Monthly Archives: June 2012

President Assad speaks

Al-Assad interviewed on Iranian state television – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed that international, regional and internal factors influence the crisis in this country. During an exclusive interview with the Iranian Channel IRIB 4, Al-Asad explained that the international factor is related to the position of western states that have a colonial nature and try to impose their will and their views on other States.
According to the Syrian President, it is possible to see traces of colonialism in their approach, also in regard to the nuclear energy program of Iran, since in this case westerners oppose the Persian country’s access to nuclear knowledge.
Referring to the regional factor, he said that “to some countries in the area the position of Syria bothers them,” which covers issues such as Palestine and the Iraqi resistance, among others. “These countries want to reduce the important presence of Syria in the area,” he underlined.
As for the internal factor, said that there are some challenges in the country, but they also exist in the internal affairs of other countries, and unfortunately, some unconscious people are provoking unrest and chaos in the Syrian territories to make money.
By adding that the majority of those who murder the Syrian people are extremists, Al-Assad stressed that in any crisis he has always emphasized national issues. “Foreign intervention is not possible without internal elements in the territory,” he pointed out.
Referring to the socio-economic reforms made in the Arab country, he stated that “having begun the reforms, we focus on economic development and we also implant and perform other measures such as reform in the mass media, and gradual reforms in the political process of the country.”
Bashar al-Assad has shown that reforms have no effect on the terrorists or the governments that support them, “because they only seek chaos.”
Later, the Syrian president described the six point ceasefire plan presented by Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the United Nations Organization (UNO) and the Arab League (AL) to Syria as “good.” 
“It’s a good plan and we agreed with the plan out of conviction. Specifically, the point of cessation of violence that of course, for us, we mean the cessation of the criminal operations of terrorist groups and the paralyzation of sending money and weapons (for terrorists) from countries that support them,” said Al-Assad.
The President denounced the countries that allege to be supporters of the Annan initiative, but use it in a falsified, erroneous manner, and for their own interests, and said that those countries believe that its failure will benefit their interests, because this way they will be able to accuse Syria of having caused the failure of the peace plan.
Elsewhere in the interview, the president of the Arab country denounced the “political hypocrisy” of the west. “(…) the west talks about human rights and (despite this) sends weapons to Israel to kill Palestinians. This hypocrisy of the west has not changed nor will it change and this fact is only one example,” he pointed out.
As for his country’s relations with Turkey, Al-Assad indicated that the current approach of the Turkish nation to Damascus is the real position of some government officials in Ankara, although not all of them.
However, he assured that the Turkish people take a positive position regarding the events in Syria. “Despite Turkish internal attempts at disinformation, the people of this country know most of the realities.”
Faced with a question on whether Turkey is trying to restore the Ottoman Empire, Al-Assad added that this fact is impossible, since this is another era with new concepts. However, he argued that international organizations are the new empires to substitute the ancient ones.
Similarly, he said that those new “empires” should work from objective and rational positions to guarantee the interests of the area and not in the context of the benefits of the west and particularly the United States.
“In our relations with Turkey, we were imagining that it was possible to create an sphere of good relations, as well as alliances and organisms that could join the interests of all, like the Shanghái Cooperation Organization and, supposedly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, but there are those who do not allow these organisms find their roles,” he asserted.
Translated from the Spanish version by:
Lisa Karpova

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Fast & Furious Wiretaps Expose Eric Holder!

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On The Money: Euro Patient (ft. Max Keiser)

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John Pilger – Brand Obama is the acceptable face of junk politics

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US waging war on Latin America?

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Honduran Resistance Lives On Three Years After Coup

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Could Police Repression at Toronto G-20 Happen Again?

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MSM: Fast and Furious Overshadows Mexican Election

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Karl Denninger on Price Dictates, Credit Illusions and the Healthcare Fi…

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Chossudovsky: Covert War Waged Against Syria

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CrossTalk on Egypt: Soft Coup

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Let’s party like it’s …1997

By Pepe Escobar 

HONG KONG – It was 15 years ago today. General China taught the Brits to play. That was, of course, the Hong Kong handover – a milestone in Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping’s “crossing the river while feeling the stones” strategy. First, command “to get rich is glorious”. Then develop the special economic zones. Get Hong Kong back from the Brits. Then, one day, annex Taiwan. And perhaps, by 2040, evolve to some variant of Western parliamentary democracy. 
Those were heady days. There were only faint rumblings about a possible financial crisis in Asia. Mainland China media carped about the “humiliations” of the past – including heavy promotion for a blockbuster telling the real story of the Opium Wars. In Hong Kong island, daily showers thundered with fear. Will the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cross the border at midnight in a blitzkrieg and militarize all the malls in Kowloon? Will we be duly indoctrinated as model communists? 
For a foreign correspondent, there was nowhere else to be. The Foreign Correspondents Club buzzed like in a perpetual rock concert. At the hip Shanghai Tang store, a waving Deng wristwatch was all the rage. The days went by with plenty of huffing and puffing around to find interviews and gauge the prospects of doom from residents and analysts. Then the long, sweaty nights partying at the Club 1997 in Lan Kwai Fong – and having to beat the hangover back at the hotel to write copy solid enough to fill two newspaper pages a day. 
In the end, the proceedings were as normal as Deng would have thought. Chris Patten – the last governor – left in an anti-climax. The British Empire was over. There was no PLA “invasion”. The party at Club 1997 was monstrous. The day after, massive hangover included, the real celebration began. I boarded a plane to China. 
Beyond the pale 
Little did I know that the Asian financial crisis had just exploded – with a monster devaluation of the Thai baht. Well, on the first of July itself, some of us may have suspected this could be a minor problem – but no one was foreseeing the financial tsunami ahead. 
My agenda was to plunge into deep China – the entrails of that beast which was now lording over Hong Kong. Robert Plant was on my flight to Xian. Yes, the Robert Plant – minus Jimmy Page. I resisted the temptation to address him with the opening bars of Kashmir. It turns out we were at the same hotel in Xian – and kept meeting for breakfast. He was traveling with his son and his manager. And yes – we were about to do the same thing. Get our kicks not on Route 66 – but on the mother of all them routes. 
I have always been a Silk Road fanatic. The “Silk Road” is not only the great, open highway of Eurasia – from lethal deserts such as the Taklamakan to snowy mountain peaks – but also waves and waves of cultural history connecting Asia to Europe. It’s about forgotten empires such as the Sogdians, fabulous cities like Merv, Bukhara and Samarkand, fabled oasis like Kashgar. It’s not “a” road but a maze of “roads” – extensions branching out to Afghanistan and Tibet. 
I had to start at the beginning, in Xian, formerly Chang’an – though most of China’s silk came from further south. Xian was a former capital of China during the Han dynasty, when Rome got a hard-on for Chinese silk. And was a capital again during the Tang dynasty – when the Buddhist connection with India solidified the Silk Road. 
Hong Kong galleries were filled with copies of Tang terracotta figures such as Yang Guifei, aka the “fat concubine”, the most famous femme fatale in Chinese history. Turks, Uyghurs, Sogdians, Arabs and Persians all lived in this Chinese Rome – and built their own temples (the mosque is still the most beautiful in China; but the three Zoroastrian temples are all gone). 
It would take me a few more years – in successive trips – to finally do most of the core of the Silk Road, in separate stretches, an obsession I carried since I was in high school. This time though, I wanted to concentrate on the Chinese Silk Road. 
It started with a painter/calligrapher rendering sublime copies in Mandarin of the Buddha’s heart sutra to monks living for years in huts in the mountains north of Chang’an. It was supremely hard to resist both temptations; bye bye journalism, why not become a calligrapher, or a monk? Then I started moving west, through Lanzhou – with a deviation to the immaculate Tibetan enclave of Xiahe and, on the way, an enormous concentration of Hui – Chinese Muslims. Everything by train, local bus, local trucks. 
From Lanzhou I even went to Chengdu, in Sichuan, by bus and then to Lhasa in Tibet by plane, and all the way back. That was a classic Silk Road branch-out. But what was really driving me was to go “beyond the pale”. To follow the westernmost spur of the Great Wall and finally reach Jiayuguan – the “First and Greatest Pass under Heaven”. 
It was everything I expected it to be; sort of like the desolate setting for the end of the empire. The (literal) end of the Great Wall. To the west was “beyond the pale”; Chinese who were banned to go west would never return. Still in 1997 I was met with incredulous stares when I said I wanted to keep going further into Gansu towards the deserts of Xinjiang. “Why? There’s nothing there”. 
This was still two years before Beijing launched its official “Go West” policy. The turbocharged neo-colonization of “beyond the pale” – a Xinjiang extremely rich in natural resources but populated (till then) mostly by Muslim Uyghurs – hadn’t yet started. 
Death, also known as Taklamakan
Through the Gansu corridor I finally reached the caves of Dunhuang – one the great Buddhist centers in China for over six centuries; a feast of wall-paintings and stucco images excavated in caves carved from a cliff on the eastern edge of the Lop desert and the southern edge of the Gobi desert. Dazzling doesn’t even began to describe it. 
One of my all-time heroes, the great Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang (602-664), had a stop over in Dunhuang on his way to India – where he collected holy texts for translation into Chinese (that explains that calligrapher back in Xian). 
Xuanzang’s own account of his absolutely epic travels, Xiyuji(“Record of the Western Regions”) remains matchless. He started – where else – in Chang’an. Everything happened, including being “tortured by hallucinations” and driving away “all sorts of demon shapes and strange goblins”. But he did manage to get back to China 16 years later, carrying a wealth of Buddha statues and books. 
Around Dunhuang, the Silk Road split. I had to make up my mind. The northern route follows the southern edge of the spectacular Tian Shan mountains – running along the north of the terrifying Taklamakan desert (whose name, in Uyghur, means “you may get in but you never get out”). Along the way, there are plenty of oasis towns – Hami, Turfan, Aksu – before reaching Kashgar. 
That’s the route I took, under temperatures hovering around 50 degrees Celsius, riding a battered Land Rover with a monosyllabic Hui who negotiated the desert track like Ayrton Senna. And this was the “easier” route – compared to the southern one. I had in mind the Buddhist monks doing it by camel, branching out to head through the Karakoram mountains to Leh (in Ladakh) and Srinagar (in Kashmir) and then down into India. 
It’s absolutely impossible to even try to battle the horrifying sand-storms of the Taklamakan. The best one can do is to circumvent it. Certainly not the option chosen by the coolest cat among the Silk Road modern giants, Sven Hedin (1865-1952), the author ofMy Life as an Explorer (1926) and a man of huge brass balls who faced certain death countless times and left behind him a long trail of ponies, camels and yes, dead men. 
In one of his adventures, when Hedin was hoping to cross the southwestern corner of the Taklamakan in less than a month, the camels died one after another; the caravan was hit by a sand-storm; his last servant died; yet he was the only one who made it, “as though led by an invisible hand”. 
Guided by my very visible Hui, I finally made it to Kashgar – a hallucinating throwback to medieval Eurasia; once again, at the time the forced Han neo-colonization was just beginning, around the Mao statue at People’s Square. The Sunday market sprang up straight from the 10th century. There was not a single Han Chinese even around the pale green Id Kah mosque at early morning prayers. 
From Kashgar the Silk Road did another major branching out. Buddhist monks would travel through the Hindu Kush past Tashkurgan to the Buddhist kingdoms of Gandhara and Taxila in contemporary Pakistan. I did it the China-Pakistan motorized friendship way – that is, taking the fabulous Karakoram highway from Kashgar through the Khunjerab pass, by jeep and local bus, all the way to Islamabad, stopping on the way in the idyllic Hunza valley. Northern Pakistan was all quiet in those pre-war on terror days; although the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan, there was virtually no hardcore Islamist in sight. 
Silk road traders would have done it differently. They would go north of the Pamir mountains to Samarkand and Bukhara, or south of the Pamirs to Balkh (in contemporary Afghanistan) and then to Merv (in Iran). From Merv, a maze of Silk Roads would go all the way to the Mediterranean via Baghdad to Damascus, Antioch or Constantinople (Istanbul). It would still take me a few more years to follow stretches of most of these routes. 
So suddenly I was in an Islamabad duly doing business with the Taliban while all financial hell was breaking loose all across Asia. I made it back to Singapore and then Hong Kong. Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea were braking up. But Hong Kong, once again was surviving – now under close inspection by Beijing. 
Motherland knows best 
Fifteen years later, none of those Western bogeymen predictions about Chinese heavy-handedness in Hong Kong came true. The third smooth transition of power in Hong Kong under China is already on. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping – the next Dragon Emperor – has given it his full blessing. 
Here’s the key Xi quote; “Fifteen years after the handover, Hong Kong has gone through storms. Overall, the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ has made enormous strides… Hong Kong’s economy has developed well and citizens’ livelihoods have improved. Progress has been made in democratic development, and society has become harmonious.” 
Well, not that harmonious. True, Hong Kong is the IPO capital of the world. It’s the top offshore center in the world for yuan trading. It’s a matchless world city – in many aspects putting even New York to shame; the best the world has to offer in an ultra-compact environment. The city’s economy grew every year except in 2009 – during the world economy abyss. Annual GDP growth has been 4.5% on average. Unemployment is never higher than 6%. 
But Hong Kong still has not made the transition towards a high-value-added, knowledge-based economy. The outgoing administration by Donald Tsang bet on “six new pillar industries” which should have “clear advantages” for growth; cultural and creative industries, medical services, education, innovation and technology, testing and certification services, and environmental industries. 
But their development, so far, has been negligible. Hong Kong still relies basically on its four core industries; financial services, tourism, professional services, and trading. Over 36 million tourists a year won’t turn Hong Kong into a knowledge-based society. Most of them are from – where else – the mainland. The backlash is immense; most Hong Kongers deride them as “locusts” – country bumpkins with suitcases overflowing with yuan buying everything cash. And this while inside Hong Kong itself the wealth gap is widening dramatically. 
As far as Beijing is concerned, it all comes down to “crossing the river while feeling the stones”. Here’s Xi, once again; “The SAR [Special Administrative Region] government has united various social sectors under the strong support of the central government and the motherland.” The motherland has its own ideas on reviving the Silk Road – and perhaps Hong Kong could be part of it, a least on the financial services side. Maybe it’s time to party like it’s 1997 and hit the Taklamakan again. Well, you can take the boy our of the Silk Road, but you can’t take the Silk Road out of the boy. 
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 
He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com 
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Egypt: Islamist president takes symbolic oath of office in Tahrir Square

By Johannes Stern 
30 June 2012
Mohamed Mursi, the first Egyptian president since the revolutionary ouster of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak last year, took a symbolic oath of office in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday.
After Friday prayers, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leader spoke before tens of thousands of people, presenting himself as the president of the revolution and claiming he would “continue [its] course.” Mursi then recited the presidential oath.
The stage-managed event was a fraud. Its central aim was to reassure the generals of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that Mursi would not challenge their control of the state. Barely two weeks after the junta dissolved the MB-dominated parliament in a military coup, Mursi stressed that his speech “does not mean that I do not respect the law, the constitution, the judiciary or any of Egypt’s patriotic institutions.”
In a further signal that he defends the junta and its counterrevolution, Mursi officially took the oath on Saturday before the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), the Mubarak-era judicial body that declared the parliamentary election unconstitutional, opening the way for SCAF to dissolve the parliament as well as the constituent assembly that was tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution.
After the SCC ruling and dissolution of the parliament, the junta issued a constitutional “addendum” seizing all of the legislative and budgetary powers of the defunct parliament. SCAF formally decreed the independence of the armed forces from civilian control, preparing the ground for mass repression of renewed protests and strikes.
There were intensive talks between SCAF and the Brotherhood during and after the presidential elections, which were held under the junta’s auspices. Half of all registered voters abstained from the elections, and protests erupted after the first round against both right-wing candidates—Mursi and the army-backed candidate, Ahmed Shafiq.
The day before Mursi appeared in Tahrir Square, SCAF member General Mohamed Assar told the privately owned CBC television that the army refused to abandon any of the powers it had gained through the coup.
“The [new] government will have a defence minister who is head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” he announced. Asked if this meant SCAF leader Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s de facto dictator, would keep his post as minister of defence, Assar said: “Exactly. What is wrong with that? He is the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the defence minister and the commander of the armed forces.”
Assar also warned political groups to “have balance in Egyptian politics.” He pointed to the “tasks” of the Islamists, stating that they “need to calm the people” and “assure Coptic Christians, liberals, artists and intellectuals that their rights are guaranteed.” He added that “president-elect Mursi has been doing a good job with regards to that.”
Washington also praised Mursi, whom it sees as an ally in the defense of its strategic and economic interests in Egypt and the broader region. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Mursi, declaring that “we have heard some very positive statements so far.” Clinton hailed Mursi’s pledge to honor all of Egypt’s international obligations, “which would, in our view, cover the peace treaty with Israel.”
She added, “We expect President Mursi to demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity that is manifested by representatives of the women of Egypt, of the Coptic Christian community, the secular, non-religious community and young people.”
The same day, a Mursi spokesman announced that his first appointments as president of Egypt will be a woman and a Coptic Christian. He reportedly also plans to include figures from “left” youth groups in his cabinet.
Prominent names being considered reportedly include Ahmed Maher of the April 6 Youth Movement, Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and administrator of the “We are all Khaled Saeed” Facebook page, and Amr Hamzawy, former research director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut and leader of the Freedom Egypt Party.
These developments make clear that the entire political establishment—the military, Islamists, liberals and middle-class pseudo-left organizations alike—are lined up against the Egyptian working class. As the “democratic transition” is exposed as a complete fraud, the Egyptian bourgeoisie and its imperialist allies are obliged to rely more and more openly on their pseudo-left appendages to maintain capitalist rule and intensify the oppression of the working class.
Both the April 6 Youth Movement and the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS) were present on Tahrir Square in support of Mursi when he took his oath. Hisham Fouad, a leading RS member, claimed that Mursi’s success in the elections had dealt “a serious blow” to the counterrevolution and was “a boost to the revolution.”

