Daily Archives: March 19, 2013

Iraq After Ten Years

By Paul Craig Roberts

March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  March 19, 2013. Ten years ago today the Bush regime invaded Iraq. It is known that the justification for the invasion was a packet of lies orchestrated by the neoconservative Bush regime in order to deceive the United Nations and the American people. 

The US Secretary of State at that time, General Colin Powell, has expressed his regrets that he was used by the Bush regime to deceive the United Nations with fake intelligence that the Bush and Blair regimes knew to be fake. But the despicable presstitute media has not apologized to the American people for serving the corrupt Bush regime as its Ministry of Propaganda and Lies. 

It is difficult to discern which is the most despicable, the corrupt Bush regime, the presstitutes that enabled it, or the corrupt Obama regime that refuses to prosecute the Bush regime for its unambiguous war crimes, crimes against the US Constitution, crimes against US statutory law, and crimes against humanity.

In his book, Cultures Of War, the distinguished historian John W. Dower observes that the concrete acts of war unleashed by the Japanese in the 20th century and the Bush imperial presidency in the 21st century “invite comparative analysis of outright war crimes like torture and other transgressions. Imperial Japan’s black deeds have left an indelible stain on the nation’s honor and good name, and it remains to be seen how lasting the damage to America’s reputation will be. In this regard, the Bush administration’s war planners are fortunate in having been able to evade formal and serious investigation remotely comparable to what the Allied powers pursued vis-a-vis Japan and Germany after World War II.”

Dower quotes Arthur Schlesinger Jr.: “The president [Bush] has adopted a policy of ‘anticipatory self-defense’ that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor on a date which, as an earlier American president said it would, lives in infamy. Franklin D. Roosevelt was right, but today it is we Americans who live in infamy.”

Americans paid an enormous sum of money for the shame of living in infamy. Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes calculated that the Iraq war cost US taxpayers $3,000 billion dollars. This estimate might turn out to be optimistic. The latest study concludes that the war could end up costing US taxpayers twice as much. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/iraq-war-anniversary-idUSL1N0C5FBN20130314 

In order to pay for the profits that have flowed into the pockets of the US military-security complex and from there into political contributions, Americans are in danger of losing Social Security, Medicare, and the social cohesiveness that the social welfare system provides. 

The human cost to Iraq of America’s infamy is extraordinary: 4.5 million displaced Iraqis, as many as 1 million dead civilians leaving widows and orphans, a professional class that has departed the country, an infrastructure in ruins, and social cohesion destroyed by the Sunni-Shia conflict that was ignited by Washington’s destruction of the Saddam Hussein government. 

It is a sick joke that the United States government brought freedom and democracy to Iraq. What the Washington war criminals brought was death and the destruction of a country.

The US population, for the most part, seems quite at ease with the gratuitous destruction of Iraq and all that it entails: children without parents, wives without husbands, birth defects from “depleted” uranium, unsafe water, a country without hope mired in sectarian violence.

Washington’s puppet state governments in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Japan seem equally pleased with the victory–over what? What threat did the victory defeat? There was no threat. Weapons of mass destruction was a propaganda hoax. Mushroom clouds over American cities was fantasy propaganda. How ignorant do populations have to be to fall for such totally transparent propaganda? Is there no intelligence anywhere in the Western world? 

At a recent conference the neoconservatives responsible for the deaths and ruined lives of millions and for the trillions of dollars that their wars piled on US national debt were unrepentant and full of self-justification. While Washington looks abroad for evil to slay, evil is concentrated in Washington itself. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/still-peddling-iraq-war-myths-ten-years-later-8227 

The American war criminals walk about unmolested. They are paid large sums of money to make speeches about how Americans are bringing freedom and democracy to the world by invading, bombing and murdering people. The War Crimes Tribunal has not issued arrest warrants. The US Department of State, which is still hunting for Nazi war criminals, has not kidnapped the American ones and sent them to be tried at the Hague. 

The Americans who suffered are the 4,801 troops who lost their lives, the thousands of troops who lost limbs and suffer from other permanent wounds, the tens of thousands who suffer from post-traumatic stress and from the remorse of killing innocent people, the families and friends of the American troops, and the broken marriages and single-parent children from the war stress.

Other Americans have suffered on the home front. Those whose moral conscience propelled them to protest the war were beaten and abused by police, investigated and harassed by the FBI, and put on no-fly lists. Some might actually be prosecuted. The Unites States has reached the point where any citizen who has a moral conscience is an enemy of the state. The persecution of Bradley Manning demonstrates this truth.

A case could be made that the historians’ comparison of the Bush regime with Japanese war criminals doesn’t go far enough. By this October 7, Washington will have been killing people, mainly women, children, and village elders, in Afghanistan for 12 years. No one knows why America has brought such destruction to the Afghan people. First the Soviets; then the Americans. What is the difference? When Obama came into the presidency, he admitted that no one knew what the US military mission was in Afghanistan. We still don’t know. The best guess is profits for the US armaments industry, power for the Homeland Security industry, and a police state for the insouciant US population.

Washington has left Libya in ruins and internal conflict. There is no government, but it is not libertarian nirvana.

The incessant illegal drone attacks on Pakistani civilians is radicalizing elements of Pakistan and provoking civil war against the Pakistani government, which is owned by Washington and permits Washington’s murder of its citizens in exchange for Washington’s money payments to the political elites who have sold out their country to Washington. 

Washington has destabilized Syria and destroyed the peace that the Assad family had imposed on the Islamic sects. Syria seems fated to be reduced to ruins and permanent violence like Libya and Iraq.

Washington is at work killing people in Yemen. 

As the video released to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning shows, some US troops don’t care who they kill–journalists and civilians walking peacefully along a street, a father and his children who stop to help the wounded. As long as someone is killed, it doesn’t matter who.

Killing is winning. 

The US invaded Somalia, has its French puppets militarily involved in Mali, and perhaps has Sudan in its crosshairs for drones and missiles.

Iran and Lebanon are designated as the next victims of Washington’s aggression.

Washington protects Israeli aggression against the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon from UN censure and from embargoes. Washington has arrested and imprisoned people who have sent aid to the Palestinian children. Gaza, declares Washington which regards itself as the only fount of truth, is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organization according to Washington. Thus any aid to Gaza is aid to terrorism. Aide to starving and ill Palestinian children is support of terrorism. This is the logic of an inhumane war criminal state. 

What is this aggression against Muslims about? 

The Soviet Union collapsed and Washington needed a new enemy to keep the US military/security complex in power and profits. The neoconservatives, who totally dominated the Bush regime and might yet dominate the Obama regime declared Muslims in the Middle East to be the enemy. Against this make-believe “enemy,” the US launched wars of aggression that are war crimes under the US imposed Nuremberg standard that was applied to the defeated WWII Germans.

Although the British and French started World War II by declaring war on Germany, it was Germans, defeated by the Red Army, who were tried by Washington as war criminals for starting a war. A number of serious historians have reached the conclusion that America’s war crimes, with the fire-bombings of the civilian populations of Dresden and Tokyo and the gratuitous nuclear attacks on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are of the same cloth as the war crimes of Hitler and the Japanese.

The difference is that the winners paint the defeated in the blackest tones and themselves in high moral tones. Honest historians know that there is not much difference between US WWII war crimes and those of the Japanese and Germans. But

the US was on the winning side.

By its gratuitous murder of Muslims in seven or eight countries, Washington has ignited a Muslim response: bitter hatred of the United States. This response is termed “terrorism” by Washington and the war against terrorism serves as a source of endless profits for the military complex and for a police state to “protect” Americans from terrorism, but not from the terrorism of their own government. 

The bulk of the American population is too misinformed to catch on, and the few who do

understand and are attempting to warn others will be silenced. The 21st century will be one of the worst centuries in human history. All over the Western world, liberty is dying.

The legacy of “the war on terror” is the death of liberty.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.

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Iraq: War’s Legacy of Cancer

Two US-led wars in Iraq have left behind hundreds of tonnes of depleted uranium munitions and other toxic wastes.

By Dahr Jamail

This report contains photos of a graphic nature.

March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House –Al Jazeera – Fallujah, Iraq – Contamination from Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions and other military-related pollution is suspected of causing a sharp rises in congenital birth defects, cancer cases, and other illnesses throughout much of Iraq.

Many prominent doctors and scientists contend that DU contamination is also connected to the recent emergence of diseases that were not previously seen in Iraq, such as new illnesses in the kidney, lungs, and liver, as well as total immune system collapse. DU contamination may also be connected to the steep rise in leukaemia, renal, and anaemia cases, especially among children, being reported throughout many Iraqi governorates.

There has also been a dramatic jump in miscarriages and premature births among Iraqi women, particularly in areas where heavy US military operations occurred, such as Fallujah.

Official Iraqi government statistics show that, prior to the outbreak of the First Gulf War in 1991, the rate of cancer cases in Iraq was 40 out of 100,000 people. By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000 people, and, by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the increasing trend continuing.

As shocking as these statistics are, due to a lack of adequate documentation, research, and reporting of cases, the actual rate of cancer and other diseases is likely to be much higher than even these figures suggest.

“Cancer statistics are hard to come by, since only 50 per cent of the healthcare in Iraq is public,” Dr Salah Haddad of the Iraqi Society for Health Administration and Promotion told Al Jazeera. “The other half of our healthcare is provided by the private sector, and that sector is deficient in their reporting of statistics. Hence, all of our statistics in Iraq must be multiplied by two. Any official numbers are likely only half of the real number.”

Toxic environments

Dr Haddad believes there is a direct correlation between increasing cancer rates and the amount of bombings carried out by US forces in particular areas.

“My colleagues and I have all noticed an increase in Fallujah of congenital malformations, sterility, and infertility,” he said. “In Fallujah, we have the problem of toxics introduced by American bombardments and the weapons they used, like DU.”

During 2004, the US military carried out two massive military sieges of the city of Fallujah, using large quantities of DU ammunition, as well as white phosphorous.

“We are concerned about the future of our children being exposed to radiation and other toxic materials the US military have introduced into our environment,” Dr Haddad added.

A frequently cited epidemiological study titled Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009 involved a door-to-door survey of more than 700 Fallujah households.

The research team interviewed Fallujans about abnormally high rates of cancer and birth defects.

One of the authors of the study, Chemist Chris Busby, said that the Fallujah health crisis represented “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied”.

Dr Mozghan Savabieasfahani is an environmental toxicologist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is the author of more than two dozen peer reviewed articles, most of which deal with the health impact of toxicants and war pollutants. Her research now focuses on war pollution and the rising epidemic of birth defects in Iraqi cities.

“After bombardment, the targeted population will often remain in the ruins of their contaminated homes, or in buildings where metal exposure will continue,” Dr Savabieasfahani told Al Jazeera.

“Our research in Fallujah indicated that the majority of families returned to their bombarded homes and lived there, or otherwise rebuilt on top of the contaminated rubble of their old homes. When possible, they also used building materials that were salvaged from the bombarded sites. Such common practices will contribute to the public’s continuous exposure to toxic metals years after the bombardment of their area has ended.”  

She pointed out how large quantities of DU bullets, as well as other munitions, were released into the Iraqi environment.

“Between 2002 and 2005, the US armed forces expended six billion bullets – according to the figures of the US General Accounting Office,” she added.

According to Dr Savabieasfahani, metal contaminants in war zones originate from bombs and bullets, as well as from other explosive devices. Metals, most importantly lead, uranium, and mercury, are used in the manufacture of munitions, and all of these contribute to birth defects, immunological disorders, and other illnesses.

“Our study in two Iraqi cities, Fallujah and Basra, focused on congenital birth defects,” she said.

Her research showed that both studies found increasing numbers of birth defects, especially neural tube defects and congenital heart defects. It also revealed public contamination with two major neurotoxic metals, lead and mercury.

“The Iraq birth defects epidemic is, however, surfacing in the context of many more public health problems in bombarded cities,” she said. “Childhood leukemia, and other types of cancers, are increasing in Iraq.”

Fallujah babies

Doctors in Fallujah are continuing to witness the aforementioned steep rise in severe congenital birth defects, including children being born with two heads, children born with only one eye, multiple tumours, disfiguring facial and body deformities, and complex nervous system problems.

Doctors in Fallujah are registering hundreds of babies with
severe birth defects, which they attribute to DU munitions
and other war toxins [Dr Samira Alani/Al Jazeera]

Today in Fallujah, residents are reporting to Al Jazeera that many families are too scared to have children, as an alarming number of women are experiencing consecutive miscarriages and deaths with critically deformed and ill newborns.

Dr Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, has taken a personal interest in investigating an explosion of congenital abnormalities that have mushroomed in the wake of the US sieges since 2005.

“We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine,” Alani told Al Jazeera at her office in the hospital last year, while showing countless photos of shocking birth defects.

Alani also co-authored a study in 2010 that showed the rate of heart defects in Fallujah to be 13 times the rate found in Europe. And, for birth defects involving the nervous system, the rate was calculated to be 33 times that found in Europe for the same number of births.

As of December 21, 2011, Alani, who has worked at the hospital since 1997, told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009. Just eight days later, when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.

Alani showed Al Jazeera hundreds of photos of babies born with cleft pallets, elongated heads, a baby born with one eye in the centre of its face, overgrown limbs, short limbs, and malformed ears, noses and spines.

Multiple birth defects, many as severe as this, have
become common with babies born in the aftermath of
US assaults on the city [Dr Samira Alani/Al Jazeera]

She told Al Jazeera of cases of “thanatophoric displacia”, an abnormality in bones and the rib cage that “render the newborn incompatible with life”.

“It’s been found by a coroner’s court that cancer was caused by an exposure to depleted uranium,” Busby told Al Jazeera.

“In the last ten years, research has emerged that has made it quite clear that uranium is one of the most dangerous substances known to man, certainly in the form that it takes when used in these wars.”

In July 2010, Busby released a study that showed a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in Fallujah since the 2004 attacks. The report also showed the sex ratio had become skewed to 86 boys born to every 100 girls, together with a spread of diseases indicative of genetic damage – similar to, but of far greater incidence than Hiroshima.

Dr Alani has visited Japan where she met with Japanese doctors who study birth defect rates they believe related to radiation from the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

She was told birth defect incidence rates there are between one and two per cent. Alani’s log of cases of birth defects amounts to a rate of 14.7 per cent of all babies born in Fallujah, more than 14 times the rate in the effected areas of Japan.

In March 2013, Dr Alani informed Al Jazeera that the incident rates of congenital malformations remained around 14 percent.

As staggering as these statistics are, Dr Alani points to the same problem of under-reporting that Dr Haddad mentioned, and said that the crisis is even worse than these statistics indicate.

“We have no system to register all of them, so we have so many cases we are missing,” she said. “I think I only know of 40-50 percent of the cases because so many families have their babies at home and we never know of these, and other clinics are not registering them either.”

Additionally, Dr Alani remains the only person in Fallujah registering cases, and reported that she was still seeing the same severe defects.

“We have so many cases of babies with multiple system defects in one baby,” she explained. “Multiple abnormalities in one baby. For example, we just had one baby with central nervous system problems, skeletal defects, and heart abnormalities. This is common in Fallujah today.”

Disconcertingly, Dr Alani mentioned something that Dr Savabieasfahani’s research warned of.

The hospital where Alani does her work was constructed in the Dhubadh district of Fallujah in 2008. According to Alani, the district was bombed heavily during the November 2004 siege.

