Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hedging the Sandy Shell Game of Eroding Investor Confidence with Catastr…

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Ortega: Multipolar world challenges US monopoly paranoia

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CrossTalk: Mali Madness

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In the eye of the campaign: Blurred line between Sandy storm relief and …

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Easy Ways to Steal an Election

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Who lost the world?

Virgil and the communist ideal of the bees

New Zealand Maori business elite sues for water ownership

US employs former child soldiers as mercenaries

By Sybille Fuchs 
31 October 2012
The US is increasingly using private security forces to wage its wars and maintain its occupation of countries after the withdrawal of regular troops. Both in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of mercenaries and dozens of private security companies are being deployed to this end.
The utterly ruthless and cynical methods employed by American companies and endorsed by Washington were graphically illustrated in a German documentary television program broadcast last week. “Weltspiegel” showed how US companies were recruiting former child soldiers from Uganda to risk their lives as mercenaries for miserly pay in Iraq and other war zones.
The journalists, Marcel Kolvenbach and Daniel Satra, followed the path of young men from Uganda who were hired by Ugandan private security companies. These companies then pass them on to US firms that are commissioned by the American army to guard their camps in Iraq and other areas of the world where the United States is waging war.
In many cases, the young recruits had fought as child soldiers for the Christian fundamentalist rebel group of Joseph Kony against the Ugandan government led by President Museveni. In the course of fighting they have both experienced and committed horrible massacres.
In March of this year there was widespread media hype in the US surrounding the thirty-minute video “Kony 2012.” The video denounced the plight of Ugandan children who were used as soldiers by Kony. As the World Socialist Web Site warned at that time, this campaign was also supported by President Obama campaign in “a cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion in favor of American intervention.”
The reality is that the traumatized child soldiers in Kony’s force are being systematically used by the US as cheap cannon fodder in Iraq. Ugandan security companies and their American partners are quite prepared to exploit the dire and traumatic situation of the child soldiers.
The Ugandan journalist Rosario Achola reported: “Most of these former child soldiers do not know how to make ends meet when the war is over. They cannot find work and find themselves adrift. So a job as a security guard in Iraq or Afghanistan is practically the only choice they have.”
She continued: “It’s ironic that the nations which expressed the most outrage about Kony and child soldiers is now exploiting these former child soldiers to fight their battles and protect them in a war which has nothing to do with Uganda.”
The young men who have learned nothing other than how to kill are required to risk their lives for a few dollars to make profits for local companies operating throughout the country. They are assured they are carrying out a safe job, but once in the field the reality is very different. Many of the returnees report of fatalities or injuries. Many are themselves injured.
On behalf of Weltspiegel, Rosario Achola interviewed Ssali Twaha, a mercenary who was told that he would be carrying out a safe mission in Iraq in the Green Zone. But then a ricochet hit his camp. He recalls: “Suddenly I heard my comrade above breathing heavily and blood dripped down on me through the mattress. It was pitch dark, I thought he had wet the bed. I wanted to wake him up. But when I touched him everything was full of blood with foam coming from his mouth.”
A US attorney reports on the case of a seriously injured Ugandan, paralyzed on one side of his body, who was deported back to his home country and then just left to his fate. “When I met him he had neither a disability pension nor medical care. He was just wasting away.” The attorney took the case to court. A further 60 victims then came forward who had suffered the same fate.
The companies that receive large sums from the US government to insure soldiers against such injuries refused to pay out. “Three of our clients have received death threats—in Uganda and Iraq. They received threatening calls such as: ‘If you do not drop your lawsuit, we will kill you.’ The attorney also reported on another injured soldier who was told by his employer, ‘If you report it you will arrive home in a body bag.’”
One security company that offered the US Army mercenaries for $1,000 per man per month was undercut by another that demanded just $400. As a result the soldiers employed by the first company were forced to return home.
The former child soldier Dibya Moses also had to leave Iraq after an illness and return to Uganda. He was dismissed without any compensation or severance pay. In an interview with Achola, he explained: “The people here are desperate for a job in Iraq because they see it as an opportunity to earn an extra few dollars. In the end it is like modern-day slavery.”
Both the US Defense Department and the State Department refused to comment on this practice. The Ugandan security contractors are not allowed to contact the US authorities. “It is a subcontractor agreement. If the US company finds out that Ugandan companies have contacted the US Defense Department or State Department then their contract will be terminated immediately,” declared an employee of a Ugandan security company. Many now fear for their jobs because the US companies are increasingly recruiting in Pakistan.
For US security firms, the hiring and deployment of mercenaries is a billion dollar business with high profit margins. The US government is prepared to pay out huge sums in order to “outsource” death and injury, thereby reducing the number of US military casualties. Journalist Sarah Stillman has established that currently in Afghanistan, more members of private security companies are killed in action than US soldiers.

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Australian Labor government “excises” entire country to bar refugees

SYRIZA supports Greek government as it negotiates new austerity measures

By Christoph Dreier 
31 October 2012
Four months after entering office, Greece’s conservative-social democratic government is in deep crisis. Faced with daily strikes and protests against brutal austerity measures as well as falling poll ratings, tensions between the government coalition partners are growing.
On Tuesday, conservative premier Antonis Samaras (ND) announced that his government had finished talks with Greece’s international lenders. It will submit the fifth austerity package to the parliament next week. The package contains €13.5 billion of cuts as well as reforms of the labor laws. A failure of the law, Samaras claimed, would plunge Greece into “chaos.”
A struggle has broken out within the government over how best to implement the cuts. The conservative Nea Dimokratia (ND) is insisting that the requirements of the troika—the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund—are implemented to the letter. For their part, the Democratic Left (DIMAR) and the social-democratic PASOK have proposed some cosmetic changes and the greater involvement of the unions, threatening otherwise that they will not vote for parts of the package.
In this situation, the largest opposition party, the Coalition of the Alternative Left (SYRIZA), has lined up behind the government, all but openly offering its support to ensure that the government can hold together and pass the cuts. Last Friday, in an interview with the Reuters news agency, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said his party was not interested in bringing down the government. “Our top priority is to overturn this policy”, he said, “It is not a time for tricks, it is not a time to provoke the fall of the government.”
Tsipras was referring to the possibility that his party could stop the austerity package by provoking the dissolution of parliament. Greek election law states that fresh elections must be held if 60 of the 300 parliamentary deputies resign. Since 1974, only the social democratic PASOK and the conservative New Democracy (ND) have had enough seats to bring about such a situation. Now SYRIZA, with its 71 deputies, is also in a position to do this. All the other opposition parties combined do not have enough seats.
According to the latest opinion polls, the government parties would suffer heavy losses in new elections as a result of the new austerity measures, while SYRIZA would gain a majority. However, Tspiras is now excluding such a possibility.
Instead, in the interview he encourages the illusion that members of the government coalition of ND, PASOK and the Democratic Left (DIMAR) will vote against the new austerity package and could therefore stop it.
Tsipras adopts a cowardly and submissive attitude towards the government because fundamentally he agrees with its program. The SYRIZA leader stressed again to Reuters that, like Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (ND), he wanted to ensure that Greece remained in the EU. He told Reuters that he wanted to renegotiate the credit agreements—of which the latest austerity measures are a part—with the representatives of the EU, so that Greece would be in a better position to repay its debts.
Tsipras repeated his demand that Greek banks be nationalised. Given the bankruptcy of these financial institutions, this means nothing more that socialising their losses. Of the current tranche of financial aid, some 85 percent will go directly to the banks. To that end, the population is to be forced to submit to one package of social cuts after another.
In light of these statements, SYRIZA’s cynical verbal opposition to austerity policies is no more than an attempt to divert workers’ anger and resistance into harmless channels, namely in support of the EU and the government. Tsipras’ main task is to encourage illusions that the social attacks can be halted or reduced within the EU, and even under the present government.
This strategy grows in importance as social contradictions intensify. The ruling elite in Athens faces growing difficulties imposing the cuts being dictated by the EU. The austerity measures introduced so far have already led to a deep recession, unemployment of over 24 percent, and a massive drop in wages. Since the beginning of the crisis, 70,000 businesses have had to close.
The government is now planning further cuts in wages and pensions of up to 30 percent, cutting unemployment benefits in certain areas and imposing mass sackings. At the universities, 13,000 to 15,000 non-tenured lecturers’ posts are to be cut, and the already desperately underfunded hospitals must cut a further 10 percent of their workforce.
Anger at this policy of social devastation is enormous. In the past month, there have been three mass demonstrations with up to 100,000 participants. Every day, new strikes break out and the government can no longer count on workers in the ministries and departments to carry out its decisions.
Under these conditions, an open struggle has already broken out within the government over how best to implement the cuts. While the ND is insisting that the requirements of the Troika (the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) are implemented to the letter, DIMAR is proposing some cosmetic changes and the greater involvement of the unions, threatening otherwise not to vote for parts of the package.
The central function of SYRIZA in this situation is to politically paralyse workers and prevent massive protests being directed against the government and the EU institutions, and becoming the starting point for a European-wide offensive by the working class. For this reason, Tsipras criticises the cuts, but seeks to prevent every serious initiative to mobilise workers politically.
If SYRIZA is able to maintain its paralysing influence on workers, and thereby block the only progressive way out of the crisis, the danger from the extreme right grows.
The fascist party Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) has already been able to attract desperate and backward elements of the petty bourgeoisie and mobilise them against immigrants, workers and political opponents. The fact that they are supported in their racist campaigns by considerable sections of the police underscores the reactionary character of the current government, to which SYRIZA is effectively extending its support.