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EU summit averts split with deal to bail out Spanish, Italian banks

By Stefan Steinberg and Barry Grey 
30 June 2012
The two-day European Union summit concluded Thursday with an agreement, reached after 14 hours of acrimonious talks, to provide short-term relief to besieged Spanish and Italian banks by allowing the EU bailout fund to directly aid euro zone banks. Previously, the rules governing the 500 billion-euro European Stability Mechanism (ESM), slated to come on line next month, restricted EU lending to national governments.
With the banking systems of Spain and Italy, the fourth and third largest economies using the common European currency, under increasing pressure from the financial markets and credit rating agencies, and interest rates on the two nations’ government bonds climbing to unsustainable levels, the government heads of Spain, Italy and France, backed by Washington and the International Monetary Fund, were insistent on the need for immediate measures to shore up the banks. There was no time, they argued, for the protracted negotiations and bureaucratic delays involved in official state bailouts, such as those carried out in Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
Going into the summit, Germany had reiterated its resistance to any such short-term measures until agreement had first been reached on a new political structure for the euro zone, in which national governments would subordinate their budgetary and taxing powers to an overarching authority in Brussels, tasked with policing euro zone member-states to enforce strict limits on budget deficits and national debts.
In practice, Germany, as the strongest economy and biggest donor to regional bailout funds, would dominate the new “fiscal and political union,” and behind Germany the major international banks would exert their influence more directly than ever.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had also repeated her opposition to calls from French President Francois Hollande and his southern European allies for euro bonds or other measures to spread debt liabilities across the euro zone, and had roundly denounced before the German parliament a proposal summated to the summit by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to move toward euro bonds along with a banking union and centralized fiscal authority.
According to reports, however, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monte threatened to block a previously agreed 120 billion-euro “growth pact” and precipitate an open split at the summit unless Merkel backed down and agreed to allow the ESM to directly bail out euro zone banks. Everyone involved was well aware that such an outcome risked triggering a financial panic that would impact not only Spain and Italy, but the whole of Europe and the rest of the world. The continued existence of the euro itself would likely be thrown into doubt.
In the event, the plan announced by the summit conditioned the triggering of direct ESM bailouts of banks to agreement on a joint bank supervisor for the euro zone to replace the existing network of national regulators. The government heads pledged to reach such an agreement by the end of the year.
In a further move to appease the financial markets, the EU leaders dropped a requirement giving the European rescue fund preference over private holders of Spanish debt in the event of a default.
Following the meeting, Merkel insisted that her agreement on EU bank bailouts came with conditions. Both she and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi warned Friday that the new flexibility in the EU rescue fund should not be seen as a blank check. Draghi said access to funds would still come with “strict conditionality.”
These are code words for more brutal austerity measures—budget cuts, layoffs, reductions in wages and pensions—directed against the working class, along with so-called “structural reforms,” meaning the gutting of job protections and corporate regulations, and the wholesale privatization of state-controlled entities.
The agreement announced at the summit excluded any longer-term policies to address the underlying crisis of the euro currency and the EU. The plan submitted by Van Rompuy was evidently not even discussed. It was announced that this proposal would be taken up at the next EU summit, scheduled for October.
The statement from the summit was devoid of specifics. There was no explanation of how a 500 billion-euro rescue fund could finance the bailout of Europe’s troubled banks, with combined assets in the trillions, and also serve as a “firewall” against the spread of state bankruptcy from Greece to the central economies of Europe.
Stock and bond markets in Europe and around the world reacted to the summit announcement with relief, sending prices up sharply on Friday. Interest rates in Spain and Italy declined and the euro rose on the currency markets. However, there is no reason to believe that this bounce will last any longer than those that followed the agreement to pump 100 billion euros into Spain’s banks three weeks ago and the victory of the conservative New Democracy in the Greek election a week later.
The most significant political aspect of the growing tensions within the EU is the open split between Germany and France. Political commentators agreed that the summit, the nineteenth such meeting to be held since 2010, was the most acrimonious in recent memory.
The Guardian concluded its report by stating, “… from the remarks of German officials [it was clear] there was no meeting of minds; Paris and Berlin were seriously split at a summit for the first time in the crisis.”
On the same day that Merkel was obliged to make concessions in Brussels, her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, told the Wall Street Journal that Germany was adamantly opposed to any increase in its funding of the ESM.

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The Supreme Court ruling on Obama’s health care overhaul

30 June 2012
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was voted into law in March 2010, President Barack Obama hailed the measure as a vindication of the “American dream” and proof that “government of the people and by the people still works for the people.”
Thursday’s ruling by the US Supreme Court upholding key provisions of the law met with a similar response from the president, Democratic supporters of the bill and what passes for the liberal media in the US. The basic premise of their celebration of the high court decision was that the health care law is a genuine reform that will expand coverage for ordinary Americans and implement safeguards to guarantee quality care. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The law constitutes a sweeping attack on health care for tens of millions of working people. Its principal aim is not to provide universal health coverage—millions will remain uninsured under its provisions—but rather to reduce costs for corporations and the government, in large part by rationing care for all but the wealthy. The Supreme Court ruling upholding the law, moreover, is itself a deeply reactionary decision with far-reaching implications for the social and democratic rights of the American people.
The health care legislation was crafted to serve the interests of the private insurers, pharmaceutical firms and giant health care chains. They stand to profit handsomely from its provisions.
The centerpiece of the law, the so-called individual mandate, which was upheld by the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, will require all but the very poorest individuals to obtain health insurance from private companies or pay a penalty. This will funnel tens of millions of new cash-paying customers to the private insurance companies.
Other features of the law include:
• $500 billion in cuts to the Medicare program for the elderly
• An Independent Payment Advisory Board to ration health care under Medicare
• Accountable Care Organizations tying payments for Medicare to cost-cutting
• A tax on so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans held by unionized and other employees.
While individuals can be fined by up to 2 percent of their income if they do not have coverage, the fines for employers who fail to offer insurance to their employees are so low as to create an incentive for companies to drop their insurance programs. That will force workers to buy individual policies offering reduced coverage. One recent study showed that as many as 9 percent of businesses plan to drop coverage for their employees by 2014.
The fact that such a regressive measure is passed off as a progressive reform says a great deal about 21st century America, as does the Supreme Court ruling that upheld it. The decision—written by the right-wing chief justice, John Roberts, and endorsed by the four nominal liberals on the court—reflects the fact that the corporate establishment is heavily invested in the legislation.
Justice Roberts joined with the other right-wing justices to reject the Obama administration’s argument that the health care law, and its requirement that every person obtain health insurance, was constitutional on the basis of the government’s authority to regulate interstate commerce (according to the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution). Roberts instead based his ruling upholding the individual mandate on the government’s taxation powers, equating the penalty for those who do not purchase insurance to a tax.
The rejection of the Commerce Clause as the basis for federal social legislation is the culmination of an expanding right-wing attack on what had, ever since the New Deal of the 1930s, been regarded as a settled matter of constitutional jurisprudence. Congress had cited the Commerce Clause as the constitutional foundation for reforms such as the minimum wage, child labor laws, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and civil rights legislation, as well as regulations on the activities of corporations. The aim of all five right-wingers on the court, including Roberts, was to set a legal precedent weakening the power of Congress to legislate any social reforms or limitations on corporate profit-making.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg characterized Roberts’ “rigid reading” of the Commerce Clause as “stunningly retrogressive.” She noted that it harkened back to the early part of the last century, when the Supreme Court routinely overturned social reform legislation and laws regulating corporate activities.
The one provision of the health care law that was rejected by the court was a measure related to the expansion of Medicaid, the health care program for the poor jointly administered by the states and the federal government. The law sought to cover an estimated 11 million people by extending Medicaid coverage to all individuals under the age of 65 with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level or less.
It empowered the federal government to withhold Medicaid funding from any state that refused to implement this expansion. Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling stripped that power from the federal government, making the expansion of Medicaid by the individual states, as a practical matter, optional.
What the Supreme Court and the ruling elite as a whole have in their sights is not only Medicaid, but the entire framework of social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and food stamps, as well as laws upholding democratic rights such as the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.
Passage of the Obama health care legislation in 2010 ushered in a new stage in the assault on the working class. Austerity measures have been implemented across the country, with states implementing deep cuts to Medicaid and other social programs. In the midst of the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, the White House and Congress made a deal to reduce the duration of unemployment benefits.
The Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court ruling upholding it underscore the incompatibility of private ownership of the means of production and production for profit with basic social needs such as health care. There is no possibility of achieving genuinely progressive social change within the framework of the capitalist economic and political system.
Universal, quality health care requires taking profit out of the provision of medical care and placing the health care system on socialist foundations. The insurance firms, pharmaceutical companies and health care chains must be nationalized and transformed into public utilities under the democratic control of the working people.
The Socialist Equality Party and its candidates in the 2012 elections, Jerry White for president and Phyllis Scherrer for vice president, are committed to the fight for high-quality, universal health care as a basic social right of the working class. Visit the Socialist Equality Party campaign website.
Kate Randall

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Heeding the Call

Rewriting History: US War On Vietnam


By Michael Uhl 

June 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — The message of John Grant’s article, “The Vietnam War and the Struggle for Truth”, should be heard as an alarm bell by all who were blind-sided and unsettled upon learning of the Defense Department initiative announced by the President this past Memorial Day to “commemorate” the Vietnam Era by rewriting its history.
The projected duration of the Pentagon’s mandate for this exercise stretches from 2012 to 2025. Let’s leave aside for the moment that this actuarial calculation has the macabre feel of a death watch in the countdown of who, in the fading ranks, will one day wear the laurel as the “Last Vietnam War Veteran.” What should trouble especially those whose histories and identities are embedded in their opposition and resistance to that war, is what the Pentagon is tasking itself to accomplish during these unpropitious thirteen years: first, to create, and then, to sustain, a positive legacy for the Vietnam War.
That sow’s ear can never be transformed into a silk purse. This is a draconian and despicable undertaking, whatever its eventual reach, and a topic I shall return to often as this revisionist plot unfurls, if only to defend my own identity and memories as but one actor among the waves of soldiers and veterans who rose up to oppose our filthy war, even as it was still being fought.
It’s hard to imagine that the unpopularity, and eventual rejection, of the Vietnam War by the American public could ever be excised fully from the historical record. But the specific history of the organized opposition to the war is more vulnerable, since it becomes, in the absence of repetition in popular media, more and more abstract and remote to younger generations as it recedes into the past.
The GI Resistance and antiwar Vietnam veterans’ movements of the Sixties and Seventies, so unique in the annals of warfare, become prime targets for erasure in this new and approved version of the war the Pentagon hopes to fashion. Even if it were only these unprecedented chapters of the whole anti-Vietnam war saga that the DOD project succeeded in obliterating by 2025, what an immeasurable loss of inspiration this would represent for later generations who must continue to organize and struggle against the plague of American militarism for the ungodly and unforeseeable future.
The first blow to the memory of our antiwar GI and veteran struggles in this revisionist farce was delivered by President Obama himself in his Memorial Day launch of the neutered sounding “Vietnam War Commemoration Project.” Obama’s myth-drivenspeech is a testament to his abysmal ignorance of this period of our history; or he was simply pandering to a selected audience of true-believer vets gathered at the Wall, who have succumbed to the pernicious view that the war they could never have defended in youth had become, with the salve of passing years, a noble cause.
By reinforcing the one-dimensional image of returning Vietnam vets universally ill-treated by an ungrateful nation, Obama exploits the repressed feelings of anger, guilt and shame that unbalanced so many of us. We suffered the burden of fighting in a war widely opposed at home, not least among our better informed generational peers. But the deeper wounds resistant to time’s cure for thousands of us were rooted in the horrifying awareness of daily acts of violence that we aimed in Vietnam relentlessly, not only at an armed foe, but at a whole people.
Obama glibly conjures, and bathes in glory, the ambiguous battles of Khe Sanh and Hue, but ignores My Lai. In doing so he prepares the ground for sanitizing the judgment once commonplace throughout the world — to include vast numbers in the U.S. — that atrocities in Vietnam, while mostly on a lesser scale, were not in any sense exceptional. “My Lai,” as my generation of Winter Soldiers always emphasized in our public testimonies, “was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Obama now implies that this brush tars too broadly and prefers the consoling fiction that Vietnam veterans as a whole “were blamed for the misdeeds of a few.” But I am too wedded to my own truths about the evils of that war to ever be consoled, and Obama’s lies on this particular occasion infuriate me. I went to Vietnam. I lived the war. It horrified me. I came home and actively opposed it. Like tens of thousands of other Vietnam veterans, I witnessed or participated in atrocities. I saw the routine use of torture. These were not the “misdeeds of a few;” they were the essence of that war.
*****
As I wish to make clear, this active dialog, leading to a major push-back against the Pentagon re-write of our history, must emerge rapidly and engage many voices, if, ultimately, it is to blunt the impact of this revisionist assault. I also want to make a tangential observation here concerning a parallel I see between the campaign in contemporary Brazil to defend the historical truths surrounding that country’s decades of military dictatorship, and the militant and popular resistance to it, and the similar campaign we must now undertake.
The similarity lies in the shared moment that requires a defense of resistance to illegitimate authority, and of the peoples’ right to historical memory itself. But there’s also a major difference. In Brazil, the defense of truth is being led by that country’s president, while in the U.S. we have a president who is bent on obstructing it. I have included below a short article that I translated from a Brazilian newspaper to demonstrate how an enlightened leader deals with a barbaric practice long outlawed by modern societies, but still glaringly visible throughout the world, and an acknowledged fixture as well of American wars since Vietnam, the widespread use of torture. Although Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was herself once subjected to such brutality, she now chooses to treat torture not as the “misdeeds of a few” but as a policy of State.
Dilma Never Wants to Know the Identities of her Torturers
(Dateline Rio, June 22, 2012. From O Globo)
In a restrained voice, choking back her emotions, President Dilma Rousseff told the assembled media during the closing session of Rio+20 — an international conference on the environment — that she never wanted to know the identities of her torturers.
Dilma Rouseff at the time of her arrest and torture and as the current president of Brazil
Commenting about the recent publication of depositions she gave under torture in the Seventies during her imprisonment by Brazil’s military dictatorship, Dilma noted that many of her torturers didn’t use their real names, but she nonetheless has suspicious as to their identities.
Dilma chose to emphasize, however, that the critical question isn’t the torturer, but the torture, because the torturer was always an agent of policy. “The problem is the conditions under which torture is established and performed. This everyone knows,” she said..
“With the passage of time, the best thing that happened for me, personally, was to not become fixated on these identities, and not harbor toward these agents feelings of hatred, bitterness or revenge … but not forgiveness either. To want vengeance, or to feel hatred or bitterness, is to remain dependent on those whom we wish to revenge ourselves upon. This is not a healthy state of mind for anyone,” said Dilma, struggling to avoid tears.
That’s why the [Brazilian] Truth Commission was created, Dilma reminded her audience in conclusion, to turn that page of this country’s history, and not permit that it ever happen again.
Michael Uhl’s writing has appeared in national magazines like Forbes, GEO, House Beautiful, Travel and Leisure, the Nation, and the Progressive. He has contributed regularly to the Sunday Boston Globe Book Review. Uhl holds a PhD in American Studies. He is the author of Vietnam Awakening, and is now working on a second memoir. His website is at: www.veteranscholar.com .
Thomas Brinson says:
Excellent Michael, let the war of words begin . . .
Your comparison of our vastly compromised President with the honorable President of Brazil is especially notable and telling. As it happens, this morning I happened to see this 1965 DOD-produced piece of PR flack justifying Vietnam:

Subtly titled (NOT), “Why Vietnam?”, it’s an early attempt seeking to justify the unjustifiable, our long military involvement on the losing side in the civil war between the North Vietnamese and our “allies,” the South Vietnamese. Sad for me personally to reflect that this DOD propaganda was produced the same year I graduated from college as a newly commissioned ROTC shavetail 2nd Lieutenant, who was determined, and did, volunteer to serve in that dirty little war.
It’s almost 30 years since the time of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, and with the DOD/Obama initiative to revise the history of Vietnam, no doubt we can expect to counteract a doubling down of doublespeak about the legacy of Vietnam.
This article was originally published at In The Mind Field
Copyright © 2012 In The Mind Field

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Time for Regime Change in the USA

By Rodney Shakespeare
June 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — With breath-taking arrogance, the USA is opposing the presence of Iran at the discussions about Syria in Geneva.
Turkey – now openly playing the sectarian card and deliberately causing a Phantom jet to fly in fast and low in order to provoke a reaction and so involve NATO – can be present. The USA – supplying arms to al-Qaeda; organizing Salafists, Wahhabists and death squads; broadcasting lying propaganda – can be present. Russia and China can be present. But not Iran. 
Yet Iran has political, religious and cultural links with the Alawite (Shia sect) government of Syria. Iran is the one country – not the USA, not Russia, not China, not Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Qatar – which can have frank talks with Syria. Iran is the one country which Syria can trust as understanding its situation. And Iran is the only country which can give hope of avoiding a civil war bloodbath, at the very least, or a probable decade-long regional war. 
But Iran is not to be at Geneva because the USA, riddled with bigotry and an example of Ancient Greek hubris if there ever was one, hates any country which wants to be independent. It particularly hates Iran. Indeed, so extreme is the hatred that anything (including war) can be done to achieve regime change in Tehran. It is therefore no surprise that, at all times, the USA quickly side-lines democracy and justice if there is any likelihood that Iran might be involved in the solution. And just to spell out the point, in Syria, the USA is co-operating with Saudi Arabia – a vicious, totalitarian tyranny supplying guns and money – and with Qatar – an anti-democratic country, supplying guns and money. 
Furthermore, bent on regime change in Syria, the USA is comprehensively ignoring the Kofi Annan Peace Plan just as the referendum and election held by Syria are also being ignored. When the USA wants regime change, anything goes – particularly the torturing and slaughter of Shia women and children which, by twisting the facts to their opposite, are blamed on the government when they were really the work of the American-backed Wahhabi and NATO death squads who, when not killing, like to ransack Christian churches.
Nor is Iran banned only from a solution for Syria. It is also banned from the solution for Afghanistan. Iran is next to Afghanistan. It has linguistic, religious, cultural and trading links with Afghanistan. If ever there was a country which can talk to all parties in Afghanistan, it is Iran. However, the USA – full of self-important haughtiness and the major cause of the problem – determines that Iran can never be part of the solution and, by doing so, condemns Afghanistan to many more years of misery.
Yet the world is turning: change is afoot and Russia, wanting Iran to be at Geneva, is one of the countries which is not only sensing the change but is actively doing something about it. Right the way round the globe countries are quietly banding together. They can do so because they are directly experiencing a decline in the economic and political power of the USA. On top of which the USA’s moral authority went out of the window long ago so countries are quietly plotting a new course for themselves – one which involves breaking free from Western hegemony. Thus the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation brings together Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and others, with India, Pakistan and Iran as observer members. China and Japan have decided to trade in their own currencies and not the dollar – there’s a sign of the times! And in South America a number of countries are beginning to band together to run their own international bank (the Banco del Sud) thus causing the diminution of American financial and political influence.
Indeed, the amazing thing is that the USA is completely failing to see what is going on. It was completely caught off balance by the Arab Spring so perhaps it is not surprising that it does not understand that it is hated more than it knows; that its traditional mixture of bullying, bribery and attack are not quite as impressive as it thinks; and that, in short, others are fed up with a short-sighted arrogance and even more short-sighted stupidity which is always prepared to go to war (even if that means that the USA is now virtually bankrupt because of its military spending).
All in all, it’s time for all sensible people and all sensible countries (there’s quite a lot of them) to consciously question any assertion by the USA that this or that regime is at fault and needs to be overthrown. Instead all sensible people and countries should start to say that the world is fed up with war-mongering as well as angry at the Wall Street machinations which are destroying the world economy. 
Then the way will be opened for impressing on the American people what the situation really requires – regime change in the USA.
Rodney Shakespeare is A Visiting Professor of Binary Economics at Trisakti University, Jakarta, Indonesia, Rodney Shakespeare is a Cambridge MA, a qualified UK Barrister, a co-founder of the Global Justice Movement http://www.globaljusticemovement.net, a member of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice. His main website is http://www.binaryeconomics.net. Shakespeare is also Chair of the Committee Against Torture in Bahrain

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How Iran Might See the Threats