Dr Savabieasfahani explained that her research proves areas of Fallujah, as well as Basra, “are contaminated with lead and mercury, two highly toxic heavy metals”, from US bombings in 1991 and during the 2003 invasion. “Exposure to metals, as well as to ionizing radiation, can lead to cancer,” she added.

She said that, when the DU munitions explode or strike their targets, they generate “fine metal-containing dust particles as well as DU-containing particles that persist in the environment. These particles can enter the food chain and enter the human body via contaminated food. Toxic particles can also become airborne with the wind and be inhaled by the public. Iraq is prone to frequent sand and dust storms. Continuous public inhalation of toxic materials can lead to cancer. Ingested or inhaled particles that emit alpha radiation can cause cancer.”

Basra and Southern Iraq

In Babil Province in southern Iraq, cancer rates have been escalating at alarming rates since 2003. Dr Sharif al-Alwachi, the head of the Babil Cancer Centre, blames the use of depleted uranium weapons by US forces during and following the 2003 invasion. 

“The environment could be contaminated by chemical weapons and depleted uranium from the aftermath of the war on Iraq,” Dr Alwachi told Al Jazeera. “The air, soil and water are all polluted by these weapons, and as they come into contact with human beings they become poisonous. This is new to our region, and people are suffering here.”

According to a study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, a professional journal based in the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, there was a sevenfold increase in the number of birth defects in Basra between 1994 and 2003.

According to the Heidelberg study, the concentration of lead in the milk teeth of sick children from Basra was almost three times as high as comparable values in areas where there was no fighting.

In addition, never before has such a high rate of neural tube defects (“open back”) been recorded in babies as in Basra, and the rate continues to rise. According to the study, the number of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) cases among new-borns is six times as high in Basra as it is in the United States.

Abdulhaq Al-Ani, author of Uranium in Iraq, has been researching the effects of depleted uranium on Iraqis since 1991. He told Al Jazeera he personally measured radiation levels in the city of Kerbala, as well as in Basra, and his geiger counter was “screaming” because “the indicator went beyond the range”.

Dr Savabieasfahani pointed out that childhood leukemia rates in Basra more than doubled between 1993 and 2007.

“Multiple cancers in patients – patients with simultaneous tumours on both kidneys and in the stomach, for example – an extremely rare occurrence, have also been reported there,” she said. “These observations collectively suggest an extraordinary public health emergency in Iraq. Such a crisis requires urgent multifaceted international action to prevent further damage to public health.”

International law and the future

There are clear international laws addressing the use of munitions such as Depleted Uranium.

Article 35 of Protocol I, a 1977 amendment of the Geneva Conventions, prohibits any means or methods of warfare that cause superfluous injuries or unnecessary suffering. Article 35 also prohibits those nations from resorting to means of war that could inflict extensive and long-term damage on human health and the environment.

The observed impacts of DU in Iraq suggest that these weapons fall under Article 35 as being prohibited, by the very nature of their suspected long-lasting effects on human health and the environment.

Article 36 (of Protocol I) also obliges any state studying, developing, or acquiring a new weapon to hold a legal review of that weapon.

Thus far, Belgium (2007) and Costa Rica (2011) have passed domestic laws prohibiting uranium weapons within their territories. In 2008, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that stated that “the use of DU in warfare
runs counter to the basic rules and principles enshrined in written and customary international, humanitarian and environmental law”.

Nevertheless, DNA mutations caused by DU can, of course, be passed from parent to child. Hence, DU contamination from the US-led wars against Iraq in 1990 and 2003 appear to likely continue to cause a persistent national health crisis for future generations of Iraqis.

The remaining traces of DU in Iraq represent a formidable long-term environmental hazard, as they will remain radioactive for more than 4.5 billion years.

Dr Savabieasfahani feels that more research and studies need to be carried out in Iraq in order to obtain the full scope of damage caused by the weapons of war used in that country since 1990.

“We need large scale environmental testing to find out the extent of environmental contamination by metals and DU, and other weapons in Iraq,” she concluded.

“There are not even medical terms to describe some of these conditions because we’ve never seen them until now,” Dr Alani said. “So when I describe it, all I can do is describe the physical defects, but am unable to provide a medical term.”

Dr Haddad shared his deep concern about the future of his own, and other, Iraqi children.

“I feel fear for them,” he said, sadly. “They are encircled by so many problems like health issues, toxins, and we must work to spare them from disease, radiation, and chemical toxins. These are the silent killers, because you can’t see them until the problem grows very large. Too many Iraqis have suffered from these, and I can’t see how that suffering will not continue.”

Dr Alani simply wanted people, especially those in the United States, to know of the crisis in Fallujah, and asked one thing from them.

“I ask them to ask their government not to hurt people outside of their country,” she said. “Especially the people of Iraq.”

Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail


Paying The Price: Killing The Children Of Iraq

A documentary film by John Pilger

Sanctions enforced by the UN on Iraq since the Gulf War have killed more people than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945, including over half a million children – many of whom weren’t even born when the Gulf War began.

Broadcast 03/06/2000 ITV  Runtime 75 Minutes


The Last Letter

A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney

From: Tomas Young

March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House – I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness. 


Obama & Iranian Children with Cancer


Patients in Iran are dying of treatable diseases because of shortages in life-saving medicines.

Posted March 19, 2013

Blocking Medicine to Iran:


March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House –NYTimes” – The New York Times: Patients in Iran are dying of treatable diseases because of shortages in life-saving medicines. The past year has been nothing short of catastrophic for the Iranian health-care sector: Imports from American and European drug makers in 2012 were down by an estimated 30 percent since 2011, and they continue to fall.

Over the past three months, I led a group of independent business consultants with expertise in Iran to evaluate the problem. After conducting extensive interviews in Tehran and Dubai with Iranian importers and manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment and their Western counterparts, we concluded that even though in theory the sanctions regime imposed on Iran by the United States and the European Union is supposed to allow humanitarian trade, in reality it impairs the delivery of drugs and medical equipment to Iran.

Although the Iranian government deserves firm criticism for incompetence in handling the crisis, poor allocation of scarce foreign currency resources and failing to crack down on corrupt practices, the main culprit are the U.S. and European sanctions that regulate financial transactions with Iran.

The system is irrational: There is a blanket waiver to the sanctions to facilitate humanitarian trade, but other laws restricting financial transactions with Iran make it impossible to implement that exception. So the trade of medical supplies is legal in theory and virtually impossible in practice because Iran cannot pay for the Western medicine it needs.

One problem is that when sanctions were tightened in 2012, Iran’s ability to sell oil was further limited and its main source of hard currency restricted. Another problem is that Iran’s main banking infrastructure — including the Central Bank of Iran and Bank Tejarat, Iran’s main trading bank — is blacklisted by Washington.

Sanctions have also choked-off Iranian banks from the global financial arena by putting draconian restrictions on international banks that deal with Iran, including by cutting them off from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. Penalties for violating U.S. sanctions are so stern as to discourage most international banks, which are generally risk-averse anyway, from engaging in humanitarian trade.

A senior representative from a reputable Iranian pharmaceutical company told our study group that when he presented a French bank in Paris with documentation showing that a deal to ship vaccines to Iran was fully legal, he was told, “Even if you bring a letter from the French president himself saying it is O.K. to do so, we will not risk this.” Today, only one international bank — in Turkey — is willing to take the chance.

In simple terms, even when Iran can get its hands on dollars or euros to buy medical supplies, it cannot find a banking avenue to clear the trade. A senior representative at one American pharmaceutical company told me about a $60 million order for an anti-rejection drug for liver-transplant patients that fell through even though the sale was fully legal, all the needed licensing from the U.S. Treasury was in place, and Iran had allocated the needed hard currency. No bank would perform the transaction.

To compensate, Iran has been importing more drugs, or the active ingredients for them, from China and India. But these products are usually of inferior quality and more limited effectiveness than the equivalent from American and European manufacturers. And in the highly patented world of pharmaceuticals, substitution often isn’t an option at all, particularly when it comes to advanced medicines used to treat complex diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis.

There are solutions. With fewer than 100 American and European companies holding patents to the most advanced medicines needed, it should be possible to craft narrow exemptions authorizing Iranian and international banks to do business with those companies for the exclusive purpose of providing medication to Iranian patients without undermining the sanctions regime overall.

This would mean carving out special exceptions for at least some of the 20 or so Iranian banks that the U.S. government currently blacklists wholesale, at least for the narrow purpose of purchasing medical drugs and supplies.

Washington must also reassure international financial institutions by clarifying existing regulations and stating unambiguously that no sanctions will be imposed on international banks that facilitate licensed or exempted humanitarian trade with Iran.

Another solution would be to narrowly adjust the terms of the exemptions allowing foreign countries and companies to purchase Iranian crude oil.

Despite existing restrictions, Iran currently sells around one million barrels of oil annually. But the terms of these special sales translate into a complex bartering system that ultimately leaves Tehran short of U.S. dollars and euros. For example, Iran’s oil sales to China are bought in renminbi, which it must keep in Chinese banks and can only use to pay Chinese companies for imports into Iran.

Iran should be allowed to convert some of its current holdings in Chinese, Indian and other banks around the world into hard currencies for the exclusive purpose of buying medical supplies. European states could also be authorized to buy small quantities of Iranian oil and hold the funds in escrow for Iran to use solely to that end.

The West must relax and rationalize the terms of its sanctions regime against Iran to allow more medical goods into the country. If it doesn’t, more Iranian men, women and children will suffer needlessly.

Siamak Namazi is a Dubai-based business consultant and a former Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.


Syria State TV Airs Footage of ‘Chemical Attack Victims’

At least 25 killed in Syrian ‘chemical’ attack as govt and rebels trade blame

March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House –RT” – Syrian rebels have used a rocket chemical warhead in Aleppo, killing 25 people and injuring 86, says Syria’s Information Minister. The attack escalates the Syrian conflict and brings the violence to a new level, believe Russian diplomats.
The Syrian government’s SANA news agency reported that terrorists fired a rocket containing chemical substances in the Khan al-Assal area of rural Aleppo and confirmed that at least 25 people, most of them civilians, were killed.
A photographer working for Reuters in Aleppo reported that the witnesses of the attack complain of a strong smell of chlorine near the epicenter of the attack. Reportedly, people had breathing problems and some of them died of suffocation.
“They said that people were suffocating in the streets and the air smelt strongly of chlorine,” the photographer said, stressing that most of the victims he saw while visiting the University of Aleppo hospital and the al-Rajaa hospital were women and children.
“People were dying in the streets and in their houses,” he said by phone.
A statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website says that “According to information coming from Damascus, the armed opposition used chemical weapons early in the morning on March 19 in the province of Aleppo” .
“This is an extremely alarming and dangerous development of events in the Syrian crisis,” believe Russian diplomats.
The Foreign Ministry stressed it is “seriously concerned” about the fact that WMD has fallen into the hands of the armed militia.
“This aggravates the situation in Syria and brings unfolding confrontation in this country to a new level,” the ministry states.
The Obama administration announced it is looking carefully at the chemical warfare allegation coming from Syria, but instantly called into question the possible use of such weapons by opposition groups.
“We are looking carefully at the information as it comes in,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says the watchdog so far does not have independent confirmation of chemical weapons use in Syria.
“I don’t think we know more than you do at the moment,” maintained at a seminar in Vienna the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ahmet Uzumcu.
“Of course we have seen those reports and we are closely monitoring the situation,” he said.
Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi stated Turkey and Qatar bore “legal, moral and political responsibility” for the“dangerous escalation” in violence because of their support of rebel groups fighting to oust President Bashar Assad. He decried the incident as the interim government’s “first act.”
The Turkish government has immediately rejected Syria’s accusations of taking part in the alleged chemical attack in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo.
“This is a baseless accusation. The Syrian government has accused Turkey in the past as well,” an unnamed Turkish official told Reuters.
Syrian rebel commander Qassim Saadeddine immediately denied the accusations and claimed the Syrian regime had launched Scud missiles containing chemical agents on Khan al-Assal.
Photo by Aleppo University Hospital

Photo by Aleppo University Hospital


Opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 26 people killed following the attack, saying that 16 died on the scene, while the other 10 died in hospital. A spokesperson for the organization said it was unclear how many civilians perished in the attack.
The British envoy to the UN told reporters on his way to the Security Council that the reports on chemical weapon attack in Syria“haven’t yet been fully verified.”
“But clearly if chemical weapons were used then that would be abhorrent and it would require a serious response from the international community,” Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters.
Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi said on Tuesday the country’s armed forces would never use internationally banned chemical weapons.
“The Syrian army leadership has stressed this before and we say it again, if we had chemical weapons we would never use them due to moral, humanitarian and political reasons,” Zoabi said at a media conference.
“Our armed forces absolutely could not use, not now, nor at any time, nor in the past, any weapon banned by international law,” he stressed.
The opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 26 people killed following the attack, saying that 16 died on the scene, while the other 10 died in hospital. A spokesperson for the organization said it was unclear how many civilians perished in the attack.
Photo by Aleppo University Hospital

Photo by Aleppo University Hospital


Fears that Syria’s chemical weapons could fall into militant hands have been a source of constant concern for the international community over the past few months. The US and the UN have repeatedly warned President Bashar Assad’s government against deploying its own chemical arms stockpile.
Damascus maintains that it would never use such weapons against its own people, but would consider their deployment if threatened by outside forces.
Reports that Syrian rebels had seized control of a number of chemical weapons depots in the Aleppo province emerged on Sunday.
“Opposition fighters gained control over weapons and ammunition stores in the village of Khan Toman in southern Aleppo province on Saturday after fierce fighting that went on for more than three days,” an anonymous military source told AFP. Reports of the weapons seizure came after days of brutal clashes between opposition and government forces.
Photo by Aleppo University Hospital

Photo by Aleppo University Hospital


The source said the rebels only managed to steal a few crates containing ammunition, as a large part of the weapons stockpile had been transferred out of the facility. Activists disputed this, maintaining that rebels had taken control of “huge reserves.” A video posted online showed fighters looking over crates of weapons and ammunition, and claimed the attack was mounted by opposition group the Martyrs of Syria.
UK-based opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the attack, but did not mention chemical weapons among the arms that were reportedly seized by the rebels.
Photo by Aleppo University Hospital

Photo by Aleppo University Hospital


Photo by Aleppo University Hospital

Photo by Aleppo University Hospital


Photo by Aleppo University Hospital

Photo by Aleppo University Hospital


Photo by Aleppo University Hospital

Photo by Aleppo University Hospital

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NATO Proxies Using WMD’s in Syria

By Tony Cartalucci

March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House –Land Destroyer” – After a 10 year war/occupation in Iraq, the death of over a million people including thousands of US soldiers, all based on patently false claims of the nation possessing “weapons of mass destruction,” (WMDs), it is outrageous hypocrisy to see the West arming, funding, and politically backing terrorists in Syria who in fact both possess, and are now using such weapons against the Syrian people.

At least 25 are reported dead after a chemical weapons attack targeting Syrian soldiers was carried out by NATO-backed terrorists in the northern city of Aleppo.

Aleppo is located near the Syrian-Turkish border. Had Libya’s looted stockpiles of chemical weapons been shipped to Syria, they would have passed through Turkey along with weapons sent from Libya by the US and thousands of Libyan terrorists who are admittedly operating inside Syria, and would most likely be used to target cities like Aleppo.

Worse yet, any chemical weapons imported into the country would implicate NATO either directly or through gross negligence, as the weapons would have passed through NATO-member Turkey, past US CIA agents admittedly operating along the border and along side Western-backed terrorists inside Syria.

