Monthly Archives: April 2012

Watch The Full Program Online | College, Inc. | FRONTLINE | PBS

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Challenging Notions of a Jewish People

By Shlomo Sand

Israeli Professor Shlomo Sand talks about the ideas of his book, The Invention of the Jewish People, challenging the underlying logic of the State of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish People.

He argues those who claim to be of the Jewish People cannot claim a blood connection with the original Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land, but converts along the way. His book was a best-seller in Israel for 19 weeks in 2009.

American Exceptionalism: In Defense of Torture: CIA Torturer Has No Regrets

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You Are All Suspects Now. What Are You Going To Do About It?

By John Pilger

April 30, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — You are all potential terrorists. It matters not that you live in Britain, the United States, Australia or the Middle East. Citizenship is effectively abolished. Turn on your computer and the US Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center may monitor whether you are typing not merely “al-Qaeda”, but “exercise”, “drill”, “wave”, “initiative” and “organisation”: all proscribed words. The British government’s announcement that it intends to spy on every email and phone call is old hat. The satellite vacuum cleaner known as Echelon has been doing this for years. What has changed is that a state of permanent war has been launched by the United States and a police state is consuming western democracy.
What are you going to do about it?
In Britain, on instructions from the CIA, secret courts are to deal with “terror suspects”. Habeas Corpus is dying. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that five men, including three British citizens, can be extradited to the US even though none except one has been charged with a crime. All have been imprisoned for years under the 2003 US/UK Extradition Treaty which was signed one month after the criminal invasion of Iraq. The European Court had condemned the treaty as likely to lead to “cruel and unusual punishment”. One of the men, Babar Ahmad, was awarded 63,000 pounds compensation for 73 recorded injuries he sustained in the custody of the Metropolitan Police. Sexual abuse, the signature of fascism, was high on the list. Another man is a schizophrenic who has suffered a complete mental collapse and is in Broadmoor secure hospital; another is a suicide risk. To the Land of the Free, they go – along with young Richard O’Dwyer, who faces 10 years in shackles and an orange jump suit because he allegedly infringed US copyright on the internet. 
As the law is politicised and Americanised, these travesties are not untypical. In upholding the conviction of a London university student, Mohammed Gul, for disseminating “terrorism” on the internet, Appeal Court judges in London ruled that “acts… against the armed forces of a state anywhere in the world which sought to influence a government and were made for political purposes” were now crimes. Call to the dock Thomas Paine, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela.
What are you going to do about it? 
The prognosis is clear now: the malignancy that Norman Mailer called “pre fascist” has metastasized. The US attorney-general, Eric Holder, defends the “right” of his government to assassinate American citizens. Israel, the protege, is allowed to aim its nukes at nukeless Iran. In this looking glass world, the lying is panoramic. The massacre of 17 Afghan civilians on 11 March, including at least nine children and four women, is attributed to a “rogue” American soldier. The “authenticity” of this is vouched by President Obama himself, who had “seen a video” and regards it as “conclusive proof”. An independent Afghan parliamentary investigation produces eyewitnesses who give detailed evidence of as many as 20 soldiers, aided by a helicopter, ravaging their villages, killing and raping: a standard, if marginally more murderous US special forces “night raid”.
Take away the videogame technology of killing – America’s contribution to modernity – and the behaviour is traditional. Immersed in comic-book righteousness, poorly or brutally trained, frequently racist, obese and led by a corrupt officer class, American forces transfer the homicide of home to faraway places whose impoverished struggles they cannot comprehend. A nation founded on the genocide of the native population never quite kicks the habit. Vietnam was “Indian country” and its “slits” and “gooks” were to be “blown away”.
The blowing away of hundreds of mostly women and children in the Vietnamese village of My Lai in 1968 was also a “rogue” incident and, profanely, an “American tragedy” (the cover headline of Newsweek). Only one of 26 men prosecuted was convicted and he was let go by President Richard Nixon. My Lai is in Quang Ngai province where, as I learned as a reporter, an estimated 50,000 people were killed by American troops, mostly in what they called “free fire zones”. This was the model of modern warfare: industrial murder.
Like Iraq and Libya, Afghanistan is a theme park for the beneficiaries of America’s new permanent war: Nato, the armaments and hi-tech companies, the media and a “security” industry whose lucrative contamination is a contagion on everyday life. The conquest or “pacification” of territory is unimportant. What matters is the pacification of you, the cultivation of your indifference.
What are you going to do about it?
The descent into totalitarianism has landmarks. Any day now, the Supreme Court in London will decide whether the WikiLeaks editor, Julian Assange, is to be extradited to Sweden. Should this final appeal fail, the facilitator of truth-telling on an epic scale, who is charged with no crime, faces solitary confinement and interrogation on ludicrous sex allegations. Thanks to a secret deal between the US and Sweden, he can be “rendered” to the American gulag at any time. In his own country, Australia, prime minister Julia Gillard has conspired with those in Washington she calls her “true mates” to ensure her innocent fellow citizen is fitted for his orange jump suit just in case he should make it home. In February, her government wrote a “WikiLeaks Amendment” to the extradition treaty between Australia and the US that makes it easier for her “mates” to get their hands on him. She has even given them the power of approval over Freedom of Information searches – so that the world outside can be lied to, as is customary.
What are you going to do about it?