By Ray McGovern 
June 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — In CIA jargon, “Aardwolf” is a label for a special genre of intelligence report from field stations abroad to headquarters in Washington. An Aardwolf conveys the Chief of Station’s formal assessment regarding the direction events are taking in his or her country of assignment – and frequently the news is bad.
An Aardwolf is relatively rare and is avidly read; it is candid — and often unwelcome. (In the 2006 book State of War, author James Risen describes two Aardwolfs sent to CIA headquarters in the latter half of 2003 by the station chief in Baghdad describing the deteriorating situation in Iraq — and angering many of his bosses.)
So, let’s assume there is an Iranian Chief of Station embedded in, say, Iran’s UN representation in New York. It is quite likely that he or she would be tasked with crafting periodic Aardwolf-type assessments for senior officials of the Islamic Republic.
And in this time of heightened tensions with the United States and the West, Tehran presumably would be interested in a think piece assessing, based on the events of recent months, what the second half of 2012 might have in store on front-burner questions like the nuclear issue and the triangular Iran-U.S.-Israel relationship.
Putting oneself in others’ shoes is always of value but often avoided by American officials and journalists. It is especially difficult in dealing with not-so-easy-for-westerners-to-understand countries like Iran. Faux history further complicates things, as do unconscious blinders that can affect even “old-paradigm” analysts who try to have no agenda other than the pursuit of objective truth.
Don’t laugh. That U.S. intelligence analysts are still capable of honest, old-paradigm work can be seen in their continued resistance, so far with the full support of senior management, to strong political pressure to change their key estimate of late 2007 that the Iranians stopped working on a nuclear weapon during the fall of 2003.
Thus, let me try to put my imagination to work and see if any useful insights can be squeezed out of an attempt to “impersonate” an Iranian Chief of Station in the following notional “Aardwolf” to Tehran. Such a message might read something like this:
Nuclear Issue: What Are the U.S. & Israel Up To?
With half of 2012 behind us and the U.S. presidential election looming in just four months, I will try to be candid and blunt about what I see as the dangers facing the Islamic Republic in the coming months. Following are the key points of our mid-year assessment, more fully developed in the text that follows:
1-The Islamic Republic is viewed by most Americans as Enemy #1. How best to defeat our “nuclear ambitions” has become the main foreign policy issue in the election campaign for president. This is BIG.
2-In dealing with Iran, U.S. corporate media are behaving just as they did before the attack on Iraq. It is as though the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq never happened. This time the Islamic Republic is in the crosshairs and some influential figures seem eager to pull the trigger. For instance, Jackson Diehl, deputy chief of the Washington Post‘s editorial page, asked pointedly if it “would still be feasible to carry out an air attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities” if the U.S. gets involved militarily in Syria.
3-Within the “bubble” of Official Washington, the war in Iraq is often portrayed as a success and the pro-Israel neo-conservatives largely responsible for that catastrophe remain in very influential positions. The macho cry of the neocons — “Real men go to Tehran” — is again very much in vogue.
4-Cowardly politicians, especially in Congress, march “in lockstep” to Likud Lobby cadences. President Barack Obama privately may not wish to go along but he lacks the courage to break ranks.
5-Unlike the lead-up to Iraq, when Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were lusting for war, this time neither the White House nor the Pentagon wants hostilities. Yet, prevalent is an awkward, helpless kind of fear that, one way or another, Israel with succeed in provoking hostilities — with little or no prior notice to its superpower “ally.”
6-As we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, the top U.S. generals are virtually all careerists, and none have forgotten what happened to Admiral “no-war-on-Iran-on-my-watch” William Fallon. He was soon a retired admiral. So, they will follow orders — legal or not — as reflexively as the Prussians of old, letting the troops and the “indigenous” people of the target countries bear the consequences. In the U.S., it is almost unheard of for a general to resign on principle, no matter how foolish the errand.
7-It is conventional wisdom here that the pro-Israel vote is sine qua non for election to the White House. Thus, Obama is acutely sensitive to the perceived need to appear no less supportive of Israel than Mitt Romney, who told an Israeli newspaper last fall: “The actions that I will take will be actions recommended and supported by Israeli leaders.”
8-Some attention has been given to public warnings by prominent Israeli political, military and intelligence officials not to attack Iran. Their outspokenness betrays how seriously they view the danger that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may embark upon an adventure that could eventually result in the destruction of the state of Israel. But Netanyahu believes he still has the initiative and holds the high cards, which is certainly true with the U.S. political system.
9-As for Israel’s generals, they will obey — like their American counterparts.
10-There is ample evidence that Netanyahu believes Obama has a deficit of spine, and that if hostilities break out with Iran before the November election, Obama will feel obliged to give Israel unconditional support, including active military involvement. In my view, Netanyahu would be correct in that calculation.
11. Israel’s strategic situation has markedly deteriorated over the past year, with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan describing it as “the worst in its history.” Israel can no longer depend on close ties with Egypt or Turkey, and is becoming isolated elsewhere, as well. Developments in Egypt are a huge worry, with the Egyptians already having cancelled a major deal for the delivery of gas. This might increase Israel’s incentive to have a tangible demonstration that the “sole remaining superpower,” at least, remains firmly in its camp.
12-Military and intelligence ties between the U.S. and Israel are just as tight as those that enabled the successful Israeli air attack on Iraq’s nuclear installation at Osirak in 1981. Just this month, Israel’s friends in Congress beat back an effort by the Director of National Intelligence to strip the phrase “including satellite intelligence” from a list of security improvements in the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012.
13-Starting, or provoking, hostilities with Iran would be huge, fateful gamble for Netanyahu, given Israel’s vulnerability to Iranian retaliation and Washington’s private counsels not to precipitate war. But if Israel went ahead anyway, my bet is that the U.S. military will be drawn in, even if Iran were careful to limit retaliation to Israeli targets.
14-On the nuclear issue, after the last three rounds of talks, it seems clear that the West will not even acknowledge our right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to develop, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without strict conditions. Rather, the West’s “negotiating position” is almost identical to Netanyahu’s maximal demands that we abandon our project for processing nuclear materials and dismantle key facilities.
15-The larger objective seems to be regime change by threats, sanctions, covert action and cyber attack — with the prospect of worse to come.
16-To conclude, I would draw on some common American expressions: On the nuclear issue, we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Since there is a real chance we will be attacked at some point in the coming months, we need to batten down the hatches and keep our powder dry. It would be extremely foolish to hope for any significant break in U.S. hostility toward the Islamic Republic, at least until the very end of the year.
What Drives Israel?
I do not believe the Israelis see our nuclear program as an imminent threat, despite their having made the issue acause célèbre, the centerpiece of their foreign policy and a live wire in today’s American politics. The question is why; at least five objectives can be identified:
1 – Overthrow of our Islamic Republic government (shades of 1953). The euphemism now in vogue is “regime change.”
2 – Create in Iran the kind of hardship, devastation or, if you prefer, obliteration that has degraded Iraq’s ability, post-invasion, to support the Palestinians. A key part of Israel’s strategy is to deplete the resources of supporters of Hezbollah and HAMAS and shut down their support systems.
Accordingly, even if hostilities resulted in something short of “regime change,” Israel’s close-in enemies would be greatly weakened and Israel would be in a strong position to dictate “peace terms” to the Palestinians — and even encourage many of them to “self-deport,” to use Mitt Romney’s euphemism for ethnic cleansing of unwanted “aliens.”
3 – Divert attention from the stymied talks with the Palestinians, as Israeli settlers proceed apace to create more and more “facts on the ground” in the West Bank.
4 – Set back Iran’s uranium enrichment program a few years; and
5 – Take advantage of a near-term “window of opportunity” afforded by an American president worried about his reelection prospects.
Rejecting Post-WWII Agreements
The Americans are fond of saying, “After 9/11 everything changed.” And so Americans took little notice when President George W. Bush, in a June 1, 2002, graduation speech at West Point, boldly asserted the right to launch the kind of preventive war banned at Nuremberg and in the U.N. Charter.
The West Point speech laid the groundwork for the attack on Iraq ten months later (and an aggressive war that was ultimately branded illegal by the UN Secretary General). But Bush’s words at West Point indicated Washington’s determination not to be bound by post-World War II treaties and other agreements.
Many in the United States and abroad gradually have grown desensitized to the principles of international law when they limit Washington’s desire to attack another sovereign state under the guise of making Americans safer. After 9/11, starting the kind of “aggressive war” that was criminalized at Nuremberg in 1945 gained gradual acceptance.
And so, most Americans accept it as a given that it would be certainly okay if Israel and/or the U.S. attacked the Islamic Republic if we were to develop nuclear weapons, even though there is no international law or precedent available to justify attacking us.
Moreover, Article 2(4) of the UN Charter expressly prohibits the threat to use force as well as the actual use of force. But that is “old paradigm” thinking. When U.S. officials, from Obama on down, repeat the mantra that “everything is on the table,” including the “military option,” that is a violation of the UN Charter, yet no one here seems bothered by that fact.
Recall Obama’s nonchalant response when asked in February if he thought Israel had decided to attack Iran. “I don’t think Israel has made a decision,” he said simply — as though the decision were about something routine — not about whether to launch the kind of “aggressive war” banned at Nuremberg.
Bottom line: International law is, as the Americans would say, “not a problem.”
The statements of senior U.S. and Israeli officials are all over the map in addressing the nuclear “ambitions” of the Islamic Republic. For example, on Jan. 8, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a television audience: “Are they [the Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No, but we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability.” [“Face the Nation”, CBS, Jan. 8, 2012]
Here are his comments on another Sunday talk show on May 27:
“The fundamental premise is that neither the United States or the international community is going to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. We will do everything we can to prevent them from developing a weapon.”
Israeli leadership statements, including those by Panetta’s counterpart, Ehud Barak, are equally disingenuous, emphasizing that the U.S. and Israel are bound and determined to stop us from doing what both defense leaders have publicly acknowledged Iran is not doing. Small wonder that so many are confused.
Preventing Preventive War
The Persian Gulf would be an ideal place for Israel to mount a provocation trying to elicit retaliation from us, which could, in turn, lead to a full-scale Israeli attack on our nuclear-related sites.
Painfully aware of that possible scenario, then Joint Chiefs Chair, Admiral Mike Mullen noted at a July 2, 2008, press conference, that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran. This might be an opportune time to resurrect that idea and formally propose such dialogue to the U.S.
The following two modest proposals could go a long way toward avoiding an armed confrontation — whether accidental or provoked by those who may actually wish to precipitate hostilities and involve the U.S.
1 – Establish a direct communications link between top military officials in Washington and Tehran, in order to reduce the danger of accident, miscalculation or covert attack.
2 – Launch immediate negotiations by top Iranian and American naval officers to conclude an incidents-at-sea protocol. A useful precedent is the “Incidents-at-Sea” agreement between the U.S. and the Russians, signed in Moscow in May 1972. That period was also a time of high tensions between the two countries, including several inadvertent naval encounters that could well have escalated. The agreement sharply reduced the likelihood of such incidents.
I believe it would be difficult for the Americans to oppose measures that make such good sense. Press reports show that top U.S. commanders in the Persian Gulf have favored such steps. And, as indicated above, Admiral Mullen appealed earlier for military-to-military dialogue.
In the present circumstances, it has become increasingly urgent to discuss seriously how the United States and Islamic Republic can avoid a conflict started by accident, miscalculation or provocation. Neither the U.S. nor Iran can afford to allow an avoidable incident at sea to spin out of control.
With a modicum of mutual trust, these common-sense actions might be able to win wide and prompt acceptance in the U.S. — if only as a way of reining in “Enemy #1.”
This is not for me to suggest, but I do so informally, partly because my Russian colleagues here at the UN have sought me out for discussion on recent developments on a number of occasions. And just this week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, referring to Israeli calls for stronger action against Iran, had this to say:
“In order to settle this [nuclear] issue, it’s necessary to refrain from constant threats of using force, abandon scenarios aimed against Iran, and stop dismissing the negotiations as a failure.”
End of our imaginary Aardwolf to Tehran.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In the Sixties he served as an infantry/intelligence officer and then became a CIA analyst for the next 27 years. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
This article was originally published at Consortiumnews.

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The carefully organized Paraguay coup

by Nil Nikandrov


Under Barack Obama’s watch, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo is the second Latin American leftist president to have been deposed from office in a scenario orchestrated by his political opponents and very close friends of the U.S. Nil Nikandrov predicts that this pattern of constitutional “soft” coups against defiant leaders – successfully tested by Washington in Honduras and, now, in Paraguay – will be extensively replicated in other countries over the coming years. The insidious interference by Uncle Sam in the domestic affairs of the region will apparently not be relegated to the ash heap of history any time soon.
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President Fernando Lugo said Friday, 15 June, he accepts the Paraguayan Senate’s decision to oust him after a turbo-charged impeachment process in which the law was “twisted like a fragile branch in the wind.” It is not Fernando Lugo, but “Paraguayan democracy that has been deeply wounded.”
The operation launched by the US Department of State and the CIA with the aim of displacing Paraguay’s first leftist president Fernando Lugo entered the final phase on June 16, when police forces were dispatched to evict squatters from the Morumbí farm in the Curuguaty district, near the Brazilian border. The land holding is known to be owned by Paraguayan businessman and politician Blas Riquelme. Upon arriving to the site, the police unexpectedly came under professional gunfire from rifles with the caliber high enough to drill bulletproof waists. The chief of a special operations police unit (GEO) and his deputy were shot dead, and the police to which instructions had been issued to avoid using force was left with no choice but to return fire. Eleven civilians were mowed down and dozens – wounded as a result.
The bloody incident in Curuguaty immediately drew response from the Paraguayan legislature, with the parliamentarians and senators, mostly representatives of right-centrist parties, charging that president Lugo had lost his grip on the situation and was unable to run the country. Even the Liberal Party which upheld Lugo’s candidacy in the 2008 elections distanced itself from its former protégé. Overall, Lugo faced an impeachment which he described as the parliament’s “express coup”.
Lugo’s legal counselors were given practically no time to prepare for his defense vis-a-vis the parliament, but, in fact, it was clear that the critics of the president had no intention to dive into details and the senate’s verdict was a foregone conclusion. The whole operation which led to the displacement of Lugo was carefully planned so as to rule out an unbiased parliamentary inquiry and was implemented as a snap offensive. No doubt, part of the motivation behind the rush was to have Lugo ousted before Paraguay’s UNASUR peers could convene for consultations and decide on a set of measures in his support.
The victory must have been easy for the coordinators of the plot from the US embassy in Asunción. It is true that Lugo’s presidency was fairly nominal since the parliament, the police, and the army in Paraguay were on the side of the opposition. Having thrived on USAID funding for decades a cohort of NGOs were prepared to orchestrate mass protests if the anti-Lugo plan stalled but did not have to, and – apart from the death toll in Curuguaty – the overthrowing of the legitimate president in Paraguay deserves to be listed as an exemplary case on the record of the US intelligence community.
A team of UNASUR envoys headed by the organization’s secretary general, Venezuelan Alí Rodríguez Araque, toured Paraguay, met with Lugo and with a parliamentary delegation, and witnessed the impeachment procedure, but were unable to redirect the developments. The Paraguayan Senators showed little regard for the visitors, not to say that they were openly hostile. Lugo, it must be noted, showed a complete lack of will to par the challenge – contrary to his initial pledge to defend himself at the parliamentary hearings, he simply watched them on TV from his residence. Citing his commitment to law, the president being lawlessly ejected accepted the impeachment ruling (to which only four senators said No). Lugo’s inaction can be largely attributed to his having no leverage under the circumstances: over the three years of his presidency, he failed to build a popular support base and, when the pressure peaked, still had no party of his own or a populist movement to back him. Street protests demonstrating support for Lugo erupted incoherently on the impeachment day but were dispersed by the police which used water machines, tear gas, and rubber bullets against the crowds.
Federico Franco promptly sworn in as President

.
Horacio Cortes, U.S. favorite for 2013 elections.
Paraguayan vice president Federico Franco who was sworn in without delay as Lugo was out is to stay in office until the ousted president’s term expires in August, 2013. The elections are due the same month, and Washington openly favors Colorado party leader Horacio Cartes, a businessmen whom, according to ABC Color, US DEA briefly suspected of money laundering and complicity with drug cartels. The twist in Cartes’ reputation is reflected in some of the cables put on display by WikiLeaks, and chances are US agencies have assembled such a stockpile of reports implicating Cartes that Washington should have no difficulty keeping him – like quite a few Latin American presidents – under tight control.
While Lugo’s unfinished term was marked with Paraguay’s sluggish drift towards Latin American populist regimes, the right-conservative takeover promises that the country will fully submit to the US dictate. The agenda looming on the horizon likely includes efforts to destabilize UNASUR by forming within the alliance a dissenting bloc to balance the influences of Brazil, Venezuela, and Ecuador. It can be expected as well that new life will be breathed into Washington’s other project – the bracketing within some sort of a new union of Chili, Peru, Columbia, and Mexico – in order to weaken Brazil internationally.
UNSAUR secretary general Alí Rodríguez Araque said the dismissal of Lugo was unconstitutional and was tantamount to a disguised coup, and further stressed that many of Latin American governments would deny recognition to Franco. Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff cited the charters of UNASUR and MECOSUR to suggest expelling Paraguay from the groups over the violation of democratic norms. Argentine’s Cristina Kirchner also opined that sanctions against Paraguay would be appropriate. She described the developments in the country as a coup and mentioned in the context the coup attempts against R. Correa and E. Morales and the putsch in which M. Zelaya had been deposed in Honduras. The Argentinian leader stated firmly that such undemocratic phenomena are unacceptable for the region and said action would be taken in line with thedecisions to be made by MECOSUR. Ecuadoran president R. Correa expressed support for D. Rousseff’s call to put to work the provisions of the UNASUR charter which warrant various forms of pressure – non-recognition of the corresponding governments, exclusion of countries guilty of undemocratic conduct from the alliance, and the closure of borders – as punishment for putschists. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega contributed similar statements on the issue.
Prospects for a serious investigation into the shooting incident in Paraguay are bleak. The bloodshed helped the opponents of F. Lugo by adding credibility to their grievances list, while the majority of Latin America watchers discern parallels between the recent Paraguayan drama and the April 2002 shooting at the Llaguno Bridge in Caracas. In the latter case, snipers randomly fired on anti-Chavez protesters, Chavez’s supporters, and whoever happened to pass by. The incident was blamed on the forces under Chavez’s command, but curious circumstances surfaced later: for example, a CNN correspondent managed to record an interview with the army officers opposing Chavez who, as it transpired, were aware of the planned sniper attack and the imminent fatalities.

Blas Riquelme, owner of the land where likely staged armed clashes took place on 15 June, involving police forces, snipers and landless “campesinos,” leaving 17 people dead.
Several versions of the Curuguaty shooting incident are found on the web. One potential explanation is that the responsibility lay with Blas Riquelme who hired the snipers via his army connections but then, however, it remains unclear why the snipers fired on the police. An alternative version is that the episode was a provocation staged by the Paraguayan People’s Army, a shadow group supposedly forged by the police to fight extremists. This hypothetic origin may be the reason why the army lives on despite the intense work being done in Paraguay by invited US and Colombian anti-terrorism experts.
Alvarado Godoy wrote on the site titled Descubriendo Verdades (Disclosing the Truth) that the whole episode had been “montaje fabricado”, essentially a show following a certain blueprint. He claims to have information that the operation involved US Navy Seals who stayed in Paraguay to train the country’s marines (Fusna). The storyline does not sound exotic considering how often US citizens get caught with sniper rifles across Latin America, as recently in Argentine and Bolivia. The CIA, DEA, and the US Defense Intelligence Agency routinely hire contractors to pull off covert operations with firearms being used.
The straightforward forecast is that the pattern successfully tested by the US in Honduras and Paraguay – the pseudo-constitutional displacement of defiant leaders – will be extensively replicated in Latin America over the coming years. Yet, Washington would be naïve to believe that the accompanying violence can be contained. In Honduras, the puppet government of P. Lobo clings to power at the cost of waging a terror campaign which already took hundreds of lives of progressive politicians, journalists, trade union activists, student and Indian leaders, and that almost surely is what the future holds for Paraguay.

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No taxation without representation!

