pyongyang.

Both the U.S. government and President Park must know this. So, in order to explain the failure of Washington’s impossibly effective “no nukes, no relations” policy — something that relies on sanctions to try to put the pinch on the North Korean government but only causes greater suffering for regular North Koreans — the U.S. needs to blame China.

China, they argue keeps undermining sanctions by providing North Korea with goods, fuel and, worse, materials used for developing armaments.This props up a regime that would otherwise collapse, not into the chaos of military factional conflict and a refugee crisis that would negatively affect the region, but a docile entity that would slowly be pulled into South Korea’s (and Washington’s) nurturing orbit. No doubt with visions of such a fairytale scenario in her head, President Park told the Post, “North Korea is very heavily dependent on China.”

The narrative that North Korea would collapse without China is probably true given how inept North Korea is economically. Yet two questions emerge: the first regards just how much control China actually has over the “hermit kingdom.” The second regards China’s motive (or lack of) for being more cooperative with what is essentially an American policy of waiting (and hoping) for the Pyongyang government to collapse (this has been a mostly-ongoing policy of the U.S since the end of the Cold War).

China has traditionally been unwilling to follow the dictates of the U.S. regarding economic relations with and financial support for North Korea in the past. For China threat theorists this is supposedly proof that China is a supporter of global authoritarianism and bent on rolling back the “liberal order” (an argument conveniently ignoring that America is the role model for such behaviour). However, China has been more accommodating recently. China has signed on to U.N. sanction measures drawn up by the U.S. this March after North Korea’s rocket launch last December and their nuclear test this February. They have also cut off transactions with North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank. However, economic ties with the North are still permitted and there is no indication China’s port development in that region and mining operations throughout the country have been suspended.

Short of completely disrupting the increasing economic relationship between the two countries — something inconceivable because it would be against China’s economic interests — it is hard to know what else the U.S. and President Park expect from China. Park suggested in the interview with the Post that China could attempt to be a role model for North Korean economic reform, but China has been trying to steer North Korea in this direction for years to no avail (Park also ignores that it would be impossible for North Korea to follow the “China model” if North Korea can’t trade with the outside world due to sanctions).

China’s recent turnabout and nominal support for sanctions and verbal rhetoric against North Korean nukes is likely an expression of annoyance that North Korea, with its bombastic rhetoric and weapons testing, continues to provide the pretext for America’s increased military presence in the region. This includes the continued development of theater missile defense, an American policy that feeds the nuclear arms race in the region and stokes greater tension. China’s cooperation may be an easy concession for a Chinese leadership that is, at least partly due to domestic political reasons, compelled to take a hard-line stance on territorial disputes with Japan and in the South China Sea.

At any rate, this cooperation is superficial and will remain so. China may well be fundamentally against North Korea as a nuclear state, as it says it is, because this may encourage Japan to develop nukes at some point in the future. But they aren’t opposed enough to cut off the North Korean government entirely. This is entirely justified; a North Korean collapse would be a nightmare scenario for their country.

If the North Korean government were to fall, an internal flood of refugees may merely be the beginning of the unintended consequences resulting from America’s coercive regime change policy. There are any number of possible scenarios including factional conflict in North Korea between members of the vast North Korean military structure and a lashing out by the North in a fit of desperation that that could turn the fantasy of a soft fall into yet another cautionary tail for imperialist pursuits of regime change.

Further, given America’s obvious policy of maintaining military hegemony in the region and solidifying alliances directed squarely at China, it is hard to understand why China would feel compelled to listen to Park Geun Hye (a leader of a state within that opposing alliance) or anybody else connected with the United States on issues related to power balance in the region.

Park Geun-hye’s comments make little sense. They should be viewed as nothing more than an expression of solidarity with the United States and an attempt to scape goat China for the ineffectiveness of the American regime-change policy supported  by her own political party since the end of the Cold War. They are an indication of how South Korea’s alliance with the U.S. forces it to pursue unworkable foreign policies that are detrimental to long-term prospects for peace in the region and on the Korean Peninsula.

Stuart Smallwood is a Master’s degree candidate and freelance writer based in Seoul. His work has appeared in Global Research, The Hankyoreh, and East Asia: Comparitive Perspective. His website is Koreaandtheworld.com and he can be reached by email at [email protected]

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Close Guantanamo Now!

May 14th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

As president and commander-in-chief, Obama has legal authority to do so. On May 3, New York City Bar president Carey R. Dunne wrote him. He did so on behalf of the organization he heads.

He called indefinite detention “legally and morally indefensible.” He said 25 retired military flag officers said it’s “an effective recruiting tool for our enemies.”

He urged “concrete steps to restart the process toward closure.”

On May 7, the New York City Bar said “Obama has the authority to close (Guantanamo) under Section 1028 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013.”

It’s about transferring detainees “to foreign countries or other foreign entities.”

Obama could begin the process today. He could have done so long ago. He’ll have to explain why not. He bears full responsibility for spurning what he pledged to do.

In 2008, he promised closure. “From both a moral standpoint and a practical standpoint, torture is wrong,” he said.

“Barack Obama will end the use torture without exception. He also will eliminate the practice of extreme rendition, where we outsource our torture to other countries.”

Straightaway as president, he issued Executive Order titled “Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities.”

A previous article explained. Sec. 3 states: “Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantanamo. The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order.”

“If any individuals covered by this order remain, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Obama ordered an “immediate review of all” detainees within 30 days.

He halted all proceedings in the “United States Court of Military Commission Review to which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered.”

He mandated “humane standards of confinement” be observed in accordance with international humanitarian laws.

On March 7, 2011, his Executive Order promised “Periodic Review of Individuals Detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station Pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.”

It said in part:

“This order is intended solely to establish a process to review on a periodic basis the executive branch’s continued, discretionary exercise of existing detention authority in individual cases.”

“Detainees at Guantanamo have the constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and nothing in this order is intended to affect the jurisdiction of Federal courts to determine the legality of their detention.”

“The Secretary of Defense shall coordinate a process of periodic review.”

“In consultation with the Attorney General, The Secretary of Defense shall issue implementing guidelines governing the process.”

“For each detainee, an initial review shall commence as soon as possible but no later than one year from the date of this order.”

So-called “guidelines” lacks credibility. More on that below. Guantanamo harshness continues. Ending it is nowhere in sight.

More than half the remaining 166 detainees were cleared for release. Innocent victims remain incarcerated. Few were charged or tried.

It’s questionable whether any detainee warranted incarceration. So-called torture obtained confessions lack credibility. No legitimate court would accept them. Secret evidence is no better.

Justice William Brennan once called “proof beyond a reasonable doubt among the essentials of due process and fair treatment.”

The Legal Dictionary says it’s the “standard that must be met by the prosecution’s evidence in a criminal prosecution.”

“Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof that must be met in any trial.”

“Clear and Convincing Proof is evidence that establishes a high probability that the fact sought to be proved is true. The main reason (this high standard) is used in criminal trials is that such proceedings can result in the deprivation of a defendant’s liberty or even in his or her death.”

Innocent unless proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is a fundamental legal principle. It’s universal or should be.

Obama spurns it. He governs lawlessly, ruthlessly and recklessly. He broke every major promise made. He permits torture and extraordinary rendition. He does so after pledging to end them.

He promised Guantanamo closure. It remains open. The Pentagon’s Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) plans expanding it. Millions will be spent doing so.

Detainees may rot in gulag hell forever. Around 130 are hunger striking. They’re doing so for justice. Most haven’t eaten for three months.

They’re willing to die for justice. They’d rather perish than remain in gulag hell with no hope for release. That’s the stark reality they face.

Release is just a presidential order away. Obama must be pressured to explain his failure to act. He can do so as the New York Bar explained.

He can waive indefinite detentions. He can do so by certifying it’s in the national interest. He’s not legally constrained. He’s not limited by Congress. He’s beholden solely to international, constitutional, and US statute laws.

As president and commander-in-chief, he’s sworn to uphold them. He’s obligated to act responsibly. He can do what he hasn’t done throughout his tenure. He spurned rule of law principles across the board.

Doing the right thing is its own reward. He should try it sometime and see.

On May 10, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) headlined “Congressional Briefing Urges Obama to Use His Authority to Close Guantanamo.”

CCR participated in a May 10 congressional briefing. It was titled “From Crisis to Solution.” It was co-sponsored by Representatives James Moran (D. VA), Gerry Connolly (D. VA), the Constitution Project, the New America Foundation, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.”

The previous day, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D. MI) discussed a letter he wrote Obama. He urged him to appoint a high-level White House official to advance the transfer of Guantanamo detainees.

He stressed that Congress granted him authority to close Guantanamo. It’s up to him to use it. Waffling doesn’t wash.

According to senior CCR staff attorney Pardiss Kebriaei:

“Some of our clients have said they would rather die than live like this – in perpetual detention after 11 years, in now inhuman conditions.”

“But their hunger strikes are not acts of suicide. They are acts of last resort to be heard, and for release.”

“We came today to urge President Obama to use the certification and waiver process created by Congress to transfer detained men, starting with the 86 men who have been cleared for release by the Obama administration itself.”

“Congress has granted President Obama the tools and power he needs to end indefinite detention and close Guantanamo.”

“He cannot place the blame on Congress for the fact that 166 men still remain (there). He has the power to resolve this crisis, and he must use it to close Guantanamo.”

Straightaway as president, he could have acted responsibly. He chose not to do so. His two Executive Orders were disingenuous. They were head fakes.

Given how he’s governed, it’s not surprising. His March 7, 2011 Executive Order also authorized indefinite detentions and military commission trials. Doing so broke his pledge to close Guantanamo. It suggests he has no intention to do so.

He also violated America’s Fifth Amendment, stating:

“No person.shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

At the time, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said:

“It is virtually impossible to imagine how (Obama) closes Guantanamo in light of this executive order. In a little over two years, (he’s) done a complete about-face.”

In 2011, attorney David Remes represented 20 detainees. He saw no substantive difference between Bush and Obama policies. Just “a new cast of characters,” he said. Lawlessness continues unabated.

Within a year, the EO authorizes an unclassified review of factors justifying each detainee’s continued incarceration. A government representative will be appointed to do so.

Detainees may hire private counsel if they wish. They’ll have to do so at their own expense. No government funds are provided. A Periodic Review Board is also involved. It’s stacked against detainees. It’s composed of military, intelligence and Justice Department officials.

According to the EO, detainees may appear before the board. They may introduce their own evidence. They may call witnesses “who are reasonably available.”

In other words, Washington won’t pay transportation costs. Detainees were abducted far from Guantanamo. They’re not “reasonably available.” The deck is stacked. So-called periodic reviews exclude fairness.

Indefinite detentions and military commissions are lawless. They’re indefensible. They’re unjustifiable practices. No civil societies should tolerate them.

They constitute guilt by accusation. No recourse is permitted. Appeals aren’t allowed. Rule of law principles don’t matter. Diktat authority has final say.