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A quarter of Spain now unemployed

American democracy and the “disposition matrix”

31 October 2012
The media and political establishment have responded with near total silence to the Washington Post’s revelation last week that the Obama administration has transformed extra-judicial assassination into a permanent practice of the US government.
What should be immediate grounds for the impeachment of the president has been met with indifference, most notably from liberal and “left” supporters of Obama’s re-election. If the initial Post article has something of the character of a trial balloon—to see to what extent the revelation of such measures would be met with official opposition—the results are conclusive: there is no significant commitment to democratic rights in the media and political establishment.
By any objective account, the Post’s revelations are extraordinary. “Targeted killing”—a euphemism for assassination—“is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes to sustain it.” The administration has transformed “ad hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining permanent war.”
Kill lists “that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus.” At the same time, it is “a policy so secret that it impossible for outsiders to judge whether it complies with the laws of war or US values—or even determine the total number of people killed.”
In other words, the administration has systematized a process by which the executive branch, with no judicial oversight, kills people—including US citizens—routinely all over the world. From a “state of exception,” the administration has transformed these powers, without any public discussion, into a state of permanence.
The language used by government officials to justify such measures is chilling. The list of potential targets has been dubbed a “disposition matrix.” One former administration official noted that they faced a “disposition problem”—i.e., the government faced the challenge of disposing of targets. Wary of a potentially messy legal process, whether in civilian courts or before military tribunals, the Obama administration has elected more and more to simply kill people.
Writing in the Council of Foreign Relations, Micah Zenko cites one military official involved in the targeted killing program: “To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating, ‘It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?’”
Employing a somewhat different analogy, former CIA analyst and Obama adviser Bruce Riedel, told the Post, “The problem with the drone is it’s like your lawn mower. You’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.”
Thousands have been slaughtered in this way, including many entirely innocent civilians. Among those assassinated by the American government were US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, accused of propagating Islamic fundamentalist ideas. Obama has declared that ordering the killing of al-Awlaki was “an easy one.” Robert Gibbs, a top Obama adviser, declared in relationship to the killing of al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son, also a US citizen, who was accused of nothing, that “he should have had a more responsible father.”
It is impossible to speak of the “erosion” of American democracy any longer. The situation is far more advanced. Such language reflects a political establishment for which the most basic democratic conceptions are entirely foreign. It is language befitting a police state.
The implications go far beyond the use of drones. In seeking to justify its program of state killings, the Obama administration has in effect obliterated the legal basis for all constraints on executive power. The core concept of due process is inscribed in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which declares that “no person shall…be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”
The concept of due process traces its roots to the very origins of constitutional monarchy and the limitations on arbitrary power in Britain—the Magna Carta. In brief: a person cannot be deprived of his rights, including his right to life, without a legal and judicial process. According to the Obama administration, however, this due process requirement is satisfied by the internal deliberations of the executive—by the president and his closest advisers.
And if the president can kill anyone, including US citizens, without judicial review, what power does he not have? Any but the most formal distinction between democracy and presidential dictatorship is swept away.
Such measures will ultimately be used within the United States. Particularly since the September 11 attacks, the American government has constructed a huge spying apparatus, an apparatus currently overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)—the same body that is at the center of the assassination program.
In March, the Justice Department modified guidelines to allow the NCTC to collect and “continually assess” information on American citizens for up to five years, from 180 days as established under Bush. In July, the American Civil Liberties Union remarked that the changes amounted to “a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program” which Bush was forced to formally abandon in 2003 after intense public opposition, though it was continued in different forms.
The terminal crisis of American democracy is deeply rooted in the structure of American capitalism, and in particular the vast growth of social inequality. Over the past several decades, a tiny financial aristocracy has monopolized enormous resources on the basis of speculation and increasingly criminal operations. After creating the economic and financial crisis that erupted in 2008, this same social layer is determined to pursue unpopular policies at home and abroad.
It is worth noting in this context a column by prominent political commentator George Will, appearing in the Washington Post earlier this month. Under the headline, “Seeds of Our Dysfunction,” Will complains that “America’s public-policy dysfunction exists not because democracy isn’t working but because it is.” People are not being sufficiently “reasonable,” Will complains, particularly because they do not recognize the need for massive cuts in social programs. “People flinch from confronting difficult problems until driven by necessity’s lash.”
Will is simply giving voice to conceptions more broadly felt in the ruling class. The political system, even under its current anti-democratic form, is seen as a hinderance to implementing policies that are determined to be “necessary.”
In fact, the two political parties are as united in their commitment to a wholesale attack on the working class as they are in supporting the policy of extra-judicial assassination abroad. In the aftermath of the election, whether Obama or Romney wins, the ruling class is planning immediate measures to slash social program upon which millions of people depend.
Unending war, social reaction, and the repudiation of legality—this is the program of the American ruling class. Democracy is incompatible with the continued rule of the financial aristocracy, and the continued existence of the social system, capitalism, upon which it rests.
The task of defending and extending democracy, therefore, lies with the working class—through its independent political mobilization in the fight for socialism.
Joseph Kishore
The Socialist Equality Party is intervening in the 2012 elections to fight for a socialist leadership in the working class. To sign up to attend one of the regional conferences in New York (November 3) and Michigan (November 4), click here.

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Israel Lobby Calls for an ‘Iranian Pearl Harbor’

The Unfolding Human Catastrophe in Iran

Sanctions imposed on Iran’s banks and financial institutions could lead to a humanitarian crisis.
By Muhammad Sahimi & Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi 

October 30, 2012 “Al Jazeera” —  During their debate about foreign policy last Monday, President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney both agreed that the crippling unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by the the United States and its allies must continue, until the Islamic Republic recalibrates its nuclear ambitions.

Both seem to have also adopted Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s favoured refrain that “Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear capability” and that such a capability constitutes a “red line” not to be crossed at any cost. Previously the inveterate refrain had been “Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon”.
The definition of “capability” has continued to remain vague and ill-defined, and a number of analysts have concluded that the Islamic Republic is already nuclear capable and has all the necessary components it would need in order to assemble a bomb if it so desired. Once a country has mastered enrichment technology it is generally accepted that the decision to weaponise largely becomes a political one.
Both Israeli and American intelligence continue to hold that Iran has not yet taken any such a decision. A crucial caveat is of course is that as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with all its enrichment sites subject to IAEA inspections, if it desired to make a dash for the bomb, Iran would have to withdraw from the NPT. An act that would immediately raise alarm bells across the world and most likely provoke a rapid Western military response. 
Apart from the vague and shifting red lines which continue to afflict the thick fog of Western national security rhetoric vis-a-vis Iran, not a single word was uttered by either men about the plight and suffering of the Iranian people who have had no role in the decisions made by the Islamic Republic’s leaders. But, the fact is that the sanctions, exacerbated by government incompetence, have the potential to give rise to a major human catastrophe.
‘Smart’ and ‘targeted’
The lack of sensitivity to the plight of ordinary Iranians was – at least on the President’s part – surprising, because when  his administration together with the European Union began imposing sanctions on Iran, they promised the world that the sanctions will be “smart” and “targeted”. The world was promised that the sanctions will not hurt millions of ordinary Iranians who go about their daily lives and, in fact, oppose many of their government’s policies.
But, the sanctions are now in full force, and are hurting the same people who we were told were not meant to be their target, in what is yet another case of “collateral damage” inflicted by Western policy towards Iran, and its disenfranchised people who have lost control over their destiny at both home and abroad. In fact, there are very strong indications that a human catastrophe could emerge whose scale poses as much a threat as an outright military attack.
The supposedly “smart” and “targeted” sanctions have been increasingly expanded to all areas, even if they are not part of the official sphere of sanctions. This is intentional, even if Western leaders tell us otherwise. To avoid criticisms of the type that they were confronted with after they imposed all-encompassing sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s, the US and its EU allies have imposed sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank and practically all other Iranian banks that are involved in commercial transactions with the outside world. Since these banks open lines of credit for imports, and provide financial guarantees for commerce with the outside world, it has become very difficult, if not impossible, to import vital goods and products into the country, even those that absolutely have nothing to do with the military, or oil, or the nuclear programme. In effect, this is the type of sanctions imposed on Iraq, but in a supposedly more “humanitarian” way.
An area that has been hit very hard is the pharmaceutical sector. Although Iran produces a large part of the medicines and drugs that its population needs, based on the generic versions of brand-named pharmaceuticals, it is still unable to produce the most advanced drugs that have come to the market over the past 10 to 15 years that deal with a variety of serious illnesses, simply because their generic versions are not yet available. As a result, Iran must still import a significant amount of drugs every year to address the needs of the Iranian people when dealing with such illnesses as leukaemia, AIDS, and others. 
 
Sanctions on banks
But, the sanctions imposed on Iran’s banks and financial institutions have effectively prevented Iran from importing the necessary drugs and the associated chemicals. At the same time, as Iran’s oil exports continue to decrease due to the sanctions strain on the country’s resources, it becomes increasingly difficult to pay for the expensive imported drugs, even if a way can be found for importing them. As a pharmacist in Tehran said, “The warehouses for pharmaceutics are empty because we cannot import what we need due to the sanctions, and even if we could, we do not have the resources to pay for them due to the sanctions.”
As a result, the shortage of drugs has all the makings of a human catastrophe. According to recent estimates as many as 6 million patients are currently being affected by the impact of sanctions on the import and manufacture of medications inside Iran. 
This has prompted many of Iran’s healthcare professionals to raise their voices, and begin protesting the impending danger they’re witnessing before their eyes. The board of directors of the Iranian Haemophilia Society recently informed the World Federation of Haemophilia (IFH) that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs as a consequence of international economic sanctions imposed on Iran.
According to the letter that the Society’s board sent to the IFH, while the export of drugs to Iran has not been banned, the sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country’s other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medicines. Describing itself as a non-political organisation that has been active for 45 years, the Society condemned [FA] the “inhumane and immoral” US and EU sanctions and appealed to international organisations for help.
No drugs to treat illnesses
Some statistics are very telling. Tens of thousands of Iranian boys and young men are haemophilic and need certain drugs that must be imported. Many of them may need surgery for a variety of reasons, but in the absence of proper drugs for their haemophilia illness, the surgeries cannot be performed, because the bleeding could not be stopped.
Several credible reports from Iran indicate that surgeries for all haemophilic patients have been cancelled, and at least a few have already died.There are about 37,000 Iranians with MS, a debilitating disease that can be controlled only with advanced medications; otherwise, the patients will die. In fact, three members of one of our extended families in Iran are afflicted with multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, given that even under the best medical conditions 40,000 Iranians lose their lives to cancer every year, and that it has been predicted by many medical experts that Iran will have a “cancer tsunami” by 2015 as every year 70,000 to 80,000 new cases of cancer are identified in Iran, the gravity of the situation becomes even more perilous.
Fatemeh Hashemi, head of Iran’s Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, which cares for the needs of patients with life-threatening diseases, including a variety of cancers in adult patients as well as children, heart diseases, lung problems, multiple sclerosis (MS), and thalassemia, recently wrote a letter to United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Foundation has been a highly successful nonpolitical organisation that, in addition to Iran, has also served many people in Iraq and Afghanistan, and whose work has been recognised by the UN.