By Xavier Lerma
Clinton couldn’t do it in the 90’s but Obama’s paid off justices in the Supreme Court were able to kick in government health care. Obamacare was forced to pass whether you like it or not. Wacky Judge Roberts just changed the word “penalty” and called it a “tax”.
What was called unconstitutional by other courts is now legal. Whatever happened to “no taxation without representation”?
The line has been drawn in the sand and although health care “sounds” good it is unconstitutional for the government to force anyone to buy insurance. Not to mention the fact that in Obama’s world “transparency” means you can’t see what’s in the health care bill until it passes. That too is unconstitutional. All illegal and all un-American.
Now, they can force any church that opposes abortion to fund abortion. They now force every US citizen to pay for it. Freedom of religion has been choked in the last fifty years now churches are dying and will soon be underground.
Obama’s cut his throat for re-election but Soros doesn’t want him anyway. Even if Obama loses the election will the world really change? How can America really force out these elites that control America when they cannot vote for them anyway? The people who really control Americalove no term limits for congressman and may even introduce a bill to allow a president to stay longer than 2 terms.
The ugly news is if they can pass Obamacare then they can passanything, They can pass any law and make it sound good with their small minded propagandists in the MSM. The question is what new law will be next? No home schooling or more internet control? How much higher will the taxes get?
The revolution against the British started with no taxation without representation. Will Americans storm the White House? Is there any possible way to change things or is it too late? “No taxation without representation” should be the battle cry in America until the American government actually serves the people.
America should shout, “You work for us!” Take America back, it was paid for in blood by the men who fought for it in the revolution. As I wrote in my article,”We the People Say, You Work for Us!”: The independent thinkers of today still wave the old independent flag , “DONT TREAD ON ME!”. It was waved over 237 years ago in the face of the British. They also demand the same thing as Dr. Martin Luther King demanded in his day :
P.S. America, God cannot be on your side unless you are on his side first.
By Xavier Lerma
Contact Xavier Lerma at xlerma@bigstring.com 
His popular articles can be seen at http://xlerma.wordpress.com/ 
Please include the link to Pravda if you republish this article

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Can The World Survive Washington’s Hubris?

By Paul Craig Roberts
June 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — When President Reagan nominated me as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, he told me that we had to restore the US economy, to rescue it from stagflation, in order to bring the full weight of a powerful economy to bear on the Soviet leadership, in order to convince them to negotiate the end of the cold war. Reagan said that there was no reason to live any longer under the threat of nuclear war.
The Reagan administration achieved both goals, only to see these accomplishments discarded by successor administrations. It was Reagan’s own vice president and successor, George Herbert Walker Bush, who first violated the Reagan-Gorbachev understandings by incorporating former constituent parts of the Soviet Empire into NATO and taking Western military bases to the Russian frontier.
The process of surrounding Russia with military bases continued unabated through successor US administrations with various “color revolutions” financed by the US National Endowment for Democracy, regarded by many as a front for the CIA. Washington even attempted to install a Washington-controlled government in Ukraine and did succeed in this effort in former Soviet Georgia, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin.
The President of Georgia, a country located between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, is a Washington puppet. Recently, he announced that former Soviet Georgia is on schedule to become a NATO member in 2014.
Those old enough to remember know that NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was an alliance between Western Europe and the US against the threat of the Red Army overrunning Western Europe. The North Atlantic is a long, long ways from the Black and Caspian Seas. What is the purpose of Georgia being a NATO member except to give Washington a military base on the Russian underbelly?
The evidence is simply overwhelming that Washington–both parties–have Russia and China targeted. Whether the purpose is to destroy both countries or merely to render them unable to oppose Washington’s world hegemony is unclear at this time. Regardless of the purpose, nuclear war is the likely outcome.
The presstitute American press pretends that an evil Syrian government is murdering innocent citizens who only want democracy and that if the UN won’t intervene militarily, the US must in order to save human rights. Russia and China are vilified by US functionaries for opposing any pretext for a NATO invasion of Syria.
The facts, of course, are different from those presented by the presstitute American media and members of the US government. The Syrian “rebels” are well armed with military weapons. The “rebels” are battling the Syrian army. The rebels massacre civilians and report to their media whores in the West that the deed was done by the Syrian government, and the Western presstitutes spread the propaganda.
Someone is arming the “rebels” as obviously the weapons can’t be purchased in local Syrian markets. Most intelligent people believe the weapons are coming from the US or from US surrogates.
So, Washington has started a civil war in Syria, as it did in Libya, but this time the gullible Russians and Chinese have caught on and have refused to permit a UN resolution like the one the West exploited against Gaddafi.
To get around this roadblock, fish out an ancient Phantom fighter jet from the 1960s Vietnam war era and have Turkey fly it into Syria. The Syrians will shoot it down, and then Turkey can appeal to its NATO allies to come to its aid against Syria. Denied the UN option, Washington can invoke its obligation under the NATO treaty, and go to war in defense of a NATO member against a demonized Syria.
The neoconservative lie behind Washington’s wars of hegemony is that the US is bringing democracy to the invaded and bombed countries. To paraphrase Mao, “democracy comes out of the barrel of a gun.” However, the Arab Spring has come up short on democracy, as have Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries “liberated” by US democratic invasions.
What the US is bringing is civil wars and the breakup of countries, as President Bill Clinton’s regime achieved in former Yugoslavia. The more countries can be torn into pieces and dissolved into rival factions, the more powerful is Washington.
Russia’s Putin understands that Russia itself is threatened not only by Washington’s funding of the “Russian opposition,” but also by the strife among Muslims unleashed by Washington’s wars against secular Muslim states, such as Iraq and Syria. This discord spreads into Russia itself and presents Russia with problems such as Chechen terrorism.
When a secular state is overthrown, the Islamist factions become free to be at one another’s throats. The internal strife renders the countries impotent. As I wrote previously, the West always prevails in the Middle East because the Islamist factions hate one another more than they hate their Western conquerers. Thus, when Washington destroys secular, non-Islamist governments as in Iraq and now targeted in Syria, the Islamists emerge and battle one another for supremacy. This suits Washington and Israel as these states cease to be coherent opponents.
Russia is vulnerable, because Putin is demonized by Washington and the US media and because Putin’s Russian opposition is financed by Washington and serves US, not Russian, interests. The turmoil that Washington is unleashing in Muslim states leaks back to Russia’s Muslim populations.
It has proved to be more difficult for Washington to interfere in China’s internal affairs, although discord has been sowed in some provinces. Several years from now, the Chinese economy is expected to exceed in size the US economy, with an Asian power displacing a Western one as the world’s most powerful economy.
Washington is deeply disturbed by this prospect. In the thrall and under the control of Wall Street and other special interest business groups, Washington is unable to rescue the US economy from its decline. The short-run gambling profits of Wall Street, the war profits of the military/security complex, and the profits from offshoring the production of goods and services for US markets have far more representation in Washington than the wellbeing of US citizens. As the US economy sinks, the Chinese economy rises.
Washington’s response is to militarize the Pacific. The US Secretary of State has declared the South China Sea to be an area of American national interest. The US is wooing the Philippine government, playing the China threat card, and working on getting the US Navy invited back to its former base at Subic Bay. Recently there were joint US/Philippines military/naval exercises against the “China threat.”
The US Navy is reallocating fleets to the Pacific Ocean and constructing a new naval base on a South Korean island. US Marines are now based in Australia and are being reallocated from Japan to other Asian countries. The Chinese are not stupid. They understand that Washington is attempting to corral China.
For a country incapable of occupying Iraq after 8 years and incapable of occupying Afghanistan after 11 years, to simultaneously take on two nuclear powers is an act of insanity. The hubris in Washington, fed daily by the crazed neocons, despite extraordinary failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, has now targeted formidable powers–Russia and China. The world has never in its entire history witnessed such idiocy.
The psychopaths, sociopaths, and morons who prevail in Washington are leading the world to destruction.
The criminally insane government in Washington, regardless whether Democrat or Republican, regardless of the outcome of the next election, is the greatest threat to life on earth that has ever existed.
Moreover, the only financing the Washington criminals have is the printing press. In a subsequent column I will examine whether the US economy will complete its collapse before the war criminals in Washington can destroy the world.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.

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NATO Proxies Turkey and Saudi Arabia Move to War Footing on Eve of Syrian ‘Peace Summit’

By Finian Cunningham
June 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — The NATO-backed covert aggression against Syria could be reaching a tipping point for all-out war involving state forces. That should be no surprise. For the past 16 months, NATO and its regional proxies have been steadily increasing the violence and turmoil inside and outside Syria, while the Western corporate-controlled media maintain the ridiculous fiction that the bloody chaos is largely due to the government forces of President Bashar Al Assad cracking down on “peaceful protesters”.
Ironically, the crisis is culminating at the same time that the United Nations convenes an emergency summit on Syria in Geneva this weekend. The meeting, which is ostensibly aimed at “reviving the Kofi Annan peace plan”, will be attended by the five permanent members of the UN security council and other “invited” regional states. The irony is that leading NATO members, the US, Britain and France, as well as their Turkish and Arab allies who will also be attending the crisis conference, are the very parties that have deliberately created the precipice for all-out war in the Middle East.
As dignitaries fly into Geneva to “salvage peace in Syria”, there is a lockstep military build-up on the northern and southern flanks of Syria underway, with news that Turkey has dispatched battlefield tanks, missile batteries and heavy artillery to its Syrian border, while to the south Saudi Arabia has announced that its military forces have been put on a “state of high alert”.
Ankara’s military mobilization along its 800km land border with Syria came within hours of the declaration by Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan slating Syria as “a hostile state”. The immediate cause of the deterioration in relations between the neighbouring countries is the downing of a Turkish fighter jet last week in Syrian territorial waters. Syria claims it was acting in self-defence after the Phantom RF-4E warplane entered its airspace on Friday. Ankara has so far failed to give an explanation for why one of its warplanes was making such a provocative low-flying manoeuvre into Syrian airspace. But the Turkish government has announced that any move by Syrian armed forces towards its border will be viewed as another “hostile act” that it will respond to. How’s that for a provocative tether? Especially towards a country that is being attacked by armed groups crossing over its border with Turkey.
Meanwhile, on the same day that Turkey is militarizing along its border with Syria, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah makes an unprecedented announcement putting his armed forces on high alert “due to the tense situation in the Middle East”. Using vague and contrived language, the Saudi ruler warned against “foreign or terrorist attacks” to justify the mobilization of the kingdom’s armed forces.
The military pincer movement against Syria tends to support the analysis that the downing of the Turkish fighter jet was a deliberate set-piece scenario designed to furnish a cause for war, or at least a stepping up of the international psy-ops campaign of intimidation against Syria.
It is notable that the circumstances surrounding the shooting down of the warplane have yet to be clarified. The Syrians seem to have firm grounds for acting in the way they did given the provocative conduct of the Turkish fighter jet. And there is an onus on the Ankara government to give some explanation for the unusual military manoeuvre, especially in the light of claims that the aircraft was on a reconnaissance mission on behalf of anti-Assad forces on the ground in Syria. Yet almost reflexively, before details have been established about the incident, Turkey has moved on to a war footing. Equally telling is that Saudi Arabia, a key ally of Ankara in opposition to Syria, has simultaneously moved also on to a war footing – without any substantive grounds for such a mobilization.
Some informed analysts have said that the Turkish-Saudi pincer on Syria is more aimed at intensifying the psy-ops pressure on Bashar Al Assad to cave in and relinquish power. Hisham Jaber, director of the Beirut-based Center for Middle East Studies, told Press TV that Ankara and Riyadh will balk at an all-out war with Syria because both are well aware that any such conflict will bring in Iran, Russia and China in support of their ally in Damascus.
Nonetheless, there is an ineluctable logic towards all-out war. Ever since the armed insurrection by foreign mercenaries was instigated in Syria’s southern town of Deraa in mid-March 2011, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have played key roles in fomenting the covert campaign of aggression to overthrow the Assad government – a campaign that is authored by leading NATO members, the US, Britain and France. The division of labour is such that Turkey has supplied land bases to organize the mercenaries from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Iraq; while Saudi Arabia provides the money – up to $100 million – to buy weapons and pay wages for the soldiers of fortune; and ultimately it is Washington, London and Paris that are calling the tactical shots in the NATO war plan on Syria.
As several other commentators have pointed out, this war plan is aimed at asserting Western capitalist hegemony in the oil-rich Middle East and Central Asia regions. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria are part of an overarching bid for “full-spectrum dominance” that will eventually target, overtly, Iran, Russia and China.
It is this crucial wider context of war-making by the waning capitalist powers that underscores the gravity of the military build-up inside and outside Syria. The dynamic for war has a compelling, nefarious logic – as the history of world wars testifies.
Which makes the Geneva “crisis conference” this weekend appear all the more ludicrous. In attendance are the US, Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf Arab monarchical states of Kuwait and Qatar. All are professing to support a peaceful solution in Syria even though all the above are funnelling weapons, logistics and personnel to wage a brutal, terrorist assault on that country – an assault that has now led to the precipice of all-out regional war.
Also attending the UN conference are secretary general Ban Ki-moon and the UN/Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan. The UN and the Arab League and these two figureheads in particular have shown themselves to be willing dupes to NATO’s war of aggression on Syria, and beyond, by indulging in the charade that the Western powers are “supporting peace” instead of denouncing them as “supporting war”. Significantly, the UN and Annan have not invited Iran to attend the conference as a result of US pressure. How provocative is that? Iran clearly has vital interests at stake given its proximity and geopolitical threats from the encroaching war on its Syrian ally.
The other ghost missing from the feast in Geneva this weekend is Saudi Arabia. The omission of Saudi Arabia should not be seen as some kind of consolation to Syrian and Iranian sensibilities, but rather as a way of shielding the House of Saud from embarrassment. Considering the incendiary role of Saudi Arabia in Syria, and possibly the region’s conflagration, the Saudi rulers should be summoned to a top seat at the “peace summit” – to face the most withering questions about their warmongering, criminal interference in a neighbouring state.
Then, using Nuremburg principles, prosecutors should proceed to arraign the rulers in Riyadh along with their accomplices in Washington, London, Paris and Ankara.
Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent – cunninghamfinian@gmail.com
This article was originally published at Global Research
Copyright © Finian Cunningham, Global Research, 2012

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‘A Journey Into Moral Depravity’ – US Congressman Dennis Kucinich on covert wars

