Monthly Archives: August 2013

Putin to (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) Obama: ‘Think About Future Syria Victims’

Did Putin Stop Obama?


The Russian president has expressed certainty that the strategy for a military intervention in Syria is a direct response to the Syrian government’s recent combat successes, coupled with the rebels’ retreat from long-held positions.

Posted August 31, 2013

People of the World are Fighting Back

What the deluded Americans do not seem to realize is that they are on their own. The only entities willing to support their aggression on Syria is Saudi Arabia and Israel.

By Finian Cunningham

August 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  The United States of America stands exposed in the eyes of the entire world as the number-one terrorist threat to the future of humanity. Many have known this fact already, but now it is universally clear.

As the US prepares to launch an overt war on Syria (the covert war has been raging for 30 months), the vast majority of humanity can finally see through all its decades of pretense and conceit as the world’s model of democracy and international law. And what they see is the ugly opposite. The US is a terrorist state that holds international law, democracy and human rights in utter contempt. It is ready, as it always has been, to kill countless civilians for its selfish political ambitions. That is the conventional definition of “terrorism”.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad made a profound point recently when he said that his country has faced aggression for more than two years, but only now is the real enemy revealing itself – the US and its minions. But the US terrorist state is not just being called out over Syria. It is being revealed as the enemy to the entire world.

From past wars in the Caribbean, Central America, Philippines, Vietnam and Indochina, through coups and covert ops in Iran, Iraq, Africa, to recent killing fields in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, the historical picture is now complete. All these conflicts and many more – too many to mention here – integrate into one indisputable truth. The US is the world’s biggest terror state. If it is not dealt with definitely, then the future of the world is in peril more than ever.

In previous crimes of aggression, the US ruling elite could invoke the spurious cover of “a coalition of the willing”, or the abused authority of the United Nations or NATO. It was able to do that through deployment of lies, fabrications and a supine mass media that would lend credibility to the mendacity. Now, thanks to alternative, critical media and instant global communications, the American lies don’t work any longer. In an instant, they are exposed; just like the attempt in the last few hours of US Secretary of State John to frame up Syria over alleged chemical weapons use.

The New York Times, BBC and the usual Western media mouthpieces for imperialist propaganda dutifully facilitated Kerry and his US state terrorism with bombastic, important-sounding headlines: “Kerry lays out evidence against Syria”. There was hardly a critical question raised, even though there are grounds for dozens such questions. Years ago, that kind of herd-think might have been enough to buy the US warmongers enough time to launch a war – but not any more. Within minutes of Kerry’s supposedly definitive condemnation, statements, articles, tweets and blogs were pulling the charade asunder, showing that apart from Western-media-amplified bombast, Kerry was not saying anything of value. It was just another risible repetition of earlier hyperbole and empty rhetoric. Or in short, lies.

The people of the world have reached a critical mass of intolerance towards the rogue terror states of the US, Britain, France, Israel and a few other accomplices. We have watched their relentless mass murder and exploitation of fellow humans in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. We have witnessed how this tiny group of state terrorists imposes on the vast majority of humanity their vile criminality and in the process then insult us with grotesque lies and justifications. We have seen how these rogue states have stolen land, poisoned people’s water, burnt their crops, dispossessed their homes, assassinated families with aerial drones and ground drones in the form of death squads. They have committed all these shocking crimes with lies and impunity to the point where now these state terrorists are operating in more than one country simultaneously in a permanent state of relentless war, pushing the very future of humanity to the brink.

However, despite this lawlessness and gangsterism, the people of the world are fighting back.

This week the British parliament voted against the London government’s arrogance to provide its usual criminal special relationship to the Americans. In the execution of past war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – to mention a few – Washington could rely on the trusty British imperialists to give a veneer of “coalition of the willing”. British premier David Cameron’s plans to repeat the criminality by backing Washington’s plans to bomb Syria were dealt a crushing blow by the British parliament voting against any such military action. Cameron was forced to withdraw. The vote in the British parliament is not so much a sign of ethics among Britain’s political class. It is
more a reflection of the global awakening among ordinary citizens that this insane state terrorism must stop.

The French government has also backed off earlier bellicose bravado, with French President Francois Hollande belatedly calling for a “peaceful, political solution” over the Syrian crisis. Even Washington’s reliable Canadian puppet Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that his country will not be getting involved military in Syria. It is also reported that 10 members of the NATO alliance – one-third of the total – are not willing to support American strikes. This latter grouping comprises the usual minions of the US. And we haven’t even yet acknowledged the more strident opponents, such as Russia, China, Iran and the majority of nations elsewhere in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

The people of the world have had it with elite Western rulers acting as terrorists who are holding humanity to ransom. The rulers are presiding not only over military terrorism. They are inflicting economic, social and ecological terrorism with their bankrupt capitalist smash-and-grab system. That system has reached the point of meltdown and that is why we are being pushed into relentless wars – in order for the rulers and their politician puppets to corner the remaining resources. The ultimate solution to end the wars is for the people to overthrow the economic system that US and Western elite rulers preside over. The insane criminality of the US rulers over Syria is exposing this historic challenge facing humanity.

After the British parliamentary setback the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said: “Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together. It is the goal of President Obama and our government… whatever decision is taken, that it be an international collaboration and effort.”

Can you believe how ridiculous these American puppets sound? What the deluded Americans do not seem to realize is that they are on their own. The only entities willing to support their aggression on Syria is Saudi Arabia and Israel. So, how’s that for credibility? The only support Washington can muster is from a feudal, sword-wielding, head-chopping regime and a criminal pariah genocidal state. Coalition of the Willing? More like Coalition of the Killing.

Where’s Congress on Syria?

By Robert W. Merry

August 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “National Interest” – Where’s Congress? That’s the question that should haunt the American people in the wake of President Obama’s apparent decision to get their country into another Mideast war. In the long history of the American experience, matters of war and peace have always been hotly debated. And those debates traditionally have been most intense and concentrated in Congress.

Remember Arkansas senator William Fulbright’s famous hearings on the Vietnam War, beginning in 1966. He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he shared the Democratic Party label with his president, Lyndon Johnson, who had perpetrated the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. But that shared party label didn’t prevent Fulbright from going after the president with these words at the start of his hearings:

Under our system, Congress, and especially the Senate, shares responsibility with the President for making our Nation’s foreign policy. This war, however, started and continues as a Presidential war in which Congress, since the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin episode, has not played a significant role. The purpose of these hearings is to develop the best advice and greater public understanding of the policy alternatives available and possible congressional action to end American participation in the war.

Clearly, Fulbright wasn’t messing around as he thrust himself into the war controversy based on his standing in a Congress charged with joint responsibility for America’s wars.

Or recall North Dakota’s Republican senator Gerald Nye from the 1930s, chairman of the Senate Munitions Investigating Subcommittee. A rustic progressive who advocated the nationalization of what he considered troublesome industries, he also was a tireless friend to thousands of German-born Dakota farmers still angry about America’s role in the Great War. Nye wanted the country to avoid any further foreign conflicts, and so he attacked the forces he viewed as promoters of war—the big arms manufacturers, which he called “merchants of death,” and international bankers who financed the purchase of armaments and then, as Nye viewed it, fomented war to ensure a return on their investments.

Nye’s headline-grabbing hearings fostered the Neutrality Act of 1935, which placed America on the sidelines of all international conflicts. The legislation required the president to proclaim the existence of any foreign wars and prohibited American vessels from carrying arms to or for belligerents in such wars. It was popular at the time largely because of widespread lingering feelings among Americans that the World War I adventure had been ill-conceived. Whatever Nye’s contemporaries may have thought of his legislation or the thinking behind it, no one could doubt that this driven politician intended to wield all the power that the Constitution bestowed upon him as a member of the Senate.

Consider also Missouri’s Democratic senator Thomas Hart Benton, who served his state and party from 1821 to 1851—and demonstrated throughout those three decades a fierce independence tied to a zest for political pugilism. Although an early political ally of President James K. Polk, Benton balked when Polk sought from Congress authorization for war with Mexico that could include an invasion of the southern neighbor. He maneuvered cleverly in the Senate in opposition to Polk’s interests and threatened to unleash a full-bore opposition campaign, which could have emboldened the Whig opposition and destroyed the president’s war resolution. In the end he came around, but only after his good friend, Francis Blair, warned that opposition to the war could render him a “ruined man.”

What these men had in common was that they mattered. And they mattered because they were willing to employ as much legislative power as they could muster to influence the big national debate before the country—and thus influence the course of events. Such politicians have nearly always emerged whenever the big guns of the American military began to roar in earnest.

Until recently. Now we have a president who declares in word and deed that war decisions, as artificially defined by him as something short of actual war, are exclusively within his constitutional domain. And we have a Congress that shows no serious inclination to challenge that claim of prerogative and power. This is a very serious—and potentially calamitous—development in American history.

This is not to say that men such as Fulbright, Nye and Benton—and many more who followed their path—were entirely correct in their view of foreign policy and the war decisions of their time. But they served the highly valuable purpose of ensuring that matters of war and peace would get serious attention, generate robust debate, and thus enlighten the American people about the geopolitical stakes involved. That’s what’s missing today.

In fairness, there have been some expressions of discomfort coming from Congress. Washington’s Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that, while he’s still waiting to see what the administration has to say about a potential strike, he is “concerned” about how effective such an action could be and “worried” that it could draw the United States into a wider Mideast war. And House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, sent a letter to Obama that seemed to be designed as a shot across the president’s bow. He asked for a “clear, unambiguous explanation of how military action—which is a means, not a policy—will secure U.S. objectives and how it fits into your overall policy.” Separately, 116 House members—ninety-eight Republicans and eighteen Democrats—sent a letter to Obama saying he shouldn’t attack Syria’s government forces without congressional approval.

But these are largely pro forma expressions and actions, not efforts to force these crucial war-and-peace issues into the cauldron of unavoidable congressional consideration. The Fulbright and Nye hearings forced every member of Congress to take a stand, one way or the other, on the matter at hand. Benton threatened not merely to oppose his president in expression but to muster sufficient opposition to defeat the man in his most frightful hour of need.

If Boehner really wanted to give Obama pause in his push toward another military action in the Middle East, he would foster a resolution declaring a sense of the chamber that the president of the United States must get congressional approval for any such action. He would then bring that resolution to the floor, forcing a real congressional debate (of the kind that that tired institution rarely sees these days) that would rivet the American people and place upon members the onus of actually taking a stand—not just on the matter of presidential prerogative but on the policy itself.

Now that would be an approach worthy of the American political tradition. But no one should bet the 401K fund that that will actually unfold as Washington slouches toward another overseas action that has no real strategic significance, has very little pretense of any strategic significance, and is designed primarily to teach a lesson to a once-proud national leader whose country lies in tatters, whose life is in peril, and whose standing in history has been reduced to that of a monster. History has dealt Bashar al-Assad far more devastating lessons than Barack Obama or his country could ever administer. Meanwhile, the strategic ramifications of U.S. military strikes against Syrian targets cry out for serious deliberation and analysis. Will such deliberation and analysis emerge? Not bloody likely.

Robert W. Merry is political editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy. His most recent book is Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians.

Israeli Firsters Urge President Obama to Respond to Assad’s Chemical Attack

By James Kirchick, Christopher J. Griffin, Dan Senor, Robert Zarate, Robert Kagan, William Kristol 

August 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Foreign Policy Initiative” – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Seventy-four former U.S. government officials and foreign policy experts have now signed a bipartisan open letter to President Barack Obama, urging a decisive response to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s recent large-scale use of chemical weapons. The group recommends direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime, along with accelerated efforts to vet, train, and arm moderate elements of Syria’s internal opposition.

“Left unanswered, the Assad regime’s mounting attacks with chemical weapons will show the world that America’s red lines are only empty threats,” the group warned in the letter. “It is therefore time for the United States to take meaningful and decisive actions to stem the Assad regime’s relentless aggression, and help shape and influence the foundations for the post-Assad Syria that you have said is inevitable.”

The full text of the letter follows. The letter was organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a non-profit and non-partisan 501(c)3 organization that promotes U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military engagement in the world.

August 27, 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has once again violated your red line, using chemical weapons to kill as many as 1,400 people in the suburbs of Damascus.  You have said that large-scale use of chemical weapons in Syria would implicate “core national interests,” including “making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies [and] our bases in the region.”  The world—including Iran, North Korea, and other potential aggressors who seek or possess weapons of mass of destruction—is now watching to see how you respond.

We urge you to respond decisively by imposing meaningful consequences on the Assad regime.  At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship’s military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons.  It should also provide vetted moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition with the military support required to identify and strike regime units armed with chemical weapons.

Moreover, the United States and other willing nations should consider direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime.  The objectives should be not only to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America, our allies in the region or the Syrian people, but also to deter or destroy the Assad regime’s airpower and other conventional military means of committing atrocities against civilian non-combatants.  At the same time, the United States should accelerate efforts to vet, train, and arm moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition, with the goal of empowering them to prevail against both the Assad regime and the growing presence of Al Qaeda-affiliated and other extremist rebel factions in the country.

Left unanswered, the Assad regime’s mounting attacks with chemical weapons will show the world that America’s red lines are only empty threats.  It is a dangerous and destabilizing message that will surely come to haunt us—one that will certainly embolden Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons capability despite your repeated warnings that doing so is unacceptable.  It is therefore time for the United States to take meaningful and decisive actions to stem the Assad regime’s relentless aggression, and help shape and influence the foundations for the post-Assad Syria that you have said is inevitable.


Ammar Abdulhamid Ambassador Robert G. Joseph
Elliott Abrams Dr. Robert Kagan
Dr. Fouad Ajami Lawrence F. Kaplan
Michael Allen James Kirchick
Dr. Michael Auslin Irina Krasovskaya
Gary Bauer Dr. William Kristol
Paul Berman Bernard-Henri Levy
Max Boot Dr. Robert J. Lieber
Ellen Bork Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer Tod Lindberg
Matthew R. J. Brodsky Mary Beth Long
Dr. Eliot A. Cohen Dr. Thomas G. Mahnken
Senator Norm Coleman Dr. Michael Makovsky
Ambassador William Courtney Ann Marlowe
Seth Cropsey Clifford D. May
James S. Denton Dr. Alan Mendoza
Paula A. DeSutter David A. Merkel
Dr. Larry Diamond Dr. Joshua Muravchik
Dr. Paula J. Dobriansky Ambassador Andrew Natsios
Thomas Donnelly Governor Tim Pawlenty
Dr. Michael Doran Martin Peretz
Mark Dubowitz Danielle Pletka
Dr. Colin Dueck Dr. David Pollock
Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt Arch Puddington
Ambassador Eric S. Edelman Karl Rove
Douglas J. Feith Randy Scheunemann
Reuel Marc Gerecht Dan Senor
Abe Greenwald Ambassador John Shattuck
Christopher J. Griffin Lee Smith
John P. Hannah Henry D. Sokolski
Dr. Jeffrey Herf James Traub
Peter R. Huessy Ambassador Mark D. Wallace
Dr. William Inboden Michael Weiss
Bruce Pitcairn Jackson Leon Wieseltier
Ash Jain Khawla Yusuf
Dr. Kenneth Jensen Robert Zarate
Allison Johnson Dr. Radwan Ziadeh

From the archives: PNAC letters sent to President Bill Clinton – We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War.

Click here for other articles on this topic

Cornel West Says Both Dyson and Sharpton Have Prostituted Themselves For Obama

By Yvette Carnell

August 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – What we all witnessed at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was the coronation of one very prominent pundit–Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton’s claim to fame is that of street activist, but he tossed aside the role of amplifying the voice of the masses in favor of a more lucrative gig once President Obama was elected. And Sharpton’s unyielding support of President Obama, even when it means muting the protestations of the people, has Dr. Cornel West fuming.

In reaction to the 50th anniversary commemoration, West blasted Dyson and Sharpton, both of whom heap praise on Obama but are miserly in their criticism of the first Black president.

“Brother Martin himself, I think, would’ve been turning over in his grave,” West said of the event. “[King would have wanted] people to talk about Wall Street criminality, he wants people to talk about war crimes, or drones dropping bombs on innocent people,” he said.

“Instead,” he said regrettfully, “we saw the coronation of the bonafide house negro of the Barack Obama plantation, our dear brother Al Sharpton.” West then added that Sharpton’s unprincipled position was “supported by [MSNBC analyst] Michael Dyson and others who’ve prost!tuted themselves in a very ugly and vicious way.”

West, along with co-host Tavis Smiley, insisted that both men have been bought out.

In a 60 Minutes interview, Leslie Stahl described the new and improved Sharpton as “tame.” Sharpton also admitted during the segment that he’d agreed not to criticize the president at all, foregoing his role as agitator in favor of a more lucrative role as political insider. Stahl said that the Obama administration was rewarding Sharpton with access in exchange for his “change from confrontational to accommodating,” and it seems that Sharpton’s  prominent role at the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech certainly reflects that exchange.

For what it’s worth, Dyson, who once called Obama Pharaoh and not Moses, has changed his tune as well.

Watch the 60 Minutes interview with Sharpton below:

I Have a Dream, a Blurred Vision

By Michael Parenti

August 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington—in which Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famed “I Have a Dream” speech—has recently won renewed attention from various print and electronic media in the United States. But the more attention given to King’s extraordinary speech, the less we seem to know about King himself, the less aware we are about the serious challenges he was presenting, challenges that remain urgent and ignored to this very day.

The March on Washington took place on 28 August 1963. Despite repeated fear mongering by certain commentators and public officials who predicted there would be violence in the streets—over 250,000 people descended upon Washington D.C. in a massive show of unity and peaceful determination.

I was there. About two-thirds of the demonstrators were African-American, and about one-third were white. After all these years I still recall how gripped I was by the vast sweep of the crowd moving like democracy’s infantry across the nation’s capital, determined to awaken “our leaders” in Congress and the White House.

The high moment of the day was Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It was a call to freedom and enfranchisement for a people who had endured centuries of slavery followed by segregation and lynch-mob rule. In his speech King reminded us that “the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.”

He went on: “The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

King continued to stoke the new militancy: “We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. . . . Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”

Then came his smashing conclusion: “When we allow freedom to ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children,” all colors and creeds “will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”

At this, the crowd exploded with thunderous applause and wild cheers. Many of us were left overwhelmed and misty eyed. For all its clichés and overdone metaphors, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech remains a truly great oration.

So impressive is the speech, however, that commentators and pundits to this day have found it easy to focus safely upon it to the neglect of other vital social issues that engaged King.

The opinion-makers prefer to treat Martin Luther King as an inspirational icon rather than a radical leader. He has been domesticated and sanitized. Today the real King probably would not be invited to the White House because he is too far left, too much the agitator.

In 1967, he was becoming an increasingly serious problem for the defenders of privilege and profit. King came out against the Vietnam War that year, a fact that is seldom mentioned today. His stance discomforted many liberals (black and white) who felt they should concentrate on civil rights and not alienate potential supporters with anti-war issues. But for King, the U.S. government had become “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” spending far more on death and destruction than on vital social programs.

He differed with those who believed we could resist violence and cruelty at home while resorting to violence and cruelty abroad. He condemned “those who make peaceful revolution impossible,” those who “refuse to give up the privileges and pleasures that come from the immense profits from overseas investments . . . the individual capitalists who extract wealth” at the expense of other peoples and places.

By 1967 King was treading on dangerous ground. He was connecting the issues. He condemned “the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.” The same interests that brought us slums also brought us wars, he argued, and they were getting richer for the doing.

By 1968, the year he was assassinated, King was also waging war against poverty. Civil rights, he dared to say, were linked to economic rights. He was planning a national occupation of Washington D.C., called the Poor People’s Campaign. Again he was treading on dangerous ground bringing together working-class people of various ethnic groups.

These class demands go unmentioned in the usual MLK commemorations. The “I Have a Dream” oration now overshadows the other less known messages that King was putting forth not long before he was killed, including the search for economic justice for all working people. The great “dream speech” of 1963 serves less as an inspiration and more as a cloak covering his latter-day radical views regarding class struggle and anti-imperialism.

In 1968, at the age of 39, Martin Luther King was killed by a sniper’s bullet while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. He was in Memphis to lend support to a sanitation workers strike, the very kind of thing his opponents were finding increasingly intolerable.

A penniless fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary, James Earl Ray, while being sought by the police, supposedly took it upon himself singlehandedly to make his way to Memphis where he somehow located King’s motel balcony and shot him from a room across the courtyard.

Then entirely on his own, supposedly with no visible financial support, the fugitive convict and newly established assassin made his way to England. Arrested in London at Heathrow Airport with substantial sums of cash in his pocket, Ray was extradited to the United States and charged with the crime. He was strongly advised by his lawyer to enter a guilty plea (to avoid the death penalty) and was sentenced to 99 years. Three days later he recanted his confession. Over the ensuing decades he made repeatedly unsuccessful efforts to withdraw his guilty plea and be tried by a jury. Ray died in prison in 1998, still proclaiming his innocence.

In 1986 King’s birthday was established as a national holiday. Hundreds of streets in America have been renamed in his honor. There are annual commemorations. His resonant voice, memorable words and gripping cadence are played and replayed. But the politco-economic issues he highlighted continue to be passed over by mainstream leaders and commentators.

In addition, the opinion-makers who celebrate King’s birthday every year and hail him as a monumental figure have nothing to say about the many unresolved questions related to his assassination. No one openly entertains the question of whether there were powerful people (certainly more powerful than James Earl Ray) who thought it necessary to do away with this popular leader because he had moved too far beyond “I Have a Dream.”

Michael Parenti is an award winning, internationally known author. His two most recent books are The Face of Imperialism (2011), and Waiting for Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid’s Life (2013), a memoir of his early life.

Congressional Approval Is Not The Critical Issue

By Michael S. Rozeff 

August 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Obama acting alone against Syria is worse than acting with Congressional approval, but the latter is still unilateral military U.S. action. It’s still the wrong action, morally and pragmatically. It’s still part of what Albert Einstein termed “The Military Mentality” in 1947. An excerpt:

“The tendencies we have mentioned are something new for America. They arose when, under the influence of the two World Wars and the consequent concentration of all forces on a military goal, a predominantly military mentality developed, which with the almost sudden victory became even more accentuated. The characteristic feature of this mentality is that people place the importance of what Bertrand Russell so tellingly terms ‘naked power’ far above all other factors which affect the relations between peoples. The Germans, misled by Bismarck’s successes in particular, underwent just such a transformation of their mentality – in consequence of which they were entirely ruined in less than a hundred years.

“I must frankly confess that the foreign policy of the United States since the termination of hostilities has reminded me, sometimes irresistibly, of the attitude of Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II, and I know that, independent of me, this analogy has most painfully occurred to others as well.”

The situation has worsened since 1947. The mentality has become more messianic (“belief that a particular cause or movement is destined to triumph or save the world.”) The leadership is more self-righteous, more ambitious and more powerful. At the same time, the leadership is more divorced from the reality of the consequences of its actions. In that sense, a kind of psychosis has set in.

The Stampede of Lies That’s Pushing the West Towards War in Syria

By Patrick Henningsen

Global Research, August 31, 2013

Low-empathy political leaders and media propagandists have abandoned principle in the 21st century.

lies-vs-truth2“It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”  – Smedley Butler, 1933

British Prime Minister David Cameron tried and failed this week, but it looks like US President Barack Obama may get his war on in Syria this weekend. He says it’s because of ‘chemical weapons’.

Even at its lowest ebb, the the run-up to the Iraq War never saw so much desperation, so much spinning and overt lying from the government-media-complex about what ‘intelligence’ they claim to have in order to justify a new and dangerous war in Syria. The political narcissism around this current desire for war, makes Bush and Blair’s moral heist in 2003 look like a polite outing. 

It’s become a stampede of lies regarding Syria, with our political con men producing  every trick in the bag, and yet, none of these PR illusionists dare mention during any of their diatribes on “the moral duty of the international community” – that for the last 2 years the US, UK have given their backing to the armed “Syrian Opposition”, featuring 40,000 of the most vile and violent imported Islamic fundamentalist terrorist brigades the world ever seen, who have infested Syria. Now the US wants to act as al Qaeda’s Airforce in Syria, as it did already in Libya.

In this dirty proxy war, human lives mean very little to puppet masters, as the money flows into the foreign mercenary gangs. Money and arms are being supplied by US and UK allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, special military (or terrorist?) training by the US, UK and others in Jordan and Turkey. To fill in the gaps, the US and others have been managing Blackwater (Xe) and other private military contractors (mercenaries) operating out of Cyprus and other locations, many of which are active militarily inside of Syria training and commanding ‘the opposition’ in their war to overthrow the Syrian government.

These resources of war continue to fuel the violence in Syria, and political cover is provided by the US, Britain, France, Turkey, Israel and others who seek to benefit from the shattering of the Syrian nation-state, the first of many more nation-states they would like to eliminate through catastrophe, or through wars.

US, UK and French leaders will not talk about the natural gas pipeline they are planning between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean via Syria, of which Saudi Arabia and Qatar would be heavily invested. A gas pipeline from Arabia to Europe would mitigate the influence of Russian gas to Europe.

The world has slid into a political abyss. David Cameron, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and William Hague have all took turns running point for this three year destablisation effort in Syria -with each, repeating each other’s script, peppered with half-cocked truths, and endless banquet of cooked-up ‘intelligence’. Each appears to be completely convinced by his/her own highly subjective and wonderfully deceptive version of reality in the Middle East. They bank on public apathy and the chaos of propaganda, in order to clear their path for more extreme violence, with profits for the top end of the military industrial complex and for the top end of a predatory banking sector which makes all wars possible.