Welcome to the Asylum

By Chris Hedges

April 30, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — When civilizations start to die they go insane. Let the ice sheets in the Arctic melt. Let the temperatures rise. Let the air, soil and water be poisoned. Let the forests die. Let the seas be emptied of life. Let one useless war after another be waged. Let the masses be thrust into extreme poverty and left without jobs while the elites, drunk on hedonism, accumulate vast fortunes through exploitation, speculation, fraud and theft. Reality, at the end, gets unplugged. We live in an age when news consists of Snooki’s pregnancy, Hulk Hogan’s sex tape and Kim Kardashian’s denial that she is the naked woman cooking eggs in a photo circulating on the Internet. Politicians, including presidents, appear on late night comedy shows to do gags and they campaign on issues such as creating a moon colony. “[A]t times when the page is turning,” Louis-Ferdinand Celine wrote in “Castle to Castle,” “when History brings all the nuts together, opens its Epic Dance Halls! hats and heads in the whirlwind! Panties overboard!”
The quest by a bankrupt elite in the final days of empire to accumulate greater and greater wealth, as Karl Marx observed, is modern society’s version of primitive fetishism. This quest, as there is less and less to exploit, leads to mounting repression, increased human suffering, a collapse of infrastructure and, finally, collective death. It is the self-deluded, those on Wall Street or among the political elite, those who entertain and inform us, those who lack the capacity to question the lusts that will ensure our self-annihilation, who are held up as exemplars of intelligence, success and progress. The World Health Organization calculates that one in four people in the United States suffers from chronic anxiety, a mood disorder or depression—which seems to me to be a normal reaction to our march toward collective suicide. Welcome to the asylum.
When the most basic elements that sustain life are reduced to a cash product, life has no intrinsic value. The extinguishing of “primitive” societies, those that were defined by animism and mysticism, those that celebrated ambiguity and mystery, those that respected the centrality of the human imagination, removed the only ideological counterweight to a self-devouring capitalist ideology. Those who held on to pre-modern beliefs, such as Native Americans, who structured themselves around a communal life and self-sacrifice rather than hoarding and wage exploitation, could not be accommodated within the ethic of capitalist exploitation, the cult of the self and the lust for imperial expansion. The prosaic was pitted against the allegorical. And as we race toward the collapse of the planet’s ecosystem we must restore this older vision of life if we are to survive.
The war on the Native Americans, like the wars waged by colonialists around the globe, was waged to eradicate not only a people but a competing ethic. The older form of human community was antithetical and hostile to capitalism, the primacy of the technological state and the demands of empire. This struggle between belief systems was not lost on Marx. “The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx” is a series of observations derived from Marx’s reading of works by historians and anthropologists. He took notes about the traditions, practices, social structure, economic systems and beliefs of numerous indigenous cultures targeted for destruction. Marx noted arcane details about the formation of Native American society, but also that “lands [were] owned by the tribes in common, while tenement-houses [were] owned jointly by their occupants.” He wrote of the Aztecs, “Commune tenure of lands; Life in large households composed of a number of related families.” He went on, “… reasons for believing they practiced communism in living in the household.” Native Americans, especially the Iroquois, provided the governing model for the union of the American colonies, and also proved vital to Marx and Engel’s vision of communism.
Marx, though he placed a naive faith in the power of the state to create his workers’ utopia and discounted important social and cultural forces outside of economics, was acutely aware that something essential to human dignity and independence had been lost with the destruction of pre-modern societies. The Iroquois Council of the Gens, where Indians came together to be heard as ancient Athenians did, was, Marx noted, a “democratic assembly where every adult male and female member had a voice upon all questions brought before it.” Marx lauded the active participation of women in tribal affairs, writing, “The women [were] allowed to express their wishes and opinions through an orator of their own election. Decision given by the Council. Unanimity was a fundamental law of its action among the Iroquois.” European women on the Continent and in the colonies had no equivalent power.
Rebuilding this older vision of community, one based on cooperation rather than exploitation, will be as important to our survival as changing our patterns of consumption, growing food locally and ending our dependence on fossil fuels. The pre-modern societies of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse—although they were not always idyllic and performed acts of cruelty including the mutilation, torture and execution of captives—did not subordinate the sacred to the technical. The deities they worshipped were not outside of or separate from nature.
Seventeenth century European philosophy and the Enlightenment, meanwhile, exalted the separation of human beings from the natural world, a belief also embraced by the Bible. The natural world, along with those pre-modern cultures that lived in harmony with it, was seen by the industrial society of the Enlightenment as worthy only of exploitation. Descartes argued, for example, that the fullest exploitation of matter to any use was the duty of humankind. The wilderness became, in the religious language of the Puritans, satanic. It had to be Christianized and subdued. The implantation of the technical order resulted, as Richard Slotkin writes in “Regeneration Through Violence,” in the primacy of “the western man-on-the-make, the speculator, and the wildcat banker.” Davy Crockett and, later, George Armstrong Custer, Slotkin notes, became “national heroes by defining national aspiration in terms of so many bears destroyed, so much land preempted, so many trees hacked down, so many Indians and Mexicans dead in the dust.”
The demented project of endless capitalist expansion, profligate consumption, senseless exploitation and industrial growth is now imploding. Corporate hustlers are as blind to the ramifications of their self-destructive fury as were Custer, the gold speculators and the railroad magnates. They seized Indian land, killed off its inhabitants, slaughtered the buffalo herds and cut down the forests. Their heirs wage war throughout the Middle East, pollute the seas and water systems, foul the air and soil and gamble with commodities as half the globe sinks into abject poverty and misery. The Book of Revelation defines this single-minded drive for profit as handing over authority to the “beast.”
The conflation of technological advancement with human progress leads to self-worship. Reason makes possible the calculations, science and technological advances of industrial civilization, but reason does not connect us with the forces of life. A society that loses the capacity for the sacred, that lacks the power of human imagination, that cannot practice empathy, ultimately ensures its own destruction. The Native Americans understood there are powers and forces we can never control and must honor. They knew, as did the ancient Greeks, that hubris is the deadliest curse of the human race. This is a lesson that we will probably have to learn for ourselves at the cost of tremendous suffering.
In William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” Prospero is stranded on an island where he becomes the undisputed lord and master. He enslaves the primitive “monster” Caliban. He employs the magical sources of power embodied in the spirit Ariel, who is of fire and air. The forces unleashed in the island’s wilderness, Shakespeare knew, could prompt us to good if we had the capacity for self-control and reverence. But it also could push us toward monstrous evil since there are few constraints to thwart plunder, rape, murder, greed and power. Later, Joseph Conrad, in his portraits of the outposts of empire, also would expose the same intoxication with barbarity.
The anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan, who in 1846 was “adopted” by the Seneca, one of the tribes belonging to the Iroquois confederation, wrote in “Ancient Society” about social evolution among American Indians. Marx noted approvingly, in his “Ethnological Notebooks,” Morgan’s insistence on the historical and social importance of “imagination, that great faculty so largely contributing to the elevation of mankind.” Imagination, as the Shakespearean scholar Harold C. Goddard pointed out, “is neither the language of nature nor the language of man, but both at once, the medium of communion between the two. … Imagination is the elemental speech in all senses, the first and the last, of primitive man and of the poets.”
All that concerns itself with beauty and truth, with those forces that have the power to transform us, are being steadily extinguished by our corporate state. Art. Education. Literature. Music. Theater. Dance. Poetry. Philosophy. Religion. Journalism. None of these disciplines are worthy in the corporate state of support or compensation. These are pursuits that, even in our universities, are condemned as impractical. But it is only through the impractical, through that which can empower our imagination, that we will be rescued as a species. The prosaic world of news events, the collection of scientific and factual data, stock market statistics and the sterile recording of deeds as history do not permit us to understand the elemental speech of imagination. We will never penetrate the mystery of creation, or the meaning of existence, if we do not recover this older language. Poetry shows a man his soul, Goddard wrote, “as a looking glass does his face.” And it is our souls that the culture of imperialism, business and technology seeks to crush. Walter Benjamin argued that capitalism is not only a formation “conditioned by religion,” but is an “essentially religious phenomenon,” albeit one that no longer seeks to connect humans with the mysterious forces of life. Capitalism, as Benjamin observed, called on human societies to embark on a ceaseless and futile quest for money and goods. This quest, he warned, perpetuates a culture dominated by guilt, a sense of inadequacy and self-loathing. It enslaves nearly all its adherents through wages, subservience to the commodity culture and debt peonage. The suffering visited on Native Americans, once Western expansion was complete, was soon endured by others, in Cuba, the Philippines, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The final chapter of this sad experiment in human history will see us sacrificed as those on the outer reaches of empire were sacrificed. There is a kind of justice to this. We profited as a nation from this demented vision, we remained passive and silent when we should have denounced the crimes committed in our name, and now that the game is up we all go down together.
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years
This article was first published at Truth Dig
© 2012

Sinking Spain: Lost in the recession pit

GATA’s Bill Murphy exposes how the Gold Cartel is Bombing the Market for…

‘OWS has right target, must sever itself as US caught in vice of no escape’