Libya’s WMD’s are in Terrorist Hands 

Libya’s arsenal had fallen into the hands of sectarian extremists with NATO assistance in 2011 during the culmination of efforts to overthrow the North African nation . Since then, Libya’s militants led by commanders of Al Qaeda’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) have armed sectarian extremists across the Arab World, from as far West as Mali, to as far East as Syria.

In addition to small arms, heavier weapons are also making their way through this extensive network. The Washington Post in their article, “Libyan missiles on the loose,” reported:

“Two former CIA counterterrorism officers told me last week that technicians recently refurbished 800 of these man-portable air-defense systems (known as MANPADS) — some for an African jihadist group called Boko Haram that is often seen as an ally of al-Qaeda — for possible use against commercial jets flying into Niger, Chad and perhaps Nigeria.”

While undoubtedly these weapons are also headed to Niger, Chad, and perhaps Nigeria, they are veritably headed to Syria. Libyan LIFG terrorists are confirmed to be flooding into Syria from Libya. In November 2011, the Telegraph in their article, “Leading Libyan Islamist met Free Syrian Army opposition group,” would report:

Abdulhakim Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, “met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,” said a military official working with Mr Belhadj. “Mustafa Abdul Jalil (the interim Libyan president) sent him there.”

Another Telegraph article, “Libya’s new rulers offer weapons to Syrian rebels,” would admit

Syrian rebels held secret talks with Libya’s new authorities on Friday, aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

At the meeting, which was held in Istanbul and included Turkish officials, the Syrians requested “assistance” from the Libyan representatives and were offered arms, and potentially volunteers.

“There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria,” said a Libyan source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see.”

Later that month, some 600 Libyan terrorists would be reported to have entered Syria to begin combat operations and have been flooding into the country ever since.

Image: Libyan Mahdi al-Harati of the US State DepartmentUnited Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), addressing fellow terrorists in Syria. Harati is now commanding a Libyan brigade operating inside of Syria attempting to destroy the Syrian government and subjugate the Syrian population. Traditionally, this is known as “foreign invasion.” 

Washington Post’s reported “loose missiles” in Libya are now turning up on the battlefield in Syria. While outfits like the Guardian, in their article “Arms and the Manpads: Syrian rebels get anti-aircraft missiles,” are reporting the missiles as being deployed across Syria, they have attempted to downplay any connection to Libya’s looted arsenal and the Al Qaeda terrorists that have imported them. In contrast, Times has published open admissions from terrorists themselves admitting they are receiving heavy weapons including surface-to-air missiles from Libya.

In Time’s article, “Libya’s Fighters Export Their Revolution to Syria,” it is reported: 

Some Syrians are more frank about the assistance the Libyans are providing. “They have heavier weapons than we do,” notes Firas Tamim, who has traveled in rebel-controlled areas to keep tabs on foreign fighters. “They brought these weapons to Syria, and they are being used on the front lines.” Among the arms Tamim has seen are Russian-made surface-to-air missiles, known as the SAM 7.

Libyan fighters largely brush off questions about weapon transfers, but in December they claimed they were doing just that. “We are in the process of collecting arms in Libya,” a Libyan fighter in Syria told the French daily Le Figaro. “Once this is done, we will have to find a way to bring them here.”

Clearly NATO’s intervention in Libya has left a vast, devastating arsenal in the hands of sectarian extremists, led by US State DepartmentUnited Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization LIFG, that is now exporting these weapons and militants to NATO’s other front in Syria. It is confirmed that both Libyan terrorists and weapons are crossing the Turkish-Syrian border, with NATO assistance, and it is now clear that heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons have crossed the border too. 
The Guardian reported in their November 2011 article, “Libyan chemical weapons stockpiles intact, say inspectors,” that:
Libya’s stockpiles of mustard gas and chemicals used to make weapons are intact and were not stolen during the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, weapons inspectors have said.
But also reported that:
The abandonment or disappearance of some Gaddafi-era weapons has prompted concerns that such firepower could erode regional security if it falls into the hands of Islamist militants or rebels active in north Africa. Some fear they could be used by Gaddafi loyalists to spread instability in Libya.
Last month Human Rights Watch urged Libya’s ruling national transitional council to take action over large numbers of heavy weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, it said were lying unguarded more than two months after Gaddafi was overthrown.

On Wednesday the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said the UN would send experts to Libya to help ensure nuclear material and chemical weapons did not fall into the wrong hands.

And while inspectors claim that Libya’s chemical weapons are in the “government’s” hands and not “extremists’,” it is clear by the Libyan government’s own admission, that they themselves are involved in sending fighters and weapons into Syria.

It remains to be seen where these chemical weapons came from. Should they appear to be from Libya’s arsenal, NATO, especially the US and Turkey, would be implicated in supplying Al Qaeda terrorists with WMDs, the very scenario the West has been paralyzed in fear over for the past 10 years, has given up its liberties, and spilled the blood of thousands of its soldiers to prevent.

The implications of Western-backed terrorists using chemical weapons, regardless of their origin, has cost the West its already floundering legitimacy, jeopardized its institutions, and has further shook the confidence of the many shareholders invested in them – politically, financially, industrially, and strategically. Such shareholders would be wise to begin looking for exits and cultivating alternatives outside the Wall Street-London international order.


Two Years After Launching Libya Intervention

Arms from Libya are spreading out across the whole continent. 
By Alexander MEZYAEV
March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“SCF” – March 19 is the date the NATO intervention against Libya was launched two years ago. This day in 2011 NATO started combat actions against the Arab Jamahiriya under the pretext of complying with the United Nations Security Council resolution N 1973. It was illegal for the resolution allowed “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country,” but an armed intervention was not and could not have been included. A number of steps envisioned by the resolution were illegal by themselves. For instance, the introduction of “no fly zone” is a flagrant violation of Libya’s state sovereignty on the one hand, and the United Nations Charted on the other.
On March 14 a special United Nations session marked the two year anniversary of NATO’s aggression, a new resolution was adopted. The authors were Australia, Luxemburg, Morocco, Ruanda, Great Britain, France and the United States. The Security Council extended for 12 months the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya to assist the authorities in defining national needs and priorities and match those with offers of strategic and technical advice, and modified the two-year-old ban on arms imports to boost the country’s security and disarmament efforts. The tasks include managing the democratic transition and included technical advice and assistance to the electoral process and the drafting of a new constitution; rule of law promotion and human rights protection; restoration of public security; countering weapons proliferation; and supporting efforts to promote reconciliation. (1)
Besides, the new resolution introduces a number of significant changes into the existing relationship with the country. First, the solution of the issue related to the country’s frozen assets. The Council relegated to the Special Committee to study in consultation with the Libyan government the measures introduced by the resolutions 1970, 1973 and 2009 focused on ”the hidden assets of the two listed entities — the Libyan Investment Authority and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio — and on the assets of the listed individuals, most of which were believed to be held abroad in different names. In particular, the Panel had collected information regarding efforts by certain listed individuals to negate the effects of the assets freeze measures by the use of front companies and by accomplices who had assisted them. The Panel also reported on the implementation, or lack thereof, of the asset freeze by certain Member States”. The Committee is to abrogate the sanctions against the two entities mentioned when it finds it expedient so that free excess to assets would be guaranteed in the interests of Libya people.(2)
Second, there were significant steps taken aimed at liberalization of arms supplies. In important adjustments to the arms embargo, the Council lifted the requirement that the Sanctions Committee approve supplies of non-lethal military equipment and assistance for humanitarian or protective use.(3) It also removed the need for notification to the Committee of non-lethal military equipment being supplied to the Libyan Government for security or disarmament assistance, and urged the Government to improve the monitoring of arms supplied to it, including through the issuance of end-user certificates.(4) 
At that the resolution concedes there are constant breeches of the rules according to which the measures are to be implemented. The arms from Libya are spreading out across the whole continent. On December 16 the government announced the closure of borders with Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan. The southern areas of the country were declared “closed military zones”. By the way, Mali is not the only victim of arms supplies coming from Libya. The Darfur conflict may get sparked again: Sudan says the arms supplies to the rebels have significantly increased. Al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, acknowledged he supplied with the Libyan “revolutionaries” with weapons in 2011 to topple Gaddafi.(5)
The arms embargo against Libya is a blow to the interests of Russia and China. It the second time, the first time embargo went into effect in 1992 aimed against Russian supplies. The Council’s Sanctions Committee has recently asked China about the arms the Jamahiriya wanted to get, but didn’t, in the summer of 2011. The same Committee asked Russia in 2012 about serial number and individual markings of the AK 103-2 rifle captured by the Niger government to make precise if it was manufactured in Russia and what country has Russia sold it to. There has been no reply as yet.(6)
A mechanism is worked out to avoid compensation to the countries that suffered losses as a result of terminating the contracts which had been concluded before with the Gaddafi government. The UNSC resolution N 1973, “Decides that all States, including the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, shall take the necessary measures to ensure that no claim shall lie at the instance of the Libyan authorities, or of any person or body in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, or of any person claiming through or for the benefit of any such person or body, in connection with any contract or other transaction where its performance was affected by reason of the measures taken by the Security Council in resolution 1970 (2011), this resolution and related resolutions”. (7) Remember, Russia abstained from adopting this anti-Libyan and at the same time, anti-Russian resolution…
The process of Libya’s disarmament is kicked off. It affects two core areas: transfers to the neighboring states and the liquidation of chemical weapons. The new resolution’s provision on providing assistance to the “democratic” government of Libya is something one can understand: no matter victorious reports on the advent of democracy in the “new” Libya, the government doesn’t yet control the larger part of the country. That’s what the UN experts report says straight, “the National Transitional Council’s control has remained conditional, a product of continual negotiation with autonomous militia and local councils”. This conclusion the UN experts made in order to justify the Libyan government’s mass crimes”. The document says “Jockeying between rival militias has led to a number of violent incidents, while the lack of centralized control limits the Council’s ability to enforce international standards of human rights and due process”.(8)
The new Libya parliament sanctioned force against the people of Bani-Walid that remained faithful to the old regime. The city was sieged and then seized by force. The new democratic parliament also approved a “political isolation law” that isolates from political life all who supported Gaddafi. At that, democrats cannot come to agreement. The former Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur could not make it through a confidence vote in the parliament. Ali Zeidan, the incumbent Prime Minister of Libya, couldn’t push four new ministers through the High Commission for the Implementation of Integrity and Patriotism, including the candidate for the minister of internal affairs position. Libya is democratized and, any normal democratic state needs international assistance. On December 17 International Ministerial Conference on Support to Libya in the Areas of Security, Justice and Rule of Law took place in London with the participation of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and the European Union. On February 12, a conference devoted to the same agenda took place in Paris. The United Nations leadership openly acknowledges the UN Mission does “assist” Libyan prosecutors and courts. They promise ‘assistance” in the preparation of the new constitution. Is it not the most obvious demonstration of Libya’s democracy and independence?
The discussions on federal structure, or legal territorial dismemberment of the country, are in full swing. It is accompanied by religious hatred, mainly aimed at the country’s Christians (9) , but not only. Sufi shrines are attacked more and more often…
At the end of last year a few serious clashed took place between the Salafi Muslims and local residents defending a Sufi shrine in the eastern Libyan town of Rajma, east of Benghazi. It was preceded by August attacks by the Salafi against the historic mausoleum of attacks by the Salafi against the historic mausoleum of Abdussalam al Asmar in Zlitan, the mausoleum of Sheikh Ahmed al-Zarruq in Misrata, the mosque of Sidi Al-Sha’ab in Tripoli…
Speaking to the United Nations, Prime Minister of Libya Ali Zeidan was open enough and expressed “gratitude to all partners and allies from friendly countries” that supported the coup in Libya in different ways. He said it was thanks to their efforts Libya won on October 20 2011. (10) 
Besides the prolongation of the UN Libya Mission mandate, new “partners and allies” are to come. It has just been announced the European Union will establish its border security mission in the middle of 2013… 
(1) Paragraph 7 resolution № 2095 March 14 2013 , // UN Document: S/RES/2095 (2013).
(2) Paragraph 13, resolution № 2095.
(3) It was introduced by item 9(a) of the UN Security Council resolution № 1970 (2011).
(4) The notification or absence of negative decision was envisaged by item 13(a) of the resolution 2009 (2011).
(5) Bashir says Sudan armed Libyan rebels, // Sudan Tribune, 26 October 2011 (official website of the «Sudan Tribune» (Sudan):www.sudantribune.com/Bashir-says-Sudan-armed-Libyan,40547 ).
(6) Paragraph 135,Final report of the Panel of Experts in accordance with paragraph 24 (d) of resolution 1973 (2011). February 17, 2012/UN Document: S/2012/163.
(7) Paragraph 27 UNSC resolution №1973 (2011).
(8) Paragraph 22 of Letter dated 17 February 2012 from the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to resolution 1973 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council //UN document S/2012/163;
(9) Copt churches are exploded; a few hundred people were dead and wounded in December 2012 – March 2013.
(10) The record of the UN session on March 14 2013//UN document: S/PV.6934, p.7.

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Who Did You Rape in the War, Daddy?