Yes, leaders have all been bought and paid for. Yes, the mainstream media has been bought and paid for. But the public has not been bought and paid for yet. In an incredible turn of events on Thursday, the British public set a rare, but clear example of what a functioning democracy can look like by rejecting military aggression. Washington and London political hacks may be too myopic to realise it, but the rest of the world has taken notice, and this small victory over global tyranny cannot be erased.

In 2003, the government-media-complex was cool, cold and calculated in its deception and drive to war, while the public were emotional, wild and desperate in their frustration to stop the establishment’s drive to war.

In 2013, the tables have turned, as political leaders and their media propagandists have become wildly emotional, highly unstable and completely desperate, in their bid to kick-start their war, while the public have been cool, calm and decisive in their condemnation of the war fraud.

We’ve seen it all this time around: inflated figures, reports with actors and sound stages dressed to look like hospitals, and we have seen heads of state site YouTube videos as evidence – videos they now refer to as “open source reporting”. The desperation to ram home a war in Syria has become an obsessive rush, to the point of being vulgar in itself. TV anchors, radio hosts, and newspaper editors are all shilling for war. Why are the politicians and the media pushing this war so hard, even if the people are not?

Syria is only a stepping stone towards the Washington-London-Israeli alliance’s publicly stated objective of a war with Iran. The next move by this nexus is to break-up Syria and then foment unrest in Lebanon, for the purposes of redrawing the Middle Eastern map in order to break up the Shi’ite “land bridge” which connects Iran to the Mediterranean. From there, a confrontation could be forced – with the US-NATO confab on one side, and Russia and China on the other.

This is a worrying prospect, considering the conduct of our leaders who have been shown to lie on a regular basis to their public. Could we trust our current political class to make the right decisions should a World War 3 situation escalate that far? Can anyone answer ‘yes’ to this, especially after watching the adolescent performances of recent… by men and women who call themselves Prime Ministers, Presidents and Secretaries of State? Can these men be trusted with such overwhelming military fire power? Can they be trusted with their nuclear arsenals?

It seems that the establishment have failed to realise the shift that has taken place just now, nor are they able to foresee the blow back they may reap from their rancid enterprise, whereby, the few profit – and the many pay.

You can never fully satisfy the appetite of a political, or corporate psychopath. They always want more. They see markets, and they want to control them. They see populations, and they want to control, or even eliminate them.

Although still confident with their formula for war – one which has worked for them so many times in the past, they could very well fall flat on their face this time in Syria, but even so and unfortunately for humanity, they will cause much damage and suffering in the process.

There is a global awakening taking place, and more than ever, people are finally realising en mass what General Smedley Butler learned back in 1993… those three words: “war is racket”.

Every one knows it seems, except those trapped in their own elite ghettos, so high up in their ivory towers that they’ve all but lost touch with the rest of the human race.

New Snowden revelation details vast US intelligence “black budget”

By Thomas Gaist 

31 August 2013

Friday saw yet another exposure of closely guarded US government secrets by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, as the Washington Post published an extensive budget report covering an array of US intelligence agencies. The $52.6 billion budget published by the Post, 178 pages in length, contains a wealth of documentation concerning the finances and activities of the US “intelligence community.” Some of the information in the leaked document is, however, being withheld “after consultation with US officials.”

As the budget document shows, since 9/11 the CIA has metastasized into a global paramilitary operation that kills and tortures people around the planet, carrying out a constant reign of terror and criminality behind the backs of the American people. Funds allocated since 9/11 have financed a massive growth of CIA activities, including the creation of enhanced interrogation programs, secret “black site” prisons, and the use of drones for strike missions by intelligence personnel. As the Post wrote, “The document describes a constellation of spy agencies that track millions of surveillance targets and carry out operations that include hundreds of lethal strikes.”

Billions of dollars are collectively allocated to fund this regime of global lawlessness, without any disclosure to the American people. The US has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence since the 2001 attacks, or over $100 million per day, and the CIA has seen a gigantic growth of its budget over this period. The CIA’s proposed budget for 2013 totaled $14.7 billion, for a 56 percent increase since 2004, while the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office were to receive over $10 billion each.

The budget contains massive outlays for information collection and processing by the CIA and NSA. The CIA spends $1.7 billion annually on data collection, and runs a joint signals intelligence collection effort with the NSA codenamed CLANSIG. The budget lists 35,000 employees as part of a “Consolidated Cryptologic Program” which brings together surveillance teams from the NSA and the four branches of the military. The NSA will also spend $48.6 million on problems related to “information overload,” that is, on efforts to manage the vast data streams being sucked in on a daily basis by the agency.

The budget also shows large allocations for military-style activities abroad run by the intelligence bureaucracies. US spy agencies will spend $4.9 billion for “overseas contingency operations” in 2013 alone. This will include $2.6 billion for covert operations carried out by the CIA, such as the secret wars the agency is waging in Pakistan and Yemen, and payments to proxy militias such as the Al Qaeda-linked proxy forces fighting against the Assad regime in Syria, including the al Nusra Front.

Staggering quantities of money are being spent to sustain America’s intelligence forces. The NSA itself will receive over $10 billion this year, all of which sustain NSA efforts to spy on the population of United States and of the entire world. Across the United States, schools are being gutted, jobs slashed, and medical facilities shuttered, yet well over $50 billion per a year is dedicated to unconstitutional spying, extra-judicial murder and systematic torturing in a global prison network.

The release of such detailed and comprehensive information about the intelligence budget to the public is unprecedented. As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists told the Post, “a real grasp of the structure and operations of the intelligence bureaucracy has been totally beyond public reach. This kind of material, even on a historical basis, has simply not been available.”

This information about the intelligence bureaucracies and their activities has become available only as a result of Snowden’s actions. The danger that its secrets could be revealed by principled opponents of spying such as Snowden has not been lost on the NSA, however, and the documents show repeated investigations of thousands of analysts this year as part of an attempt to avoid “potential insider compromise of sensitive information.”

That an attack on Syria is going ahead anyway despite massive popular opposition is an expression of the domination of the American state by Wall Street and the vast military-intelligence apparatus exhibited in Snowden’s latest release. These forces are determined to attack Syria, and from all appearances they will carry out their bloody plans. Responsibility for launching another neocolonial catastrophe lies with the reactionary social interests that control the US economy and state, the capitalist class and the upper-middle class layers that defend capitalist rule.

These are the same forces that have poured weaponry into Syria to fund opposition militias dominated by Al Qaeda. Today, in the face of overwhelming opposition, they are pressing for a war in which US planes will ride to the rescue of US-backed Al Qaeda fighters on the ground, in the name of upholding “international norms.” And, as the budget document’s assertion makes clear—that operations are “strategically focused against the priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel”—operations in Syria are only a prelude to confrontation with the other major powers. Pakistan is also referred to as an “intractable target.”

According to the authoritarian legal doctrines that have gained influence with the growth of the national security state and the financial oligarchy, which derive from the theories of Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, the existence of exceptional circumstances, such as a terrorist threat, authorizes the state to override all legal protections, such as those guaranteed by the US Bill of Rights. The prevalence of such conceptions only points to the underlying reality: the intelligence bureaucracy and the social forces that control it are effectively above the law, and will tolerate no limits on their power.

It is only a matter of time before these instruments of repression are turned against mass struggles within the United States itself. Faced with the deep crisis of world capitalism, the ruling elites will increasingly seek to rely on war abroad and military-police repression at home in defense of their privileges.

Court ruling grants bankruptcy protection to California city

By Dan Conway 

31 August 2013

On Thursday, a federal bankruptcy judge granted bankruptcy protection to the city of San Bernardino, California. The ruling allows the city, as part of its 2012 bankruptcy filing, to drastically cut payments to the state public pension that serves city worker retirees.

Despite the fact that nearly a year has passed since the initial filing and almost nine months since the city was granted a court-ordered reprieve from making pension payments, US bankruptcy judge Meredith Jury gave lawyers only a few hours to make arguments in the summary judgment proceeding that will likely permanently affect hundreds of current and future retirees.

Chapter 9 bankruptcy filings normally require municipalities and their creditors to negotiate with a neutral arbiter prior to filing. By invoking a fiscal emergency late last year, however, the city has been allowed to sidestep this requirement.

Moreover, the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, which allows federal law to supersede any legal conflict between states and localities, has been utilized to override California state law, which forbids cities from reneging on pension obligations.

The city of Detroit, now the largest municipality to file for bankruptcy in US history, is also being challenged in a Michigan court to stop bankruptcy proceedings and may likely utilize the San Bernardino case as a precedent to rip up worker pension contracts. The San Bernardino case may also set a precedent for several other California cities and municipalities that already have declared bankruptcy or are expected to do so.

While the San Bernardino case is not the first time that a municipality has cut pension benefits to workers, it is the first time in US history that such cuts have been imposed unilaterally and without the agreement of either the trade unions or the funds themselves. The ruling opens up the floodgates for hundreds of other cities across the country seeking to relieve themselves of pension debt.

In an interview with CNN Money, municipal bankruptcy expert Michael Sweet noted: “If a judge says you can use bankruptcy to [cut what is owed] to CalPERS, then everyone will line up to do it.”

In Thursday’s proceeding, lawyers for CalPERS, the country’s largest pension fund, argued that the city did not negotiate in good faith and that the bankruptcy should therefore be dismissed with the city resuming its fiscal obligations to creditors.

Judge Jury countered, “If CalPERS gets all the money they want, under what they say is their statutory right, who isn’t going to get paid? All the employees? How is that going to help CalPERS?” She then cynically claimed, “The citizens of San Bernardino need to have a voice.”

This contradicts the judge’s own decision last January in which she allowed the city to defer $1.7 million in pension payments as the city had not yet reached a fully worked-out plan to address its fiscal emergency. She ordered the city to restructure its financial plans and resume payments to CalPERS the following year. “If you don’t have some concept now, you’d better start thinking about it because it’s inconceivable to me that you don’t have some outlines of where you’re going,” she said.

When lawyers for CalPERS raised this point, the judge argued in effect that the January hearing was irrelevant. “Because they didn’t do something then, doesn’t mean they can’t now. The city desires and needs to formulate a plan; it is their only hope.”

CalPERS later issued a statement indicating that the fund may consider appealing the decision. “These payments are statutorily required and necessary to deliver on the pension benefits promised to San Bernardino employees as a form of deferred compensation. They have worked for and earned these benefits.”

Michael Gearing, attorney for CalPERS, called Judge Jury’s decision “a dangerous precedent,” one that encourages other cities to “create a crisis because they have a large number of creditors.”

The city initially filed for bankruptcy after announcing a $46 million budgetary shortfall. The shortfall, less than a pittance when compared to the hundreds of billions given to the large banks since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, was itself a product of the crisis and in particular the collapse in property tax revenue after mortgage lenders began the process of mass home foreclosures. Moreover, the CalPERS pension fund itself has used pensioners’ contributions to speculate in highly volatile securities and several of its executives have in recent years been the targets of financial misconduct probes.

City workers have spent decades working and contributing to their pensions, which they have a right to utilize to secure a comfortable retirement. The city’s financial woes have nothing to do, as the media constantly claims, with “soaring pension costs.”

At the root of the city’s bankruptcy is the financial parasitism and outright criminality that characterize the operations of US and world capitalism as a whole. The constant attempts to pit various sections of the working class against one another, current vs. retired workers, public sector vs. private sector, immigrant vs. native born, are used in an effort to divert attention away from those actually responsible and who enjoy the fullest protection of the federal government.

The latest bankruptcy ruling in San Bernardino underscores the fact that no defense of workers’ hard-won rights, including pensions, can be won through court challenge. The courts will be utilized to do whatever is required to meet the demands of the ruling elite to slash pensions and claw back ever-greater amounts of surplus value from the working class. Existing pension agreements between public workers and their employers can be altered and nullified at will without any discussion.

Tense standoff between India and Pakistan along their disputed Kashmir border continues

By Deepal Jayasekera 

31 August 2013

After more than three weeks of daily artillery exchanges, tensions between India and Pakistan across the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region appear to have subsided.

It remains, however, an open question as to whether Indian Prime Minister Manmoham Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet, as previously announced, on the sidelines of next month’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

Nor can it be excluded that the border tensions will soon erupt anew. The US’s promotion of India as a strategic counterweight to China has destabilized the balance of power in South Asia. New Delhi and Islamabad are locked in a fierce struggle for influence in Afghanistan, where the US is in the process of drawing down its occupation forces and reorganizing the Kabul government. Furthermore, in Indian-held Kashmir, where the Pakistan military-intelligence apparatus long provided logistical support to a separatist insurgency, the mass of the population remains disaffected, causing great anxiety in Indian ruling circles.

No publicly announced interaction between Indian and Pakistani government or military officials proceeded this week’s tapering off of cross-border firing. But as a “goodwill gesture,” Islamabad last weekend released 362 Indian fishermen whom it had detained during the past two years for straying into Pakistani waters.

The Indian government, for its part, has been preoccupied in recent days with stopping the plummet of the rupee, arresting the slide into the morass of “stagflation,” and forestalling a current accounts crisis.

This month’s border clashes quickly escalated after the Indian military blamed Pakistani Special Forces for the killing of five Indian soldiers by ambush within Indian-held Kashmir on August 6. Denying any involvement of their military in the incident, Pakistan instead accused India of violating the shaky 2003 ceasefire unprovoked and of having killed one of its soldiers in late July.

Thereafter, the two sides engaged in daily cross-border shelling, with both sides accusing the other of initiating each day’s fresh exchanges and of targeting civilians, while issuing bellicose threats. Last week Pakistan said Indian forces had killed two of its soldiers.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who had been accused by the opposition parties of having given Pakistan “an out” by not immediately declaring the Pakistani military responsible for the August 6 ambush, vowed India “will take all possible steps—sometimes strong action—to effectively retaliate against every violation of the Line of Control,” that separates Indian- and Pakistan-held Kashmir. Antony suggested such retaliation could include a cross border raid, action that could easily provoke a rapid escalation.

As was the case in the two other border crises involving India this year, one with Pakistan last January and the other with China for three weeks in April-May, Indian political and especially Indian military leaders adopted the more bellicose public stance.

India’s military has become more assertive in recent years, frequently issuing provocative public statements directed against Pakistan and China. This new assertiveness has been fed by the increasing money and attention Indian governments have lavished on the military, which the Indian elite views as critical to realizing it ambitions of becoming a major Indian Ocean and Asian power.

The Official Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a raft of geopolitical and military-security experts, many of them retired military officers, seized on the cross border clashes to demand that the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government scuttle next month’s meeting with Sharif, which is a prerequisite for relaunching the two countries’ long-stalled “comprehensive peace dialogue”.

The BJP’s stance is clearly bound up with the calculation that it can score political gains by making a reactionary communalist appeal that couples accusations the Congress-led government is “soft” on Pakistan and “terrorism” with claims that it “appeases” India’s Muslim minority.

But its position also gives voice to the views of wide sections of the military-security apparatus that calculate India’s strategic alliance with the U.S. and economic expansion of the last decade have given it the geopolitical and economic leverage to force significant concessions from Islamabad. In particular they want to force Pakistan to distance itself still further from the Kashmir insurgency.

Ceding to the pressure for a stronger stance against Pakistan, the UPA government has indicated it is considering cancelling the meeting with Sharif. Speaking with the Hindustan Times August 16, an unnamed government official said, “The meeting between the PMs [Singh and Sharif] depends on what happens in the coming days. We expect Pakistan to address our concerns on terrorism, bringing the 26/11 attackers to justice and unprovoked action by its army along the LoC.”

During his campaign for last May’s Pakistan election and since, Sharif has repeatedly expressed his desire for better ties with India, saying they would give an urgently needed boost to Pakistan’s economy. But he has also come under increasing pressure from Pakistan’s military, which has justified its exalted political and economic position on the basis of its being the bulwark against Indian “aggression,” to take a tougher attitude towards India. Quoting “a senior official at the PM [prime minister] office”, the Express Tribune said that Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in his meeting with Sharif [last] Monday, had “conveyed the military’s reservations over the LoC and border violation by India.” Kayani has warned that the recurrence of such incidents was forcing “Pakistan’s military to respond even harder.”

The rivalry between India and Pakistan is rooted in the 1947 communal partition of the Indian subcontinent into a Muslim Pakistan and a Hindu-dominated India. The countries have fought three declared wars and several undeclared ones, with their rival claims to Kashmir remaining at the core of their dispute.

However, the US’s “pivot to Asia” and in particular its courting of India, which it has identified as pivotal to its plans to thwart the rise of China, have destabilized the region and enormously aggravated Indo-Pakistani tensions. China, it must be noted, is also a pivotal ally and arms supplier of Pakistan

In a further indication about the importance the US attaches to developing a military partnership with India, a top US Air Force General has said that Washington aims to station military aircraft in India.

Last week after the Indian military had complained that Chinese troops had stayed several days in an eastern border area that India claims falls within its Line of Actual Control, the Indian air force dispatched a C-130J “Super Hercules” tactical airlift to the remote and mountainous area. This action, which was hailed by the Indian media, was meant to showcase the Indian military’s new capabilities to rapidly deploy men and material in the event of a border clash with China.

UK: South Yorkshire fire service faces £13 million in cuts

By Barry Mason 

31 August 2013

The South Yorkshire Fire Authority is due to meet Monday to consider proposals to cut fire services in the county as a result of a £10 million funding cut by 2015, with a possible further £3 million to be cut by 2017.

The proposals include the non-replacement of retiring firefighters and closing four fire stations. The stations, Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield Parkway, will be staffed overnight by just one crew as opposed to two crews during the day. A part-time crew would be available on call overnight. The six-minute response time will be scrapped.

A Fire Brigades Union representative told the BBC, “We just seem to be getting fewer and fewer and the job’s getting harder to do.”

By 2015 government cuts will have reduced the fire authority’s annual budget from £60 million in 2010 to £51 million.

Speaking at the beginning of the year, Rotherham MP John Healey noted that in the years 2011 and 2012 the six metropolitan areas of England, including South Yorkshire, which covered some of the poorest areas with higher risks of fire, had their fire services budgets cut more than other areas. He added that the areas were faced with cutting over 1,200 full-time firefighters, nearly 70 retained firefighters and 550 other staff, warning the cuts would mean “more people will die.”

The South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service report in June noted a 55 percent reduction in small arson fires, a 26 percent drop in death and injuries from accidental house fires over the previous year, and a 40 percent reduction in accidental house fires over the last decade.

Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney noted that the “figures represent another excellent year’s work from our firefighters, community safety teams and partner agencies… We will strive to continue these improvements, but this level of performance is undoubtedly threatened by government cuts to our budget … from our own statistics … fires typically rise during periods of economic hardship … any reduction in fire cover… [as the result of cuts]… will make our job much more difficult.”

The picture in South Yorkshire is mirrored in the rest of the country. The Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) released a report a year ago which spoke of cuts creating a “perfect storm”.

Writing in the Guardian, the newly installed president of the CFOA, Vijith Randeniya, said, “We bring together the senior officers of more than 50 fire and rescue services, and so have unique insight into the likely impact of these cuts. A recent questionnaire has shown that 97 percent of our members have made significant cuts to their frontline service provision already, with 90 percent expecting to make further frontline cuts in the next two years.

“All this is despite our best efforts to find savings elsewhere. In England, we have identified about £117 million of potential non-frontline efficiencies, many of which will have already been made. This leaves us with an £80 million shortfall, which can only come from frontline firefighters, fire engines and fire stations. If our fears are realized and the localization of council tax affects us badly we estimate we may need to find a further £60 million.”

The CFOA report published in autumn last year, entitled “Fighting Fires or Fire fighting: The Impact of Austerity on English Fire and Rescues Services,” noted:

“During the summer of 2012 CFOA conducted a survey of England’s Fire and Rescue Services to determine how Services plan to meet the challenges of ‘doing more of the same with less ’ (emphasis in the original). The early results are stark…”

The report continued, “English Fire and Rescue Services are expected to find savings of £207 million and together may lose as many as 4,050 firefighters, 60 fire stations and 150 fire appliances as a result…”

The report emphasized the situation could only get worse: “The Fire and Rescue Services in particular faces a near ‘perfect storm’ of issues which will make managing budget reductions very difficult … As we approach the grant settlement for years three and four of the Spending Review we know that the cuts from years one and two are just beginning to be felt. We also face much greater cuts to come as reductions have been back loaded for fire. Current estimates suggest a national average cut in grant of 14.4 percent for 2013-15… The impact of a weakened economy is to increase deprivation and pressures on the business community—two key risk areas for the Fire and Rescue Services workload.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has overruled London Fire Brigade’s governing body and is pushing ahead with plans to cut 10 fire stations and 552 firefighters’ jobs. In addition, 14 fire engines will be stood down and the minimum crew number reduced to four from five.

The war against Syria and American democracy

31 August 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama made clear in separate statements yesterday afternoon that the rejection by the British parliament on Thursday of a pro-war motion would have no impact the US administration’s plans to attack Syria.

In his remarks, Obama pretended that he had “not made a decision about various actions that might be taken.” The discussions in Washington, however, relate more to the tactics and timing of an attack rather than whether it will take place.

Obama also repeated the lie that the assault will be “limited” in scope. In fact, the operation contemplated by Washington is aimed at reversing the course of the US-stoked civil war in Syria, ousting Assad, and undermining the position of Iran, Russia and China in the Middle East.

As it rushes to war, the American ruling class is contemptuous of the anti-war sentiments of the vast majority of the population. More than a decade of unending war, the continuous invocation of the “war on terror,” the experiences of Afghanistan and especially the lies told to justify the invasion of Iraq—all of this has had an impact on public consciousness.

Polls show that as little as 9 percent of the American people support military strikes on Syria, rising to only 25 percent if it is proven that the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons—the central propaganda claim of the US and its allies.

Yet these sentiments find no expression in the political establishment and the auxiliary institutions of state power, even within the limited framework of bourgeois politics. The government and the media are solidly pro-war. The vast majority of the population—after more than a decade of endless and disastrous military operations—is against yet another attack on make-believe enemies.

The chasm that separates official opinion from the real sentiments of the mass of the people is virtually without precedent. During the Vietnam War, it is worth recalling, the political establishment was torn by divisions over the US involvement. Both political parties had significant “anti-war” factions. The congressional hearing chaired by Senator William Fulbright contributed significantly to the growth of anti-war sentiment.

In 1990-91, as the first Bush administration geared up for the first war against Iraq, it felt compelled to have an authorization vote, which passed with 48 senators voting against. Even as late as 2003 and the period following the war in Iraq, there were efforts by Democratic Party politicians to posture as critics of the second Bush administration. Kerry won the Democratic nomination in 2004 and Obama the presidency in 2008 while making a gesture, however hypocritical and insincere, to anti-war sentiment.

Now, with polls showing opposition to war even greater than in 2003, there is nothing.

The media has followed a similar course. It is not difficult to list a dozen journalistic personalities of the Vietnam era who contributed significantly to the public anti-war consciousness by exposing the lies of the government—culminating in the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Timesand Washington Post in 1971.

The media today functions openly as a mouthpiece of the government, seeing its central purpose as disseminating state lies and covering up for government secrets. It has been transformed through a process of corporatization, of “embedding” journalists in the military, of the purging of anyone who displayed an ounce of critical thought (e.g., NBC’s firing of Peter Arnett in 2003 over his critical coverage of the Iraq invasion).

The generally authoritarian sentiment that prevails in the media today was expressed by the New York Times’ Roger Cohen in his column Friday advocating war against Syria. Popular sentiment be damned, the liberal columnist wrote. “War fatigue in the United States and Britain is not an excuse for the surrender of a commodity of enduring strategic importance—national credibility—to an ephemeral one—public opinion.”

Ten years after the war against Iraq, launched on the basis of complete fabrications, not a single major corporate-controlled newspaper or media outlet has questioned the litany of lies and unsubstantiated claims emanating from the White House.

How is this transformation to be explained? The crisis over Syria is revealing the deeper reality of political life in America. In May 2003, the WSWS notedthat “the massive and blatant character of the lies upon which [the Iraq] war was based, and the indifferent and cynical response of the media, are significant manifestations of the general breakdown of bourgeois democratic norms. The political life of the United States reflects in ever more grotesque forms the increasingly oligarchic character of the American state.”

Ten years later, these tendencies have only metastasized. The corporate and financial aristocracy has utilized the crisis that began in 2008 to concentrate in its hands an even greater proportion of the nation’s wealth. Government policy is determined by the interests of the top one percent of the population.

Foreign policy is inseparably linked to domestic policy. The complete indifference of the institutions of the state to all the social concerns of the masses—poverty, unemployment, the destruction of social services—finds its natural complement in foreign policy. What the lower 90 percent income bracket thinks amounts to nothing, with the media assigned the role of attempting to manipulate this thinking with propaganda and lies.

The preservation of the forms of bourgeois democracy is incompatible with the levels of social inequality prevailing in the United States today. The vast spying apparatus revealed by Edward Snowden—the framework of a police state—is directed above all to the emergence of opposition to the demands of the ruling class for war and social counter-revolution.

There is one other significant difference between the war drive against Syria and the previous wars launched by the American ruling class. The Vietnam War provoked mass anti-war protests, and there was significant opposition organized against subsequent interventions, from Nicaragua and El Salvador to the Iraq war in 1991. Ten years ago, there were mass protests involving millions of people against the Iraq war.