In her letter Hashemi said that she leads an organisation “with 6 million patients and, hence, in contact with 30 per cent of Iran’s total population”. Emphasising the non-political nature of her organisation and her letter, Hashemi added:

“Although drugs have not been sanctioned, due to the impossibility of paying for the imported drugs through the banking system, the heavy shadow of the sanctions is felt in the health sector. Not only has importing drugs been disrupted, importing the raw chemicals [for the drugs that Iran does produce] has also been disrupted… As a human activist, I call on humanity’s conscience to pay attention to the fact that, despite the claims by those that have imposed the sanctions, their pressure is having its destructive effect on the life and health of the people.”
Hence, the supposedly “smart” and “targeted” sanctions that were not going to hurt the ordinary Iranians have been inflicting significant damage on the Iranian people. 
The net result is that shortage of drugs for patients with serious and life-threatening illnesses is becoming chronic in Iran, and is reaching hazardous levels.
 
Shortage of drugs
Meanwhile, recent reports indicate that two large plants that produce drugs for a variety of illnesses have also been closed. The reason is that it has become essentially impossible to import the chemical compounds used in the production of the drugs, due to the sanctions imposed on Iran’s financial institutions that deal with the outside world.
The world must recognise that in certain respects the path taken by the United States and its allies is eerily similar to what was done to Iraq in the 1990s. The United Nation’s UNICEF estimated that the sanctions imposed on Iraq caused the death of up to 500,000 Iraqi children. Given that Iran’s population is three times that of Iraq, if the sanctions imposed on Iran last several years – as they did with Iraq – the number of dead resulting from them could be larger than that of Iraq.
Moreover, given that Iran still imports a significant amount of wheat, rice and other food products, if the sanctions drag on, not only could hundreds of thousands of Iranians die due to shortage of drugs and medical goods, the shortage of food could also become very significant. It should also be noted, if only in passing, that sanctions did not change the policy of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Thus, after causing the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, those who had been jockeying for war with Iraq all along argued that the sanctions had failed, and “regime change” was the only alternative. As we now know Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, nor was it trying to produce them. Iran also does not have nuclear weapons yet, but Western policy has the power to change the Iranian leadership’s calculus and make it seem like the only viable option remaining with the power to guarantee regime survival.
In sum, comprehensive sanctions not only killed thousands in Iraq, but they eventually laid the path to war. One key difference in the case of Iran is of course that one of its few lifelines to the outside world is still China, which depends on Iranian energy to abet its ongoing economic expansion, hardly a commendable development for those supporting human rights and entertaining hopes of democratisation in the Islamic Republic.
The sanctions have arguably failed to meaningfully shift the stance of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who most recently emphasised that the Islamic Republic is prepared to negotiate and has in fact never left the negotiating table, but will not be cowed into submission. So, if, for instance, Iran is expected to forgo 19.75 per cent uranium enrichment and close the underground Fordow enrichment facility, two of the P5+1’s key demands at the Baghdad and Moscow talks, there must be some form of quid pro quo. Without one, there is no incentive for Iran to cooperate in an atmosphere already severely afflicted by a longstanding deficit of trust. There have been rumblings and rumours of possible sanctions relief after the US presidential election but nothing tangible as of yet. 
There are many voices within Iran that have called on the leadership to find a compromise with the West. The US and its allies can make such voices stronger and louder if they offer to lift some of the sanctions, or at least have exceptions that allow Iran’s financial system to be involved in the import of vital goods and products with no military or
nuclear applications, such as drugs and food stuffs.

It may be useless to preach to the Obama administration about the human, moral, and ethical toll of its policy toward Iran, given that the President has in many respects perpetuated the destructive Middle East policy of George W Bush, which in Iran’s case has been even tougher and more damaging to the livelihood of the Iranian people.

But, the emerging catastrophe will be an ethical and moral problem for the West for decades to come, a catastrophe that is being created simply because Western governments appear to blindly pursue crippling sanctions against Iran as an end in themselves, as opposed to a means by which to further the diplomatic process. 
Given the tragic history of the US intervention in Iran in the past, it is be prudent to rethink the consequences of such blind sanctions, and their effect on the thinking of the Iranian people about the US – a largely pro-US population in one of the most turbulent areas in the world that has been known for its hostility towards the United States and its perceived negative impact in much of the region.
Muhammad Sahimi, a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, analyses developments in Iran for the website PBS/Frontline: Tehran Bureau.
Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, a former Iran researcher at the Oxford Research Group, is Editor of Al-Monitor’s Iran Pulse. He is also a fourth-year doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford.

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Regardless of whether Obama or Romney wins, America’s relations with the Arab World will change

The Long View: Every reader of this article will be dead or of old age before the Arab “revolution” is complete. Palestinians are the only ones not to benefit from it
By Robert Fisk
October 30, 2012 “The Independent” — After last week’s Obama-Romney love-fest for Israel, the Arabs have been slowly deciding which of the two men would be best for the Middle East. It looks like Barack Obama is their man; but the problem – as always – is the sad, pathetic and outrageously obvious fact that it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference.
George Bush invaded Iraq after giving Ariel Sharon permission to go on colonising the occupied West Bank. Obama got out of Iraq, increased drone strikes on the Pakistan-Afghan border and then behaved like a dog when Benjamin Netanyahu told him there would be no discussion about Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders. Instead of saying, “Oh yes there will”, like a strong and independent president, Obama sat cowed in his White House seat as the Israeli prime minister effectively told him that UN Security Council resolution 242 – the very basis of the non-existent “peace process” – was a non-starter.
Since then, of course, Mitt Romney, who seems to have as much understanding of the Middle East as the Texas preacher who burned a Koran, has said the Palestinians “have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace” and has still not satisfactorily explained why, back in 2005 as governor of Massachusetts, he appeared rather keen on wire-tapping mosques. So good luck to the Arabs.
The truth, however, is that the next president is not going to have the freedom to decide his policy on the Middle East. The old love affair with Israel will continue – unless Israel attacks Iran and drags America into another Middle East war – but for the first time in American history, a successful presidential candidate is going to have to deal with a new Arab world; indeed, a new Muslim world.
The critical point is that the Arab Awakening (please let’s forget the “Spring” bit) represents a people calling for dignity. It includes non-Arab Muslims as well – what else was the mini-green revolution after the last Iranian elections? – and it means that the millions who live in the part of the world we still like to call the Middle East – it doesn’t feel very “middle” when you live there – now intend to make their own decisions, based on their wishes, not on those of their former satrap presidents and – in turn – their masters in Washington. La Clinton still seems not to have grasped this. Maybe Obama does. Romney? I bet he couldn’t draw a map of the nations in the area, except for one, of course.
Contrary to the Western belief that the Arabs are all struggling for “democracy”, the battle and the tragedy of the Middle East today – whether in the aftermath of the “soft” revolution in Tunisia or the butchery of Syria – is about that word dignity, about the right as a human being to say what you like about whomever you want and not to let a despot take personal ownership of a whole country (as long as he has the permission of the United States) and treat it as his private property.
Yes, revolutions are messy. The Egyptian revolution didn’t go quite the way we thought it would. Libya can easily break apart. Syria is a cataclysm. But the Arab people are speaking out at last and they will now ensure that their presidents and prime ministers abide by their wishes, not by the word of Washington or Moscow. Contrary to the Romney-style belief that there is a lack of civilisational values among the Arabs – viz his extraordinary remarks on Israel’s civilisation – the people of the Middle East are demonstrating quite the opposite. It is a slow business: every reader of this article will be dead of old age before the Arab “revolution” is complete.
But the days when US presidents instruct the potentates of the Middle East what to say and do are coming to an end. It will be a long time before the Saudi regime crumbles, along with all the other gas stations in the Gulf. And I suppose it must be said that the tragedy of the Palestinians probably lies at the heart of the Arab Awakening.
Alas, the Palestinians are the only ones not to benefit from the Arab revolutions. There is not enough land left for them to have a state. This is a fact beyond peradventure (as Enoch Powell used to say). Anyone doubting these words should book a flight to Israel and take a look at the West Bank. There is no place left for Palestine; this is the real tragedy that US presidents must face in the coming years…..

ll

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Who Lost the World?

Drone-Murders of Americans ‘Totally Right, Totally Constitutional’: Homeland Security Chairperson

By Washington’s Blog
 
October 30, 2012 “Washington’s Blog — … and if you question it, you are “a horrible moron,” concludes Peter T. King, Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
This 2-minute video from We Are Change Luke Rudkowski powerfully captures what US “leadership” has become. The good news is their arrogance and evasion is only tragic-comic sideshows to the “emperor has no clothes” obvious facts of their massive crimes centering in war and money.
This is what matters:
  • War law within US treaties is crystal-clear in letter and intent: no nation may use military armed attacks unless under attack by another nation’s government. The US military armed attacks in current and expanding targets are obvious unlawful and unconstitutional Wars of Aggression. War law was written in every language on the planet for the people to uphold limited government in war.
  • War law is the legal victory of all American families’ sacrifices through two world wars. US military have Oaths of Enlistment to support and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. War law’s treaty-status means US military are obligated to refuse all orders in current wars and act to arrest those who issue them. There are no lawful war orders when the wars are unlawful.
  • The use of war violence is usually associated with criminal acts for money, and lies to evade public recognition of these obvious crimes. Crimes by US oligarchic “leadership” for money are just as obvious upon inspection.Propaganda by US corporate media’s six companies to criminally lie and evade is also easy to prove for anyone willing to look.
This is our present and future:
  • Americans can choose intellectual integrity and moral courage to use their voices and actions in light of the “emperor has no clothes” obvious. This will save millions of lives, help billions in poverty, and reclaim trillions in the public’s monies that have been looted. The obvious war-murders will end. Obvious reforms to release looted money, and reforming credit and money as public services rather than bankster parasitism can quickly cause full-employment for infrastructure investment.
  • Americans should consider a Truth & Reconciliation offer to the “1%” criminals. The advantage is to split those members willing to reclaim their hearts and integrity to help us, make it easier for the criminals to surrender rather than fight us, and most quickly enact policies to reclaim our humanity.
  • Americans could refuse to engage in this basic civil requirement for freedom, and earn the Greek insult for political apathy that is so powerful it’s remained untranslated for over 2,000 years: idiot.
Choose carefully. You may just have what you choose and work for.