A Question for Veterans that Needs Answering 
By Nick Turse
March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Tom Dispatch” — On August 31, 1969, a rape was committed in Vietnam. Maybe numerous rapes were committed there that day, but this was a rare one involving American GIs that actually made its way into the military justice system. 
And that wasn’t the only thing that set it apart.
War is obscene. I mean that in every sense of the word. Some veterans will tell you that you can’t know war if you haven’t served in one, if you haven’t seen combat. These are often the same guys who won’t tell you the truths that they know about war and who never think to blame themselves in any way for our collective ignorance. 
The truth is, you actually can know a lot about war without fighting in one. It just isn’t the sort of knowledge that’s easy to come by.
There are more than 30,000 books on the Vietnam War in print. There are volumes on the decision-making of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, grand biographies of Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, rafts of memoirs by American soldiers — some staggeringly well-written, many not — and plenty of disposable paperbacks about snipers, medics, and field Marines. I can tell you from experience that if you read a few dozen of the best of them, you can get a fairly good idea about what that war was really like. Maybe not perfect knowledge, but a reasonable picture anyway. Or you can read several hundred of the middling-to-poor books and, if you pay special attention to the few real truths buried in all the run-of-the-mill war stories, you’ll still get some feeling for war American-style.
The main problem with most of those books is the complete lack of Vietnamese voices. The Vietnam War killed more than 58,000 Americans. That’s a lot of people and a lot of heartache. It deserves attention. But it killed several million Vietnamese and severely affected — and I mean severely — the lives of many millions more. That deserves a whole lot more focus.
Missing in Action (From Our Histories) 
From American histories, you would think the primary feature of the Vietnam War was combat. It wasn’t. Suffering was the main characteristic of the war in Southeast Asia. Millions of Vietnamese suffered: injuries and deaths, loss, privation, hunger, dislocation, house burnings, detention, imprisonment, and torture. Some experienced one or another of these every day for years on end. That’s suffering beyond the capacity of even our ablest writers to capture in a single book. 
Unfortunately, however, that’s not the problem. The problem is that almost no one has tried. Vietnamese are bit characters in American histories of the war, Vietnamese civilians most of all. Americans who tromped, humped, and slogged through Vietnam on one-year tours of duty are invariably the focus of those histories, while Vietnamese who endured a decade or even decades of war remain, at best, in the background or almost totally missing. (And by the way, it’s no less true for most of the major movies about the war. Remember the Vietnamese main characters in Apocalypse Now? Platoon? Full MetalJacket? Hamburger Hill? Me neither.)
The reasons for this are many and varied, ranging from racism and ethnocentrism to pure financial calculation. Few Americans want to read real stories about foreign civilians caught up in America’s wars. Almost no one wants to read an encyclopedia of atrocities or a tome-like chronology of suffering. And most Americans, above all, have never wanted to know the grotesque truths of their wars. Luckily for them, most veterans have been willing to oblige — keeping the darkest secrets of that war hidden (even while complaining that no one can really know what they went through).
The truth is, we don’t even know the full story of that war’s obscenity when it comes to the American experience. This, too, has been sanitized and swapped out for tales of combat horror or “realistic” accounts of the war in the boonies that focus on repulsive realities like soldiers stepping on shit-smeared punji sticks, suffering from crotch rot, or keeling over from dehydration. Such accounts, we’ve been assured, offer a more honest depiction of the horrors of war and the men who nobly bore them. 
Don’t believe it. 
As the narrator of Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story” puts it:
“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”
Which brings us back to that rape on August 31, 1969. 
Aside from Daniel Lang’s Casualties of War, a brilliantly-compact and harrowing account of the kidnap, gang-rape, and murder of a young Vietnamese girl (a New Yorker article-turned-book-turned-movie), you’re not likely to encounter the story of the rape of a Vietnamese woman by Americans in “the literature.” And yet the sexual assault of civilians by GIs was far from uncommon, even if you can read thousands of books on the Vietnam War and have little inkling that it ever happened. Hints about the harassment or sexual assault of American womennurses, enlisted women, and so-called Donut Dollies — also rarely make it into the histories. And you can read most, perhaps all, of those 30,000 books without ever coming across a case of GI-on-GI rape in Vietnam. 
But that’s just what happened on that August 31st at a U.S. base in Vietnam’s far south, when three GI’s attacked a fellow American, a fellow soldier. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll call him Specialist Curtis. We know his story because the court martial records of one of his assailants, who was found guilty of and sentenced to prison time, made it to the National Archives where I found the document. But really, we know it because, according to the military judge presiding over the case, Curtis delivered “clear, strong, convincing, not halting, not hesitant, not reluctant, straight-forward, direct, willing, sincere, and not evasive” testimony. He and others told a brutal story, an obscene story — that is, a true war story.
What Veterans Won’t Tell You 
Curtis was feeling sick that late summer day and wouldn’t drink with his hootch-mates, so they pounced on him, held his mouth open, and poured whisky down his throat. When he began to retch, they let him go and he ran outside to throw up. He returned to his bunk and they attacked him again. The cycle repeated itself twice more.
The last attempt to force Curtis to drink began with a threat. If he didn’t imbibe with them — “them” being a fellow specialist, a private first class, and a private — they swore they would anally rape him. 
Curtis resisted. 
In a flash, the three tore off his bed sheets and flipped him onto his stomach. They leaned on him to hold him down as he thrashed and bucked, while they ripped off his underwear. Then they smeared hand lotion all over his buttocks. As Curtis cried out for help, the private mounted him. He began to rape him and was heard to exclaim that it was “really good, it was tight.” After the private was finished, the private first class raped Curtis. The specialist followed. “I know you enjoy it,” Curtis heard one of them say before he blacked out from the pain. Across the hootch, another private watched the entire episode. Curtis had protested, he’d later say, but this soldier did nothing to intervene. He was, he later testified, “very scared” of the three attackers.
After Curtis regained consciousness, he retreated to the showers. When he finally returned to the hootch, the fellow specialist who raped him issued a threat. If he reported the attack, they would swear that he had paid them $20 each to have sex with him. 
That’s a true war story.
And that’s a Vietnam War story that’s absent from our histories of the conflict — all 30,000 of them.
Given the stigma attached to rape, especially decades ago, and the added stigma attached to male rape victims, it’s shocking that the case ever became public, no less that it went to trial in a military court, or that the victim gave clear, graphic, painful testimony. The truth was out there, but no one ever told this story to the wider world — neither the victim, the perpetrators, the witnesses, the lawyers, the judge, the commanders at the base, nor a historian. You could read thousands of books on the Vietnam War — even books devoted to hidden histories, secrets, and the like — and never know that, in addition to rifles and rice paddies, war is also about rape, even male-on-male rape, even GI-on-GI rape. Just how many such rapes occurred, we’ll never know, because such acts were and generally still are kept secret. 
Veterans don’t tell these stories. They almost never offer up accounts of murder, assault, torture, or rape unsolicited. They don’t want you to know. Such realities need to be mined out of them. I’ve done it for the last 10 years, and believe me, it can be exhausting.
Veterans, their advocates, and their defenders often tell us it’s never okay to ask if a soldier or marine killed somebody “over there.” But if veterans refuse to offer up unsanitized accounts of their wartime experiences and it’s improper for us to ask what they did, how can civilians be faulted for failing to understand war?
To set the historical record straight, I’ve traveled across the globe, walked into people’s homes, and asked them questions to which, in a better world than ours, no one should have to know the answers. I’ve asked elderly Vietnamese to recount the most horrific traumas imaginable. I’ve induced rivers of tears. I’ve sat impassively, taking notes as an older woman, bouncing her grandchild on her knee, told me what it was like to be raped with an American weapon.
As I said, war is obscene.
I also asked these questions of American veterans because — some notable and iconic exceptions aside — too few have had the courage of that Vietnamese grandmother. After all, some American raped her with that weapon, but as far as I know — and if anybody knew, it would probably be me — he never leveled with the American public about the true nature of his war. He never told the truth, publicly apologized, voiced regret, or even for that matter boasted about it, nor did he ever make a case for why raping a woman with a weapon was warranted in wartime. He kept it a secret and, if he’s still alive, continues to do so today. We all suffer for his silence.
On a single day in August 1969, on one base, three GIs raped a fellow American soldier. Three rapes. One day. What does that mean? What does it say about men? About the military? About war? We can’t know for sure because we’ll never know the whole truth of sexual assault in Vietnam. The men involved in wartime sex crimes — in raping Vietnamese women, in sodomizing them, in violating them with bottles and rifle muzzles, in sexually assaulting American women, in raping American men — have mostly remained silent about it.
One of the rapists in this case may have passed away, but at least one is still apparently alive in the United States. Maybe even on your street. For decades we knew nothing of their crimes, so we know less than we should about the Vietnam War and about war in general.
Maybe it’s time to start asking questions of our veterans. Hard questions. They shouldn’t be the only ones with the knowledge of what goes on in armies and in war zones. They didn’t get to Vietnam (or Iraq or Afghanistan) on their own and they shouldn’t shoulder the blame or the truth alone and in silence. We all bear it. We all need to hear it. The sooner, the better.
Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books). You can watch his recent conversation with Bill Moyers about that book by clicking here. His website is NickTurse.com. You can follow him on Tumblr and on Facebook.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.
Copyright 2013 Nick Turse

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Obama’s Israel Trip And A Sham ‘Peace Process

Video – Cross Talk By RT

Norman Finkelstein and Mouin Rabbani.

Posted March 19, 2013


Row Breaks Out in Chambers as Aussie Parliamentarians Criticizes ‘Study Tour’ of Israel


March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House –– “My Catbird Seat” – NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, under the auspices of theNSW Jewish Board Of Deputies, hosted a delegation of New South Wales Parliamentarians, on a study mission to Israel from 6 January 2013 to 10 January 2013. The Nationals Whip in the NSW Legislative Council Rick Colless moved a motion in parliament following what he described as “a successful trip” to Israel recently. 

This tour is just another classical example of the well sponsored Public Relations exercises that Israel engages in to overcome the gradual understanding by the peoples of the world of the apartheid conditions in Palestine, the determined ethnic cleansing commenced 66 years ago and the inhumane treatment meted out to the Palestinians as a matter of course, daily. The idea being “if people do not see the conditions in Palestine and what we are doing, they might believe the wonderful story we present”. Yes, total fiction from the Brothers Grimm, but people are gullible, particularly when all the costs are paid for by Israel.

The fact that any politician, anywhere can accept the largesse doled out by a corrupt Israeli government through the well-organised offices of any number of Jewish organiztions’ slush funds for just this purpose, is beyond comprehension. The fact also that this applies to Liberal politicians, yes Abbott and Bishop, Labor politicians, Julia Gillard and half her cabinet, Federal and State, all jurisdictions, such is the cunning of the Jewish organizations. The graft doled out to  the disgraceful Australians who accept such blatant corruption by partaking of a well organized Israeli sideshow tour which is still promoting the tried and proven “holocaust oh, woe is me” theme, fast passing into history as a very clever Israeli money-spinner. (See: Holocaust Industry, by the Honorable Norman Finkelstein, an American political scientist, activist, professor and author. His primary fields of research are the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust.)

Politicians in NSW are still engaging in all the things that they have for years, graft and corruption. This is a classic example.

The fact that this had to be publicly identified by a Greens MP in NSW is a clear indication there are honest politicians still serving their constituents, somewhere in this naive country.

Well done, Mr. Shoebridge. Decency is alive and well.

– Rex Williams, Canberra, Australia –

Row breaks out in chambers as Aussie Parliamentarians criticizes ‘study tour’ of Israel

By Annie Robbins

March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House –Mondoweiss” – A shouting match broke out in the chambers of the New South Wales (NSW) Legislative Council chambers on Thursday (March 14, 2013), during a motion debate about a ‘Study Mission to Israel’ hosted by the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board Of Deputies, attended by a delegation of NSW Parliamentarians, January 6-10.

The purpose of the ‘Study Mission’ was “to build an understanding amongst the delegates of the complex and various issues impacting on Israel and other jurisdictions within the Middle East.”(pdf

While Legislative Council members who were part of the delegation sang praises of Israel, Green Legislative Councillor David Shoebridge (video & part transcript below), Labor Legislative Councillor’s Shaoquett Moselmane, and Lynda Voltz had a few other topics to discuss.

The Jerusalem Post reported on it here, and below is the transcript of a portion of the debate, it gets wild, I recommend:

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE [10.28 p.m.]: I speak to this motion and note at the outset that it is a very unbalanced one. Indeed, a member asked if The Greens took part in this study mission to Israel. As far as I am aware, no Greens member of Parliament went on this study mission. That was primarily because of the one-sided nature of the itinerary, which is reflected in the one-sided nature of this motion. In a motion that purports to talk about building an understanding of the complex and various issues impacting on Israel and other jurisdictions within the Middle East, it is extraordinary that in the more than 100 words and five paragraphs of this motion not one word is mentioned about Palestine or the Palestinians. The human rights of the Palestinians are airbrushed out of the motion, just as they were airbrushed out of the itinerary of the study tour that travelled to Israel and some very small parts of the West Bank. Having heard the contributions of members who went on the study tour and having read the motion, I can see that this is little more than a public relations exercise for the Israeli Government. Indeed, this public relations exercise has been run in part through the offices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies which arranged the tour and, I understand, partly paid for the study trip to Israel.

For the record, I do not recall getting an invitation from the Jewish Board of Deputies for this visit. However, had I received one I would not have accepted the invitation to go on this study trip because of the extraordinarily one-sided itinerary provided to members. If the Parliamentary Friends of Israel were interested in building an understanding of the complex issues in the Middle East, as they purport to be, their itinerary should have included a couple of other places to visit. First, the itinerary should have included visits outside the limited confines of Israel, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. How could members of this Chamber who wanted to get a balanced understanding of the issues facing the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Middle East travel to that part of the world and not meet with any members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, or at least those members of the Palestinian Legislative Council not currently being held in Israeli jails, many of them without trial and without being charged with any criminal offence?

How could members go there and meet with only one of the legislative bodies, the Knesset, and ignore the Palestinian Legislative Council? How could members, who wanted to get a balanced understanding of the issues facing Israel, Palestine and the Middle East, go to the other side of the planet and fail to visit Gaza, the world’s largest outdoor prison? How could members not go to see the way the Palestinians live under the illegal blockade or not speak to the local health workers about the conditions in Gaza, or the paramedics about how they respond to the impacts of aerial bombardments by the Israeli military? If they had visited Gaza they would have been able to see the X-rays that the Gaza doctors show of children’s kidneys riddled with kidney stones because of the saline water they are required to drink. The Israeli wells on the edge of Gaza are stripping out the fresh water from the arterial basin and the arterial basin is filling up with saline water from the sea. That saline water fills the wells. Most of the water treatment plants have been destroyed by Israeli bombardments and almost every child in Gaza has kidneys riddled with kidney stones and ongoing health problems.

Next time members should go to Gaza, look at the children, look at the damage, look at the X-rays and get some balance in their visit. If they had gone to Gaza surely they would then have gone to the West Bank and outside Bethlehem and Jerusalem and spoken to Palestinian villagers whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by the apartheid wall. Talk to the farmers whose olive groves have been cut off by the illegal apartheid wall, who cannot get to the fields that generations of their family had previously tended because of an illegal apartheid wall built by Israel through the middle of their homes, villages and farms. Surely members could also have met with Israeli peace activists, such as Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and spoken to Palestinians who have been illegally evicted from their homes and land to make way for internationally condemned settlements being built by the Israelis.

But, no. Members spoke to the Israeli settlers but they did not visit and speak to the people who have been evicted illegally for these internationally condemned, unlawful settlements that are now riddling the West Bank. How could members not have travelled to Hebron and done the Breaking the Silence tour, where former Israeli soldiers would have told them about what goes on in the occupied territories, about the violence and the discrimination perpetrated by the Israeli military and the settler movement against the native Palestinian population? Or were they Israeli voices that members wanted to edit out and not hear? The inconvenient truth.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: What about the Qatar and Hamas civil war? What about what Qatar and Hamas do to each other? Did you go to the police building in Gaza? Did you go to the town hall in Gaza where they chuck people off? Did you go to the police building in Ramallah where they throw people out the window?

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: It is the inconvenient truth of the illegal, violent, discriminatory and brutal occupation in the West Bank.

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! It is disorderly to interject.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: How could members not visit the Palestinian refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees from 1948, 1967 and beyond live in sub-standard Third World conditions?

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: What is the right of return for Vietnamese refugees?

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Point of order: Members speaking in this debate have been heard in silence. Some members may not agree with other views expressed in the Chamber, but members should be allowed to express their views in a democratic way. I ask you to stop members of this Chamber from yelling down other members with whose views they may disagree.

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! There is a motion on the floor and members are entitled to share their views.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: I’m just reminding him that there are two sides to the story.

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! There are diverse views in this Chamber and, in terms of protocol, they are entitled to be heard in silence.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: How could members not visit those Palestinian refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, where Palestinian refugees from 1948, 1967 and beyond live in sub-standard Third World conditions and are denied their human right to return to their homes? Members did not speak to them, see their title deeds and see the keys they still hold for the homes that were taken from them in the illegal occupations and evictions that have been taking place for decades in that part of the world? It is extraordinary to note that Labor members, one of whom is notionally from the Left, visited Israel and small parts of the West Bank but did not travel to Nablus and meet with any of the Palestinian trade unions. How could members have travelled over there and not spoken to the firefighters in the Nablus fire station who were locked into their compound by Israeli tanks and snipers and prevented from doing their job as firefighters? They were prevent from savings the lives and homes of their families and friends for days and days as homes burned; children and other people died while the Israeli military shelled and burned their city around them.