After his March 7, 2011 Executive Order, Obama contemptuously claimed:

Indefinite detentions and military commissions will “broaden our ability to bring terrorists to justice, provide oversight for our actions, and ensure the humane treatment of the detainees.”

Attorney General Holder added:

“The executive order….strengthens the legal framework under which we will continue to detain those individuals who are at war with our country and who pose a significant threat to the security of the United States.”

Omitted was explaining that virtually all Guantanamo detainees were and continue to be innocent victims. On January 11, 2002, the facility opened.

At least most detainees have been non-belligerents. Seton Hall University Guantanamo reports revealed that around 95% were seized randomly for bounty.

They were sold to US forces for $5,000 per claimed Taliban and $25,000 for alleged Al Qaeda members. No corroborating evidence was sought. Washington needed bodies. It still does. It operates “black sites.”

Innocent victims fill America’s global network of torture prisons. Alleged suspects are snatched and disappeared. It’s done out of sight and mind. Major media scoundrels ignore it. Guantanamo’s the tip of the iceberg.

Obama continues lawless Bush practices. Torture remains official policy. Innocence is no defense. Crimes of war, against humanity and genocide continue.

Waging war on humanity is policy. It continues unabated. Who knows what’s next? It’s shocking to imagine what’s possible.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.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 Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/close-guantanamo-now/

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Pakistan’s elections come at a key junction in the region’s geopolitics, with the public firmly opposed to the US ‘war on terror’ being conducted on Pakistani soil with no regard for its sovereignty. Pakistan’s new prime minister has a mandate to take his country in a new direction, but will he use it?

Steel magnate Nawaz Sharif is the country’s fourth wealthiest citizen, a protégé of General Zia ul-Haq, toppled in a 1999 military coup, sentence to life imprisonment and exiled to Saudi Arabia. His Muslim League (PML-N) has enough seats to avoid the need for a coalition with second-place former cricketer Imran Khan’s Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), and/or the Bhutto family’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which until last week presided over Pakistan’s first full-term civilian government. Despite pre-poll violence that killed at least 40 people, voter turnout was a robust 60%.

On the surface, a win-win for Sharif, Khan, Pakistan, and even the West, which very much needs a stable government there. But Sharif, prime minister for the third time (having served from 1990–1993 and 1997–1999), has loads of baggage: his love of neoliberal trickle-down economics, his close ties with Saudi Arabia, his abiding interest in closer links with Central Asia republics (echoes of past regimes’ regional hegemonic designs). And though he loudly supported the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry (dismissed by Pervez Musharraf in 2007), he is no stranger to intimidating judges, having ousted Supreme Court chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah in 1997. He notoriously ‘pressed the button’ to bring Pakistan into the nuclear age in 1998. And he was best friends with the military until he was ‘betrayed’ by his own 1998 appointee as army chief of staff, Pervez Musharraf.

What do the tea leaves tell us? Well, for one thing, ex-General Musharraf, who hounded Sharif into exile, better put a strong lock on his home near Islamabad, where he is now under house arrest. And Pakistanis better brace themselves for IMF-style austerity. US strategists also should be prepared for a continuation of the cooling of relations. Sharif’s brother Shahbaz, chief minister of Punjab, has stopped all USAID projects in Punjab province as a protest against Washington’s use of drones (3,000 dead since 2004), though we can be sure Nawaz is unlikely to jeopardise the $2 billion in annual US ‘aid’.

Speaking of Nawaz’s brother, his son Hamza is a member of the National Assembly. And Nawaz’s daughter Maryam is leader of the PML-N. And, and … Politics is a family affair in Pakistan, though as the falling-out and scandals of the various Bhuttos (and Sharif’s cold-blooded alliance with Benazir’s brother Murtaza) suggests, the families are not always happy. So much for “cleaning up corruption”.

Is there any hope for a new direction? Well, Sharif considers himself a friend of the environment, a fan of “bioconservatism”, having established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1997. He is committed to Islamization, including a more sharia-based legal system, though there is little to suggest that social justice plays any role at all in his deen. He may actually try to patch up relations with India; he tried to with the Lahore declaration in 1999 until undermined by clashes in Kargil, Kashmir.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for any surprises. Sharif is in fact a logical heir to Pakistan’s tragic history, which continues to unfold, regardless of who sits on top. Since partition in 1947, intended by the British to leave a prostrate subcontinent which would be beholden to empire, Pakistani politics has been mostly dominated by military rule and crises. This makes sense, as Pakistan’s Muslims are a highly pluralist mix of Sunni and Shia, with large communities of Ahmadi, Bahai and others, and tension often boil over, requiring a firm, neutral hand.

But then Pakistan is not so different from other majority-Muslim states, which all share a history of authoritarian, top-down forced adoption to western modernity, characterized by accepting an imposed economic system of capitalism and a political system composed of ‘sovereign’ ethnically distinct nation states. The entire Muslim world was subjected to this in some form, be it by a monarch, a military dictator, a colonial administration or a neocolonial ‘independent’ administration. This includes Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Iran, Indonesia and Malaysia, with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states the ‘exceptions that prove the rule’.

Pakistan and Turkey have striking similarities. Both Pakistan and Turkey’s military staged coups from the 1950s to the 1980s to stop moves towards promoting more religious practice, though the coup in Pakistan in 1977 and in Turkey in 1980 changed the nature of the ‘game’, as the US began to openly embrace so-called mujahideen across the Muslim world as its Cold War ace against the Soviet Union.

Pakistan’s colonial nightmare differs from Egypt’s at the time of ‘independence’ after WWII. Pakistan’s partition and ethnic/ sectarian tensions among uprooted peoples did not allow the formation of a Muslim Brotherhood-type organization which could unite the country around a program of Islamic social justice. Egypt’s military coup of 1952 was necessary to pre-empt the Muslim Brotherhood, which would have been the clear winner in any elections. Unlike Pakistani and Turkish military strongmen, Egypt’s populist Gamel Abdel-Nasser was as a result prompted to follow a socialist anti-imperialist path to independence, and became the toast of the Muslim world—until US-Israeli hegemony was asserted in the region in 1967, humiliating the hero of Arab nationalism and undoing fatally this secular socialist path.

On the surface, the imperial strategy of creating a weak, divided Indian subcontinent largely worked. India’s experiment with socialism was mild, and only Pakistan’s Zulfikar Bhutto flirted briefly with socialism and anti-imperialism in the 1970s—and was rewarded by being hanged (by Sharif’s patron Zia ul-Haq). With the demise of the Soviet Union, the empire consolidated its hold on both India and Pakistan, letting them continue their spat over Kashmir, a senseless and massive drain on both the Indian and Pakistani budgets, but excellent divide-and-conquer geopolitics for the US. The socialist ‘threat’ was wiped out in the horrendous ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan, which unleashed al-Qaeda types on the world.

As a result, when Sharif grabbed the reins of power in the 1990s, he found he was riding a tiger. The Taliban were the real thing, so to speak: unlike craven Pakistani politicians, they wanted to attack the very empire itself. Pakistan’s relations with the US deteriorated and have continued to deteriorate ever since as various leaders try unsuccessfully to square the circle, encouraging the Taliban and pacifying the Americans.

A new leaf for Pakistan will probably not be the work of Sharif. Rather, the logic of regional developments will continue to assert itself. The PPP government was forced by popular pressure to cut off the NATO supply route to Afghanistan and to restrict US military activity. At the same time, it increased military and economic cooperation with China and Iran. Sharif’s PML-N will continue this. US policy is pushing its once subservient ally into the hands of its ‘enemies’.

The best than can be hoped for in Pakistan is that a (slightly less) corrupt Sharif will patch up relations with India, which the army can do little to stop, given the failed state that Pakistan finds itself in. This means ending demands to tear Kashmir away from India, and abandoning the Taliban. A return of the Taliban may be what some hardliners are rooting for, but given the unwillingness of any of the major players—in the first place India, Russia, Iran, China and of course the US—to allow this, Sharif has a stronger hand this time, if he’s sensible enough to play it, for peace with India can only come by letting go of Afghanistan.

If Sharif can strike a peace accord with India and work with regional players—including Iran— and the US in Afghanistan, peace will break out in the region. This would reopen the borders with India, creating an economic boom across the region. At the same time, it will accelerate a genuine withdrawal of US forces from the region, end its threats to invade Iran, and—please note, US strategists—the US would still have quite a bit of influence in post-pullout Afghanistan. In fact, its profile across the region would be transformed for the better.

This would also dash Pakistan’s goal of becoming regional hegemon. But peace with both Afghanistan and India would be a win-win for it too, slashing the parasitical military and raising living standards through mutually profitable cooperation with India, Iran and China. The centerpiece will be the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) Peace Pipeline. Even if Pakistani politics remains corrupt (and it will), the new regional cooperation would give a huge boost to its economy.

If Sharif has the courage to do this, it would start the difficult process of turning over a new leaf for Pakistan. It would also guarantee him a second term, which combined with his peaceful accession to power, would mean a gratifying political bookend for his rule, making him ‘independent’ Pakistan’s true founder.

a version of this appeared at http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/05/13/303295/turning-over-a-new-leaf-in-pakistan/

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Last week, Massachusetts high school student Cameron D’Ambrosio was arrested and charged under “terrorism” laws merely for posting lyrics on Facebook that make reference to the Boston Marathon bombings. He faces 20 years in prison. A string of similar “terror” prosecutions around the country take aim at the First Amendment protection of free speech and political expression.

The authorities have already branded select participants in Occupy Wall Street and anti-NATO protests as “terrorists.” Last year, heavily-armed “domestic terrorism” commandos raided Occupy Wall Street protesters’ homes in Washington and Oregon, using battering rams and stun grenades. The commandos were authorized to seize all “anti-government or anarchist literature or material.”

As with freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, also guaranteed under the First Amendment, has not been officially repealed. The reality, however, is that political assembly is already a semi-criminal activity in America. Political protests are routinely met with vastly disproportionate police mobilizations, confinement to oxymoronic “free speech zones,” “kettling” (in which protesters are surrounded and forcibly moved in one direction or prevented from leaving an area), beatings, tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades or rubber bullets. The standard government response to a political protest is a massive show of force, complete with police snipers on rooftops.

The drive towards the establishment of an American police state, initiated under the Bush administration, has shifted into high gear under Obama. For nearly twelve years, the phony “war on terror” has been used as the overarching pretext for illegal imperialist war abroad and a methodical assault on democratic rights at home. The basic structure of authoritarian rule is now emerging into plain view.

Over the recent period, the government has vastly expanded its warrantless surveillance of the population. The Obama administration has constructed a massive data center in Utah big enough to store the contents of every personal computer in the country. Already at a government agent’s fingertips–without a warrant–are all of a person’s Internet browsing activity, telephone conversations, text messages, credit card transactions, mobile phone GPS location data, travel itineraries, Skype and Facebook data, medical records, criminal records, financial records and surveillance camera footage.