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Citizens’ Grand Jury Indicts Obama and Biden

By Larry Klayman

October 30, 2012 “PR Newswire” — OCALA, Fla., Oct. 30, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Larry Klayman, founder and chairman of Freedom Watch, today announced that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Bidenhave been criminally indicted for having willfully released classified national security information concerning the raid onOsama bin Laden‘s compound, U.S. and Israeli war plans concerning Iran and their cyber-attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The release of this information, among other harm to U.S. national security, resulted in the killing of members of Seal Team Six by terrorists and the arrest and imprisonment of American covert agents by Pakistan, such as the doctor who aided the CIA with regard to the bin Laden assassination. U.S.-Israeli war plans with Iran have also been compromised.
A true bill of indictment was issued by a Citizens’ Grand Jury in Ocala, Florida, who reviewed evidence and voted unanimously to indict Obama and Biden at 6:02 pm on October 29, 2012.
The authority for a Citizens’ Grand Jury can be found at www.citizensgrandjury.com.
The criminal defendants, Obama and Biden, will now be given notice of their indictment, arraigned and then tried for their alleged crimes.
Mr. Klayman, the Citizens’ Prosecutor, issued the following statement: “The Citizens’ Grand Jury, after having deliberated, yesterday issued a true bill of indictment. See www.citizensgrandjury.com It did the work that the government should have done, but does not have the integrity to do; that is hold these public officials accountable under the law. For far too long government prosecutors, who are put in place by politicians, have looked the other way as high public officials like Obama and Biden violate the law to further their political agendas. Now, as a result, the people must therefore exercise the rights given to them by the framers of the Constitution, and themselves take legitimate measures to restore the nation to some semblance of legality. This indictment (see www.citizensgrandjury.com) of Obama and Biden is just the first step in a legal revolution to reclaim the nation from establishment politicians, government officials and judges who have represented only their own political and other interests at the expense of ‘We the People.’ Obama and Biden will now be tried in a court of law and I am confident that they will be convicted of these alleged crimes.”
For information see www.citizensgrandjury.com. Media contact: Adrienne Mazzone, 561-750-9800 x210;amazzone@transmediagroup.com
SOURCE Larry Klayman

Citizens Grand Jury video evidence

The Power Of Propaganda, Lies and Distortions.
 

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Drowning on Wall Street and Ending World War II

The Virtual Recovery

Gillard government releases “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper

By Peter Symonds 
30 October 2012
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched her government’s “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper on Sunday. Its focus is how to position Australian capitalism to exploit business opportunities in Asia, or, as Gillard explained in her speech, to make Australia “a winner in the Asian century”.
The entire document, which runs for more than 300 pages, is based on a fraud—that the economic rise of Asia will continue inexorably into the indefinite future and that the emerging Asian middle classes will provide an ever-expanding market for high-end Australian goods and services.
In reality, there will be no “Asian century”. The high growth rates recently experienced in several Asian countries—above all, China and India—have been dependent on their position in the global economy as cheap labour platforms for the export of goods and services to the world’s advanced capitalist economies.
The White Paper assumes that these growth rates will continue into the future, based on a straight line projection of pre-2008 figures. But the underlying processes that fuelled them have already irrevocably broken down. The global economic crisis that erupted in 2008, and is now wracking Europe, the United States and Japan, is taking its inevitable toll on the so-called Asian powerhouses, as their export markets contract.
The latest World Bank economic forecasts for 2012 all point to the same trend. Growth in developing Asia, which excludes Japan and India, will be 7.2 percent, down from 8.3 percent in 2011. China is expected to grow by just 7.7 percent, compared to 9.3 percent last year. Indian growth will be about 6 percent, down from more than 8 percent.
Asia’s future will be determined by the worsening global economic breakdown, mounting geo-strategic conflicts, which are increasingly focussed on the region, and escalating social upheavals. US imperialism’s historic economic decline is driving Washington’s “pivot” to Asia and its escalating attempts to encircle China, threatening a new regional—and global—conflagration. Moreover, the rapid economic expansion of the past two decades has only deepened the social divide between rich and poor, already provoking strikes, protests and struggles, in China, India and elsewhere.
That none of these processes are mentioned in the document underscores its real political purpose. As the economic downturn in Asia impacts on commodity prices, thus eroding the export mining boom that has propped up the Australian economy during the past several years, the White Paper provides the rationale for the program of relentless restructuring and austerity being demanded by the financial and corporate elite.
Making Australia “a winner in Asia” is the nationalist refrain that will be used to justify the ruthless budget cutting and economic restructuring that has already led to the slashing of jobs, working conditions and social services. Central to the document’s economic agenda is the maintenance of “a strong and sustainable fiscal position” and ongoing budget surpluses. These can only be achieved by making deep inroads into public spending.
The White Paper has already been criticised in the media and by the opposition parties for providing no funding details on its various Asia-oriented initiatives. In response, Trade Minister Craig Emerson, who is now responsible for overseeing their implementation, made clear that the money would be found by slashing spending in other areas. Speaking on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “A.M.” radio program yesterday, he boasted that the government had already factored in savings of $50 billion or 2 percent of GDP by the end of the decade by restricting welfare benefits through tough means testing.
In her speech, Gillard hailed the “reforms” carried out in the 1980s and 1990s by the Hawke and Keating governments, when they floated the Australian dollar and deregulated the economy. Under their Accord with the trade unions and business, the Labor governments presided over the greatest redistribution of wealth from the working class to the corporate elite in Australian history.
Now Gillard, in the name of integrating into Asia, is committing to a further round of restructuring, appealing, like her predecessors, to corporate Australia and the unions to impose and police Labor’s new assault on the working class.
The White Paper holds out the promise of a “high skill, high wage” economy that will put per capita GDP in Australia in the world’s top 10 and lift average real national income from $62,000 in 2012 to $73,000 in 2025. In reality, the benefits of the drive for “competitiveness in Asia” will accrue to a tiny layer of the wealthy elite, to be paid for by the working class, as jobs, wages and working conditions are slashed and social inequality continues to widen.
A key aspect of the White Paper involves the restructuring of the education system from top to bottom, with the goal of putting it in the world’s top five for performance in literacy and numeracy, and of placing 10 Australian universities in the world’s top 100. While the media has focussed on its recommendation to expand the teaching of Asian languages—which has been systematically run down by successive governments, including Gillard’s—the White Paper’s aims are far broader. These were revealed in a recent government-commissioned report by former Australian Stock Exchange chairman David Gonski, whose recommendations will entrench the consolidation of a small number of elite schools and universities, providing quality education to those who can afford to pay, while the public education system is starved of funds.
For all its hype about lucrative prospects in Asia, the fundamental dilemma confronting the Australian ruling class remains. As the White Paper makes clear, Australia has become economically dependent upon Asia, and especially China. At the same time, it remains strategically reliant on its military alliance with the United States, which is determined to undermine Chinese influence throughout the Asian region.
This sharpening contradiction has produced deep rifts within the Australian political establishment, which were a major factor in Gillard’s ousting of her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, in the inner party coup of 2010. Rudd had fallen foul of the Obama administration by failing to unconditionally support its confrontational approach to China. Gillard, on the other hand, has fully backed Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia, agreeing last November to the stationing of US troops in the northern city of Darwin and the opening of Australian bases to US warships and warplanes.
That these issues remain acutely sensitive for Gillard’s government was underscored by the fact, as reported in last Saturday’s Australian, that it took the extraordinary step of ordering a major, last-minute rewrite of the White Paper by Allan Gyngell, from the Office of National Assessments, a key intelligence agency. Amid “unhappiness” over the original draft, because it had “initially overlooked the continuing role of the US in the region”, Gyngell was called in to assist in making the document palatable to Washington.
The omission was not an accidental one. By emphasising the economic imperatives confronting Australian capitalism, the White Paper necessarily focussed on its most dynamic economic partnerships, which lie in Asia, above all in China, and not with the United States. Yet these relations are being threatened by Washington’s drive to maintain its dominant position in the region at the direct expense of China. The result has been a marked sharpening of antagonisms, with the flaring of territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea as the US encourages its allies to take a more aggressive stance towards China.
The revamped White Paper devotes a chapter to strategic considerations, noting in particular that Australia “will work with the United States to ensure it continues to have a strong and consistent presence in the region.” It points out that the economic emergence of China and India has the potential to generate tensions and rivalries and that the many regional flashpoints create “the danger of miscalculation and accident”. But it dismisses the danger of war, by declaring that “Beijing and Washington both want to develop constructive relations and avoid conflict: their governments have consistently said so.”
This superficial view has already been criticised. In a comment entitled “Dark side of white paper”, Australian Financial Review commentator Geoffrey Barker yesterday noted: “The white paper sees but does not stress the dark side of international relations. Security is hardly mentioned until the eighth chapter and the tone stays determinedly optimistic.” Barker lists the potential triggers for conflict including a clash between the US and China, noting that “neither trade and financial integration, nor economic independence” prevented the outbreak of the First World War.
Nor will the White Paper’s relatively benign assessment of China’s military expansion go unnoticed in Washington, where discontent with Rudd’s failure to completely toe the line contributed to his ousting. Far from being a roadmap to a century of peace and prosperity, the document’s glaring omissions underline the precarious position of Australian capitalism as it attempts to straddle the growing antagonism between the US and China, while at the same time struggling to keep economically afloat as the global economic crisis deepens. Insofar as the White Paper outlines a strategy it is to assist Australian businesses to become ever-more “internationally competitive”, by launching a social counter-revolution against the living standards of the working class.