The motion is not balanced; the visit to Israel was not balanced. It was not about getting an understanding of the complex and various issues but, rather, about getting a narrow part of the Israeli understanding. For members who went on such an unbalanced tour and failed to see the balanced truth, the oppression the Palestinian people face daily as a result of the illegal occupation of Israel, and to support this motion and preach to the rest of the Chamber about truth, understanding, peace and non-violence is extraordinary.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE [10.48 a.m.]: All people have a right to a homeland—all people, including Jews, Kurds, Armenians and Palestinians. All people have a right to exist and receive the protections under international law and live in peace and security. Since the 1948 United Nations resolution to divide Palestine between the Jews and Arabs, the Palestinian people have been left to suffer the indignity and trauma of people dispossessed. I am not surprised that there is no mention in the motion of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian land, the Palestinian suffering, the Palestinian rights as people deprived of their land, persecuted, imprisoned, killed, traumatised and dehumanised. I wonder whether the members on their study mission considered the Palestinian people; I wonder whether the human rights of the Palestinian people crossed their minds. I hope it did cross their minds and that they pondered a little about the human rights of others now being dispossessed of their land, their dreams, their aspirations and their future as a people. Ever since 1948 the Israeli Zionist plan has been acquiring territory to expand the borders of the Jewish colonial state. Zionist ideology demanded—

The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: My point of order is on relevance. The member is not speaking to the motion and as the Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel I disassociate myself from his remarks.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: To the point of order: This is a fairly broad-ranging motion. While the member’s speech is not directly relevant to the wording of the motion, it would be unfair if the member were not allowed to continue to speak, considering the breadth of topic that has been debated in relation to this motion.

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane may resume his speech. He is within the latitude of the general purpose of the motion.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: After the United Nations allocated 56 per cent of the Palestinian territory to a Jewish State, 80 per cent was seized by force. Christians and Muslims made up two-thirds of the population. Jews, who owned only 6 per cent of the land, have now taken 85 per cent of the former Palestine land. The 800,000 who were initially dispossessed, expelled from their land—now five million—live in diaspora. There was nothing fair or legitimate about the United Nations’ offer. It was carried out over the objections of the majority, but even this corruption of justice was not enough to satisfy the craving to take over people’s land. Arab voices were ignored. Not a single Arab was consulted on the plan. Now five million Palestinians are scattered across the globe and those still living in their homeland are living in two non-contiguous territories—Gaza and the West Bank—which makes up less than 20 per cent of the territory they originally had after 1967. I believe it is more like 14 per cent of the former Palestine that they now live in. Members will see from this plan the former Palestine territory and the land that Palestinians now own, just spots of land scattered all over.

The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: The member is using props. The use of props is out of order.

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The member would be well aware that the protocol of the House is that members should not use props to support their arguments.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: The Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland is a fundamental right of all people. It is a fundamental right that is at the heart of the Palestinian struggle. This must be addressed and resolved fairly. In all the speeches made in the House today, we have not heard about the Israeli assaults on Arab territories in 1956, 1967, 1982, 2006 and 2009. In the 2009 assault on Gaza 1,000 residents were killed, over 300 of them children, and 5,000 were wounded. As was described by a member earlier today, Gaza is the world’s largest open-air prison camp, containing 1.5 million people in a very small parcel of land. The Israeli assault continues on Gaza. According to the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, some 90,000 Gazans were forced to flee their homes. Residents of Gaza city and to the north had no water and no electricity; they were trapped, traumatised and terrorised. Nothing was said in this debate about the rights of those Palestinians, who were effectively murdered by this military machine. They did not have hospitals. The Israeli military machine effectively erased government buildings, apartment buildings and mosques, and it struck United Nations schools, as well as the compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, ambulances and hospitals. Their actions can be seen as violation of international humanitarian law.

The International Committee of the Red Cross accused Israel of breaches of humanitarian conventions for failing to bring assistance to wounded and starving civilians and preventing ambulance access for four days. B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights and other Israeli human rights groups have described civilians being fired on in doorways by Israeli soldiers, attacks on ambulance crews and aid workers, and schools being used as civilian refuges. The Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using white phosphorous munitions over densely populated areas of Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law. The United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned the Israeli offensive for “massive violations of human rights”. Amnesty International says that Israeli shelling of residential areas is “prima facie evidence of war crimes”. The organisation has also accused Israeli soldiers of using Palestinians as human shields:
It’s standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base.

Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, says that Israel is in breach of the United Nations Charter, the Geneva conventions, international law and international humanitarian law. Falk says:
If there were the political will there could be an ad hoc tribunal established to hear allegations of war crimes. This could be done by the general assembly acting under article 22 of the UN charter which gives them the authority to establish subsidiary bodies.

But they did not do so. A Human Rights Watch investigation found that Israel had repeatedly and indiscriminately fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza, killing and injuring civilians—

The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance. I remind the honourable member that the motion states:
That this House notes that:

(a) The NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies hosted a delegation of New South Wales Parliamentarians on a study mission to Israel from 6 January 2013 to 10 January 2013—

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: You cannot read the whole motion.

The Hon. Walt Secord: I am just reminding the member of the motion.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Get to your point of order.

The Hon. Walt Secord: It was relevance.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Relevance has already been raised.

The Hon. Walt Secord: This speech is simply an anti-Israel rant.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: You are trying to stop democratic debate in the Chamber.

The Hon. Walt Secord: This is simply an anti-Israel rant and he is not speaking to the motion.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: That is rubbish, and you know that.

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Walt Secord is correct. Members have the motion in front of them, or have access to the motion. While I have been generous in general about speeches, the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane needs to stay within the purview of the motion and not give a lengthy history.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: If ever there were a group in need of protection from war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing it is the Palestinians, and yet the Palestinians receive little outside help.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: They received billions from the UN.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: Billions.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: Deputy-President, I did not interrupt other speakers. I let them make their speeches without interruption. Previous speakers had the opportunity to speak without interruption and I ask that the same courtesy to be shown to me. I have only four minutes left to speak. I have the right to inject some balance into this debate. I am glad that I am a member of this House and have the opportunity to speak and inject balance and humanity into this debate. I have that right and I have four minutes to do so.

The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: Point of order: Could the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane retire while I take my point of order?

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane will retire to his seat while a point of order is taken, as per the protocols of the House.

The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: I have listened with tolerance to the member. I take a point of order based on relevance. This is a motion about a study mission to Israel and members have noted the facts in relation to that study mission. The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane did not even go on the study mission. He is having a little rant about personal issues. The motion is about a study mission to Israel, nothing more, nothing less. The House has been more than tolerant in listening to some of the garbage that he has been talking about.

The Hon. Trevor Khan: To the point of order. Whilst I agree with the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox with regard to the words of the motion, speakers have raised a very broad range of matters. It is my argument that having allowed broad discretion in the debate so far and, to be frank, having allowed a scab to be picked, the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane is entitled to have his say. He has only a few minutes left in which to speak.

DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Paul Green): Order! I ask the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane to address his remarks to the motion. Mr David Shoebridge was given an opportunity to speak on a range of matters and I will extend the same latitude to the Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane.

The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE: As I stated, all people have a right to a peaceful existence and so do the Palestinian people. I want this House to know that and I want that comment to be recorded. They as well as the Jewish people have a right to peaceful existence and to a homeland. We have heard comments about how peaceful and democratic the Israeli Government is. I remind the House that in 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon and then occupied Lebanon for 18 years they imprisoned people. People in southern Lebanon were tortured. I visited the camps and I saw the prisons. I invite members to go to these torture camps that the Israelis set up in southern Lebanon and see for themselves. They occupied Lebanon for 18 years. I resent members here accusing the resistance of being terrorist groups. I salute the resistance.

If the resistance in Lebanon had not forced the Israelis out of Lebanon I would not have been able to go to my grandparents’ home in southern Lebanon and visit the land I was born in. I salute them for their resistance. It is the right of people to do so. Imagine what the response would have been in 1941 or 1942 if we had condemned resistance against Nazi Germany. Guns would have been blazing at us for not resisting Nazi Germany. In Lebanon the resistance was able to force the Israelis out. In 2006, towards the end of the Israeli war on Lebanon, they dumped three million cluster bombs in little southern Lebanon. Those three million bombs are buried in the ground. A child walking on the ground will be blown up or lose a limb. An animal walking around will die. Three million cluster bombs will exist for hundreds of years and people will continue to suffer. In conclusion— [Time expired.]

The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ [11.03 a.m.]: While I did not go on this Israeli study tour I have travelled to Israel and Palestinian, including Gaza and the West Bank, on a number of occasions. Unlike my colleague Mr David Shoebridge, if I received an invitation from the Jewish Board of Deputies to go on a tour of Israel I would certainly take them up on the offer because I am a strong believer in the notion that travel broadens the mind and that you should always listen to a person’s point of view with an open mind. Travel should expose us to beliefs that are contrary to our own and challenge some of our views, particularly of history and international politics.

However, if the reports of the study tour I have heard are anything to go by, I doubt there was any significant challenge to the existing views of those who went on the tour. As I am sure the Hon. David Clarke will agree, in the past I have discussed the issue of Palestine with him. I have also discussed it with other members of the Chamber. While we may not agree it does not mean I do not respect his views. I understand his views because I have had a lengthy discussion with him about them. Certainly the Jewish Board of Deputies are entitled to put their case in relation to the way they see the situation. I do not think anyone in the Chamber disagrees with that.

It is important as members of Parliament to remember to ensure there is balance in the views we express in this Chamber. I do not think balance has been expressed in the debate arising out of this study tour. I note that one of the few meetings with someone whose views may not have reflected those of the Israeli Government was with Abdel Fattah Hamayel, the Governor of Bethlehem, who is appointed by the Palestinian Authority. It is interesting that none of the reports by members included the views of the Governor of Bethlehem. In particular, I wonder whether some of the outrage that was expressed in this Chamber over the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions [BDS] was relayed to the Governor who undertakes inspections of local shops to ensure that no products from illegal Israeli settlements are sold anywhere within Bethlehem. It is also interesting that the tour did not meet with the democratically elected mayor of Bethlehem given all the support for democracy being voiced around this Chamber.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: I met with him.

The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ: It is a woman, so I doubt you met with him.