Tens of thousands of drones are slated to be launched over the US mainland in the coming years, with thousands already buzzing overhead. These high-tech aircraft are able to monitor meetings and demonstrations, access wireless networks and record the movements of citizens. Obama’s recent appointee for the position of CIA director, John Brennan, expressly refused at his confirmation hearings to rule out the possibility that these drones could be armed and used for carrying out assassinations within the US.

While schools are being shuttered and teachers fired supposedly for lack of money, local police departments are awash in billions of dollars of military hardware and training provided by the Department of Homeland Security. When local police are mobilized to respond to a political protest, they now do so in coordination with the federal military and intelligence agencies. It is not a rarity for armored vehicles, body armor and military equipment to be deployed.

Under the precedent set by the recent events in Boston, the authorities now have the power to subject an entire city to a military siege, with the population ordered to “shelter in place,” while businesses and transportation are shut down and heavily armed SWAT teams are deployed to conduct warrantless house-to-house searches without regard for basic rights.

The Obama administration, in concert with state and local police departments, has sent untold numbers of “anti-terror” undercover spies into domestic political parties and protest groups. In addition to gathering information, the job of these spies is to divert, disrupt and prevent the emergence of organized social opposition.

A person can be designated a “terrorist” on the secret, unreviewable say-so of the president, without notice and without a trial. Under the “material support” for terrorism laws signed into law as part of the PATRIOT Act of 2001, a person may be jailed simply for offering vaguely-defined “material support” to any person or group labeled as “terrorist.”

Under the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2011 and 2012, as tested in the case of Jose Padilla, the US government asserts the power to subject a designated “terrorist” to arbitrary arrest and detention without trial. In the cases of Padilla and Bradley Manning, and at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and countless CIA “black sites” around the world, the US government subjects alleged terrorists to torture. Finally, in the cases of Anwar Al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, the US government tested out its asserted power to murder “terrorists” outright, even if they are US citizens.

Under these precedents, it would not be necessary to officially suspend the Constitution in order for the US government to meet future domestic opposition with military lockdowns, curfews, house-to-house searches, mass arrests, torture and even assassination. With political dissent labeled as “terrorism” or “material support for terrorism,” Congress, the president, the courts, the military, and the so-called “free press” could continue in their present roles.

In the second half of the 20th century, US-backed dictatorships in Argentina and Chile used the supposed struggle against “terrorism” as a political cover for the arrest and murder of tens of thousands of political opponents, youth, workers, intellectuals and other “enemies of the state.” As the World Socialist Web Site warned from the outset, such is the inevitable logic of the American “war on terror.”

Two essential factors are driving the trampling of democratic rights and the shift towards authoritarian rule. The first is the massive growth of social inequality, which in turn is driven by the historic crisis of the world capitalist system. While it robs the population in order to pile up ever greater and more obscene levels of private wealth, the financial aristocracy is terrified of the emergence of social opposition. Not from a position of strength, but out of extreme fear and vulnerability, the billionaires look to police state repression as a means to preserve their status, power and wealth.

Second, just as democracy is incompatible with such levels of social inequality, it is incompatible with imperialist war. The US military and intelligence agencies have for twelve years been wading in blood in a drive to plunder the world’s strategic resources. The dead, wounded and displaced number in the millions.

A professional military, divorced from and hostile to the population and resentful of civilian control, has immensely expanded its size, resources and political power, to the point where it and its intelligence counterpart, in league with Wall Street, dominate the workings of the state.

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US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron met yesterday in Washington to step up their campaign for war in Syria and discuss interventions elsewhere in the Middle East.

They pledged to increase the flow of weapons to Islamist militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, while promoting plans for talks on Syria with Russia, until now Assad’s main international backer, to be held in Geneva.

At a press conference after their meeting, Obama announced, “Together, we’re going to continue our efforts to increase pressure on the Assad regime, to provide humanitarian aid to the long-suffering Syrian people, to strengthen the moderate opposition, and to prepare for a democratic Syria without Bashar Assad.”

Washington and London are promoting their bloody proxy war in Syria with lies. Far from providing “humanitarian aid” and backing a “moderate” opposition, they are arming far-right Islamist militias with the help of Middle Eastern allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, whose efforts are overseen by the CIA. Proposals aired in recent weeks include imposing a so-called “no-fly zone” to destroy Syria’s air force and air defenses, and using US forces in neighboring Jordan to directly invade Syria.

Cameron’s pledges of tens of millions of pounds to the Syrian “rebels” made the military character of this aid clear. He said, “Britain is pushing for more flexibility in the EU arms embargo, and we will double non-lethal support to the Syrian opposition in the coming years. Armored vehicles, body armor, and power generators are about to be shipped.”

The meeting between Obama and Cameron comes amid a flurry of international negotiations to prepare a possible US-led war against Syria. On Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Obama in the White House, with Syria at the top of their agenda. Erdogan has repeatedly pressed for war with Syria based on groundless claims that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to arrive in Moscow today for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Syria. Unnamed senior Israeli officials told the press that Netanyahu intends to ask Russia to block the shipment to Syria of a sophisticated S-300 air defense system. Such a system would reportedly have enabled Syria to shoot down the unprovoked air strikes Israel launched on the Syrian capital, Damascus, one week ago.

The diplomatic offensive that Washington is orchestrating against Syria is a nakedly imperialist operation. It aims to isolate Syria, eliminate its ability to defend itself against US attack, and impose a neo-colonial regime—by negotiation if possible, otherwise by force—that would consist of Washington’s right-wing Islamist proxies and turncoat elements of the Assad regime.

As Washington and its allies prepare for war, they continue to hope that at the Geneva talks the Russian regime might agree to a pseudo-legal ouster of Assad under threat of further US-led attacks on Syria.

Obama proposed to bring together “representatives of the regime and the opposition in Geneva in the coming weeks, to agree on a transitional body which would allow a transfer of power from Assad to this governing body. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work to establish the facts around the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and those facts will help guide our next steps.”

The acknowledgment that Washington still needs to “establish the facts” about chemical weapons is a tacit admission that previous US claims—that Assad had used poison gas, thus crossing a “red line” and justifying a US attack—were based on fabrications.

Asked whether Russia would agree to cut off its support to Assad, Cameron praised discussions he held with Putin on Syria in the Russian town of Sochi on Friday. He said, “We are all leading together this major diplomatic effort to bring the parties to the table to achieve a transition at the top of Syria, so that we can make the change that country needs.”

In ruthlessly pursuing its agenda of regime-change, in alliance with European imperialism and Sunni sectarian fighters in Syria tied to Al Qaeda, the Obama administration has set into motion forces that threaten the region and the entire world with war and catastrophe.

Speaking of his plan for talks with Moscow, Obama hinted as much, saying: “I’m not promising that it’s going to be successful. Frankly, sometimes once the Furies have been unleashed in a situation like we’re seeing in Syria, it’s very hard to put things back together. And there are going to be enormous challenges in getting a credible process going even if Russia is involved.”

There is considerable anxiety in ruling circles over the consequences of escalation in Syria. In an editorial yesterday titled “Staying out of Syria is the bolder call for Obama,” Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman wrote: “If we supply weapons to the rebels, how do we know that it will not simply lead to more bloodshed… In more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and its allies vastly overestimated their knowledge of the societies in which they were intervening.”

Appearing Sunday on the interview program “Face the Nation,” Robert Gates, former secretary of defense under both George W. Bush and Obama, said US military action in Syria would be “a mistake.” Saying he thought the US intervention in Libya was also a “mistake,” he added, “I think that caution, particularly in terms of arming these groups and in terms of US military involvement, is in order.”

Obama and Cameron also reportedly discussed troop deployments in the continuing NATO occupation of Afghanistan, as well as plans for talks with Iran over its alleged nuclear program.

This highlights the fact that the war in Syria is part of a broader imperialist agenda for the Middle East. This agenda includes depriving oil-rich Iran of its remaining Arab ally, Syria, as a preparation for a possible war with Iran; forcibly marginalizing Russia’s influence; and, more generally, imposing the strategic hegemony of Washington and its allies in the Middle East.

The Obama-Cameron war summit underscored the fact that pseudo-left organizations such as the International Socialist Organization that support the Syrian war are pro-imperialist state organizations. (See, “The International Socialist Organization and the imperialist onslaught against Syria”)

Any new Syrian regime that might emerge from the Geneva talks would be—like the regime run by competing militias that emerged from the US-NATO 2011 war in Libya—a right-wing US puppet government, based on Sunni sectarian forces seeking to impose restrictive Islamist laws and lacking any substantial popular support.

The US proxy forces that have taken power in Libya have rapidly made themselves deeply unpopular. They have allowed the major international banks to keep billions in Libyan oil money that was frozen when the war broke out, while presiding over an escalation of violence inside Libya between rival Islamist militias.

When a car bomb outside a hospital in Benghazi killed at least three people and wounded 17 yesterday, protests erupted against local Islamist militias, demanding that they be expelled from the city. One witness told Reuters, “This is the flesh of our sons, this is what the militias have given us.”

In a recent article titled “Under the black flag of Al Qaeda, the Syrian city ruled by gangs of extremists,” the Daily Telegraph described life in Raqqa, a city in northern Syria currently held by the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front. The town’s Christian churches are closed, Islamic courts arrest women who do not wear headscarves, and Al Nusra has seized many bakeries and work places. Hundreds of townspeople have joined protests against Al Nusra’s rule.

Washington and its allies are pushing for war and regime-change in Syria despite deep popular opposition to such a war in the working class at home. Some 62 percent of Americans, and even higher percentages of Turks and Lebanese, oppose further escalation of the war in Syria.

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Recent developments suggest that the US and its allies are intent upon establishing a permanent military presence in Libya.

The events in Benghazi as well as the rising protest movement against the Tripoli proxy regime are being used as a justification for sending US and allied troops to Libya.

US troops are being sent in to protect the Islamist Libyan regime installed by NATO in the wake of the 2011 bombing campaign:

The State Department said in a statement that it has ordered the departure of a handful of ­”non-essential” personnel from Tripoli as a result of the “unsettled situation,” which includes mass protests outside government facilities. (Washington Post, May 10, 2013)

According to reports, the protests erupted in relation to the adoption of a law which would exclude from public office officials who had served in the deposed government of Moammar Gaddafi.

Rallies against the regime have taken place in other major cities including Benghazi and Tobruk, “with hundreds of activists denouncing the armed thugs and decrying what they describe as political maneuverings by the nation’s Muslim Brotherhood.” (New Zealand Herald, May 11, 2013)

For nearly two weeks, Libya has been gripped by fear of new armed conflict after militias stormed and surrounded government buildings in Tripoli, blocking access to ministries in an attempt to push parliament to pass a contentious law that would prevent members of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime from serving in senior government posts.

Libyan lawmakers approved the bill during the weekend, with guns still drawn on the streets, and the militias seemed to be gradually lifting their siege in the capital. But witnesses said they remained hunkered down inside the Foreign and Justice Ministry, paralyzing the institutions and preventing employees from coming to work.