By Chris Woods 
June 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — When 26 members of the US Congress wrote to President Obama recently urging him to get a grip on his use of drones as ‘faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths,’ one man in particular was responsible.
Congressman for Ohio Dennis Kucinich has been a career politician for more than 40 years – but he’s no Washington insider. Described at times by friend and foe alike as ‘the most liberal man in America,’ Kuchinich maintains a principled stand against US militarism.
Kucinich has viewed America’s targeted killings programme against alleged terrorists with alarm for some years. Recently he has agitated for the United States to be open about its covert wars, and for Congress to assert its right to declare war – or not – in places like Pakistan and Yemen. And Kucinich, twice a Presidential primary contender, is also trying to introduce a Bill that would outlaw the assassination of American citizens by US agencies like the CIA.
On the day that the Bureau spoke with him, a UN expert in Geneva had just labeled a CIA drone tactic used in Pakistan as ‘a war crime’. We began by asking him about the implications:
Dennis Kucinich: Well I think it is only a matter of time before the international discussion on this makes it crystal clear that if the drone programs are not shut down, then what we are looking at is the potential of war of all against all, a pulverisation of national sovereignty and a rejection of the structure of international law. So, you know, there is the idea of war crimes becomes compelling only if nations respect the jurisdiction of a tribunal.
I certainly have called for the US to join the International Criminal Court. We have ventured into a world since 9/11 where international law is set aside and where the implements of war are becoming so ubiquitous that all the rules are being ignored and conflict zones are expanding. Where suspected terrorists – and we do not know what they are really suspected of doing, you know – they can be suspects now, and they can be executed. Or they can just be perceived to be a male of combat age and be executed.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with your recent letter to President Obama?
DK: Well, it has already achieved something. When you bring together dozens of members of Congress in a common statement about a US policy that lacks a legal basis, that doesn’t have transparency, then, I think, people start to take notice. Congress, unfortunately, has been slow to claim its responsibility under the US Constitution, ‘the power to declare war’. When the Constitution was written the war-power was bifurcated in this way. Under article 1 the Congress founders wanted to restrain what they called ‘the dog of war’ by putting it into the hands of a legislator whose constituents would be affected by it, and would therefore have to face the people at some point.
But what has happened is that in this post 9/11 world is that the declarations of war have basically vanished, replaced by an administration’s assertion of the power to declare a global war. And that has been buttressed, that was under the Bush administration, now under the Obama administration it is the derogation to the executive of the power to strike at any nation at any time for any reason. Expanding drone wars across Africa, across the Middle East, and I think ultimately risking blow-back.
Q: In Yemen recently there has been a very steep escalation, not just in drone strikes but apparently covert air strikes, naval bombardments, and possibly ground forces.
DK: Yes, it is a war, you know. We do not need to go through an Orwellian exercise of semantics or the twisting of meaning here. We understand that we are at war in Yemen. Now in order for Congress to be fully aware of this matter, I am planning to bring to the floor of the House a resolution which seizes upon the requirements of the War Powers Act, that the administration is going to either have to seek a declaration from Congress or will have to stop.
You are looking here at an executive power that is unleashed. Our system of justice, according to the Constitution, is highly structured. There are broad areas of our constitution that have to do with people being investigated, arrested, charged, having a trial, and then if they are convicted being properly sentenced and incarcerated.
What we have done here with the drone programme is to radically alter our system of justice. Because, remember, if the whole idea is that we are exporting American values, those drones represent American values. And now we are telling the world that American values are summary executions, no rights to an accused, no arrest process, no reading of charges, no trial by jury, no judge, only an executioner.
If you have only an executioner that is not justice, that is something else. Not only the United States but the world community should be properly appraised about these so-called targeted killings. And because the emphasis in on killing, this is murder. If someone shot a grocer and his defense was ‘it was a targeted killing’ he would be put on trial for his life. But we are told that these targeted killings are somehow to be considered apart from any legal system.
Q: There’s recently been some transparency, where the President and others have spoken publicly about the covert drone campaigns. But the Department of Justice position is that ‘we still can’t talk to you at all about it because it is secret.’ How can those apparently irreconcilable positions be held by the government? 
DK: Well, when you have assassination programmes that lack any attempt to establish legal justification, then you have journeyed into moral depravity. International law means nothing, laws of war mean nothing. I am not assigning that condition to any one individual, but I am saying that the programme itself bespeaks an approach which depraves moral law, the constitution, and international law. That sets us into an endless cycle of violence.
There are innocent people being killed, that can not be disputed. In one of the first strikes that they publicised in the Wazaristan area, there was a little town Damadola where I think about 14 people were killed, I think in a strike in January 2006, I am just reciting this from memory. I believe they struck because one of the persons appeared to be the height of one of the individuals they were looking for. The criteria keeps changing and it keeps getting looser and looser.
Now, according to that recent story I think in the New York Times, all males in Waziristan are now viewed as terrorists.
Q: All adult-aged males, yes.
DK: Yes, and so someday, I hope it is not going to be too far into the future, somebody is going to look back at this and go ‘oh my God, why was this permitted?’ The US government just goes ‘we spent more money on arms than any other country in the world just because we have the most powerful military.’ We cannot assume for ourselves the right to impose a war anywhere we well please, and yet we have. And there is little accountability, so what I am trying to bring about in the Congress is to force accountability and transparency. Transparency in terms of ‘how are you able, you know, what about this extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions? What is the legal authority for the government to conduct extrajudicial killings, where did this come from?’ Really, where did this come from? Says who?
Q: The administration is saying ‘we are being as transparent as we can within operational security.’ You don’t accept that?
DK: No. Absolutely not. I mean they went ahead and they have never made the case as to how this contributed to US security. As a matter of fact it could be, the argument could be made that it makes us less safe because instead of dealing with the one person that we are killing, we are going to be dealing with all their friends and relatives down the road. We are creating, every bomb that we drop, every missile that we launch, there are sure to be reprisals. And the reprisals, you know, there is no time-date set here, there is no time limit.
I mean, you cannot engage in this kind of conduct with impunity, it is not possible in this world. We have set upon a new frontier of a very rough technological justice which is divorced from moral law. And as such we are inviting a whirlwind of reaction. And for the life of me I can’t understand why these questions were not being weighed before we waded into these policies.
Q: In his April 30 speech on drones, Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan said that ‘If we want other nations to adhere to high and rigorous standards with their use then we must do so as well. We can not expect of others what we will not do ourselves.’
DK: I look at it from my standpoint, as an American, as a member of Congress, what would we do if China, or Russia, or Iran sent a drone over the US? How would we respond? We would see it as, we would see the presence of a drone over our air-space as an act of war, no question about it. And a firing of a drone would invite a full retaliatory response. There is just no question about in, anyone who knows the US know how we would respond to that. Why then does our administration believe that America has some kind of a peremptory position? Why are we immune from international law? Where did we get that special privilege?
Q: One justification put forward is that there are believed to be secret agreements, between the US and Yemen in particular but also in the past with Pakistan, which in some way makes this all right.
DK: Well let’s look at this from a number of different levels. The Pakistan government and the United States have a very famous double-game going and our two nations are constantly faking each other out. We have carried the double-game to an art form where we can’t tell what is real anymore. Except the bodies lying among the smoking embers of a drone strike, that is real.
When there is no transparency or accountability that is what happens. It is easy for a country to assert cooperation. It is much more difficult for a country to assert non-cooperation and then to cooperate. Because all of this is so murky we can only reach conclusions from what facts are on the ground. And those facts include a lot of dead civilians. So lets say that Yemen asked us to do this, does it follow that we accept the invitation? Nor does it follow that the administration pursues it without Congress and an appropriate declaration. The same is true with Pakistan.
Q: Pakistan has now overtly rescinded any possible agreement, and is openly saying ‘please stop bombing us, this is against international law.’ Yet the bombing is still carrying on. This seems to be a new development.
DK: Well it is a new development. And if a nation, which at one time asked for our help, resents our help, then any action that takes place effectively loses the protection of the request for cooperation. And then it becomes a clearly outlined act of aggression. And so if it is as Pakistan says it is, and if in fact Pakistan has made this request and asked us to stop and we continue this bombing, then we are at war with Pakistan. I have raised this question more than a year ago on a war powers resolution on a war over Pakistan. And this was when we were just starting to step up the attacks.
So it goes back to some simple propositions here: the UN Charter was established to protect the sovereignty of every nation and to stop the scourge of war. The United States, as a participant in the UN, has a responsibility not to aggress. Every nation has a right to defend itself, but no nation has the right to aggress against another. We are clearly aggressing against Pakistan, and against Yemen, and against a whole range of countries. This can only lead to more war. With war, these wars, any drone now is an incendiary that spreads war more broadly and it incites more people to join the cause of those who protest the US policies and who seeks to commit violence.
Q: Your critics argue that the covert drone programme is the least worst option. If the drone strikes stopped tomorrow, how would the US be able to control al Qaeda and their allies?
DK: First of all, before drones were invented, the ability of Interpol and others to cooperate with intelligence agencies to actively seek after suspects was not limited. And it may be that the US is finding limitations for its newly claimed role of the sole policeman of the world. And I will promise you this, that the American people are getting tired of footing the bill. The fact that we can do it and have been able to avoid any international questions about it does not mean at some point the world community is going to focus back upon the US and raise questions about the decisions that our leaders have made.
I love this country, I feel that we have had a kind of psychic dismemberment from our foundational causes of nation. How did the nation, that was founded under such egalitarian principles, find itself running a killing bureaucracy, how did that happen? How did we make that journey? This is clearly a story of a nation that is losing its way in the world to a mixture of fear and hubris. This is what has brought me twice to run for president of the US, to challenge this, because it is really a preliminary to the destruction of our own nation from within. We cannot keep doing this, and there is no defense for this.
Q: Medea Benjamin of Code Pink recently told the Bureau that engaging US people with the covert war and targeted killings is difficult, because there is a Democrat in the White House.
DK: It is true, but it is Bush’s policies, run by another administration. There is this riddle of ‘why can a Democrat get away with what a Republican could never get away with?’ But as far as I am concerned that is not germane to my work, there is a principle here. If we fail to hold any executive or any administration accountable, particularly given the broad power a US executive has these days, then we are – and we are talking about the use of military force here which has a potential of killing people – then we are jeopardizing some of our most cherished democratic principles.
Killings become too easy, without a justice system to guide it. It is vigilantism conducted by robots. This is a venture into a realm that would have perhaps been conjured by the likes of Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe, but certainly not by Washington or Jefferson.
Q: When there are drone strikes in Pakistan with credible reports of civilian deaths, we can’t find any evidence of these deaths being reported by major US media. Does that concern you?
DK: This is consistent with the Iraq war. It’s not bad form to kill civilians, it’s only bad form to talk about it. That’s the problem. Let me say that there has been a tradition of American journalists in modern times to serve as the spear carriers for the government. They may look like pens but these are the spears of supernumeraries who have reporters’ cards. It’s what happens when you have fewer and fewer newspapers, and newspapers that are tied to large corporate interests. And a lack of enough institutions in the major media who are willing to serve as an effective counter-balance.
Look at the New York Times. It bought in wholesale into the war in Iraq, and came back to apologise. But how do you apologise for all of the dead bodies and the dead soldiers? We feel the dead soldiers, but we should also feel the dead civilians… There is a disturbing tendency to ignore civilian casualties, in any conflicts that we’re involved in whether they’re declared or undeclared. The only time civilian casualties are used is to articulate a cause for further US involvement in a conflict such as in Syria. There’s talk about civilian casualties there, it’s a very regretful situation in Syria. And the US will almost daily report on those civilian casualties because there’s a cry for intervention. But where there’s no interest in intervention, where there’s a desire simply to dominate either militarily, politically, strategically, then you’ll see the whole issue of civilian casualties buried.
Why do they do that? I think the people of the United States would be horrified if they actually understood how many innocent people are being swept up in the maw of these wars. So people are just permitted to sleep. And it’s going to be very disturbing for the American people when they awake from the slumber to look out upon a world where there’s carnage everywhere that’s created by our nation without any legal process, without any constitutional basis and without any articulated justification.
This is a lightly edited version of an interview conducted with Congressman Kucinich on June 21 2012
Follow @RepKucinich and @chrisjwoods on Twitter 
This article was originally published at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

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NO to War in Syria

By Mairead Maguire 

June 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — People around the world are deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in Syria.
While we are being presented with some perspective of what is occurring on the ground to the people of Syria, the door seems closed to others. We search for voices we can trust, voices which point to a peaceful, lasting solution to the conflict. We search for truth because it is truth which will set the Syrian people free. Truth is difficult to find, so through the haze of conflicting narratives we must inevitably hear the voices and wisdom of men and women of peace in Syria.
Many may believe that there is a fight going on in Syria for ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. We can be seduced into thinking there is a magic wand or instant formula to mix that will create a democratic country, but there are none. If it is a democracy a people want they must strive for it in their own way. It is said the greek idea of democracy was that people would be equally valued. This is something every society has to strive for at every point in its history; it itself is a ‘revolutionary’ concept and a nonviolent revolutionary action. Strive to value everyone equally. It is an idea, a motivation for a better world that doesn’t require blood; it requires the hard work of people and the nurturing of a community spirit; a constant growing of peace and it starts within each human heart.
Who are the voices of peace in regard to the crisis in Syria? Many of them we cannot hear from where we are standing. They are the mothers and fathers and children who want to leave their homes to walk to market or to school without fear. They are the people, who have been working hard for Syria, for the idea of Syria as a secular and modern country.
There are some Syrian voices that have been heard consistently since the beginning of the crisis. Many of them are anonymous and they speak to us about injustices and atrocities. Numbers are given and fingers are pointed. The blame may be apportioned correctly or it may not. Everything is happening too quickly; commentators and politicians are making decisions with haste and looking only in one corner for support for their certainty. But in the heat of the madness of violent ethnic/political conflict we must listen and ask questions and hear and speak with some uncertainty because it is certainty that can take a people and a country in a rush to war.
The face of the Mufti of Syria is hardly known in the western world, but if we have learned anything from past conflict, it is the importance of all inclusive dialogue. He and many other Syrians who have peace in their hearts should be invited to sit with a council of elders from other countries, to tell of their stories and proposals for ways forward for the Syrian people. The United Nations was not set up to provide an arena for the voices and games of the powerful; rather it should be a forum for such Syrian voices to be heard. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the Syrian people and find peaceful ways forward in order to stop this mad rush towards a war the mothers and fathers and children of Syria do not want and do not deserve.
We all know there are imams, priests and nuns, fathers, mother, young people all over Syria crying out for peace and when the women in hijabs shout to the world after a bombing or a massacre in Syria ‘haram, haram’ let us hear and listen to them.
We are sure there are many heroes in Syria among them, christian patriarchs, bishops, priests, and religious. A modern hero of peace, one whose name we do know and whose voice we have heard is Mother Agnes Mariam.1 In her community her voice has been clear, pure and loud. And it should be so in the West. Like many people in Syria she has been placed in life threatening situations, but for the sake of peace she has chosen to risk her own existence for the safety and security of others. She has spoken out against the lack of truth in our media regarding Syria and about the terror and chaos which a ‘third force’ seems to be spreading across the country. Her words confront and challenge us because they do not mirror the picture of events in Syria we have built up in our minds over many months of reading our newspapers and watching the news on our televisions. Much of the terror has been imported, we learn from her. She can tell us about the thousands of christian refugees, forced to flee their homes by an imported Islamist extreme. But Mother Agnes Mariam’s concerns, irrespective of religion, are for all the victims of the terror and conflict, as ours must be.
In all our hearts we know War is not the answer for Syria (Nor for Iran). Intervention in Syria would only make things worse. I believe all sides are committing war crimes and the provision of arms will only results in further death. The US/UK/NATO and all foreign governments should stay out of Syria and keep their funding and troops out of Syria.
We should support those Syrians who work for peace in Syria and who seek a way of helping the 22 million or so people of Syria to resolve their own conflict without furthering the chaos or violence.
Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross is a Greek-Catholic (Melkite) nun of Lebanese / Palestinian descent and has lived and worked in Syria for 18 years. She restored the ancient ruined monastery of St. James the Mutilated at Qara, in Homs province where she founded an order which serves the local and wider community. In 2010 the monastery welcomed 25,000 visitors both Syrian and international.
Mairead Maguire is a Nobel Peace Laureate with The Peace People

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Ambassador Ford a disgrace to diplomacy

Syria, Ambassador Ford and a Crusaders’ Castle
by Felicity Arbuthnot
“Diplomacy: The conduct of the relations of one state with another by peaceful means; skill in the management of international relations … “
“Duplicity: deception; double dealing.” (Collins Dictionary.)
Remember that “Crusade”? It is back, it seems – if it ever went away.
On the 16th of September 2001, George W. Bush announced, “. . . this Crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.”
Six months later, that designated “dove” of the Bush Administration, General Colin Powell, gave an ultimatum to Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf demanding he be on board to topple the Taliban and neutralize al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Powell, in testimony before a Commission investigating the September 11th attacks (24th of March 2004) stated that, “We gave them twenty-four (or) forty-eight hours, and then I called President Musharraf and said, ‘We need your answer now. We need you as part of this campaign – this Crusade.’ “
Now, Robert S. Ford, US Ambassador to Syria, has imaginatively resurrected the “Crusade” as diplomatic representative of a President who pledged, at Cairo University in June 2009: “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world … America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.”(i)
In his article, “The Salvador Option for Syria,” (ii) Michel Chossudovsky gives a crash course on the multiply diverse Ambassador Ford, to whom, it must be said, diplomacy would seem to be yet another far away land..
However, even the insightful Professor Chossudovsky was unlikely to have forseen that after Ambassador Ford slunk out of Syria in October last year, having indulged in ten months of provocative, divisive, inflammatory and politically confrontational actions. He would set up a Facebook page (iii), its massive profile picture being the UNESCO World Heritage listed site of what T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) described as, “Perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world (which) forms a fitting commentary on any account of the Crusading buildings of Syria.”
This dominant image on the Ambassador’s social networking site is of the Krak de Chevaliers, a Crusaders’ castle considered perhaps the finest example of such anywhere. The current fortress was completed in 1031, but captured in the First Crusade in 1099 by Raymond IVth of Toulouse.
Robert Ford’s choice for visual statement of his vision for dominance of Syria could surely, hardly be more symbolic and enlightening.
Via Facebook, the Ambassador accuses, incites and rambles to the Syrian people and the world.
On the 20th of June, with an arrogance that should be breathtaking – but little but that comes from the US any more – he lectured Syria’s armed forces:
“For this posting, I want to address the members of the Syrian military and their role in this crisis. The role of any nation’s military is to defend the country and to protect the people, not to harm them. The United States believes the Syrian military should have an invaluable, integral role to play in the new democratic Syria, if it decides to fulfill its true purpose and stand with the Syrian people now.”
Ford queries the army wanting ” to help secure the role of the professional military in a democratic Syria by supporting the Syrian people and their transition …”
He talked of them being used in “President Assad’s campaign of torture and terror,” of “destruction, massacre,” thus: “abhorrent (running) counter to international law and the ethics of military professionalism … Soldiers should know that under international law, they have a responsibility to uphold basic human rights and that they do not escape responsibility for violations simply because they are subject to orders.”
Quite. Has the Ambassador glanced toward the behaviour of US forces in neighbouring Iraq or in Afghanistan? The massacres, rapes of young and old, the use of children as human shields, often luring them with sweets,toys – now well documented – plus torture, disappearances and Stalinesque “re-education centres”? 
It has never been adequately established what the scary name “re-education” centre did or taught.
Prior to invading Iraq, prominent military leaders such as Lt. Gen. William Boykin also described the war in evangelical terms, casting the U.S. military as the “army of God.”
Indeed Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has stated that a cadre of forty U.S. chaplains took part in a 2003 project to distribute 2.4 million Arabic-language Bibles in Iraq.
A 2003 newsletter for the group notes that, “The goal is to establish a wedge for the kingdom of God in the Middle East, directly affecting the Islamic world.” (iv)
A Lt. Colonel Gary Hensley expounded on the need to spread the Gospel:
“The special forces guys – they hunt men basically,” he said. “We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the Hound of Heaven after them, so we get them into the Kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.”
Back to the Ambassador who hit the “road to Damascus” on his personal Crusade and who clearly subscribes to the “activists say”school of “fact” gathering, since his claims come from barely a single named source on the ground, and from “informants” in Paris, London and Washington who have risen without trace.
The Syrian military was also, opined Robert Ford: “acting as a leading destabilizing force.” That should win the hearts and minds of a proud army, from a proud country, losing numerous friends and colleagues fighting a seemingly foreign fomented insurgency.
Ford should know a bit about destabilizing: “A few short weeks after his arrival” (surely coincidentally) “a wave of pro-democracy protests swept through the Middle East and public protests in Syria launched an uprising. Ford’s robust diplomacy on the ground in Syria centered on a strong show of support for the Syrian opposition movement.
Ford’s physical presence in Hama, without official sanction from the Syrian government, functioned as a visible statement of support (for the opposition). Ford continued to support the opposition by attending protestor funerals, speaking with Syrians on the ground and through social media, and educating Americans via satellite images and descriptions of the conflict on the Embassy’s official website.”(v)
Former CIA intelligence officer, Michael Scheuer, has alleged that prior to Ford’s flight from Syria, he was traveling across the country inciting groups to overthrow the government.
On the 15th of June, the Facebook update displayed a map: “This map is an update of the one we originally posted on April 27 which shows the number of people displaced by the violence in Syria. The Assad regime is a destabilizing force both within Syria and throughout the region.” Verifiable facts were noticeable by omission.
Of course, no US propaganda campaign would be complete without a mass grave, so an aerial view of a patch of land which contextually means absolutely nothing, is obligingly declared one. (Don’t mention Falluja, Najav, Kerbala, Basra, Baghdad, Mosul, Tel Afar …).
On the 22nd of June, the entry cited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accusing Syria of: “… not doing enough to stop slavery …” That one really does come from the “Must do better” collection.
The following day was the gleeful announcement that, “The head of the Syrian Olympic Committee, General Mowaffak Joumaa, has been refused a visa to travel to London for the Olympic Games.” (Given London’s missile-loaded war ships, ground to air missiles on the roofs, the attack helicopters, the drones, the experimental “sonic weapon” and thousands of twitchy, armed to the teeth FBI agents, for the Olympics, he may anyway feel safer in Syria).
The Ambassador without an Embassy is also worried about the Crusaders’ castle. His entry on the subject reads:
“The Krak de Chevaliers/Qala’at al-Hosn was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is a gem of Crusader … architecture. Are the Syrian authorities fulfilling their obligations to the Syrian people and to the international community when it comes to site preservation and protection?”
This is apart from the fact that the “Syrian authorities” may have other things on their minds and the Castle has stood for approaching a thousand years, perhaps Robert Ford’s concern for the regional heritage of the “international community” should also address America’s destruction of Babylon, damage to Ur (ongoing under his watch whilst serving at the US Embassy in Baghdad 2004-2005), the sacking of Iraq’s treasures in the National Museum, the looting of libraries, which has been compared to the historic tragedy of the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria up to sixteen centuries ago. (vi)
The Ambassador’s outreach, however, is not getting an entirely glitch free ride, there are persistent dissenters. One, Brian Souter, leaves uncomfortably insightful one-liners, they disappear, but he doggedly returns. Another Anas Salih, left this:
“Hey Yankees, I’m an Iraqi and know all your Hollywood stories in Iraq, so you better not fall in the same mistake again. Al Qaeda in Syria killing hundreds of people each day in the name of their belief – there is no way that the Syrian regime is doing all this to stay in power.
“It is crystal clear now that this is not a revolution, it is insurgency and terrorism. Every day, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are providing funding of millions of dollars to arm the opposition … no matter how hard those terrorists will try, eventually you will see that Bashar (al Assad) has nothing to do with any killing or bombing.
“Hopefully not too late because each day another soul is being taken from its body. The lives we have lost in Iraq, kids ,women, men and animals all because of you, USA, so don’t try to be a hero and show compassion (sic) now … ” (Removed in last twenty-four hours, but copied directly and only spelling corrected.)
Ambassador Ford has written that there are “parallels” with Syria and the Balkans. The cynic might say the “parallel” is the alleged “hired hands.” Historian, David Halberstam, (“War in a Time of Peace” pb 2003, p347) quotes deputy to the Balkans “Tzar” Richard Holbrooke, Bob Frasure – regarding US training and arming of the Croats – who passed Holbrooke a scribbled note in a meeting, on the back of a place card, “Dick, we ‘hired’ these guys as our junkyard dogs because we were desperate … this is no time to get squeamish …”
On the 7th of May, “Robert S. Ford was presented with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library by Caroline Kennedy. He was honored for his bold and courageous diplomacy which has provided crucial support to Syrians …”
Crusade: “Medieval military expeditions undertaken by the Christian powers … to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims.”


 
i.             
 
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-cairo-university-6-04-09

ii.
           
 http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31096

iii.
          
http://www.facebook.com/syria.usembassy

iv.
      