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani


Maintaining Mental Health In The Age Of Madness

By Carolyn Baker
“Americans have a remarkable ability ‘to look reality right in the eye’ and deny it.”
~Garrison Keillor~
March 19, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” A state of well-being is obviously more than just the absence of disease. It assumes that a human being is reasonably functional mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Similarly, this definition can be applied to healthy communities with the addition of social functionality as another aspect of well-being. 
However, most readers are aware of the decline in mental health treatment within the past three decades. Whereas thirty years ago many working people had insurance benefits for outpatient psychotherapy as well as in-patient treatment, not only have the benefits dramatically decreased, but massive unemployment makes it virtually impossible for millions of people to pay for any kind of health care, physical or mental. 
Meanwhile, nearly all inhabitants and communities of industrial civilization are struggling to cope with living in societies in unprecedented decline. Energy depletion, climate change, economic contraction, and the collapse of myriad institutions such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and police and fire services weigh heavily on the wallets and emotions of millions. In the United States, the realities of the sequester debacle will only exacerbate the unraveling, and for many, avoiding homelessness and starvation are top priorities with nothing left over for any kind of healthcare. Yet it is precisely this demographic who are contending with monumental stress, and for many of them, just as they may be one paycheck away from being homeless, they may also be one stress away from mental and emotional meltdown. 
The reader does not need yet another litany of this culture’s hyper-proliferating dysfunctions. However long or short your residence on this planet, you are well aware of its genocide of species and its suicide of itself. And regardless of how far removed from this madness you experience yourself, it invariably weighs upon you whether you choose to admit that or not. If you are the least bit honest with yourself, you recognize that you are surrounded by madness yet constantly being reassured, particularly in the United States, that you live in the safest, healthiest, freest, and most desirable country on earth. 
Moreover, if in recent years or months you have dared to explore the realities of peak oil, climate change, and economic contraction and their inevitable ramifications, you may feel mega-schizophrenic as you live with this information and at the same time attempt to navigate a society in which every form of functioning is dictated by denial. In fact, you may feel as if you’re looking at one of those cube diagrams from a chapter on perception in a psychology textbook in which looked at one way, one of the sides of the cube appears to be in the foreground and the other side in the background, but when looked at another way, the foreground and background are reversed. On some days, you may feel completely crazy, yet on another day, you may feel blessedly sane but overwhelmed by the madness around you. 
Historically speaking, it is important to remember that millions of individuals throughout history have felt similarly. Some were able to trust their instincts and respond resiliently; others were not. In the final days of the Roman Empire, many were able to see through the madness around them and vacate large cities. In Nazi Germany, some were able to discern the horror that lay ahead and escape. In the Soviet Union, millions lived through Stalinist purges and totalitarian oppression for decades knowing that a collapse was inevitable such as they witnessed in 1989-90. 
Regardless of how robust a civilization may appear, certain aspects of it are terribly fragile, particularly its commitment to creativity vs. destruction. Jungian author and blogger, Paul Levy, writes in his 2013 Dispelling Wetiko
A civilization usually doesn’t die from being invaded from the outside, but unless it creates culture which nourishes the evolution of the creative spirit, a civilization invariably commits suicide. As if possessed, our civilization is, trancelike, sleepwalking in a death march toward its own demise.
The word wetiko is a Native American term, the spelling of which varies from tribe to tribe, but essentially it means a diabolically wicked person or energy that terrorizes others by means of evil acts. 
Carl Jung was one of the first modern psychologists to address the issue of collective madness. He theorized that individual humans possessed not only a personal unconscious mind but were also part of a collective unconscious mind which from time to time becomes activated and generates a collective psychosis. In the current moment, inhabitants of industrial civilization are living in cultures committed to infinite growth, consumerism, resource extraction, war, and of course, massive denial that any of these are inexorably destructive policies of planetary suicide. Humans are colluding in mad behavior, based on the sharing of an illusion which is the literal definition of collusion or co-illusion. 
In fact, on days when you may feel as if you are surrounded by madness, it might be useful to read these words from Levy: 
Whenever the contents of the collective unconscious become activated, they have an unsettling effect on the conscious mind of everyone. When this psychic dynamic is not consciously metabolized, not just within an individual, but collectively, the mental state of the people as a whole might well be compared to a psychosis. Jung never tired of warning that the greatest danger that threatens humanity is the possibility that millions of us can fall into our unconscious together and reinforce each other’s blind spots, feeding a contagious collective psychosis in which we unwillingly become complicit in supporting the insanity of endless wars; this is unfortunately an exact description of what is currently happening.
Collective madness manifests in myriad ways, but one manifestation is the self-reinforcing feedback loop of what Canadian psychiatrist, Gabor Maté calls “the realm of hungry ghosts,” a Buddhist term for people who are always hungry, always empty, and always seeking satisfaction from the outside. That is to say that we have created a society of insatiable addicts, many of whom have poor attention skills or full-blown attention deficit disorder. 
Moreover, without using the terms “collective madness” or “collective unconscious” as Jung did, Maté describes a similar phenomenon with respect to how children in our society develop: 
… the conditions in which children develop have been so corrupted and troubled over the last several decades that the template for normal brain development is no longer present for many, many kids. And Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, who’s a professor of psychiatry at Boston—University of Boston, he actually says that the neglect or abuse of children is the number one public health concern in the United States. A recent study coming out of Notre Dame by a psychologist there has shown that the conditions for child development that hunter-gatherer societies provided for their children, which are the optimal conditions for development, are no longer present for our kids. And she says, actually, that the way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well-being in a moral sense.
In other words, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed the conditions required for healthy childhood development. 
The Madness Of The Mental Health Community 
Yet if you feel you need professional help with the schizophrenic feelings you are experiencing regarding the state of the planet, and if you are brave enough to visit a mental health professional in the United States and begin talking about the “collective psychosis,” peak oil, or the collapse of industrial civilization, you are likely to be diagnosed with some sort of anxiety disorder or clinical depression. Sooner or later, your mental health professional is likely to suggest medication and attempt to work with you to “reframe” your perception of the world or perhaps suggest that you invest more energy in the positive aspects of your life than dwell on the negative realities of the macrocosm. Certainly, we would like to believe that the mental health community is exempt from a collective psychosis, and some members of it are. However, the overwhelming majority are not. Of this Levy says: 
That the mental health community, which should be concerned with psychic hygiene (both personal and collective), is not even addressing the issue of a rampant collective psychosis is a clear indication that the mental health community is itself embedded in and hence infected with the very psychic epidemic it should be studying….What clearer sign do we need of a psychic epidemic than when our mental health system itself, whose job it is to study, monitor, and deal with such phenomena, not only doesn’t recognize that there is a collective psychosis running rampant in our society, but is itself infected with it?
In an article entitled “Working Through Environmental Despair” in Theodore Roszak’s marvelous book, Ecopsychology, Joanna Macy writes: 
But because of the individualistic bias of mainstream psychotherapy, we have been conditioned to assume that we are essentially separate selves, driven by aggressive impulses, competing for a place in the sun. In the light of these assumptions, psychotherapists tend to view our affective responses to the plight of our world as dysfunctional and give them short shrift. As a result, we have trouble crediting the notion that concerns for the general welfare might be genuine enough and acute enough to cause distress. Assuming that all our drives are ego-generated, therapists tend to regard feelings of despair for our planet as manifestations of some private neurosis.
In the first pages of John Michael Greer’s latest book, Not The Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, And The Myth Of Progress,he notes a number of “unmentionable crises” throughout history that were actually social crises, but because of the undesirability of dealing with them, they were temporarily “re-framed” as personal crises. One of these was a contrived “pathology” in relation to African American slaves living in slave states who were said to have suffered from a mental illness called “Drapetomania” in which they had an “irrational” desire to run away. Yet another example Greer cites is the lack of meaning and value in the lives of women in the 1950s and 60s that Betty Friedan described as “the problem that has no name.” These are two examples of how social crises were reframed as personal problems which conveniently enabled addressing them as social phenomena to be postponed indefinitely. 
Similarly in current time, we are witnessing an enormous gap between the dominant story of our culture which is one of “infinite progress” and the palpable sense of anxiety and despair that permeates the psyches of most inhabitants of industrial civilization. According to Greer, the notion of infinite progress has become nothing less than a “civil religion,” and questioning the reality of the notion is one of the most disturbing heresies a “civilized” human being can commit. Moreover, as Greer notes, “Central to the myth of progress, and also one of the keys to its potent emotional appeal, is its affirmation of the omnipotence of human agency.” That is to say that axiomatic within the “religion of progress” is the assumption that if an individual or a community is not experiencing progress, it is merely because that individual or community is not exerting enough effort, is not working smart enough, or its investments are not shrewd enough. This is another way of saying that progress is of our own making—or not, and that if we aren’t reaping the fruits of it, we are suffering the consequences of our choices and need to make different ones. 
Those who embrace the notion of peak oil or the collapse of industrial civilization are perceived by the society at large as “deviant” because they do not hold to the dominant mentality of infinite progress. Greer points out that mainstream culture can conceive essentially of only two scenarios for the future: 1) Infinite progress which has a few fits and starts but overall, continues in an upward trajectory indefinitely; 2) An apocalyptic scenario such as an asteroid hitting the earth, a nuclear war, or severe natural disasters that wipe out a series of regions worldwide. What it cannot grasp, according to Greer, is a steady, gradual decline over a period of decades and years which results in abject energy depletion, the long-term collapse of institutions and centralized systems, and the protracted devolution of industrial society downward to a state of primitive, pre-industrial functioning. 
By and large, mental health professionals in the modern world are able to connect the dots between the explosion in the number of clients suffering from addictions, depression, anxiety, attachment disorders, learning disabilities, and other illnesses with world events at large. Most fall somewhere on the liberal side of the political spectrum and support efforts to maximize the quality of life for humans and the quality of the environment for all species. Yet I believe that most clinicians who are not familiar with the “Three E’s” of energy, environment, and economics as converging crises signaling the collapse of industrial civilization, will be emotionally challenged in working with a client who embraces this perspective. Few Gabor Matés, Paul Levy’s, or Joanna Macys occupy therapy consulting rooms, and few mental health professionals are willing to deeply explore what the collapse of the systems on which they rely would mean for them personally. 
To be fair, many mental health professionals are frantically attempting to re-invent themselves as hospitals, clinics, and agencies close and they find themselves without employment, but in my experience, few are able to grasp the larger picture of peak oil and the Long Emergency. Curiously, if they are able to make the leap to the larger picture, then indeed, they will at some point find themselves reeling from this knowledge and probably begin feeling as schizophrenic as any client who would seek help with the same issue. 
Collapse Deviants And The Shadow 
The shadow, according to Levy is: “…typically conceived of as the underdeveloped, undesirable, and inferior parts of our personality; the aspects of ourselves which we repress the most; it is the part of ourselves we are least proud of and want to hide from others.” (86) Not only do we each individually have a personal shadow, but cultures create shadows as well. When we do not own the shadow and affirm that it is as much a part of us as the other aspects of ourselves that we cherish, we invariably construct a system of projection in which we unconsciously attribute the shadow parts of ourselves to someone else. 
“When we project the shadow,” says Levy, “we unwittingly become a conduit for evil to possess us from behind, beneath our conscious awareness, and to act itself out through us.” As individuals we frequently project the shadow onto other individuals without realizing that we are doing so. Whenever we encounter someone that we really don’t like or who pushes our buttons, we are also encountering some aspect of the shadow. That is not to say that the other person has no offensive qualities, but rather, that some aspect of our own shadow is triggered by them. Furthermore, how we choose to respond externally to the other person is less important than what we learn about our own shadow by exploring it throughout our interactions with the other. 
Collectively, we project the shadow on nations or communities when we attribute virtue to ourselves and evil to the other. The repeated utterances of George W. Bush as he called Islamic fundamentalists “the evildoers,” demonstrated an exquisite example of shadow projection. Likewise, as American citizens target and bully immigrants, gays, lesbians, and the disabled in hate crimes, the shadow is blatantly and brutally at work in projecting onto the other the unclaimed parts of the self. (For an in-depth study of America’s collective shadow projection, I recommend Madness At The Gates Of The City: The Myth Of American Innocence, by Barry Spector.) 
Understanding the shadow and its projections assists us in navigating a culture in which we are deemed “deviants” or “heretics” because we no longer embrace the notion of infinite progress. Certainly, it is no surprise when a corporate lackey or a Wall St. banker accuses us of deviance, but being pathologized by a mental health professional may be. I have experienced that even in circles of Jungian therapists and teachers who have spent decades of their lives working with the shadow, resistance to the tragic, ultimate consequences of humanity’s suicidal behavior is frequently interpreted only symbolically and attended by a refusal to recognize a literal collapse of industrial civilization, including the possibility that humanity may inevitably cause our planet to become uninhabitable. 
A Call To Mental Health Professionals 
As the Long Emergency intensifies, mental health professionals can choose to continue framing client anxieties about the social situation as personal pathologies, as the majority are now doing, or they can open themselves to having an “End of Suburbia” moment in which they themselves confront the demise of the civil religion of progress. This necessitates, as Greer notes, a willingness to pass through what he calls “The Five Stages Of Peak Oil,” in which one moves from denial, through anger, bargaining, and grief, toward acceptance—a non-linear process first outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in relation to death and loss. 
As a result of moving through their own epiphany about our predicament and doing their own grieving, if a therapist or counselor can, in the words of Greer, “take the presence of collective crisis into account in their work, help clients explore and articulate the cognitive dissonance they are experiencing, and provide a supportive framework in which clients can work through the stages of grief and begin the search for meaningful ways of living in a world on the far side of progress, the benefits to society as well as the individual may not be small.” 
The human toll of mental health professionals not allowing themselves to pass through the Five Stages of Peak Oil and therefore be able to genuinely empathize with and hold their clients in the current crisis will be severe, not only for the individual client but for society at large. The rewards, however, for the clinician, the client, and the community are potentially incalculable and profoundly hopeful. And here I use the word hope in the same manner as Greer who defines authentic hope as the combination of personality traits that respond to difficult circumstances by finding some good that can be achieved, and then striving to achieve it. In other words, genuine hope is an internal, pro-active response to one’s predicament as opposed to a passive anticipation that external circumstances will change or that someone will discover a magic solution. 
The Healing Power Of Paradox 
So how do we maintain our wholeness in an increasingly fractured, fragmented, and shattered world? 
A pillar of Jungian psychology is the notion of holding the tension of opposites. This ancient concept, clearly articulated by the Medieval alchemists, applies to the psyche as well as to the alleged transformation of metal into gold. The alchemists claimed that the transformation resulted from allowing opposite chemical elements to remain in a container subject to intense heat. Psychologically speaking, when confronted with the horrors of our predicament, the most crucial ingredient for maintaining our wholeness is holding the tension of the opposites within ourselves, that is, the both/and of our experience. Rather than asking: “Will the collapse be fast or slow?” we must know that it is being both fast and slow even as I write these words and you read them. Rather than pondering whether to retreat back into the comfort of denial and pretend that everything you’ve heard about collapse is nonsense or conversely, sinking into abject depression and despair because “nothing matters anyway,” consider that the future is all about both/and. 
As I write these words, more than 13,000 contaminated dead pigs are floating down the Shanghai River in China, and yet somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is coming to the land—robins are singing and crocuses are bursting forth from the earth. Yes, if you are preparing for the Long Emergency, you are a deviant in the eyes of so many of this culture’s institutions, the mental health system being one of them—and, you are also an extraordinary, intelligent, vibrant, unique human being with gifts to offer your community and your world that we all desperately need. 
In this both/and world of the present and the future, as psychologist Bill Plotkin says, we must move from pre-occupation with EGO-psychology to immersion in ECO-psychology. Otherwise, we will not be able to maintain wholeness in the madness. Perhaps the loudest message of this Great Turning/Great Churning/Decline/Demise/Collapse/Transition is that living our lives from the perspective of the human ego is exactly what brought us to this convergence of crises, and not only is it no longer working; it will never work again! Excluding spiritual and emotional preparation for the future in our arduous efforts to prepare logistically is a continuation of the soul-murder perpetuated by industrial civilization. 
We maintain our wholeness in the madness by joining with others to begin making the kind of world we want our children and the next seven generations to live in. If you yourself are a helping professional of any kind, embrace your deviance and commit to proliferatingthe deviance! The opportunities for re-imagining, sharing, cooperating, and partnering with kindred hearts are endless. In fact, never have so many humans had so many opportunities to resiliently re-fashion their lives and their communities. 
However, we must not revert to the “keep busy doing projects so that you don’t have time to think” syndrome of industrial civilization. In my experience, every person who is preparing for the Long Emergency needs safe spaces where they can discuss their feelings about the future with kindred souls. The Transition founders certainly got it right when they included “The Heart And Soul/Psychology Of Change” initiative in the Transition model. Consciously preparing for the future is a task far too onerous, too overwhelming, and too anxiety-provoking to take on in isolation. In terms of the Five Stages of Peak Oil, the mental health system lags far behind “the psychology of change” initiative and is yet another institution highly susceptible to collapse. 
In my own community, our local “Growing Resilience” group is moving into its fourth year. Our activities have included a weekly book study, a quarterly movie/potluck night, and annual solstice rituals. We have created a safe place for members to speak freely their concerns about the future and give and receive support. Yet ours is but one model in a sea of possibilities for dialog and the forging of bulwarks for creating emotional resilience. 
And so dear reader, know that this Sacred Demise is awakening humans throughout the planet and carries within it the potential for creating a new species of human. But we must remember that health means wholeness, and without attending to the soul, wholeness eludes us. In the words of Paul Levy: 
The only thing that really matters now is whether humanity can climb up to a higher moral level through self-reflection and be able to evolve into a more expanded state of consciousness….If ever there was a time when the turning inward of self-reflection was of critical importance, it is now, in our present catastrophic epoch….In the moment of self-reflection, the psychospiritual necessity for evolutionary growth overrules the biological compulsion of unreflective animal instinct….Self-reflection is a genuinely spiritual act, which is, essentially, an act of becoming conscious.
Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. manages her website at www.carolynbaker.net and is the author of Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path Of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse and Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition. She lives in Boulder, Colorado where she works with Transition Colorado. A former psychotherapist, she offers life coaching for people who want to live more resiliently in the present as they prepare for the future. Her forthcoming 2013 book is entitled, Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times. She may be contacted at Carolyn@carolynbaker.net

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Australian government triggers furore over media laws

By Mike Head 

19 March 2013

The minority Labor government is again in political crisis as it confronts the unpalatable choice of defeat, or an embarrassing backdown, on its bid to ram six media regulation bills through parliament this week. By this morning, it was clear that the government lacked the numbers to pass the laws in the lower house. Several independent MPs had announced they would not support the package, leaving the government short of the five out of seven “cross-bench” MPs it needs to get the bills through.

Last week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government suddenly announced that it had a package of bills and issued a “take it or leave it” ultimatum. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy demanded that the legislation be passed, without “bartering or cross-deals,” by the end of this week, or it would be dropped altogether. At that time, no-one, not even other cabinet ministers, had seen a copy of the proposals.

Far from threatening the power and profits of the media barons who monopolise the newspaper and broadcasting networks in Australia, the government’s scheme actually seeks to bolster their grip by largely leaving them to “self-regulate” the industry. It also makes it easier for the three major television companies to swallow up regional rivals, and extends the framework of government scrutiny to cover on-line media news sources, which have eroded the audiences of the print and TV empires. As another sweetener, the TV networks are promised a halving of their licence fees—saving them $150 million a year—if they sign up to the plan.

The government’s package abandons the recommendations of its own media inquiry, which had been set up in the wake of the Murdoch media phone hacking scandal in Britain. Conducted by former judge Ray Finklestein, the inquiry proposed a formally independent media monitor to adjudicate on complaints from the public about invasions of privacy, misleading reporting and other misconduct. Instead, Conroy announced that a government-appointed Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA) would accredit “news media self-regulation bodies”—like the existing toothless Australian Press Council—to hear complaints. The PIMA could also block media mergers, subject to a vague and undefined “public interest” test.

If the government thought its dropping of the Finklestein plan would appease the media moguls, it miscalculated badly. With Murdoch’s newspapers in the lead, they immediately launched a ferocious campaign, denouncing the government for proposing any regulation of their affairs, and comparing Gillard and Conroy to totalitarian despots. In response, Labor cabinet ministers, as well as backbench Labor MPs, began anxiously briefing journalists that they were angered, frustrated and dismayed by the government’s “crash or crash through” approach, and calling into question Gillard’s already shaky leadership.

By last night, Gillard and Conroy were trying to salvage parts of the media laws package. Gillard said Labor was willing to consider “sensible” changes, while Conroy abandoned his “no negotiation” stance. Only the Greens, who have the numbers to help the government get the bills through the Senate, the upper house, remained committed to the laws, subject to two amendments—one to try to limit the number of “self-regulation” bodies, and the other a nationalist proposal to ensure “Australian” content in the media.