On Friday, an American military official said U.S. forces in Europe are on a heightened state of alert in response to a deteriorating security situation in the Libyan capital. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity. (Ibid)

This mass movement –brutally repressed by government militia– is directed against the Islamist government installed in Tripoli in the wake of the 2011 NATO “humanitarian” bombing campaign. Without US-NATO support, including the dispatch of Western troops, this proxy government will not survive.

In this regard, the Pentagon has confirmed that military personnel from a U.S. Marine unit stationed in Spain has been transferred to Sicily. This unit is on standby, to be dispatched to Libya at short notice.

Similarly, another elite response group stationed in Germany  is also on standby:

“We are prepared to respond if necessary, if conditions deteriorate or if we were called upon,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters in Washington on Monday.

“Obviously we have moved assets and personnel,” he said, without providing any more details.  … (Press TV, May 13, 2013)

These developments must be understood in the context of the broader process of militarization of the African continent. The decision to deploy US troops to Libya are coordinated with Britain and France.

French troops stationed in Mali could also be redeployed to Libya. According to France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, a new “terrorist hotbed” has developed which is threatening the “sovereignty” of the US-NATO supported Libyan government:

“Apparently in Libya there are attempts to constitute a new terrorist hotbed — ‘apparently,’ I weigh my words well — and there’s a Libyan state that exists, has institutions, and is appropriate to help to ensure its sovereignty over its territory,” (quoted by FoxNews,)

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The Canadian government has been a strong supporter of Israel since the country was founded in 1948 through the expulsion of most of the indigenous Palestinian population from their homes. In its friendly treatment of Israel, Canada has long played an important international role in covering up the violent dispossession of Palestinians and the apartheid system that maintains and normalizes their oppression.

Yet even by the standards of Canadian complicity in Israeli apartheid, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have taken support for Israel to a whole new level. Harper’s government has declared that “Israel has no greater friend in the world today than Canada.” A leading Israeli newspaper calls Harper “Netanyahu’s closest ally” and “the foreign leader friendliest to Israel.” When the Palestinian Authority sought greater recognition at the UN in 2012, Canada threatened to cut off aid to Palestine.

The Harper Conservatives’ approach marks a significant break with Canadian government policy of the past sixty years. Although Canada has always been pro-Israel, it has traditionally represented itself as more of a neutral party in disputes between Israelis and Palestinians, and indeed has acted less one-sidedly in the past. In 1967, for example, Canada supported the UN resolution demanding Israel withdraw troops from newly-occupied Palestinian lands and calling for a just settlement of refugees. This sort of position is inconceivable today. Political scientist Harold Waller is clear about the current government’s shift: “I think Harper’s backing of Israel is unprecedented for any Canadian prime minister. He’s much more a staunch supporter of Israel than any of his predecessors.”

Describing Harper’s pro-Israel policy as extreme need not contradict the fact that Canada has always been complicit in Israeli apartheid. In fact, if Palestine solidarity activists in Canada are to clearly identify the challenges and openings faced in our current organizing context, we need to address the question: why are the Harper Conservatives so extremely pro-Israel?

Incomplete Answers

Harper’s Israel cheerleading has become so passionate as to puzzle some in his own ranks. For example, even Canadian government officials, including former ambassadors to Israel, have argued that Canada’s extreme pro-Israel stance weakens Canada’s reputation in the international arena. Others wonder why Harper would pursue a policy that more than half of Canadians disapprove of. In contrast to the suggestion that the Harper government’s policy is illogical (because it tarnishes Canada’s international reputation or because it risks alienating voters or for some other reason), I want to suggest that there is in fact a clear logic to the government’s support for Israel when interpreted in the context of a much broader policy shift.

This argument is different than the main ones on offer. The government’s own explanation can be dispensed with immediately. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s claim that “Israel is worthy of our support because it is a society that shares so many values with Canada – freedom… democracy… human rights and the rule of law” is absurd not only because of the apartheid character of Israel but because Canada itself is built on the dispossession of indigenous people at home and abroad and has a long track record of befriending all sorts of brutal, anti-democratic regimes (Pinochet’s Chile, Suharto’s Indonesia, and Mubarek’s Egypt, to name just a few).

But the answers typically offered by both mainstream and radical commentators are also inadequate. They tend to focus on the power of the “Israel lobby” and Conservative electoral strategy. For example, the CBC radio show The Current aired an episode called “Jewish Voters” that began: “Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s staunch support for Israel appears to be attracting a sizeable number of Jewish voters, many of whom have traditionally voted Liberal.” In the run-up to the 2011 federal election, much was made about Harper’s Israel policy as a strategy for winning close ridings in Toronto and Montreal.

Approaching the question from the radical left, Yves Engler argues that “rather than ‘Jewish votes’ Harper’s ‘Israel no matter what’ policy has more to do with mobilizing his rightwing, evangelical base on an issue (unlike abortion) that has limited electoral downside.” Other radicals assert that Canada has a default interest in supporting the Israeli state because the two have a shared history of settler colonialism.

There is probably some truth in both these viewpoints. Like all major political parties, the Conservative Party is crucially motivated by a quest for votes. But it is misguided to attribute such a significant policy change to electoral struggles in a few urban ridings, especially when polls suggest that the Conservative brand of extreme support for Israel is actually out of step with a majority of Canadians. More importantly, explaining a major policy shift as a result of vote-seeking is inconsistent with a critical understanding of state and society that recognizes that what states do is crucially shaped by their role in reproducing capitalism in the part of the world in which they are located. Radicals need to be careful not to reproduce mainstream assumptions about the main forces that shape how governments act.

What about the other common explanation, that Canada backs Israel because both are colonial states? It’s true that both Canada and Israel were built on the dispossession and displacement of indigenous peoples, and both work hard to hide their unjust foundations beneath the mask of liberal democracy. But many states around the world that were not built upon settler colonialism are also strong supporters of Israel. The fact that both Canada and Israel are settler colonial states is worth considering, as I do below. But this fact alone does not explain why the Conservative government has so drastically changed Canadian policy toward Israel since taking office. After all, Canada has always been a settler colonial state but its support for Israel has only become so extreme under the current government.

The Logic of Harper’s Israel Policy

If we are to understand Harper’s Israel policy more fully, we need to view it in the broader context of the government’s overhauling of domestic affairs and repositioning of Canada’s place in the world. To be more specific, it’s clear that in an increasingly competitive global economy, the Harper government is staking Canada’s future on becoming a leader in the field of natural resource extraction and related hi-tech industries. It recognizes Israel as a model of this sort of economy and the type of social system required to support it. Israel is a trailblazer in a range of neoliberal strategies that the Harper government desperately wants to profit from and mimic.

By neoliberalism, I mean a socio-economic model in which the state plays a very active role in pushing land, goods, services, and human capacities for labour onto the market where they can be bought and sold for profit. The budding relationship between the Canadian and Israeli states reflects the Harper government’s particular neoliberal strategy for Canadian capitalism.

The Harper government has been explicit about its intent to reshape politics and economics in Canada, and its actions confirm this commitment. Harper is seeking to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” where a top priority of the state is establishing the conditions for the aggressive advance of the extractive industries and related ventures at home and abroad. The prime minister’s words are instructive: “We are an emerging energy superpower. We want to sell our energy to people who want to buy our energy. It’s that simple.” Realizing this goal is the government’s core project.

To do this, more and more people, land, and services must be driven into the market, because the market is the only place that profits are made. This ongoing process has been called “accumulation by dispossession” by the geographer David Harvey.[1] Anything that obstructs the buying and selling of land, resources, labour, and social support systems is treated as an obstacle to be demolished.

For example, one of the key planks of Harper’s aboriginal policy has been to privatize reserve land, breaking up the legal basis of collective ownership and opening up indigenous lands to capitalist development.[2] Shiri Pasternak writes that “collectively held indigenous lands continue to pose major barriers to capitalist expansion” because massive deposits of minerals and fossil fuels and “over half of large intact forest landscapes are found on lands in historical Aboriginal treaty areas.” In order for Harper’s energy superpower to thrive, indigenous rights must be extinguished and indigenous people forced off their lands.

At the same time, the government has imposed new rules that make it virtually impossible for critics to speak at government hearings on oil-sands and pipeline development, giving exclusive voice to industry advocates. Foreign policy is also being used to further the interests of Canadian mining, oil, and gas companies. For example, in the 2013 budget the government folded the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) into the Foreign Affairs ministry, and pronounced that the job of CIDA is to support Canadian businesses overseas, and indeed partner with private corporations. Funding to universities is increasingly tied to researchers’ ability to generate knowledge that can be turned into profit.

Neoliberalism Israeli-Style

The Harper government’s extreme support for Israel becomes easier to understand when we realize that Israel is a leader in endeavours that are key to the success of Harper’s strategy.

Israel provides the Harper government a model for the integration of dispossession, research, innovation, and commercialization that has led Israeli companies to become global leaders in biotech, military, and other hi-tech industries. Adam Hannieh explains that after decades of state ownership of major industries in Israel, the 1980s and 1990s were a period of rapid privatization in which a domestic capitalist class was consolidated.[3] The core focus of the Israeli capitalist class is the hi-tech sector, where innovations in fields such as water purification, pharmaceuticals, information and communication technologies, and armaments are the basis of profit-making that depends on the commercialization of knowledge and “permanent siege” of Palestine.[4]

Postsecondary institutions in Israel are closely aligned with the private sector, and Israel’s Technion university is ranked sixth in the world for “entrepreneurship and innovation.” A course at the University of Haifa entitled “Innovation in a Nation: The Israeli Phenomenon” explains that “Israel has earned a reputation as one of the most active hubs for innovation, second only to Silicon Valley. Its ventures gain their founders multibillion dollars worth of ‘exits’ every year, promoting the country as an attractive target for acquisitions.” The Harper government’s efforts to tie postsecondary funding to private sector development, especially in science and technology, demonstrate its commitment to this framework. So does the change to CIDA mentioned above. In fact, the Harper government recently signed a foreign aid pact with Israel designed to “encourage the two countries to share strategies for international development.”

Political leaders in Canada are clear about wanting to learn from and link with Israel in order to develop a similar economic model in this country. For example, while visiting Israel in 2010, former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty explained the importance of partnering with Israeli companies like Teva Pharmaceuticals: “Teva Pharmaceuticals is a perfect example of the kind of partner we’re looking for in Israel. This is a country where scientists and academic leaders have figured out how to turn today’s ideas into tomorrow’s new investments. We’re here to learn and promote the benefits of doing business with Ontario’s life sciences companies.” In April 2013, two ministers in the Harper government – Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, and Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear – announced a request for proposals under the new Canada-Israel Energy Science and Technology Fund, seeking collaborations that will “spur the development of innovative energy technologies… of interest to both countries.”

The Harper government recognizes the way in which the resources of the Israeli state have been used to create a more integrated economy, in which the needs of business determine regulatory frameworks and knowledge generated in universities, which feed into profitable technological developments that fortify the institutions of apartheid that Israel depends on for its success. This is not to suggest that the situation in Canada is identical to conditions in Israel-Palestine. But Israel is a master teacher in the modern arts of accumulation by dispossession, and Canadian governments and businesses want a piece of the action.