Today there is nothing. This is not because popular sentiment has become pro-war. In fact, there is even less public support for action against Syria today then there was for war against Iraq. Rather, what was for a long time referred to as the “anti-war movement” was led by a section of the middle class tied to the Democratic Party. Over the past several decades, this social layer has become increasingly integrated into the political establishment, growing wealthy through the rise of the stock market, feeding off the crumbs of the financial aristocracy.

The middle class “left” responded to Iraq War protests by channeling opposition behind the Democrats and, with the advent of the Obama administration, shutting them down. They have now become the most fervent supporters of war, of “human rights” imperialism, the culmination of a process that included support for the 1999 war against Serbia. The war in Syria is very much “their war.”

This transformation makes it all the more clear that the real mass base for the fight against war is the working class. A revival of the anti-war movement is necessary, but it can develop only in opposition to the corporate and financial aristocracy and its pseudo-left appendages. The bloody catastrophe that the American ruling class is preparing for the people of Syria, the Middle East and the entire world can only be countered through the independent mobilization of the working class, in the United States and internationally, on the of the program of World Socialist Revolution.

Joseph Kishore

Cruise Missile Law Enforcement

By David Swanson

August 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House –   The White House is treating the Syrian government like a potential drone strike victim.

President Barack Obama’s preferred method for dealing with targeted individuals is not to throw them into lawless prisons.  But it’s also not to indict and prosecute them.

On June 7th, Yemeni tribal leader Saleh Bin Fareed told Democracy Now that Anwar al Awlaki could have been turned over and put on trial, but “they never asked us.” In numerous other cases it is evident that drone strike victims could have been arrested if that avenue had ever been attempted.

A memorable example was the November 2011 drone killing in Pakistan of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, days after he’d attended an anti-drone meeting in the capital, where he might easily have been arrested — had he been charged with some crime.

Missile-strike law enforcement is now being applied to governments as well.  The Libyan government was given a death sentence.  The Syrian government is being sentenced to the loss of some citizens, buildings, and supplies.

The purpose is not to end the war, or even to speed the coming of the end of the war.  The purpose is not to overthrow the government (an action which in Libya was not yet clearly recognizable as this new form of law enforcement).  Nor, of course, is the purpose rehabilitation or restitution or reconciliation or most of the nobler motivations we sometimes assign to punishment.  The purpose of sending missiles into Syria will be “punitive,” meaning retributive.  It will “send a message,” possibly intended to include deterrence.

When the Bush-Cheney gang was accused of cruel and unusual punishment because it tortured, they replied: this isn’t punishment, it’s interrogation.  But surely dropping missiles on people is not interrogation.  It’s advertised as punishment.  And that’s putting its best foot forward.  It’s punishment so that it doesn’t have to be a crime itself.

For, of course, dropping missiles on people is normally itself a serious crime, just as kicking in your door at night with guns blazing is normally against the law.  But if a policeman — global or normal — does it, well, then it’s law enforcement, not law breaking.

This is why the U.S. government can itself use chemical weapons, while punishing others for doing so.  It’s the cop.  It uses white phosphorus and napalm to enforce laws, or at least to do something in the line of duty.  The BBC this week reported on yet another horrific incident in Syria, this one involving “napalm-like burns.”  The only way for the U.S., the land of napalm, to punish such acts with righteous indignation is through the immunity granted to the global police force.

I wrote a book three years ago called War Is A Lie in hopes of helping to build enough awareness so that some day we would have a majority against a war before it began, rather than a year and a half later.  That day has arrived.  The UK is a bit ahead of the USA, but we’ve all moved toward much greater and healthier scepticism toward war lies.

We don’t believe that the evil of Assad justifies bombing Syrians.  We laugh when Obama says Syria might theoretically attack us some day.  We don’t see the supposed generosity in dropping bombs on an already war-torn nation.  We don’t accept that a war is inevitable.  We watch Parliament say no and wonder where Congress is.

Congress members have been “urging” the president to consult with them, centuries after this country was formed by supposedly leaving royal powers behind in England.  When will Congress members call for a return to Washington for an emergency session?  When will they vote to block funding for any attack on Syria?  They should be aware that by not taking these actions they have made themselves complicit in our eyes, and in the eyes of the world.

Phil Ochs saw the Global War on Terra Part II coming when he sang:

Come, get out of the way, boys
Quick, get out of the way
You’d better watch what you say, boys
Better watch what you say
We’ve rammed in your harbor and tied to your port
And our pistols are hungry and our tempers are short
So bring your daughters around to the port
‘Cause we’re the cops of the world, boys
We’re the cops of the world

David blogs at

Who Blocked Syrian Peace Talks?

Exclusive: Though the international press reported earlier this year that it was the Syrian opposition blocking peace talks, that reality has disappeared in recent U.S. articles which blame lack of negotiations on President Bashar al-Assad, all the better to build a propaganda framework for a wider war, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

August 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Consortium News” – Painful experiences of recent years should have taught the American people the danger that comes when the government and the mainstream press adopt a pleasing but false narrative, altering the facts to support a “good guy v. bad guy” scenario, such as is now being done regarding the history of Syrian peace talks.

The preferred narrative now is that American military force against Syria is needed not only to punish President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons but to compel his participation in peace talks aimed at ending the civil war. That is a storyline that has slipped into U.S. “news” articles in recent days.

For instance, on Friday, the New York Times’ Michael Gordon stripped out the actual history of why the opposing sides of the Syrian civil war have not come together for planned meetings in Geneva. Instead, Gordon placed the blame on Assad and on obstacles partly the fault of the Russians, leaving out the fact that it was the U.S.-supported Syrian opposition that has repeatedly torpedoed the talks.

Gordon wrote: “State Department officials initially said the peace conference might occur before the end of May, but plans became bogged down in differences between the United States and Russia, and the conference has yet to be held.

“And the Obama administration [regarding its expected missile strike against Syrian government positions] did not articulate a comprehensive military strategy that would — in concert with allies — be certain to weaken the Assad government to the point that it would be willing to cede power and negotiate.”

So, you are supposed to believe that “our” side – the brave “opposition” in league with the U.S. State Department – is ever so reasonable, wanting peace and eager to negotiate, but that “their” side – both the evil Assad and his troublemaking Russian allies – is unwilling to take difficult steps for peace.

Except that this storyline from Gordon and other mainstream journalists isn’t accurate. Indeed, from May to July. the U.S. news media, including the New York Times, reported a different scenario: that Assad had agreed to participate in the Geneva peace talks but that the opposition was refusing to attend.

On July 31, for example, Ben Hubbard of the New York Times reported that “the new conditions, made by the president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, … reflected a significant hardening of his position. He said that the opposition would not negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad or ‘his clique’ and that talks could begin only when the military situation in Syria was positive for rebel forces.”

The opposition has spelled out other preconditions, including the need for the United States to supply the rebels with more sophisticated weapons and a demand that Assad’s Lebanese Hezbollah allies withdraw from Syria. The most recent excuse for the rebels not going to Geneva is the dispute over Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Yet, even if Gordon and other mainstream journalists sympathize with the opposition’s reasons for staying away from the peace talks, reporters shouldn’t alter the narrative to shape U.S. public opinion. That is a case of journalistic malfeasance reminiscent of the way the Times and other news outlets manufactured a case for war with Iraq in 2002-2003.

Indeed, Gordon played a key role in that propaganda effort as well, coauthoring with Judith Miller the infamous Times article on Sept. 8, 2002, touting the false claim that Iraq was purchasing aluminum tubes for use in building nuclear weapons, the story that gave rise to the memorable refrain from President George W. Bush and his aides that they couldn’t let “the smoking gun” be “a mushroom cloud.”

Though Miller eventually was forced to resign from the Times – after her level of collaboration with the Bush administration’s neocons was exposed – Gordon escaped any serious accountability, remaining the newspaper’s chief military correspondent.

But Gordon is far from alone these days in spinning a more pleasing black-and-white narrative about Syria. It apparently seems to many mainstream U.S. journalists that it’s nicer to portray “our” side as favoring peace and going the extra mile to negotiate a cease-fire and “their” side as intransigent and eager for more bloodshed.

And, if the facts don’t support that scenario, you just leave out some and make up others.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Incendiary Bomb Victims ‘Like the Walking Dead’

This Slaughter Has To Stop

BBC Panorama Video Report

A BBC team inside Syria filming for Panorama has witnessed the aftermath of a fresh horrific incident – an incendiary bomb dropped onto a school playground in the north of the country – which has left scores of children with napalm-like burns over their bodies.

Eyewitnesses describe a fighter jet dropping the device, a low explosion, followed by columns of fire and smoke.

Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway’s report contains images viewers may find extremely distressing.

Posted August 29, 2013 –  Updated August 30, 2013 –  See “Note from Tom” below.

© BBC News

See also – Syria: Reports of ‘napalm-like’ bomb attack: Video –

Note from Tom

August 30, 2013

There appears to be a consensus (see comments below) that the video above is propaganda and a staged event in support of the Syrian rebels. I can neither confirm or deny that the report is valid, but I do agree that the reporter appears to attribute the attack to a Syrian fighter jet, without providing any evidence to support his conclusion.

What is beyond debate is that a great many people have died and an even greater number have suffered and or witnessed suffering beyond what can be described as civilized behavior in this war on the Syrian people.

What I find objectionable about some of the comments, is that we prefer to blame one side or the other rather than empathize with those on whom this tragedy is inflected.

It would appear we are more interested in attributing responsibility and picking a side (as if we are watching a sporting event) rather than demanding that world powers stop their support of both sides. It is reprehensible that we should allow ourselves to be manipulated into cheering and applauding this inhumanity.

The reality is that we are all human and none of us deserves to see our loved ones suffer and die. There is no difference between anyone on this planet other than what we choose to believe about ourselves and each other.

There are no Christians , Muslims, Democrats or Republicans, there are no nationalities. We humans are just one species, struggling to provide for our families as others try to manipulate us by appealing to our basest tribal instincts.

We have to rise above this and demand that our governments cease and desist from providing weapons of war and financial support for this savagery.

I for one refuse to be manipulated into blindly following a flag or roaring applause as my brothers are fed to the lions.

Peace and Joy

Tom Feeley

Chemical Hallucinations

By William Bowles

I think it’s true to say that the days of creating ‘dodgy dossiers‘(pdf)[1] are now over, at least if the latest ‘dodgy report’ is anything to go by. Put out by the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee, it purports to offer proof that Assad gassed his own people. But aside from the fact that it offers not a shred of proof, it’s also amateurish and clearly put together in a panic.

We…have a limited but growing body of intelligence which supports the judgement that the regime was responsible for the attacks and that they were conducted to help clear the Opposition from strategic parts of Damascus. Some of this intelligence is highly sensitive but you have had access to it all. – UK Joint Intelligence Organisation, 29 August 2013

The ‘intelligence’ report (pdf) is short, barely two pages of text and short not only in size, it’s also short of any real content that backs up the mantra,’Assad, the brutal dictator did it’. Not a single fact is presented. Here are are the relevant ‘proofs’ offered by the JIC’s report:

JIC assessment of 27 August on Reported Chemical Weapons use in Damascus

A chemical attack occurred in Damascus on the morning of 21 August, resulting in at least 350 fatalities. It is not possible for the opposition to have carried out a CW attack on this scale. The regime has used CW on a smaller scale on at least 14 occasions in the past. There is some intelligence to suggest regime culpability in this attack. These factors make it highly likely that the Syrian regime was responsible.

Run this past me again? “It is not possible for the opposition to have carried out a CW attack on this scale”, ergo, it must have been Assad. This is evidence? It’s a pathetic, not to say ludicrous attempt and obviously hastily assembled from thin air. Aside from anything else, it’s just not true, there is definitive proof that the ‘rebels’ had sarin gas.

Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists – reports Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front who were previously detained, Turkish media reports. The gas was reportedly going to be used in a bomb. – ‘Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists’ – reports’,  – RT, 31 May 2013

Then the ‘report’ resorts to using the numerous videos to be found on Youtube as somehow proof that Assad used toxic gas on its citizens but again the videos don’t show who did it, how could they?

Extensive video footage attributed to the attack in eastern Damascus (which we assess would be very difficult to falsify) is consistent with the use of a nerve agent, such as sarin, and is not consistent with the use of blister or riot control agents. – JIC Report

This ‘report’ is pure hokum. After you take away all the padding which constitutes 90% of the document, there’s nothing left except the allegation that because the ‘rebels’ couldn’t have done it, it had to be Assad.

I suspect that the political class here (and in the US) really didn’t expect to have so much trouble convincing people to support more Anglo-Saxon slaughter and got caught off-guard as it were, hence the paucity of the document, rushed out in a few days and aside from an alleged Syrian Army conversation (see below), nothing at all to work with.

Ok, I think I’ve dispensed with the disinfo put out by the UK Cabinet Office, it doesn’t amount to much. But I suppose the time constraints imposed by Cameron jumping the gun, all gung ho to kill some more ‘rag-heads’, forced the Empire’s hand.

The Israeli connection

To understand how this false flag operation got started we need to go back to the first article published on the debkafile website 21 August 2013.

Syrian opposition activists report between 200 and 650 dead and hundreds more wounded in a poison gas strike by Bashar Assad’s forces on rebel-held areas of eastern Damascus. They claim nerve gas canisters were dropped by Syrian Air Force fighter planes which were seen flying over the area after the attack, the most extensive reported till now. Their claim has not been verified. The regime denied the accusation, saying there was “no truth whatsoever” in reports that chemical gas was used near Damascus, and maintaining over state television that the Syrian army was conducting a conventional attack on rebel positions south and east of Damascus. –  ’Reported Syrian gas attack killing hundreds after first US-trained rebel incursion from Jordan‘, debkafile, 21 August 2013 (my emph. WB)

The gas attack, according to debka was actually just part of a three-pronged attack (masterminded in Tehran), carried out to counter a major incursion from Jordan, commanded by US personnel, into Syria, in order to extend the Israeli-imposed ‘buffer zone’ between Syria and the occupied Golan Heights.[2]

debkafile reports exclusively that Assad is acting to counter the first organized incursion of US-trained Syrian rebels from Jordan into southern Syria. The first group of 250 rebels, trained in special operations tactics by US and Jordanian instructors, entered Syria Saturday, Aug. 17, armed with weapons of Russian provenance supplied by the US and Saudi Arabia.

They are fighting under US and Jordanian commanders based in the Hashemite Kingdom.

A second group of 300 fighters crossed into Syria from Jordan Monday.

They are linking up with local rebel groups chosen from amongst those with no ties with the jihadist Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria).

According to our military sources, the rebel units are advancing at speed along the Syrian-Israeli border. They have forced the Syrian brigades posted there into retreating from positions inside a strip of 1-25 kilometers from the border, and captured the villages of Raihaniya, Breiqa and Beer Ajam.

This tactic has moved the Syrian army back from the area opposite the Israeli Golan, and started marking out a buffer zone between Israeli and Syrian forces in the Horan province.


This Jordan-based rebel offensive was launched shortly after Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, visited US forces in Jordan and inaugurated the underground US war room near Amman for commanding the operation in Syria.

Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has more than once declared that if the Syrian capital Damascus came under threat, he would resort to chemical warfare and the entire Middle East including Israel would go up in flames. For now, his army is fighting to keep the rebels from taking control of southern Syria. -ibid

Enter the Dragon – sorry Tehran

But by 24 August, the situation had changed and so had debka’s story. Now the poison gas shells were,

…fired from the big Mount Kalmun army base south of Damascus, one of the three repositories of Syria’s chemical weapons. In response to a demand from Moscow last December, Assad collected his chemical assets in three depots. The other two are Dummar, a suburb 5 kilometers outside Damascus, and the Al-Safira air base, west of Aleppo. – ‘The sarin shells fired on Damascus – by Syrian 4th Division’s 155th Brigade – were followed by rockets on Israel and car bombings in Lebanon‘, debkafile, 24 August 2013

And here comes the alleged Iranian connection,

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented Thursday, Aug. 22 that Iran is using Syria as its testing ground while closely monitoring international responses to its actions [like gassing hundreds of people?].

His remark followed the four Grad rockets fired on northern Israel the day after the chemical attack in East Damascus. His words were scarcely noticed, mainly because Israel’s own spokesmen were busy spreading a blanket of disinformation over the attack, attributing it vaguely to “Global Jihad” (whatever that is). – ibid

debka were presented with a bit of conundrum to deal with here because obviously Netanyahu’s head was someplace else, not fixed firmly on Assad and his WMD like he should have been. Whatever else you can accuse Assad of, belonging to the ‘Global Jihad’ is not on the list.

The debka piece continues,

debkafile’s military sources affirm that, just as the Assad brothers orchestrated the chemical shell attack on Syrian civilians, so too did Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah set in motion the rocket attack on Israel.


Then, on Friday night, two car bombs blew up outside Sunni mosques in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, killing 42 people and injuring 500.

The triple coordinated outrages added up to a dire warning from Tehran and Damascus about what they have in store for the region, and especially Syria’s neighbors, as payback for foreign intervention in the Syrian civil war. – ibid

Then there’s that conversation…

Then we have the ‘evidence’ leaked separately to Focus magazine in Germany, also from Mossad which I’ve dealt with elsewhere, concerning the alleged Israeli monitoring of Syrian communications. Remember all of this ‘intelligence’ originates with Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, no matter that it’s repeated by other, Western governments as ‘their’ intelligence.

As I noted before, this monitored communication is interesting because apparently, the Israeli 8200 intelligence unit only started listening after the bombs/missiles had been launched. And why wait three days to inform the world (Focus published the story on the 24 August)? And given that Syria is on a knife edge, why not release these recordings now? (And we are still waiting for the US’ declassified report that we should have had yesterday, the 29 August, why the delay?)

It’s all hearsay; talk of a panicked army officer, the implication being that it was a ‘rogue’ soldier wot did it? No identities, it’s all conveniently left vague. Not exactly a smoking gun. And I think it explains why the political class on both sides of the (polluted) pond are all stirred up and agitated.For once, they’ve not been able to to get their way, yet…

So there we have it, all the essential elements of a false flag operation, initiated by Mossad but with the obvious collusion of the US and possibly even the UK, that used the media to insert the story ‘sideways’, first via debka and Focus, followed by Ynet, the Times of Israel and then the leap across to the UK Guardianand all points West.

But clearly, what started as a military/psyops campaign centred around the Golan Heights and designed to drag Iran into it, rapidly morphed into something far larger, perhaps because whoever was responsible for the carnage, ‘overcooked’ it and killed far too many people?[3] But the change does explain much about the nature of the propaganda campaign and how the story has ‘evolved’.

But the fact that the Empire is not lobbing cruise missiles in Syria’s direction just yet is a temporary victory for the forces of progress. Moreover, I think independent journalism is starting to have some impact on events, perhaps at last we can begin to think about neutralising or effectively countering the MSM and the state’s massive propaganda onslaught, especially if it’s as badly managed as this one has been.


1. It was more than ten years ago when Tony Blair, his spin doctor and MI5 cooked up the Dodgy Dossier that formed the basis for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

2. Could this have anything to do with extending the occupied Golan Heights, the illegal drilling for oil by Israel on Syrian territory?

Genie Energy (NYSE: GNE, GNEPRA), said today that the government of Israel has awarded its subsidiary, Genie Israel Oil and Gas, Ltd., an exclusive petroleum exploration license covering 396.5 square kilometers in the Southern portion of the Golan Heights, and look who at who are on the board: Dick Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, and Lord Jacob Rothschild. See: ‘Israel has granted oil exploration rights inside Syria, in the occupied Golan Heights‘ by Craig Murray, Global Research, 21 February 2013

3. There are reports that allude to this here, and here.

Bill website

Dangerous Crossroads. A War on Syria, Prelude to a World War III Scenario?

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research

middleeast4“In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, …a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. …[to] be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, …

Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals. …Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus …

Further : a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS [MI6] should use … capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.” (Joint US-UK leaked Intelligence Document, London and Washington, 1957)

*   *   *

Syria occupies a strategic location in the Middle East. The war on Syria is part of a military road map.

The war on Syria is an integral part of a broader US-NATO-Israel military agenda directed not only against Iran, but also against Russia and China.

Moreover, it is part of a military agenda which consists in establishing control over Middle East-Central Asian oil reserves as well as strategic oil and gas pipelines.

It is a component of a broader process of global warfare and of country level political destabilization in the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia.

The US sponsored Al Qaeda insurgency in Syria launched in March 2011 was to trigger regime change and the downfall of the government of Bashar al Assad.

The insurgency has been defeated.

The government of Bashar al Assad prevails. The failure of  America’s covert war –integrated by mercenaries and special forces within rebel ranks– has set the next stage:  a conventional theater war involving a massive deployment of air force as well as boots on the ground.

The onslaught of this humanitarian war requires a “credible” justification. The US and its allies are now accusing the Syrian government, without evidence of using Sarin gas against its own population, with a view to shaping a pretext to intervene militarily in Syria.

Unconfirmed sources suggest that the timing of this extensive military operation including missile attacks, bombings raids and ground operations is due to commence on the Labor Day weekend. Latest reports, however, also suggest the expression of a strong antiwar sentiment emanating from Britain’s House of Commons, with a vote postponed until early next week.

Reports suggest that the US may decide to initiate missile strikes over the weekend without the endorsement of its indefectible British ally.

US, British, French and Israeli officials are currently involved in a round of consultations regarding the nature and timing of this operation. While war preparations are ongoing, a formal decision to wage on Syria has not as yet been taken by the US and its allies.

Pretext to Wage War: The Kosovo Model

Referring to the so-called “Racak massacre”, which was a staged event used as a pretext for NATO’s intervention in Yugoslavia, Washington has hinted that it may use the precedent of the Kosovo Model (1999) with a view to justifying an R2P military mandate in Syria.

It is worth noting that in Yugoslavia, NATO intervened in support of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a terrorist and criminal entity with links to both Al Qaeda and organized crime.

US Intel: “No Smoking Gun”, “No Direct Evidence”

Ironically, while President Obama has called for military intervention, US intelligence has cast doubt on the official story, pointing to the fact that the “evidence” is shady and that there is no “smoking gun”:

An intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff,with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said.

So while Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that links between the attack and the Assad government are “undeniable,” U.S. intelligence officials are not so certain that the suspected chemical attack was carried out on Assad’s orders, or even completely sure it was carried out by government forces, the officials said. (AP, August 29, 2013).

Humanity is at a Dangerous Crossroads

Escalation is an integral part of the military agenda.

Were a US-NATO military operation to be launched against Syria, the broader Middle East Central Asian region extending from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with China would be engulfed in the turmoil of an extended regional war.

This war would inevitably spread to Lebanon and Jordan.

Israel and Turkey would be actively involved both in the air campaign and the deployment of ground forces.

America’s allies in the Gulf including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have played a key role in recruiting and training the “rebels”, are also involved in the staging of this military operation. Iran and Russia are military allies of Syria. The crucial question is whether they will choose to actively side with Syria if and when the attack is implemented.

Recent reports suggest that a cyber-warfare operation has been launched. Allied special forces are reported to have entered Syrian territory from Jordan and Turkey. British special forces are reported to be searching for Syrian air defense systems “in readiness for Allied strikes”.

A potential state of panic spearheaded by media disinformation is unfolding in Israel. The IDF is reported to have called up Army reservists, which are being deployed on Israel’s northern border. Israel’s “missile shield system” which is integrated into the broader US-NATO air defense system has been activated. Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis are queuing up for gas masks, spurred on by fears of a Syrian reprisal to a Western attack.

There are at present four distinct war theaters: Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine and Libya.

An attack on Syria would lead to the integration of these separate war theaters, eventually leading towards a broader Middle East-Central Asian war.

Moreover, several other countries including Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, Mali, Niger, among others, are now strung in the midst of US sponsored “civil wars”, invariably leading to economic collapse, political instability and the demise of State institutions. In these countries, US military intervention often takes the form of counter-terrorism operations.

Public opinion is largely unaware of the grave implications of these war plans which could potentially lead humanity into a World War III scenario.

Moreover, an extended regional war in the Middle East and Central Asia will inevitably have repercussions in other regions of the World including South East Asia and the Far East, where the US is threatening North Korea, China as well as Russia as part of its “Pivot to Asia” strategy.

The US Sponsored Insurgency

“Mass civilian casualty events” play a central role in US military doctrine. Civilian casualties are triggered with a view to drumming up public support for war on humanitarian grounds.

What we are dealing with is a diabolical staged event of civilian deaths with a view to blaming the Syrian government and triggering a regional war.

From the very outset of the insurgency in the Southern border city of Daraa in mid-March 2011, terrorist brigades –largely integrated by mercenaries– have been set loose inside Syria. (see map below)

A pattern of media disinformation was set in motion. The deaths of civilians have consistently been blamed on the Syrian government. The mass civilian casualties and atrocities committed by so-called “revolutionaries” have been used to demonize the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad.

MI6, CIA and Mossad operatives as well as Western Special Forces had integrated rebel forces from the very outset. The high profile terrorist attacks were coordinated by highly trained military contractors and intelligence operatives:

“As the unrest and killings escalate in the troubled Arab state, agents from MI6 and the CIA are already in Syria assessing the situation, a security official has revealed. Special forces are also talking to Syrian dissident soldiers. They want to know about weapons and communications kit rebel forces will need if the [British] Government decides to help. “MI6 and the CIA are in Syria to infiltrate and get at the truth,” said the well-placed source. “We have SAS and SBS not far away who want to know what is happening and are finding out what kit dissident soldiers need. (Daily Star, January 1st, 2012 emphasis added)

War preparations to attack Syria and Iran have been in “an advanced state of readiness” for several years. US, NATO and Israeli military planners have outlined the contours of a “humanitarian” military campaign, in which Turkey (the second largest military force inside NATO) would play a central role.