Yesterday, a battery of media chiefs appeared before parliamentary committees posing as outraged defenders of a “free press” and “freedom of expression”. Among them were Murdoch’s News Limited chief executive Kim Williams, Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood and Seven West Media owner Kerry Stokes. Between them, these three companies control more than 90 percent of all Australian newspapers—national, metropolitan, regional and local—and the Seven Network, one of the three commercial TV networks. Their appearances highlighted the fact that Australia has one of the most concentrated media ownerships in the world, facilitated by legislation cobbled together by successive previous governments—Labor and Liberal-National alike—to protect the interests of the billionaires, banks and hedge funds that own the networks.

Labor’s laws, designed as they are to shield the media owners, do contain potential threats to free speech. In particular, for the first time, the existing regulation of television and radio licences would be extended to online news sources. They would be forced—initially if their audience “exceeds 30 percent of the average metropolitan commercial television evening news audience”—to be “registered” by the PIMA and subject to an accredited “self-regulation body”. This would lay the groundwork for potentially far-reaching control by a government agency over web sites offering news and analysis that was regarded as a threat to the “public interest”, that is, to the interests of the corporate elite and political establishment.

Far from being concerned about “free speech,” the media barons are only concerned that these laws might affect their operations, including their capacity to buy up existing online platforms or transfer their own output online. They are fiercely trying to protect their profits and political power. In Australia, as in Britain, the US and globally, they have dominated the agendas of every government, pursuing a relentless “free-market” program, coupled with support for US-led military interventions and constant demonising of refugees, welfare recipients and the working class more broadly.

Yesterday’s parliamentary proceedings provided a display of the venal and cut-throat atmosphere that dominates the media industry, even as the media chiefs sought to present a united front against the government’s scheme. Stokes, the Seven West Media owner, was joined by several other TV company bosses in lashing the proposed removal of the 75 percent “audience reach” rule that prevents metropolitan television stations from owning partners in regional areas. Not an ounce or principle was involved. The objection was that the change would clear the way for the debt-riddled Nine Network, which was recently acquired by the US hedge funds Apollo and Oaktree, to mount a $4 billion takeover of Southern Cross Media, a regional broadcaster currently controlled by Macquarie Bank.

WIN Television CEO Andrew Lancaster told MPs that axing the reach rule “would be the end of regional television”. Nine boss David Gyngell, however, insisted that scrapping the rule was critical to the future of Australian TV. He pledged not to cut journalists’ jobs in country areas if the network were allowed to buy Southern Cross.

Of course, such pledges are worthless. Over past six months, the TV networks have joined the Fairfax and Murdoch press in retrenching a total of more than 3,000 journalists and other editorial workers in an effort to survive amid rapidly declining audience shares, compounded by technological shifts favouring on-line services and the deepening global economic breakdown. All these job cuts were backed by the Labor government and enforced by the trade unions, which prevented any struggle against them.

A similar decimation of media jobs is taking place globally, combined with the closure of major newspapers and the erection of “user pays” barriers around Internet access to information. All this makes a mockery of the claim that private ownership of the media somehow guarantees “freedom of the press”. In reality, the media barons are determined to exercise ever-greater control over all forms of mass communication, including newspaper, television and the Internet.

The full implications of Labor’s media laws debacle are not yet clear. When Labor took office in 2007, it did so with the strong backing of Murdoch’sAustralian and the Fairfax newspapers. Gillard bent over backwards to retain that support when she replaced Kevin Rudd as prime minister via a backroom coup in mid-2010, holding personal meetings with Murdoch.

Over the past year, however, the Labor government lurched from one crisis to the next, amid a series of scandals, widespread popular hostility and growing frustration in corporate circles over its inability to push through an agenda of austerity and restructuring.

In January, Gillard called an election for September 14, setting the date seven months in advance in an attempt to head off challenges to her leadership and to campaign for the backing of the corporate elite. Now the political shambles over the media laws has further undone that strategy and intensified the daily speculation about Gillard’s survival as prime minister.

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Head of Canada’s NDP auditions before US elite

By Graham Beverley 
19 March 2013
Party leader Thomas Mulcair and several other leading New Democrats travelled to Washington, D.C. and New York City last week for a series of closed-door talks with Obama administration officials, Democratic Party politicians, business leaders and other representatives of American and international capital. Mulcair used the opportunity to demonstrate to the U.S. ruling elite that the New Democratic Party (NDP) is dedicated to defending the interests of big business and a dependable ally of U.S. imperialism.
Canada’s social democrats, who vaulted to the position of Official Opposition in the last federal election, have explained their political success as a result of their “moving to the centre.” This slide to the right, accelerated by the late Jack Layton, has only deepened under his successor—a former minister in the widely-hated Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest.
“It’s the first time that the NDP is in a position to form a government and we’re planning to do just that in 2015,” Mulcair said before leaving. “Part of our work in the run-up to that is to get to know the Americans and have them learn who the NDP are and what our history is and what our positions are.”
In a statement sent to party members after the NDP delegation returned to Canada, Paul Dewar, the party’s Foreign Affairs critic, gushed that “the goal of this trip was to introduce the NDP to key American decision-makers. And I’m happy to tell you that we found a very receptive audience.”
Dewar claimed that the NDP is “building a fairer, greener and more prosperous country for all—and bringing that vision to the world stage.” In reality, the NDP, like the British Labour Party, France’s Socialist Party, Greece’s PASOK and social-democratic parties the world over, is a party of capitalist austerity and imperialist war and this was well-illustrated by those Mulcair chose to meet and the statements he made while on his 3-day U.S. visit.
Among others, the federal NDP leader met with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in House of Representatives, former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, and officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He also addressed leaders of the Canadian-American Business Council.
Speaking directly to the US political and business elite, Mulcair sought to counter the rhetoric of Canada’s Conservative government, which has launched Republican-type broadsides against the NDP, accusing of it being “dangerously radical” and “leftist.”
Mulcair repeatedly assured his U.S. audiences and interlocutors that the NDP is as committed as the Harper-led Conservatives and the Liberals to eliminating the federal deficit and upholding “fiscal responsibility”. The NDP leader pledged that if his party formed Canada’s next government it would not raise personal income taxes on the wealthy, although these have been slashed by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.
Mulcair said that to help eliminate the deficit an NDP government would roll back some of the corporate tax cuts that the Conservatives have lavished on big business, raising the corporate tax rate from the current 15 percent to around the 2010 level of 18 percent. In 2000, the federal corporate tax rate was 28 percent.
Mulcair has refused comment on what was discussed in the many private meetings he held with U.S. leaders. But it is clear that one issue that figured prominently was the growing oil extraction operations in the Alberta tar sands.
Canada’s corporate media, echoing the Harper Conservatives, have seized upon a statement Pelosi made after her meeting with Mulcair to accused the NDP leader of “trash-talking Canada” before foreigners and interfering with the massive investment being undertaken to transport bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to refineries in the southern US. When asked about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Pelosi had said that “Canadians don’t want [it] in their own country.”
In the face of the Conservative-corporate media furor over Pelosi’s remarks, an anonymous aide to Mulcair rushed to inform the Globe and Mail that “those were Nancy Pelosi’s words, not Mulcair’s.” The NDP leader did say on several occasions that he believed the first priority should be building a west-east pipeline within Canada, so as to strengthen the Canadian nation-state and assure more of the profits from the tar sands remain in Canada.
Later in an interview with Bloomberg News Service, Mulcair argued that oil companies looking to invest in Canada would do better under an NDP government than under the Conservatives, because the social democrats would be better able to placate public concerns over unbridled tar sands development. In their 2012 budget the Conservative government made steep cuts to the Environment Ministry and gutted the environmental review process so as to push for rapid development of the oil sands and other resource extraction projects.
According to Mulcair, an NDP government would do “a better job gaining public acceptance for infrastructure projects like pipelines because it would enforce a more credible environmental review process. … You want to get people onside if you want to move product to market.”
Speaking through Bloomberg directly to US big business, Mulcair sought to stoke US fears over state-owned Chinese oil companies becoming major consumers of Canadian oil exports, thereby driving up prices, and becoming major investors in the tar sands, enabling them to reshape oil flows and potentially limit US access. In his anti-Chinese rhetoric and denunciations of “Communism,” Mulcair was making an explicit appeal to US imperialism and signaling that the NDP is supportive of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia.” Through the redeployment of US military power and the encouragement of China’s neighbours in pressing their territorial claims, Washington is seeking to isolate Beijing and thwart China’s rise.
Mulcair attacked the Harper Conservative government for being too welcoming of Chinese investment. He pointed to its recent approval of a $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen, a Calgary-based oil company, by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), and the recently concluded Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). By 2020, said Mulcair, “China will be Canada’s second largest investor, largely in oil and gas.”
“Taken together,” concluded Mulcair, “FIPA and CNOOC’s takeover of Nexen effectively limit the ability of Canadian governments to independently control our own natural resource policy, while ceding enormous control over our resources to a foreign power.” Invoking concerns about “energy security,” Mulcair argued that the NDP would be a better partner for the US oil giants and US imperialism than the Harper government.
In a lengthy speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Relations, Mulcair celebrated the longstanding strategic partnership between Canada and the US and repeated the claims that Washington and Ottawa stand for democratic and humanitarian values—fraudulent claims that have and continue to be invoked to justify imperialist intervention and war.
Said Mulcair, “We both enjoy modern, dynamic economies. We both respect fundamental labour, environmental and human rights. … In the last century, our two countries served as a model of partnership and progress for a waiting world. We built that partnership on the strength of these values. In the 21st century, as we prepare ourselves for an increasingly complex set of challenges, let’s re-commit to those same values, and to those who share them.”
While the NDP once postured as an opponent of NATO and NORAD, it has emerged during the past two decades as a strong supporter of Canada’s participation in a series of imperialist wars, including Canada’s leading role in the 1999 NATO war on Yugoslavia and the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Its first major act as Official Opposition was to vote unanimously in favour of Canada’s participation in the US-led war against Libya. In recent weeks Dewar and Mulcair have urged the Harper government to “do more” to support the French-led invasion of Mali.
In recent years, the NDP has made it a priority to forge closer political and organizational links with the Democratic Party, Wall Street’s “left” party of government. Indeed, to make this association even more explicit, some NDP leaders have toyed with the idea of dropping the word “New” from the party’s name, meaning Canada’s social democrats would henceforth be known as the Democratic Party.
After meeting with the Democratic House Leader, Mulcair was effusive in his praise, tweeting that it “was an honour to meet with Nancy Pelosi—a strong leader and the first woman to become Speaker of the House.” Later, he told reporters that “there’s a lot of connectedness between a senior Democrat like Madam Pelosi and the New Democratic Party.”
While in Washington, the NDP leader spoke before a leading Democratic think-tank, the Center for American Progress. An attendee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “People took him very seriously. Even those in the United States who can’t figure out why the left in Canada, the Liberals and the NDP, can’t seem to get along, wanted to hear him out… Mulcair was viewed credibly and people were impressed.”
In fact, the NDP, while resisting calls for the two parties to merge, has repeatedly partnered with the Liberals, long the Canadian bourgeoisie’s preferred party of government. In 2008, the NDP agreed to be the junior partner in a Liberal-led coalition government committed to “fiscal responsibility,” implementing $50 billion in corporate tax cuts, and waging war in Afghanistan. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, the NDP is currently propping up a minority Liberal government that is cutting billions from social spending and has imposed sweeping contract concessions on teachers by legislative fiat.

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Plans for military surveillance of Americans’ financial records

By Ed Hightower 
19 March 2013
Reuters reported last week that it had viewed a document from the US Treasury Department detailing plans to provide military intelligence agencies with unfettered access to financial records of US citizens. Under the new plan, there will be no need to request access to such records on a case-by-case basis.
The document, dated March 4, calls for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to oversee the linking of the Treasury’s database on suspicious customer activity, known as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), with a computer network for US law enforcement and military agencies called the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System.
More than 25,000 banks, securities dealers, wire transfer services and even casinos regularly file “suspicious activity reports” (SARs) with the Treasury, which include reports of transactions exceeding $10,000 and those possibly involving money laundering. The institutions required to make these reports cast a broad net, preferring to err on the side of making a report of possibly suspicious activity that turns out to be innocent so as to avoid being accused of withholding information and facing steep fines or criminal charges. As a result, an untold number of persons banking in the United States end up in the FinCEN database, even when they have committed no crime at all. Around 15 million SARs are filed annually.
Suspicious activity reports are regulated by the 1970 Banking Secrecy Act as well as the USA PATRIOT Act, enacted in the aftermath of 9/11. Institutions filing SARs on persons or businesses are prohibited from letting the subject know that such a report has been filed, and SARs are exempted from Freedom of Information Act requests.
Under current law, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or National Security Agency (NSA) must request information from FinCEN on a case-by-case basis. Civilian-run agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security already have full access to the FinCEN database.
Under the Treasury department’s plan, this information will be at the fingertips of the US military through the CIA and the NSA, with little or no judicial oversight.
While the Treasury department proposal would not necessarily violate any existing laws, it is worth noting that the US Congress rejected a proposal that would have had the same effect as what the executive branch, through the Treasury, is now prepared to enact.
Private investigator Kennith Cummins told Russia Today that the information being opened up to military intelligence can be used to create profiles of anti-war activists and others who oppose the government’s policies by following their usage of debit and credit cards. The military can track a person’s travel, donations to non-profit organizations and spending habits. Cummins pointed out one thing that FinCEN records will not help uncover: actual terrorists, who can easily circumvent the types of transactions that would trigger a SAR.
The judicial framework for obtaining private information on US citizens is already threadbare. Moreover, the information contained in FinCEN is not very suitable for the claimed purpose of combating terrorism. Given the existing availability of this information to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, why is the Obama administration focused on increasingmilitary surveillance on US citizens?
The Treasury’s proposal represents yet another front in the escalating attack on democratic rights, especially the rights to privacy and freedom of association. The executive branch, which has recently asserted the right to kill American citizens secretly and without laying charges or holding a trial, now insists that the US military be allowed unfettered access to financial records of citizens, with no oversight.
Former NSA employee and whistleblower William Binney said in July 2012 that Washington was secretly gathering information “about virtually every US citizen in the country” in a “very dangerous process.”
The revelation of the Treasury Department document must serve as a warning to the working class. The preparations for a police dictatorship in the United States are well advanced and include the drawing up of lists of citizens and residents to be detained, or worse.

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Cyprus banks close as bailout terms spark Europe-wide crisis

By Jordan Shilton and Chris Marsden 

19 March 2013

The terms attached to the European Union (EU) finance ministers’ bailout for Cypriot banks triggered heavy losses on financial markets that were lessened only on the basis of an expected climb-down.

A vote in Cyprus’s parliament was first postponed from Sunday until Monday, and then until today, as it remained uncertain if President Nikos Anastasiades could win majority backing for the plan. In a statement on national television Saturday, he declared that Nicosia had no other alternative but to accept the terms of the programme if the country was to avert a full financial collapse. He compared the current crisis to the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, which led to partition.

The current version of the plan will see around 10 billion euros ($13 billion) made available to the island’s banks, and close to a further €6 billion raised through a tax on banking deposits. Accounts with a balance of less than €100,000 were to be taxed at 6.75 per cent, while those with more than that amount faced a 9.9 per cent charge.

With banks closed, depositors emptied ATMs over the weekend. The terms of the bailout met near universal hostility from widely varying layers of the population. Banks due to open today after a bank holiday are to remain closed until Thursday to prevent further panic withdrawals.

Accounts differ as to who proposed what in discussions leading up to the EU decision to levy a tax on small investors. The Cypriot government blamed Berlin, which countered that it was Cyprus that decided to levy a tax on small investors after rejecting suggestions of a bigger tax—up to 40 percent—on those with over €100,000 in Cypriot banks.