Blasts & killing fail to blow apart Kurdish chance in Syria


Spanish debt crisis pushing global economy to the brink

By Nick Beams 

30 April 2012
Barely four months after the European Central Bank (ECB) began its latest intervention into financial markets, making available a total of €1 trillion at ultra-cheap rates to cash-strapped banks, the European financial system is heading into a new crisis, with far-reaching global implications.
The renewed market turmoil is a product both of the ECB measures under its Longer Term Refinancing Operations (LTRO) and the austerity program being imposed across Europe at the insistence of the financial markets.
Since the near-default of Greece threatened to set off a meltdown of markets at the end of last year, the eye of the financial storm has shifted to Spain, Europe’s fourth largest economy. Last week it was revealed that the Spanish unemployment rate had jumped to almost 25 percent.
The leap in the jobless rate was preceded by an announcement of a credit downgrade by the rating agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P), which warned of the dangers facing Spanish banks and forecast that the economy would fall deeper into recession. The credit downgrade on Spanish debt was the third in just seven months.
“The negative outlook on the long-term rating reflects our view of the significant risks to Spain’s economic growth and budgetary performance, and the impact we believe this will likely have on the sovereign’s creditworthiness,” the S&P statement commented. It forecast that the Spanish economy would contract by 1.5 percent this year and by 0.5 percent in 2013, after an earlier forecast of a 0.3 percent expansion in 2012 and 1 percent the following year.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said the country faced a crisis of “huge proportions” amid predictions that the Spanish banking system may need a bailout of €120 billion by end of the year.
In a clear warning to the stronger European powers, especially Germany, Garcia-Margallo likened the situation to the Titanic. “If there is a sinking here, even the first-class passengers drown,” he said.
There are fears that if the crisis in Spain continues, it will rapidly spread to Italy and the rest of Europe. Italy, the eurozone’s third largest economy, owes around €1.9 trillion, more than double the Spanish debt of €734 billion. There are also fears that France’s credit rating could be downgraded again.
The parlous state of the Spanish banks was highlighted in an International Monetary Fund (IMF) statement last week. It said that in the past four years the Spanish financial sector had experienced a crisis of “unprecedented proportion,” with significant risks arising from a real estate “boom-bust cycle.” This had exposed weaknesses in the policy and regulatory framework and an over-reliance on raising funds on financial markets rather than via deposits.
In an unusually blunt statement about Spain’s banks, the IMF commented: “To preserve financial stability, it is critical that these banks, especially the largest one, take swift and decisive measures to strengthen their balance sheets and improve management and governance practices.” The reference to “the largest” was to Bankia, a collection of seven savings banks, which are especially vulnerable because of their involvement in the collapsed real estate bubble.
However, the crisis is not merely the result of Spanish conditions. It is also the outcome of the supposed “rescue” measures put in place by the ECB through its LTRO program.
Under this policy, weak banks were provided with funds from the ECB at an interest rate of 1 percent in order to try to prevent a liquidity crisis spreading throughout the financial system. The policy was initiated last December amid warnings that Europe faced a crisis of Lehman Brothers proportions.
The ECB actions, however, did not provide a long-term solution. In fact, they have contributed to a deepening of the problems. This is because the weak banks that received funds did not use them to finance activities in the real economy but bought up sovereign debt in the hope of easy profits. As a result, the fate of the weakest banks is now ever more closely tied to the fate of governments with the biggest debt problems.
While the ECB’s actions provided a short-term boost to financial markets in the first four months of this year, the turmoil has re-emerged in an even more virulent form. Concerns grow that the banks are running out of money to buy government debt.
These fears are reflected in the recent spike in interest rates on Spanish and Italian government debt. The interest rate on Spanish debt has approached the critical level of 6 percent in recent days. The rates on Italian bonds, which fell to 4.5 percent in March after touching 7 percent in January, are now back up to 5.63 percent.
Hedge funds are reported to be betting against the Eurozone economies because they consider that the increase in liquidity does not provide any durable solution. According to a report in the Financial Times, a growing number of hedge funds “are directly wagering that Europe’s problems have become so entrenched that they will lead to a much more serious crisis in the coming months than the Eurozone has experienced.”
The financial uncertainty has been exacerbated by the austerity programs that are pushing the European economy deeper into recession, setting up a negative feedback loop. As economic growth declines, tax receipts fall, leading to a worsening debt situation and a further rise in the interest rates on government bonds.
Spain exemplifies this process. Tax receipts are estimated to be down by almost €1 trillion as a result of the loss of 374,300 jobs in the first three months of this year. At the same time, Spanish banks are estimated to have borrowed €316 billion from the ECB, equivalent to 11 percent of their total balance sheet. Anything over 10 percent is regarded as a “tipping point,” after which the injection of additional funds is needed.
Reflecting the fears of US financial institutions, former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, in a comment published in today’s Financial Times, warned that the ECB’s provision of liquidity had been little more than a palliative. “Weak banks, especially in Spain, have bought more of the debt of their weak sovereigns while foreigners have sold down their holdings. Markets see banks grow ever more nervous. Again, both Europe and the global economy approach the brink.”
The impact of the Spanish crisis will extend beyond Europe and the US. Last week, in a report on Asia, the IMF said the global economy remained “unusually vulnerable” and further “setbacks” would have “great repercussions” for Asia. “In particular, a sharp fall in exports to advanced economies and a reversal of capital flows would severely impact activity in the region.”
There are signs that the reversal of funds has already started. The Bank for International Settlements released figures showing that European banks withdrew $100 billion in lending to Asia in the last three months of 2011.