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/06/18/christian-soldiers.html

v         

http://diplopundit.net/2012/05/07/jfk-profile-in-courage-award-honors-u-s-ambassador-to-syria-robert-s-ford/

vi.           

http://www.bede.org.uk/library.htm



Prepared for publication by:

Lisa Karpova

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Germany takes hard line in advance of EU summit

By Stefan Steinberg 
29 June 2012
German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw down the gauntlet to Europe and Washington on the eve of the two-day European Union summit in Brussels, which began Thursday. According to press reports, Merkel told an internal meeting of her ruling coalition on Tuesday that she would never accept euro bonds in her lifetime.
On Wednesday, she issued a scathing critique before the German parliament of a policy statement released the day before by European Council President Harman Van Rompuy laying out proposals to restructure the European Union in order to save the euro currency. The statement, released in the name of the European Commission President Manuel Barroso, Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi as well as Van Rompuy, is to be a major topic on the agenda of the summit.
“I profoundly disagree with the stance taken in the report that precedence is given to mutualization [of debt], and that more control and enforceable commitments take a second place and are phrased in very imprecise terms,” she said.
She added that euro bonds and proposals for a common debt repayment fund were “economically wrong, counterproductive and in breach of the German constitution.
These statements effectively rule out any possibility of agreement at the Brussels meeting on how to deal with the rapidly escalating euro crisis.
The introduction of euro bonds plus common debt repayment measures for individual European states are key demands to be discussed in Brussels. The call for euro bonds has been raised with increasing insistence in recent months by France, Italy and Spain, as well as the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the US government.
Earlier this week, US President Obama advised Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to increase pressure on the German government to agree to the introduction of euro bonds plus short-term measures to fund ailing European banks.
The summit takes place against a background of growing economic crisis and financial instability in a number of major European countries. Despite the pledge by European leaders two weeks ago to invest 100 billion euros in the ailing Spanish banking system, the yield on Spanish ten-year bonds is once again approaching the critical level of 7 percent. Yields on Italian bonds have risen to their highest level in a year, and this week the island nation of Cyprus announced it would be the fifth European state to apply for a bailout from the EU.
Warning of a popular backlash should the summit fail to agree on concrete measures, Monti told reporters that disenchantment with government and European policy could unleash ‘political forces which say ‘let European integration, let the euro, let this or that large country go to hell,’” a development which “would be a disaster for the whole of the European Union.” In its characterisation of the summit, the German newspaper Die Weltcompared Europe to the Titanic heading for the iceberg.
In the face of a concerted pressure from financial institutions and European governments for short-term measures to infuse new funds into the banks, Merkel once again declared that there were “no quick, no easy” solutions and no “magic formula” to resolve the crisis.
In her previous statements on euro bonds, Merkel had indicated she was prepared to support their introduction, but only after substantive moves had been made toward fiscal and political union in Europe, i.e., that individual nations would agree to hand over control of their tax and budgetary policies to Brussels.
Merkel’s comments this week indicate that the German government has hardened its position and is now unwilling to support euro bonds under any circumstances. It has received flanking support from the opposition Social Democratic Party, formerly a firm advocate of euro bonds, which has dropped the issue in recent weeks.
Under conditions where any fundamental agreement is ruled out, European leaders are already damping down expectations. European Commission President Barroso declared that it would be sufficient if the meeting could provide “orientation and a line,” and declared that “it would be a mistake to believe that one summit could calm the markets.”
Barroso’s remarks are largely for public consumption. Behind the scenes, EU diplomats are working furiously to accommodate the banks. In particular, discussions centre on plans to permit the existing European bailout funds to directly buy government bonds. The present practice is that bailout funds can be awarded only to states. Italy and Spain are pushing hard for expanded use of bailout funds to prop up their banks. On Thursday, Merkel brusquely dismissed the demands of the Italian premier.
Media commentators are united in declaring that a precondition for any deal to prevent a meltdown of the euro is a level of agreement between the continent’s two largest economies, France and Germany. On Wednesday evening, Merkel flew to Paris for talks with President Francois Hollande just hours before the summit was due to begin. No details of the talks have been leaked, but Merkel’s categorical rejection of key points on the summit agenda indicate that there was no agreement between the two leaders.
A number of commentaries have presented the policy differences between Paris and Berlin as a conflict between growth and austerity. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One French “success” the summit will undoubtedly parade at the end of its two days of discussions is the “growth pact,” already agreed at a special meeting of the French, German, Spanish and Italian heads of government last Friday. The 120 billion-euro package was presented in the press as a significant initiative to counteract the negative effects of austerity programs and social cuts with a “growth” component aimed at creating jobs and reviving ailing economies.
In fact, as a recent article in Der Spiegel points out, the pact consists chiefly of “empty promises, hot air and accounting tricks” aimed at the electorate and with no positive consequences for jobs of economic growth. An internal European analysis concludes that the pact contains nothing new and was primarily aimed at allowing the French president to save face.
Both Hollande and Merkel are intent on fulfilling the demands of the financial elite and extending austerity across the continent. But France, with its weaker economy and heavy financial exposure in southern Europe, seeks to ensure that Germany opens up the money faucets to bail out the European banks.
Germany, for its part, insists that France and the rest of Europe yield sovereign control of their economies in exchange for financial support. Such a concession is unacceptable to France, which demands the right to impose its own austerity measures without interference from Germany.
EU leaders will likely issue a pro forma statement at the end of the summit stressing their determination to tackle the crisis, but tensions both within the EU and between Europe and America are reaching a critical mass.

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US Supreme Court upholds Obama’s health care law

By Kate Randall 
29 June 2012
In a 5-4 US Supreme Court decision released on Thursday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined with the nominally liberal wing of the high court to uphold key provisions of the Obama administration-backed health care legislation.
The decision maintains the pro-corporate provisions of the bill, including the “individual mandate” to purchase insurance from private insurers. At the same time, the court undermined the key constitutional arguments used to support corporate regulations. It also ruled that the federal government cannot withdraw existing Medicaid funding from states that decide not to participate in an expansion of eligibility for the program.
The ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed into law in March 2010, was predictably hailed by President Obama. Coming five months before the presidential election, he said it was a “victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure.” Congressional Republicans and presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, meanwhile, vowed to work to repeal the legislation in November.
The ruling was also trumpeted by liberal publications as a great victory for health care and for ordinary people. In reality, the decision upholds legislation whose main purpose is to cut costs for corporations and the government, while slashing billions of dollars from Medicare and other social programs.
Every step of the way, the bill was crafted to meet the demands of the private insurers, the pharmaceutical lobby and the giant health care chains. Any vestige of what could be termed a “reform” has been stripped away—including the inclusion of a government-run option on the health care exchange.
What remains is a requirement that all but the poorest individuals purchase insurance or pay a penalty. The insurance industry will be guaranteed a new influx of tens of millions of cash-paying customers, and there will be no meaningful oversight over what they can charge for premiums. The legislation is still purposefully unclear about what “minimal” standards employers and insurers must meet for coverage.
This is under conditions of a deep budgetary crisis for virtually all US states. Along with the federal government, they have responded by slashing Medicaid and other health care programs. At the same time, corporations are dumping or slashing insurance policies as part of an attack on wages and benefits. The general impact of the law will be to shift these costs onto the backs of individuals, who will be left to the mercy of private insurers offering less and less coverage for higher premiums.
Moreover, millions will likely remain without insurance, unable to afford it given the very limited subsidies, but still forced to pay a penalty of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
In his remarks hailing the ruling, Obama placed emphasis on certain provisions of the bill that are popular—such as proscribing lifetime limits on insurance payouts and requiring insurers to offer plans to individuals with preexisting conditions. However, the largest insurers have already modified their cost structures to maintain profit levels with these provisions, and had announced that they would leave them in even if the law were overturned.
The reactionary character of the legislation—and the law that it upholds—was underscored by the fact that the majority opinion was written by Justice Roberts, traditionally part of the four-justice right-wing bloc. He was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been anticipated as the “swing vote” on the court, sided with justices Samuel A. Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in their own thoroughly right-wing dissent.
While upholding the health care reform, the ruling was based on arguments that will serve to undermine corporate regulations and social programs. In particular, Justice Roberts joined with the other right-wing justices in rejecting the administration’s argument that the law was constitutional on the basis of the government’s ability to regulate commerce (the Commerce Clause of the Constitution). Instead, he based the ruling on the government’s authority to use its taxation powers (likening the penalty for those who do not purchase insurance to an additional tax).
On the Commerce Clause, Roberts wrote, “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it.”
This ruling is highly significant because, beginning in the New Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s, Supreme Court decisions used the Commerce Clause to support the authority to prohibit child labor, regulate corporations and justify social reforms.
For the past 15 years the Supreme Court has worked to set limits on the scope of this clause when it comes to social issues. In a separate 61-page opinion, Justice Ginsburg called Robert’s arguments on the Commerce Clause “stunningly retrogressive,” noting that they harken back to the era before the New Deal “in which the Court routinely thwarted Congress’ efforts to regulate the national economy in the interest of those who labor to sustain it.”
The one provision of the health care law that the court rejected was the only measure relating to the expansion of government programs for health insurance. Under terms of the act, Medicaid, which is jointly administered by the states and federal government, would be expanded to cover all individuals under the age of 65 with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level or less.
The move would account for some 11 million newly insured individuals—who will receive the bare-bones care provided by Medicaid. According to the legislation, the federal government would provide 100 percent of the funds to cover this expansion of Medicaid up to 2016, gradually decreasing to 90 percent thereafter.
As the bill was written, if a state did not implement this expansion, the federal government could withhold all of its funding for Medicaid to that state. The high court rejected this in the strongest terms, writing, “In this case, the financial ‘inducement’ Congress has chosen is much more than ‘relatively mild encouragement’—it is a gun to the head.”
Roberts goes on to state, “The original program was designed to cover medical services for four particular categories of the needy: the disabled, the blind, the elderly, and needy families with dependent children.” But under the health care law, he writes, “It is no longer a program to care for the neediest among us, but rather an element of a comprehensive national plan to provide universal health insurance coverage.”
In fact, the Medicaid expansion—and the health care law as a whole—has nothing in common with “universal health insurance coverage.” Nevertheless, the motive is clear: it aims to limit the ability of the federal government to impose requirements on the states to expand health coverage.
The majority ruling in its favor of the legislation is an indication of a general consensus for the Affordable Care Act within the ruling political establishment. Roberts clearly made a highly political decision aimed at ensuring that the law was not overturned.
The differences within the ruling establishment over the bill have nothing to do with improving the health and lives of ordinary Americans, and everything to do with how best to impose the type of savage cuts demanded by the financial elite in health care and other social programs.
A solution to the very real health care crisis faced by millions of working people and their families is not to be found in any of the institutions of the bourgeois state or in either big business party, Democrat or Republican. The answer lies in putting an end to the privately owned health care corporations and medicine-for-profit and the establishing of genuine, socialized medicine.

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Igniting the Syrian powder keg

29 June 2012
While billed as a last-chance intervention to halt the escalating bloodletting in Syria, the foreign ministers meeting convened by UN envoy Kofi Annan in Geneva for Saturday will merely set the stage for intensified demands by Washington and its allies for regime-change.
In advance of the meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other Western officials have made wildly optimistic statements that Annan’s efforts will bear fruit, publicly indicating that Russia, which has opposed foreign intervention in Syria, has shifted its position and is now supporting the ouster of the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, denied these claims at a press conference in Tunisia Thursday. “We are not supporting and will not support any external meddling,” he said, adding that “this also applies to the fate of Bashar al-Assad.”
Undoubtedly, Washington is playing a double game here. On the one hand, it is attempting to exert as much pressure as possible on Moscow to knuckle under to imperialist intervention in Syria. On the other, it is laying the groundwork for another propaganda campaign, this one aimed at casting Russia as the impediment to “peace,” even as the US and its allies dramatically escalate their not-so-covert war.
Within Syria, this war has taken an ever more deadly form, marked by a wave of terrorist attacks in and around the capital of Damascus. Thursday saw strikes with powerful car bombs on the Palace of Justice in downtown Damascus as well on a local police station.
The day before, “rebels” attacked a television station located in a Damascus suburb. They ransacked the offices and studios before demolishing them with explosives and executed seven journalists and security guards, who were bound, forced to their knees and shot in cold blood.
UN officials have stated that the violence in Syria has “reached or even surpassed” the levels that prevailed before the April 12 ceasefire agreement brokered by Annan. Moreover, they have noted, the killing is no longer so much a matter of pro- versus anti-government forces. Rather, “victims appear to have been targeted because of their religious affiliation.”
In the name of “democracy,” “human rights,” and “humanitarianism,” US imperialism and its allies have plunged Syria into a sectarian civil war. While feigning support for Annan’s ceasefire plan, Washington has armed the so-called “rebels,” who are increasingly dominated by Sunni Islamist elements, including those connected to Al Qaeda. The US claims to be providing these forces only with “non-lethal” aid—communications gear and intelligence used to coordinate attacks—but it has sent a contingent of CIA operatives to the Turkish-Syrian border to coordinate the distribution of weaponry paid for by Washington’s regional client states, the monarchical dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The criminal and reckless character of US policy is becoming more apparent with each passing day. The regional, ethnic and religious tensions that have been stoked up by the imperialist intervention in Syria are not only creating conditions for a bloodbath in that country, but threaten to drag the entire region into war.
On Thursday, it was reported in the Turkish press that columns of military vehicles carrying tanks, rocket-launchers and artillery have been sent to the Syrian border in response to Syria’s shooting down last week of a Turkish fighter plane. The downed jet was apparently probing Syria’s air defenses.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that Turkey will “teach those who dare to test the limits of its might,” and officials in Ankara have indicated that the rules of engagement have been changed on the border, with any Syrian forces approaching the frontier to be treated as a hostile force. This could set the stage for open warfare, with other NATO powers pledged to support Turkey.
Meanwhile, there are mounting signs that the sectarian conflict let loose in Syria is spreading across the country’s borders to Lebanon, which fought its own protracted civil war along similar lines, and to Iraq, where a string of bombings targeting Shi’ite pilgrims and shrines have killed over 150 people this month, threatening to reignite the sectarian bloodbath triggered by the US military occupation in 2006-07.
One of the clearest indications of Washington’s real intentions is the Obama administration’s blocking of Iran from attending the Geneva conference this Saturday. The State Department declared participation by Iran—which had been proposed by Annan—a “red line” that would result in a US boycott.
If the aim was a negotiated peace agreement, the presence of Iran, Syria’s principal regional ally, would seem indispensable. That, however, is not what the US has in mind. It is determined to bring about regime-change, no matter how many Syrian lives it costs. Moreover, it sees the creation of a puppet state in Syria as a stepping stone to a wider and potentially far bloodier campaign to overturn the government of Iran as well. The attempts to overturn the regimes in both Syria and Iran lead inevitably to a conflict with Russia and China, which view these countries as strategic partners.
Having waged two major wars over the past decade, in Afghanistan and Iraq, US imperialism has embarked on a seemingly endless series of military interventions—from Libya to Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Syria—aimed at establishing American hegemony over the energy-rich regions of Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
This campaign of aggression is an attempt to offset the economic decline of American capitalism, which has only intensified as a result of the economic crisis unleashed by the financial meltdown of 2008, by making use of its residual military might.
As the bitter experiences of the 20th century have proven, the attempts of imperialist powers to re-divide the world at the expense of their rivals lead inexorably to world war.
These are the real stakes in Syria. The working class must oppose the US-led intervention on the principled basis that settling accounts with the Assad regime is the task of the working class, not the predatory imperialist powers that are seeking to foment a sectarian war in order to further the colonial-style subjugation of the entire region.
Bill Van Auken

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Palestinians, Denied Statehood, Increasingly ‘Question the Point of the P.A.

By Philip Weiss

June 28, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Excellent piece in the Economist from Balata Camp in Nablus states what anyone who visits the occupation knows, this can’t last. The political efforts to end the occupation have failed, the likelihood of violence is high. And, implicitly, the Palestinian Authority is a stooge government like the Bantustan governments the South Africans sought to install (a devastating theme of the great new film, Roadmap to Apartheid, which I saw last night in New York).
Economist:
Nablus’s commercial regeneration cannot cure a gnawing national malaise. “There is no political horizon,” say disgruntled Palestinians. They increasingly question the point of the PA. It has failed to usher in a Palestinian state, and appears powerless to prevent Israeli military incursions or the relentless expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. “All the windows are closed, and the political elite has no keys to open them,” says Raid Nairat, an academic. The West Bank’s 30,000 security forces seem unkeen on a recent quest for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas that would force them to share power. Their recent round-up of 150 Hamas men helped dampen hopes of a deal….
Few Palestinians call for a renewal of violence. But such talk is again in the air. In some West Bank towns Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extreme Islamist group, has been making headway. “A Muslim army should defend Muslims, not Jews,” says an angry Islamist, denouncing the PA’s security co-ordination with Jewish kuffar (unbelievers).
 Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net

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The Wake-Up May Be Too Late

By Philip Giraldi
June 28, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Is it possible that Americans are finally waking up to the dangers resulting from Washington’s involvement in Israel’s foreign policy? In the New York Times on June 24th there was an astonishing feature opinion piece by Professor Misha Glenny writing from London about “A Weapon We Can’t Control.” The editorial slammed the “decision by the United States and Israel to develop and then deploy the Stuxnet computer worm against an Iranian nuclear facility,” describing the development as a “significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the internet.” Glenny warned that to use such a devastating weapon in peacetime will “very likely lead to the spread of similar and still more powerful offensive cyberweaponry across the Internet,” also noting that “virus developers generally lose control of their inventions, which will inevitably seek out and attack the networks of innocent parties.”
Glenny also mentioned the second generation Flame virus, developed jointly by Israel and the US, and which has now spread to computers throughout the Middle East.
On the same day in the same issue of the Times, Jimmy Carter chimed in with an op-ed, “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” which asserted that “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.” Carter did not mention Israel or name President Obama, but the decade long transition of the United States into a nation that believes itself to be above the law, following the Israeli example, would have been all too clear for the reader.
One day before the editorial and op-ed’s appearance, there was also another emperor’s new clothes moment at the Times. Regular columnist Nicholas Kristof had just completed a trip across Iran with his family in tow. And guess what? He found in “Not-So-Crazy in Tehran” that Iran was a “complex country,” not a police state, has a “vigorous parliament and news media,” and most university students are women who later obtain important jobs after graduation. Kristof’s advice? “Let’s not bluster…or operate on caricatures. And let’s not choose bombs over sanctions…”
I would add that it is about time that people in the United States begin to realize that unlimited support of Israel has turned US foreign policy into the poison that is bidding to destroy the republic.
Alas, over the same weekend that the Times was possibly coming to its senses, Mitt Romney was meeting in Park City Utah with his large donors. At a breakout session to discuss his support of Israel he revealed that he speaks regularly with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to get advice on the Middle East. Unseemly does not begin to describe such an arrangement, as Oren is not exactly a disinterested party re the advice he is giving. Oh, and Bill Kristol and Michael Chertoff also spoke to the pro-Israel group.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.