Importing the Matrix of Control

Of course, Harper’s neoliberal project also requires beefing up the state’s security apparatus. A successful new phase of accumulation by dispossession must guard against resistance at home and abroad and eliminate alternatives. Canada looks to Israel on this front as well, as Israel is also a global leader in the repressive “securitization” project.

At a symbolic level, Israel provides lessons in mobilizing the emotional basis of national identity to consolidate its version of neoliberal settler colonialism. This is also what the Harper government is doing through military pageantry, tough-on-crime rhetoric and legislation, and generating fear of foreign influences at the same time as the Conservative austerity agenda actually drives down most people’s standards of living.

More concretely, the Harper government is purchasing Israeli technology and partnering with Israeli organizations that prop up the Israeli economy through the theft of Palestinian land and attacks on Palestinian resistance.

As Jeff Halper argues, Israel profits by exporting elements of its “matrix of control,” the system it uses to dominate Palestinian life. In Naomi Klein’s words: “Many of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs are using Israel’s status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of 24-hour-a-day showroom, a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war.”

The Harper government is developing ways to turn this into a partnership: “Canadian forces use Israeli-made drones in Afghanistan and the IDF uses Canadian-made electronics in its operations in the West Bank and Gaza.” The ministries responsible for securitization in Canada and Israel have signed a declaration committing the two countries to sharing “knowledge, expertise, experience, information, research, and best practices” and to facilitating “technical exchange cooperation, including education, training, and exercises” in the name of forging “a more structured framework for the continued cooperation on public safety issues between Canada and Israel.” Israeli security companies such as G4S, which support Israeli prisons that brutalize Palestinians, do open business in Canada. Police and military forces in Canada have received training in Israel.

Importing aspects of Israel’s matrix of control fits with the logic driving Harper’s energy superpower agenda. This new phase of accumulation by dispossession seeks to open up new lands to private development at the same time as it shuts down access to entitlements such as pensions, unemployment insurance, welfare, and environmental protections won through popular struggles of the past. Part of Harper’s project is developing mechanisms of discipline to deal with challenges to growing social and environmental injustice.

Resistance to Harper’s agenda rages on multiple fronts, from indigenous peoples like the Embera Katio nation in Colombia (fighting against Canadian construction firms) to the inspiring Idle No More movement in Canada, as well as non-indigenous environmental and anti-capitalist activists. Pasternak notes that Canadian governments and corporations recognize that “critical infrastructure in Canada is at the mercy of Indigenous peoples, who are more rural than Canadians and have access to important arteries for economic flows: transportation corridors, energy sectors, and sites of natural resource extraction.” In the words of Idle No More activist Pamela D. Palmater, a Mi’kmaw lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, “First Nations represent Canadians’ last best hope at stopping Harper from unfettered mass destruction of our shared lands, waters, plants and animals in the name of resource development.”

So while settler colonialism in Canada has always been about the violent displacement of indigenous peoples, the Harper government’s passionate defence of Israel and attacks on opposition to Israeli apartheid is also connected to its determination to defeat resistance to its agenda, at home and abroad. Canada not only supports but partners with and profits from Israel’s domination of Palestine.

Strengthening Coalitions to End Canadian Complicity in Israeli Apartheid

The Harper government’s extreme support for Israel is more complex and wider ranging than is often recognized. It is linked to Harper’s version of 21st century neoliberalism in Canada, which depends upon a new phase of accumulation by dispossession that includes a more aggressive securitization project.

Tracing out the ways in which the emergent Canada-Israel bond works in both symbolic and material ways can help Palestine solidarity organizing and anti-capitalist activism more broadly. Struggles for indigenous sovereignty, environmental protection, prison abolition, workers’ power, and economic equality are not merely allies in the sense that they share a desire for social justice and wish the best for each other. The problems we face are integrated and so require an integrated fightback. Supporting the “Sovereignty Summer” called jointly by Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, for example, could be done in solidarity with Palestinian liberation not only in the general spirit of anti-colonial resistance of peoples around the world but in substance as direct action against the Canadian and Israeli joint project in accumulation by dispossession.

The breadth of Harper’s neoliberal assault should provoke all sorts of discussions and actions that integrate Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions activism against Israel into struggles for social and environmental justice in the workplace, on campuses, in neighbourhoods, and throughout society.

As Adam Hanieh puts it, “It is not merely the depth of suffering or length of exile that makes the Palestinian struggle an imperative of international solidarity in the current period. It is also the central location of the struggle within the broader context of global resistance to imperialism and neoliberalism.” •

James Cairns is active with the Toronto New Socialists (where this article first appeared) and Faculty 4 Palestine. He and Alan Sears recently published The Democratic Imagination: Envisioning Popular Power in the 21st Century.

Notes:

1. David Harvey, The New Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2003, chap. 4.

 2. Todd Gordon, Imperialist Canada (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring), 2010.

3. Adam Hanieh, “From state-led growth to globalization: The evolution of Israeli capitalism,” Journal of Palestine Studies 32 (2003): 5-21.

 4. Bashir Abu-Manneh, “Israel’s colonial siege and the Palestinians,” Socialist Register 44 (2008):101-120.

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Growing labor unrest in the mining industry prompts retaliation from capital

A major struggle is unfolding in the Republic of South Africa with the recent announcement that the Anglo American Platinum Corporation (Amplats) will lay-off thousands of its workers. Amplats is the world’s largest producer of platinum where in South Africa the country has deposits of 80 percent of world’s known reserves of this strategic mineral.

After opposition to these plans from the African National Congress (ANC) government and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the largest trade union federation in the country, Amplats reduced the number of proposed job cuts to 6,000. The planned downsizing could very easily trigger a new round of labor unrest which could potentially shut down production throughout the entire industry.

Amplats claims that wildcat and official strikes during 2012 caused 70 percent of all mines to operate at a loss. In August of 2012, strikes and other violence in the Rustenburg area at the Lonmin facilities resulted in the deaths of 44 people, including 34 miners gunned down by the police at Marikana.

Militant actions by workers in 2012 prompted salary increases and pledges by the mining bosses to improve conditions of employment. Many within South Africa believe that these pronouncements by the mine owners are designed to discourage demands for higher wages and for the companies to re-invest in approving the communities surrounding the facilities.

According to the Globe and Mail, “The decision is expected to cut production by about 250,000 ounces at the Amplats mines next year – about 11 per cent of its total production – and it will be followed by further cuts of 100,000 ounces in following years. Three mine shafts in the Rustenburg area will be idled. The restructuring of its mining operations will cost the company about $250-million (U.S.).” (May 10)

The COSATU leadership has declared that it will not take these threats by Amplats without a response. Another rival union which has made headway in the industry, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), is also pledging to take industrial action in response to the proposed job losses.

“It is a spit in the face to the workers and people of South Africa,” said Patrick Craven, spokesman for the Congress of South African Trade Unions. “Thousands of families face losing their only breadwinner, and communities around the mines and in far-flung rural areas will be devastated.” (COSATU Statement, May 10)

Most of the mines in South Africa are owned by capitalists inside the country as well as firms based in Britain and Canada. Since the abolition of the apartheid system some smaller African investors have taken control of shares in the industrial giants.

However, the ever-increasing thirst for profits has resulted in very little improvements in wages for the workers. The high rate of unemployment and underemployment in the country is also a factor in maintaining the intransigence of the bosses related to demands for better salaries and conditions of employment.

Calls for Nationalization Resurface

In response to the planned job cuts, leaders of COSATU and its largest affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have not only threatened strike actions but are reemphasizing previous calls for nationalization of the mines. The trade union federation has a longtime alliance with the ruling African National Congress party as well as the South African Communist Party (SACP).

COSATU spokesperson Patrick Craven expressed the frustration of workers noting that the policies of Amplats will increase the class divisions within South African society and render even more employees to abject poverty. “This illustrates why COSATU has consistently called for the nationalization of the mining industry, so that it can be run for the benefit of the workers… and not for the profit of shareholders.” (COSATU Statement)

NUM in a statement released on May 10 said that “The union is highly perturbed by Anglo`s decision to bypass the stakeholder meetings scheduled for next week and go ahead with such an announcement. This is an indication that the Chief Executive Officer and his team are simply interested in pursuing their narrow career interests at all costs even at the cost of jobs” says Frans Baleni, the NUM General Secretary.

This same statement goes on to stress that “The company must hand over the mining licenses for the operations that it wants to mothball so that the state can put them to public auction. It is tantamount to holding the state and the workers to ransom to allow Anglo to simply mothball some of its operations” says Baleni.

Over the last two decades inside the gold industry large-scale downsizing resulted in the closing of mines. Tens of thousands of gold miners lost their jobs when owners relocated their operations to other countries in Africa and Latin America in order to ensure the increase in profits.

South Africa is scheduled to hold national elections in 2014 where the ruling ANC will be challenged to put forward a program aimed at improving conditions for the industrial and rural working class, the youth and the poor. A provincial ANC Conference in the Free State during mid-May was addressed by the Deputy President of the party Cyril Ramaphosa, the former General Secretary of COSATU, who urged the party to remain united and to seriously address the concrete conditions facing people inside the country.

Abayomi Azikiwe Editor, Pan-African News Wire

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El Salvador: El crimen de los cuadernos nunca escritos

May 13th, 2013 by Cristina Baccin

Un cuaderno con tapa dura, color rosa flúo y con ilustraciones de Kitty todavía espera a María del Mar envuelto en una bolsita de plástico en la alacena de la cocina. Se lo trajo uno de los primos que viven en Estados Unidos para cuando empezara su primer año de la secundaria.

María del Mar (nombre ficticio) se trasladó con su familia desde La Paz al departamento de San Salvador. Era una de las mejores alumnas de su escuela en el noveno grado. Extrañaría al mudarse, pero la perspectiva de comenzar la secundaria en una nueva escuela, con nuevos amigos y seguir estudiando, la entusiasmaba. Después, pensaba seguir la carrera de enfermería.

El día que caminó de su nuevo barrio hacia su nueva escuela cruzó, sin saberlo, el límite territorial entre las pandillas, la mara MS (o Mara Salvatrucha, originada en el barrio Pico-Union, Los Angeles)) y la mara-18 (así denominada por la Calle 18, en el distrito Rampart de Los Angeles, EEUU).

María del Mar fue intimidada y, claramente, le dijeron que si volvía a cruzar ese límite, la matarían. Así, hoy con casi 18 años no pudo ni empezar su escuela secundaria y sus sueños fueron quebrados. Su papá vive de la cosecha de milpa (maíz), tiene trabajo unos pocos meses al año y su jornada laboral se prolonga por 15 horas diarias. Su mamá horneaba y vendía pan pero ahora los costos se elevaron y ya no logra vender lo suficiente para seguir produciendo.