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Poverty, hunger and inequality grow in Spain

By Alejandro López 
30 October 2012
There has been a dramatic rise in poverty, hunger and inequality across Spain since the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008. Spain has now become the country with the most inequality of all 27 countries of the European Union (EU).
The right-wing Popular Party (PP) government and its Socialist Party predecessor have imposed one draconian austerity package after another, introducing cuts in health care, education and social services, raising taxes and passing new labour laws. This takes place amid a recession with rampant inflation and rising unemployment. According to the Bank of Spain, the economy suffered a contraction of 0.4 percent in the first quarter of the year.
According to the latest statistics of Eurostat, social inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient (where 0 expresses perfect equality and 100 expresses maximal inequality), showed that Spain went from 31.3 in 2008 to 34 in 2011. The EU average is 30. Only 16 countries have issued their statistics for the Gini index for 2011. Of these, Spain has one of the highest levels of inequality, only outstripped by Latvia with 35.2.
Another measure of growing inequality is the s80/s20 ratio that measures the total income of the richest 20 percent to that of the poorest 20 percent. The higher the ratio, the greater is the inequality. Spain has grown from 5.5 in 2006 to 7.5 in 2011—the highest level of the 27 member countries of the EU, which has an average of 5.7. In this measurement, Spain outstrips Latvia, which got 7.3 in 2011.
Official unemployment now stands at 25 percent and 53 percent of youth under 25. According to the Survey of the Active Population, 1.7 million homes have all their members unemployed. Of those registered in the public employment office, only 67 percent receive some state aid or provision.
In 2010, social services helped nearly 8 million people to cover the costs of water, electricity and food—nearly 20 percent more than the year before. After two years, the latest statistics are still unknown, but they would be substantially higher. The PP government has cut by almost half the budget of town halls dedicated to covering basic social services this year.
One social worker said to El País, “In my 25 years as a welfare worker I had never seen anything like it…. This year is noticeably worse than last. Public social services were never as overflowing as they are now, and with the cuts, there are no resources.”
The Red Cross has issued a new appeal to raise €30 million (US$38.8 million) in donations to help 300,000 Spaniards. The appeal states that “A few years ago it was hard to imagine: traditionally strong western National Societies organising soup kitchens for hundreds of thousands of citizens and distributing blankets to new groups of homeless people in their 50s or 60s.
“In Spain, 82 percent of the people supported by the Red Cross are living below the poverty line, and half of the unemployed people currently assisted have been out of the job market for more than two years.
“It’s not just in Spain. In Italy, where demands for food are increasing, the Red Cross chapter will soon launch an in-depth assessment of health and social welfare conditions across the country. In Hungary, demands at its food programs are increasing, and there’s also a program to reconnect homes with electricity cut off because of unpaid bills. Even in Finland, where the economy is faring better than in other euro-zone countries, the Red Cross has set up 44 health and welfare centers to counsel the long-term unemployed.”
The Red Cross’s Bulletin on Social Vulnerability in Spain states that 43.2 percent of people cannot afford to put on the heat in winter, while 26 percent cannot afford a meal with proteins three times a week.
Another glimpse of Spain’s social crisis was provided when the Catholic charity Caritas revealed that the number of people it helped nationwide increased from 370,000 in 2007 to more than a million in 2011.
The Plataforma de afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH—Platform of Those Affected by the Mortgage), which pushes for a moratorium on evictions, estimates that 300 families are being evicted every day.
The purchasing power of Spanish workers has seen the biggest decline since 1985, as the ruling class aims to bring about an internal devaluation to gain competitiveness in the international markets. A recent study published by the trade union CC.OO reveals that employment no longer prevents falling into poverty.
The study reveals that 35 percent of workers receive a monthly wage equal or inferior to €641.40, the minimum wage. A European average rate of 22.5 percent places Spain second behind Romania.
Among the worst-affected sectors are self-employed workers, with 40 percent at risk of poverty. Eighteen percent of part-time workers are now in poverty.
The report forecasts that there will be 28 percent poverty for the whole of Spain by the end of 2012. This represents a rise of 10 percent age points from 2007.
The National Statistics Institute, INE, points out that nearly a million people have left Spain. Since the beginning of 2011, Spain’s population has fallen to 46,117,000 compared to 47,153,000 21 months ago.
On the other side, the ruling class is profiting from this social misery, even as its political representatives repeat that myth that “We have lived above our means” to justify slashing social spending.
Credit Suisse has estimated that the number of millionaires will grow by 110 percent over the next five years, meaning that there will be around 616,000 in 2017. An article published by ABC states that the so-called SICAV, collective investment schemes attractive for speculators because they are taxed at 1 percent, have grown by 50 percent in some cases.

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Australian government pledges further pro-business industrial relations reform

Fighting erupts between Western-backed “rebels” and Syrian Kurds

By Bill Van Auken 
30 October 2012
Fierce fighting has erupted between Western-backed insurgents and Kurds in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo amid growing threats of a Turkish military intervention.
The fighting began on Friday after several hundred armed opponents of the Syrian government, dressed in black and wearing black bandanas inscribed with Islamist slogans, moved into the predominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Ashrafiya.
The incursion triggered a demonstration by Kurdish residents of the district, who marched on the positions taken by the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), demanding that its fighters leave the neighborhood. According to reports, the FSA fighters fired on the demonstrators, killing five and wounding 10 more.
The fighting that followed claimed at least 30 lives, including those of 22 combatants, before the Kurds reasserted control over the district. According to the reports, five Kurdish fighters died in the clashes, with the rest of the fatalities consisting of the Islamist insurgents and civilians.
In the course of the fighting, the Islamist forces kidnapped at least 120 Kurdish civilians in an attempt to force the area to submit to their occupation.
Ashrafiya has become a key objective of the Western-backed forces seeking to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It is on the main route leading from the northern outskirts of the city to its center and occupies the high ground of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital.
In the face of a growing challenge from the so-called rebels, increasingly dominated by Islamists and foreign fighters armed and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Washington’s collaboration, the Assad regime had relinquished control of Ashrafiya as well as of predominantly Kurdish areas in northern Syria.
In these areas, the Kurdish Democratic Union, or PYD, together with its armed wing, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), have largely assumed control, carving out semi-autonomous territories.
The PYD issued a statement after the fighting, declaring, “We have chosen to remain neutral, and we will not take sides in a war that will only bring suffering and destruction to our country.”
The statement blamed the bloodshed on the Islamist militias. “They started to shoot at the crowds gathered at the [FSA] checkpoints,” it said. “They were protesting, calling on the armed groups to leave residential neighborhoods.”
Kurds make up approximately 15 percent of Syria’s 32 million people. Within Aleppo province alone, there are at least 100,000. While hostile to the Assad regime, which has long subjected the Kurdish population to political repression, the Syrian Kurds have become increasingly antagonized by the Western-backed force, who are seen as pursuing an increasingly sectarian and Sunni Islamist agenda, driven in significant measure by foreign fighters and large amounts of Saudi and Qatari arms and aid.
The Syrian PYD is also closely aligned with the PKK, or Kurdish Workers Party, which has waged a three-decade-long guerrilla war against the government of Turkey, which for its part is providing sanctuary and substantial aid to the anti-Assad insurgents.
Turkey’s Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken the lead in organizing a military buildup against Syria, massing tanks and warplanes on the two countries’ border and carrying out artillery barrages against Syrian targets in retaliation for any stray round that crosses the Turkish border.
The Turkish buildup followed an October 3 incident in which shells from Syria struck a residential district in the Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing five civilians. In response, the Turkish parliament passed an act granting war powers to Erdogan, while NATO convened an emergency foreign ministers’ meeting to threaten Syria with military retaliation
The latest of the Turkish artillery strikes came on Monday after a shell fired from Syrian territory fell near the village of Besaslan in southern Hatay province without causing any casualties.
Just days before, a visiting top US military commander frankly acknowledged that there is no evidence that the shells landing in Turkey were being fired by Syrian government forces.
“We are not sure if these shells are from the Syrian army, from rebels who want to get Turkey involved in the issue or from the PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party],” Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the commander of US Army Europe, told the privately owned NTV Turkish television channel.
Of these three possibilities, it is clear that the Assad government has the least interest in drawing Turkey directly into the conflict, while the Western-backed forces have the most.
In any case, for Turkey’s ruling establishment, the shells coming across the Syrian border are of considerably less concern than the implications of Syria’s descent into civil war for the internal struggle between Turkish government forces and Kurdish separatists, which has grown more intense than at any time in recent years.
The conflict has been significantly affected by the Western-stoked civil war in Syria, whose regime had previously collaborated with the Turkish government in repressing the PKK. Similarly, the increasingly regional conflict provoked by the Syrian events has alienated Ankara from both the Iranian and Iraqi regimes, both of which have substantial Kurdish populations.
The Turkish state-run Anatolia news agency reported on Monday that at least one police officer had been killed Sunday in five simultaneous assaults launched on police security posts in Sirnak province, which borders on Syria. On the same day, Turkish troops backed by warplanes carried out an assault on Kurdish positions in the Beytussebap district of Sirnak. According to the Anatolia account, the assault claimed the lives of eight Kurdish fighters.
Tensions within Turkey have been heightened dramatically by a hunger strike on the part of some 700 Kurdish political prisoners scattered among 50 Turkish jails and prisons. Dozens of these prisoners, who include accused PKK fighters as well as members of Kurdish political parties, former mayors and other elected officials, lawyers, women and students, have been participating in what they call an “indefinite and irreversible hunger strike” for nearly 50 days.
Turkish prison authorities have reportedly retaliated against the hunger strikers with physical abuse, solitary confinement and depravation of water.
The strikers have issued demands that the government release PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan from solitary confinement, end restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language and respect the democratic rights of the Kurdish people.
Those who began the strike in September are feared in danger of dying, exhibiting extreme weight loss and symptoms such as bleeding, difficulty in swallowing, labored breathing and diarrhea.
On the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Turkey’s justice minister Sadullah Ergin called on the Kurdish prisoners to halt the strike, but made no mention of their demands. The government clearly fears that if these prisoners begin dying in Turkish prisons, it could trigger mass upheavals within the Kurdish population.