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Brussels

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News 2200

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Deep-Sixing the China Option How the Obama Administration Is Stalling Its Way to War with Iran

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
June 28, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Since talks with Iran over its nuclear development started up again in April, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that Tehran will not be allowed to “play for time” in the negotiations. In fact, it is the Obama administration that is playing for time.
Some suggest that President Obama is trying to use diplomacy to manage the nuclear issue and forestall an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear targets through the U.S. presidential election. In reality, his administration is “buying time” for a more pernicious agenda: time for covert action to sabotage Tehran’s nuclear program; time for sanctions to set the stage for regime change in Iran; and time for the United States, its European and Sunni Arab partners, and Turkey to weaken the Islamic Republic by overthrowing the Assad government in Syria.
Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, Antony J. Blinken, hinted at this in February, explaining that the administration’s Iran policy is aimed at “buying time and continuing to move this problem into the future, and if you can do that — strange things can happen in the interim.” Former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy — now out of government and advising Obama’s reelection campaign — told an Israeli audience this month that, in the administration’s view, it is also important to go through the diplomatic motions before attacking Iran so as not to “undermine the legitimacy of the action.”
New York Times’ journalist David Sanger recently reported that, “from his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons” — even though he knew this “could enable other countries, terrorists, or hackers to justify” cyberattacks against the United States. Israel — which U.S. intelligence officials say is sponsoring assassinations of Iranian scientists and other terrorist attacks in Iran — has been intimately involved in the program.
Classified State Department cables published by WikiLeaks show that, from the beginning of the Obama presidency, he and his team saw diplomacy primarily as a tool to build international support for tougher sanctions, including severe restrictions on Iranian oil exports. And what is the aim of such sanctions? Earlier this year, administration officials toldthe Washington Post that their purpose was to turn the Iranian people against their government. If this persuades Tehran to accept U.S. demands to curtail its nuclear activities, fine; if the anger were to result in the Islamic Republic’s overthrow, many in the administration would welcome that.
Since shortly after unrest broke out in Syria, the Obama team has been calling for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, expressing outrage over what they routinely describe as the deaths of thousands of innocent people at the hands of Syrian security forces. But, for more than a year, they have been focused on another aspect of the Syrian situation, calculating that Assad’s fall or removal would be a sharp blow to Tehran’s regional position — and might even spark the Islamic Republic’s demise. That’s the real impetus behind Washington’s decision to provide “non-lethal” support to Syrian rebels attacking government forces, while refusing to back proposals for mediating the country’s internal conflicts which might save lives, but do not stipulate Assad’s departure upfront.


Meeting with Iranian oppositionists last month, State Department officials aptly summarized Obama’s Iran policy priorities this way: the “nuclear program, its impact on the security of Israel, and avenues for regime change.” With such goals, how could his team do anything but play for time in the nuclear talks? Two former State Department officials who worked on Iran in the early months of Obama’s presidency are on record confirming that the administration “never believed that diplomacy could succeed” — and was “never serious” about it either.
How Not to Talk to Iran
Simply demanding that Iran halt its nuclear activities and ratcheting up pressure when it does not comply will not, however, achieve anything for America’s position in the Middle East. Western powers have been trying to talk Iran out of its civil nuclear program for nearly 10 years. At no point has Tehran been willing to surrender its sovereign right to indigenous fuel cycle capabilities, including uranium enrichment.
Sanctions and military threats have only reinforced its determination. Despite all the pressure exerted by Washington and Tel Aviv, the number of centrifuges operating in Iran has risen over the past five years from less than 1,000 to more than 9,000. Yet Tehran has repeatedly offered, in return for recognition of its right to enrich, to accept more intrusive monitoring of — and, perhaps, negotiated limits on — its nuclear activities.
Greater transparency for recognition of rights: this is the only possible basis for a deal between Washington and Tehran. It is precisely the approach that Iran has advanced in the current series of talks. Rejecting it only guarantees diplomatic failure — and the further erosion of America’s standing, regionally and globally.
George W. Bush’s administration refused to accept safeguarded enrichment in Iran. Indeed, it refused to talk at all until Tehran stopped its enrichment program altogether. This only encouraged Iran’s nuclear development, while polls showthat, by defying American diktats, Tehran has actually won support among regional publics for its nuclear stance.
Some highly partisan analysts claim that, in contrast to Bush, Obama was indeed ready from early in his presidency to accept the principle and reality of safeguarded enrichment in Iran. And when his administration failed at every turn to act in a manner consistent with a willingness to accept safeguarded enrichment, the same analysts attributed this to congressional and Israeli pressure.
In truth, Obama and his team have never seriously considered enrichment acceptable. Instead, the president himselfdecided, early in his tenure, to launch unprecedented cyberattacks against Iran’s main, internationally monitored enrichment facility. His team has resisted a more realistic approach not because a deal incorporating safeguarded enrichment would be bad for American security (it wouldn’t), but because accepting it would compel a more thoroughgoing reappraisal of the U.S. posture toward the Islamic Republic and, more broadly, of America’s faltering strategy of dominating the Middle East.
The China Option
Acknowledging Iran’s right to enrich would require acknowledging the Islamic Republic as a legitimate entity with legitimate national interests, a rising regional power not likely to subordinate its foreign policy to Washington (as, for example, U.S. administrations regularly expected of Egypt under Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak). It would mean coming to terms with the Islamic Republic in much the same way that the United States came to terms with the People’s Republic of China — another rising, independent power — in the early 1970s. 
America’s Iran policy remains stuck in a delusion similar to the one that warped its China policy for two decades after China’s revolutionaries took power in 1949 — that Washington could somehow isolate, strangle, and ultimately bring down a political order created through mass mobilization and dedicated to restoring national independence after a long period of Western domination. It didn’t work in the Chinese case and it’s not likely to in Iran either.
In one of the most consequential initiatives in American diplomatic history, President Nixon and Henry Kissinger finally accepted this reality and aligned Washington’s China policy with reality. Unfortunately, Washington’s Iran policy has not had its Nixonian moment yet, and so successive U.S. administrations — including Obama’s — persist in folly.
The fact is: Obama could have had a nuclear deal in May 2010, when Brazil and Turkey brokered an agreement for Iran to send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad in return for new fuel for a research reactor in Tehran. The accord met all the conditions spelled out in letters from Obama to then-Brazilian President Lula and Turkish Prime Minister ErdoÄŸan — but Obama rejected it, because it recognized Iran’s right to enrich. (That this was the main reason was affirmed by Dennis Ross, the architect of Obama’s Iran policy, earlier this year.) The Obama team has declined to reconsider its position since 2010 and, as a result, it is on its way to another diplomatic failure.
As Middle Eastern governments become somewhat more representative of their peoples’ concerns and preferences, they are also — as in Egypt and Iraq — becoming less inclined toward strategic deference to the United States. This challenges Washington to do something at which it is badly out of practice: pursue genuine diplomacy with important regional states, based on real give and take and mutual accommodation of core interests. Above all, reversing America’s decline requires rapprochement with the Islamic Republic (just as reviving its position in the early 1970s required rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China).
Instead, three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, his successor continues to insist that Iran surrender to Washington’s diktats or face attack. By doing so, Obama is locking America into a path that is increasingly likely to result in yet another U.S.-initiated war in the Middle East during the first years of the next presidential term. And the damage that war against Iran will inflict on America’s strategic position could make the Iraq debacle look trivial by comparison. 
Flynt Leverett is professor of international affairs at Penn State. Hillary Mann Leverett is senior professorial lecturer at American University. Together, they write the Race for Iran blog. Their new book, Going to Tehran: Why the United States Needs to Come to Terms With the Islamic Republic of Iran (Metropolitan Books), will be published in January 2013.
Copyright 2012 Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.

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Cyberthreat: Fact or fiction?

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Supreme Court Endorses Medical Tyranny

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MSM: CNN & FOX Epic Fail on SCOTUS Health Care Ruling

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Nigel Farage on the Failings of the EU Summit and an Antidemocratic Europe

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Supreme Court Sides with Corporatization of Medicine

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How much corruption can democracy endure?

By David Hoffman
How much corruption can democracy endure?. 47433.jpeg
How much corruption can a “democracy” endure before it ceases to be a democracy?
If five venal, mendacious, duplicitous, amoral, biased and (dare I say it) satanic Supreme Court “justices”-John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy-have their way, America will soon find out.
In several previous articles for Pravda.Ru, I have consistently warned how the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision is one of the biggest threats to democracy and freedom in the history of the United States.
As explained in these articles, Citizens United extended “freedom of speech” to corporations, giving them unbridled power to use their vast financial resources to corrupt politicians and influence the outcome of elections. Although this decision initially appeared to be “fair and balanced,” since labor unions were also given the right to freedom of speech, recent Court rulings have revealed that this appearance was nothing but a lie.
But even before this lie was exposed, it was evident that this “fairness and balance” was more illusory than real. In America today, labor unions only represent about 7% of workers in the private sector; therefore they can easily be outspent by corporations and billionaires.
Recently, in the case of American Traditional Partnership (ATP) v. Bullock, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to reduce Citizens United’scorrupting influence. 
It failed miserably. 
Now even state laws once designed to limit the amount of money corporations and billionaires could use to corrupt politicians and influence elections are “unconstitutional.”
In the wake of the ATP decision, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold-who had co-authored the campaign finance law nullified byCitizens United-openly condemned the Supreme Court as “an arm of corporate America” that is “wantonly willing to undo our democracy.”
This is not hyperbole. According to the Constitutional Accountability Center, the Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful lobbying groups for businesses in America, has a 68% win record in the Supreme Court since John Roberts took over as Chief Justice.
The ATP decision is alarmingly symptomatic of the Supreme Court’s Social Darwinistic quest to regress America back to the days of robber barons and copper bosses.
The state law struck down by ATP had been passed a century ago in response to the corrupting influence of the copper mining bosses in Montana. During that era, workers were often held to different standards than corporations. For example, when the demand for copper dramatically increased during World War I, price gouging mine owners often charged the government four times the amount that copper sold for in peacetime. Yet when union leader Frank Little organized a strike so workers could share in these profits, he was lynched and the miners he led were denounced for being “unpatriotic.”
So it was no surprise when the regressive Supreme Court embraced this double standard in the case ofKnox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Exactly seven days before the Knox ruling and eleven days before ATP, I wrote, in my article Democracy in the Hands of Idiots, Part II (Pravda.Ru, June 14, 2012), that the corporate and billionaire pimps exploitingCitizens United could possibly be hoisted on their own petards by numerous legal precedents that ban federal and state governments from taking away the financial resources of persons, groups and organizations engaged in lawful speech activities, even if [they] disagree with their message.”
Since Citizens United allegedly gave labor unions the right to freedom of speech, it was my contention that they could use this freedom to challenge “right to work” laws that detrimentally affect their financial resources, as well as laws, like those in Wisconsin, that prohibit the withholding of union dues from the paychecks of public sector union members. Presaging Feingold’s words, I contended that these challenges would either confirm that the Supreme Court was “sincere in its assertion that Citizens United applies fairly and equally to both corporations and labor unions” or they would expose the Court as a “facilitator for corporate and political corruption.”
A week after my article was published, Knox provided the answer: Today’s United States Supreme Court is the biggest facilitator of corporate and political corruption in American history. 
As MSNBC National Affairs Writer Tom Curry reported, the Knox ruling “dealt another election year blow to public sector unions” by stating that “non-union workers who benefit from union representation must affirmatively choose, or ‘opt in,’ to having their ‘agency fees’ used when a special dues increase or assessment is going to be used for political purposes.”
In this same article, Labor Law professor Susan Carle is quoted as saying that the Knox ruling is “a clear case of the court making it quitea bit harder for unions to spend money on political issues. And that is an interesting contrast to its other opinions in the line of Citizens United where the court is making it much easier for corporations to spend money on political purposes without much accountability to their shareholders at all. It’s a very interesting un-leveling of the playing field quite deliberately.”
In other words, “justice” in America has truly become “just us,” and the “us” are the corporations and rich robber barons who support them.
It would seem that such overt and shameless judicial bias and hypocrisy would inspire outrage and demands for reform throughout America, particularly since Supreme Court “justices” serve lifetime tenures and are unaccountable to the people. 
So on June 21, 2012, I argued for such reform and accountability in a Pravda.Ru article entitled The Supreme Court Should Not Be Supreme. Yet, unlike many of my previous articles, it did not attract much readership, and I could not help but wonder why.
Why are so many Americans failing to recognize that something needs to be done to prevent five unethical, biased, venal, mendacious and (dare I say it again) satanic Supreme Court justices from further exploiting their undeserved positions to change America from a democracy to a plutocracy? Why are Americans so blind to how ruthlessly and deviously these reprobates in black robes are destroying the fundamental rights and liberties of every person, group and/or organization that does not adhere to their avaricious and atavistic political philosophies?
It is also puzzling that this lack of outrage has endured even though the middle-class is evaporating from the American landscape. On November 8, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that 20% of Americans now control 85% of its wealth. And just this month CNN Money revealed that the average American family’s net worth has fallen nearly 40%, andBusiness Insider reported that corporations are making record profits while wages are at a record low.
Perhaps the tragic reality is that puppets can easily see other puppets, but cannot easily see the puppeteer; thus the “evil” in many people’s eyes is not the Supreme Court, or the corporations and billionaires methodically destroying democracy, but the “nasty old labor unions.” For these people, Nirvana will apparently be attained when members of these unions are paid the same low wages and denied the same benefits as their non-union counterparts. 
So while Nero fiddles and smirks, a plethora of Americans are refusing to ask why their livelihoods are burning, and instead are demanding that their neighbors’ livelihoods also be set ablaze so all can suffer equally, except, of course, the corporations and robber barons who are stealthily fanning the flames. 
This obliviousness has made America into everything it once claimed to abhor. The “war on terror”-with its extrajudicial executions (even of American citizens), detentions without charge or trial, use of torture, denials of legal due process and failures of the federal judiciary to curb governmental abuses-has reduced the United States to little more than a third-world dictatorship with first-world weapons. 
Now this obliviousness may also be leading America into the once despised communism of the old Soviet Union, where only two economic classes existed-a wealthy government bourgeoisie and an exploited proletariat. In the Supreme Court’s perverse vision for America, these two economic classes will exist again, only the bourgeoisie will be the corporations and robber barons that manipulate elections and covertly control the government, and the proletariat will be the working and non-working poor who pathetically fight amongst themselves for a slice of the 15% of America’s wealth that the bourgeoisie has not yet pilfered.
The issue is not whether one likes or loathes labor unions, but what is most conducive to the perpetuation of democracy and freedom. Can democracy and freedom ever be preserved if the voices of millions become disjointed and unintelligible because the Supreme Court has bankrupted every organization that once spoke for their interests? Will democracy and freedom even exist if the only voice heard is the unified, organized and well-financed voice of corporations and billionaire robber barons that have historically placed their greed and self-interests above the good of the nation?
So, as I said about the ignorant voters who retained Scott Walker in Wisconsin (Democracy in the Hands of Idiots, Pravda.Ru, June 7. 2012), I now also say of the biased, duplicitous, mendacious reprobates who make up the majority of today’s Supreme Court: They “have destroyed America, and the principles for which it once stood, more ruthlessly than any terrorist organization, they have committed acts of treason worse than any Benedict Arnold, [and] they have condemned millions of Americans to wage slavery, living debt-ridden, hand-to-mouth existences while the rich buy and sell politicians like trading cards.”
In addition, they have dishonored every Revolutionary War soldier, every suffragette, and every civil rights marcher who struggled, sacrificed, and often died to obtainthe right to vote, because in a nation where only the rich can be heard, voting becomes a vacuous charade.
Unfortunately, mere words are incapable of communicating just how despicable Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy truly are. So suffice it to say that their names should be cursed and reviled, now and throughout eternity, by anyone who possesses even a modicum of decency or humanity.
Oftentimes I conclude my Pravda.Ru articles with the assertion that nature, or God if you wish, is the great equalizer, and thus the benefits of material wealth and political power are fleeting and limited by one’s own mortality.
Sadly that is not the case with America’s legal system. The corrupt and disingenuous legal precedents now being set by Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy have the potential to endure long after these men are deservedly rotting in hell.
So how much corruption can a democracy endure before it ceases to be a democracy?
Thanks to five of the most evil men to ever bastardize the United States Supreme Court, America will soon find out.
David R. Hoffman
Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru

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The U.S. & Syria: Facts You Should Know