Sus tres hermanos varones menores son la mayor preocupación de María del Mar: no tienen perspectivas de continuar sus estudios, y sólo de encontrar trabajitos menores y ocasionales. Por lo tanto, ella sabe que tienen una alta posibilidad de involucrarse en pandillas, o ser intimidados o aniquilados por ellas.

Las principales víctimas de homicidio en El Salvador son adolescentes y jóvenes adultos de 15 a 29 años y la mayoría de estos crímenes son perpetrados con armas de fuego (en niveles similares a Brasil) (“Armed violence”, Issue 1, Small Arms Survey, Geneva, Nov. 2012).

La ciudad de San Salvador, si bien redujo la tasa de homicidios dolosos, aún se encuentra entre las 50 ciudades más violentas del mundo, según el Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y Justicia Penal (www.consejociudadanobcs.org).

Entre los antecedentes de esta situación, contamos el conflicto armado de más de una década que finalizó con un Acuerdo de Paz en 1992 dejando alrededor de 100.000 personas muertas y desaparecidas. Los restos de las fuerzas guerrilleras y armadas fueron arrojados a la sociedad civil sin políticas de contención y sin políticas de reconstrucción y oportunidades de trabajo.

Un aspecto determinante que nutrió esta atmósfera de violencia fue la deportación entre 1998 y 2005 desde la ciudad de Los Angeles (EEUU) a los países de Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador, entre 1998 y 2005, de alrededor de 46.000 jóvenes convictos por delincuencia pandillera (“Central America And Mexico Gang Assessment”, USAID, 2006).

Las maras o pandillas se concentran en los barrios de inmigrantes latinos en Los Angeles donde los salvadoreños se instalaron en su gran mayoría, a partir del período de la guerra civil.

Las familias se mudaron con sus bebés y niños quienes allí crecieron como adolescentes y jóvenes adultos sin espacios de inserción ni de identidad, sino más bien de exclusión, subestimación étnica y con un explícito cierre de puertas en cuanto a educación y trabajo. Sus padres son la principal mano de obra barata de la agricultura, los servicios de limpieza, mantenimiento y jardinería en largas jornadas laborales.

Solos en sus familias, excluidos de su sociedad, estos jóvenes generaron en la calle un espacio de pertenencia entre pares, predominantemente masculino, violento y delictivo, que es la pandilla o la mara, con sus propios códigos de conducta, su lenguaje, sus territorios y su estética corporal. Deportados al país donde nacieron pero que en realidad, desconocen, reconectaron con el único espacio social que conocían: las maras, en un campo fértil de desolación, violencia, machismo y pobreza.

En El Salvador, ya existían las pandillas como organizaciones juveniles locales y espacios de identidad para navegar por los quiebres de una sociedad cuya desigualdad social y trauma histórico grita al cielo.

Sus roles fueron, en algún período, de protección de su territorio y sus habitantes, para transformarse rápidamente en bandas coercitivas y opresivas de la población a su merced. Las instancias gubernamentales abordaron el fenómeno, en primer lugar, con metodologías represivas como los operativos “Mano Dura” y “Mano super dura” que derivaron en una mayor organización delictiva por parte de las pandillas y con mayor vinculación al tráfico de drogas. Ante el recrudecimiento de la violencia se instrumentaron otras metodologías de carácter preventivo de involucramiento comunitario, local, municipal y no gubernamental (D. Rodgers, R. Muggah, C. Stevenson, “Gangs of Central America: Causes, Costs, and Interventions”, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 2009).

Entre las organizaciones no gubernamentales que trabajan en la estrategia preventiva en los departamentos más pobres como La Paz, Sonsonate y San Salvador, Aprodehni (Asociación por la Promoción de los Derechos Humanos de la Niñez y los jóvenes) se destaca por su filosofía vinculada a la teología de la liberación y su inspiración en la figura del Arzobispo de El Salvador, Oscar Romero (asesinado por fuerzas paramilitares el 24 de marzo de 1980). Gil Geremías Pintín, director de dicha Asociación, nos relata en una entrevista (KUNM 89.9, 6/5/2013) que: “En nuestro país, después de finalizada la guerra en 1992, quedaron muchas familias con ciertos problemas sicológicos, producto de ese conflicto en los que 100.000 personas murieron por doce años y finalmente tuvimos los Acuerdos de Paz. Aprodehni trabaja con muchos de los jóvenes que, por diversas circunstancias se suicidan o se internan en las pandillas, porque no encuentran alternativa. Ante este panorama de inesperanza, llegamos para hablar con la familia, hablar con los jóvenes que están en riesgo y vulnerables para que puedan estudiar (…).

Muchas de las familias son sobrevivientes que se mudaron de un lugar a otro. Son familias que históricamente han sido excluidas y que han sufrido consecuencias del conflicto armado: problemas sicológicos y problemas de diferente naturaleza que derivaron de este conflicto.

Aprodehni está acompañando con otros procesos educativos de integración familiar para mejorar los niveles de autoestima, porque la gente después de la situación tan conflictiva que vivió nuestro país, está traumada. Hay un fenómeno que se ha desarrollado: es el problema de las pandillas. Las pandillas se deben a varios factores; uno de ellos es la pobreza, la exclusión social; son jóvenes que no encuentran alternativa, no tienen esperanza de empleo. Y se dedican a delinquir. Generalmente los grupos tienen miembros de los diez años en adelante. Hay muchos niños que son utilizados por los mayores para cometer actos delictivos. Ellos son doblemente víctimas.”

Según un reciente informe sobre trabajo infantil, en El Salvador, los niños son parte de la mano de obra en las peores formas incluyendo agricultura, servicio doméstico y trabajo callejero así como son reclutados en pandillas y tráfico de drogas. (United States Department of Labor´s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, “Findings on the worst forms of Child Labor, 2010, www.refworld.org).

A pesar de las estrategias preventivas y de un reciente acuerdo entre las maras para desarrollar una convivencia pacífica, los niveles de violencia del país continúan demasiado altos. En cuanto a la pobreza, en el último Informe Mundial de Desarrollo Humano 2013, descendió en su índice de desarrollo humano más aún (www.undp.org). Los niños y jóvenes constituyen la mayoría de la población: 37% tiene menos de 15 años; entre ellos, el 40 por ciento deja de estudiar en 5º grado. De la población adolescente y joven (15 a 24 años, 23%), menos de la mitad empieza la escuela secundaria (VI Censo de Población y Vivienda El Salvador, 2007, www.censos.gob.sv; “Central America And Mexico Gang Assessment”, USAID, 2006).

Al preguntarle a María del Mar cuáles son sus deseos para su país, nos dijo: “que todos los niños tengan acceso a una buena educación, pero ¡de verdad! y no sólo ayudarlos hasta noveno y luego, ¡a trabajar! Desearía que las maras se borraran, que fuera El Salvador un país tranquilo, donde uno pueda caminar tranquilamente. Y también que haiga más trabajo para que los padres puedan ganar un salario digno, para que puedan dar alimentación a su familia y sobrevivir sin que hagan que los hijos vayan a trabajar, quitándoles el derecho de estudiar. ¡Esos son mis deseos!”.

Cabe preguntarse, entonces, ¿Cuántos sueños y deseos como el de María del Mar siguen siendo truncados? ¿Cuántos cuadernos nunca escritos seguirán esperando ser cargados en una mochila escolar? ¿Cuántos pibes más en la calle? Como dice la poesía de Armando Tejada Gómez, “es honra de los hombres proteger lo que crece, / cuidar que no haya infancia dispersa por las calles,/ evitar que naufrague su corazón de barco, / su increíble aventura de pan y chocolate / poniéndole una estrella en el sitio del hambre” (“Hay un niño en la calle”, 1958).

Cristina Baccin
Cristina Baccin : Escribe desde ESTADOS UNIDOS. Periodista. Fue Decana de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, UNICEN (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Profesora e Investigadora en Comunicación Social en Argentina (Univ. Nac.  de La Plata, Universidad Nacional del Centro de Bs. As., entre otras) y España (Univ. Pont. de Salamanca). E-mail:[email protected]

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Gangster State America. “Naked Short” in the Gold Market

May 13th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

There are many signs of gangster state America. One is the collusion between federal authorities and banksters in a criminal conspiracy to rig the markets for gold and silver.

My explanation that the sudden appearance of an unprecedented 400 ton short sale of gold on the COMEX in April was a manipulation designed to protect the dollar from the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy has found acceptance among gold investors and hedge fund managers.

The sale was a naked short. The seller had no gold to sell. COMEX reported having gold only equal to about half of the short sale in its vaults, and not all of that was available for delivery. No one but the Federal Reserve could have placed such an order, and the order came from one of the Fed’s bullion banks, one of the entities “too big to fail.”

Bill Kaye of the Greater Asian Hedge Fund in Hong Kong and Dave Kranzler of Golden Returns Capital have filled in the details of how the manipulation worked. Being sophisticated investors of many years of experience, both Kaye and Kranzler understand that the financial press runs with the authorized story planted to serve the agenda that has been put into play.

Institutional investors who have bullion in their portfolio do not want the expense associated with storing it securely. Instead, they buy into Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) and hold their bullion in the form of a paper claim. The largest, the SPDR Gold Trust or GLD, trades on the New York Stock Exchange. The trustee and custodian is a bankster, and only other banksters are able to turn investments into delivery of physical bullion. Only shares in the amount of 100,000 can be redeemed in gold.

The price of bullion is not set in the physical market where individuals take delivery of bullion purchases. It is set in the paper futures market where short selling can drive down the price even if the demand for physical possession is rising. The paper gold market is also the market in which people speculate and leverage their positions, place stop-loss orders, and are subject to margin calls.

When the enormous naked shorts hit the COMEX, stop-loss orders were triggered adding to the sales, and margin calls forced more sales. Investors who were not in on the manipulation lost a lot of money.

The sales of GLD shares are accumulated by the banksters in 100,000 lots and presented to GLD for redemption in gold acquired at the driven down price.

The short sale is leveraged by the stop-loss triggers and margin calls, and results in a profit for the banksters who placed the short sell order. The banksters then profit again as they sell the released gold into the physical market, especially in Asia, where demand has been stimulated by the sharp drop in bullion price and by the loss of confidence in fiat currency. Asian prices are usually at a higher premium above the spot prices in New York-London.

Some readers have said “don’t bet against the Federal Reserve; the manipulation can go on forever.” But can it? As the ETFs such as GLD are drained of gold, their ability to cover any of their obligations to investors diminishes. In my opinion, these ETFs are like a fractional reserve banking system. The claims on gold exceed the amount of gold in the trusts. When the ETFs are looted of their gold by the banksters, the gold price will explode, as the claims on gold will greatly exceed the supply.

Kranzler reports that the current June futures contracts are 12.5 times the amount of deliverable gold. If more than 8 percent of these trades were to demand delivery, COMEX would default. That such a situation is possible indicates the total failure of federal financial regulation.

What the Federal Reserve has done in order to maintain its short-run policy of protecting the “banks too big too fail” is to make the inevitable reckoning more costly for the US economy.