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One week to Election Day in America: The real choice for workers

By Andre Damon 
30 October 2012
As the 2012 presidential election campaign heads toward its conclusion next Tuesday, its right-wing and anti-democratic character becomes ever more clear.
The American population is presented with a “choice” between two multi-millionaires. One, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney, personifies the financial speculators whose criminality and greed triggered the financial crisis that erupted in 2008. The other, President Obama, has devoted his entire administration to protecting and expanding the wealth of the financial elite, destroying the democratic rights of the American people, and escalating military aggression internationally.
The post-election political agenda has already been set, regardless which of the two big business candidates wins. There is bipartisan agreement on policies set by the corporate-financial elite that controls both parties. Those policies can be summed up as (1) new military interventions and wars, (2) further attacks on democratic rights, (3) unprecedented cuts in basic social programs.
Rather than the campaign being used to openly discuss these policies before the American people, it is being staged managed to camouflage and conceal the reactionary agenda that will be implemented once the formality of a vote is out of the way.
Perhaps the most striking demonstration of this conspiracy of silence is the response—or lack of a response—by the media and the political establishment to last week’s Washington Post report that the Obama administration is systematizing its assassination program and integrating it into the day-to-day functioning of the state.
Under the leadership of National Security Advisor John O. Brennan, the White House has created a hit list with the Orwellian designation “disposition matrix” to coordinate between the military and intelligence agencies the carrying out of extrajudicial assassinations. Going even further than the Bush administration, the Obama White House has declared the right of the president to kill anyone, including US citizens, without judicial review.
The Post noted: “Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it… transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”
This unconstitutional and illegal assumption of dictatorial power over life and death by the executive branch has been met with near total silence by the major newspapers, including in editorials endorsing Obama’s reelection. Neither the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe or theWashington Post itself mentioned the drone assassination program or other attacks on democratic rights in their pro-Obama editorials.
When confronted with questions about the legality its of extrajudicial killings, the administration has responded with language appropriate to mafia dons. Asked about the drone killing of the 16-year-old US citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in Yemen last year, Obama campaign advisor Robert Gibbs said he “should have [had] a far more responsible father,” referring to Anwar al-Awlaki, likewise a US citizen, who was killed by a US drone strike two weeks before his son.
In the last presidential debate, Romney declared his full support to an expansion of the drone killing program, making it clear that no matter who is elected, extrajudicial state murders will be expanded.
The same methods being used to kill opponents of American imperialism abroad will ultimately be directed against political opponents of the ruling class at home. Drones are already flying surveillance missions over the United States under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security.
The assault on democratic rights is bound up with the expansion of war abroad and the intensification of class war at home. There is no discussion in the election campaign of the advanced state of preparations for war against Iran. Such a war could quickly develop into a regional conflagration enveloping the entire Middle East and sparking a confrontation between the US and Russia and/or China, with incalculable consequences.
Last week, the British Guardian newspaper reported that the US has requested permission to use British military bases as staging areas for a war against Iran. Britain has, according to the newspaper, rebuffed the proposal, “citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law.”
Meanwhile, the US and Israel have been conducting joint military exercises in preparation for a military conflict with Iran. More than 3,500 US personnel have joined 1,000 Israeli troops in what is being called a test of US-Israeli missile defense systems.
Within the United States, the ruling class is preparing a ferocious attack on social programs, including trillions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Such measures are deeply unpopular, but are supported by both Obama and Romney.
In an interview with MSNBC Monday morning, Obama spelled out his priorities after Election Day. “There’s no doubt that our first order of business is going to be to get our deficits and debt under control,” he said. “We’ve already made a trillion dollars worth of cuts. We can do some more cuts. We can look at how we deal with the health care costs in particular under Medicaid and Medicare in a serious way, but we are also going to need some revenue.”
Obama’s statement came after 80 CEOs of major US companies, including Steve Balmer of Microsoft, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, sent a letter to Romney and Obama urging whoever wins the election to proceed to cut social spending and carry out tax “reform,” i.e., lower taxes for the rich and raise them for everyone else.
The program of the corporate executives is identical to that proposed by Obama and conforms to the proposals for over $4 trillion in austerity and tax “reform” advanced by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.
The elections one week from today are a conspiracy against the American people. On all the issues of central concern to the ruling class, the two candidates are united. Whoever is elected, the same basic policy will be pursued.
The real decision in the 2012 election is not which millionaire tool of Wall Street to vote for. The real decision facing workers, youth and students is to take up the challenge of building a political movement of the working class independent of both big business parties to fight for socialism.
The Socialist Equality Party is holding regional conferences in Detroit and New York City to discuss the strategy for this struggle. For more information and to register, visit socialequality.com/conferences.

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The rise of separatist agitation in Europe

Empire’s changing face masks old ambitions

Israeli Jets Bomb Sudan "Missile Site" in Dry Run for Iran attack

By Uzi Mahmaini, Tel Aviv and Flora Bagenal, Nairobi
Click to enlarge
October 28, 2012 “The Sunday Times” — A LONG-RANGE Israeli bombing raid last week that was seen as a dry run for a forthcoming attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities has destroyed an Iranian-run plant making rockets and ballistic missiles in Sudan.
Eight Israeli F-15I planes — four carrying two one-ton bombs, escorted by four fighters — struck the giant Yarmouk factory on the southwestern outskirts of Khartoum, the capital, in the early hours of Wednesday.
The raid, in which two people died, triggered panic across the city. Witnesses said they heard a series of loud blasts followed by the sound of ammunition exploding.
“It was a double impact — the explosion at the factory and then the ammunition flying into the neighbourhood,” said Abd-al Ghadir Mohammed, 31, a resident. “The ground shook. Some homes were badly damaged. Continue
======
Israel’s ‘dry run’ for a strike against Iran: Two killed as jets bomb Sudanese rockets factory

Sudan vowed to take ‘decisive steps’ in retaliation against Israeli interests
Two people died in a series of explosions at the arms factory

By Daily Mail Reporter

October 29, 2012 “Daily Mail” — Israel has destroyed a Sudanese weapons factory in a bombing raid, it was claimed yesterday.
Sudan vowed to take ‘decisive steps’ in retaliation against Israeli interests, which it said are now ‘legitimate targets’.

The Yarmouk arms factory, in the south of the capital Khartoum, was destroyed in a series of explosions on Wednesday last week, in which two people died.
Sudan immediately pointed the finger of blame at Israel, while an American monitoring group said satellite images of the aftermath of the explosion suggest the site was hit in an airstrike.
The Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, Sudan seen in a satellite image made on October 12, prior to the alleged attack
The Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, Sudan seen in a satellite image made on October 12, prior to the alleged attack
A satellite picture of the military complex after the alleged raid taken on October 25
A satellite picture of the military complex after the alleged raid taken on October 25
The images showed ‘six large  craters, each approximately 16 metres across and consistent with large impact craters created by  air-delivered munitions.
 
They were centred in a location where, until recently, some 40  shipping containers had been stacked’, according to the Satellite Sentinel Project.
 
There were claims yesterday that Israel attacked the factory because it was a front for manufacturing rockets and ballistic missiles for Iran. There were also reports that the raid acted as a ‘dry run’ for a forthcoming strike on Iran’s  nuclear facilities.
Israel has so far made no comment on the destruction of the factory, as has become conventional when it is accused of attacking targets in nearby countries.
 
But it has long seen Sudan as a conduit for weapons smuggled to the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip via the Egyptian Sinai desert. Sudan’s information minister, Ahmed Bilal Osman, said: ‘The sophisticated warplanes and weapons used in the attack are available to no country in the region except Israel.’
Graphic with details of a raid carried out a military complex in Khartoum
Graphic with details of a raid carried out a military complex in Khartoum
He added that Sudan would have to take ‘decisive steps’ in retaliation although this would ‘definitely’ not entail a direct strike.
 
‘But we have the means, we have the means of how we can reply. They killed our people… and we know how to retaliate.’
 
There was widespread condemnation in the Arab world yesterday over the alleged attacks, although there was no direct proof linking them to Israel.
 
Western ‘security sources’ told the Sunday Times the bombing raid was carried out by eight Israeli F-151 planes.