An air campaign including a “no fly zone” directed against Syria has been envisaged since late 2011, largely in view of the failures underlying the US-NATO covert war in support of opposition rebels, integrated by trained mercenaries.

In 2011, Britain’s Ministry of Defence in liaison with the Pentagon was involved in “drawing up secret plans for a NATO-sponsored no-fly zone” (Daily Star, op cit)  Ibid,

British Defense authorities admit that the planned air campaign on Syria would be on a much larger scale than in Libya in 2011 and that Israel would be an integral part of the military operation. “Syria supports Hezbollah. That threatens Israel and the whole of the Middle East…. “This is all going like Libya but this will be bigger and bloodier“” (Ibid, emphasis added)

Syria has an advanced Russian S-300 air defense system. Russian technical advisers have been in Syria since November 2011 to “help the Syrians set up an array of S-300 missiles”. Reports also confirm that Syria has an advanced radar system installed in all key Syrian military and industrial installations. “The radar system also covers areas north and south of Syria, where it will be able to detect movement of troops or aircraft towards the Syrian border. The radar targets include much of Israel, as well as the Incirlik military base in Turkey, which is used by NATO.” (According to Arun Shavetz, November 24, 2011),

Naval and air force deployments have already been announced by the British Ministry of Defense.  According to London’s news tabloids, quoting “authoritative” military sources; “…The escalating civil war [in Syria] made it increasingly likely that the West would be forced to step in. ” ( Daily Mail, July 24, 2012

The Syria False Flag Chemical Weapons Attack: An Integral Part of US-NATO Military Planning

The WMD option for Syria –which has been on the drawing board of US intelligence since at least August 2012– is being carried out in the wake of the defeat of the US sponsored Al Nusrah terrorist brigades by government forces.

Modeled on previous US-NATO led “humanitarian wars”, it consists in triggering civilian deaths in a staged false flag operation and then blaming Syria for killing its own people.

The purpose is to drum up public support for a so-called “no fly zone” and provide a pretext and a justification for military intervention on humanitarian grounds.

Various stages of military intervention have been contemplated:

  • The killings of innocent civilians by al Qaeda affiliated rebel force in a chemical weapons attack are deliberately carried out as part of a covert intelligence operation.  The Syrian government is then blamed for the resulting atrocities.
  • Media disinformation is geared towards demonizing the Syrian government. Public opinion is led into endorsing a military intervention on humanitarian grounds. Responding to public outrage, US-NATO is then “forced to step in” under a Humanitarian “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) mandate.
  • Media propaganda goes into high gear. “The International Community” comes to the rescue of the Syrian people.”
  • Warships and fighter jets are then deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean.
  • These actions are coordinated with logistical support to the rebels and Special forces on the ground.
  • The final objective is “regime change” leading to the “break-up of the country” along sectarian lines and/or the installation of an “Islamist-dominated or influenced regime” modelled on Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
  • War plans in relation to Syria are integrated with those pertaining to Iran. The road to Tehran goes through Damascus. The broader implications of US-NATO intervention are military escalation and the possible unleashing of a regional war extending from the Eastern Mediterranean to Central Asia, in which China and Russia could be directly or indirectly involved.

Preparations for a false flag chemical weapons attack started more than a year ago. According to an August 2012 Los Angeles Times report the Pentagon announced that it was sending “small teams of special operations troops” into Syria with a view to destroying Syria’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). These teams would in turn be supported by “precision air strikes”, namely air raids.

The scenario of a Syrian government chemical weapons attack on the Syrian population had already been examined by US intelligence:

Securing the sites would probably involve stealthy raids by special operations teams trained to handle such weapons, and precision air strikes to incinerate the chemicals without dispersing them in the air, the officials said. U.S. satellites and drone aircraft already maintain partial surveillance of the sites.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Syria has over the years produced or acquired hundreds of tons of sarin nerve agent and mustard gas, a blister agent, and has sought to develop VX, another powerful nerve gas. The toxicity of some chemical agents degrades significantly over time, so it is unclear how lethal the stockpiles are.

Experts say the chemical agents are stored in bunkers and other sites around the country. Four production facilities are near the cities of Aleppo, Hama and Homs, all tinderboxes in the 17-month uprising, as well as the coastal city of Latakia, an area considered a stronghold for Assad’s Alawite religious sect.

An unclassified report by the director of national intelligence this year said Syria’s chemical agents “can be delivered by aerial bombs, ballistic missiles and artillery rockets.” But Syrian rockets, including Scud missiles procured from North Korea, are notoriously inaccurate, making them ineffective for delivering a heavy concentration of toxic chemicals to a specific target. . ( U.S. has plans in place to secure Syria chemical arms –, August 22, 2012)

These initial US sponsored WMD special team operations had established the likely scenario of a staged false flag chemical weapons attack. In all likelihood they also set the stage for the training of rebel forces in the use of chemical weapons

US Sponsored “Rebels” in Possession of Chemical Weapons

While there is absolutely no evidence of the Syrian government having used chemical weapons against its population, there is evidence that the CIA sponsored  Al Qaeda affiliated rebels have chemical weapons in their possession and that they are being trained by Western special forces in the use of chemical weapons by Western special forces.

The training [in chemical weapons], which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey,involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American. (CNN, December 09, 2012, emphasis added

 This is not a rebel training exercise in non-proliferation. What is contemplated as part of this covert operation is the possession of chemical weapons by the US-NATO sponsored terrorists, namely“by our” Al Qaeda affiliated operatives,  including the Al Nusra Front.

This US sponsored training of Al Qaeda terrorists in the art of chemical warfare is in blatant violation of  international law and Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

In June, it was reported that

“Turkish police had round up Al Qaeda-linked Syrian Al Nusra terrorists in raids in Istanbul and southern cities near the Syrian border, Turkey police … arrested 12 members of al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Al Nusra Front. Found in their possession were four and a half pounds of sarin nerve gas, hand guns, grenades, bullets and documents for what the Turkish daily Zaman reported was a bomb attack on the Turkish town of Adana. (Debka, June 15, 2013, emphasis added)

The United Nations Independent Mission confirms that Rebel Forces Are in Possession of Sarin Nerve Gas

While Washington  points its finger at president Bashar al Assad, a United Nations independent commission of inquiry confirmed in May 2013 that the rebels rather than the government have chemical weapons in their possession and are using sarin nerve against the civilian population:

U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte. [see image left]

 “Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

 “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian. (“U.N. has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator,” Chicago Tribune, May, 5  2013, emphasis added)

In recent developments:

Rebel forces have “deployed a form of sarin in a home-made shell fired on government forces in Khan al-Assal.

Russia has provided the UN with evidence to this effect and Khan al-Assal was one of the sites on the list to be visited by the UN inspection team.” See Phil Greaves,  Syria: Obama’s Pretext for War? The “Rebels” are in Possession of Chemical Weapons, Global Research, August 29, 2013)

The Suppressed Daily Mail Report

In January 29, 2013, Britain’s most popular Daily Newspaper, in its online version an article titled:

U.S. ‘backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad’s regime’

A few days later the article was removed. has published the record of the controversial Daily Mail article pertaining to an alleged US sponsored intelligence operation to launch a chemical weapons attack on Syria and blame it on President Bashar al-Assad.

The original article

has been removed from the archives of the Daily Mail. It is nonetheless available at

According to the Daily Mail article:

Leaked emails have allegedly proved that the White House gave the green light to a chemical weapons attack in Syria that could be blamed on Assad’s regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country.

A report released on Monday contains an email exchange between two senior officials at British-based contractor Britam Defence where a scheme ‘approved by Washington’ is outlined explaining that Qatar would fund rebel forces in Syria to use chemical weapons.

It is our understanding that the Daily Mail report was removed following a libel suit launched by Britam Defense and Intelligence against the Daily Mail questioning the validity of the report.

There is no evidence that this program involving Britam Defense was undertaken.

Staged War Pretext Incident

This diabolical operation consists in the US equipping its rebels with chemical weapons and implementing a carefully staged operation which consists in killing civilians and then blaming the Syrian government for the atrocities committed on behalf of the US-NATO military alliance.

What is unfolding is a diabolical scenario –which is an integral part of military planning– namely a situation where opposition terrorists advised by Western defense contractors are actually in possession of chemical weapons.

The evidence presented above suggests that the rebels rather the Syrian government are using chemical weapons against civilians. US special forces pertaining to chemical weapons have been operating inside Syria since August 2012. This period coincides with the training of the rebels in the use of chemical weapons (confirmed by CNN) as well as the use of chemical weapons including sarin gas by rebel forces.

The West claims that it is coming to the rescue of the Syrian people, whose lives are allegedly threatened by Bashar Al Assad.  The truth of the matter is that the Western military alliance is not only supporting the terrorists, including the Al Nusra Front, it is also making chemical weapons available to its proxy “opposition” rebel forces.

Media Propaganda

The media has replicated the lie. Investigative reporting has been scrapped in favor of media spin, lies and fabrications. Syndicated reports call for military intervention under the auspices of the United Nations.

The premise of the lie are set, the reports build their investigation around the lie.

In the meantime, prominent Western leftists intellectuals have expressed their support for a NATO sponsored humanitarian intervention. These are the same people who supported the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya.

They casually describe the US sponsored Al Qaeda affiliated rebels (which are on the State Department list of terrorist organizations) as “revolutionaries” comparable to the landless movement in Brazil and the Zapatistas in the Chiapas region of Mexico.

Among these self-proclaimed Leftists, the consensus is in favor of a “humanitarian war”:

“We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the millions of Syrians who have been struggling for dignity and freedom since March 2011. We call on people of the world to pressure the Syrian regime to end its oppression of and war on the Syrian people. We demand that Bashar al-Asad leave immediately without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.

“The revolution in Syria is a fundamental part of the North African revolutions, yet it is also an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation, and an echo of Iranian, Russian and Chinese movements for freedom.”

Who is waging war on the Syrian people?

The government or the US-NATO sponsored death squads, which are trained and recruited in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

In a bitter irony, the language and discourse of the “Progressives” while not calling for direct military action, is similar in scope and content to a Neocon Open Letter to President Barakc Obama published in the Weekly Standard signed by Elliott Abrams, Paul Berman, Eliot A. Cohen, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Bernard-Henri Levy, Karl Rove, among others.

 ”At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship’s military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons,…

It should also provide vetted moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition with the military support required to identify and strike regime units armed with chemical weapons.”It is therefore time for the United States to take meaningful and decisive actions to stem the Assad regime’s relentless aggression, and help shape and influence the foundations for the post-Assad Syria that you have said is inevitable. (Weekly Standard, August 2013)

Reversing the Tide of War

We are dealing with a diabolical military agenda, which in a very real sense threatens the future of humanity.

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the World simultaneously. Militarization at the global level is instrumented through the US military’s Unified Command structure: the entire planet is divided up into geographic Combatant Commands under the control of the Pentagon.

According to (former) NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon’s military road-map consists of a sequence of war theaters: “[The] five-year campaign plan [includes]… a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”

Central to an understanding of war, is the media campaign which grants it legitimacy in the eyes of public opinion.

When war is upheld as a humanitarian endeavor, Justice and the entire international legal system are turned upside down: pacifism and the antiwar movement are criminalized.

The Lie must be exposed for what it is and what it does.

It sanctions the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children.

It destroys families and people. It destroys the commitment of people towards their fellow human beings.

It prevents people from expressing their solidarity for those who suffer. It upholds war and the police state as the sole avenue.

It destroys both nationalism and internationalism.

Breaking the lie means breaking a criminal project of global destruction, in which the quest for profit is the overriding force.

This profit driven military agenda destroys human values and transforms people into unconscious zombies.

Let us reverse the tide.

Challenge the war criminals in high office and the powerful corporate lobby groups which support them.

Break the American inquisition.

Undermine the US-NATO-Israel military crusade.

Close down the weapons factories and the military bases.

Bring home the troops.

Members of the armed forces should disobey orders and refuse to participate in a criminal war.

The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well organized grassroots antiwar network, across the land, nationally and internationally, which challenges the structures of power and authority. People must mobilize not only against the military agenda, the authority of the state and its officials must also be challenged.

This war can be prevented if people forcefully confront their governments, pressure their elected representatives, organize at the local level in towns, villages and municipalities, spread the word, inform their fellow citizens as to the implications of a global war, initiate debate and discussion within the armed forces.

Published August 29, 2013

Classes resume in US amid school closures, teacher layoffs

By Andre Damon 

30 August 2013

K-12 students are returning to schools throughout the US with larger class sizes, reduced staffs, expanded standardized testing, and the gutting of arts and humanities programs.

In Chicago, where nearly 50 schools closed over the summer, and Philadelphia, where 24 schools were shut, students are forced to walk longer distances to overcrowded schools through neighborhoods blighted by abandoned buildings and gang violence.

Meanwhile, as a recent article in theWall Street Journal put it, the new school year brings “the biggest revamps of U.S. public education in a decade,” referring to the widespread adoption of the corporate-backed set of testing standards known as the “Common Core.”

The “Common Core” is a set of national testing standards that emphasizes the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) while cutting out liberal arts and art classes. The drive to implement this program is in line with the demands of major corporations, which are seeking a workforce competent in these subjects, but without the “luxuries” of the liberal arts.

Over 45 states have adopted the Common Core standards for math and English, and over 40 states have said they will prioritize test scores in evaluating teachers over other measures. According to the Journal, four states have gone so far as to threaten to revoke the licenses of teachers who do not meet minimum test scores.

Charter schools—which are privately run but receive state funding—and voucher systems are likewise growing. The Journal reported that the number of charter schools in the US has more than doubled between 2003 and 2012, from 2,559 to 5,997.

The closing of public schools, the expansion of charter schools, the victimization of teachers through the expansion of standardized testing—all have all been central elements of the Obama administration’s education policy, which is supported by both parties and the teachers’ unions.

Since Obama took office, over 300,000 state and local government education jobs have been eliminated, and hundreds of schools in cities throughout the country have been closed.

In the aftermath of the strike by 29,000 Chicago teachers last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the closure of 49 public schools throughout the city, and the layoff of over 3,000 teachers. As a result of the closures, 12,700 students are walking longer distances as schools began on Monday.

To ameliorate public outcry over the unsafe conditions created by the closures, the school district has hired 1,200 “safe passage” workers to watch the extended school routes. There were two homicides along these school routes in the summer alone, according the Christian Science Monitor.

On Wednesday, Chicago’s Board of Education approved an annual budget for the school system, including hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cuts. The proposal cuts spending on classrooms by $68 million, and central office expenses by $112 million.

The Chicago Tribune noted that some schools, located in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, had their budgets slashed by $3 million or more. They have been forced to slash arts, history, and science programs. Other schools are increasing student fees, with one school raising its fees from $120 a year to $200.

Philadelphia has implemented equally draconian measures. In May the Philadelphia school district’s School Reform Commission voted on a radical budget that eliminated nearly all support staff from schools, including librarians, secretaries and assistant principals.

In June, the city closed 24 schools and laid off almost 4,000 people, including 1,200 administrators, 646 teachers and 127 assistant principals.

Even after these cuts, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. threatened to delay the beginning of the semester unless the district was able to raise additional funds. Earlier this month city officials said that they would provide $50 million in additional aid to the district. The emergency funds are tied to the demand for $133 million in new concessions from teachers and school employees, including a 10 percent pay cut for teachers.

The attack on K-12 education comes as Obama has opened a new offensive against higher education. Speaking earlier this month in New York, Obama outlined a program to slash higher-education funding and cut liberal arts programs from colleges in the name of “lowering tuition.”

Obama called for the creation of a national ranking system for universities by 2015, with federal and state funding tied to these rankings by 2018. Schools that do not cut costs sufficiently will face reductions in aid. In fact, his proposal consists of extending the market-based “reforms” of K-12 schools into the sphere of higher education.

All of these policies are part of a sweeping bipartisan attack on public education, designed to completely eradicate the institution as it has existed, wiping out educational opportunities for poor and working-class students.

Actor Matt Damon defends whistle-blower Edward Snowden

By David Walsh 

30 August 2013

Matt Damon, one of the most popular film actors currently working, told a BBC television host last week that he supported the actions of Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who has lifted the lid on the criminal activities of the National Security Agency (NSA).

Damon, who has received three Academy Award nominations, five Golden Globe nominations and five Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, told Husam Asi, host of the BBC Arabic television show “Alternative Cinema” [Cinema Badila], that Snowden had done “a great thing.” The clip was posted on YouTube August 22, and the entire interview aired on “Alternative Cinema” two days later.

Asi asked Damon, “Would you do what Snowden did?”

Damon replied, “I don’t know, I haven’t read everything that he’s leaked. But he certainly seems like a very conscientious guy—these revelations are pretty incredible and pretty shocking, and kind of fly in the face of the public statements that all these officials have made.”

“On balance,” the actor continued, “I think it’s a great thing that he did. If we’re going to trade our civil liberties for our security, then that should be a decision that we collectively make. It shouldn’t be made for us.”

Damon’s statement of support for Snowden, now living in Russia, takes a certain amount of courage, considering the large-scale government and media campaign to discredit the whistle-blower, along with others who have exposed US government crimes, such as Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

Despite those efforts, polls indicate that a majority of the population supports Snowden and rejects the official characterizations.

Coincidentally, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain earlier this month complained on Fox News that Snowden was viewed by the younger generation as “some kind of Jason Bourne.” The Bourne character (created by Robert Ludlum), an intelligence operative who becomes the target of assassination attempts after he learns of illegal government activities, was played by Damon in three films. McCain went on, “There’s kind of a generation change here. Young Americans don’t trust this government.” In various polls, young people have expressed strong sympathies for Snowden’s revelations.

Earlier this month, Damon bold BET (Black Entertainment Television) that Obama “broke up with me.” He continued: “There are a lot of things that I really question: the legality of the drone strikes and these NSA revelations. Jimmy Carter came out and said ‘we don’t live in a democracy.’ That’s a little intense when an ex-president says that, so he’s got some explaining to do, particularly for a constitutional law professor.” Speaking of the president, Damon said, “We no longer see eye-to-eye.”

On August 12, veteran director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street, JFK) told journalists gathered at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo that Obama “is a snake.” He added, “We have to turn on him.” Stone suggested that the NSA surveillance programs did more to suppress protests rather than catch terrorists, pointing to the Boston Marathon bombings as an example.

Stone, who was in Japan to promote his television series The Untold History of the United States, commented, “The Boston Marathon, they were so busy tracking down potential protestors… that they missed the bombers. It’s never about terrorists. It always becomes about the way J. Edgar Hoover did it; he brought all the weight of government to bear against protesters.”

During a film festival appearance in the Czech Republic in July, Stone called Snowden a “hero” and the NSA programs a “disgrace.” The former NSA contractor, the filmmaker said, “revealed secrets that we should all know, that the United States has repeatedly violated the Fourth Amendment.”

Thailand’s recession: “Emerging economies” dragged into global downturn

By John Roberts 

30 August 2013

The Thai government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra this month downgraded the country’s expected growth rate for 2013, from the previous range of 4.2 to 5.2 percent to 3.8 to 4.3 percent.

The slashing of the National Economic and Social Development Board’s (NESDB) forecast for economic growth, which had been 6.4 percent in 2012, followed data that showed that gross domestic product (GDP) unexpectedly contracted 0.3 percent in the June quarter. This followed a 1.7 percent fall in the first quarter, indicating a recession.

These are the first two consecutive quarters of negative growth in Thailand since the initial phase of the global financial crisis, when the economy contracted by 5 percent in the final quarter of 2008 and 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Officials and economic commentators attributed the recession to weaker domestic demand, slowing exports and the government’s failure to implement a promised 2 trillion baht infrastructure program. The NESDB downgraded export growth predictions from 7.6 to 5 percent.

Within two days of the announcement, the Thai currency, the baht, dropped to its lowest level in three years, 32.12 to the US dollar. Thailand’s current account has dramatically changed from a surplus of $US1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2013 to a deficit of $5.1 billion in the second quarter.

Thai officials rushed to issue reassurances. Bank of Thailand (BOT) governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul said the overall economic condition of Thailand was “still OK.” Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong claimed that seasonal factors were responsible for much of the decline.

In reality, the dramatic turnaround in Thailand is the product of global economic developments engulfing the “emerging economies.”

Thai exports, particularly motor vehicles, electronics, electrical equipment and rice, account for two thirds of its GDP. The country’s main trading partners are Japan (which takes 10 percent of exports and provides 20 percent of imports), China (12 and 15 percent respectively), the European Union, the United States and Malaysia.

Stagnation in the US, recession in Europe and the slowdown in China have already impacted on exports. Even the weak growth predictions of 3 to 4 percent for Thailand this year are based on an unlikely recovery in export earnings in the second half of this year.

Thailand and other so-called emerging economies are being hit by the quantitative easing policies of the central banks in the US and Europe that has poured billions into the international financial markets. According to International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, $1.1 trillion of net inflows has flooded into “emerging” equity markets and government bonds, driving up the value of local currencies.

This influx provided easy credit for private and government borrowing and, to a lesser extent, increased foreign direct investment. Foreign investors currently hold 20 percent of Thailand’s government debt, about 50 percent of Malaysia’s and over 30 percent of Indonesia’s.

Now the decline in export markets, combined with the US Federal Reserve’s signals that it will taper off its quantitative easing policy, has seen speculative capital move out almost as fast as it moved in. Among the first casualties were the inflated currencies. The baht has declined 2.3 percent so far, but may fall further. The Indian rupee is already down 16 percent and Indonesia’s rupiah 5.5 percent.

Equity markets have also suffered. Over the past month, foreign investors have withdrawn $1.04 billion from Thailand. Foreign direct investment is also down compared to other South East Asian economies. In 2011, Thailand was a net exporter of capital, mainly for intraregional investment.

The capital outflow has strained financial systems. As in Malaysia and Singapore, household debt has risen sharply in Thailand, reaching 8.97 trillion baht ($282 billion) in March. This represents 77.5 percent of GDP, up from 55 percent in 2007. Households are now spending an average of 34 percent of income on loan repayments. The need to attract capital has meant that the BOT has not been able to lower interest rates to stimulate growth.

The country’s budget is also under pressure. Public debt grew by 47.93 billion baht in June, to 5.22 trillion baht, or 44.27 percent of GDP. Yingluck’s 2 trillion baht infrastructure program depends on parliament passing a bill to allow the sum to be borrowed over seven years, a proposal expected to cause conflict in ruling circles.

The government is also under fire from big business over its rice pledging scheme, which pays rice farmers 15,000 baht a tonne. The idea was to increase farm incomes to stimulate the economy and shore up the electoral base of the ruling Puea Thai party. But the plan has proved a disaster, forcing high-priced Thai rice out of much of the international market and costing $15 billion this year, or 4 percent of GDP.

The deteriorating economic situation will only exacerbate tensions within the ruling class, between the traditional establishment centred on the monarchy, military and state apparatus and the wing led by Yingluck’s brother, exiled premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 military coup.

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Canada spearheads exploitation and militarization of the Arctic

By Laurent Lafrance 

30 August 2013

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new investments in infrastructure aimed at opening up the Arctic to intensified capitalist development when he conducted his eighth annual tour of the Far North last week.

He also participated in a military exercise, so as to underline his government’s determination to assert “sovereignty” in the Far North through the building up of Canada’s military capabilities. As has been the case in Harper’s previous visits, he avoided any serious discussion of the want and deprivation that confront the aboriginal peoples who constitute the majority of the region’s inhabitants. Insofar as he even acknowledged this social crisis, he held out big business resource-extraction projects as the solution.

In late May, on assuming the two-year presidency of the Arctic Council—a forum of the eight circumpolar countries—Canada served notice that it will push for a change in the Council’s focus so as to seize the economic opportunities that have arisen from the rapid disappearance of the Arctic ice caps due to man-made climate change. Ice cap thinning and melting—Arctic ice levels in 2012 were almost 49 percent less than the average between 1979 and 2000—mean that the region’s natural resources are far more accessible. It is also anticipated that Arctic waters, like the fabled Northwest Passage, will soon be viable for commercial shipping, which would greatly reduce travel times and shipping costs.

Founded in 1996, the Arctic Council traditionally focused on environmental and scientific questions. With the rapid melting of the ice caps opening up the possibility of immense profits for big business, however, it has become an increasingly important mechanism for trying to regulate the rival geopolitical interests of the Arctic states—Russia, Canada, the United States, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark (Greenland).

“For 16 years, the Arctic Council has concentrated on quality research,” declared Canada’s appointee as Arctic Council President, Conservative cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq, at the conclusion of her maiden meeting as Council head. “But in the final analysis, it is private enterprise that will develop the North, that does the work, and we do yet not have a mechanism to help us work together effectively.”

In the presence of the delegates, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Aglukkaq proclaimed that at Canada’s initiative, the Council will establish a “circumpolar business forum” that will “permit businesses and industry to collaborate with Arctic states and other permanent participants” in developing “the natural resources in the circumpolar region.”

It is estimated that the Arctic, which is already the source of a fifth of global fishery production, possesses 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas reserves. The region also has rich deposits of diamonds, and potential mine sites for gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc.

The lucrative economic opportunities that are arising from the melting of the polar ice caps are causing states to strengthen their military presence in the region, transforming the Arctic into a theater for potentially explosive confrontations, and not only between the circumpolar countries. The major European powers, Japan, China, and India have all served notice that they aim to become important economic actors in the North. The fact that the Arctic has not yet been fully mapped, with political and economic borders still not clearly established, is accentuating geopolitical tensions.