Another irony is the benefactors of the banksters sale of the gold leeched from the gold ETFs. Asia is the beneficiary, especially India and China. The “get out of gold line” of the US financial press enables China to unload its excess supply of dollars, accumulated from the offshored US economy, into the gold market at a suppressed price of gold.

Kranzler points out that not only does the Fed’s manipulation permit Asia to offload US dollars for gold at low prices, but the obvious lack of confidence in the dollar that the manipulation demonstrates has caused wealthy European families to demand delivery of their gold holdings at bullion banks (the bullion banks are essentially the “banks too big to fail”). Kranzler notes that since January 1, more than 400 tons of gold have been drained from COMEX and gold ETF holdings in order to satisfy world demand for physical possession of bullion.

Again we see that institutions of the US government are acting 100% against the interests of US citizens. Just who does the US government represent?

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Obama administration set to abolish CPI, Cola and slash medical coverage for poor and elderly

Massive cuts are being proposed which will impact the way in which Social Security and Medicaid are allocated in the United States. The Obama administration has floated a plan known as chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) along with a goal of trimming healthcare funding for the poor and elderly by $400 billion.

These efforts are purportedly connected with the need to trim the federal budget deficit. A “sequester” was imposed earlier this year which is already resulting in furloughs for government workers, lay-offs in the healthcare industry and the elimination of programs which have benefitted low-income people for decades.

The chained CPI will lead to severe reductions of the limited increases in payments based upon the rise in inflation and the cost of living. These reforms, if instituted, would also be applied to benefits received by retired government employees, veterans and recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

In a recent study released by the Center for Global Policy Solutions (CGPS), the research institute placed the Obama administration proposals within a broader sociological context where the historic national oppression of African Americans has rendered this community to lower-wages and accumulated household wealth. Compounding this centuries-old reality, the economic crisis of the last five years has also disproportionately driven down the living standards of African Americans and other peoples of color.

After retirement African Americans face even lower incomes through pensions and social security payments which are based on earnings during the last few years of their employment. Any cuts to the incremental increases in monthly payments for retirees can only result in deeper economic challenges and poverty.

According to the CGPS study,

“African Americans are among the most vulnerable when it comes to economic security. As of 2011, over half of the African American senior population was financially insecure.”

This financial insecurity stems from the continued lack of opportunity and systematic national discrimination within the education sector and labor market. In addition, the decades-long restructuring of the industrial and service sectors of the United States economy has left whole layers of the workforce without decent jobs that encompass adequate salaries and benefits.

CGPS says that “The persistent income and wealth inequality seen among African Americans comes from years of disproportionately lower levels of earnings, employment, educational attainment, and ownership of family assets such as homes, stocks/bonds, saving accounts, and businesses. As a result, African Americans have had significantly fewer opportunities to build assets over time and often lack the savings to ensure financial security throughout their post-working years.”

Alternative Measure Proposed by the Obama Administration

Through the corporate media there is gross misrepresentation involving the discussions over the budget cuts and possible changes in the formula which determine Social Security payment increases. The fact of the matter is that these measures are not necessarily related to the federal budget deficit. The Social Security system has a separate trust fund that has more than enough reserves to maintain payments to retirees, survivors and people living with disabilities.

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is an instrument used to project the yearly cost of living adjustment (COLA) that is applied to beneficiaries. The idea behind this measure is to boost the annual inflation-adjusted increases in order for recipients to keep up with the constantly escalating prices of housing, food, health care and other necessities of life in the U.S.

CGPS in its study notes that

“The Obama administration proposes to substitute the regular CPI-W for the chained Consumer Price Index for all Urban Workers (CPI-U), a measure of inflation that takes into account substitutions of less expensive goods when prices for other alternatives go up. This substitution would reduce the amount by which the COLA is increased annually—a reduction of about $3 for every $1,000 in benefits—and its effects would be compounded over time.”

Objectively this new measure could substantially reduce the purchasing power of those who have a greater reliance on Social Security and SSI payments. This instrument also fails to take into account the higher costs associated with health care services and prescription drugs.

Proposed Changes Will Further Impoverish African Americans

Statistics and studies issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies (JCEPS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that 47 percent of African American seniors rely on Social Security for more than 90 percent of their retirement income. Even more striking is that 40 percent of African American retirees are dependent upon Social Security as their sole household income.

As recent as 2010, nearly 20 percent of African American adults over 65 had income levels that were below the federally-determined poverty line. This compares with 7 percent of non-Hispanic whites of the same age level.

Also as a result of life circumstances and inadequate access to healthcare, African Americans are more likely to suffer from ailments that require costs that are not covered through insurance programs. Moreover, the life expectancy for African American men is two years less than white men, rendering them to a shorter span of time for the receiving of benefits.

In addition, there is a higher rate of people living with disabilities among the African American population where the total number of people receiving benefits is nearly 20 percent Black, although African Americans only constitute 10 percent of the overall workforce. In regard to the impact on children, 21 percent of children receiving disability benefits are African American even though they are only 15 percent of the youth population.

With specific reference to Medicaid, the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies (JCEPS) wrote over a year ago that reductions in funding for this program would cause tremendous suffering among the African American and Latino populations. The same research institute argues that these cuts would in fact increase costs for healthcare companies since people would still need care whether it is funded by the government or not.

The report, “Medicaid: A Lifeline for Blacks and Latinos with Serious Health Care Needs,” published by Families USA,

“reveals that making cuts to Medicaid fails to reduce costs, instead it shifts the burden to states, families, hospitals and the uninsured. In fact, in some cases, the report notes, cutting assistance for treatment can actually increase costs over the long run.”

JCEPS continues pointing out that “As policymakers consider sharp cutbacks in the Medicaid program, this report brings an important potential consequence of their actions to the table – that cutting Medicaid will likely hit hardest at communities of color and, in particular, those who depend on the program to manage and treat their chronic illnesses,” said Ralph B. Everett, president and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. (October 2011)

These proposed changes in government programs should be vigorously opposed by the trade union movement, the Congressional Black Caucus as well as civil and human rights organizations. An alliance of these forces with retiree groups could exert the necessary pressure to drop these draconian policy proposals and to put forward demands that enhance these programs that benefit the working class and the poor.

The federal budget deficit is the direct result of the failure of the U.S. government to tax the rich and to enact drastic cuts or eliminate the Pentagon budget. There must be a political movement to resist these actions which are making an attempt to reduce the deficit on the backs of the youth, senior citizens and the most marginalized segments of the working class and nationally oppressed.

 

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A veces la punta del iceberg se asoma, y los hechos relatados corroboran la experiencia de la mayoría de las personas. El último informe de Pew Center, el cual, ahora ha alcanzado una amplia difusión, muestra que un total de 93% de hogares estadounidenses *perdió* terreno en la tan loada recuperación de 2009-2011. [http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/viewart/20130423/BUSINESS/304230011/Pew-93-households-lost-net-worth-2009-11] Esto simplemente ratifica lo que todos estamos viviendo, encubierto por promedios, pretextos y engaños. No existe la “recuperación”. Los sectores *dentro* del quintil superior apenas están aguantando la crisis.

Esta es la imagen más cruda que he visto en blanco y negro; anteriormente había estado diciendo que alguien que escuchase que si bien parece haber un repunte para aquellos en los $250 000 y margen más elevado, queda muy claro que no es el caso para el cuarto quintil inferior [es decir, $100 000 combinado con el ingreso familiar del 2010]. Debería ser lo suficientemente sorprendente para la mayoría de los tipos de clase media que el cuadro real sea tan diferente de lo que creen que están viviendo, es decir, que en realidad se encuentran en un 8 a10% superior… PERO los datos revelan que es peor aún. Incluso, aquellas familias que llegan hasta los $500 000 (!) están perdiendo terreno.

Esto especifica la desesperación dentro de la perspectiva política de lo que Zinn denominó La Guardia y lo que Chomsky denominó El Sacerdocio: las personas que están bien dentro del sistema actual pero que creen que se necesitan unos ajustes. A medida que este sector se reduce, las contradicciones internas se pondrán de manifiesto y la respuesta del estado será más dura y menos elástica. Por ende, los hogares con “dos buenos trabajos”, digamos $100 000 más cada uno, son propensos a tener algo de esperanza, la célebre mantra de “brotes de recuperación” cayó en saco roto para la mayoría de nosotros hace unos años. ¡Vamos, muchachos, *puede* funcionar! ¡Todos debemos tener un poco más de paciencia! Etc.

Las implicaciones políticas son bastante alarmantes. Este sector es fundamental para la viabilidad y la legitimidad pública del sistema, y el pánico tiene consecuencias transcendentales. Puede que estén comenzando a darse cuenta de que ellos, también, a fin de cuentas, quedarán detrás en el desplazamiento de la riqueza y que, en realidad, nunca se trató de ellos. Despacio pero seguro y en mayor o menor grado, están recapitulando la epifanía de Judas [al menos, la versión de Andrew Lloyd Weber]: “¡Dios mío estoy harto. Me han usado,  y tú lo supiste todo el tiempo!” Recién comienzan a ver que están frente a una difícil batalla en un juego manipulado contra el Parlamento con un as en la manga,  y cualquier otra analogía vulgar que quieras meter, pero ellos no tendrán lugar alguno adónde ir.

Paradójicamente, la ola inicial de reacción ante esta nueva y reciente traición por parte de sus patrones en la clase gobernante no dará vuelta a la situación. Expresará este enojo a aquellas personas debajo, en aquel viejo juego arcaico de matar al mensajero. Por consiguiente, se convertirán incluso en óptimos “silenciadores”, el término usado por Seinfeld para aquellos espectadores que mantenían el orden en un teatro. Los Border Collies, los guardias…siempre han estado allí, pero fueron más conscientemente parte del profesional “sobrante”, un ícono de la clase política. En  el período en curso, el enojo de ellos es más desesperado y más difuso: Siempre se han inclinado más, por ejemplo, en confiar en la policía, en creer en la versión oficial de los acontecimientos, en evitar fuentes de información que su experiencia y posición de elite consideraban que era realmente inaceptable. El haber estado en escasas ocasiones, si es que alguna vez estuvieron, del lado equivocado de la Burocracia o tuvieron que sacar a parientes de la cárcel bajo fianza o tuvieron ellos mismos experiencias de tinte racista, están preparados y sometidos a ser las fuerzas de choque del Discurso Aceptable. Frente a la mayor perfidia por parte de sus apostadores de clase, no pueden (todavía) morder ellos mismos lo que aún consideran como la mano que les da de comer. Por consiguiente, arremeterán ferozmente contra el rótulo incongruente de “parásitos” quienes ellos creen que están organizando sus banquetes, aun cuando el estruendo de la disonancia cognitiva crezca dentro de sus cabezas.