US and allies ramp up plans for military intervention in Syria

By Chris Marsden 

30 April 2012
Accusations that the Syrian government is either wholly or mainly responsible for breaches of the United Nations’ ceasefire are meant to provide a pretext for military intervention by the imperialist powers and their proxies.
The US and European media, meanwhile, is acting as a barely concealed propaganda instrument tasked with preparing public opinion for the latest criminal adventure in the Middle East—a war for regime change in Syria to follow those waged in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Saturation coverage was given to an explosion in Hama, with “opposition” sources cited to claim that a Scud missile attack had destroyed a building, accompanied by the usual inflated casualty figures. The more believable explanation that the explosion was due to an accident at a building used as a bomb factory was relegated to an aside.
The same holds true of the widespread reporting of “shock footage” of a journalist supposedly being “buried alive” by Syrian troops—a video so obviously staged and badly scripted that even supporters of the opposition have deemed it as a fake.
In contrast, a campaign by the opposition to create the conditions for a military intervention through systematic violations of the cease-fire has been downplayed or portrayed as staged provocations by the regime of Bashir al-Assad.
On Friday, a suicide bomber in Damascus killed 10 people and wounded more than 28 others outside the Zain al-Abideen mosque. Witnesses said a man in military uniform detonated an explosives vest while he was among soldiers that left body parts scattered across the tarmac.
Earlier, a loud blast was heard near a bus station used by pro-Assad militiamen preventing demonstrations in the capital—one of four more minor explosions in Damascus in which four people were wounded.
On Saturday, oppositionists clashed with troops in the coastal town of Burj Islam, close to the presidential summer palace. The intense shooting lasted for 15 to 30 minutes.
On Saturday, oppositionists in dinghies attacked a military unit on the Mediterranean coast, about 30 kilometres from the border with Turkey, leading to the deaths of several members of the Syrian armed forces.
That same day, Lebanon said its navy seized three containers with large quantities of weapons destined for the opposition groups. The Lutfallah II began its voyage from Libya, stopped off in Alexandria in Egypt, and then headed for Tripoli in Lebanon before it was intercepted.
The official statements of the UN, Washington, Paris and Ankara are made as if none of this is taking place.
On Friday, even as reports of the suicide bombing in Damascus were emerging, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon warned that Syria’s government was “in contravention” of the April 12 cease-fire and that Assad’s crackdown has reached an “intolerable stage.”
Ban said the UN would soon beef up its 15 observers in Syria to 300.
Ban’s statement provided the US with another opportunity to declare that Damascus has failed to honour the UN peace plan. On April 28, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the UN peace plan “as a whole is failing…. It remains our assessment that the bulk of the violations of the cease-fire pledge are coming from the regime side.”
The US has in fact said the same thing from day one, threatening on April 21 that it may not even allow the renewal of the UN monitoring mission in Syria after the first three months is up. “Our patience is exhausted,” Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN told the Security Council.
The US has already signalled its intention to move to a military solution. Defence Undersecretary Kathleen Hicks and National Security Council director of strategies Derek Chollet have told the Senate that the UN diplomatic initiative had now reached “the point of collapse”.
The Pentagon has its “plan B” in place, including calling on US troops to set up a security zone along the border between Syria and Turkey. “We are planning various strategies for a vast range of scenarios, including the possibility of helping allies and partners on the frontier zones,” Hicks said April 27.
On April 19, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed that the Pentagon has plans in place for establishing humanitarian corridors in Syria. “Anything that takes out the Assad regime is a step in the right direction,” he said.
The same line is coming from Paris. French president Nicholas Sarkozy was the first Western leader to publicly back humanitarian corridors.
Last week, Foreign Minister Alan Juppé said that it may be necessary for the UN Security Council to consider a resolution authorising the use of force. “We cannot allow the [Damascus] regime to defy us,” he said. If the peace plan fails, “we would have to move to a new stage with a Chapter Seven resolution to stop this tragedy”.
May 5, when former UN secretary general Kofi Annan is set to present his report on the peace process, will be “a moment of truth”, Juppé said. France has been discussing invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows for military action, with other powers, he added.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton threatened to invoke Chapter 7 at the April 18 “Friends of Syria” meeting in Paris.
On Thursday, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told parliament, “In the face of developments in Syria, we are taking into consideration any kind of possibility in line with our national security and interests.” This includes setting up a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border that Turkey wants to be policed by NATO.
On April 9, four Syrian refugees and a Turkish policeman and a translator were wounded in the Kilis refugee camp on the 560-mile Turkish-Syrian border. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by threatening to invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty, stipulating that an attack against a NATO member is considered an attack against all members.
The Arab states are also ready to line up behind a military attack on Damascus. The head of the Arab League, Nabil el-Arabi, said Arab foreign ministers have asked him to convene a meeting of all the Syrian opposition factions on May 16. On Friday, Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud met with Qatar’s crown prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Riyadh to plan a joint intervention at the meeting.
Regime change in Syria ultimately targets its main regional ally, Iran, as well as the oil and military interests of Russia and China in the region. Tensions are worsening daily as a result.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdolahian, has denounced “The parties who back sending weapons to Syria” as “responsible for killing innocent people.”
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said, “Opposition groups have essentially reverted to waging wide-scale terror in the region.”
On Saturday, during a visit to Moscow, Chinese vice foreign minister Cheng Guoping said that both sides “hold 100 percent coinciding positions on the issues of North Korea and Syria.”

The horror and the pita

By Spengler 

Egypt’s national tragedy took a turn towards farce April 27, when Saudi Arabia closed its embassy and several consulates after demonstrations that “threaten the security and safety of Saudi and Egyptian employees, raising hostile slogans and violating the inviolability and sovereignty”, according to a Saudi statement. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States were supposed to anchor an international aid package that will forestall a disorderly financial crisis. 

With a critical fuel shortage cutting into food supplies and essential services, Egyptians already have a foretaste of chaos. The two-for-a-penny pita, the subsidized flat bread that provides much of the caloric intake for the half of Egypt’s population living on less than $2 a day, is at risk. 

A battle over the Muslim Brotherhood’s international ambitions may push Egypt over the edge into a Somali level of horror. I warned in this space on April 11 [1] that the Muslim Brotherhood thinks that it can thrive on chaos. The anti-Saudi demonstrations support this interpretation of the Brotherhood’s actions. 

The anti-Saudi demonstrations began after a Saudi court sentenced an Egyptian lawyer, Ahmed el-Gezawi, to a year in prison and 20 lashes for offending the Saudi monarch King Abdullah. It’s not clear who started them, but Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood apparently encouraged them. 

The Saudis claim that Gezawi was smuggling Xanax into the kingdom. Just who started the demonstrations against Saudi embassies and consulates is unclear, but the Muslim Brotherhood is holding a net to catch the fallout. As Reuters reported April 28,

The Muslim Brotherhood’s political party said the protests at the Saudi embassy showed “the desire of Egyptians to preserve the dignity of their citizens in Arab states”. Analysts point to the rise of the Brotherhood as a cause of Saudi concern about the direction of the post-Mubarak Egypt.

As I reported April 11, [2] the Brotherhood prefers an early economic crisis to a later one, so that it can blame the disaster on the present military government. The Muslim Brotherhood’s then presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater”said he realized the country’s finances were precarious and a severe crunch could come by early to mid-May as the end of the fiscal year approached, but that this was the government’s problem to resolve.” Since then, the military-controlled elections commission has excluded al-Shater as a candidate, and the Brotherhood replaced him with Mohammed Morsi. 

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Salafist party, the extreme Islamists, withdrew support from Mohammed Morsi and backed instead the more liberal Islamist candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, often described as a “defector” from the Brotherhood. 

Although the Salafists propose an even more extreme version of the Muslim Brotherhood’s program, oil is thicker than blood in the region; the Salafists get a reported $50 million annual subsidy from the Saudis, and presumably are acting under Saudi orders. 

As the situation on the ground deteriorates, Egypt’s military government is becoming a bystander to events. Egypt is in a classic pre-revolutionary situation, like Russia in October 1917 or German in March 1933, with a vanguard party ready to dislodge a disintegrating civil society, and replace it with totalitarian party rule at street level. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political party, is poised to ride to power on the back of this crisis.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is negotiating a US$3 billion loan with the Egyptian government, with the understanding that all the major parties will support severe belt-tightening, and that the Saudis and other Gulf states will fund the loan as well as additional aid. Saudi Arabia had promised to lend Egypt $3.75 billion, but paid in only $500 million of its pledge. Last week the Saudis said that they would pay in another $1 billion. But that was before the demonstrations against their embassy. 