At its May meeting, the Arctic Council admitted six new permanent observers: China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. The observer countries, who do not have voting rights on the Council, affirmed that they would not interfere with the respective territorial and economic-zone claims of the circumpolar nations.

Although Canada and Russia, which together control most of the Arctic, are historical adversaries and have rival claims to exclusive economic zones on the Arctic sea floor, they have traditionally sought to collaborate in upholding the prerogatives of the Arctic states against “outsiders.” “We cannot forget,” said Aglukkaq, “that the Arctic Council was created by the inhabitants of the North, for the inhabitants of the North, well before the region became of interest to the rest of the world.”

Recognizing that its “historic rights” no longer suffice to maintain its control over the Arctic, the Canadian ruling elite has repeatedly pushed to expand its military presence in the North. In an editorial published on May 17, theOttawa Citizen urged the Conservative government not to scale back its plans to build up Canada’s military forces in the Far North due to budgetary constraints. To fulfill Canadian ambitions in the Arctic, stated the Citizen, “persuasion is good, but military hardware —battleships, icebreakers, aerial patrols by fighter jets, and satellite surveillance—will garner more respect.”

On coming to office in 2006, the Conservatives made the buildup of Canada’s military presence in the Arctic a major priority. In addition to ordering the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to stage an annual military exercise in the Arctic, Operation Nanook, since 2007, the Canadian government has established a CAF training center at Resolute Bay, one of the northernmost settlements in the country, as well as deep-water mooring and re-supply bases to support the Royal Canadian Navy in Nanisivik.

As a second-rank world power, Canada has historically been forced to pursue its imperialist interests through an alliance with the United States, with whom it has a deep and long-standing economic and geopolitical partnership. Yet important differences over the Arctic have divided and continue to divide Canada and the US. Washington has never recognized Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, and has a rival claim to Canada’s in the Beaufort Sea, site of rich deposits of oil and natural gas.

Recognizing the growing geostrategic importance of the Arctic, the Obama administration published this past May the US’s first ever “National Strategy for the Arctic Region.” After a few hypocritical phrases about protecting the environment, the strategy document commits the US to striving to “seize the greater part of the economic opportunities in the region.” It also pledges “to advance the security interests of the United States” by ensuring US ships and planes can operate “under, on, and throughout the airspace and waters of the Arctic.”

Both Canada and the US are concerned that Russia is taking the lead in exploiting the Arctic. Russia, which possesses over 90 percent of known oil reserves in the Arctic, has the largest fleet of icebreakers in the world, and a significant and growing military presence in the region. Moscow recently concluded key agreements with China and Japan concerning security and development in the Arctic.

Under Canadian, Norwegian and US pressure, NATO has taken an increasing interest in the far north. The US-based “Defence One” website published an article this week that argues a major expansion of NATO’s presence in the Arctic must be a crucial component of the US’s “pivot to Asia,” that is, its preparations for war with China. It concludes, “To quote a US Coast Guard rear admiral, ‘ready or not, here comes the Arctic.’ If the alliance buries its head in the snow and ignores its potential value in the Arctic, it risks ceding the window of opportunity to Russia and China.”

The US was taken aback last spring when Iceland’s President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, announced a new Arctic forum, named the “Arctic Circle,” with China as a founding member, the very same day that Iceland announced it was entering into a free trade pact with China.

The accelerating effects of climate change, which threatens the world’s population with disaster, is viewed by the capitalist elite as a golden opportunity for massive profits. The militarization of the Arctic and the irrational exploitation of the region’s natural resources by private capital will have devastating environmental consequences and only further intensify the antagonisms between rival nation-states.

Obama and media manufacture pretext for attack on Syria

30 August 2013

The Obama administration indicated Thursday that it was moving ahead with preparations to attack Syria, despite the absence of any legal sanction from the United Nations, and even without the participation of its closest allies. It is doing so in the face of overwhelming hostility not only from the masses of the Middle East, but also the American people.

President Barack Obama’s drive to war against Syria compares unfavorably even to the criminal operation mounted by the Bush administration against Iraq a decade ago. Now, even the “coalition of the willing” is being dispensed with, as the parliament of Washington’s closest ally, Britain, voted Thursday against military action. The US president is barely going through the motions of selling the war to the American public.

In a PBS television interview Wednesday night, Obama made his incoherent case for a US military attack on Syria. Both his answers and the interviewers’ questions underscored the fact that for the US government and the American media there is no lie too stupid or contradiction too glaring in manufacturing a pretext for war.

The alleged chemical weapons strike in the suburbs east of Damascus on August 21 has been seized upon as the justification for a unilateral and illegal US attack without the administration or the media presenting a shred of proof that it was carried out by the government of Bashar al-Assad.

The implausibility of this government carrying out such an action on the very day that United Nations weapons inspectors began their work in Damascus—at the invitation of Assad—is passed over in silence. So too is the extensive evidence that the so-called “rebels,” murderous US-backed militias in which Al Qaeda-linked Islamist formations play the leading role, have access to and have repeatedly used chemical weapons.

In the PBS interview, Obama painted Washington as merely a horrified bystander to the violent struggle that has wracked Syria for the past two years, supposedly limiting itself to diplomatic appeals and humanitarian assistance. This is a bald-faced lie. The CIA has coordinated the massive flow of arms and Islamist foreign fighters into Syria, unleashing a bloody sectarian civil war with the aim of achieving regime change. It has armed and trained anti-government forces in Jordan and sent them back into Syria under effective US command to carry out mayhem.

Despite this massive and barely covert intervention, the war for regime change has turned into a debacle, in large measure because the Syrian people are hostile to both imperialist intervention and the attempt to break up a largely secular society and impose an Islamist regime by means of sectarian slaughter.

The rush to war, with the US dismissing as an irrelevant delaying tactic the investigation by UN weapons inspectors that it had formally demanded, is determined by the speed with which the armed insurgency that it has sponsored is disintegrating.

It is hardly difficult to understand the motives of the so-called “rebels” and their handlers within the military and intelligence apparatus of Washington’s deep state for launching a missile attack and then blaming it on the Assad regime.

Having maneuvered Obama into declaring chemical weapons a “red line,” these elements can now compel the administration to undertake military action as part of a desperate bid to save face and maintain credibility. This is to be achieved through the unprovoked slaughter of Syrian men, women and children under a rain of Tomahawk cruise missiles and other high explosives.

Obama in his Wednesday interview described the coming military action as a “limited, tailored” operation, a “shot across the bow” of the Assad regime. However, once such an attack—described by some sources as days of bombardment—begins, it will inevitably expand into a war with incalculable consequences.

The justifications given by Obama for this action are both hypocritical and absurd. He claims that Washington is standing up for “not only international norms, but also America’s core self-interest.” It is always amazing how such international norms and national interest coincide only in the case of the United States, which alone claims the right to conduct global military aggression in their pursuit.

Why the US, which slaughtered nearly a quarter of a million Japanese in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is the natural enforcer of “international norms” in the use of weaponry is never questioned by the media. More recently, the Pentagon used depleted uranium and white phosphorous in Iraq to slaughter thousands and leave a legacy of birth defects for generations to come.

US intelligence sources have told the media that the evidence implicating the Syrian regime in the August 21 attack is “no slam dunk”—that is, it is even less compelling than the bogus case for war against Iraq as it was described at the time by then-CIA Director George Tenet. And a State Department spokeswoman dismissed any speculation that the attack could have been carried out by a “rogue” element in the Syrian military, saying that Assad as commander-in-chief would still be responsible.

Curiously, such rules do not apply to Washington’s own military operations, where war crimes carried out by the American military—from Abu Ghraib to the multiple massacres in Iraq and Afghanistan—have resulted in the punishment of only junior enlisted personnel, leaving the US commander-in-chief unscathed.

Obama claimed that the US “self-interest” revolved around fears that the Syrian government’s “control over chemical weapons may erode,” allowing them “to fall into the hands of all kinds of folks” and end up being used against the US itself.

But Washington is in a de facto alliance with (and by bombing Syria will be directly protecting) precisely the “kind of folks”—Islamist forces linked to Al Qaeda—who, Obama declares, represent a threat to the American people. According to the US president, therefore, the war is being waged to keep chemical weapons out of the hands of the direct beneficiaries of the US intervention!

And by launching missile attacks against the government and armed forces controlling the bulk of chemical weapons alleged to exist in Syria, destroying their command-and-control network, the US will obviously be facilitating the efforts of Al Qaeda-linked forces to build up their own chemical weapons arsenal.

The reality is that Washington’s drive to war is laying the foundations for a terrorist attack on the American public that could dwarf 9/11.

This new war based on lies is being prepared in an atmosphere of political crisis and desperation in Washington that reflects the intense internal contradictions plaguing US imperialism. While the initial target of US cruise missiles may be Damascus, the strategic aims that underlie it lead to an ever-broadening conflict that threatens to engulf Iran, Russia and the entire planet.

Bill Van Auken

“Who Are You To Decide That You Will Launch A War?”


George Galloway speaks as The British House of Commons – August 29, 2013

Attack on Syria: An “Act of Cowardice.”

By John Robles

August 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “VOR” –  The United States of America and their leader Barrack Hussein Obama have spent billions of dollars in Syria, at a time when US taxpayers are suffering, attempting to bring about a change of regime. The money has been spent funding al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorists to destabilize the country, groups that they have parroted time and time again as being the number one enemies of the American people.

Their strategy was failing, like all of their strategies are bound to fail because they lack vision and true understanding of the world and its people. They created a red line, most likely launched a black operation to make that red line a reality and now with extreme desperate irrational urgency, they want to carry out their plan to attack Syria. That is their goal, they set it, and no matter what happens they will obtusely carry it out without regard for the consequences and without forward planning.

I would put forward that the goal of the United States is not to remove President Bashar Al-Assad, just as it is not to protect the Syrian people. As for Al-Assad he offered to step down multiple times in the past and if the true goal was simply removing him, they could have assassinated him years ago. Unless the CIA has grown completely incompetent that is.

As for the Syrian people, it is clear that all of the bloodshed and loss of life in the country has been caused because of, and almost exclusively by, the terrorist elements that the United States has been training, funding, arming and importing.

So if they do not want to remove Assad what do they want? Now this is part of the secret geopolitical agenda they seek for the Middle East. I would put forward that the real goal is to destabilize and destroy the country and the people and throw Syria into anarchy. This will create yet another weak and broken country from which they can steal resources and which they can manipulate as they wish. Look at the record: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and all of the other countries in the Middle East that they have destabilized and destroyed through other means.

Ala Zbigniew Brzeznski and his plans to destabilize Russia into sixty-some-odd autonomous republics, the plans for the Middle East are almost identical, and the people of all of these countries just get in the way. Why else attack countries that pose no threat? Iraq never threatened America, nor did Afghanistan or Libya. Neither has Syria.

These states did possess independent foreign policies and that has been their only crime. Other than of course, in the case of Iraq and Libya, the fact that hours before the attacks on their countries, the leaders changed the trade in oil from the dollar to the euro. Something that would completely destroy the United States if all of the countries of the world followed suit. Hence they need to destabilize the economy of Europe and all of the instruments that have been implemented to carry that out. The US cannot allow the euro to grow as an alternative currency, because the US economy will be destroyed. The United States has technically long been economically bankrupt. As for moral, well that is also obvious.

It is interesting to note, from a militarily strategic viewpoint, that by intentionally telegraphing that they are planning to attack, and even setting the date, they are guaranteeing that President Al-Assad will be protected and they are contributing to the massive civilian losses that will occur.

There will be no chance of a “surgical strike” because all of the important targets will already be moved or protected. So in order to achieve whatever military objectives there are this will require even more fire power and more missiles, something which of course will be very profitable and beneficial for Raytheon and all of the other US war contractors. Telegraphing will also allow for Syria to set up defenses, if it has not already, to knock all of the US’s million dollar missiles out of the sky. Something it has every right to do.

The plan to strike Syria is not only one of cowardice and an admission of utter and complete failure by the United States on the diplomatic front but it is also illegal without a United Nations resolution and an imminent threat to America itself. It is obviously cowardly because launching missiles while fearfully hiding behind a shield where there is no threat to yourself is not something that an honorable soldier on a battlefield would do. It is the tactic of a coward.

This tactic however is necessary for Obama because when the massive loss of American lives begins, the American people will rise up and no longer support all of the callous unthinking military adventures. Hence what some view as the illogical funding of Al-Qaeda and terrorists to carry out the dirty work.

What will happen when these terrorist elements begin to realize that they have been merely disposable pawns for the US and that they have been killing their own brothers and mothers and sisters? Of course the US has not thought of that. The backlash when Al-Qaeda and all of the motley groups of terrorists realize they have been killing their brethren for the enemy will be monumental and Americans will finally see what real terrorism is all about, I believe that is a given. But that is okay for Washington too, they have all of the plans in place and this will allow the military industrial complex to expand and invade even more countries. What are a few American lives?

What about Israel? As I have said in the past, in reality the United States does not care about Israel. The maelstrom that will occur if the US strikes Syria will be monumental and right in the middle of it will be the Jewish state. Washington, thousands of miles away, behind a missile shield, with all of its leaders protected and hiding in bunkers, will be safe. Of course the US has convinced Israel that they are safe, but I beg to differ.

Let this be a warning then to reactionary proponents of an attack on Syria: the results will be monumental and may lead to the self-destruction of America both economically and politically. Why? For one it will further bankrupt an already decimated economy. Two, it will also polarize enemies and cause countries around the world to strike back, meaning the world community may in fact realize that it is time to reign in and end the continual invasions and aggressive wars being waged by the US

This will be particularly true when it is revealed that the chemical attack in Syria was a black operation to give Obama his pretext to carry out another Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning-act-of-aggression. If the world wakes up that is.

This last point will no doubt fall on deaf ears, or in this case “on blind eyes”, but in reality the US is missing a very important opportunity in Syria, and that is a chance to rebuild its reputation and become a respected intelligent and grown up member and leader of the world community by simply promoting a peaceful resolution. The world is truly tired of US bombs and bellicose rhetoric and the actions of an arrogant one-world-power wantonly bashing and bullying its way across the globe.

My thoughts are with the Syrian people and my hope is that someone, somewhere, with the power to stop this madness will listen. How about it President of the United States of America Barrack Hussein Obama? Maybe it is time to use diplomacy and work for peace and to finally put the weapons down? You have a Nobel Peace Prize after all. Or does that mean nothing?

© 2005—2013 The Voice of Russia

Moral Obscenity: Toxic Background to US Chemical ‘Highground’


While the British Parliament stands divided over whether to strike at Syria, Washington claims there’s a moral reason to attack. But the use of chemical weapons was of no concern in the wars that the US waged in the past.

WARNING! Some images in this report could be disturbing for some users.

Posted August 29, 2013

Stop The War Act now – We Can Make A Difference

Stop the War Coalition national officer Kevin Ovenden looks at the arguments about whether protest makes a difference – and what we need to do now.

By Kevin Ovenden

August 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “Stop The War” –  It may seem wearily familiar – a rush to war, disputed intelligence dossiers and a determined effort to proceed without even UN Security Council authorisation.

There are echoes of Iraq ten years ago, and it casts a long shadow upon the mounting political crisis over moves to bomb Syria.

But we should not be weary or resigned. The combination of domestic weakness and declining authority in the Middle East (both consequences of the Iraq disaster) means that we are at a moment when what we as a movement do can have a major impact.

The compelling arguments against war on Syria are well made on the Stop the War site and are finding their way into the media and wider public discussion, not only from anti-war journalists and sympathetic public figures.

Still, for many, especially those hundreds of thousands of us who marched against the Iraq war in 2003, the question recurs: can we do anything about this impending disaster?

For lots of us, the moral case is reason enough to act. But throwing ourselves single-mindedly into building the movement against this intervention is not only the morally right thing to do, it can also have direct political effect. Not through wishful thinking, but based on grasping the moment we are in.

International division

There is great uncertainty in Washington over how to proceed. Barack Obama’s talk of “red-lines” over the use of chemical weapons has boxed him into a corner of threatening swift military action against Syria, while his generals warn that there is no strategic aim or clarity over what might be achieved.

The president who demanded two years ago that Bashar al-Assad stand down is now at pains to say that this bloody intervention will not be aimed at regime-change and will not lead to further operations in support of one side in the Syrian conflict.

Leave aside the fact that the US, its Gulf allies and Turkey are already heavily intervening. The point remains that in its official rationale the US and British governments are saying the purpose of bombing and maiming in Syria will be a “non-intervention” in terms of political outcome. The absurdity serves only to exacerbate all the establishment doubts about the unintended consequences of pouring fuel on the fire.

Syria’s allies – Russia, Iran and Hezbollah – are also, of course, intervening. Two years on from the revolutionary uprising, Syria is now a battleground for proxy forces and competing great power and regional interests. There have been long and at times bitter debates about the struggle in Syria. But for the left, whatever the position in that debate, what Obama, Cameron and Hollande propose now is not even purported to bring the victory of progressive forces in the country. If they are not claiming that, there is no reason for any of us to invest this bombing with moral worth or to haver in opposing it – in deed as well as word.

The UN route – gaining explicit support for military action from the Security Council – is blocked. The hubris of Western governments over Libya and the increasingly Cold War rhetoric against Vladimir Putin put paid to that, notwithstanding Russia’s own strategic interests in Syria and the region.

That leaves Britain and France, which both pressed for the Libya adventure. (Who talks of the success of that now: indeed Bernard Henry Levy, the clown-philosopher who urged the bombing of Libya, was told he could not visit Tripoli earlier this year as his Jewishness would make his hosts a target for jihadi attack.)

The France-UK-US (FUKUS) axis faces an extraordinary dilemma. Underpinning it is the weakening of the imperial architecture in the Middle East and the ongoing upheavals in the region. These are of epochal significance and will not be ended by the counter-revolutionary coup in Egypt or the debilitating civil war in Syria.

And there are further major differences with ten years ago. We are five years into an economic crisis. In parts of Europe it has produced big upsurges of social struggle. Everywhere it has weakened the legitimacy of governments and political elites – Obama’s included. It is the context for the residue of the enormous movement against the Iraq war in 2003.

On the anniversary of the start of that war there was much reflection on what the movement achieved – after all, Bush and Blair went to war anyway. While we did not stop the invasion of Iraq, the government launching a war against the will of its citizens reduced its legitimacy. Coupled with the destruction of Iraq, and its plundering for profit, Western governments have even less authority in the minds of the public now than then.

One look at the opinion polls on both sides of the Atlantic over whether to bomb Syria shows that. There is very widespread opposition to military action. Both major parties in Britain backed the Iraq war. At the time of writing, Labour is at least partially opposed to bombing Syria.

It’s easy to take that for granted. But in most western countries at most times since the Second World War there has been clear public support for governments at war. The extent of anti-war sentiment, even if for most of the time most of it is passive, is an historic gain from the movement against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which went on in Britain also to oppose Israel’s wars on Gaza and on Lebanon and to mount a sustained argument against intervention in Libya and Syria.

That’s not a point for smug self satisfaction. Hundreds of thousands have died. It is a salient political factor now with which this government must reckon in the coming days over deciding whether to bomb Syria. It will play out in the coming months if it does bomb, with destabilising consequences, or if it does not, with fatally shattered prestige.

The problem of weakening hegemony in the Middle East and shrunken political capital at home has circumscribed Western policy for some time. Now it is immensely concentrated. Nowhere more so than in Britain.

Cameron’s arrogance and dilemma

For over 18 months Cameron and William Hague have tried to play the hard men over Syria, calling for greater action at international gatherings and threatening Damascus with other people’s F-16s. Now, the old Etonian’s arrogance has made Britain a weak link in the shaky FUKUS chain.

At the start of this week Cameron was strutting the airwaves pressing for immediate bombing. By Thursday he had been forced into a tactical retreat – though the intention to press ahead is clear. Washington too rowed back a little to give Cameron, facing potential parliamentary defeat, a lifeline.

Officials mooted that the date for bombing could be pushed back to the middle of next week. If anyone thinks they are in control of events, consider that on that timescale US and British planes will be bombing a Russian ally just as Obama and Cameron sit down in St Petersburg at the G20 summit, hosted by Putin.

The call for restraint by the UN’s Ban Ki-moon hardened Labour’s opposition to the government. On Wednesday it went from reluctant support for the government to tabling its own amendment in the parliamentary debate on Thursday. That amendment placed significant obstacles in the path to military action. But it said only that the UN Security Council must be allowed to consider and vote on the weapons inspectors’ report, not that a Security Council authorisation was necessary before Labour would support action.

Nevertheless, Labour MPs and others report that they are swayed by both the deep divisions in the political class and state structures over action and by the mounting public opposition. Diane Abbott’s political stock soared sharply when she said she would resign from the Labour frontbench if the party rushed into war.

The emergency demonstration called by Stop the War in London on Wednesday drew 1,000 people, extremely significant at short notice and in the bank holiday week.

It seems impossible now for the government to avoid a second parliamentary vote before bombing, and its own motion on Thursday in effect conceded that.

These are not trivial parliamentary games. They are the actual working out of the impasse of the government’s position. They mean that MPs who were expecting to be sunning themselves this weekend will now be in Britain subject to intense, contradictory pressures.

They mean that what was meant to be a lightening strike on Syria this week is now prolonged even before it begins. A question that was of concern for only a minority in Britain is now at the centre of national politics and life – should we support Cameron, should we bomb or not bomb, can we do anything about it.

A major public debate has erupted way beyond the circles and social media that we as activists use to talk with one another. The debate is open. Our opponents are an out of touch government that is inflicting deep social suffering on millions of people, most of whom declare that they are alienated from the official political parties.

The government is a coalition. Its majority depends on Lib Dem MPs, many of whom owe their seats to the anti-war posture the party took in 2003. They are particularly vulnerable to pressure, which in this instance means public opinion marshalled and concentrated into action and political engagement.

There are serious divisions in the Tory ranks too – usually reflective of foreign policy and military establishment concerns. Nevertheless, a move by anti-war MP Jeremy Corbyn and others of the left earlier this year to force the government to declare that it would seek parliamentary approval for any strike on Syria succeeded in winning support from Tory rebels.

A principled mass movement acting intelligently can drive a wedge deeper into the Tory ranks as well as stiffen the position of Labour MPs.

Mass movement – unity of purpose

Action now can make a difference. It requires taking the clear anti-war arguments which Stop the War is promoting and which are voiced by many others, including the Daily Mirror, deep into British society. All movements need activists, but we cannot simply be a movement of activists. We have to aim to be a mass movement of people who can be stirred by this question.

The fact that figures such as Peter Hain MP who supported the Iraq war are now strongly against bombing Syria is an indication that our anti-war argument can reach into new and broad layers. That feeling needs to be focused through public protest and through inundating MPs in order to tip the balance. There are many forms of action. Over the coming days the job is to hone them to a single point that will be felt in parliament and the government as they mull how to proceed.

There is every chance that we can play a big role in shifting the debate. What if we do not and they manage to press ahead anyway? Well, our efforts will have been far from futile.

First, whatever the blithe talk of a limited three day bombing with no fallout, the truth is that there will be major repercussions throughout the Middle East if they do go ahead. The only question is how great they will be. They will certainly mark a new phase in which the pressure for further action will intensify and with it the necessity of a strong, united movement of opposition, as well as solidarity with genuine progressive forces in the region.

Second, this is not about something happening far away to other people. It is about the direction of politics and society in Britain. The outcome of the next days and weeks will impact on the scale of opposition to the Coalition’s assaults on the mass of people at home.

A government weakened by defeat of its foreign policy, or even by its curtailment, is going to find it harder to deal with the protests in defence of the NHS, the strikes by public sector workers and the developing social resistance to its austerity policies.

Many of us have supported Stop the War or taken part in its mobilisations over the years. Quite naturally there has been ebb and flow, reflecting events and the possibility at any one time of achieving results. We’ve also had many healthy debates as the disaster of Western policy in the Middle East and the War on Terror has unfolded.

Now is a time to throw ourselves fully into this upswing of the movement – inundating MPs, taking to the streets on Saturday, getting ourselves into the media – mainstream, new and social – everywhere persuading friends, colleagues and family that we need to take a stand, and that by doing so we can make a difference.

Kevin Ovenden, 29 August 2013

Western Pathological Liars Hold World To Ransom

By Finian Cunningham

August 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  The US, British and French governments have engaged in a decade of constant lies and war crimes around the world. The intermittent imperialist adventures of these capitalist powers over the past century have now subsumed into a seamless, never-ending state of permanent war on the world, as American fascist ideologues have long salivated for.

Syria is but their latest slaughter house, having unleashed a covert terror campaign on that country for the past two and half years using an array of mercenary death squads to topple the sovereign government of President Bashar al-Assad.

We now await phase two of the bloody Syrian operation – outright aerial bombardment and missile strikes, where the US, Britain and France act as the air force for the death squads on the ground. It’s an outrageous re-run of NATO’s regime change sacking of Libya during 2011.

Ten years ago, Washington and Britain launched a war on Iraq that resulted in as many as one million dead and an entire country still in ruins. That genocide was based then on blatant lies and fabrications concocted by the US and Britain. There is no dispute about that.

The world knows that the American and British governments indulged in an audacious hoax. Since then the world has not known one day of peace as the US and its cabal of allies launch murderous attack after murderous attack on one or another country.

Now the US, Britain and France are preparing to move from covert terrorism in Syria to all-out war – a war that could engulf, not just the region, but the entire world. The grotesque spectacle of those criminal regimes posing as upholders of international and human rights is sickening beyond words.