In either event, the terms agreed represented a breach of existing guarantees that small investors are safeguarded from the consequences of the banks’ bad practices.

Berlin’s portrayal of the measure as a policy targeting Russian oligarchs using Cyprus as a tax shelter did nothing to lessen public outrage.

Long-running negotiations over a bailout for banks controlling assets worth more than eight times GDP have brought divisions between the European powers to the fore. The key measures in the bailout were dictated by the German government, which was unwilling to play the main role in funding a full-scale bailout. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble pushed for the bank deposit tax, as well as the demand that Cyprus increase its corporation tax from 10 to 12.5 percent.

These measures, which will contribute approximately 40 percent of the overall cost, are aimed at strengthening Berlin’s position against Russian and—to a lesser extent—British investors. Russian investors control a total of €19 billion of bank deposits in Cyprus, equating to 7 percent of all Russian corporate deposits. The island has become the second-largest source of foreign direct investment into Russia, as many companies have set up bases there to take advantage of low corporate tax rates.

Britain, the former colonial power, views Cyprus as a strategic location and maintains a military presence on the island with around 3,000 troops. Approximately €2 billion of bank deposits are controlled by Britons, around 30,000 of whom live there.

Behind calls for a struggle against “money-laundering” and funds from the “black market”, which were embraced by the opposition Social Democrats as well as the Merkel government, one aim of the bailout was to undermine the position of Russian and British investors. President Vladimir Putin denounced the measure as “unjust, unprofessional and dangerous.”

However, the levy also ensures that working people in Cyprus are made to bear the costs for the bailout of the country’s failed financial institutions. In reality, the oligarchs and the wealthy have far greater ability to withdraw their funds than Cypriots, Greeks and other smaller investors—unless Cyprus were to take the extraordinary decision to impose capital controls.

In January, €43 billion of the €68 billion in Cypriot bank deposits was held by domestic residents, with a further five billion held by Greeks.

Some within the bourgeoisie supported the notion of making Russia pay, but most considered the taxing of small investors a political disaster, fearing that both measures raised grave dangers.

The decision to seize investors’ money overnight could provoke a bank run in other European countries—with savers in Spain, Portugal or Italy fearing the possibility that money may also be removed from their accounts in the future. Cyprus is a warning of what might happen. In the first two weeks of February alone, $1 billion in deposits were removed from banks in Cyprus, as speculation grew that the tax would be imposed.

Greek financial commentator Yiannis Mouzakis wrote, “Deposits flight combined with the sale of the Greek operations will probably leave the Cypriot banking system half the size it was on Friday night, even left with one systemic bank after restructuring.”

If this were to be repeated in other struggling countries the potential for devastating contagion is incalculable.

Germany’s media was filled with dire warnings.

D ie Welt asked, “Who can say that at some point the Cyprus model will not be used by banks in Italy or Spain? And that bank customers could lose far more than 10 percent?”

Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote, “Banks closed, money gone, confidence destroyed. The last taboo of the euro crisis has been broken, and it’s now reaching directly into savings accounts… The crisis surrounding the euro has unexpectedly reached a new level of escalation.”

Handelsblatt declared, “Cyprus sets a precedent. What happens there can also happen elsewhere. In Spain and Ireland, bank bailouts have allowed the national debt to explode to an unsustainable level. There, the euro zone could see tapping into bank accounts as the next step. In principle, no European depositor can remain assured that their bank balance will remain untouched—even in Germany.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg and head of the 17-nation euro group, told AFP: “I have grave concerns that this will lead to a loss of confidence, not just from the banks but also from the people.”

With so much at stake, some rejigging of the terms of the bailout may well be made before it is re-presented today. But, as with all such “bailouts”, only the bankers and the super-rich benefit, while the working class is made to suffer.

The Cyprus bailout, like those for Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, is conditional on the launching of a vast austerity programme, including privatisations, which will lead to the elimination of jobs in the public sector and the destruction of social services. A public sector strike took place a day prior to the EU finance ministers’ announcement, involving up to 16,000 state employees. It was called against wage freezes and budget cutting.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times commented that the levy on investors “is just the beginning! Even with the effective default on deposits, Cyprus will need a huge loan from the troika, and the condition for this loan will be harsh austerity. This looks like the beginning of endless, inconceivable pain.”


US funding bill to make sequester cuts permanent

Hundreds of thousands face unpaid furloughs
By Andre Damon 
19 March 2013
As the US government prepares to furlough hundreds of thousands of federal employees next month, Congress is moving to make permanent the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade mandated by the sequester process that was triggered at the beginning of March.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected this week to approve a so-called “continuing resolution” that will fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on September 30. A version of the bill has already been passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Both the House and Senate versions include the $85 billion in cuts for fiscal year 2013 mandated by the sequester.
On top of these cuts, both versions of the bill include provisions to freeze federal pay through the end of this year, reversing an earlier executive order to end the current pay freeze and give federal employees a 0.5 percent raise.
With the sequester cuts secured for rest of the fiscal year, the two parties will intensify their discussions on next year’s federal budget and plans to impose unprecedented attacks on the most basic social programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Congressional Democrats have made clear they have no intention of using the threat of a government shutdown, which would result from failure to pass a continuing resolution, in order to reverse the sequester cuts.
Since the exact form of the across-the-board sequester cuts are still being worked out, it is not clear precisely how many workers will face payless furloughs, but preliminary figures indicate that over one million employees could be affected. Many workers could lose more than 20 percent of their annual salary.
The spending bill passed by the House contains provisions giving the military much greater flexibility in distributing the burden of the spending cuts, meaning there will be little discernible impact on military capacity. The burden of the cuts will be born overwhelmingly by civilian employees of the military.
Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the Navy’s top uniformed officer, said earlier this month that compared to the original sequester provisions, the changes implemented in the bill are “almost night and day.” The admiral said that as a result of the bill, for instance, the Navy could proceed with the building of two new carriers whose construction it had previously threatened to halt.
“A huge portion of these cuts will come directly out of the pay of federal workers,” said Jackie Simon, the public policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees in a telephone interview Monday. “The Department of Defense has chosen to protect its contractors and make its civilian employees pay for the cuts,” she continued, adding that “the DOD spends over $200 billion per year on service contracts: none of these have been cut, and nothing is coming out of uniformed services.”
Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that the “vast majority” of the Defense Department’s 800,000 civilian employees would take 22 furlough days per fiscal year, resulting in pay cuts of 20 percent.
Employees affected by the defense department furloughs include workers at military hospitals and schools, employees at depots and arsenals and the sprawling defense department logistics system, as well as maintenance and repair staff.
Many thousands of non-military federal employees will also face unpaid furloughs. While most of the furlough days will be staggered throughout the year, 9,212 meat safety inspectors will all be furloughed on the same days, meaning no meat safety inspections will take place on 11 days of the year, Simon said.
The furloughs of federal employees come in addition to severe cuts in social services as a result of the sequester. The nearly 4 million long-term unemployed who receive federal unemployment benefits will see an 11 percent cut in their benefits, or about $130 per month.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reported earlier this month that the “WIC nutrition program for low-income pregnant women, infants, and young children will have to turn away an estimated 600,000 to 775,000 women and children, including very young children, by the end of this fiscal year.”
Additionally, 100,000 low-income families will lose vouchers for housing assistance as a result of the sequester cuts, and tens of thousands of education workers will face layoffs.
Throughout the entire “debate” over the budget and federal deficit, the issues of unemployment, poverty and falling wages have gone virtually unmentioned. The joint goal of the Obama administration and congressional Republicans and Democrats is to manufacture an atmosphere of crisis, in which an immense assault on social services and workers’ living standards can be carried out.
The next crisis date will occur in August, when the federal debt ceiling will be reached. This will be utilized along prearranged lines to push through cuts and structural changes that will mark the beginning of the end of the basic social reforms enacted in the 1930s and 1960s.
Obama is resolutely pushing for cuts in Social Security benefits and hundreds of billions of further cuts in Medicare, as well as the introduction of means-testing, which will begin the transformation of the medical insurance program for seniors from a universal program to a poverty program, a major step toward its destruction.
The White House is seeking to spin this historic attack as a boon to the “middle class” and a “fair” and “balanced” approach to the deficit by linking it to token tax increases on the rich. Any such increases, however, would be more than made up for by a “reform” of the tax code that slashes corporate taxes and shifts the tax burden further from the wealthy to the working class.

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The Iraq War ten years on: A turning point for US imperialism

19 March 2013

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Ten years ago, the world watched the “shock and awe” bombing campaign light up the nighttime sky of Baghdad with billowing clouds of flame and smoke.

This campaign and the bloody ten years of occupation that followed had a devastating impact on what was once among the most advanced societies in the Middle East. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed and millions were made homeless.

The American military’s conduct of the war produced crimes of staggering dimensions. This included the turning of Fallujah, a city of 350,000 people, into a free-fire zone, the bombarding of its occupants with white phosphorus shells, banned by international law, and the summary execution of wounded prisoners. Ten years later, the rates of child cancer and birth defects in Fallujah are similar to those in Hiroshima following the US atomic bombing.

The leaking of stomach-turning photographs from Abu Ghraib lifted the veil on the barbaric character of the war, which included the systematic use of torture, death squads and sectarian massacres to terrorize the Iraqi population into submission.

People in Iraq continue to die from the sectarian violence unleashed by the war as well as from the destruction of infrastructure that has deprived them of clean water, health care and other essentials of life. One million children under the age of 18 have lost one or both parents, and hundreds of thousands suffer from grievous wounds.

In the US itself, in addition to the deaths of nearly 4,500 troops, 34,000 soldiers came home wounded and hundreds of thousands suffer from psychological trauma.

All of this killing and violence was carried out on the basis of lies, summed up in the claim that the Iraqi government was concealing “weapons of mass destruction.” These false pretexts for war were no less criminal than those used by Germany’s Third Reich to justify the invasion of Poland and other countries targeted at the outset of World War II.

If the Nuremberg precedents established in the trial of the surviving Nazi leaders at the end of that war had been followed, all of those responsible for the invasion of Iraq—in the first instance George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice—would have been placed on trial and, at the very least, sent to prison for the rest of their lives.

In the United Kingdom, the same fate would have befallen former Prime Minister Tony Blair and others in his government.

While the Nazis were guilty of a war of aggression in Europe that produced genocide, Washington’s war of aggression against Iraq resulted in sociocide—the systematic decimation of an entire society. Following more than a decade of punishing economic sanctions, the full power of the American military was employed to tear what was left of the country’s economy, infrastructure and social fabric to shreds.

The entire establishment media was complicit in the launching of the war, repeating pretexts for aggression that it knew to be false. In particular, theNew York Times played an indispensable role in legitimizing the actions of the Bush administration and manufacturing “evidence” of nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Noted opinion makers like Thomas Friedman of the Times and Richard Cohen and Charles Krauthammer of theWashington Post deeply involved themselves in promoting war.

Once the invasion had begun, “embedded” journalists served as propagandists for the US military, while carefully concealing the war’s atrocities and its devastating impact.

This war, staggering in the criminality of both its planning and execution, marked a critical turning point in the history of American imperialism. Though it ended in chaos, with the lies used to justify it thoroughly exposed and, in operational terms, the war widely considered a total disaster, it nonetheless laid the basis for the intensification of the war in Afghanistan and the ever-expanding eruption of American militarism across the planet.

Iraq was a predatory imperialist war. It was carried out as part of a long-developing US strategy for reorganizing the Middle East to secure American interests and control over the region’s vast energy resources.

Underlying this strategy was an effort to offset intensifying economic crisis through the use of military force. At the same time, the “war of choice” served as a means of directing the explosive social tensions generated by social inequality at home outward in the form of militarist violence.

In pursuit of these aims, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 never represented anything more than a cynical pretext. The regime of Saddam Hussein, whatever its crimes against the Iraqi people, was secular, an enemy of Al Qaeda and in no way involved in September 11.

In this regard, the war established a pattern of Washington carrying out interventions for regime-change in the Middle East, targeting secular governments and tacitly or directly backing Islamist and Al Qaeda-linked forces to achieve its goals. Such was the case in Libya in 2011 and so it is today in Syria.

Meanwhile, the unending “global war on terrorism” of which Iraq was supposedly the centerpiece has been accompanied by an unprecedented buildup of the power of the state and its military-intelligence apparatus and an intensification of the attack on democratic rights both in the US and internationally. Under the Obama administration this has reached the point of the president claiming the power to order the execution of American citizens by drone strikes without presenting charges, much less proving them in a court of law.

The Iraq war represented a turning point not only for US imperialism, but also for the political evolution of Europe. With the exception of the British, the European bourgeoisie took a cautious attitude in the run-up to the US invasion, in many cases expressing reservations and disagreement. After a series of public disputes, however, the European powers shifted their position, coming to see the war as opening up an opportunity for unrestrained imperialism in which they too could share in the plunder.

The aftermath of the war also witnessed an extreme shift to the right by the ostensibly antiwar left parties, which abandoned the pretense of opposing imperialism. Having made no attempt to mobilize the broad spontaneous opposition that erupted in massive demonstrations around the world on the eve of the US invasion, these forces moved rapidly to align themselves in support of imperialist intervention. Political organizations ranging from the Greens in Germany to Rifondazione Comunista in Italy directly supported the war in Afghanistan.

In the US itself, the official antiwar movement worked relentlessly to channel mass popular opposition to the Iraq war behind the Democrats, who in Congress voted to authorize the invasion and continued to finance it until the end. With the election of Obama, the pseudo-left elements became full-fledged supporters of US military operations, promoting “humanitarian” interventions in Libya and Syria.

Iraq has put paid to all the claims that we are living in a post-imperialist era. The escalation of imperialist operations continues throughout the world. The withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and the ongoing drawdown from Afghanistan signal not, as Obama has repeatedly claimed, the “tide of war receding,” but rather the freeing up of military manpower and resources for even greater interventions elsewhere.

Even as it continues its war in Afghanistan, Washington is moving aggressively into Africa, intervening in Syria, preparing war against Iran and “pivoting” to Asia, with increasingly bellicose threats against China.

New wars are inevitable, driven by the insoluble crisis of American and world capitalism. They are facilitated in no small measure by the fact that the crimes of the Iraq war have gone unpunished.

No one has been held accountable under international law for planning and waging a war of aggression that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings—not the politicians who planned the war, nor the generals who led it, nor the journalists who spun the lies to promote it. Some have been awarded high posts in academia, like Condoleezza Rice at Stanford University. Others are in comfortable retirement or on various corporate and think tank boards, or pursing other lucrative activities. The media pundits continue to pontificate as if nothing had happened.

This unpunished political crime has had far-reaching consequences all over the world, as the intensification of imperialist neocolonialism sets the stage for new conflagrations.

Very deep and sobering lessons must be drawn from this war, which, far from being an isolated episode relegated to the past, continues to shape the world political environment today. The experience of the Iraq war demonstrates that the struggle against war, which is at the heart of political life in every country, cannot be waged so long as the working class is tied to the political parties that wage these wars and subordinated to the economic system of capitalism that makes them inevitable.

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, it must be said that the one consistent voice of opposition to this war was that of the World Socialist Web Site and the International Committee of the Fourth International. The statements that we wrote both before and during the Iraq war are a testament to the principled character of this movement’s politics and the power of a Marxist perspective.

The fight against war today requires the building of the Socialist Equality Party.

Bill Van Auken and David North


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