As the main opposition body to military misrule during the past six decades, the Brotherhood harbors parliamentarians as well as firebrands. But the revolutionary dynamic in Egypt favors the firebrands. As critical shortages spread through Egypt’s fragile economy, Islamist street justice already is replacing the corrupt and crumbling institutions of the military regime. There is a second analogy to revolutionary Leninism, in the form of the Brotherhood’s international ambitions. 

In effect, the Muslim Brotherhood has chosen to push the country towards chaos. “North Africa’s biggest economy has imploded since a democratic uprising last year and the country will run out of money to meet basic subsidies including wheat and oil by the summer,” the Daily Telegraph reported April 16. The proposed $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the newspaper added, was part of a $12 billion emergency financing package from the IMF and European Union to save the Egyptian economy from collapse. “Brussels is most worried about the popular backlash that would result from deep cuts in public spending,” the Telegraph reported. 

The backlash, though, has been in progress for more than a year. Islamist organizations began to take control of food and fuel distribution as shortages appeared after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The first Islamist equivalent of workers’ soviets, or “revolutionary committees,” were formed to discipline bakeries and propane sellers who “charge more than the price prescribed by law,” the Federation of Egyptian Radio and Television reported on May 3, 2011. 

These committees formed under the aegis of the Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice. What has already emerged in Egypt, to use Leninist terminology, is a situation of dual power. The military government remains in command, but critical economic functions already are in the hands of Islamist parties. 

The Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice began forming “revolutionary committees” to mete out street justice to bakeries, propane dealers and street vendors who “charge more than the price prescribed by law”, the Federation of Egyptian Radio and Television reported on May 3, 2011. The Solidarity ministry declared that “Gangsters are in control of bread and butane prices” and “people’s committees” would be formed to combat them. 

Fuel shortages have become critical in many parts of Egypt. UN observers report that the supply of diesel is down by 35%, and is so scarce that food supplies are threatened. According to the UN news service IRIN in an April 2 report from Cairo, “It has been three months since a fuel shortage hit Egypt, and people’s patience is wearing thin amid fears the crisis could disrupt the production of subsidized bread. The government blames hoarding for the crisis. Thousands of cars queue outside petrol stations from early morning, while long queues form outside gas cylinder centers.” 

More than a hundred Egyptian bakeries shut down in mid-April to protest the fuel shortage, the Egyptian news site reported April 12 [3]. In Beni Suef, dozens of bakery owners gathered in front of a government flour warehouse to complain that they could obtain fuel only at black market prices, which required them to sell bread at black market prices. 

Hoarding explains part of the problem. Egypt is running out of cash – its liquid foreign exchange reserves have fallen from $25 billion when Mubarak fell to only US$9 billion in March – and a devaluation of the Egyptian pound is widely expected, followed by a sharp rise in the price of imported commodities. But outright theft of exportable commodities also contributes to the shortages. Daily demand for gasoline jumped to 23 million liters from 14 million liters last September, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation reported, and Egyptian press reports alleged that the additional demand reflected illegal sales of gasoline to overseas buyers. 

It is not clear whether the government is trying to make its dwindling reserves last longer by cutting fuel imports, whether hoarding of fuel is in anticipation of a devaluation, or whether fuel supplies simply are being loaded onto tankers and sold to foreign buyers. Judging from Arab-language press reports and blogs, though, the public’s perception is that corruption and incompetence have brought about an economic disaster. The military government has created a vacuum, and the Muslim Brotherhood must fill this vacuum or lose its chance to accede to power. Judging from al-Shater’s opposition to an IMF loan, the Brotherhood has decided that worse is better. 

The military government appears to have responded to the threat from the Muslim Brotherhood indirectly, through the Electoral Commission’s April 14 announcement that it had disqualified al-Shater along with nine other presidential candidates. The pretext for banning al-Shater has to do with a jail term he served under the Mubarak regime. 

Another Islamist candidate, Hazem Salah Aboul Ismail, was disqualified on the grounds that his mother was naturalized an American citizen. Ismail has threatened to retaliate to reveal secrets about corruption in the military government. A day before the Electoral Commission’s announcement, the Muslim Brotherhood in alliance with the Salafist Front had filled Tahrir Square with demonstrators. Now the Salafists and the Brotherhood are fighting. 

The Saudi Crown Prince, Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz, is a bitter enemy of the Brotherhood. “In the past Nayif has castigated the Muslim Brotherhood for their influence in Saudi Arabia, so he can be expected to look on with suspicion as the Brotherhood moves towards power in Egypt and perhaps in Syria and Tunisia,” Joshua Teitelbaum wrote in a paper for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies [4]. 

And on April 16, Jordan’s parliament passed a draft political law that would disqualify the country’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood from participation elections, effectively banning the largest opposition party to the Hashemite monarchy. 

The Arab monarchies fear that the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt by revolutionary means portends a further revolutionary assault on their own regimes. And the result of American failure to take decisive action to interdict the Brotherhood’s march to power is likely to be greater instability and a decline of American influence in the region. 

Interdicting the Brotherhood, in turn, requires an uncharacteristic harshness on the part of American policy. War correspondent Peter Arnett might have concocted the notorious statement, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” supposedly said by an American officer of the Vietnamese provincial capital Ben Tre in 1968. Something like that might be the outcome for Egypt. 

1. Muslim Brotherhood chooses chaos Asia Times Online, April 11, 2012. 
2. Ibid. 
3. See here
4. See here

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, president of Macrostrategy LLC. His book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying, Toowas published by Regnery Press in September 2011. A volume of his essays on culture, religion and economics, It’s Not the End of the World – It’s Just the End of Youalso appeared this autumn, from Van Praag Press. 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

The Israeli Question under analysis: Holocaust versus Porajmos

The Israeli Question under analysis: Holocaust versus Porajmos. 46987.jpeg
For hundreds of years the Roma population had wandered from community to community, ostracised, derided and scorned not because it ever wielded power, not because it ever occupied positions of authority in disproportionate measures but because it lived beside society, marginalized. Yet after the holocaust, who claimed they should go back to India?
For the Roma (gypsy) people, the holocaust is called the Porajmos. Due to the extreme complexity in drawing up figures for the Porajmos (devouring) and due to the fact that the Roma community did not have sophisticated methods of registering and counting at their disposal, the total number of Roma murdered in the Nazi years is estimated to have been between 220,000 and 1.5 million – a huge difference, compared with the constant figure of 6 million Jews estimated for the same period. Could the Roma Porajmos have been as large as the Jewish holocaust?
This does not mean the holocaust did not exist

Concentration camps existed in Romania in 1932, a year before Hitler came to power. How many gypsies were crammed into them?A large part of the historiographical records have been concentrated on Jews and not on other groups which suffered the same fate. This does not mean the Holocaust did not exist; however, it does insinuate that the Porajmos could have been underestimated. The question is further complicated by the debate, even among the Jews, as to what or who a Jew is. Who counted, then, in the holocaust? And who did not count in the Porajmos?
In fact, do the Roma people count at all? How many speak of the Roma or the Porajmos, how many speak of the Jews (and what Jews?) and the holocaust? Why did the Jews get to inhabit an area which had not belonged to them for thousands of years, when the Roma did not get a homeland which they had left hundreds of years beforehand?
Why did nobody remember, in 1945, to state that the Roma had been raped, murdered, disembowelled, forced into trains, tortured, held in deplorable conditions and branded Untermenschen (sub-Humans), that millions of them had been slaughtered by Fascists, and why did nobody then remember to carve out a swathe of Northern India (from where they came hundreds, not thousands of years before) and declare it a Roma homeland?
The Porajmos was the Gypsy equivalent of the Jewish holocaust. Period. Were millions of Indians moved out of their homes to accommodate them? Let us in future not insult the collective memory and identity of peoples by concentrating on some and excluding others.
 Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