The warping of common morals and words into ugly inversions is consistent with the depraved world of criminality that the Western rogue states have imposed on the planet.

Every word, every action that comes from Washington, London and Paris betrays these liars. American Vice President Joe Biden feigns solemnity and says “there is no doubt” that the Syrian government forces of Bashar al Assad used chemical weapons of mass destruction last week, killing hundreds of civilians in “a heinous crime”.

Britain’s David Cameron grimaced and speaks of “appalling suffering caused by the Syrian regime” while French President Francois Hollande tries to sound statesmanlike, saying his country was “ready to punish” those responsible for “murdering innocents”.

Who are these butchers, mass murderers and liars to pose as defenders and protectors of humanity? Their cynicism and hypocrisy are astounding. The truly appalling thing is that the vast majority of sane, moral humanity has to endure listening to these psychopaths who hold the rest of us ransom with their criminal insanity.

Their fraudulence and duplicity pokes through the hollow, fake bombast. The White House says it is going to release “intel” to show the Syrian government’s culpability – but not before it had already dispatched warships to the coast off Syria.

So if the White House has evidence against Assad’s government, where is it? Why doesn’t Washington submit it to the UN chemical inspectors who are currently in Damascus trying to gather facts on the alleged gas incident last week?

American, British and French military chiefs meet their Saudi, Qatari, Turk and Israeli counterparts to draw up strike plans on Syria. It is done with a telling haste that demonstrates their reckless drive for another war before evidence and facts emerge showing that the perpetrators of last week’s chemical gas attack near Damascus were actually the al Qaeda death squads whom the Western media have cloaked with the risible identify of “Syrian rebels”.

Joe Biden says “no doubt” and Francois Hollande contends that “there is every reason to believe” that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. So, which is? “No doubt” or “every reason to believe”? That hint of ambiguity nails the absolute lack of anything.

A few days ago, US officials were less convincing in their assessment, when one told the New York Times: “Based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms… witness accounts… the US intelligence community and international partners… there is very little doubt that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime.” In other words, the US and its criminal allies have simply watched dubious videos posted on Youtube and are now contriving justification for an otherwise criminal war on the Syrian people. This is gangsterism meets smoke-and-mirrors chicanery writ large.

Russia, Iran and Syria rightly demand that the Western rogue states present their supposed evidence. But the latter won’t comply because they don’t have any evidence. In a previous incident involving a chemical weapon on 19 March 2013 in the village of Khan al Assal, near Aleppo, the US, Britain and France also made accusations against the Syrian government. There were then similar bombastic claims of “no doubt”; and yet five months later there is still no independently verifiable substance from the Western states to back up those spurious claims.

Meanwhile, the Russia government study into the Khan al Assal attack – conducted to international standards with independently verifiable results – concluded that it was the Western-backed mercenaries who carried out that atrocity in which more than 25 were killed.

Another telling contradiction emanating from the West that betrays fraudulence is the assertion that the efforts of the UN chemical weapons inspectors – being fully facilitated by the Damascus government – is “too late” to establish the facts of the gas attack last week.

How is that investigation by UN experts within days of the incident too late, when Washington, London and Paris “concluded” their “secret tests” into the Khan al Assal attack some three months after that event?

Pathological liars can’t help themselves even when they sound ridiculous. Washington, London and Paris are telling the world that they are preparing a “carefully calibrated” blitz on Syria to “save civilians” and not aimed at “regime change”. Just like in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Mali where the West is conducting “humanitarian work”.

Hollande says the (Western-fomented) conflict in Syria is “a threat to world peace”, Barack Obama says it’s not “about regime change” and David Cameron says the military intervention “must not spread to the wider region”. These criminals can’t even be bothered getting their alibis consistent.

The timing of the expected military attack on Syria is said to have been delayed because Obama was working on his oration to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech this week in Washington. Also, Western media speculated that there would be no cruise missiles slamming into Syria on Friday “out of respect for the Muslim day of prayer”. But bombs and missiles can then be expected to rain down over the weekend. The lunatics are indeed in charge of the asylum.

Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio.

This article was originally published at Press TV

Postcard from the End of America: Trenton

By Linh Dinh

August 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  I had been in Trenton, I dunno, maybe two hundred times before I decided to know it a little. For years, I would stop there on the way to NYC from Philly, or vice versa, but I was never compelled to wander from the Trenton Transit Center. This lack of curiosity is inexcusable, for “there is no place that isn’t worth visiting at least once,” as Evelyn Waugh wrote somewhere, and which I’d amend to “a bunch of times,” for each subsequent encounter can only deepen one’s understanding, for people are always infinitely fascinating, no matter where they may dwell, and how they cope with their environment cannot be but instructive. Shoot, man, even Northern Virginia is worth visiting more than once, I’d concede, though that would severely test any sensate being’s taste, hope, faith in humanity, tolerance, self-respect and sense of humor.

Having owned a car for less than two years in my life, and I’m two month-shy of 50, I’ve always been a walker, but I never really developed a passion for aimless walking until I lived in Italy in 2003-2004. Europe is a compact continent with an extensive rail system, so any of its city, town or village can be reached by train, and from the station, you’re free to wander as much as you want, without fear of missing your last train back, for there’s always one coming, it seems. The towns there are also much more accommodating towards walkers, and even the countryside is walkable, with public paths through fields and orchards.

Then in 2005, I had the luck to be in East Anglia for nearly a year, thanks to a T.K. Wong Fellowship, so I was able to meander through many of the villages mentioned in W.G. Sebald’s dirge like masterpiece, The Rings of Saturn, which begins, “In August 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work.” All the places described by Sebald had seen much better days, with some, Great Yarmouth, for example, considered laughable, when noticed at all. Sebald’s home city, Norwich, had also become the butt of jokes although it had been England’s second greatest city, but such is life, for everything will become (bad) jokes in due time, if not obliterated completely from this unfunny earth. Everything will become New Jersey, in short, if not, horror of horrors, Trenton, friggin’ New Jersey.

OK, OK, so listen up, y’all, I was on State Street, just minding my own business, you know, slow sipping a Colt-45 on the steps of the Trenton Saving Funds Society, founded in 1901 and deader than your sex life, when this dude hollered, “You’re from Southeast Asia?”

“Yeah. What?”

“Ever heard of Angkor Wat?”

“Yeah, that’s in Southeast Asia.”

“Ever heard of Nagasaki?”

“Yeah,” I grinned, “but that’s not in Southeast Asia. That’s in Japan, man. That’s where they dropped the second atomic bomb!”

Ignoring my irrelevant information, this man, about 30, continued to quiz and educate me, “Do you know where the word nigger comes from?”

“Negro? As in a mispronunciation of negro?”

“No, man. Negro comes from naga, and naga is a sacred snake. If you’re a Southeast Asian, you must know how sacred the snake is, for you guys have turned the snake into a dragon, like Bruce Lee, enter the dragon! So the black race is sacred. We are the original and most powerful race, but the white man can’t stand this, so they have corrupted our name from na-ga to nig-ger. Are you following me?”


“The white man would have you believe black people are only from Africa, but that’s nonsense! We were everywhere. We built Angkor Wat and the Egyptian pyramids. To keep us down, the white man has rewritten our history. He wants the world to think we’re just savages but we’re the original man, the true man and the greatest man. The Buddha was a black man. You ever noticed his full lips and kinky hair? King Solomon was black, and Jesus, of course, was black. From us, everything has come. We’re not just black, we’re all colors! See those people right there? What do you see?”

“I don’t know. Three people?”

“What kind of people?”

“Black people?”

“No, no, no! One is blue black, one is reddish, and one is kind of yellow, like you. You see, black people can be all colors, because all colors come from black, but black itself is not a color. You got that?”

By this time, I had taken out pen and paper to jot down this copious lecture. Across the street was the handsome First Presbyterian Church. Built in the Greek Revival style, it hides what’s left of Colonel Johann Rall, commander of German mercenaries during the pivotal Battle of Trenton in 1776. George Washington, his conqueror, now stands atop a fluted column lording over this city. When the monument was unveiled in 1893, the New York Times deemed it “the greatest day in the history of New Jersey.”

Satisfied at having an eager student, the dude presented me with his profile, to appear more melodramatic against the slanting sunlight, then continued, “The pyramids are also a lot older than what the white man says. They’re more than 150,000 years old, and so is Angkor Wat! Do you know that light bulbs were found inside the pyramids? And batteries too, but all these facts have to be suppressed by the white man, because the white man can never admit that the Naga race, the so-called nigger race, reached a higher level of civilization thousands of years ago, when the white man was still living in caves!”

As he was talking, a passerby saluted him, “Peace! God!” So he asked me, “Did you hear that?”


“What he said.”

“Peace? God?”

“Yes. Peace! God! He called me a God, because I am a God. Every black man is a God, and you, as a colored person is also a God, but the white man is a corruption. He is in fact the devil, you heard me, and his days are numbered. A black scientist created the white man 6,600 years ago, but it’s time for the black race to reassert his superiority. Look, look,” and he pointed to his head, arm, leg, leg and arm in turns, “what do you have?”

“What do you mean?”

“What does that spell? The first word of each!”


“Yes, Allah!”

“But what does it mean? It’s just a linguistic accident, man! If we were talking another language, you wouldn’t have Allah at all!”

“But we are speaking English, and English is the universal language. This is no accident. The time for Allah has come, and it will happen here, in America.”

Many will have recognized by now that this man was spouting from the Nation of Islam’s teachings, and much has already been written about the Black Muslims’ problematic views on race, so I will only add that any man who thinks of an entire race as evil in origin and purpose is undoubtedly a racist, so this black man lecturing me was clearly a racist, and I cringe whenever anyone insists that black people cannot be racist since blacks are not structurally in power. To condemn, despise or demonize anyone for the color of their skin alone is the very definition of racism, and this is a moral, individual failing that can befall anyone, of any color, and at any time too, I should add, from moment to moment. To deny blacks of this moral agency, to posit that they cannot lapse or sink into racism, or rise above it, is to deny their very humanity, so what would that make you but the ultimate racist?

Done with my education, for now, my lecturer left me his name, Melchezidek, meaning “My Righteous King,” and his phone number, then he hopped on this beat up bike and rode away. One can’t help but wonder how can a man with such a world view function in the larger society, populated as it is with so many devils? In Trenton, though, as in most of our cities and towns, he may not have too, since blacks and whites are still mostly segregated in a society billed as post-racial when it elected a president who’s only half demonic in genetics, though entirely evil in actions, it has turned out, with yet another bloodbath coming with the incipient assault on Syria.

The government that harassed then murdered Martin Luther King now commemorates him, in the most superficial manner, each year. Flatulent speeches are given, but no sanctioned maven ever asks why he was gunned down, or points out that the syndicate that squashed King continues to kill, torture or lock up anyone who can seriously shine a light on its sinister working. Witness the recent murder of Michael Hastings, for example, or the humiliation and breaking down of Bradley Manning. In any case, Trenton never recovered from the rioting that followed King’s assassination, though it was already in decline, with the erosion of its industrial base, and white flight, occurring well before 1968. Note that nearby Levittown, a prototypical suburb built from scratch, was completed by 1958.

With its compact layout, Trenton is very walkable, though one must watch out for bullets, knives and cars careening out of control after their drivers had been shot dead. With four more months to go, Trenton has already tied its all-time record of 31 murders for an entire year, and the homicide figure only indicates a portion of the bloodshed, of course. On August 15th, for example, a 24-year-old ex convict kicked and punched his girlfriend, stabbed her dog to death, then shot two cops, sending both to the hospital, with one still in critical condition as of this writing, 14 days later. The shooter was himself killed by police bullets, and that is not counted as a homicide. So practice extra caution when wandering through North or East Trenton, and don’t you even think that the South or West Ward is entirely free of lacerating or puncturing surprises. Oh shoot, am I shot?! In short, it’s wisest not to trek through Trenton, but what the hell, let’s just go, and so I was putzing around Clinton Avenue when it started to rain hard, so soaking wet, I decided to duck into La Guira. Opening the door, I entered a tiny vestibule to espy an apparition behind bullet-proof plexiglass, so I asked, “Bar?” After my grim ghost nodded towards a second door, I entered a darkened purgatory, hitched myself onto a stool, then inquired, “What kind of beer do you have?”

“Every kind.”


“No, sorry.”

“Rolling Rock.”

“No, sorry.”

“Uh, Yuengling?”


I was the only customer. On TV, a swooning hostess asked some toothsome chica, “¿Como le gustan los hombres?” Grinning, she chirped, “Muy románticos! Buenos trabajadores! Altos!” She was about to choose between two well-inked beefcakes, half naked, with “Leo” and “Tauro” signs dangling on their toned chests, but suddenly, there was kicking, punching and hair pulling, for we had switched to the Steve Wilkos Show, as the bartender didn’t want me to be flummoxed by Spanish. I found out he was Dominican and had been in the US all of five months. Though his English comprehension was bare bones, we did try to converse, and all was friendly and pleasant until some middle-aged guy arrived and got all weirded out at my camera. He was the bar owner. To calm down this excitable crank, I explained that I was visiting Trenton from Philly, and only took photos to share the countless virtues of his lovely establishment with the rest of the world, and I was having a great time until I encountered his hectoring, irritated mug, but since he was being so rude now, I would never return, so he barked, “Don’t come back!” I didn’t appreciate this pissy mofo ruining my hopped up sense of well being and equilibrium, a glancing nirvana that had cost me a dear $8, including tips, so I called him an asshole before I left.

It turns out, though, that Mr. Martin Rodriguez has ample reasons to be touchy, for his dismal bar has become a ground zero for mayhem and police misconduct. A look at the recent history of La Guira, then, becomes a window into Trenton itself. In February of 2012, cops were called to deal with an unruly customer, Darrel Griffin, whom they roughly arrested, along with a second suspect, Michele Roberts, for reasons unclear, though a surveillance camera does show a police woman grabbing Roberts’ hair, screaming at her and slamming her head against the wall, all after Roberts has already been handcuffed and not resisting. Roberts claims she has only gone there to drop off a dish of lasagna for a private party, but the cops thought she was filming them with her cell phone, so they went berserk. In any case, no charges were ever filed against Roberts or Griffin, though both are suing the Trenton police for excessive force used in their (illegal) arrests.

Though not one of Jacob’s cursed creation, and hence not inherently and irreversibly evil, Griffin is hardly a placid Buddha, however, or a turn-the-other-cheek Jesus. Hell, he might not be any kind of God at all. In 2005, a 20-year-old Griffin was charged with shooting Omar Hightower in the head. With such a slug stuck in his brain, Hightower suffered seizures for years until he finally died in 2013. Charges against Griffin were dismissed, however, because the state could not gather enough evidence against him. Peace! God!

In April of 2013, La Guira again made the news when a surveillance camera caught officers of the New Jersey State Police strip searching a man down to his brief, as other patrons looked on. Caught twice now by La Guira’s annoying cameras, the cops have decided the remedy is to go after Martinez himself, by visiting his business often and citing him for petty or imaginary violations. They’re trying to shut La Guira down in retaliation, Martinez has protested to the press, for it is certainly no nuisance spot in this half-boarded up neighborhood. Well, it is a crappy bar, but within its concrete, asphalt, garbage and broken glass context, it is a heavenly oasis where Gods and Goddesses can drain Coor’s Lite, Bud, Ciroc and Grey Goose as they bump, grind, shake and twerk. (See, see, Mr. Martinez, I am talking up your blasé shit hole, so you should give me a shot of Jameson the next time I walk in!)

Guira is a Dominican percussive instrument, by the way, and a nice chunk of Clinton Avenue, where La Guira is located, could have gone kaboom! this last April, when scavengers removed a stove from an abandoned home, thus releasing gas from broken pipes. It’s not clear why gas was still kept on there, but not much works the way it’s supposed to in Trenton. Indicted for corruption, its mayor,Tony Mack, has refused to step down, though his continued presence has blocked state funds to this strapped city. “Napoleon” or “The Little Guy,” as Mack is known, claims he has been entrapped by the FBI.

As its mayor tries to avoid prison, Trenton goes on falling apart. Leaving La Guira, I walked for miles through desolation and neglect, but it wasn’t just that, for people still had to live here. Each day they had to walk past these empty, boarded up or overgrown homes. Some were trying to ward off the degradation and violence with positive messages. On Martin Luther King Boulevard, a home owner had hung up a pink banner with a white cross over a purple heart, “Love One Another. John 3:34.” Not far away, I saw another banner on the wire fence of a garage. With two painted daisies, and lettering in four colors, it pleaded, “Can’t we do something different forOUR FUTURE?”

Presently I came upon Olden Avenue, with its many Polish businesses, still thriving after many decades. Employing my standard salutation, I asked a man, “Hey, where can you get a drink around here?”

“Let me see. You can go to Stevie Teetz. It’s just down the street. It’s a strip bar!”

“Oh, man, I don’t need no extra! I just want a beer!” In fact, I didn’t even care for a beer, but one often talks just to talk, and in a strange neighborhood, sometimes one talks just to see how one is received. In any case, onward I marched, past Stevie Teetz, and finally out of Trenton altogether, into Ewing, where I saw an “ARMED FORCES CAREER CENTER” at a strip mall. A uniformed soldier was getting into his SUV, so I waited for him to drive away before taking out my camera. Post 9-11, soldiers are often found in public, so it’s no longer a surprise to find yourself in the International House of Pancakes, for example, next to a crowded table of soldiers, and they won’t be in dress uniforms but battle fatigues. On TV, soldiers are also often inserted into commercials, newscasts, political events or sporting contests. This is done to remind us that we’re in an endless war and, more importantly, to condition citizens into accepting the presence of soldiers in civilian settings. The relentless erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act is mostly done on a visual and psychological level, for now, but already one sees soldiers with live weapons where they have no rights to be, but then the Constitution is but a quaint myth in contemporary America. Hardly anyone cares about it, not the Obama apologists, and certainly not our mesmerized youths with their eyes glued to Miley Cyrus’ ass. Children reared on Hannah Montana can now follow their sexually deranged, hair-horned and tongue wagging idol into a psychotic adulthood. Peace! God!

I took my photos in full view of the recruiting office’s plate glass windows, with who knows how many eyes behind them, so within seconds, a uniformed soldier appeared to say that that was not allowed, so I smiled, apologized then walked away. He also smiled. After I had gone about twenty yards, however, and was already past the back of this building, two more soldiers came running out, with one asking me to stop, which I did. When he asked me my name, I readily gave it to him, though I really didn’t have to, as he had no jurisdiction over anyone in this civilian setting. I knew I had done nothing illegal, as taking photos in public is never against the law, though it may sometimes be rude. A second soldier then demanded I deleted my photos of the recruiting office, which I did, as he watched. (I knew I could still retrieve these images later, as long as I didn’t shoot over them.) By this time, a third, older soldier had appeared, so four well-trained, gung-ho combatants had so far been dispatched to handle one dumbass, middle-aged retard with his beat up, often repaired camera with a dusty lens and missing eye piece. If they could get so excited over a harmless American at some stupid Jersey strip mall, imagine their possibly lethal overreaction to anything remotely suspicious in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq? There, even a munchkin raising a lollipop to his mouth might make one our brave heroes jump, holler and discharge.

Faced with this farcical situation, I laughed, shook my head and told the soldiers, “This is ridiculous. You will go to bed tonight thinking how absurd this is.” That’s when they gave me the predictable line about the heightened alert needed against the threat of terrorism, but I said a terrorist would not need to take a photo of their office, especially with a huge camera and standing in full view of their plate glass windows. As I’ve pointed out before, you can bomb a place just fine without snapping photos of it beforehand, but if you must scope out a public target, you can just stroll by and look at it, or you can go on Google Maps and get all the information you need about its exterior.

Back and forth we went, with a soldier telling me that “it is illegal to take photos of a federal building,” which is not correct, or all those thousands of tourists snapping photos daily of the Capitol, White House and countless other buildings should be arrested immediately. One of the grunts wanted to walk back in, but the other was becoming quite heated, maybe because I had said, “You guys are being brainwashed into becoming so paranoid. Don’t you see how ridiculous this is?” When the pissed one snapped, “I’m defending our country,” I responded, “You’re not defending anything! You’ve been standing out here harassing me!”

“Call the cops,” he said to his more composed partner.

“Call the cops for what?!” I smirked. “What am I doing that’s illegal?”

To intimidate me, the other guy did pretend to use his cell phone, but he ended up not calling anyone, and they finally walked back inside.

If this was Iraq, Afghanistan or, hell, Southeast Asia a generation ago, a smart mouth like me might be laid to rest in several chunks, then pissed on, but since this was only New Jersey in 2013, I have lived to relate this tiresome tale. Soon enough, though, these jumpy fellows will be well armed and blazing within your earshot, right here, in the Homeland.

The War on Terror has been incoherent and nonsensical from the beginning. On the pretext of going after Bin Laden, a known CIA asset, the US invaded Afghanistan, then it attacked Saddam Hussein, whom it had propped up for decades, and now Washington is openly supporting terrorists in its war against Syria. On the home front, every terror plot going back to 9-11 has either been abetted by Washington, at the very least, if not entirely schemed by it. In Portland and Cherry Hill, such plots were used to entrap innocents, while in Boston, it was to frame its own assets while terrorizing the entire country, all for propaganda purposes. In short, the US can’t be fighting terror when it is the world’s most prolific and relentless generator of terror. Without terror, America would be out of business, literally. As the US is about to rachet up considerably the terror it has been unleashing on Syria, all Americans should feel sick to their stomachs, but most of us will simply sit back and watch, in boredom or great excitement, and when tired of this extra bloody entertainment, we’ll yawn and switch back to our regular programming.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate . . He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union

Muslims Need Not Apply


How USCIS Secretly Mandates the Discriminatory Delay and Denial of Citizenship and Immigration Benefits to Aspiring Americans. Download the full report by the ACLU of Southern California at

The Subterfuge of Syrian Chemical Weapons


By Nicola Nasser* 

50989The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on this August 26 removed the sword of the alleged Syrian chemical weapons from its sheath and let the snow ball of this subterfuge for a military aggression on Syria roll unchecked, raising the stakes from asking whether “it will happen” to “when” it will happen, promising that President Barak Obama “will be making an informed decision about how” to take on Syria and warning not to make a “mistake” because Obama “believes there must be accountability,” making clear that a U.S. – led military action is in the making and imminent.

A 20 – member UN independent commission of inquiry, headed by UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, and led by the Swedish scientist and the veteran “inspector” for the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC inspection regimes in Iraq, Ake Sellstrom, arrived in Damascus on August 24 for a fourteen – day mission to investigate whether or not chemical weapons were used in Syria.

The fact that this UN mission is in Syria in response to an official request sent by the Syrian government to the UN Security Council on March 19, 2013 to investigate the first chemical attack, which was launched then from the positions of the U.S. – sponsored armed gangs fighting the Syrian regime on the government – held northern town of Khan al_A’ssal, as well as the fact that the U.S. for five months opposed such an investigation unless the UN adopts it as an “inspection” mission all over Syria, are self – evident enough facts to leave no doubt about the real intentions of the United States.

The timing of the reported chemical attack in the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital on August 21 coincided first with the arrival of the UN investigators in Damascus and second with launching what the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) codenamed the “Reinforcement of the Shield of the Capital” (RSC) military operation to root out the armed gangs operating in the same area, consisting of al-Qaeda – linked Islamists, but mainly of the Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S. listed as a terrorist organization last December.

In view of the progress of the RSC operation, following a series of other successful operations by the SAA since their strategic breakthrough in al-Qusayr in June this year, which sealed off the borders with Lebanon through which rebels used to infiltrate, it was noteworthy that the American, French, British and German leaders as well as their Turkish, Qatari and Saudi Arabian allies demanded an immediate “ceasefire,” allegedly to allow and facilitate the mission of the UN investigators; alternatively, if the RSC operation did not stop, the Syrian government was accused by them of “systematically” destroying the evidence.

The Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Muallem in his press conference in Damascus on Tuesday reiterated what his government had previously confirmed: The RSC operation will continue.

The Declared Goal

 The U.S. – led threats of an imminent military action was the only option left for the western backers of the rebels inSyria; their declared goal is to stem the accelerating successes of the SAA and to return the balance of power to the status quo ante.

When the 18th Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, before the reportedly chemical attack last week, admitted that the Syrian army was “gaining momentum,” he did not “think it’ll be sustainable,” not because he was drawing on the facts on the ground, but most likely because he was privy to what was in store with his co- decision makers in Washington.

Maintaining a “balance of power” on the ground is a U.S. precondition to engage in and allow negotiations to solve the Syrian conflict peacefully. The U.S. cannot co – host with Russia the repeatedly postponed Geneva – 2 peace conference onSyria unless the military status quo on the ground is deprived of the gains won by the SAA.

Therefore, the U.S. is impatient to give “enough time” to the UN investigators to finish their mission with conclusive or inconclusive evidence, as requested by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki – moon on Wednesday. The UN envoy for Syria,alAkhdar alIbrahimi, on the same day said that the military solution of the conflict is “impossible,” but his appeal for a peaceful solution fell on deaf ears in Washington, where plans are being worked out by leaps and bounds for an imminent military strike.

Such a strike would only exacerbate the conflict, which alIbrahimi on August 23 said it “is undoubtedly today the biggest threat to peace and security in the world.”

Would Obama decide on military action to take place while the UN investigators are still in Syria? The U.S. disrespect of the UN has several precedents to make the answer in the positive a realistic probability.

Time will tell however, some say within days, but if it takes place it will be an insult to the United Nations and the world community that will further hurt the international credibility of the United States, which is now pressured into military action as a “face saving move” presumably to save the credibility of its leader who has drawn publicly a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria at least five times during the last year.