By Joyce Chediac
June 28, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — The following timeline reviews the progression of U.S.-NATO intervention in Syria and counteracts the Big Lie in the corporate media aimed at preparing open imperialist military aggression against the Syrian people.
Sanctions follow establishing opposition
• Washington has funneled money to a right-wing Syrian opposition group since at least 2005. (Washington Post, April 16, 2011)
• The U.S. reopened its embassy in Damascus in January 2011 after six years. This was no thaw in relations. The new ambassador, Robert S. Ford, who served until October 2011, is a protégé of John Negroponte, who organized death squads in El Salvador in the 1970s and in Iraq while ambassador there in 2004-05. There terror squads killed tens of thousands. Ford served directly under Negroponte at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
• Ford “played a central role in laying the groundwork within Syria as well as establishing contacts with opposition groups.” Two months after he arrived in Damascus, the armed insurgency began. (Global Research, May 28)
• Armed opposition to Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011 in Daraa, a small town on the Jordanian border. Mass protest movements usually start in large population centers. Later, Saudi Arabia admitted sending weapons to the opposition via Jordan. (RT, March 13)
• The U. S. and its NATO allies used grassroots protests in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere as a cover to build support for right-wing insurgencies whose goal was not to help the Syrian people but to bring Syria into the pro-imperialist camp. Any excesses or mistakes by the Assad government were not the real issue.
• The Arab League, European Union and U.S. begin imposing economic sanctions, a form of warfare, against Syria in November 2011 on the pretext of stopping state-sanctioned violence against protesters. Stepped-up sanctions and freezing of Syrian assets caused the value of the Syrian pound to drop by 50 percent against the dollar, with the cost of necessities often tripling.
• Exiles who received U.S. funding became part of the Syrian National Council. SNC’s Burhan Ghalioun said he would open up Syria to the West, end Syria’s strategic relationship with Iran (and with the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance), and realign Syria with the reactionary Arab regimes in the Gulf. (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 2, 2011)
U.S. & NATO escalate involvement
• Ex-CIA agent Philip Giraldi admitted that the U.S. was involved in Syria and laid out the U.S. plan: “NATO is already clandestinely engaged in the Syrian conflict, with Turkey taking the lead as U.S. proxy. Ankara’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davitoglu, has openly admitted that his country is prepared to invade as soon as there is agreement among the Western allies to do so. The intervention would be based on humanitarian principles, to defend the civilian population based on the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine that was invoked to justify Libya.” (theamericanconservative.com, Dec. 19, 2011)
• Giraldi continued: “Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to … the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers. … French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence. …
• “The frequently cited United Nations report that more than 3,500 civilians have been killed by Assad’s soldiers is based largely on rebel sources and is uncorroborated. Likewise, accounts of mass defections from the Syrian Army and pitched battles between deserters and loyal soldiers appear to be a fabrication, with few defections being confirmed independently. Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained, and financed by foreign governments are more true than false.”
• The “Free Syrian Army” has rear bases in Turkey, is funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and is made up of defecting Syrian soldiers. Spiegel Online sites a source in Beirut who reports seeing “‘hundreds of foreign fighters’ who have attached themselves to the FSA.” (Feb. 15)
• The U.N.-mandated commission of inquiry, in its February 2012 report, documented torture, taking of hostages, and executions by armed opposition members.
• The first heavy fighting in Syria’s capital, Damascus, started in March. Pipelines were blown up, and huge explosions ripped through intelligence and security buildings in Christian areas on March 16, killing at least 27 people. The Syrian government charged then that terrorist attacks supported from abroad have been responsible for eight car bomb attacks since December, killing 328 and wounding 657. This got little Western media attention.
• Human Rights Watch on March 20 accused armed Syrian opposition members of “Kidnappings, the use of torture and executions … of security force members, individuals identified as members of government-supported militias, and individuals identified as government allies and supporters.”
• In the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs, the armed opposition has formed its own laws, courts and death squads, according to Spiegel Online. Abu Rami, an opposition commander in Baba Amir, interviewed by Spiegel, said in the city of Homs his group has executed between 200 and 250 people. (March 29)
U.N. steps in
• Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan went to Syria in March at the behest of the U.N. and Arab League to put together a peace proposal. But Annan and the U.N. are not impartial. Annan is an architect of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, cited by former CIA agent Giraldi as the planned pretext for intervention in Syria. The U.N. endorsed this doctrine under Annan’s tenure.
• In 2004, Annan gave U.N. approval to the U.S., French and Canadian intervention that deposed Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Annan’s stated reasons were the same then as now in Syria: an alleged impending “humanitarian catastrophe.” Annan provided a similar U.N. cover for France to tighten its colonial grasp on the Ivory Coast in 2006. In Syria, Annan’s calls for a Syrian government ceasefire and for outside “humanitarian” aid are really calls for foreign intervention.
• Syria agreed to an Annan-brokered ceasefire March 27. The opposition refused. While the Western heads of state and the corporate media heaped blame on Assad for “not honoring” the ceasefire, the West kept arming the opposition.
• What the U.S. government really thought of the ceasefire was revealed by Robert Grenier, former director of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center, who called upon those who would “help” Syria “to climb metaphorically into the ring and dirty themselves,” adding, “what the situation needs is not high-minded sentiments, but effective, lethal aid.” (Al Jazeera, March 29)
• As the imperialists “climbed into the ring,” they continued to blame Assad. Speaking at an anti-Assad “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul on April 1, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Assad had “defiled” the ceasefire. She called for Damascus to unilaterally stop fighting and withdraw from areas of heavy right-wing infiltration. She said the U.S had pledged at least $25 million in “nonlethal” aid to the Syrian opposition, which included satellite communication equipment.
• By May, the reactionaries “have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons … paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated … by the U.S.” (Washington Post, May 15) “The Syrian rebels have received their first ‘third generation’ anti-tank weapons. They are supplied by Saudi and Qatari intelligence agencies following a secret message from President Barack Obama.” (debkafile.com, May 22)
The Houla massacre
• Right before a scheduled visit to Syria by Annan, news broke of a horrible massacre of 108 people in Houla on May 25, which included whole families and as many as 48 children. Headlines worldwide blamed the Syrian government, and all Western capitals called for increased sanctions and more international pressure on Assad.
• By May 27, the imperialists had coordinated their “international outrage” and expelled Syrian diplomats from the U.S., the Netherlands, Australia, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria and Canada.
• The U.N. Security Council reacted to the massacre — with no investigation as to who was responsible — by unanimously condemning Syria for allegedly using tanks and artillery after agreeing to a ceasefire. Ignored were statements from the Assad government that it was not responsible. A closer look showed this was the case.
• Marat Musin, reporting for Russia’s ANNA News, was in Houla and interviewed witnesses right after the massacre. Musin determined that the massacre was committed by the so-called Free Syrian Army, not the Assad forces. His report concluded: “The attack was carried out by a unit of armed fighters from Rastan, in which more than 700 gunmen were involved. They brought the city under their control and began with a cleansing action against loyalist [pro-Assad] families, including elderly people, women and also children. The dead were presented to … the U.N. and the ‘international community’ as victims of the Syrian army.” (May 31) The conservative German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, corroborated the ANNA report on June 7.
• Residents knew many of the killers by name and identified them as local criminal elements now working for the FSA. (Syria News, May 31) Anti-Assad forces then posed as villagers and invited the U.N. observers in. Some put on uniforms of the Syrian soldiers they had killed and said they were defectors.
• A widely shown photo of dozens of shrouded bodies, which the BBC first presented as the aftermath of Houla, was really taken by photographer Marco di Lauro in Iraq in March 2003.
• BBC world news editor Jon Williams admitted in his blog June 7 that there was no evidence whatsoever to identify either the Syrian Army or Alawite militias as the perpetrators of the May 25 massacre. United Kingdom’s Channel 4 senior reporter Alex Thomson said June 7 that the opposition led him into a line of fire and tried to get him killed by Syrian military forces so it would “look bad” for Assad.
• There has been no independent investigation of Houla to date, yet at a June 7 meeting, Annan and current U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon again made statements putting the responsibility for the Houla massacre on Assad.
• Major General Robert Mood, head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, suspended patrols of the 300-member team on June 16, citing “spiraling violence in restive areas.” The suspension was right before the G-20 Summit in Mexico, providing another opportunity for imperialism to criticize Assad.
• In initial remarks, Annan called the Houla massacre the “tipping point.” The deaths at Houla have been used by the U.S. and NATO to more aggressively and openly organize for Assad’s overthrow. U.S. officials and Arab intelligence officers admit that the CIA is in southern Turkey funneling weapons to the FSA. It is also there to “make new sources and recruit people.” (New York Times, June 21)
• As a result, “The onetime ragtag militias of the Syrian opposition are developing into a more effective fighting force with the help of an increasingly sophisticated network of activists here in southern Turkey that is smuggling crucial supplies across the border including weapons, communication gear, field hospitals and even salaries for soldiers who defect. The network reflects an effort to forge an opposition movement … that together can not only defeat … Assad but also replace his government.” (New York Times, June 26)
by Joyce Chediac
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.

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Can We Stop a Civil War in Syria?

By Phyllis Bennis
June 28, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Syria is close to full-scale civil war. If the conflict escalates further, as former UN Secretary-General and current envoy of both the UN and the Arab League Kofi Annan noted, “Syria is not Libya, it will not implode; it will explode beyond its borders.”
The human cost of this conflict is incalculably high. It’s not surprising that the normal human reaction is “we’ve got to do something!” But what is needed is serious diplomacy – not an army or air force action. U.S./NATO military intervention didn’t bring stability, democracy or security to Libya, and it certainly is not going to do so in Syria.
Despite his government’s history of brutal repression, Bashar al-Assad still enjoys support from parts of Syria’s business elites, especially in Damascus and Aleppo, and some in minority communities (Christian, Shi’a, others) whom the regime had long cultivated. The opposition was divided from the beginning over whether massive reform or the end of the regime was their goal. It divided further when part of the opposition took up arms, and began calling for international military intervention. The non-violent opposition movement for freedom and democracy, which still rejects calls for military intervention, survives, but under extraordinary threat.
Kofi Annan has proposed new negotiations including the Syrian regime’s supporters, Iran and Russia, as well as those western, Arab and regional governments backing the armed opposition. So far the U.S. has rejected the proposal, at least regarding Iran, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying that Tehran is part of the problem in Syria and thus can’t be part of the solution. The current UN secretary-general, Ban ki-Moon, who frequently reflects Washington’s interests, further undercut the potential of his own envoy’s proposal, saying that Assad has “lost all legitimacy” – diplomatic code for “we don’t have to talk to him.”
Certainly the regime has committed brutal atrocities against civilians, potentially including war crimes. The armed opposition is also responsible for attacks leading to the deaths of civilians. It is increasingly difficult to confirm who may be responsible for each attack. The UN monitors have been pulled from the field. The regime has allowed a few more foreign journalists to enter Syria, but restrictions remain and the fighting in many areas means they are often unable to get reliable information. The regime is clearly responsible for more attacks with heavy weapons, including tanks and artillery, but it is also clear that the anti-government forces are being supplied with increasingly heavy weapons – paid for by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and coordinated by Turkey and the CIA. Indications are growing of well-armed outside terrorist forces operating in Syria as well.
Accountability for human rights violations and war crimes on all sides, whether in national or international jurisdictions, is crucial – but stopping the current escalation of violence and avoiding all-out war must come first.
SECTARIANISM ON THE RISE
Syria is erupting in a region still seething in the aftermath of the U.S. war in Iraq. Most U.S. troops and mercenaries have left Iraq, but the war’s legacy of destruction and instability will last for generations. That legacy includes the sectarian divide the U.S. invasion and occupation imposed in Iraq – and as that divide spreads across the region, the threat of increasing sectarianism in Syria looms. Although the Assad regimes – from father Hafez’s rise to power in 1970 through his son Bashar’s rule since 2000 – have always been ruthlessly secular, Syria is becoming a poster-country for sectarian strife. The ruling Assad clan are Alawites (a form of Islam related to Shi’ism), ruling over a country with a large Sunni majority. Already, alongside the global interests colliding in Syria, a Sunni-Shi’a proxy war is taking shape between Saudi Arabia/Qatar and Iran, each side backing opposing Syrian forces.
THREATS OF U.S./WESTERN INTERVENTION
Iran is the single most important reason for U.S. and other western interest in Syria. Damascus’s longstanding economic, political and military ties with Tehran mean that efforts to weaken Syria are widely understood to be at least partly aimed at undermining Iran, perhaps the most influential factor pushing the U.S. towards greater action against Syria. Certainly the U.S., the EU and the U.S.-backed Arab Gulf governments would prefer a less resistance-oriented, more pro-western (meaning anti-Iranian) Syria, which borders key U.S. allies including Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey. They would also prefer a less repressive government, since that brings protesters out into the streets, threatening instability.
But for the moment conditions in the area still make a U.S./NATO Libya-style military strike on Syria somewhat less likely. Despite Washington’s involvement in arming the rebels, direct military engagement by U.S. air or ground forces remains unlikely right now.
The U.S. and its allies are all too aware of the dangers to their own interests of direct military involvement in Syria. A Syrian version of post-Qaddafi Libya means greater instability across the strategic Middle East; expanding regional sectarianism; chaotic borders adjoining Israel, Iraq and Turkey; extremist Islamism gaining a foothold in Syria; and the derailing of any potential diplomatic arrangement with Iran.
All of that makes it unlikely the Obama administration would risk an attack on Syria without a UN Security Council endorsement. And that endorsement is simply not going to happen in the near future. China and Russia have both indicated they oppose any use of force against Syria, and so far they are both opposing additional sanctions as well.
Russian opposition on Syria goes beyond its usual resistance to Security Council endorsement of intervention. It goes to the heart of Russia’s strategic interests, including its military capacity and its competition with the west for power, markets and influence. Russia’s relationship to Syria somewhat parallels the U.S. relationship to Bahrain: Damascus is a major Russian trading partner, especially for military equipment, and crucially, hosts Moscow’s only Mediterranean naval base (and only military base outside the former Soviet Union), in Tartus on Syria’s southern coast.
Certainly there are no guarantees. Politics still trumps strategic interests. The risk of a U.S./NATO attack on Syria remains, and could be ratcheted up again in a moment. The “CNN factor” –the relentless depiction of all-too-real heart-wrenching torment – can create political realities that influence decision-making in Washington, London, Paris, Ankara and beyond. Western media and politicians’ earlier embrace of the armed rebels has subsided somewhat as reports rise of opposition attacks and civilian casualties. But anti-Assad propaganda remains dominant. And Washington is in election mode. As the violence escalates in Syria, as more civilians, especially children, are killed, calls for military intervention escalate as well. The calls come from the media, right-wing think tanks and Congress, including from neo-cons who never gave up on plans for regime change across the Arab world, and from hawkish liberal interventionists who see military force as the solution to every human rights problem.
There are also prominent opponents of military force inside the White House and Pentagon, who recognize the problems war would create for U.S. interests (even if they don’t care much about the impact on Syrian civilians). Whether they can stand up to election-year pressures remains unclear. The push-back by those in civil society who say no to military intervention, while refusing to accept the false claims that the Syrian regime is somehow a fraternal bastion of anti-imperialist legitimacy, will be crucial.
SYRIA & RESISTANCE
Syria lies on the fault lines of the Middle East. That means sectarian divides in war-battered Iraq, precariously-balanced multi-confessional Lebanon and beyond; great power competition including the U.S./NATO vs. Russia; the Arab-Israeli conflict; the contested roles of non-Arab Turkey and Iran. There is a crucial divergence between the role the Assad regime has played domestically and its regional position. As Jadaliyya co-editor Bassam Haddad has written, “most people in the region are opposed to the Syrian regime’s domestic behavior during the past decades, but they are not opposed to its regional role. The problem is the Syrian regime’s internal repression, not its external policies.” That opinion could describe the view of many Syrians as well.
The target of Syria’s original non-violent protests was not a U.S.-backed dictator but a brutal though somewhat popular leader of the region’s anti-western resistance arc. That contradiction led some activists to support the Syrian government as a bastion of anti-imperialism and therefore to condemn all opposition forces as lackeys of Washington. Of course even if Assad had played a consistent anti-imperialist role in the region, Syrians would have every right and reason to challenge his regime’s brutality and denial of human rights.
But in fact the reality is far different. Based on its alliance with Iran (and somewhat for its support of Hezbollah in Lebanon) the U.S. clearly views Syria as an irritant. But Damascus has never been a consistent opponent of U.S. interests. In 1976 it backed a murderous attack by right-wing Falangists and other Christian militias against the Palestinian refugee camp at Tel al-Zataar during Lebanon’s civil war. In 1991 Assad Senior sent warplanes to join the U.S. attack on Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. After 9/11 the U.S. sent innocent detainees such as Maher Arar to be interrogated and tortured in Syria.
It’s also telling that Israel has been uncharacteristically silent regarding the Syrian uprising. One would expect Tel Aviv to be in the forefront of the calls for military intervention and regime change in Syria. But Israel has been largely silent – because despite the rhetorical and diplomatic antagonism between the two, Syria has been a generally reliable and predictable neighbor. The occasional border clash or small-scale eruption of violence aside, Assad has kept the border, and thus the strategic and water-rich Golan Heights, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967, largely quiescent. As late as 2009 Assad was offering Israel negotiations “without preconditions” over the Golan Heights. And further, Assad is a known quantity; despite Syria’s close ties to Iran, Israel has little interest in a post-Assad Syria like today’s Libya, with uncontrolled borders, unaccountable militias, arms flooding in and out, rising Islamist influence, and a weak, illegitimate and corrupt government ultimately unable to secure the country. For Israel, the “anti-imperialist” Assad still looks pretty good.
ORIGINS, IMPACTS & CONSEQUENCES
The Syrian uprising that began in early 2011 was part of the broader regional rising that became known as the Arab Spring. Like their counterparts, Syria’s non-violent protesters poured into the streets with political/democratic demands that broke open a generations-long culture of fear and paralysis. At first none called for militarization of their struggle or for international military intervention.
Like in Libya, it was military defectors who first took up arms in response to the regime’s brutal suppression of the initially non-violent protests. That defensive use of arms soon morphed into a network of militias and fighters, largely unaccountable and uncoordinated, who began carrying out attacks on security forces and calling for military assistance.
For some U.S. and other western supporters of military intervention in Syria, last year’s assault on Libya provides the model for how to respond. But they were wrong to see the Libyan intervention as a “human rights victory” then, and they are more visibly wrong now. A year later, following the deaths of thousands of Libyans, the now-divided country struggles with out-of-control militias holding thousands of prisoners, torture, escalating violence, continuing attacks on sub-Saharan Africans and other foreigners, a virtually powerless government more legitimate in the West than at home, and a shattered national, social and physical infrastructure.
The impact of a military strike in Syria could be even worse. For ordinary Syrians, struggling to survive amid escalating fighting, with virtually no access to electricity, water or medical assistance in more and more cities, the only hope starts with ending the fighting. The best thing outside powers can do is to move immediately towards serious new diplomacy, in which supporters of both the regime and the armed opposition participate, with the goal of imposing an immediate ceasefire. Kofi Annan’s call for just such a diplomatic option could be the start, if Washington could be pressured to accept it. Only with an end to the war, will the original home-grown opposition forces have a chance to remobilize public support for their internal, non-violent protest movement for real change, reclaiming the social movements for Syria’s own version of freedom and democracy, and reasserting Syria’s place in the Arab Spring.
​This article originally appeared in Al Jazeera English.
***
​Who’s Who in the Syrian Uprising?
There are at least five distinct forces at play in the Syrian uprising:
The regime – power largely concentrated in the extended Assad family and broader Alawite community; political leadership closely interconnected with top military command and mukhabarat (secret police). Maintains some popular support also from key business and banking powers in Syria, especially in Damascus and Aleppo. Has political support and some military assistance from Iran; recent expressions of political support from ALBA countries of Latin America (Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela) in context of U.S. and other western threats. Key military and commercial ties with Russia, especially through providing Russia with naval base at Tartus. Higher-level defections from military on the increase.
The original non-violent opposition – broad and diverse, secular and faith-based. Many activists came together in new informal coalitions and groupings that bypassed some older, more staid organizations. Maintains opposition to arming of opposition and especially to any outside military intervention. These activists were the primary force of the early uprising, but achieved less visibility as regime’s repression targeting non-violent actions succeeded in suppressing protests, international media was largely excluded, and internal independent media focused primarily on attacks on civilians. Renewed attention in recent months, including documenting street protests that are continuing despite civil war-like conditions in the country. It appears that more public mobilizations, including but not limited to street protests, are on the rise again with broadly democratic participation, especially in and around the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo, once known as relative strongholds of regime support. In April a young woman stood alone outside the parliament in Damascus with a banner that read “Stop the Killing, we want to build a homeland for all Syrians.” Islamist forces are among those involved in the non-violent opposition; longtime Syrian non-violent leader Sheikh Jawad Said.
The non-violent opposition also includes the National Coordination Committee, made up of 13 political parties including some leftist forces, and independent mainly secular activists. They are against any military intervention, including a so-called “no-fly zone” (that opened the assault on Libya); their leader, Hussein Abdul Azim, said “we reject foreign intervention – we think it is as dangerous as tyranny. We reject both.” They do, however, support economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure against Assad. The NCC does not call for overthrowing the regime, but instead for a national dialogue – though it does not support Assad’s proposed dialogue initiative, but rather a process conditioned on the pullback of military forces from the streets, ending attacks on peaceful protests, and release of all political prisoners. Some in the NCC have called for trying to replace the SNC as the “official” or recognized representative of the Syrian opposition.
The internal Syrian armed opposition – originally based on military defectors who created Free Syrian Army, morphed into assorted militias using FSA name, but with little central coordination; includes both defectors and armed civilians. FSA leaders have admitted they are not in control of the proliferation of groups of armed civilians operating under the FSA name. In recent weeks numbers of soldiers reported killed have escalated, as have reports of direct fights between regime soldiers and armed opposition groups. Appear to be receiving heavier weapons from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey is providing logistical support to transfer weapons, and U.S. providing “non-lethal” military equipment including night-vision goggles, GPS gear, etc.
The internal/external supporters of the armed opposition – grouped primarily in the Syrian National Council (SNC), and call explicitly for overthrow of the regime. Includes Muslim Brotherhood, Local Coordination Committees (grassroots activist groups inside Syria), Kurdish factions, and others, including exile factions. Muslim Brotherhood probably most organized single organization within it; consistent disagreements over Islamist influence. Have political base outside Syria, in Italy and Turkey. Originally claimed to defend non-violent nature of uprising but later called for coordinating role over armed factions inside and control of all weapons going in (FSA says will not cooperate with that, want weapons directly). At least some of SNC leadership calling for outside military assistance. The SNC recently asked individual countries to provide the Syrian opposition with “military advisers, training and provision of arms to defend themselves.” Very diverse politically, secular and Islamist, have had continuing problems with achieving enough unity to engage with international forces. Despite divisions, uncertain leadership and questionable levels support from inside Syria, SNC has been adopted by western (U.S., parts of EU) and Arab Gulf (Saudi, Qatar) governments and to some degree Turkey. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “they will have a seat at the table as a representative of the Syrian people.” The SNC has appeared weaker in recent months.
Largely through the SNC, the U.S. is providing the Syrian opposition with “non-lethal” military supplies, including communications gear, GPS equipment more. Washington is also apparently supporting some kind of military training and backing efforts to unify the disparate opposition elements into a more coherent whole.
Non-Syrian armed forces – unknown forces, apparently mostly non-Syrian, including volunteers or others from international Islamist fighting groups appear to be arriving to fight in Syria. Goals unclear, could include opposition to Alawite/Shi’a government (Alawites considered an off-shoot of Shi’a Islam, and thus heretical to some extremist Sunni fundamentalists), and/or efforts to create chaos through military attacks resulting in power vacuums they might hope to fill. 
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. She is the author of “Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy U.S. Power” (Interlink Publishing, October 2005).

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