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Make Love, then War

By Linh Dinh

 “Information Clearing House” — In these days of a dying, raving and hallucinating empire, its best known poet, and a master at being anti-war, is accepting a Presidential Freedom Award from a cynical if affable, still, to many people, master of war. What is Dylan thinking? He and Obama are no strangers. On February 9, 2010, Dylan performed “The Times They Are A-Changing” at the White House. If I remember correctly, Dylan seemed a bit sullen that night, and he skipped the final, feel good session at the end, when all the other performers gathered, beaming, around our Chief Executive, the one who can order you or anyone locked up without trial, or shot, sans fanfare, because we’re in a never ending war, remember? Dylan’s old squeeze, Queen Jane, sang at the same soiree, and before crooning, Baez even gazed at Obama and cooed, “Mr. President, you are much loved.” In our inverted country, grizzled peaceniks now serenade a war criminal.

To those who saw no irony that night, or now, is it because your gorgeous mind was too clogged up by Fox News, transfat, corn syrup or CNN to hold simultaneously two opposing concepts, such as peace and war, for example, and note that they didn’t quite match, but were clashing? Or you, Bob, can’t you tell that the battle outside that is a-ragin’ is a-causa by this missile-firing and slow jamming man? Can’t you see through his tiresome mask? It’s all a joke, really, as when Obama warned that the Jonas Brothers would be zapped by Predator Drones should they come close to his daughters, but I doubt that the world is laughing.

The Wall Street Journal muses if this latest honor will inch Dylan closer to a Nobel Prize, as if that award still has much legitimacy after its Peace version was bestowed on Obama not even a year into his Presidency, when he hadn’t a chance to really flaunt his bloody hands, though to the astute, there was already plenty of sick irony. The late, great Joe Bageant commented at the time, “The Nobel Committee awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to the very person who dropped the most bombs and killed the most poor people on the planet during that year.” Maybe these Scandinavians just like phony Americans, for in the previous year, the Swedes gave a serial joker, the dismal Paul Krugman, its honor in Economic Sciences. (The Peace Prizes are chosen by the Norwegian Parliament.) These recent gaffs top a long list of errors. Still, it’s a handsome pile of cash they give out, nearly $2 million now, so it’s rather remarkable that two men have turned it down, Jean Paul Sartre because he rejected all official honors, and Le Duc Tho because North Vietnam was still waging war even after it had signed a peace agreement. At least the Nobel Peace Prize never went to Adolf Hitler, although Gertrude Stein, one of America’s most celebrated poets, thought he should have received one. On May 6, 1934, Stein was quoted in the New York Times, “I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize, because he is removing all elements of contest and struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left elements, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace.” 

If driving out everything that conduces to activity leads to peace, then present day America would be Arcadia, but with the collapse of our manufacturing base, with many factories fleeing overseas for cheaper labor, a process that still continues, despite the propaganda, Americans are more restless than ever, as evidenced by the recent Tea Party and Occupy outbreaks, though far worse eruptions lay just ahead, no matter what jive masters like Krugman and Obama have to say. As for the foreign fronts, America is busy, as usual, with several overlapping wars.

Maybe Dylan will surprise us all by refusing to receive his Freedom Medal from such a war-monger, and break all protocols by ambushing his bloody host with, “Come you masters of war / You that build all the guns / You that build the death planes / You that build the big bombs / You that hide behind walls / You that hide behind desks / I just want you to know / I can see through your masks.” But of course he won’t do anything so outlandish. In accepting this award, Dylan will drape Obama in another layer of cool and glamorize him further, just as Katy Perry did to our grunts and guns in a recent music video.

Breaking up with her cheating boyfriend, Perry impulsively joins the Marines. Instead of squirting a water gun at an arcade with her ex-weasel, Perry is now seen firing an M-16. Instead of lounging in a tub under the creepy eyes of her philandering asshole, Perry is now wrestling underwater with a fellow warrior-in-training. Instead of relying on a two-faced fuckface, Perry is now surrounded by tried and true comrades. The video ends with Perry singing ecstatically under a blue-hued flag, her new sky. Filmed at an actual Marines Corps base camp, this video features 80 Marines as extras, as well as tanks and helicopters, so it is a major collaboration between our entertainment and war industries, something we’ve become quite used to by now, and something we’ll see again when Dylan grasps Obama’s hand, looks into his eyes and smiles.

Linh Dinh is tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union

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US caught between Iran and Israel

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi 

With less than a month to the much-anticipated meeting in Baghdad between Iran and the “P5+1” nations, indications are that the two sides are seriously contemplating successful talks that could yield a mutually acceptable breakthrough and pave the way to a gradual resolution of the Iran nuclear crisis. 

The “P5+1”, also known as the “Iran Six” – the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia) plus Germany – have been involved in negotiations with Iran for several years over its nuclear program, which in some quarters is said to be designed towards building nuclear weapons, something Tehran steadfastly denies. 

In Moscow, a clue was given by Iran’s ambassador, Reza Sajjadi, who said that Tehran was now considering a Russian plan to halt any expansion of its nuclear program and thus avoid the European threat to impose an oil embargo effective this July. 

Sajjadi was also reported as saying that a deal may be in the making for Iran to agree to an Additional Protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – to which Iran is a signatory – that would allow UN inspectors to make “immediate, impromptu visits to Iran’s nuclear sites”. 

Meanwhile, European negotiators are busy discussing with their Iranian counterparts the nature of an agenda and framework for discussion in Baghdad, hoping to reach “very concrete results”, to paraphrase Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who has sounded upbeat ever since the Istanbul meeting earlier this month that saw a resumption of talks after a lengthy hiatus. 

None of this optimism, however, is shared by Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the Istanbul talks as “giving freebees to Iran” by agreeing to hold more talks in Iraq, a charge denied by US President Barack Obama. 

“The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a ‘freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks,” the president was reported as saying. 

Undeterred, Netanyahu has escalated his rhetoric by insisting that Iran must halt all of its enrichment activities, and not just the 20% enrichment, as US officials had requested in Istanbul. Netanyahu said this on Tuesday during a prime time interview with CNN, where he once again accused Iranian leaders of being ideological zealots rather than being “rational”, as even his own generals have admitted. 

Netanyahu has expressed concern that the five weeks between the rounds of talks would give Iran more time to continue enriching uranium without restrictions. Israel has proposed pre-emptive military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, something the US has sought to prevent. 

This was followed by a blistering verbal volley against Tehran by Israel’s ambassador to US, Michael Oren, who used the Holocaust Memorial Day to accuse Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, of being the Adolf Hitler of the Middle East bent on the “destruction of six million Jews”, ie causing a second Holocaust. 