Obama Gives in

 Obama, the former professor of constitutional law, who as recently as August 22 warned in a CNN interview that “we have to take into account considerations” like a “U.N. mandate” supported by “international law” and “clear evidence,” seems ready now to strike without any respect to the three factors, which they only can give legitimacy to any U.S. – led strike against Syria.

The UN mandate and legitimacy cannot be provided by a decision taken by the NATO, which is led by the U.S. A selective “responsibility to protect” pretext for a unilateral U.S. – led intervention militarily cannot replace the UN charter and international law. A fig leaf political approval of an attack on Syria from the Arab League, which is now no more than aU.S. rubber stamp, cannot provide Obama with any credible “Arab” justification for a war on Syria; similar approvals inLibya and Iraq were counterproductive examples. Obama cannot draw on artificial legitimacy to justify what will be no more than a flagrant violation of international law and UN charter to cover up what will be merely a bare – to- all – to – see aggression.

Moreover, Obama seems even ready to bypass a U.S. constitutional obligation to consult with and get the consent of the Congress, now in a month – long recess until September 9.

According to the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) has collected nearly three dozen signatures of House members to a letter he intended to send to the White House to remind the president that military action without a congressional vote “would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.”

Obama told CNN: “Sometimes what we’ve seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations.”

Writing in the Los Angeles Times on August 27, Kathleen Hennessey, Michael A. Memoli and Christi Parsons said that the poison gas attack in the suburbs of the Syrian capital on August 21 was “testing” Obama’s views “as no previous crisis has done;” unfortunately Kerry announced Monday that the U.S. president has failed this test.

However, Kerry’s statement in his news conference in Washington Monday, which was described by mainstream media as “emotional” and “highly charged,” sounded like an official declaration that Obama had done with whatever “considerations” might prevent him from taking a decision to strike, even if he risks to get “mired in” exactly the “very difficult situations” he has been trying to avoid.

It was a declaration that Obama has at last given in to the warmongers who have been leading a media blitz that has been beating the drums of war on Syria for two and a half years now; Kerry only added “chemical fuel” to it.

Kerry Mobilizes Passive Public

 On the one hand, Kerry’s statement was emotionally highly charged with the intention of defusing a mounting pressure for action that was exacerbated with the reported chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus.

On the other, its emotionality was intended as a prelude to mobilize a passive public opinion for a possible imminent military action against Syria.

Several recent polls showed that the majority of Americans oppose U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict, let alone militarily. In this week’s Reuters/Ipsos survey, only 25 percent of Americans said they would support U.S. intervention if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent would oppose it. About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria’s civil war, while just 9 percent thought Obama should act. A Pew Research Center poll taken June 12-16 found 70 percent of Americans opposed Obama’s decision to provide arms to Syrian rebels in response to smaller-scale chemical weapons attacks there; 68 percent said the U.S. military is “too over-committed” to get involved in the Syrian conflict.

If Kerry’s intention was to mount pressure on Syria, the country’s foreign minister Walid al-Muallem on Tuesday declared Syria will not yield to “blackmail” and its only option is to defend itself with whatever means are available, some of which will be a “surprise,” he said.

However, Kerry’s statement sounded not a message to Syria per se as much as it was a message to American, European and Arab warmongers, who ever since the Syrian crisis erupted have been lobbying his administration to take action against Syria long before the first chemical attack was launched from the positions of the U.S. – sponsored armed gangs on Khan al_A’ssal five months ago.

Investigating a Forgone Conclusion

 In view of the Syrian government’s confirmation of the use of chemical weapons, Kerry’s statement on Monday that it “is real, that chemical weapons were used in Syria,” and the confirmation of their use by the Syrian so called “opposition” and its western and Arab sponsors, their use is already a forgone conclusion.

Is it not surprising and a waste of time then to send the UN independent commission of inquiry to investigate a forgone conclusion that all parties take for granted as a fact!

Kerry quoted Ban Ki – moon as saying last week that “the U.N. investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used.”

If the investigators’ mandate is only to confirm what is already “is undeniable,” in Kerry’s words, why were the UN investigators stripped of the mandate of determining “who” used the chemical weapons in Syria, if not to leave it up to the U.S. & partners to decide in advance as a prejudged conclusion that “There’s no doubt who is responsible: The Syrian regime,” according to Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday, to be consistent with their plans for a regime change in Damascus, and let the truth go to hell.

 * Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian

US families affected by unemployment up by 33 percent

By Andre Damon 

29 August 2013

The number of US households with at least one unemployed parent has swelled as a result of the economic crisis, rising 33 percent between 2005 and 2011, according to a report published Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

The report, entitled America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012, found that the number of households with children under 18 where at least one parent was unemployed rose from 2.4 million to 3.2 million. In some states, the increase was much higher. Nevada had a 148 percent increase in families affected by unemployment, Hawaii had a 95 percent increase, and California had a 61 percent increase.

“During the recession, economic well-being worsened for families with children,” said Jamie Lewis, one of the report’s co-authors. “Home ownership among families declined, while food stamp receipt and parental unemployment increased. Even after the recession officially ended in 2009, these measures remained worse than before it began.”

The report found a vast increase in many forms of social distress and a decline in signs of economic well-being. The number of households with children under 18 that owned their own homes fell by 15 percent, to 20.8 million, between 2005 and 2011.

There was also a significant increase in the number of young people living with their parents, resulting from a fall in incomes and reduced job prospects. The percent of men aged 25 to 34 living in their parents’ homes increased from 13 percent in the early 2000s to 17 percent in 2012. For women in this age group, the percent living with their parents increased from 8 percent to 10 percent.

The report noted that “these trends in young adult living arrangements follow a broader pattern in the United States in which young adults are experiencing the traditional markers of adulthood, such as starting a family, leaving their parents’ home, and establishing stable careers, later in life than previous recent generations did.”

The report, which is based on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, outlined the demographic shifts stemming from the 2008 Wall Street crash. It noted a significant deterioration in the economic well-being of all types of family groups, stating, “Although married families tend to be economically better off than other families, the economic well-being of all family types worsened on average during the 2007–2009 recession and in the years since its official end.”

Children of married parents are also increasingly vulnerable, according to the Census Bureau. Food stamp usage by children of married parents nearly tripled—from 4 percent to 11 percent—since 2002.

The report further noted, “The percentage of mother-only and father-only family groups increased since 2007.” It added that almost half of children who lived with their mother only, with two unmarried parents, or with no parents were living below the poverty line.

While the 2008 financial crisis led to a sharp increase in social distress, the so-called “recovery” that followed saw continued mass unemployment, rising poverty and falling wages. This was underscored by a study released August 21 by the Economic Policy Institute, which showed that real hourly wages fell dramatically during the economic “recovery” of 2007-2012. According to the report, based on figures from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, real average hourly wages fell by 2.8 percent for people with a high school degree, 4.7 percent for high school graduates, and 5.6 percent for high school graduates who partially completed a college degree.

The dismal economic conditions confronting the majority of the population are driving significant shifts in demographics and family life. Non-college graduates in the US have become “less likely to get married, stay married, and have their children within marriage than those with college degrees,” according to a recent study by the University of Virginia and Harvard University.

“Working class people with insecure work and few resources, little stability, and no ability to plan for a foreseeable future become concerned with their own survival and often become unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others,” said Sarah Corse, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. Corse is the lead author ofIntimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape. She concluded, “Marriage is becoming a distinctive social institution marking middle-class status.”

In July, the Associated Press reported, based on soon-to-be published data, that four in five Americans are “economically insecure,” struggling with near-poverty or unemployment, or relying on government programs for at least a year of their lives. The report added that, based on the current growth rate of poverty, 85 percent of all working-age adults will experience economic insecurity at some point in their lives by 2030.

This followed a June report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showing that, after adjusting for inflation, the average US household had recovered only 45 percent of the wealth it lost after the 2008 crash.

Ford Australia stands down production workers

By Peter Byrne and Patrick O’Connor 

29 August 2013

Hundreds of Ford Australia workers have been stood down, receiving just 50 percent of their wages, as the company attempts to further slash production ahead of a complete shutdown of its operations by 2016. This is the latest in a series of intensifying attacks on car workers’ wages and conditions being orchestrated by the transnational corporations, in collaboration with the trade unions and the Labor government.

Ford workers were stood down on Thursday and Friday last week, the first of a total of 12 non-production days planned by management in August and September.

Similar shutdowns were imposed in April and July last year. Then in May this year, Ford announced an end to all manufacturing by 2016, with about 1,200 workers at its Broadmeadows and Geelong plants in Victoria to lose their jobs. Unsurprisingly, the announcement has been followed by lower Ford sales, as people avoid purchasing soon to be discontinued models.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visited Adelaide last week, pledging additional public subsidies of $200 million to the car corporations, on top of the billions handed over in recent years that have propped up the companies’ profits and ensured their senior executives have maintained their lucrative salaries. The government has promoted the new $200 million fund, which it describes as a “short-term stimulus measure,” and a pledge to have Australian-produced vehicles for government fleets, as a measure aimed at saving jobs.

This is an utter fraud. The government’s subsidies are in fact designed to accelerate and facilitate the car companies’ ruthless restructuring measures, involving efforts to reduce workers’ wages and conditions to levels “competitive” with low-wage Asian manufacturing platforms. Under Labor, between 2007 and 2012, annual car production in Australia plummeted from 335,000 to 210,000. The billions of dollars handed to Ford, General Motors Holden and Toyota by the Labor government over this period have been conditional on the companies destroying jobs and driving up productivity.

Tens of thousands of workers in the car and car components sector are now being targeted. The Australian Financial Review last week reported that Toyota was using $5 million in government subsidies to help its local suppliers develop “stable, lean and efficient businesses,” including by taking executives on guided tours of manufacturing operations in Thailand and Turkey.

General Motors Holden, the trade unions, and the Labor government have set a new benchmark with the recent cost cutting agreement imposed on production workers in Elizabeth, South Australia. The deal rammed through by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union involves slashing annual labour costs for the company by $15 million through a three-year wage freeze, as well as cuts to conditions and the expanded exploitation of casual labour. Workers voted for the agreement after the company threatened that a “no” vote would trigger an immediate announcement of the closure of Holden’s production operations in Australia.

Even with the agreement ratified, however, management is refusing to make any guarantees. Earlier this month, Jay Weatherill, the Labor premier of South Australia, went to Holden’s headquarters in Melbourne to offer another $50 million in public subsidies. The company rebuffed the offer, refusing to meet Weatherill’s request for a guarantee of continued production. A spokesman explained that Holden management would not be making any decision until after the federal election and after they hold discussions with the elected government.

In other words, the car companies are keeping their options open for further threats and blackmail aimed at delivering lower labour costs and continued public handouts.

The opposition Liberal-National coalition has said it will lower total subsidies for the car industry, by $500 million a year. Rudd has attempted to seize on this to claim that the car industry’s future would be in doubt under an Abbott government. Labor is making a bid to win support in South Australian and Victorian electorates that would be devastated by an industry-wide shut down. A report commissioned earlier this year by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries estimated that 90,000 jobs would be destroyed—nearly 1 percent of all jobs in Australia—if local production of cars ceased.

The differences between the Labor and Liberal parties’ plans are merely tactical. The opposition represents sections of finance capital that regard car industry subsidies as a waste of public money that could instead be funnelled to more profitable corporate sectors. The Labor government, on the other hand, regards car making as a strategically vital aspect of Australian capitalism’s manufacturing capacity, including its military production capacity.

Both the major parties are of one mind when it comes to making car workers bear the burden for the auto industry crisis.

The Labor government helped broker the Holden wage cutting deal, heralding it as a model of cooperation between the trade unions and corporate management, to be emulated across the economy. The Liberal-National coalition has been similarly enthusiastic. On Monday, shadow industrial relations minister Eric Abetz told the Australian Financial Reviewthat the Holden agreement provided a model of “common sense,” showing how to respond “when times do get tough.”

The crisis of the Australian car industry is part of a global restructuring. Every company pits workers in one country against workers in every other country. Workers in the US at GM and Chrysler were forced by the United Auto Workers union to accept a two-tier wages system. Newly employed workers had their wages halved, to around $15 an hour. In Germany, when workers at the GM Opel plant in Bochum recently refused to ratify cuts, the company shut down their plant.

The corporate onslaught must be resisted. Workers must first break with the trade unions, which are the critical enforcers of every regressive management decision taken by the car corporations. Rank and file committees must be elected in every plant, and joint industrial action prepared, including factory occupations, to prevent shutdowns and the destruction of jobs and conditions. Workers need to unify their struggles across the car and car components sector, both within Australia and throughout the world, and turn out to other sections of the working class facing similar attacks.

Above all what is required is a new political perspective, based on a fight against the Labor government and for a workers’ government that will bring the major car companies under public ownership and the democratic control of the working class, as part of the socialist reorganisation of society around the world. That is the perspective for which the Socialist Equality Party fights.

Crisis of affordable housing hits broad sections of working class in New York

By Alan Whyte 

29 August 2013

One of the clearest examples of the nature of the supposed economic recovery of New York City following the financial collapse of 2008 is the ever-rising cost of housing for most of the city’s working class.

According to a recent report issued by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, even as real household income dropped in the city between 2007 and 2011, the median rent increased 8.5 percent, from $999 to $1084.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development defines a “moderate rent burden” as meaning that households spent between 30 and 50 percent of their total income towards gross rent (including both the rent to the landlord and the cost of utilities not paid to the landlord). “Severely burdened” means spending 50 percent or more of household income on gross rent. By this standard the percentage of New York’s renters who were severely burdened increased from 27 percent in 2007 to 31 percent in 2011, and the moderately burdened increased from 23 percent to 24 percent.

New York is just one example of the increased pressure that rent payments are placing on working families. The median rent burden also increased in the next four largest cities. Like New York, more than half of families were moderately or severely burdened. Los Angeles, California has the highest combined total, 62 percent, but Philadelphia has the highest percentage, at 37 percent, of those renters paying 50 percent or more of their income for housing.

The report makes clear that these figures understate the crisis facing the poorest families. For those households at 80 percent or less of the median income, 81 percent of Los Angeles renters paid more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and for New York this number was 78 percent.

The New York Daily News recently reported that average monthly rent in Brooklyn increased to $3,035 in July of this year, an 8.2 percent increase from July of last year. Brooklyn continues to narrow the gap with Manhattan, the borough with the highest rents. Average rental there was $3,822, or more than most workers earn in a month.

These figures reflect the skyrocketing social inequality in New York and throughout the country. The unprecedented class divide was exemplified in the recent announcement of the construction of a 33-story condominium on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that would have one entrance for the well- to-do who can afford the costs of buying a condo apartment that can cost about $1 million, and another entrance for families that can only afford to rent an apartment for $1,099 a month. (See “New York City high-rise to have separate entrances for rich and poor,” 23 August 2013.)

Developers of this and similar projects are richly awarded by the city government itself, which grants tax abatements for all apartment complexes that include some so-called “affordable units” that are reserved for those who cannot afford to pay the skyrocketing market rates. Even the “affordable” apartments are far more than most workers can pay. Meanwhile, this lucrative payoff to developers cost the city about $2.9 billion in lost tax revenues, or about 20 percent of all property taxes collected in 2012.

The 630,000 New Yorkers, 8.2 percent of the population, who live in public housing are not subject to market rents, but they are still deeply affected by the housing crisis. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has lost over $905 million in operating subsidies and another $876 million in the federal capital program funds since 2001. NYCHA now has $6 billion in unfunded capital improvements, a number that is expected to grow to $13.4 billion within the next five years. In addition, the housing authority is running an annual $60 million operating deficit, and it has eliminated 3,000 jobs in the last decade, a cutback that has contributed to poorer service for the hundreds of thousands of people who live in public housing.

NYCHA recently came up with a plan to deal with its fiscal crisis by taking advantage of the current demand for luxury housing at the expense of its own tenants. The proposal provoked enormous opposition from residents throughout the projects. NYCHA called for the leasing of fourteen sites, located within eight developments in Manhattan, to real estate investors. These sites would be used for luxury apartment towers right in the middle of already crowded projects. According to the authority, this would produce an income of $30 to $50 million a year. The claim was that this would be applied to reduce the enormous backlog of maintenance complaints and needed repairs in the housing complexes.

The plan envisions developers creating about 4,000 new apartments, 80 percent of which would be rented at market prices. The other 20 percent would be reserved for so-called “affordable” units. And the developers would get enormous tax breaks for building this meager number of less expensive apartments.

This so-called Infill proposal has been scorned by tenants, who correctly see in it not only the destruction of their parks, community centers and parking lots, but also the first step in the repudiation of the decades-old commitment of public housing for sections of the working class.

The housing agency, facing this vocal opposition, has now announced that instead of requesting formal proposals from the real estate industry to build on the eight housing projects, it would ask for ideas from developers in November of this year. The suggestion is that the plan is being pushed back and will become the responsibility of the new mayor to take office on January 1.

The media has portrayed this decision as a major retreat. On this as on other issues, workers are being told to trust in a change in administration and the likely election of a Democratic mayor. The fact remains, however, that the plans for luxury housing on the property of the city’s housing projects have not been abandoned, nor have any of the big-business candidates for mayor, either Democrat or Republican, advanced any proposals to improve the scandalous conditions facing so many tenants of the city’s public housing.

In fact, just the opposite is the case. The agency had announced plans in mid-June to close 69 community as well as 37 senior centers, raise rents, lay off about 500 of its workers, continue a hiring freeze, and possibly impose furloughs. This is a direct result of the federal sequester cuts to social programs throughout the country. For NYCHA, this amounts to a loss of $205 million, or about 11 percent of its funding for the year. The announced cuts were rescinded when the city government agreed to provide $58 million. This is also only a temporary reprieve, since there is still a $147 million deficit.

Danielly Garcia

The WSWS interviewed a number of residents of the Baruch Houses, a public housing project in Manhattan.

Danielly Garcia explained, “I first moved in here in 2000 and paid $182 a month with light and gas included. This allowed me to pay my rent and still go to school to become a nurse. When I graduated and told Housing that I was making $20 an hour, they jacked up my rent. Now I pay $1,000 a month. After St. Vincent’s Hospital closed in 2010 and I lost my job, I had to become a nurse in a clinic. I took that job with a lower pay because it has benefits.

“If they privatize, where will everyone go? They will destroy the only place where we can live. I am a single mom. This will directly affect me and my child, considering the cost of clothes, food, deodorant, everything. It is a good place for me to live. If they push up the rents around here, they would be putting me between a rock and hard place. Milk is $4 a gallon. It is $30 a week for me just to get to work. I make $60,000 a year, but have a student debt that makes me feel poor.

“What kills me is that these rich people have such a privileged life. While they are at the beach, do you think the lights aren’t on in the factory? Every time a president comes into office, I prepare to be duped.”

Roberto Napoleon has been president of the Tenants Association at the Baruch Houses for 40 years.

From Second Left: Samuel Mangual, Roberto Napoleon, and George Velazquez

“Three other associations went to court with us against the plans for the luxury apartment buildings,” Mr. Napoleon said.

“We opposed the development for a number of reasons. First, we need more space for the children. Second, they are taking our main parking lot to build on, with no plans to provide parking. Third, their plan would have 20 percent of the apartments limited to an affordable rent amount, but we can’t afford these “affordable” rents. Finally, we are afraid a luxury apartment building would open the door to getting rid of public housing tenants.

“The Housing Authority has harassed us since the lawsuit. They have delayed rent letters to seniors. If you don’t get your rent letters on time, you can’t pay your rent on time and then they threaten you with eviction. These kinds of eviction letters that are sent to senior residents telling them that they are being thrown out can shock people and therefore sometimes kills seniors, who live in fear of this.

“The seniors here are condemned, with no elevators and doors for the handicapped. The number of guards here has been cut from three to one, and he is handicapped. How are people going to escape from a fire without help? And they’ve taken away the garbage dumpsters. They say it is to stop the rats, but where are tenants supposed to put their garbage? So there is garbage all over the front area.

Juana Rodriquez has been a Baruch resident for 47 years. She commented, “It is terrible if they put luxury high-rises in because if they do, they will take over. They will do it little by little, but we will be out of here.

“The federal cuts to public housing are terrible as well. If you have repairs that need to be done in in your house now, it takes a year or two to do them. I end up doing them myself. There are holes in the walls and on the stairs that haven’t been repaired. There were rats before Hurricane Sandy, but after the storm, there are more rats. When I get up in the morning to drink my coffee, I see rats having a party.

“When I first came here, they had inspectors who came here and if they saw anything that needed fixing, they fixed it right away. Now they come once a year, and now it takes one or two years to get something repaired. One time when my sink was clogged, and they told me it would take one or three months, my family got me a snake to do the job.

“It was ridiculous that the Democratic mayoral candidates had sleepovers in public housing. They know how we live. It was uncalled for. Every year, they say the same thing. They will help us and they are going to fix things. But then there is no money to fix anything. It is ridiculous.

“I don’t think the Democrats in the city or in Albany or Washington represent us. They come and tell us to vote for them, and then they forget about us.”

US-NATO campaign to justify Syria war disintegrates as attack looms

By Thomas Gaist and Alex Lantier 

29 August 2013

Washington’s campaign to justify war against Syria is disintegrating, as it becomes ever clearer that the war is illegal, and that Washington has no evidence to back up charges that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons in Ghouta. Despite press reports of an imminent US-NATO attack, US and British officials suggested yesterday that they might delay launching the war.

There is rising concern inside the political establishment about how to package a war in Syria modeled on the hated 2003 invasion of Iraq. Again, Washington and London are moving to launch a war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction and without legal sanction from the UN Security Council—that is, in violation of international law.

Even before war has begun, Obama administration officials are in disarray. In a PBS television interview last night, Obama attempted to back away from threats of an imminent attack: “We have not yet made a decision, but the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place. If we are saying this in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this; that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term.”

Obama’s claim that his administration has not decided to move against Assad is an absurd lie. Washington has called for Assad’s overthrow for over a year, while the CIA massively armed Al Qaeda-linked Islamist opposition militias against his regime.

A senior US official contradicted Obama yesterday, telling NBC that US moves toward intervention in Syria are “past the point of no return,” and that strikes will be launched in days.

Obama is also encountering opposition to his attempt to launch a war without a vote in Congress, in violation of the US Constitution. A petition signed by 111 House lawmakers, 94 Republicans and 17 Democrats, warns that this would “violate the separation of powers.” The petition asks that Congress be reconvened so it can back the war and “share the burden of decisions made regarding US involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.”

Yesterday the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat government retreated from its intention to take a vote today supporting war with Syria. With public support for war hovering in polls between six and nine percent and predictions of mass anti-war protests, as well as disagreements within the military and even the government, the opposition Labour Party declared that it would not support direct action by UK forces without a further vote in the Commons.

To provide a fig-leaf for its support for war, Labour insisted that the United Nations Security Council must be allowed to consider a report from weapons inspectors charged with investigating the alleged chemical weapons attack and that “every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken.”

The UN has said that it will be at least four days before inspectors are able to finish their work in Syria.

The motion will now leave the door open for intervention, asking MPs to agree the principle that a “strong humanitarian response” is required from the international community that “may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons”

The fact that the US and Britain embarked on such reckless and unpopular policies—first arming Islamist opposition militias against Assad, then moving to illegally attack Syria—testifies to the fact that they are indifferent to public opinion. With their repeated, inflammatory statements, Obama and Cameron have staked their political authority on this war. They will seek at all costs to proceed with it, despite its unpopularity and rising international pressure.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov charged this week that Washington had no proof to back up its allegations that Assad’s forces gassed Syrian civilians in Ghouta. “They cannot produce evidence, but keep on saying that the ‘red line’ has been crossed and they cannot wait any longer,” he said, pointing out that “the use of force without the sanction of the UN Security Council is a crude violation of international law.”

Concerned that the Obama administration is undermining the credibility of the UN by pressing for war before inspectors have even investigated Ghouta, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon pleaded yesterday: “The team needs time to do its job. Give peace a chance; give diplomacy a chance, stop fighting and start talking.”

Obama administration officials have told the UN to call off the inspectors, however. According to the Wall Street Journal, the administration told Ban that UN inspectors’ efforts in Syria were “pointless.” CNN reported Wednesday that “US officials are all but telling United Nations inspectors in Syria to get out of the way.”

Washington clearly does not want the truth about what happened in Ghouta to come out. The chemical weapons incident itself could have been manufactured by US intelligence, in an operation aiming to provide the pretext for war. Since the middle of this month, the areas near the chemical incident have been flooded with CIA-trained militants led by US, Israeli, and Jordanian commandos.

Previous UN investigations found the US-backed rebels responsible for other chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

State and media propaganda maintains that US attack plans are a limited response to violations of international law by Assad. These claims, dutifully disseminated by a state-controlled media, are lies intended to disorient the public. The objective of the planned US strikes is to kill Assad and cripple his military, thus changing the balance of power inside Syria between the Assad regime and US-backed Islamist opposition militias.

The US offensive is based on a carefully prepared plan to destroy the Syrian regime’s military capability. According to CNN, “there is no indication that the missiles would target stockpiles of chemical weapons.” In fact, strikes against “military command bunkers” and airfields are being planned.

The US is moving significant forces into the region, including at least one nuclear submarine and four destroyers in the Mediterranean, and two aircraft carriers in the western Indian Ocean. Together with the British build-up of fighter-bombers and military equipment on nearby Cyprus, these deployments make clear that claims in the media that the Syrian war would be a limited pinprick operation are lies. The US and its allies are preparing devastating attacks that will kill thousands and savage Syria’s infrastructure.