Las consecuencias brutales de este juego es un elemento visible de una realidad que nos rodea, a medida que el número de bajas aumenta y el firme terrorismo de Estado del aparato de Estado crece cada vez más horroroso en su intento de mantener sus excesivos estilos de vida a  través de la hegemonía de los recursos de todo el mundo. Esta transacción se pierde completamente en los Silenciadores, más bien, se convierten en seguidores morbosos, con o sin reconocimiento. Son capaces, de algún modo, de racionalizar la completa destrucción de país tras país, aunque se les demuestre que  les están mintiendo para que lo hagan. Para ellos es irrelevante que su gobierno esté financiando, armando y entrenando a los mismísimos terroristas islámicos en Siria y Libia y que estén preparados para causar temor en otros sitios. La regla matemática simple del equilibrio exige que reconozcan y rechacen los 1000: 1 proporción de violencia haciendo estragos en el mundo en su nombre, con su dinero, con su silencio en el mejor de los casos y un respaldo entusiasta en el peor de los casos. Es que no les importa un carajo, y el  privilegio macabro hacia las relativamente pocas víctimas entre los de su propio país, lo cual es tan atroz como los son estos indudablemente, se pierde fuera de la burbuja en la que se encuentra en donde el resto del mundo llora por sus víctimas.

Las consecuencias económicas de su pérdida de rango los hace cagarse del susto: si bien la lógica y la moralidad básica determinan que deberían despertarse cada mañana teniendo siempre presente la sangrienta masacre de su propio ejército de aviones teledirigidos, en su  lugar, están preocupados por el hecho de que ya no puedan afrontar económicamente una peregrinación anual a Disney o de que, tal vez, tengan que posponer la reforma de la cocina o del baño o del bote o del auto que han estado considerando. Si esto hace que ellos se vean como monstruos, que así sea. Existe algo épico sobre el horror de simultáneamente no tener poder por encima de un sistema político que causa tal destrucción e incluso todavía defender ese mismo sistema como aceptable y benigno sin, como mínimo, haber sido el clásico proverbio del canario en la mina de carbón, el más pequeño que grita: “¡Estamos aquí!” desde la torre más alta disponible. Es más que un engaño y una vergüenza. Es un crimen moral, una brecha de un deber ético que tendrá consecuencias inimaginables cuando el equilibrio se enderece con el tiempo. Y sí, para los lectores internacionales, comprendo el ensimismamiento de concentrarse en la experiencia interna de los Estados Unidos de AmériKa, y oigo sus gritos de “¡A quién mierda le importa!” dentro de mi cabeza. Si estuviste a mi lado todo este tiempo, cuentas con mi admiración. A veces, considero necesario hablar de y sobre mis compatriotas de Estados Unidos de AmériKa desde el punto de vista de una persona que comparte, aunque a veces de forma tangencial, su experiencia.

Creo que estamos viviendo el momento en el que todo se descontrolará. Tal vez, lleve un año o dos o diez, pero en términos históricos estamos viviendo en ese instante, ese día en donde, recordando lo vivido, será posible confirmar que todo cambió. Es el momento crucial brillantemente representado por el montaje al final de Los Miserables en donde todos los actores sociales, sin importar su rol o posición, perciben que algo transcendental se asoma en el horizonte: “Mañana descubriremos lo que nos reserva nuestro Señor. Un nuevo amanecer. Un nuevo día. ¡Un día más!”

Daniel Patrick Welch

Texto original en inglés : Scared Americans and the US Terror State,  11 de Maio de 2013. 

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Criminal and Complicit Mainstream Media

May 13th, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

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Since early 2011, Obama’s been waging proxy war on Syria. Imported death squads masquerade as freedom fighters. The scheme’s familiar. It repeats. It reflects US imperialism’s dark side.

In the 1980s, CIA-recruited Mujahideen fighters battled  Afghanistan’s Soviet occupiers. Ronald Reagan called them “the moral equivalent of our founding fathers.” He characterized Contra killers the same way.

Naked aggression is called humanitarian intervention. New wars follow earlier ones. Ravaging humanity is called liberation. Propaganda convinces people that America is threatened. Truth is turned on its head.

Syria is Washington’s latest target. Plans haven’t gone as expected. Ousting another government was supposed to be easy. US-enlisted terrorists are no match against Syria’s military superiority.

Implementing Plan B looms. It could come any time. Obama’s heading toward full-scale intervention. Pretexts are easy to create. Assad’s been falsely blamed for numerous insurgent massacres. Evidence showed he had nothing to do with them.

More recently, he was unjustifiably accused of using chemical weapons. Insurgents used them several times. A previous article said Pentagon contractors trained them in their use. This is how imperial America operates.

Another previous article discussed a US-hatched scheme. It cited a no longer available UK Daily Mail article, saying:

“Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad’s regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country.”

“A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme ‘approved by Washington’ is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons.”

“Barack Obama made it clear to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that the US would not tolerate Syria using chemical weapons against its own people.”

On Saturday, two car bombs exploded outside Reyhanli, Turkey’s city hall. Prime Minister Erdogan’s heading for Washington later this week.

It wasn’t coincidental that bombings killed and injured Turkish citizens days before his arrival. It’s red meat for him and Obama to discuss.

Reyhanli’s close to Syria’s border. It’s a hub for Syrian refugees and anti-Assad insurgents.

Dozens were killed. Many more were injured. Buildings were destroyed. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said:

“We know that the Syrian refugees have become a target of the Syrian regime. Reyhanli was not chosen by coincidence.”

“Our thoughts are that their Mukhabarat (Syrian intelligence) and armed organizations are the usual suspects in planning and the carrying out of such devilish plans,” he added.

Turkey will “do whatever is necessary” if Syria ordered the attack.

Hurriyet Daily News said:

“Officials confirm(ed) link with Syrian intelligence.” Interior Minister Muammer Guler and Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay were cited.

Atalay said:

“We have to a great extent completed our work toward identifying the assailants.” How and what evidence corroborates it within hours of the attack he didn’t explain.

Legitimate forensic and other information gathering requires considerable time and analysis. A rush to judgment raises obvious questions.

Reports said Turkey began deploying large numbers of air and ground forces to Reyhanli. What follows remains to be seen.

In mid-February, a car bomb struck the Cilvegozu Turkish/Syrian border crossing. At least eight died. Around 30 others were wounded. Anti-Assad elements blamed Syria. No evidence proved it.

Turkey and Western allies blame “the usual suspects.” It happens every time.

Following Saturday’s bombings, a State Department press release said:

“The United States condemns today’s car bombings and we stand with our ally, Turkey.”

“This awful news strikes an especially personal note for all of us given how closely we work in partnership with Turkey, and how many times Turkey’s been a vital interlocutor at the center of my work as Secretary of State these last three months.”

“Our thoughts are with the wounded and we extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims.”

The glaring hypocrisy requires no comment.

NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius expressed “full solidarity” with Turkey.

Washington’s Ankara embassy condemned the “murderous attack.” A statement said America “stands with the people and government of Turkey to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”

It left no ambiguity who’ll be blamed. The anti-Assad Syrian National Coalition suggested Assad’s involvement. A statement said:

“The Coalition sees these heinous terrorist acts as an attempt to take revenge on the Turkish people and punish them for their honorable support for the Syrian people, including their welcoming of Syrian refugees who have fled the regime’s crimes in their villages and cities.”

“The Coalition views this attack as a desperate and failed attempt to sow discord between the two peoples.”

Lebanon’s Daily Star published an AP report. It said Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi denied Damascus’ involvement in Saturday’s bombings.

“(N)o one has the right to make false accusations,” he said. (T)his is not the behavior of the Syrian government.”

“The Turkish government should be held responsible for what happened. It turned the border area into a center for international terrorism.”

Erdogan “must step down. He must not build his glory on the blood of Turks and Syrians.”

Assad has no death wish. It’s inconceivable that he or other Syrian officials ordered the attack. Doing so would be madness.

Syria’s fully involved internally. It’s gone to great pains to avoid direct foreign intervention. Attacking a neighboring country would invite it. Responsibility lies with anti-Assad elements.

Perhaps Ankara planned and implemented the attack. Last October, an alleged Syrian mortar attack killed five Turkish nationals.

Yurt is a Turkish newspaper. At the time, it said Prime Minister Erdogan acted on Washington’s behalf. His government supplied Free Syrian Army (FSA) elements with mortars.

The “bomber” used to launch them “is only used by NATO.” They were fired from FSA-controlled territory.

False flags are commonly used. Washington prioritizes them. Turkey’s complicit in plans to topple Assad.

Years earlier, Turkey’s military hatched a plan to bomb internal mosques, down one of its own warplanes, blame Greece, and destabilize the newly-installed Islamist government.

America has a long history of false flags. So do other NATO allies and Israel.

On Saturday, Lebanon’s Al-Manar television said five rockets fired from inside Syria struck Lebanese territory. They “landed in open areas of the Northern Beqaa region of Hermel. No casualties have been reported.”

“This was not the first time (anti-Assad) militiamen rockets passed Lebanon’s northern borders to target residential areas.”

Expect more incidents falsely blamed on Assad. Perhaps something major is planned. Doing so builds a case for war. It’s happening in plain sight.

On May 12, Haaretz headlined “Turkey blames Syria for deadly twin blasts; Damascus rejects ‘false accusations.’ ”

Nine arrests were made. They’re Turkish citizens. Ankara claims they’re Assad loyalists. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed them for an early May attack. Dozens died in Banias, Syria.

Davutoglu blamed Syria for both incidents. It’s clear where these accusations are heading. Washington’s orchestrating everything. Turkey is its lead attack dog. It’s part of Obama’s scheme to topple Assad. Libya 2.0 looms.

A Final Comment

Conflicting reports on whether Russia plans selling Syria sophisticated air defense systems surfaced. Washington and Israel expressed concern.

Kerry discussed it in Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied intentions to do so. S-300 launch systems and others were mentioned. Lavrov added that Russia and Syria have weapons deals yet to be completed.

Vladimir Putin said existing contracts will be honored. He and others added that weapons supplied are defensive.

Netanyahu’s going to Moscow. He plans doing so soon. He’ll urge Putin against supplying Syria with launch systems able to take out invading aircraft.

He’s doing so in the context of Israel’s recent attacks. Lebanon’s Daily Star suggested they were launched from inside Lebanese territory.

On May 11, Mossad-connected DEBKAfile (DF) headlined “Netanyahu to visit Putin in a bid to stop his S-300 missile sale to Syria.”

It’s a “last-ditched attempt” to call it off. DF claims doing so is “extremely slim.”

“After Israel’s (May 4 and 5 air strikes), nothing would now stop the S-300 deliveries.”

Putin is “placing a severe constraint on Israel’s operational freedom by spreading an anti-air missile cover over the Syrian, Hizballah and the Iranian Basij forces fighting for Bashar Assad.”

“Since the chances of dissuading Putin to abandon this strategy are just about nil, the best Netanyahu can hope for by his face-to-face with the Russian president is a limited accord on ground rules for averting an Israeli-Russian military clash in Syria.”

Whether this suggests Russia will back Syria if US-led NATO intervenes remains to be seen. It’s in Moscow’s interest to prevent replacing its government a pro-Western one subservient to Washington.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.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 Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/another-anti-assad-false-flag/

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