Previously, this label had been reserved for Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and this is the first time Israel has escalated its rhetoric by attaching it to Iran’s highest authority, who has issued a religious verdict, fatwa, against nuclear weapons. 

Clearly, Israel’s intention is to force the White House to adopt a more hawkish stance at the Baghdad meeting and to make the military threat even more credible so that Tehran will give into its demands. 

The fact that Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate presidential hopeful, is exploiting the issue to accuse Obama of not doing enough to assist Israel is a major plus for Israel’s strategy that, in turn, puts Obama in the awkward position of how to reach a viable compromise with Iran without alienating his powerful Jewish supporters and thus risk his bid for a second term. 

According to a Tehran University political science professor who spoke to the author on the condition of anonymity, Israel’s comparison of Iran with Nazis is “pure rubbish” and there is no better refutation than the fact that Iran’s Jewish minority freely practice their religion and have seats in the parliament (majlis). 

“I am not optimistic that Obama can stand up to the Jewish lobby on Iran, even though this means blocking needed US-Iran dialogue on regional security issues in Baghdad,” the professor said. 

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in Tehran last week for consultations on the brewing crisis in Kurdistan and Syria and the Baghdad meeting could serve as a forum for mediation between the US and Iran, who have a broad range of topics to discuss above and beyond the nuclear issue, including Afghanistan. 

Thus, whereas in Istanbul Iran’s negotiators refused to hold bilateral talks with the US representatives, on the sidelines in Baghdad they may be inclined to do so. 

A net gain for Baghdad and its self-marketing as a hub of regional diplomacy after hosting an Arab League summit recently, the coming meeting is also a net loss for Turkey, accused of meddling in Iraq’s Kurdish affairs by Baghdad, and a personal affront to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who told the media in early April that the “Iran Six” nations would not go to Baghdad. Clearly he was wrong. 

On the nuclear issue, Tehran has been improving its relations with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, and also hinting at some compromise at 20% enrichment, that is, signaling that it will not produce more than what is necessary, and already Iran has enough fuel for 10 years for its medical reactor. 

Israel’s spoiler behavior illustrates that it views the Iran nuclear issue as a functional crisis that serves its interests, to depict itself as a victim of future Iranian aggression, while the problems in the Occupied Territories where Israel is accused of aggression are almost forgotten by the world community. 

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and Looking for rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011). 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

The Children of Fallujah – the Hospital of Horrors

Stillbirths, disabilities, deformities too distressing to describe – what lies behind the torments in Fallujah General Hospital?
By Robert Fisk
April 27, 2012 “The Independent” – – The pictures flash up on a screen on an upper floor of the Fallujah General Hospital. And all at once, Nadhem Shokr al-Hadidi’s administration office becomes a little chamber of horrors. A baby with a hugely deformed mouth. A child with a defect of the spinal cord, material from the spine outside the body. A baby with a terrible, vast Cyclopean eye. Another baby with only half a head, stillborn like the rest, date of birth 17 June, 2009. Yet another picture flicks onto the screen: date of birth 6 July 2009, it shows a tiny child with half a right arm, no left leg, no genitalia.
“We see this all the time now,” Al-Hadidi says, and a female doctor walks into the room and glances at the screen. She has delivered some of these still-born children. “I’ve never seen anything as bad as this in all my service,” she says quietly. Al-Hadidi takes phone calls, greets visitors to his office, offers tea and biscuits to us while this ghastly picture show unfolds on the screen. I asked to see these photographs, to ensure that the stillborn children, the deformities, were real. There’s always a reader or a viewer who will mutter the word “propaganda” under their breath.
But the photographs are a damning, ghastly reward for such doubts. January 7, 2010: a baby with faded, yellow skin and misshapen arms. April 26, 2010: a grey mass on the side of the baby’s head. A doctor beside me speaks of “Tetralogy of Fallot”, a transposition of the great blood vessels. May 3, 2010: a frog-like creature in which – the Fallujah doctor who came into the room says this – “all the abdominal organs are trying to get outside the body.”
This is too much. These photographs are too awful, the pain and emotion of them – for the poor parents, at least – impossible to contemplate. They simply cannot be published.
There is a no-nonsense attitude from the doctors in Fallujah. They know that we know about this tragedy. Indeed, there is nothing undiscovered about the child deformities of Fallujah. Other correspondents – including my colleague Patrick Cockburn – have visited Fallujah to report on them. What is so shameful is that these deformities continue unmonitored. One Fallujah doctor, an obstetrician trained in Britain – she left only five months ago – who has purchased from her own sources for her private clinic a £79,000 scanning machine for prenatal detection of congenital abnormalities, gives me her name and asks why the Ministry of Health in Baghdad will not hold a full official investigation into the deformed babies of Fallujah.
“I have been to see the ministry,” she says. “They said they would have a committee. I went to the committee. And they have done nothing. I just can’t get them to respond.” Then, 24 hours later, the same woman sends a message to a friend of mine, another Iraqi doctor, asking me not to use her name.
If the number of stillborn children of Fallujah is a disgrace, the medical staff at the Fallujah General Hospital prove their honesty by repeatedly warning of the danger of reaching conclusions too soon.
“I delivered that baby,” the obstetrician says as one more picture flashes on the screen. “I don’t think this has anything to do with American weapons. The parents were close relatives. Tribal marriages here involve a lot of families who are close by blood. But you have to remember, too, that if women have stillborn children with abnormalities at home, they will not report this to us, and the baby will be buried without any record reaching us.”
The photographs continue on the screen. January 19, 2010: a baby with tiny limbs, stillborn. A baby born on 30 October, 2010, with a cleft lip and cleft palette, still alive, a hole in the heart, a defect in its face, in need of echocardiography treatment. “A cleft lip and palate are common congenital anomalies,” Dr Samira Allani says quietly. “But it’s the increased frequency that is alarming.” Dr Allani has documented a research paper into “the increased prevalence of birth defects” in Fallujah, a study of four fathers “with two lineages of progeny”. Congenital heart defects, the paper says, reached “unprecedented numbers” in 2010.
The numbers continue to rise. Even while we are speaking, a nurse brings a message to Dr Allani. We go at once to an incubator next to the hospital delivery room. In the incubator is a little baby just 24 days old. Zeid Mohamed is almost too young to smile but he lies sleeping, his mother watching through the glass. She has given her permission for me to see her baby. His father is a security guard, the couple married three years ago. There is no family record of birth defects. But Zeid has only four fingers on each of his little hands.
Dr Allani’s computer files contain a hundred Zeids. She asks another doctor to call some parents. Will they talk to a journalist? “They want to know what happened to their children,” she says. “They deserve an answer.” She is right. But neither the Iraqi authorities, nor the Americans, nor the British – who were peripherally involved in the second battle of Fallujah and lost four men – nor any major NGO, appears willing or able to help.
When doctors can obtain funding for an investigation, they sometimes turn to organisations which clearly have their own political predetermination. Dr Allani’s paper, for example, acknowledges funding from the “Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War” – hardly a group seeking to exonerate the use of US weaponry in Fallujah. This, too, I fear, is part of the tragedy of Fallujah.
The obstetrician who asked to be anonymous talks bleakly of the lack of equipment and training. “Chromosome defects – like Down’s Syndrome – cannot be corrected prenatally. But a foetal infection we can deal with, and we can sort out this problem by drawing a sample of blood from the baby and mother. But no laboratory here has this equipment. One blood transfer is all it needs to prevent such a condition. Of course, it will not answer our questions: why the increased miscarriages here, why the increased stillbirths, why the increased premature births?”
Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster who has surveyed almost 5,000 people in Fallujah, agrees it is impossible to be specific about the cause of birth defects as well as cancers. “Some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened,” he wrote two years ago. Dr Busby’s report, compiled with Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, says that infant mortality in Fallujah was found in 80 out of every 1,000 births, compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and only 9.7 in Kuwait.
Another of the Fallujah doctors tells me that the only UK assistance they have received comes from Dr Kypros Nicolaides, the head of Foetal Medicine at King’s College Hospital. He runs a charity, the Foetal Medicine Foundation, which has already trained one doctor from Fallujah. I call him up. He is bursting with anger.
“To me, the criminal aspect of all this – during the war – was that the British and the American governments could not go to Woolworths and buy some computers to even document the deaths in Iraq. So we have a Lancet publication that estimates 600,000 deaths in the war. Yet the occupying power did not have the decency to have a computer worth only £500 that would enable them to say “this body was brought in today and this was its name”.
Now you have an Arab country which has a higher number of deformities or cancers than Europe and you need a proper epidemiological study. I’m sure the Americans used weapons that caused these deformities. But now you have a goodness-knows-what government in Iraq and no study. It’s very easy to avoid to doing anything – except for some sympathetic crazy professor like me in London to try and achieve something.”
In al-Hadidi’s office, there are now photographs which defy words. How can you even begin to describe a dead baby with just one leg and a head four times the size of its body?