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How to Bomb Iran

A Permanent Ceasefire is the Only Hope for Syria

The US needs to change policy. Its one-sided support for armed rebels may condemn Syrians to years of bloodshed

By Jonathan Steele

October 29, 2012 “The Guardian” — The four-day ceasefire that went into effect on Friday should have been the first good news from Syria for several months. The initiative came from Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League’s special envoy, and was accepted by Bashar al-Assad’s government as well as several opposition commanders.
Two Islamist groups rejected it outright and both sides put conditions on it. The government said it would respond to rebel attacks and the rebels said the government should not resupply its troops. The rebels seemed to be particularly sceptical of any ceasefire since they appear to believe the military momentum is with them, and they have always been wary of political negotiations unless Assad first resigns.
Although ceasefire violations have been numerous, there has been a slight overall drop in military activity. Reports from Aleppo suggest the city has been quieter and in other places people had a brief respite, especially on the first day. UN agencies, working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, had pre-positioned tons of aid for displaced families and were able to dispatch two convoys to Homs. Dozens of Syrian civil society groups have been working to get medicine, food and blankets to the informal shelters where homeless families are living in and around Damascus and Aleppo.
Aleppo has been the focus of terrible recent clashes. It has fallen victim to the worst destruction of any major city in the world since 1945. Over a third of its 2 million residents may have fled. According to Haytham Manna, the head of the National Co-ordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, Aleppo’s tragedy began when rebels attacked the city without having the strength to win it; whole districts were then destroyed by government counterattacks.
Manna lives in Paris but the rest of his 25-person executive lead opposition groups inside Syria. They still believe the best way to remove the Assad regime is through a ceasefire and a political settlement that provides for a democratic transition in which state institutions are reformed, not destroyed. They condemn the government’s indiscriminate use of air power in built-up areas but are aware of growing civilian criticism of rebel tactics. Manna even claims to detect signs of fatigue among the armed opposition.
He and his colleagues inside Syria consider diplomatic intervention the only solution. Russia and the US must reach a consensus to halt arms supplies and put pressure on each side to have a long-lasting ceasefire. This would be followed by negotiations between the Syrian parties as well as talks among Syria’s neighbours to guarantee no outside power would undermine the transition to a new system. It is a tall order. In their recent debates Romney and Obama produced the usual formulas that have yielded no breakthrough yet: Assad must go now, sanctions must be tightened, and support must increase for the armed opposition while ensuring weapons only go to “moderates”. There was no mention of ceasefires, the UN, Brahimi, or a political solution.
On the Syrian government side there are severe obstacles. The ceasefire track is not new. Before Brahimi took over Kofi Annan’s team had tried to negotiate truces in Homs, Rustan and Deir el-Zour. Assad claimed to agree but his generals vetoed the plans. Since then the regime’s security chiefs have launched air attacks and new massacres in districts on the edge of Damascus. Now come this weekend’s ceasefire violations. Like some of the rebels, the generals still believe military victory is possible.
They have also poisoned the atmosphere for talks, even if it means snubbing Russia, China and Iran. After Russian pressure the government allowed Manna’s group to hold a conference in Damascus last month. But the day before it opened, one of the group’s leaders, Abdelaziz al-Khayer, and two colleagues were detained by troops of the Airforce Intelligence, the most feared of the security agencies. Repeated inquiries by Russian, Chinese and Iranian diplomats have not yet produced their release.
Once the US election is over, Washington needs to change policy. One-sided support for the armed opposition condemns Syrians to months, perhaps years, of bloodshed. A Libya-style intervention would be a worse escalation. Far better to junk the failed strategy both candidates followed in last week’s debate and work with Russia and Brahimi on a permanent ceasefire. Whatever disputes Obama has with Putin on other issues, he needs to work with the Kremlin on Syria rather than provoke it.
Copyright The Guardian

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Obama’s Kill List Expands to Fascistic ‘Disposition Matrix’

How US Drones Forge as Many Foes as They Kill

World View: The enhanced use of unmanned attack planes is at the heart of American foreign policy
By Patrick Cockburn
October 29, 2012 “The Independent” — Drones or their equivalent have long attracted political and military leaders dreaming of the surgical removal of their enemies. In 1812, the governor of Moscow, Count Rostopchin, devised a plan to get a hot-air balloon to hover over the French lines at Borodino and drop an explosive device on Napoleon. The source for this is the memoirs of the French writer, traveller and politician Chateaubriand and I have not read it anywhere else, but the story illustrates how, from the first moment man took to the air, he has seen it as a means of assassination.
President Barack Obama thinks much the same way as Rostopchin did 200 years ago. The enhanced and secret use of unmanned drones is one of the most striking features of his foreign policy. During his presidency they have been used against Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. In Pakistan alone some 337 CIA strikes have killed 1,908 to 3,225 people since 2004, according to the Washington-based New America Foundation. Of these, between 1,618 and 2,769 are said to have been militants.
The precision of the numbers, combined with the great disparity between the highest and lowest figures, will send a chill through anybody who has examined US air attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Official mendacity about civilians killed has been a feature of every air war. Within days of the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the US military was trying to explain away why it had blown up Afghan wedding parties that it claimed were convoys of “terrorists”.
What makes Obama’s drone wars so important is that they are right at the centre of foreign policy in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Drones were used by George W Bush between 2004 and 2008 on a smaller scale, but their mass use since is not just the fruit of technical developments or tactical convenience.
One of the most important changes in world politics over the past decade is that the US has failed to win two wars, one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan, despite deploying large and vastly expensive land armies. Equally telling, these failures were against relatively puny forces of guerrillas. For American hardliners and neo-liberals these wars were designed to lay the ghosts of Vietnam and Somalia, enabling the open use of US military might, but they turned out to be Vietnam and Somalia revisited. American popular and establishment support for military intervention abroad using ground troops is at a low ebb.
The use of unmanned drones seems to avoid these problems. First of all there are no direct and immediate American casualties. The attacks also sound as if they are carrying the fight to the enemy in the shape of al-Qa’ida, with its top 20 operatives in north-west Pakistan being regularly eliminated – only to be mysteriously replaced by another top 20 operatives. Drone strikes have been difficult for the Republicans to criticise during the presidential campaign without opening themselves up to charges that they are soft on terrorism. In one of the few sensible remarks on foreign policy in the presidential debates, Mitt Romney said “we can’t kill our way out of this”, but later added that this did not mean he was anti-drone.
From the White House’s point of view, drones have the great advantage of being largely secret. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were once denounced as war criminals for waging a secret bombing campaign by B-52s on Cambodia. The official silence over today’s drones can be justified by claiming that this is a covert war against al-Qa’ida waged by the CIA and the US Joint Special Operations Command, and requires secrecy to be effective.
Are the drones as effective as claimed? Air power has always over-sold itself as being cheap and deadly compared with ground forces. It was first used by the Italians in their colonial conquest of Libya in 1911. Britain’s “Bomber” Harris, who led the RAF Bomber Command during its mass raids on Germany in the Second World War, cut his teeth devastating Kurdish villages in Iraq in the 1920s.
Air power can deliver much, but it cannot deliver everything. This is as true of drones as it is of B-52s. The drones make more political sense at home than military sense abroad. Whatever the accuracy of the missiles, targets must still be identified before they are destroyed, requiring good local information. Where the local state is weak or nonexistent, as in Yemen, Somalia, Libya or Waziristan in north-west Pakistan, this is easy to do because the CIA can have its own network of agents or co-operate with local intelligence agencies.
But there is something misleading and almost comical about a picture of al-Qa’ida as a tightly organised group along the lines of a miniature Pentagon. It is, on the contrary, much more a series of political and religious attitudes combined with willingness to wage holy war using certain tactics, notably suicide bombing.
Drones have other serious disadvantages. They create rage in the countries where they are used, such as Pakistan. If, as is evident, they are carried out with the connivance of Islamabad, this discredits the government as American proxies. Exact figures about civilian casualties are often mythical since outsiders do not know who is living in family compounds in Afghanistan or north-west Pakistan (witness the time it took for US intelligence to find Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound).
Many places where drones are used are inaccessible to foreign or even local journalists. Civilian casualties can be minimised or denied. I reported in 2009 a US bombing raid on three villages in Farah province, south of Herat, which killed 147 people, according to locals. There were craters 30ft deep which a US spokesman cheerfully suggested had been made by Taliban fighters throwing grenades into houses. This was an obvious lie, but it was impossible for journalists to prove the opposite.
Of course, local people knew what had happened. They drove their tractors pulling trailers full of body parts to the provincial capital where government soldiers opened fire, killing three of them. I wondered at the time how many of the surviving young men of the three villages, and in the rest of Farah province, joined the Taliban because of that bombing raid.
Drones do not change very much on the ground. They do provide political camouflage at home and abroad, concealing the US retreat in Afghanistan and Iraq. They store up trouble because they may create more enemies than they eliminate. They rely on a network of informants that can only be established in weak, failed or failing states. They also invite other states such as China and Russia to invest in drones to kill their dissidents beyond their borders. Secret assassination campaigns by drones, hot-air balloons, bombs or rare poisons all carry the risk that somebody, somewhere is plotting their retaliation.
© independent.co.uk

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US Detention of Imran Khan Part of Trend to Harass Anti-drone Advocates

Pentagon is World’s Leading Landlord

DOD property ownership reaches worldwide
By Face the Facts
 


October 29, 2012 “
Information Clearing House” – Move over, Donald Trump and Ted Turner. The Department of Defense is the world’s top property owner with holdings around the world – a fact relevant amid election-year debate about the size and role of our military.

In the United States alone, DOD occupies 1.9 billion square feet of office space – about three times the floor space of all the nation’s Walmart stores, or 10 times the office space in all of Los Angeles. Worldwide, DOD has more than 2 million people working on 5,000 sites in 41 countries.
 

(Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, has 1.4 million workers.)
Today’s video has more on the world’s biggest landlord. Take a look, share it with a friend in uniform, then consider the size and scope of today’s military in our discussion thread below. 
© Copyright 2012, Face the Facts USA, George Washington University
This article was originally posted at Face the Facts

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Our Words Are Our Weapons Against the Destruction of the World by Greed

Why I’m Voting Green

Those who rebel are our only hope

By Chris Hedges

October 29, 2012 “Truthdig” — The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, although I could as easily vote for Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil”—or failing to vote at all—is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.
All the major correctives to American democracy have come through movements and third parties that have operated outside the mainstream. Few achieved formal positions of power. These movements built enough momentum and popular support, always in the face of fierce opposition, to force the power elite to respond to their concerns. Such developments, along with the courage to defy the political charade in the voting booth, offer the only hope of saving us from Wall Street predators, the assault on the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, the rise of the security and surveillance state and the dramatic erosion of our civil liberties.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any,” Alice Walker writes.
It was the Liberty Party that first fought slavery. It was the Prohibition and Socialist parties, along with the Suffragists, that began the fight for the vote for women and made possible the 19th Amendment. It was the Socialist Party, along with radical labor unions, that first battled against child labor and made possible the 40-hour workweek. It was the organizing of the Populist Party that gave us the Immigration Act of 1924 along with a “progressive” tax system. And it was the Socialists who battled for unemployment benefits, leading the way to the Social Security Act of 1935. No one in the ruling elite, including Franklin Roosevelt, would have passed this legislation without pressure from the outside.
“It is the combination of a social movement on the ground with an independent political party that has always made history together, whether during abolition, women’s suffrage or the labor movement,” Stein said when I reached her by phone as she campaigned in Chicago. “We need courage in our politics that matches the courage of the social movements—of Occupy, eviction blockades, Keystone pipeline civil disobedience, student strikes, the Chicago teachers union and more. If public opinion really mattered in this race, we [her presidential ticket] would win. We have majority support in poll after poll on nearly all of the key issues, from downsizing the military budget and bringing the troops home, to taxing the rich, to stopping the Wall Street bailouts, to breaking up the banks, to ending the offshoring of jobs, to supporting workers’ rights, to increasing the minimum wage, to health care as a human right, through Medicare for all. These are the solutions a majority of Americans are clamoring for.”
The corporate state has successfully waged a campaign of fear to disempower voters and citizens. By intimidating voters through a barrage of propaganda with the message that Americans have to vote for the lesser evil and that making a defiant stand for justice and democracy is counterproductive, it cements into place the agenda of corporate domination we seek to thwart. This fear campaign, skillfully disseminated by the $2.5 billion spent on political propaganda, has silenced real political opposition. It has turned those few politicians and leaders who have the courage to resist, such as Stein and Ralph Nader, into pariahs, denied a voice in the debates and the national discourse. Capitulation, silence and fear, however, are not a strategy. They will guarantee everything we seek to avoid.
“The Obama administration has embraced the policies of George W. Bush, and then gone much further,” Stein said. “Wall Street bailouts went ballistic under Obama—$700 billion under Bush, but $4.5 trillion under Obama, plus another $16 trillion in zero-interest loans for Wall Street. Obama continues offshoring our jobs. Bill Clinton brought us NAFTA, which was carried out under George W. Bush. It was vastly expanded under Obama to labor abusers in Colombia, and to Panama and South Korea. The Transpacific Partnership, being negotiated behind closed doors by the Obama White House, is NAFTA on steroids. It continues to send our jobs overseas. It undermines wages at home. It overrides American sovereignty by establishing an international corporate board that can overrule American legislation and regulations that protect workers as well as our air, our water, our climate and our food supply.”
Obama, who has claimed the power of assassinating U.S. citizens without charge or trial, increased the drone war and has vastly expanded the wars in the Middle East. He is waging proxy wars in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. His assault on civil liberties—from his use of the Espionage Act to silence whistle-blowers to Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act to the FISA Amendment Act—is worse than Bush’s. His attack on immigrant rights has also outpaced that of Bush. Obama has deported more undocumented workers in four years than his Republican predecessor did in eight years. There is negligible difference between Obama and Romney on the issue of student debt, which has turned a generation of college students into indentured servants. But the most important convergence between the Republicans and the Democrats is their utter failure to address the perilous assault by the fossil fuel industry on the ecosystem. It was Obama who undercut the international climate accord reached last year at Durban, South Africa, saying the world could wait until 2020 for an agreement.
“Obama is promoting oil drilling in the Arctic, where the ice cap has already collapsed to one-quarter of its size from a couple decades ago, and he’s opened up our national parks for drilling,” Stein said. “He has given the green light tofracking. He has permitted the exhaust from shale oil [extraction] to go into the atmosphere. He is building the southern pass of the Keystone pipeline. He brags that he has built more miles of pipeline than any other president.
“There is a protracted drought in 60 percent of the continental U.S.,” Stein said. “There are record forest fires and rising food prices. We have just now seen the 12 hottest months on record. Storms are growing in destructiveness. All this is happening with less than 1-degree Celsius temperature rise. Yet we are now on track for a 6-degree Celsius warming in this century alone. This is not survivable. The most pessimistic science on climate change has underpredicted the rate at which climate change is advancing.”
The flimsy excuses used by liberals and progressives to support Obama, including the argument that we can’t let Romney appoint the next Supreme Court justices, ignore the imperative of building a movement as fast and as radical as possible as a counterweight to corporate power. The Supreme Court, no matter what its composition, will not save us from financial implosion and climate collapse. And Obama, whatever his proclivity on social issues, has provided ample evidence that he will not alter his servitude to the corporate state. For example, he has refused to provide assurance that he will not make cuts in basic social infrastructures. He has proposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare, a move that would leave millions without adequate health care in retirement. He has said he will reduce the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security, thrusting vast numbers of seniors into poverty. Progressives’ call to vote for independents in “safe” states where it is certain the Democrats will win will do nothing to mitigate fossil fuel’s ravaging of the ecosystem, regulate and prosecute Wall Street or return to us our civil liberties.
“There is no state out there where either Obama or Romney offers a way out of here alive,” Stein said. “It’s up to us to create truly safe states, a safe nation, and a safe planet. Neither Obama nor Romney has a single exit strategy from the deadly crises we face.”
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.
Copyright © 2012 Truthdig

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Refugees March to Berlin Demanding Full Human Rights

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Koch Brothers and the Road to "Citizens United"

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Australian government’s new mining tax raises zero revenue

Striking South African miners oppose rally called by official unions

By Julie Hyland 
29 October 2012
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called a rally and march Saturday at the Olympia Stadium, Rustenburg in what was meant to be a show of strength. COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi had vowed to “reclaim the Rustenburg area from the forces of counterrevolution.”
Vavi was to appear before an audience bussed in from surrounding areas, alongside Blade Nzimande, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary and minister in the African National Congress (ANC)-dominated Tripartite Alliance, and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) General Secretary Frans Baleni.
Instead, the protest demonstrated how eviscerated these organisations have become and the hostility of broad masses of workers towards them.
The so-called “forces of counterrevolution” identified by Vavi are tens of thousands of striking miners who have rebelled against backbreaking exploitation and poverty wages and against the NUM, which functions as a house union for the mining companies.
Rustenburg has been at the centre of a wildcat insurgency that began in August at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana and spread across the mining sector to involve some 100,000 workers at its peak.
On Saturday, over 1,000 striking Amplats miners arrived early at the Olympia Stadium and occupied the venue. Wearing black T-shirts with the slogan “Remember the Slain of Marikana” and “Forward with Living Wage —R12500”, they carried placards reading, “Don’t Let Police Get Away with Murder” and “We Are Here to Bury NUM.”
The Sapa news agency cited Tshepang Moloi from the Rustenburg branch of the National Striking Committee stating, “We have a message for Zwelinzima Vavi: We are not going back to work until our demands are met”. Another striker shouted, “We are dying underground while you sit on chairs above and earn money!”
As the strikers marched into the stadium, NUM officials fled. The workers burnt ANC and COSATU T-shirts and then left to sing and shout slogans outside the gates, which were padlocked by police.
In his account of events for the Daily Maverick, Greg Marinovich noted, “Police have banned most marches by Marikana miners and even women’s marches as a threat to public safety. Yet, despite it being clear that large-scale clashes would erupt if COSATU insisted on holding the rally at the stadium, police opted to heed COSATU’s desires and moved in to clear the miners.”
Three COSATU officials were assaulted. Marinovich recounts that government and union officials watched as COSATU members beat and stripped Rehad Desai from the Marikana solidarity campaign. Police then began firing stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets and chased the strikers into the neighbouring streets. The shooting lasted for over an hour.
Inside the stadium, SACP General Secretary Nzimande praised the police action and told the audience that the SACP would never allow the destruction of the NUM. “NUM is the best capable union to represent mineworkers in South Africa”, he said.
But Nzimande was addressing a rally attended by just 500 to 1,000 people, according to varying reports. The NUM has all but disintegrated and is kept going only because of its key role in the government and state apparatus.
As Marinovich concluded, “What happened at Olympia stadium is the start of open competition and conflict between organised labour with links to the ruling party (with the support of the organs of state), and an increasingly disempowered and frustrated workforce, who were once the vanguard of the Alliance.
“The ANC-linked union federation is determined to keep their mineworker union in power at the mines, knowing well that without it, they will shrivel and die. The war has now well and truly started and, should the solution not be soon found, there will [be] much more blood and tears spilt.”
Thirty-four striking miners were slain by police at the Lonmin mine on August 16. This action was endorsed by the NUM, COSATU and the SACP, with Dominic Tweedie of the SACP and COSATU declaring, “We should be happy. The police were admirable.”
Last week, at the ANC-appointed inquiry into the Marikana massacre, it was revealed that in an email exchange with Lonmin management, government ministers and the police, former NUM general secretary-turned millionaire businessman Cyril Ramaphosa had called for “concomitant action” to address the “criminal acts” of the striking miners just 24-hours before the police massacre.
The workers’ “crime” is to reject the NUM and wage a militant struggle to increase their wages. Their actions have exposed the project of “Black economic empowerment”, by which ANC and union representatives have become millionaires, while the exploitation and poverty of the majority of workers have, if anything, grown worse.
In a bid to restore credibility, Vavi had billed the Rustenburg rally as a “fight against the subversive forces threatening NUM’s dominance in the platinum belt”. Its aim was to “strengthen COSATU”. In a bid to placate the workers, Vavi said COSATU and the NUM were demanding the reinstatement of thousands of mineworkers laid off for taking wildcat action.
On Thursday, it was announced that the NUM and the Chamber of Mines had reached agreement on a pay rise with AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony, and Gold Fields. Just ahead of Saturday’s rally, the NUM again announced that Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) had agreed to rehire the 12,000 workers it had dismissed for involvement in a six-week strike.
The announced deals met with an angry response from many strikers, who rightly regarded them as an attempt by management and the union to wind down their action and then pick them off mine by mine.
The revised pay structure for the gold sector amounts to a maximum rise in monthly salaries of just R500 ($57.8), under conditions where workers were demanding an increase from their current 4,000 rand salary to R16,000. The agreement does nothing for the thousands of gold miners who have been dismissed.
As for Amplats, the company has given dismissed employees a deadline of Tuesday to return to work, with the paltry offer of a one-off hardship payment of R2,000 ($230).

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