The offensive by the US and its allies threatens to unleash a far broader regional and even global war. US hawks and military planners have pushed for war and “regime change” against Syria for a decade, aiming to clear the way for an attack on US imperialism’s main regional target, Iran, and set the stage for a US confrontation with Russia and China.

Iran has responded to the war threats by warning that attacks will be launched against Israel in retaliation. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said: “We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region. These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”

On Wednesday, apparently in response to the statements from Iran, Israel mobilized reservists and bolstered its missile defenses.

Is Attacking Syria Necessary For US National Security?

By Glenn Greenwald

August 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Guardian” –  In 2008, President Obama, when he was a candidate for President, had this question-and-answer exchange with the Boston Globe:

“Q. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites — a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

“OBAMA: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

“As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.”

Given that not even the most ardent interventionists for Syria contend that the bombing is necessary for US national security, how can a military attack on Syria without Congressional approval possibly be reconciled with that position? When the same issue arose with Obama’s war in Libya in the absence of Congressional approval (indeed, after Congress expressly rejected its authorization), State Department adviser Harold Koh was forced to repudiate Obama’s own words and say he was wrong back then. Who will play that role this time? As is so often the case, there is a much starker debate between candidate Obama and President Obama than there is between the leadership of both political parties in Washington:

Does Obama Know He’s Fighting On al-Qa’ida’s Side?

‘All for one and one for all’ should be the battle cry if the West goes to war against Assad’s Syrian regime

By Robert Fisk

August 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “The Independent” –  If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida.

Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.

The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.

This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House – nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida – though they are both trying to destroy Bashar. So are the Nusra front, one of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates. But it does raise some interesting possibilities.

Maybe the Americans should ask al-Qa’ida for intelligence help – after all, this is the group with “boots on the ground”, something the Americans have no interest in doing. And maybe al-Qa’ida could offer some target information facilities to the country which usually claims that the supporters of al-Qa’ida, rather than the Syrians, are the most wanted men in the world.

There will be some ironies, of course. While the Americans drone al-Qa’ida to death in Yemen and Pakistan – along, of course, with the usual flock of civilians – they will be giving them, with the help of Messrs Cameron, Hollande and the other Little General-politicians, material assistance in Syria by hitting al-Qa’ida’s enemies. Indeed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the one target the Americans will not strike in Syria will be al-Qa’ida or the Nusra front.

And our own Prime Minister will applaud whatever the Americans do, thus allying himself with al-Qa’ida, whose London bombings may have slipped his mind. Perhaps – since there is no institutional memory left among modern governments – Cameron has forgotten how similar are the sentiments being uttered by Obama and himself to those uttered by Bush  and Blair a decade ago, the same bland assurances, uttered with such self-confidence but without quite  enough evidence to make it stick.

In Iraq, we went to war on the basis of lies originally uttered by fakers and conmen. Now it’s war by YouTube. This doesn’t mean that the terrible images of the gassed and dying Syrian civilians are false. It does mean that any evidence to the contrary is going to have to be suppressed. For example, no-one is going to be interested in persistent reports in Beirut that three Hezbollah members – fighting alongside government troops in Damascus – were apparently struck down by the same gas on the same day, supposedly in tunnels. They are now said to be undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. So if Syrian government forces used gas, how come Hezbollah men might have been stricken too? Blowback?

And while we’re talking about institutional memory, hands up which of our jolly statesmen know what happened last time the Americans took on the Syrian government army? I bet they can’t remember. Well it happened in Lebanon when the US Air Force decided to bomb Syrian missiles in the Bekaa Valley on 4 December 1983. I recall this very well because I was here in Lebanon. An American A-6 fighter bomber was hit by a Syrian Strela missile – Russian made, naturally – and crash-landed in the Bekaa; its pilot, Mark Lange, was killed, its co-pilot, Robert Goodman, taken prisoner and freighted off to jail in Damascus. Jesse Jackson had to travel to Syria to get him back after almost a month amid many clichés about “ending the cycle of violence”. Another American plane – this time an A-7 – was also hit by Syrian fire but the pilot managed to eject over the Mediterranean where he was plucked from the water by a Lebanese fishing boat. His plane was also destroyed.

Sure, we are told that it will be a short strike on Syria, in and out, a couple of days. That’s what Obama likes to think. But think Iran. Think Hezbollah. I rather suspect – if Obama does go ahead – that this one will run and run.

Syrian Father Reunited With Toddler Son He Believed Was Killed In Chemical Attacks

When Grown Men Cry


This heartbreaking video shows the moment a Syrian father is reunited with his young son who he thought had been killed.

The father’s relief and delight are tangible, as he cradles his son before sinking to the ground, apparently close to fainting. What are presumably neighbours and relatives cluster around the reunited pair, calling “God is Great”. As the man cuddles his son he tells him: “I am here baba. I’m with you.”

Posted August 28, 2013

The Broader Stakes of Syrian Crisis

By Ray McGovern

August 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Amid the increased likelihood that President Barack Obama will cave in to pressure from foreign policy hawks to “Libya-ize” Syria and to accord Syrian President Bashar al-Assad the same treatment meted out to Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the main question is WHY? Obviously, there is concern about the human rights catastrophe in Syria, but is the main target Syria’s main ally, Iran, as many suspect?

Surely, the objective has got to be more than simply giving Secretary of State John Kerry a chance to brag, in the manner of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, regarding Gaddafi, “We came, we saw, he died.” And, there is little expectation – however many Cruise missiles the United States fires at Syrian targets in a fury over disputed claims about chemical weapons – that lives are likely to be saved.

So, what are Iran’s new leaders likely to see as the real driving force behind Obama’s felt need to acquiesce, again, in a march of folly? And why does it matter?

Iran’s leaders need not be paranoid to see themselves as a principal target of external meddling in Syria. While there seem to be as many interests being pursued – as there are rag-tag groups pursuing them – Tehran is not likely to see the common interests of Israel and the U.S. as very complicated. Both appear determined to exploit the chaotic duel among the thugs in Syria as an opportunity to deal a blow to Hezbollah and Hamas in Israel’s near-frontier and to isolate Iran still further, and perhaps even advance Israel’s ultimate aim of “regime change” in Tehran.

In the nearer term, are the neocons in Washington revving up to nip in the bud any unwelcome olive branches from the Iran’s new leaders as new talks on nuclear matters loom on the horizon?

The Not-So-Clean Break

A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a policy document prepared in 1996 for Benjamin Netanyahu by a study group led by American neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, laid out a new approach to solving Israel’s principal security challenges. Essentially, the point was to shatter the frustrating cycle of negotiations with the Palestinians and instead force regime change on hostile states in the region, thus isolating Israel’s close-in adversaries.

Among the plan’s features was “the containment of Syria by engaging in proxy warfare and highlighting their possession of ‘weapons of mass destruction.’” The following “Clean-Break” paragraph is, no doubt, part of the discussion in Iran’s leadership councils:

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” [See’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

Against this background, what is Iran likely to think of the two-year old mantra of Hillary Clinton, repeated by Obama that “Assad Must Go?” Or what to think of Obama’s gratuitous pledge a half year later, on Super Bowl Sunday 2012, that the U.S. will “work in lockstep” with Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Assuming they checked Webster’s, Iran’s leaders have taken note that one primary definition offered for “in lockstep” is: “in perfect, rigid, often mindless conformity or unison.”

In that pre-game interview, Obama also made the bizarre charge that the Iranians must declare, “We will pursue peaceful nuclear power; we will not pursue a nuclear weapon.” In actuality, Iran has been saying precisely that for years.

Still more odd, Obama insisted, “Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program.” The Israelis could hardly have expected the President to regurgitate their claims about Iran working on a nuclear weapon, but that is what he did – despite the fact that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had said on TV just four weeks before that Iran was NOT doing so.

Of course, Panetta was simply reiterating the consensus conclusion of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that declared in 2007 that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and that it did not appear that such work had resumed.

And even if you don’t want to believe the U.S. intelligence community and Panetta, there was the acknowledgement by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israeli intelligence had reached the same judgment. Barak gave an interview on Jan. 18, 2002, the day before JCS Chairman Martin Dempsey arrived for talks in Israel:

“Question: Is it Israel’s judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?

Barak: … confusion stems from the fact that people ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now … in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case. …

Question: How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?

Barak: I don’t know; one has to estimate. … Some say a year, others say 18 months. It doesn’t really matter. To do that, Iran would have to announce it is leaving the [UN International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection regime and stop responding to IAEA’s criticism, etc.

Why haven’t they [the Iranians] done that? Because they realize that … when it became clear to everyone that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, this would constitute definite proof that time is actually running out. This could generate either harsher sanctions or other action against them. They do not want that.”

So, for those of you just now joining us, Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon ten years ago. That is the unanimous judgment expressed by all U.S. intelligence agencies “with high confidence” in 2007, and has been revalidated every year since. Thus, Israel’s aim can be seen as “regime change” in Tehran, not the halting of a nuclear weapons program that stopped ten years ago. (It should be noted, too, that Israel possesses a sophisticated and undeclared nuclear arsenal that President Obama and other U.S. leaders have politely refused to acknowledge publicly.)

No one knows all this better than the Iranians themselves. But, for Israel, Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani poses a more subtle threat than the easier-to-demonize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The more moderate and polished Rouhani – IF he can calm those Iranians who consider Washington a Siamese twin to Tel Aviv – may be able to enter renewed talks on the nuclear issue with concessions that the West would find difficult to refuse.

This would rattle the Israelis and the neocons in Washington who must be pining for the days when Ahmadinejad made it easier to mask the very real concessions made while he was president. Israeli and neocon hardliners have amply demonstrated that – despite their public face – they have little concern over Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program. Quite simply, they would like to get the U.S. to do to Iran what it did to Iraq. Period.

Israel Riding High Again

Dealing with more moderate leaders in Iran remains one of Israel’s major headaches, even as Israel has ridden a string of geopolitical successes over the past several weeks. First and foremost, the Israelis were able to persuade Washington to represent the military coup d’état in Cairo as something other than a military coup, which enabled U.S. military and other aid to keep flowing to the Israel-friendly Egyptian military.

After shielding this blood-stained Egyptian military from geopolitical pressure, Israel was rewarded by the generals’ decision to choke off Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world via Egypt and thus further punish the Gazans for having the temerity to elect the more militant Hamas as their leadership.

With the Palestinians reeling – as their international backers face internal and external pressures — Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has found it timely to return to the bargaining table to discuss what undesirable land might be left for the Palestinians to live on as Netanyahu’s government continues to approve expansions of Jewish settlements on the more appealing patches of Palestinian territory.

The Israeli position vis a vis its Muslim adversaries is also improved by the spreading of sectarian conflicts pitting Sunni vs. Shiite, a rift that was turned into a chasm – and made much bloodier – by the neocon-inspired U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now, similar divisions are shattering Syria in a chaotic civil war with the growing likelihood that the Obama administration will soon weigh in militarily against the Alawite-dominated regime of Bashar al-Assad, which is being challenged by a Sunni-led rebellion. Alawites stem from the Shiite branch of Islam and Assad is allied with Shiite-ruled Iran.

The more the Sunni and Shiite are fighting each other – and thus expending their resources on internecine warfare – the better for Israel, at least in the view of neocon hardliners like those who crafted Netanyahu’s “clean-break” strategy in the 1990s. That strategy would see the snuffing out of the Syrian regime as a signature accomplishment.

Hardliners on Both Sides

As these regional pressures build, Westerners tend to forget that there is a hard-line equivalent in Tehran with whom Rouhani has to deal. The hardliners in Tehran believe, with ample justification, that many American officials have the virus that George Washington so pointedly warned against; i.e., a “passionate-attachment” to a country with priorities and interests that may differ from one’s own country – in this case, Israel.

The Iranian hawks do not trust the U.S. especially on the nuclear issue, and developments over recent years – including statements like President Obama’s cited above – feed that distrust. So, President Rouhani faces tough sledding should he wish to offer the kinds of concessions Iran made in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010, when Ahmadinejad’s government offered to export much of its low-enriched uranium.

That promising beginning was sabotaged in October 2009 when, after Iran had agreed in principle to a deal involving the shipping of two-thirds to three-quarters of it low-enriched uranium out of country, a terrorist attack killed five generals of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, just before the talk to flesh out that deal. A similar deal was worked out with the help of Turkey and Brazil in early 2010 (with the written encouragement of President Obama) only to fall victim to Secretary of State Clinton and other hawks who preferred the route of sanctions.

As if the prospect of U.S. military involvement regarding Syria was not delicate enough, the hardliners in Tehran are bound to make hay out of two major stories recently playing in the U.S. media.

The first is a detailed account of precisely how the CIA and British Intelligence succeeded in 1953 in removing Iran’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and installing the Shah with his secret police. A detailed account was released responding to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive. Much had been already known about the coup, but the play-by-play is riveting and, presumably, highly offensive to Iranians.

The second exposé came in a detailed report published by Foreign Policy Magazine on Monday entitled: “CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran.” This account, replete with declassified CIA and other documents, will likewise be a highly painful reminder of the troubled past and great grist for those Iranians bent on exposing U.S. treachery.

In sum, the Foreign Policy report by Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid provides a wealth of detail on how Washington was aware that the Iraqis were using mustard and Sarin nerve gas in their war with Iran in the 1980s, and nonetheless enabled the Iraqis to use it to maximum effect by providing all manner of intelligence, including up-to-date information from satellites.

The nerve gas, in particular, was effective in thwarting the last major Iranian offensives and left thousands dead. The impression given by the documents is that toward the end of the war, Iran had the upper hand and may have ultimately prevailed were it not for Washington’s precise intelligence support for Iraq and blind eye to the first major use of chemical warfare since it was banned after World War I.

A CIA memo dated Nov. 4, 1983, is titled “Iran’s Likely Reaction to Iraqi Use of Chemical Weapons” included this paragraph: “Iran is unlikely to be deterred from pursuing the war because of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. … Iran will be forced to adjust its military tactics and acquire additional protective gear but it will continue to launch attacks on Iraq. We have no evidence that Iran has lethal chemical agents or that it is making an effort to acquire any.”

These will be very painful reminders of the tragic history of Iranian-American relations and seem bound to make negotiations even more difficult.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Copyright © 2013 Consortiumnews.

The Craziest Detail About the CIA’s 1953 Coup in Iran

By J. Dana Stuster 

August 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “FP” –  For most people, the name “Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf” evokes the image of “Stormin’  Norman,” the U.S. Army general who oversaw Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as commander of the military’s Central Command from 1988 through the effort to eject Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait in 1991. The Desert Storm general, though, was the son of Maj. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, whose varied and colorful career took him from being the founder and commander of the New Jersey State Police (where he led the investigation into the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby), to serving as a general in World War II, training Iran’s national police, and advising Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1953, he was the CIA’s asset in Tehran when the country was convulsed by a coup.

Schwarzkopf’s role has been the subject of speculation since the day after Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh’s arrest on Aug. 19, 1953. On Aug. 20, theNew York Times reported on Schwarzkopf’s visit to Tehran and noted an editorial in the Soviet newspaper Pravda accusing Schwarzkopf of delivering the orders for the coup. Now, 60 years later, the CIA has confirmed his role in declassified documents obtained by the National Security Archive.

The six years of tensions preceding the coup began with Iranian nationalist efforts to retain more profits from the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (which changed its name in 1953 to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and later to British Petroleum and now just BP), and continued with Mossadegh’s rise to prime minister and his efforts to whittle away the Shah’s political authority. In 1953, CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, oversaw the planning of TPAJAX, the CIA’s plan for the “quasi-legal overthrow” (the CIA’s euphemistic term of art) of Mossadegh. A CIA history describes Schwarzkopf’s role:

Arrangements were made for a visit to Iran by General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, former head of the US Gendarme Mission, whom the Shah liked and respected. Schwarzkopf was to explain the proposed project and get from the Shah signed firmans (royal decrees) dismissing Mossadeq, appointing [retired Iranian army general Fazlollah] Zahedi, and calling on the Army to remain loyal to the crown.

Schwartzkopf was given a cover — a tour of the Middle East, including destinations in Lebanon, Egypt, and Pakistan, with a stop in Iran. He met with the Shah on Aug. 1; Pahlavi took Schwartzkopf to a large ballroom where they sat at a small table in the center of the room because of the Shah’s worries about microphones being placed in the walls. The Shah refused to sign the orders in their first meeting, citing concerns over the army’s loyalty. Over the next two weeks, the Shah met with Roosevelt, who assured him of President Dwight Eisenhower’s support for the plan.

After the initial stage of the coup, it became clear that the Mossadegh government had been aware of the plot, and Iranian nationalist papers reported that the decision to proceed with the coup was made on Aug. 9 in a meeting between Schwarzkopf and the Shah; a post-operational CIA report on the coup also cites an Aug. 9 meeting with the Shah, “which later proved vital to the success of the military phase of TPAJAX,” though it does not mention Schwarzkopf. On Aug. 13, the CIA received two signed orders, the first dismissing Mossadegh, the second appointing Zahedi. The courier told Zahedi that the queen had ultimately swayed the Shah’s decision. The next day, the CIA’s office in Tehran requested $5 million to support the new government.

The CIA history incredulously notes several popular accounts of the coup that were written “[p]roceeding on the theory that their readers will believe anything dealing with ‘spies,’ ‘agents,’ and ‘the secret world of espionage.'” The report calls out Andrew Tully’s CIA: The Inside Story for “the purple of its flamboyant prose.” In Tully’s apparently hyperbolic account, when the coup stalled, “the word later was that in a period of a few days Schwartzkopf supervised the careful spending of more than ten million of CIA’s dollars. Mossadegh suddenly lost a great many supporters.” This is probably fictitious — the CIA’s official account does not mention Schwartzkopf again after his initial meeting with the Shah. It appears he departed Tehran quietly shortly before the coup. By Aug. 19, he was home in Trenton, N.J., where the New York Times found him and asked him about his trip. “I went there to call on some friends whom I had struck up an acquaintance with during the years I was in Iran reorganizing the National Gendarmerie,” he told the reporter. “I was not there this time in an official capacity and I conducted no business there.”

When the Times pressed him about the coup, he demurred, feigning ignorance of the political situation. The Times notes, “he explained that he preferred not to [discuss Iranian politics] since he had been out of touch ‘for too long a period.'” It had been 18 days since his first meeting with the Shah to discuss the coup.

©2013 The Foreign Policy Group, LLC

To Make Journalism Harder, Slower, Less Secure

The Surveillance State

By Jay Rosen

August 28, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  That’s what the surveillance state is trying to do. It has the means, the will and the latitude to go after journalism the way it went after terrorism. Only a more activist press, working together, stands a chance of resisting this.

Last week, the novelist and former CIA operative Barry Eisler published one of the most important posts I have read about what’s happening to the press since the Snowden revelations began in early June. In it, he tries to explain why authorities in the UK detained Brazilian national David Miranda for nine hours at Heathrow airport and confiscated all the technology he had on him. (Miranda, as everyone following the story knows, is the spouse of The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. He had been acting as a courier, bringing documents on encrypted thumb drives back and forth between Greenwald in Brazil and his collaborator, Laura Poitras, in Germany.)Eisler’s explanation of this pivotal event is the most persuasive I have seen.1. Sand in the gears“Put yourself in the shoes of the National Surveillance State,” he writes. You’ve already commandeered the internet for state use and you have most of the world’s communications monitored and stored. Journalists are beginning to realize than none of their means is secure, so they’re retreating to face to face meetings, traveling backwards in technological time to evade your reach. But you find out about one of these meetings: Greenwald’s spouse is visiting Berlin. Eisler explains:

The purpose was to demonstrate to journalists that what they thought was a secure secondary means of communication — a courier, possibly to ferry encrypted thumb drives from one air-gapped computer to another — can be compromised, and thereby to make the journalists’ efforts harder and slower.

Recognizing that you can’t bring journalism to a complete halt, you try to throw sand in the gears. David Miranda was detained and questioned under a terrorism statute in Britain. What’s the connection? As Eisler says, “Part of the value in targeting the electronic communications of actual terrorists is that the terrorists are forced to use far slower means of plotting. The NSA has learned this lesson well, and is now applying it to journalists.” He writes:

To achieve the ability to monitor all human communication, broadly speaking the National Surveillance State must do two things: first, button up the primary means of human communication — today meaning the Internet, telephone, and snail mail; second, clamp down on backup systems, meaning face-to-face communication, which is, after all, all that’s left to the population when everything else has been bugged. Miranda’s detention was part of the second prong of attack. So, incidentally, was the destruction of Guardian computers containing some of Snowden’s leaks. The authorities knew there were copies, so destroying the information itself wasn’t the point of the exercise. The point was to make the Guardian spend time and energy developing suboptimal backup options — that is, to make journalism harder, slower, and less secure.

2. Working togetherThe day after Eisler’s post appeared, Ben Smith of Buzzfeed found out — and the Guardian then announced — that some of the Snowden documents had been shared with the New York Times, which will report in partnership with the Guardian on some NSA stories. Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, the GCHQ, had forced the Guardian editors to halt work in London on the Snowden leaks. But…

Journalists in America are protected by the first amendment which guarantees free speech and in practice prevents the state seeking pre-publication injunctions or “prior restraint”.It is intended that the collaboration with the New York Times will allow the Guardian to continue exposing mass surveillance by putting the Snowden documents on GCHQ beyond government reach. Snowden is aware of the arrangement.

Sunday night, Ben Smith broke more news: another skilled newsroom, the investigative non-profit site, ProPublica, is also working on Snowden stories with The Guardian. This is the right move. They are trying to make journalism harder, slower and less secure by working together against you. You have to work together against them to publish anyway and put the necessary materials beyond their reach.As I wrote in my last post, the surveillance state is global, so the struggle to report on its overreach has to move about the globe, as well. Another good sign:

In an open letter to David Cameron published in today’s Observer, the editors of Denmark’s Politiken, Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter, Norway’s Aftenposten and Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat describe the detention of David Miranda, the partner of the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, as harassment.They say that the “events in Great Britain over the past week give rise to deep concern” and call on the British prime minister to “reinstall your government among the leading defenders of the free press”.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers wrote a similar letter to Cameron. They understand this is a global fight. The rest of the British press is only beginning to wake up to it.3. “Give me the box you will allow me to operate in.”In an appearance last month on Charlie Rose, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden was asked about the “appropriate balance” between secrecy and transparency.Michael_Hayden,_CIA_official_portraitHayden said that if it were up to him, he would “keep it all secret” because NSA could best operate that way. But: “I know I live in a modern democracy,” which won’t allow anyone to operate for long without a “national consensus” underpinning the program. You can’t have a national consensus without a national discussion, he admitted. And you can’t have such a discussion “without a significant portion of the citizenry” knowing something about what you’re doing. And so, Hayden said, he had come to accept that the NSA had to “shave points off of our operational effectiveness” in order to become “a bit more transparent to the American people.”As a former head of the CIA and the NSA, Hayden said he understood that he would be constrained by what American democracy thought acceptable. All he wanted from Congress was clear guidance. “Tell me the box,” he said, making a square with his hands as he talked. “Give me the box you will allow me to operate in. I’m going to play to the very edges of that box.” He said he would be “very aggressive,” and probably “get chalk dust on my cleats” but still:

You, the American people, through your elected representatives, give me the field of play and I will play very aggressively in it. As long as you understand what risk you are embracing by keeping me and my colleagues in this box, Charlie, we are good to go. We understand. We follow the guidance of the American people.

Hayden’s sketch of a surveillance state properly constrained by a wary public left a few things out, of course. When the Director of National Intelligence can lie to Congress in open session and keep his job, Hayden’s system has broken down. When United States senators, alarmed about what they are told, cannot alert the American people because of secrecy requirements, Hayden’s “through your elected representatives” becomes a hollow phrase.  Over-classification makes “national consensus” impossible on its face. A ”secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans” is not likely to generate much discussion… is it? Hayden’s descriptions sound reasonable — reasonable enough that Charlie Rose didn’t push back on them — but the behavior of the surveillance state doesn’t match up with his soothing words.WHICH IS WHY WE NEED JOURNALISTS! In fact, we can go further. Without including in the picture an aggressive press that is free to operate without fear or coercion, the surveillance state cannot be made compatible with representative democracy. Even then, it may be impossible.4. The establishment press is beginning to get itBarry Eisler concluded his compelling post with this:

The authorities want you to understand they can do it to you, too. Whether they’ve miscalculated depends on how well they’ve gauged the passivity of the public.

Making journalism harder, slower and less secure, throwing sand in the gears, is fully within the capacity of the surveillance state. It has the means, the will and the latitude to go after journalism the way it went after terrorism. News stories alone are not going to make it stop. There are signs that the establishment press is beginning to get it. Sharing the work of turning the Snowden documents into news is one. David Carr’s column in today’s New York Times is another. “It is true that Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald are activists with the kind of clearly defined political agendas that would be frowned upon in a traditional newsroom,” Carr wrote. “But they are acting in a more transparent age — they are their own newsrooms in a sense — and their political beliefs haven’t precluded other news organizations from following their leads.”Only if they can turn a mostly passive public into a more active one can journalists come out ahead in this fight. I know they don’t think of mobilization as their job, and there are good reasons for that, but they didn’t think editors would be destroying hard drives under the gaze of the authorities, either! Journalism almost has to be brought closer to activism to stand a chance of prevailing in its current struggle with the state.

This article was originally published at Press Think

See also – David Miranda and the Preclusion of Privacy, Part 2

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