Joseph McCarthy Reborn

GOP Rep. Allen West told supporters that 78 to 81 Democrats in Congress are “members of the Communist Party”
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
April 27, 2012 “Salon‘ — We’ve talked at times about George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” and the amnesia that sets in when we flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today. Sometimes, though, the past comes back to haunt, like a ghost. It happened recently when we saw U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida on the news.
A Republican and Tea Party favorite, he was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are “card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists.”
He replied, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”
By now, little of what Allen West says ever surprises. He has called President Obama “a low-level socialist agitator,” said anyone with an Obama bumper sticker on their car is “a threat to the gene pool,” and told liberals like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to “get the hell out of the United States of America.” Apparently, he gets his talking points from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh or the discredited right-wing rocker Ted Nugent.
But this time, we shook our heads in disbelief: “78 to 81 Democrats … members of the Communist Party?” That’s the moment the memory hole opened up and a ghost slithered into the room. The specter stood there, watching the screen, a snickering smile on its stubbled face. Sure enough, it was the ghost of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin farm boy who grew up to become one of the most contemptible thugs in American politics.
Back in the early 1950s, the Cold War had begun and Americans were troubled by the Soviet Union’s rise as an atomic superpower. Looking for a campaign issue, McCarthy seized on fear and ignorance to announce his discovery of a conspiracy within: Communist subversives who had infiltrated the government.
In speech after speech, McCarthy would hold up a list of names of members of the Communist Party he said had burrowed their way into government agencies and colleges and universities. The number he claimed would vary from day to day, and when pressed to make his list public, McCarthy would stall or claim he accidentally had thrown it away.
His failure to produce much proof to back his claims never gave him pause, as he employed lies and innuendo with swaggering bravado. McCarthy, wrote historian William Manchester, “realized that he had stumbled upon a brilliant demagogic technique … others deplored treachery, McCarthy would speak oftraitors.”
And so he did, in a fearsome, reckless crusade that terrorized Washington, destroyed lives, and made a shambles of due process.
Millions of Americans lapped it up, but in the end, Joe McCarthy would be done in by the medium that he had used so effectively to spread his poison: television. In 1954, the legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow bravely exposed McCarthy’s tactics on the CBS program “See It Now.”
“This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent,” Murrow declared. “We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a Republic to abdicate his responsibilities.”
Later that same year, for 36 days on live TV, during Senate hearings on charges McCarthy had made questioning the loyalty of the U.S. Army, we saw the man raw, exposed for the lout and cowardly scoundrel he was. The climactic moment came as the Boston lawyer Joseph Welch, defending the Army, reacted with outrage when McCarthy accused Welch’s young associate Fred Fisher of communism. “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator,” Welch said as he shook his head in anger and sadness. “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? … If there is a God in heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good.”
McCarthy never recovered. His tactics had been opposed from the outset by a handful of courageous Republican senators. Now they pressed their case with renewed vigor. One of them, Sen. Ralph Flanders of Vermont, introduced a motion to censure Joseph McCarthy. When it eventually passed 67 to 22, McCarthy was finished. He soon disappeared from the front pages. Three years later, he was dead.
All of this came rushing back as West summoned his foul spirits from the vast deep. The ghost stepped out of the past.
Like McCarthy, the more Allen West is challenged about his comments, the more he doubles down on them. Now he’s blaming the “corrupt liberal media” for stirring the pot against him – a trick for which McCarthy taught the master class. And the congressman’s latest fusillades continue to distort the beliefs and policies of those he smears – no surprise there, either.
To help him continue his fight for “the heart and soul” of America he’s asking his supporters for a contribution of $10 or more. There could even be a super PAC in this – with McCarthy’s ghost as its honorary chairman.
Plenty of kindred spirits are there to sign on. Like the author of the book “The Grand Jihad,” who wrote that whether Obama is Christian or not, “the faith to which Obama actually clings is neocommunism.” Or the blogger who claims Obama is running the country into the ground “by way of the same type of race-baiting and class warfare Communism cannot exist without,” and that his policies are “unbecoming to an American president.”
From there it’s only a short hop to the kind of column that popped up on the right wing website Newsmax hinting of a possible coup “as a last resort to resolve the ‘Obama problem.’” Military intervention, the author wrote, “is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for ‘fundamental change’ toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America.” The column was quickly withdrawn but not before the website Talking Points Memo exposed it.
So beware, Rep. West, beware: In the flammable pool of toxic paranoia that passes these days as patriotism in America, a single careless match can light an inferno. You would serve your country well to withdraw your remarks and apologize for them. But if not, perhaps there are members of your own party, as possessed of conscience and as courageous as that handful of Republicans who took on Joseph McCarthy, who will now abandon fear and throw cold water on your incendiary remarks.
Bill Moyers is managing editor of the new weekly public affairs program, “Moyers & Company,” airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at More Bill Moyers.
Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos and a senior writer of the new series, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. More Michael Winship.
Copyright © 2011 Salon Media Group, Inc.

"The Real Terrorist Was Me"

Speech By War Veteran


Our real enemies are not those living in a distant land whose names or policies we don’t understand; The real enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable, the CEOs who lay us off our jobs when it’s profitable, the Insurance Companies who deny us Health care when it’s profitable, the Banks who take away our homes when it’s profitable. Our enemies are not several hundred thousands away. They are right here in front of us
– Mike Prysner

Posted July 29, 2010

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WTC 7 Freefall by David Chandler – Italian

Gerald Celente : The Great Depression All Over Again

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